This is something I wonder about every year. You mention cooking a turkey in a conversation and someone usually brings up their mother or family member that was responsible for Thanksgiving dinner and how dry and overcooked it was. The word shoeleather comes to mind. My experience is no different as a kid. Most stories follow what I remember. They started preparing the turkey early in the morning along with the rest of the meal in a long, drawn out production with the old enameled roaster that seen use once or twice a year. By suppertime, there was this golden browned turkey on the table that was absolutely inedible with skin that was crunchy and pieces cracked when seperated. Like anyone relating a similar story like this, they dreaded Thanksgiving turkey and the "poor, unappreciated me" hissy fit their mom threw afterwards in many stories
I pretty much took over Thanksgiving dinner when I was about 16-17. Unlike my mother and grandmother, I started using the plastic baking bags and a disposable foil pan and followed the directions in the box. The difference was dramatic simply by following the instructions. As years passed, I've moved to an open roasting on a rack with a brined bird that produces a subperb turkey with a lot of flavor. Even years earlier with the baking bags, this wasn't the big deal and production and resulting huge mess that used to be put on. I'd get harranged why I was waiting so long to put the turkey on and start the meal around noon. My mom would make catty,sniping comments that the turkey was like boiled and similar to rubber from the beginning using the baking bags, totally lost on my dad that for once really enjoyed the turkey and my fixings. OK, I stole her thunder.....and enjoyed every minute of it.
This makes me wonder about something. I have a collection of old cookbooks and even a butterball brochure on cooking turkey from the late 50's or early 60's. While those materials suggested cooking by size and time rather then temperature, the times may have been a little bit longer then what I'm accustomed to, but it's nothing like the 8- 10 hour roasting times my mom or grandmother would cremate their bird of a similar size. Years ago, there seemed to be an emphasis on golden,crisp turkey skin as the hallmark of a properly cooked turkey. Baking bags and brining don't do that without some added steps and to some, doesn't make for the traditional appearance. Even with drying the turkey after brining and letting it sit exposed in the fridge for a while to get crisper skin doesn't make for that Norman Rockwell ideal. I wonder at times if the women of yesteryear were more preoccupied with that picture perfect image and the thankless martyr that "spent the entire day from early morning" slaving in the kitchen to prepare the perfect Thanksgiving meal that nobody appreciated.
I'm sure plenty of families had great turkey that were prepared wonderfully. That story doesn't emerge much from years past. The nightmare scenario seems to be the oft repeated one. Why was that?
My turkey is still in the fridge getting drunk. My bread has already been pre-toasted in the oven and packed in bags for the stuffing. The corn pudding and green bean casserole take only about 1 1/2 hours start to finish or less while the turkey in sunbathing on the rack. The yams and pie aren't going very long. I'm not even going to bother for a few more hours. The table was partially set last night. No big deal and nothing that couldn't have been done 35+ years ago in the same amount of time.
I'm looking forward to a great turkey and meal with not much more effort then any other daily meal. I'm not worrying about logistics or guests. The girls can't make it down this year, so it's just going to be the three of us.
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
<message edited by DawnT on Thu, 11/25/10 11:03 AM>