5 ideas to ensure a perfect Thanksgiving feast
So it’s your turn to host the annual Thanksgiving feast!
Hosting a big, traditional holiday event for the first time — or the fifth — can be daunting. It seems like there are a million things that need to be done. On top of that, the big feast is a family tradition and it seems that everyone has high expectations, creating a lot of pressure.
Take a deep breath. We are here to help.
We asked Shaun Garcia, executive chef at Nose Dive Gastropub; Stacie Amesbury, pastry chef for Soby’s on the Side and Table 301 Catering; and Ashley Brown, culinary instructor at R.D. Anderson Technical Institute, for a few kitchen hacks that will save you time — and stress — on the big day.
Plan ahead and start shopping early. Amesbury recommended purchasing non-perishable items at least a week in advance and beginning food preparation early. As you prep items, label which ingredients go with each dish. Garcia recommended preparing a few dishes early.
“There are a lot of things you can prepare days ahead of time without jeopardizing quality,” he said. “If you try to cook everything from start to finish that day, you will drive yourself crazy.”
Brown likes to make an herbed butter using fresh herbs and garlic. He makes it ahead of time so that it will be ready for use on the turkey and with vegetable dishes. He also recommended blanching vegetables ahead of time so that they will cook faster.
Allow plenty of time to prepare the turkey. “The turkey catches people off guard,” Garcia said. “A lot of people buy it and forget to thaw it ahead of time.”
Garcia recommended thawing the bird in the refrigerator on Saturday, to ensure that it will be ready in time. Then Tuesday, brine the turkey. Brining is simply soaking the turkey in an ice bath overnight in the refrigerator or a cooler. Garcia uses 1 cup of sugar, 2 gallons of water, a ½ cup of hot sauce, dried herbs and bay leaves for his brine. After brining for 24 hours, he recommends letting the bird sit uncovered in the refrigerator for another 24 hours to dry. Brown uses ½ cup sugar and salt for his brine, but rinses the turkey afterward.
Garcia and Brown rub their turkeys with butter before cooking. Brown recommended adding more butter each hour while the bird is in the oven. Garcia also said home chefs need to cook the bird early enough to allow it to rest before carving.
“People mess up by cooking the bird all the way to the desired temperature,” he said. “Cook it to about 15 degrees less than the desired temperature. When you first remove the turkey from the oven, it is covered with food juices that have been trying to get out. When you remove it from the oven and let it rest, the bird continues cooking and the juices go back to where they should be. The resulting turkey will be fully cooked and juicy.”
Make the bread for the dressing a few days before Thanksgiving. Garcia uses one part biscuit dough and one part corn bread as the base for his dressing. He adds sage, onion and chicken broth and scoops it into the pan prior to Thanksgiving. Brown likes to use Italian sausage, carrots, celery and onions. He adds this to a ready-made stuffing mix.
Avoid food-borne illnesses. Keep things hot until serving time, and put leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible after serving.
“Treat your home like a small restaurant,” Garcia said. “Use (slow cookers) as chafing apparatuses or purchase a home chafing dish.”
Let others help.Brown recommended asking guests to bring desserts. Garcia suggested using high-quality pre-made ingredients.
Of course, if you are still in a bind, you can always purchase sides and desserts from your favorite restaurant. Just plan ahead!
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