Sunday, December 30, 2012

3 Christmas Turkeys

Photo: Miranda Johnson
A half hour episode of Americas Best Kitchen called 10 Steps on How to Cook Turkey, is to blame for my obsession with poultry this year. I bought a turkey. Bonnie bought two more and as of yesterday, all three have been cooked and consumed. What is different this year is that I am carefully following the cooking method, the Ten Best Steps to preparing the ultimate turkey. The first step is to thoroughly thaw the bird, taking out the neck and the giblets before putting it in the oven, something new for me.

Photo: Miranda Johnson
Continuing on, I have been concentrating on 3 steps: how to make the best dressing, how to prepare two turkey rubs, and how to carve the turkey. The tip for the best dressing is two fold: use a recipe and 1 ½ pounds of good quality bread. For 30 years, I thought turkey dressing was to made from dry bread collected over the season, but not to outguess America’s Best Kitchen I gave their idea a try, cubed and dried a loaf of bread I had just cooked. No guessing with the spices, just measure – and that part of the dinner was great.

Photo: Miranda Johnson
The second step is to salt the turkey under the skin, going in under the breast, separating the skin from the meat and rubbing the front, back and legs with 2 tablespoons of coarse salt. When my hands were under the skin about 3 inches over my wrists, I was giving myself a lot self-congratulatory messages, just to keep myself going. Then I wrap the bird in saran wrap and get it back in the fridge for 24 hours before cooking it. I have cooked all three turkeys now. I don’t quite have the knack of the whole process, but am much better than when I began.

I also watched Christopher Kimball carve the turkey – and for some reason I decided, if I cook the rest of the dinner, why not finish it off. I wasn’t too good with the second turkey. The carving felt more like trying to pin down an objecting child and diaper it. The most I could be grateful for is that no person was in the kitchen taking pictures while I was doing it.

Sounds like too much work? Oh well, I am just testing out the thesis of America’s Test Kitchen that they have found the perfect method for moist turkey breast and sumptuous trimmings. And I am always getting the giblets and the neck out of the cavity before cooking the turkey. I call that progress.


*Citadel, Seven Wonders the Quarter Game with a Heathly dose of Murder

 Photo: Miranda Johnson

 Photo: Miranda Johnson

 Photo: Miranda Johnson
Our Christmas continues with game playing. Citadels and 7 Wonders were laid out on the dining room table after dinner tonight. We also played Murder at the table before getting out the board games.

Murder is a game where whomever ends up with the token that is passed hand to hand under the table, is the person who winks at others and if they see that wink, they have to pretend they are dead. When that game was finished due to the high anxiety it caused David, we moved to the kitchen arbourite island to play the quarter game. That game needs no introduction to two previous generations in the house, but the third needed some coaching.

Richard hooked the boys in saying that when he introduces this game at adult parties, it is the hit of the evening. He told Duncan, David and Alex that he would give them coins with which to take some practice turns.

They practiced for as long as it took the rest of us to do up the dishes. Richard showed them his own tricks and how to use that spot on your hand that will let you bring the coin down with the minimum amount of noise – that sweet spot, he called it. Then we teamed up, settling down to in looking for blood – or if not that, at least throwing our hands down with the mighty force it takes to make enough noise to make it difficult for the other team to figure out whose hand does have the coin.

David’s difficulty was not in bringing his hands down. It was that his hands would pop right back up off of the table when they would hit it, so he had to really concentrate at keeping them down. All of us tried to figure out why we still call it the quarter game, when the coinage has morphed through fifty cent pieces, loonies and now we use the heaviest coin of all to get the maximum effect.

We played electronic games during the afternoon: we rented a Mario Brothers WII Game for the day; another group played the WII party game which someone owns.

David is in heaven. He is a 7 year old and playing with a 10 year old and a 13 year old who will tolerate him. How grown up is that! And being an only child, he has never had the experience of being “kicked off” a game, that was a life-time first for him, something that children in larger families are accustomed to dealing with every day, but for David, almost enough to generate a melt down.

We have been topped up with food: a choice of crepes, fresh waffles, butter horns the icing of which was plain or sprinkled with toasted coconut, and egg foo young, and that was all before lunchtime. Tonight’s desserts were chocolate mint ice cream, caramel toffee ice cream, bubble gum ice cream, vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream. “Who took away my green ice cream bowl,” Duncan called out. Well, it might have been me that had quietly put it back in the cupboard for I had been planning on using some smaller, cut glass sherbet bowls. I could see that just was not going to do for Duncan. I don’t think I would cut back to smaller bowls, either, if I knew the family tradition was ice-cream in the largest cereal bowls possible.