The Tale Of The Traveling Turkey - Swampy's Kitchen Blog at - 290318

Swampy's Kitchen

The Tale of The Traveling Turkey 
Nov. 21, 2012 3:25 pm 
Updated: Dec. 3, 2012 6:58 pm
For the first time in I don’t know how long, I won’t be making the Thanksgiving Turkey this year. It’s definitely a somewhat bittersweet moment for me because for the last few years, making the Thanksgiving Turkey, which was at first a labor of love, is now looked at by me as more of a tribute. Since I can’t make the turkey this year, I thought I would share with you what I would have done if this was a year like the last few years. So sit back, relax and let me tell you about “The Tale of the Traveling Turkey”.

My Mother’s health was not good during the last few years of her life and the strain of creating, cooking & serving an ever increasing in size Thanksgiving Dinner began to take its toll. So we all started to help her out by taking over the different chores associated with the day & the meal. I volunteered to make the Thanksgiving Turkey which didn’t really surprise anyone in the family but it did come with one potential obstacle. We live about an hour away from my parents. So I had to come up with a way to deliver a perfect turkey that would start in my oven and end up on my parents table without being cold, underdone or dry. In addition to that, my Mother had been diagnosed with Celiac Disease so I had to make sure that the turkey was gluten free which meant no stuffing. That turned out, from a cooking standpoint, to be a blessing in disguise in the success of “The Traveling Turkey”.

That first year I plotted & planned . I knew that we were going to have a 20+ pound Bird and I knew I was going to have to figure out exactly how long to cook it at home before we began the transfer. I woke up early in the morning and threw on my workout clothes. The first thing I did was take that 20+ pound Bird and lovingly wash it and rinse it and patted it dry. Then I took a large chunk of butter in each hand and began to massage that butter into the skin in a way that would have made most shiatsu experts jealous. Once every inch of the turkey had been covered with butter I began to slide as many chunks of butter under the skin as I could so that when I was done it looked like my Bird had goosebumps. Then it was Hawaiian Sea Salt & fresh cracked pepper sprinkled gingerly all over the Bird before I began to stuff it.

Now I may have said earlier that “The Traveling Turkey” had to be gluten free so that meant no traditional stuffing but that didn’t mean that I was going to leave that cavity empty. I knew I needed to have something in there to help keep the Bird moist when the idea hit me. I wound up stuffing that Bird with as many chunks of cut up lemons & limes tossed with parsley, sage & thyme as I could. Then I tied the legs together as high up as that Bird would let me and slipped a chopstick through the Bird under the legs in order to help keep them elevated. Good leg elevation is a key component to a moist bird. Finally my Bird was ready for the final step, The Bacon Blanket.

I had always noticed that my Grandmother had put an X of bacon on her turkeys but I never understood why. When I started to roast the turkeys for our family, I started to experiment with bacon on my Bird. By the time we got to “The Traveling Turkey” I was covering the entire breast with a Bacon Blanket and couple strips on each leg. It was my feeling that during the first hour of uncovered cooking at 375 degrees that the bacon grease would not only help the turkey breast stay moist but would also help in the browning process with the butter & contribute to the pan drippings for basting & gravy. So in it went and I went to the basement to work out for an hour. At the end of my workout, half dead & sweaty, I opened the oven, withdrew the rack, removed the crispy bacon strips, basted with what drippings there were from the pan juices & the citrus filled cavity and then tented “The Traveling Turkey in foil while reducing the heat to 325 degrees. A quick shower and then I began the basting.

Basting a turkey, to me, is by far & away the most important step in the success or failure of the Bird. I basted my Bird constantly. I try to baste every 20 minutes but I am sure I jumped the gun at times. I was nervous. I still had to get this Bird an hour down the road. The combination of the Bird’s own juices with the butter, bacon grease, lemons, limes and spices made for a wonderful aroma & gorgeous browning liquid. The skin started to brown and bits of the pan scrapings started to stick to the skin as they were squirted out of the baster.

While the Bird was baking & basting I started to prepare the traveling cocoon in the back of my car. First I laid down a large Indian blanket, a large water resistant picnic blanket and a beach towel. Then I placed our largest cutting board on top of those three items. I also had another beach towel and another blanket waiting in the wings. When it was time to put “The Traveling Turkey” into the car, the plan was to wrap each layer around the roasting pan and hit the road.

And that is exactly what we did. As the clock closed in our scheduled departure time, I went out and started the car. The kids scrambled this way & that under foot and in the way but somehow all wound up where they were supposed to be. My wife stood by ready to close & turn off the oven and then shut & lock the door behind us. With the precision of Navy Seal Team Six, we grabbed the Bird, dropped the metal lid over the tented foil and rushed to the car. First it was one beach towel from the bottom and then one beach towel from the top. Next came the water resistant picnic blanket followed by the soft fleece blanket with a tiger on it and then finally by the Indian Blanket. “The Traveling Turkey” was locked down and the kids were locked in and we flew out of the driveway. A quick phone call was made to our destination and the code words were uttered, “The Bird is on the move”.

