For maybe the last 5 or 6 years, I’ve been in charge of cooking our Thanksgiving turkey. This year, I wasn’t certain I’d be cooking for a bunch of people until fairly late, and I wasn’t able to pre-order a gigantic free-range, organic, summa cum laude turkey in advance. In the past, I’ve gotten a turkey somewhere between 20 and 24 pounds to feed a passle of people. This year I ran out three days before Thanksgiving and got two 12.5-pound turkeys instead (the larger bird being unavailable). They were frozen, which isn’t something I’m used to (in the recent past, we’ve gotten birds that were alive on Tuesday), and there were two of them, and I wasn’t sure how that’d work in my oven. They turned out to take nearly an hour longer to cook together than I think one of them alone would have taken. It all worked out, though, and they turned out about as beautifully as two creatures who have been murdered for the sake of a historically misinformed food glut can turn out.
I put nearly as much effort into my rolls, which turned out delicious and equally, non-grotesquely beautiful as the turkeys. My process photos below show how the rolls progressed. For the turkey, thank(sgiving)fully I show only the finished product.
I did have a first this year. It’s common when you get a turkey to find a little sack full of the organs, which generally one turns into giblet gravy. I didn’t like giblet gravy until I was a bit older, and my wife doesn’t like it, and my kids turn their nose up at gravy altogether, so we default to my wife’s preference (which is fine by me; I like regular old gravy just fine). This year, only one of my turkeys had the organ sack in its cavity. The other had the top half of the poor critter’s head. In general at least in the U.S., we tend to prefer meats that don’t much look like the creatures we’re killing. At least in this case, I suppose I can say that I looked the poor bird in the eye, at least one of them.
Meat is pretty gross (I contend that being a physical body in the world is pretty gross), and while we eat it with most meals, we don’t eat a whole lot of it with any single meal. During the Macy’s Day parade today, I heard the stat that some 280 million turkeys are killed in the U.S. each year for Thanksgiving. When I was in I believe the third grade, 280 million was the estimated population of the United States. It’s a staggering number. I mean, there was a turkey served in the U.S. today for each person who was alive in the U.S. when I was in the third grade. That’s crazy! I’m sort of ashamed to have contributed two of those turkeys, especially when for me the real hits of Thanksgiving tend to be the vegetable dishes, but I suspect that there’d be revolt if I proposed a veggie Thanksgiving in the future.
We also made cranberry sauce (from cranberries, not pooped out of a can), mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. Others in the family provided other delicious sides, including perhaps the loveliest sweet potato casserole I’ve ever seen and a really yummy broccoli casserole, and we’ll make some stuffing and sweet potato casserole tomorrow to augment our leftovers.
It was a good Thanksgiving overall. I woke at around 7:15 and cooked and cleaned until about 12:30, then ate a plate of food and cleaned for a bit longer. It was nice to listen to the family chatting and to share some laughs, to hear my kids playing with their little cousins. The rest of the day stretches out before me. I’ll spend a few minutes making terrible noises on my guitar, then will read to my family, then will maybe watch some TV, and finally read until bedtime, and then I’ll sleep tomorrow until I feel like getting out of bed. I’ll feel sympathy for those who have to work tomorrow and will feel perhaps a sort of benign contempt (if that can even make sense) for those who spend the day doing cutthroat shopping (tempered by sympathy for those for whom the day’s deals amount to a necessity of the season).
Mixing the ingredients.
Now it’s time to knead into dough.
Before the fermentation.
After the fermentation. The dough is about double the size it was when I added it to the bowl.
Little boules, formed right after fermentation.
The dough has risen, and I’ve brushed with an egg wash.
One batch of the finished product.