Editor’s Note: This is one of five essays by Post staffers explaining how they realized a solution to a persistent Thanksgiving problem.
Venison, Delmonico, heritage breed pork loin, turkey, turkey, turkey, turkey breast, turkey: Each time I fetch one from Wagshal’s Market, butcher Pam Ginsberg asks, “Whatcha gonna do with that?”
The 51-year-old has been cutting meat since she was 17. Her booming voice is full of cigarette smoke and strong convictions. So I answer her, with descriptions of marinades and dry rubs, times and temperatures, hits and misses.
This fall, though, I got her to spill the beans. How do you prepare your Thanksgiving bird, Pam?
It’s germane to point out that the fresh turkeys sold at the Spring Valley market come via an exclusive deal with an Amish farmer. They’re top quality, and not cheap. I expected a description of technique that would take from midmorning to lunch. But Pam the butcher said, “I keep it simple. High heat, a little seasoning, celery and water.”
No need, she said.
I followed her off-the-cuff recipe — and tweaked it, because like lots of hands-on food professionals, she doesn’t measure when she’s off the clock. Her method is no-nonsense, like the butcher herself.
She seats the turkey on celery ribs instead of a roasting rack; they help flavor the blend of water and juices from the bird as it sizzles at 425 degrees. Pam uses that pan liquid to baste inside the bird, which, she says, effectively cooks the thighs from the inside out and urges them to the finish line at the same rate as the white meat.
There’s just enough salt, pepper,dried sage and garlic powder to bless the skin and resulting broth. The meat’s all juicy, and the turkey is out of the way in fairly quick order, minimizing the stress of oven management on Thanksgiving Day.
This is the bird for those who like the taste of turkey.
Brining’s an option, but for me it’s no longer automatic. But checking in with Pam the butcher will be.
More Thanksgiving Aha! moments: