Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You can cook a Thanksgiving turkey just like this one!!
  Yes, YOU!

But first, a laugh to get us started:

Now, let's get to cooking!

Quick list- detailed list starts below: 

Step 1: Buy the turkey.
Step 2. Thaw the turkey.  
Step 3. Prepare the turkey.   
Step 4. Season the turkey.
Step 5. Roast the turkey.
Step 6. Rest the turkey.
Step 7. Carve the turkey.
Step 8. Eat!
Step 1:  Buy the Turkey
First, let's purchase a turkey hat to get in the turkey buying mood. :) Ok! Moving on. There are three things to consider when buying a turkey:  Type, Size and Fresh or Frozen.

Type - There are four basic types of turkey to choose from:

Heritage - these are defined as having been bred from "ancient" (i.e. pre-commercialized) breeds, such as Narragansett, White Holland, Bourbon Red, Midget White, etc.  In general, these turkeys have a slightly smaller breast size, but a larger thigh size, since they are raised outdoors and run more than they fly.  Since they are fed organic food, they have a  much better  flavor than a regular, supermarket bird.  They are also more expensive, in part because their numbers are limited, due to their being allowed to live outdoors and breed naturally.

Organic - All organic turkeys are only fed certified organic feed, without any animal by-products, as defined by the USDA.   They are never fed or administered any antibiotics or drugs of any kind, nor are they injected with vegetable oils or fed plastic pellets, as supermarket birds sometimes are.  They are more expensive than supermarket turkeys, though cheaper than heritage birds.

Free Range- these birds  are allowed to have some access to the outside, but not a lot -at least according to Michael Pollan (read The Omnivore's Dilemma for more details).Free-range turkeys may be organic, though not always.  Confusing, I know.  Here's a handy little chart to help:
TypeFree Range?Organic?
Free RangeYesMaybe

Commercial - the typical supermarket bird. Typically frozen. Can be organic or free-range (if found in a higher end supermarket, such as Whole Foods), but typically not. Typically fed animal parts and raised in a warehouse. Cheapest of the four types. If your local supermarket offers a free turkey deal of some sort, this will be the one you get (unless you live in Beverly Hills or something).

Size - the typical recommendation is to allow 1 - 1.5 pounds of turkey weight per person. That allows enough meat for everyone to eat, and have some left over for sandwiches, soup, etc. If you're feeding 20 people on Thanksgiving, you should buy a bird that weighs between 20 and 30 pounds.

Fresh or Frozen - one of the great debates of our time. There are people who will insist you can't go wrong either way. If you do buy a frozen bird, be sure to place it in the refrigerator the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so that it has time to thaw properly. I prefer a fresh bird, so that I can brine it myself (frozen and kosher turkeys come pre-brined, which is why some people prefer them).  A fresh bird is more likely to be raised humanely, though not always.  If that is something that matters to you, try to buy a turkey from a local farmer's market, and speak to the people that raised and farmed it; they they will probably be happy to share their story with you. So, to wrap up: chose what type and size turkey that you want, then decide whether to but that turkey fresh, or frozen.  The best tasting turkey I ever had was a  fresh, organic turkey purchased from a local farmer's market.  That's the turkey I will be buying this year.  On to >Step 2.: Thawing the Turkey.