The Turkey Struggle

About a week before Thanksgiving, I found out that my parents, despite not really wanting a turkey, had bought a turkey…the smallest one they could find. It was still a 10 pound Butterball though… We haven’t made turkey in the family for years and may have only done it once. So, my brother decided to take it upon himself to find a recipe, him being the one in the family who doesn’t know how to cook and literally just tosses meat in the oven, drizzles it with sauce, and waits while hoping the oven doesn’t blow up. That’s about the extent of his cooking.

So, here’s what he found: Link to Recipe Base

And well, we followed that recipe as closely as we could, and this is what we did based on the ingredients we could find and our limited pot sizes(Did not know that turkeys are this big and wasn’t prepared to make turkey…so our biggest pots were…not big enough to pull off the original recipe). We couldn’t find peppercorns and berries at the grocery store nearby, so we just improvised and use Pumpkin pie spice. .and how come we met a bunch of coworkers all shopping in that same grocery store for supplies at like 8-9pm at night? Guess some grocery stores can be hang outs/places to go “Oops…we need food for Thanksgiving”.

Ingredients:

  • 1o pound thawed turkey (instead of original recipe’s 14-16 pound)
  • Avocado oil (but any oil that can survive 500 F is good. The original recipe said canola is fine.)

Brine:

  • 1/2 cup salt (instead of original recipe’s 1 cup)
  • About 1/4 cup brown sugar(instead of original recipe’s 1/2 cup)
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock (instead of original recipe’s 1 gallon)
  • About 5 or so shakings from a McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice(mix of cinnamon, ginger nutmeg, allspice)(instead of original recipe’s 1 TBSP black peppercorn, 1.5 TSP Allspice berries, 1.5TSP chopped candied ginger, and 1 cinnamon stick)
  • 2-3 quarts iced water (guestimating since we did it based on how much our container could hold)(instead of original recipe’s 1 gallon)

Stuff to put inside Turkey/Aromatics 

  • 1 sliced apple (we used Fuji, original says red)
  • 1/2 sliced onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 sprigs rosemary (instead of original recipe’s 4)
  • 6 leaves sage
  • Stuffing(optional)

Steps

Making Da Brine:

  • The night before roasting the turkey…. find a pot. Then add the veggie stock, brown sugar, salt, spice in the pot over medium heat. Stir and boil.  (We didn’t have a 5 gallon bucket. Our biggest container was a mixing bowl that would hold 2 gallons, but that couldn’t go on the stove…which is required…sooo we used a smaller pot and halved the ingredients from the original recipe.)
  • Let it cool and then refrigerate it.

Prepping the Turkey

  • Your turkey should be thawed already.  Remove all the inside stuff. Usually, if store bought, there is a white pouch which contain the innards and there may also be a neck in there. We tossed those out. The white pouch looked weird under the skin, but it was stuck by the hole where the neck would have been if the turkey neck wasn’t chopped.
  • Prep some iced water. We just ran some filtered water into our 2 gal mixing bowl and added ice. It was the biggest container we had.
  • Next, combine the brine and iced water(water with ice) in that mixing bowl/container. Rather, put the turkey into that container first and then add the brine, so you don’t overflow the container. We probably used less iced water because I dumped the ice out to get the turkey to the bottom.  Make sure to pour some of that brine inside the turkey cavity if you can’t submerge the whole turkey…we couldn’t get it to fit.

Turkey Brine

  • Push it down as far as you can and then put the whole thing in the fridge. The idea is for the salty brine to trick the turkey into absorbing more water, so the turkey won’t dry out while roasting in the oven. We put some plastic wrap so the turkey wouldn’t be exposed to air, and so the brine wouldn’t affect anything else. Be careful, this mixture is heavy…turkey plus liquid! Could be a good weights workout if it wasn’t so dangerous to drop! We put the turkey in the fridge at 11:30pm Wednesday night.

Turkey Brine in Fridge

  •  So, here’s where having a night owl comes in handy. After a couple hours, you’ll want to flip the turkey so you can soak the other side of the turkey if it’s not submerged or just try to make the brine even. My brother stayed up and flipped the turkey at around 3:30am in the morning and then tossed a big ketchup bottle on the turkey to weight it down, and then he passed out.
  • No one woke up early on Thanksgiving day. I just remember the turkey was ready to eat at 2pm.  Anyhow, next you want to dump all the brine out and rinse the turkey with cold water.
  • Put the rinsed turkey on your roasting rack in your pan! We used a V shaped rack, which helps to hold the bird in place. Dry the turkey with a paper towel.

