There was a mildly bizarre tongue-in-cheek piece by restaurant critic Raymond Sokolov in today’s Wall Street Journal, titled “Operation Gobbler,” about how to use up left over Thanksgiving turkey.

It involved lacing the mayo with thallium (a debilitating and potentially deadly poison) and then slathering the tainted mayonnaise onto turkey sandwiches and sending them to some of the world’s most notorious terrorists. Mr. Sokolov’s main motive (apart from dispatching a few nasties of the world) seemed to be finding a workable solution for disposing of the remains of what he terms:

…these desiccated, tasteless birds.

I have to agree that all too often he’s right. People tend to equate a good Turkey Day feast for a crowd with cramming stuffing into a giant turkey–a 22 pounder–straight from the fridge, sticking it into a roasting pan, and some hours later hacking it into dry slabs of breast meat that they plop onto a plate, drown in giblet gravy, and choke down for tradition’s sake.

Anybody who hates turkey (because they think it’s dry and tasteless) should have been here with us yesterday for our Thanksgiving feast. Besides the star of the show, our meal included all our standard Thanksgiving favorites with everybody lending a hand in the preparations.

Our daughter-in-law made the Eades family’s traditional Green Pea and Asparagus Casserole (recipe available at a traditional pumpkin pie, and her family’s favorite sweet potato casserole with just a touch of a butter and brown sugar topping. I made my sister’s Cranberry-Orange Relish, some Mashed Fauxtatoes with butter and cream, Mike’s mother’s traditional cornmeal mush dressing, which is our hands-down family favorite, and a Granny Smith Apple Pie.

Although in our house, as our long-time readers and viewers likely know, we usually substitute a nut crust or our low-carb almond meal version for the real one in pumpkin or apple pie and butternut squash or acorn squash for the sweet potatoes, since they’re lower in carb and offer much the same flavor, this time we elected to opt for portion control over ingredient control and go with the real McCoys. (Slivers of both pies and smaller mounds of dressing or sweet potatoes give the same pleasures as half a pie and a couple of cups of starch, without the aftermath of bloating, heartburn, and remorse.)

As our friend and colleague, Robert Crayhon, once said: Pleasure is also a nutrient.

Our eldest son took charge of the turkey, a naturally-raised, organic bird we hunted at the Whole Foods grocery store. His ministrations began 18 hours in advance, with the preparation of a brine–probably the most important step in turning out a juicy, succulent turkey–breast meat included. The second most important one is not to pick the biggest bird in the barnyard, since he’s sure to be tougher and even if he weren’t, it’s nearly impossible to cook a giant turkey (particular a stuffed one) evenly. That’s a recipe for the kind of turkey Mr. Sokolov wants to send to Kim Jong Il. If you must feed a crowd bigger than about a 12 pounder will cover, you’re far better off roasting two turkeys than a behemoth.

As far as brining goes, there are many brines to pick from; sometimes we elect just a simple Kosher salt and water variety, but this time, he opted for a honey, garlic, and thyme brine he had clipped several years ago from a magazine–either Food and Wine or Gourmet, I think. So, in this case, instead of just water and salt, he also added four or five sprigs of fresh thyme, eight cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of ground black pepper, and some honey to the gallon or so of water the bird bathed in overnight in the refrigerator. When it came time to cook, after a good rinse and a patdown, he stuffed more thyme and lemon halves into the cavity, slathered the bird with melted butter and popped her (it was a turkey hen) into the oven for an hour, breast down on a rack, over a pool of chicken broth. Then a flip, another coating of melted butter and another hour and a half or so in the heat, basting with chicken broth and butter every half hour or so until a thermometer in the thick portion of the thigh read 165 degrees.

While she rested out of the oven (an important step with meat of any kind, turkey included, to allow the juices to redistribute, so the meat will be moist and tender) we baked-off the veggie dishes.

Savory juices ran from the meat when he carved the breast; the meat of the thighs and legs was succulent and delicious–not the stringy stuff Mr. Sokolov spoke of sending on Operation Gobbler.

