By Marcia Pilgeram
A walk anywhere near a grocery checkout station can cause serious pre-turkey tension. At least a dozen magazines scream for your attention with persuading headlines, tempting you to purchase a periodical or risk epic failure with your turkey. Ruth Reichl, former editor of now-defunct Gourmet Magazine, admits that the $30,000 budgets for Thanksgiving photo shoots were over the top and put a lot of pressure on the home cook. She’s much happier now, she reflects, preparing a simple Thanksgiving meal in her own kitchen.
There’s talk of a turkey shortage this year, and while that’s not entirely untrue, it shouldn’t affect your holiday platter. The shortage is primarily with fresh, large Tom turkeys. Here in Sandpoint, all of the major supermarkets offer fresh turkeys.
You can buy a fresh Butterball at Yokes for $1.49 a pound, Norbest is available at Super 1 for $2.58 a pound, and Safeway carries both Butterball and Open Nature, each at $2.69 a pound. Winter Ridge doesn’t have any fresh birds, but they do offer frozen organic for $4.19 a pound and free-range for $2.55 a pound.
If you’re so inclined, there’s still time to order a heritage turkey from Good Shepherd turkey farm in Kansas. A fresh eight-to-ten pound bird is $99 (plus $50 shipping). You can splurge on this spendy fowl with direct lineage dating back to the 1830s, or pick up an inexpensive frozen specimen from Walmart (or pick up two and drop one at the Food Bank).
Breast up or breast down, chances are you already know how you’ll prepare your masterpiece.
Whether it’s first brining in a salt and spice solution, roasting in browning bag or plunging the big bird into an outdoor fryer, if you run into trouble, Butterball is waiting for your call at 1-800-BUTTERBALL.
They also offer some smart food safety tips:
• Thaw: Place unopened turkey, breast side up, on a tray in refrigerator. Allow at least 24 hours of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey.
• Temperature: Always use a meat thermometer to determine when the turkey is done (fully cooked). The temperature should reach 180° F in the thigh, 170° F in the breast and 165° F in the center of the stuffing.
• Two-Hour Storage: Store leftovers in separate containers within two hours after cooking.
• Three Days to Eat: Your leftovers will last three days in the refrigerator. Eat or freeze leftover turkey within that time period.
Remember a few other tips to make sure your food is safe to eat:
• Wash preparation utensils, work surfaces and hands in hot, soapy water after contact with uncooked turkey and juices.
• Do not stuff the turkey the night before.
• Carve the turkey before you place in the refrigerator.
Oven management plays a key role in executing a successful Thanksgiving, so plan your feast accordingly. Write down your menu, make a checklist and prep as much as you can a day or two in advance. If you’ve been invited to share the day elsewhere and plan on taking sides dishes, call and ask what to bring; don’t surprise your host with a deep dish casserole of sweet potatoes that requires an hour in their overworked oven.
Many of today’s ovens are smaller and often can’t accommodate much more than a turkey. Overloading an oven can also cool down the temperature resulting in longer cooking time, or worse yet, an underdone bird. Lots of side dishes, such as dressing, sweet potatoes and even some vegetable sides can be cooked ahead and kept warm in crockpots or tightly sealed cooking bags immersed in hot water until serving time.
Once you pull the turkey from the oven and he’s resting, and the rolls are baking brown, pour yourself a glass of wine, take a deep breath and carefully review your checklist. Nothing says disappointment like finding the relish tray you set out in your North Idaho refrigerator (a.k.a. your back porch) frozen to the deck on Friday morning.
I hope you’ll try to include one or more of the following recipes in your feast. The cranberry chutney is great with all the leftovers.
Here’s to your big, beautifully browned bird, and love with all the trimmings.
Cranberry Chutney – yields 2 cups
This is a great take-along for any dinner gathering, the perfect accompaniment to turkey or dressing. It’s also wonderful mixed with a little mayo and used as a spread on turkey or grilled cheese sandwiches.
•2 Walla Walla onions, coarsely chopped
•1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
•1 (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries
•Zest of one orange
•2/3 cup sugar
•¼ cup cider vinegar
•2 teaspoons minced garlic
•2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
•½ teaspoon salt
•½ teaspoon black pepper
Cook onions in oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in remaining ingredients
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until berries pop, 10 to 12 minutes, turn down heat and cook another half hour, stirring often so mixture doesn’t scorch. Cool and store in refrigerator.
Brussels sprouts with bacon and garlic – 8 servings
Many recipes call for roasting Brussel sprouts, this one is cooked in a skillet, and requires no oven space.
•6 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
•2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
•2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
•3/4 cup chicken stock
•2 tablespoon butter
•1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
•salt and ground black pepper
Place bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat; cook until just crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving bacon grease in skillet.
Increase heat to medium-high under skillet; sauté Brussels sprouts in the bacon grease until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic to Brussels sprouts; sauté until garlic is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour chicken stock over Brussels sprouts mixture and cover skillet with a lid; simmer until Brussels sprouts are bright green, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove lid and continue simmering until liquid is evaporated and sprouts are tender, about 5 more minutes.
Remove skillet from heat and stir bacon, butter, vinegar, salt, and pepper into Brussels sprouts mixture until butter is melted.
Pear, Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad – Serves 8
• 2 heads Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
•2 medium pears, thinly sliced
•½ cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
•½ cup blue cheese
•2 tablespoons honey
•2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
•1 tablespoon olive oil
•salt, to taste
•cracked black pepper, to taste
•In a salad bowl, very gently toss the greens with the pears.
•In a small glass bowl, combine the honey and lemon juice and olive oil. Whisk to emulsify. Whisk again, adding salt and pepper, to taste.
•Pour the dressing over the greens and pears and toss just to combine.
•Garnish with the pecans and bleu cheese.
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