With Turkey Day around the corner, here are some tips and tricks for pulling off a flawless and fabulous Thanksgiving feast.
Don’t be a Skinflint
Everyone loves an attention-grabbing centerpiece — a juicy, flavorful bird with crisp, golden skin. To achieve the latter, simply massage the skin with virgin olive oil, a fresh garlic clove, and season with coarse sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. With 15 minutes to go on the clock, brush the bird generously with some white vermouth to give a golden glaze thanks to the sugars in this fortified wine. For a crispier skin without the booze unwrap the turkey the day before cooking, and expose the skin overnight in the refrigerator.
To prevent the turkey from getting too toasty create a tent by folding a large sheet of parchment paper down the center, and fanning it loosely over the bird. Repeat the process with aluminum foil and place it over the parchment. Tent the turkey at the start of roasting, and please, no pepping toms allowed. Only open the oven about 30-45 minutes before ETA, and remove the tent to allow for even browning … or roast the bird au naturel until the desired golden color is achieved, then tent at the end.
The quintessential herb of the holidays, the mighty sage, a bold member of the mint family, can be overpowering, so use judiciously. A little snip of this musky grayish-green leaf goes a long way with fatty meats and fowls for dialing up flavor, tempering gaminess and aiding digestion.
Sage equally enlivens vegetarian dishes from risottos, stuffings and corn breads to roasted roots, potatoes and even ice cream. For the full flavor oomph, add sage toward the end of cooking or use the more pungent dried instead of fresh. Whip up a compound with organic butter, minced sage and spices, and insert under the breast skin of the turkey before roasting to enhance tenderness and juiciness.
Finger on the Pulse
Although mashed potatoes are traditional at Thanksgiving tables, start your own tradition with a blend of delicate heritage fingerling potatoes. Some popular varieties of these cute little stubby crescents resembling sausage-shaped fingers include golden-skinned Russian Bananas, Purple Peruvians, Swedish Peanuts and French redskins.
Strut your Stuff
To stuff or not to stuff, that is the big culinary question every Thanksgiving. For those in favor of stovetop stuffings, your bird will roast more quickly and uniformly. As well, you don’t have to worry about cavity protection. If the stuffing isn’t completely scooped out from the cavity within an hour after the turkey is removed from the oven, the environment is rife for the formation of bacteria and food-borne illnesses.
For die-hard turkey stuffing lovers simply pack the dressing in a cheesecloth bag and insert in the cavity. This not only prevents sticking to the insides, but makes for easy removal when the bird is done.
As a healthy change up to traditional high carb dressings (i.e. bread and rice), try filling the cavity with an assortment of fresh herbs and hearty root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, turnips, celery root and kohlrabi), exotic mushrooms (porcini, oyster, Portobello, crimini), caramelized onions and pecans, roasted French chestnuts, a blend of dried fruits (apricots, prunes, figs, cranberries) or chunks of seasonal squashes.
Pie in the Sky
A great place to cut the carbs at the Thanksgiving table is in the dessert. Swap out the pumpkin pie for an equally delicious pumpkin nutmeg mousse or flan, or simply make a crust with almond or hazelnut meal. Do a riff on pecan pie with a ground pecan crust, and pure maple instead of corn syrup. Another idea is to serve a refreshing dollop of autumnal gelatos such as apple-cinnamon, gingersnap pecan, or cran-raspberry over a heap of fresh berries for your just desserts following the food orgy.
Savory Herb Roasted Fingerlings
3 pounds assorted fingerlings, cut in half, lengthwise
1 fresh sage leaf, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon each of rosemary, thyme, marjoram, chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons healthy oil of choice (almond, red palm fruit, grapeseed)
Zest from one Meyer lemon
Coarse sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Method: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the oils with herbs, spices and zest. Toss potatoes into the seasoned oil until well coated. Spread out single-file on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake until golden, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.