Let’s talk turkey — and, while we are at it, potatoes, side dishes and stuffing.
Thanksgiving, the biggest food holiday of the year is fast approaching. It’s the time of year when all the tips, techniques and tricks come out so hosts can cook one big, beautiful meal.
Every year at this time, cooks are bombarded with glossy magazines, TV shows and online sources with the latest trends on roasting beautiful turkeys and plenty of side dishes. And this year the pickings are flavorful, plentiful and pretty.
Here’s a look at what’s cooking:
Let’s face it. Turkey on its own is pretty bland, which is why there’s a desire for lots of bright flavors to pair with it. Think lemons and oranges mixed with seasonings from fennel and spicy cayenne pepper to traditional herb seasonings. Today’s turkey recipe came from chefs and magazines touting brown butter as liquid gold. Butter is simmered until it turns golden and develops a nutty flavor. We mixed it with honey and sage and basted the turkey with it.
In November’s Food and Wine magazine, Anthony Bourdain recommends roasting two turkeys, one as your centerpiece and one to slice and serve. This also ensures plenty of leftovers. And how you slice that turkey matters — a lot. Forget slicing from the side of the turkey breast. The key is removing the turkey breasts and slicing them vertically. Once sliced, arrange the slices on a platter with the whole turkey legs.
While the USDA says 165 degrees is a perfectly fine final temperature for the whole bird, some just can’t let it go. Cook’s Illustrated now recommends cooking the turkey breast to 160 degrees and the thighs and legs to 175 degrees. But how? Experts say use a baking stone and set your roasting pan on the stone and preheat to 500 degrees. Why? Because the baking stone absorbs heat and transfers it to the roasting pan, heating the thighs and legs the quickest.
Mashed potatoes are a tradition but can be boring. Hasselback-style is potato nouveau. Take potatoes (you can use sweet potatoes, too) and slice them vertically almost, but not quite, all the way through. Once sliced, you fan them out accordian-style. You can season them any way you like and cook a lot of them on a baking sheet. You also can bake them ahead and reheat. With other vegetable sides, sheet pan roasting is the new way to cook your brussels sprouts, squash and root vegetables. Stuffing recipes abound with ingredients like mushrooms and whole grain bread for a hearty flavor.