Shoot for a menu with a bal­ance of color, tex­ture, f la­vor and tra­di­tion

The Buffalo News - - WEATHER -

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.

New York Times

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.

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