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Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Occasionally I'll be blogging on some cooking basics for the holidays, I won't get into fancy stuff but rely on practical common sense when it comes to cooking, and with the holidays around the corner that means turkey. I've blogged here and there on turkey but there can never be enough said on the big bird we love for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What size of turkey should I buy? This depends on how many people are coming to dinner. Here are some key things to always remember.
- Number of people coming to eat.
- Is there going to be more dishes, such as other entrees you will be cooking or is the dinner half pot luck where your guests are requested to bring a dish or side, ask them in this case to bring something that no one else is. For instance, if your nephew and his wife are bringing some chow mein from a restaurant, then make sure no one else is.
- Do you want leftovers or not?

Keep in mind guys that if there will be other entrees, appetizers, sides, salads, beer, desserts, more than likely your turkey won't need to be very large, just take into consideration if there will be other foods, then go with a 4 oz. per serving.

EXAMPLE: You will have about 12-18 people showing up, and maybe a few tag alongs. Let's just assume we'll get 2 dozen. So that's 24 people stopping by at any one time.

Here's a calculation for you.

24 x 4 oz. =  96 oz. = 6 lbs. or you can always get a larger bird and roast it with leftovers. It's always a good idea to get more sense it's the holidays. So why don't we just go with something bigger. Just double it why don't we. go 12 lbs.

How to thaw a turkey that's frozen? The best way to thaw a turkey is a couple of days in a cooler kept in a cool place, in fact if a turkey is frozen solid, take it out of the freezer and place it in a cooler and let it sit overnight with some water on the bottom. When it starts to soften, put some ice inside that cooler to keep fresh. When you are ready to season and roast, make sure that you let the bird come to a room temperature as best you can to have an even roast.

Never- roast a cold bird.
Always- thaw bird in a cool safe surrounding never a warm or hot area. Safe temperature is 40 degrees F and below for storing.

Tools- Stainless steel roasting pan.
Why?- Because when making a gravy with the drippings the fats, skin, and meat bits sticks to the steel allowing you to work with the flavors. A nonstick pan can't do this.

You can use anything to roast your turkey, some ideas from other cooks.
1. Melt 2 sticks of unsalted butter.
2. Use dried rosemary, dried thyme, and garlic cloves, and kosher sald.
3. Rub the butter all over the thawed bird, even under the skin.
4. Sprinkle the bird with the herbs and salt,
5. Place the bird in the roasting pan with the breast side up, back side down, tie the legs for an even roast.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f. if you are using a convection oven, go 325 degrees f.
7. Roast the bird for about 3 hours, checking with an instant read thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the bird, like in the leg, and in the fat of the breast, it should register about 155 degrees f.

TIP: By watching the turkey get brown, and the juices oozing out, that's the true indicator that the bird is roasting well enough for you to check the temperature. Remove the bird and let it rest on some wire racks in another pan.

GRAVIES: Return the roasting pan to the stove top over medium high heat, using a whisk whisk up the bits of fat and meat on the bottom of the pan, leave in the juices from the turkey, add some herbs, salt and pepper to it, more water of needed to make more gravy, adjust salt and pepper. To make this thick, in a small sauce pan, add about 1/2 to 1 stick of unsaltedbutter, and same amount of flour. Heat up the butter and flour to create a roux, and cook it until it browns, this will add color to the gravy as well as thickness. Add in the roux to liquid (gravy) and stir into a thickened gravy. Serve in a gravy boat.

GRAVIES 2: That first style of gravy is very simple, another way would be for a cook to remove all the liquid and fat from the pan, leaving behind maybe a few tablespoons of fat and juices, but holding the juices in another bowl. The cook will add flour and fat, maybe oil to the roasting pan on the stove top, and whisk in it in the pan that way, and once the flour is brown, and the bits of meat are all stirred into a flavorful mixture, the cook will add in the liquid from the bowl that was on the side, and maybe some canned broth of chicken, and more water to make more gravy, as well as seasonings mentioned in the first gravy mix.

NOTE: Cooking experts cook so much that they got this down to a T. if you are just beginning, don't worry, just try the best you can.

Stuffing should be made on the stove top, many chefs prefer to do stuffing in a wok or large skillet for food safety issues, getting foods really hot in a skillet is important to kill bacteria.

Remember! Food Safety is important.
1. Use a cutting board for meat or animal products only. Use a separate cutting board for fruits and veggies. Cross contamination is a leading cause in food poisoning. Raw meats are dangerous.

2. Disinfect boards each time you are done cutting meats, example if you just sliced some turkey, wash the board right away with very hot water and a safe dish washing soap. Dry it properly before cutting other meats like steaks etc. Just remember, every time you're done slicing or cutting on your animal meat board, wash it in hot soapy water ASAP.

3. For your designated fruit and veggie cutting board, just have a hot clean towel on hand and wipe down after every cutting or slicing task.

4. Just remember, your veggie/fruit cutting board is just for that, and your animal meat board is just for that, just keep in mind, ALWAYS WASH AFTER EACH TASK, NEVER SLICE PORK, AND NOT WASH THE BOARD AND THEN SLICING SOME BEEF AFTER IT, THE BOARD NEEDS TO BE CLEANED AND DISINFECTED BEFORE NEW STUFF IS SLICED OR CUT.

5. Always store beef, pork, fish, seafood, poultry in its own containers, never mix them up either raw or cooked.

TIP: Cooking is an ongoing adventure, always get tips from experienced cooks in their field. We are always learning, have an open mind, and if you find a simpler way to do something great, it's always good to save time in the kitchen. Local colleges and churches at times offer free cooking classes by well known chefs in your area, you can learn a lot from them, chefs don't need to be on the Food Network to be great teachers, always learn, always practice safe methods.

We'll delve into stuffings later.