(I’ll) Pass (on) the turkey, please!

Here’s my Thanksgiving day confession:  I’m so off turkey.  I know, I know.  Blasphemy.  I might as well knock the hat off a pilgrim, or stuff cranberries up my nose at the dinner table.

But I’m not just being a contrarian.  The truth is that I hated turkey (dry white meat, chewy dark) for years without quite noticing that my zeal for the sacrificial bird was waning.

Still, there it is.  When I think about settling in for a big feast — and trust me, no one loves a big feast more than me — I can’t think of a cut of meat I’d less rather have on the table.

(Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one.)

For one thing, turkey is really hard to do well.  It’s lean, but you don’t dare serve it pink, so the fine line between safe and dry is as thin as your mother-in-law’s arched eyebrow.

Rebels have been trying to deep-fat-fry or pressure cook or barbecue their way to an easier, tastier turkey for years.

But even a Michigan-loving fool like me can’t quite swallow the idea of deep-fat-frying an entire turkey.

There’s something about marrying the puritanical paleness of turkey with the end-times excess of sizzling lard that just won’t square in my head.

So we’ve begun looking further afield for our Thanksgiving dinner.  We throw in some ham, just so the traditionalists have something to cling to.

But we’re also opt for lamb some years and beef briskets and venison.  Why not a big steak or a plate of Beef Wellington?

So as to avoid the notion that this is some sort of elitist, culture-war, anti-turkey manifesto, I will point out that my family will be eating founding-father style out of our garden tomorrow.

We’ll fill the table (and ourselves) to the groaning point with squash, carrots, canned applesauce.

And when the wild turkeys wander past in the field outside, we’ll tip our glasses in solidarity.  Turkey libre!


10 Comments on “(I’ll) Pass (on) the turkey, please!”

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  1. verplanck says:

    Totally understand where you come from. For years, I’ve thought of turkey white meat as sawdust that is bound together by some magical force. It wasn’t until I started eating brined turkey that my opinion changed. This year, I’m going to try dry-brining (i.e. salting the bird for a day ahead of time)

    How about a big chicken? Still fowl, but it will stay a lot juicier. Plus, there are drumsticks. You can’t have Thanksgiving without drumsticks.

  2. Bret4207 says:

    Lamb, yes, by all means eat LOTS of lamb!

    Your pal, Bret the shepherd.

  3. Nathan Brown says:

    Eat lots of fish. And eel. That’s what they did at the first Thanksgiving, so I’ve heard.

  4. PNElba says:

    You need to try brining your turkey for nice moist white meat.

  5. Martha Foley says:

    Ditto on brining! I’m a dark meat fancier…save the white meat for sandwiches and layer in the stuffing, the cranberries, the mayo and a little gravy along with the crisp lettuce.
    I do love turkey!
    Also lamb, and venison, and roast beef. And roast pork, and….

  6. Jackie Sauter says:

    Flip the bird! Really. Start out breast side down so that the fats from the dark meat side drip into the white meat of the breast. Then half-way through flip it so the breast is upside and can brown. Is it a challenge to flip a 20-25 pound hot turkey in the oven? You bet, but that’s the fun. Also, before roasting rub it all over including under the skin with butter and chili powder and salt. For more ideas about how to roast a perfect bird, listen for Turkey Confidential with Lynne Rosetto Kasper, live from 11am to 1pm on NCPR tomorrow..turkey triage when you need it most. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  7. verplanck says:

    I put forward the following (perhaps heretical) opinion – browned skin is not good.

    For all the high-heat effort you put into getting that crisp skin, you are drying out your white meat. If you focus on the main attraction (the meat), you may have rubbery skin, but at least the meat is tasty.

    But, for those crisp-skin aficionados, I offer the following (Cook’s Illustrated sourced) tip – baking powder on the skin helps dry it out, promoting browning/crisping.

  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I scheduled to have a wisdom tooth pulled today so I’d have an excuse to eat only what I wanted or maybe even not show up until time for ice cream.
    Then the oral surgeon told me that most Thanksgiving fare is just fine to eat.
    But I’m sticking to my first plan.

  9. Pete Klein says:

    As long as it isn’t trying to get off the plate, I’ll eat it.
    I eat to live, not live to eat.
    Like just about everything, including turkey.

  10. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Hey Bret, I’m a vegetarian (don’t roll your eyes yet) but I whole-heartedly support you in being a local farmer raising animals that I presume lead a good life with fresh air and water and sunshine. I would even consider having some of your lamb. I hope you get top dollar.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

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