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Keys to Success with your Holiday Meal


From our family to yours: a few often-overlooked tips for making sure your centerpieces are perfect this holiday season. Remember, don’t skimp on the spuds OR the bird.F

Mashed Potatoes

1. For the lightest, fluffiest, use Russets; for bigger flavor, go for Yukon Golds or Yellow Finns;

2. Butter and whipping cream; whip till smooth, no more.

3. Cook them whole and cook them completely; you want them as dry as possible inside;

4. After they are cooked, drain them and return them to the pot on low heat and cook, uncovered, shaking the pot, to evaporate as much water as possible;

5. Remove the skins. A potato ricer is perfect for this, but if you don’t have one, use an oven mitt and a paring knife to pull off the peel;

6. Just say “no” to food processors, mixers and blenders. Mash those babies with just a masher; a blender will cut up the starch chains and turn your potatoes into a sticky glob;

7. Heat your liquids first; cold milk, butter, sour cream and the like will chill your potatoes and they won’t be as fluffy.

The Turkey

1. Brine him good. I start two days prior and let it soak in your concoction of choice for at least a day, two is better (there are a million versions; a basic one [makes one gallon] can be scaled up to submerge the bird: 1/3 cup black peppercorns; 8 sprigs fresh thyme; 12 bay leaves; two heads of garlic, smashed/sliced; 2 cups brown sugar; 2 cups kosher salt; 1 gallon water). Don’t be afraid to add other spices or ingredients like lemon or orange peel, apple cider, beer, rosemary, etc.;

2. Remove the turkey from the brine a day in advance and allow the skin to dry. This will ensure a crispy skin;

3. Slather the bird liberally (progressively) with butter; season lightly with kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper;

4. Don’t truss (tie up) the legs. Keeping the legs away from the body will help ensure the bird is thoroughly cooked;

5. Don’t stuff the bird. Cavity stuffing can cause uneven or under cooking;

6. Invest in a good, instant-read meat thermometer, a cooking rack and a large roasting pan (bigger than you think you need and not one made of foil). Periodically take your bird’s temperature by inserting the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the bird, between the leg and thigh, being careful not to hit the bone (it transmits heat and will give an inaccurate reading);

7. Bring the turkey to room temperature before roasting it. That means taking it out of the refrigerator for at least an hour — two is better — before cooking it.

8. Start him (or her) out at a scorching 425 F, breast side DOWN, for the first hour or so, then turn the heat down to 350F, turn the turkey over and finish breast side UP. This allows the juices to collect in the breast meat, keeping the lighter meat from over cooking and drying out.

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