Tuesday, November 25, 2008

For Turkey Day

Butterball will have its annual Turkey Talk hotline (1-800-Butterball) up and running today; it will remain open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST. Their online Thanksgiving guide also has a lot of tips, calculators and ideas to help out with your family's meal.

Cooking Light Magazine has an Ultimate Holiday Cookbook online with 73 recipes that cover all the courses you could want for your holidays from now until New Year's (I love Cooking Light because most of their recipes fit into my dietary plan. I made their recipe for Onion Soup Gratinée over the weekend, and it's pretty fabulous.)

Food Network has an entire Thanksgiving page of recipes, tips and ideas to help you celebrate, including a truly cool Turkey calculator that will guide you on what size bird to buy according to the number of guests you'll have and when to start cooking it in time to have it done for dinner.

The VeggieTable.com has a nice collection of recipes here for folks who don't indulge in the bird. I'm going to try their version of French Onion Soup to see how it compares to the classic.

PBW's Turkey Day tips:

If you're having Thanksgiving at someone else's home, offer to make and bring a side dish or a dessert. If your hostess refuses, bring her some flowers or a basket of her favorite fruit.

Invest in a decent turkey roasting pan instead of buying the disposable aluminum variety that sometimes buckle whenever you try to lift them out of the oven. For one thing, it's safer. You can make a lot of stuff besides turkey in the pan, and you'll help the environment a little by not throwing it away every year.

If your desserts will keep overnight or can be refrigerated, make them the night before Thanksgiving. Also have young kids tear up bread while the older kids chop celery, peel carrots, etc. the night before and store the ingredients in ziplock bags in the fridge.

To make extra broth, simmer the turkey neck (the U-shaped thing that is usually tucked away inside the bird) in two quarts of water while the turkey is roasting. If you don't mind the taste, toss in the giblets (liver, heart and gizzards, also tucked inside the bird.)

For an emergency fat separator (I lose or break mine regularly) cool your pan drippings for a few minutes and then pour them into a large ziplock bag. Hold the bag over a big bowl until the fat rises to the top of the bag (should only take a few moments) and then cut off a little corner at the bottom of the bag and let the broth run out. When the fat layer drains down to the bottom of the bag, pinch the hole closed and put in another container or discard.

If you're a little tired of traditional homemade stuffing (generally bread, celery and seasonings) and want to jazz it up a little without making too much of a drastic change, chop and sautee a medium onion in two teaspoons of shortening, margarine or olive oil until soft/semi-transparent and then add the sauteed onion to your usual stuffing mix. It adds a nice flavor without being overpowering.

Commercial turkey basters suck and even the expensive ones lose their seal or break. lousy. I use a brand-new 2" bristle brush (like the kind you buy to paint trim.)

Make a quick, edible centerpiece for your table by piling a dozen red or gold apples in your prettiest bowl.

Do you have any tips or traditions for celebrating Thanksgiving? Let us know in comments.

19 comments:

  1. Cooks Illustrated (I'm totally addicted to their magazine! I'm such a food nerd, LOL) has a dedicated thanksgiving section at www.turkeyhelp.com.

    Their turkey and gravy recipe is just the best I've ever tasted.

    Hope your thanksgiving is full of love, laughter, and good food.

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  2. For a basting brush, try one of the new silicone ones. They're dishwasher safe, heat safe, and darned near indestructable. We have a long-handled one for the grill, and a short-handled one for pastry, etc. Did I mention dishwasher? They actually *come clean*!

    Also, if you've never brined your turkey before roasting, try it! It involves "marinading" the turkey in a salt (or salt+sugar or salt+spices) water bath for many hours before roasting, and produces some of the most flavorful turkey meat you've ever tasted. Seriously, commercial places that roast turkey and chicken do this all the time.

    To make skimming fat off your turkey drippings without a separator, pour into a bowl and pop it into the freezer for a bit. The fat will solidify on the top, and can easily be scooped off.

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  3. I agree with boiling up the organs for a good broth, though I'd suggest leaving the liver out. Everything else cooks pretty evenly and has a good texture when diced up and put into gravy, but the liver goes mealy in the boiling process and will make your water all foamy.

    If there are kids with time on their hands put them to work making the table favors. There are about a million different options for those which are easy and kid friendly.

    And my final thing is to keep lots of fruits and veggies out for when the munchies hit. Pie good, I looove pie, which is why the veg is needed so I don't eat only pie!

    ~Jana

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  4. Love your fat separator tip! I'm a big fan of ziptop bags - use them all the time for lots of things - and this is a great new trick.

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  5. Thanks for all the great tips. I'll pass them on to my sister who is making a turkey for her family this year instead of going up to our grandparents' house for dinner.

