Today my family hosted the "Smith" side of the Smith-Curran marriage which has spawned me and my kin. We had a large group of sixteen, and I eagerly helped prepare the meal.
First off, the turkey:
Oh yes. Brined for about an hour per pound, in this case, sixteen hours the night before. The brine was 3/4 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of sugar for every gallon of water. After the brine I rinsed the turkey thoroughly and applied the rub: 1/3 cup fresh-ground peppercorns, 1/3 cup salt/seasoned salt, and about 1/6 cup garlic salt/powder. I rubbed the mix all over (hence the name), and brought it over here ...
... to the steaming vat of waiting peanut oil. You can see the thermometer telling us the oil was far too hot to cook with, almost 500 degrees (Fahrenheit, my international friends; about 260C). We cooled it off to about 400F, and when we put the turkey in it dropped within the range of 300-350F (165C).
Let's go to work.
This ridiculously elaborate way of getting the turkey into the boiling-hot oil was all in the name of safety. I think next time I can just slowly drop it in there on my own.
The trick is to drop it in slowly, because the 350F oil does not take kindly to a 42F turkey intruder. It was a slow dip in, out, in, out, in-out-in-out-in, like some kind of deadly hot fondue.
Almost there ...
Ooh, that oil is angry.
OK, it's in. About three minutes of cooktime per pound, we've got about sixteen pounds, so I'll check back in fifty minutes, give or take. In the meantime, let's check out the spread ...
My brother is weird.
Joy! Is the turkey ready?
How's it look, dad? Almost there.
Ah, siblings. It's good to be home for Thanksgiving. Good to be not-in-China.
Obligatory artsy cranberries and coke shot.
Looks like it's ready.
Wow. That is one delicious-looking turkey. Just seeing that makes me want to fry another one.
And Duke gives his cautious approval.
In addition to the turkey, I made some damn good cornbread, and a giant bowl of wild-mushroom stuffing made with an olive oil and rosemary loaf. It was a great spread, and everyone loved the turkey: the skin was so crispy and delicious, and the meat stayed so moist and flavorful, the way I had always dreamed a turkey would taste. In case of a frying mishap, we prepared another turkey in the oven (well, hey, sixteen people, one turkey wasn't gonna cut it anyway ...), and it couldn't hold a candle to the fryer: it was dry, less flavorful, just kind of a dumbed-down turkey. I don't know if it was the brine, the fry, or a combination of the two, but I will never roast a turkey again.
Despite all I've bitched about being back in Delaware, it was good to be home for Thanksgiving, and not do it over Skype. Peering into that vat of oil today, checking the temperature and adjusting the turkey as it fried, I got (yet another) flashback of China, of my first dim sum in Hong Kong and Macau's meat markets, of rooftop hangouts in Zhanjiang and dumplings in Jilin. And as awesome as those moments were, as impossible as they seem now sitting here, a lifetime away, and as much as I may miss them or even be happy they're behind me, it's good to be here at home, having lived a bit, now cooling my heels, and waiting to live some more.