Picking the BEST Thanksgiving Turkey (Stuffing Recipe Included)

If I were you, I’d stay away from your supermarket’s turkey. I’m not saying that to scare you. I just want you to know this:

You see, all turkeys are not created equal. Though they are birds, turkeys can’t fly. Surprising, but sad.

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They used to fly. But we, with the help of big food companies, have driven the turkey of the Pilgrims to the verge of extinction. Your supermarket turkey is mass-produced and has been specifically bred to yield a big-breasted bird (pleasing our insatiable appetite for white meat).

We, as consumers, have created a monster. The “Broadbreasted White,” (that’s the name for the common supermarket turkey) is a monster turkey with huge breast. It doesn’t fly (wings are too small), it doesn’t run (legs are too short) and it doesn’t lay eggs either. It can’t mate naturally because of its size, so it’s bred through artificial insemination. Yuck!

In other words, your supermarket turkey is a Thanksgiving freak, and would better serve Halloween. Granted, with 50 million turkeys sold every year, such an animal is convenient.

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Convenient, but not proper to anyone interested in eating properly. Benjamin Franklin said: “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country! The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.”

This is why I want to introduce you to a much better alternative this year. How about a “wild,” “organic,” or “heritage” turkey?

What does a wild or heritage turkey taste like? Ask anyone old enough to remember eating turkey 50 years ago. Listen in awe. Watch the tears glisten in his eyes. That’s the heritage turkey they’re talking about. Raised outdoors, they have richly flavored meat, succulent and juicy, and are naturally well-proportioned, with more dark meat than white. They descend directly from the wild turkey, native to America and still present in some woods. Fifty years ago, Thanksgiving turkeys across America were served moist and tender, by nature more than by design.

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Since then, we’ve tried to find answers in cooking gadgets and “tricks.” We try to brine, baste, cook it upside down, increase or lower the heat, or my personal favorite: we try to fry it. The truth is, there is almost no way to avoid the dry breast, since the breast and leg meat of a whole turkey are perfectly done at different temperatures (170 degrees for breast, 180 for legs). The answer remains simply in the quality of the turkey you choose.

So choose it wisely. I encourage you to look online for “wild,” “organic” and “heritage” turkeys. They are pricier but then again, this is your body fuel and you better spend a bit of money on it.

Please, connect with me on Facebook. I always love to hear from you. Tell me about your healthy Thanksgiving and let me know your successes, or your disasters. Reach out to me and I’ll help you.

Whatever turkey you choose, here is my award-winning recipe for stuffing it:

Holiday Sausage, Cranberry and Pistachio Stuffing

Active time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes | Yield: 10 cups (1 medium-sized turkey)

 Ingredients:

  • 12 hot or mild organic turkey sausages, casings removed
  • 2 cups whole grain, unsweetened cereals (such as Ezekiel’s or Bob’s Red Mill), processed into crumbs
  • 3 ribs celery, roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, unpeeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsps finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tbsps finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup pistachios
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a food processor, process celery, onion and carrots (in batches if necessary) until they are the size of uncooked rice. Transfer to a large bowl. Add sausage and all other ingredients. Mix well.
  3. Stuff into turkey cavity. Bake turkey according to recipe.
  4. Place remaining stuffing in a baking dish and bake until golden on top, about 30 minutes.

Important note: Whether you decide to stuff a turkey or just bake the stuffing by itself, make sure you use a thermometer: the internal temperature of the stuffing must reach 165 degrees F.

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