my very first turkey know that it seems very department store of me to be thinking past the next holiday (though I’m not quite as bad as retailers who have been on Christmas since Labor Day) but for weeks I have been unable get my brain off of Thanksgiving. While it is undeniably my favorite holiday (is there any other day that is so centered around food?) this year I am particularly excited because for the first time, I’m going to host.

There is just one little detail that plagues me. I’ve never cooked a turkey.

I know this lack of large fowl experience will shock anyone who knows that I love to cook, although I will admit I did not always have a strong kitchen reputation. When I was married, many of friends didn’t realize I like to look, let alone that I can cook. My ex-husband often (okay, always) did the cooking, thus the number one question when we separated was not “what happened?” or “how are the children taking it?” but “who is going to cook for you?

(For the record, the second question was usually, “do we have to wait so late to eat now that you are cooking?” as ex was notorious for putting dinner on the table well after 10:00pm.)

I have certainly rediscovered myself in the kitchen these last few years, but do remain grill-averse. I firmly view grilling as a man’s job; after all, it’s called manning the grill for a reason. But anything else in the kitchen, I can do. And do well. I think. I haven’t cooked everything. I haven’t cooked a turkey.

Thanksgivings past have found me at BFF Nancy’s house, and last year at my dad’s. But this year, I want to host (by the way Nancy, is all this okay with you?) and I can’t wait. Except my brain might explode from all the turkey recipes I’ve read in the last few weeks. The pressure is on to prepare the best, and I want to exceed my own expectations. When it comes to the sides, I know I’m good. Mashed potatoes I make better than anyone. And stuffing? I have a great sausage stuffing recipe. Brussels sprouts with bacon, green beans with caramelized shallots, homemade cranberry sauce. Check. Check. Check. And of course, I can’t forget the traditional family appetizer and both of my sisters’ favorite Thanksgiving food: mushroom turnovers.

But turkey? Should I brine it? Should I stuff it with the stuffing or cook the stuffing separately? Should I order one from Whole Foods? (Kidding.)

Consider this post a plea for your experiences, ideas, recipes and guidance. Consider this post a contest. The one who submits the best sounding recipe, the one I ultimately use, has an invitation to join us at our table.

I can’t guarantee how the turkey will come out, but I promise the wine will be very very good.


4 thoughts on “my very first turkey”

  1. You have to cook stuffing both inside the turkey and in a casserole dish. There won’t be enough for the crowd if you just stuff the turkey. So take that decision off your list-o-questions. But I will add a question: what kind of gravy will you make? My sister-in-law always makes two–one is the standard delicious style made from the roasting pan, and the other is the standard plus port. Yummy!!! You know which one I slather all over my turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing….

  2. Definitely brine, will ensure the bird doesnt dry out. If you stuff it, itll take longer to cook – given my inability to plan ahead, obviously this is not something Ive ever done. I think it makes the stuffing better to cook it in the bird, not sure it much matters for the bird, but easier to ensure stuffing is fully done if you cook separately. Joy of Cooking recipe is very straightforward and reliable.

  3. Rest assured, Chelsea — I have the absolute best, most delicious, fool-proof recipe for a turkey: Turkey Marinated in Orange Juice and Garlic. You stuff the turkey with oranges, garlic and cilantro, and marinate it in an oven bag overnight with orange juice, garlic and olive oil. It is tasty, tender, juicy and incredible. I will email you the secret recipe. You’re welcome!

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