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Barney the Turkey Boy

What is it about Thanksgiving? Why does a nation that eats out of cans go all out for an artificially created festival day?

When people ask me how they should prepare their Thanksgivng meal, I tell them, “keep the main meal simple and traditional. If you want to get creative, take it out on the appetizers or deserts.”

There’s a great saying, “take my advice, I’m not using it.” That’s me at Thanksgving. I’ve used flip cards, diagrammed the groaning table, and in my prime, set up separate, draped and tiered tables for all the bounty. I’ve marinated, brined and roasted at low heat and high heat. Every trendy, off-the-wall stuffing the food-entertainment industry cynically puts out just before the fourth Thursday of November, I’ve made.

This year, though, I decided to keep it simple.  Following Kim Severson’s The Pilgrim’s Didn’t Brine, I went old school. No salt-soaking, no deep-frying. I used only garlic, thyme and fresh sage in the compound butter. Checking my ’70’s edition of Joy of Cooking, I decided to cook the bird at 300ºF for 15 minutes per pound.

When I picked up my turkey on Tuesday, there was an instant connection. Barney was beautiful. He had shape and curves. His skin glowed. He deserved proper cooking.

Even though I roasted him in my kitchen, we were eating at my sister’s house south of Bloomington. We transported Barney, along with mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing, Wrapped first in aluminum foil, we placed him on a platter nestled in a cardboard box, then stuffed towels between him and the box. When we arrived at my sister’s, he went into the oven for five minutes. 

My fear was he’d cool down, dry out and lose flavor, but the boy was succulent and juicy.

And the dark meat? Poultry mousse. Even my mother, who doesn’t like dark meat, loved the custardy meat from the drumstick.

Dinner was a success. My sister made the salads, the side dishes and deserts. Simple really is better. There were no mishaps, no drama or exhaustion from overcommittment to elaborate food, just the comfort and companionship of family.

Barney and I almost missed each other. Not a fan of turkey, I’ve threaten to buck tradtion and roast a chicken. Then I wrote an article about holiday entertaining and recommended Gunthorp Farm’s turkey to readers. Waffling, at the last minute I ordered my turkey online from Goose the Market.

As good as Barney was on Thanksgiving, he’s even better as leftovers. Platter meat was bagged and given to family for sandwiches. I smoked the wings which I’ll use to flavor slow-cooked curly endive. The roasted carcass became stock for a big batch of white chili.

The best part of Barney? His wonderful skin, which I used to make cracklings and sprinkled them on salad. Crunch and turkey flavor and a hint of fattiness, nothing is better.

Barney didn’t change my mind about Thanksgiving–I’ll always like Christmas better–but he made me appreciate how delicious real turkeys are.

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Written by Susan Gillie

November 30, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Posted in food as love

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