Monday, November 21, 2011

FRG's Turkey Day Tips





Growing up Thanksgiving was by far my most favorite holiday.  All the pleasure of Christmas without the pressure of presents.  It also was a holiday that involved thanking the creator for our blessings that year and was a holiday when the Native American was celebrated for helping the white man.

In honor of that I offer up some holiday tips to both veteran hosts and hostesses as well as newbees. 

Rule number one remember it's not about the food its about the fellowship. You don't have to have turkey,  chicken, a tv dinner, a brisket, Denney's, soup, anything can be a Thankgiving meal.  Remember the first one was just a big pot luck meal.   In your haste and hurry don't forget  to be in each moment for time passes quickly and memories are meant to be sweet.

If you are alone this year it need not be lonely volunteer somewhere that day. Volunteer to work for a coworker.  Help out at a hospital,soup kitchen,church, the VA,military base, meals on wheels,etc.

If you are housebound and have a phone start a call tree and wish folks a happy day.  Or make it a day of prayer for your loved ones, your country etc.  Have a tv, enjoy the parades or sports or Christmas movies on tv. 

For those with the task of hosting the day here are a few tips.

Housecleaning.  Most import just have a clean bathroom.  No one will notice anything else.  Hire a merry maid for a day to do the general house cleaning. Have kids.  Put them to work.  Always include children in prep and cooking.  Making memories folks.  Mom or Dad can't do it all.  TGD is about community.

Need more seating?  Rent or borrow from family and friends. 

Turkey Tips

Don't be stressed about the turkey.  Easiest thing to cook in the world.  Still a little frozen?  Keep it in the wrapper and place it in a clean sink or a large tub with cold tap and turn it periodically changing the water if it gets warm.  This speeds the defrost.  And don't forget to pull the giblet and parts bag out of the inside gavities.  The bags are usually located in the inside gavity and at the front under the neck flap.   Purchasing at the last minute, go for a fresh or fully cooked turkey.  Avoid discounted frozen turkeys you may run into a bad one.  Your turkey is the featured player so buy a good one.

What do you do with those parts.  If the heart,liver gizard etc look rich in color they can be prepared to use in the stuffing or deep fried etc.  If not, toss out.  The neck and tail numb you will remove from the base of spine of the bird are good to boil with the organ parts in about five cups of water with an onion cut in half,some stalks of celery with the leaves and a carrot for broth for gravy and use in stuffing.  Boil and then simmer for a 2-3 hours to render the flavor  from the meat and the fat from the skin. Strain out the solids and save the organ meats except for the gizzard and throw out the tail.  De skin the neck and some of the meat can be pulled off and chopped fine to use in the stuffing.  If the  heart is tender finely chop it and the other organ meats  and it also can be used in the stuffing.

What seasoning means TG?  Sage.  Sage is that key seasoning that permeates stuffing,turkey and gravies.  One of the best turkey seasonings around is Bell's Turkey Seasoning.  It has a heavy accent of sage and that's what makes it great on and in your turkey, stuffing and gravy.  Now I know  you may prefer cajun or injectables, or sweet rather than savory sauces, but for the old fashioned Momma style Sage is the Daddy of TG flavors.

Turkey seasoning is simple salt,pepper,paprika and bells turkey seasoning or sage inside and out after you put a little olive oil on the outside of the bird so the seasonings stick.  Many injectable seasonings are available as well as sweet and savory glazes for the end of cooking.  If you stuff don't over stuff and pack in the stuffing.  Lightly put in a few tablespoons and put the rest of the stuffing in a baking dish to cook in the oven.  Remember stuffing the bird lengthens the cooking time and only stuff just before you put it in the oven.  Any turkey will come with temp,time baking instructions based on weight.  make sure you write down the weight and when you put the turkey into the oven.  Many turkeys come with pop up timers but use a meat thermometer periodically to test for doness.  Try to avoid opening and closing the oven too much it will lengthen the cooking time.  Figure on basting about every 45 minutes and that is about the time to look at the meat thermometer.  Also remember when choosing the bird  the  smaller the turkey the tenderer the bird.  Buying two small birds for a larger group can be a good thing.  Cook one the day before pouring the juices over the cut up parts in a reheatable dish and cover tightly and refrigerate.  Cook the second bird the day of for presentation and smell.  You'll have 4 legs and thighs and 4 wings and everyone will be happy.  Also consider using a large roaster cooker and cook both birds at the same time.  When open roasting in a roasting pan remember to tent the breast top and put some foil over the legs and wing area as they cook so they don't over cook.  When checking temp remember that the turkey will continue to cook as it rests before slicing so if it's about 5 degrees under temp that's not a bad thing.  If it's five over it may be a little dry but gravy is wonderful thing.  Don't be afraid to use Turkey size cooking bags to cook your turkey.  This is a great way for newbee's to have a moist Turkey.

If you don't have one, invest in an electric knife or borrow one. It makes for even cuts and easy cutting of the Turkey.

If you are making pies and stuffing do it the day before.  Traditional pumpkin has time to cool and you can papertowel off any beaded sugar moisture before  refrigerating.  Keep fruit pies out of the frig and place in a secured location with a little foil lightly on top after it is completely cooled to keep the crust crispy.  This goes for baked frozen fruit pies as well.

Don't be afraid to ask guests to bring something like rolls,corn bread, vegetable casseroles,salads,deserts etc.  It lighten's the burden for you and really captures the real meaning of the first thanksgiving and keeps family and friend recipes alive.  Suggest they bring a copy of their recipe to share with the other guests.

For hosts on the go with little time supermarkets have a variety of time savers such as seasonal side dishes ready for the microwave from Bob Evans ,Country Crock or the Deli like stuffing, mashed potatoes,greenbean casserole etc.  As I said before precooked turkeys available for reheat are also available.  Consider cooking just a Turkey Breast or a Turkey Roast.

Gravy can be a thing.  It doesn't have to be.  Use a jared sauce or dry gravy packet and add some of the juices from the bird in the gravy and add some pepper and some bells turkey seasoning or sage and your sauce will taste from scratch.  Always make twice to three times the amount of gravy you think you will need because folks like it on turkey,stuffing,potatoes, and biscuits.  Rule of thumb you can never have enough gravy.  Keep a pot on the stove warm and covered to refill and reheat the gravy service.

Mashed potatoes are easy.  Plan on 5lbs for 8-10 people 10 for a larger group.  Red Potatoes or Yukon Gold seem to be the best choices and the creamest.  Pick large ones for less peeling. This is a great job for guests and kids to participate.  Go a dollar store and pick up more than one of those slip style peelers and instruct. And reserve the knive and cubing to a more experienced volunteer. Drop the cut up potatoes in the boiling pot filled with cold water.Then boil in water after peeling cutting up into uniform med pieces untill a fork breaks them apart.  Drain the water and mash with a masher or hand mixer untill lump free add a stick of real butter for every five lbs and then add about a can of condensed mik slowly mixing with a mixer untill the potatoes make peaks.  Remember not to go too thin because gravy will be added .  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I use white pepper so as not to put off folks with a black pepper avoidance issue.  For more flavor or creaminess you can use sourcream or fresh smashed roasted garlic.  But again remember gravy is going to be poured on this so there is a lot of seasoning that is going to be on these potatoes.  Got your potatoes too thin or using mashed potatoes from a store bought turkey dinner kit.  Instant potatoes can be added to warm mashed to thicken the consistancy.

