Wednesday, November 21, 2007

turkey cooking time

Here we come to save the Turkey Day! Emergency fixes, advice for next time

Holiday dinner disasters: Oh sure, it's funny now
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Most of us have had our share of Turkey Day mishaps. Some we had to live with, such as the time my brother, making gravy from the turkey drippings at his mother-in-law's home, grabbed the sugar canister instead of the flour to thicken the liquid.

Others, though, can be rescued by sleight-of-hand, as when three of my family members dropped an exceptionally hefty roasted turkey when transferring it from pan to platter. An elegant table presentation was out of the question, so the turkey was carved and placed on a platter, with no one the wiser.

You may be able to avert your own embarrassing scenarios by checking out our emergency fix-it advice below.

If the turkey hasn't completely defrosted by Thanksgiving eve or morning

Place the turkey in a leakproof, food-grade bag (the plastic wrapper that is comes from the store in is fine if it has no holes) and submerge it in cold water. Drain and change water every 30 minutes. When defrosted, cook it immediately. (Don't leave the turkey in the water or on the kitchen counter overnight.)

Next time: Plan ahead. It will take about 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey to defrost in the refrigerator. Always place the refrigerated turkey on a platter or tray so juice does not drip on other food.

If the white meat is too dry

A good gravy can cover a multitude of sins, so plan on making extra for moisture as well as flavor. Another solution is to ladle some warm turkey or chicken broth over the carved meat.

Next time: Make sure there's plenty of air circulation in and around the turkey while roasting. Don't truss the turkey. The dark meat will cook more slowly, therefore overcooking the white meat by the time the whole turkey is done to the correct temperature (at least 165 degrees, including stuffing).

If your gravy burns

Don't stir the gravy, but immediately strain it into another pan to remove any blackened bits.

Next time: Once the thickener has been added to the gravy, it should be stirred constantly to keep the starch from sinking to the bottom of the pan and burning.

If the gravy is lumpy

Strain through a fine sieve to remove the lumps. At this point, the gravy may need to be thickened again with a starch mixture. (See proportions below for thickening gravy.) It can also be thickened by boiling down the liquid for a few minutes, although this method can result in gravy that's too salty. Taste the gravy before reducing to decide if this method is appropriate.

Next time:There are a couple of things to keep in mind when making gravy: The thickening starch should be completely dissolved in cold liquid. Use a whisk to add it, a little at a time, into gravy that's cooking at a low boil.

If the gravy isn't thick enough

Whisk together 2 parts cold water to 1 part flour, then add just enough of the mixture to the boiling gravy to thicken it; reduce heat and simmer 3 to 5 minutes, stirring well.

Or dissolve 2 ½ teaspoons arrowroot in a couple of tablespoons cold water per cup of gravy. Add to boiling liquid, which should thicken in about a minute. Cornstarch can also be used, although this will produce a gravy that is more translucent. Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons cold water per 2 cups liquid. Add to gravy at a low boil and cook 1 to 2 minutes to thicken.

Next time: Although gravy that hasn't thickened usually isn't a problem to fix, it does take some time and will only add to the stress in the kitchen. Save time by paying closer attention to the ratio of starch to liquid, using the guidelines above.

If mashed potatoes are sticky

The potatoes were overcooked and absorbed too much water or were overworked when mashed. It will help to spoon the potatoes into a casserole dish, sprinkle on some grated Parmesan and dot with butter. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 20 minutes, or until hot in the center.

Next time: Put the potatoes into a pot that's large enough to hold them all easily. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook at a low boil until tender. Every batch of potatoes cooks differently, so check for tenderness after 15 minutes and continue checking often until tender. Drain very well. Don't use an electric mixer to mash the potatoes, as there's a tendency to overwork them on a machine.

If pie dough is too crumbly

The fat hasn't been cut into the flour properly, or the flour-to-liquid ratio was off and a little more water should be added. If you notice the crumbly dough before you have taken it out of the bowl, work it a bit more. If you think the dough needs more liquid, put the dough into a food processor with a couple of teaspoons water, then use the pulse button sparingly to mix in. Transfer to a sheet of wax paper and form into a flattened circle. Put into the refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling.

Next time: Be sure the fat has been cut into the flour until large crumbs have formed throughout. Make sure the flour at the bottom of the bowl has also been incorporated, adding a little water as needed.

If the dough breaks when putting into the pan

There are a couple of reasons for this: The dough probably was too dry and crumbly, or was not given enough resting time for the liquid to absorb throughout. Patch the cracks with scraps of dough, and seal with some beaten egg.

Next time: Follow the instructions above for mixing the dough so it's not crumbly. Then wrap the formed dough in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes for the liquid to absorb throughout.

If the crust is too soggy

Most likely, the filling was too wet or heavy, and the crust didn't get a chance to thoroughly bake. Once the pie is baked, there's nothing that can be done for a soggy crust.

Next time: For heavy fillings such as pumpkin, the crust should be partially baked and cooled before filling. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line shell with foil or parchment paper, and add pastry weights or dried beans to cover bottom. Bake on center oven rack 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, and lightly pierce puffed-up dough with a fork. Continue baking 5 to 8 minutes or until set. Cool on a rack.

If the cream for the pie fails to whip

Put the whisk and the bowl with the cream in it into the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Next time: The whisk, bowl and cream all need to be cold before starting. Don't add the sugar until after the cream has begun to thicken.

