Tuesday, June 15, 2010

our annual june turkey

It's June, 90 degrees, feels like Helios's tea cozy, air quality code red, unsafe for children and pets. What better time to fire up the oven and roast a turkey for 5 hours?
This turkey had been languishing in my freezer since November, when I couldn't be bothered to cook it for Thanksgiving. It was a swell, natural, organic, free range, spa raised turkey and I didn't want it to turn into a solid block of freezer burn and be WASTED. Better I toil over it for a number of hours and then throw it out.
I defrosted it on the counter for a while and then in the fridge for a few days. I didn't bother with stuffing, or gravy or side dishes or accessories. It's June. But I planned to do the whole upside down at a low temp for a few hours and then right side up at 400 for another few hours. I was trying to do a good job. Some might call it overcompensating.
The first thing I noticed about this turkey was how bony it was. Really lean and ripped, that turkey. And the dark meat was very dark. Inky almost. Both legs looked badly bruised. But I mostly roast chickens so probably my eye just wasn't used to this bird.
I cooked it and cooked it. I remembered my sister's experience with the mysteriously instantly overcooked turkey so I checked and checked.
Now, I am a tad anxious about food borne illness so I err on the side of slightly overcooked when it come to poultry. When my chickens come out of the oven all you have to do is jostle the pan and the whole bird collapses in on itself like one of those buildings being demolished in the middle of a busy city center. The thermometer said 180 which was 5 degrees more than Christopher Kimball recommended and only 15 degrees hotter than the kitchen. But the leg was stiff and no amount of jostling was going to dislodge a joint. I could have thrown it into the middle of a building demolition and it would have remained intact and probably walked away.
There are two possible explanations for this. The first is that I got an aerobarexic turkey. When her coop-mates were noshing on acorns, she was trying to fly, practicing wind sprints, performing 1000 lunged in each direction. When her siblings were picnicking on corn, soybeans and gummy bears, she was dreaming of being a ballerina, and believing that what she lacked in aptitude, she could make up for in silhouette. Whatever her motivation, I imagine she was as sturdy and rangy as Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain.
The other possible explanation is that the turkey was not entirely thawed. It felt thawed, but internally maybe it was still frozen and those frozen parts took longer to cook. So even though the thermometer read 180, if I had probed a little deeper, it might have read 68. This would also explain the pale pink juices that ran out of the bird after I carved it. "Juices run clear" is usually the admonishment for all poultry cooking tests of doneness.
As we sat down to eat, I said to the bf, "this is something we eat because it's good for us." We struggled through and then rewarded our fortitude with ice cream.
Because it's important to not waste all that food, I tried again. I pulled all the meat off the bird. I made turkey enchiladas for dinner. I cooked and cooked them just in case any of the meat had not been sufficiently cooked. The dark meat was still rubbery and strongly flavored, the white meat was just rubbery. I boiled the carcass for stock. It's still boiling. This is the fourth June day I have been cooking turkey. And I think I might be cured of turkey for ever. Maybe that was her plan. Maybe she was really Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, sacrificing herself to remove one more turkey eater from the face of the earth.
She wins.

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