Staff Columnist

Thanksgiving advice for the desperate

Some of the 140 turkeys cooked on the morning of Thanksgiving Day are in the roaster at Nelson's Meat Market on Thursday, November, 28, 2013 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Staff starting cooking turkeys at 4:30 a.m. for a tradition at Nelson's for more than 15 years. (Adam Wesley/Gazette-KCRG TV9)
Some of the 140 turkeys cooked on the morning of Thanksgiving Day are in the roaster at Nelson's Meat Market on Thursday, November, 28, 2013 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Staff starting cooking turkeys at 4:30 a.m. for a tradition at Nelson's for more than 15 years. (Adam Wesley/Gazette-KCRG TV9)

Thanksgiving is here. Maybe you’re reading this in dawn’s early light. Perhaps your sleep was interrupted by second thoughts about trying to host this year’s big meal.

All those people. All that food. Anxiety rises like a wave of gravy. Thin, lumpy flavorless gravy that you made. Why is it gray?

No worries, I’m here to help. As the designated Thanksgiving meal producer in my family, I have some advice. Learn from my experience. Avoid my costly mistakes.

First, if you’re asking for advice now, you’re likely screwed. But let’s not dwell on that.

Second, you’re going to need a minimum of two ovens, but probably three. The Thanksgiving Industrial Complex has conspired for years to make sure traditional dishes must all be cooked at differing temperatures and for differing times. It’s diabolical, but you can’t fight Big Turkey.

Yes, it’s too late to buy ovens. So look around your neighborhood for homes of neighbors who left town for the holiday. It’s very likely their garage door codes are something ridiculously simple. And who is going to arrest you for wanting a perfect Thanksgiving? No one, that’s who. Just act natural.

But if you’re squeamish about felonies, you can do what I do and use a couple of charcoal grills.

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I’ve been grill-roasting turkeys for many years. Adding apple wood to the fire gives your bird a delicious, rich and smoky flavor.

Also, adding yourself to the outdoors, repeatedly, to “check the turkey,” will give you many rich, smoky moments of sweet, sweet family-free sanity.

Fill a cooler with your favorite libations, set up an outdoor TV and you’re the king of Thanksgiving.

If you’re considering wet brine, I’d recommend a bloody mary.

Note, if you tip the bird while turning and pour turkey grease onto the hot coals, the flash fire will remove unsightly facial hair. At least that’s what I’ve heard.

A large turkey will take roughly three hours. Or, you can “spatchcock” the turkey by cutting out its backbone and snapping its breastbone to flatten the bird, allowing faster and more even roasting.

Spatchcock, according to the internet, means “dispatch the cock.” Yeah, well, this is a family holiday. Other sources, as far as you know, suggest it’s an ancient exclamation meaning “It will be done when it’s done, go back inside.”

Faced with someone yelling “spatchcock!” and wildly waving large tongs, I’ve found most people will quickly go back inside.

Reserve backbone for stock, or use as a weapon if things go south.

Always make sure you’re using heat-resistant cookware. Otherwise you might be cleaning corn casserole and shattered glass out of the bottom of your oven.

Don’t prepare an elaborate salad and forget it in the fridge.

Don’t let anyone tell you can-shaped is the wrong way to serve cranberry sauce.

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Anyone who says “It’s only called stuffing if it’s in the turkey,” sits at the kids table.

If angry guests storm out of the festivities, any pie or booze they brought stays put. We’ll need plenty to drink and eat while rehashing the incident.

It’s best to avoid politics altogether, especially in these divided times. But if a debate gets heated, try to change subject. Or yell “spatchcock!” loudly for several minutes.

If that doesn’t work, dive into the fray and show some backbone. Let them know you’re not afraid to throw it at them.

(319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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