Monday, November 24, 2008

Fun Playing With Turkey

When last we left Kathy Breychak's farm, the turkeys were restless and demanding to be fed!

Well, Kathy definitely did something right in the feeding process, because our bird weighed in at 32 pounds, dressed (or undressed, depending on how you look at it).

Turkey pick up day was Saturday, 11/22. Usually, because we go to family or friends for Thanksgiving, we make our own turkey the Friday after. Since we had to get our bird this far in advance, however, it made sense to just cook it right up on Sunday, and that was what we planned to do.

Kathy gave Bob some extra turkey innards and chicken feet, and he used them to make stock. He planned to use the fat that rose out of it for basting the bird, and the stock itself for gravy.

Figuring it might take as long as 7 hours to cook this monster, we set to it early Sunday afternoon. It did not take us long to ascertain that the bird would not fit whole into either of our ovens with any kind of pan under it.

So - we split it in half. Bob used a technique we learned from Alton Brown. This is how he splits winter squash - we used it to split a turkey!

Bob snipped as far as he could with kitchen shears, then brought out the Henkels Cleaver and a rubber mallet.

Tap the mallet onto the back of the cleaver and - presto!

In no time at all, we had two 16 pound turkey halves instead of one behemoth.

After being rinsed and dried, each turkey half was rubbed with the same seasonings my mother always used - sweet paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and kosher salt. Bob's plan was to use the rendered fat from the top of the stock pot to lube the bird - but he'd stirred it at a bad time the day before such that it didn't render purely. So, he reheated the stock and skimmed the fat off hot, to lube our bird.

Bob Thought This Was Fat When He Pulled it From the Fridge

Seasoned Birdie Half Ready for the Pan - But What Pan?

Each turkey half was still too big to fit into any of our roasting pans. What to do? Well - we have a pan for at least half of the job:

Mom's Magnalite Turkey Roaster to the rescue! I used to love the birds she cooked in this thing! However, tall roasters have gone out of favor, especially among those who prize crispy skin. Well, we didn't have much choice - so into the pan went half of our turkey.

With the cover, this pot would completely fill our top oven. So - how to roast the other half of the bird at the same time?

Stroke of genius - the broiler pan that "comes" with the oven - the one we never use for anything - it became "turkey roaster #2".

We cooked each half covered (the second half with aluminum foil) for about 2 hours at 325 degrees. When we checked the half #1 in the top oven (the Magnalite) the thigh meat was over 150 degrees, so Bob basted it and removed the lid, so the skin could crisp. As might be expected, the second half did not cook nearly as quickly, so we waited longer to remove the foil top. Once we did, Bob basted it periodically, even as Roaster #1 finished with the thigh meat at 175 degrees. #2 came out when it also reached 175 degrees in the thigh. Perfect!

We let #1 cool down in anticipation of evisceration and freezing. #2 would provide our dinner, as soon as the gravy was ready!


Bob Prefers the Dark Meat

I'm a White Meat Kinda Girl

The skin and flesh were exquisite - best turkey I've ever tasted in my life. We did take a bite out of #1, to compare - it was a little juicier and more tender - but ever so little more, since #2 was also moist, tender and delicious.

So - we spent the Sunday before Thanksgiving playing with turkey (and watching a turkey of a Cleveland Browns football game). After eating meat that is this fresh, I just can't imagine eating mass produced frozen poultry - but I also realized that if everyone in America wanted this type of turkey, there would be no way to supply that demand. A puzzlement. In the meantime, however, I wish all who read this Blog a Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope that you all play with some food this holiday season - make homemade cranberry sauce instead of opening that can, or maybe try gravy from scratch. Food tastes so much better when you play with it first!


  1. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Bob! Let us know how our roaster cooks up the turkey, we've never used it for that.

  2. @ Shel - you'd be amazed how much those roasters can do - even bake bread! Check out this thread from EGullet:

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. @ Maybelle's Mom: you can sometimes find these roasters on EBay. Our friend Scott got us the Baby Magnalite shown in this post:
    from EBay.

  5. That is one beautiful, beautiful bird. i was under the impression there was not any more poultry being raised by the Breychak's?

    And your gravy looks amazing!

  6. @ Heidi - I asked Kathy Breychak about your question, and here is her response:

    I hear that a lot, and it is partly true and partly not.

    We do not have a true business, and we do not consider ourselves a poultry farm, we do not raise large quantities of poultry to sell to the public or through retail shops.
    We are just a small farm raising wholesome food for our family and individual farm members and restaurants who become members.
    We only raise what we are asked to at the beginning of the year during our planning stage, raising a little of many things, just not a lot of any one thing.
    Most of the livestock including poultry is purchased in small numbers, just enough to fulfill our family, restaurant and membership needs with only a few extras incase something happens(predators or illness).
    In good years like this year our member needs were covered and since most of our animals lived we had a few extra to sell directly to the public which we list on our website.
    Keep up to date with what our farm has to offer by going to

    Thank you very much for your interest,

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  7. Hey Nancy,

    We've tagged you in a blog game. Here are the rules:

    1. Link to the person who tagged you.
    2. Post the rules on your blog.
    3. Write six random things about yourself.
    4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
    5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
    6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.


    -Ben and Sarah