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Let’s Talk Turkey

by ANGELA FORD AND RACHEL HENRIQUEZ

Where to find fresh, frozen and prepared turkey and other roasting birds for your holiday meal.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas not far behind, Western expats are turning their thoughts to the best meal of the year: turkey dinner.

Preparing a turkey dinner in Doha requires more planning than it does in Europe or North America. Where can you find turkey? In Doha, the birds are almost all imported, mostly from the U.S. or U.K., and your selection is much more limited. In fact, there is a shortage of fresh and frozen turkey in Doha right now. Turkey imports from the U.S. have been banned due to the Avian flu outbreak earlier this year and delays and concerns with regulations and restrictions on turkey products coming from the U.K. have caused a shortage of fresh and frozen turkeys in Qatar this year. If you haven’t already found your turkey for Thanksgiving, you may be out of luck. There’s still a small chance stock will come in for Christmas, but you may find yourself paying a premium for this hard-to-get bird.

Frozen turkey

You are most likely to find the right size (and the right price) of turkey if you consider buying a frozen bird. Currently, Family Food Centre is the only store in Doha that seems to have any stock left, but it is going quickly. The stock is not on display so you will have to ask for assistance.

Preparing a frozen turkey in Doha, however, is a little different than in most of North America and Europe. Since the ambient temperatures are still quite high in November, there is a greater risk of food-borne illness. With turkeys, the danger is that the temperature at the surface of the turkey gets too warm if you leave it out long enough to thaw the insides. To be safe, try one of these thawing methods.

Where to find it

Thawing in the fridge

Several days before your meal, place the turkey in a large bowl and put it in your fridge. A good rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours for each 2 kg (5 lb) of turkey. Once thawed, the turkey can stay in your fridge for a couple of days.

Thawing in cold water

If you are pressed for time, you can thaw your turkey in cold water. Place the wrapped bird in a large bowl and cover with cold water. The USDA recommends you replace the water every 30 minutes or so, but I have found that every hour or 90 minutes works just fine. Allow for one hour of thaw time for each kilo (30 minutes for every pound). You should cook a water-thawed turkey as soon as it is thawed.

Fresh turkey

A fresh turkey certainly has its upsides in regards to flavour, but they can be hard to find in Doha. Megamart will order fresh turkeys from the U.K., but they aren’t taking orders until 1st December. You can also order a fresh turkey from Monoprix for Christmas. The prices are subject to change due to fluctuations in the market and so you won’t know how much a bird will cost you until the turkeys are ordered.

Prepared Turkey

Another option is to have your turkey prepared by a team of skilled chefs. Most of the hotels offer a Turkey-to-Go, an entire turkey dinner that is ready at the time you need it.

We contacted the Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and the Marriott to see what they offer. Each prepares a dinner for six to eight people, and there is a lot of room to accommodate your personal tastes: my family would stage a protest if the potatoes were not plain and mashed, but there are also options for more sophisticated palates. Prices are in the QR 999 to 1400 range, including dessert. All of the hotels ask for 72 to 48-hours’ notice and that you pre-pay. The St Regis has already been fully booked for Thanksgiving Turkey-to-Go, so get your order in for Christmas quickly.

You can also order a prepared 6-8 kg turkey from Ric’s Kountry Kitchen for QR 420-560. Ric’s also offers a number of side dishes from stuffing and sweet potato casserole to glazed carrots and the obligatory pumpkin pie. Because of the turkey shortage, if you reserve a turkey from Ric’s, they will call you one week before Thanksgiving or Christmas (or whichever date you’ve chosen) to confirm that they have a turkey for you.

Beyond Turkey

In our investigation, we found that Doha grocery stores have a wider variety of whole birds than your typical Western supermarket. We found frozen duck, quail, and pheasant in Megamart, Lulu, and Carrefour. While we didn’t find goose that is already stocked, Megamart can order you a fresh goose in plenty of time for Christmas.

If this is your first time cooking duck, do a little research first. Duck is all dark meat, with a richer, stronger flavour than turkey. It takes longer to cook, and you may wish to place it on a rack since it is a fattier bird than turkey or chicken.

From all of us at Doha Family, happy holidays!

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