I just love all kinds of birds. Always have. I bought Ladybird, my macaw, back before I had my first restaurant. She’s seen me through my lowest and highest points and I can’t imagine my home without her squawkin’ away in the background. Today, I’ve probably got 25 pet birds. And I’ve got chickens in the coop and ducks in the pond. You see, I adore birds. They fascinate me—their beauty and the way they move and the beautiful sounds they can make. But turkeys, they get a bad rap. People say that they got the short end of the stick when it came to looks, but I couldn’t disagree more. I think their plump bodies and colorful feathers make them look downright regal. Plus, turkeys carry the weight of the world on their gobblers—they alone can make or break a Thanksgiving dinner.
Usually, they make it. But I’m always hearing about somebody running like a scared dog in a lightening storm just thinking about making a Thanksgiving turkey. Frankly, I can’t understand what all the fuss is about. I feel sorry for ‘em. You gotta get in there and make peace with that bird, y’all.
Growing up, I know that I was very fortunate. I had some very good teachers when it came to handling that beautiful bird. My grandmother and my Aunt Peggy taught me how to pull off a Thanksgiving turkey without a hitch, baking or frying up the most gorgeous, mouthwatering bird. But I realize that not everybody had the luxury of two skilled cooks showing ‘em the ropes. I’ve heard the horror stories—the girls who cooked the bag of giblets or forgot to cut the oven on and ended up with a raw turkey—but thank my lucky stars I’ve never experienced such things first hand. Maybe you haven’t been as lucky. Maybe each Thanksgiving you find yourself in line at the Chinese buffet, relieved that you dodged another bullet.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to put your fears to rest, y’all. Because let me tell you, there’s nothing more satisfying than presenting your family with a perfectly cooked turkey on Thanksgiving. And it isn’t as hard as you might think. To make everybody happy, I usually make two turkeys—one fried and one in the oven. Maybe it’s because I’m Southern, but nothing holds a candle to a fried turkey. Now, I hear people complaining all the time that they’re afraid they’ll set their house on fire while trying to fry a turkey, but a friend of mine, John McLemore, came up with a countertop fryer that he sells on QVC. You can use it right there inside the house and they’re so safe. And it takes all the guesswork out of fryin’.
Y’all, I’m here to help you serve up the best Thanksgiving you can imagine. All month I’ll be sharing tips for creating a feast fit for king (and your mother-in-law), including how-to guides to alleviate some of the holiday stress. For example, if you’re worried about massacring the bird in front of your guests, check out my step-by-step guide to carving a turkey. You’ll impress your friends and family and in return they won’t lose their appetites.
That’s right, I’m letting you in on all of my family secrets for a no-fail cooked and carved bird!
Paula’s Top Turkey Recipes:
Deep Fried Turkey
Orange Apricot Turkey
Roasted Turkey with Maple Cranberry Glaze
Roasted Turkey with Fried Pecan-Bourbon Glaze
Braised Turkey Shanks
Rum Glazed Turkey
Stuffed Turkey Breast