In Defense of Turkey

Big Media Matt and the Great Orange (Vegetarian) Satan are campaigning against turkeys. Their logic is:

  1. Butterballs suck
  2. Butterballs are turkeys
  3. Therefore turkeys suck

See the problem with their logic?

Lucky for me and my co-turkey mates, in Ann Arbor’s near environs there are now a number of farmers growing heritage turkeys–and at way cheaper prices than the heritage turkey I bought last year. These are, of course, turkeys that still taste like turkey, rather than saline-injected protein delivery systems.

And for those of you briners searching for an easier way to cook the perfect bird–and yes, even for Spencer, with his salivating over bacon-wrapped pork–the real trick is bacon.

Yes, bacon.

Just slap a pound of bacon on top. It’s the perfect way to slowly apply salt to the meat and it keeps the bird perfectly moist without basting. And by the time the Detroit Lions manage to lose another game, that bacon’s perfectly cooked for a mid-afternoon snack, just when it’s time to start browning the bird.

I’ll be preparing heritage turkey prepared in the proper bacon-lover’s manner, chestnut and sage bread stuffing, and pumpkin and apple pies. I’m hoping the co-turkey mates remember to make spuds, or the Irish husband will be cross. Also, my local wine purveyor recommended this new Turkish wine to go with the turkey, which I’m kind of looking forward to trying.

What are you all cooking for your Thanksgiving joy?

83 replies
    • randiego says:

      Headed to the soon-to-be in-laws in Austin. Our flight is 10am (nonstop – sweet!), so we’ll be there in time for Texas v Texas A&M, and of course Dinner!

      This is the first time we’ve made an appearance since The Engagement, so the folks are throwing an “Open House” for us on Sunday.

          • randiego says:

            Yes, we’ve met many times, we just haven’t seen them since we got engaged on the Spring Equinox. It’s been a while.

            Usually The Mom comes out during summer, but she didn’t this year.

            We have a very busy itinerary.
            Thursday is Dinner followed by the Texas/A&M game (on TeeVee) Thursday with the folks. (big Texas fans).
            Friday we’re headed to a place called Gruene, TX (sounds like Green) for a Bob Schneider show at Gruene Hall (the oldest dance hall in Texas – think Willie Nelson).
            Saturday we’re headed about an hour outside Austin to Lexington, home to Snows BBQ – recently voted best barbecue in Texas by Texas Monthly. After that is Tech vs Baylor, and Ok State v Oklahoma.
            Sunday is Open House, where the neighbors will come kick the tires on the new in-law.
            Monday I’m recovering…

  1. TobyWollin says:

    Marcy – we found a local farmer who’s doing heritage grass-fed turkeys. As a matter of fact, the DH is going to pick it up as I’m writing this. The trick with grassfed – anything – is ‘low and slow’, so we will be starting the bird first thing in the morning, stuffed with lots of garlic and herbs, rubbed outside with…garlic and herbs. This is all I have to do this year – the eldest and her spousal unit are hosting so everything else is ‘on them’. I have no idea what sort of pie or pies will be dessert this year — I’m hoping for mince, but unfortunately if I want it..I’d better make it since I’m pretty much the only one who does.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      That was my first thought as well. Not nice of EW to trick us like that.

      Am I the only person who still thinks there will be an independent Kurdistan?

      Boxturtle (Outside of the Kurds, I mean)

      • dakine01 says:

        You are in a definite minority of belief in an independent Kurdistan at least. Neither Turkey nor Iran seem disposed to allow it to happen.

        • BoxTurtle says:

          I think theres a deal to be had kinda like this:

          1) Kurds drop all territorial claims in Turkey in return for Turkish recognition. This would including stopping Kurdish terror attacks.

          2) Kurds give same deal to Iran.

          3) All sides drop all lawsuit type claims.

          4) Oil for recognition to America. Wouldn’t be so baldly stated, but that would be the end result.

          5) Money to Iraqi politicians for a set period, with the appearence that it’s going to the Iraqi government. Kinda like how America is currently doing it.

