I look forward to carving the turkey because at its core, it is an operation. The incisions to disarticulate the limbs are planned to preserve as much skin on the carved meat as possible because the skin has about 80% of the flavor. The cuts are designed to allow the soft long muscles of the thighs to maintain their texture while the four drums sticks –the femurs and the humeruses bilaterally, are set aside for those relishing the birdly wands. The flats of the wings, the radius and ulna, are kept with the one remnant digit. I like to think that the original therapods from which this turkey descended were not much different or less delicious. The breasts are always difficult to remove with enough of the core –the meat tight to the sternum and rib cage, that is the juiciest meat because it was the last to cook. I feel bad for those who must have white meat, because the breast is all about texture and juices and not at all about the essence of the turkey which lives in the thighs, especially the small muscles of the pelvis. From the breast, I carve broad steaks. I divide the dark meat from the white to make the choice easier.
Our turkey this year was “catered” in the sense that we picked up an organic, free range, Amish turkey –it probably even had a name. At first, I balked at “catering” something, then cooking it myself, being used to the amazing holiday catering at the Wakonda Club. The fixings were done and were great. The turkey was the cleanest, freshest smelling turkey I have ever worked with. There is a rule about fish that I extrapolate to all meat which is if it smells bad, it is bad. While I apply this rule to fish, it is not infrequent that I hold meat to a lower standard and that is something that I will reconsider.
Packaged chicken and pork typically smells horrible. Chickens reek of a smell which I interpret as boiled feathers. Freshly butchered chickens are usually hand plucked, but industrial processing requires expediency and this means dipping the chicken in boiling water to make the feathers easier to pull off. I think this is the smell that’s on industrial chicken. Pork has other odors, even less pleasant. Both will often smell like a unclean toilet –the kind you run into at concerts and football games. And on top of all of this, there is ammonia. I detect ammonia at a subconscious level because I have spent most of my life working in hospitals. This is all over many packaged chicken and pork products.
I will cut down the amount of meat we eat and the meat that we choose will have to pass the fish test. The turkey was sublime, full of natural flavors and textures that I hadn’t appreciated in a long time.