Thanksgiving Countdown: Still time for a heritage turkey

SHARE Thanksgiving Countdown: Still time for a heritage turkey

Was this the year you were going to try something new, a free-range or heritage turkey? Well, you are only a little more than a week away from the Thanksgiving holiday so it’s time to get cracking and order one.

Writer Anthony Todd talks to the farmers who raise them to fine out why some people ordered theirs last spring. But fear not; there are still some places that have them, but you need to order one ASAP. Get going!

Let’s recap our tips for hosting and cooking a stress-free Thanksgiving holiday:

  • Tuck this number away for Thanksgiving day: (800) BUTTERBALL. That’s the number of the Butterball Turkey Talk Line, which is up and running. They can answer myriad Thanksgiving questions. This year Butterball has some men on their helpline because one out of every four persons who call in are male these days. The Butterball men were on “Good Morning America” today and had a couple handy tips:
  • A 16-pound turkey will feed eight people and provide some leftovers.
  • The turkey is fully cooked when the meat thermometer — stuck into the breast — registers 170 degrees.
  • Let the turkey rest about 15-30 minutes before carving.
  • When carving, it’s drumsticks first.
  • Let’s add a little levity to our Thanksgiving preparations, shall we? An irreverent, but extremely funny and helpful holiday book landed on my desk the other day. How often do you get all that in one cookbook? If you were listening to the book “Carve The Turkey Bit@hes!” by Jason Bailin (Whipped & Beaten Culinary Works, Inc., $5.95), I imagine he’d be yelling his advice at you. Bailin’s kinda grumpy in the book, but in an entertaining way. You might not expect that a book with a shirtless guy wearing an apron on the cover would be so full of handy information for hosting Thanksgiving and other holidays, but it is.
  • Here’s a tip from his book: if you’re making a side dish or additional meat dish for Thanksgiving, ask yourself if it is something that can be made ahead. If it is, then make it now. Once it’s cooked, slice it and put it in the serving dish and then freeze it. Two days before Thanksgiving, move it to the frig to thaw. On Thanksgiving day all you’ll have to do is reheat it for say 30 minutes in the oven. Pretty good advice from a shirtless chef, isn’t it?
  • I don’t know about your family, but my relatives almost want the dishes themselves to be in the same position at our holiday table each year, that’s how wedded they are to our traditional Thanksgiving meal. But boy, that can be a drag for the cook. That’s why I like this story that gives hints on how you can stay true to a classic Thanksgiving but mix it up in a way your guests will enjoy (and maybe not even notice).
  • Sara Moulton, who some of you may remember from her very informative show on The Food Network, has what sounds like the perfect solution to Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. You make the potatoes the day before, but with none of the dairy included. The next day you zap the potatoes, add your dairy and seasonings and your mashed potatoes are ready in no time. And here’s another nifty tip from Moulton: baking rather than boiling the potatoes gives them a more potato-y flavor. Who knew?! Here’s her story and recipe.
  • A fresh bird has a lot of advantages. You don’t have to go through that lengthy defrosting process that a frozen one requires. You don’t have to make space in the freezer until it’s time (turkeys, even small ones, take up a lot of space). Many of us prefer the taste of a fresh bird. Butchers are taking orders now for fresh turkeys. If you want an organic or heritage variety, the number of those available is smaller. Take time now to order your bird.
  • Don’t miss the story on our website where pastry experts tell the rest of us to get over our fear of creating a perfect crust. (Here’s the link.) Turns out that one of the reasons our crust is less than grand might be because we’ve rushed it. Hoosier Mama’s Paula Haney told writer Lisa Shames that it’s important to give that pie crust some time. And here’s a dandy tidbit to remember: crust will work better if you make it the night before. Gives it time to settle. (And you time to get something done before Thanksgiving itself!)
  • Also with this story is a list of places that are taking orders for pies if you’d rather not make your own. Some of them will stop taking orders as soon as they run out. So, you know what I’m going to say, don’t you? Decide now if you will be ordering one and do it ASAP.
  • In the movie “Pieces of April,” it’s funny when she discovers the oven’s not working and the Thanksgiving turkey is inside it. Trust me, you will not be laughing on Thanksgiving Day if your oven peters out and you’ve got a dining room full of relatives waiting to eat. The time for inspecting it is now. If it’s been acting up, get someone in to repair it ASAP. And if it’s grimy, clean it. No one wants to see their holiday meal coming out of a crusty oven. Same for the appliance you’ll be using that day: hand mixer, blender, electric knife — whatever you know you will use, make sure it is working properly and clean.
  • While you are looking at that oven, figure out if everything will fit in it. If not, come up with Plan B. One year I decided beforehand that I would do a vegetable stir-fry instead of an assortment of roasted veggies because there wasn’t enough room in that tiny oven of ours. Another holiday we grilled the turkey outside to free up oven space. Both were alternative plans that worked out just fine, and one reason they did was because we’d figured out beforehand what we’d be doing. We weren’t regrouping at the last minute.
  • Make your guest list today and invite them. As soon as possible, determine how many will be in attendance. Once you have that number you can figure out what you need in chairs, supplies, food and liquor. Without it you’re guess-timating, which usually results in spending more than is needed.
  • Give the dining room — or whatever room the meal will be in — an inspection. I don’t know about you, but my dining room table becomes the catch-all. Start clearing the table and room now so you and your guests can enjoy a meal in a clutter-free room.
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