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Can turkey ever be good?

Turkey is my least favorite meat, yet my friend (who I'm spending Christmas with) is adamant that we should have turkey.

If I go all out and get a non-intensively reared bird, what's the difference in taste and texture? I find turkey to be grey, dull and flavourless, even when cooked well.

Also there's just two of us, so a whole turkey is kind of insane.

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  1. I hated turkey when I lived in the US. In recent years I have been getting from my Paris butcher dinde fermier (farm turkey) from a Dordogne farm. It tastes so different that if the American turkey is turkey, then we should call this something else.
    This year we also tried a new recipe adapted from the classic Peking Duck recipe and using, among other things, maple syrup and a hair blow-dryer. :)
    It totally delivered, considering the apopreciative reaction from my guests that include some major cooks.
    I must say I prefer turkey leftovers, and what one can do with them - turkey rémoulade sandwich with homemade mayo, turkey congee… - to the classic "dinner turkey". But that's just I.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Yeah, I think it works better in a pie or something with a thick gravy/sauce.
      I'm in the UK here, but I'm thinking the turkey is probably a very similar intensively reared thing.

      1. re: Soop

        Two delicious things you can do with turkey--

        1) stew the legs and thighs--brown them well, add lots of chopped onions and carrots, red wine, slow braise--serve with kasha or bulgar

        3) make scaloppini with the breast--you can make saltimbocca (those little breaded and fried ham and cheese packets)

        Personally, I think the secret is to cut it up into pieces and make things you enjoy.

    2. I've found that free-range turkeys, especially heritage-breed birds (i.e. Bourbon Red. Narragansett, Slate) or even wild turkeys have much better flavor and texture than factory-farmed broad-breasted white commercial turkeys. The same is true for any poultry that I've tried. Free-range heritage chickens taste much closer to wild pheasant than any grocery store chicken. Exercise and a varied diet, as well as possibly slower growth make for much better eating fowl.

      1. I've had all kinds of turkeys from the factory farmed butterballs to heritage free range organic turkeys from specialist farms. I've had turkeys that were dry and flavorless and moist and juicy.

        Shrugs.

        I still don't care for turkey.

        The heritage turkeys are better and have more flavor but given the expense you might as well just skip the whole thing and have chicken.

        1. I'm with you, Soop.

          I find it boring, tasteless and, at Christmas, so very predicatable. And, because, we cooking for several family members we can go for the whole bird - free rangle or organic. They cost a fortune - perhaps £70. And, even, they're bland.

          I wouldnt have turkey in the house if it was up to me. But it's so embedded in the Xmas tradition that it just has to be done.

          I think you've got two ways forward as your friend is insistent. Just buy a whole bird - cheapest you can find, forget quality - be prepared to throw some out but also get some leftovers frozen away (say, as a curry).

          Other option is to buy one of the free range turkey breasts that are around. Marks & Spencer has a possibility (but you need to pre-order) - just under 2kg (so still big) at £32.50. That's what we're buying - but we're going to cut it in two and freeze one half for another time.

          Either way, just forget about really enjoying the turkey and concentrate on enjoying all the trimmings - always so much better.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            Wow, that's actually a great idea. If I make the sausagemeat stuffing I made last year, pigs in blankets, goosefat 'taters and some nice veggies, I barely even have to taste the turkey!

            This could be a winner.

            I wish she'd see the light though, we could have a rib of beef!

            Thanks as always Harters :D

          2. Look, if you don't like turkey, how it is raised or how it is cooked AIN'T gonna change that. It sounds like your friend is the host and you are the guest. If that's the case you'll do well to "shut up and eat," and SMILE! But if your status is co-host and you're a financial contributor to the festivities, then you can try for a compromise such as ADDING a nice baked ham to share the spotlight with the turkey. Be a happy Santa!!! '-)

            14 Replies
            1. re: Caroline1

              i do believe they're brits and turkey is THE traditional meat at christmas, and as such, much more etched in stone than some american meals may be.

              have had everything from cheap supermarket birds to heritage pastured. there is a distinct and superior difference in the latter. i usually host a small thanksgiving, so don't mind the expense. that being said, i also prefer the dark meat. if your birds are still looking like jayne mansfields the ratio of light to dark is all wrong. if i'm buying extra pieces, i always buy extra legs.

              are you two cooking together? have you thought about dry-brining the bird?

              http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/...

              lots of threads on here for it and it really improves both flavor and texture. it does take 3 days to brine and another day to air-dry before cooking, so plan ahead.

              you may also want to have your butcher spatchcock it, so it cooks more evenly and avoids overdone white meat.

              http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/11/ho...

              open a nice bottle and enjoy the day!

              1. re: Caroline1

                Soop, what about a turkey drumstick confit? I guarantee you'll get some serious flavour with that type of prep. With the breast you can bone it out, butterfly and tie into a roulade around the sausage meat you mentioned. Could be a knockout dinner, though a bit of extra work.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  @hotoynoodle, yeah we're in England, very traditional (but *somehow* only since around halfway through the last century. Before that, it was goose for hundreds of years, but somehow Bernard Matthews pulled off some legendary coup, and now everyone eats substandard verpriced turkey. Weird.)

