Turkey Mitigation Strategies.

By Ezra Klein

Like Matt, I have strong sectarian feelings against turkey. But unlike him, I’m a political realist, I believe in mitigation, not abolition. So as long as turkey is going to sit like a colossus atop the Thanksgiving meal, we may as well figure out a way to reduce its suck factor. Brining is certainly a player here, as are rubs, smaller turkeys, and aromatics. But we need to be bolder.

As Mark Bittman says, part of the problem with Thanksgiving turkey is that we insist on cooking it whole. This is a big bird. By the time the thickest, most protected meat is cooked through, Much of the rest has the pleasing texture of dirt cake. It’s true that a series of labor and time intensive techniques (like brining) can mildly counteract that, but you can only take it so far.

Bittman argues for a different approach. We have a technique for transforming tough, dry cuts of meat into meltingly tender meals. It’s called braising. But most of us can’t see our way to braising a whole turkey. So don’t. Cut the thing up. Then cook it with sausage and vegetables at a low temperature in a steaming broth. Bittman tells you how to do so here, or demonstrates the technique here:

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6 responses to “Turkey Mitigation Strategies.

  1. Personally, I’d rather bar-b-que than do the traditional turkey dinner. Smoke some turkey legs along with a slab of pork ribs and a chicken or two. And you’re right, a turkey is much more versitile if you cut it up. Many more options.

  2. I did the Bittman braised turkey recipe yesterday — just thighs, no breast meat — and it was absolutely effing fantastic. I’m pretty sure I’m never going to roast another whole turkey again. I also made the savory bread pudding he’d posted a recipe for, and it was a perfect complement to the turkey.

  3. Before giving up on a whole presentational bird, try roasting one upside down, turning it right side up for only the last 15 minutes. The breast meat will be succulent, the dark meat done.

  4. I’ve done the upside-down roasting approach. It helps, to be sure, but there’s always the risk that the skin on the breast will rip when you turn it, thus messing with the presentational aspect of it all.

  5. Butterflying the turkey is, I think, the best compromise for dealing with the vaulted chest cavity but no compromising presentation.

    Obviously, cutting the turkey up into pieces and then just roasting it is going to be easier than doing a whole bird… but what’s the fun in that? Braising takes that to another level, and sounds tasty, but no crisp skin if you braise… so do you make cracklins or what? You’ve gotta have some crisp skin doncha?

  6. I want to put in a word in favor of keeping it whole: any sort of cutting up procedure almost always involves splitting the wish bone. If nothing else, there is childlike joy to be had, especially if there are kids around to show it to, in uncovering the wishbone upon eviscerating the bird post-meal.

    I’ve never tried to upside-down technique on turkey, but it sure works on chicken.

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