This article was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006.

Turkey for two

The last time I invoked the humorist Dorothy Parker's memorable quote about eternity being "two people and a ham," I suggested that she could have been talking about corned beef. Now that I think about it again, on a sunny Thanksgiving Day morning, it occurs to me that she really meant to say something about turkey.

Let's face it, unless you're entertaining an extended family or your local Rotary Club, a whole turkey is simply too much to use up in a reasonable period, no matter how much you like leftovers.

Even a whole turkey breast, the obvious alternative, still makes an awful lot of leftovers, and who wants all that bland and boring white meat anyway? We're dark-meat fanciers here, tilting strongly toward the deep, earthy and slightly gamey flavors of poultry legs and thighs.

Here, as my quick Thanksgiving morning gift to all the couples and singles out there, is a modest proposal that turns the once-a-year turkey feast into a doable alternative for just about any time: Turkey thighs, bone-in and skin on, make a tasty and affordable alternative to a whole bird, and the basic preparation is so ridiculously simple that you can get it on the table in an hour and a half, most of that time spent casually waiting for the oven to do its work.

Roasting turkey thighs fill the house with just as much of that delicious holiday aroma as the whole bird, the meat is just as juicy and the skin just as crispy and addictive. You can take your choice between serving it with all the traditional trimmings or - my preference - simply forget the dressing and cranberry sauce and treat it as just another hearty meat option.

Cut-up turkey thighs usually come one or two to a package, and a single thigh makes a very generous portion for one or a dainty portion for two, with plenty of meat and bone left over for turkey soup. (I strongly prefer free-range, natural thighs - almost always available at Whole Foods and similar stores - to industrial alternatives. You'll pay a little more, but it's still affordable, and the flavor difference is worth the toll.)

Here's the basic procedure. If you can find a grocery store open in your neighborhood on Thanksgiving Day, you've still got ample time left to have it for dinner tonight.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

2 whole turkey thighs, bone in and skin on
3 or 4 garlic cloves
Olive oil (optional, see below)
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat your oven to 350F (175C).

2. Rinse the turkey thighs and put them in a large nonstick or black-iron skillet, skin side down. Turn on high heat and cook them, shaking the pan occasionally, until they start to sizzle and pop. They'll probably give off all the fat you need to brown them, but if not, add a small amount of olive oil.

3. Turn down the flame slightly to medium-high, throw in a few smashed garlic cloves, and continue cooking, turning occasionally, until the thighs are well browned on both sides, 10 minutes or so.

4. Season the thighs generously with salt and pepper and put them in a shallow roasting pan, skin-side down, and roast them in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Turn them skin-side up, increase heat to 400F (200C), and roast for another 15 to 30 minutes or until the skin is crisp and golden-brown and the meat tender. If you want more precision, check for 160F (70C) with an instant-read thermometer.

You can serve them whole, caveman-style, or make a more attractive presentation by carving each leg into thick slices with a little crisp skin on each, saving the bone and scraps for soup.

All the various wines we've been discussing recently as Thanksgiving dinner matches should work fine with roast turkey thighs - Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gamay (Beaujolais) or bubbly, with a slight preference for the reds with this dark, rich meat. It was a real treat with the offbeat Gamay-based sparkling Raphaël Bartucci NV Bugey Cerdon featured in last Friday's 30 Second Wine Advisor.