The hustle and bustle of Christmas can easily leave one with a bit of a Grinch attitude if it isn't balanced with the right amount of Christmas spirit.
A few years ago, I was no exception.
December 25 was rapidly approaching. I had been anxiously looking forward to Christmas as a break from studying, but after seriously cutting my finger at school the week prior, I decided the time would be better spent honing my knife skills lest I lose a finger trying to keep up with the rest of my class.
Feeling very much like my ambitions had stolen my favourite holiday, I vented to my dad about how it seemed my efforts weren't paying off and I was beginning to feel as though the world owed me more gain for my pain.
Dad did his best to cheer me up, as always. Still, as stubborn as I was (a trait I inherited from Dad) I wasn't yet able to see his positive side of things.
When we got to my father's house, the decorations and lights were so festive and boisterous it was almost sickening.
The air inside smelled of Christmas cookies and the beginnings of a Christmas supper. Dad proudly told me he was trying something new with the turkey this year. He produced a small turkey from a bucket of sweet-smelling brine. I was somewhat aghast to see him separating the skin from the rest of the bird.
“Um, Dad? You're probably going to want to keep the skin on so that it doesn't dry out,” I told him, somewhat condescendingly.
“Yeah, just you wait, son, this is going to be the best turkey you've ever tasted.”
When we finally sat down to eat, I was stunned.
Dad had not separated the skin completely from the turkey, but had made a second cavity out of it for additional stuffing.
I sat there, mouth agape at the genius of it, how he not only created an outer layer of gorgeous stuffing but also made an insulating layer that prevented the turkey from drying out at all.
The following is the recipe for my dad's double-stuffed turkey that I like to call ...
Turkey a la Carson
4 litres cold water
2 cups brown sugar
3 large oranges
5 cloves garlic
1 cup salt
6 sprigs rosemary
1 middle-sized turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
8 cups bread crumbs
8 tbsp. dried savoury
8 tbsp. melted butter
3 tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp salt and pepper
For the brine, place 4 litres cold water in a large pot or bucket.
Add brine ingredients, being sure to slice oranges into sections and incorporate until all powdered ingredients are dissolved.
Add turkey to this mixture. Weigh down if necessary so turkey is fully submerged.
Let stand for 24 hours.
For the stuffing, melt butter in a large pan on medium-low heat and add onions.
Cook while covered for about five minutes.
Stir bread crumbs in quickly so they don’t become soggy.
Add the rest of ingredients gradually and stir to avoid clumps.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Gently lift outside skin of the turkey along the breast until it forms a nice pocket all the way around the sides.
Insert about half of the stuffing, being sure to lay it on evenly.
The remainder of the stuffing can be placed inside the cleaned turkey cavity. Place turkey in a large roaster and preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for four hours, checking after 3.5 hours for doneness.
Note: if you can let it bake for an additional half hour it is good to do so to ensure the stuffing cooks well inside the turkey. The additional layer of outer stuffing helps prevent it from drying during this process.
Turkey a la Carson, along with the rest of Christmas supper, was incredible.
After seeing the pride in my father's eyes at the success of the meal, it suddenly reminded me why I wanted to become a cook in the first place.
Cooks get to use creativity to make others happy and to nourish their bodies and souls. They put a little piece of themselves into everything they make, and that elevates what I saw as drudgery to an artform that perhaps eclipsed all others.
The desire to give, nourish and to make others happier – cooking has essentially the same heart and spirit that Christmas does.
With this new epiphany fresh and bright in my mind, I not only enjoyed my Christmas to the fullest but was emboldened to again do my best with my career choice.
Thanks again, Dad.