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Michelle's column: The Great Turkey Experiment of 2013

I took my little 11-pound turkey out of the freezer and put it into the refrigerator Sunday afternoon. That much, I knew to do.

Anything else, from here on out, is all going to be part of what I’m now calling The Great Turkey Experiment of 2013.

For the record, I am 46 years old, and this will be my first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Well, lunch, actually. I know I can whip out all the side dishes with the greatest of ease, but this is my first go-round with a turkey, and I’m a little apprehensive.

I fancy myself a pretty good cook. At least, The Beau seems to think so, and that’s what counts. And it’s not like I haven’t tried to make the Thanksgiving turkey in the past. It’s just that someone else has always made it.

My dad’s family used to all get together for Thanksgiving, but that stopped a few years ago after my grandmother passed away. After that, we had Thanksgiving at Mom and Dad’s house in Hastings. Four years ago, my mother almost let me make the turkey — she’d just had a hip replacement and swore I was doing all of the cooking — but that didn’t really happen. I prepped it, but then there she was, in the kitchen, pushing me out of the way with her walker, just so she could put the doggone thing into the oven.

Last year, my family was all at my sister’s house in Colorado for Thanksgiving, but The Beau and I were just fine because his grandmother wanted to make the meal.

But this year is different. My folks have already left for Arizona for the winter, so my brother’s family is coming over for Thanksgiving. The Beau has to work that evening, so we just decided to invite family to our house for an early afternoon dinner. And that leaves me to master my first turkey.

I can follow recipes pretty well. Given that, I figure this whole turkey thing should be pretty self-explanatory. But just to be on the safe side, figured I should find some little nuggets of wisdom. My mom swears by using a turkey-sized oven bag. My co-worker Emily Zimmer says she slathered butter all over her first turkey and that helped to keep the moisture in the meat.

But that’s about all the pre-turkey wisdom I had readily available.

I pored over turkey tips and recipes online for days. It was during that process I realized I simply did not have the necessary equipment to take on this task — you know, something big enough to cook it in, a working meat thermometer, and so on.

I bought a new roaster and rack on Saturday. As I placed it into my cart, my eyes travelled down the display to the electric thermometers, the baster and injector sets, the turkey pins and string. I had none of that, so all of that went into my cart, as well. And then I realized, coming around the corner, that I don’t actually have a cutting board large enough to handle this beast — I mean, bird — so that went into my cart as well. Two coupons and $64 later, I was on my way.

I settled on some recipe that involves lots of butter, sage and tarragon. That, of course, necessitated a trip to a grocery store Saturday, so I could get all of the stuff I needed. But of course, I wound up not getting everything I needed, and I’ll have to go back this week.

Then there’s the oven. I spent a good part of Sunday afternoon scrubbing out the oven just to get it bird-ready for this week. I probably wouldn’t have been as concerned about the oven, had it not been for that unfortunate flare up that happened while I was broiling steaks last week.

So as far as I can tell, I’ve done everything I can to get this Great Turkey Experiment of 2013 under way. Now I just have to follow directions and get this bird a-cookin’. I’m sure it will be fine.

Just to be on the safe side, my sister-in-law is bringing a ham.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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