"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

The turkey of best intentions

by Julie Tilsner on December 12, 2008

in Holiday Hell, Dinner, Meat!

I happily accepted my friends’ invitation to come to their house for Thanksgiving and partake of their hospitality. Also, somewhat less enthusiastically, of their turducken. Mostly I wanted to punk out of the responsibility of hosting my entire extended family plus various out of town relatives and hangers-on for this year’s turkey day.

Mission accomplished. At the end of my Thanksgiving, I came home with my sanity intact, half an uneaten pumpkin cake, two pies and a 14-pound turkey, courtesy of my friend E.J., who bought it just in case his turducken didn’t turn out to be all that and a bag of chips.

And so, in the comfort of my own home, with no outside pressure at all, I cooked my own turkey, in my own oven. It was a milestone indeed. I sipped Benedictine and hopped around to the kitchen iPod, the nits with their father, alone with just my own wiles to cook my first ever bird.

I had big plans. BIG plans.

These included turkey and rice soup. Turkey pot pie. Turkey sandwiches for years hence. And gravy. I would craft my own gravy out of the drippings of my very first turkey. Like a pioneer woman, I would use every inch of my bird. Nothing would go to waste.

The turkey, to my surprise, turned out well, if not a tad dry. I employed the basic, time-tested method of rubbing it with salt (and does anybody else see unsettling similarities between a raw turkey and a dead baby?) and roasting it for five or six hours. My home filled with the aroma and warmth of open arms. And yea, verily, I was greatly pleased with myself.

I took the bird out of the oven. I helped myself to a great deal of salted, crispy skin. Then I went on to other things, and the Bad Home Cook emerged.

The plan was to carve the turkey, set the meat aside, and boil the carcass for turkey stock. From the turkey stock, I would proceed to make delicious turkey soup, using one of the delicious recipes I found from this BlogHer roundup.

I waited a day to carve the turkey. Why? Pick your reason. Malaise. Disorganization. Forgetfulness. (although how does one forget a 14-pound roast turkey covered in tinfoil on the counter? I have a great talent for ignoring what’s in front of me.) As I set about slicing it up, I noted two interesting asides: the only way to learn the intimates of a bird, where the dark and light meats reside, is to carve a bird. Also, neither one of my two kids wanted anything more to do with turkey.

Ten pounds of turkey meat and nobody to eat it.  Sorta takes the thrust out of your plans.

The turkey stock turned out OK, I suppose. The turkey soup not so much. I didn’t have any celery. And without thinking I used lemon-flavored wide pasta. “This tastes like mint!” barked the drama-tween, pushing her bowl aside. The boy had even less interest.

The gravy. Sigh. The gravy. That’s a post for another time.

After these three defeats, the promise of a warm and creamy turkey pot pie just didn’t seem likely. Make my own crust? Yeah right. In any case, by this time the turkey had just about gone over, relieving me of any further culinary fantasies.

It all seemed a tremendous waste after all. I think when my confidence returns and I get my cooking game back on, I’ll give the turkey soup recipe another go.

Because, you know, it’s about time for the soup swap again…

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

JulieR December 14, 2008 at 12:18 am

Oh Man..what a story…and so nicely written. Did I ever tell you that one year my mother used the leftover turkey carcass to make a miniature sled – spraypainted it gold – and added little santa with gifts and reindeers? It looked fabulous and I loved it. I made a turkey one year – I put a tequila, garlic herb mixture under the skin and made a mole (from scratch) to go with it. What a lot of work but it was good, very good. But then I became cocky with my success and thought I could just whip one out – that was the year I made the turkey for the international potluck at the UC Village and it was undercooked (bad, bad, bad…..) I’m with ya!


kelli johnson December 14, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Soup swap, soup swap, soup swap! I have turkey stock in the freezer from two extra turkeys I was dealing with…see post about turkey wrap! It takes years to get there…don’t be discouraged! Keep at it and keep celery in the crisper! Better yet, plant a couple, and you won’t run out until Spring!


"Mister J" December 14, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Haven’t you heard of the “Honey Baked” stores? No longer do you have cook your own turkey anymore! A suggestion for the Soup Swap. . . TURKEY POSOLE!


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