Chat Leftovers: Out-of-season turkey

June 4

You might suspect that my colleague Jim Webster cooked up the idea for a story about Nutella as an excuse to binge on one of his favorite foods. And, well, maybe he did. But besides tasting, he and co-detective Alex Levin of Osteria Morini also did a lot of weighing, calculating and extrapolating in their quest to identify the elusive difference between domestic Nutella and its Italian counterpart. Once that work was done, a group of us took on the task of sampling 14 chocolate hazelnut spreads for a taste test. As you can tell, it has been grueling around here.

Also this week in Food, Adrian Miller takes us down into the White House kitchen for a look at the African American cooks who have worked there in relative obscurity through the years. Wine columnist Dave McIntyre introduces us to the area’s two new master sommeliers, who achieved the elite status after years of work. And Bonnie S. Benwick has a lineup of eight new chicken salads — one of which is vegetarian. How is that possible? Check it out.

I have complete confidence that all of you are planning to show up for today’s Free Range chat. Guests will be the aforementioned Messrs. Webster and Levin. It’ll start at noon sharp and last for just one brief hour, so submit your questions and/or comments early for best results. All unanswered questions become the property of me, and if I’m lucky, I’ll find an answer to one of them. Like this one, from last week’s chat:

I have a taste for turkey, but I’m not having luck finding any “out of season.” I’ve checked my local Safeway, Whole Foods, Giant and Shoppers, but there are no turkeys to be found. Do you have any suggestions? Maybe a local farm? I would be glad to have at least three, so maybe that would be worth their effort. Prefer Virginia.

It’s too bad turkeys are hard to find right about now, when the weather warms up and it seems like folks start getting interested in grilling or smoking them.

But there is hope: You stopped checking too soon. I’ve called a few stores in Northern Virginia and found both fresh and frozen birds to be had.

Local farms, not as likely. The big producers, like Shady Brook Farms, can buy and distribute fresh turkeys year-round because they have a fairly steady market. But smaller operations tend to time their turkey production to have birds ready only for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The demand is just too unreliable to make year-round processing profitable.

So here’s what I turned up.

Looks like your best bet will be Wegmans. At the chain’s Fairfax store they have fresh whole birds for $1.49 per pound and frozen kosher birds for $2.99 per pound. In the Woodbridge Wegmans they have the same fresh birds, but not the frozen.

Some Harris Teeters have frozen birds; one is the Chantilly store, where a whole frozen turkey sells for $1.49 per pound.

Another source: Walmart. The “superstore” on Lee Highway in Fairfax sells frozen turkeys for $1.06 per pound.

You are also likely to find frozen turkey breasts this time of year, if your heart isn’t set on a whole bird.

As I said earlier, large producers have fresh birds now, and a consumer specialist at Shady Brook Farms reminds me of the best policy to follow when you don’t see something you want at the grocery store: Ask for it. Don’t just walk in, look around, feel disappointed and leave. “Talk to the meat manager and get them to order it,” she said. Out of season, you might have to buy an entire order, which in the case of Shady Brook would be a box of four birds, but that’s why we have freezers, right?

Assuming you find a bird, check below for three summery recipes that make use of a grill or smoker. Then gobble. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

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