This the second part in the series Secrets From A Chef’s Kitchen. Part one was on Holiday Party Fundamentals.
Today’s series was to be on Thanksgiving Menu Timetable! But I felt under the weather today and changed the Secrets From A Chef’s Kitchen – Turkey Thinkin and Nuts instead. Timetable to follow Thursday.
This post is about me sharing some facts and information to get you thinkin about your Thanksgiving menu!
A common style to use for Thanksgiving dinner is to have a “potluck” service. Somehow potluck for a Thanksgiving dinner is not something I would pick. Potluck, to me, is saying that you have no IDEA what they’re bringing and you’re hoping for the best!
I’d much rather have a “Cooperative Thanksgiving”. So what is a Cooperative Thanksgiving (or any party falling under potluck). It’s inviting your guest to “contribute” to the meal. But you know what they are bringing..so you can stay on your menu timetable…no surprises.
Let’s say your having 14 guests for Thanksgiving. You have the whole meal planned! You invite guest to bring a food item from your menu….the most successful dishes to farm out are baked desserts, breads, salads, soups, wine/alcohol, homemade condiments like relishes or cranberry sauce, and reheatable casseroles.
You could also give them recipes from the menu to prepare. Each guest should prepare/purchase enough for 14 (or your number of guests coming). Just to get you thinkin… know what is needed to serve..does it to need to be reheated and what’s needed for serving…a tray, if so have them bring it too or at least know you’ll have one ready. Last minutes surprises are very stressful!
I don’t serve bread at Thanksgiving, to me it’s unnecessary, it remains untouched between all the stuffing, potatoes etc. What I do d0 is make home made buns to use later for sandwiches.
Did Ya Know?
The number one reason your turkey is not cooked properly after figuring out the timing is because you did not remove you turkey 1 1/2 HOURS before cooking! Look at it this way..timing is done based on the fact that the meat is close to room temperature. If you don’t remove your turkey it’s internal temperature is higher. That’s a huge difference in total cooking time…it’s the time it takes to bring the internal temp to where it should of been before putting in oven!
Don’t Pay No Attention to This Thing!
Another BIG mistake is to determine when your turkey is done by a “POP UP“. First off they are unreliable, usually leaving your turkey over cooked! The popup is made out of NYLON, not what I want melting in my turkey. The best method is to use an accurate meat thermometer.
Like the one above which has a long probe that’s placed into the turkey and the digital timing element is outside. Also I’ve found the USDA recommended cooking times to be longer than necessary, resulting in an overcooked bird, so start checking your bird about 3/4th of the way through the total recommended cooking time.
I use a Podler, about $25.
If you don’t have a thermometer timing is your next best option…but NOT the popup! Timing is anywhere between 15- 20 minutes a pound. Why a range…well not everyone’s oven cooks the same. Start checking your bird about 3/4th of the way through the total recommended cooking time. Prick the turkey’s leg joint to see if the juices run clear.
Don’t Stuff The Stuffing!
Another factor in cooking the bird correctly is to NOT stuff the cavity with stuffing…it should be LIGHTLY packed inside. If it’s stuffed the heat is hindered and the heat/air does not circulate well. It can’t get inside to cook the inside of the turkey.
Let it Rest!
Another reason a turkey is dry is because you didn’t let it rest at least 30 minutes after being taking out of the oven. A turkey can retain it’s heat for 45 minutes after being removed…when it’s resting you could be cooking the sides. Let it rest…please!
Do Ya Serve Something Before Dinner?“
Typically I don’t serve appetizers before such a heavy meal. If dinner is at 2-3:00 none needed, if later in the early evening I’ll serve nuts and maybe a spread with crackers.
So this brings us to the NUTS! I’ve provided a few homemade nut recipes that are good. Later I’ll provide one of my best cheese spread that everyone goes nuts over…and it’s not rolled in a ball or a roll.
Next in the series – Thanksgiving Menu Timetable!
You can make these nuts up to 3 days before Thanksgiving and store in a lightly covered jar in a cool dark place or refrigerate upto a week.
2 pounds mixed shelled raw nuts, such as cashew almonds, walnuts, &
1 1/2 Tbsp light olive oil (not regular olive oil here’s why)
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
Heat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, toss the nuts with the oil until they are evenly cooked.
In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Sprinkle the mixture over the nuts and toss to mix well.
Spread out the seasoned nuts on 2 large baking sheets and bake for 5-7 minutes,until lightly toasted. Let cook on paper towels. Serve at room temperature
Cocktail Party Walnuts
1 pound shelled, unsalted walnuts
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt or sea salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cardamon
1 tsp freshly ground coarse black pepper
1/4 cup light olive oil (not regular olive oil) Here’s why!
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and add the walnuts. Boil for 10 minutes. Drain and dry on paper towels
Combine the salt, sugar, cardamon, and pepper in a bowl.
Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the spice mixture and toss to coat. Cook, tossing constantly, until the walnuts are deep golden brown, 6 -7 minutes.
Remove from pan from the heat. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the walnuts from the oil and spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper so that they are not touching. When completely cool, store the nuts in an airtight container for up to 1 week.