Sunday, November 15, 2009
Some helpful holiday hints from your friends at Very Little Known Facts.
What Kind of Turkey Should I Buy?
The best turkey is one that is still alive. This allows you to name your turkey and get to know it before butchering, beheading, and preparing the corpse for consumption.
The next best option, but just as good, is buying a fresh turkey from a supermarket or farmer’s market or from your neighborhood turkey vendor. (Quick tip: Ask for a "turkey vulture," which is the scientific name for a wild turkey.)
Another choice is frozen turkey, which leaves something to be desired but is virtually indistinguishable from the previous two options. NOTE: If you choose to serve a “frozen” turkey for Thanksgiving, you will need to unfreeze it prior to cooking. Do NOT attempt to cook a completely frozen turkey, as this is not recommended.
Last but certainly not least, you can choose a “turkey loaf” or “tofurkey” which is processed turkey parts mixed with filler and chicken stock then chemically recombined and mashed into a turkey-shaped form for cooking. This option is preferable if you have vegetarian or vegan guests for Thanksgiving.
What Do I Do with This Thing?
For live turkeys, be sure to wring the turkey’s neck, drain it’s blood, and de-feather before cooking. Failure to do so may yield undesirable results.
Fresh turkeys that are already dead require the least preparation. Adventurous eaters may even try the giblets “al dente” which is Italian for “sushi-style.” But be sure you are up-to-date on your salmonella shots! (Just kidding. Salmonella has been virtually eradicated in the First World.)
Frozen turkeys need a little more preparation. Unfreezing is a process that takes two to three weeks, so plan ahead. You will need enough counter space to hold one turkey and several air fresheners as the turkey ripens and begins to emit it’s signature scent. Do not be alarmed if the turkey becomes “overripe” as this is the desired result; just like Kobe beef and fine wines, the best turkeys are aged to perfection.
Another option prior to cooking is brining. This involves soaking the turkey for up to one month in a salty solution. The simplest brining method is salt water which is available to our readers who have seaside access; simply tether your turkey carefully to a pier, rock, or anchor and then let it soak in the ocean. Note that this method requires vigilance as crabs, eels, and jellyfish may attempt to pilfer bits of raw turkey from the carcass. In fact, you may want to plan on losing up to 50% of the breast meat during this seasalt brining process (crustaceans prefer white meat to dark.) Be sure to check for jellyfish eggs after retrieving the turkey.
How Do I Cook This Thing?
The classic way of preparing a turkey is roasting. Traditionally this is done via rigging a spit using two forked sticks in the fireplace and having a small child or neighborhood urchin rotate the spit slowly, slowly, slowly. This is how those delicious “rotisserie” turkeys you see in supermarkets are prepared. (Of course, due to child labor laws, midgets or other Small People are employed by the supermarket instead of urchins.)
If you do not have a fireplace, you may roast the turkey in a conventional or “convection” oven. For bigger birds, crank up the broiler to ensure the correct internal temperature. Below sea level, this should be at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius). For higher altitudes, adjust accordingly.
Another option is pan frying, a sure-fire crowd-pleaser that imparts some down-home Southern goodness. Simply coat your turkey breasts, legs, thighs, and wings in batter and dunk them in a stock pot filled to capacity with boiling oil. The results may surprise you—and as a bonus, you will have the lingering aroma of fry oil in your house throughout the winter months!
A third option is smoking. Smoked turkey is considered a delicacy in some circles, while it is an unmentionable abomination in others. Do the research ahead of time to make sure you don’t horribly offend your guests, especially if they include any Azerbaijanis!
To smoke a turkey, fire up your grill. Charcoal works best, but if you have a gas grill, just load it up with leaves or pine needles from the yard. Crank up that temperature—remember that you are cooking the turkey inside and out. Place the turkey on the grill and cover. After an hour turn the turkey. NEVER turn the turkey more than once or you will lose those coveted grill marks!
Carving a turkey is a lost art form—do not attempt it. Instead, simply serve the turkey “family style” by placing it in the middle of the table and allowing your guests, starting with the elders and moving down the line in order of importance, to pull the meat off by hand until the carcass is picked clean. Add dried parsley as a garnish.
What Do I Do With All This Leftover Turkey?
If you planned correctly, you will have exactly the amount of turkey desired by everyone present and no more. However, we are only human, and some people feel guilty about simply chucking that leftover meat in the back yard for the raccoons. Why not try putting pieces of turkey between two slices of white sandwich bread? Or maybe make your own turkey loaf using leftover turkey bits and freezing it for next year’s Thanksgiving feast? The possibilities are endless.
The country Turkey ironically does not have any live turkeys outside the national zoo in Damascus!