For the past five or six years, Thanksgiving has been my gig. I cook it all. I don’t remember exactly how it went from being my mom’s thing to being mine, but I can assure you that it was a peaceful transfer of power. Some of you probably think that the whole enterprise is daunting or maybe just not worth the considerable effort, but I happen to think that cooking such a large and traditional meal is fun. Well, fun in a “what can I improve upon THIS year?” way (can you PR a Thanksgiving?), but not necessarily in a “this is gonna be wild” way. But just when I thought the fun factor of cooking Thanksgiving had approached its peak, I discovered the art of spatchcocking.
It’s not just fun to say, folks.
The basic idea of spatchcocking is that you remove the bird’s backbone so that it lies flat. This allows the bird to cook evenly, which results in beautifully browned skin and moister meat. (Many thanks to Serious Eats for the idea and wonderfully clear instructions.) But enough of the Martha Stewart warm and fuzzies.
You need 5 things to successfully remove the backbone of a Turkey:
1. Really strong shears.
2. A firm grip.
3. A helper (or as I like to call it, a surgical nurse).
4. A mad scientist attitude.
5. Awareness of the interested puppy who will be under foot.
My mother – a vegetarian, mind you – was very excited to serve as my nurse in this rather messy enterprise. While one person could probably manage the procedure, it’s ideal to have two. Especially if you don’t want turkey juice all over the kitchen.
So anyway, with the puppy secured and the turkey all dried off, it was time to cut. I don’t want to sound like a budding serial killer or anything, but there’s something gleefully disgusting about snapping a turkey’s rib bones so you can remove its spine. Each cut up both sides of the spine made a satisfyingly loud “crack!” and “pop!” This should become a more popular turkey treatment if only as a stress release while dealing with the holidays.
After the spine is removed, you have to turn the turkey over and break its ribs by leaning on it until you hear “crunch” and the thing falls flat. I know this seems like you’re kicking a man while he’s down, but the flatness is the point of the whole thing. And there’s more awesomely gross crunching.
And that’s pretty much all there is to it. Lay that sucker down on a wire rack/large baking sheet all seasoned and oiled up, throw him in the oven, and in roughly 80 minutes you’ll have something like this:
That’s right. 80 quick minutes. You better have all your other food well on its way because this turkey may be spineless, but it has the nerve to cook super fast. (I’m here all week, folks. No seriously, I have a show on Monday.)
When I cheerfully reported to a friend what I had done to the turkey, he took a beat and responded, “after a little research, that is some barbaric shit.” It was. And it was awesome.