          The Iraqi’s do not want to deal with the Pesh Merga, they’d be happy with they money. Especially if Iran backed the deal.

          The above is a framework, there are a LOT of devilish details. But it’s enough in everybodies interest, that they’d at least consider it.

          Boxturtle (Anybody think the Shiites can pacify the Kurds AND the Sunni’s at the same time?)

  2. dakine01 says:

    I’m not a fan of turkey so not a real problem for me to avoid it.

    Instead, I’m going to fry some country ham slices, make some red-eye gravy and whipped potatos and I just finished making some Cranberry Relish (although I don’t peel the apples)

  3. BoxTurtle says:

    My wife handles the turkey and fixings, I am tolerated (at best) in the kitchen during the times she’s working. Nevertheless, I am tasked with appitizers,desserts, and drinks.

    Thus, I shall be producing Water Chestnut rumaki, Cheesy corn soup, and weird vegetable spring rolls. Also Candied cherries with homemade caramel, iced brownies, and a cheesecake.

    Boxturtle (My goal is to get people to says “What Turkey?”)

      • BoxTurtle says:

        I’m supposed to time my work so it doesn’t interfere with her work. Thanksgiving is simply too much work. Next year, it’s pizza and football!

        Boxturtle (And I got a bottle of Haitian rum that I’m going to feature)

  4. JimWhite says:

    Thanks for the reminder, EW. I just checked the liquor cabinet and we’re all set for tomorrow’s meal. I copped out on the turkey and just bought a fresh breast at the local supermarket, but the turkey is just an excuse for our other favorite dishes. The cranberries are baked with a little sugar and a lot of brandy. They keep forever in the fridge after that. The sweet potatoes are whipped with a lot of rum before the marshmallows go on. Our household is culturally divided on the green bean casserole, though. I insist on the onion ring topping and my wife, the uncultured Kansan that she is, insists on crumbled potato chips, so the casserole topping has a DMZ down the middle. (Got a loaf of orange bread going in the bread machine right now for tomorrow’s breakfast.)

    Safe travels to all those on the road and let’s all try to do something for those in our communities who need a bit of help in putting food on the table.

    • emptywheel says:

      Hmmm. I may have to try that cranberry recipe. mr. ew and I don’t really drink liquor anymore, and our most reliable whiskey drinking buddy moved to DC, which means I’m going to have find a way to cook through the liquor cabinet. And there’s only so many times a human being can eat my bread pudding (with whiskey sauce) without suffering cardiac arrest.

      And maybe you could suggest the onion ring/potato chip DMZ for turkey and Kurdistan.

  5. bmaz says:

    Stop calling me a turkey. And even if I am one, I don’t suck. And even if I do, not that bad.

    Oh, alright, I admit to it all….

  6. PJEvans says:

    Tamales (don’t know what’s in them, though, but I was given them by the maker).

    There’s a company called ‘Spice Hunter’ that has a mix for brining turkeys. It sounds very tasty. If I were going to brine one, I’d get a jar.

  7. bobschacht says:

    Well, me an’the wife can’t use your method: She doesn’t eat pork, and to taint the whole bird with pork won’t do. How about some good old fashioned suet? I guess the cooked leftovers could be used to make some haggis. How’s haggis for a snack food for football?

    Bob in HI

  8. skdadl says:

    I hate it when you guys go on holidays, EW. I am going to be so lonely tomorrow.

    That said, doesn’t anyone around here do creamed onions? How can you have turkey without creamed onions? I learned my recipe from Gourmet way back in the eighties, I think, when they used to make us do hard stuff. Big yellow onion plus shallots plus leeks plus garlic plus pearl onions, all doused in cream and nutmeg and stuff, and then given a light little gratin crust.

    I think that Erdogan is doing one of the trickiest balancing acts I’ve ever watched, given the nastiness of his supposedly “secular” opposition. Unlike the old Kemalists, he believes in reaching out to Europe and the West, although Westerners persist in misreading him because he copes with his own religion and culture in ways that are easy to misrepresent. It matters a lot, I think, that we get Turkey right.

