“Stretching the Turkey” lesson

For some reason, turkey isn’t everyone’s favourite meat, especially in South East Asia. It might be because you need an oven to bake it in, and not every household has a big oven or an oven. Most of the time, when turkey is served at home (in South East Asia) it would be bought already cooked. Since turkey is commonly served only during the Christmas season, there is mass production of ready-to-eat turkey, which means that the turkey meat tends to be hard and dry.

I love to cook turkey, so I have been trying to tell everyone that turkey is good: it’s healthy because there is less fat in turkey than in chicken and duck. I beer-brine my turkey. I start off by rubbing the turkey with salt and pepper, then I put it in a plastic basin and pour two or three cans of beer over it and leave it overnight in the fridge. I dry the turkey with kitchen paper towel before placing it in the oven the next day. I always buy a turkey with the pop-out thermometer so that I can be sure that the turkey is cooked on the inside. When the turkey starts to brown, I inject the juice of the turkey from the baking pan back into the turkey with a syringe. This is my secret for making the turkey meat soft and juicy. It always works. The beer-brine solution does wonders for flavouring the turkey. There usually isn’t much leftover after the Christmas lunch or dinner, but if the turkey is a very big one then I use my “Chinese Roast Duck principle” to manage the leftovers.

I prefer to serve the turkey already sliced for the Christmas celebration meal, so I will have bones and some meat leftover. The bones will be used to make turkey rice porridge with shredded turkey meat for breakfast or turkey soup with onions, tomatoes, fuji apples and carrots for lunch. The leftover turkey meat will go into a sauteed vegetable dish or a salad. If there is someone who needs a packed lunch, then I will make a turkey-mayo sandwich. Nothing goes to waste. When the turkey appears in different forms, you are less likely to get tired of eating it.

One obvious reason why turkey isn’t commonly used in Asian cuisine is simply because it is expensive. I found an interesting article on the internet entitled “Where did the domestic turkey come from?“. (www.allaboutbirds.org) In the 16th century some Spanish traders brought them from America to Europe and Asia. There were reports that this species of birds called Meleagris gallopavo became commonly known as “turkey”, named after the shipping routes to Europe which passed through Turkey.

I had always thought of roast turkey as “Christmas turkey” and as an English tradition, until and American friend introduced me to the fact that the roast turkey was the American Thanksgiving Turkey long before it became the English Christmas turkey.

I liked the story of the origin of the choice of turkey for the thanksgiving dinner. Put simply: It was a big bird that could feed a large family around a big table. It was a bird that was not bred for eggs. It was more special than chicken, and appropriate for a celebration where there would be abundant meat for the occasion. (It was easier to roast than a cow or a sheep!)

It comes back to the basic principle that mothers live by: “Making a feast for the family with whatever is available“. I once read about a well-known singer who said that she grew up poor, and she remembered how her mother would manage to give everyone a drumstick from one chicken, and they were a large family. There is certainly more meat on a turkey than a chicken, but a mother can make a chicken feel like a turkey. It’s truly a gift to give thanks for: an ingenious mother!

By Chayo, Homskil Editior 1, 5 February 2021

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