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Robin Garr

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RCP /FoodLetter: Turkey for two

by Robin Garr » Thu Nov 23, 2006 1:34 pm

Turkey for two

The last time I invoked the humorist Dorothy Parker's memorable quote about eternity being "two people and a ham," I suggested that she could have been talking about corned beef. Now that I think about it again, on a sunny Thanksgiving Day morning, it occurs to me that she really meant to say something about turkey.

Let's face it, unless you're entertaining an extended family or your local Rotary Club, a whole turkey is simply too much to use up in a reasonable period, no matter how much you like leftovers.

Even a whole turkey breast, the obvious alternative, still makes an awful lot of leftovers, and who wants all that bland and boring white meat anyway? We're dark-meat fanciers here, tilting strongly toward the deep, earthy and slightly gamey flavors of poultry legs and thighs.

Here, as my quick Thanksgiving morning gift to all the couples and singles out there, is a modest proposal that turns the once-a-year turkey feast into a doable alternative for just about any time: Turkey <i>thighs</i>, bone-in and skin on, make a tasty and affordable alternative to a whole bird, and the basic preparation is so ridiculously simple that you can get it on the table in an hour and a half, most of that time spent casually waiting for the oven to do its work.

Roasting turkey thighs fill the house with just as much of that delicious holiday aroma as the whole bird, the meat is just as juicy and the skin just as crispy and addictive. You can take your choice between serving it with all the traditional trimmings or - my preference - simply forget the dressing and cranberry sauce and treat it as just another hearty meat option.

Cut-up turkey thighs usually come one or two to a package, and a single thigh makes a very generous portion for one or a dainty portion for two, with plenty of meat and bone left over for turkey soup. (I strongly prefer free-range, natural thighs - almost always available at Whole Foods and similar stores - to industrial alternatives. You'll pay a little more, but it's still affordable, and the flavor difference is worth the toll.)

Here's the basic procedure. If you can find a grocery store open in your neighborhood on Thanksgiving Day, you've still got ample time left to have it for dinner tonight.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

2 whole turkey thighs, bone in and skin on
3 or 4 garlic cloves
Olive oil (optional, see below)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

PROCEDURE:

1. Preheat your oven to 350F (175C).

2. Rinse the turkey thighs and put them in a large nonstick or black-iron skillet, skin side down. Turn on high heat and cook them, shaking the pan occasionally, until they start to sizzle and pop. They'll probably give off all the fat you need to brown them, but if not, add a small amount of olive oil.

3. Turn down the flame slightly to medium-high, throw in a few smashed garlic cloves, and continue cooking, turning occasionally, until the thighs are well browned on both sides, 10 minutes or so.

4. Season the thighs generously with salt and pepper and put them in a shallow roasting pan, skin-side down, and roast them in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Turn them skin-side up, increase heat to 400F (200C), and roast for another 15 to 30 minutes or until the skin is crisp and golden-brown and the meat tender. If you want more precision, check for 160F (70C) with an instant-read thermometer.

You can serve them whole, caveman-style, or make a more attractive presentation by carving each leg into thick slices with a little crisp skin on each, saving the bone and scraps for soup.

<B>MATCHING WINE:</b>
All the various wines we've been discussing recently as Thanksgiving dinner matches should work fine with roast turkey thighs - Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gamay (Beaujolais) or bubbly, with a slight preference for the reds with this dark, rich meat. It was a real treat with the offbeat Gamay-based sparkling Raphaël Bartucci NV Bugey Cerdon featured in last Friday's <i>30 Second Wine Advisor</i>.
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Cynthia Wenslow

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Turkey for two

by Cynthia Wenslow » Thu Nov 23, 2006 2:16 pm

This is exactly what I used to do when I was young and poor and sharing a really tiny apartment with a pseudo-kitchen in Los Angeles with one of my brothers. It worked quite well to ease that holiday homesickness.

Now that I am middle aged (and poor) but with more freezer space, I will make an 8 pound or so turkey and freeze various things made from the leftovers to just pull out some night when I don't get home from work until even later than usual.
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Jenise

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Turkey for two

by Jenise » Thu Nov 23, 2006 2:34 pm

I'm with you, Cynthia, I love the leftovers. I'm a mono-grazer, especially at breakfast, and will pick at leftovers daily until they're gone. I'm doing a 13 lb turkey today for 7--should be just right, leftoverwise.

Robin--why the change in oven temperature? Why not just go with 400 the whole time and cut back on the time on the first 'leg', pardon my pun, of the roasting or cook it longer at 350?
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Robin Garr

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Turkey for two

by Robin Garr » Thu Nov 23, 2006 3:00 pm

Jenise wrote:Robin--why the change in oven temperature? Why not just go with 400 the whole time and cut back on the time on the first 'leg', pardon my pun, of the roasting or cook it longer at 350?


To be honest, I did not do a <I>Cooks Illustrated</I> thingie here of cooking dozens of turkey legs and comparing the outcome. :)

I've done it this way intuitively a couple of times, though, and my thinking has been that the lower temp cooks the meat gently for the first half hour, keeping the meat juicy and tender. I find in general that turkey, like tougher cuts of meat, seems to benefit from slower roasting rather than rushing at high heat. But then, when I flip them skin side up, I raise the heat for the end of cooking to crisp the skin and make it crackly. It seems to work, so I just wrote down what I did.

As always with these FoodLetters, though, I love it when folks try variations and report how it came out.
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Turkey for two

by Jenise » Thu Nov 23, 2006 3:15 pm

Fair enough! Wasn't trying to put you on the spot. It just wasn't immediately clear to me why you'd go low-high.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Turkey for two

by Robin Garr » Thu Nov 23, 2006 3:23 pm

Jenise wrote:Fair enough! Wasn't trying to put you on the spot. It just wasn't immediately clear to me why you'd go low-high.


I didn't think you were! Trying to put me on the spot, I mean. :)

I do tend to do some cooking things intuitively, which is fine for cooking but not so good for writing recipes. When you ask, though, I can usually deconstruct my inspiration and figure out why I did it the way I did, even if I didn't realize it at the time. :twisted:
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Turkey for two

by Jenise » Thu Nov 23, 2006 4:22 pm

I do tend to do some cooking things intuitively


Yeah, and that's great. So much better than blindly following just-because you don't have an intuition to trust!

Say, you cooking today or going out?
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Turkey for two

by Robin Garr » Thu Nov 23, 2006 4:37 pm

Jenise wrote:Say, you cooking today or going out?


Oh, we're going out to a traditional T'giving dinner at friends' house today. No cooking going on here! With all the cooking and dining out I do, I'm always happy for a break. I'm sure I'll take some wine ...

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