Twenty people. That's how many were counting on me to make their holiday feast special. Preparations were underway. Family was arriving. Pies were being prepped. The bird was ready to be submerged in the brine.
On Tuesday morning, I decided to use the never-pushed self clean button on my old Maytag oven. I waited to see what would happen. The oven heated itself up to extreme temps, burning off the crud and crumbs that had accumulated. The house got smelly and smoky. But it seemed to be working just fine.
Three or four hours later, the oven was cool, the smoke had cleared, but the lock would not release. I couldn't open the oven door. The digital readout blinked and blooped. Uh oh. This did not look good. At all.
I called the repairman. It would cost a fee just for them to come look at it on Wednesday and there was no guarantee they would be able to fix it if they didn't have the necessary part. It seemed a waste of money to have them come and diagnose the problem if they couldn't repair it in time for me to cook THANKSGIVING DINNER! OH MY GOD. I HAD TO COOK THANKSGIVING DINNER FOR 20 PEOPLE!
The girl on the phone took pity and looked up the code that the oven was broadcasting. The high heat of the self-clean cycle had melted the control panel. It would need to be replaced, and there was no way they could get the part in time. I hung up the phone and got to freaking out about the house full of people who were coming to eat for Thanksgiving.
What the hell was I going to do? First, I called my mommy, who diligently calmed me down and told me not to freak out. BUT I'VE GOT TO COOK THANKSGIVING DINNER FOR 20 PEOPLE, I WHINED AND WHIMPERED AND CRIED. At this point, house guests were arriving. I had to pull my shit together.
My husband and brother-in-law were dispatched to Lowe's to buy a freestanding drop-in range or something. I packed up the pie fixings and drove to my mother's house for her to finish. Fortunately, the crusts had already been blind baked.
I drank some wine. I laughed at my predicament with my sisters-in-law. I cried when husband returned with nothing but a smoker. The range would need one of those special outlets, so it didn't make sense to get one, they said. I thought about the smoker but quickly decided I would hate to eat a damned smoked turkey on Thanksgiving. I could use the turkey fryer, but frying a turkey is such a guy thing to do. Why turn the joy of roasting a big fat bird slowly over the course of the day into a death-defying 20-minute stunt? I don't have enough testosterone to undertake such a foolhardy activity. And I've seen all those YouTube videos where idiots burn their houses down. Besides, I like roasting a turkey. I enjoy getting up and putting the turkey in the oven first thing in the morning. I savor the aroma. I relish the salivating guests as they wait for the feast to come together.
I drank more wine. We brainstormed solutions. We called a neighbor who was leaving town for the holiday. Could we borrow her oven and cook our turkey? No. I drank more wine and toasted her as the biggest bitch of the entire neighborhood.
We went to a Thanksgiving eve party where we enlisted the help of all the guests. How could we save Thanksgiving without an oven?
Ultimately, I decided to cook the turkey on the grill. As party host Jeff Allen suggested: heat the grill up to the desired temperature, put the turkey in the roasting pan inside the grill, attach a digital thermometer so you can keep track of the progress, and keep the top closed so you don't lose any heat. Presto. You've got yourself a cooking vessel.
After a bunch of wine, it seemed completely reasonable. The next morning, hungover but hopeful, I heated up the grill and prepped the bird. I dropped him on the grill and got to cooking. Surprisingly enough, it worked just fine. The biggest challenge was keeping a constant temperature. But we were able to bake the rolls, keep the sides warm, and cook the turkey using the grill. And the Thanksgiving feast tasted as good as ever. So good that the same crowd is returning this year. And you can be sure, I will not be cleaning my oven today (or ever again, for that matter. It cost $400 to repair the sucker).