    • bmaz says:

      Hey. Once I have eaten a couple of times, my butt will be planted by teh bigscreen and my laptop too. Even got a post I have stashed away for a slow rainy day when EW wasn’t around.

      She is gone, right????

      • skdadl says:

        Ok. *sniff* I’ll try to hang on.

        If it gets too desolate, I’ll just go over to the C-SPAN archives and watch the whole of Senator Levin’s hearing on SERE reverse engineering all over again. Something about that hearing really calms me. Watching and listening to Jim Haynes evade the hard truths brings me right back down to earth.

        Which reminds me: could we have end-of-year nominations for best congressional hearing of the year? Or maybe there’s a better way to define the category. But that day stays with me so powerfully, that and the conversations that we had afterwards, especially Valtin’s contributions, and the associated readings we’ve done. The torture regime: we cannot let this go.

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        Oh goody!

        EW, do you put the bacon on the turkey right off the bat or wait until it would normally be the first time to baste? I love this idea! I make as much gravy as possible for the turkey pie(s) leftovers.

        It’s so cool to just micro the carrots, celery and potato a bit, add the turkey pieces, onion and peas. Make or buy the pie crust, and bake till the crust is brown. (45 min.+/- at 350) Yummmmy.

        Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And Petro, hope you don’t have relatives in Mumbai…

        • emptywheel says:

          Do it right from the start–if it’s a big bird, and will be in the oven a long time, put tinfoil over the top until about an hour before the Lions lose. In any case, you want that bacon browning for at least an hour. Once the Lions have lost, go peel the pieces of bacon off the turkey (try to do this quietly, so no one knows you’re getting any, because if they hear, you’ll have to share).

          Then leave the turkey, uncovered, in the oven for another hour–so the top, now devoid of turkey, can brown.

          THe best part of this, is that if all goes well, the bacon will be done at just that part of the day when you start wondering whether you’ll need a snack to make it to dinner and when (if you’re from MI) true despair is kicking in. The bacon should be able to fix both of those issues without ruining your appetite for the main course.

          • emptywheel says:

            I should clarify: for big birds, some time with tinfoil and bacon, some time with just bacon, and one hour with no bacon to brown. For small birds you can often skip the first stage.

  9. Peterr says:

    I slowly cook the turkey outdoors in a big kettle-style bbq grill. Push the coals to either side of the grill, put a drip pan in the bottom with a little bit of water (the water keeps things moist at the beginning, and the pan catches the drippings to make the gravy later), and add some wood chips to the coals for smokiness. It takes about 12 minutes a pound, and all you need to do is check the coals and wood chips every hour or so, and add more when needed.

    Usually I simply salt and pepper the bird, and the smoke gives it another delightful layer of flavor. I’ll have to speak with Mrs Peterr, though, and see if she’d like me to try this bacon-covered turkey idea. If not tomorrow, then another day.

    Along with it, we’ll have mashed potatoes and gravy, and we usually choose between either a cranberry-mango sauce or a Zinfandel-cranberry sauce. This year, we’re going with the mangoes. Pecan pie and pumpkin cheesecake are the desserts du jour, to top everything off. The wine with dinner will be a fine Zinfandel from the winery we used to live next door to in California, and a nice port from the same winery will cap off the evening nicely.

    *sniff sniff*

    I like being back in Kansas City, closer to family and all that, but I really miss being next door to a great winery.

    *wipes nose*

    But I’m fine. Really.

    I just need a minute. . .

    • emptywheel says:

      Hmmm. The bbq sounds lovely. But I don’t think you can do bacon near an open flame–you’d have turkey-charcoal for dinner.

      What was the winery in CA? Not too many Zin makers making port…

        • emptywheel says:

          Sort of figured it had to be Rosenblum (and yes, I remember a nice Vigonier, if I’m not mistaken).

          I’ve always wanted to go out there, but have never actually taken the trouble of figuring out precisely where it was, given that it’s not really in wine central, nor is it–like Bonnie Doon–in a convenient location for a glorious drive up Highway 1 from Santa Cruz to SF.

