Thanksgiving meals off the beaten path

From deep-fried to tofu

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2002

This Thanksgiving some feastgoers won't be sinking their teeth into turkey meat slow-roasted in the oven.

John Wedman, for example, will be dining on deep-fried bird, sizzled to perfection in a 32-ounce pot of peanut oil bubbling in his backyard.

"I prefer the deep-fried (turkeys) because the meat doesn't seem to dry out as much," he said. "The interior portion of the birds are juicer and the skin is crispy."

Deep-frying a turkey also takes about a third of the time needed to roast a turkey, Wedman said.

First, for flavor, Wedman injects the bird using a hypodermic-needle-like injector filled with garlic-butter or Cajun butter, depending on his mood.

Related Links:

•Turkey preparation-related questions: www.butterball.com

•Turkey deep-frying, other general turkey info: www. eatturkey.com

•Tofurky information: www.tofurky.com

•UnTurkey information: www.nowandzen.com

"I've used salad dressing right off the grocery store shelf (to inject into the turkey) and it does the job," Wedman said.

Next, Wedman threads his turkey onto a turkey-holder rod and dunks it, "head" first into a turkey deep-fryer or a pot of oil heated to 325 degrees. He watches the bird's temperature until it gets to 160 degrees.

When the turkey is done, he said, "I lift it out of the oil and let it drain back into the kettle, rather than trailing it across the porch and the kitchen."

The only drawback is that Wedman can't cook stuffing inside the turkey, he said.

"That's the downside. But there is always Stove Top," he said.

There may be other downsides for calorie counters. Deep-fried turkey meat has about three times the calories and twice the fat as roasted turkey, according to the National Turkey Federation. Wedman also admits working with a bubbling vat of boiling grease could be dangerous. Never try to do it on the stove, he said.

"And wear appropriate clothing for working around a kettle of boiling oil," he said.

Jennifer Whiteman, 27, isn't sinking her teeth into turkey meat, roasted or deep-fried. Instead, she is having salmon and potatoes because she doesn't eat other types of meat. Last year she decided to forgo meat altogether, and bought a Tofurky - turkey-shaped tofu stuffed with vegetarian stuffing. A Tofurky costs about $25 and can be bought at Rainbow Foods or Fred Meyer. It comes frozen, in a cardboard box.

Vegan 'Un-Thanksgiving' pumpkin pie

Crust

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon margarine

3/4 to 1 cup cold water

3 1/2 cups pastry flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vinegar

Pie Filling

2 cups mashed pumpkin (the real stuff)

1/2 block Mori-Nu silken tofu (the yellow package)

1/2 cup Silk vanilla soymilk

1 to 2 tablespoons molasses

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons powdered ginger

1 teaspoon powdered cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 cup cornstarch

For crust: in a large bowl mix together the shortening, margarine, vinegar and water until somewhat creamy. Add the dry ingredients and form a dough. Knead for a minute. Chill the dough for about three hours, then roll into two pie crusts. Spread one of the crusts in a pie pan and let chill for another hour. When ready to use, bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and let cool before filling.

For filling: Mix everything in a blender and pour into a crust. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until filling sets in the middle. Let cool for at least an hour.

This recipe also works with yams or sweet potatoes.

Contributed by Gabriel Resch

"I pulled it out and it reminded me of like a Jell-O mold shaped like a turkey," she said. "It was about the size of a Cornish game hen."

Whiteman baked the tofu bird for 45 minutes and served it with a real turkey.

"I think the stuffing was the best part. (The texture) was similar to a veggie-dog, but not as dry and strange," Wedman said. "The carnivores were unimpressed; they were glad they were eating turkey."

Alanna Kibbe, 25, and her partner Gabriel Resch, 24, keep a vegan household. That means they don't eat any animal products, including eggs, milk and cheese.

They plan to serve UnTurkey - a slightly more expensive cousin to the Tofurky - which is made of spongy wheat gluten called seitan, stuffed with organic bread stuffing, and covered with a skin made of a soy product called yuba that gets crispy when cooked. The UnTurkey has a vague bird-like shape, molded with bulges to represent wings and legs. It's available for about $30 at Rainbow Foods.

Tofurky and UnTurkey have about the same amount of fat per serving as regular turkey. UnTurkey contains slightly more calories.

For a vegan, fake meat is a constant part of life. And for Kibbe, politics sometimes outweigh culinary concerns.

"Fake meat things are all kind of generic," Kibbe said. "My big thing when I am buying them, I want to make sure I am not supporting a company that also produces meat or produces fake meat using genetically altered soy."

Kibbe and Resch will make a variety of side dishes and a vegan pumpkin pie to go with their un-bird. The UnTurkey is especially appropriate for Kibbe because the couple disagrees with the historical basis of the Thanksgiving holiday, and have termed their gathering an "un-Thanksgiving."

They gather with friends because it is part of American culture, not because they support the conduct of the pilgrims, Kibbe said.

"From my understanding what Thanksgiving is representational of is actually very disrespectful and disheartening, and it has to do with the forcible removal of land from its rightful owners by thieves," Kibbe said. "It is actually not a Thanksgiving but a 'Thanks-taking.' "

Julia O'Malley can be reached at jomalley@juneauempire.com.



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