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Passion, Commitment, Support – How to Debone a Turkey

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Passion, Commitment and Support

 It was a typical Wednesday night.  The kids were in bed.  Marko was out for his weekly meet-up with his friends and I had the whole house to myself.   AHHH….the remote is MINE! ALL MINE!!   A nice hot mug of tea in one hand and the remote in the other, I snuggle up on the sofa in front of our large flat screen, relishing the fact that I’m completely free to choose my visual entertainment for the night.  YESSSSS.  No cartoons. No actions films.  No CSI Alien Spy Shape-shifting Profilers…just my choice.  What I want is a good old-fashioned chick-flick!  You know the kind where we women sit teary-eyed on the edge of our seats while our male counterparts roll their eyes and hand us tissues.   Yes.  That’s what I want.  As I scroll through our vast collection of feature films, I come across the 2009 movie ‘Julie & Julia’.   No, I still hadn’t seen it yet!  How could I have missed it?  It’s a food film!  It has Meryl Streep, the queen of chick flicks!  A double-click and the screen comes alive.  I am totally looking forward to the next two hours of mindless entertainment.  

Quickly, the main characters are summed up; Julia Child began as a bored yet inspired housewife living in Paris in the 1940’s and, current day Julie Powell, a talented but struggling writer with a passion for food and hopelessly stuck in a soul-sucking job.  Both women are looking for a way to turn their passion into something fulfilling.    Yeah, I relate totally to the Julie Powell character. A quick tally of similarities; Crazy Passion for Food:  Check.   Soul-Sucking Job:  Check.  Desperate Need for Change: Check.  Ever Patient Spouse tired of hearing me complain:  Check.    Then it hit me.  The catalyst to make change …PASSION! 

The movie then continues, demonstrating what both women do to reach their goals; Julia with her undying commitment to create a French cookbook in English for Americans and, Julie with her sometimes insane commitment to get through every single recipe in Mrs. Child’s now iconic cookbook in one year.  There it is, another magic word:  COMMITMENT.  

The movie then concludes with both women celebrating their respective victories and proclaiming their unending gratitude for the support given by their spouses.  Another key word revealed:  SUPPORT. 

Passion enough to make change.
Undying Commitment to make it happen.
Loving Support from those around us.  

Is this the recipe of success?   Maybe, but it’s definitely not fool-proof.  I think about my last attempt at pumpkin gnocchi.  I followed that recipe to a T.  I used all the best ingredients and still they came out too soft.   However, as any good cook knows, if you start with good ingredients, you’re chances of success improve.   We all know that life holds no guarantees.    

 “Passion, Commitment, Support.”  It’s become my mantra.

 Today’s recipe is more of a process than a recipe.  In the movie, Julie’s last recipe was to debone a duck.  It was the recipe she most feared.  This past Sunday, we celebrated Thanksgiving. (We don’t have the Thursday off here in the Netherlands so we make due with Sunday)  To face my fears, I was instructed by my Slow Food colleague, Melle, on how to debone a 15 pound turkey.  Let me tell you, if you want to have the feeling of achievement in less than an hour, then do this.  You’ll feel like you’ve just climbed Mount Everest or cured a disease.  Sorry for the lack of pictures.  My camera didn’t take too well to being covered with turkey slime.  Next time I do this, I’ll document this better and post pictures. 

"No bones about it" Turkey

How To Debone A Turkey

Step 1:   Preparation:  Cover your kitchen table with plastic.  I used an old plastic picnic tablecloth (yes, a red and white checked one).
              –  Sharpen 2 knives:  an 8 inch carving knife and a 5 inch paring knife.
              –  Have a pair of kitchen scissors on hand.
              –  Kitchen string and a needle big enough to thread it. (an upholstery needle works great)
               – Your favourite stuffing recipe.

Step 2:   Prepare bird.  Thaw if necessary. Remove from packaging and remove giblets.  Wash with warm water. 

Step 3:   Place bird on its belly, tail side toward you.

Step 4:   Being careful not to puncture or cut the skin, start the operation.
            –  With the paring knife, make a long incision from the top of the neck, all the way down the spine, to the beginning of the tail. Cut through the skin to the bone. (Do not cut the tail in half)
            –  Starting from one side, using the tip of the knife, gently cut under the skin and the small bits of meat close to the backbone. Getting as close to the bone as possible. Patience is the key here.
           –  Making very small slices, cut very close to the bone, follow the ribcage.�
–  There are 2 areas of concern:  The shoulder blade and the hip bone.

                To get around the shoulder blade:  gently scrape the meat off the bone until the joint at the top of the wing is revealed.  Scrape a bit more and using the scissors cut the ligaments until the bone comes free.  Gentle prodding may be necessary.

                To free the hip bone:  Scrape the bone until the joint is clearly visible.  Cut the ligaments with a scissors or knife.  The ligaments on the side farthest from you will be the most difficult.  Resist the urge to just crack it off.  This risks ripping the skin.  Cutting and gentle prying works the best. 

            –  Continue cutting around the ribcage until the sternum is reached.  This is very close to the skin so be careful.
            –   Remove thigh bones:  Starting from the hip, gently scrape the meat from the bone until the knee joint is revealed.  Cut the ligaments and remove the bone.
            –   Remove the first wing joint.  Scrape the bone and cut the ligaments.  CAREFUL:  the skin is very thin here.  This is as far as you can go with this side.
            –  Do the same to the other side of the bird.
            –  Removing the sternum:  At the center of the breast, the skin is very close to the bone and attached by a membrane.  Using the scissors gently cut the membrane close to the pointed bone of the sternum, freeing the bone. 

DONE!   Breath Deep.  Dance the Rocky dance to ‘Eye of the Tiger’

Step 5:  Lay the bird out flat (spread eagle) and season with salt and pepper. 

Step 6:   Fill with your favourite stuffing.  I used the ‘New England Sausage, Apple, and cranberry’ stuffing recipe from Epicurious.  It was delicious. 

Step 7:  Pile the stuffing on top of the turkey.  Call your spouse, friend, or partner to hold the bird together wile you sew the back with the cooking string and needle.
            –  Turn the bird over and sew the neck area and the crotch area closed. 

Step 8:  Arrange on a very large baking pan.  Arrange the wings and legs in a natural position. 

Step 9:  Generously grease with softened butter.  Salt and pepper generously.
            –  Add about 2 cups of water to the pan.
            –  Cover tightly with aluminium foil.
            – Bake at 325F (150C) until the internal stuffing temp is 170F) For a 15lb bird, it took 3 hours.
            –  cool for about an hour.
            –  Get your camera ready. Accept rave reviews