It all happened so fast. I saw an advertisement in the Manna Grocery & Deli newsletter urging customers to “hurry up and reserve your Mary’s Free Range Organic Heritage Turkey for the Holidays!” I thought, well, my oh my, that sure sounds like a special turkey. I was intrigued. I consulted Google, and, turns out, this turkey lives in California and has its own website. A very special turkey indeed.
I soon learned that this turkey is “a uniquely American turkey, the authentic Heritage Turkey…that our forefathers knew and cherished.” I was riveted by the thought that in the year 2012, I could enjoy the same flavorful turkey enjoyed by none other than George Washington, known historically as the nation’s first turkey connoisseur. I didn’t know such turkeys existed. I mean, this was the original turkey! How had he survived all those years? How could this be? I hadn’t been so excited about an animal since I saw that buffalo in his pen on Fall City Road in Jasper, Alabama all those years ago. You see, as a kid I somehow mistakenly came to the conclusion that buffalos became extinct in the late 1800s. So, you can imagine my excited flabbergastedness when my dad took me out to see the buffalo that lived on Fall City Road. It was like seeing a wooly mammoth. And, I must tell you, I was no less excited by the thought of a Heritage Turkey.
How could I resist a turkey with a direct bloodline back to the earliest American turkeys? Could anything be more uniquely “American” than a Heritage Turkey? I think not. As I continued my research, I learned that the Narragansett is the “oldest United States turkey variety” with a “richly flavored meat, succulent and juicy” and “naturally well-proportioned.” I had no idea I had been eating poorly-proportioned turkeys my entire life. I wasn’t sure what to believe anymore. As I continued to read, I learned that their “excellent flavor” results from an active lifestyle – roaming and flying and frolicking out in the fresh California air – resulting in an “all-natural exquisite tasting experience.” The Heritage Turkey website told me to “taste the difference.” Challenge accepted.
Once I read the advertisement and visited the website, I was powerless to resist. As I said, it all happened so fast. Without a thought in my head other than a steaming, succulent roasted giant bird, I drafted and transmitted a text message volunteering to cook the 2012 family Thanksgiving turkey. My mom and grandmother both said yes without hesitation. At first, I was very excited. At long last, I would be in control of the big bird on Thanksgiving! But, then, I started to wonder. They sure did give up the turkey-cooking duties quickly, almost like they wanted to give up cooking the turkey. Hmm, what did they know that I didn’t? Then, it hit me: cooking the Thanksgiving bird – the most important bird of all, mind you – carries with it a heavy burden. It dawned on me that I now have to somehow cook a giant bird that is not only delicious, but also one that does not poison my entire family with salmonella. And, as I further realized once the fog lifted from my dream of a perfect Heritage Turkey, I have no idea how to cook the darn thing. I’m not all that confident in my chicken-roasting abilities, and Thanksgiving turkey-cooking is serious cookery on a whole different level. What had I done?
Of course, I am not one to back down from a challenge, and certainly not one to back out of a commitment, so I am marching forward, full speed ahead. I will cook this year’s Thanksgiving turkey – a Heritage Turkey – and you better believe it will be the bar-none greatest Thanksgiving turkey every cooked, or my name isn’t Grant Wilson. Well, at least that’s what I’m telling myself. The truth is, I’m not at all yet confident in my turkey-cooking abilities, so I have devised a plan: a practice turkey.
This afternoon I will purchase a 14-pound Butterball that I am naming Test Subject #1, or, alternatively, Steve. Steve will be my secret weapon in producing the turkey to end all turkeys. He will be defrosted, brined, and roasted in the Alton Brown turkey-cooking method, which based on over 4,000 online reviews is “easy” and produces a “delicious” turkey. That sounds like a winner to me. I will admit, though, I am a little bit scared. Alton uses words like “trussing” and “innards” and “probe thermometer,” making it sound more like a horrifying medical procedure than a recipe, but it’s too late to turn back now. I will document the process and let you know how Test Subject #1 (AKA Steve) turns out. If all goes according to plan, my family will be enjoying a delicious, fully-cooked, salmonella-free Free Range Organic Heritage Turkey on Thanksgiving day, and just like John “Hannibal” Smith and the rest of the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together.