My favorite nephew is single, has Tom Cruise good looks and lives in Carlsbad, California in what can only be called a perpetual light-beer commercial. He is not much of a cook, but he has decided to entertain guests for Thanksgiving. He invited me but I don’t think I’m up to a game of touch football using a 20-pound turkey for the ball.
He loves my turkey dressing, and e-mailed me for the recipe. I can follow a recipe, but I’ve never tried to explain some basic cooking concepts to someone with a smaller culinary comfort zone than my own — and who only understands several dialects of Bimbo-ese. I knew I had my work cut out for me when in his e-mail he asked if he should remove the dressing mix from the box before he put it in the turkey. I decided to approach the project by explaining things in sports metaphors that I knew he would be able to interpret. Here are my instructions:
Buy two bags of stuffing mix. Make sure it has sage flavoring. It comes loose the way you like to crumple saltines in your tomato soup, or it comes in little cubes. Stick with the cubes. How big a bag? Depends on the size of your bird, but the bags should be the size of one of those models in Victoria’s Secret commercials. (He’ll know what I mean).
Next get two packages of premium pork sausage.
It comes in a silver wrapper and it is close to the size of a toilet paper roll with about 50 sheets of paper still on it. Make sure it says “sage” under “premium,” with “Our Special Recipe” in red letters. Look in the meat case near hot dogs.
You’ll need two or three cans of chicken broth. Not big cans like Quaker Oats boxes, but small ones about the size of tomato soup.
A stalk of celery. It’s green with a leafy top that looks like Homer Simpson’s head. And two onions the size of tennis balls after the Williams sisters have been beating on them for nine games.
Chop the onions and celery. Get one of those inexpensive choppers that you pound on like you’re dribbling a basketball. Do the onions first then chop an amount of celery equal to the onions — about a cup’s worth (better make that a C-cup’s worth.) Oh, don’t forget to cut off Homer’s hair, and use just the stalks — except for the white-ish part at the bottom.
Now sauté … (Hmm, will he understand sauté?) OK. Melt about a half of a quarter stick of butter in a fry pan — low heat so it doesn’t burn. When it’s melted, add the chopped celery (now turn the heat back up). Handicap the onions by giving the celery about a three-minute head start; the onions will catch up soon enough. Cook the onions until they are the color of the hair of that third Laker Girl from the left. You know, the one we always zeroed in on with the binoculars during halftime at the Staples Center. In fact you can use her to reference the size of the stuffing mix bags to get. The celery is done when it’s the color of the beat-up tennis balls. Turn the heat off and set aside the onions and celery.
Slit the sausage package down the middle lengthwise like they do autopsies on that crime show “CSI.” Turn the package inside out and push the meat out the way your Grandpa used to turn out his suspenders. Push the meat into another fry pan. Brown the sausage, mashing it down with a fork the way you used to try to destroy green beans on your plate, thinking they would magically disappear.
Mix the onions, celery and sausage in a large pot. Add about half a can of chicken broth, then half a package of stuffing until it is all the consistency of the stones and glop you would take out of your rock polisher after it ran for a week. Continue to add a little stuffing mix with a little chicken broth. Don’t let it get too moist since it will pick up moisture from the turkey while it’s cooking.
(Will he know about salmonella?) Don’t forget to wash the turkey. Not with soap, just cold water. Pat it dry with a soft dish towel — gently, almost caressing it. How gently? Remember the Laker Girl.