By Michelle Bender
My dad is the recognizable type of country character whose stoic acceptance of rural life’s tougher realities overlies a surprisingly impressionable heart.
The same man who excoriated the scrubby marshland north of our home as “good for nothing” (that is, you couldn’t farm it, fish it or hunt it) could be moved to sing “How Great Thou Art” when the land was tinged with sunset or sparkling with frost.
Cows whose irascible ways earned them daily threats of an untimely end were fed generously and milked gently through long lives.
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Similarly, I never heard him, an erstwhile turkey farmer, say anything remotely positive about turkeys (or their meat, though he ate it regularly).
But a few years ago, when my brother included two turkeys with his poultry flock, my dad bonded with Tammy and Tommy (have you ever seen two 85-pound turkeys following a man on a walk?) to the point that he forewent the Thanksgiving meal they became.
Sometimes, the same things whose worth we’ve dismissed surprise us with unexpected benefits.
The invasive honeysuckle we battle around the farm enchants us one evening with its fragrance on the breeze. The red squirrel who robs blind our bird feeder or corn crib makes us laugh out loud with his scrappy scolding. Value isn’t found only in the places we expect it.
Turkey, for example, might still rank with some people as the low meat on the totem pole, traditional at Thanksgiving and essential for a club sandwich, but not as tasty or versatile as beef, pork and chicken.
But look again.
Turkey is perfect for today’s country cooks who want to retain the hearty, meat-based flavors of years ago, but also want to watch their cholesterol.
Economical, lean, firm-textured, with a flavor that can stand alone or combine with others, turkey has emerged showing an astonishing culinary diversity. It can be turned into burgers, meatloaf, bacon, kabobs, tenderloins, pate, soup base, sausage and more. It can be ground, stuffed, grilled, smoked, stir-fried, roasted, sautéed or cooked in a crockpot.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to use turkey, but also try experimenting with your favorite cooking methods and flavors to make this valuable ingredient your own. It’s worth it.