                  @Caroline, Yeah, it's at her house (despite my protests) but I'm going to be helping out. I have traditions too dammit! I've been cooking the xmas dinner for years now and I always boss it! Sadly she refuses to even accept a two meat compromise.

                  @Sweatpea, your idea sounds AMAZING. I'm not afraid of a little effort in the kitchen, and that sounds like it's packed with flavour. I might even put a layer of mushroom paste in there.

                  1. re: Soop

                    Yeah, you're in for it! Damn Charles Dickens! My family (mother and her parents) were born in Jolly Olde, and came to this country when my mother was seven. Consequently, when I started school already knowing how to read and write, it was a royal pain failing spelling tests because I spelled "color" with an "o" in it!

                    That said.... An even OLDER and equally British tradition is the Christmas Goose! Deeeeeeeeeeee-licious! When my kids were growing up, for years I made traditional English (with maybe a touch of French haute cuisine thrown in) Christmas goose, with flaming Christmas pudding for dessert, and the whole nine yards. Even crackers! And nooooooooo... I'm NOT talking about a soda cracker at each place. I'm talking about the traditional Brit "cracker" which consists of a festively wrapped tube with a tail sticking out one side that sets off a bang (as in a cap gun) and the cracker has "Cracker Jack" style toys inside, along with a tissue paper hat that everyone wears at the table. FUN!!! So some crackers, for all of us Americans to learn about and enjoy, are not always crushed into soup! OR soop! '-)

                    Tell her you want a traditional Christmas goose!!!

                    Of course, this advice is absolutely useless if you don't like goose either! Jolly good luck, Old Chap! '-)

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      My brother in law and family lived in America for a while. The niece, then aged 11 or 12, had a miserable first few months at school over the different spellings.

                      By the by, she adopted a great trick of assuming a very decent American accent when talking in public. An accent she immediately dropped when she walked through the front door of the house.

                      1. re: Harters

                        Exactly what I went through, more or less the same age.
                        But I figured out how to win friends by helping others cheat at grammar tests.
                        If I casually rested one finger on my cheek: who.
                        Two fingers: whom.
                        Please share with her.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          Thanks, Harters and Parigi! And the problem is FAST becoming moot! There are school districts here in the United States that are planning to discontinue teaching cursive writing (handwriting) because it is falling into "disuse" by way of technology. I would totally fail a texting spelling test, I hate posts written in all small case with no punctuation. And I live in fear of the future, because here in the U.S., how in the hell are they going to teach civics if the students cannot READ the bloody Constitution for themselves! OR the Magna Carta! <sigh> Planet Earth: best spot in the Universe to observe raging insanity!

                          Where is Dr. Who when you need him????

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            The good Doctor is currently in limbo, Caroline. Although he is about to regenerate around Christmas. It'll be interesting to see if he retains the new actor's Scottish accent unlike his predecessor but one.

                            1. re: Harters

                              Which only shows to go: The future AND the past are wonky! '-)

                        2. re: Harters

                          Mastering an accent so you can blend in is a VERY useful trick! I think it was Jack Paar, host of the "Tonight" show on NBC before Johnny Carson took over (eons ago) who used to say something like, "You know, if you wake up an Englishman in the middle of the night, they talk JUST LIKE US!"

                          But then there's the slang barrier too. Way back in mid-60s London, the Brit/Cockney(?) expression for "Call me" (as in telephone) was "Knock me up." At the time a dear friend was newly arrived here in America and quite innocently used the phrase as a parting comment to acquaintances she would run into while out and about. umm... For anyone not familiar with what "knocked up" means in American slang, it means pregnant! "Cultural literacy" can be VERY tricky, even when we share the same language! '-)

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            I've had my "knocking up" issues on the Whats For Dinner thread. It's also a Brit phrase for a rough and ready creation - whether a piece of carpentry or food. So, I might take minced beef, onions, garlic and carrot and "knock up" a quick pasta sauce.

                        3. re: Caroline1

                          My English relatives still have roast goose for Christmas. It's fabulous, especially served with proper British potatoes roasted in goose fat. And I've had roast beef with other families on Christmas as well. So while turkey is the most common Christmas meat it's certainly not the only one out there.

                          1. re: Roland Parker

                            Goose fat is ace. It is even healthy.

                      2. re: Caroline1

                        I agree with Hotoynoodle. The heritage birds taste nothing like the factory raised birds. We had a heritage turkey leg and the flavor was closer to the best pork we had ever tasted. It was crisp on the outside and dark and moist inside. A real treat. I agree though as a guest, be happy and make a side dish you like to compliment the bird. Have fun and happy holidays!

                        JeremyEG
                        HomeCookLocavore.com