Confession…

I have no food today. I don’t even have a pretty picture.

Wait…

Waiting for Spring

There.

I know, I know. It’s not food, but today I’m just gonna talk about food…and hopefully, you’ll all talk back.

See, I’m nervous. I’m nervous because I’m making a whole turkey tomorrow. I’m nervous because this is only the second time that I’m ever making a whole turkey. That’s right, I’ve only ever made a turkey once, and it was entirely underwhelming. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It was completely unremarkable to the point that neither my husband nor myself can even remember it.

The only turkey I ever made was for our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We’d been married for eight months, he had been deployed for about five of those months, and he was getting home that day. Oh yeah, and I was 22 years old. Not that age has anything to do with being a great or competent cook, but for me, it mattered. This was back when I still made most things from a box (my poor husband) because I was too scared to venture into the realm of do-it-yourself for fear I’d ruin everything. I’ve come a long, long way.

Anyway, I remember when he was dropped off by some of the guys. He came in and it was all tears and hugs and relief. Then, I was so excited and proud that I was cooking a real turkey, I dragged him to the kitchen. Probably not where he thought we’d end up, if you know what I mean…and I think you do. *wink, wink and a hubba-hubba*

Sorry. I won’t do that again. Promise.

I dragged him to the kitchen, pulled the oven door open, and stood there grinning from ear to ear, like a little kid…so proud of myself. He was so sweet…he could tell I was excited and proud of myself. He behaved the same way. If I’ve never said it before, I’m a lucky woman. My hubster is one of a kind, one in a million.

Maybe that’s why we don’t remember the turkey, though? It was such a huge, special day for us, and quite frankly, there are much prettier, more joyful memories in my mind than whether I made a yummy turkey dinner. Maybe, then, it wasn’t so unremarkable? I don’t know. What I do know is that I really, really want tomorrow’s turkey to be remarkable…in fantastic ways.

I have a plan. I’ll share that plan with you, but first…

How about another pretty picture?

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Ooooh. Ahhh.

Okay, let me explain why I haven’t made any more turkeys since then. It’s very simple. We are a military family, we have always been stationed very far away from our family, and there’s only three of us in our immediate family. Unless you count Loki…which I do. But really, not for turkey eating. Even if he does get some in the end.

In the ten Thanksgivings that my husband and I have spent together, only twice have we been blessed enough to be with family. Both of those instances were when we were able to travel to them (I encourage my family to visit during the prettiest times of the year, which is usually always summer). Needless to say, I wasn’t the turkey cooker on those days. Furthermore, our boy, on occasion, has spent the Thanksgiving holiday with his mother, leaving us reduced to two. Therefore, it’s always been a small turkey breast with a couple of traditional sides, and a nice cheesecake.

This year, though. I really want to make a turkey, huge amounts of leftovers be damned! So here’s my plan:

1. I’m going to use the Pioneer Woman’s favorite turkey brine.

2. My back up plan, should I fail, is to serve a Charlie Brown meal of toast, popcorn, and jelly beans (and probably some leftover candy corn).

3. That’s all I’ve got so far.

So, thoughts, suggestions, tips, advice?

I have a pretty little 12 pound (the smallest I could find) turkey ready and waiting. I can’t do any deep frying, so that’s out. Our grill isn’t big enough to hold a whole turkey, but even if it was, I’d like to roast it. What, my friends, do you suggest that I do to make it into a phenomenal Thanksgiving meal?

Thanks!
Darla

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Comments

  1. Heather says

    My only suggestion is to stop worrying. You are a phenomenal cook anyway, and your turkey should be intimidated by YOU, not the other way around. LoL Dress up your turkey, roast his little ass (it's okay, our turkey is ALSO a 12 pounder), make mashed potatoes, a veggie, some of your kick ass rolls, a dessert (or ten), serve it up on your spectacular new dishes and then collapse on the couch to the rhythm of a pat on your own back. What makes your meal is what you put into it…. Every time you have to touch that disgusting piece of raw bird, put a thankful thought into him (or her?) through osmosis. :D Your love for your family will give you a spectacular, kickass, one-of-a-kind-by-Darla touch on your equally amazing Thanksgiving dinner. With the kind of blog you right, and the things you make, it's not just about the ingredients. You always put your heart into it. SO do that to Turkwina (she's a girl in my book)….. She'll come out of your oven in perfect, gobble-me-up condition!!!!!

