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A Seasoned Bird?
By
Morton Thompson
Original told by Robert Benchley

Rumors persist about this recipe. This blackened turkey is part of the 1930s legends associated with Harold Ross and The New Yorker's team of contributing writers. First thought to have been contained in a manuscript given to Robert Benchley by Morton Thompson, this highly seasoned and ultimately blackened turkey pops up every year.

Perhaps to console his conscience (Benchley, it is said, lost Thompson's manuscript titled, The Naked Countess) this recipe became part lore, part recitation, and part of an annual holiday toast that Benchley included in his repertoire. We provide this to perpetuate the traditions of blackened holidays and crusty family stories.


:: A Seasoned Blackened Turkey
:: Serve to spiced New Yorkers
:: The Vicious, Spicy Turkey ::


The Plot. This recipe combines the wistfulness of a lost manuscript, the piquant spice of a member of Dorothy Parker's Circle of Vicious (Robert Benchley), and our own tip of our hat to the disappearing art and tradition of all-day cooking methods. The result. This turkey redemption is succulent and fully fleshed out.

The character: Spicy Robert Benchley (of Algonquin Round Table and 1930s film legend):

"This turkey is work... it requires more attention than an average
six-month-old baby. There are no shortcuts, as you will see.

Get a HUGE turkey-- I don't mean just a big, big bird, but one that
looks as though it gave the farmer a hard time when he did it in. It
ought to weigh between 16 and 30 pounds. Have the poultryman, or
butcher, cut its head off at the end of the neck, peel back the skin,
and remove the neck close to the body, leaving the tube. You will want
this for stuffing. Also , he should leave all the fat on the bird.

When you are ready to cook your bird, rub it inside and out with salt
and pepper. Give it a friendly pat and set it aside. Chop the heart,
gizzard, and liver and put them, with the neck, into a stew pan with a
clove of garlic, a large bay leaf, 1/2 tsp coriander, and some salt. I
don't know how much salt-- whatever you think. Cover this with about 5
cups of water and put on the stove to simmer. This will be the basting
fluid a little later.

About this time I generally have my first drink of the day, usually a RAMOS FIZZ. I concoct it by taking the whites of four eggs, an equal
amount of whipping cream, juice of half a lemon (less 1 tsp.), 1/2 tsp. confectioner's sugar, an appropriate amount of gin, and blending with a
few ice cubes. Pour about two tablespoons of club soda in a chimney glass, add the mix, with ice cubes if you prefer. Save your egg yolks,
plus 1 tsp. of lemon -- you'll need them later. Have a good sip! (add 1 dash of Orange Flower Water to the drink, not the egg yolks)

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Get a huge bowl. Throw into it one diced apple, one diced orange, a large can of crushed pineapple, the grated rind of a lemon, and three tablespoons of chopped preserved ginger (If you like ginger, double this -REB). Add 2 cans of drained Chinese water chestnuts.

Mix this altogether, and have another sip of your drink. Get a second, somewhat smaller, bowl. Into this, measuring by teaspoons, put:

2 tsp hot dry mustard
2 tsp caraway seed
2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp poppy seed
1 tsp black pepper
2 1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp mace
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp savory
3/4 tsp sage
3/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp basil


1/2 tsp chili powder

In the same bowl, add:

1 Tbsp poultry seasoning
4 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp salt
4 headless crushed cloves
1 well-crushed bay leaf
4 lrg chopped onions
6 good dashes Tabasco
5 crushed garlic cloves
6 lrg chopped celery

Wipe your brow, refocus your eyes, get yet another drink--and a third bowl. Put in three packages of unseasoned bread crumbs (or two loaves of toast or bread crumbs), 3/4 lb. ground veal, 1/2 lb. ground fresh pork, 1/4 lb. butter, and all the fat you have been able to pull out of the bird.

About now it seems advisable to switch drinks. Martinis or stingers are recommended (Do this at your own risk - we always did! -REB). Get a fourth bowl, an enormous one. Take a sip for a few minutes, wash your hands, and mix the contents of all the other bowls. Mix it well. Stuff the bird and skewer it. Put the leftover stuffing into the neck tube.

Turn your oven to 500 degrees F and get out a fifth small bowl. Make a paste consisting of those four egg yolks and lemon juice left from the Ramos Fizz. Add 1 tsp hot dry mustard, a crushed clove of garlic, 1 Tbl onion juice, and enough flour to make a stiff paste. When the oven is red hot, put the bird in, breast down on the rack. Sip on your drink until the bird has begin to brown all over, then take it out and paint the bird all over with paste. Put it back in and turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. Let the paste set, then pull the bird out and paint
again. Keep doing this until the paste is used up.

Add a quart of cider or white wine to the stuff that's been simmering on the stove, This is your basting fluid. The turkey must be basted every
15 minutes. Don't argue. Set your timer and keep it up. (When confronted with the choice "do I baste from the juice under the bird or do I baste
with the juice from the pot on the stove?" make certain that the juice under the bird neither dries out and burns, nor becomes so thin that
gravy is weak. When you run out of baste, use cheap red wine. This critter makes incredible gravy! -REB)The bird should cook about 12
minutes per pound, basting every 15 minutes. Enlist the aid of your friends and family.

As the bird cooks, it will first get a light brown, then a dark brown, then darker and darker. After about 2 hours you will think I'm crazy.
The bird will be turning black. (Newcomers to black turkey will think you are demented and drunk on your butt, which, if you've followed
instructions, you are -REB) In fact, by the time it is finished, it will look as though we have ruined it. Take a fork and poke at the black
cindery crust.

Beneath, the bird will be a gorgeous mahogany, reminding one of those golden-browns found in precious Rembrandts. Stick the fork too deep, and
the juice will gush to the ceiling. When you take it out, ready to carve it, you will find that you do not need a knife. A load sound will cause
the bird to fall apart like the walls of that famed biblical city. The moist flesh will drive you crazy, and the stuffing--well, there is
nothing like it on this earth. You will make the gravy just like it as always done, adding the giblets and what is left of the basting fluid.

Sometime during the meal, use a moment to give thanks to Morton Thompson. There is seldom, if ever, leftover turkey when this recipe is
used. If there is, you'll find that the fowl retains its moisture for a few days. That's all there is to it. It's work, hard work--- but it's
worth it. What follows is not part of the recipe, but is an ingredients list to aid in shopping for this monster, or for checking your spice cabinet
-REB
Ingredients List:
1 turkey
salt
garlic
4 eggs
1 apple
1 orange
1 lrg can crushed pineapple
1 lemon
4 lrg onions
6 celery stalks
plenty of preserved ginger
2 cans water chestnuts
3 packages unseasoned bread crumbs
3/4 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
1/4 lb butter
onion juice
1 qt apple cider

Spice List:
basil
bay leaf
caraway seed
celery seed
chili powder
cloves
ground coriander
mace
marjoram
dry mustard
oregano
parsley
pepper, black
poultry seasoning
poppy seed
sage
savory
Tabasco
thyme
turmeric

Let us know what the results are for you and this bird.
And we wish you a great holiday, filled with spirit, spice, and enduring legends.


Robert Benchley, known by many as a quirky storyteller, moved to California after spending years writing in New York. Often part of the untamed lunches held at the historic Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan, he joined his friends who were known to the world as The Algonquin Round Table (and to insiders as Dorothy Parker's Vicious Circle). Another delightful storyteller, and one of the few gay members of this elite group, Alexander Woollcott, would heartily testify to the biting humor of the group. They nicknamed him Louis May Woollcott. Other members of the group included Edna Ferber, Jane Grant, and George S. Kaufman.


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