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Thompson's Blackened Turkey

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2005 7:00 pm    Post subject: Thompson's Blackened Turkey Reply with quote

I have made this peculiar dish, and found it very good except for the fact that I can't get the skin right (the paste you apply to the outside of the bird is supposed to break off after cooking, leaving brown and crispy skin behind, but mine didn't). I give the recipe below, obtained from the internet and modified by me in parenthesis where the original recipe was lacking. I would welcome any suggestions for improvement:
Thompson’s Turkey: Marsha’s adventure

Ingredients List:
1 turkey, 16-22 pounds (I used 16), including pull-out fat
6 eggs
1 apple
1 orange
1 lrg can crushed pineapple (20 oz)
1 lemon
4 lrg onions
6 celery stalks
3 T. plenty of preserved ginger
2 cans water chestnuts
3 packages unseasoned bread crumbs (6 cups fresh)
3/4 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
1/4 lb butter
onion juice
1 qt apple cider

Spice List:
bay leaf
caraway seed
celery seed
chili powder
ground coriander
dry mustard (lots, for dressing and for paste)
parsley (fresh)
pepper, black
poultry seasoning
poppy seed

THOMPSON'S TURKEY RECIPE (from Gehman, with Marsha’s improvements in bold)
The turkey must be a big one, not less than sixteen pounds and not more than twenty-two. The bigger it is, the more economical it will be. If it is eighteen pounds or more, it ought to be a hen; a hen has a bigger, meatier breast. Go to the market yourself to buy the turkey so as to give the butcher proper instructions. Have him cut off the bird's head to leave as much neck as possible. Then ask him to peel back the skin and cut off the neck, with a cleaver, as close as possible to the shoulders. This leaves a tube of neck skin that can be stuffed with any stuffing left over from the body cavity. Some butchers clean away most of a turkey's fat before handling the bird over. If your man does that, protest. You need the fat.
Rub the bird inside and out with salt and pepper and let it stand while you go ahead with other preliminaries.
Into a stewpan put the chopped gizzard, the neck, and the heart. Cover with 4 or 5 cups water, and add a large bay leaf, a teaspoon of paprika, half a teaspoon of coriander, a clove of garlic, and salt to taste. Put it over a low fire and let it simmer while you work on the dressing. When I say work, I mean work.
Get a large bowl, and into it put an apple and an orange, both diced, a large can of crushed pineapple, the grated rind of half a lemon, and 3 tablespoons chopped preserved ginger. You can get the latter at a Chinese store or at candy stores or specialty shops. Then add, Thompson advised, a can of Chinese water chestnuts, drained. I prefer to add two cans, and I chop the chestnuts in half before throwing them in. Nearly every grocery store that sells chow mein dinners, or bamboo shoots, carries or will order water chestnuts.
Now get another bowl — and hold your breath. Merely assembling all the ingredients is a time- consuming process. In this bowl you put:
2 teaspoons hot dry mustard
2 teaspoons caraway seed
3 teaspoons celery seed
2 teaspoons poppy seed
2 1/2 teaspoons oregano
a well-crushed bay leaf
1 teaspoon black pepper
half a teaspoon of mace
4 tablespoons finely-chopped parsley (preferably fresh, (I used fresh) although dried parsley flakes will do)
4 or 5 crushed cloves of garlic
4 large chopped onions
4 cloves (take off the heads and crush them)
half a teaspoon of tumeric
6 chopped stalks of celery
half a teaspoon of marjoram
half a teaspoon of summer savory
and 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning.
Then sprinkle in some salt — about a teaspoon, or more if you wish. Those are Thompson's ingredients. To them I have added a sprinkle of monosodium glutamate which probably isn't necessary, but which in my view brings out all the flavors more fully. (I didn’t add MSG.)
The end is not yet in sight. Take a third bowl. Put in 3 packages of bread crumbs (6 cups fresh), preferably the kind you get at the bakery. To the crumbs add 3/4 pound ground veal, 1/4 pound ground fresh pork, and 1/4 pound butter and all the fat (render it first) you have been able to take off the turkey.
Now begin mixing. "Mix in each bowl the contents of each bowl," Thompson wrote. "When each bowl is well mixed, mix the three of them together (in that big blue roasting pan). And mix it well. Mix it with your hands. Mix it until your forearms and wrists ache. Then mix it some more. Now toss it so that it isn't any longer a doughy mass." Thus spoke Thompson.
Stuff the turkey and skewer it, tying the strings that go over and around the skewers (I just sewed the neck thingie shut and stuffed it until it stuck out, and tucked the legs into the slot by the tail, rounding the dressing into a mound at the back end). Pack the remainder of the stuffing into the neck tube and tie it shut securely. Turn the oven on full blast and let it get red hot. Put the bird on the drip pan in your roaster or, better than that, breast down (I did it breast up) on a rack. Then put it into the red-hot oven.
