When I was a high school student in the sixties, it was a very big deal when shortly before the holiday, the school cafeteria offered a special called "Turkey Treat." There were signs posted about this event several weeks in advance. The treat consisted of generous chunks of turkey in a salty, thick yellow canned gravy, served over your choice of a soft square biscuit or an ice cream scoop of reconstituted dried mashed potatoes. Sometimes there was also a scoop of bread dressing.This could be washed down either with the tradtional pink "bug juice" or the more sophisticated pre-sweetened iced tea.
Unappetizing as this sounds , it was extremely popular, even among students who ordinarily scorned the cafeteria food, or ate only the few annointed a "cool" items- grilled cheese sandwiches, french fries, or hotdogs. In retrospect, I suspect that the explanation for this enthusiasm has to do with the fact that turkey, then, was still very much a special occasion food, which was only available in the holiday season. Even in a deli, where you could get a sliced turkey sandwich, generally your turkey was sliced from a whole roasted bird. Turkey was a food for feasts; turkey burgers and turkey bacon were not seen yet in the supermarket.
Even the awful canned gravy did not entirely drown the taste of real roast turkey. Plus, the basement cafeteria was filled with that roasting bird aroma, which is heavenly. So much of taste being associated with smells, you could probably nibble on some spongy wonder bread while smelling a turkey roasting, and think it tasted pretty decent.
I love doing a big mahogany crisp skinned turkey for a feast, and enjoy the leftovers, particularly including a good rich soup made from the carcass. But there are a number of excellent uses for the turkey parts now available, not the least of which is the making of turkey broth from a package of necks.
A real turkey treat, though, and a favorite of mine is this simple dinner for one or two, which fills the house with the wonderful roasting bird smell, and tastes delicious. It is adapted from a Betty Fussell recipe. Though you can easily make it for supper after work, I would not hesitate to increase quantities and serve it to guests. For 2 people you need:
1 or 2 turkey thighs (one is a very large serving for one person)
2 generous handsful of spinach or other greens, such as beet greens, or greens and arugula, mixed
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
dash ground chipotle or spanish paprika (opt)
freshly ground pepper
2 tbsps orange marmalade
1 tbsp balsamic or sherry vinegar
Preheat oven to 375F
With a paring knife or boning knife, remove the thigh bones. Leave the skin on. Set each thigh on a good sized square of aluminum foil.
Heat some olive oil in a pan, and cook the onions until limp, but not brown. Add the greens, raisins, and seasonings, and cook until greens are wilted. Cool this mix to room temperature, and then spoon it into the hollow of each thigh where the bone was removed. Carefully and tightly wrap each thigh in its square of foil, drawing in the edges of the meat within to roll it closed around the stuffing. Closure need not be perfect, but wrap them tightly.
Set the wrapped thighs on a baking sheet, and cook for about an hour. Your house will begin to smell wonderful. Remove from oven, and carefully unwrap each packet. Watch out for steam. With tongs or two spoons, turn each skin side up, inside the open foil. Pour off accumulated juices into a little bowl, and save. Heat the marmelade and vinegar together, and brush or pour it over the turkey skin. Put the open packets on the baking sheet and turn the oven to 420F. Cook 10-15 minutes more, just until skin is crisp and browned. Keep an eye on it.
Add any additional juices to the bowl, and let the turkey rest for 5 or 6 minutes. Slice carefully in thickish slices, and arrange on a plate. Reheat juices, pour over, and serve. This is nice with just some crusty bread, as it comes with your vegetable inside. I like to add a plain green salad with a vinegrette on the same plate-juices mingling. You can also serve this with fingerling potatoes with olive oil and rosemary, since they can cook along side the turkey, in a separate pan, of course, for about the same time. Easy as pie. (A great deal easier, in fact. Pie isn't particularly easy anyhow.)
I think the smells and savory tastes are comparable to those of a whole roast turkey. I like the juicy thighs better than the drier breast for this sort of thing. They make such neat little bundles, and take much less time to cook.