If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Big Tom

Stephen and Bonnie raised some chickens and a turkey this summer.  From the start, Stephen's goal was to have the turkey for Thanksgiving.  After feeding and interacting with the turkey, though, Bonnie was not quite as eager to see him on her table.  Eventually, she agreed.  However, he turned out to be too much of an undertaking for Bonnie's mother to tackle since he weighed over forty pounds!


So, who does Stephen turn to when the cooking needs finesse?  Good ole Dad!

Big Tom and Mike

Since Mike has a new smoker, he was glad to wear the chef's hat.  Then, he saw the turkey...

What a bird!

Doubting that Big Tom would fit into the new smoker, the chef decided that he would divide the bird into more manageable chunks.  Plus, this would cut down on cooking time.  So, he asked for a sharp knife and an assistant.  He also assembled his work space down on the concrete turn-around at the basement entrance.  He brought down the table which he usually uses for meat preparation such as fish cleaning or wild game dressing.  It is a lightweight, portable plastic table which is easily cleaned and sanitized.  There also is a water spigot there for rinsing and an electrical outlet for his saws-all.  Bridgette offered to be the guest photographer and I became the able assistant. 

This shot is one she worked hard to get.  Mainly so it could be cropped down to look like this:

Doesn't it look sort of like Mike's head is on the turkey's body?
Silly girl!

Enough of the fun and games.  It is time to get down to business.


Mike installed a brand-new, clean blade into the saws-all. Then, set to work dividing this bad boy into manageable parts. He decided to separate the legs and wings from the body first.

This shot shows what the able assistant did during most of this process.
She is really pretty good at propping that hand on her hip and watching.

First, a bit of slicing.

Well, some major slicing.

Then, a little nip with the saw.

A final little slice.
A little hamming for the camera - "Man got food!"

Then it was back to work.

Time for the assistant to step in and help hold Big Tom.

I didn't really want to touch Big Tom with my bare hands like Mike did.  So, he gave me a cloth to lay atop the bird and I was a bit more cooperative.

The looks on the faces say it all...
Mike's is one of determination and mine is saying Eeyuw!

The look of triumph is not quite the same either.

Then, it was time to tackle the other side.

We even had the same expressions for this side, I think.

One more little nip...

Sometimes it took brute force to cut through.

Sometimes it was simply getting a strong grip.

Sometimes it was a matter of holding your mouth just right!

The able assistant needed two hands and cloths for this job.

I think this was a time to step back, hitch up your pants, and think about what needed to happen next.

He decided to trim off the tail because it seemed to be mostly bone and fat.

Big Tom had also been pecked by the chickens a little
and was sprayed with some purple antiseptic spray
that had lingered on the skin
and Mike thought we didn't need to cook or eat that part.

A little more steadying.

Then, a little bit of clean-up.

Trimming off some fat.

Supervising is a tough job but somebody's got to do it!

Isn't that guy one handsome devil?




He trimmed and worked on the turkey breast till it was picture-perfect.

Finally, it was time to get a little refreshment,

stand back and admire your work a little bit,

and begin to clean up what is left of Big Tom.

It took lots of scrubbing to get this big guy clean.

There is always time for a little silliness, too.  I think this was the singing in the shower routine.

Now the actual cooking prep takes place.

Mike had found a recipe for injecting a simple concoction of green peppers and onions along with a dash of spices down into the meat.

He pumped the bird full till Big Tom puffed up and the mixture oozed out.

A sprinkle of a spicy mix and a quick rub to the surface of the bird to add some flavor.

Then, it was time to smoke this big fellow.  The guest photographer had to leave and yes, I forgot to make photos of the smoking process until it was far too dark.  Mike kept pouring the coals to the smoker, keeping the temperature in the smoking chamber up to 225 degrees or more.  (The able assistant kept him company by sitting beside the fire box and looking at a magazine.)  He put the meat on the racks at about three o'clock.  At about ten-thirty a storm began to blow in.  So, with my encouragement, Mike decided to move the meat indoors to the oven.  We placed the breast in one foil roasting pan and the legs and wings into another and slid it all into the oven and baked it on 225 degrees for the remainder of the night.  I got up a couple of times because of the storm and looked in on the meat to make sure we weren't burning it or something.  (Like I knew what I was looking at!) 

We sure awoke to delicious smells!  Mike got up and set right to work checking.  We used the meat thermometer to determine if the big bird was done.  The thermometer read nearly 200 degrees in several spots.  Since the official recommendations in cookbooks and online resources say an internal temperature of 160 degrees indicates done-ness, We took the meat out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool for a bit.  Mike deboned the breast and took a break to cook his able assistant a delicious breakfast of sausage, bacon, and biscuits. 

Then, he finished off the deboning process of the legs and wings. 

Didn't these legs turn out beautifully?

The breast was equally as picture-perfect.  What we tasted was absolutely delicious as well!

Big Tom wound up making a huge pan of white meat - one of those big foil roasting pans filled to the brim.  Additionally, there were two big chunks of breast meat that Mike didn't slice but simply wrapped in foil.  There was also a half-roaster full of dark meat from the legs and wings.  The meat turned out moist and succulent and the chef turned out smiling.

I know this is an ultra long post with loads of photographs.  However, I didn't even include the part where the pan holding Big Tom's breast meat sloshed hot drippings and burned the mover's front, or where the pan was dropped into the floor causing the drippings to splash all over the cabinets and floor, or where the cabinets were washed and the floor mopped.  (The bird never touched the floor but there sure was a lot of drippings sloshed all over everything!)  All that is a story for another time. 

As it turns out, we wound up with some delicious, succulent turkey meat and nice clean cabinetry and kitchen floors as well and all before noon today!  What an adventure!