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Happy Thanksgiving to all the gardeners

15 years ago

For those of you who've never cooked a turkey before or even if you've tackled the task in the past and had marginal results, here are some tips that may help you on Thursday. I preface these remarks by saying that I cook around 10 birds a year and have done so for over 40 years.

Stuffing - I use mashed potatoes mixed with crumbled white bread (no crusts!), two sticks of melted butter, several sautéed onions, two tablespoons of minced garlic, some oregano, and a dash of cayenne pepper. The stuffing goes in the turkey while it's still hot which takes a half hour off your total cooking time.

Cooking - The first half of your cooking time should be done with the turkey breast side down. If you need five hours total, then the first two and a half should be breast down. Take the turkey out of the oven and flip it over at the halfway point. This allows all the juices to flow into the breast and keep it moist. Cook in a pan that's filled with water to a point just before it touches the bird as it cooks and keep the water filled as you go. Again, this will add moisture to the dry heat of the oven and prevent the white meat from drying out. It also alleviates the necessity for a foil tent. Ignore the little plastic pop-up that comes with most turkeys; it's only accurate in a Butterball test kitchen. Use an instant read digital thermometer and pull the turkey out of the oven when the deepest dark meat hits 175 degrees.

When it's done - Let the turkey sit for 30 minutes covered with large towel to prevent it from drying out. It will continue to cook and should hit 180 degrees.

Carving - Legs, then wings, then thighs. Save the breast for last. Slice along the long axis of the breastbone, then run your knife along the ribcage, cutting the breast free (both sides separate) from the carcass and place it on a cutting board. Then, instead of making thin slices that will dry out before you serve them, cut crosswise and make pieces a half an inch thick. I saw this done on television almost forty years ago and have been doing it ever since.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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