Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Top 5 Thanksgiving Tips

Time’s a wasting and I hope you’re knee deep (elbow deep?) in Thanksgiving preparations. Those pies aren’t going to make themselves! I may have shared these tips before - especially number 1, but they bear repeating. 

#5 Make a list of all the dishes you plan to serve on Thanksgiving. Refer to it occasionally during the serving of the meal. I still remember the July 4th when I found red cabbage slaw in the fridge AFTER our barbecue. H’s darling grandmother made everyone have a bowl of it then and there. (This is even more critical at Thanksgiving. You may not have a lovely relative pushing the creamed onions after you’ve served the pumpkin pie.)

#4 For an effortless garnish for your turkey, place a dozen or so lady apples and/or little pears around the turkey for the last hour of cooking. Remove them to a plate, cover with foil to keep warm and place around the platter of sliced turkey.

#3 Keep all your vegetable trimmings (the stock-appropriate ones) from 2 or 3 days before Thanksgiving to add to your turkey stock. Store in plastic bags in the fridge. I have a stockpot going from the time the turkey goes into the oven until it’s time to make the gravy. I add carrot trimmings, onions skins (which gives poultry or vegetable stock a nice golden color), onion ends, celery hearts and parsley stems. Often I don’t need to add any other vegetables.(My gravy recipe is at the end.)

#2 Roll out your pie crust right after it’s made and BEFORE it's chilled. One of the reasons people flock to bought pie crusts, I think, is because homemade ones are so hard to roll out after chilling…which most recipes tell you to do.

It’s a hundred times easier to roll it between plastic wrap while it’s nice and malleable. Place 2 sheets of plastic wrap on your counter overlapping width-wise, so it will handle a 12 to 14 inch wide piece of dough, if you need it to. Place your flattened ball of dough in the middle. Cover with another piece of plastic wrap and roll out to desired size. I usually line the pie dish, flute the edges (if it’s a one crust pie) and cover it gently and freeze. I take it out as I’m making whatever filling goes in and it’s all ready to go. If you’re baking your pie that day, you still should freeze it for a half hour to firm it up.

I also freeze the crusts for two crust pies. I do the bottom crust first and then after rolling out the top crust, I lay it on an upside down baking sheet and freeze it. It stays between the same 2 sheets of plastic wrap that I’ve rolled it between. 

For a lattice, I remove the dough a little early from the freezer and let it sit out for 5 minutes and then cut it into strips. It cuts beautifully and it’s unfrozen enough to twist nicely.

#1 Turn your turkey upside down when it comes out of the oven. This is my favorite Thanksgiving tip of all time! This applies to a stuffed AND not-stuffed turkey. The juices flow down into the breast, where they're needed the most and results in a moister turkey. I know it’s hot, heavy and hard to handle, but it’s worth it. Silicone oven mitts work well here. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm while the turkey rests for at least 20 minutes.

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Gravy (makes about 4 cups)

I multiply this recipe by four and I've never run out. I also keep Gravy Master on hand in case I haven’t had time to cook the flour to a nice nutty brown. I don’t really approve of it, but that doesn’t stop me from using it if I have to.

3 tbls. fat, skimmed from the drippings of the cooked turkey*
¼ cup flour
up to 3 cups stock, hot is best, but don't worry about it
1 cup white wine
optional: Gravy Master

After the turkey comes out of the oven, remove it from the roasting pan and place it upside-down on a cutting board with trough. Cover with foil. Pour drippings from pan into measuring cup.

Add one cup of white wine to turkey-less roasting pan. Bring to the boil and stir, getting all those little bits up. Remove from heat and set aside for the moment.

Spoon 3 tablespoons of fat from the drippings into a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook over low heat, stirring all the time until golden brown. (I often whisk the roux with a fork to get the smoothest roux.) Strain wine from roasting pan into saucepan and keep whisking over heat.

Start whisking in the stock until you’ve added 2 1/2 cups. Bring to a boil. Keep whisking.  Continue simmering until the gravy is the consistency you desire, adding more stock if necessary.

If you have a lot of lumps, don’t panic and strain mixture into large bowl and return to rinsed out saucepan. NOTE: You may not need to add all the stock. It depends how thick you want your gravy and how much time you have to keep reducing it. 

Add Gravy Master to improve the color if needed. Taste for seasoning (all along). Keep warm over low heat.

* I don’t actually skim the drippings. I just pour whatever’s in the roasting pan in a pitcher and measure THAT for my fat. Whatever is left in the pitcher gets added to the stock and mixed into the roux.

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The super long version of my gravy recipe is here. Maybe save it for when you’re less busy and start reading it in July… to get ready for next Thanksgiving.

1 comment:

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I'm still doing that turkey flip thing ever since I've been cooking turkeys thanks to you. This year Mom is hosting it at her house, but the cooking is a joint effort between the two of us and I'm doing the turkey.

I have started buying turkey wings and making stock and gravy ahead of time. I just can't be bothered making turkey gravy at the last minute anymore. I'll just add some of the turkey drippings to the already made gravy before serving it.