Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Talking Turkey

The following remarks are not intended for vegetarians or anyone with a sentimental attachment to domesticated animals.

Two tips for roast turkey: (1) debone it (2) brine it. Deboning is easy to do, and probably the only thing that Jr. High Biology class has prepared you for, but you need to be patient (give it 45 minutes for the first operation) and practice on a chicken or duck or two sure helps before trying to debone the big bird*. If you have neither the time nor the confidence in your deboning skills, there are a few professional poultry people out there who will debone to order, but not one of them lives in Germany, so I had to teach myself. You basically cut a slit down the back, straight down the spine, starting an inch or two from the top and continuing to an inch or two from the bottom. Then, with a small knife, gently separate the soft tissues from the bones, moving around the ribcage until the the spine, ribcage and breastbone come out in one piece. Manually pop the wings out of the shoulders and the thighbones out of both hip and legs. I prefer to take out the rib cage, breast plate, shoulder blades and the thigh bones, leaving bones in the drumsticks and wings. Those bones don't get in the way of slicing and lend the bird a bit of structure for presentation. Fill the bird with the stuffing of your choice to roughly the original form and sew it back up with strong cotton thread or light twine. (There is a urban cooking legend that dental floss will also work. Forget it. It's almost as nasty an idea as using a bidet for a Farce Double.) Brining is soaking the bird beforehand in strongly salted water, roughly 1/4 cup salt for every five pounds of bird. Brining's not necesary if you're working with a kosher turkey (which has already been treated with salt), and shouldn't be done with any bird that's been chemically treated (but you wouldn't buy one of those, would you?) but is essential for a fowl of any other provenance. Lightly rinse after brining and allow the turkey to completely airdry on a rack in the fridge before spicing, stuffing and roasting. I have brined before deboning and deboned before brining, and have noticed no difference in effect, but omitting the brining can lead to a dismal fowl, and omitting the deboning can lead to that dismal table game of "who really doesn't want to carve the turkey?".

And finally, remember the sage words of my old friend Kali Tal**: You can never have enough cranberry sauce.
*If you aquire some virtuosity with deboning, you might try stuffing your turkey with a smaller boneless bird or two. The triple play of chicken-within-duck-within-turkey, each layer separated by its own variety of stuffing is considered the ultimate in this genre, slow cooked for most of a day, and with slices through the meat resembling a paté.
**Yes, Kali, I do remember that JelloTM was invented by a woman. But I still don't know why I should know this fact.

(By request, this is a revised and amplified encore of a post from November 2005.)

No comments: