27 May 2010

Organic Whole-Wheat Turkey

Posted by annmcolford

After flirting with summer-like warmth and sunshine, our weather has returned to the cool and damp in recent days. In fact, today is an honest-to-God rainy day—steady showers, some heavier than others, all day long so far. That’s a rarity here in the interior Northwest (even in spring), and I’m kinda liking it. Especially since I’ve been puttering around inside all day. Gotta head out soon to buy cat food (and take care of other essential duties), but for now I’m happy to sit inside and listen to the raindrops.

Knowing that the heat of summer will be here soon (despite recent evidence), I’ve been visiting my freezer and planning meals that sound mighty appealing on a cool, blustery day but wouldn’t tempt me at all when it’s hot. For instance, I finally thawed and roasted my thoroughly pampered free-range heritage turkey a couple of weeks ago, and it turned out to be one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever had. Unlike the standard supermarket turkey, these turkeys look like… turkeys. When I unwrapped it, I could envision the strutting, preening, pecking bird that it had been in life. If you’re not comfortable with the idea that the meat you’re eating was once alive, then this might be disturbing, but I drew comfort from knowing that my turkey had actually walked around the barnyard and hadn’t been shot full of broth and flavorings and God-knows-what.

After letting the bird thaw in the fridge for about a day and a half, I did very little preparation—some butter under the skin, a few garlic cloves in the cavity, vegetable oil and coarse salt on the outside—before roasting it in a slow oven (325, then down to 300 F), breast-side down until the final hour. I judged doneness more by internal temperature than time, but it took about five hours. (It was a 14-pound bird.) When I turned the bird over for its final hour of cooking, I wanted to baste it so it wouldn’t dry out. I rubbed a bit more butter over the outside, then searched the fridge for some leftover wine or something equivalent for basting. I had no open wine, however, so I settled on some long-opened sake, about a half-cup, I’d say.

Friends Ann W. and Cate joined me and brought along some honey-glazed carrots and a couple of bottles of wine. I sautéed some potatoes and onions in olive oil, and then I made gravy with the pan drippings. Even with the low oven temperature, the pan drippings were dark and heavily caramelized. The gravy turned out to be a rich, chestnut brown, nearly the color of dark chocolate (think mole sauce). I worried that it would tasted burned, but the sweetness reigned, and it was delicious.

(Even before wine, Cate took to calling it “soul gravy,” after first pronouncing it “heavenly.” She said, “It’s like all the souls in heaven, all mixed together, and turned into gravy.” To which Ann W. and I said, “Eww.” But Cate insisted that her description was a compliment. We remained dubious, but the name “soul gravy” stuck.)

After we finished the dinner, I thought back on all the steps that had made this meal possible and realized that we had achieved a perfect definition of “relationship food.” The turkey was raised by Cate and Ann W.’s friends Ed and Mary Katherine, who farm wheat, primarily, on the Waterville plateau in Central Washington. I purchased it directly from Ed, thanks to their connection. Because I don’t have a large freezer, Cate and Ann W. allowed me to store my bird in their freezer throughout the winter. Then we pitched in together to make and share a meal. The creation of this meal depended on the relationships involved.

Soul Gravy Soup, near the end

And it goes further. A couple of days later, I disassembled the rest of the bird and made stock. Using some of the stock, and much of the leftover gravy, I made Soul Gravy Soup (TM)—turkey meat, the leftover potatoes-onions mixture and the leftover carrots, along with a couple of additional carrots, a yam, and a handful of green beans.

Cracked-wheat bread

I baked a loaf of cracked-wheat bread, and our friends Doug and Missy came over, along with Cate and Ann W. again, for another feast. I froze the rest of the stock, gravy and turkey meat, and made another smaller batch of soup just a few days ago, sharing it with friends Dan and Linda. The web of relationships goes on.

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One Response to “Organic Whole-Wheat Turkey”

  1. We still have that other turkey in the freezer. Just sayin’


    MC Paul

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