Full disclosure for those new to my blog, I didn’t know how to cook when Hubs and I eloped in 1969. We’d dated long enough, but John wasn’t interested in my cooking prowess-yet. Until we had to start eating at home for real. After a leisurely honeymoon of 2 days, a 100 miles away, he discovered the first night that supper with a non-cooking spouse meant a small can of red sockeye salmon, flaked to perfection (devoid of slimy skin & spiny bones), a loaf of Hillbilly bread, iceberg lettuce and a stick of real butter at room temperature. I should’ve aced it just for using butter, right?
Over the next 3 years we grazed our way through Hamburger Helper, tuna casserole, chicken on the grill, more tuna casserole and 39 cents a pound hamburger. The hamburger patties contained so much fat they fell through the grill and started the house siding on fire. Hubs lost the hair on his arms, eyelashes and eyebrows. Good times. Eventually I did learn to whip up a decent meal.
It was the fall of 1974 and we had just moved across the state. We’re both from the northwest Iowa and moved about 350 miles east, fairly close to the mighty Mississippi River. We had just celebrated anniversary # 5, Shannon was 3-1/2 and we just learned I was pregnant (spacing our children was a top priority). This would be our first Thanksgiving not celebrating with the rest of our family. We were going home for Christmas but decided it was too expensive to drive that far two months in a row. Money was in short supply, transportation was dicey, while the bills just kept stacking up.
I would be roasting our first ‘turkey’ (the slang definition for this word pretty much describes how the meal turned out). Mistake number one was the size of the bird. Enormous. Hubs thought he was doing me a favor buying a big one. No Butterball site to peruse for guidance. No Google to help me out. Mom explained (in a hurry, who could afford those long distance rates unless you talked very late at night) how to make stuffing but I didn’t research how LONG A BIRD THAT SIZE NEEDED TO BE IN THE OVEN. So when the turkey was a beautiful golden brown, the potatoes were mashed, corn was cooked, gravy was lumpy, brown & serve rolls were on the table right next to my fresh cranberry sauce, we discovered the bird was a couple hours away from being fit for human consumption, along with my second favorite accompaniment-the stuffing.
From that day forward however, a turkey dinner with all the fixings has remained my favorite meal, once I learned to roast it right. I’ve tried countless brands of turkey from every grocery chain, but over the years I’ve come to prefer Butterball. With exorbitant inflation and shortages on the grocery shelves I thought I might be roasting a chicken this year, but the Hubs came through and found a Butterball for 98 cents a pound.
I’ve been out of the house twice in the last 13 days because of my out-of-whack-back. We made an appointment (a week in advance) to go to the Secretary of State for new plates, pay sales tax for Hubs’ 1962 Studebaker Champ, tags for my Jeep and renewals on both our driver’s license (my picture shows me without glasses and brown hair-I stopped dyeing my hair 3 years ago) so we were hesitant to reschedule. Although it took almost an hour to get everything accomplished, I stood because I can’t sit in a straight chair, but the appointment went without a hitch (except in my get-a-long).
I had not been grocery shopping in 2 weeks! (How Meijer remains open for business without my business is a mystery). It felt good to wear shoes (can’t bend over, Hubs had to tie them) and put my phone in my hip-clip to record my steps. Since I’ve barely moved my phone’s been sitting idle, waiting for me to heal. Usually I criss-cross the store several times to boost my step total but not on this shopping day. My list was long and I didn’t want to risk more of those electric shock back spasms.
Our granddaughter Ariana and great-granddaughter, Jovi come over for supper once a week. I plan our favorite suppers, mostly comfort food. I’ve got a hankerin for chicken pot pie. No puff pastry or single top crust allowed, it’s old school here, all homemade with a double crust. A couple times a year I buy several packages of split chicken breasts with skin and rib bones, (which adds flavor to the broth for gravy, stuffing or soups) and simmer 6 at a time. Let them cool, remove the skin and bones, dice, package, plus freeze the broth. (I’ve canned broth before. It’s a lot of work and you have to remove every iota of delicious chicken fat or you might pop a lid or break a jar while it’s in the pressure cooker). It’s much easier to freeze it but you lose on the longer shelf life you get with canning.
So split breasts were running $2.09 a pound, yikes, which means 15 pounds would cost about 30 bucks. I use 4 heaping cups of diced chicken for pot pie, (the recipe makes 3) the rest is frozen for cream chicken buns, soup, chicken salad or more pot pies. I think the last time I bought packs of split breasts they were about a buck a pound. Hmm, what else could I make this week?
A couple minutes later I experienced an food epiphany-smack dab in the middle of Meijer’s with a hundred bucks of groceries in my cart. I had zipped right passed the frozen turkeys (since Hubs already bought one) when it dawned on me. Meijer brand birds were 33 cents a pound. HOLD THE PHONE! My head was trying to accept a message but the rest of me was in denial. Would if? Absolutely not. No.
Since I learned to cook 50 years ago, I have never made an unstuffed turkey or one without all the trimmings. Is it even possible to cook a turkey and use it for another purpose? On purpose? Could this warrant a technical foul against my favorite fowl? Might even be a flagrant (or fragrant) foul. No, not something I can wrap my head around. Still. I turned around and headed back to the frozen birds. I gingerly picked up 2 turkeys (the limit), each 15 pounds, which cost me 10 bucks. (No one needs to know they would be cooked under extenuating circumstances, but I looked guilty as sin) Pretty sure I would net 4 quarts of diced meat from each bird. Buck and a quarter per package. Mighty economical. And who doesn’t love the flavor of turkey pot pie, cream buns or salad? Plus all that turkey broth!
Hubs brought the groceries inside with raised eyebrows (they grew back) as he was lugging 30 pounds of dead weight turkeys. I explained my devious plan to use the birds for various, nefarious deeds, other than stuffing them. “Great idea! I never like it when you use all white chicken meat for pot pie or cream chicken buns. Dark meat has more flavor.” He put one in the fridge to thaw and the other in the freezer. I cooked and diced one yesterday and will make the crusts, cook the veggie/gravy/filling on Monday. Pumpkin bars sound good for dessert.
My cooking world has been rocked, so I’m probably gonna need help working my through this. Any long time cooks know a support group based on using fowl for other than what God (and the pilgrims) intended?…