Turkey, chicken

Modest, in'nit?

turkey slices with homemade cranberry jam

Every time I cook a turkey I think, "If the idea is to cook a big bird, why don't you just cook an ostrich, you loon, or an emu or California condor? Why hold back? Why not go all Flinstone and cook a pterodactyl since size seems to be the whole point. I mean honestly, it's ridiculous. Then I have this gigantic carcass and bird bits to deal with. I'd rather cook a bunch of chickens instead. More manageable, more fun.

Two things: Brining and compound butter placed under the skin. Kitchen gloves. You really do not want raw chicken subcutaneous fat shoved under your fingernails. The very thought gives me the creeps.

Let's get some good birds while we're at it. It is a holiday, after all. Some worm eat'n, seed peck'n, no steroid have'n or antibiotic take'n, walk around a little bit and exercise do'n, get'n down in the farmhouse birds. At least that's how I'm imagining it.

Chickens are fundamentally radical. As pets, they're actually rather horrible. Once they discover how fantastic eggs are, there's no stopping them going after each others' eggs. At that point the only thing left to do other than segregate and confine them is slaughter them.

Oh! Oh! Oh! I just found a new thing online that I'm going to try a little later. A place in the US where they're raising the rouge label birds from France. You know how seriously they take these things over there. They totally put us to shame with their obsession for quality, generally speaking of course, sometimes they slum it too. Here it is, Joyce Foods. I think I'll go for the Poulet Rouge Fermier because I prefer slightly older birds for roasting --- more flavor IMO. I can't wait to try this. What am I waiting for? Uh. I do not know. I suppose I'm waiting to finish eating these things here.

Finished Diestel turkey
Diesel turkey brined and baked

Finished Bell & Evans chicken 3.5 LBS
Bell & Evans chicken brined and baked

I did a terrible job pushing the butter around under the skin. I'm not at all good at that. I tend to just leave it in lumps. Maybe softer butter is the way to go. You're supposed to get at the legs too but my fingers break through the skin. I'm a klutz.

Diestel turkey. Quite small for a turkey, 8.8 LBS.

Diesel turkey in package, Bell and Evans chicken, Thanksgiving, compound butter

Bell & Evans chicken 3.5 LBS.

Bell and Evans chicken, Thanksgiving, compound butter

Brining liquid started on stove to dissolve the salt and sugar. 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup sugar, peppercorns, fennel seed, hey, it's what I had. Supplemented with ice and water to cover birds. Covered, put out on the balcony.

Brining liquid started on stove

Brining turkey and chicken in a bucket.

brining in a bucket Diesel turkey, Bell and Evans chicken, Thanksgiving, compound butter

Butter and herbs. Sage, chive, rosemary (because who doesn't want the woodsy flavor of pine tree to go with their turkey and chicken? Euell Gibbons approves), thyme.

butter and herbs Diesel turkey, Bell and Evans chicken, Thanksgiving, compound butter

Compound butter

compound butter Diesel turkey, Bell and Evans chicken, Thanksgiving, compound butter

Birds in baking bags (I just cleaned the oven and I don't have casseroles large enough for both birds. Because the turkey is small for a turkey, I could fit both in the same bag, after sealing the bag it occurred to me they'd cook at different times. Duh. So I opened it up and put the chicken in its own bag. These bags are almost as good as my favorite clear casserole dishes, which through a series of inept moves resulted in my no longer owning them, but at one time I had four and I did use all four at once to cook chickens simultaneously. I like them because you could see what was going on and they were like little ovens within the oven. These bags come close to that. But I do yearn for those halcyon days of yore when I had four clear casserole dishes, and I just may step out to the dollar store and rectify this situation.

Birds in baker bagsDiesel turkey, Bell and Evans chicken, Thanksgiving, compound butter

Result: The chicken was a lot better than the turkey. No contest. The brining worked much better on the chicken. There was more meat by weight on the turkey, obviously, but it was altogether a weaker bird than the chicken. In fact, the chicken came darn close to having as much meat. Pulling them both apart, one right after the other, I much prefer the chicken. This proves to me once again that turkeys are little more than a cruel hoax perpetrated upon an unsuspecting public and the animal kingdom. If cost means anything, I could have bought three excellent chickens for what I paid for one scrawny supposedly up-scale turkey. (My housekeeper said she bought a much heavier turkey for less than I paid for the chicken, but she wasn't doing an experiment). The turkey meat pictured plated above (first photo) was overcooked, dry and unpleasant to eat. Bleh. I erred. Although twice as large as the chicken, I should not have cooked it longer. The chicken meat was perfect, plump, and delicious. I'm soaking the pulled meat of both in the oily liquid released by the birds during cooking in the hope the turkey meat can reabsorb some of it and possibly be salvaged. I would be ashamed to serve the turkey to guests, but well-pleased to serve the chicken.

Conclusion: upscale turkeys are not what they're cracked up to be. Forget about them. If you simply must cook a giant bird, get one on sale, and forget about all that other what-white-people-like crap. Even brining and compound butter cannot elevate them. That has been my experience, anyway. Also, I'm not going to do this again until I get a decent roaster that completely encloses the bird, one to fit a turkey and possibly two or three chickens at once. But now for the good part, what I'm really in this for is to render the carcass to stock. That should make this all worth while.


p.t. fogger said...

Oh man, that Joyce Foods link has got me scheming, and hungry.

As long as you're sending out for foods all the way over on this side of the country, check out


I've had bacon and a boston butt from this farm, and they were wonderful. Fully fatted, old fashioned swine. I mean, it was more like "the other red meat".

Full disclosure: I have a passing acquaintance with the owner / operator, & he's a super guy.

Chip Ahoy said...

Eeeeew, p.t., I looked at your link. I almost bought the prosiutto on the spot. That's one thing I've been unsatisfied with buying in miniscule amounts. Can you imagine $240.00 for a 20 LB ham?

The Boston butt is the shoulder roast? That's more manageable. I use that for green chili.

Thank you for the link, I bookmarked the site.

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