We have all been there. Either sitting at the table waiting … or worse, watching, as a well-intentioned host or hostess tries to carve the Thanksgiving Day turkey at the head of the dining room table a la Norman Rockwell and ends up mutilating the family meal. Kudos to the few, the proud, those that can actually do it well. But for most of us, the pressure of performing, let alone successfully accomplishing the act of carving a full turkey, is daunting to say the least.
So, I don’t do it.
Instead, when the turkey is done – smoked, fried, roasted or otherwise – I let it sit for 10-15 minutes on the counter covered in foil to finish cooking and let the juices released during the cooking process get reabsorbed back into the meat to ensure it remains juicy and delicious. Then, I go about “disassembling” the bird much like a butcher would. First, remove the entire drumstick at the hip joint by cutting the skin around the socket and encouraging the joint to separate. Not sure how to say that part more pleasantly, if at all. Likewise, the wings. If the bird is completely cooked, you can do it with your bare hands once the knife has cut the skin away from the breast. Leave them intact for anyone who’s hankering for them to enjoy in full Flintstone fashion and set them aside on one platter.
Now, go about carving off all the dark meat around the bottom of the turkey “chassis” and make a nice pile on the same platter as the legs and wings. Save any crispy pieces of skin that come off as well for those so inclined to enjoy. This will leave a very unbalanced turkey chassis with the two large breasts still on the top of the bird. Using a long thin boning knife, find the ridge of the breast bone/cartilage and work the blade slowly down along the curved sides of the rib cage. Slow and steady slices of the knife down the sides of the rib cage work best. Your patience will be rewarded with a pair of large, intact turkey breasts freed from the remains of the turkey chassis. If you cannot visualize this, watch one of the many online videos on how to properly carve a turkey.
The best (breast) part is now you have a pair of wonderfully looking pieces of cooked bird with which you can safely and stably slice against the grain on a cutting board. Instead of serving mutilated electric knife-generated sliver portions of crumbly grained turkey, you can serve lusciously thick (1/4 inch) medallions of roasted turkey, much like you would a tenderloin. Again, take a few minutes to watch how to do this online if you are not visualizing this description well. Place the white meat medallions on their own platter, or reassemble the bird with the breast medallions in the middle of a large platter, a drumstick and wing on either side, and the dark meat at the rear.
It looks fantastic, pays homage to Norman Rockwell, but ensures everyone can easily serve themselves a delicious portion of whatever their fancy is.
Sorry, but you are on your own for making gravy. Granny only showed me how if I promised to keep it in the family. Just avoid anything that comes in a jar.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!