How to have a happy family holiday.
The main course is, of course, stuffing. Yeah, yeah, it’s wrapped in a big old honkin’ turkey, succulent breast, plump drumsticks, and all that. But really, let’s be honest: the point of a family holiday meal is the delectable stuffing which, if prepared right, will take on all the flavors of the rest of the ingredients. It’s the only real reason we bother. Well, that and the pie.
The first item of business is deciding which recipe to follow. Different chefs have different specialties, but the end result should be the same – a family meal that will be talked about forever. This is a big decision, and its importance cannot be overstated. How many well-meaning holiday cooks have attempted to “just do what comes naturally” and been rewarded with nothing to show for all their hard work except maybe a glow from – ahem – standing over a hot stove? Some recipes that call for yogic postures (hips over your head!) or deep-breathing (just relax!) techniques are merely folklore designed to impress the untried. Some time-tested recipes will, however, produce the best possible results when older ingredients are all that come to hand; others will simply attempt to maximize cooking time for a more succulent bird (and therefore, a stronger-flavored stuffing) Whichever specific recipe you follow, the general order of steps will be the same. Please adjust for personal taste as necessary – marshmallow topping is rarely inappropriate.
Place naked, plucked turkey on adjustable stainless steel platter with drumsticks raised over neck level for easy access to body cavity. Pink paper gowns with smiling teddy bears or other infantilizing cartoon characters may be used to decorate the turkey platter as long as they are not actually obscuring the open body cavity.
In order to make more room in the body cavity for the all-important stuffing, remove heart, gizzards, endometriosis, damaged fallopian tubes, misshapen ovaries, fibroids, dreams of anything in your life ever being easy again, etc. Chop finely and set aside for gravy. (Omit reproductive organs for milder taste, if preferred).
Flush body cavity with brine to remove any extraneous bits of tissue. If you can accomplish this step without tears, you’re well on your way to the perfect family holiday meal. However, if you cannot manage such a feat, do not despair. (If unsure whether saline lavage has sufficiently penetrated the cavity, ultrasound visualizing aids are available at your local medical supply warehouse. Although properly trained turkey-basting technicians are more expensive even than caterers, you should consider taking advantage of such opportunities if need be. Doesn’t your family deserve the very best?)
Successive bastings with Lupron, Bravelle, Menopur, etc. will transform the inner cavity into a more hospitable place, allowing the stuffing to more readily soak up meat juices. Draw up the basting solution into the bulb of the basting syringe and swirl carefully to mix with brine. Inject under the skin for the juiciest, most stuffing-ready bird. Most needle-basters will need to be manually loaded with ingredients like essence of post-menopausal nun pee. This sounds more disgusting than it is. Actually, no, it really is that disgusting. And it burns like hell. Use it anyway, in whatever fashion the recipe dictates.
Furthermore, periodically basting the body cavity with pessaries and estrogen tablets dissolved in natural juices allows essential nutrients and hormonal seasonings to be absorbed by the stuffing mixture, and is critical for the success of the holiday meal.
Prepare the stuffing. Only the best quality eggs should ever be used. Sub-par eggs will affect the entire meal, so do not be tempted to take any shortcuts here! In a small glass bowl, mix extra-large, grade AAA eggs with fresh or frozen spermatozoa. Fold mixture into culture medium and let stand in a warm, secure place for 36 – 126 hours. Cellular mixture should divide, doubling in size at least 3 to 9 times. If mixture does not rise, repeat previous processes with fresh eggs until satisfactory outcome is achieved.
Once prepared, stuffing should be inserted into the body cavity using a sterile catheter/syringe while wearing medical-grade latex gloves. Although one of the simplest steps of the operation, this is the most critical. Keep your eye on the eventual goal of a delicious family meal centered around golden brown stuffing, rather than on the gelatinous, unbaked lumps of dough you are handling. Dough-lumps are difficult to form an emotional attachment with, but give it your best shot. Nicknames might facilitate the process.
After inserting stuffing, place turkey in a warm oven for at least two weeks. Try not to check on it too often. It is not that it is as fragile as a soufflé, but rather that since your hopes have already been dashed countless times, you should try not to set yourself up for failure any more than you have to. Do not, at this point, bother with trying to read the meat thermometer. It isn’t finished cooking yet. Trust me. No, really. Actually, now it might be done, or conversely, it might be burned to a crisp. Unfortunately, there’s really no way to know because the oven light just blew a fuse.
At this point in the waiting game, basting will be required at evenly spaced intervals. Some store-bought basters will come pre-loaded with mucosa solutions derived from the linings of pig intestines. Believe it or not, basting with this mixture will create a smooth texture in the flesh of the turkey that will help ensure the success of your stuffing. Ignore any feelings of revulsion or cynicism at the lengths to which you are willing to go, and inject under the skin at 24-hour intervals. Some bruising may occur. Rub skin all over with ice cubes if this becomes a problem. Icing probably won’t help, but it might, at least, distract you from the bruising.
If you have a flashlight and perhaps a magnifying glass (not to mention the persistence and rapacious appetite for detail of Julia Childs), you may notice that the turkey’s skin is turning a nice rosy brown, and that the breast meat is swelling enticingly. This may simply be a result of the intramuscular and subcutaneous basting, but it may, in fact, be indicative of the succulent and delectable condition of the stuffing. However, since you really won’t know for a while, try not to pay any attention to it. Have some pie.
It is now time to start making gravy. Simply chop up your heart and any other reserved innards you always planned to use someday, and sauté over the low heat of self-recrimination and lost dreams until the concoction turns the rich brown of breast-fed-baby shit. Add sesame oil mixed with progesterone and whisk until smooth. Season with baby aspirin, prednisone, and micronized DHEA. Serve hot in a gravy boat.
After two weeks have passed, you may (or may not) know if your holiday dinner has a chance for success or not. After another ten weeks, you are entitled to pick out holiday themed invitations for next year’s presentation. After another twenty-five to twenty-eight weeks event-free roasting, serve stuffing – against a pretty backdrop of turkey – on your best platter. Hand-knit heirloom booties and hats make nice serving pieces, but are not necessary.
If, however, the turkey/stuffing mixture produces a clear, rather than a pink line on the testing strip near the end of the initial cooking period, not only is the turkey not done, but you must start again from scratch. This is unfortunate if you have people waiting for you to finish so they can sit down to a family dinner. They’ll have to wait for grandchildren. And pecan pie, because at this point, you’ve probably eaten it all. Probably some pumpkin pie in the back of the fridge, though. You might want to start in on that one at this point. With whipped cream.
Take-out or delivery – perhaps from China or Guatemala at the time of this writing – may be a more reliable option than starting from scratch at this point, or you could hire a caterer to prepare the holiday feast in your stead, though it will, of course, be too late for anything this year. Ignore any feelings of self-doubt which taking this direction may engender. Yes, I know that neither your mother nor your grandmother did it this way, but this is the modern era. These days, not everyone arrives at a family dinner via the same route. Some go over the river and through the woods in a sleigh, some go via the F train to their clinic’s subway stop, and some simply call a taxi. The important thing is that you get there in the end. Preferably before the meal is over and everyone’s already heading home.
Me? I think maybe you should have some more pumpkin pie while you’re trying to decide, because pie is never the wrong choice.
Read Full Post »