Archive for Thursday, December 2, 2004

A Thanksgiving dinner miracle

December 2, 2004

In anticipation of what was about to unfold, I shied away from my usual Thanksgiving topic for a column last week. But, I can honestly say now that I'm thankful for family and the holiday's biggest draw -- the food.

That's because I cooked Thanksgiving dinner this year. Yes, that's right and, no, I'd never done it before. That's why I didn't want to mention it last week. I didn't know how this grand experiment might go and didn't want to hear about it if it flopped.

It didn't. I don't mind saying, it was great.

I've taken up cooking as a "hobby," but this was a real test. This was the real deal. But, I'm proud to report that I was able to lay out a feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, noodles, corn and rolls that rivaled the 40-plus Thanksgiving dinners I've had before. I will admit one transgression -- I did buy the pies. I said cooking was a hobby, I'm not there yet on baking.

I will admit another thing. It wasn't easy and there were plenty of tense moments along the way. But, in looking back on it all, it was much easier than I thought it would be. And, I'm glad I did it. Also high on the list -- I didn't kill anyone.

So, I guess it was a huge success. I know I thought everything was very good and I had no complaints from those that ate it, stunned as they were that I pulled it off.

Well, they say practice makes perfect and I certainly put in my time there. For weeks ahead of time, I practiced on two of the staples -- noodles and mashed potatoes. Noodles are a long-standing tradition in the Myrick family. My mom's noodles, hand-made with love at every step, are the absolute greatest in the world. It's a tradition to see who can shovel the most in. They're that good. Most generally, I win. My two hollow legs always come in handy at Thanksgiving that way.

And, no, my noodles were in no way, shape or form as good as mom's. But, by golly, they were plenty good. I didn't do the from scratch thing. Ooops, there's another transgression. No, I bought the frozen version at the store. In practicing, I figured how to get them boiled, etc., but the various "sauces" I tried just weren't right. It wasn't so much the taste, they just weren't the right color.

That's when I inquired about the "recipe" and found out they're made with turkey broth -- straight from the Thanksgiving turkey. Well, I wasn't about to cook another bird just so I could practice with real broth. It would have to wait. It worked.

And, oh, yes, the bird was probably the biggest worry. We got our turkeys on Friday before Thanksgiving. Not knowing much, I figured if I started thawing it out Sunday, it would be fine. I woke up like a bolt late Sunday night, remembering for who knows why that I hadn't taken the turkey out of the freezer. I did and figured I was still good to go.

When Tuesday rolled around and it was still hard as a rock, I started to get concerned. One of my biggest dinner advisers, Signal office manager Karen Wooge, told me about a water trick to try. I did and thought, again, I was good to go. Wednesday morning, it was still hard as a rock. It hadn't thawed much more by noon. It was panic time.

But, Karen said she'd come take a look. She did, was able to wrangle the bag of innards out, we threw it in the cooking bag and tossed it in the oven. She told me it would be done about 9 p.m. When the "button thermometer" popped up around 7, I hit panic mode again. I called Karen. She said not to worry. Let it go until 9. I did and it was fine.

I let it cool for awhile and then "carved" it, if that's what you want to call it. I wanted to have the turkey out of the way so I could concentrate on everything else the next day.

We were eating at 1 p.m., so I jumped full force into the side dishes around 11 a.m. I had a plan on timing everything, but as a rookie Thanksgiving cooker, I had no idea if it would work. It did to perfection.

Everything was done at the same time. It went on the table and was devoured. I've always been satisfied with Thanksgiving dinner, but this one was extra special. I did it myself and am so glad I did.

Now, about those leftovers ...

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