Yes, we had a happy group around the table!
We’d all had our doubts as to whether this would happen this year, but everyone pitched in and made it work! I never even had to sit down on the couch and rest. Can you believe it? Fabulous!!!!
I was determined to do as much ahead of time as humanly possible. Banjo Man set up the tables on Sunday. Nancy and I decorated them on Tuesday. My French Friend Janou and I had made and frozen the potato and spinach casseroles last month.
Mayme would bring appetizers and a sweet potato casserole. Wendy was to arrive with my favorite green bean casserole. Ginny would bring three–three!–desserts. Oh, the joy!
Which left the turkey, gravy and stuffing. I combed Pinterest for recipes and advice on making dressing in the crock pot and creating do-ahead gravy. I bought a 14-pound Butterball turkey and two 8-pound generic turkey breasts. The whole turkey would be roasted on Wednesday and the drippings from it would make the gravy, which I would make on Wednesday and then reheat in my little crock pot for Thursday’s dinner. This would eliminate getting up early to put a huge turkey in the oven on Thursday (hurray for sleeping late!) and I wouldn’t be standing at the stove stirring gravy at the last minute.
Oh, it was a good plan. Until…the turkey had no juice. Seriously, there was maybe 2/3 cup of drippings and 1/3 cup of fat. I had basted it with plenty of butter, but where did it go? That’s a mystery.
This had never happened before. I cobbled together a gravy with Swanson’s chicken broth and a homemade roux (a Pinterest tip) and it wasn’t all that good. I cried.
Then I asked Banjo Man to cut up the turkey so we could get rid of the carcass and put the legs, thighs and breasts in a pan to be reheated on Thursday for anyone who wanted dark meat or we ran out of white meat.
When I returned to the kitchen he informed me that the legs and thighs were undercooked.
This had never happened before either, not in 49 years of turkey-cooking. What the hell was going on? I had used a thermometer, I swear.
So now I was looking at a pan of lousy gravy, undercooked and dangerous thighs and legs, plus cooked breasts touching the undercooked food on the platter.
It was 7:00 at night and I was getting delirious. I cried again. Banjo Man suggested I go to bed.
I refused to leave the disaster site.
Banjo Man then suggested putting the legs, thighs and wings in a pot and boiling them for a new pot of gravy. I took it one step further and put them in a crock pot with water and cooked those suckers all night long. I put the breasts in the freezer to think about another day. And then I went to bed, doom and gloom and self-loathing following me down the hall.
I am not kidding.
The next morning I had a better attitude. The two giant turkey breasts went in the oven, cooked nicely for two and a half hours and–surprise!–produced vats of juice. I made the gravy the way I had always made the gravy and it was delicious. The addition of the broth from the turkey parts made all the difference, I’m sure.
Thanksgiving was absolutely wonderful. The foods, friends, family? I am filled with gratitude. It was such a special day.
WHAT I LEARNED FOR NEXT YEAR:
I will never cook another whole turkey. Breasts are the way to go. I had taken a poll ahead of time and learned that everyone liked white meat the best so doing it this way didn’t disappoint anyone.
I’ll buy turkey legs and/or wings and cook them in the crock pot for juice. I can do it ahead and freeze the broth because you can never have too much.
I will cook the dressing in the buttered crock pot again. It was great and freed up a section of the oven. I used Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix and added chopped and sauteed onions, celery and apples to it, along with chicken broth.
I will no longer try any Pinterest gravy-making techniques and will stick to my old-fashioned method, because I am old and old-fashioned and I clearly am in no position to conquer something new.
I will buy cartons of turkey broth (seen in Aldi’s) as a back up because crying over a turkey is really idiotic.
I served the gravy straight from the small crock pot, set on the island buffet, so it stayed hot. A big ladle made it easy for everyone to serve themselves without the gravy dripping from pitchers and gravy boats. I will definitely do that again.
I am going to have my tablecloths pressed at the dry cleaners. A little luxury, but well worth it.
So this Sunday morning, as the holiday comes to an end, there are still leftovers in the fridge. I make myself wait until after 11 am to heat them up and relive Thanksgiving dinner all over again. They are so good.
Thanksgiving really is one of the best holidays ever. We love it a lot.
The dessert table presided over by my father’s leather turkey decoration.