Author: Luisa Perkins
•7:23 PM
Here's how it happened:

I told Josh, our butcher, back in October that I wanted to be on his list for one of his organic, free-range turkeys, as we have been for the past two years. He took down my name and told me to call to follow up with him in a few weeks.

Josh gets many of his turkeys from 4-H kids. These birds live in the lap of luxury, and are hand fed and given individual attention by devoted (and cash-motivated) children. When the turkeys' numbers are up in late November every year, they are killed quickly and humanely, and Josh takes over from there.

When Hope and I arrived in Kingston for our pick-up, Josh asked me what size bird I wanted; I replied that I was flexible. I needed to feed twenty people and still have ample leftovers, and James really wanted to try a recipe we'd made in our cooking class: a butterflied, stuffed, and bacon-wrapped turkey breast. I was thinking that we'd do a 'smaller' (i.e., 15-pounds or so) turkey and get a large breast as well.

He told me that he had a few smaller turkeys, but no turkey breasts; those had all been snapped up already. He did, however, tell me that he had a couple of larger birds left. I asked, "What, twenty pounds or so?" He laughed and said, "How about thirty-seven?"

After the initial drop of my jaw, I thought quickly. A turkey that size would certainly give us plenty of leftovers--and give us a breast big enough for our new recipe. "Can you cut it up for me?" I asked. "Because no turkey the size of your average four-year-old is going to fit in either one of my ovens."

"Absolutely," he answered, and got right to it. He cut both legs off, then boned both sides of the breast. While we were waiting, Hope and I chose some cheeses and got some other meat to put in the freezer. We lugged our haul out to the car and got moving. Once home, we roasted the carcass for stock and brined the four pieces: both legs and the breasts. Having the turkey cut up made brining infinitely easier; all four sections fit easily in our small cooler.

On Thanksgiving Day, I roasted one leg on a rack early in the morning. I put the other leg and one breast on a rack over a pan full of stuffing and got that going. This was great, since the dark meat cooks faster than the white meat; once the leg was done, I took it out and let the breast keep going.

James and I got busy with the second breast. We skinned it, then butterflied so that the meat was one inch thick. This translated into a rectangle about two feet long! We spread it with a cornbread-sausage stuffing, then rolled it, draped it with bacon, and tied it up.

We had a fabulous meal. The turkey was all delicious--tender, flavorful, and moist--but the bacon-wrapped breast was scrumptious. Also, I can't endorse brining emphatically enough. We've been brining our turkeys for about 10 years now, and I will never go back. For the best directions on the process, visit Cook's Illustrated online; a subscription to this peerless magazine is worth it for their comprehensive Turkey 101 Guide alone.

What's on tap for Christmas Eve? We'll see; Josh put us down for either a goose or a brace of ducks, if available. And if no 4-H kid comes through for us in December, we'll settle for a beef tenderloin.
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On 30/11/08 , Julie Wright said...

Brining your turkey? Brilliant! My husband hates turkey but maybe if I try something like that he'll change his tune!

On 30/11/08 , Annette Lyon said...

I bow to your culinary greatness. I didn't understand half of what you said, but it sounds delicious.

On 1/12/08 , Josi said...

That is so dang inspiring! I hate turkey, but I love to cook so it kinda cancels itself out. I did a turkey this year in the roaster oven, breast side down with a basil/garlic rub I got off a friends blog. We slowclooked it for 16 hours and everyone said it was great. I still prefer the ham. Way to go. I might have to get cooks illustrated--my sister and mom both rave and now you're adding to it's praises.

On 1/12/08 , poodlegoose said...

Bacon wrapped turkey? *drool* That looks amazing.

On 1/12/08 , Karen said...

Bacon. Yum.

On 1/12/08 , Jenna Consolo said...

37 pounds!?! Good night!

It looks amazing, though. James is going to make one lucky woman very happy someday!

On 1/12/08 , Heidi Ashworth said...

I am so impressed!

On 1/12/08 , Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Well, you know what happened to ours... wish I'd called you or something.

Leave it to Luisa!

On 2/12/08 , Kimberly said...

Turkey isn't my favourite dish but oh my, does that ever sound scrumptious!