CHEF JEFF: A foodie's favorite holidayThere isn’t any bigger — or more anticipated — day for foodies during the year than Thanksgiving. And if you’re the cook on this highly celebrated national holiday you can add challenging because cooking for a crowd on the holidays is much more time-consuming than fixing a regular meal.
There isn’t any bigger — or more anticipated — day for foodies during the year than Thanksgiving.
And if you’re the cook on this highly celebrated national holiday — held on the fourth Thursday of November each year — you can add challenging because cooking for a crowd on the holidays is much more time-consuming than fixing a regular meal.
But if you’re hosting the annual family get-together (or just are having friends over), there’s still plenty of time to get your ducks (or turkeys) in a row to make the day stress-free.
Translation: Have a plan.
First, figure out what foods you’re going to prepare and what ingredients you will need. Once you’ve done this and made your grocery purchases, determine which dishes you can make in advance. These include things such as vegetable platters, dips, soups, beans (and some other side dishes), cold desserts and cookies. (Some of these will actually taste much better if they’re prepared ahead and all the flavors are allowed enough time to thoroughly blend together.
This planning ahead also means deciding what kind of turkey you will be cooking. Fresh and frozen birds require different handling.
If you choose to buy a frozen turkey, make sure you have adequate storage space in your freezer. If you buy a fresh one, be sure you purchase it only one to two days before cooking. And do not buy a pre-stuffed fresh turkey.
To thaw a frozen bird, place it in its original wrapper in the refrigerator (40 degrees or lower) and allow approximately 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. (A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for one to two days.)
If you forget to thaw the turkey or don’t have room in the refrigerator for thawing, don’t panic. You can submerge the turkey in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. Allow about 30 minutes defrosting time per pound of turkey, and cook immediately after thawing.
As with most holidays, it’s a challenge for most of us not to overeat. Here are a few tips from Danika Warner-Noreen, licensed registered dietitian with Altru Health System, which will help you with this goal:
• Don’t “bank” your calories. “For example, eating less the day before as well as skipping breakfast/lunch on Thanksgiving usually means overeating when the meal occurs.”
• Eat the best and skip the rest. “How often do we just eat whatever is in front of us or else we don’t want to offend someone. Get over it. Eat only what you truly love.”
• Think before you act instead of after you after you’ve acted. “How often do we say to ourselves, why did I just eat that?”
• Celebrating the true meaning of Thanksgiving. “Spending time with family and friends, not a meal you can have any time of the year.”
As a kid, there was no other holiday I looked forward to more than Thanksgiving. It meant getting together at my grandma and grandpa’s home with all our cousins and aunts and uncles for a meal that’s could not be rivaled (at least in my opinion).
It was nothing really fancy, just your basic down-home meal — turkey with Grandma Menard’s homemade pork sausage and bread dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, plus all the trimmings (olives, relish trays, cucumbers and onions in cream sauce, cranberries, candied sweet potatoes, baked corn, white and dark rolls, etc.), as well as special dishes such as wilted lettuce and my favorite, baked oysters. (Several of my cousins have continued the oyster tradition.)
And then there was dessert. We always had pumpkin and minced meat pies.
Since we always had our meal at noon, by 6 p.m. or so — after some card-playing and watching football on TV — we would have a turkey sandwich, dressing and gravy and pie before heading home.
How can you not get excited about a day like that!
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.