Now my wife claims that I am a more aggressive driver than she is and that I must have been a NASCAR driver in a previous life. I tend to think that I was more likely a Tennessee Moonshiner but that is another blog for another day. By the way I drove that day, you would have thought I was being pursued by Sheriff Buford T. Justice himself. I willed every red light green and every yellow light to stay that way for an extra beat. The aroma of the Bird was driving us all crazy in the car and when we were about ten minutes out we called ahead to clear the landing pad for “The Traveling Turkey”. We had already told them to set the oven for 350 degrees because we knew that my mother’s ovens were not as strong as our oven. We pulled into the driveway and the side door burst open to accommodate my running inside with the roasting pan. We opened the oven, pulled off the lid, pulled off the foil and basted & basted before tenting and tossing it into the oven. The one hour drive hadn’t seemed to hurt the Bird and the pan had still been very hot.

A little over an hour later the juices were running clear and the Bird looked radiant. The aroma from the Bird ran laps around the house and drew everyone to the table. The anticipation & anxiety were killing me as the sides were delivered to the groaning sideboard. Grace may have been amazing but it was interminable to me as I peeked out of the corner of my eye from my bowed head. As my Father fired up his trusty electric carving knife I exchanged a glance with my wife and I knew that she knew that I knew that we were both nervous. The first piece of breast was sliced and lifted away. Steam rose from the bright white meat under it as it glistened in the light. “The Traveling Turkey” wasn’t dry, it wasn’t underdone and it wasn’t cold. It was, not to pat myself on the back too much for fear of throwing out my shoulder, possibly the best Turkey I had ever had. The compliments were many and all decided it was the mad dash in the car that made for the success of “The Traveling Turkey”. In fact, I have already been told that next year when we host Thanksgiving at our house, that I have to take the Bird for a one hour ride in the middle of the cooking process. I am not allowed to just wrap it up and leave it in the car. I have been told that the juices have to be “kept in motion”. I think they just want me out of the house so they can eat all the appetizers and make the sides their way instead of mine. Oh well.

Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me and may all your Thanksgiving  Turkeys have an extra leg. I’m an Allrecipes All Star Ambassador and the views & opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own. I think there is some other legal mumbo jumbo I am supposed to add as well but I really need to get busy making my Grandmother’s Cranberry Salad for tomorrow. Respect The Bird !
Respect The Bird !!!
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My Turkey Tie
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Last Year's Bird
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Respect The Bird !!!
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Nov. 21, 2012 4:06 pm
What a labour of love indeed! That love and caring is at the heart of Thanksgiving to me...thanks for sharing your memories of the traveling in Canada we celebrated our Thanksgiving last month....we too indulge our bird in the bacon bird should be without. Have a wonderful holiday Doug.
Nov. 21, 2012 4:37 pm
best blog yet! you truly should write for a local paper. very creative. happy thanksgiving to you and yours.
Nov. 21, 2012 4:51 pm
Talk about rising to a challenge--this takes the cake (or turkey?)! Doug, I think your story demonstrates that recipe directions are only guidelines, not "Thou shalt's" and "shalt not's"! Understand the goal, then figure out how to meet it the best way you can. I will probably do my turkey in a more traditional fashion, but I will be remembering the tale of your special cooking process all day, smiling and shaking my head!
Nov. 21, 2012 5:59 pm
the bacon sounds good on the turkey, I think I will do that when I cook another 20lb turkey for Christmas.
Nov. 21, 2012 6:12 pm
You are such a great story teller. I felt like I was right there with you and your family. It sounds like a wonderful way to make a turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!
Nov. 21, 2012 6:26 pm
Doug,loved reading this,you should write a book,i will think about this when we have our turkey at Christmas.Our Thanksgiving is over,hope you and your family have a very happy Thanksgiving.
Nov. 21, 2012 7:02 pm
Too funny. Thanks for sharing. I hope tomorrow brings a day that adds to your memory book! Happy Thanksgiving!
Nov. 21, 2012 7:18 pm
Doug....loved it! Years ago, I got a case of the flu and I was in charge of the entire dinner. I sent two baked turkeys by car to my moms and hoped like #ell that I got it right and didn't make anyone else sick. Never had a slice of it nor even witnessed the slicing of it but they all said it was my best ever :) Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Nov. 22, 2012 2:58 am
Doug, cute story, you truly are a wonderful writer. I can't imagine how hard it was to drive around smelling that turkey, it kills me just smelling a rotisserie chicken in the car when bringing it home from the market. Happy Thanksgiving!
Nov. 22, 2012 3:57 am
Very excellent blog! We had a traveling turkey a couple years back - but ours was an impromptu traveling Tom. My sister hosts Thanksgiving and half of her city lost power mid-morning on The Day. They had a friend across town that was not preparing a turkey so they hauled that old bird across town and threw him in their oven; no time to plan like you. I've never put bacon on a turkey but it does sound good! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Nov. 22, 2012 6:17 am
Good morning Ellie and thank you. Good to know that the Bacon Blanket is a staple north of the border too. Have a great day.
Nov. 22, 2012 6:19 am
Good morning gderr & thank you. Not sure my college english professor would agree with you. Have a great Thanksgiving.
Nov. 22, 2012 6:21 am
Good morning Bibi - I hope your bird is your best one yet. Have a great Thanksgiving.
Nov. 22, 2012 6:22 am
Good morning KingSparta - you will have to let me know what you think of the bacon after you give it a try. Have a great Thanksgiving.
Nov. 22, 2012 6:25 am
Good morning iceemama & thank you - you know there is always an extra seat at our Thanksgiving table. Have a great day.
Nov. 22, 2012 6:33 am
Good morning manella & Thanks. I probably have enough chapter one's written to make into a book. Hope you have a great weekend.
Nov. 22, 2012 6:34 am
Good Morning Rohnda and thanks for stopping in. I hope that you have a great Thanksgiving !
Nov. 22, 2012 6:36 am
Aloha Julie - the fact that no leftovers were made into soup to help you recover from the flu is just about criminal. I hope you & yours have a fantastic Thanksgiving today.
Nov. 22, 2012 6:39 am
Good morning *Sherri* and thank you. The car smells great for days after too. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving.
Nov. 22, 2012 6:53 am
Good morning Mother Ann & thank you. I actually enjoy it when something goes wrong or when an obstacle is put into your path. It makes the challenge that much more rewarding in the end. Have a great Thanksgiving.
Nov. 23, 2012 9:04 am
Lovely story! I like all the traveling turkey tips! I hopefully, will never have to cart around a bird in the back of my car but if I do I know how! Happy belated T'Giving, Doug!
Nov. 23, 2012 12:14 pm
Good afternoon Shanon & thank you. Carting turkeys around the NY/NJ area was never on my to do list but I am glad I could when I needed to. Happy Belated Turkey Day to you too.
Nov. 25, 2012 10:29 am
Great blog as always. You have such a way with words and always make me laugh. I logged on in hopes to get some inspiration for my own turkey day blog and it worked like a charm. Thanks for sharing. In my best straight face possible, I wish your Broncos the best of luck today ;)
Nov. 25, 2012 11:24 am
Good afternoon & thanks SLN - Halftime - not too happy so far - I'm nervous - looking forward to reading your Thanksgiving tale later.
Nov. 26, 2012 3:30 pm
Loved this story!
Nov. 27, 2012 4:38 am
good morning & thanks NautiSuz. Hope you had a great holiday weekend.
Nov. 27, 2012 10:19 am
LOL! Loved it! I too will try out a bacon blanket - thank you to you and your grandma! Happy Holidays
Nov. 28, 2012 6:11 am
Good morning HeidiS & thanks - let me know how that Bacon Blanket works out. Have a great day.
Nov. 28, 2012 3:00 pm
Great story, I liked the part with the bacon blanket. I think when I cook a turkey that I'll try doing that and thanks for the tips about the legs!
Nov. 28, 2012 3:49 pm
Good evening EternalEcho - everything is better with a bacon blanket. Let me know how it turns out when you try. Have a great night.
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Doug Matthews

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Princeton, New Jersey, USA
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Mendham, New Jersey, USA

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Mar. 2000

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Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Southern, Healthy, Kids, Quick & Easy

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About Me
My mother decided early on that her sons would never have to rely on someone to feed them so we all learned to cook at an early age. I really started to branch out when I moved out west to Denver, SF & Dallas. Combine that with extended business travel to Louisiana & my growing love of spices and you get a real mix of flavors.
My favorite things to cook
Love to make cajun food with my favorites being crawfish pie, alligator stew & alligator chili - I go nuts on Super Bowl Sunday
My favorite family cooking traditions
We didn't have a lot of traditions per se but you could count on pancakes or waffles on sundays - dad making scrambled eggs twice a year on christmas morning & mother's day - veal parmagiana on christmas eve, Thanksgiving with Grandma Matthews and any menu of your choice on your birthday. We weren't a spicy family so I learned a lot of good strong basics in the kitchen from Mom that I have carried over into my cooking today.
My cooking triumphs
I love to experiment with variations of dishes I try around the country. My biggest success is here on allrecipes where I had 2 recipes published in the same cookbook - Southwestern Turkey Soup & Curried Carrot Soup. I think my corn muffins are a great starting point and my alligator chili has become a much requested Super Bowl favorite.
My cooking tragedies
There have been a few times in the past where I tossed everything and took everyone to a restaurant instead. I'm not too proud to say my cooking is awful when it really is.
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