Today I drove to Tara Firma Farms, in Petaluma, to retrieve our turkey for Thanksgiving. In true Bay Area fashion, this turkey is local, sustainable, organic, blah blah blah. It's also huge.
A couple years ago we got a goose from our meat CSA. Tackling this beast was more than a basic act of butchery; it was more like an autopsy. An alien autopsy. The wingspan of this critter rivaled my own, and the ribs and backbones had peculiar, Geiger-esque buttress structure to them. I figured that if I could conquer the goose, I could take on any bird.
For our turkey, we decided on sort of a mashup of Julia Child and Judy Rodgers. dpaul wanted to break down the bird à la Julia, cutting away and deboning the legs, which will be stuffed. The breast will remain on the cage and roasted over the stuffing. I wanted to incorporate Judy Rodgers' technique of salting and air-drying the breast for crisper, browner skin. But to make all this happen, we would need to break down the bird.
When the bird was presented to me in a large cardboard box, I had my first glimmer of doubt that this would be a lark. At nearly 21 pounds, this bird resembled a small child more than something that would end up on the dinner plate.
Though we figured butchering the turkey would take us maybe 20 or 30 minutes, it turned into an ordeal involving both of us, multiple knives, a hammer, kitchen shears (that never really accomplished anything) and a solid hour of our time. The bird fought valiantly, but in the end, we prevailed. The cage and deboned legs are air-drying in the fridge, and stock is simmering in the slow cooker. The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun.