Author Topic: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?  (Read 12102 times)

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Zizi-K

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #30 on: November 02, 2013, 01:10:28 AM »
Toots, do you own a scale (to weigh a person)? You can weigh a turkey or anything else by weighing yourself and then weighing yourself holding the turkey. Simple subtraction and voila.

blarg314

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #31 on: November 02, 2013, 01:36:32 AM »

A practice is not a bad idea - cook the same size turkey you plan to serve at the dinner. Freeze the cooked meat for later in the year.

I find the tricky thing for a Thanksgiving dinner is getting everything done at the same time, so a detailed checklist (with times) is useful.

I do as much in advance as possible. The cranberry sauce can be made a couple of days in advance. Pies, baked squash, and baked sweet potatoes (for mashed sweet potatoes) can be done the day before. Whipped cream from a can saves an extra step. I cut up the bread for stuffing the day before (I find it works better if it's slightly stale).

The day of the dinner, getting the turkey stuffed and in the oven is the first step. Then I wash down the kitchen from any turkey juice splatter,  prep my veggies (cutting up green beans, etc), make the salad and salad dressing and set the table. The turkey neck and gibblets go in a pot with some water to make extra stock for the gravy. The potatoes and other vegetables go in to cook according to my calculations.

For gravy - a good backup is to have some rich stock available. If you do a practice turkey, save the bones, and make stock. Reduce some of it so it's extra strong, and keep it on hand. If you have problems with pan gravy, take the stock and thicken on the stove with flour and water - it's pretty close to instant to make, and way better than gravy from a mix or jar. If you make it too thick - add a bit more stock, too thin, a bit more flour and water. For regular gravy, I mix the giblet/neck stock (strained) with the pan juices to get more volume.

If you happen to have a rice cooker, it works great for keeping mashed potatoes warm - just leave it on the warm setting.



cicero

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #32 on: November 02, 2013, 02:22:12 AM »

Cornstarch works well for gravies but it needs to be added at the very end of gravy mixing (just before serving) otherwise it will quickly over-cook and loose it's thickening power. You'll end up with thin gravy . . . which isn't bad if you like a brothy-type gravy, but then never mind adding the cornstarch in the first place



Thank you! I didn't' know this. I made orange chicken yesterday and used a slightly different recipe and noticed exactly what you say - the gravy was beautiful and thick and then it thinned out and became watery...

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TootsNYC

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #33 on: November 02, 2013, 02:32:02 AM »

Cornstarch works well for gravies but it needs to be added at the very end of gravy mixing (just before serving) otherwise it will quickly over-cook and loose it's thickening power. You'll end up with thin gravy . . . which isn't bad if you like a brothy-type gravy, but then never mind adding the cornstarch in the first place

Thank you! I didn't know this. I made orange chicken yesterday and used a slightly different recipe and noticed exactly what you say - the gravy was beautiful and thick and then it thinned out and became watery...

I second those thanks! Because flour is out.

Hopefully someone else will be able to use all that great advice that has the word "flour" in it.

If you get thinned-out gravy, can you thicken it again w/ a fresh cornstarch slurry? Or is it thin for good?

And I'm thinking about make-ahead--will cornstarch not really work for that? In that case, I guess I could combine all the stuff, and just add the cornstarch after I've heated it. Would that work?

cross_patch

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #34 on: November 02, 2013, 06:49:41 AM »

Cornstarch works well for gravies but it needs to be added at the very end of gravy mixing (just before serving) otherwise it will quickly over-cook and loose it's thickening power. You'll end up with thin gravy . . . which isn't bad if you like a brothy-type gravy, but then never mind adding the cornstarch in the first place

Thank you! I didn't know this. I made orange chicken yesterday and used a slightly different recipe and noticed exactly what you say - the gravy was beautiful and thick and then it thinned out and became watery...

I second those thanks! Because flour is out.

Hopefully someone else will be able to use all that great advice that has the word "flour" in it.

If you get thinned-out gravy, can you thicken it again w/ a fresh cornstarch slurry? Or is it thin for good?

And I'm thinking about make-ahead--will cornstarch not really work for that? In that case, I guess I could combine all the stuff, and just add the cornstarch after I've heated it. Would that work?

