Five years ago, I ate the best turkey of my life. We had moved to Boston for N’s residency. I was adjusting to the new–job, friends, roads. I was a little jealous of N because he had instant friends from being in school, while I was still trying to find friends at work. Halloween was coming and I had no plans. Just when I was about accept a night at home, N came home with a dinner invitation from his classmate and his wife. I went excited to make new friends.
After a short cocktail hour, we sat down to eat. I had no expectations for dinner. Afterward, I learned that was a mistake because our host was basically a chef on the side. We ate a refreshing arugula salad, then pasta–fresh and light–nothing like I’ve ever had before. Then, the main course: turkey. It arrived almost shredded in it’s own juices in a casserole dish. I hadn’t seen a turkey served like this before, and was so full from the first two courses that I wasn’t sure if I could eat anymore. I was told, well ordered to try it by our host and seriously glad I did.
This turkey was light filled with juice and insanely tender. The polar opposite of my first turkey. The first time I had turkey I thought it was bland, dry, and generally unappetizing. This turkey like I said was the absolute opposite. The layers of flavors built in was a mystery. I didn’t know how it was possible to roast a turkey with this much flavor and moisture.
To say this turkey changed my Thanksgiving dinners forever is a mild understatement. From that day on, I knew every turkey I make would be compared to M & E’s turkey served on Halloween of 2009. I was jealous that someone else had a better turkey recipe than I did and inspired to compete in my head in the best turkey ever contest. M & E were never informed of this competition, but every year, I judge mine based on their 2009 turkey. I get closer each year, but so far haven’t quite surpassed their version.
Today as I prep my brine and butter herb mix to stuff under the skin, I again begin by remembering that night during a time when I was so lonely and got to spend an evening with new friends.
Thanksgiving used to be about everyone else in my teen years. I cooked to bring my family, my parents together. I took responsibility for my brother, my mom, my cousin. Everyone came to me with their dark issues and loneliness and I was there to support them completely. I listened advised and was good at it. Additionally, it made me feel good about myself. I even thought I would end up being a psychologist when I grew up. Although, my profession is not far from psychologist, I am learning how responsible I feel for others’ happiness. I am aware of this trait and intellectually know that I can’t be responsible for other people’s happiness, but struggle to separate emotionally.
I used to joke that my mom’s love is the kind that smothers you to death. Then I realized mine is just like that. I remember going to every show of my brother’s band and support the shit out of them just because I didn’t want him to feel the lack of my parents’ support. As I settle into true adulthood, I navigate this trait with a bit more care. I love my people–friends and family–but do not have to sacrifice my sanity, my life, my health for their well being. It seems so easy and obvious a motto to live by, yet it challenges me daily. Each phone call I make to check on a friend, I wonder am I smothering? Where does that healthy line exist? As usual, I over analyze it to death.
Then, a day like today happens. One that allows me the clarity to make decisions as I please, when I please without one sense of responsibility. I can start whatever I want, when I want and it’s freeing for one day.
Here’s my Turkey Recipe:
Blend together 4 cloves of garlic, a 1/4 inch piece of ginger, 4 sprigs of rosemary and 8 sprigs of thyme (leaves only for the herbs) with a stick of butter until smooth. (Adjust all ingredients to your liking. You can’t go wrong! )
Brine the Turkey overnight in a lemon zest, garlic, and rosemary brine.
Stuff the garlic herb blend under the breast skin. Then, Salt and pepper the bird all over.
Roast in the oven in an Reynolds Oven Bag; stuff turkey with celery, lemon halves, onion, and carrot.