Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 2002 / 17 Kislev, 5763

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Frozen turkey makes cook chicken out | A gorgeous picture of a perfectly browned Thanksgiving turkey graces the cover of a holiday cookbook. I look at that glorious work of art and two words immediately come to mind: electric drill.

I've improved over the years, but as a newly wed, cooking a turkey was about as natural to me as disco dancing would have been to a stout Pilgrim woman.

Actually, the problem never has been cooking the turkey. The problem has been thawing the turkey. I have yet to meet a turkey that lived up to the defrosting schedule printed on the plastic wrapper. My experience has been that the directions tend to underestimate the time by a month or two.

Thanksgiving morning dawns and the daunting challenge is how to chip out the neck and that disgusting little bag holding the liver, gizzard, snake eyes, pig lips, bat feet, and who knows what else, still frozen solid to the inside of the bird.

The first year I cooked a turkey, I tried it all: coaxing, threatening, pleading. When that failed (and I'm certainly not proud of this), I resorted to violence - a screwdriver and hammer. If you position the screwdriver at a right angle and firmly pound on the end of it with a hammer, you'll find that frozen neck won't budge an inch. Besides, when you have house guests, there's only so much hammering you can do at 6 in the morning without arousing suspicion.

The next year I followed the defrosting instructions to the letter and faced yet another neck and bag frozen to the inside of the bird. That time I decided to go with a blow dryer. I curled a few stray pin feathers into a smooth and lovely pageboy, but the neck and bag remained cemented inside. A neighbor suggested giving the bird a water bath.

I filled the kitchen sink with water, tested it with my elbow and tenderly lowered the bird into the bath. I gently poured water on the bird, rolled it from side to side, toweled it dry, slung it over my shoulder and patted it's back to see if that bag might somehow burp itself out. Not a chance.

Oven minus 30 minutes and the neck and bag were still welded inside. When you have 17 coming for a holiday dinner, the last thing you want to do is panic - which is why I went directly for the power drill with a quarter-inch bit. My husband intervened just as I began my first pass with the Black and Decker. He freed the neck and innards using nothing but his bare hands and salad tongs. I still say if we'd done it my way we could have done it in half the time.

The last time I cooked a holiday turkey was three years ago. For the first time ever, the turkey thawed right on schedule. It emerged from the oven golden brown, pleasingly lump and picture perfect. My brother was carving when I overheard him say, "What in blazes is this?"

I'd left the neck and bag inside, along with the metal bar that held the turkey's pelvis in place. Being a brother of immense tact and sensitivity, he immediately urged everyone present to contact their attorneys in the event of lead poisoning.

This year, as Thanksgiving approaches and I count my many blessings, at the top of the list is the fact that my sister-in law is cooking the bird. She's cool under pressure, experienced in the kitchen and a craft wizard with a workshop full of power tools.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman