Monday, October 20, 2008

A milestone for every married woman

Alright, I admit it. I’m 28 years old, I’m married, and up until several weeks ago, I was a turkey virgin. Now, retrieve your mind from the gutter and follow along. I love to cook. I collect cookbooks and read them as part of the hobby. I have two huge shelves in my kitchen (that are starting to buckle under the weight, actually) filled with cookbooks, and have made recipes from every single one of them. I may not do a lot of things very well, but I can cook like a dream. NAH is forever joking that if I left him, he’d starve. He wouldn’t starve, but he might get hooked on some god-awful food like pork and beans in a can. (Ew. Really?)
I had never made a turkey. Every year I have spent Thanksgiving with loved ones, and I will bring dessert, or an appetizer or two, and help with the dishes, but I always stayed far, far away from the turkey. Damn things scared the hell out of me. I would even get the free turkey from the supermarket after I’d accumulated enough bonus points, and I’d donate it to charity. Turkey breasts? Sure, I can cook those. Turkey loaf? You betcha, but not a whole turkey. Can we say intimidated?
Which brings me to Rosh Hashanah. There are many traditional Jewish foods that are made for the New Year and other Jewish holidays. Here’s something most Jewish people won’t admit (and rest assured, I’ll be catching crap from my allergic parents after this post, but I’ll deal with it). Most traditional Jewish foods are…well…icky. Gefilte fish? It’s a last resort over Passover when you simply cannot stomach another piece of matzo. Carp? Herring? Brisket? UGH. I’m not a big fan of noodle kugel (but I’m in the minority on that) – it does not help that I can’t really eat it, which admittedly clouds my judgement. Stewed prunes (tzimmes)? Enough said. There ARE some traditional Jewish foods that are to-die-for good. Matzo ball soup and challah are fantastic. Knishes, when done properly, are yummy, and I love me some lox and bagels.
NAH and I have worked very hard to introduce both of our religions and cultures to each family. With that in mind, I host Rosh Hashanah now, as my allergic mom has gracefully passed on the crown (and still lovingly makes the best matzo ball soup on the planet). My non-allergic inlaws and brother-in-law attend Rosh Hashanah dinner with us. How could I possibly inflict brisket upon them? My mother makes fantastic brisket. It melts in your mouth. I just DO. NOT. LIKE. BRISKET. So Rosh Hashanah was somewhat of a challenge. 1 – I wanted to make something everyone would eat, and 2 – I wanted to make something that was allergy-free.
Enter the turkey. Everyone eats turkey. It’s a big, festive, celebratory bird, so I decreed it perfect for the Jewish New Year. We still had the apples and honey. We had matzo ball soup and challah. We even had apple cake on the table for dessert.
And boy, did we have turkey. I spent an entire day not only basting and seasoning, but frantically calling both moms (and as my mom-in-law was not in synagogue, she caught the brunt of the questions – non-allergic mom, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU!).
Here’s what I’ve learned: Turkeys have two cavities. You have to pull out bags of icky and disgusting things from both. A 22-lb turkey (because, really, why do anything small?) does not take into account the weight of the roasting pan, 5 lbs. of potatoes, 10 portions of stuffing, or the liquid in said pan. You need serious upper body strength to pull the damn thing in and out of the oven. A turkey should be covered for the better part of the cooking. It takes DAYS to properly defrost. I've also learned that it's better to attempt a meal like this with family, because if it had failed, they'd have had to love me anyway, and we'd have had a good laugh (and then ordered pizza).
The end result? While it was heavy, completely gross to touch, clean, and stuff, it was, however, damn good to eat. I was really proud of what I accomplished (and quite full). We had a lovely Rosh Hashanah dinner with quite a few traditional foods, and I believe I’ve started a new tradition of my own. Oh – and food nerd that I am, that’s a picture of my very first turkey.


Henry said...

It was delicious - and I thought the NAH father answered some questions

allergic diner said...

Actually, you're the NA father, and you were quite helpful when discussing what the hell that little piece of twine they enclosed was for. Please forgive me for not announcing this to the world :)!

Allergy Mom said...

Oh, I remember my first turkey for my future mil in someone else's kitchen! Since then, I've settled on Alton Brown's brined turkey recipe. It's unbelievably moist and cooks very quickly.

I hope you saved the carcass to make stock! My post Thanksgiving stock is the best batch I make all year.

allergic diner said...

Thanks for the tip! I'll check that recipe out. I have to remember turkey soup for my next turkey (which thanks to the supermarket will be soon!)