Our friends at LTHforum have been discussing various turkey preparations lately, and suggestions have been popping up about places that will cook your bird for you. The Sun-Times ran with the idea last week, and so did I a few weeks ago for a freelance piece (Chicago food writers don’t get every tip from LTH, but they get plenty).
I had a small budget, so I bought some frozen turkeys, dropped them off at Hagen’s Fish Market, Bhabi’s Kitchen, and Sun Wah Bar-B-Que, and then invited people over to taste the results. My guests seemed to overwhelmingly love Hagen’s smoked turkey. In spite of its discouragingly sooty looking skin it was supermoist and rather hammy. The Sun Wah bird was competently cooked but nothing special next to the one from Hagen’s. I thought Bhabi’s tandoor-cooked turkey had the most potential but my hopes might have been unrealistically raised by a startling claim made by Mr. Syed, Bhabi’s loquacious proprietor: For the last four years Mayor Daley has allegedly ordered a tandoor turkey from him for his Thanksgiving dinner. Richie doesn’t seem like a tandoor turkey kind of guy to me, but I had no reason to doubt it.
The bird certainly had an arresting, royal appearance. Spice-crusted, splayed on a bed of biryani, with two maraschino cherries for eyes, it looked like a horseshoe crab scuttling across the beach. It was spicy but woefully overcooked, tasting vaguely of drywall, even with its accompanying raita “gravy.” It was also outrageously expensive at $60, a price Mr. Syed explained was justified by the total of four hours it spends in a conventional oven and then in the tandoor. The bonus of this experiment was three gallons of individually flavored stock I now have iced. The Sun Wah broth is particularly good, spiked with two cups of drippings that came with turkey. I’m open to suggestions about how to empty my freezer of this good stuff.
At blogtime a City Hall spokeswoman was unable to confirm the Mayor’s alleged ken for tandoor turkey.