A year ago during Thanksgiving week, I was browsing the internet and randomly came across a recipe for the holiday’s most famous dish: roasted turkey. I went through the ingredients and the instructions, and after a few minutes of deliberation in my adventurous mind I decided to attempt cooking this legendary meal.
I have always loved cooking, and I never understand when people say they can’t cook. I mean, we can all read instructions and follow them, right? As long as I have a recipe, nothing can stop me. So I had no worries about attempting my first Thanksgiving turkey. Normally I try to have everything prepared and thought out ahead of time, but I wanted to cook my turkey as fresh as possible, so I decided to buy it on the very day of Thanksgiving. But little did I know…
On the fateful day of Thursday, November 24th, 2011 I slept in excessively late, enjoying my holiday break, and around 6pm my brother and I took off – driving – for “HEB,” a popular grocery store in Texas. We turned into the empty parking lot of the supermarket and made our way to the entrance, only to find that the store had closed at 3pm because of the holiday. I was not expecting this at all, but I was not giving up.
We drove to “La Michoacana,” a Mexican meat market we frequently visit. It was open, but when we got inside, the butcher informed us that he had no more turkeys left. Yikes!
We had one final option. I resigned myself to getting one of Walmart’s “industrial” turkeys, as we had to go there to get some of the other ingredients anyway. But, just as I was about to select a turkey, my brother remembered an Arab meat market he sometimes visits. By the way, if you’re a foreigner in the U.S., you should consider ethnic supermarkets when grocery shopping. They are often cheaper and sell fresher, less processed, and better tasting food.
Finally we had our turkey! The Arab market still had many fresh turkeys left, in all different sizes, and I opted for a generous 20-pound turkey; after all, everything is bigger in Texas.
We rushed back to our apartment by 7pm, where I cleaned the turkey, seasoned it, put it in the oven and set it to cook at 350ºF. Checking the recipe again, I got yet another surprise. Roasting the bird would take much more time than I had expected. The average preparation time for a turkey set a 350ºF is at least 15 minutes per pound of meat, which, if you do the math, yields a total of 5 hours.
This was the cherry on the cake, hands down! I love to take my time, but 5 hours seemed like forever to me.
At least it was more than enough time to do the side dishes. Therefore, as my turkey was patiently roasting, I made some mashed potatoes (for the first time as well), and later I made some Brussels sprouts as the turkey was cooling off.
At last, past midnight, my very first Thanksgiving dinner was finally done. I was exhausted and hungry, and so was my brother, but it was all worth it. The chest of the turkey split in half during the baking, but the meat was moist and tender, and the mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts were delicious as well. I was satisfied and so thankful to each of the three recipes I had found online. And regardless how long it had taken me, I was thankful to have something to eat, especially something I had made myself.
And I was thankful most of all that I had only been cooking for two people. Can you imagine what would have happened if I had invited some people over and make them wait until after midnight for a Thanksgiving meal? They would have eaten me alive! From now on I will always plan ahead for a special meal.
I wish you a wonderful, happy, healthy, and well-planned holiday season!