Perfect Every Time

When a caterer invites you to their home for Thanksgiving weekend, you know its gonna be a great spread. And when that caterer is a dear old friend with a righteous sense of humor, going for a visit becomes mandatory.  Family next year. Our caterer pal really needed a break from work after a busy fall filled with big parties, but she still felt the need to cook Thanksgiving dinner.  There was one stipulation:  She did not want to cook any of it at her commercial kitchen.  The whole meal had to be prepared in her kitchen at home.Being a phenomenally gracious hostess, she decided to cook two turkeys, so her guests could take home leftovers in the form of posh doggie bags with a serving of everything in them.She tells me she has the BEST turkey recipe, that it always comes out PERFECT.  Her secret?  Paper bags.  I watch her prep the turkeys, and slide each roasting pan into two grocery sized brown paper bags.  The bottoms of each bag encasing the ends of the pan, and the tops of the bags touching at the turkey’s middle.  Then, she set the oven at a very low temperature, like 225 or something (don’t try this folks), and put the turkeys side by side into the oven.She’d never really used this oven—or hardly.  She’d always done her cooking at her commercial kitchen.  So she discovered that the oven door would not shut.  She turned the pans, no luck.  She leaned her full body weight into it, and locked the oven using the little lever at the top of the door.  The oven automatically kicked into self-cleaning mode, and the temperature shot up dramatically.  We began to smell burning paper.  We quickly got the birds out and let the oven cool down.  The bags had a few blackened spots, but nothing too serious.  The caterer had a new idea.  Bungee cords and picture hanging wire.  (Again, don’t ever try this.)  She then talked me into helping her wire the oven closed with the birds wedged inside.  Then we decided it was time to go to bed.About ten minutes later, my husband, who was up late watching a movie, called “Um.  You guys—something is smoking in here.”  The caterer yelled back, “I know honey.  Don’t worry about it, its fine.”  And then he hollered, “No, I mean its REALLY smoking.”Moments later we had been wildly assembled into an emergency response crew in pajamas and snow boots.  My husband was to stand by with oven mitts, the caterer would carefully open the oven, then he would quickly grab the flaming turkeys and run out the door and toss them into the snow.  I would stand by with the fire extinguisher, aimed, pin removed, and spray if need be.  But she said to me first, “But listen honey girl, really try not to spray the turkeys, we don’t want to have to clean that s__ off of them.”In a few seconds we found ourselves standing outside in our pj’s and boots watching the turkeys smolder in the snow, bits of charred paper floating up into the night.  “Dammit”, she said, “I’m gonna have to go down to the kitchen.”  For her this was the real defeat.So, after she donned a plastic purple tiara and a coat, we took the turkeys to the commercial kitchen.  We washed them and re-dressed them and put the roasting pans into four new paper bags (!), and started over.  We left them roasting in the commercial oven, did some fireproofing, went back to her place and crashed.  Best turkey I ever had.  Seriously–perfectly browned, juicy, flavorful.  We had a lot to say thanks for and she was right–her recipe did turn out perfect every time.

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