Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Confessions

So I don't know if you know this about me or not, but I don't know how to roast a turkey.

But wait---it's not because I'm a bad cook or a novice in the kitchen or hopelessly domestically challenged. In fact, the opposite is actually true (if I may say so myself).

I'm a great cook, and I love to do it. But here's the deal: I'm a (at least 95% of the time) vegetarian cook. I mostly cook things like pinto-bean sweet-potato chili and cheesy polenta with white-bean tomato sauce and Asian tofu peanut noodles and curried vegetable couscous with chickpeas and raisins.

I don't roast turkeys. Even more so, I don't WANT to roast turkeys. I don't want to learn how to roast a turkey.

So when I host Thanksgiving by myself (meaning, without my parents visiting)--which is always a super-small affair, since our only guest is my mother-in-law in those cases--I do something embarrassingly lame and expensive.

I buy that Jennie-O Freezer-to-Oven Turkey Breast--the one that comes in a bag and is only 2.75 pounds for some ridiculous sum of money north of ten dollars. (For less than three pounds!)

You see, people, you don't have to do a THING with it. You keep it in your freezer (no opening the refrigerator on Thursday morning to find out you totally mistimed how long it would take the turkey to thaw!), you put it in the oven, it roasts. Plus, it's always moist and has great flavor. (I do eat it, despite my mostly vegetarian tendencies.) In my mind, it's totally worth the $11.99. But it's really small. You could never use it for a large gathering--or even a small gathering that involved all adults rather than a few adults--one of whom won't eat much meat--plus two very small children. There are no leftovers, which is depressing to some people at Thanksgiving (though not vegetarians, typically).

You do what you can, people. This is what I can do.*

On Saturday when I bought my Thanksgiving groceries I felt extra lame in the checkout lane, because not only did I have the Jennie-O Freezer-to-Oven Turkey Breast In A Bag, I also had two boxes of Stovetop stuffing. [hanging head in shame....] My cart practically screamed "DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO COOK BUT IS HOSTING THANKSGIVING; GUESTS, QUICK, BEG OFF AND FIND ANOTHER THANKSGIVING INVITATION!"

I wanted to wear a sign around my neck that said, "Awesome vegetarian cook. Do not handle raw dead birds if I can help it. Plus, too lazy to make my grandma's stuffing recipe when I can make the Stovetop variety with only boiling water and about five minutes."

Also, "Am making a pumpkin-chocolate-swirl cheesecake for Thanksgiving dessert, from scratch, and honestly, if you had to choose, wouldn't you pick an amazing pumpkin cheesecake over a roasted turkey any day?"

Wouldn't you? I thought so.

I really have no good excuse for the boxed stuffing.*

[*The really horrifying part about this whole story is that I am making turkey breast in a bag plus stuffing from a box FOR MY MOTHER-IN-LAW. Does anyone really think this could possibly be a good idea? Keep in mind that this is the mother-in-law to whom I once overheard Julia outing me by pointing to a board book and saying, "Mama broke the ballerina doll off the cover of that book once when she got really mad and threw the book on the floor." Needless to say, no one is outing me to my mother-in-law when I do outrageously selfless good-mom things like SLEEPING ON THE FLOOR IN THE HALLWAY OUTSIDE THE NURSERY. Right? Right???? Sigh.]


Mnmom said...

OK, the frozen turkey I get, but boxed stuffing?

I am your one weird friend who would take the roasted turkey over the cheesecake, because there is nothing better than a turkey sandwich with lettuce and mayo the day AFTER thanksgiving.

Have a good one!!!

Shan said...

I'm telling you, Margaret---I get NO HELP with this dinner. Plus I have a 4 year old and a 6 year old running around. I have enough to do! Who has time for my grandma's stuffing??? You have to start it the day before!

Mom said...

Well, Mom is outing you on this one: You do NOT have to start the stuffing the day before unless the thought of cubing up a loaf of bread is too much for you! It takes some chopping (onions) and measuring (sage, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper), and then there's Nana's crazy warning to "use as much boiling water as you think you need", but the satisfaction of smelling that wonderful stuffing baking, to say nothing of eating it, is worth the half hour (or less) it takes to mix it up!! And I, too, vote for turkey over cheesecake any day! Whatever, I know your Thanksgiving dinner will be delicious!

Mom and Kiddo said...

Well, we go to a restaurant every year -- long story but also involves in-laws -- and that provides no leftovers whatsoever.

Shan said...

Well sure, if all I had to do that day was cube some bread, of course I would have time for that. But it's not, so I don't. I have, however, just discovered a very delicious-sounding stuffing recipe in Parents magazine that has you start with boxed stuffing mix. Then you add a variety of other easy things to it. If I can get my hands on some pecan halves and dried cherries before Thursday (even just the pecans would be fine; I have craisins in the pantry), I will make it. If not, plain Stovetop. No complaining. P.S. When I was growing up, you always cubed up and dried out the bread the night before, Mom! Seems you've gotten lazier in your advanced age. Joking.

Mom said...

Your memory serves you correctly. I cubed the bread and even dried it in the oven, making my own little croutons. And when Nana was with us once she asked why I did that and I said, "Because that's how you did it!" And she said I must have dreamed that part because she never dried the bread cubes! Why dry them when you end up pouring boiling water over them to soften them up?! Since then, if I cube the bread the day before it's just to save time on the Big Day!! But you're right: I am definitely getting lazier in my old age!

Donna said...

Your meal will be delicious. Of that, I can guarantee.

You'll love this: We aren't having turkey for Thanksgiving. We're doing a roast instead (with my in-laws, which for the record, was their idea. I was willing to cook a turkey). And even better is my side of the family.... when my cousin was in town a few weeks ago, we all got together for Thai food and Grandma declared that Thanksgiving dinner.

(side note: I never understood why people had to dry out their bread to make stuffing since they just made it 'wet' when they did the stuffing. So thank you to your mom for her second comment!)