Stuffing Tips

Stuffing is easy today with all the stuffing kits available from stove top to pepperidge farm.  And drying out in a low oven any stale bread like hot dog buns etc. to add makes for an economical dish.  Everyone has different traditions but if you are looking for standard you can add small chopped sauted in butter celery,and onions and then fold in a fresh diced apple with skin on and sprinkled with lemon juice along with enough cups of chicken or turkey broth to saturate the bread moist but not soggy based on the cups of bread crumbs you are using. This is also the time to add any meat from the Turkey or sausage etc . Fold in a beaten egg and season with salt,pepper to taste , a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of Bell's seasoning or sage and a tablespoon of parsley.(Note if you are using stove top or preseasoned stuffing mixtures all you may need is a little salt and pepper and a hint more of sage.  Folks also add things like Pinenuts,rehydrated craisins or raisins etc.   Cover and let that mixture rest in the mixing bowl in the frig for the flavors to go through and moisture to permeate.  When ready see if any more liquid needs to be added or additional bread crumbs.  Remember not to overmix your stuffing fold in additions and handle lightly.  It should be fluffy.  Place in a greased baking dish and top with a few dabs of butter and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40-50 minutes.  Check it at thirty minutes. This is baked when the turkey has been removed from the oven.   When complete let rest a bit before serving.  And as I said before the stuffing can be made a day a head and refrigerated and baked the day of after the Turkey has finished baking.

Tips for making Pumpkin pie. 

To take the pie up a notch.  Use part brown sugar for the sugar.  Add a tablespoon of black strap molasses.  Add two tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice and for thicker more satisfying texture rather than runny add a tablespoon of all purpose flour.  Don't overbake or freeze that is what causes crust seperation. 


Turkey Day Schedule

Monday

Shop for all things needed.
If purchasing frozen turkey put in lower part of frig and let defrost.

Tuesday

Clean house and set up tables and chairs

Wednesday

Clean turkey remove the giblet and neck bone bags.  Make broth from parts.  Season up bird  and place in roaster and cover with plastic tightly and refrigerate so seasoning can marry with bird.  Do not stuff bird at this time.  If bird and pan won't fit.  just wrap bird in plastic wrap and place in large bag.  You will have to season lightly on outside when unwrapping to place in roaster for cooking day.

Bake Pies

Prepare stuffing and cover and refrigerate mixing bowl.


Set the tables


Turkey Day morning.

Preheat oven.

Have breakfast and put the Turkey in oven at appropriate time.

Shower and change along with fam.  Don't forget aprons for all those cooking.

About an hour and a half before the Turkey is done peel and cut potatoes  and place in water and boil.

Get a pan for the gravy. 

Get a carving station ready for the Turkey. 

Finish making the mashed potatoes place in covered server and hold in a warm area.

When turkey is done take out and remove some of the juices and place in gravy  pot.

Remove stuffing from bird if any and place in covered serving dish to stay warm.

Cover turkey let it rest. 

Place remaining stuffing  in casserole dish along with any others and bake for 30-45 minutes.

Make the gravy leave in the cooking pot covered on warm.

Cut up the turkey and place in large serving container.  Pour the remaining juices over the bird and cover.

When casseroles are complete remove them and place on hot pads to rest. 

The best way to serve is buffet style for groups larger than 4.  Remember elderly or infirm guests still need to be served.  This is a great thing for older kids to participat in as well as more able guests.  Delegate.  Tell the older folks to to take a seat and take their orders.  A list of available things on the menu is great to have at every table on either side and things like drinks can be placed on table ahead of the meal placement.

Beverages should be kept simple like water,iced tea sweetened and unsweetened,hot tea, milk, coffee.  I don't recommend hard liquor.  But if guests want to bring beer or wine to share that can be allowed.  Drunkeness should not be a part of any large gathering or party.  It's not funny and doesn't set a good example for young ones.  Smokers should be directed outside where a table with ashtrays and chairs should be available.  This is for the comfort of other non smoking guests and health of little ones.

I hope some of these tips are of a help.  If you have tips to share please leave a comment.  Have a blessed Thanksgiving and this Thanksgiving I am thankful for all of you.

Websites of Interest. 



http://www.bellsseasonings.com/

Bob Evans Seasoned Homestyle Stuffing

http://bobevans.com/Grocery/Category/6/Mashed-Potatoes-Sides


Turkey_thumb

http://www.butterball.com/











http://www.mccormick.com/


http://www.mrssmiths.com/



http://www.kraftbrands.com/stovetop/



http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/


Hawaiian Sweet Bread Rolls 12 Pack
http://www.kingshawaiian.com/


http://www.oceanspray.com/

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