21, 2007 - A turkey is the traditional centerpiece of a thanksgiving feast, but preparing bird safely can be a big problem. Raw turkey can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so careful handling is essential, starting with thawing. If you still haven't bought a bird you can chose between fresh and froze. Fresh turkeys do not need to be thawed, but frozen turkeys need thawing. There are two main ways to thaw a turkey, you can place the frozen bird in the refrigerator unopened on a tray. The experts recommend one day of thawing for every four pounds of turkey. If you don't have time to wait that long you can use cold water to wake the bird from a deep freeze. Just fill the sink or a basin with cool water and submerge the un-opened turkey in cool water. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cool and clean. For every pound of turkey it will take about 30 minutes to thaw.
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Chefs say start preparation by washing your hands before and after handling raw poultry and meat. Roasting a turkey at the right temperature insures that it won't be undercooked. Proper turkey temperature is anywhere from 165 degrees to 180 and don't forget to remove the plastic bags with giblets and the turkey neck.
Experts say for safety reasons the only items to stuffs back into the cavity are vegetables, oranges and herbs for seasoning.

Chef Samantha Enzmann from the Viking Cooking School says, "You never cook stuffing in the bird. You run the risk of those raw poultry juices being absorbed into the stuffing."

To help keep you and your family healthy there are a few simple precautions you should take:

Always keep thawed or fresh turkey in the refrigerator on a tray to keep juices from dripping
Use two separate cutting boards, one for raw meat and the other for cooked or ready to eat foods
Stick with fresh paper towels to clean up after the turkey.
As always remember to wash your hands whenever you touch raw meat. Let Leftovers Be Leftovers
That turkey samosa won't bring your Thanksgiving dinner back to life.
By Jill Hunter Pellettieri
Posted Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007, at 1:45 PM ET
Turkey fried rice. Turkey-mushroom casserole. Turkey dinner muffins. Turkey samosas. Turkey hash. Strawberry-turkey spinach salad. Turkey and veggie lasagna. Turkey chowder with wild rice, crimini, and pancetta. Turkey quesadilla suiza.

Turkey and veggie lasagna
Reading this list of recipes—and trust me, there are plenty more—is enough to make you want to go cold turkey on turkey. Every November, magazine editors and food writers, cooking gurus and TV personalities, foist turkey leftover recipes upon us. Unless we put our tired, picked-over turkey carcass to good use, they tell us, we're wasting some precious opportunity. But don't be fooled. Do not be tempted by that recipe for turkey and leek risotto. Those stringy last bits of gristle and meat that cling to your bird are better suited to the raccoons who rummage through your garbage. Do you really want to morph the centerpiece of your most ceremonial meal of the year into turkey bundles (stuffed with turkey, cream cheese, dill weed, and water chestnuts, among other things)?

But I don't want to be wasteful! Now, of all times of the year, I'm supposed to be thankful for my food, you might think. I'm not saying to abandon leftovers entirely. On the contrary: Embrace them. Just don't turn them into some bastardized concoction. Enjoy them for what they are.



Turkey leftover recipes are, essentially, a sham—an invention of food entertainment providers hard-up for new holiday ideas. There are only so many variations on the traditional Thanksgiving dinner (this year, try making Indian-spiced turkey breast!), and leftover recipes offer a seemingly appropriate way of filling pages and air time. (Few are brave enough to leave the leftovers alone; kudos to Food and Wine for doing so this year.)

But even the purveyors of these recipes recognize the absurdity of what they're presenting—they don't really expect any of them to become mainstays in your repertoire. (Perhaps the only exception is turkey stock made from your carcass—for the truly ambitious.) Of its turkey pot pie, Gourmet disclaims, "I can't guarantee this pie will make it onto your list of classics, but I'm pretty certain it will be a strong contender." Not if you make it with turkey, though. "This recipe could easily become a year-round favorite—simply substitute supermarket rotisserie chicken for the turkey."

Due to its taste and size, turkey has long played second fiddle to its poultry brethren. Turkey meat, especially the breast, is often dried out, and it's not as rich as that of more exotic birds, like guinea hen or capon. Its heft makes it more difficult to cook than the more flavorful, more manageable, and more common chicken. On Thanksgiving, we're willing to overlook these flaws for the sake of tradition. Still, many try to compensate for turkey's shortcomings by getting creative in the kitchen: We'll deep-fry, grill, brine, even spatchcock in an effort to zest up this bird. But I challenge you to count on more than one hand all the times you've made a turkey entrée since last Thanksgiving that wasn't a sandwich or a burger. (For that matter, when was the last time you ordered turkey tetrazzini at a restaurant? How about turkey pho?)

Turkey recipes in The Joy of Cooking are outnumbered by chicken recipes by about four to one. In specialty cookbooks, turkey often goes the way of the dodo—it's absent entirely. Mark Bittman is the sole cook I've found who takes an honest approach. In his encyclopedic cookbook How To Cook Everything, he limits his turkey recipes to a handful of staples, most revolving around Thanksgiving. He's brutally forthcoming about its flaws: "I know no one who prefers turkey to other birds," he writes. "It's my belief that most of us would eat turkey less frequently than we would eat capon, a much tastier big bird, were it not for the traditions around Thanksgiving and Christmas."

Poor turkeys. They weren't always such a lackluster fowl. According to Andrew F. Smith's excellent history The Turkey: An American Story, many of the European colonists who explored and settled in North America praised the prevalent native wild turkeys, describing them as "a splendid dish, boiled or roasted," and "a delicate and highly prized article of food." As turkeys were hunted (and as their food sources diminished with the development of land), however, they became more and more scarce. Domesticated (though still flavorful) turkeys brought over from Europe began to replace wild ones, and by the mid-1800s, turkey breeding had caught on.

The experts say following simple safety tips will help make this a healthy holiday


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