Turkey trials: Perfecting a traditional holiday meal

STAFF PHOTO BY TAMMY MALGESINI Community editor Tammy Malgesini has simplified Thanksgiving dinner with layered turkey breasts.

If you’re stressing out about preparing a Thanksgiving turkey, I may be able to offer some tips.

I recently read that most people only roast whole turkeys once or twice a year. That doesn’t provide much of an opportunity for practice makes perfect.

I’m no expert. In fact, I can count how many whole turkeys I’ve made in my life on one hand. Actually, I can do it with a peace sign.

That’s right, I’ve thawed, stuffed and roasted a total of two turkeys in nearly 58 years. To maintain the tradition, I’m due to make another one in 2047.

Although I’ve only prepared two big birds, I have perfected the process of making a traditional Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkey and stuffing that tastes like it came right out of the bird.

But really, to stuff or not to stuff is a personal choice. Some people fear food poisoning due to bacteria from the bird’s cavity absorbing into the stuffing. The turkey isn’t some sort of decoration to be admired. Put the bird in the oven right after stuffing it. Problem solved.

Rather than a whole bird, I now purchase turkey breasts. This remedies the issue of wasted dark meat since John and I prefer white meat.

I used to prepare the stuffing in a casserole dish. While it was good, it lacked the unique moistness of stuffing that has baked inside a turkey.

To replicate the in-the-bird taste, I decided to layer the turkey with stuffing in between. I may not win any culinary prizes for attractive appearances, but the end result is mighty tasty. And, there are plenty of leftovers for turkey sandwiches, much to the delight of my husband.

However, layered turkey breasts eliminates the whole bird presentation and an opportunity to show off your carving prowess. I don’t view my food as dining room décor, so it’s all good. And, I have issues with knives.

I suppose if I wanted my food to be pretty, I could modify the technique to create a stuffed turkey roll. To do that, you butterfly the turkey breast, pound it out to an even thickness, top it with a layer of stuffing, roll it into a long cylinder, tie it with kitchen twine and then roast it. That just seems like too much effort.

Creating the layered turkey breasts has solved several problems:

•I don’t have to worry about trussing the turkey. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s like a cowboy roping a steer.

•The complicated process of carving a turkey. Jeffrey Elliot, who co-authored “Complete Book of Knife Skills,” offers 19 step-by-step instructions on the best way to carve a turkey. Seriously, 19!?!

•I no longer have to perform mathematical equations to figure out how long to allow for defrosting the bird. Not only is that headache avoided, the turkey doesn’t take up space in the refrigerator for days.

I love turkey. And, in the Malgesini household, turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving anymore. However, John will be preparing homemade Italian pizza on Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving!


Tammy Malgesini is the community editor. Her column, Inside my Shoes, includes general musings about life. Contact her at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4539.

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