Sunday, November 29, 2009

Squanto Ain't Got Shit On Me: Turkey Day

Holidays kick ass on many levels, but at the top of my list is always the copious amounts of food and spirits, and the way things have gone down in the households I've been a part of, consumption of said food and spirits usually transpires while wearing pants with an elastic waistband.  It puts the comfort in comfort food.  It also saves you from that whole cliche of eating too much and then having to undo buttons that really shouldn't be undone in public.  Even if your family says they don't mind, they're all re-thinking your place setting at next year's table.  Luckily for me, elastic pants or otherwise, my indispensable roles as both stuffing stud and turkey titan (wow, those are both horrible) have hopefully secured me an invite for many years to come, even if I decide to stop wearing pants altogether.

This year I opted for what I'm sure was everybody's alternative to Alton Brown's brining method (which has slayed in the past), the dry-brine (or cure, for all the hair-splitters on  The thought had popped into my head after reading an article by Drew Lazor over at Meal Ticket.  In fact, my man was even the first to respond on Twitter that this has been done before (in Vail, CO, likely sometime between skiing and skiing).  Salting the cumbersome holiday bird and letting it sit in the fridge seemed a lot easier than immersing it in gallons of vegetable stock in a cooler, then balancing it on top of whatever you can find in the garage so the bird will stay submerged for however many hours.  Turns out I wasn't the only one with the idea this year, and the NY Times was gracious enough to both lend me a recipe and make me look like I was jumping on some sort of bandwagon.

So last Saturday, I picked up my naturally raised bird from Fair Food Farmstand and gave it a nice rubdown with salt before throwing it in the fridge for four days (I got stuck with a nineteen lb bird so it needed some time).  I won't bore you with more details, but as you can see, it turned out beautifully, more likely because I got a little nutty with a stick of butter than any method of making the meat more succulent.  Underneath this golden brown dermis resided somewhat of a disappointment, however.  The meat was juicy and flavorful, but nowhere near what I had experienced when I used the same method on the chicken.  Compared to the wet brined turkeys of years past, I prefer this method, but at the end of the day, I didn't taste too much of a difference.  The real game changer was the bird's size.  I just don't like working with such a big bird.  I think next year's festivities will involve two small birds (and perhaps a deep fryer).

On the side should have been a delicious giblet gravy (just look at that stocky goodness), but I really shit the bed on that one.  I need to find some sort of sauce class, or at least get a fat separator.  My attempt at transforming the drippings into something magical and horrible for you ended in Mrs. Gastro saying, "Well, I can taste the grease and the booze from the wine, but that's about it."

My other signature, a pound of sausage intermingled with processed cubes of cornbread and aromatics, came out a tad dry, but still gorgeous and about as Thanksgiving-y as you can get.  And on that note, here's hoping you and yours had a blessed and delicious holiday.  Buen provecho.

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