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Entries in turkey neck (2)

Wednesday
Nov252009

DON'T TOSS THAT TURKEY NECK! THANKSGIVING'S MOST UNDERAPPRECIATED TREASURE

What: Thanksgiving
Where: My apartment, NYC

The Humble Turkey Neck. Tastiest part of allIt's Turkey Time! One of the tastiest times of year for hungry Searchers. This year, I got my gorgeous bird from the Union Square Farmer's Market, from Tamarack Hollow Farm. At 14lbs., this bird cost me nearly $100.00, so you certainly pay extra for this special Turkey (by comparison, a 14lb bird from Citarella would have cost me about $35.00!). The turkey was beautiful, fresh and clean, with big plump breasts and giant meaty legs and wings.

I removed the giblets and neck, brushed the turkey with butter, stuffed it with onions, lemons, herbs and garlic and popped it in a 350 degree oven. I set the timer for 2.5 hours.

On my kitchen counter loomed a bowl of the glistening giblets. They were deep red and gorgeous (as offal goes), and I knew I could not waste them. I went to chowhound.com (which I consult for many of my foodie dilemmas) and searched "what do you do with turkey giblets." A long post came up with varying opinions about what to do with these innard treasures. Some put them in the gravy, others in the stuffing, others boiled them to make turkey stock. Some just tossed them in the roasting pan with the turkey (which is what I decided to do). But to my total shock and dismay, not one person spoke about the glories of eating the TURKEY NECK! Everyone just fed the neck to their cat, or used it to make the gravy, or (oh horrors of horrors) tossed it in the woods "for whatever critters want to" eat it.

The beautiful finished turkey. The flavor was rich and dense, complex and meaty. It was almost a little gamey, in a great way. Definitely not your average supermarket bird.This may be hard to believe, but the turkey neck is THE BEST PART of the turkey (check out my previous blog post about eating a turkey neck at my grandmother's house). By far, no question. It has moist, silky meat that pulls off the bone like a well braised short rib. It is packed with flavor. It is DELICIOUS. It must be eaten shortly after coming out of the oven, when it still burns your hands and you can see the steam coming off of it. And it must be eaten with no utensils. Hold it in your hands and tear off the shards of meat with your teeth. Caveman style. Yes it is a little primitive. My family usually watches me wide eyed, as I tear off the meat like some wild animal, a "critter." But I don't care. It is that good. Today, my turkey neck was as it should be, in the roasting pan nestled against my turkey, having been treated with the same care and attention as I had given to my bird. Season, roast, enjoy. I can hardly wait to eat it.

So this holiday, take your Search for Delicious to this misunderstood and underappreciated part of your bird. I guarantee it will be the best Search of your Thanksgiving. 

Tuesday
Sep222009

Jewish New Year at Bubbe's House

Where: Bubbe and Poppa's House in Monsey, New York
What: Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year)

Bubbe and Poppa relaxing before the holiday feast

This Search for Delicious brought me back to my roots, to my Grandparent's home in Monsey, New York. I have been coming to this house for my entire life. The smells are so familiar, so comforting. When I walk in, it smells like my grandmother's roast chicken and potatoes, like being a kid and stealing a slice of turkey as it is being sliced by my grandfather (ok, I still do this). Every room is always exactly the same, preserved in time exactly as it was when I was a child. It feels like a big hug every time I step foot in the door. I don't build legos sitting crosslegged on the floor anymore, or race miniature cars down the linoleum floors, but as soon as we get there, my sister, brother and I still ritualistically rush downstairs to play with my grandfather's huge 1940s cash register, and ruffle through old photo albums with faded pictures while sitting on their well worn velvety couch.
Roasted turkey. Perfection.
This time, we had come to celebrate Rosh Hashanah--the Jewish New Year. My Grandparents (known to me as Bubbe and Poppa), are Orthodox Jews, and this is a very important holiday. One of the "High Holy Days." It is a holiday to celebrate life, and to pray for a sweet and happy year.

My Bubbe is an amazing cook. She just has a way with food. She cooks the same things everytime we go and she has perfected each and every dish. I have eaten all over the world, in some of the greatest restaurants on the planet. But still I find that eating my Bubbe's food satisfies my ultimate Search for Delicious like nothing else can. It is Delicious food, seasoned with history, with memories. It's indescribably Delicious.

Chicken soup with noodles and Matzoh ballsWe arrived Friday night. Bubbe lit the candles in observation of the Sabbath, and the New Year. It is always a very meaningful moment. Bubbe leans over the candles, silently praying and sobbing for all of the people she has lost over the years. Bubbe has had a difficult life and has seen a lot of tragedy. In fact, my mom wrote a book about her amazing life story called "Sala's Gift." (Amazon Link)

And then, there is the feast. Seriously, dinner was so good that night that I kept moaning with each bite. My mother told me I had to cut it out. The highlight, and probably one of my top 10 Most Delicious Things to Eat was the giant turkey neck, fresh from the oven. Rubbed with garlic powder, paprika, salt, and whatever other magic powders Bubbe sprinkles on her turkey, the neck is so tender and flavorful you can't believe it. I almost cried eating it. Long, thick strands of meat pull off the bone like some kind of meat Polly-O string cheese. If you haven't had a turkey neck in your life, you are making a BIG mistake. Best part of the turkey, by far.

Turkey neck, in all of it's glory
Turkey with potato kugel, cucumber salad, roasted string beansThe meal was accompanied by thick slices of Challah drizzled with honey (traditional to encourage a sweet New Year), cucumber salad, potato kugel (a sort of potato pie made with hand grated potatoes and onions, egg and flour), roasted string beans and Bubbe's cole slaw which is, in my opinion, the best and most unique cole slaw around. I really don't know how she makes it, though I've gotten the recipe many times, and attempted to make it myself over and over again. No matter how many times I've tried, it never comes out like Bubbe's. Her recipe is simple: cabbage, carrot, lemon juice, mayo, water, light olive oil, sugar and salt. How does she do it?? I think it's all in her hands. Magic hands.

We go to Synagogue (temple) for a while on Saturday, and when we get home, another unbelievable meal awaits us. This afternoon, it is

Bubbe's Magical colemy mother's legendary beef brisket, a sacred dish in my family. It is a relatively simple thing to make, but the combination of the meaty brisket, crushed tomatoes, beef stock, carrots and onions transforms the brisket into something other-worldly. It is a stunning dish. I made it for a client recently, and she emailed me that she "dreams about that brisket."  Really, it's that good. I have gotten my mother's blessing to post the recipe. Try making it and let me know what you think. I guarantee you will love it.

Accompanying the succulent brisket was Noodle Kugel (same concept as the potato kugel but made with well cooked egg noodles and sweetened with cinnamon and sugar), roast zucchini and of course, more cucumber salad and cole slaw. Mmm, mmm good.

Brisket, noodle kugel, zucchini and cole slaw. A light lunch.Going to Bubbe and Poppa's house is a  treasured experience for me. It is deeply engrained in my memories of childhood and it is such a powerful, memorable part of my life. So much of that is because of the unforgettable meals I have shared with my family and my extraordinary Bubbe and Poppa through the years. There is nothing more delicious than an outstanding meal, cooked lovingly by your grandmother, shared with your family as part of a meaningful family tradition, carried out year after year.