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5 invaluable chefs Tips for the Thanksgiving meal

Lucky for me, this Thanksgiving I’ll be spending it in Los Angeles with my family but if  I had to cook I would have found these tips most helpful.

Lesson No. 1 in preparing food for the holiday, chefs say: Cut up the bird before cooking. Abandon the Norman Rockwell ideal of serving a whole turkey in its golden-roasted splendor. If your bird looks like that, Mr. Flay said: “Something’s wrong. Something’s either overcooked or undercooked.” To achieve the correct balance, he said: “I roast the meat until the breasts are done, and then cut off the legs and thighs. The breasts can rest, and you can cook off the legs in the drippings left in the pan.”

Lesson No. 2, Mr. Flay said: Have an abundance of chicken stock on hand, bubbling warm on the stove all day. “You slice the turkey and put it on a platter to serve it,” he said, “and then right before you go out to the table, you ladle some stock over the top to warm it and give it a little moisture, too. You do the same for the stuffing. You make the gravy with it. You go through a lot.”

Lesson No. 3 – Another useful secret of the restaurant kitchen, said Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef and owner of Prune, in the East Village, is to recognize the limits of your time and interest in making particular parts of the meal.   For the luscious stewed chestnuts with ricotta that Ms. Hamilton serves for Prune’s Thanksgiving, for instance, she does not set a prep cook to peeling chestnuts for hours and hours. Neither should you. Online sources for peeled chestnuts abound, and the small amount of time it takes to search them out outweighs the grim business of peeling them yourself.

Lesson No 4. Don’t be afraid to use international flavours and non traditional methods to create your traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone have shown to great success at the counter of their Torrisi Italian Specialties, in Little Italy. The roast turkey breast served there at lunch is the moistest, most luxuriously flavourful turkey available in New York City right now: rich and buttery, deep with rich turkey taste.

Mr. Torrisi and Mr. Carbone wrap brined breasts in plastic wrap and aluminium foil and place them in an intensely humid low-temperature oven that leaves the meat dense with moisture, heavy with flavour. Then they paint a glaze of honey and roasted garlic on the meat and place it in a hot, dry oven to create a crust. The result is turkey that tastes emphatically of turkey.   After all America is the melting pot of the world.

Lesson No. 5. Use an oven-safe thermometer with a digital readout on the counter.  That thermometer, for instance, will enhance the Thanksgiving experience — a $25 or $30 investment in moist breast meat that will pay dividends through the Christmas roast beef, spring lamb and all the way around back to Thanksgiving again. Simply run the probe into the very centre of the breast meat to ensure an accurate read.

You can read the whole NY Times article here.

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