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By Deborah Dove
Although there are many rights of passage to adulthood, I knew for sure I was a grown up when I first hosted Thanksgiving dinner and had to prepare and carve my first turkey. In the ensuing years, I have tried just about every method of cooking a whole turkey, and there are many. The first few years, my husband and I smoked the turkey (actually, my dad took pity on us and smoked the turkey and brought it over). As I gained confidence in my cooking skills, I tried oven roasting the turkey, both in a roasting pan and in an oven bag, and this year my husband will try his hand at deep frying the bird. My good friend Kim Kiser swears by brining, a cooking process in which the turkey is immersed and soaked in a saltwater solution before roasting, while other friends grill their Thanksgiving dinner.
For many cooks, both experienced and inexperienced, there is nothing more intimidating than the prospect of turning an enormous raw bird (which is filled giblets no less) into a beautiful brown centerpiece worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting. To add to the pressure, just about everyone has heard about (or experienced) a turkey catastrophe, from the turkey not defrosting in time to it being over-cooked and bone dry or worse, not cooked enough. With that in mind, we offer these turkey tips.
Before you buy the turkey, figure out your guest list. You should have 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. If youíre buying a frozen turkey, calculate the time needed for it to thaw, typically one day for every five pounds of turkey. Regardless of the cooking method, remove the giblets, rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels and insert a meat thermometer before cooking (when deep frying, insert meat thermometer after removing the turkey from the fryer). The only reliable test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin. The turkey is done when the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the dressing as well, which should also be 165 degrees F. When the turkey is done, allow it to stand for 20 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
Once youíve prepared the perfect turkey, the only thing left to do is figure out what to do with the leftovers, if youíre lucking enough to have some. While you canít beat a turkey sandwich, following are some additional recipes to jazz up, and use up, your turkey leftovers.
Turkey Vegetable Soup
2 lg. celery stalks, diced
2 lg. carrots, peeled and diced
1 lg. onion, diced
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
3-1/2 c. turkey or chicken broth (add water if needed)
2 c. leftover turkey or chicken, diced
1 can cream style corn (15 oz.)
1/2 c. fresh parsley
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce or to taste
Salt/pepper to taste
1/2 to 3/4 c. small bowtie pasta or egg noodles
Over medium heat, cook celery, carrots and onions in hot oil in a 3-quart saucepan until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth, corn, parsley, salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce. Let simmer 1-1/2 hours. Add meat about half-way through cooking. Add pasta during the last 15-20 minutes.
South of the Border Enchiladas
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chile peppers, drained
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 c. chopped cooked or shredded turkey
8 (8-in.) flour tortillas
1 (16 oz.) jar salsa
1 (16 oz.) can chili beans or black beans, undrained
1 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
In a medium bowl, mix chile peppers, cream cheese, sour cream and cumin. Stir in chopped turkey.
Place the tortillas in a microwave oven. Heat for 1 minute, or until the tortillas are softened. Spread about 2 heaping tablespoons of the chile pepper mixture on each tortilla, and roll up. Place the rolled tortillas, seam-side down, in single layer in the prepared baking dish.
In a medium bowl, combine the salsa and beans. Spoon the mixture over the enchiladas. Sprinkle the top with cheese. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until bubbly and lightly browned.
1 pkg. spaghetti
2 c. cubed, cooked turkey
6 mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup
1 c. turkey stock (or 1 c. chicken broth)
1 c. grated Cheddar cheese
Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain. Toss spaghetti with remaining ingredients, mixing well. Place in shallow 2-quart baking dish. Bake at 350ļ for 30 minutes, or until bubbly.
Creamed Turkey with Artichokes
5 Tbs. butter
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
4 to 6 green onions, thinly sliced, about 1/3 c.
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 c. chicken broth
1-1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 c. diced leftover turkey
1 can (about 15 oz.) artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped
6 to 8 frozen puff pastry shells, baked, or split baked biscuits
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are tender. Add flour and stir until smooth and well blended. Add chicken broth, stirring until thickened. Add the milk, stirring to blend. Add seasonings, turkey, and artichokes. Continue cooking until thick and bubbly. Taste and add more salt and pepper, as needed. Serve over hot baked puff pastry shells, split fresh baked biscuits, or toast.
Grilled Turkey and Swiss Panini Sandwich
8 slices sourdough bread
1/4 c. mango chutney or apricot jam
Sliced turkey breast
1 sweet Vidalia onion, sliced
1 12-oz. jar roasted red pepper
8 slices Swiss cheese
Nonstick cooking spray (olive oil or butter flavored)
Preheat skillet or griddle to medium high and spray with nonstick spray. For each sandwich, spread chutney or jam on one piece of bread. On other piece of bread, place turkey, an onion slice, roasted red peppers and two slices of Swiss cheese. Place bread spread with jam on top of other side of sandwich and put on griddle. Cover with a deep pot lid and cook a minute or so (until lightly browned). Remove lid, flip sandwich carefully and cook other side about a minute of so (until lightly browned). Makes four sandwiches.
If sandwich browns before cheese melts, put it in the microwave for 15 seconds.