The 2-D Thanksgiving

Sure, a flattened turkey looks a little strange. But it’s the taste that counts.

Comments: 44

  1. The Mark Bittman's Braised Turkey recipe is by far my favorite way to cook a turkey and since making it for the first time a couple of years ago, I'll never go back. The cooking broth with the vegetables, mushrooms and sausage is a huge hit, and is at least as popular at the table as is the turkey, if not more so. And, if you have vegetarians at your table, it is a less gruesome presentation of the bird!

  2. I usually roast my chicken in the flattened version and it is great.

  3. Alton Brown talked about spatchcocking on NPR's "All Things Considered" this week. It's always fun to learn a new word.

  4. Yet another interesting option for thanksgiving turkey is the one that my family swears by: smoking and spit-roasting. We stuff the cavity full of herbs and lemons (which have been poked full of holes to prevent explosion) and truss the bird up on a spit over some applewood chips.

    It takes a long time, but - and to speak for its delectability - we've abandoned the usual roast turkey and purchased a second grill in order to roast both of our birds in this fashion!

  5. What sort of grill do you use? Truly roasted (as opposed to baked) meat is delicious.

  6. Wish you had reminded folks to get a turkey from a local free-range producer, if they're not willing to try a more humane vegetarian Thanksgiving. The "average" non-free range turkey purchased out of the frozen food aisle suffered immensely. Buying them encourages the perpetuation of such cruelty. We must vote with our dollars if we want anything to change for these poor creatures.

  7. Killjoy.

  8. Why is vegetarian more humane? Something dies everytime we eat.

  9. Actually, I am guilty of only wanting the poor critter to be tasty.

  10. A few years ago some in Italy friends asked us to cook Thanksgiving dinner for them when we visited them in Piedmont. We loaded a suitcase with sweet potatoes, fried onions, pepperidge farm stuffing, etc. and prayed we make it through customs. (One of the funniest things about our friends is how lowbrow their tastes can be at times. They adore Pizza Hut and burgers at Jackson Hole) Of course we had to get the turkey there and our friends assured us that they had actual domesticated turkeys. So we went to the butcher to pick up the bird and our friend comes back to the car with a package the size and shape of a very large brisket. So I am thinking, "what the hell kind of turkey can that be". Well it turns out in Valenza they deliver the whole turkey boneless. I don't know how they do it but the bird is basically intact, de-boned and totally flat. I used stuffing as a taxidermy medium to give it some shape as I was not familiar with Mr. Bittman's technique at that point but now I know! The food was good. The wine of course was great.

  11. Just so you know, smuggling in fresh produce to another country is how things like Mediterranean fruit fly and citrus canker get to new places and cause HUGE problems. To all out there who think of this as a game, please leave the fresh foods at home when you traveland save all of us from potentially costly blights.

  12. Could I just forgo the separate pan for the veggies and just start out by placing the bird over the veggies? Or would this make them too soggy in the end?

  13. With the "braising method" the veggies pretty much turn to much. But they can be added to your gravy after pureeing a bit. You could add some more veggies later in the cooking process for added vegetables to serve on the side.. Carrots are good.

  14. One of my favorite meals for many years has been Rock Cornish Hen cooked in the flattened (spatchcocking) method by seasoning them with salt, pepper, paprika, butter and finally an application of lemon when done. The pan contains about a quarter of an inch of red wine and is roasted with the oven set to 350 to 400 degrees. I would suppose that the turkey could be seasoned and cooked in wine in a similar fashion. The aroma is almost as delicious as the actual taste.

  15. Your recipes do sound good. But the traditional recipe you link to is a bit of a strawman...or 'straw turkey." Yes, brushing butter or oil and other ingredients on the skin isn't going to do much to improve the flavor of the bird. I instead gently work my way under the turkey skin with a conction made of butter blended first with Rosemary, Paprika, Garlic and Onion. The inside cavity for me is used not for stuffing (I make dressing seperately) but 2 half onions (first marinated in turkey broth), a lemon and a whole bunch of rosemary leaves on the stem.