          • Peterr says:

            Their main facility is in Alameda — an island off the coast of Oakland in the SF Bay. You can drive there via bridges or tunnels, but the easiest way to describe how to get there (and the most fun for lots of people) is to go by ferry from SF. If you take the ferry from the SF Ferry Terminal to Alameda, you get off the boat right in front of Rosenblum.

            (They also have a tasting room on the square in Healdsburg, up in the wine country north of SF.)

            • emptywheel says:

              Did not know about the Healdsburg location–it might have tipped my decision in September when I was in Rohnert Park to make the drive up.

              Alameda is nice, but out of the way, you see.

      • Peterr says:

        If the bacon is on top of the turkey, I don’t think it would be any different from putting it in an oven. The drippings just slide down the outside of the turkey into the drip pan, not onto the coals.

        But this, too, is why getting a second opinion from Mrs Peterr would be a good idea, in that her mother will be joining us for dinner.

      • Mauimom says:

        Kansas City has mangoes available…? They’re bountiful here in the Isles

        I demonstrate to people the “quality” of The Maui News [all AP all the time] by recounting that a front page story [for at least a day or two] was Too Many Mangoes, discussing how all mangoes were ripening at the same time.


  10. LabDancer says:

    Oh; I get it: rub a whole lot of bacon all over northern Iraq; simmer to let the grease liquify & seep into the ground; allow sufficient time for it to mix in with all that light crude oil; notify all the governments & ayatollahs in the region via e-mail & mullah-tube what tragedy has befallen your area that due to the contamination of the crude by bacon grease the province has been rendered unfit for occupation by any “true” Muslim, i.e. everyone except the Kurds & the bacon-laced crude only fit for consumption by the Infidel – el Voila!

    Ms Piggistan.

  11. Julia says:

    We got a great big organic turkey too.

    I don’t understand all the focus on what goes outside the turkey, though. It doesn’t matter. What matters is what goes inside. To whit: sew/skewer up one end, toss in a few onions cut in quarters, three or four bayleaves, and either half a tablespoon or so of dry/six or seven sprigs of fresh rosemary, and a teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Pour in two cups of white wine (or beer, or stock) and sew/skewer up the other end.

    Now rub the skin with olive oil on top and salt on top. Doesn’t need basting at all.

  12. JohnLopresti says:

    Turkey is the host on NPR ToTN today letting MBai rant how BObama is Steering a course impervious to input from progressives or the left; that host needs to stay mum until board winds of change ease into action with the late January change of weather. For the actual tomorrow feast, perhaps it is reasonable to say the invite just proffered yesterday will be one which is enjoyable. The owner said the wild turkey he shot by his house was tasty, season being of the essence; first time he ever shot a wild animal. Used to be only a few turkeys left on this place following the passage of settlers who pretty much depleted both game and habitat, though somehow this property always had conscientious owners. When the wild turkey population resurgence began several years ago, this became part of their migration path from valley to hill woodland to forest perimeter, back down swale to valley. Before valley folk harvested the redwoods down there, the creek was year round and had a salmon migration; now it is what is known as an ephemeral waterway full only in wet season with a taper after, and people still need to look to the hills to find any standing timber.

    I tried to arrange a long mealbreak Thanksgiving at work. Maybe I will make it back online to finish swingshift.

  13. EdwardTeller says:

    This will be our first Thanksgiving without one or both of our kids at home in 23 years. So we’re spending it here with another couple – close friends – who are also having their first “empty nest” T-day.

    Roasted turkey with homemade stuffing
    mashed potatoes with gravy
    a new sweet potato dish
    homemade cranberry sauce
    green beans and roasted almonds
    pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream
    Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc
    Heitz Cellars Grignolino

  14. JPL9 says:

    This is the first year that Cranberries won’t be at the feast. I actually thought that the turkeys behind Sarah seemed to treated humanely but the tray beneath.. yuk.

  15. dosido says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to EW and all firepups.

