At the risk of being considered heretical, perhaps even un-American, and definitely not in the proper holiday spirit, I’m going to come right out and say that turkey would be my last choice for the main course of a holiday feast. I’d much rather have duck, goose, roast pork, prime rib, or even roast chicken, (unless we’re going to talk wild turkey). The problem is that it’s an achievement to get a whole turkey to be edible (and I do have a friend who does that well, so I eat her turkey–it’s the best I’ve had when the bird is roasted whole). The problem is the turkey–not the cook!
It seems to me that turkey is all about presentation, and NOT about cooking it to the best advantage. We’ve bred turkeys to have a huge chunk of breast meat, which really isn’t that flavorful. That white meat is attached to the legs, dark meat. Now dark and white meat cook very differently, and here they are attached to the same bird, so that you have to cook them together–a real cooking dilemma.
Not to mislead you, some of the same problems exist with chicken, or Cornish game hen/poussin, though it’s easier to find ways to have both come out reasonably well on the smaller bird. The white meat still is not as flavorful as the dark, even on free-range chickens. I do use the breast meat–I usually cook it separately from the dark meat, but do sometimes roast a whole bird (French style in a dutch oven, in the Romertopf, or sometimes just uncovered in the oven).
It’s not that I don’t like turkey–at least occasionally–even the white meat. I just want it like I want all my food–to have the best taste and texture possible. It’s always seemed to me that when you have two things as different as turkey legs and breast, that you should not try to cook them together–neither will be at its best. Cook’s Illustrated has provided a recipe for optimizing turkey, and it involves taking it apart, but it also provides for stuffing, and presentation, too. I’d like to try this out with a whole turkey to see how complicated it is to get it done.
I’ll buy turkey breast fillets almost any time for a quick sauté–just like I’d do chicken breasts, but I still like dark meat best. I’m actually glad to see turkeys in the market–especially the pieces–light and dark meat separately. While you can almost always get turkey breast and sometimes even the drumsticks, what I really like are the thighs–without the drumsticks attached. I was happy to find turkey thighs at Harris Teeter when I went to do my marketing yesterday.
Yes, even though turkey-eating season is about to get into full swing, I came home with a package of turkey thighs–and tonight I had roast turkey–thigh that is.
It’s ideal for cooking for one–and inexpensive as well. One roasted turkey thigh will give me several meals: hot roast turkey, a cold turkey sandwich, and a serving of turkey soup.
Since I was working on an indexing job today, I really did not get fancy with my turkey thighs. I just let the thighs sit for a couple hours in the refrigerator, uncovered, so the skin would dry. I plopped them into the roasting pan with some wedges of potatoes, and salted the skin liberally so it would be crisp and golden brown. Then, into the oven (350°F) for about an hour, and out came my roast turkey.
I let it rest just like a whole bird, and then carved off my supper. Since I was after as few dishes to wash as possible, I made a cabbage dish that I wanted to try, and had potatoes roasted right along with the turkey–no gravy or stuffing tonight. (Cook’s Illustrated did give instructions for making stuffing with the disassembled bird, and I do want to try to adapt that for my single-serving quantity–but just not today. It was an easy, inexpensive, and tasty meal.
I’d eat more turkey if I were able to get thighs year round. I’m looking forward to more roast turkey in the next few days as I have another thigh that’s been roasted. I suspect there will be more than one turkey sandwich, and some will end up in with the bones in some hearty turkey, barley or lentil, and mushroom soup from my tiny single-serving size slow-cooker.