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Turkey By the Clock

Pick a holiday bird based on the time you have and the crowd you’re cooking for.

November/December 2020 Issue
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When it comes to a holiday showstopper turkey, time is of the essence. Each year I get a little better at executing Thanksgiving Day, like a train conductor wholeheartedly trying to pull the big meal into the station on time. Although there have been occasions when I’ve had two or three days to prepare a holiday meal, orchestrating the ballet of heaping bowls and warm platters, that’s just not the norm. The truth is that I’m usually scrambling to pull together the whole thing, including the turkey. We have a big family, so the total number of folks around the table tends to bump around until the last minute, too.

This year, I’m rolling into the fall and winter holidays prepared for anything, with a small but mighty arsenal of centerpiece-worthy turkey recipes to suit any time frame. With all of the time in the world, I can brine a whole turkey in spiced apple cider spiked with tart whole-grain mustard and fresh bay leaves, then slather it in rich apple butter and give it a slow roast.

With less time, but plenty of ingenuity, I can spatchcock a turkey, laying it out flat to roast in half the time. Briefly marinating it first, pollo asado-style with lime juice, bright orange achiote paste, and Mexican oregano, makes for juicy results (and killer leftover turkey tacos).

But who am I kidding? I could be running around with no time to spare, digging through pantry staples to find a delicious combo to flavor bone-in turkey breasts that roast quickly and still feed a crowd. I’ll choose white miso paste, soy sauce, and honey to make a sticky-sweet glaze, and then crown the bronzed bird with fragrant toasted sesame seeds and fresh green onions.

Whatever happens on Thanksgiving Day this year, I’ll be ready.


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