Minus 7 Days
Research, research, research. I'm not kidding when I say that Google was a good friend. My first decision was fresh or frozen.
Minus 4 Days
I bought fresh because it was on sale. It sat happy in the fridge until further notice.
Minus 3 Days
Eventually, I came across Good Eat's Alton Brown and his brining method. Yeah, brining? Had never heard of this term until after I bought my turkey. Who knew this bird cooking world was so complicated??
Minus 2 Days
Being caught up in how to make the turkey taste good, I forgot that I would need some sort of device to cook the bird in. With a mass e-mail sent to WEW, I was able to borrow a roasting pan with rack and a thermometer probe from Tiffo. (Thanks, Tiff!)
Next, I decided I wasn't going to buy allspice if I was never going to use it again, nor candied ginger (though I did purchase powdered ginger). I bought everything else between Trader Joe's, Safeway, and Berkeley Bowl - except salt. How could the TJ and SW not have kosher salt? The leading grocery stores! Oh, the horror. I even looked in the pantry at church - no kosher salt. So what's a woman to do? This one called KevinNish and got her some kosher salt. (Thanks, Kevin!)
Then, I made my brine mixture in the largest pot I could find. It was too difficult to hold the bottles of spice, the measuring spoons, and not make a mess I'd have to clean up so I just "eyeballed" everything. I like a clean kitchen. But the ginger started to smell really strong so I added more peppercorn. At this point, Mr. Woo said it was smelling good, so I shrugged off my unwillingness to be precise and kept going.
Minus 1 dayThinking about sticking my hand in the turkey's cavity made me feel yucky so I asked my brave knight Sir Woo to get the neck and giblets out of the freezing cold turkey. That was another funny and new word to me: giblets. I'm glad they packed in nicely in a bag to make the search easier. Next came the actual process of brining. I finally made the decision to not use an oven bag when cooking. It did serve a grand purpose in keeping the bird sitting happy in the brine. It's not a good idea to use a trash bag in preparing food as there are chemicals and other harmful materials that you probably don't want contaminating your hard work. I did line a sturdy box with a plastic bag before I lovingly placed my plucked and oven-bagged friend into it. Problem: the brine was causing the bag to "go flat." I grabbed all the root beer bottles that I had used as decoration in the study room to prop up the liquid so that there would be as much submerging as possible. Back to the fridge it went for 15 hours, flipped (and bottles rearranged) half way.
Mrs. Woo: Wish us well!
Mr. Woo: "Us?"
Mrs. Woo: The turkey and me!
Mr. Woo: Oh. (looking at the turkey) Hang in there, buddy... tap, tap.
About three hours before guests were to arrive, I excitedly urged Mr. Woo into the kitchen to take out our friend so that we could rinse he/she off. After being patted dry, I tossed in some coarsely diced onions. That's when I found out that the cavity inside is actually smaller than I thought. Since we don't have a microwave, I heated up my aromatics in a sauce pan for a couple minutes on medium heat before adding it to the onions. Then some sage, rosemary, a couple of cinnamon sticks. We liberally rubbed the turkey with some olive oil, made our "turkey triangle" (a sheet of foil constructed to prevent the breast meat from drying out), freshly ground some peppercorn on top for aesthetics, and spent several minutes trying to tuck in the wings. To keep the smoking to a minimum (and hoping for a non-existant) I added a few cups of water to the bottom of the pan, and into the 500oF oven it went for 30 minutes. Then in went the thermometer probe into the center of the breast meat (thank you, Mr. Woo!), and down to 350oF until "the fat turkey thermometer sings" at 161oF. It rested for about 45 minutes, cooked a little longer while doing so, and turned out beautifully!
While it was cooking, I had time to make another turkey and appetizer.
Wait, that's not how it should look. It's supposed to look like this (see if you can spot the difference):
It was my first time cooking a turkey, and Mr. Woo's first time carving. (While I was YouTubing videos from Good Eats, Mr. Woo was watching people teach how to carve!) He did a fantastic job. (With the first incision juices flowed out - super moist.) Jaffrey did help speed the process, but we were waiting for the potatoes anyway.
After a quick vacuum, scrub of the floors, brush off the tablecloth, and finish the last dishes, all 3 Woo's headed out to visit my parents. We ate BBQ ribs (which made 3 days in a row) and galbi; I did my Black Friday shopping at 5am; and came back home Saturday afternoon in preparation for Sunday worship. Whew! Exhausted? Yeah. Fun? Yeah. :)