  16. Perhaps you could recommend some wonderful vegan options for Thanksgiving. There are excellent non-meat products on the market as well as myriad recipes easily accessed on the internet that offer delicious meals without sacrificing the lives of beautiful, sentient beings who cherish their existence every bit as much as we do ours.

  17. Thanks for the sermon!

  18. I have spatchcocked my turkey for several years, a technique I learned from the WaPo's food section. Because I always cut the bird up before serving it family style, the big Norman Rockwell presentation wasn't my end goal.

  19. 'Spatchcocking' is just about the best verb ever invented and I plan to start introducing it into everyday conversation.

  20. I still prefer using a rotisserie. It takes longer, but the bird cooks evenly, and stays moist. A mixture of apricot preserves and a coffee flavored liqueur makes a great glaze for the last twenty minutes of cooking.

    Instead of a twenty pound bird, I prefer to cook two twelve pound birds at the same time. You just have to place them on the spit so that the breasts face in opposite directions (one outwards towards the front of the rotisserie, and one inwards towards the back) so the load is not off balanced.

  21. I love the idea of spatchcocking, but I fear I may need to pull out my reciprocating saw.

  22. Julia Child has a set of directions for a "laid back" turkey in her "The Way to Cook" (knopf, 1989). I've used this a number of times and it is great! The de-boning is kind of a mess (be sure to have a good sharp knife), but it cooks so quickly, the skin is crisp and perfect, and the meat is moist and all cooked through correctly. And carving it is a breeze!

  23. We have sometimes butterflied a small turkey to fit in our smoker. Delicious, and I'm not even much of a turkey fan.

  24. My biggest problem with home spatchcocking is the mess, which is substantial and very dangerous. I have a small kitchen, and raw turkey juice and bits can get everywhere and on everything, requiring a complete bleach cleanup. Fortunately, I have a butcher who will spatchcock for me, although it's a bit of a trip to get a turkey from him. This year I'm going to have him cut the bird in four pieces, like a cut up chicken, so I can slow roast the dark meat a little bit before adding the breast meat.

  25. If you brine it (at least 24 hours, preferably 72) before roasting, the traditional roast method will taste great, moist on the inside and crisp-skinned.

  26. We've flattened our turkey for years, and it is great. However, it doesn't cook in anything like an hour. The one time we tried marks recipe, the turkey was raw -- it took an hour and a half, not the 45 minutes he had called for. So spatchcock at will -- just be prepared for a longer cook time!

  27. While many sources use two terms as synonyms, I call what Mr. Bittman describes here as "butterflying." "Spatchcocking" to me means the additional removal of rib bones (and some cooks remove the breast bone as well). A spatchcocked bird will be very floppy, OK for small fowl, but unwieldy for a 10-12 pound turkey.

    My plan is to butterfly, then steam and baste as in Jacque Pepin's recent approach. But then dry refrigerated for a day to encourage crisp skin. Roast at high heat as in Cook's Illustrated's recipe but with no dressing beneath. Giblets gravy is made ahead from the same CI source.

  28. Butterflying doesn't mean quite the same as spatchcocking... but if like me your butcher gives you the hairy eye when you request a spatchcocked treatment, switching to an ask for the bird to be butterflied seems to go over fairly well.

    I've cooked my turkey this way for three years straight, buttering and herbing both under and over the skin, and I will never go back.

  29. Spatchcocking I didn't know. Julia taught me how to cut and flatten roasting chickens and roast them in the oven with a pan or on a low grill and a broiler rack with red potatos and quartered onions. The roasting juices alone make me drool just thinking of them. The most fab gravy makings on the planet. But I gotta say, you'd have to beat a 12 lb turkey pretty flat to get that chubby breast to cook all the way through in an hour without burning the skin, though dropping the temp to 200 or so and then turning on the broiler for the last few minutes would give you that crispy skin that is the glory of a well roasted bird. It's a great idea, and sure simplifies the whole moronic "carving" thing. Just pull off a piece and chow down..., I'm sure that's how the Pilgrims did it. Like you said..., spend the extra time on the squash with brown sugar.

