Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Turkey Dressing

The oven, unreliable, is heated
to three-hundred thirty degrees, 
but in the past you've burned cookie batches,
so the roasting turkey will likely be done too soon.

Choose a pyrex pan that will hold a pound of something,
and without measuring
smear the pan with butter-coated fingers.
Quickly wipe your finger tips
through a folded tea towel several times.

Yesterday, you bought a dozen oysters,
a can of sliced water chestnuts,
a bag of sweet onion, a celery head
and probably-over-priced bread crumbs.

As a child, you would put too much butter on toast.
Set aside the memory and that amount of butter.
Hold two onions whose galaxy shape
makes them excellent spinning tops,
and spin them on the counter until they tilt.
Dice first the last to fall, then the next.

Snap off four ribs of celery and rinse:
this will take time, the ribs overlap along the stalk,
hiding the heart and stiff with resistance.
You must turn off the tap to hear
each celery string sing as it breaks.
Rub your thumb against the white stem
in a slow stream of cold water,
watching the nail bed turn dark pink.
In the butter with the onion, in a large skillet, sweat.

A word on heat and attention:
high heat will require constant stirring,
lower heat allows you to crouch down
and answer the dog's inquisitive eyes;
to rise in two-minute intervals and shake the skillet;
to describe to the dog, as best you can, the taste of caramel.

You'll add water and yet more butter
once the vegetables are translucent:
the water should be insufficient, the butter ridiculous. 
Become increasingly resigned, until the mixture boils.
The coated glass dish now holds cubed bread to its brim,
to which you will add the vegetable suspension,
chopped water chestnuts and oysters.  Oh.

Remember back to a time
before you started this dish, its preparation,
that long interlude caring for celery, the sweating.
You would have taken a wet paper bag from the refrigerator.
In the bag rest filthy, spiny oysters in their sea smell, and they are alive.
Before even heating the skillet, above, assemble:

    (2) gloves, gray canvas
    (1) bristle brush
    (1) strong, dull, possibly sacrificial knife

Wearing gloves roughened in the garden,
brush the oyster shells with gusto, under running water
to flush the brown accretions in each niche and slit.
Turn the shells over and over to find the hinge
and examine the black stoniness that washes to blue.
Become relieved in your naive plan for the coming struggle.

Each mollusk demands muscle,
ligaments fighting against the pry of the knife. 
Once you feel a slow easing between shells,
match that change in pressure as the blade
finds what is empty in an oyster. 
During the next eleven battles, will this emptiness into being.

Now the turkey is resting by the flatware.
Place the stuffed pan on the lower oven rack
and doubt for forty-five seconds:
Consider the possible seasonings,
the oyster liquor now thick with onion,
and how dry the bread is:
quickly grab a clean ceramic coffee cup,
splash it half full with cold water,
and toss that in the stuffing, against your doubt.

Close the oven door slowly
and wash the cutting board and knives in hot soapy water.
After the potatoes are mashed, the corn steamed,
around fifty minutes, return to serve.