Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving On The Radar

So it's Thanksgiving week. Are you busy? I miss the being busy with the cooking for a crowd. I think next year I will put in a Craigslist ad and volunteer to help people cook for Thanksgiving.

Or I can just answer the Thanksgiving Hotline questions from the NY Times.

I want to try cooking Turkey in a Bag, but I am worried about toxins in the plastic. Is this a valid concern?
Amy Taivalkoski · Sussex, WI

Good lord, you don't cook it in a plastic bag from Target! You mean one of those oven bags, right? I wouldn't do it, but go ahead. I'm sure there's no off-gassing or melting.

Picking up the turkey (fresh) the day before, while I don't have the space to brine over-night, would it be a good idea to just salt well cover and refrigerate over-night?
John Mooney · Orange County

NO! Don't salt it ahead of time as you'll draw the moisture out of the skin. It's fine not to brine; just don't try to half-ass it. God, I hate it when people half-ass their cooking. Just cook it in a hot oven like always, and throw a lot of butter and herbs and such under the skin and in the cavity. It will be fine.

is there a substitute for brown sugar? i have a guest coming who can not eat white sugar and i understand that brown sugar is made from white sugar. thanks for your prompt response to this question..
ABBY SEGALL · los angeles ca 90035

Other way around, Abby. White sugar is refined from brown. I'd ask this guest what exactly the problem is with white sugar and what they prefer--you can substitute honey, or agave syrup, or Splenda or stevia or whatever.

We had an early Thanksgiving with my wife's family this year. We used a fresh/brined Turkey from Trader Joes, but I forgot to use my meat thermometer/timer By the time we took it out of the oven, the internal temperature was around 186 and rising (6 degrees over the recommended temp). I noticed the dark meat was very tasty, but found the white meat pretty dry - how much do you think this can be attributed to the higher internal temp?
EK · Des Moines

Yes, you overcooked the turkey by putting it in the oven too long. Even the moisture from the brine will evaporate away at some point. Timers are your best tool for turkey.

My family have been Butterball turkey lovers and loyalists for years but my beloved niece has asked if we could have a turkey "raised a bit more humanely." Now, familial love and loyalty certainly trumps turkey love and loyalty, does it not? What's an aunt to do? What does one get, or better yet sacrifice in taste/dollars for turkey humanity???
Gail Capaldi · Haddonfield, NJ

Well, you shouldn't be eating Butterball because it's injected with gross chemicals. But honestly, if little miss is so concerned about the ethical pedigree of the turkey, she should volunteer to source and pay for it. I volunteered to pay for part of the turkey if my sister went the heritage-small farmer-fancy turkey route. Upgrade to the 89 cents/pound Costco turkey, which is both cheap and delicious.

I have the actual Thanksgiving dinner covered but what can I serve for the next 9 meals for in-laws who stay until Sunday? We can only stand leftovers for one or two of these, the in-laws don't help but do comment a lot, and I will be exhausted by then.
Lou · NYC

Lou, you have my sympathies. I recommend a nice long trip to the grocery store on Saturday morning to replenish the larder and pick out some stuff that looks fresh. This cavatappi recipe is both delicious and easy. And if you happen to stop by a pedicure palace ahead of time, who will know? Such lines. So many people.

I am dating a man who has been sober for a number of years and he's coming to my home for dinner. I have several recipes that seem to "require" either some sort of wine/fortified wine in them, specifically an oyster stuffing recipe. How can I substitute alcohol without sacrificing taste? Thanks
Rachel · Boerum Hill

Rachel, do you actually like this guy? Because if your recipes require more than a tablespoon of wine, it's integral to the flavor. Why not buy a copy of a cooking magazine and try some new recipes this year?

I'll try to keep my mouth shut about the oyster dressing.

What is a good side dish to bring to a family t'giving dinner. I've made Indian Corn pudding from Alton Brown's show and take it out 10 minutes early. I thas a lot of thyme and other Thanksgiving spices.
MJ · Stamford, CT

MJ, I've made that recipe too, and it is totally the bomb and just the thing for when you have to travel. Don't take it out 10 minutes early, though--cook it all the way through, and serve at room temp.

Can I cook a turkey (cut up, I imagine) in the crockpot?
Leslie · Cambridge, MA

Yes, you can cook a turkey in a roaster, but it's not going to be a nice brown roasted turkey--you need an oven and dry heat for that. The turkey meat will be moist and maybe falling off the bone, and kind of boiled tasting. But hey, if you like that...

How about a non-alchoholic drink, other than cider, not loaded with suger and without anything sparkling in it? Is such a thing possible?
Lynn Naeckel · Chicago

What's wrong with sugar and sparkling, Lynn? Are you an aesthete sugar-hater? Make some iced tea, or get plain fruit juice or something.

We are traveling two hours from home and bringing the cooked turkey. How should I proceed? Last year I cooked the bird and put it into a cooler -- by the time we arrived it was dry as a bone. Thank you.
Marlena Christensen · Barnegat Light, NJ

Marlena, why are you doing this? It's just a recipe for disaster. But if you can't cook it at the destination, I'd brine that sucker, then roast it and let it cool, cut it up, and reheat at the location.

I like to have a first course (generally a salad) at the table when people sit down. About 40 people! I'm kosher, so that eliminates a lot. Any suggestions?
Lillian · New York

Huh? How is salad not kosher? And crackers, 40 people? How do you do it?

Anyway, make fennel, celery and green apple salad with a honey apple vinegar dressing.

I am making a Tex-Mex inspired enchilada dish for Thanksgiving - sweet potato/black bean enchiladas with a tomatillo sauce. What cheese would you recommend? Goat? Cotija? I know its not a traditional dish, but my friend wanted a Mexican dish!
Sneha · NYC

Cotija. As for traditional, who cares? Out here in the Southwest, that would be a great dish.

How do I prevent my 12-year old urchin of a cousin from stealing an entire turkey leg for himself?
Marson · New York

Nerf gun, bribes to the cook, and strategic placement of yourself next to the meat platter should ensure you get a leg for yourself. Otherwise, I suggest a marathon card game with gambling stakes.

I so dislike most of the foods included in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that I end up fasting instead of feasting. Now that I'm in charge, I want to ditch the traditional menu in favor of a prime rib roast or a leg of lamb or something, anything, else. How can I convince my family to go along with me?
Jaybe · California

Jaybe, why do you have to be a dick about Thanksgiving? If you're hosting, you have to let people have at least some of what they want for the meal. Otherwise, you're being a shitty host.

I sympathize with people who are hamstrung by people who want crappy food for Thanksgiving. But if you want prime rib or a leg of lamb, you might have to make it along side the turkey and regular dishes instead of doing a substitution. Dude, it's what I do every year when I don't get what I want for a meal--just make it the next day.

My holiday plans? I volunteered to bring a Costco pumpkin pie and this broccoli rabe with parmesan. My homemade pies have not found favor before.


Cookbook said...

I liked this! Good idea! But brown sugar is actually regular white sugar with some molasses coloring thrown in. Muscovado is different.

Cookbook said...

Also: oyster dressing is SO GOOD.

Kerry said...

Oh god, you're right! All this time I thought molasses was the byproduct of sugar refining and that brown sugar an earlier stage!