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Thanksgiving: something new that WORKED

I know there are a couple of other threads with discussions about how Thanksgiving went, but I thought it might be helpful to have one specifically to share tips that worked.

For me, it was using a stuffing bag. I happened upon an episode of America's Test Kitchen where they demonstrated putting the stuffing in cheese cloth in the cavity (I found out you can actually buy a cheese cloth bag specially made for stuffing; even better, I found it at the 99 cent store!). The idea at ATK was that you could take the stuffing out halfway through the cooking process, when it had already absorbed a good amount of drippings, then mix it with the stuffing that hadn't fit in the bird and finish it in the oven. Since they're way more paranoid about food safety than I am, they pointed out that this way the stuffing could be cooked to a safe temperature without overcooking the turkey. Plus, you can have moist stuffing with the flavor from the drippings and still have crusty bits: the best of both worlds! As a final bonus, you don't have to mess around with closing the cavity to keep the stuffing in (and not trussing the legs helps them cook faster). So win-win-win!

It became clear to me that taking the stuffing out of the partially cooked bird was going to be more trouble than it was worth (especially since, as I noted, I've never worried about the food safety issue). So I pulled it out as soon as the bird came out of the oven, mixed it up with the remaining stuffing and baked it while the turkey rested. Half an hour was plenty to cook it through, and it was delicious -- darn near perfect in fact. I will definitely do this again!

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  1. Thomas Keller has a killer chicken recipe in his "ad hoc at home" cookbook that we've replicated with great success. Deb cribbed the 12-hour brine technique for Thursday's turkey. The end result was well worth the modest time and effort.
    Here's a link I found on the interwebs:
    http://blog.junbelen.com/2010/01/20/h...

    1. It's a very small something... but the last few years I've made cranberry apple sauce for Thanksgiving. This year they had crushed pineapple on sale and I grabbed a can and made cranberry pineapple sauce instead, with a few cloves for spice. Everyone loved it and it was no work whatsoever.

      The other thing I did different was that I only had an hour to make the sweet potato casserole from scratch, so I didn't have time to bake a proper streusal topping. I grabbed some gingersnaps from the cupboard, crushed them with the rolling pin, and sprinkled them on top of the marshmallows. It came out way better than I'd expected and everyone loved it.

      1. similar to Ruth's post, I made a batch of stuffing the night before and par baked it for 30 minutes. Then, when I removed the turkey from the pan to rest, I spooned off some of the turkey juice (and fat) and drizzled over the top of the stuffing for it's second bake. It deepened the flavor tremendously and I had a nice mix of moist and crusty bits in the baking dish.

        1. Last year I made a pumpkin cheesecake and got very good reviews on it so this year I decided to make one again. However, the last time I made it without a water bath and it was a bit too dry for me and the top cracked. So I decided to bake it with a water bath and on top of that, to not use a springform pan but instead follow Alton Brown's guidelines as far as lining the pan and flipping it later. I must say that I was extremely nervous about this! It did work though and I came out with a fantastic creamy cake with no cracks! This will be my go to method for making cheesecake from now on!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Redstickchef

            Mind sharing your recipe Redchef? I made this pumpkin cheesecake from Epicurious for the 1st time and got MAJOR cracks. It didn't call for a water bath although I use that method more often then not. It rose beautifully, and didn't fall while cooling. Maybe convection baking was the culprit? BTW taste wise it was delicious.

            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

             
            1. re: letsindulge

              The recipe looks amazing! Sorry that it cracked though.

              I used the epicurious recipe for the Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Swirl Recipe:

              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

              But adjusted it according to Alton Brown's pan prep, water bath and flipping techniques, associated with his Sour Cream Cheesecake recipe here:

              http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

              Also, instead of refrigerating the cheesecake after putting the topping on I froze it to make sure that the sour cream caramel topping would not be destroyed in the flipping part of Alton's instructions. (Also, I froze it because I thought my chances of inverting it while frozen were better than when it was just refrigerated:) I hope this helps.

          2. This was my first year baking a pumpkin pie from purée that I had made myself. I roasted a pumpkin and puréed the flesh until very smooth, then froze it until the day before Thanksgiving, whereupon I thawed it, drained it overnight in a colander lined with cheesecloth. I then proceeded as normal, making Chow's pumpkin pie with spiced crust. Everyone agreed it was the best pie they had ever tasted! It was lighter than normal, both in flavor and texture, and was absolutely delicious!