Isn't that why everyone has been suggesting using cornstarch and/or gluten free alternatives? I haven't seen anyone suggest you use normal flour.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2013, 06:53:42 AM by cross_patch »

YummyMummy66

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #35 on: November 02, 2013, 07:03:18 AM »
I have never bought a fresh turkey from the butcher.  We always just get a frozen turkey and all works out well.

We buy it about a week before Tday, keep it in the fridge and the bring out the night before Tday to sit in the sink and thaw.  (I know, I know, alot of people say they would never do this, but I have been doing for about twenty years and my family before me and the turkety has never made anyone sick).

My husband cooks the turkey.  We go by the directions on the turkey package as to how many pounds it is and how long to cook per pound.  He puts it into a roasting pan.  Usually, even with a fresh turkey, I think it is about twenty minutes per pound.  He puts some water in the pan, rubs the turkey with olive oil and adds some salt and pepper to the turkey.  And that is basically it.   He will baste it every so often, but that is it.  He covers the pan with aluminum foil because our lid won't fit with the turkey and towards the end, removes the foil, so the skin browns nice and even.  Easy peasy and we always get raves on our turkey.  He said the trick is not to over cook the turkey.  I think he sets the oven at 350.

I do most of everything else and I make as much as possible the night or the weekend before.  Potato filling, mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, corn pudding, (or in our area of Berks County, PA, Kopes corn in a can) and maybe another vegetable.   I made fresh cranberry sauce once, nope.  My family likes it from the can.  Buy rolls and heat them. 

I don't usually make pies, we buy them from Sam's club, (super yummy), but I found this pumpkin cake dessert I think I will make this year.  It is yummy.   

Gravy.  Heck, never make fresh gravy.  I suggest you buy it in a jar or can.   Easy peasy.  If your family does not like it, they can make the gravy. 

Since there is so much for dinner, we really don't do salad or appetizers. 

Just read your post about gluten free gravy, sorry.  Did not know this.  About just buying it in a jar or can.   You could practice with a small turkey to get the gravy for your big meal and then add that gravy to your big meal.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2013, 07:06:04 AM by YummyMummy66 »

Venus193

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #36 on: November 02, 2013, 08:06:40 AM »
I think a practice run is a great idea and I also vote for saving the bones to make stock from.

I third/fourth/fifth (whatever it is now) the motion about back-up gravy.  My recommendation is to get two or three different brands of turkey gravy, even mixing a powder, a jar, and a can.  Don't forget to pick up a bottle of Gravy Master in case you like your gravy darker.  Add a bay leaf or two.

My mother made excellent meat gravies and her secret was to be sure to have plenty of well-browned onion for flavor and colour; always have a carrot to cut any bitterness.  The carrot gets discarded later.

Don't remember seeing this, but don't forget the poultry seasoning blend.  Bell's is salt-free now.

If you don't have a dietary or religious objection to it, bacon across the top of the turkey is a wonderful thing prior to browning the skin.  Drape across after the first baste-and-season.

Cranberry sauce can be made with Splenda and the sweetness adjusted; nobody needs those extra calories.

A checklist with cooking times will be your best friend.

Rohanna

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #37 on: November 02, 2013, 08:52:47 AM »
If your concerned about under-cooking the turkey make sure you check it in several places for temperature- and particularly make sure you are checking somewhere meaty and not near bone. I always check the thick round end away from the legs- the breast tends to cook first for me.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. ~ Jack Layton.

Venus193

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #38 on: November 02, 2013, 09:58:33 AM »
I didn't mention this before, but hot gravy doesn't heat up cold meat.  I have two friends who learned this lesson the hard way.

Rohanna

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #39 on: November 02, 2013, 11:16:00 AM »
Also, if you aren't used to cookign turkey I wouldn't serve previously frozen meat, as if you don't cook and freeze it just right it can be very *very* dry.

I have never had this recipe fail on me, by the way, and every time I've served it to anyone it's gotten absolute RAVE reviews :)

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe/index.html

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. ~ Jack Layton.

