Turkey tips, in no particular order.
Start with a good bird. For several years we’ve been buying our turkeys from Country Neighbors Farm. They sell chickens, mostly, to The Root Cellar and Broadway Brewery and Hy-Vee, but in the fall it’s turkey time. The birds are smaller but fattier and just plain tastier than conventionally-raised CAFO birds. And as I found this year with our early Thanksgiving, they’re far more forgiving. Despite overcooking by a solid 15 degrees, the meat was perfect.
The whole garbage in, garbage out mantra should seem obvious at this point, but most people are still buying conventionally-raised turkeys from factory farms. Missouri’s the fourth-leading producer of turkeys in the U.S., but very few are raised on a farm like Country Neighbors.
Quick aside: If they won’t let you visit the farm, you have to wonder what they’re hiding. Laura at Country Neighbors will welcome you out there…and you have an excuse to visit Emmet’s.
Anyway, the average return to the producer for a turkey is $0.50 per pound and the grocery store’s only going to charge you $1.50/lb. (some, considerably less), so you can see the incentive to cut every possible corner. I paid $60 for two turkeys I picked up from Laura – 24 lbs. worth. You’ll pay a little more for retail at The Root Cellar – $50 for a 15-16 pounder or $65 for a 16-20 pounder – but it’s worth it in every way. You do need to order quite soon, however, as processing happens Monday, November 25 and most are spoken for. Call The Root Cellar at 573-443-5055.
Brine. You have to brine the turkey. Salt, sugar, garlic and some aromatics. I rarely measure any of these but it always works out. For the faint of heart, Brook Harlan is here to help (and I love the idea of “carving” the turkey before cooking it). Brine your turkey.
Cook it right. Turkey, even brined and roasted properly, can be a little on the dull side. It’s why most of us only have it one time a year. But because we had a large crowd over for our early Thanksgiving last weekend – and because our birds were on the wee-side – we made two. I would like to say that Mrs. SMEs’ well-prepared traditional turkey held its own against the smoked version but it did not. Smoked was way, way better. Think outside the box. As for a turkey-smokin’ recipe, I loosely followed Adam Perry Lang’s guidance (skipped the Goya seasoning) and recommend it highly.
Make stock. Duh. You were already going to do this, right? Right? Put the post-carving bones in a pot with a couple of carrots, a halved onion, etc. and simmer for a couple of hours. Liquid gold if you bought a good bird (CAFO birds don’t seem to have the hidden proteins and goodness that make for high-quality stock). Use in soups, sauces, as a warming tonic on a blustery winter day. You get the picture.
Sandwich of Strength. Turkey breast, mayo, avocado, bacon, shaved red onion and sliced tomato on homemade or Uprise sourdough bread. Oh damn, maybe some smoked gouda? Best sandwich in the world. Yes, that’s it at the top of this post.
Leftovers, day three. Turkey noodle soup. Chop and cook some carrot, onion, garlic and turnips (or whatever else you have) in olive oil until soft. Add turkey stock and simmer. Make homemade egg noodles like a boss, or at least like my grandma. Here’s her recipe: Mix 4 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp soft butter and 1 cup flour. Knead, roll out, slice into noodles. Add noodles and remaining turkey to the pot when ready to eat. Cook for two minutes, taste for seasoning and serve.