Thanksgiving Day Tips

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Jacob Burton
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Thanksgiving Day Tips
Thought I'd start a thread so people can chime in with their Thanksgiving day cooking tips. Here are a few of mine:
  1. If you're unfamiliar with how to make great mashed potatoes, listen to SCS 5| Basic Starches. We go over mashed potatoes extensively.
  2. I recommend breaking down your turkey into separate pieces, using the same method demonstrated in this video on how to butcher a chicken. You can then make a roasted turkey stock that can be used for your gravy, that is of course thickened with a nice brown roux. I then prefer to brine the turkey breasts and confit the legs and thighs.
  3. Also, if you plan on serving any type of green vegetable, you may find it helpful to review this video on blanching or listen to our blanching audio lecture.
So what are your Thanksgiving day cooking tips?
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messychef24
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Biggest one for me: Hold the party in the kitchen. 
I find most magazine articles about thanksgiving reflect on spending as little time in the kitchen as possible, and more time out in your dolled up living room with your guests.
But for me, and I'd guess for many of the other stella stars, my friends and family expect to find me in the kitchen anyways, and it's big enough and cozy enough for them to chill comfortably in there without getting in the way.
This way I don't feel obligated to brew a steady conversation with people, while also cooking in the kitchen. 
Smooth Sailing....then again, my thanksgivings past, being in Canada and all

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Koopdaddy
1. Brine that turkey 2. There are much better options than marshmallows with sweet potatoes 3. Don't be afraid to try new recipes Just a few words of advice I have.
BrianShaw
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My tip is to cook with a glass of decent wine in one hand, but not drink too much of it.  Being relaxed and enjoying the experience of making friends and family happy are important.

Second tip is to balance the "traditional" with the more tasty and/or more creative options.  For example, my family has requested mashed sweet potato with marshmallow topping.  There will be two sweet potato offerings: one per their request and another that I'm willing to eat.  They also requested green bean casserole.  (Y'all know what I'm talking about, don't you?)  I'm putting my foot down on that request and they will be eating green beans with butter and shallots. After they get over their disappointment I'm sure they will thank me.  :)
Wisconsin Limey
Here we are, the evening before T day and all is well.  My tip for you all...I'm done!  I did all my prep today, tomorrow I saute and roast, nothing more.  Oops, I guess it's a bit late for this tip, but, I've been busy.

My menu:

Thanksgiving Menu

November 24th 2011

 

 

Appetizer

 

Deviled Eggs – curried egg yolk mayonaisse

Angel-ed Eggs – roasted red pepper hummus

Terrine de Foies de Volaille – chicken liver pate
toast points

 

Entre

 

Slow Roasted Turkey

Mashed Potatoes

Sage & Onion Dressing

Sweet Potato Casserole

Brussel Sprouts w/bacon & onion

Roasted Carrots

Steamed Green Beans

Steamed Corn

Yorkshire Puddings

Cranberry Sauce

Turkey Gravy

 

Dessert

 

Pumpkin Pie - whipped cream or coolwhip®

Yorkshire Pudding w/lemon & sugar

Old Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream


Melampus
I'd say the best tip is exemplified by Limey's current position... that is "chilled out" due to proper preparation. The 5 P's are Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Write lists ahead, plan ahead, shop ahead, be ready ahead...
Koopdaddy
Here is how my turkey turned out...very moist and tasty!






Stuffing



Scalloped Corn



Sweet Potato



My mother made the last 3 items, I did the turkey.
Wisconsin Limey
That bird looks delicious!
Jacob Burton
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Yum!
Koopdaddy
Thanks!
Zalbar
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That corn dish is making my mouth water. What's in it?
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Mogs
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Great thread Jacob and fellow Stella stars - we're not doing Thanksgiving here, but I'm already planning hosting Xmas in new home. Further to your tips, Jacob, can you offer some pointers on cooking temps and times (I have investigated all the links you have provided, thanks for sharing, great info... still working my way through brining, but I know the breast has to dry in the fridge after soaking and prior to roasting). 