Stuffing/aromatics

  • Parents didn’t know what they were doing and grabbed Kraft stove top stuffing because everyone else was grabbing it in the grocery store a couple days before. So…you could put stuffing into the turkey and stuff it from the butt side, not the neck cavity. I forgot and ended up wasting time trying to stuff the stuffing into the neck and yelling at my brother when it kept falling out. The stuffing mix that ended up on the bottom of the pan would burn in the oven later (and I would keep randomly tossing water ingo the pan while the turkey roasted because Kraft stuffing said it needed butter and water…and I failed to read the directions beforehand). Alternatively, just cook the stuffing separately and don’t stuff the turkey with it.
  • Next, slice your apple, onion. Then put the 1 cup water, apple, onion inside a microwave safe dish and microwave for 4 minutes. Then pour that into the turkey cavity.
  • Take the sage and rosemary and stuff it into the turkey cavity too.
  • Tuck the bird’s wings (or give up because this one bird wing wanted to defy all tucking and just stick up for itself…) and then coat everything with oil.

Raw BackRaw

Roasting

  • Preheat the oven to 500 F.
  • Roast the turkey for 30 minutes at a lower rack in the oven. We used the 3rd lowest rack because the oven thermometer was hanging under it. (Don’t accidentally change the temperature to 470 to save energy because making the aromatics took too long while arguing with brother and nearly dropping heavy turkey in brine.)
  • Then roast at 350 F for about 2 hours. Toss water into the pan randomly a few times if you put the stuffing in and realized it requires water.
  • Take the turkey out and cover lightly with aluminum foil for 15 minutes. My brother just cut a rectangle and shoved it only on the top of the turkey. I have a feeling you’re supposed to cover the pan sides too… but apparently it didn’t matter!
  • Voila! Then you are ready to serve!

Cooked

We had the turkey with Heinz Homestyle Beef Gravy and jellied cranberry sauce. We didn’t make gravy out of  the turkey grease because the stuffing already burned the bottom of the pan. The turkey skin was crispy, and if you want it crispier, then more oil and longer roasting probably works. The inside could get dry, but it wasn’t as dry as it could be (that’s good!). It was great with the gravy and sauce though!

 

 

 

An International Flight in Business Class on Seats with “Mattress Pads”?

Passports expiring are a hassle for travelers who don’t travel abroad often and then find themselves in a pinch after booking a trip. Unfortunately, this means coughing up expediting fees in order to hopefully get your new passport on time. Such was my dilemma and I found myself in limbo until a few days before a trip to Taiwan because I hadn’t bothered checking my passport earlier.

But despite the passport troubles, I was comforted by the fact that I had miraculously been upgraded on my international airplane flight, so I would be able to try out business class!  I learned that with this came another bonus, the ability to access an airline lounge at the airport (unfortunately, these airline lounges weren’t very impressive because while they had food available, the food always seemed to be out and not refilled)!

Now to the airplane! This was an ANA (Japanese airline) flight that was quite long since I was flying from the East Coast of the U.S. to Japan and then connecting with another flight to Taiwan! In business class, they provided us with seats that could go all the way down! It took me a while to figure out how the chair worked. There were so many buttons, and of course, being an explorer, I wanted to figure out how the seat worked without reading the instruction manual! At the end, I did find and look at the instructions to see if I had discovered all the functions of the seat. To make it feel more like a mattress, they also provided an extra thin padded mat to put on top of the flat seat. It was interesting as I have never seen this all before, but it was not very comfortable. I may be biased because the pillow they gave me was so flat I couldn’t really sleep. Anyway, here’s a picture of the seat commands and then the seating area. There is a table with the magazine rack attached to it instead of the usual magazine pocket attached to the back of the seat in front of you in economy. I found this a bit awkward because I’m used to grabbing the magazines from in front of me and not the side. After the flight, I personally think the table is a waste of space. If anything, it’s really there to take up more space so you have privacy from other people. The TV is in front of the seat. Items can be stowed on the shelves under the TV screen. However, those items just kept falling on me during take off.  But anyway, the benefits of the seat are definitely more privacy and more space! Additionally, all the seats were aisle seats because they were organized that way!IMG_0656

