By Eleanor Bradshaw
Whether you’re a novice at preparing a Holiday meal or an old hand, Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner can be daunting. Even if you are able to delegate preparation of some of the dishes to friends and relatives, more than likely you will be responsible for the basics; that is, the turkey, the stuffing and the gravy.
Selecting the Turkey:
The “rule” stated by some authorities is three—quarters to one pound of turkey per serving; so if you are expecting 10 guests with healthy appetites that would mean you buy a 7 to 10 pound bird, right? Wrong. I don’t know about your crowd, but I’d have a riot on my hands if I presented my Thanksgiving regulars with a bird that size. There are two reasons I ignore that rule, it completely overlooks the deep and abiding need Americans have for Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, and Turkeys these days are bred to have as much white meat as possible. In my experience, there are plenty of people who demand dark meat, and you need a bigger bird to accommodate them. My advice, then, is to at least double the rule.
Okay, so that decided, should you buy Fresh or Frozen?If you know you can get a fresh turkey no more than a few days before you need it then, by all means, buy a fresh one. Some meat markets let you reserve a fresh turkey (Trucchi’s will gladly save you a turkey, feel free to stop by the meat department or call to speak to a meat clerk). If, however, you show up on Tuesday and discover that all the fresh turkeys have been gobbled up (couldn’t resist the pun) your frozen turkey in the refrigerator for two days, in an emergency, you can use the cold-water method. Quoting the Butterball people: “To speed thawing, place breast down in cold water, changing water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes per pound. DO NOT THAW AT ROOM TEMPERATURE.” You can avoid all that by simply making sure that you buy your turkey early enough for it to thaw in your refrigerator. Fresh or frozen, it doesn’t matter a whole lot really. I’ve cooked many of each, and either can be excellent. I think it depends as much on the individual turkey, not to mention the individual cook, as anything else.
Standard cooking time or turkey under 16 pounds—15 minutes per pound Standard cooking time for turkey over 16 pounds—12 minutes per pound.
For a moist turkey, baste every 15-20 minutes with drippings or basting sauces.
Standard Methods for Cooking a Turkey
Conventional Oven-Open Pan
Cook turkey, breast up on flat rack in shallow pan at 325°F. Baste every 15-20 minutes. This is a dry-heat method which is the easiest method for cooking a turkey. The Turkey turns out golden brown with a rich roasted flavor.
Conventional Oven-High Heat
Place a well-basted turkey in a shallow pan with the breast up. Cook at 450°F for 20 minutes. Then turn oven down to 350°F. and continue to cook. This produces an evenly browned turkey that is juicy and moist.
Conventional Oven-Covered Pan
Cook turkey, breast up, in covered dark enamel pan in 325°F oven. With this method the cooking time is shortened by the turkey becomes less attractive in appearance than with the open pan method. It does not have a roasted flavor either.
Conventional Oven-Cooking Bag
Place the turkey, breast up, in a floured plastic cooking bag in a shallow open pan. Close the bag loosely and make slits in the top of the bag. Cook at 350° F. The cooking cooks in the drippings in the bag. Although this is easy to clean up the turkey is not not nicely browned and has little roasted flavor.
Place the unstuffed turkey, breast up, on a sheet of foil. Wrap loosely and cook in a shallow pan at 450°F. This moist-heat cooking method reduces the time, but the turkey may cook unevenly. Be sure to check the final temperature of the breast and thigh. This can only be used with an unstuffed turkey.
Use a meat thermometer; insert it deep into the thickest part of the inner thigh without coming into contact with the bone. Roast until the temperature reaches 180°F to 185°F.
More Roasting Tips
If you are going to stuff your turkey, pack the cavities loosely, as the stuffing will expand during cooking. Be sure to remove the neck and giblets from both the neck cavity and the body cavity. Rinse the turkey thoroughly in cold water and drain. If you plan to use a heavy aluminum foil roasting pan, but two and nest one inside the other.
For Roasting, leave in place the little gadget that holds the drumsticks together. Brush or rub olive or canola oil all over the turkey before putting it in the oven.
After roasting tent the turkey loosely with foil and let it rest 20 to 30 minutes so that the juices redistribute throughout the turkey.
Holiday Side Dishes: No Thanksgiving is complete without a table full of side dishes to accompany the traditional holiday turkey. The trick is picking dishes that compliment the bird without competing, but that are also wonderful in their own right. Picking and choosing the cooking method is important since oven space is often at a premium. The top 5 traditional holiday side dishes are:
• Mashed Potatoes
• Candied Yams
• Cranberry Sauce
To complete your holiday feast, remember that appetizers, apple cider, your favorite vegetables along with all your last minute entertaining needs are available here at Trucchi's.
Don't Forget to Call the Trucchi's Bakery to order your bread, rolls and of course, desserts.