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Talking Turkey

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Thanksgiving has come and gone as quickly as the rest of the year and I’m looking forward to winter about as much as I do to leftover turkey. Heck, I don’t even much like it served hot and fresh with gravy, but I do like all the trimmings. I’d rather go to all the culinary trouble to do something I really enjoy. But the company is always a reward in itself and everyone seemed to enjoy the occasion of being together. I’ve always adopted the same ritual for roasting our turkey with a baste of butter, sage and white wine, à la Martha Stewart and absolutely pooh-poohed the idea of frying one as being messily backwoods. That was until last year when one of my daughters was given an electric turkey fryer as a gift. I was sure it would be consigned to the garage to forever gather dust, ending up as a future, novel curiosity. Last year, my son persuaded me to give it a try (I had beef tenderloin for back-up) and it was the best turkey ever. I still don’t like it that much but it wasn’t greasy, as I had made up my mind it would be, it was evenly cooked throughout and exotically moist. It carved more easily than any roasted bird and I promised I’d never roast another one. There has to be a downside. It resides in returning the cooking contraption to its pre-cooking pristine stainless steel (there’s no such thing, by the way) shininess after expelling two and a half gallons of used peanut oil – that stuff gets everywhere. It’s enough work to give you an appetite for turkey sammies. Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in England, although harvest-time is celebrated within the church. Christmas is time for turkey consumption. In any measure, it matches the feasting here, even spilling over to the next day when imaginative ways are used to clear out the leftovers from sautés to salads and casseroles to curries. I’m the sort of cook who enjoys the cooking rather than the end result, often losing my appetite by the time everything has made it to the table. The indulgence, for me is in the preparation – I even like going to the grocery store to get the feeling of things right from the start. Terry’s good at it too and we form a pretty good team prepping for get togethers and parties. I have a fascination for cookbooks in spite of the fact that I rarely follow recipes, preferring touch and feel or smell and taste, anyway. I have historical books describing the Tudor kitchens at Hampton Court, classical French technique-driven tomes to modern celebrity chefs’ outpourings, having more to do with their egos than great cooking. At the last count I have over 200. It’s time to cull the collection, I know, but where to start is the big question. I always end up kidding myself that I’m going to be in dire need of some esoteric recipe for a pigeon pie or pasta primavera. I love charcuterie and make my own bacon and sausage meat. I even have a bresaoula, cured beef, hanging in the garage fridge that’ll take a couple of months to get where I can serve it. I smoke my own salmon and haddock and love to experiment with projects that may take days or weeks. Wintertime brings on thoughts of Hungarian goulash or beef and barley stew, braised lamb shanks; something to hunker down with and look forward to spring. Now there’s a thought. Smoked turkey for Easter.
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