Ten Things Great-Granny Never Did to a Turkey
Life, therefore cooking, therefore Thanksgiving, was simpler when "over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go."
Today's grannies are more likely to be in the courtroom, operating room or board room than in a steamy kitchen.
Traditions have changed. The boys get involved. Potluck or co-op Thanksgiving dinners ease the cook's burden. Lavish restaurant feasts remove it entirely.
But, for the host still whistling "There's no place like home for the holidays," consider a few options for taming the turkey not available to great-grandma.
1. Brine It
Brining overnight renders the cheapest supermarket special moist and flavorful.
You'll need a large plastic tote box with lid or a rigid cooler. Wash the inside with soap and hot water, rinse and dry.
Dissolve a half cup of salt and a quarter cup of sugar in a few cups of boiling water. Wash thawed or fresh turkey well inside and out.
Half fill the clean container with cold water. Mix in the salt-sugar mixture and a bottle of white wine. Lower turkey into liquid, cover with lid. After a few hours, turn the bird.
If the weather is cool enough, put container in trunk of car or on the screened porch overnight. Otherwise, decrease water by half and pour in a bag of ice.
Brine for eight to 12 hours. An hour before roasting, rinse turkey and pat dry.
2. Inject It
Turkeys may be pre-basted with objectionable stuff. Instead, choose a plain bird, invest in an injector needle (at kitchenware stores) and shoot up the bird with chicken broth mixed with melted butter or margarine -- or any combinations. Inject multiple sites including the meaty part of the leg and thigh, and alongside the breastbone.
3. Fry It
This is an expensive (fryer, oil, propane) messy preparation that has, nevertheless, caught on because the turkey tastes wonderful. And it only takes a few minutes per pound. But the turkey cannot be stuffed, and the frying must be done outside.
4. Blanket It
This method practically guarantees a moist, easy-to-slice turkey. Plus, the oven is free for side dishes that crucial final hour.
Roast turkey as usual, calculating done time one hour before dinner. Remove turkey from oven; siphon off pan juices for gravy. Immediately cover roasting pan with heavy duty foil. Crimp and seal the edges so no steam escapes.
Cover the pan with a clean blanket or quilt folded double. Tuck the edges under roasting pan. Let stand on counter for an hour. Just before serving, remove blanket and foil. Turkey will be steaming hot and breast meat will slice without shredding.
5. Sauce It
Forget those cylinders of cranberry jelly. Research a fruit chutney or sweet salsa. If cranberries are sacred, cook four to five pounds peeled, sliced apples with a bag of fresh cranberries and a one-inch piece of peeled, chopped gingerroot.
When very soft, sweeten to taste, mash or put through a food mill and finely grate the zest (colored part of skin only) of an orange into the sauce.
Chill overnight. Fabulous color tangy flavor.
6. Add to It
Granny couldn't buy parts. You can. Roast an extra breast beside that Butterball. You'll need it for sandwiches, anyway.
7. Replace It
So -- your son's girl friend is a vegetarian. Don't make a fuss. Approach substitutes like Tofurkey with caution. Instead, devise an interesting, filling side dish that doubles as her entre.
An acorn or butternut squash stuffed with wild and brown rice, sauted mushrooms and onions, then baked, is perfect.
Or a grain casserole: Moisten cooked barley, orzo, brown rice, sauted grated carrot, chopped onions and mushrooms with vegetable broth. Add a tablespoon of melted margarine, a dash of soy sauce, sage, other herbs or seasonings. Bake for an hour early in the day. At dinnertime reheat casserole in microwave.
7. Keep It Safe
If the fridge is full, thaw frozen wrapped turkey on a bed of ice in a rigid cooler with cover. Depending on size, turkey will thaw in about 24 hours.
Open packaging, rinse bird thoroughly inside and outside. To prevent growth of bacteria in undercooked stuffing, remove stuffing from cavity, heat in microwave until steaming.
Have large rectangular containers ready after dinner. Break down the turkey immediately. Arrange meat in a single layer, cover, refrigerate. Store stuffing and gravy in separate containers.
8. Use It Up
Hash and tetrazzini are so been there, done that. Try a turkey and butternut squash curry or a turkey salad with tiny cantaloupe cubes and inner celery ribs bound with Dijon mayo and topped with toasted pistachios. Or, strip the carcass, chop meat fine in the processor for turkey-bean chili or turkey lasagna.
9. Cook It Ahead
When presentation isn't an issue (a buffet or potluck), roast the bird early in the day or the day before. Let it cool, disjoint (poultry shears help) and slice neatly, arrange in ovenproof serving dishes and cover immediately with heavy duty foil.
Remove stuffing from cavity to a microwave-safe bowl. Make gravy. Refrigerate it all. An hour before dinner, pour a little gravy over sliced turkey, reseal the foil and heat gently, in a 325 degree oven. Heat stuffing in microwave, stirring once or twice.
Say a prayer of Thanksgiving before dinner for the fellowship of friends and family and a prayer afterward for the cook(s).
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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