Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jerk the Turkey (From Your Thanksgiving Table)?

Quick, what are you going to have on your Thanksgiving table a week from now? If I could stand on top of my roof and see your thought bubbles, I’d probably see acres and acres of turkeys, golden brown and resting on oval plates.

Where is the law that requires you to drop a ten-to-twenty-pound bird on your table every Thanksgiving? No matter how many variations the food magazines throw at us – no matter if you bake, grill, fry, butterfly, chop it up into pieces or roll it up around stuffing, no matter if you coat it with sage butter, fennel and coriander, clementine peel, apple-cranberry glaze, paprika, rosemary and garlic, or plain salt and pepper, turkey carries with it two inconvenient truths:

1. Its meat is bland and dull, and
2. Unless you have a shipload of guests, the leftovers are going to linger longer than Sarah Palin.

Think about all the Thanksgiving dinners you have experienced. Was the turkey ever the most delicious item on the table? Turkey is just not a feast-worthy bird. Really.

What is? I would suggest duck, for starters. I’ve heard good tidings about goose, though I have never tried it myself. Cornish hens are an alternative that was on the table when Two Dogs and I had our first Thanksgiving together (actually, he is philosophically opposed to the holiday, but that’s a story for another time). Even a good-sized chicken or two will give you more flavor per pound.

Then again, why does it have to be a bird? Why not a flat-iron steak, or a pork tenderloin, a whole salmon, or lasagna? Even a stuffing casserole with butternut squash and cranberries sounds great, whether or not you’re a vegetarian.

Even if you are dead-set on turkey, why roast the whole big bird? Why not buy it in pieces? I got this idea while looking at turkey legs at Sprouts market. A single turkey breast can feed three, perhaps four people.

In the big picture, though, it really doesn’t matter what is on the table. What matters is the thanks giving– thinking about and discussing all you have to be grateful for. But it certainly does help when you have a feast that is delicious, not just abundant.

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