Witch in the Kitchen
With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve got a question for you. Which cooking tasks frightens you the most? Without a doubt, for me, it’s the Thanksgiving turkey. I remember bonding with my first bird, a cold, intimidating carcass that came with few instructions. My fears were augmented by gruesome tales recounted by hapless housewives.
My mother was not around to guide me that first Thanksgiving, when I took on the awesome responsibility of creating a memorable holiday. I was on my own.
I knew what could go wrong. I had witnessed a few poultry disasters in person. Such things as, cooking the sack of innards in the cavity or the neck. Overcooking. Undercooking. Forgetting to allow several days for a rock solid bird to thaw. With all that in mind, I stumbled through the stages of preparation from store, to sink, to oven, to table, with varying degrees of anxiety.
To this day, I’m still apprehensive about the Thanksgiving turkey. I’ve cooked it a number of ways: in a paper sack, a plastic cooking bag, in the outdoor cooker, spatchcocked (flattened), brined, unbrined, fresh, stuffed and unstuffed and barded (coated in bacon). I even served a turducken one year.
My family says I “fret” too much over the bird. I tell them somebody has to. “If nobody frets, you’ll wind up with a raw bird or one too small for the occasion.” They say the turkey turns out fine every year, so why all the fretting? I respond, “See, it works!”
My other kitchen fear involves fruit cake. It all started with the first one I made in the 60s. The pressure was on. I’d spent nearly $10 (a tidy sum in those days) for the candied fruit, nuts and bourbon.
I thought the cake turned out quite well. Fortunately, I was able to disguise most its faults with added bourbon. At least, everyone agreed it was moist. But there weren’t many fruitcake eaters in the family, so I had the fruity-boozy decadence all to myself.
In recent years, I’ve left fruitcake baking to the good monks of Assumption Abbey in south Missouri. They’ve make the task a spiritual endeavor or, at least, an art form. I was never able to do either.
Other than being frightened by holiday turkeys and high investment cakes, I’m cool with trying most any recipe.
Okay, now it’s your turn. Tell me what spooks you in the kitchen and how you deal with it.