The Mission President asked if any of us senior Couples could provide a Thanksgiving Day Dinner for the missionaries in our areas. Without a second thought, we volunteered to feed the entire Phnom Penh East District, consisting of 16 Elders and Sisters. As it turned out, the two AP (Assistant to the President) Elders assigned to the East District were out in the Provinces conducting training and couldn’t come; their loss. So we had 14 (hungry) missionaries come.
Wonder of wonders, we found turkeys for sale at Lucky’s Supermarket at an exorbitant price, and they were Norbest turkeys all the way from Utah, less than 150 miles from our Provo home. Did I say they were pricy? They were expensive, $45 for the 14 pounder we bought. But Lucky’s had them so we were on for a real Thanksgiving dinner.
Then came the next problem. We have a toaster oven. A small toaster oven. No match of the bird, even though at 14 pounds this turkey was by no means ‘big’. Normally, to feed our clan at home we buy a 26 pound bird. But we are in Cambodia and we actually found a turkey to buy. Thinking this through, we remembered the Turkey Roaster we have at home, so we set out to buy one in the big city, Phnom Penh.
This is what we pictured in our mind:
No luck. Not that they aren’t for sale here but we couldn’t find one in all the stores we know about. So we called Kosal, a Khmae friend who ‘knows all’, and he told us to go to a shop near Central Market because they have one. When parked and started walking toward the store, the shop keeper ran out to meet us; Kosal had told her we were coming.
No roaster ovens, at least not what we were expecting. What we found was:
A Halogen Roaster oven. A little small, but the shop owner had a metal ring that could sit on top of the bottom glass bowl and increase its capacity. The lady wanted $48, but I didn’t have $48 on me, just $45, so I told her it was $45 or nothing. With a grumble, she took the $45. I felt bad about it until I read the suggested retail in Cambodia was $32. Small wonder she wouldn’t let me out of the shop to comparison shop.
We still had concerns – would our turkey fit? Would the power stay on for the cooking time? Would we have enough drippings for gravy? A lot of things we just didn’t know.
Beset with these concerns, we decided to cook the turkey several days early, so we thawed it and put it breast-side down into the roaster on a short rack, then set the temp and time and watched. The machine heated up then cycled on and off maintaining the temperature. Since the timer only went to one hour, we gave it a second hour and watched some more. The turkey had the ‘tender timer’ button but I had placed the turkey in the pot with the timer facing down where I couldn’t see it, so at the end of the second hour, I flipped the bird over and found the timer had not popped up, so I gave it another hour. Well into the third hour, I began to panic because the radiant energy from the halogen bulb was beginning to darken the breast more than I liked, so I put a tent of aluminum foil over the breast then noticed the drum sticks were loose and almost coming off. Finally, lack of patience got the best of me and I took the turkey out of the roaster and pulled off the drumsticks, then noticed the tender timer had popped up. I had cooked the turkey OK.
We sliced the breast meat and pulled off the dark meat, placed it on serving trays and poured a thin gravy over the top, wrapped the trays with foil and froze them. So the meat was taken care of.
No thanksgiving meal is complete without mashed potatoes, so we went to the Ta Khmau Old Market to the vegetable vendor we use and asked how to buy 10 kg of potatoes, expecting her to tell us to come back tomorrow, but not so, she had enough potatoes on hand to give us the full 10 kg right then.
During the previous month, we looked for the other ingredients we wanted to have for our thanksgiving meal, and were lucky enough to find some canned cranberries but were not able to find pumpkin pie filling. We did find squashes that were labeled ‘pumpkins’ so we cooked some and had a passable replacement for the orange pumpkin flesh we use to get great pies. Fortunately, our toaster oven was up to the task of cooking the pies.
Sister Tuck really wanted green bean casserole, the kind made with mushroom soup, green beans and French-fried onions. The canned green beans were very difficult to find (they don’t seem to have canned green beans here) and when we did find them the price was out-of-sight. But, the markets have plenty of yard-long green beans so she decided to try them. She became alarmed when she found a caterpillar amongst the yard-long beans so carefully went through them to insure no beasties in the final product. Cutting and pressure-cooking the beans made a passable substitute for canned blue lake green beans but the end result left a bit to be desired.
When the time came for the dinner, the missionaries showed up and we all sat down to a great feast. I warned the elders that a 14 pound turkey only went so far, but when I dished it up, one of the Elders exclaimed “that’s a lot more meat than I expected” making me feel good about the turkey and the roaster (the mashed potatoes saved the day).
While the missionaries were feasting, the Americans told their Khmae companions, “Now, this is a real American meal.”
Everybody was happy and there were even some leftovers.