13 November 2008

Since when did the turkey become an issue?

I kind of think, and I could be wrong (it's bound to happen sooner or later), that for most of my life we just...cooked the turkey.

My mom bought it, we put it in the refrigerator, and then panicked Thanksgiving morning because it was still frozen. And we'd set it out on the counter, let the little salmonellas run rampant at room temperature, and then...we just cooked it. I don't remember ANY fancy shenanigans and I'm pretty sure it was always really good.

Maybe I made that up.

My sister-in-law announced, after our huge kid Halloween bash in OCTOBER, that she only had two major issues in November: my niece's Girl Scout camp-out at the farm, and the turkey. Five weeks out and she was already working on the turkey. THIS year, she says, she's got a plan.
The first one I ever cooked after we got married (this would be about 20 years ago) I cooked upside down. Not on purpose. Breast, on the bottom. Now, it made for a REALLY ugly turkey but oh, y'all, that was the tastiest, moistest bird there ever was. And I don't even really remember doing anything to it...maybe a little butter on the skin. I probably basted it a lot, although in retrospect...basting a turkey's ass probably isn't one of the steps on the Butterball HotLine. It worked, though.

Then, somewhere down the line we started "brining." Now, brining works and it's a good idea but we didn't stop at the salt and water thing. Last year, I had one turkey brined in apple cider with sage and such; and another turkey brined in something citrus...grapefruit juice?...and rosemary. And such. And while the birds were fine...fine, not great...you start getting all cute with brines and flavorings and such and what you get is...really funky gravy. I don't know what I was thinking but grapefruit juice and rosemary got NO business in gravy. They don't even need to be sitting next to the boat. Besides, it should have been apparent to me before I began that...there's a noticeable absence of alcohol in these brinings and we all know...THAT bird won't fly! Not in this house.

This year SIL is using the brining components but...she's doing it dry. Putting the salt and seasonings and flavorings in a bag with the turkey and refrigerating it. Indefinitely. I'm not sure how that's going to do the osmosis thing...Food TV did a show last night on turkey cooking and they said (hell, they even had GRAPHICS) that brining worked through osmosis, with the liquid flowing in and out of the turkey's cells and that's how the taste gets into the meat. Makes sense, but then how will the dry brining work? It's not like that bird's going to be WIGGLING around in the refrigerator, osmosing the flavorings about.

So I think I'm going to go back to the halfway basics. I'm brining, but I'm doing it with just salt and dark molasses, like I did it the first time. I may go all gourmet on everyone and throw in a handful of bay leaves but other than that? For pete's sake, it's a turkey. A domesticated bird. Bred to be heavy on the breast meat.

And since this is America we all know...you got big tits? You don't really NEED any other worthy attributes. Nice boobs and a little salt and...oh, wait. That's me.

Never mind.
(Oh, wait. Misapplication of "you, understood." The boobs are bought. Back when my body fat percentage wasn't trying to compete with the combined age of these three kids.)

2 comments:

Dory said...

LOVE the word "osmosing"!

We (ok, HUNKY) injects the turkey all over with garlic butter then deep frys it.

MOST HAWSUM. You don't have to get up early, cook the turkey for hours, basting every three damn minutes, and it is SO moist.

C'mon, Thanksgiving. I'm drooling already.

Melissa said...

I read in one of the books that the great and awesome Julia Child wrote that you should put your turkeys breast down so that the meat will be moist and tender. So I've always done it that way. Because who am I to argue with genius?