Shoot for a menu with a balance of color, texture, f lavor and tradition
Planning a really good menu is the stealth approach to being a really good cook. What leaves an impression is not only the dishes you can make, but also how they taste, look and feel when assembled into a meal.
If you are serving pecan pie for dessert, don’t put out spiced pecans as an hors d’oeuvre. Both may be delicious, but the pie just won’t be as appealing by the time dessert rolls around.
You’re likely to be collecting guests with different tastes, allergies and aversions. If vegetarians and vegans are present, you can and must plan for them.
The basic palette for Thanksgiving is heavy on dishes that are white (mashed potatoes, creamed onions) and brown (turkey, stuffing, gravy). It needs the ruby red of cranberry sauce, the warm orange of pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes, or a rosemary squash casserole to make it interesting. Add something green and snappy, like a lemon-garlic kale salad.
If you have a creamy vegetable side dish, add one that’s roasted or caramelized.
original wrapping, never at room temperature. Warm temperatures promote bacteria growth.
If you forget to take the turkey out of the freezer in time to thaw it in the refrigerator, here’s a safe cold-water thawing method.
Place the turkey in its unopened packaging in the sink and cover it completely with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Rotate the bird occasionally and allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound. A 10-pound turkey will take at least 5 hours to thaw using this method.
What about a fresh turkey?
No thawing necessary, obviously. But the USDA says you must cook a fresh turkey within two days of purchase or freeze it.
How do I prepare the turkey for roasting?
Take the turkey out of the refrigerator and remove the wrapping. Remove the neck and giblets from inside the bird. Thoroughly rinse the turkey, inside and out, with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Lift the wing tips up and over the back and tuck under the bird. Or tie them to the body with kitchen string.
Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. The rack should be a least a half-inch from the bottom of the pan. The pan needs to be shallow for heat to circulate properly around the turkey.
Season the turkey cavity with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Brush the turkey with vegetable oil or rub with unsalted butter. Season the exterior of the turkey with salt and pepper.
When should I stuff the
Always stuff just before popping the bird in the oven, never before.
Also, mix the stuffing ingredients together just before you’re ready to stuff the turkey. Loosely spoon the stuffing into the cavity, allowing about ¾ cup per pound. Don’t overdo it. A 10-pound turkey should hold about 7 cups of stuffing.
Should I roast the bird covered or uncovered?
The Butterball folks recommend cooking the turkey uncovered in a roasting pan.
Two-thirds of the way through cooking, Butterball says foil can be placed over the breast area to prevent it from drying out.
If you put foil on the breast, remove it about 30-45 minutes before the turkey is done to allow the breast to brown. Should I baste and when? Start basting with a bulb baster after the turkey has been in the oven about an hour by drawing up the pan juices. If you wrapped the breast in foil, you’ll need to lift the foil to baste. Baste quickly because each time you open the oven door, heat escapes and can affect the cooking time. Add a cup or two of turkey stock or chicken broth to the roasting pan to supplement the pan juices for basting.
How will I know when the turkey is done?
Roasting times vary with the size of the turkey, whether it is stuffed and the oven temperature. This is where using oven-safe meat thermometers or instant-read thermometers comes in handy.
The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
If you don’t have a thermometer, check the turkey at the estimated time by piercing it in several places with a fork. The turkey is done when the juices run clear. Let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving for easier slicing. something new. It can be as simple as freshening up glazed carrots with fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary. Or perk up those potatoes by adding mashed rutabaga or parsnips for a different flavor.
• Make stuffing in advance by sautéing onions and celery and any meats the night before. Cool and store them in plastic bags. Then, on Thursday morning, reheat the vegetables to make the stuffing.
• Some casserole-type dishes such as potato gratins can be assembled the day before baking. Plan on adding an extra 10 to 15 minutes baking time for the chilled dishes.
• Running out of oven space? Don’t forget about the outdoor grill. It’s like having an extra oven. Keep it on low (200 degrees) to keep things warm. Cover whatever you are keeping warm so it doesn’t dry out.
The turkey is the unquestioned star of the Thanksgiving meal. It can be the most daunting part as well. But with a little planning and care, it doesn’t have to be.