"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Don't Pick the Wrong Turkey"
It may seem obvious, but too large or small of a bird without adjusting your normal cooking methodology can cause a lot of problems - mostly ending in dry over cooked white meat! Turkeys it turns out, were never really meant to be roasted whole and from a chef's point of view it's somewhat of a food engineering nightmare - that being said, we've found a way. My ideal turkey size is 12 to 14 pounds.
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: My Go-To Turkey Brand"
Nothing against Tyson or Purdue, but I've found that some of the other natural brands have their number. Since these specialty turkeys are typically more expensive, it's not a necessity but if you are willing to splurge go for a Kosher turkey. It's well worth the money and you'll be glad you did!
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Brine Your Turkey"
For the expert home chef, don't forget to brine your turkey! Using a brine is one of the ways we cheat nature and keep the white meat tender and moist while we roast this mammoth piece of poultry.
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Frying a turkey works great!"
It cooks it evenly and the deep sear gives you a very juicy and tender bird. If you go this route, use multiple smaller bird; no larger than 10 pounds. Not sure what oil to use? As long as you or your guests don't have allergies to accommodate peanut oil works amazingly well. There are a lot of good sources online for rigging your pot correctly and keeping it safe that you definitely want to check out. The only downside of this method is you forgo your gravy drippings. Darn!
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Upside Down ot Right-side Up?"
Some chefs like to cook the turkey upside down. This actually does protect the breast from drying out, however I've found it is hard to get a "picture perfect" bird since you are basically submerging your turkey's breast meat in au jus while it's cooking. Turning it over and cranking the oven helps a little, but in my experience its just not as pretty as roasting it upright. If you aren't looking for that golden brown look, it is delicious!
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Don't Cook a Cold Bird"
My mom taught me this one after watching a program with Chef Thomas Keller. Don't cook a cold bird. Let it come up to at least a few degrees away from room temp on the outside before you toss it in the oven. It cooks evenly and browns much better.
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Perfectly Crispy Skin"
Ever wonder how Chinese chefs get that perfect duck skin? Believe it or not, a bike pump! The reaction between acids and sugars is what gives browned food its amazing taste and is whats known as the Maillard reaction. Letting a little air in between the meat and the skin is a crucial part of allowing the Maillard reaction to occur properly!
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Don't Burn Your Gravy"
Of course all these wonderful turkey tips bring us to the inevitable discussion about gravy. I take the gravy very seriously. Out of all the dishes prepared over the holidays, it's what is used to flavor many of the other items! Make sure not to burn the bottom of the pan while roasting or your gravy will be ruined.
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: The Ultimate Gravy Method"
This method is extremely simple and applies to all roasted meats, not just turkey. You want the drippings and you want all of them. Allow your turkey to rest, covered with aluminum foil, out of the oven for at least ten minutes. Strain all of your drippings from the pan and put into a small sauce pot. You'll want to taste it to see if its extremely concentrated and salty or if its still mild and flavorful and then you want to adjust it to be just right by either adding water or boiling water out of the mixture. For just a few seconds I fortify it with fresh herbs, usually parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme - just like the song. I don't use roux, I know some people will disagree with me on this but I go straight for the corn starch. Bonus - your gluten free guests will get to slather it all over their meal without worrying!
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Great Looking Green Bean Casserole"
Everybody brings a green bean casserole - because everyone wants green been casserole! But that slow cooked goodness tends not to be all that pretty to look at. If this bothers you like it bothers me here is how to fix it: in a sauce pot make your casserole sauce and separately prepare your green beans by cooking them until almost done and then tossing them in ice water (blanch them and shock them). At the last minute, toss them into your hot mixture, sprinkle the topping and put them in the oven right away to finish. The ice water shocks the beans into an electric green and the end result is green bean casserole that actually looks green. Green beans that are green. What a concept!
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Almost Homemade Cranberry Sauce"
Cranberry sauce is one of my favorites. You want to go for the real thing or buy a can and slice it up, which is best is one of life's great debates. If you want to take your canned cranberry sauce to the next level, cook it down on the stove with real cranberries and add a touch of orange liquor. Grand Mariner is the best but any would suffice. If your cranberry sauce is the real thing, then you're half way there!
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: To Stuff or Not to Stuff"
I rarely stuff my bird. Mostly I feel the bread sucks up my gravy base and I am completely unwilling to sacrifice by gravy base for stuffing. Instead, make your stuffing in a pan on the side and add a small amount of your jus to the mixture. Be sparing, your drippings are gold!
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Sage Advice"
Amateurs, beware of using fresh sage; it is much more potent than the dried stuff. You can always add more but you cannot take it out! If you have any doubts on how much sage to use, this is one of few herbs I recommend going the safer route by using dried. And, careful with sage under high heats its known to get quite bitter.
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Does turkey make you sleep?"
Everyone thinks that turkey makes them sleepy because it contains a chemical called tryptophan. While turkey does contain this sleep inducing chemical, it's highly doubtful that turkey is to blame for your post Thanksgiving football naps. It turns out that nuts, pumpkin seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken and fish, also contain high levels of tyryptophan. Maybe you're just sleepy cause you're stuffed or maybe its because Thanksgiving is one of the highest volume days for alcohol consumption in the U.S. and that, combined with the excitement of seeing family and all that tasty food just plumb wore you out!
"Thanksgiving Tips from Chef Kevin: Don't Worry About the Food"
Regardless of how perfect everything comes out, the most important thing is to have fun cooking with your family and friends. My father was a restaurateur and my mother was a Chef and every year as a kid I would make thanksgiving dinner with my parents. Some of our fondest memories are from year when we accidentally burnt the turkey because I hated the sound our kitchen timer made. Whether its a grand Thanksgiving dinner, or a friendsgiving dinner away from home - enjoying a special day with those you love is what's most important!