"My wife dresses to kill. She cooks the same way!" — Henny Youngman
Thanksgiving is, hands down, the holiday when both seasoned and rookie cooks create unprecedented (and quite humorous) gustatory gaffes. Here’s some humdingers that’ll provide both teachable culinary moments along with a few chuckles. Gobble, gobble!
All thawed out
The Thanksgiving bird must be completely defrosted before it enters the oven. If a frozen bird is roasted, you can expect to start carving it by Christmas Day.
The neophyte doesn’t realize that an unstuffed bird takes 20 minutes per pound, and a stuffed one 30 minutes per pound — once it is unthawed! Cook’s tip: Best way to defrost the holiday bird is in the refrigerator, breast side up in the original wrapping, allowing 24 hours for each 4 pounds. A turkey weighing 15 pounds would take about 4 days to un-thaw.
It’s a slippery slope cooking turkey just right like Baby Bear’s porridge. The bird must be cooked through to avoid salmonella, while if over-cooked, it resembles the texture of a pigskin football.
A meat thermometer is an ideal way to check for doneness, however, many folks have had the misfortune of improperly using the thermometer with the results of having it snap in half with the red fluid (colored alcohol) leaking into the meat. Although the old thermometers contained highly toxic mercury, you still don’t want a foreign substance in your food. So stick it to the bird with caution in the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. When the temperature reaches 180 degrees, the bird is done. Also the stuffing temperature should reach 165 degrees to indicate doneness.
Popcorn belongs in a movie theater not in a turkey’s cavity. Other cavity no-nos: raw oysters, eggs and wild rice. Standing advice? Raw in, raw out, so sauté or par cook grains, potatoes, sausages and other perishables to avoid food kooties and broken teeth. And please, don’t forget to remove the plastic giblet bag from the cavity before roasting.
Relish the thought
Super tart cranberries require a large amount of sweetener to counter the lip-puckering sourness. But when one novice cook mistakenly used salt instead of sugar, dinner guests had a sodium shock.
Many things can go awry with mashed potatoes, a quintessential fave at Thanksgiving tables. While russets are the best candidates creating the fluffiest, creamiest mashed spuds, some folks use redskins or Yukon Golds, making them grainy and chunky. Another common culinary faux pas occurs when the potatoes are whipped up in a blender or food processor yielding edible Epoxy.
Burn, baby, burn
Barbecue gurus are obsessed with doing the turkey in a deep-fryer. If you must, take the whole mess outside.
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Drunken Cranberry Relish A-Go-Go
■ Ingredients: 6 cups fresh cranberries 1/2 cup golden raisins 2 oranges, zest grated and sectioned 2 lemons, zest grated and sectioned (I prefer Meyers) 1 Bartlett pear, peeled, diced 2 cups brown sugar (adjust to taste) 1 tablespoon of candied ginger, chopped 1 3/4 cups water 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier
■ Method: In a large saucepan combine sugar, ginger, liquor and water, reserving a quarter cup. Stir and bring to a boil until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the citrus, raisins and 3 cups of cranberries and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the remaining cranberries, water, pear and nuts, and simmer for 10 minutes. Refrigerate and serve in a martini glass or brandy snifter.