by Dave Arnold
This Thanksgiving I cooked a Narragansett turkey from Heritage Foods. I used the Bionic Turkey method, and it was the best damned turkey I’ve ever eaten — meatier and more turkey-tasting than its predecessors. It was devoured so quickly that I didn’t get a picture of it. It was moist and perfectly cooked throughout, as a bionic turkey should be –and it almost ruined Thanksgiving.
Flash-frying is the best way to finish a bionic turkey, but I have a history of ruining Thanksgiving with turkey-frying incidents and am thus forbidden from frying at my mom’s house. Instead, I decided to finish the bird in my mom’s convection oven cranked to 500 F. I was confident there would be no problems. My mom and step-father weren’t. They fretted about smoke and smoke detectors.
I detest smoke detectors near kitchens, where they operate more like cooking detectors. My mom’s are more pernicious than most — if triggered, her detectors call the fire department. If the sirens show up and there isn’t a fire, she gets smacked with a whopping bill (encouraging her to light a real fire to make the whole thing worthwhile). Detectors should work like anti-virus software, able to be shut off for a specific length of time and then reactivated automatically –but they don’t, so I had to put smoke-condoms over them.
To hold the bird I chose my mom’s unglazed ceramic baking dish. I figured I could pre-heat the dish, put the bird on it, and get the skin on the bottom nice and crispy. Flabby skin on the underside of oven-finished birds is something I can’t abide. The pre-heat was uneventful, as were the first 10 minutes of an anticipated 20 minute cook time. At the 11 minute-mark thick smoke started pouring out of the oven and quickly engulfed the kitchen where we were all gathered. Pandemonium ensued. My step father ranted about my inability to just cook a turkey in a civilized manner like everyone else. Doors were flung open and fans were turned on, sucking in fresh but freezing-cold air (the heating bills!). Smoke detectors were anxiously monitored. I opened the oven to find that mom’s dish had cracked in two, spilling juices and fat onto the floor of the oven. Crap.
After five minutes the house was clear of smoke but 20 degrees colder. Thankfully, people were so happy with the taste of the bird that all was forgiven. After all, the detector had not gone off and the fire department had not crashed dinner. As we were eating dessert, my mom mentioned that the dish I’d used was a replacement she’d demanded from the manufacturer after the original cracked in the oven — under much less intense circumstances.
Good looking out, ma.