Like many other noders
, we also have a "family secret" for a delicious
and tender turkey breast come Thanksgiving
. Like many family secret
s throughout the ages, it was discovered completely by accident.
One particularly hectic Thanksgiving when my mother was running around trying to get everything ready, guests collected, side dishes completed and all the other zillion things that come with cooking your own Thanksgiving meal, she made one simple error that no one caught until we were all primped and dressed nicely and sitting at the dinner table with our guests. The foil cooking tent was removed from the masterpiece of the turkey, and my father was prepared to carve it, when he realized he didn't quite understand what he was looking at. It took us all a minute more of confusion to realize that the bird had been put in the oven upside down, laying on the breast with the wings and legs facing skyward.
After some nervous laughter and my mother's worries that it would turn out horribly becuase she'd done something so silly, we carved the bird anyways and passed plates full of meat around the table. It was, hands down, the tenderest turkey any of us had ever eaten.
Come Christmas, there was another turkey, cooked correctly. It wasn't nearly as juicy or tender as the first. So the next year, it was cooked upside down again and came out just as juicy and flavorful. Now, unless one of us forgets, our turkeys are almost always cooked upside down.
If you ever do try this, by accident or design, I'd love to hear how it turns out. But do remember this is anecdotal evidence from one family and you may not want to try this with a hungry dinner party waiting on you, just in case. yclept and demeter have informed me that this is acutally a well-recognised technique among chefs and those who prepare lots of poultry and is in fact considered the "proper" way to cook whole birds. It's just not done so often because it doesn't look quite as pretty and it doesn't sit in the pan as well. It works for more or less the reasons I assumed. The dark meat can get hotter when it's on top and exposed and the breast stay cooler because the pan protects it. Also the fat and juices sort of self-baste the turkey and since the breast is now sitting in this liquid, it stays moister. Thanks guys.