This Thanksgiving, I will once again commit a most treasonous act, a vile deed that strikes at the very heart of one of our most sacred holiday traditions. I confess: I do not bring my holiday turkey to the table in all its glorious goldenness, proud on a platter. I do not, and cannot, do this because…..gulp…..I cut up my turkey before I roast it! But before you curl your lip in disdain, before you assume that I carelessly flout tradition, and before you call the Turkey Police, hear me out.
About ten years ago, several family members, along with myself, decided to run or walk the annual Feaster Five Thanksgiving Day Road Race in Andover, MA (shameless plug: this is an awesome event that raises tons of money for several Merrimack Valley social service agencies, and you get a free apple pie for participating!). This poses some logistical problems for the head chef (that would be me). See, the race starts at 8:30 AM; but by the time we’re all done and get back home again, it’s almost 11 AM. So you do the math: put turkey in oven at 7:15 AM, as we’re leaving for the race; or at 11 AM after we arrive back home. One way involves an unsupervised bird ready well before noon, and the other a turkey ready at an awkward midafternoon sort of teatime. Now I know what you’re thinking—why not wait and eat our turkey dinner at, well, dinnertime? Because, as everyone knows, all holidays must involve the preferences of one’s family members, no matter how strange or inconvenient; and everyone wants to eat lunchtime-ish. This gives us all plenty of time to digest our gargantuan meal while falling asleep in front of football games and still potentially have an appetite for a turkey sandwich in the evening.
So there you have it, a turkey conundrum. Not only must all sides be prepped and ready to go by Thursday, I also have had to figure out a way to speed up my turkey roasting so that we could eat at our preferred time. Enter my heretical idea. The first year I tried this I honestly felt terrible hacking up my turkey—it just seemed like I was destroying the very essence of Thanksgiving. OK, so that’s a bit overblown, but I did feel weird about it. And cutting up a turkey, I discovered, isn’t for sissies! You have to wrestle with this cold, slippery, ungainly bird; the knife never seems to be sharp enough; and you have to intimately understand the anatomy of a turkey in order not to make a total mess of things. But I have persevered because the payoff is a perfectly roasted turkey in 1 ½ hours! Yes, even a 20-pounder! As an added bonus, I can take out parts as they finish roasting, so no more dried-out white meat. I’ve even grilled the turkey a couple of times, when the weather was favorable. If you’re a stuffing person, you lay all the stuffing in the roasting pan, position your turkey parts atop, and put it in the oven. Easy-peasy! Not to mention all the fossil-fuel energy I save, and being able to rotate other items through the oven as needed. Carving is simplified, too. Perhaps some of the romance is gone, but I really don’t miss wrestling with a hot, slippery, ungainly bird that I can only pretend to elegantly dissect for serving.
So, turkey lovers everywhere, please don’t judge me! If you’re feeling adventurous and nonconformist, try a little turkey treason with your sweet potatoes and cranberries this year. Just don’t tell anyone it was my idea.