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Boning and Carving
Courtesy of Fine Cooking
Boning an uncooked turkey is easier than it sounds, and the 20 minutes
of concentrated knife work it requires are worth its many benefits:
shorter roasting time, unique presentation and compact storage of
leftovers. The leg and wing bones remain intact, so the turkey still
looks like a turkey when it comes to the table. But without the breastbones
and backbone, carving is infinitely easier. Also, the raw bones from
the main carcass produce a rich turkey stock, which you can then use
to make an excellent gravy.
The photos guide you through each step of the process. Just remember
that your goal is to remove the central carcass with as little flesh
on it as possible and without tearing up the meat. A sharp boning knife
is essential for this task, but much of the work can actually be done
with your thumb and forefinger. The serious knifework comes at the
wing and thigh joints, where tough ligaments connect muscle to bone.
If things get murky along the way, take a moment to figure out what's
holding everything together and then make a critical snip or two with
the knife. Finally, you'll need a long skewer for stitching up the
bird after it's stuffed.
Separate the wing and thigh bones from the main
the giblets and set them aside. Set the turkey, breast side
down, on a stable work surface with the tail facing toward you.
With a sharp boning knife, cut a straight line through the skin
along the length of the backbone.
|2. Wedge the tip of
the knife between the backbone and the skin at the top left
hand side of the bird and, staying as close to the bone as possible,
cut away the flesh between the backbone and the shoulder blade.
Continue cutting away around this bone until you reach the wing
joint. Use your thumb to free as much of the meat from the bone
around the joint as you can and identify the connective tissues
that will need to be snipped.
|3. With the blade
pointing directly at the joint, cut the connective tissues.
With a twisting motion, separate the wing from its socket.
|4. Working on the
same side of the bird, use your knife and fingers to separate
the flesh from the bone until you get to the joint where the
hip meets the thigh. With the heel of your hand, press downward
on the thigh until you feel it come free. Locate the tendons
that connect the thigh bone to the hip socket and then snip those
tendons. Cut any remaining connective tissue around the thigh
joint, and free the thigh meat from the central skeletal structure.
Using your thumb and knife as necessary, free the breast and
thigh meat from the central skeletal structure all the way down
to the sternum, which is the piece of cartilage that runs the
length of the breast. The flesh is now freed from one half of
the bird. Repeat steps 2 through 4 on the other side of the turkey.
The bird should now be butterflied, with the carcass attached
only at the sternum.
the sternum to remove the skeleton
|5. With one long cut,
remove the central skeletal structure: Wrap one hand firmly
around the bony carcass and use the other to cut through the
cartilage of the sternum. Cut through 1/16 inch of the cartilage,
lifting the carcass away and being careful not to cut through
the flesh or skin beneath the sternum. Continue cutting from
front to back until the carcass is freed.
bird, stitch it up, and roast
|6. Season the flesh
of the turkey with salt, pepper, nutmeg and sage. Pack the
dressing into a large egg shape on top of the breast meat, and
then bring the sides up and around to enclose the dressing. Use
a long bamboo or metal skewer to stitch the skin together vertically
up the length of the bird. Pack in any loose bits of stuffing
and fold the wing tips back. Turn the turkey over and set it
in the roasting pan. Without its central skeleton, the turkey
may look slightly disfigured. Press the turkey into shape and
then season it with more salt, pepper, nutmeg and sage. The bones
you removed will reduce the overall weight of your turkey by
about 25 percent, so cut down the roasting time by that same
amount. A 12- to 14-pound bird will need about 3 hours.To carve
the boned bird, first pull out the skewer. Use a sharp knife
to detach the wings at the wing joint. Starting at the back cavity,
cut across the breast so each slice has a round of stuffing sandwiched
by breast meat. Support the stuffing with a carving fork as you
lay it on the platter. When you get to the legs, remove them
where the thigh connects to the body. Then continue slicing across
the bird as before.
is the executive chef at Canlis restaurant in Seattle. Photos:
Ben Fink. An Online Extra from FC #35, p. 26.