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Marilyn Hagerty: Talkin' turkey

Let's talk turkey.

This week, the Eatbeat leads me to conversations with people who sell turkey, cook turkey, eat turkey.

Take Ryan Holland, for instance. He's the meat manager at Hugo's on South Washington Street. And he says the turkeys he sells often are about 14 to 16 pounds. Some go up to 24 pounds.

He figures for eight to 10 people, you need an 18 to 20 pound turkey. That gives you leftovers. And then there are some who prefer to buy boneless turkey breast.

"A lot of people nowadays deep fry their turkeys. There are all sorts of options," he said.

Michael Reimer, meat manager at Hornbacher's, figures most people buy their turkeys a few days before Thanksgiving.

"Usually, they are baked in the oven," he said, "but some are deep fried outside and you get a phenomenally good flavor.

"Then," he said, "there also are smoked turkeys."

He said most of the turkeys sold around here come from Minnesota.

Serrated knife

Nate Sheppard, chef at the Blue Moose in East Grand Forks, makes sure the turkey is 100 percent thawed before roasting.

He thinks using a serrated knife for carving a turkey is like using a chainsaw. When carving, he says to start with the breast.

"You need to make sure the turkey is 100 percent thawed," he said.

Chef Sheppard starts roasting turkeys breast side down. He keeps them that way three fourths of the time.

A chef for 15 years, he says he has grown older and wiser about roasting turkeys. And he will be ready from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. with turkey on Thanksgiving day at the Blue Moose.

John Watts, processing manager at L&M Meats, thinks using a meat thermometer is good. Many of the turkeys are 8 to 10 pounds in size. But customers are more likely to choose 14 pound turkeys.

"Nothing's better than leftovers," he said. And he likes a good electronic serrated knife.

While most turkeys are roasted in the oven, he finds there's a whole pile of different ways to go about it. "When you deep fry, you really need to watch it."

Most people who order their turkeys pick them up a day or two before Thanksgiving," he said.

"We sell tons of ham and other options to the turkey tradition," he said.

At Sky's restaurant, Chef Joe Hanson feels you must have cranberries and orange zest. "Everything is so rich with turkey.

"You make your own stuffing — bread, a little sage and thyme ..."

Then he lost me as he ticked off ingredients for dressing.

Cranberries, he said, must be fresh frozen. "Never canned."

With that, he turned his thoughts to the day after Thanksgiving. "Then," he said, "it's back to beef. It's business as usual. In December, it's filet mignon, New York strip.''

Ask Marilyn

Q. How much turkey do you need for Thanksgiving?

A. According to the nationally respected "Pure and Simple" cookbook by Marian Burros: You should allow at least 3/4 pound per serving for turkeys under 12 pounds. Allow 1/2 to 3/4 pound for turkeys over 12 pounds.

Fresh turkeys should be washed, dried and allowed to come to room temperature before being stuffed and cooked. Stuffing should never be placed in bird until just before cooking. Turkeys should never be cooked overnight at a low temperature. In both cases, the idea is to prevent spoilage, for bacteria will multiply rapidly under such conditions.

Frozen unstuffed turkeys may be brought to room temperature by two different methods. Thaw the bird in its wrapper on a tray in the refrigerator. Allow one to two days if under 12 pounds; two to three days if between 12 and 20 pounds, and up to four days is over 20 pounds.

To hasten the process, thaw a turkey under 12 pounds at room temperature for six hours and return to the refrigerator for 12 hours. Allow eight hours out and 12 in for birds 12 to 18 pounds, and 10 hours plus 12 hours for those larger.

Generally, the stuffed and trussed bird is placed on the rack breast side up. Oil or butter is rubbed over the skin of the bird, which then is basted every 20 minutes or so.

Aluminum foil may be used as a tent over the bird or applied in the later stages over breast and drumsticks to keep browned skin from burning.

Allow about 1/2 hour after the bird comes from the oven before carving. This allows the juices to "set," meaning moister meat and easier carving.

If a thermometer is not used, test for doneness about 30 minutes before the timetable indicates. Move drumstick up and down --if done, the joint should give readily or break. Or press drumstick meat between fingers; the meat should be very soft.