Wednesday, January 16, 2008

One more try

On the morning of December 21st Philari was absolutely determined to leave Boston and embark on the 10 hour journey to Columbiana, Ohio. The Volvo was packed and we were already a day behind schedule. So we bundled up, said our goodbyes to the place, hopped in the car… and only made it 30 miles outside of the city.

Here’s why. Turns out our trusty 1993 Volvo 240 wasn’t so trusty at all. Also, I like to think that I am a citizen of the world and therefore travel and live lightly so I can pick up and move my life at any moment, following the wind wherever she may take me… Well the Volvo’s windshield wiper fluid dispenser thingie (I don’t presume to know auto mechanic lingo) broke and the brake light burnt out and I had so much crap shoved into her that her backside was nearly scraping the asphalt and Phil had zero visibility out the side and back windows. We may be smart in a lot of ways (I just can’t think of any right now) but c’mon, how the heck did we think we were getting anywhere in those conditions?!?!?!?!

We had to postpone our trip another day. It started to feel like we would never reach Ohio.

Luckily, the illustrious Meg (Phil’s sis) and her husband Carl live only 40 miles outside of Boston, so we scooted to her house, parked there for the day and unloaded three quarters of our crap into her garage (thanks, Meg!). I made a double batch of Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie for our hosts to make up for our imposition. I highly recommend you do the same.

Once we finally got on the road to Ohio, the 10 hour drive was completely uneventful. Actually, a UFO could have landed on our car and little purple aliens could have sheltered us for 8 hours during an atomic bomb explosion in upstate New York for all I know, since I slept for at least nine hours of the ride. Poor Phil. We spent a nice Christmas with my fam. I was disappointed because ma only had five Christmas trees decorated this year (she usually has six), but I got over it once I heard what was on the menu for Christmas dinner: fried turkey! Yes folks, you read that right, a 15 pound turkey, brined, injected, and fried in peanut oil. I, too, was skeptical, but Tom had the most flavorful and moist breast meat I’d ever tasted and his skin was crispy and was so brown it looked like he’d been on vacation in Cabo for a month, basking in the sun.

You do need some special equipment to embark on such a turkey journey – outdoor propane cooking stand, 30 quart stockpot, meat injector (not items you can buy at Williams-Sonoma. Try the gourmet section of the hardware store). And beware, as the process can be a bit dangerous. Rumor has it that folks have burned their houses down trying to do this indoors or under a carport. Who said cooking was boring?

So, for anyone gutsy enough to give it a go, here’s my dad’s special fried turkey recipe.

Dad’s Gutsy Special Occasion Fried Turkey

One 12 to 15 pound turkey
1 pound dark brown sugar
1 pound kosher salt
2 tbsp peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 ½ to 2 gallons peanut oil
1 bulb garlic, roasted
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

The day before frying, place turkey (sitting up straight, not lazily reclining) in the stockpot. Fill the pot with water until your turkey is covered by an inch. Remove the turkey from the water and mark the water level with a marker. This is your oil line, and you need to make sure you do not fill your pot with any more oil than necessary.

Add brown sugar, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves to the water in the stockpot. Heat over low heat, stirring, until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Allow liquid to cool completely. Once cool, place turkey in the liquid, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

About 5 hours before frying the turkey, make the roasted garlic injection. In a mini food processor, blend the roasted garlic and butter until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper. With motor running, add olive oil in small increments until the marinade is smooth enough to inject. Once the marinade reaches the correct consistency, spoon it into the tube of the turkey injector syringe. Remove turkey from brining liquid and dry completely inside and out. Insert the needle of the injector deep into the turkey at various locations, distributing the marinade throughout the bird. Salt and pepper generously.

Heat the peanut oil to 350 degrees F. Make sure the turkey is room temperature and completely dry before perching him on a turkey cradle and lowering him slowly into the hot oil. Cook turkey 3 to 5 minutes per pound, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh reads 170 degrees F. Carefully lift the turkey out of the oil and let stand for at least 15 minutes before carving.

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