Raise your hand if you love the Thanksgiving holiday, but hate turkey. Many people roast a big bird every year for holiday tradition but never eat much turkey. Why do people hate turkey meat? Turkey tends to be dry (even the dark meat). Turkey farmers inject turkeys with steroids and growth hormones to get monster birds. A “self-basting” turkey’ is injected with chemicals and fake fats during processing. So why the big gobble about turkey for Thanksgiving? It’s mostly just in the U.S. that turkey enjoys elevated holiday status. Other countries use different game birds for the holiday. Historically, turkey may not even have been served at the first Thanksgiving. But a perk are the turkey price wars. You can get a bird for $.50 a pound, so shoppers buy the biggest bird possible and then have to think of creative ways to serve bland flesh for weeks on end. If you love turkey day, but hate turkey, here are turkey alternatives, recipes, game bird options to enjoy for Thanksgiving Dinner.
Cornish Game Hen: These delicious little game birds resemble miniature chickens and are served one whole bird per diner. The Cornish game hen has a moist, delicate, buttery sweet taste. You can purchase Cornish game hen frozen in a two-bird pack for under $5 in most grocery stores. Roast Cornish hen on low. Baste with a blend of butter, chicken broth, onion, sage, garlic and pepper.
Duck: These game birds are larger than chicken and smaller than turkey. Their flesh is rich, moist and dark and the drippings make a delicious gravy. You can find frozen duckling in the same freezer case as turkey. Roast duck as you would a turkey, using the same basting as listed for Cornish Hen. Stuff with any of your favorite dressing recipes. You can also roast duck with orange marmalade glaze for Duck a l’Orange.
Goose:These game birds are more difficult to find, but can be pre-ordered from a butcher or poulterer. The goose is generally as large as a turkey, but the flesh is richer. Goose is the traditional bird for European feasts. It can be used in recipes as turkey.
Pheasant, quail or sage grouse: Pheasant are smaller game birds with moist rich flesh, like the Cornish hen. But pheasant is freakishly expensive, unless you are a hunter and can bag one of these delicacies. Pheasant is not often available at your local grocery store. The same applies to quail and sage grouse. Check an organic free-range farmer if you want one of these game birds. Ask your butcher about ordering.
Chicken:For those who love bird, but don’t like turkey, how about roasting several chickens for Thanksgiving holiday dinner? Chicken is easy to stuff and makes a delicious alternative to turkey. Rub with butter and season with sage, rosemary, onion, sea salt, garlic, black pepper and celery seed. Use a cranberry-walnut stuffing, oyster-chestnut stuffing or traditional bread stuffing. Be sure to let the skin crisp for the last few minutes of cooking. Leftover chicken can be used in all recipes that call for turkey.
Venison, lamb, pork or beef roast: Get way off the chart and go completely bird-free this Thanksgiving. Roast a whole pork loin or try a standing rib roast. Make a leg of lamb or use a venison roast. Make a German jager gravy (mushroom). Saute fresh mushroom slices and add dissolved French onion soup. Thicken with cornstarch. Mushroom stuffing recipes go well with roast. Venison was very likely the meat of choice at the first Thanksgiving.