Yesterday after work, I dropped by the Hanamasa store between my office and the train station to pick up some groceries. Hanamasa is a meat wholesaler that operates retail stores -- kind of like a small-scale Costco, doing walk-in business for tiny restaurants and such -- that sells large packages of inexpensively priced food, especially meat. They usually have an odd assortment of imported food (potato chips, sauces, biscuits) and for awhile were importing stuff from Trader Joe's -- no longer, alas. They even have turkey -- Jenny-O brand (imported from the states) either frozen or pre-roasted, as well as cut-up turkey. On a whim just after Thanksgiving, I bought one of the pre-roasted ones, since my little convection oven probably wouldn't fit a even medium-sized turkey without the use of a crowbar -- not bad, but WAY oversmoked -- giving me the old-fashioned US Thanksgiving experience, complete with far too much leftovers.
In any case, last night I pondered whether to buy MORE turkey and cook it myself this time -- the turkey parts looked manageable, certainly -- dithered a bit, but decided no.
When I got to the train station, I realized that I had left my iPod on my desk, and not wanting to go the long weekend without it (today's a holiday), I trudged back, retrieved it, put it on, and started walking back to the station while listening to the podcast of "NPR's Most E-mailed Stories", specifically the interview with Ted Allen of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on tips for Christmas turkey dinners. I'm a fan of the show -- well, of the episodes I've been able to get my hands on -- and even have QESG desk calendar at the office, so I paid particular attention.
Allen's first advice was to cut up the turkey and roast/cook the different pieces separately. Hmm, good, I could do that, even with my small oven. And literally as I was passing the Hanamasa meat market again, he mentioned brining. This stopped me dead in my tracks. Allen raved about brining, brings flavor, juiciness, etc as I stood outside the store and listened.
Brining, in a nutshell, is soaking meat in salty water, which, through osmotic action, infuses the meat with water, salt, and whatever flavoring (spices, etc) you've put in the brine. Alton Brown of the TV show Good Eats raves about the technique in his book I'm Just Here for the Food, (which I have a copy of, of course). I've never tried it, but Allen's mention of (and effusive praise for) the technique suddenly brought it back to mind. So I turned right, walked back into the store, and bought a package of three turkey legs/flanks (inadvertantly following another bit of Allen advice ("Buy three legs and tell your kids it was an unusual turkey"). I brought them home, concocted a brine, more-or-less following a recipe from the Alton Brown book -- salt, orange juice, brown sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns -- and God willing and the creeks don't rise, I'll be having a roast turkey with real mashed potatoes (I also bought potatoes at Hanamasa) and gravy for Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow.
If it weren't for the fortuitous timing of hearing that podcast I'd probably be getting my Christmas turkey either from Leftover Turkey Stew or a sandwich at Subway's (yes, they have them here).