As we prepare for Thanksgiving, that question may be on many people’s minds. Kim Severson, writing in today’s NY Times about a dispute with other food writers (and the ensuing cook-off she won hands down), comes down solidly on the side of “After the Bird, Everything Else Is Secondary.”
From turkey comes stock, the flavor-giving fluid that pumps through the entire meal. Good gravy depends on good stock. So does stuffing (more on our stuffing fight in a moment). Delicious turkey does not come from a 29-cent-a-pound supermarket bird with cottony, bland breast meat. They are, as my favorite turkey breeder says, the Red Delicious apples of turkeys.
A bird that has been bred to reproduce naturally and thrive in the open develops tastier meat. I’ve eaten dozens of both, and I will swear to that basic truth on my favorite turkey platter.
There is a catch. Growing a great turkey takes time and serving one costs money. But if you can afford it, it’s the way to go.
The turkeys from Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Va., spend their days on pasture and get organic feed. Much attention has been paid to their husbandry. They are certified by the Humane Farm Animal Care program. True, they start at
$125. But frankly, no expense was too great in proving Moskin wrong.
It’s hard to think of a more fitting tribute to heritage breed turkeys, or a better explanation for why we continue to raise them — even though the baby poults cost twice as much and reach a finished weight of less than half of what their broad breasted supermarket cousins can get to.
The piece goes on to give some excellent tips for cooking a heritage turkey. If you plan to get one, this article would be a good “clip and save.” But hopefully you’ve already reserved yourself a turkey; most small producers sell out far in advance of Thanksgiving. And hopefully you’ll be able to pay less than the $125 that Severson had to come up with.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, for a whole host of reasons. To say that I’m looking forward to feasting on one of our Blue Slate tom turkeys later this month would be a gross understatement.