How do you hoist your bird?
That is the question on the mind of America. Or it will be soon. Once the holiday bird -- turkey, goose, chicken, capon, pigeon or whatever -- is ready to emerge from the oven, cooks face the problem of artfully moving the main course from the roasting pan to the serving platter.
Spearing it with a fork won't do. Few forks are strong enough to handle a big bird. And even if the fork is willing, the bird often isn't. A forked bird usually falls apart en route to the platter.
There are several approaches to the delicate matter of bird-lifting. It would be a vast oversimplification to equate how folks lift a piece of poultry from the oven to the serving plate with their general approach to life. But that is what this column specializes in, vast oversimplifications, so away we go.
Solution No. 1: Just slide along. This method relies on spatulas, coordination and a general feeling that turkey lifting is no big deal.
First the roasting pan is removed from the oven, with the bird still in it, and taken to a staging area, often the top of the stove.
Next the spatulas move in and gently pry crispy skin on the bottom of the bird away from the roasting rack. This preserves the skin, among the best parts of the bird.
The serving platter is then positioned alongside but a little below the roasting rack, the position commoners are supposed to assume when in the presence of royalty.
With one spatula working the south end and one working the north, the bird is lifted out of the roasting pan and scooted onto the serving plate.
This approach appeals to folks who often keep themselves, and their cooking, on an even keel. They are the kind of people who believe that the best way to deal with any troublesome turkey is to slide along.
Solution No. 2: Harness it. Practitioners of this method believe in attacking the problems early, with lots of string.
They tie up their birds. They do this by either making or buying a poultry harness. I know this is true because my mother told me so. She has a turkey harness. She didn't buy it. She saved it.
It came, as an extra added attraction, with a frozen turkey. She bought the turkey, cooked it. And kept the harness.
When I questioned her over the phone about her harness, Mom claimed the harness had never been used before. I did not believe her. I think she "recycled" the harness from a previous feast.
I say this because, like many mothers, mine is a saver. I have seen her wash and save plastic glasses. She saves pencil stubs. She even saves the metal twists that are used to close bread bags. I could just see her soaking a soiled turkey harness, washing it, drying it. Then admiring it, and saying, "Good as new."
This is how the device works. The harness, new or freshly laundered, is stretched out on the counter top. The uncooked bird is placed on top of it. Then the harness is pulled around the bird, sort of the way a hammock wraps around its sleeping occupant. Speaking of sleeping, when the bird is ready to be removed from the roaster, the cook has to have help. The cook rouses one of the relatives stretched out in the family room and orders this person into the kitchen where he pulls, with a gloved hand, on one end of the harness. At the same time the cook, who is also wearing an insulated mitten, pulls the other end of the harness. And so the bird ascends from the roaster, then descends to the plate.
The bird is home, but not settled in. The harness has to come off. This is done by tipping the bird up with a fork, and pulling the string out from underneath it.
The harness method appeals to the frugal, and to cooks who want to get their snoozing relatives off the sofa and working in the kitchen. And it is especially popular with people who save balls of string.
Solution No 3: Cut and run. This method is for people who don't like to do things in public, especially carving a turkey.
Here the cooked bird is carved while it is still in the roasting pan. The serving plate is filled with picture-perfect slices of meat. No one sees the mess behind the closed kitchen door.
These kinds of people often give the rest of us the impression that they lead perfect lives. And they do, as long as no one peeks behind their closet or kitchen doors.
Solution No. 4: Buy your way to happiness. This method believes that for every problem there is a solution that involves purchasing something. It is, in short, the American answer. I embrace it.
And that is why I want some Turkey Lifters. Turkey Lifters are devices, made by a kitchen gadget outfit called Bonny Products, that look like sawed-off pitchforks.
Their sole purpose in life is to lift the bird out of the roasting pan and onto the serving plate. Then they retire. They are the designated hitters of holiday cooking. Not only do I like the way they look, with wooden handles and chrome tongs, I especially like their work schedule. They only show up at the big events.
So I am going to treat myself. I am going buy two pairs of Turkey Lifters ($4 a pair at Kitchen Bazaar in Harborplace). One is for me, the other is a worry-free gift. I don't have to fret about having the correct size, one size fits all turkeys. I am sure the person I am giving them to doesn't already have a set. And since they are washable, they can be used again and again -- one annual feast after another.
Mom will be so surprised.