  30. I've been preparing a spatchcocked turkey for the last five or six years and I wouldn't consider ever going back to a traditional roasted bird. I still prepare a rub of butter, herbs and garlic with a tiny bit of cornmeal (talk about making a beautiful, crispy skin!) that I place up under the skin. I also roast the bird over the removed backbone cut into a few pieces with chunks of onion and other veggies depending on my mood --- sometimes traditional, sometimes things like fennel, turnips and parsnips. If the object of your dinner is for great a great tasting turkey (rather than an iconic symbol) with juicy white meat for your white meat lovers as well as succulent dark meat, there really is no comparison --- in my opinion.

  31. By chance, I found Mark's Braised Turkey recipe last year and made it. It was the best turkey I've had, and it was not difficult to do.

    In particular, the slow braising of the thigh/legs in stock cooked them perfectly and rendered out all of the fattiness in these parts. The end result was that the dark meat was tasty, edible and was like pulled pork in texture.

    To make it easy to cook, I ordered a whole turkey from the butcher (which means they basically just thawed it out for me), and had them cut out the breasts, perserve the breast skin, and separate the thigh/leg when I went to pick it up.

    With the Turkey, properly cut up, it was easy to follow Mark's instructions to make it.

  32. I've been BBQing "spread-eagled" chickens this way for years. Interesting idea for a turkey.

  33. spatchcock is my favorite way to do poultry; i do it every week. awesome each time.

  34. For years I have been cooking turkeys, or more likely a bone in turkey breast, on a covered charcoal grill (Weber) using indirect heat, hardwood chips soaked in water, and a water filled pan under the bird to catch drippings, and keep the bird moist. I have been very satisfied with the results.

  35. This will be the 5th big Thanksgiving dinner in my married life, and my third with a spatchcocked turkey. I usually brine mine for extra flavor, but I can tell you I will NEVER roast in the traditional way again. This takes an hour and a half for a 23lb turkey, and it comes out perfect every single time. It's the way to go world!!

  36. How big are these birds presumed to be? Wouldn't the cooking time vary by size?

  37. So, exactly where does one find a 6-8 lb. turkey these days. The ones the various supermarkets and produce stands in my area carry seem to start about about 11 pounds and go up to 20+. I'd eat turkey more frequently if I could by a smaller one (and, yes, I am aware t hat it's possible to buy turkey parts some places).

  38. I could never do spatchcocking in Oklahoma. No one at the table would believe that it wasn't roadkill.

  39. I braised turkey thighs a week ago using Mark Bittman's recipe and the entire dish was wonderful. I may never go back to roast turkey again.

  40. I really love this technique of preparing any poultry - I show students in my cooking classes how to do this using a pair of kitchen shears. Cutting up a whole bird can be intimidating to some who don't feel they have the best knife skills, but most feel pretty comfortable with a pair of scissors! Then you can roast it, grill it, whatever.

    Here's a braised turkey recipe, based on a dish I recently enjoyed in Ferrara, Italy.

  41. I am not certain if Mr. Bittmqn is responsible for all of the content in this article, notably the recipes. However, he should have discovered the recipe attached to this article regarding turning stock into gravy, is inaccurate. The recipe in the article is for a sauce. Typically, what Mr. Bittman's article is promoting as a thickening agent is a "whitewash." Gravy is made with a roux; equal parts of butter and flour.

  42. Your flattened turkey recipe looks great. Any shifts in recommended cooking time, temperature, or technique for a larger bird, say a 12-13 pounder? Love your recipes and food writing...

  43. is the spatchcock (love writing that word) turkey supposed to be placed on a rack or directly in the pan? TIA.