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Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

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Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby seashells » Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:58 am

I'm keeping it simple, but I have no idea how to make a turkey. I am getting a small frozen one, in the 12-15 lb range, so I buy it this Sunday and let it thaw in the fridge, right?

I want to put stuffing in the turkey, so can I still use one of those roasting bags? Are roasting bags even a good idea? Right side up, up side down? On a roasting rack or just in a pan? Do I really need to baste the damn thing every 30-45 minutes? Where do I stick the thermometer to test for doneness - breast, thigh, somewhere else?

I am not going to try deep-frying, grilling, ultra-heat roasting, or anything weird. Please help out a first-timer with some basic, simple, turkey-making hints.

I could also use some hints on the count-down to the dinner table, as in: "When there is an hour left, start boiling potatoes for mashed potatoes; when there is 45 minutes left, start the cranberry sauce, etc. etc."

Thanks a bunch!
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby Igor » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:51 pm

Not sure what all you are cooking, but here goes.

- Make sure you have enough oven space for everything that has to go in there. If you have a large Nesco roaster, you can do a turkey in there and leave the oven open if needed - but the oven is preferable.

- Start early. Can't emphasize this enough - if you calculate the cooking time to be 3 hours, put it in 4 and a half hours before you eat. You can always turn the temp down if it is done early. Also, it makes things easy on the designated carver if things are kind of falling off the bone when carving starts.

- You don't have to baste that often. Do it when you think about it. Or when you need to escape obnoxious conservatives, liberals, or Bears fans in the other room.

- Have a plan for getting the bird out of the pan - those little rack things work. So do the giant fork things.

- If you have never made gravy, find out if someone else attending has done so. If not, have some jars of store-bought stuff in the cupboard just in case yours does not work out. It's simple to make, but easy to goof up the first time. You can always donate the stuff from the store to the food pantry afterwards if yours is successful.

- We just stuff the bird directly - if you make sure to cook it long enough, that seems the tastiest. If everyone loves stuffing in your group, you make some extra in a bread pan.

- Homemade cranberries are simple, cheap, and can be done the day before.

- Green bean casserole - also simple. Make sure the dish fits in the oven with the turkey.

- Don't forget dinner rolls - that is the most common thing we have missed. The heat and serve ones can bake while you are carving

- Pie - if you do pumpkin, making homemade whipped cream instead of Cool Whip is pretty simple and cheap. Unfortunately, I married into a Cool Whip family.

- I'm sure there are plenty of youtube videos on carving. An electric knife helps speed that along.

Just my experience - I'm sure others will disagree with some of this. Good Luck!
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby Detritus » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:56 pm

One word: Bacon. Lay strips of uncooked bacon on the turkey's breast (and anywhere else pointing up, if you like) and you will simultaneously prevent burning and any need for basting.
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby seashells » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:59 pm

Thank you! That's the kind of advice I'm seeking.

Our planned menu is simple and fairly boring: turkey with stuffing, mashed potatos, gravy (in a jar), sweet potatoes, corn, homemade cranberry sauce, and either heat-and-serve rolls or bread I made the day before. Pumpkin and apple pies for dessert, made the night before. Nothing but home-whipped real cream in this household!

I'm mostly looking forward to leftover turkey sandwiches on Friday.
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby O.J. » Tue Nov 13, 2012 1:15 pm

You can brine the turkey instead of basting, especially if you start it off at a high temperature before turning the oven down(basting helps produce a nice, dark skin). You could also buy a self-basting turkey, although I'm not a fan.

As far as carving goes, I've always found it easiest to cut off the legs, then guide your knife around the breast and remove it in one piece. Then it's simple to slice the meat as thin/thick as you please.
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby Bwis53 » Tue Nov 13, 2012 1:37 pm

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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby Stebben84 » Tue Nov 13, 2012 1:56 pm

seashells wrote:gravy (in a jar)


Don't do it. Gravy is so easy to make, it just takes patient. It seems as though everything else is homemade including the whipped cream. Get a friend to sit around and stir the gravy so it doesn't lump up. That's the hardest part.
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby Detritus » Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:10 pm

Stebben84 wrote:
seashells wrote:gravy (in a jar)


Don't do it. Gravy is so easy to make, it just takes patient. It seems as though everything else is homemade including the whipped cream. Get a friend to sit around and stir the gravy so it doesn't lump up. That's the hardest part.

Red-eye gravy (that's basically what you're making when you add flour & perhaps some water to the pan drippings) is foolproof if, instead of dumping the flour into the pan with the drippings and then struggling to find and crush all lumps, you put the flour in a bowl, pour in some of the drippings, and whisk it. Then pour the whole thing into the drippings pan and proceed. First, you will probably avoid all lumps. Second, if you don't succeed in making a smooth paste the first time, you can dump it out and try again without messing up the gravy you're trying to make.
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby Ttusker » Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:48 pm

A few more tips:

-I use my rubber-gloved hands to turn the turkey while someone else holds the pan and rack. That bird can stick; plus, my way I don't pierce the skin and let juices out any more than necessary.

