A Chefs-giving Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving. The most traditional of all family holidays. Thanksgiving has a different meaning for every family, and every family has a different tradition. Since food is the center of tradition, here are some Chef Tips to make the day easier.
It takes professional Chefs and Culinarians weeks to plan and prepare a Thanksgiving meal in a restaurant- with a whole crew of people to make the task seem effortless.
Here’s some tips and tricks from The Florida Chef.
Make a plan. Homemade is always best- but compromise always works too! Who can help you with bringing dishes, or showing up early to clean or decorate?
Casseroles can be made a week or two in advance and frozen. Pull from the freezer the day before and defrost at least 50% before baking at 400°F until the internal temperature reaches 165°F as registered on a cook’s thermometer.
Debone your Turkey BEFORE roasting it. Yes. Before. Do it yourself or order a deboned turkey from your butcher. (see instructions below). Cooking a boneless turkey is beneficial in several ways.
Or ask your butcher to do it for you. Not sure what the upcharge would be, but I would for sure order this in advance! Ask for a boneless- skin on Turkey Breast, Ballotine Legs and Thighs (boneless, skin on leg/thigh quarters), all bones, giblets, and the wings.
First, it gives you bones to make turkey stock. Turkey stock is useful for dressing, gravy, and leftover turkey soup!
Boneless Turkeys take less room in the refrigerator
Boneless Turkeys cook in half the time
You can now safely have "stuffed turkey" because the cooking time is less
Carving a Turkey at the table is now a breeze!
2. Brine your turkey for extra flavor, and to help retain the moisture the day before. (see recipe below)
3. Do not baste the turkey. The continual opening of the oven door actually does more harm than good.
Instead- add butter. Adding a flavored compound butter under the skin will keep the turkey moist, the skin crispy.
Get a fresh, natural turkey from Lake Meadow Naturals.
* Wrap turkey well in waterproof material. The temperature of the water should be 70°F or cooler. Beware of splashes of raw turkey water.
Do not under any circumstance leave a turkey on the counter to defrost. It is dangerous.
If not under running water, the temperature of the raw turkey needs to be 40°F or colder.
To prevent raw turkey from dripping in your fridge, place the turkey in a large pan or other container. Place this into a large UNSCENTED garbage bag and seal tight. You can also dedicate a clean cooler to this, as long as you monitor the temperature.
3. Make a cooking schedule. Plan on what temperatures are needed and for how long. Vegetables and starches and casseroles cooking temperatures can usually be compromised 25°F in either direction. Proteins and pastries/ desserts usually cannot. What foods can be served warm or at room temperature?
4. Line your sheet pans with parchment paper or foil for easy clean up. If possible, share pans.
5. If you choose to make your own pies and pie dough:
Pie dough can be made weeks in advance and frozen.
Either portion and wrap each portion tightly in plastic wrap and put into a freezer bag sealed tightly. If you are making a one crust pie, you can roll out the pie dough and freeze flat on a cookie sheet, or go ahead and put in pie plate, and freeze like that. Anyway make sure it is properly wrapped so there is no chance of the dough picking up odors. Two crust fruit pies (such as apple) can be made completely and frozen unbaked.
6. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables will help with the traditional Carb Overload. Get them at your local market. Check out Scott's Country Market.
7. Don’t worry when things do not go as planned. By next year, no one will remember the maladies!
Defrosting a Frozen Turkey
Deboning a Turkey
1. There is no need to wash the bird. It could spread bacteria, and will make it harder to deal with. Pull out any pin feathers. Remove the giblets and save for the stuffing if desired.
2. Remove the wings. Put the bird breast up, extend the wing and look for the joint that connects the breast and the wing (arm pit). Slice through it with the knife. Save the wings for stock, or if desired, roasting.
3. Remove the breasts. Position the turkey so you can easily work. Find the breast bone cartilage that runs down the center. Using your knife, slice down the center of the breast on the cartilage. Using big, long strokes, make long slices on top of the bone. Keep your knife blade on top of the bone. Go until there is no more meat attached to the bone, then cut through the skin. Set aside.
4. Repeat on the second side. Take care to try not to damage the skin on the breast.
5. Here's what your two boneless skin on breasts will look like. Put these into large gallon size bags for brining and back into the refrigerator for safety.
6. Flip the bird over and try to locate the oysters. These are two nuggets of meat located just above the hip of the bird. They might protrude a bit.
