Turkey 101

Let’s chat about cooking the “Bird”

The first “Thanksgiving” celebrated around 1621 indeed had turkey, as well as, other fowl, i.e. ducks geese, swans, grouse, etc. and a few deer shared by Wampanoag Indians.

The “birds” then were roasted in large pots with herbs, onions, nuts and berries. The traditional stuffing didn’t came about until 60 years later, probably by old mother Stouffer (joke).

Now, the Wampanoag Indians would prepare their turkeys and venison over an open fire via a spit. I can only imagine that those “birds” were drier than a West Texas powder house!

While the rest of the feast would include berries, potatoes, pumpkin etc. the cranberry didn’t quite make it to the first dinner due to its bitterness (sounds like my Aunt Marge) because the sugar supplies brought over on the Mayflower were quite depleted at that time. The feast itself was quite grand, and since then really has become most people’s favorite holiday. I know it’s mine due to the primary activity: the three F’s, food, football and friends, not discounting the celebration of the bountiful fall harvest, Thanks.

Now that the history lesson is over, (the pop quiz will follow shortly), let’s get down to business, bird business that is, and how you can pull off the perfect “bird”.

Bird selection is choice, however I search for the plumpest frozen bird out there. You don’t have to buy the Butterball. They’re very good “birds”, but I

do find the generic store brands are pretty dang good, as well. Just look for a wide, full bird with a full breast, keep those jokes to yourself, gents. Again, if brining, you’ll be adding additional moisture, so don’t get caught up in how much water they have injected. Remember, the general rule is 1 lb of “bird” per individual unless you have big “bird” eaters or want leftovers, then I would increase the amount to 1 1/2 lbs per individual.

Let’s choose your medium for cooking and what that will be, the traditional roasting, smoking, grilling - not to be confused with smoking, frying or the open spit (ugh, can you say dry?!)? 

First, roasting in the oven or grandma’s large turkey roaster. I use my grandmothers 1930 GE styled in a nice Art Deco design. This is probably the most popular, and quite frankly the easiest method with its simplicity of stuffing the “bird”, setting the temperature and let GE do the rest.

After brining your “bird” you gotta season it , so season inside liberally with fresh cracked black pepper and kosher salt, now go stuff it. Stuffings can vary from mire poix, fruits, veggies, nuts, etc. Stuffings are like personalities, they vary broad and wide. This will be your canvas of creativity, and we will discuss more on stuffings in Tuesday’s blog.