The Victor crew wondered why turkey for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is such a big meal in the United States. When you think of the Thanksgiving Day meal, it’s usually turkey and all that goes with it, like mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce.
The first Thanksgiving in 1621 between the Pilgrims and the Indians in the Plymouth colony consisted of foods native to the land. That would include waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clam, berries, fruit, pumpkin, squash, and wild turkey. By 1857, turkey had become a traditional part of the Thanksgiving dinner in New England. Under President Lincoln in 1863, Thanksgiving became a national holiday.
Turkey is so embroiled into our culture as a Thanksgiving staple that some call it Turkey Day. I’ve even heard people jokingly say, “Happy Bird Day”. In 1947, the National Turkey Federation started presenting the President of the U.S. with a turkey prior to Thanksgiving. They were prepared and eaten by the president up until 1989 where they have since been pardoned.
With Thanksgiving coming next week, the Victor crew found there are many, many ways to prepare and cook a turkey. There are many things you can add. We did some searching to see what some people were doing. Many are not healthy or recommended but you knew that!
For prep, some people use brine, some use dry brine, some use a dry rub, some put flavored butter, oil or mayo under the skin. Some put oil or butter on the skin with herbs. Some stuff the bird with stuffing (even though it is not recommended) and some stuff with more herbs, vegetables, or even clementines or apples. Some people use a glaze or marinate or baste while it’s cooking. You can weave bacon and put it on top. Then there’s the classic White Castle hamburger stuffing (see video below). Inject it with vodka. Here’s a recipe for a turdunkin’ – using Dunkin’ Coolatas in the brine.
For cooking, there is baking, roasting, convection roasting, frying, air frying, smoking, cooking on a grill, slow cooking. I have even tried cooking breast side down on a rack as it’s supposed to make the breast juicier. You can’t leave it that way or it will look like the Michelin man. You can dehydrate it or make jerky. Cook it on a beer can upright and with the can shoved into the cavity. Make a turducken. You can spatchcock it – cut in half part-way through and cook opened up. There’s always sous vide – boiling it in a bag.
We’ve talked about food waste but have you thought about the waste of turkey on Thanksgiving because you bought too big a turkey? Keep in mind, a serving of meat is about 3-4 ounces (ha – it’s Thanksgiving – who does that?) So figure 4-8 oz or 1/2 to 1 cup of proteins. Most chefs recommend a pound of turkey per person to account for bone and skin. Some opt for 1 1/2 pounds per person so they will have plenty of leftovers.
To further keep your waste to a minimum, consider leaving some meat on the bones and making a soup. Just put all those bones in a big pot and cover with water. You can add some bouillon (we like Better than Bouillon) to make it more flavorful. After the bones have cooked about 1-1 1/2 hours, remove the bones and let them cool so you remove the meat. Add carrots, celery, the turkey you removed from the bones, onion if you like, and some spices like sage or poultry seasoning. You can also add other vegetables like spinach or fresh green beans. When it comes back to a light boil, add noodles or other small pasta.
According to the Calorie Control Council, the average Thanksgiving dinner meal adds up to about 3,000 calories. Add to that the additional 1,500 added by nibbling on leftovers you can top 4,500 calories! This would also average 229 grams of fat (45% of the calories or the equal of 3 sticks of butter)! A pound equals 3400 calories so you are sure to put on about a pound … or maybe not.
Try these tips:
Eat lower-fat or reduced-calorie foods for a few days before and after the holiday meal.
Take lower fat white meat and skip the gravy.
Try to limit the meat to the size of a deck of cards.
Use boxed stuffing at 160 calories per half cup vs. 425 for sausage stuffing.
If you must use homemade stuffing try cutting it with fruits, veggies or whole grains, and use less butter and more broth.
Take smaller servings of pie especially if you want more than one kind.
Try making a one-crust pie.
Provide low-fat foods or bring a lower calorie dish.
Try a walk after you eat.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is important for good health. You need tryptophan to build certain proteins. Your body also uses tryptophan in a multi-step process to make serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in your brain that regulates sleep. I asked Jody Victor to tell us all about it.
Jody Victor: Turkey has tryptophan, but all meats have tryptophan. Chicken and pork contain more tryptophan than turkey per gram. Even cheddar cheese has more tryptophan per gram.
What really triggers your Thanksgiving after-dinner sleepiness is not the turkey. It?s the carbohydrates-rich meal (not the protein-rich meal) that increases the level of tryptophan in your brain, which leads to serotonin synthesis. The carbs stimulate your pancreas to secrete insulin. When this happens, some of the amino acids that compete with tryptophan leave your bloodstream and enter your muscle cells. This causes an increase of tryptophan in your blood stream. You then synthesize the serotonin that makes you sleepy. A high fat meal also contributes to your sleepiness. Fats take a lot of energy to digest. Your body redirects blood to your digestive system to break down the fats. Your energy level declines. Overeating in general takes a lot of energy and more blood is directed away from your other organ systems to your full stomach to aid in digestion. Sleepiness ensues.
Nutritionists say that the tryptophan in your Thanksgiving turkey probably doesn?t trigger your body to produce more serotonin because tryptophan works best on an empty stomach. It?s not the turkey that makes you sleepy after your Thanksgiving feast because it has to compete with all the other amino acids in your body. The truth is that you could leave out the turkey in your Thanksgiving meal and still feel the sleepiness factor after dinner.