Matt and I found out soon after getting married that it can be tricky establishing holiday traditions for ourselves since we live so close to our families. Because our folks live just over an hour's drive away, we've spent all three Thanksgivings and Christmases as a married couple with them. We consider it a great blessing to live so close to so many that we love, but over the years, we've been trying hard to establish some traditions that could just be "ours."
Even though from the beginning, people thought our "early Christmas" together was crazy, I've grown to absolutely love it, especially since it means that the actual holiday is focused less around gifts and more on family.
This year for Thanksgiving, we decided to try something different, too--a pre-Thanksgiving feast/game night with some of the good friends we've made here. If it weren't a space issue, we probably would have invited about 25 people, but our little apartment just couldn't take that much goodness, so we had to content ourselves with just under a dozen. To make it easier on ourselves, we just did a few of the basics (turkey, punch, carrots) and had everyone else bring the rest.
This was my first time ever cooking my own turkey, and let's just say, it came about thisclose to being an absolute fiasco. Friday afternoon (the day before the party), I had holed myself up in our "office" to work on editing some photos for clients, planning on going shopping for all the necessaries later that night after a friend's wedding reception. When Matt came home from school, he asked me if I'd started defrosting the turkey yet.
"Uh..." I started. "I kind of haven't really bought it yet."
So off we went in a frenzy to the store where we decided that a $40 price tag for a fresh turkey was too much, so we bought a frozen turkey for $14 and prayed that it would somehow work out. We raced home to start thawing it out in cold water and were about to head out the door to the reception when we realized that the sink wasn't completely stoppered up, forcing us to wait about another ten minutes until the OTHER side of the sink could be filled with water and the turkey placed inside its ice bath.
Coming back from the reception and dinner after, we were forced to concede that two hours had made little difference to the bird, putting us both into a mild panic--we were trying an overnight slow cooking method favored by Matt's mom, and the turkey was supposed to go in about an hour after we got home. A large pot of boiling water later, we were finally able to scrape out the neck and innards and though the turkey was still cold and hard in more places than we would have liked, we popped it in the oven at about 10:30 p.m.
We had company staying over that night (my sister and her husband from out of town), and we worried we would wake them up when we got up at 6 a.m. to check the bird, so we got a flashlight and spoke in whispers as we both knelt in front of the oven the next morning, bleary-eyed and clueless, trying to figure out if the skin had pulled away from the legs yet (since we couldn't just stick a thermometer in, considering that the turkey was in an oven bag). After twenty minutes of solid deliberation, we decided to let it cook for an hour and a half longer, at which point we'd wake up my sister for a third opinion.
7:30 a.m. found three of us (Matt, my sister, and I) deliberating over cooking times per pound, how the fact that the turkey was partially defrosted might affect its done-ness, and how certain parts definitely appeared crispier than others. Finally, Matt just said, "I'm just taking it out. We can cook it more later if we need to."
The turkey had to sit outside for a couple hours before being carved, so we tried to not worry ourselves too much over it and busied ourselves cleaning house. Luckily, when we carved into the turkey awhile later, it appeared we were just about right---it was a little bit dry on the very outside, but the inside was cooked through and juicy, and I comforted myself that I hadn't completely ruined pre-Thanksgiving by treating myself to several hot slices sprinkled with salt.
Turkey (almost-)fiasco aside, I think I could get used to this tradition...