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One tipsy turkey for Thanksgiving, please | WHIDBEY RECIPES

Have you ordered your Thanksgiving turkey yet? If not, you might want to consider giving up the old Butterball in favor of a big, fat bird that’s been tippling on beer for the better part of its short, but no doubt happy life.

Joe Morette, who lives in Henniker, New Hampshire, has been giving his turkeys beer to drink ever since 1993, when he and some friends accidentally tipped over a can and saw one of his turkeys pounce on the spilled contents and slurp it up. He’s currently going through 50 to 60 cans of lager a day to keep his flock of 50 turkeys happy.

Apparently it doesn’t make the turkeys drunk, although Mr. Morette says it does slow them down a bit and they seem less aggressive, more contented. A cold bottle of Redhook ESB has about the same effect on me, so I’m happy for the turkeys. Also, various veterinarians and “poultry experts” can’t come up with any good reason not to let the turkeys enjoy their daily brew.

Mr. Morette says the beer makes his birds fatter, more flavorful, and juicier. According to a select few people who every year order a turkey from Mr. Morette, there is decidedly a richer flavor to these turkeys and the turkey gravy is “darker and much richer.” I have to say, I’m tempted to try one of his blowsy birds as I’ve had a few very disappointing turkeys over the years.

Mr. Morette raises only 50 turkeys each year, and most of them are already spoken for by regular customers who have a standing order for one of his flock. Yes, they’re considerably more expensive than your frozen Jennie-O or Butterball, but imagine setting one of Joe’s big, juicy birds on your Thanksgiving table, then telling all your guests it’s not only a free-range bird, it’s been pampered with a daily brew all of its life. That’s probably more than most of the people sitting around the table can say for themselves.

If you’re interested in learning more about these tipsy turkeys, look online for Morette Turkeys. You’ll see photos of the birds drinking their brew from a trough, and if you want to order one, you’ll also find out how to do it.

I once visited a large turkey farm, something I later wished I hadn’t done when Thanksgiving rolled around, and by comparison, I’m sure Mr. Morette’s birds are much to be envied. At least it’s nice to know they probably went happier to the chopping block.

RECIPES

I love the holidays; so many wonderful, delicious foods that most of us don’t eat more than once or twice a year. I have a massive collection of holiday recipes and spend hours culling and deciding which to use. One of the first questions for many of us is the “stuffing” or dressing, and whether to have it in the bird or on the side. Here are two favorites, one for each way. And even though Thanksgiving is all about traditions, that doesn’t mean you have to eat exactly the same thing every year. A little variation never goes awry, as in this delicious, exotic side dressing.

Wild rice with pecans turkey dressing

1 cup wild rice

2 ½ cups water (or use turkey broth)

¼ t. salt

1 pound loaf of sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 T. olive oil

1 med. onion (white or yellow), peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

2 T. butter

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced

¼ cup chopped fresh sage, or 1 T. dried sage, crushed

2 T. fresh thyme leaves, or 1 t. dried thyme, crushed

½ cup chopped pecans

1 t. salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

¼ t. cayenne pepper

1 cup apple cider

½ cup chicken or turkey broth

3 eggs, lightly beaten

Combine rice, water and salt in a med. saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring well. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook 40-50 min, until rice is tender. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. (You can do this the night before; cool the rice, cover and refrigerate.)

Spread the bread cubes in a large baking pan and toast in a preheated 350 degree oven 10-15 min., or until they begin to turn golden. Remove from the oven and cool. (You can also do this the day before).

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over med. heat. Add onion, garlic and celery; sauté 10 min. Transfer this to the bowl of rice. In another large skillet, heat the butter over med. heat. When melted, sauté the diced apples 5 min.; add to the rice. Cool mixture completely.

Add the toasted bread, sage, thyme, pecans, salt, pepper and cayenne to the rice. Whisk together the cider, broth and eggs. Pour over the stuffing, mixing well. Transfer to a 3-quart casserole, cover with foil and bake immediately in a preheated 325 degree oven for 35 min. Uncover and continue baking 10 min. more. Serves 10.

In our family, oyster stuffing was often the choice because we had access to our own small oysters, straight from the beach. Now I make it with oysters from a jar; it is just as delicious and a special treat for those who like oysters. This can be done in the bird or out, or both.

Oyster stuffing

1 pound loaf sourdough bread (not sliced), cut into 1-inch cubes (about 16 cups)

1 pkg. (10 oz.) ready to use fresh spinach, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 8 generous cups; you probably will only need about ¾ of the pkg.)

2 T. butter

½ cup minced shallots

3 stalks celery, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 jars (8 oz.) fresh oysters, drained and coarsely chopped

2 T. chopped fresh tarragon, or 2 t. dried

3 eggs, beaten to blend

1 ½ cups canned low-salt chicken broth or turkey broth

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Divide bread cubes between 2 large baking sheets and bake until dry but not colored, about 15 min. Transfer bread to a very large bowl; add spinach.

Melt 1 T. butter in a heavy large skillet over med. heat. Add shallots, celery and garlic and sauté until tender but not brown, about 5 min. Stir into the bread mixture. (You can do all of this a day ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

Melt remaining 1 T. butter in heavy med. skillet over med. heat; add oysters and sauté 2 min. Mix oysters and tarragon into the stuffing mixture; season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix in the eggs.

To bake in the turkey as well as outside, mix 1/3 cup chicken broth into the stuffing; fill the main turkey cavity with stuffing. Mix enough broth into remaining stuffing to moisten (probably about ½-3/4 cup); spoon into a buttered baking dish, cover with buttered foil and bake in the oven with your turkey until heated through (about ½ hr.) then uncover and bake until top is crisp, about 20 min. more.

To bake all the stuffing outside the turkey, butter a 9x13 baking dish. Mix 1 ½ cups chicken broth into stuffing; transfer to prepared dish. Cover with buttered aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until heated through (about 30 min.), then uncover and bake until top is crisp, about another 20 min. Serves 8-10.

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