Since Thanksgiving is coming up, I thought it would be fun to reach out to my Google+ circle of chefs and foodies to get some advice for preparing my turkey and side dishes.
It was amazing to see the power of Google+ circles because I received an abundance of tips for everything from preparing my turkey and side dishes to choosing wines and beers.
If you’re looking to circle some engaging Google+ chefs and foodies, these are some great people to follow.
Check out these Thanksgiving meal tips …
Turkey Preparation & Roasting Advice
Take a 5 gallon pail and fill it with water, 1 cup salt and 1 cup sugar (you may also add a little white wine if you wish). Submerge the whole turkey without giblets (of course) and brine it for 24 hours making sure that the water is below 40 degrees (use ice). When finished brining it, take the bird out of the solution and pat it with paper towel in order to get rid of the excess liquid and let it air dry for awhile (this is important if you want a crispy skin). Bake breast down first and turn it breast up during the last hour of baking. Make sure to truss the legs tight. Other tips:
- Adding chili oil with a brush creates a great tasting crusty turkey skin
- Don’t use heavy stuffing, this will slow down the baking process thus creating a drier bird
- Insert chunks of unsalted butter underneath the skin.
Brine, baby brine! To prevent a dry turkey, brine an all natural turkey for 24-48 hours before the big day- you can even find brine “kits” at the grocery store now. Another tip I find helpful is to slather your gobbler with a mixture of butter, white miso paste and some savory poultryish herbs – abd thanks to Simon & Garfunkle, it’s easy to remember them- “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”! Place only one rack in the lowest position possible in your oven, and preheat to 425. Roast the bird for 45 minutes at this high heat, then slow roast at 325 the rest of time (varies with the size of your bird) Makes a crispy golden delicious crust!
Brine, Brine, Brine. Makes such a moister bird. I like typical fall influences–apple juice/cider brown sugar, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, ginger, bay leaves, allspice etc. And of course Kosher Salt!
The difficult thing about baking a turkey is that the darker thigh meat cooks slower than the breast meat, resulting in dry, overcooked breast meat. The solution? Before you cook the turkey, cover the breast with an ice pack so that by the time you place it in the oven, it is about 20 degrees cooler than the thigh meat. This way, the breast will cook slower, reaching moist succulence at around the same time as the thighs. See 43folders post for more details.
- Trussing the turkey is key for even cooking.
- Marinate First – To marinate a turkey without an injector, simply use a fork to make random holes over the entire bird. Place the turkey in a large, plastic or foodservice grade cooking bag, pour in the marinade, close the bag securely and let it marinate overnight. Turkey should always be marinated in the refrigerator. Before cooking, be sure to scrape off excess marinade and discard. Do NOT re-use marinade to baste the turkey.
Brining the turkey is the single thing you can do to make your turkey fool-proof. Soak the bird in enough water to cover that has enough salt to make it about as salty as sea water. Add spices (whole peppercorns, ginger, etc) to the brine if you want. Give a 12-15lb bird eight to ten hours in the brine before cooking. This will add flavor and moisture and make for some amazing turkey.
Brine your bird. A brine ascertains that lean meats (such as turkey) stay juicy. The best part is that when you brine you can add things such as herbs and spices. Not only will you end up with a super juicy and moist bird, but it will be infused with flavor.
Rub the bird all over with a little butter or olive oil, and that will make the outside of the bird turn golden and crisp and hold the juices inside the meat.
My turkey tips are usually the ones that people don’t want to hear about because they insist on roasting the bird whole and presenting it whole. The problem is however that you’re committing an egregious culinary crime; flavor and technique should always be considered first and only then should you worry about your presentation. The problem with whole roasting a turkey is that breast and the legs require different cooking methods, times and temperatures for them to both come out “Perfect.” Because turkey breasts are lean with no connective tissue, they should first be brined and then roasted at a high temperature while basting with clarified butter until an internal finished temperature of 155F is reached (allowing for 10 degrees of carry over cooking while the breast rests).
On the other hand, the turkey legs contain lots of connective tissue that can only be broken down using “low and slow” gentle heat. My favorite way to accomplish this is to either confit or sous vide if you have an immersion circulator. Low temperature roasting will also work, about 275F oven for 4-6 hours or until the legs have an internal temperature of 160F.
My personal favorite is to buy a large turkey a few days before (fresh and un-brined). I’ll break down the turkey, removing the breasts, legs and thighs and then I will roast the turkey carcase and use it to make a flavorful stock. I will then confit the turkey legs and have them resting in my refrigerator, allowing them to age and gain flavor. I will then brine my turkey breast, rinse, and have it drying out in my fridge as well. That way, the day of, I can just worry about roasting the breast, and since the confit is already cooked, I can place the legs in the hot roasting oven right next to the breasts towards the end of the roasting process because all that is needed is for the skin on the legs to crisp and heat through. I also have the added advantage of my turkey stock already made, which I can use for the gravy as well as left over turkey soup.
Let it Rest! After your turkey has finished cooking, let it rest for at least 20 – 40 minutes loosely tented with foil. This will allow the juices to redistribute and you will have a more flavorful bird.
Allow your turkey to rest for 20-30 minutes before carving. If you cut it too soon you will end up having all of the juices run out of the meat, giving you a tougher drier turkey.
The best way to slice a turkey breast is too remove it entirely from the roasted turkey, which is easily accomplished by placing a thin bladed knife at the top of the breast and gently guide it down along the breast bone. It should come off easily and intact. When you slice the breast start at the short pointed end of the oval shape, making your slices more uniform as you continue down the breast.
Beer brine the turkey to insure good flavor and a moist juicy texture when served. Here’s a full menu of beer recipes for Thanksgiving.
Fantastic turkey does not have to be difficult. It just takes a little patience and preparation. The best turkeys, in my opinion, are ones that have been thawed, brined, salted or marinated at least a day before you plan to cook them. This gives the meat plenty of time to absorb flavor. Find a recipe – Bon Appetit has a number of them online, prep your turkey about 18-24 hours before you plan to cook it, and make room in your fridge.
Chef Cristina Carolan (Chef Veggie)
You don’t need to eat turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving. There are a wide variety of meatless entrees that satisfy the need for savory flavors. I recommend making a seasonal squash like delicata and stuffing it with 5 lentil autumn blend. If you are looking to please both vegetarians and omnivores alike, stay away from the faux turkey and serve food in its most natural state.
Buy free range Turkeys, and be mindful of the size. Will it fit in my oven? Can I feed the whole family with this, or will I need to buy 2.
Favorite Side Dishes
As the member of my family with gluten and dairy constraints, I often volunteer to bring a side dish I know I can eat, that is filling and delicious. My favorite is a wild rice pilaf with onions, garlic, celery, fresh cranberries, and pecans. I make it differently every time – adding different spices or fruit (like apples). I don’t have a recipe that I follow, but there are a number online that will do the trick.
Picadillo is probably one of the most popular Cuban dishes. One of the first Cuban dishes I learned to cook watching my Abuela (grandmother). This is the perfect dish to a feed large group. It was a signature dish at the fire house and when we have get-togethers at our house. To make it healthier I use lean ground beef. See the full recipe.
I couldn’t go past a wonderful Ratatouille! I just love the rustic taste of the roasted vegetables with the nice herbs and touch of nice cooked tomato sauce. Or its still hard to pass up on my Garlic and Rosemary potatos. Either or both are perfect addition to your meal.
Cardamom Cranberry Sauce
- 1 lb cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 large navel orange, scrubbed
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds or fresh grated ginger
- Chope the orange into 1/2″ pieces, rind and all. Put everything into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Cool.
Roasted cubes of Butternut squash with sliced shallots and sage tossed with dried cranberries!
Chef Cristina Carolan (Chef Veggie)
I like maple roasted brussel sprouts. You will never boil brussel sprouts again!
Here’s a great recipe from vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli.
- 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon (or 10 grinds) black pepper
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- To prepare the brussels sprouts, remove any yellow or brown outer leaves, cut off the stems and cut in half.
- In a large bowl, toss the brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt and pepper together. Once all of the brussels sprouts are coated in oil, spread them into a 9- by 13-inch (or larger) baking dish or sheet tray to roast. Note: You may want to line your sheet tray with foil for easy cleanup because the caramelizing process leaves a sticky residue. Place in oven.
- After 15 minutes, stir the brussels sprouts with a spatula or large spoon to even out the browning. After 30 minutes, stir in the maple syrup. (Steps 1 through 4 can be done a day in advance; store covered in the refrigerator. Continue with Steps 5 and 6 right before serving.)
- Continue to roast the brussels sprouts for about 15 more minutes, or until they are fork tender (about 45 minutes total roasting time).
- Toss the roasted brussels sprouts with the hazelnuts and devour!
So many to chose favorite side dishes.
Yellow Coconut Rice with Green Peas
I would sauté a little minced garlic and white onion with Canola oil, then add the rice and sauté like risotto, then add low sodium chicken stock and coconut milk, cook the rice and then add some green peas at the end for a little ethnic touch.
- Use Annatto seed oil or a Turmeric for color
- Use frozen peas
Roasted Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup
It is like Thanksgiving wrapped up into one bowl!
I’m always looking for a reason to incorporate chicken livers into my meals. This chicken liver stuffing is simply scrumptious.
Not only is this a delicious and flavorful side dish, but between the sweet potatoes, cumin, chile powder, and ginger – it’s also an antioxidant powerhouse. So, you can feel good while delighting your taste buds at the same time!
Thanksgiving isn’t complete without a good stuffing/dressing.
Green Jello Salad
This recipe has been made by my family for generations (and now I make it every Thanksgiving). Some find the green color off-putting, but it does go great with turkey. This is the first time this recipe has been shared with anyone out side of my family.
- 1 box lime Jello (6 oz)
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, minced fine
- 1/3 large cucumber, chopped fine
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 3 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1 cup small curd cottage cheese
Empty jello into bowl and add sugar and vinegar. Add 1 1/2 cup boiling water and stir until completely dissolved. Add 1 1/2 cup cold water and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Drain cottage cheese and cucumber in a wire strainer for 30 minutes or until all liquid has drained off. Add cottage cheese, onion, and cucumber to jello. Add mayo and blend all together with whisk or electric mixer. Do not over mix or it will break down the jello and runny – you want to see little green sparkles of jello throughout the other ingredients. If this is made the night before, it tastes better.
Wine & Drinks
Forego the wine this year and look for a unique beer. A saison is perfect for a special occasion – our favorite is Saison DuPont.
“Saisons are sturdy farmhouse ales. Not so long ago it was close to being an endangered style, but over recent years there’s been a massive revival; especially in the US. This is a very complex style; many are very fruity in the aroma and flavor. Look for earthy yeast tones, mild to moderate tartness. Lots of spice and with a medium bitterness. They tend to be semi-dry with many only having touch of sweetness.” – beeradvocate.com
If you need a festive non-alcoholic beverage for the holidays, try pouring 1/2 cup of cranberry juice into a glass. Add a couple of ice cubes. Fill the rest of the glass with plain soda water. Top it with a slice of orange. Fizzy, festive, and flavorful.
Turkey is a white meat, but still has a delicate taste. I would suggest a light to medium body Pinot noir.
My new favorite fall cocktail! Applejack and ginger beer over ice. Garnish with an apple slice if you want.
Years ago we only drank Beaujolais Nouveau, waiting for the new bottles to arrive the week before. But our wine tastes have developed and IMHO the quality of the wine over the last few years has declined markedly. Now we enjoy Pinot Noir especially from Willamette Valley, Oregon. Very earthy notes to match and not over power the flavors of Turkey and Stuffing and herbs. For the white drinkers I especially like Sauvignon Blanc–a citrusy background goes well with Turkey and simpler sides like mashed potatoes and squashes.
Chef Cristina Carolan (Chef Veggie)
Here’s a great recipe for Hemp Nog.
Beer is better with turkey. Try some of the seasonal brews, such as a Sierra Nevada Tumbler, Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale, a Bock, Dopple Bock or some of the Holiday style brews to pair with the feast.
Viognier and Rieslings are my favorites.
For the winos, I say go with a few old reliables: Kendall Jackson Vintners’ Reserve Chardonnay 2009 for your white drinkers and La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2010 for your red drinkers. Support your local breweries and offer an ice bucket full of your fave local brews… Cocktails anyone? Do something fun and interesting like a Campari cocktail or the delish Jim Beam Red Stag-black cherry flavored Bourbon-a splash of regular or diet Coke. Yum!
- Open the wine while the turkey is cooking to allow the wine to breathe
- Nice white wine selection – Pinot Blanc – a very versatile dry white wine that pairs well with the diverse flavors of the Thanksgiving table
- Nice Red wine selection – Zinfandel – The rich red wine will stand up to the strong flavors of the holiday dinner
You’re going to put out a large spread of dishes so that everyone has something to eat, do the same with the beverages. Plenty of coffees, teas, sodas and of course beers/wines to toast with. Give your guests plenty of choices. And as far as the ‘perfect’ wine? It’s whatever wine you like the best with what you’re drinking. Relax and enjoy.
Thanksgiving is a tough holiday when it comes to wines. There are lots of different flavors on the table to contend with. I usually go with three types of wine on Turkey day. First, an oaked Chardonnay. You should always provide a white option for your guests. An oaked Chardonnay (aged in barrels) has a creamy consistency that will pair well with both turkey, ham and the myriad of side dishes served at the table. These are not wimpy wines, so they will be able to stand up to your stronger dishes. When it comes to reds, I try to stick to lighter wines. A Burgundian Pinot will do the trick. They usually have some great fruit and bright acidity and do not over power dishes served. The third wine is something sweet to finish up the evening. I recommend a late harvest sauvignon blanc from Chile. They are less expensive than say Tokai or TBA rieslings and pack a whole lot of flavor. Just do your homework. These are a bit harder to find.
Glogg, Swedish mulled wine adds a festive touch to any autumn celebration, and it’s a creative way to jazz up ordinary port wine.
Its always good to serve a nice autumn cocktail like a Pumpkin Pie Martini.
Final Thoughts for Thanksgiving Day
This should be a day to share good food with friends and family. Don’t get too complicated, or your holiday will turn into an ordeal. Stay with what you know and make it as best as you can. Remember, this is all about being thankful and sharing with our loved ones, not a cooking competition. Keep it simple and interesting. Cheers!
If kids want to help out, let them stir the gravy and the cranberry sauce. I remember doing this every year as a kid and loving it, especially when I got to watch the fresh cranberries splitting and becoming jelly in low heat on the stove top.
Chef Cristina Carolan (Chef Veggie)
Try something new this year beyond green bean casserole and mashed potatoes. Roast lots of root veggies with fresh herbs. Serve a big salad with spiralized beets. People will be really thankful for genuine food that comes from the farmer’s market than from a box or can.
Look for the ingredients in your back yard. Foraged ingredients like acorns, hackberries, wild grapes or even greens such as mallow are a great addition to the table. My table will feature wild oyster mushrooms that I found on a recent foraging trip just 5 miles from my house.
If you have food allergies, there are a few ways to manage holiday get-togethers. Nosh a little bit before you go so that you are not starving. Volunteer to host dinner and invite people to bring dishes with a theme – share recipes with them that you know you’ll be able to eat. Or volunteer to bring a dish to someone’s home that you know you can eat freely and which also won’t make you feel deprived if there is little else you can eat.
Remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving and take a moment to share what you are truly thankful for with your friends and family.
Eat, Eat, and Eat some more! Its the one day a year you can go hog wild.
Give thanks to God, share your stories and have fun. Try share the cooking load with family, especially ones you dont see or talk to a lot. Find a central location to prepare it, and enjoy the fellowship of each others company. For me this is the most enjoyable part of being a chef and cooking in the kitchen. Talking, laughing and sharing the ups and downs of life and cooking.
If you are asked to bring a side dish but are wary of cooking, offer to bring homemade cranberry sauce. It’s easy as hell and so much nicer than the canned business.
Stay calm, plan ahead, invited others to the kitchen and put them to work so you don’t absorb all the pressure. And always remember it’s just as much about the gathering as it is about the food! Share the love, and if you are a guest instead of a host bring your A game and pitch in! Even us chefs enjoy your contributions!
Slow down, cook with friends and family, enjoy the time in the kitchen, make it fun, put the love back in the food and celebrate!
Have fun. Enjoy the time in the kitchen with family and friends. Don’t let the stress of preparing the holiday meal, takeaway from the holiday meaning!
It’s a family holiday. Don’t be afraid to put your family to work with you.
Prepare as many items the night before to save time and frustration on Thanksgiving Day.
Do as much preparation several days before Thanksgiving so that you can relax on the day of.
Enlist your guests/family. Get them all going and taking some of the load off of you if possible. But whatever you do, whatever you serve, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the day.
About the Chefs
Learn more about these chefs here . . .
- Chef Rob Connoley blogs at blogquat.blogspot.com
- Stormy Sweitzer writes about gluten-free, dairy-free food on her blog at Maoomba.com. You can also catch her on Twitter and Facebook
- Chef Juan Montalvo blogs at TheHungryCuban.com. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook
- Chef Adam Massimon writes at YourChefAdam.com. You can also see him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
- Hilah Johnson writes at HilahCooking.com and produces short-form, educational cooking videos. Read her articles and watch her cooking videos – especially her latest video on How to Roast a Turkey
- Chef Jim Huff writes at TravelingCulinaryArtist.com and blogs at Traculart
- Chef Cristina Carolan is Chef Veggie a vegetarian personal chef in Austin, Texas – and blogs at VeggieBytes.com and tweets here
- Chef Sean Z. Paxton is the HomeBrewChef.com, and on Facebook and Twitter
- Chef Mauricio Jimenez is on Twitter and Facebook
- Chef Robin Toldo blogs at ChefRobinsTastesToDate
- Chef Jacob Burton blogs at StellaCulinary.com
- Chef Matt Louviere writes at ChefMattLouviere.com and on Twitter and Facebook
- Lee Allison writes at TheSocialSkillet.com
- Blanca Valbuena is the editor-in-cheif for FriendsEat.com – an online social community for foodies.
- Citizen Chef is based in San Francisco, and you can learn more about them at CitizenChef.com and Facebook
- Chef Tom Grossman writes at ChefTomCooks.com and on Twitter and Facebook
- Chef Anna Wagner writes at ChefAnnaCooks.com and on Facebook and Twitter
- Chef Dennis Littley writes at AskChefDennis.com and is on Twitter.
You can contact them individually or leave them a note here in Google+