November 19, 2012
November 21, 2012

Tips and Tricks for your Thanksgiving.

Mashed Potatoes.  Potatoes are approximately 79 percent water and 15-20 percent starch.  Succes or failure in mashing is primarily a matter of how you treat your starch.  Unless you want to use the result for affixing wallpaper, don’t use your best blender or food processor.  Their high-powered blades can reduce the potatoes to a puree, which is great for juicy, non-starch fruits and vegetables.  But by the time a potato is squished to that degree, most of its starch granules have been torn open, spilling their gluey contents.

Mixers can do both mixing and beating/aerating.  However, beating potatoes in a mixer in an attempt to make them fluffy is almost as bad as using a blender.  It’s okay to use a mixer on very low speed to distribute additives such as butter and milk.  But beating them too vigorously will break down their starch granules into glue just as a belnder does.

The best tools for mashing starchy potatoes such as russets or Yukon GOlds (the waxy reds are not preferable for mashing) ricers and mashers.  If you don’t have a ricer, then a potato masher that has a flat plate perforated with square or rectangular holes through which the ptoates are extruded.  Always use a straight up-and-down motion when mashing.

The Frozen Bird.  So you just realized you forgot to defrost the bird!  People do this every year, and produce a tender, juicy bird in about five hours.  So if you have to deal with a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning, all is not lost.  But remember, never microwave or soak in hot water.  You would be asking for food poisoning.

Fear not.  Both the USDA & FDA have all assured the public that a frozen turkey is even safer than a fresh one because it won’t drip contaminated juices all over the refrigerator and kitchen counter during or after defrosting.

When cooking a frozen turkey, the heat slowing works its way in from all sides, leaving a trail of successive defrosting and roasting.  The skin on a frozen turkey doesn’t burn because the interior of the turkey is at such a low temperature, any heat abosrbed by the skin from the oven’s hot air is conducted into the body at an especially rpaid rate, so the skin stays relatively cool.

Smooth Gravy.  Making good pan gravy from a meat or poultry roast is easy in theory.  Although the ingredients are few, they must be combined in the right proportions by volumn:  one part fat, one part flour (or thickener) and eight or more parts broth.  Often, that will be two tablespoons each of fat and flour to each cup of broth.

Tilt the pan (after removing the turkey, vegetables and other solids) and use a felxible spatula to scrape all the liquids into a gravy separator.  The liquids will settle into two distinct layers:  fat on the top and water juices on bottom.  In a pan, measure the amount of fat and pour it back into the pan and whisk with equal amounts of flour to form a roux.  That coats the flour with water-impenetrable fat so they can’t stick together to make lumps.  Cook for a few minutes until it begins to take color.  Then wisk the broth, into the fat-coated flour.

The final step is to cook the whole mixture at a low temperature until it it evenly thickens.  So no lumps.

Crispy Skin.  Many people insist that the skin is the best thing about a roasted chicken or turkey, in terms of flavor and texture.

Turkey skin is 13 percent protein, 39 percent fat and 48 percent water.  According the the USDA, raw turkey fat contains 11 percent saturated, 15 percent monounsaturated and 12 percent polyunsaturated.  An ounce of the skin of turkey has 3 grams of saturated fat.  During roasting, much of the fat is rendered and drips to the bottom of the pan, so by the time it gets to the table, there’s even less fat in the skin.

Cranberry Sauce.  What makes cranberries gel?  One word:  pectin.  Apples, citrus rinds and cranberries are particularly high in pectin.  The right porportions, by weight, are one part sugar and one part water to two parts cranberries.  For example, 6 ounces each of sugar and water to a 12 ounce bag of cranberries.

Helpful hint:  The directions on a bag of fresh cranberries can’t be beat.

Source:, 11.12.12

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