By Holly Bonner
After being declared legally blind, the thought of cooking a big holiday meal that included an entire turkey scared me to death. I was terrified that my visual impairment would limit my ability to prepare a healthy, delicious feast. I wanted my children to have the same memories I did as a little girl, included waking up to a house that smelled simply amazing on Thanksgiving morning. Enter my Adult Daily Living (ADL) skills teacher, Monica. After losing my vision, Monica came to my home twice a week for almost a year. Whenever I doubted my skills in the kitchen she would say, “Holly, you’ve got this.” And you know what? That’s exactly the kind of encouragement I needed to undertake cooking a turkey.
Turkey is tricky. Cook it too long and it’s too dry. Too short and you may be headed to the emergency room. (Yeah, I know, happy holidays, right?) What worked for me as a low vision cook was choosing to buy a turkey breast in lieu of the whole bird. It’s a lot less cooking time and the chance of a major screw up is far less likely. Here’s what you’ll need to get started.
Ingredients & Supplies:
- 2 Large Ziploc Bags (Double the Bag)
- 1 Aluminum Cooking Pan 9X14 or Heavy-Duty Turkey Pan
- 1 Turkey Breast (5-8 Pounds – Giblets Removed) – Pop Up Thermometer Included in Bird
- Springs of Fresh Rosemary & Thyme (Insert into Cavity)
- Salt & Pepper for Seasoning (In Cavity & On Skin)
- 1 Tablespoon Pre-Chopped Garlic (Place on Skin & Into Cavity)
- ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Stick of Butter (Under & On Skin)
- 2 Cups of Chicken Stock (In Pan)
Once you’ve gotten your ingredients and cooking supplies together, you may want to consider the optional step of marinating your turkey overnight. Now, you absolutely “DO NOT” have to do this. However, if you want to bring your turkey’s flavor to the next level, I strongly recommend that you do. I also suggest purchasing a turkey breast with a pop-up thermometer. It’s a round plastic disk that sits in the breast meat and will poke out when it’s done.
To Marinate Your Turkey, Do the Following Steps 24 Hours Prior to Cooking:
- Wash the entire bird in water, cleaning out the cavity and removing any giblets. Generously season the turkey breast with salt and pepper.
- Place bird cavity side up (hole facing towards you) inside large Ziploc bag. Pour olive oil directly into bag, lightly coating the flesh of the turkey.
- Stick sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme inside the cavity. Use pre-diced garlic and place about a tablespoon on the skin and in the cavity.
- Close bag, making sure all the air is out. Squeeze turkey into a second Ziploc bag and seal, again ensuring there is no additional air.
- Gently massage your bird making sure all the olive oil and spices are distributed evenly. If your herbs fall out of the cavity while doing this, no worries. You just want to dispense the flavors.
- Refrigerate overnight until ready to cook.
Cooking Your Bird Thanksgiving Day:
Now it’s time to get cooking. First, remove the turkey breast from the Ziploc bag marinade. Remove anything that is left over inside the cavity (rosemary/thyme sprigs). Using a disposable aluminum pan, place the turkey breast up, re-seasoning it with salt and pepper. Place fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme into the cavity of the bird. Next, melt half a stick of unsalted butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Drizzle the melted butter all over the skin, rubbing it in gently. Finally, pour about one cup of chicken stock at the bottom of the pan to keep the turkey from drying out. Cover your turkey with aluminum foil and place in a 350 degree over for one hour and thirty minutes.
After that initial cook time, check the turkey, remove the aluminum tent, and add one half additional cups of chicken stock to the bottom of the pan. You can pour your remaining one-half cup of chicken stock over the turkey before sticking it back in the oven for another one hour and thirty minutes. During this second cooking phase, baste the turkey about every 20-25 minutes to ensure moisture. By the end of your cooking time, the internal blue disk thermometer should pop within the bird, indicating it is complete.
Consider purchasing a talking meat thermometer as an additional fail safe to ensure the right temperature for your turkey. I prefer the Reizen talking meat thermometer. Simply insert the probe into the thickest part of the breast meat. The desired turkey meat temperature is 165-170 degrees. As long as your turkey breast reaches somewhere in that range, you have successfully cooked your meal. However, be sure to remove the blue plastic disk thermometer and throw it away before you carve.
Remember, when it comes to cooking with low vision, “you’ve got this.” Whatever the season, whatever the meal, YOU CAN cook for your family with the right preparation and the help of audible technology.
Do you have a holiday recipe or audible kitchen gadget you want to share with us? We’d love to hear and share your tips and experiences in future 20/20 blog posts! Blog@LowVisionMD.org