Turkey in June

About the only thing I really, really love about Christmas is Christmas dinner and/or lunch, complete with turkey (many Aussies have abandoned the full-on trad British Christmas dinner in favour of seafood/barbeques, but I have to have my turkey fix).   Mum usually has the butcher prepare a turkey buffe (or however that’s spelled – the boned turkey roll thingy) with my homemade apricot-walnut-apple stuffing. 

Aside from Christmas though, one rarely sees turkey on the supermarket shelves or butcher shops; it is very much a seasonal thing.  I don’t know why, given it is low in cholesterol and fat and high in bliss-making tryptophan (the chemical that many tranquilisers are based on).  I think the low supply (due to low demand, I’m sure) is because so many people have bad Christmas turkey experiences.  A whole turkey is a tricky beast to manage; properly cooked legs and thighs usually means dried out breast meat. 

Back in Belfast (where Tuxedo’s dad cooked Christmas dinner and oh my heavens, that turkey was the best thing ever … I drool still, just thinking about it) turkey pieces, breast and legs and wings, were readily available throughout the year at the local Tesco.  I’m not a fan of the breast meat, finding it just too dry no matter how it’s cooked, but the dark meat mmm mmmmm … in fact it was a turkey experience that converted me from white-meat-only lover to chowing down on every bit of thigh and leg I could snaffle.

Christmas 2001 … Tuxedo’s dad was cooking Christmas dinner and I volunteered to do the gravy.  Being gluten free the usual bread sauce was out of the question and I wasn’t letting Gravox touch my plate, thanks very much.  Also I am a gravy whore, I love the stuff; at Mum’s roast lamb dinners my plate is always swimming in the stuff.  So it had to be a good, rich, dark, and above all plentiful gravy.  I thought I might have to cook a whole birdie to get enough pan scrapings to make such a gravy (which I so did not want to do), but then at Tesco I saw turkey drumsticks the size of lamb legs.  PERFECT.

I cooked two, just as I would a lamb leg, with garlic and rosemary, and yes ended up with a fabulous amount of pan scrapings and a truly orgasmic gravy.  The moment of surprise however came when Tux and I, returning home late from partying on Christmas Eve, sloshed but stomach-gnawingly hungry, swooped on the cooled turkey legs and started picking at them.  Soon a very messy but absolutely divine feast was in progress, huge drumsticks held in fists a la Flintstones, used serviettes piling up by our sides, as we shredded and nibbled and devoured the luscious dark flesh.   The flavour was almost like lamb shanks, my favourite (and much fought-over) part of a lamb roast.  The meat came away in beautiful tender chunks, not at all dry, but moist and bursting with flavour.

Back in Perth, I noted the dearth of turkey.  At Christmas time I tried to order in legs from the butcher, but couldn’t!  Whole birds yes, rolled breast yes, but no limbs.  What did they do with all those limbs?  This question has so far eluded me but this year I will commence my detective work far in advance of Turkey Day.  So imagine my surprise when last week I spotted turkey drums (admittedly very small ones) on the poultry shelf at Coles!  Oh frabjous day!  I grabbed them and returned home to Tuxedo, strutting, every inch the triumphant hunter.

I roasted them a la Leg Of Lamb again, just this time on purpose.  They took almost as long as lamb shanks, which surprised me a little, but they are a very dense meat and of similar size.  I made a divine pan sauce/gravy from the scrapings, with a slosh of white wine and a little cornflour, and some freshly chopped Italian parsley.  Blisssss …

Now I have discovered a reliable out-of-Christmas-season turkey source, I plan a few more meals.  Braised legs, perhaps. Or a casserole of thighs, in lots of white or red wine with mushrooms (kind of like Coq au Vin).  I will even experiment with breast fillets – perhaps making a little stuffing and rolling them up like Braciole (Italian Beef Rolls), sealing them in butter and extra virgin olive oil, then lowering the heat and braising lightly in white wine and herbs would result in a moister result.  Any other ideas?

Mmm, tryptophan high, oh my.

. . . . . . . . . .

Coming Soon in Food:  Vietnamese street food stars.  The best, most popular noodles and soups found at market and street stalls in HCMC and Hanoi;  pho bo, or course, also bun cha, banh xeo, bun rieu, cha gio …  With recipes and links to the best Vietnamese food sites/blogs and cookbooks.

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