    As for me, I'll be making mini pumpkin cheesecakes for dessert and taking them up.

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  6. We love stuffing, but we add fruit to ours: chopped up apple and cranberry, usually. Makes it nice and sweet/tart, but not sicky.

    Also, I love making cranberry chutney rather than sauce: boil cranberries in orange juice until they pop, add a little bit of sugar (to taste) and mash with a potato masher. Yummy, yummy!

    - Val

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  7. Desiree5:26 PM

    Put bacon on the bird or in your stuffing. Instead of mashed yam with marshmellows or whatever, have yam fries with chipoltle mayo. :)

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  8. I love Alton Brown's Good Eats show on Food Network. I've been making his roast turkey recipe for years and it's delicious and juicy.

    What I would really like is a good ham recipe. I live in a military area and we're doing Thanksgiving for the single soldiers and sailors tomorrow, and I have no frickin idea how I'm going to pull this off. I backed myself into a corner by volunteering to do the turkey and ham. Next time, somebody shut me up!

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  9. Instead of candied yams, which have always been mushy-sweet yuck to me, I make a butternut squash 'souffle' which actually doesn't rise all that much. Bake and puree a large butternut squash, blend with a couple beaten eggs and a little half and half, sprinkle lightly with streusel topping and bake until topping is brown. It's slightly sweet and has that fall flavor - but it's more sophisticated and tastes better than candied yams.

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  10. LJ wrote: Hope your thanksgiving is full of love, laughter, and good food.

    Thanks, lady -- I wish the same for you and yours.

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  11. Kristi wrote: To make skimming fat off your turkey drippings without a separator, pour into a bowl and pop it into the freezer for a bit. The fat will solidify on the top, and can easily be scooped off.

    Excellent idea. :)

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  12. Jana wrote: I agree with boiling up the organs for a good broth, though I'd suggest leaving the liver out.

    True -- I know most Americans also don't like the taste it adds (part of my extended family is French, and they consider it a crime if you don't use the liver.)

    And my final thing is to keep lots of fruits and veggies out for when the munchies hit.

    That's a good idea. I usually make a raw veggie tray for the meal, but I might set it out early for when the kids get the munchies.

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  13. Liz wrote: I'm a big fan of ziptop bags - use them all the time for lots of things - and this is a great new trick.

    I can't live without the zipper kind; they make storing things so much easier for handicapped folks like me. The other cool new bag they have out is the one you can steam veggies with in the microwave. I want to try that because I prefer steamed to boiled.

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  14. Karin wrote: As for me, I'll be making mini pumpkin cheesecakes for dessert and taking them up.

    Oh, I love cheesecake (sigh.) We're opting for apple pie this year because it's the most universally-liked dessert.

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  15. Val wrote: Also, I love making cranberry chutney rather than sauce: boil cranberries in orange juice until they pop, add a little bit of sugar (to taste) and mash with a potato masher. Yummy, yummy!

    I've always wanted to make my own chunky cranberry sauce from the real fruit versus the can. I think I'll give this a try, Val, thanks.

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  16. Desiree wrote: Instead of mashed yam with marshmellows or whatever, have yam fries with chipoltle mayo. :)

    Oh, that sounds really good. You guys are making me hungry and I still have two days to go! Lol.

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  17. emmy wrote: What I would really like is a good ham recipe.

    Emmy, here's a very classic/basic recipe that isn't a lot of trouble or needs too many weird ingredients.

    If you'd like something a little more Thanksgiving-themed, there's also a recipe here for a cranberry-glazed ham that I've made which is also pretty simple but has a nice flavor to it.

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  18. Jeri wrote: Instead of candied yams, which have always been mushy-sweet yuck to me, I make a butternut squash 'souffle' which actually doesn't rise all that much.

    That sounds like a tasty alternative. My family won't eat yams at all, so I don't have to do the candied marshamallow mess every year, but I'd like to coax my kids into eating more squash.

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  19. Consider using different kinds of bread for the stuffing. One year my mom used cinnamon raisin bread instead of normal bread. Oh, wow, that was SOOOOOOOOO good. It's a bit more pricey, of course, so that makes it an extra special treat for Thanksgiving. (In a pinch you could probably add cinnamon and throw in raisins with normal bread but it just wouldn't taste 100% the same.)

    And we always use onion in our stuffing. It just isn't stuffing without onions in my opinion.

    An alternative to candied yams would be to just bake yam and apple together. The apple moistens and flavors the yam. Really good. I don't have the recipe handy cuz it's my mom's. That reminds me - I need to get it from her this year most definitely.

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