  2. Tonya says

    Good luck!! I'm cooking my very 1st turkey tomorrow. I'm 34 years young and have never had to do this. I'm cooking a 20 lb turkey. Boy I hope I dont ruin this thing!! It is nice knowing others are out there with the same concerns that I have.

  3. Kathy says

    Heather said is so much better than I could. Show Turkwina who's boss! My attitude is always that it's going to be a great meal, or it's going to be a great story. In any case, you'll be spending it with the ones you love and life doesn't get better than that. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  4. Laree says

    Darla-

    I too am using Pioneer Woman's brine: I was directed to her site via YOUR site. (I *heart* your recipies!)

    Anywhoo, you'll be fine. Even an underwheling turkey is better than most people can do….and since when do you do anything half way? It will be spectacular, probably take awesome pictures, and we'll all be jealous.

    I have only done 4 or 5 turkeys unsupervised. This year I am preparing 3 of my first *ahem* homegrown turkeys. (NO PRESSURE) To up the odds of at least ONE being tedible, I am baking one, crock potting another, and the menfolk are deep frying the third.

  5. 3,444 Miles Per Hour says

    I had my Thanksgiving this past Saturday (I live in the UK now and it's not a holiday here!) and used PW's brine and my turkey was the best it has ever been. My only advice to you is watch the cooking time (meat thermomenter moment if there ever was one!) and don't panic. As sad as it may be for all our PETA friends out there, your turkey is simply fulfilling its Thanksgiving Destiny, your only requirement is to get it to the table and enjoy the blessings of the holiday (and two days off work!). Relax. Judging from your site you are a natural in the kitchen and therefore will have nothing to worry about! Best of luck and I can't wait to hear how it went!!

  6. Amy says

    I have brinned our turkey for the last three years and love the results. Try not to baste until the last hour, don't put stuffing in "her" but some onion, apple and celery..oh and garlic.
    Use foil to tent the bird and remove it towards the end to brown the skin or you might have some burnt legs and wings. That's all I have. You will do just fine!!

  7. Anonymous says

    every year my husband makes me make two turkeys. he loves turkey. I roast mine and stuff the inside with my moms stuffing. I cook the the turkey with the braest side down ( put parchement so the skin doesn't stickto the rack) so the juice runs to the breast so it wont dry out. then last twenty min I turn it over and then it browns. don't go by the little plastic timers they usually over cook the turkey and the breast is dry use an instant
    read thermameter to find out temp. my stuffing is peppridge farm cubed with spices. I also put apples celery onions and fresh parsley. one year I made turkey for a person with diabetes so I cut out all the butter… I didn't saute vegtables in butter or rub the turkey with butter and I found the the turkey tasted just as good but a whole lot easier to digest. if you know what I mean. now I rub just a little butter on the turkey( only because Julia says too) this year I am diving into the icy water of uncertainty by removing the thigh bone and stuffing the thigh with stuffing. thanks too julia & jauques recipe. I get tired of never having enough stuffing my family sucks it down like lemonade on a hot texas day. make a stock out of the neck for the gravy at the end. good luck and have fun for you see once you have been doing it for 30 years it becomes fun and remarkable. Thanks for the blog I check it every day.
    Pam

  8. Fhorn74 says

    I second what Heather said. Relax. Its just a big bird and cooking it isn't all that hard. I've never tried the brine before, and may do it in some later time. My mother taught me the bag method of cooking it. They have these and they are real easy to use. Open the turkey bag, put a little dusting of flour in there. Season your turkey the way you want. Place the turkey in the bag, use the tie they have to tie up the bag and place in your roasting pan. Make sure the oven is up to temp and place in oven. For a crispier skin on top, take the turkey out about an hour before its done, open the bag and place back in the oven. It has never failed before. As for the rest of the fixings, I begin to prep it all in that last hour. And leave them on the stove to stay warm until serving time. Or if you have oven proof serving ware, place in the oven. So that's we have done. Have a fantastic day and don't stress. This is a day to enjoy as a family. Can't wait to see more blogs on holiday cooking. I may have to try making the butterbeer tomorrow, as a treat. And thank your husband for his service.

