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by Keith Barber

TEN BEST! WAYS TO COOK A THANKSGIVING TURKEY

TOFURKY

A branded line of mock turkey products, usually made from tofu (soy protein) or seitan (wheat protein), tofurkey serves as vegetarian alternative to the holiday staple. Tofurkey can be served as roast, with vegetarian stuffing and gravy. Here’s a recipe for “traditional” roast: Spread the margarine on your tofurky or other mock vegetarian turkey roast. Sprinkle the poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and thyme over the roast, being sure to coat liberally and evenly. Cook according to package instructions. For further info, visit: About. com:vegetarian.

DEEP-FRIED TURKEY

Indoor models are now available for frying your turkey with less mess and less smell, though some would say less adventure, than the original outdoor models (think barbecue grill or smoker set up in the driveway, with the men-folk standing around with their brews while occasionally looking in the direction of the fryer). Food Network TV chef Paula Deen suggests using her house seasoning (salt, pepper and garlic powder), to rub onto bird, then following with your favorite dry rub before letting the bird sit and reach room temperature. Next comes the big dip into very hot peanut oil, which can easily be combustible if you’re not careful. At three minutes cooking time for pound of bird, this is way faster than the conventional oven roasting.

TURKEY BREAST

Good for smaller crowds, and/or those with a total aversion to dark meat. Serving two turkey breasts can also help the host avoid family arguments over who gets the drumsticks. It’s way easier to carve than a whole bird, but you might not have any wishbone to pull once you’ve finished carving. Higher price per pound at the grocery store, but it’s all meat, so just buy a smaller weight than if you were getting a whole bird. The key with turkey breasts is not to let them dry out. Brining is a great way to avoid this problem. Brining involves a 12-hour salt water soak (usually kosher salt and other seasonings) for the bird or breast before roasting. For further info, click on Foolproof Turkey Breast recipe by Guy Fieri at FoodNetwork.com.

TURKEY BREAST WITHOUT BRINING

This recipe passes the “one-inch rule” (a list of ingredients no longer than one inch long, and preparation instructions no longer than one inch) which means it ought to be pretty dummy proof. Mix thyme, lemon zest (uh-oh, better have a lemon zester), salt and pepper with softened margarine. Rub herb butter under skin of the breast and season outside with more salt and pepper. Drizzle breast with Rachael Ray’s famous EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and roast for 45-50 minutes for 2 five-pound breasts. Yum. For the recipe, check out RachaelRay.com, and click on Roast Turkey Breast with Herb Butter.

TURKEY TWO WAYS

This Thanksgiving recipe calls for stuffed turkey legs and roasted breast. The recipe fails the one-inch rule, but looks well worth it for the more fearless Thanksgiving host or hostess. There are separate directions for what to do with the legs and breast of a 20-pound turkey, including stuffing the legs with a foie gras-based wild mushroom stuffing. Guess that evens the score between the goose and the turkey. For further info, visit FoodNetwork.com and click on Wolfgang Puck.

WHOLE ROAST TURKEY

Here is the important advice when it comes to cooking the traditional whole roasted turkey. Carefully read the instructions on the frozen bird before you put it in the freezer. How long will it take to thaw, and how long to roast? Word to the wise, do NOT think you can pull the bird out on Thanksgiving morning to get started, no matter how early you get up. If you ignore this advice, you can plan on taking your guests to K&W as Plan B. This basic recipe calls for 15-20 minutes per pound, until internal temperature is 165-180 degrees Fahrenheit. Yep, that means you needed to get a meat thermometer, too. For further info, visit: FoodNetwork. com.

GOTTA HAVE GRAVY

Choices abound. Yes, you can get it in a jar, but why not treat your guests to the real thing instead? Gravy can be made from pan drippings (the juices and fat left in the roasting pan after you take the bird out of the oven), or starting with broth or other soup stock. Some folks prefer golden gravy, others swear by the brown gravy. Some recipes can be made ahead, while others are made just before serving. No matter which you choose, your mashed potatoes and stuffing will thank you for it.

STUFFING FOR THE BIRD

The old Pepperidge Farm standby is the quickest and easiest (just open bag and voila), with the StoveTop varieties a close second, which requires adding liquid to dry crumbs, and cooking on, you guessed it, the stove. Stuffing recipes that need to be cooked can be cooked inside the bird, while the bird is roasting, or cooked and served separately. But watch out: A stuffed bird takes longer to roast than an unstuffed bird (something about physics — mass, volume and temperature).

If in doubt, call a trusted relative with stuffing experience and ask to borrow her favorite recipe.

GOOSE

If you can’t afford turkey, as was the case for poor Bob Cratchit from Dickens’ timeless classic, A Christmas Carol, a stuffed goose is a perfectly acceptable alternative to a whole roasted turkey. Here’s a quick and easy recipe from Schlitz Goose Farms: Preheat oven to 375 degrees; score skin with a sharp knife in a check pattern;place skin side down in a large dry Teflon pan over medium heat until skin is crispy. Turn over onto flesh side until seared, then flip back to skin side, then place in oven at 375 degrees until internal temperature is 140 degrees. Remove from pan and place skin side down on paper towel and let sit for 15 minutes.

CHOP SUEY AND ROAST DUCK

If all else fails, go to Plan C — a night out at your local Chinese restaurant. Inspired by the final scene of the 1983 film A Christmas Story, when the Bumpus coonhounds pillage the Ralphie’s family kitchen on Christmas Day and devour the cooked turkey, chop suey and roast duck always go better when Chinese waiters serenade you with “Jingle Bells.”

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