I understand the confit legs are cooked, so they just need to crisp up alongside the breast. How long does this take approximately? Will they crisp up at the temp the breast cooks at? What temperature should the breast be cooked at? The time is of course size dependent. Do you whack the oven up at the end to get a higher 'crisping temp' for both legs and breast skin? I want a stress free Xmas so I'll be dong a trial run or two (lots of turkey curry on the menu..)

I'm thinking of something fun to do with the wings for the kids too - maybe deep fried? Suggestions welcome.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Simon
Ed_f
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@ Brian - Bean green casserole. That was a request here last year. If you look around you can find some recipes to do it from scratch and it is delicious and nutritious. As with everything it takes more time to to not pour soup form a can, onions from a can etc. But wow, it was a hit.
Ed_f
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Do something interesting with cranberries! Do NOT just pour that nasty stuff out of can.
The favorite around here is cranberries cooked with some fresh mango and maple syrup until it breaks down and then thickens up. Tangy, little sweet, all fresh so some nutrients in there. 
Pretty easy and gets a surprising amount of good attention on the table.
Dave Mott
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Homemade gravy! It's the only way! Nothing like the smell of those beautiful drippings as you scrape the bottom of the pan and pour them out into a pot. I use all purpose flour for thickening. I found both corn starch and tapioca flour turn the gravy into this gelatinous blob.
And of course homemade pumpkin pie! Oh man, I can't wait till next year!!
dk
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I like to get creative with my sauces.  I make beurre blanc, which is fantastic on all the traditional thanksgiving dishes.  I also make a brown stock based sage sauce (basically sauce estragon with sage instead of tarragon).

I have always gotten a good response with the good eats recipe for green bean casserole, even from my dad who was raised in the midwest on the everything canned version. 

I personally find it helpful to make a spreadsheet with when I need to start everything to make sure everything gets done at the same time.
jcbaum
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Hey Jacob (et al...)

I know this is not Thanksgiving, however...my mom and I bought a good frozen turkey from a local farm.  I want to cook it, break it down into parts and then refreeze into individual servings.   I also want to a make a broth.  My question reduces down to ... is there a quick way of doing this without having to take the long time of defrosting the turkey in the refrigerator.  I have heard that some chefs have cooked turkeys from a frozen state putting the turkey directly into the oven...or is that hearsay/legend.  Maybe you would even have a better idea of how to process the turkey into easy to pull portions for those who are busy, etc...I want to cook this turkey soon to avoid summer heat even in northern Michigan.  Thanks ahead for your good advice and Blessings, JCBaum
Mucho Bocho
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JC, Your intuitions are correct, putting a frozen turkey or even chicken in a hot oven is a disaster waiting to happen that even our esteemed chef could not get you out off. If it were me, I would put the bird in the top of your refrigerator on a baking sheet for two days. That should give you a partially frozen bird, that you can then break down, then refreeze what your not going to cook. It's not recommended but will work. It's never a good practice to cook anything frozen, unless it's a steak that's dipped in liquid nitrogen then immediately deep fried, but that's another thread. I guess frozen vegetables are ok too.
Wartface
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I will be smoking my turkey on my Big Green Egg. It's a smoker and an outdoor ceramic oven. Untitled This is the recipe and method I will use to achieve this project... http://amazingribs.com/recipes/chicken_turkey_duck/ultimate_smoked_turke...
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Jacob Burton
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Sorry for the delayed response, but Mucho gave you the same advice that I would have.

Let us know if you have any more questions.
Mack-the-knife
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Not really related to this post but I recently used up some left over Xmas cranberry sauce by mixing it into my slow braised red cabbage. I wanted to make a fruit reduction to serve with my main but realised I could kill two birds with one stone. It turned out really nice. I would definitely do it again.
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