Nov 4, 2013

Scared of Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner?

Preparing a Thanksgiving turkey dinner has always been a scary time for many people. Whether you are preparing a turkey dinner for your own family, or for friends and family, you start to think, what if the turkey turns out bad? What if it is dry, or the stuffing isn't right? The bottom line is that the pressure is on the cook to deliver a beautifully prepared, elegantly presented, perfectly cooked meal in a timely manner.

I think the problem is that we don't prepare Thanksgiving everyday, or we forget where the recipe is, or in my case, which recipe did I use last year? And then there are all of the side dishes to prepare, not to mention the dessert. This can be a frightening time for the cook in the house.

It is common in Hawaii to have pot luck meals. Neighbors, friends and family all bring something so the cook doesn't have to do all of the work, and if the cook is smart he or she will also think about disposable plates and dinnerware to cut down on the cleanup. Although cooking a turkey can be scary, you are not alone. Thousands of home cooks are as intimidated as you are. With a bit of effort and a little luck, your holiday turkey will be a success.

I have prepared many Thanksgiving meals over the years and have accumulated a lot of good recipes that I would like to share with you. Perhaps these recipes will become a favorite with your ohana (family, in Hawaiian), I hope so. Check out these turkey safety tips and recipes that I posted last year on this site... click here to link to that post.

Easy Roast Turkey with Basting Sauce
Basting a turkey is very important. The basting sauce helps to flavor the turkey, as well as to make the skin crisp. Cooks note: Be sure to allow at least 3 days for a frozen turkey to thaw properly in your refrigerator. Never thaw a turkey outside of your refrigerator, like in your kitchen sink, or in a cooler. You and your guests run the risk of salmonella poisoning, and I don't think you want that.

To roast a turkey, preheat the oven to 375˚F. After you take your thawed turkey out of its plastic bag, be sure to rinse it off with cold water, inside and out, and then dry it off with paper towels. Place the dry turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and brush some basting sauce over the turkey. Roast the turkey for 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325˚F. Baste the turkey every 20 minutes or so. A turkey takes roughly 15 minutes per pound to roast; a 12-pound bird will take about 3 hours to
Meat Thermometer
cook. I rely on my meat thermometer to tell me when the bird is cooked to perfection. It should read 165˚ inserted in the thick thigh meat. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and cover it with foil to let it rest 15 minutes, then the juices won't run all over the cutting board. It will still be warm for up to 30 minutes if you keep it covered.

Ingredients for basting sauce:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Procedure:
Melt the butter in a medium pot. Add the remaining ingredients and heat to a simmer. Leave on very low heat while basting the turkey every 20 minutes or so, while it is in the oven.

Easy Giblet Gravy
For those of you that don't know what giblets are, they are the bits of turkey meat usually found in a little paper bag inside the turkey that consists of the neck, gizzard, Kidneys, heart and liver. Some people don't like to add giblets to the gravy, my wife being one of them. To me they are missing out on a lot of flavor, and besides the giblets are totally cooked and minced before adding them to the gravy. This is an easy giblet gravy to make and tastes really great!

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
A few cracks of black pepper
Giblets from a turkey
A few sprigs fresh thyme (found at Kumu Farms on Moloka'i)
1/2 cup drippings from a roasted turkey
2 tablespoons flour

Procedure:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the celery, carrot and onion for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onions are soft and beginning to color. Add a few cracks of freshly ground pepper.

Add the giblets, thyme and enough water to cover. Raise the heat and bring to a gentle boil then reduce heat to low and simmer covered for about an hour. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

Strain the broth into a bowl. Transfer the cooked giblets to a cutting board and discard the sprigs of thyme. Remove as much meat from the neck as possible, then discard the neck bones and neck fat. Chop the neck meat and giblets into very fine pieces.

In a medium skillet, heat the pan drippings over medium low heat. Add the chopped giblets and sauté for a minute. Add enough flour to make a thick roux, a teaspoon at a time. Allow the roux to cook and darken for a minute. Add the reserved broth 1/4 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly into the roux.

Continue adding broth as the gravy cooks and thickens. If necessary, add additional water to bring gravy to proper consistency. Taste for seasoning and serve. Makes 2 cups.

Classic Biscuits
Biscuits and gravy for Thanksgiving is always a winner. Biscuits with honey or jam is good anytime. This recipe is tried and true.

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening, butter or margarine 
3/4 cup milk

Procedure:
Heat the oven to 450°F. In a medium bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until mixed. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender or fork, until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in the milk until mixture forms a soft dough and leaves the side of the bowl (dough will be soft and sticky).

Lightly sprinkle flour over a cutting board or countertop. Place dough on floured surface; gently roll in the flour to coat. To knead dough, fold dough toward you. With the heels of your hands, lightly push dough away from you with a short rocking motion. Move dough a quarter turn and repeat 10 times. Dough will feel springy and smooth.

On the floured surface, flatten dough evenly, using hands or a rolling pin, until dough is 1/2 inch thick.

Before cutting each biscuit, dip a 2 1/2-inch round cutter into flour to lightly coat it so it will cut cleanly through the dough without sticking. To cut, push the cutter straight down through the dough without twisting or turning. Cut the biscuits as close together as possible. On an ungreased cookie sheet, place biscuits about 1 inch apart for biscuits with crusty sides, or place with sides touching for biscuits with soft sides.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm. Makes 12 biscuits.
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