7. With the tip of your knife, loosen the meat but do not cut off. Now, take your knife from that incision and run it along the back of the bird to cut off the meat. When the leg joint is exposed, cut through the joint, removing the leg from the bird.
8. Here's what your two bone in legs will look like. Set them aside, wipe down your work station and knife. Place all bones in a big pot to make stock with, and refrigerate until ready.
9. Next we need to remove the leg bones to create what is called a ballotine. Find the joint bone of the leg. Work the meat off of it so you can pinch it.
10. Grasp the bone firmly and use the blade of the knife to push down the meat. You are essentially going to turn it inside out.
11. Continue doing this until you get to the joint. Carefully scrape around the joint. When you get to the end, pull the bone out of the meat. Add the bone to the stock pot.
Repeat with the second leg.
When you are finished, this is what it should look like. But don't worry we're going to make it better.
12. Remove the tough tendons by grasping them with one hand and pulling them so there is pressure on them, and using the knife blade to scrape the meat off them, essentially, pulling them out. Discard the tendons.
Congratulations of successfully deboning a turkey. It's not that hard, just takes some time and patience!!!
Now, make sure you very diligently clean up your work station, knives, and disinfect anything that may have come into contact with the raw turkey!
13. Feel around the meat for any cartilage or other hard pieces. Trim these out with your knife.
Turn the boneless leg right side out- like a sock.
You will now have a ballotine!
Brining a Turkey
Brine can be made in advance.
The brine must be 70°F or colder before pouring over turkey
Add and adjust seasonings as you desire
The entire bird must be covered by the brine.
If you are brining pieces, put them into resealable plastic bags and suck any extra air out. Put the bags into a larger pan in case they leak. If you are brining a whole bird, you may need to weigh down the bird to keep it submerged.
The bird, when in the brine, must be 41°F or lower. If needed, you can brine in a cooler, using ice packs to keep the bird under 41°F.
Discard the brine after you remove the bird. You can only use the brine once.
pieces or quarters- 24 hours maximum
whole bird, uncut- 24-48 hours
9. After you remove the turkey, make sure to remove any stuck-on pieces of herbs from the skin, and dry the bird with disposable paper towels so it can brown in the oven.
Make the Stock
Prepare the Turkey
Even if you decide not to debone your turkey, you can still get turkey or chicken bones from the butcher to make your own stock. This can be made well in advance and frozen in you want.
Make more stock than you think you'll need.
Besides gravy, there's also a need for stock in the stuffing.
Plus, there's the option of making turkey soup or turkey potpie with the left over.
To have a self-basting turkey, rub some herb butter under the skin
Herb Butter for Turkey.
1 stick SOFT butter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
2 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs picked off their stems such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, chives
- mix all ingredients together.
- keep soft at room temperature to use for turkey
- yields about 5 oz. of flavored butter, enough for an 18# turkey
2. Carefully lift up the skin and rub the butter underneath. Any butter that was not used, but touched needs to be discarded, or cooked to a temperature of 165°F or hotter.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F .
4. Make the stuffing. Since there are no bones, and the mass of stuffing a boneless leg is small, it is a safe practice. A basic stuffing recipe follows.
5. Stuffing can be used to fill the cavities of the ballotines. Bake any extra stuffing in a greased pan for 20 minutes until slightly crispy on the top.
Stuffed legs with stuffing
Left: Two boneless turkey breasts with herb butter on the skin
Right: Two boneless turkey legs with butter under the skin and stuffed (seam down).
Cooking Time Table
** Not Recommended
Roast turkey until the internal temperature of 165°F as measured on a food thermometer.
Take the temperature in the thicket part of the meat.
If roasting a whole bird, check near the joint.
Check the temperature in a few places. If the temperature hasn't reached 165°F at the suggested cooking times, continue roasting for 15 minutes at a time until all pieces are at 165°F.
** The internal temperature of the stuffing MUST reach 165°F as measured on a food thermometer as well.
Let the Bird Rest!
For every hour of roasting time, the turkey needs to rest, loosely covered with foil for a minimum of 15 minutes. This will allow for the convection of juices that occurred during the cooking process to settle back into the meat, keeping the meat juicier.
The piece de resistance of the meal. Homemade gravy can be done in advance and reheated for the meal.
If you decide to roast the turkey whole, you can always get chicken or turkey bones from the butcher and make stock for the gravy.
Family Favorite Sides
Here are some idea for side dishes. Remember, it is okay to ask guests to bring their favorite side dishes
No matter what we always serve some fresh fruits and vegetables with the meal, or a salad.
Prepare in advance what you can.