T-Minus 7: Turkey Tools, Pie Love, Get Your Chat Groove On

Fancy equipment is hardly a requirement for hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but if you're roasting a turkey, a few basic tools can go a long way in pulling off your production.

If you buy nothing else , buy these two tools:

1) An instant-read thermometer, for testing the doneness of the bird, safely and accurately (which by the way, should be 170ish degrees in the inner part of the leg). For less than ten bucks, you can get a pocket thermometer, either digital or plain-ole analog style, with a dial. I learned to appreciate the pocket thermometer I kept in my chef's jacket in cooking school and often give them as gifts to pass on the food safety vibrations. It's a must-have, all year long.

2) A roasting pan that is not disposable. I know the aluminum trays at the supermarket are irresistibly cheap and reduce the clean-up duty. Let me tell you a story; I once had a turkey nearly collapse in my lap because of those flimsy doodads. Try making gravy in one of these things, too. I'm not suggesting that you spend $100 on a fabulous roasting pan; but do pick one with a bit of heft to it. More expensive choices often include a rack, which is a nice option (particularly the v-shape), but if money is an issue, you can always make a veggie raft of carrots and celery to support your bird and everything still comes out gravy.

With an additional 30 dollars to burn, my two extra tools would be:

3) an extra cutting board, just for the turkey. It's makes good food safety sense to have separate boards for animal protein, to minimize risk of cross-contamination. By the way, when you're carving, place that cutting board inside a baking sheet to contain running juices and keeping things tidy.

4) To whet my appetite for culinary history and traditions, I'd buy a copy of "Giving Thanks," a new title by food historians Kathleen Curtin and Sandra L. Oliver. Focusing solely on the history and recipes of Thanksgiving, the book traces the events that got this party started, beginning in 1621. The recipes are a mélange, including Native American dishes, Americana kitsch (think Jell-O molds, Karo pecan pie) and immigrant specialties. I haven't liked a cookbook this much in a long time.

Those of you who have escaped hosting duties and haven't yet been given an assignment, make yourself useful, and I don't mean take out the trash.

Whaddya say about making some pies, in the privacy of your own kitchen, and dropping them off for Food & Friends' massive Thanksgiving meal delivery.

Food & Friends is a non-profit organization that prepares and delivers meals to people in the Washington area who are homebound with HIV/AIDS and other long-term illnesses. At Thanksgiving, the service goes gangbusters, feeding up to 3,000 people.

The pie thing goes like this: Make plain apple or pumpkin -- no raisins, nuts or extra fancy stuff. Pies must be no larger than 10 inches, fully cooked and preferably wrapped in foil. Drop-off pies at Food & Friends Nov. 21-22.

If making pies is not your thing, there is still a need for meal delivery drivers on Thanksgiving Day. A shift is usually 2 or 3 hours. For details, contact Food & Friends: 202/582-3463; holidays@foodandfriends.org

Type to me for a solid hour, today at 1 ET.
I'm hosting a What's Cooking Thanksgivingpalooza. Be there or be stuffed. I'll bring the chestnuts.

By kimodo |  November 16, 2005; 11:26 PM ET  | Category:  Thanksgiving
Previous: T-Minus 8: Afternoon Update | Next: T-Minus 6: Weekend Projects

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Kim: I understand that the bird should register 170 degrees to be considered safe and fully cooked, however, at what temp should you take it out of the oven? Doesn't the bird continue to "cook" once it's out, thereby raising the internal temp? Thanks.

Posted by: Betty | November 17, 2005 12:30 PM

Kim, I am making my mom's squash casserole as a side- it has eggs and parm, not cheddar - anyway, my question is this -I want to make it on Wed. should I do everything up to the bake or can I reheat on Thurs. Thanks!

Posted by: Kim | November 17, 2005 02:28 PM

Kim, for the chatter who was looking for grilled turkey info, today's issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer has a story and recipe from their food critic, Craig LeBan. Looks delicious!

Posted by: Amy | November 17, 2005 02:31 PM

Kim, can you post this recipe for cheesy crackers?
Kim O'Donnel: What about cheesey crackers? You up for the challenge? I have something fun, not too difficult, and they're quite the zesty treat. This, or spiced nuts. Holler in an e-mail or in blog, and i'll oblige

Posted by: Fran | November 17, 2005 02:32 PM

Hi Kim,
Thanks for making us aware of the pie drive. It's a great cause. Since I'll already be buying apples to make my own pies what's two more? Thanks again for this easy opportunity to make a difference.

Posted by: Gayle | November 17, 2005 02:50 PM

Fran, here are the details for the cheesy crackers. It's like making your very own homemade Ritz. Enjoy!

Peppery Cheddar Coins
From "Cookies Unlimited" by Nick Malgieri
Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces (about 1 cup) sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
Method:

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a bowl; stir well to mix.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine cheese and butter and pulse five or six times to mix. Scrape mixture out of food processor and into a mixing bowl. Add flour mixture and combine by hand, until mixture just forms a ball.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and form it into a square about ½ inch thick. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, at least 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Divide dough in half; place one half on a lightly floured work surface and return the other half to the refrigerator until ready to use.

Lightly flour the dough and roll out into a circle about ¼-inch thick. Use a floured 2-inch plain or fluted round cutter to cut out the biscuits. Place biscuits on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough; press together and re-roll the scraps as much as possible.

Bake biscuits for about 20 minutes, until firm and lightly golden. Slide parchment paper from pan and let cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

Posted by: | November 17, 2005 07:47 PM

Hi! I was hoping you could post a good recipe for a non-alcoholic(not old enough to drink yet) drink(s) to fix for Turkey Day or Christmas.Thank you!

Posted by: Taylor | November 17, 2005 09:59 PM

Hi Kim!

Last year I did the compound butter thing for the turkey and it was great, but this year I was thinking it would be fun to do a chile-spiced deal or something along those lines, maybe the southwest is rubbing off on me, I dunno. Anyhow, do you have any suggestions? Since its just me and the beau, I feel like I can experiment without pressure. Thanks!

Posted by: Tucson | November 18, 2005 10:46 AM

I make pecan pies every year - I usually make two. But this year I'll only need one for dinner. Can I freeze the other? How would I thaw it? In the fridge? On the counter? Love your chats and this blog, thanks so much!

Posted by: Suzanne | November 18, 2005 11:11 AM

A good non-alcoholic beverage is some mulled cider.

Buy a really good cider and cut up an orange, lemon, add a few cinnamon sticks, cloves (1/4 teasp), star anise 1-2, cardomon seeds (1-2) and simmer until you smell the fragrance. Strain into cups and serve.

If you want the lazy version of the recipe, find yourself a can of the Emperor of Tea Cardomon-Cinnamon tea bags. Drop a bag or two in 2 qts of simmering cider. Add orange and lemon slices if you wish. It saves you the trouble of straining.

Posted by: Silver Spring | November 19, 2005 01:28 PM

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