We broke with tradition on Thanksgiving this year in two ways, both good.
First of all, I finally gave in and deep-fried the turkey. This was a tremendous production, which is something I always enjoy. The opportunity to cook in an interesting new way does not often present itself at this point in my life, and that is double-especially true when the new way is interesting by virtue of being absurdly dangerous instead of interesting because it is a weird and expensive molecular-gastronomy kind of thing.
Taking rips off a bong filled with sage and thyme while eating turkey that’s been reformatted into the appearance and flavor profile of a green-chile cheeseburger is fine for the Alinea set, but I’d like to see one of those people lower a turkey into a pot of boiling peanut oil and then nervously watch over it for an hour.
We first watched the Good Eats episode on deep frying a turkey in which Alton Brown memorably transforms a turkey-frying setup into something you’d need Red Adair to extinguish. Armed with this sensible parable on fire safety, we bought the recommended rig, 5 gallons of peanut oil, and a 15-pound turkey. In accordance with proper safety protocols, I diligently dried the bird out for 24 hours before remembering that I was supposed to have gauged how much oil I needed to fry the bird using water displacement, which meant my diligently dry-brined turkey had to be dipped in cold water before I could cook it. Is there a moreignored recommendation on Earth than “Read instructions completely before beginning”?
While the oil heated over the roaring blue flame, I calmly catalogued all the imaginable tragedies. My favorite disaster- prevention measure was the handwritten sign covering the doorknob on the back door reading “THE DOG CANNOT GO OUT THIS DOOR UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE”. It felt very official.
The oil hit 250 degrees on the way up to a high of 350. It was time to lower the bird into the bath. There was a great deal of stressful bubbling, but the oil didn’t foam or rise. Boiling oil bubbles and roils but doesn’t put off steam the way boiling water would, so the effect is rather like watching a turkey in a Jacuzzi. Fifty fidgety-nervous minutes later, we gratefully killed the flame and hoisted the turkey out.
Stress notwithstanding, I may never cook a turkey another way. The skin was magnificent. We should have just slipped it off the bird like a topcoat and served it as a first course. Generally I am not a big fan of turkey, and this won’t push it up into my top 10 animal proteins or anything, but next Thanksgiving I will probably look forward to the bird for once.
Thanksgiving will be observed on Saturday next year, by the way. We’ve done it on Friday before, to accommodate family obligations, but this year we pushed it all the way to Saturday, which was glorious. A vast improvement on the usual Thursday-first layout that turns a four-day weekend into a three-day weekend spent cleaning the kitchen.
On Thursday we went to the dog park, watched movies, and made pizza. On Friday we went to the very empty grocery store and the very empty Carnivore and did all our shopping, made cornbread for stuffing, made stock for gravy, and had a very chill prep day. On Saturday, thanks to Friday’s prep, we executed the meal early enough that we got rolling on the leftovers that evening, then had the best open-face, hot turkey sandwich of my life on Sunday.
On a four-day weekend, you want to frontload the downtime. That’s my advice, and next year you will be thankful for it.