• A succulent bird, stuffed with gratitude

    by Gary Huerta

    I have always loved Thanksgiving. What’s not to love? It’s a four-day holiday, meaning no matter how hard you work on Thursday, you still have three more days to forget about the arguments with your crazy relatives. How great is that?

    Of course, the fact that I happen to make an incredible turkey is one big reason why I love the fourth Thursday in November. For the life of me, I will never understand why people insist on putting their turkey in the oven at sunrise and leaving it there to dry like some bizarre, Egyptian mummification ritual.

    Come to think of it, I’d consider my life a raging success if I could rid the world of dry, flaky turkey meat once and for all. So here’s the easiest way to ensure your bird is the talk of the town. Stuff the bird with aromatic things like rosemary, thyme, oranges and lemons. Rub vigorously with salt and a little canola oil. Before putting the bird in the oven, mold a triangular foil shield, shiny side out, over the breast area. This little trick allows the white meat to cook at a lower temperature than the dark meat. Without the shield, stick it in an oven at a temperature of 500 degrees for about 30 minutes to brown the skin and seal in the juices. After that, put the pre-molded shield on the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees – no basting, please. Remember: cook by temperature, not by time. Give your bird about 15 minutes per pound. Check it about 30 minutes before you think it will be done, because you can always add more time and there is no going backwards. When the breast meat is 165 degrees, your turkey is done. Cover it to keep kitchen poachers at bay and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

    Your turkey will be awesome. And my life’s work will be complete.

    Succulent white meat aside, the other vital component to this festive day includes taking time to reflect upon things that fill me with gratitude. Our family used to have a tradition of going around the table and giving everyone a chance to have their say. But since I am persona non grata with them, I’ll use this column as my way of continuing this annual ritual on my own. With that in mind, here is the list of things that fill me with gratitude:

    I’m grateful for this column, my loyal and occasional readers, and my colleagues on the iPinion Syndicate. Whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, it is truly a pleasure to express myself here every week. I’m always eager to hear from you and participate in lively, well-mannered debate. Some of you have even managed to change my stubborn mind now and again. And those readers who seem bent on doing nothing but hurling grade school insults my way? They make me grateful for junk mail filters.

    I’m grateful to have a new novel, freshly published and waiting to be discovered by a literary agent, a publisher and a movie mogul who will want to pay me enormous sums of money for the rights to turn it into a feature film. Having high hopes of literary success is a wonderful thing. When those aspirations become reality, well, that’ll will be even better!

    I’m grateful for my other job in Corporate America and for all the smart people with whom I work. Although I see a different kind of success somewhere down the road, and my current work week is long, demanding and often extremely stressful, I try to remain cognizant of the fact that it is a blessing to have a steady paycheck allowing me to write and pursue my wildest dreams.

    In that spirit, I’m grateful for all the things in my life I do not want. I know it sounds contradictory, but knowing what one doesn’t want in life can guide you like a compass towards the things you do want.

    I’m grateful for my small circle of dependable, close friends and for the new friends I’ve made this year. Expanding that part of my life was a real priority for me in 2012 and it pleases me to know I accomplished it. My gratitude and affection also goes out to one special person who has supported, loved and stood by me through a lot of ups and downs over the last eight years. She knows who she is. I hope. I’ve never been the most forthcoming with affection, but I love you all.

    And finally, I am grateful to my children. Like all kids and parents, we have our ups and downs. But no matter what, I Iove each of them very much. One of my greatest hopes is that they always find an abundance of things, large and small, which constantly fill them with gratitude and hope.

    That would also be my wish for you. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.


      • Sayitsnotso

      • November 18, 2012 at 12:52 am
      • Reply

      I was expecting GARY HUERTA’S FIVE THANKSGIVING COCKTAILS to put the Gobble in Your Turkey Day. Not the one where you stuff a turkey in a martini glass! More like an extra dry Pumpkin Martini, Turkey Nail or a Pumpkin Pie Shot.

      Happy Thanksgiving here in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Force Base with an attitude of gratitude.



    • Gary, my gratitude for meeting you through this column and hope I can meet you in person in 2013.



    • Beautiful column, as always, and you saved me having to feel lame and ask you how to cook a friggin turkey again!

      I saved it this time.



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