Don't believe what you read in the recipe books. Or online.
Turkeys, especially frozen ones, have minds of their own -- even though they're supposed to be among the stupidest creatures on the planet.
The weekend before Christmas (OK, admittedly, I was leaving things a little late) I sallied forth to purchase the festive bird. I went to Safeway.
The wonderful Joan pointed me to the amazing 99 cent sale, and advised me to buy a certain brand that she had had considerable luck with. (Thank you Joan...you are in no way responsible for what was to come.)
It was in fact a frozen turkey. Normally, I'm much more organized and buy fresh fowl of whatever kind, but had not had time to order a fresh turkey...so there it was, in my cart, the frozen one.
On Wednesday -- having been advised to thaw the thing three days ahead of time in the fridge -- I removed the turkey from its freezing spot and placed it, in its wrapper, in a pan, in the fridge.
Friday, I ventured down mid-afternoon to poke it. It was like granite. No perceptible thawing at all.
So, I bathed the beast in icy cold water for a couple of hours, trying to spur some thawing. It did, in fact, begin to soften a little. But we were on our way to Mom and Dad's for Christmas Eve events, and back the bird went into the fridge.
Saturday morning, full of hope, I returned to the fridge.
Rock hard. Yikes. You've got to be kidding, I told the bird.
Out it came, and back into its cold bath. We changed the water religiously every 30 minutes, rolling the bird around, hoping against hope it would thaw enough to place in the oven by 1.30. Dinner was at six. Time was of the essence.
At noon I panicked and called a close friend with my dilemma.
"Oh," she said, "that happens to me every year. Don't worry, it will thaw enough, and eventually cook enough, to serve."
She always takes the bird out of its wrap after a few hours, to hasten the process. This did, in fact, help. I moved the legs, ran cold water into the cavity, cut my hands on the internal ice and FINALLY -- by about 1.30 -- it was at least thawed enough to stuff and cook.
Somewhat relieved, I slid my festive offering into the oven.
It browned. It smelled delicious. Things were looking up.
Well, they were until 5.30...when I tested the temperature and realized it still had 40 degrees to go. How long was THAT going to take? And the interior of the leg was bloody red. Bloody hell.
A quick check with Mom proved disappointing...yes, it had to be 180 degrees. So we waited, and waited. 160. 170. 175.
An hour later, it finally reached 180 -- and sure enough, the juices ran clear. It was done! But was it dried out like, well, an overcooked turkey?
Ken took over to make the gravy and carve the bird while I finished the buns and vegetables. The meat landed on the table, neatly arranged on its platter.
And it was delicious...tender...even, in spots, juicy.
But first it put me through nine hours of hell. Next time, fresh bird!! Next time, add an hour to the cooking time!! Next time, make roast beef!
Don't believe everything you read.
Happy new year.