If you’ve followed the blog then you have likely followed the soap opera that is our turkey raising. We scored a tom (Turk) and a hen (JD) in the spring of 2013 from our pal Janee of High Mill Park Farm.
Sadly Turk passed away last fall so we traveled down to Athens in the spring of 2014 to find a companion for JD. We came home with Buford T. Justice and they became fast friends. Janee later gave me two more Blue Slate hens just for fun so with three hens and a tom we were able to hatch some poults.
We hatched 13 poults throughout April and May but unfortunately a sickness ran rampant through our little flock of turkey poults and only 4 survived – two hens and two toms. We spent all summer and fall moving our homemade, tarped PVC turkey tractor around the yard.
It paid off. In spades.
We spend Thanksgiving with Mike’s family and his aunt was already planning on a traditional roast turkey so I wanted to do something different. I did a lot of research and finally settled on Mark Bittman’s Basic Braised Turkey recipe.
First things first, turkey stock. Good stock takes time so I wanted this done well in advance. I snagged two turkey drumsticks and two wings from Difeo’s and made my stock in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.
Mike butchered Tom 1 Wednesday morning. Tom 1 led a good life and in death he gave us a culinary treasure the likes of which I have never experienced before. Thank you Tom 1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Wednesday night I prepped all my veggies. I diced two onions, three large leeks, and 2lbs of carrots (thank you Birdsong Farm) along with 2lbs of parsnips (thank you Breezy Hill Farm), and a bunch of celery.
Thursday morning (Thanksgiving) we put the coffee on and got started early.
Mike broke down Tom 1 while I reheated my stock and got started with the pork and veggies.
I sauteed some chopped prosciutto and a pound of Breakneck Acres‘ country sausage.
Once my pork was nice and brown I dumped it into the roasting pan and got started with the veg. I had to brown my veggies in batches since there was so much veg and so little stove top. On the last batch of veg I threw in a pound of chanterelles Mike foraged this summer. (We dry sauteed them and froze several pounds for later use).
And I simultaneously seared off my turkey cuts in olive oil.
All of the veggies and pork went into my giant roasting pan and i nestled the thighs, drumsticks, and wings down into that goodness. I ladled in turkey stock until it came about halfway up the thighs.
This went into a 300 degree oven for about an hour and 45 minutes. The breasts just hung out on the counter while the dark meat braised.
Once the dark meat was tender I laid the seared breasts on top of everything and roasted them until they hit 155F – about 45 minutes.
Look at this. Just look at it! This was a culinary achievement. I choked back tears of pride when I pulled this pan from the oven. And Mike said, “Holy shit that looks good.”
I let the breasts rest on a plate and I chopped and pulled all the meat from the thighs and drumsticks. I spooned a lot of veg & juice into a serving dish and mixed the dark meat right in. I spooned more veg into another serving dish and placed the sliced breast on top.
(Note, this is only one breast. I saved the other for us to enjoy post holiday.)
I don’t mean to toot my own horn here but I can honestly say that this was the best turkey I have ever eaten. Hands down. No question. It was so freakin’ delicious.
I think that Mike’s family agreed and we didn’t take too much home with us – mostly just veggies. Friday I took the leftover veggies and juice and mixed them with cubed white bread that I left on the counter overnight to make stuffing. It was awesome. I also did mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted turnips, and turkey sandwiches.
Oh my goodness. The sandwiches! Mike said, “This is like lunch meat but like a thousand times better!”
Another source of pride, this was almost an entirely local turkey dinner. Aside from the wings and drumsticks I used for stock, the prosciutto, and the celery everything else was local. We raised our turkey and Mike foraged the chanterelle mushrooms. The carrots, onions, leeks, and potatoes were grown by my friend Matt of Birdsong Farm. The turnips and parsnips were grown by my friend Phil of Breezy Hill Farm. And that delicious country sausage was from pigs raised by my pal Ami at Breakneck Acres.
I am thankful for my farmer friends. I am thankful that I was able to share this turkey with the ones I love. I am thankful for Mike and Ellie. I am thankful to be alive.
Happy Thanksgiving (a little late).