The turkey is the star of every Thanksgiving feast, unless you’re vegetarian, vegan, or say to hell with the Pilgrims and head out for Chinese on November 26th. So which bird deserves the star treatment? That’s a tough question—especially for anyone who watched Food, Inc. So we asked Jerusha Klemperer, our food editor-at-large, which bird is the freshest, healthiest, most humanely treated bird on the market.
Nearly all supermarket turkeys are frozen thanks to a loophole in the “fresh” meat business, explains Klemperer. A turkey may be labeled fresh even if it’s been kept brined at 26 degrees. In other words, that “fresh turkey” you’re painstakingly basting and roasting has most definitely been frozen and stored for up to six months. As for taste, a truly fresh, wild turkey is also a bird of a different feather. “If an animal has the opportunity to actually walk around in its lifetime,” says Klemperer, “it will be leaner and a bit gamier than a bird that sits on its ass in a cage and then gets pumped full of water once its dead. Seriously.”
- Heritage Foods USA sells four breeds of wild turkeys, which contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than supermarket turkeys. For 2009, Heritage Turkeys arrive the Tuesday before Thanksgiving via FedEx overnight.
- Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market sources hormone and antibiotic-free turkeys from a few, carefully chosen Amish Farms in Lancaster PA. The birds, which come into the city live, are slaughtered at a halal butcher in Queens.
Once your bird is ordered, it’s time to deal with the supporting actors, the sides. This year Klemperer is making raw Brussels sprout salad. “Last Thanksgiving my friend Rachel—inspired by a salad on the menu at Frankie’s 457 in Carroll Gardens—brought it to our meal and everyone was hooked. I’ll definitely make it this year, that or convince Rachel to come again and bring it with her.”
RAW BRUSSELS SPROUT SALAD
The ratio of Brussels sprouts to cheese to hazelnuts should be roughly 5:1:1
1 pound of Brussels sprouts, cleaned, stems trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise, and then cut into thin half moons
Hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
Good olive oil, several glugs
Lemon zest and lemon juice
A hunk of parmigianno reggiano, chopped finely (for a slightly different but also lovely taste, I recommend ricotta salata, a hard ricotta cheese that’s very easy to find and probably cheaper than parmigiano)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preparation: Toss all the ingredients in a salad bowl and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.