    Just the thought of that SP/turkey video keeps me sniggering and convulsing with more sniggering…

  16. JPL9 says:

    Can someone help me out, please. I have always bought free range turkeys and I’m not sure what a heritage turkey is. Heritage tomatoes I understand, but not turkeys.

    • emptywheel says:

      Same concept–they’re older breeds of turkey that weren’t bred for breast size and fast growth. They usually take several months longer to raise and aren’t as breast-heavy as traditional birds. But they’ve got better flavor.

      When they first started producing heritage turkeys, the breeds were very rare, but as you can see, their numbers are picking up. They’re still more expensive, though, on account of the extra time it takes to raise them.

  17. masaccio says:

    My daughter is this year’s host, and all I have to do is the smoked oyster dressing, much beloved by my kids, and pretty much loathed by everyone else.

    And as to this:

    And by the time the Detroit Lions manage to lose another game

    from your keyboard to the football gods’ ears.

  18. masaccio says:

    And, by the way, what do you have against brining? If it’s good enough for Alton Brown, it’s good enough for me.

    • JPL9 says:

      My turkey is in an apple juice and herb brine right now. I actually think that for free range turkey’s it helps bring out their natural juices. The other thing with free range is cooking them on a lower heat. IMO

    • emptywheel says:

      Two things. First, I think it ruins the texture of the meat. The whole point, after all, is breaking down cell structure, but that means you’ve got meat that no longer has the bite of meat.

      And, I think bacon accomplishes many of the same goals (wrt juiciness, but you’re not totally zapping the muscle structure of the meat), but without the hassle or the advance prep.

  19. Loo Hoo. says:

    Yum. Just took the bacon out of the freezer. I’ll have to spread it around on the 23 pound bird because I only have about one quarter pound. Next year.

    I’ll bet fried bacon would be good in the dressing another time…

  20. pdaly says:

    Some day we will all have Turbochef-like ovens (part convection oven, microwave and infrared oven).
    It cooks a 12 lbs turkey in 45 min.

    Too bad a Turbochef oven costs almost $8000. Can only hope that the price comes down over the years.
    Widescreen 42+ inch TV sets used to be as expensive once upon a time.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all.

    p.s. I’m cutting onions right now to make French onion soup for tomorrow.
    I didn’t stop to ask myself whether anything French is fitting for an American holiday, but I suppose some of the Pilgrims new French traders in their days. The Indians, too.

  21. randiego says:

    Regarding Snows, it was recently covered by Calvin Trillin in The New Yorker and on the Food Network, so you might have seen them.

    They only cook on Saturdays – they open at 8am, and close when they run out of barbecue – they are usually out of brisket by 11. With the holiday weekend, we’ll need to get there early. I’m mustering the troops at 8am for a 9am arrival.

    here’s a link:
    Snows BBQ, Lexington Texas

  22. JohnLopresti says:

    @51 what is heritage… see also @49 re tinfoil and ibid @39 hearing of the year. Some hearings require tinfoil, though most simple inexpensive earplugs suffice, accentuates gesticulations and expressive visages, but tinfoil has become part of the perfect finish to a thanksgiving. This is similar to the suspect tinfoil one hears in blog tales, and sometimes the tale is the best part, though I favor the upper drumstick. Wherever one places tinfoil the natural essence remains enclosed and permeates the entire turkey. Heritage is more like the natural fowl on the place I have lived a while, the essence of the feral. Too much feral also can predispose to tinfoil, though to little likely avail. The art is in proportion of the tinfoil. Written by someone who has always worked Thanksgiving, grateful for the freedom of the empty workplace, the art of freeform exercise.

  23. bobschacht says:

    Well, as long as things have slowed down a bit, I’d like to suggest something to chew on besides turkey:

    Not so long ago we were talking in fearful terms about what the Dreaded President-Who-Would-Be-King Bush might do to provoke a crisis in order to use the Shock Doctrine to Strike a Blow for some Nefarious Purpose that Threatens our very Existence. Well, maybe they’ve done that, by giving Paulson a blank check to send out money by the wheelbarrow to all the Bush friends on Wall Street, so they’ll never have to say they’re sorry for all the crappy deals they’ve made.

