Some of you may remember that my previous blog (Moonlighting Foodie) was, obvs, all about food… Well, La Belle Hibou will be about many things, including food as well. And what better time of year than the holidays to talk about food!
Recently, a friend of mine asked me to give her some advice and tips about cooking a Thanksgiving meal. Needless to say, this took top priority in my day! Here are a few of those tips for the essential elements to your turkey dinner this week!
Turkey: the most important part of the meal, but usually the easiest!
- FRESH TURKEY – if financially possible, always buy a fresh turkey, not previously frozen, one or two days before you cook it. Keep it in the fridge until showtime.
- You can either brine the turkey, which involves soaking the turkey overnight (12 hours +) in heavily salted water, or right before showtime, you can slather the turkey in lots of butter. The benefits to brining the turkey are it seasons the meat all the way through and doesn’t require a lot of salting right before putting it in the oven, and it also tenderizes the meat. Brining is definitely the best recommendation for seasoned tender turkey. If you don’t have time to brine the turkey, you can always take lots of chilled SALTED butter and ‘lotion up’ the turkey skin, especially the breasts and legs. Be sure to get the butter underneath the skin as well wherever possible and LOTS OF BUTTER in the cavity. There should be a nice buttery coating all over the turkey when you are done. This will make for very crispy skin when it’s cooked.
- Even if you aren’t stuffing your turkey, you should add large onion pieces (or even large apple pieces) into the cavity of the turkey, enough to just about fill the cavity. This little trick helps hold moisture inside the turkey.
- Another awesome turkey cooking secret that my family uses is a turkey bag. THEY REALLY WORK!!! After you either brine or butter your turkey, take a turkey bag and add a tablespoon of flour to the inside of the bag. Inflate the bag a bit, hold the open end of the bag shut, and shake the flour around the bag so that there’s a light dusting of flour inside. Then, have someone help you place the turkey inside the bag (it’s best with 2 people… less messy). After the turkey is in the bag, add 2 or three sticks of celery, some pieces of onion and two or three carrot sticks into the bag – this also helps keep the turkey moist. Seal up the bag with the little ties from the turkey bag box, and pierce a few holes into the bag as per the instructions on the turkey bag box. GUARANTEED DELICIOUS MOIST TURKEY EVERY TIME!!!!
Dressing: For stove top dressing, my recommendation is always Mrs. Cubbison’s Cubed Dressing. This is a brand you can find at any grocery store. I also recommend substituting BEER (preferably a blonde lager or nutty stout) for the chicken broth that the dressing calls for. This gives the dressing a very tangy kick to the flavor. Just follow the rest of the instructions for the dressing, and leave out any ingredients you may not like. I personally always add chopped black olives, a little bit of chopped celery, and chopped onions. And of course, BEER.
Mashed Potatoes: I think the best mashed potatoes are made with lots of UNSALTED butter (you should add a little bit of salt on your own, not depend on salted butter) and either CREAM (my preference) or milk. In my experience, the best mashing potatoes are either yukon gold or red potatoes, but regular russet potatoes work too, since most of the flavor comes from the butter and cream/milk. Just be sure to boil the potatoes really well, and let them cool before you add the butter and cream/milk. Once they’ve cooled off, use an electric hand mixer to whip them and smooth them out. Add the butter (depending on how many potatoes you use, I would use the butter liberally but within reason, think 3/4 stick to 1.5 sticks). Then add the cream/milk a little at a time – you don’t want potato soup… Too much cream/milk can be disastrous. Not enough cream/milk is too starchy. Whip them with the hand mixer, and you cannot go wrong. For some kicky potatoes, try adding additional flavors like freshly grated horseradish (you can get a piece of horseradish from Whole Foods), freshly minced garlic or wasabi (you can buy some wasabi paste at Whole Foods too). JUST A LITTLE BIT! You don’t want to lose the flavor of the potatoes/butter/cream or milk by overpowering them with the additional ingredient. Any additional kicky ingredient should be added VERY LIGHTLY… for just subtle flavor.
Best of luck, and most of all, Happy Thanksgiving!