Turkey. Let’s talk about it — honestly. Is it time to ax that big old bird from your Thanksgiving feast? Even if you do have the time to roast it and the oven space to hold it, who these days has the carving skills to do the portioning at the dining table?
As the folks at Butterball note, 80 percent of us will carve that turkey in the kitchen. And what arrives at the table is not the golden fantasy of magazine covers but a platter of sliced breast meat and disjointed legs, likely in less than peak condition.
Why not go with turkey parts? Not only can they make for faster cooking, but you can enjoy the kind of meat you like best at its best. No need to overcook the breast to ensure the legs are done.
“Who has not had a dry turkey?” asks New York chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli. “The advantage of breaking up the bird is you can roast the thigh and breast separately. Or braise the turkey thighs and roast the breast.”
What matters in cooking turkey parts, says Guarnaschelli, is maintaining the “iconic flavors” of Thanksgiving.
She hits those flavor notes with a turkey breast roasted with pearl onions, sage and Granny Smith apples, and gets more adventurous with dark meat.
“Braise turkey thighs like a stew until the meat falls off the bone, or roast at a high temperature for crispy skin and juicy meat, or steam them with vegetables in wine,” she said.
Virginia Willis, a Southern food authority, recommends braising for the breast; the technique ensures moistness, she says. A bonus? The Madeira-laced braising liquid can stand in for gravy.
Doing something different with the Thanksgiving turkey also appeals to Joanne Weir, whose new Cooking Confidence (Taunton Press, $24.95), offers a recipe for breaded turkey cutlets.
Whatever you do with the turkey, know you are not alone.
“So many people are thinking in different directions for Thanksgiving and not just doing a plain turkey,” Weir said.