A Dinner to Remember

Thanksgiving oven

Thanksgiving oven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanksgiving day 2012 will be one I remember with great detail for the rest of my life. Most of the family came to give thanks, and those who could not make it were in our thoughts and prayers.

Peggy and I planned this one out so we wouldn’t be stressed. We shopped early, taking advantage of sales as much as we could. We made a menu, and stuck to it. As a special treat I bought a smoked turkey breast from a local restaurant called Smokey Barque. Peggy pre-made her salads the day before, and I baked my first pumpkin pie using the pumpkin that grew outside our back door. I prepared all the ingredients for the stuffing the night before, and we set up the table too. By eight o’clock Wednesday evening we watched TV. We retired early to get an early start on Thursday morning.

The plan was to cook the turkey in the roaster-oven and to use the conventional oven for the stuffing and the sides.  We scheduled everything to finish by four o’clock. I put the turkey in the roaster-oven at one p.m. The roaster cooks fast, (about half the time of a conventional oven) and I was more concerned about over cooking than I was about serving it raw. While the turkey cooked, I assembled my first-ever casserole of green beans, mushrooms, and french fried onions smothered in butter, and a can of cream of mushroom soup. I mixed the stuffing and added my mother’s secret ingredients (cooked turkey gizzards and eggs). The manufacturer of the roaster advised against using it for a stuffed bird.

All was well. At two o’clock, I tested the turkey with a thermometer and the needle ran right up to 130 before it slowed to a crawl. It needed at least another hour. I read e-mails while it cooked. At three-thirty, I checked the temperature again. What? The thermometer needle stopped at 100, my trusty roaster-oven died, just as the door bell rang and our first guests arrived. That’s when the fun started.

What do I do? Thank God I had a three pounds of smoked breast resting on the counter top. Three pounds of meat will not suffice for eighteen people. What do I do? Placing the big bird into the conventional oven would take another three hours minimum, and it would interfere with all the sides that needed finishing, like reheating the dressing, my casserole and two dozen rolls.

E-E-E-E-KKK! Within two minutes of my scream the remainder of the guests walked in to find me in a frazzle.

My daughter-in-law Peggy came to my rescue. Peggy works for a restaurant in the adjacent town of Orland Park twenty minutes away.

“Do you want me to call and see if they have a whole turkey?”

“Yes, yes please do.”

“They have whole turkeys but they will need a couple of hours in the oven to heat up, do you want sliced instead?”

“Yes, yes.”

“White and dark or all white meat?”

Being a retired decision maker I sprung into action with an immediate “all white”  without conferring with anyone else.

Peggy and her daughter raced to get the turkey. In the confusion, I took my eyes off the rolls, and my daughter said, “Dad, do you want me to take the rolls out?”

I couldn’t believe she asked instead of acting. One tray of roles was black on the tops the other turned dark brown as we watched..

Dinner finally hit the table at six, after a miraculous recovery and team work by the girls who took over after seeing me lose it in a frazzle of nervous spasm. My last rational act was to put the big bird into the conventional oven.

I said grace, and could not resist including my favorite target. I asked if everybody saw the chair at the end of the table.

“I invited a very special man to attend today, but he had another engagement. He is the Empty Chair.”

“Who is it Dad?”

” I can’t tell you his name but his initials are B.O.”

Dinner began and all was well.

Our last guests left at nine o’clock. Peggy and I hurried to tidy up the little that was left after the Team cleaned the kitchen. I tested the bird and it was at 170 and climbing. I pulled it out of the oven to rest while we finished.  By now, I was so tired I could barely stand. Yet, the job of carving and prepping the bird for the freezer and the roaster-pan clean up lie ahead of me. I finished and went to bed.

The last thing I heard was the clanking of dishes, as Peg unloaded the dishwasher before joining me.

This morning, I pulled a spoon from  the drawer to eat my cereal, and realized it was dirty. I sorted through the tray and realized everything was dirty. Then I inspected the china so neatly stacked and tucked into the dust case, everything was put away dirty. The light went on above my head. The girls rinsed and stacked the dishwasher, but we never turned it on.

I guess I wasn’t the only one tired last night.

NOTE! An autopsy of the roaster oven revealed a melted wire feeding the heating element. RIP.

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