There was a mildly bizarre tongue-in-cheek piece by restaurant critic Raymond Sokolov in today’s Wall Street Journal, titled “Operation Gobbler,” about how to use up left over Thanksgiving turkey.
It involved lacing the mayo with thallium (a debilitating and potentially deadly poison) and then slathering the tainted mayonnaise onto turkey sandwiches and sending them to some of the world’s most notorious terrorists. Mr. Sokolov’s main motive (apart from dispatching a few nasties of the world) seemed to be finding a workable solution for disposing of the remains of what he terms:
…these desiccated, tasteless birds.
I have to agree that all too often he’s right. People tend to equate a good Turkey Day feast for a crowd with cramming stuffing into a giant turkey–a 22 pounder–straight from the fridge, sticking it into a roasting pan, and some hours later hacking it into dry slabs of breast meat that they plop onto a plate, drown in giblet gravy, and choke down for tradition’s sake.
Anybody who hates turkey (because they think it’s dry and tasteless) should have been here with us yesterday for our Thanksgiving feast. Besides the star of the show, our meal included all our standard Thanksgiving favorites with everybody lending a hand in the preparations.
Our daughter-in-law made the Eades family’s traditional Green Pea and Asparagus Casserole (recipe available at www.lowcarbcookworx.com) a traditional pumpkin pie, and her family’s favorite sweet potato casserole with just a touch of a butter and brown sugar topping. I made my sister’s Cranberry-Orange Relish, some Mashed Fauxtatoes with butter and cream, Mike’s mother’s traditional cornmeal mush dressing, which is our hands-down family favorite, and a Granny Smith Apple Pie.
Although in our house, as our long-time readers and viewers likely know, we usually substitute a nut crust or our low-carb almond meal version for the real one in pumpkin or apple pie and butternut squash or acorn squash for the sweet potatoes, since they’re lower in carb and offer much the same flavor, this time we elected to opt for portion control over ingredient control and go with the real McCoys. (Slivers of both pies and smaller mounds of dressing or sweet potatoes give the same pleasures as half a pie and a couple of cups of starch, without the aftermath of bloating, heartburn, and remorse.)
As our friend and colleague, Robert Crayhon, once said: Pleasure is also a nutrient.
Our eldest son took charge of the turkey, a naturally-raised, organic bird we hunted at the Whole Foods grocery store. His ministrations began 18 hours in advance, with the preparation of a brine–probably the most important step in turning out a juicy, succulent turkey–breast meat included. The second most important one is not to pick the biggest bird in the barnyard, since he’s sure to be tougher and even if he weren’t, it’s nearly impossible to cook a giant turkey (particular a stuffed one) evenly. That’s a recipe for the kind of turkey Mr. Sokolov wants to send to Kim Jong Il. If you must feed a crowd bigger than about a 12 pounder will cover, you’re far better off roasting two turkeys than a behemoth.
As far as brining goes, there are many brines to pick from; sometimes we elect just a simple Kosher salt and water variety, but this time, he opted for a honey, garlic, and thyme brine he had clipped several years ago from a magazine–either Food and Wine or Gourmet, I think. So, in this case, instead of just water and salt, he also added four or five sprigs of fresh thyme, eight cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of ground black pepper, and some honey to the gallon or so of water the bird bathed in overnight in the refrigerator. When it came time to cook, after a good rinse and a patdown, he stuffed more thyme and lemon halves into the cavity, slathered the bird with melted butter and popped her (it was a turkey hen) into the oven for an hour, breast down on a rack, over a pool of chicken broth. Then a flip, another coating of melted butter and another hour and a half or so in the heat, basting with chicken broth and butter every half hour or so until a thermometer in the thick portion of the thigh read 165 degrees.
While she rested out of the oven (an important step with meat of any kind, turkey included, to allow the juices to redistribute, so the meat will be moist and tender) we baked-off the veggie dishes.
Savory juices ran from the meat when he carved the breast; the meat of the thighs and legs was succulent and delicious–not the stringy stuff Mr. Sokolov spoke of sending on Operation Gobbler.
Paired with a dry Reisling and the just released Nouveau Beaujolais, we feasted like royalty and gave thanks for our family and the good food, good friends, good health, and good times we enjoy year round.
No way will our juicy Thanksgiving bird become a weapon of mass destruction. I have great plans for a leftover turkey, dressing, and cranberry relish sandwich on low carb bread for lunch today, while–if all’s right in the universe–we’ll watch the Hogs of Arkansas tromp the LSU tigers.