Dragonflymom

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #40 on: November 02, 2013, 12:00:25 PM »
As far as your general question on trial runs for cooking for holiday dinners, I am a big fan!  It helps you know how long things will take in *your* particular oven, or with *your* particular burners, which I've found out the hard way can vary widely, sometimes over by half an hour, from the recipe.  :)

You can also find out if something in the recipe is off.  I made some middle eastern scallop recipe once that called for one tablespoon of fenugreek per pound of scallops.  It was unbelievably vile and bitter, I'm convinced it was a typo and should have been a teaspoon.  Of course I just had to make this the first time for a dinner with a dozen people...  So much for impressing my friends with my amazing cooking skills :)

Murphys law of cooking says that if things will go wrong when making something new, they won't go wrong for the dinner when it is just me and my husband who will eat whatever.  They will go wrong for the big dinner when I have the whole family over.  *LOL*
"By swallowing evil goats unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach"  Winston Churchill

Deetee

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #41 on: November 02, 2013, 12:14:04 PM »
This Thanksgiving (two weeks ago as I'm Canadian) we hosted. However, my husband and I were both running a half marathon in the morning, so we knew that we wanted to do as little as possible that afternoon.

So while usually I just spend all day cooking and quite enjoy it, this time we prepped before hand.

Day before

-Made gravy (used turkey stock/drippings from Easter) I have started making the gravy before the turkey and I love that idea. Otherwise gravy is a last minute thing and it never seems to thicken on a time crunch.

-Made cranberry sauce

-Chopped all veggies

-made stuffing

-double checked that I had serving dishes/serving spoons


TootsNYC

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #42 on: November 02, 2013, 12:50:16 PM »


My mother made excellent meat gravies and her secret was to be sure to have plenty of well-browned onion for flavor and colour; always have a carrot to cut any bitterness.  The carrot gets discarded later.
{/quote]

Oooh, nice trick! Thanks

Quote
Don't remember seeing this, but don't forget the poultry seasoning blend.  Bell's is salt-free now.
I'm a fan of Bell's, and per the label, no flour filler.

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If you don't have a dietary or religious objection to it, bacon across the top of the turkey is a wonderful thing prior to browning the skin.  Drape across after the first baste-and-season.


I'm already been sent a link to this by the cousin who used to host (and decided not to since the older folks won't travel all the way up to her--1.5 hours in the car is too much for them).


Also, if you aren't used to cooking turkey I wouldn't serve previously frozen meat, as if you don't cook and freeze it just right it can be very *very* dry.

Hmmmmmm. Something to think about, then--I was sort of enamoured of the "make two slighlty smaller birds" idea, since I'd also like to put a ham in the oven as well.

Thanks for all the recommendations of turkey recipes!

Quote
I have never had this recipe fail on me, by the way, and every time I've served it to anyone it's gotten absolute RAVE reviews :)

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe/index.html

jpcher

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #43 on: November 02, 2013, 06:15:41 PM »
And I'm thinking about make-ahead--will cornstarch not really work for that? In that case, I guess I could combine all the stuff, and just add the cornstarch after I've heated it. Would that work?

Yes.

I do like Amara's recipe for pre-prepared gravy, but if you're using cornstarch do everything in the recipe except for the flour part and then when you heat it up for service, add your cornstarch slurry once the broth is simmering, mix well, then turn off the heat and serve.

 ;)

If you get thinned-out gravy, can you thicken it again w/ a fresh cornstarch slurry? Or is it thin for good?

I really don't know. I bet it would be worth a try, though, because cornstarch doesn't add any flavor (unlike that "f" stuff.)



Personally, I prefer making my gravies with a roux. It's not as tricky as cornstarch and more fool-proof.

Here's a gluten-free recipe using rice flour:

http://glutenfreegirl.com/2006/11/it-is-absurdly-easy-to-make-gluten-free-gravy/

The trick with a roux is adding the liquid slowly and stirring/whisking* well between each addition so that the gravy stays smooth. When you first add the liquid, it will look lumpy, but have faith and keep stirring!

This type of gravy can easily be made several days in advanced and then simply heated before service.

Prepare your broth of choice (strain any chunky bits, like the onion) with whatever seasonings you like and make sure to add the pan drippings into the warming gravy once the turkey is done for that extra oomph of flavor.



*I use a spoon at first because the thicker roux tends to clump up in a whisk.


Lorelei_Evil

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Re: How sensible is it to practice for Thanksgiving?
« Reply #44 on: November 02, 2013, 06:32:48 PM »
It's a fabulous idea.  Every time I add a new dish to a holiday menu I test it out a couple of times before inflicting it on the unsuspecting.

Yes, you can make up the cornstarch mixture ahead of time and add it to the gravy base after heating.  I do it all the time.  POD to jpcher. 

We used to cook at home, but transport most of the meal to another location, so we would always finish the gravy at the destination house.