Friday, December 2, 2011

About That Turkey

 I'm done with searching for the perfect turkey recipe.  Every year I would research relentlessly in an effort to find a recipe that would allow me to cook the traditional protein prescribed for Thanksgiving, but would also actually taste good.  I actually love the flavor of turkey, but as anyone who's ever cooked a turkey knows it can be near impossible to roast a turkey that has decent texture. 

Not anymore.

You should make this turkey.  Then, in the words of SNL, you should go out and buy yourself a hat and hold the f*** onto it.  This is turkey unlike any turkey I have ever tasted.  It was richly flavored, seasoned throughout and so moist that even though I overcooked it a little(seriously, what is my problem with turkey?!) again it was still phenomenally moist.  Make sure that you brine it for the full three days, because that's how long science takes.  The salt pulls the moisture out, seasons it up nicely and then puts it all back inside the turkey meat. 

For some time now, I've been roasting turkey parts rather than a whole bird.  I love the look of a whole roasted turkey on a platter with golden brown skin, but breaking down a whole bird before roasting gives you multiple advantages:

-you can use the backbone, neck and wings to make stock three days before Thanksgiving, giving you a head start on the tastiest gravy ever
-roasting the parts is much, much faster than roasting a whole bird, and if the breast meat comes to temperature before the dark meat you can simply remove just the breast from the oven
-it's a heck of a lot easier to store brining turkey parts in your fridge than it is to brine a whole turkey

To sum up, next Thanksgiving I will without question buy a whole turkey and break it down myself, apply a dry brine with fresh rosemary to the turkey parts, make stock ahead of time, and free up my oven for other things on Thanksgiving day.  No need to get up super early to get the bird in the oven in time for dinner.  You can sleep in, forget about the turkey for several hours and then put it in the oven at your leisure.  Also, I think it's unnecessary to apply the initial blast of high heat; the only advantage is that it makes the skin a gorgeous color, but I think it heats up the oven too much.  Next year(or, let's be honest, maybe even next week) I'll just keep the oven at 275 for the whole time.  If you must have brown skin, broil it at the end or remove the skin when the turkey is cooked and roast it separately.

The other major advantage to the dry brine is that it uses much, much less salt than a wet brine, which sometimes made the drippings inedibly salty.  I don't know about you, but I'm not okay with wasting delicious drippings.  If breaking down a whole turkey intimidates you, I can't recommend enough that you do it anyway.  Clean out your kitchen sink really well and then plop the whole bird in there; it will contain all the mess, the extra juices will just go down the drain, and it makes the perfect container for wrestling with a slippery whole animal.  Get yourself a short, sharp knife, brace yourself for the crunching of bones and then get in touch with your inner savage.  It's highly satisfying.

 Also in the category of highly satisfying is the fact that we finally have a complete Jesse Tree this year.  We try it every Advent, but something always went wrong.  When I was growing up my siblings and I made a whole set of ornaments out of Fimo, but that stuff is way too hard for my kids to work with.  Then I had the brilliant idea of getting little wooden ornaments and letting the boys color them with markers.  It was one of those rare afternoons when everyone was well-rested and well-fed enough to stick with a project, and the boys happily colored for almost two hours until the set was done.  I was further delighted when I realized that I have finally gotten to point in my life where I not actually own a hot glue gun, but I also know with a high degree of accuracy where it is located, which makes it a much more useful device.  I utilized it to glue some loops of ribbon onto each ornament, and those were done.  And no one even cried.  I'm telling you, we have reached a new era around here.
 I used a 50% off coupon to buy a cork board which I tried painting directly on, but it puckered so then I used another 50% off coupon to buy a stapler, and used it to attach some unbleached muslin to the puckered cork board.  Then I laid out the ornaments until I found an arrangement I liked and used a pencil to trace branches where I thought they should go.  I slapped some acrylic paint on there and then used thumb tacks to hang the ornaments.
 This is everyone's favorite ornament.  It's Noah's Ark, painted by Jack.

 This is my other favorite: Jacob's Ladder by Matteas.
See how happy the high priests are to be carrying the Ark of the Covenant?

So that's what's going on at our house; moist meat and crafts galore.  Good times.