For quite some time now, my father, siblings, and I have been trying to convince my mother to make a chicken for Thanksgiving. The main points of our proposal being;
- a chicken is shaped like a turkey
- a chicken provides all the same benefits as a turkey i.e. stuffing cavity, drippings for gravy, crispy skin, etc.
- a chicken cooks faster
- a chicken tastes better.
But she has refused, year after year. (There was also an attempt, or several really, to convert Thanksgiving into a Feast of Crab, but that argument is a lot easier to shoot down.)
Chicken is a great substitute for turkey, which, in its infamy, is known to be dry, relatively tasteless, and more of a centerpiece for a meal as opposed to the dish people clamor for. Granted, a turkey is iconic. And that’s my mother’s infallible argument. Thanksgiving is not the holiday it is, the holiday everybody loves, without a turkey. Add that to the fact that she cooks Thanksgiving, and my father, siblings, and I have no ground to stand on.
However this year, our turkey was smoked. And for the first time in a long time, it was a truly enjoyable bird to eat. Two hours on the grill over a bed of hickory chips, and that turkey was as close to perfect as a gobble-gobble-wobble-wobble could be. There was just the smallest hint of a smoke ring on the breast meat, and the brine kept the flesh juicy.
Nobody asked for a chicken, not a one of us wanted anything else. It was, as was everything else, (creamed pearl onions, mashed potatoes, green beans with parsleyshallotgarlic butter, rice, herbed stuffing with pecans and sausage, cranberry compote, gallons of gravy, pecan pie, apple pie, and blueberry pie), delicious.
As everybody knows, the best part of Thanksgiving is the piles of leftovers. And magically, just as chicken is a plausible substitute for turkey, that swap can go both ways.
While a sliced turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sandwich is great—nothing wrong with a sandwich—a smoked turkey salad sandwich with the sweet crunch of an apple, the savory spiciness of celery, and just a slick of mayonnaise, is one phenomenal sandwich. On a bed of arugala, there really isn’t any other way to celebrate the Friday after Thanksgiving. (No, not even Black Friday). That hit of smokiness is what takes the turkey salad to the next level. There in the mix, complemented by the apple and spice, hidden in the richness of the mayo, is a subtle bit of smoke that anchors the entire realm of taste. It’s yet another great use for turkey. Now that my family and I have been converted, the only thing we’ll be whining about come Thanksgiving time is, ‘when will the (smoked) turkey be ready?’
Recipe on the following page.