Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pics and report on Thanksgiving 2007's deep-fried turkey

I awoke at dawn, had breakfast but didn't bother to shower. When you know that you'll be working with searing-hot oil and will get blasted with steam rich in the aroma of garlic butter, getting cleaned-up for Thanksgiving dinner is kind of a moot thing.

Deep-frying a turkey is the only form of cooking that I know of that demands wearing extra layers of clothing and such demanding attention to detail. It's like being a combination firefighter, M*A*S*H surgeon and gourmet chef. This is masculine cooking to the max. In fact, I've only seen one woman deep-fry a turkey: the indomitable Paula Dean. But then, Paula Dean can do anything in the kitchen. That she is the only woman I have witnessed frying a turkey makes her all the more magnificent. Behold her awesome culinary skills and tremble, mere mortals!

Anyhoo, we had breakfast - just a little bacon and toast 'cuz I didn't want to eat too much and feel slowed-down by digestion. I decided to start the operation a little earlier than usual because the forecast called for increased winds and dropping temperatures later in the day.

Here's the turkey, after more than a day of preparation with lots of garlic butter marinade and Cajun rub...

Here's the setup for today's frying. When this photo was taken the peanut oil was already about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and steadily rising. That's Lisa's dad sitting in the background, oggling the flames and glory...

Closeup of the peanut oil as it was heating up...

Every time I figure out how long to deep-fry a turkey, I'm reminded of the official U.S. Army manual Procedure for Military Executions, which is the how-to guide that was used to dispatch the Nuremberg war criminals (among others). Just like the Army personnel had to figure in the weight and height of each condemned man so that they'd know how much rope to use on the gallows, so too do you have to take the bird's weight and then determine how long to cook it. It's a fairly delicate dance: the turkey must be fried at 350 degrees, but you want to heat the oil up slightly more than that (say, an extra 10-20 degrees) because the oil temperature is going to drop once the bird is fully submerged. Then figure that for each pound of the turkey that it must be fried for 3.5 minutes. Then tack on an extra 2-5 minutes just to be sure that it's thoroughly cooked. In the case of this turkey, I figured that 40 minutes exactly would be sufficient.

So here it went into the pot...

Lisa's dad took this shot of me still lowering it in. If you want to be safe (which you should) it ought to take you at least 30 seconds, maybe even a full minute to completely put the turkey in. Also make sure that the inside and outside of the bird is as dry as possible...

Putting the turkey in is the most absolutely scary point of the whole operation. When it's safely in, and you have unhooked the spit and can let the hot oil run its course... only then can you really relax (but not too much). But every time that it's finally in the pot, it's a moment of triumph and I couldn't help but let out a big huge rebel yell of "Yeee-haw!!!"

And there's the mad fryer himself!

Like a scene from Dante's Inferno. Ladies and gentlemen, behold the mouth of Hell...

After it was in the pot and I felt comfortable enough about it, I walked a short distance to my car (the one that we've rented 'cuz I'm still without one of my own after the Corolla got totaled) and started Transformers: The Score going almost full-blast out of the speakers. Because part of my turkey-frying tradition is to have good music for the event.

Finally, 40 minutes later, at 11:30 a.m. exactly and just as "Arrival to Earth" was reaching its crescendo, it was time to remove the turkey. Here now, be awed at how beautiful it turned out!

And here it is a short while later when we started serving it for dinner and had begun to carve it. Notice how well cooked it is... and after only 40 minutes of frying time! It also came out very moist and tender, not like traditional basting at all.

Along with the deep-fried turkey we had corn, snap beans, hash-brown casserole and biscuits. It was quite a good meal, and everyone said that they enjoyed the turkey. I certainly did, since it had been almost two years since I had tasted any!

And that was Thanksgiving Dinner 2007 for us. And there's plenty of turkey still left over and I'll no doubt be bloated to the max by the time this weekend is over :-)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where's the trusty fire extinguisher?

Chris Knight said...

"Where's the trusty fire extinguisher?"

In the house, somewhere in the basement. Maybe on a shelf behind the jars of stew. To be honest, we're not quite sure where it is exactly...