    But that’s a game that two can play. It doesn’t look to me like a recovery is going to be noticeably in place before Obama’s inauguration. Does this incredible economic meltdown give Obama some critical head room to make much more major changes than he ever thought of doing before, because the country may be open to bigger and more drastic structural changes than he could ever have hoped to make in other circumstances?

    In other words, is some bold thinking in order– not just in terms of the sheer amount of money (which was what Rachel Maddow tried to help us grasp the other night), but also in terms of radical, game-changing actions that normally would be impossible to even think about?

    If so, what should he and his team be thinking about?

    Bob in HI

    • JimWhite says:


      Naomi Klein has been calling for “reverse shock” therapy in just the way you are suggesting. I hope the transition team has been listening to her carefully. There is quite an opportunity if they have the courage.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

  24. JohnLopresti says:

    if you get past Healdsburg, send an email northward, it is close enough to be in view, though these parts are more about art and thorough history, than politics at present. Long time since a Rosenblum graced the slab, as their quality and commensurate prices escalated few years ago.

    Re @73 et al., OMBWatch and several other organizations have prepared whitepapers for the transition elements; ACS has made transcripts of its summer symposium; here is the one in which Crew and 70+ other entities participate for OMBW.

  25. Professor Foland says:

    This year’s Thanksgiving innovation has been sweet-potato pie, with the sour cream flattop from the Moosewood’s “Montana’s Mom’s Cheesecake”. It has just been sitting on the counter tempting me to ruin its smooth white perfection before the meal tomorrow.

    Also, I learned why one doesn’t normally bake acorn squash for puree-ing the way one bakes pumpkin for puree-ing. But that particular debacle left no permanent scars. (One thing I learned when I cooked in a restaurant during college was how to hide the bad parts of a dish…)

  26. pdaly says:

    This Wired article describes the genetic changes to our Thanksgiving food.
    For example, our modern day (non heritage) turkeys are uniformly white feathered.
    They all have to be artificially inseminated. Their libido has been bred out of them.

  27. wigwam says:

    Also, my local wine purveyor recommended this new Turkish wine to go with the turkey, which I’m kind of looking forward to trying.

    And, that wine would be?

  28. Mauimom says:

    Well this is a first: no kitchen time for me this Thanksgiving.

    We’re “on the road” — actually on the plane — to fly from Maui to LA [locale of son’s college]. Daughter flew in from NYC. We’re in a hotel [Embassy Suites], and rather than having restaurant fare, I’m picking up a menu of prepared items at Gelson’s supermarket tomorrow a.m. Main requirement is that everything must be able to be “prepared” in our room’s microwave.

    Much less fanfare — or “kitchenfare” — than our usual holiday, but we’re so thankful to have the time to spend with our kids [we have no other family].

  29. NMvoiceofreason says:

    First, I want to thank jane and Marcy (EW) for giving me a place to meet like minded people. Second, I’d like to thank the like minded people. Third, I’d like to thank the rest of you that show up….(kidding!)

    Without voice, without vision, the people perish. Thank (insert deity of choice here) for FireDogLake and EmptyWheel! I visit almost every day, even if I don’t comment.

    We are doing the simple 20 Lb. turkey in the 30$ Target roasting oven, even though the family dinner is at Black Angus. We just can’t resist making turkey burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and sandwiches for the next two weeks. If you have never smelled Hawaiian incense (burning sugar cane fields) or roasting green chile (common in New Mexico in the fall) you have missed two heavenly scents that you cannot forget the rest of your life. So yes, everything except the sandwiches has freshly roasted green chile.

    Best wishes to everyone here, and to all your loved ones! Happy Thanksgiving!

  30. wmd1961 says:

    I’m giving thought to raising a few turkeys for holiday meals in 2009 and afterwards. Will be giving a bit of thought to how to fence off the poultry yard for larger birds than chickens.

    given the size of a chick order I need to find some other people that want to do this – will be putting the word out at my feed store, see if he will solicit some other customers – I would want 3 turkeys…

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