After two relatively smooth Friendsgiving turkeys, I got a bit cocky this year. I took some changes and made one major mistake, but learned a number of life lessons along the way …
After receiving my turkey on Thursday, I very quickly dry brined it at midnight on Thursday, packed a bag and headed home to Delaware on Friday, blissfully unaware that when dry brining for more than one day, YOU HAVE TO COVER THE TURKEY.
Life Lesson #1: Always read ALL of the instructions, even that last little one at the end.
When I got back on Sunday morning, my turkey looked like it belonged in a horror movie. Sure, the skin was crispy AF, but all of the moisture had been drawn out of the meat and then evaporated into thin air. I was devastated, sure that I had completely destroyed my (very expensive!) turkey, and would have to tell all my friends that I failed.
But after a bit of frantic Googling, I realized: all is not lost. Butter is a magical way to add back moisture to meat, and my original plan, of creating a pancetta-herb butter, would provide plenty of moisture and flavor to resuscitate the turkey. So, I tried.
Life Lesson #2: Butter fixes everything. (And don’t give up — things are more salvageable than you think!)
I don’t have a food processor, so I tried combining the ingredients for my pancetta-herb butter in the blender. It was ultimately successful but required a bit of olive oil and a TON of patience. It took a long time to get the butter to come together, and if you’ve got a sharp knife, I’d recommend just mincing everything together by hand.
Life Lesson #3a: Always be flexible in the kitchen (and beyond!) You can always hack something together. (Related: Life Lesson #3b: sometimes the simplest way is also the best way.)
Life Lesson #4: You don’t have to do things alone! Ask for help!
Thankfully, I had some help putting everything together. Debleena assembled the vegetable trivet in my roasting pan while I wrangled the pancetta-herb butter, so that when I was ready to slather that butter over my turkey, I already had a place to put it. She also helped with trussing the turkey and laughing at my discomfort in touching the turkey in all sorts of places. What are friends for?
Ultimately, we got the turkey in the oven and did our math totally wrong, so probably for the first time in history, the turkey was ready early. (I can’t make it anywhere on time, and yet somehow my turkey was done an hour early. How??) In any case, if this ever happens to you, remember: turkey stays warm for a loooooong time, so tent a large piece of foil over it and set it aside. Even if it sits for an hour or two, it will stay warm. You don’t need to reheat it. I promise. Plus, you can leisurely make your gravy, instead of sweating over the stove while a dozen people loudly clamor for dinner.
The turkey itself came out beautifully: bronzed skin that literally crackled as I cut into it, juicy white meat and rich dark meat. My fears that it would be too dry were unfounded (🙌 🙌 🙌), though I found the skin, with the dry brine and the pancetta, a touch salty. No one else in my crew did, so that might be a personal preference. And everyone loved it — seven people ended up demolishing most of a 12-pound turkey. Which bring me to the most important lesson I learned:
Life Lesson #5: When you’re cooking for friends and family, everything will be okay.
The turkey could be terrible, the mashed potatoes could be glue, the gravy could be lumpy and everyone will still love you and be excited to spend a few hours with you, so don’t stress! (And remember: Dominoes is always just a phone call away … ) …