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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Boned turkey makes a sumptuous spread

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

The first time Jim and Joy Magoon boned a turkey, they were aboard their 40-foot Peterson sailboat, Racy, in a galley the size of a large bathtub.

Boning a turkey lets you see the skin, meat and stuffing all in layers when you cut into it.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

They were fogged in en route to a sailing club Thanksgiving gathering on a river in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they lived before moving to Hawai'i.

It was miserably cold and wet and, rather than just sit there shivering, the Magoons went to work, Jim wielding the knife, Joy reading the directions, and both of them tossing the bones and other bits out a porthole. When the fog lifted, an immense yacht was moored mere yards away from them and the Magoons have often wondered what those aboard the yacht thought about the turkey parts flying into the water.

The inevitable reaction to the Magoons' story is one of astonishment, not so much about the size of the galley, or even because of the porthole story, but because the idea of boning a turkey at all, anywhere, anytime, causes most home cooks to gape in astonishment.

"But, really, it's not that difficult," Joy Magoon protests.

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Akana Martin of 'Aiea agrees. Though not a formally trained chef, the 45-year-old Martin has worked in a number of restaurant kitchens, and picked up the idea from a French chef he once knew. "When you bone a bird or any other piece of meat, that's called a galantine in France, and they like it because it looks really nice when you cut into it and you see the skin and the meat and the stuffing all in layers," he said. "And then you have the bones for soup."

"Basically, what you're doing, you're cutting the turkey open along the backbone and peeling and scraping the skin away from the backbone and ribs until you have that whole bony center cut out from the middle," he explained.

Martin had been boning turkeys for years and recently came across Jacques Pepin's description for making a Turkey galantine in "Julie and Jacques Cooking at Home," (Knopf, 1999), based on a cooking show Pepin and Julia Child did together. "I got the book out of the library, and I was really pleased because I found out I was doing it right."

Except for the wings and legs: Neither Martin nor the Magoons remove the wings or legs, though Pepin shows how to do it in his recipe. "Too much work, and people like those the way they are," Martin said. He just carves away the wings and leg/thigh combination off the bird before he serves the turkey, then cuts the central piece in half lengthwise and carves this into thick slices filled with stuffing.

The Magoons use a mix of recipes, one from a November 1986 Sunset magazine, the other from Gourmet of the same month and year. Gourmet offered step-by-step turkey boning instructions while Sunset recommended a rice and sausage stuffing that has become a favorite of the Magoons' friends.

Over the course of the past 15 years, the Magoons have served boned turkeys whenever they were entertaining a smaller group for Thanksgiving. Too large a bird "just doesn't work," Joy Magoon said. The boning is too mammoth a task, and too much stuffing is required, she said. The Magoons have seven children and nine grandchildren and would never do the stuffing thing if all the family was home. But the clan lives on the Mainland and, when the Magoons aren't able to travel there for the holiday, they invite a few guests to their home instead.

"We use a 10- to 12-pound turkey, and it's just perfect for serving about six people," Joy Magoon said. Their guests are generally amazed, said Jim Magoon, recalling a Thanksgiving a couple years ago when they entertained two couples, both retired from the military and who had lived around the world. "They'd never seen anything like it."

Martin, who uses a bread stuffing, gets the same reaction. But as someone who loves to cook, he likes the boning idea for another reason: He uses the bones to make a broth that he then reduces to use as the liquid in his gravy.

His technique: Cover the bones with water, throw in a quartered onion, a peeled carrot, a handful of herbs or parsley, if you like; bring to a boil, skim and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the broth and then reduce it by half-simmering it briskly. After you remove the turkey from the oven, collect the drippings and delicious crispy bits in a heavy saute pan over medium heat, stir in flour to make a thin roux, cooking 5 minutes, then add the reduced broth to make a gravy. "You can also add milk or cream, if you want it richer or you need more liquid," he said.

We visited the Magoons with a sack of groceries and a photographer to see how the mysterious process is carried out and were pleasantly surprised at how quickly the dish went together. In an hour and 15 minutes, the stuffing was made, the bird was boned, stuffed and trussed and I was on my way out the door to roast the turkey for its finished photographs.(See above for the step-by-step photos and for the recipe.)