Right here you must work fast. In a cup make a paste consisting of the yolks of 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon hot dry mustard, a clove of crushed garlic, 1 tablespoon onion juice, 2 pinches of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and enough sifted flour to make it good and stiff. (Triple this, and make it loose enough to be paintable. You may need to make yet another batch to use when you flip the bird.)
When the bird in the oven is beginning to turn brown all over, take it out and turn the heat down to moderately slow (325° F). The skin may possibly have begun to bubble or split and crack. Ignore it. Take a pastry brush and paint the bird all over with the paste. Put it back in the oven. A few minutes later, when the paste has dried and set, take the turkey out again. Paint it again, every part of it you can touch (you don’t have to get to the underside, because you can hit that when you flip the turkey). Keep doing this, putting it in and taking it out and painting it, until the paste is all used up. (I painted it twice on top, and then when I flipped it and hour and a half later, I painted the bottom.) Put it back in the oven.
Now add a cup of cider to the simmering giblet stock. At this point I put the liver in (I didn’t add the liver) and keep the stewpan simmering, adding half cider and half water from time to time to replenish it. This is your basting fluid. (I found that if I did this, the fluid just evaporated and there was none left for gravy, so I wound up pouring all the fluid into the pan after the second or third basting, and then basting from the bottom on the pan). The bird must be basted every fifteen minutes. After it has cooked about an hour and a half, turn it on its stomach (breast down for me; the best way is to use those silicon gloves, with someone to help hold the rack in place) and let it cook in that position until the last fifteen minutes; then put it on its back again. That is, unless you are using a rack; if you are, don't turn it on its back until the last half hour. (Use a rack; flip the bird to be breast-down 1 ˝ hours after second painting all over breast and wherever you can reach; then paint the bottom and leave it there until last half hour.)
The bird should cook for five and a half hours. white meat reached its desired temperature (170 degrees); stuffing and the dark meat (160 and 180 degrees, respectively).
As it cooks, it will alarm you. The paste will begin to turn black very early in the process (mine didn’t, and the bottom never really blackened), but don't worry about it until the end. Thompson wrote: "You will think, 'My God! I have ruined it.' Be calm. Take a tweezer and pry loose the paste coating. It will come off readily. Beneath this burnt, harmless, now worthless shell the bird will be golden and dark brown, succulent, giddymaking with wild aromas, crisp and crunchable and crackling. The meat beneath this crazing panorama of skin will be wet, juice will spurt from it in tiny fountains as high as the handle of the fork plunged into it; the meat will be white, crammed with mocking flavor, delirious with things that rush over your palate and are drowned and gone as fast as you can swallow; cut a little of it with a spoon, it will spread on bread as eagerly and readily as soft Wurst. You do not have to be a carver to eat this turkey; speak harshly to it and it will fall apart."
Thompson did not describe the taste of the stuffing for the simple reason that it is indescribable. It is full of a vast collection of elusive and exotic flavors, of fruit and of greens, bits of crispness (the water chestnuts) and of delicate meats — well, no wonder he made no attempt to write about it. It has to be eaten to be understood.
There is no gravy required for this bird because it is in itself so moist — but if the family insists on gravy it may be made in the usual way, using the drippings from the pan. The giblets from the basting mixture may be chopped up and added. The beauty of Thompson's turkey, by the way, is that in the unlikely event that any of it is left over, the meat somehow remains as moist for days as it is when it first comes from the oven.
So, that's the turkey. I urge anyone to try it. Urge? I insist. Anyone who does will have an extra prayer to offer on Thanksgiving Day, a prayer of thanks for the genius of a man named Morton Thompson, who died on July 7, 1953. I don't know if Thompson is in heaven or not, but if he is, this is his second visit. I don't know of any other place where he might have picked up the original inspiration for Thompson's turkey
Richard Gehman's "The Haphazard Gourmet"
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