A friend and I have already started discussing what we want to cook for Thanksgiving, which is just over a month away. I asked: "Can we please skip the turkey?" Because if there's any bird duller, I haven't tasted it.
I valiantly made the case for cooking pork, chicken, goose or duck - anything at all to avoid the turkey. But my friend refused to be persuaded because, she said, people expected to be served turkey on Thanksgiving.
My dislike for turkey began in my youth. As we did with all holidays, both American and Chinese, my extended family gathered at my grandparents' house in Los Angeles, in the United States. To satisfy the appetites of her eight children, their spouses and her 23 grandchildren, my grandmother cooked several turkeys.
The main problem was that most of us liked the dark meat. Turkeys in the US are selectively bred to have enormous breasts, as most Americans tend to prefer the leaner and drier meat. My grandparents, out of respect, were allowed to take as much dark meat as they wanted, but for the rest of us, the rule was that we had to take some dark meat and some breast.
Because I disliked the breast so much, I usually ended up taking the tails and necks, which nobody except my grandfather and I wanted, anyway. They remain my favourite "parts".
My mother actually prepares pretty good turkey. Well, as "good" as turkey can be. She was dry-brining the bird before that became common in the culinary vernacular: she sprinkles it with salt and other seasonings, rubs it with white wine, then refrigerates it for several days.
The salt initially draws out the moisture but then, through osmosis, the salt, turkey juices and white wine are sucked back in, so that the bird is less dry when roasted.
I've heard about, but never tasted, deep-fried turkey. The few people I know who have eaten it tell me it's delicious - and it's not hard to see why. The turkey is often injected with a marinade, which adds flavour and moisture. Deep-frying the bird means it cooks quickly, in less than an hour, so it doesn't have time to dry out.
The drawbacks? Other than the fact that it takes a huge pot and an enormous amount of oil, there's the extreme danger. Newspapers published on the day after Thanksgiving are full of reports about turkey-frying accidents because the cooks haven't used common sense: it must be fried outdoors, away from anything flammable.
My friend and I are considering getting a "heritage" bird - with normal-sized rather than enhanced breasts. I want to tunnel-bone it (remove all the bones without cutting into the skin) then salt it for a few days, before stuffing it with something moist, rich and flavourful.
Next, we need to plan the side dishes …
Truc (tryk): noun, masculine, trick, gimmick, device. A French word for a chef's secret.