Paired with a dry Reisling and the just released Nouveau Beaujolais, we feasted like royalty and gave thanks for our family and the good food, good friends, good health, and good times we enjoy year round.

No way will our juicy Thanksgiving bird become a weapon of mass destruction. I have great plans for a leftover turkey, dressing, and cranberry relish sandwich on low carb bread for lunch today, while–if all’s right in the universe–we’ll watch the Hogs of Arkansas tromp the LSU tigers.


  1. This sounds delicious.
    Was the bird uncovered the entire time in the oven?
    How much liquid was in the pan?
    How long did she rest before carving?
    Are hens juicier than toms?
    I’d like to try this at Xmas!

    COMMENT from MD EADES; Yes, uncovered the whole time, except that about an hour in, he put foil over the ‘elbows’ of the wings and ends of the drumsticks to keep them from getting too brown and he basted it about every 30 minutes after that first hour with melted butter and some of the broth from the pan.

    He put about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of chicken stock in the roasting pan (probably used an entire one of those quart paper resealable cartons) and the bird sat on a raised rack over the pool.

    She rested a good 20 or 30 minutes, tented with foil, before he sliced her up.

    I don’t know for sure, but it’s always been my belief that the hens are a little juicier; that’s probably an old wives’ tale based on nothing, but then…I’m an old wife.

    Whatever the reason, she was good and juicy not just for the meal for for yummy sandwiches on low carb bread or wrapped in low carb tortillas for several days thereafter. Happy cooking!

  2. Well, sounds like you had a great Thanksgiving! Too bad the Hogs did not fair as well! Tell everyone hello and Happy Holidays!

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Hey, Michelle! You’re right; they should have, could have, would have won…but they didn’t. Oh well. We were all bummed, but well fed. Hope all is well with you and the fam and a Happy Holiday right back at ya’!

  3. This was the first year I brined a turkey and I’m a convert. It was one of the best tasting turkeys I’ve ever had.

    I also deboned the turkey and used something called a roasting wand (hollow metal pipe you stick through the cavity so that inside cooks faster). According to the roasting chart it was supposed to take 4 – 4.5 hrs. It finished in 2.5. So deboning & the roasting wand are permanent fixtures in my turkey repertoire.

    Kevin Hostelley
    COMMENT from MD EADES; Thanks for the tip; I’ve never tried deboning one or using a roasting wand, but it makes good sense. I’ll have to consider it.

    I have actually cooked a number of very juice and tender small turkeys (10 to 12 pounds max) in the microwave oven. I know, I know sounds like heresy, but unlike the rubber chicken that it turns out, you can really cook a good turkey in there–even a stuffed one–in about a bit over an hour and a half. You do have to pop the turkey under the broiler for a few minutes, slathered with butter, to get a good even browning on the skin, but when you’re pressed for time…

  4. This year my wife decided to have a dry run thanksgiving day to test out her recipes. OMG, the turkey was so good and I get to do it again in a few days!

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Lucky you!

  5. Since it’s usually just my husband and me, I roast just one or two small turkey (bone-in)breasts; in a rack over a large pan — which I fill about an inch deep with stuffing. Chicken broth in the stuffing so it doesn’t dry out; heavy duty aluminum foil over the stuffing, under the rack — with many holes poked in it so the drippings can fall into the stuffing. I cook low-and-long: 250-degrees for 5-6 hours; covered with foil until about the last hour.

    I pull the pan every hour or so, lift the rack out, and stir the stuffing to equalize the drippings, add more broth if needed; butter the breasts, and back in. After 3-4 hours, when the bird has reached about 130 degrees and when the stuffing reaches about 140-160 degrees; I spoon it out and let the rest of the drippings gather in the pan for gravy-making.

    There is the slight chance of ‘contamination’ from turkey drippings that have not reached 140 degrees (those dripping down shortly before I remove the stuffing), but I’m willing to risk it.

    But it a way to make “in-bird” stuffing without stuffing the bird!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *