What a great time to be appreciative of all that you have; your health, happiness, friends and family. Our Thanksgivings are typically not typical at all. The family descends upon our home with the enthusiasm eclipsed only by a FREE four star resort vacation, which is close to what they have come to expect. Somehow, we wouldnâ€™t have it any other way.
We both love to cook so cook we do. Drew owned his own food service company and is an accomplished cook in his own right, and in another lifetime I worked for Bill Graham Presents and helped run the catering operations to feed the bands. Needless to say our experience cooking for the masses comes in handy when the troops are home for the holidays.
Whatâ€™s on our menu?
Whatâ€™s not? We tend to view Thanksgiving as traditionalists and stick to dishes that conjure up fond memories of comfort foods prepared by our mothers with all of the love (if not creativity) imparted to the meal. But we also add one or two extra dishes that help keep the whole preparation less perfunctory and more fun.
This year weâ€™re doing Oysters Rockefeller but reverting to the original recipe from Antoineâ€™s in New Orleans, rather than the typical oysters with spinach and hollandaise so prevalent at todayâ€™s seafood houses. Weâ€™ve actually made these once beforeâ€”just not at Thanksgivingâ€”and they are amazing! Hereâ€™s the recipe we used and the key ingredient is fresh Chervil & Taragon so forget going to Safeway. BTWâ€”The Blue Point Oysters at the Crystal Springs Fish and Poultry at the Crystal Springs Shopping center looked awesome when I was there yesterday (11/25/2009).
Now well pass along a few tips for this yearâ€™s Thanksgiving for those of you who cook a traditional Turkey.
To brine or not to brine?
Brining a Turkey helps it retain moisture. Weâ€™re not here to discuss whether or how to brine; some good recipes and the basics behind brining can be read here. But here are several brining tricks:
Â· Put your turkey in the vessel you will use for brining and cover it with enough water to submerge the bird completely. Now take the Turkey out of the brine and measure how much water was needed. That will determine how much water you need for your brine recipe.
Â· Only use half of the water required for the brine recipe to dissolve the sugar and salt. Once your brine has been cookedâ€”bringing out all of the bouquet and dissolving all of the salt and sugarâ€”remove the pot from the stove and add the remaining amount of water in the form of ice cubes. That will enable you to quickly submerge your bird without first having to chill the brine. How many ice cubes do you need? Remember if you need a half gallon more of water thatâ€™s 64 ounces. Simply keep filling a plastic bag with ice cubes until you reach 64 ounces in weight.
Â· If possible, store your brined bird in the refrigerator being sure it remains completely submerged. If youâ€™re like most and donâ€™t have the room, you can line an ice chest with a clean plastic bag (be sure itâ€™s not made from recycled materials), and place the bird in the bag and cover with brine, then pack around it with bags of ice.
Give your bird plenty of rest.
By the time it comes down to cooking everything you and your bird probably need some rest. This is just the time to get out your iced-down bird and let it begin to come up in temperature. If you are deep frying your bird, this is a critical step. Once submerged in hot oil a cold bird can drop the temperature of your oil by over 100 degrees. Equally important though is allowing your bird to air dry. You can even point a fan at your bird to expedite the process of removing water from the birdâ€™s skin which will ultimately produce a crisp outer skin.
If you are deep frying your Turkey be sure and start the oil at a higher temperature than the recipe calls for. Most recipes call for cooking a bird at around 350 degrees so starting your oil at around 400 will help the oil recover faster from your cold bird taking the plunge. Alton Brown, who I respect immensely, has a recipe that calls for starting the bird at 250 and slowly bringing it up to 350. Personally, we believe cooking it faster allows for less absorption of the oil and produces a crisp skin. Our 15 pound bird last year needed only 45 minutes and it was cooked perfectly. Be careful though, plopping a cold bird in hot oil can cause oil to spill over the top and risk a fire. One way to avoid this is to dip your bird in the oil for about 3 minutes when the oil is only around 290. Then pull it back out and allow the oil to reach temperature. Now youâ€™ve successfully removed some of the surface water from the bird that could overreact with hotter oil. If you want to remove the risk of a flash fire always turn off the fire when lifting your bird in and out of the oil.
And for anyone who thinks deep frying a Turkey is sacrilege, we thought so too until we tried it. It actually produced a bird with less fat than the traditional roasting method. That was quickly demonstrated when we went to skim off the Turkey fat from the pot of Turkey stock the next day and there was none! Think about itâ€¦the leanest piece of bacon you will ever eat is one that has been deep friedâ€”the process renders all of the fat form the meat. That said, weâ€™re opting for a rotisserie version this year; brined and with a hint of Lavender smoke.
Enjoy your holiday and stop in again soon!
Drew & Christine