I’ve never attempted to roast a turkey. And there are several reasons for that.
- Reason number one: The oven has always been an extra storage space for pots and pans for me. No other functionalities. So my skill in managing the process of roasting or baking is non-existent.
- Reason number two: I’ve heard so many turkey mishaps that I know it’s no easy task.
- Reason number three: I have always tried to eat less meat. I know I can’t be a vegetarian since it requires a vegetarian upbringing or a vegetarian discipline. I have neither. However I am always on my way to be a vegetarian.
- Reason number four: I’ve cooked enough and experimented enough to know that a failed food experiment brings a unique problem–how to deal with the aftermath. I can’t just throw the failed experiment into the garbage and forget about it. I can’t waste food like that. I just can’t. So I have to eat the awful consequence no matter how bad it tastes.
I heard many stories of failed turkey roast. Actually everybody in the Asian immigrant community has one, two, or even three turkey disaster stories. One of my friends, who loves to elevate daily trivial to the height of cultural significance, claims that Asians don’t know how to cook turkey. We can do chickens and ducks, but turkeys belong to a whole different culinary sphere. I don’t agree with him. Actually many of us don’t agree with him, but none us can prove him wrong with a beautifully roasted juicy tender turkey. At least not yet.
My friend C has her turkey story: “We just wrapped the 15 pound turkey in a big sheet of aluminum foil and threw it in the oven. None of us had ever used the oven before. Inexperienced as we were, we had a little trouble to lit the fire–problem with the pilot fire. We had three engineers and three biologists among us. To this day I still can’t believe that it took us more than half an hour to get the fire taken care of. About 3 to 4 hours later, when the bird was presented on the table, it was unbelievably dry. And that’s not the worst part–the worst is that the center is raw. One of us pointed out that the center was probably frozen when the bird was entering the oven.”
My friend L has her story: “We learned the magic word ‘basting’. An alarm clock was set and whenever it rang, we would open the oven door and the aluminum foil as quickly as possible, and baste the bird with the juice collected in the roasting pan. The result was–disappointing. It’s a little better than the first time, but not too much better. The basting was supposed to keep the bird tender and moisturized, but it tasted nothing like that.”
My friend S told me this: “We know turkey is difficult to roast, but those of us who had been to their professors’ home and who had tasted the juicy turkey first hand didn’t want to give up. ‘We can do it.’ we claimed optimistically. I was the unwilling participant in this project–we read recipes, watched videos, consulted people, and even wrote a detailed procedure. Also we opted for a smaller turkey, only ten pounds. I did all the defrosting and pre-oven preparation by the book, but still the turkey turns out not as I had expected. I guess I am just doomed to turkey failure.”
chicken: Sometimes I just buy an organic chicken roast from Wegman’s, which is located about 10 miles from where I live.
duck: Many Asian stores have roasted ducks for sale.
dumpling: Mix the ground turkey with ground pork, but don’t tell anybody–except people on social media. Just call your dumpling something like “turkey dumpling” even if less than half of the meat is really turkey. Add more garlic powder. Thyme, nutmeg and sage also go well with ground turkey, but one really wants to experiment and taste the fillings first before wrapping up.
tofu: Pan fry tofu with a little bit of oil and then simmer it in one’s favorite sauce for as long as one can manage. Overnight in a slow cooker is preferable.
Trader Joe’s Breaded Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast with Gravy: I’ve never tasted this before and maybe I will this year.
A failed turkey story usually comes with a silver lining–people get very creative when dealing with the leftover turkey.
rice sandwich: Even if one doesn’t have an onigiri mold, one can do this. However the rice has to be the more sticky kind, like the Japanese rice for example. After the rice is fully cooked, one can gather the rice on a plate and press a little to make it into any shape one desire. One can use anything flat to press on it to make it stick together more. Also one can pan fry it if one desires. That will be a slice of rice bread. One can use it to make a rice sandwich with turkey meat in the middle. Still, I have to say two pieces of rice bread go well with something that’s a little sour and a little sweet. This means that if the turkey in the middle is not really sour and sweet, this sandwich may not taste so good. One has to experiment with the flavor several times before one can come to the right kind of taste that one really enjoys. Add a little vinegar, a little sugar, a little sushi seasoning for example.
sweet and sour soup: Turkey meat goes well in this soup.
omelette or bean soup: Turkey meat can be added to these.