Prepping the Bird for the Thanksgiving Festivities

There’s always a fight over the turkey at our house.

Not who gets the drumstick, white meat versus dark or who pulls the wishbone. It’s over who will prepare it…and how.

We start the battle a good week before Thanksgiving day.

My wife likes a sweeter bird, one stuffed with apples and onions. A recipe she found that’s “on the lighter side” from a cooking magazine about 20 years ago. Something’s wrong with that. Thanksgiving on the lighter side? And the bird has no butter! No butter!

So we compromise. She does a small, “diet” breast of a bird, and I tackle the big one. The whole 20-pound plus Tom. I research, I brine, I bake and I baste. And I’m in my glory. Think Old Man Parker, the grumpy, turkey-obsessed father in the beloved 1983 classic, A Christmas Story.

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Once the exact flavor has been decided upon, I devise which way I will actually cook. Sure, baking is the most traditional way, but I’ve smoked a turkey before, which gives you a great flavor. It’s a LOT of prep work and an all-day, in-and-out check, so the oven usually wins out. One of these days I’m going to fry one.

One of the best birds I ever made I brined for two days. Another favorite was the one wrapped in strips of salt pork (which is NOT bacon). Talk about moist turkeys!

Here’s an easy, step-by-step guide on how to brine.

My brother-in-law once created the beast of all poultry, the tur-duck-in. Yes, the chicken inside the duck, inside the turkey…with layers of stuffing wrapping each bird. It took him hours just to prepare the thing due to the extensive bone removal. But man, when we sliced that baby open and saw the light and dark meat – oh, what a masterpiece. Certainly, a rich, savory treat. I had to catch a flight shortly after the formal dinner, but you can bet I had my mother-in-law packing me up some sandwiches for the trip. But I digress…

As for the fixins, sides and desserts… my wife has a good handle on those. My mother’s sausage and cornbread stuffing is always on the menu and lots of root vegetables. I’m not much for cranberries and pies, so I don’t mess with that part of the planning.

I’m the original bird man. I will go back for seconds and leftovers for days of the turkey, and savor the memories until next year, when we battle it out in the kitchen all over again, but that’s tradition. Then we gather together around the dining room table, give thanks and dig in.

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