-Stick the thermometer deep into the thigh, being careful not to hit any bone.

-Though I like a nice brown skin, I sometimes use foil over breast to prevent it from getting TOO brown.

-I use Wondra flour for the gravy; it comes in a little blue can, and it's specially made for gravies and sauces. Basically, it's just flour milled a bit differently to prevent lumps.

-As mentioned above, cranberry sauce can be made the night before. I always do this.

-I take off an entire drumstick and thigh section, and the wing on that side, for those who like dark meat (I'm one of them.) It's then easier to carve the breast on that side.

I hope you all have a nice Thanksgiving!
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby Igor » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:22 am

seashells wrote:Thank you! That's the kind of advice I'm seeking.

Our planned menu is simple and fairly boring: turkey with stuffing, mashed potatos, gravy (in a jar), sweet potatoes, corn, homemade cranberry sauce, and either heat-and-serve rolls or bread I made the day before. Pumpkin and apple pies for dessert, made the night before. Nothing but home-whipped real cream in this household!

I'm mostly looking forward to leftover turkey sandwiches on Friday.


Like I said - be early. If you get the turkey in and potatoes /sweet potatoes prepped early, you may get a nice break in between where you can actually relax for a bit.

Also - turkey noodle soup, turkey salad, turkey on a shingle, etc.
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby Mad Howler » Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:01 am

It is very important to listen to Igor's advice here. Get that bird in the oven sooner than you think you need to!!! You will feel so much less stress when all is said and eaten.
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby mlmaguire » Wed Nov 14, 2012 8:10 am

When the family got big enough that two turkeys were needed, I HATED the idea of using the Nesco roaster. But the alternative was having someone else cook a turkey, then transporting it 20 miles, which seemed like a pain. We did the Nesco, and I was a convert. Super easy, almost no basting, and I think the bird is moister than the oven. Let it go for a few hours at 350F, then turn it down to ~200. The skin will brown. The bonus is that you can let it cool right in the pan, so you don't have to try and move a steaming heavy pan of cooked bird. Use a baster to get all the drippings for gravy.

Gravy is soooo much easier than one would believe. I do what the others have suggested. I use cornstarch not flour. Dissolve ~1/4 cup in water to make a thin paste. Get the drippings hot in a saucepan, then add a couple tablespoons of the starch and stir. Add starch like this until it's a little thinner than you think it should be. It'll get thicker as it cools. If too thick, add a little water. I always add the gravy packet that comes with the bird, and I also add the sweetmeats for extra flavor (remove before serving).

Good Luck!
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby fennel » Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:33 am

As a side dish, I recommend Glazed Alien Heads:
A handful of finely chopped (not grated) ginger. Blast it in some hot oil, drop the heat and add sliced garlic and a pile of brussel sprouts. Medium heat and occasional stirring for about 15 minutes, then add a mixture of honey, lime juice, and tamari. Cook off the liquid until the sprouts begin to brown.
Last edited by fennel on Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby Ducatista » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:36 pm

Detritus wrote:Red-eye gravy (that's basically what you're making when you add flour & perhaps some water to the pan drippings) is foolproof if, instead of dumping the flour into the pan with the drippings and then struggling to find and crush all lumps, you put the flour in a bowl, pour in some of the drippings, and whisk it.

A flour/water slurry is even easier. Gravy's not foolproof, though... it's important to cook it at a fairly high heat after thickening, long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste.

Still, super simple, and Nature's Greatest Food. There is no excuse for canned gravy.

I always make two birds: one in the oven (that's the pretty one), and one in the Nesco for extra gravy.

O.J. wrote:You can brine the turkey instead of basting...

Don't brine a frozen bird—they're almost always self-basting, and if you brine a self-basting bird you'll end up with overly salty meat and, worse, oversalted gravy.

Twice-baked potatoes are a great make-ahead alternative to mashed. You can make them a day ahead, keep them in the fridge, and reheat them while the bird is resting. Speaking of which: do not skip the resting. Let the bird sit 20-30 minutes after roasting before you carve it. That will allow the juices to redistribute into the meat.

I don't baste, but I do rub herbed butter under the turkey skin. I cook the stuffing separately in a slow-cooker, and stuff the turkey cavity and neck with big chunks of celery, onion, and apple, discarded after roasting. Adds nice flavor to the gravy.

fennel, that sprouts recipe sounds delicious.
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Re: Oh crap! I'm making T-giving dinner!

Postby peripat » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:53 pm

You can baste a turkey in a Nesco & brown it nicely. Easiest way I've found to make smooth gravy is to put a couple tablespoons of flour in a 1 cup plastic storage bowl, fill it half way up with water, put the lid on, shake well & add to the boiling drippings- best part is you can repeat if you didn't start out with enough.
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