Monday, November 23, 2009

my first turkey: part one.

My emotions range from excitement to complete terror at the idea of cooking my first Thanksgiving turkey.

I know what you're thinking.
"You say you're a meat lady and have never cooked a turkey??? Just cook the damn bird already!"
This will actually only be my second Thanksgiving back on meat and last year, we were traveling. So no more excuses. This year, I'm gonna do it.
Otherwise, the weight of the 18-pound bird will forever be on my shoulders. And in my refrigerator.

I suppose it is a right of passage; cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the in-laws and expecting sister-and brother-in law.

On Saturday, in lieu of my birthday trip to Catalina to see (and hopefully eat) buffalo, the man and I did a bit of turkey homework. At first, I was discouraged because we didn't have the opportunity to plan ahead and order a special heritage bird, but we found we could get something nice and tasty. Our butcher friends at the 3rd and Fairfax Farmers' Market helped us out and we purchased an all-natural* free-range Willie Bird from Puritan Poultry.

My only real objective is that the bird not kill anyone.
But preferably, it will be perfectly seasoned, moist, have a lovely brown crispy skin, and supply us with piles of leftovers to feast on for days.

I'm not completely settled on my prep and cooking methods. All I know is that the dressing will not be stuffed into the bird. Our guests will be told that it is purely to keep the meat juicy, but my real reason will be to keep the bread and meat separate so that I can enjoy it free of wheat-worries. I'm also thinking that a brine will be happening, if I can find a suitable bucket. The brine "recipes" I've found are widely varied, so I think I'll be going with water-kosher salt-brown sugar-apple cider-and whatever herbs I have on hand, perhaps followed by a light dry rub.

We even spent the last $25 Bed Bath & Beyond gift card from our wedding on an inexpensive roasting pan.

I'm ready.

Wish me luck!

*Why not organic? Honestly, we were told that these were the best. Willie Bird does raise and sell organic birds, but not at our source. And really, it would have been pushing it price-wise.


  1. Good luck!

    I really like this: rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, lemon zest, olive oil, salt, pepper, a little lemon juice, some onion all in the food processor to make a paste. Then you carefully separate the skin from the bird to make pockets and stuff/spread the paste between the skin and the meat.

    I think that might be from a Rachel Ray episode. Can't really remember.

  2. Would you ever consider the pre-salting technique from Judy Rogers? The LA Times has written about it before and it produces a nice flavorful bird. Have fun and good luck!

  3. Thanks, Lisa! I love using lots of herbs, it is one of my cooking joys at this point. :)

    And Quinn, I read that Judy Rogers article yesterday and actually might be sold on it. Sounds much easier than making room for a bucket in the fridge, too!
    Have you tried it with turkey? I had pork made this way once and it was pretty great...

  4. Yes, I tried it for Thanksgiving last year and it turned out quite nicely in texture and flavor. I must to try it on pork next time! Sounds like a great idea.