Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Preparation

I'm hosting this year.  And doing most of the cooking.  Woohoo!  Only took 31 years of living before I could do it.  My lovely in-laws are visiting, and some friends are coming, too.

I have to admit, though, that I am not a turkey lover.  I find it dry and bland. It takes a lot of work to make it taste good.  Brine it, baste it like crazy, inject it, cover it in gravy or some other sauce, stick a duck up its behind, do a voodoo dance.  

I'm sure you're thinking, You haven't tasted MY turkey.  It's wonderful.  

Yeah, I have tasted your turkey. I've tried it cooked so many methods and despite all the declarations and confidence, it has never impressed me.  So I think the problem is that I just don't like it.  I think I'd get just as much joy out of covering a piece of rubber with cranberry sauce and gravy.  

You don't like turkey? That is UN-American.  You probably say sir-rup rather than seer-up, too, right?  

Yeah, just call me French, okay?

But I haven't totally given up on turkeys.  This year, we ordered a heritage turkey. They're all the rage, haven't you heard?  Ryan found Vesecky Family Farms out near Lawrence, KS, and we ordered one a few months ago.  Picked it up yesterday.

Because this turkey isn't the subsidized type you can get for $.89/lb, I'm going to give this ol' bird the deluxe treatment.  I found a recipe in Sunset Magazine that will work well, and I'll report on its success later.  I'm hopeful because it is one of the few recipes I found that actually recommends cutting the bird up before cooking it--the breast will go in the oven while the dark meat is pan roasted.  

I'm going to report you to the Dept. of Homeland Security for treason.  Turkey should come out of the oven whole.  Brown.

You mean like this?

The turkey I got free from Hyvee a couple of weeks ago.

Why, yes!

I can't find the permalink to the article, but I read last year that restaurants who do turkey well don't even think about cooking them in one piece.  The breasts are overdone by the time the dark meat is ready--hardly a good outcome in a country where too many people actually *believe* that white meat tastes better.  Even Bobby Flay recommends cutting the bird up, and he cooks a lot of turkeys on Thanksgiving.  Didn't he cook a whole turkey for the Pioneer Woman Throwdown?  Yeah, he did, but that was for good television.  I'm not looking for beauty. I'm interested in taste.

And anyway, heritage turkeys have a lot more dark meat. Smaller breasts (confession: when I talk about turkey breasts, I find myself gesturing above my own chest.  Did it a couple of weeks ago in front of strangers and felt a tad silly).  To cook it exactly the same as those ordinary buxom turkeys would be foolish.  So I'm not ruining this bird if it takes all my energy.  I mean, we drove an hour each way to get it!

If I still don't like it despite all this work, I'm going to try one more time. My in-laws are hauling a smoker up from Georgia in the next few days, and we'll try to smoke a turkey at Christmas.  Only then will I throw in the towel if it doesn't turn out.  Until, of course, one of the kids asks why we're always the family eating Thanksgiving Shrimp.  Then I shall try again.


  1. You're right, everyone has their own whole turkey recipes so I won't even go there. I WILL share a secret (well, TWO)I learned about 20 years ago that makes all the difference in avoiding that dry breast of which you speak.
    1) Once your turkey is prepped for the oven (Ok, I lied about not going there: I stuff my bird's breast cavity with onion, apple, celery, and oranges, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper - but I know your MIL likes the bread stuffing which actually sucks all the juices out of the bird and into the bread. Ah, tradition!), heat your oven as hot as it will go then put the turkey in uncovered. Let it stay at the high temp until the skin "seals" up and starts to brown and crisp.
    Then pour over about a cup of stock with half a stick of butter, cover loosely with foil, turn heat down to 225 degrees and roast for 20 minutes per pound. Uncover last 20 minutes to brown.
    2) When you take the turkey out of the oven, immediately turn it upside down and let it sit the recommended 15-20 minutes. This way, all those juices sloshing around in the cavity, drain back into the breast meat, self-basting it. Then you flip it again to serve and you have the "traditional" whole, brown bird with savory, moist white meat. This also works when smoking a turkey, so try it at Christmas!

  2. Oh yeah, I meant to say that cooking a cut-up bird is the way to go for the BEST quality bird. Hell, you're gonna cut it up anyway...

  3. quick reminder about my christmas/holiday series, i still need your post! thanks!

  4. The only times I have cooked one I put it in one of those turkey bags. Now, I just cook a turkey breast in the crock pot. The stuffing I like best is Pepperidge Farm- not the cornbread version. I guess it was how I was raised. But, I also say, there is so much food to eat that I am not that picky. Moochers shouldn't be picky anyway. Turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie and I will be stuffed ! mom or mil

  5. Sometimes, people just don't like certain foods. For me, it's yellow squash. For you, it's turkey. You're not alone; I have a friend who just doesn't like turkey, and who always offers a ham or even fried fresh-caught catfish at holiday meals.

    And I say "sir-rup" too. :-)

  6. Hehehe...I adore your honesty, and truth be told, I'm more of a ham person myself, but a great turkey dinner is something I will never pass up! I hope it all turns out fantastic, you are definitely putting in the effort!


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