“Dale’s benediction at last launched and growing ever smaller in the stratosphere, we unlinked our sweaty hands, and there settled ineluctably into the center of my vision the turkey to be carved. Oh, those diabolically elusive, bloody and tenacious second joints! And the golden glazed skin that proves tougher than strapping tape! Esther, compared with Lillian, does a dry turkey, and you can slice the breast only so thin before crumbs and shredding compromise the slice.”
John Updike, from Roger’s Version
HOW TO CARVE A TURKEY
Jacques Pepin, in his large square tome titled Jacques Pepin: New CompleteTechniques, offers the following instructions for decoupage de la dinde:
1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Truss the turkey. Rub with salt, pepper and ½ stick soft butter. Place in a roasting pan and bake. A small, 10 pound turkey will take 2-1/4 hours. Baste every 20 minutes after the first hour. Ten minutes before the baking time is over, add 1 cup hot water or stock to the pan to create a natural gravy. Place the turkey on a large platter. Insert a kitchen fork into the leg. Cut the skin all around the leg.
2. Pull off the leg, holding the turkey steady with the knife.
3. Place the leg on a plate and separate the thigh from the drumstick at the joint.
4. Slice the thigh around the bone.
5. Slice the drumstick, arranging the dark meat on a hot plate. (Slicing the drumstick would be heresy to any small child who has fought siblings for it. To wit….)
6. With a long, thin knife, cut the breast. straight down into very thin slices. Hold the turkey with the fork while cutting.
7. Arrange the slices on a hot plate.
8. Separate the wing at the joint.
9. Remove the dark and white meat from one side of the turkey and place it on the platter. Repeat entire process with the other side of the turkey and serve with the natural gravy.”
PLAN OF ATTACK
THE WEEK BEFORE
o Make a shopping list and identify any ingredients that may be hard to find. Track these items down early or, if they aren’t available, make substitutions or menu changes. Buy turkey brining bags (Williams Sonoma is a likely source).
o Inventory your cooking equipment against the menu and make sure you have what you need to prepare each dish. Check your linens, china and flatware and clean anything that needs it. Decide which serving pieces you will use for each dish. Buy cocktail napkins and candles. Make place cards.
o Order flowers from your florist if necessary. Buy liquor and wines.
o Order turkey to be picked up the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. You want a fresh-killed, never frozen bird (resist the temptation to avoid crowds by picking it up earlier – storage in most home refrigerators is a problem).
o Order any baked goods – pies, rolls, etc. – that you plan to purchase, not bake yourself. If the bakery is open Thanksgiving morning, and you can assign a helper to pick up your order, do that. Otherwise, pick up on Wednesday.
o Clean out your refrigerator to make room for all of the comestibles to come.
o Buy ingredients and make German style mustard. Store refrigerated.
FOUR DAYS AHEAD (Sunday)
o Buy the ingredients for the roasted turkey stock. Prepare and store, refrigerated.
THREE DAYS AHEAD (Monday)
0 Buy the ingredients for the applesauce. Prepare and store, refrigerated.
o Buy the ingredients for the turkey brine. Prepare and chill overnight.
o Buy all the remaining non-perishable ingredients on the shopping list.
TWO DAYS AHEAD (Tuesday)
o Pick up turkey.
o Buy all the perishable items on shopping list.
o Make beet and fennel soup and store, refrigerated.
o Make the breadsticks, and store in a resealable plastic bag at room
o Make the apple kuchen and store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.
o Set the table.
ONE DAY AHEAD (Wednesday)
o Brine the turkey.
o Make the stuffing.
o Make the trout mousse.
o Make the grune sosse for the bratwursts.
o Bake the pumpkin pie (if you are making it) or pick it up if your bakery is closed Thanksgiving morning.
THANKSGIVING DAY (Thursday)
o Pick up pie if the bakery is open.
o Stuff and roast turkey and dressing.
o Grill the brats and arrange them on a platter. Place the grune sosse and mustard in small bowls on the side.
o Make the gravy.
o Make the Brussels sprouts.
o Make the mashed potatoes.
o Make the sweet potatoes.