Still insist on roasting, frying or barbecuing your own turkey this Thanksgiving? Skip the supermarket and head straight to La Pera Brothers in Dyker Heights — the oldest live poultry market in the city. Since 1946, La Pera customers have been taking a gander at the merchandise and picking out their dinners for themselves. Find that a bit intimidating? Don’t worry. Just call over manager Carlo Formisano, and this professor of poultry will give you all the pointers you need:
1) Pick a winner: If a turkey looks like he still has the fire in his eye and the fight in his heart, you can be sure he’ll taste good on the plate. “That’s why customers like to look at them, and even touch them until they find one that feels right,” Formisano said.
2) Don’t hesitate: There are always plenty of turkeys to choose from, since La Pera sells about a thousand each November, but call a few days in advance to line up your bird or arrange for delivery.
3) Brine the bird. Fresh-killed poultry should be soaked in cold salt water overnight to “relax the muscles and tenderize the meat,” according to Formisano. But one warning about this increasingly popular technique: you can’t make a good gravy with the drippings because the results are too salty.
4) It doesn’t matter how you cook it: Fry, barbeque or roast — Formisano’s not particular. “However you cook it, there is no better turkey than ours,” he said. “It’s a fact.”
5) Get ready to say, “Oh, wow!”: “People don’t realize the difference,” explained second-generation customer Charles Trovato, a Bay Ridge native who was in the shop the other day. “It’s like going fishing, catching something and cooking it right there.”
La Pera Brothers Live Poultry [1373 61st St. at 14th Avenue, (718) 438-2577]. Birds are $2 per pound (live weight). You should figure on about two pounds per person. Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 am-4:45 pm; Friday, 6:30 am-5:45 pm; Saturday, 6:30 am-4:45 pm; Sunday, 7:30 am-2:30 pm; closed Monday.