There is More to Turkey Than Roasting it for Thanksgiving

I have to confess that I do not have the proper respect for Thanksgiving.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that food-centric holiday. It’s just that – not having grown with it – I am not enough imbued with its traditions, and I am trying to make it… well… gasp! too… French. You see, many of the French holidays end up being a celebration of food, but in the US, only Thanksgiving – distantly followed by Christmas – really gets the family around the table.


When I cook the Thanksgiving dinner, I always end up with multiple courses served not all at once but in succession – to stretch the fun of eating and the dinner. That’s a no-no: Thanksgiving is meant to have many many dishes all served at once (except desserts). Thanksgiving means that the table is groaning under the sheer quantity of the dishes.

Deep down, something in me refuses to serve it all at once.

In addition, many dishes are also rather sweet for my taste, so I will do things like omit the marshmallows from the sweet potatoes, try to sneak fresh lettuce greens in there (but forget the green beans because they aren’t locally fresh at the moment), make really tart cranberry sauce (actually I don’t really care for cranberry sauce, so I am likely to make cranberry sorbet instead). So you see, really not proper Thanksgiving food etiquette.

I am happy however to sit at someone else table that groans under the weight of dishes. And partake of everything. Possibly twice (three times for pecan pie).

So, I am always glad to score an invite for Thanksgiving. Oh, I’ll contribute my share; this year we’ll bring fresh homemade bread, a huge mixed green salad from the garden (I CAN’T help it – it will have things like sorrel, spinach, arugula, dill, mache, escarole, endives, cutting celery, and several kinds of lettuces), a Swiss chard gratin (using Swiss chard from the garden, eggs from our hens and local cream) and roasted sweet potatoes (also from the garden, possibly with a little maple syrup but more likely sage butter.) Maybe some home-made ice-cream: buttermilk would go well with pumpkin or apple pie that somebody else is bound to bring. Or by itself. You see the locavore in me persists in thinking that I ought to be thankful for the food that’s abundant and in season in my area… or in my garden, not necessarily the “standard” fare.

What does all of that have to with a turkey, you ask (rightly)?

Well, I still order my pastured turkey even though I won’t roast if for Thanksgiving. This year, my large medium bird (23 pounds!) was picked up on Saturday afternoon with the injunction to let it rest 24 hours in the fridge before doing anything with it, since it had just been slaughtered On Sunday night, I cut it up. I freeze the cut up turkey to be used later, because I do like turkey. Just not necessarily roasted with cranberry sauce.

I cut off the wing tips, and along with part of the carcass, they immediately go into the crockpot with a leek, a carrot and a handful of herbs. In the morning, I’ve got rich fragrant turkey broth – a wonderful base for home-made soup.

I cut off the wings and the legs. Each is wrapped up separately, labeled and frozen. The legs might be cooked whole, or- more likely – deboned at a later time, stuffed and rolled into a “ballotine de dinde”, a stuffed turkey roll. The breast I left whole this year (8.5 lb), bone-in (last year I halved it) – because I might just do a roasted turkey breast for a dinner party this winter with roasted parsnips, sweet potatoes & chestnuts. Or I might make escalopes (scallopini) of turkey with some of it, and still have plenty for roasting. I mean, one breast is still over 4 pounds of meat – more than a big chicken yields!

A little time with the knife on the carcass yielded enough meat – about a pound and half – for several meals of stir-fry (we had turkey fajitas for lunch). The liver, I’ll saut√© later in the week and finish with a little balsamic vinegar to eat on toast with a green salad (I’ll eat it, Keith will have turkey tenderloin on that day). The heart, gizzard & neck were frozen together for one of those days were I am alone and want a slow simmer treat. There is a lot of meat on a turkey neck, you know…

So, voila, I have my turkey, and I’ll eat it too on Thursday. And throughout the winter in many delicious dishes. It’s a lot more tasty and flexible than roasting a whole turkey and freezing the left overs.

I am just saying…

2 thoughts on “There is More to Turkey Than Roasting it for Thanksgiving”

  • Oh Sylvie I hear you. I used to do the course-after-course thing because it is a bit much, all those buffet tables lined with foodfoodfood. AND: you brought up the biggest downer thing for me: too much overcooked food! I just crave a crudite about 1/3 of the way through a meal. More salad, please…

    I have no idea how much our turkey will weigh: his big day comes tomorrow morning. But indeed what you did with yours makes a lot more sense.

  • Hi Sylvie, hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Serving multiple “courses” makes a lot of sense for someone like me with a small kitchen and a small table! I also like the idea of sharing the season’s bounty, but not stuffing oneself into oblivion…that’s gluttony, not thankfulness, in my view. There’s just one problem with cutting up the turkey as you do…i really don’t like handling all that raw icky meat! I’d much rather roast the bird whole and then cut it up and freeze it for later use. I use the giblets and neck to make stock to moisten the stuffing, form the base of the gravy, and if there’s anything left, to begin turkey soup made from the carcass and trimmings. The liver gets sauteed and shared by me and my four closest feline friends *g*.

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