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Recipe Rescue: Solving Thanksgiving Problems [VIDEO]

If you’ve thought it, feared it or could just never get it right… you aren’t alone. Thanksgiving can cause a lot of stress in the kitchen, let’s work together to bring the stress level down, and I don’t mean with a bottle of wine.

Thanksgiving Problems Solved
allaboutchase, flickr

TOP THANKSGIVING QUESTIONS:

  • Should you buy Fresh or Frozen?
  • How much do you make?
  • If I buy Frozen, how long does it take to thaw?
  • What size should my turkey be?
  • How long to I Roast my Turkey?
  • Do I have to Brine my Turkey?
  • To Stuff or not to Stuff?
  • What’s the best way to make mashed potatoes?
  • Do I have to mash my sweet potatoes?
  • What is the difference between a yam and a sweet potato?
  • What’s the secret to lump free gravy?

There are a lot of questions about cooking a Thanksgiving meal and I will try to answer all of your concerns. Of course you should know that you are trying and that means a lot to your family, plus without a bad dish now and then or a dry turkey, what would we have to talk about next year?

LET’S START FROM THE TOP… FRESH OR FROZEN?

 

I am such a sucker for Alton Brown from the Food Network, although a bit goofy sometimes, he makes sense. So, unless you live near a turkey farm, frozen is possibly fresher and the better bet.

THAWING THE FROZEN BIRD (AND HOW BIG SHOULD IT BE)?

When hosting the Thanksgiving meal there is more to figuring out the size to buy than meets the eye. Do you want to just make sure everyone is fed? Do you want to send leftovers home with your guests? Are you serving another meat, like a ham? The standard rule of thumb is a pound per person, but that doesn’t take in account of how many light eaters you have or heavy eaters or kids. This is a cool calculator, although there really isn’t an exact science, it can help you pick the right sized turkey.

HOW LONG DO I ROAST MY TURKEY?

It all goes back to the weight of your turkey, I would start the turkey uncovered at 425 for 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 325, cover or tent and cook 3 hours for an 18 pound turkey, uncover and cook another 15 minutes, but do check the temp of your bird, if she is at temp 165 in the breast, 185 in the meaty part of the thigh, just pull her. But she should be closer to 147-152 at this point. If not, you haven’t done anything wrong. Every stove is different, so don’t sweat it. Remember too that your turkey will continue to cook while it rests, which you should allow for a rest time of 20-30 minutes, loosely covered with a piece of foil. (if you do cook the bird uncovered for another 15 minutes and the temp is still too low, just keep cooking but check again in 7 minutes and so on.

TO STUFF OR NOT TO STUFF?

Best rule of thumb for a healthy Thanksgiving… NEVER stuff.

SHOULD I BRINE MY BIRD?

I have never done this, I have thought about it a million times as one of my closest friends swears by it and one of my favorites on the Food Network says its a good idea. I will leave that up to you. Some have said its hooey and a lot of extra work others think that their turkey has never been more moist. I did brine chicken once and noticed no difference, but again there is some strong debate in favor.

BEST MASHED POTATOES!

Peeled and boiled till fork tender. Using warm heavy cream and melted unsalted butter add to pot of drained potatoes and mash with a hand masher. Electric mixers are easy and what grandma used, but do you remember the pasty potatoes? The electric mixer gets everything heated up in a bad way and brings out the starchy gluten madness, creating pasty potatoes. Use a ‘manual’ hand mixture and you’ll have perfect potatoes every time.

SWEET POTATOES/YAMS!

Basically the same, but not. They are interchangeable, but actually are quite different. I’ll make it easier for you… a sweet potato has less calories and is better for you. When cooking them you can do it just like the potatoes, make sure they are tender tender, add a stick of butter and a cup of brown sugar, mix again… pour in a baking dish top with pats of butter and marshmallows and bake at 350 for about half an hour. Or you can chop them, toss them with olive oil and sea salt and bake on a cooking sheet at 425 for about 30 minutes or until tender.

LUMP FREE GRAVY?

Easy… low and slow! Add flour to your drippings in your turkey pan, then add two ( I use on large/the big can) cans of chicken broth/stock, stir together and let simmer on low while you get all the last minute dinner items done and ready to serve. If your gravy is too runny add a quarter cup of water mixed with enough flour to create a paste, but you should bring the gravy to a boil before adding or you will have lumps. Sometimes I just mix equal parts of butter and flour and that works without dealing with lumps. Worst case scenario you can strain your gravy, don’t be embarrassed, a lot of people and chefs actually do this.

I will be tackling all your questions and giving you ideas, tips and recipes all this month. And please feel free to send some to me, I will be featuring your recipes with photos beginning this month… so let me see what you have and together we’ll solve those Thanksgiving problems!

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