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The next set of benefits is food! They actually serve course meals that try to look fancy. Good luck trying to stay hungry because it seems they stuff you with food, and if the meals don’t fill you, they have light meals as snacks. These include curry, ramen, small sandwich, crackers, and so on! I will say though…you may be too full from the meals to try the snacks though! On this flight, for the meals, there was a choice of Japanese or International(which I assume is more Western style). I chose Japanese for the lunch and for the breakfast…or was it dinner (time zones make me so confused what’s called what on the airplane). The first three pictures are the lunch. The first picture was the same appetizer provided for both the Japanese and International meals. The one thing that disappointed me about all the meals was that there is actually a lot of cold food. The only warmish ones were the miso soup and the fish above the miso(I think). Maybe next time, check to see which meal has more hot food? Dessert was also provided, but I didn’t take a picture. Unfortunately, it didn’t hit me to take pictures of the menu because I’m not sure I can identify all the food in here.

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After that, I binge watched movies or tried to sleep. However, as you can probably surmise from above, I couldn’t really sleep well. The entertainment system in business class allows you to choose movies on demand from their in flight selection. There are also in flight games, including multiplayer which I assume you can do battle against other passengers in. However, I didn’t try them. There was not much choice in terms of games, so I stuck to movies to stay awake. I think I watched four or five movies, some of which I fast forwarded through parts because it was moving too slowly. The last three movies I watched were Inside Out, Terminator, Spy, and Pitch Perfect 2. I can’t remember  the other, if there was one.  After all, jet lag needed to account 12 hour difference (for Taiwan) and 13 hour (for Japan). One more hour would have to be added to account for daylight savings later during the trip. So, not sleeping certainly helped! By the way, they had Back to the Future too! Haha. I guess ANA felt it was a classic or they knew about the October 2015 Back to the Future reference!  Now, the other good news about the system is they provided noise cancelling headphones, so you can actually use those to help you sleep too! Just don’t get tangled in the wire by accident! :p

Below is a picture of the breakfast. Miso soup had more seaweed this time. Grapefruit was the most sour grape fruit ever! So… I learned not to eat grapefruit on airplanes! I forgot to take a picture of the dessert again. I think it was something with red bean.

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And then…I had a stopover at Narita airport before I connected to Taiwan. ANA’s customer service is excellent. The flight was enjoyable, and even though my mouth was super dry during it, the flight attendants figured out that water and not alcohol(which you apparently can get unlimited amounts of to drink) was what I needed. I have to give a shout out to Horii, the flight attendant who was responsible for the passengers in my area. She was super nice, and upon learning that it was my first time flying business on ANA, she and the crew even wrote me a card at the end of the flight wishing me a nice trip to Taiwan.

The weather in Narita area was hotter than in the U.S. Indeed, it was clear in Narita Airport as I found myself even sweating just from sitting in the airport. It was slightly better in the ANA lounge, and of course free wifi in the whole airport did make time pass faster too! I guess the Japanese do not set their AC up very high. The WIFI was not fast, but it at least allowed me to load email and chat. I also checked out some of the stores and found tons of people buying tons of boxes of Royce refrigerated chocolate. I personally did not have the opportunity to try the chocolate. The store attendants told me the chocolate would last 2 hours without refrigeration, and that was infeasible since the flight to Taiwan was over 2 hours. Adding their icebox to the chocolate still would have the chocolate last 20 hours if I tried to take it back to the U.S. with me. So, it was a dud for me, and there was no way I could try the chocolate without wasting a ton. I can’t eat a whole box that fast! ….and I also was too lazy to change currency at the airport while waiting for the connection flight.

On the connection from Narita to Taoyuan, Taiwan Airport, I passed out on a normal seat (not the fancy one from the first flight). Apparently, the lack of sleep had gotten to me. The flight was around 3 hours or so. There was another meal on the flight, which I also chose Japanese. We landed around 10pm Taiwan time, so I think the meal was dinner. However, I forgot to take a picture, and all I remember was a lot of cold food. But all that food on the flights keep you full anyway! I couldn’t even eat all the food even if I wanted to. Anyhow, by the time I reached Taiwan, I felt almost fished out from all the seafood provided in the airplane meals. I started to crave American food, even if it’s not as healthy. But no can do! Because I can’t just eat American food in Taiwan and Japan! That would almost be a crime, right? Must try the food!

A Short Trip to Taiwan and a Skedaddle over to Japan