A Post-Thanksgiving Proposal: Next Year, Don’t Roast the Turkey

I know this borders on sacrilege, but I’ve got my reasons. See, having been born in the Foodist 21st Century, my daughter has had some of the better turkeys of the world: smoked, brined, spice-rubbed, crisp skinned, succulent, free range, organic. Better turkeys than I ever had growing up. Still, year in year out when she eats the Thanksgiving turkey, I’ve never seen that sparkle in her eye that’s there when she eats something truly delicious. I’m not talking exotic, above and beyond delicious, just run of the mill passable every day delicious as in a grilled cheese sandwich, a crisp apple, a bowl of cheerios.

To confirm her middling attitude toward even the best possible roast turkey, this weekend I conducted this interview with Violet (5 years old; so really only 4 years into roast turkeys; an omnivore who otherwiise loves bird in all its forms).

which do you like more: chicken or turkey?
chicken

which do you like more: beef or turkey?
beef

peanut butter or turkey?
peanut butter

whole wheat toast or turkey?
toast

smoothies or turkey?
smoothies

tomatoes or turkey?
tomatoes

broccoli or turkey?
broccoli

I’ve gotta put a stop to this. Clearly, it’s not that she’s picky. At her young age, she’s free of a life of habit and expectation, and can see roast turkey for what it is. Just not all that. And I think that over the past couple of hundred years, we’ve gotten attached to the wrong technique for cooking turkey. So instead of programming a lifelong acceptance of mediocre turkey in my children, I’m going to start cooking the turkey to maximum effect. And I’m afraid that means veering away from the traditional whole roasted bird.

Two turkey dishes that eschew roasting have put this into my mind. I recently had the turkey osso bucco at Mario Batali’s del Posto in New York: it’s a cross section of turkey thigh on the bone, braised to unctuousness, served with a rich reduction sauce of aromatics, tomatoes, and wine. It’s turkey to rival any roasted meat. Last week I watched Mark Bittman’s video on the New York Times website, in which he makes a turkey confit: first simmering cut up turkey pieces in sage-infused oil, then crisping the skin in a pan, then serving it over greens dressed with a little lemon juice. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Maybe I’ll sneak it onto the menu at Christmas, build a following, and then people won’t even miss the whole roast bird come next Thanksgiving. Or at least Violet won’t.
—Hugh

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