Giving thanks, part one

November 29th, 2011 by veronica

This year we’re lucky enough to have not one but *three* Thanksgiving dinners to attend. The first one, on the day itself, was held at our house. All of Chris’s family was in attendance as well as several friends making a grand total of 18. Everyone contributed to the meal so it was a true family experience.

We were responsible for delivering the centerpiece of the meal, the traditional turkey. This year I decided to get the turkey from a local farm. I’d bought beef, eggs and pork (a whole hog, a whole hog) from them before so I knew that they raise happy — and tasty! — animals. Check ’em out if you get a chance:
Taylor Mde Farms

But here’s the thing I didn’t really know about raising turkeys. If you raise a turkey from a spring chick until it’s Thanksgiving time, they get big. Really big. So it’s great that you’ve got a very fresh, very local bird, but that bird is going to be 30 pounds or more. Yow.

turkey
too bad I don’t have more to give you a sense of scale, but just know that that’s my *big* roasting pan.

Having such a large, deceased animal in my possession caused some logistical problems. The primary one was that according to the time and temperature charts, a bird that big would have to roast for 7 HOURS. Hmph. Not wanting to either wake up at dawn or serve dinner too late, I decided the right thing to do would be to spatchcock the turkey.

Spatch-what-now? It’s a term for removing the backbone out of a bird and cooking it flat so as to reduce the cooking time and encourage even cooking. Only problem is that it’s usually meant for smaller birds, but I’ve done it a million times with chickens, so it shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Well.

It was a bit of a challenge. You see, a 30 pound turkey has much stronger bones than a 5 pound chicken and I wound up having to get through the pelvic bone with a heavy cleaver and some primal scream therapy. But I did it! And kept all of my own digits.

The next step is to flatten the bird which I couldn’t quite manage so I called in the muscle. Chris stepped in and attempted a CPR-like maneuver to break the bird’s keel bone — no, I’d never heard of this either, but it turns out to be a real pain. He tried the operation bare-handed, but eventually had to resort to bashing it with a cast iron pan.

CGvsbird
action shot of Chris flattening our dinner

That accomplished, the bird went in the oven and the spatchcocking process paid off by cutting the cooking time in half. If anything, it cooked a little too fast, as I wasn’t really expecting it to be done as soon as it was. Still it was a beautiful, succulent bird. I used elements of these two recipes to put it together:
Russ Parson’s Judy Bird
Hardlikearmour’s Special Occasion Turkey on Food52

Oh, and believe you me, we had plenty of other food, too. We had two kinds of stuffing, cauliflower puree, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, kale, a brilliant arugula salad topped with bacon wrapped dates — wha-wha?! I made some fresh bread, too, which turned out rather well, I thought.
bread

And then there was dessert. I wish I’d had my act together enough to get pictures of it all, but the offerings included: a caraway apple pie, flourless chocolate cupcakes with pumpkin goat cheese frosting, traditional pumpkin pie and pumpkin truffles. All were wonderful, but probably my favorite was Liane’s lemon sponge pie pictured below. It was at least as delicious as it was lovely.

pie

After all that eating, we had the traditional post-dinner loll about with lots of chatter and running about with the kidlets. It was a perfect part one to our three-part Thanksgiving week. Thanks to all!

C+girls
Uncle Chris and the girls.

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