THOMPSON'S TURKEY RECIPE
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 pan 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, 2 cans
of Chinese water chestnuts, drained.
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, 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 turmeric
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
The end is not yet in sight. Take a third bowl. Put in 3 packages of bread
crumbs, 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. 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.
Stuff the turkey and skewer it, tying the strings that go over and around the
skewers. 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 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.
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. Keep doing this, putting it in and taking it out and
painting it, until the paste is all used up.
Now add a cup of cider to the simmering giblet stock. At this point I put the
liver in and keep the stewpan simmering, adding half cider and half water from
time to time to replenish it. This is your basting fluid. The bird must be
basted every fifteen minutes. After it has cooked about an hour and a half, turn
it on its stomach 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.
The bird should cook for five and a half hours. As it cooks, it will alarm you.
The paste will begin to turn black very early in the process, but don't worry
about it until the end. Thompson wrote: "You will think, 'My God! I have ruined
it.' Be calm. Take a tweezers 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 and succulent 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
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. You do not have to be a carver to eat this
turkey; speak harshly to it and it will fall apart."