Last year, with some fanfare, we bought a real turkey roaster — a deep vessel fashioned of anodized steel, with two gleaming handles on either side. No more disposable aluminum roasters for this crew: We were going high tech.
And then, early Thanksgiving afternoon, I discovered that it wouldn’t fit in our oven.
Panicked phone calls to every closed market in the area ensued, followed by a tear through the pantry and basement, but no foil roasting pan surfaced.
Finally, we were able to find a home for our turkey in a neighbor’s oven. Alas, I wouldn’t be able to perform my usual tricks. There would be no starting the turkey upside-down and flipping it, no basting every 20 minutes, no tenting and untenting of foil.
With the source of all my Thanksgiving day anxiety out of the house, I realized that I had set aside all day to cook a relatively simple meal. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry chutney were all ready to go within the hour. I got a batch of Parker House rolls ready to go, cleaned up the kitchen and surveyed the situation. There was really nothing more to do.
Normally at this time in the early afternoon, I shoo people out of the house so I can work. Instead I joined them for a walk around the neighborhood and a game of Frisbee.
At some point in the late afternoon I realized that I had completely forgotten about the turkey, at which point I rushed to the neighbor’s house clutching a meat thermometer, tore open their oven and found …
A nicely browned bird that registered 180 degrees on the instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. When it came time to serve, it was a fine turkey indeed — maybe not as good as that insanely juicy turkey I produced one year with a method that involved a three-day brine, rotation of the turkey as it was cooking and an incantation in Aramaic, but certainly better than mealy-breasted carcasses I have been known to roast.
What was markedly different about this turkey was the low level of stress it produced. I simply stuck it in the oven and forgot about it until it was cooked. Instead of that typical Thanksgiving afternoon spent with the seemingly unending to-do list, I made dinner.
I think that’s what you all should do, as well. Prepare your turkey, seasoning it to taste — stuffed or unstuffed as is your preference. Put it on a rack in a roasting pan that fits in your oven. Paint it with a little oil or melted butter, if you like. Tent some foil over it. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Stick the turkey in it. If in a couple/three hours you remember to take the foil off, fine. If not, fine. The turkey will be done when the thigh registers 180 degrees on your thermometer or, if stuffed, the center of the stuffing registers 165 degrees. That is all. Those Butterball ladies have been right all these years.
So put your turkey in the oven. Make dinner. Then go out and throw a Frisbee. You’ll be glad you did.