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Lessons from the Turkey, a Semi-Tragic Tale

This Thanksgiving we combined forces with my cousins Kim and Diane, as we always do. Some years we host and some years they host, but Bill always makes the meat (the turkey and ham) and I make pies, and Kim and Diane make all the many trimmings and more pies, and my parents bring salad and bread and my other cousins bring the ice chest filled with beverages.

This year, Bill wasn't here and it was just Annie and I, so Kim and Diane hosted and made the turkey plus the trimmings. I made the ham. I made pies. And etcetera.

And their turkey was delicious, with an apple cider brine and dark rich gravy. But Annie and I came home with only a small amount of leftovers, craving more.

Now, there is nothing in the world like good turkey sandwich made simply, with mayonnaise and cranberry sauce slathered* on good crusty artisan bread. We'd taken home a small packet enough for Annie to have a sandwich, and I had some of the left over fragments, but this only enflamed our passions.

We needed more turkey, and we needed it immediately.

This is not unusual. Many years we find ourselves craving more turkey after Thanksgiving, and sometime in early December there we are, brining and roasting away, Thanksgiving redux. But this year, a mere day after the feast, on Black Friday, I found myself at the checkout counter with a ten pound organic Diestel. The cashier looked at me strangely, and I babbled something about "not-enough-leftovers" and "we-didn't-host-this-year" and she shrugged because she didn't really give a shit.

Once home, I Twittered my turkey buy, and pondered my cooking options.

"Spatchcock it!" my friend Leila said.

"Whoosiwats it?" Spatchcock. I'd never heard of such a thing.

"Spatchcock it." And she sent me a link to food writer Mark Bittman's website where there's an impressive video of him making a roast turkey in 45 minutes.

Spatchcock (I looked it up so you don't have to): The process of cutting out the backbone of a fowl and butterflying it or spreading it out flat for grilling or roasting.

I love words as much as food, and since just saying the word "spatchcock" makes me giggle, how could I resist?

Yesterday, I spatchcocked the turkey. You can see pictures of this process here, here, here, and here.  Admire my style, admire my artistry. The bird took 50 minutes to cook from beginning to end, and came out gorgeous.

Here's what it looked like finished

Nice, huh?

Annie and I sat down to eat.  

The flavor was lovely, the skin delicious, but the texture.... Oh no! The texture! Practically uncarvable. Unchewable. Ultimately? Inedible.

We cried.

Ten pounds of turkey, directly into the soup pot.

Now I don't blame Mark Bittman or the spatchcocking, I blame the bird itself. It's been simmering on the stove for hours and the texture still resembles leather, though the house is filled with a delicious aroma -- this will make a killer soup.

Since I'm at a stage in life where I try to take everything as a learning opportunity, I'm going to try to get all philosophical here. So... what DOES the turkey tell us?

  • Something about greed? After all, we had our turkey on Thanksgiving, did we really need more? (Yes, we did.)
  • Something about beauty being skin deep? (Well, it was a beautiful skin, and we gobbled that all up.)
  • Something about lemons and lemonade (or, rather turkey and turkey soup)?

Look, I can ponder the lessons of the turkey, or I can plan tonight's dinner. Because besides turkey sandwiches, there's nothing better than a good Turkey, Bean, and Barley soup.

Oh, and I'll be brining a turkey breast later this week. The search for the perfect turkey sandwich carries on.


* Ding!


The Spatchcocked Turkey image gallery is here: http://www.redroom.com/gallery/the-spatchcocked-turkey

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it was indeed gorgeous. 

it was indeed gorgeous.  And turkey soup is wonderful.  I've done the same thing--cook Tgiving dinner a few days after, if I didn't have my own leftovers...hope you get a good juicy breast soon!

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We have spoken about our

We have spoken about our similarly tough Diestel turkeys--we brined ours for over 24 hours, and it was like chewing, well, chewing tough turkey.  The dark meat was okay, but really, what a pain!  You were very creative, though, with your spatchcocking--something I've done with chickens but not bigger birds.

Similarly, right now as I write, we have the rest of the turkey in the soup pot.

We complained to the market, and they did give us a free chicken, so there is some justice in the world.


 (Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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I heard via Twitter that the turkey was no good, and I was really worried. After all, I'm the one who suggested spatchcocking and Mark Bittman. I have never done this with a turkey BTW, only a chicken, and I just thought Bittman's video was intriguing so passed the suggestion along. Oh gosh I was so worried that I'd somehow ruined a 10 lb. Diestel!

Very grateful to see that Jessica had the same trouble even though she brined and roasted. It's not the technique, it's the turkey! Whew.

I am indeed impressed with the technique and artistry. The shears! the tarragon garlands! the lovely table! No wonder you cried.

Along similar lines, I bought a frozen pie crust today (organic!) so I could make pumpkin pie without working too hard. I was sick on T'day and didn't get "enough" pumpkin pie. Your story makes me quaver. What if some pie disaster happens because of my pie greed?

We'll just have to take that chance...

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Thanks for this word!  And for the hilarious story (more funny to read than to live through, I know)!  I also really appreciate your not turning this into a story with a moral.  : )  Go for the turkey!!!