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Thanksgiving Dinner-Heritage Turkey Results

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First, let me thank all the people who helped ease my "Turkey Anxiety", Carblover, Niki Rothman, Norm, Heidipie. . . And special thanks to Funwithfood for the delicious "Elegant Yam Casserole". I had to send out 2 copies of your posted recipe!

I picked up my 10.5 lb "chilled" Diestel Heritage Turkey on Monday morning. It was a surprising brick red color and rock solid. (Then I remembered that the USDA definition of "chilled" is oddly consistent with their definition of a properly "cooked" turkey. Both are at least 20F off from my idea of "chilled" and "cooked.) It took 24 hours for me to get the bird, wrapped in grocery bags, sitting in the sink, to what I would have considered the "chilled" stage. Even then, there was still ice in the cavity. (There is no way the turkey would have thawed in time for our Wednesday dinner had I left it in the fridge!)

A combination of curiosity at the natural flavor and texture of this new fowl, combined with mounting pre-dinner stress, and my natural laziness made me decide to cook the turkey the same way I would normally roast a chicken. I simply washed and dried the bird, and rubbed it inside and out with lots of salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence, wrapped it in a plastic bag and left it in the fridge for the next 24 hours.

At 4:30 pm, I put the turkey (no rinse, no oil, no massage) on my vertical roaster (which I had topped off with 3/4 of a whole lemon to give it more height), filled the neck cavity with pieces of duck fat from the two ducks my hubby was going to smoke, and put the whole assemblage at the bottom of the preheated 450F convection oven. There was about 1 1/2 inches of clearance between the turkey shoulders and the heating element. (This would not have worked in a non-convection oven.) After 15 minutes, the turkey had started to brown and drip, so I added some homemade turkey broth to the bottom of the pan. I turned down the heat to 400F. After 90 minutes, I checked the temperature and was surprised to discover that the leg meat was already 154F, and the breast meat 158F! I didn't tent the bird, fearing it would become overcooked.

The turkey was not dried out at all, though I think I should have pulled it 5 minutes earlier. It was a rich golden-brown all over, and elicited admiration all around for the evenness of color.

We all agreed that the flavor was appreciably superior to that of the standard turkey: somehow less metallic, but more concentrated. I wouldn't say the meat was tougher, but the texture was more compact. Most of us prefer the thighs, so the left-overs consisted of some breast meat and drumsticks.

All told, I'd say it was worth the $2.99/lb that my butcher charged. Next time, I shall try brining the bird, and massaging it with butter before roasting it--vertically--for 85 minutes.

Again, thank you, Chowhounds for your invaluable advice!

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  1. Thanks for your informative post.

    I'm glad you liked the Elegant Yam Casserole. One guest claimed it the best dish of the evening (it's the easiest too--go figure!)

    1. Thanks for reporting back, Pia! Sounds like a winner. The texture and flavor that you describe reminds me of the Zuni chicken...strong chickeny flavor and compact texture. Heritage bird at $2.99/lb. sounds relatively reasonable.

      After reading some of the T-giving debriefing posts, sounds like the theme was that these turkeys cook much more quickly than we always think (esp. when high heat is applied)!