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Thanksgiving Tricks of the Trade

Now that we are winding up for the turkey pitch, thought I would share one of my little cooking tricks in the hope of hearing some of yours.
I add a tablespoon of raspberry jam to my cranberry sauce. I have only done this for homemade, but as I write I wonder if it could be mixed in with canned as well.

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  1. The canned whole berry cranberry sauce takes mix-ins quite well. I add very finely chopped white onion, jalapeno pepper, and orange zest and let it sit overnight - it's wonderful. I bet cherry or raspberry jam would be great.

    1. For a really moist, flavorful turkey, I make an herb mixture -- rosemary, thyme, marjoram, sage, and garlic with olive oil and a few bread crumbs -- and stuff it between the meat and skin. You just stuff the mix as far as you can. The extra goes on top and in the cavity. As the meat cooks, it keeps the juice in and infuses the meat with flavor. Before I started doing that, we always had huge platters of turkey left over. Now, we don't usually have enough to go around when people take leftovers home.

      1. I've stopped using recipes for my turkey. For the most moist bird, I brine for a day or two.

        After it's out and has dried on the refrigerator over night, I slather the bird over and under all the skin with butter mixed with some wonderful combination of flavors such as:
        - Maple Syrup, Pepper and Sage
        - Mixed chopped herbs (thyme, parsley, sage)
        - this year I'm trying allspice, cloves and white pepper

        I stuff the cavity with something like: quartered onions, whole garlic cloves, bay, sage and parsley leaves, quartered lemons or oranges. (This year trying apples, oranges, garlic, whole cinnomon sticks, cloves and allspice)

        I usually use a bottle of wine to baste the bird while it cooks. It fills the pan with incredibly tasty juices running from the butter and the stuff inside the bird.

        Lets see other tricks...
        I never stuff my turkey. It's always prepped the day before (this year, bread pudding instead of traditional dressing).
        It saves loads of time on Thursday as well as being safer to prepare, cook and eat.

        I have come to ALWAYS allow people to bring something. I try to have a good suggestion based on my knowledge of the person. People want to help, let them. If they can't cook or don't have any money arriving early and peeling potatoes is a great gift for the host!

        Make your own turkey stock, even if you don't normally make stock. It's SOOOO easy and this is the best time to try it. Poultry stock is easy because you don't need to brown the bones and vegetables before bringing everything to a boil. Just buy a few turkey necks or wings to get the flavor started and let it boil all morning while the turkey cooks. Best gravy EVER!


        1. My in-laws promote the "bacini"-- slices of bacon placed down the breast of the bird. Works as a good shield for the breast and adds a nice flavor. I don't always do it because sometimes I just don't want that smoky flavor. I also thinking roasting breast down for a while works well to keep the white meat moist.

          For the smoothest mashed potatoes boil them until they're just about falling apart. And never make gravy with milk-- always water shaken up with flour. I don't know if these are tricks or not, but they're important aspects of Turkey Day technique IMHO.

          Other tricks...well, our family "trick" is really my dad's manhattans which work as perfect social lubricant to keep family squabbles at bay (our family tends to mellow with alcohol...).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Procrastibaker

            Cocktails are the key to squabble-free get togethers with my family as well. Glad to know we are not the only ones...

          2. for the silkiest, lightest mashed potatoes, our family has always used a ricer. Use really hot skinned and boiled Idahoes cut lengthwise into quarters, have hot butter and milk melted together at the ready, and once the potatoes are riced into a serving dish, GENTLY (no beating allowed) fold in the milk mix with some s&p. keep ready in a warm oven.

            whatever you do, don't beat mashed potatoes. Not by hand, not with a mixer, heaven forbid.

            1 Reply
            1. re: toodie jane

              You know, I agree that using a mixer on potatoes seems crazy, but my Nana always used a mixer and her mashed potatoes were absolutely never gluey but perfectly light and fluffy. Any idea on why this worked for her?

            2. If you are going to use a handmixer, make sure to put the boiled potatoes back in their hot pot and let them dry out and steam for a about 3 minutes. Then, use the handmixer to break up the potatoes completely. Don't add the hot milk/cream/butter until AFTER using the handmixer. The moisture with the potatoes is what causes that clumping nastiness.

              I have to admit that I am not a bit mashed potato fan, but I've learned how to do them right to please the crowd!

              I haven't used my food mill or ricer before because they are too small... potatoes for 20 would take about 15 minutes to get through my little mill or ricer and by that time they would be quite cold.

              1. I've always gotten compliments on the fluffiness of my mashed potatoes. I do this without a ricer and my secret is to bake them after you mash them. I usually make the potatoes the day before:

                1. boil potatoes
                2. sautee green onions and white onions until brown
                3. melt butter and add a generous amount of curry powder to it
                4. mash potatoes and add butter to potatoes
                5. salt and pepper to taste
                6. let potatoes sit overnight (not necessary -- i just make my potatoes a day ahead so i have less to do the next day)
                7. cover potatoes with foil and bake with your turkey - bake with foil for 30 min, then remove foil and bake for another 30.

                Your potatoes will have a nice light crust, but will be super fluffy when you serve!

                2 Replies
                1. re: chubbybunny

                  sounds sort of like this recent post, but the primary cooking method differs: baking vs. boiling. The poster reports light and fluffy, with a crust.


                  1. re: toodie jane

                    Also, the person is talking about a baked potato -- I'm talking about baking *mashed* potatoes. Thanks for pointing that post out -- I'll have to try that method too.

                2. The day before, I cut the tips of the wings off the turkey. (No one ever misses them on the roasted turkey.) The wing tips, neck, and gizzards are browned in a hot pan and simmered with onion, celery, and carrot to make a broth to add to the next day's drippings and juices from the roating pan when making gravy. The meat from the neck, chopped-up giblets, and chopped-up liver are added to the gravy, but you can leave these out if they are too offal for you.