I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
December 3, 2019
To know me is to know I have turkey troubles. The story of our Gas Station Turkey several years ago spread far and wide after I shared it on Facebook, and the end result of that snafu (along with dinner that year not taking place until nine-freaking-thirty PM) is that we never outsourced our Thanksgiving turkey again. I happened upon Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Turkey recipe shortly after what will hereafter be known as The Incident, and her recipe was so easy and so foolproof that I will now actually roast a turkey for no special occasion at all if I find one at a good price. Turkey problems solved, right?
We’ve spent our last several Thanksgivings in California with Dennis’s mother, arriving in L.A. on Wednesday or Thursday and spending the next few days getting everything ready to host a Saturday afternoon feast for his extended family. Although it’s lovely spending time with everyone, I quickly learned that being assigned the role of preparing a meal for 15 or so people in someone else’s kitchen was a… well, we’ll call it a challenge — so I embraced the ‘it takes a village’ concept and asked our guests to each bring a pre-arranged side or dessert. Everyone pitched in and seemed more than happy to help out, so this year I thought I’d take it a step further.
“The turkey is always an issue,” I said to Dennis a few weeks ago as we were making a list of what we’d need for the meal. “It takes up a ton of time and a ton of space and it’s really hard to roast it AND have all the sides ready before 1:00. Maybe we can order a turkey, like we did in the old days. I mean, turkey just tastes like turkey as long as it’s not overcooked.”
Dennis turned a bit green, no doubt remembering that fateful Turkey of Thanksgiving Past. “I’ll do the turkey,” he said after a moment, in a tone that nobly suggested I counter with a, “Oh no, darling, that’s so sweet of you. Forget I said anything. I’ll take care of the turkey.”
Instead, I said,”Thank you!” He blanched.
“I mean… That is to say… I’ve never roasted a turkey before,” he stuttered. “I won’t know what I’m doing at all.”
“Oh it’s so easy!” I assured him. “I’ll print out my recipe for you and you won’t believe how simple it is! And it will be such a help if you do it!” I chose to ignore the awkward silence that followed.
The turkey was purchased, the stuffing was prepared the night before, and at 6am on Feast Day morning, Dennis rose to put the turkey it in the oven. I got up with him to make sure he didn’t have any issues, offering advice as he found and removed the turkey neck and giblets, stuffed the bird, and basted it with the butter I melted in the microwave. Although my recipe didn’t call for a roasting bag, Dennis wanted to use one because it’s how his mother does it, so I silently watched as he manhandled the turkey into a plastic bag and then into a roasting pan. I made slits in the bag with a knife and opened the oven for Dennis so that he could slide the turkey inside. Then I set the oven timer for four hours and 15 minutes and went back to bed.
It was late morning when the oven timer went off. “It’s time to take out the turkey!” I called to Dennis from the kitchen, where I was putting together a casserole.
“What do you mean?” he said. “It’s too early.”
“It’s been four hours and 15 minutes,” I said. “Remember? We looked at like three different charts online and they all said four hours and 15 minutes for a 17-pound bird.”
“It hasn’t been in there long enough,” Dennis said.
At this point, I did something only people who’ve been married a really long time will understand.
“Okay,” I said, and kept working on the casserole.
After much thought, pacing, and muttering, Dennis decided to look for a meat thermometer. When one was located, we inserted it into what seemed to be the thigh of the turkey — it was difficult to tell through the bag — but after twenty minutes passed, it became clear that the thermometer wasn’t working. Dennis started getting agitated.
“What should we do?” he asked.
“Take it out?” I suggested. By this time, nearly an hour had passed since the timer had gone off. He took the turkey out of the oven, placed the roasting pan on the counter, and cut into the bag with a knife. Then he uttered a howl of dismay.
“They turkey is ruined!” Dennis groaned. “Ruined! I KNEW this would happen!”
I peered over his shoulder. “It’s completely desiccated,” he announced. “Look at the breast meat! It’s non-existent. IT’S NO LONGER THERE.” Exasperated, he left the scene of the crime and I decided to examine the bird for myself to see if there was anything worth saving. Grabbing the carving knife and fork, I gingerly separated the bag from the turkey and then cut into the top of it. The turkey crumbled beneath my knife into a gelatinous heap of goo and browned bits and bone. Weird, I thought to myself. I kept prodding, and then I stopped.
“Um. Dennis?” I said.
“NO TURKEY FOR THANKSGIVING,” he moaned from across the room. “What will I tell Mom? This is unbelievable.”
“Dennis?” I said again.
“I never should have been in charge of the turkey,” he seethed. “I knew this would happen.”
“Dennis!” I shouted.
“The turkey is upside down.”
He paused. “What did you say?”
“You roasted the turkey upside down,” I said. “Help me turn it over.”
Dennis crossed the room, grabbed several paper towels, and together, we turned the bird over so that it was breast-side-up. I cut into the turkey and discovered perfectly roasted, succulent breast meat. The bird had definitely been in the oven too long — The wings and drumsticks were a total loss — but the white meat had been protected by simmering in the turkey juices in the bottom of the pan. All was well.
I will say an Upside-Down Turkey isn’t exactly pleasing to the eye, so we opted to carve it before everyone else arrived. Fortunately, there was plenty of meat and that’s all anyone really cared about. I don’t recommend roasting your turkey upside down unless you are considering leaving it in the oven an hour longer than the recommended time, just because that’s how you roll. If that’s the case?
GO FOR IT.