Turkey terminology

I called my local upscale market the other day to order my Thanksgiving turkey. The “holiday desk” confronted me with an array of choices: cooked or uncooked; then fresh, frozen, frozen organic, frozen kosher. I stopped her at that point. We didn’t even get to heirloom turkey or  – I hate to name the abomination – tofurky. Most people cook a whole turkey only once or twice a year, so I guess turkey producers are specializing. It used to be you hauled a frozen Butterball into your supermarket cart for 25 cents a pound (loss leaders to get you in the store to buy all the other holiday accouterments) and never gave it another thought.

Preparing Dressing

At the Association of Food Journalists conference I attended recently in New Orleans, I sampled a Creole-style Thanksgiving dinner. Besides learning that the Louisiana Thanksgiving table always includes gumbo to start the meal and that the deep-fried turkey phenomenon is strictly a Cajun thing, I tasted the best roasted turkey I’ve ever eaten. Why was it so good? The chef had rubbed a pound of butter into the bird.

Well, duh.

The chefs cooking for us that day included Frank Brigtsen of the classic New Orleans

restaurant Brigtsen’s. He said that he also cooks the turkey in two stages: at 500 degrees for a brief period of time, then at 325 for the rest of the cooking time, which he said was 15 to 20 minutes per pound. He also prepared a mirliton-shrimp dressing that is really different from the dressings you see around here. Mirliton is a squash that’s extremely popular in Louisiana. It’s also called chayote, which means you can find it here in the Hispanic section of the produce aisle or at Hispanic markets. Interested? Ask and I can dig up the recipe.


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