This is a blog for people to discuss what they are eating. There is a theory that by journaling eating habits, people will eat healthier. I am trying to cook more at home and feed my family a wider variety of foods. People can just read or join as co-authors. Topics don't have to be recipes with nice photos. You can write about eating habits, special diets, culinary cultural differences, etc.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dad's Turkey

Thanksgiving just happened, here. I succeeded in re-creating my Dad's turkey recipe perfectly, which made me SO happy. I made the house smell JUST like Thanksgiving (it's not really Thanksgiving unless the house smells like Dad's turkey). I'll share the recipe here, in case you care (I even took pictures like a nerdgrrl). You can make just a few pieces of turkey, too (which is what I did) & it'll still be awesome.

Dad learned his recipe from his father. My grandfather was the Vanderbilt family's little French chef. He and his family traveled back and forth between NYC and Newport Rhode Island, and he kept a HUGE book of rercipes (all written in French) which my Dad inherited. Of course Dad never translated any of the recipes... We have this great book of culinary genius but it's pretty much useless (I am SO not proficient in French).

However! I am resourceful and I'm an instinctual cook, so I decided to try to make Dad's famous turkey anyway from memory. He always called it "dark turkey" because that's how it looked. All I knew was that red wine and crushed black pepper were the main ingredients. I decided to try Dad's favorite wine (to drink), which was almost always a nice cabernet sauvignon. BINGO!

Charlotte is a vegetarian so I didn't bother making a whole turkey for just myself and Greg. Two turkey thighs are plenty big enough for two people. I bought a small cheap aluminum roaster pan. This is important 'cause roaster pans have those grooves in them that raise the meat above the juices, so they don't stick or get soggy. It's a very simple process; rub cracked black peppercorns into the meat and pour a liberal amount of wine over the meat & into the pan. I used about a cup and a half. The chef gets a taste!

Here's what a lot of people don't know about cooking with wine; the alcohol all cooks off so there is no alcoholic content in the food. The reason you cook with wine is that it breaks down the fibers in poultry meat and allows the flavor to permeate the entire dish. It also enhances any spices & herbs you use. Be careful with wine & red meat though; alcohol actually tightens the fibers of red meat, making it tougher. If you use wine in red meat or pork dishes, you have to pound the meat with a tenderizing mallet first. But I digress!

So the roaster pan goes into the oven, center rack at 375 degrees. Dad's rule was 20 minutes per pound of bird. Since I didn't have to worry about a whole bird (full of stuffing) I decided to just treat the thighs like a big roaster chicken, so I kept them in there for about an hour and a half. Dad cooked his turkey breast side down, lightly covered with a sheet of aluminum foil, until the last hour when he removed the foil & turned the bird over to brown. The breat meat was always tender & never dry because he did it that way. However, since again I was just doing a couple pieces I left it uncovered the entire time.

The first thing you notice is the smell which is GREAT...Dad's turkey is very aromatic. As it cooks it darkens dramatically. You have to pull out the pan every 20 minutes or so and baste the meat...I just used a spoon to dump the wine juices back over the bird. You can see, even half-cooked the meat already looks purple-ish. That's the wine.

More for the chef! Cabernet is a great sipping wine. About a half hour before the turkey is done, my Dad had a little trick; he'd put a small pat of real butter on the skin, so it would glaze and crisp. Yes, you most definitely eat the skin with this kind of turkey because it is DELICIOUS. I did the butter thing too and was sinfully wonderful.

So here is the finished turkey dinner. You can see the turkey has a deep burgundy color...that's not just because this is dark meat. With the entire bird, the interior parts of turkey breast meat were still always white but the rest of the meat is rather dark. If you've cooked it right, it falls off the bone easily and is very juicy. I totally cooked it right. ^_^

Just so you know Charlotte wasn't left out, here is her Thanksgiving dinner. I made her a cheddar and spinach omelette with hollandaise sauce...her favorite treat. Even Kiba had a special treat; a Thanksgiving cow cookie. Everybody gets to be thankful!

I was SO thrilled to be able to make Dad's turkey. Really. When a person is gone from your life, there are a thousand things you miss but sometimes it's the funniest little things that sting the most. I never thought I'd ever taste Dad's wonderful turkey again. I'm glad to be wrong. He'd have been proud of me.


Blogger chaki said...

Wow. That sounds so lovely!! So all the flavor is in it already so there is no gravy with it? I can't fit a turkey in my Japanese sized oven so I'll have to do chicken parts, but love roast meat. Wonder whether the smell tempts Charlotte a bit??

November 30, 2008 at 5:04 PM

Blogger merimask said...

Thank you! ^_^

Actually the gravy you can make from the pan drippings with this recipe is really really delicious. I didn't bother this time because it was really moist dark meat & I never have gravy on that...if I'd done a whole turkey I would have certainly made gravy for it (I really am not a big fan of white meat, it tastes bland to me).

Heh, Char says she can't STAND the smell of cooked meat. I have to believe her; she's been doing the vegetarian thing since she was 13.

December 1, 2008 at 6:34 AM

Blogger Arsenette said...

I'm totally a carnivour :D I'd be totally freaking out over the smell of that turkey.. mmmmmm.... Thanks for sharing!!

December 1, 2008 at 9:25 AM


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