  9. kate says

    I'm in Ontario, Canada and the thanksgiving here was a few weeks ago. I cooked the second turkey of my life for my boyfriend's parents (no pressure, right?!) but thankfully I didn't light the turkey on fire or anything too tragic. I figured that anything with proscuitto is generally better than without so I made a hazelnut and proscuitto butter which I stuffed under the skin of the turkey. I didn't brine mine ahead of time which I know is always the way to go. I also made cranberries with raspberry port and dried figs which was an excellent side. I ate it with a spoon from the tupperware in the fridge for the next week. But all in all, I'm sure your turkey will turn out fantastic and I have always been of the mind that the best part of the Thanksgiving meal are the leftover turkey sandwiches anyhow!

  10. Jane says

    Just remember: 20 minutes per pound, regardless of the size of turkey, until it reaches 165 degrees F internal, then let it rest for 15 minutes. I am new to your site, but from what I've seen, you are supremely talented and capable. Relax and enjoy the day. It's only one meal. If it doesn't work out, remember it with laughter. Jane

  11. Kay says

    I've never brined a turkey before, but I'm sure it will be delicious. I've always cheated, and used those wonderful baking bags that Reynolds makes. The turkey is always moist & delicious. But relax! Your dinner is going to be fabulous, and all the leftovers will be great for sandwiches, soups, casseroles, and turkey salad. Try a turkey sandwich with a spoonful of stuffing (we have baked dressing – same idea), cranberry sauce and spicy brown mustard on a thick slice of dense bread. Yummy!

  12. Cindy says

    Brining is DEFINITELY the way to go. Especially if you have a "temperamental" oven. I've also stuffed orange slices under the skin and inside the cavity. Very nice, mellow flavor. This year, we've "discovered" roasted yams. So I'm throwing them in with the turkey and then scooping out the flesh and adding butter and cinnamon. It looks like a mashed potato but it just cooks that way. Good luck.

  13. Scarletta says

    Don't worry – you are obviously a very talented cook as well as a gifted photographer. So even if the turkey doesn't turn out the way you would like, I am sure that the photos will be gorgeous.

    I have family coming tonight, I am making my first Thanksgiving meal tomorrow, and I don't even know what I am making yet!

    So I am nervous too. I am hoping that, in case the food isn't phenomenal, fun and family will make up for it. :)

    I can't wait to hear how it turns out! Happy Thanksgiving!!

    P.S. One thing that I have learned from preparing other big, high-pressure meals, is to rely heavily on my arsenal of side dishes that are easy to make and I know people love. That way, even if the main course isn't to everyone's liking, they can fill up on gratin, salad, homemade bread, soup, etc. And of, course, there is always dessert!

  14. karynees says

    Darla, with all of the beautiful and creative ideas you've posted on this blog, you'll have a turkey beat….it's a cinch!! The most common mistake people make is that they over or undercook the turkey. I'd suggest using a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (w/out touching the bone) until it reaches 185 degrees and estimate about 15 minutes per pound for a 10-14 lb. turkey (for a larger turkey, est. about 12 minutes per pound). My oven cooked a 14 lb. turkey in 30 minutes less than the 15 min. per pound suggestion, but w/the meat thermometer, you can just take it out when it reaches 185.

    Finally, if it's not too late (as I'm writing this the night before Thanksgiving!), I'd get a turkey bag. You just put the turkey in the bag use the provided tie, put about 5 slits in the bag and then put the turkey in a roasting pan. It keeps it super moist and juicy.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!! Enjoy your turkey!

  15. Sugarbear says

    Thank you so much, everyone! Especially for the encouragement, but also for the tips and advice!! I feel much more prepared now, and far less nervous! I'm really excited to get started now, and I can't wait to doze off on the couch with a belly full of delicious food!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you all! :)

  16. Foxkit says

    Definitely just chill. My dad and I have done some whacky experiments for turkey-most of which are tasty but not pretty. My best advice is, of course, add bacon. Really. We put bacon under the skin of the turkey and latticed it on top-it was amazing. Also, add some heavy cream to the stuffing for some amazingly delicious but not healthy holiday goodness.