Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Turkey Fryer

Cooking Disasters Make for Holiday Fun

First of all, I refuse to give up. There is too much history between me and my turkey fryers to simply accept defeat. These past years, I have learned enough to pitch my own holiday turkey frying reality show, with gregarious amounts of jaw-dropping, no he didn't, moments to capture Neilsen ratings beyond anything Winter Wipeout could imagine.
Holiday cooking disasters

Cooking Disaster of 2009

 
I'm still not sure what went wrong, but I am man enough to admit it was probably my fault. The buzz was just starting over home-fried turkeys for the holidays, and Walmart had a special advertised I just couldn't resist. It was, by far, the cheapest set-up on the market, and that more than likely assisted with the disaster now known as Turkey Try One, or TT1 for short. I hooked up the propane like the eager DIY guy I was, adjusted the burner to crank up the BTUs, and lit the fuse - so far so good. However, just as I was walking away to check the stuffing in the oven, the whole gizmo went BOOM. Silver flashes of metal shrapnel, singed pink turkey flesh, and globs of oil were thrown in every direction. Well, maybe not with such ferocity as I recall, but it was large enough to send the cooker against the garage wall to leave a black charring I had to paint over the next day. I ended up serving a pot roast to our guests three hours later, thawed out in the microwave and made into stew.

Holiday Fun with TT2
 
This one was so simple I still reel with guilt at the stupidity of it all. For 2010, I set my new fryer in the middle of the driveway to avert a repeat of the previous year, and planned to stay by it until the bird was complete. I double checked connections, gaskets, and regulators, and In a move that was seemingly brilliant but retrospectively idiotic, I placed a folded sheet beneath the cooker to catch dripping grease. I didn't want my concrete to stain, of course. Then, I paced back and forth, waiting for the bird to complete. I was confident I could do this, and felt my skills would shine in the form of a browned turkey carved before admiring guests. On my fifth back and forth, my shoe became wedged in a fold of the sheet and sent the whole mess tumbling across the drive to flare up the browning grass in the adjacent yard. My wife had a spiral ham on hand, just in case.

The Cooking Wasn't the Problem with TT3
 
I love my nephew to death, I truly do, but unfortunately for him, that boy has more in common with me than anyone else on this green earth. While his father and I regaled each with stories of holiday's past, the young scamp decided to entertain himself by playing football with an old Nike sneaker he found in my garage. Up and down it went as he tossed it idly over my laundry line, then from hand to hand as if it were a hot potato, until he shouted, "Hey Unc, catch!" The shoe landed square in the bubbling oil, splashing everywhere and causing such a ruckus my brother-in-law kicked a leg of the fryer out himself, and once again, oil pooled toward my neighbor's yard.

A Disaster by Any Other Name for TT4
 
I should have learned my lessons by now, but apparently there were a few more to be covered. This time, I was immensely careful around the fryer, going so far as to rope off the area with police tape supported by orange warning cones. I had a heart-to-heart with my nephew, and placed my wife in charge of the cooking. Except for the turkey, of course, that I started to thaw out only four hours before dropping it into the scalding peanut oil. It went smoothly for about three minutes, then the ice block deep within the bird let loose with a seismic geyser that poofed the the whole kit-and-caboodle straight out of the kettle and onto my long-suffering neighbor's property. I didn't feel too bad this year for damaging his lawn, as I myself re-seeded that area the previous Spring and had left-over fescue seed in the shed.

Holiday Improvements for TT5
 
My wife's arguments fell upon deaf ears this year. I had learned my lessons, I said. I know what to do, I said. I let the turkey thaw for 24 hours, I affirmed. I lectured my nephew as soon as he set foot in the house. I put up caution tape. My brother-in-law brought welding masks so we would feel safe watching the fryer from a distance. With everything in order, we set the turkey and it cooked. No smoke, no water geysers - it simply cooked. I realized as we neared the end that I would was conceivably provide the bird for the table this year instead of the ham kept in reserve since 2010. The timer went off, the temp was perfect, and I went to pull the bird from the bubbling inferno - with no gloves.

Next year, I will try again, but instead of having ham as a back-up, I'm thinking a few Peking Ducks from Chinese take-out. I do enjoy Chinese for the holidays.