In 1993, our oldest son, Steve, lived in Nashville, but he had a friend named Chalmers Brothers whose hometown was Slidell, Louisiana. That year, as our family gathered for our traditional Thanksgiving meal, Steve commented that we ought to try a deep-fried, Cajun-style turkey sometime. He had eaten one at Chalmers’ house, and the meat was really delicious. We all agreed that it might be fun to try it—“sometime.”
Steve held on to that thought, and the following June, he suggested that he and his fiancee come to our home in Tupelo for the Fourth of July weekend and treat us to a Cajun turkey. Steve and Debi would bring the bird and all the paraphernalia needed to cook it, if we would furnish the peanut oil. That sounded fine to us.
Several days before the holiday, my husband, Robin, purchased a huge plastic container of the oil. We also invited Robin’s brothers, J.D. and Paul, and their families to join us for this exciting feast, and the get-together was scheduled for Saturday, July 2.
Late that afternoon, the guests began to arrive. They brought potato salad, corn on the cob, and French bread. I had fixed cabbage slaw and sweet-and-sour vegetable salad. We also had plenty of sliced tomatoes from the garden. However, the turkey was not yet on the scene.
Around six o’clock, Steve and Debi arrived from Nashville. They entered the house, triumphantly bearing a large ice chest containing the twenty-pound bird. They also brought in a huge stainless steel tub, about two feet deep and eighteen inches in diameter, and several sacks holding all the equipment for preparation. We would deep-fry the bird outside on a propane-fueled burner normally used to fry fish.
Right away, Steve and the rest of the men set up the outdoor cooker with a thermometer attached. The oil would need to preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In the meantime, Debi began to get the turkey ready.
The night before, she and Steve had followed Chalmers’ recipe for making the Cajun sauce. This highly seasoned potion was so powerful that she had to be very careful not to get it on her bare skin or it would burn. She put on some plastic gloves and a visor with a clear plastic shield to cover her eyes. Then, using a syringe borrowed from Steve’s friend, she began to inject the sauce into the uncooked bird.
We watched in amazement as she operated on the fleshy fowl, poking every few inches and shooting this aromatic “goop” into the meat. Finally, the bowl was empty, and the saturated bird lay glistening, prepared for its final destiny.
Moments later, Steve reported that the oil was now at the right temperature. Carrying the dish with the heavy turkey, we followed him outside. Then we all stood at a respectful distance surrounding the cauldron and watched as he put on thick leather gloves, grabbed the turkey by both legs, and slowly lowered the bird into the vat. The hot grease bubbled furiously, and cameras clicked to record the momentous event. The turkey would need to cook three minutes for every pound; our dinner was now one hour away.
At eight o’clock, the wire basket containing the bird was lifted out of the boiling oil, and the object of all our attention was delivered into the kitchen.
I stared at the bird in horror! Our turkey was completely charred and black!
Steve laughed. “Don’t worry, Mom. That’s how it’s supposed to look.”
Cautiously, we peeled the dark skin away, and, sure enough, the meat underneath was tender and juicy. We carefully carved the marbled pieces, and the delicious aromas whetted our appetites even more. At last, the long-awaited treat was served.
So how did it taste? Different! The meat was mildly spicy but very tasty. Cooking a turkey “Cajun-style” was definitely worth the trouble. What a meal we had! And what fun!
Happy Fourth of July!