Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Southern Fried Turkey A Suthun Tradition

It's Thanksgiving time in the South. Ok, so it's Thanksgiving time all over the US, but here in the South (with requisite Capital S) we have a unique addition to the Thanksgiving feast. Suthun Fried Turkey. Oh my, just the sound of the phrase "Suthun Fried Turkey" is enough to get yer mouth a waterin' and your hands to shaking, and you find yourself saying things like "Ooooeeey! Doan thet sayowd guuuuud?" (Nawthun translation: Doesn't that sound good?)

Southern Frying allows the bird to cook and seals in ALL of the moisture. Result: Very moist bird. Yet, Southun Fried Turkey properly done may be easier said than done as the photo above may attest. From what my research tells me, the problems come from one of three different mistakes.

1) Choosing to deep fry a turkey with little or no experience in cooking with a big pot of hot oil. A lot of Suthun cooks cook in hot oil, but are totally unsure how to work with such a large pot and such a large item to cook. The result is Southern Fried Catastrophe.

2) Using too much oil. Put a big old bird down in to hot oil and it overflows, into the open flame and you're gonna have fire. Big Fire. Hard to put out fire.

3) Doing this indoors. In fact, it is part of all instructions I can find that you shouldn't be cooking a Suthun Fried Turkey even NEAR a wooden structure.

This paragraph is an addendum, written in November of 2011 after I received a visit from Neighbor Bubba, Lord of All Things Barbeque.  It is an important step, which I had neglected to include originally.)  When lowering the turkey into the oil, or taking the turkey out of the oil, one must always remember to TURN OFF THE FIRE.  Bubba points out that this is the main mistake that so many novices make, thinking that the fire has to be on continuous.  Heat the oil, says Bubba, then shut off the fire and wait a couple of minutes.  This means that the metal around the fire ring has cooled to a point where it won't be hot enough to flame should a bit of oil hit it.  Now you can stand close enough to the boiling oil to control the turkey as it goes into the pot (or out.)  Once in, you can then safely ignite the fire again, without fear of an oil fire.  (end of addendum)

When it comes to cooking, I defer to Neighbor Bubba (this is to differentiate from my Brother Bubba, the one who lives in Colorado, but I usual) Neighbor Bubba has cooked more than a few of these delicious birds. He says that the key is preparation. Which in his case means at least 2-3 Non Light Beers.

I joke, but Bubba really does make a delicious fried bird. He sets up his equipment at the far edge of his property (about 50 feet from the house and shed). His true secret is in how he measures the amount of oil. He puts the bird down into the cold pot and fills it with oil to just above the bird. Then he pulls out the bird allowing all the oil to drip off. Perfect measurement.

The second key is learning to lower the bird into the hot oil as slowly as possible. Bubba points that this may be difficult in that you're standing over hot oil and equipment ((fire off, as stated above) as you try to stay balanced slowly lowering a turkey easily heavier than the standard bowling ball. Bubba, therefore, true to his Suthun Roots, has discovered the perfect slow way to do it.
Bubba says you can do the same thing with three pieces of 2x4 and a block and tackle.
I probably won't get to taste Bubba's creation, as we're having regular old oven roasted bird. But that doesn't mean I can't learn and prepare for that day in the future when, as a true Suthun Gennelman, I can fry my own Suthun Fried Turkey.

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