YOUR HOLIDAY BIRD: DELIGHT YOUR GUESTS
WITH A TASTE OF THE NONTRADITIONAL!
By Louise Whiteside
Can you count the number of times you’ve eaten the same holiday dinner? For me, it was oven-roasted turkey with cornbread stuffing and giblet gravy. For you, it was oven-roasted turkey with a traditional stuffing and a traditional gravy. If you know how many times you’ve had that same Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, my guess is your age was about the right number. Well, tradition is tradition, and you may still prefer to feast on the classic holiday bird, bursting with stuffing and roasted to perfection under a butter-soaked cheesecloth. Nothing wrong with that! However, if you’re in the mood to try a few innovative cooking techniques and new taste experiences, here are some alternative suggestions for preparing that celebrated holiday fowl.
Deep-frying whole turkeys – a technique that started in the South – has now become immensely popular nationwide. Rather than producing a greasy turkey, the deep-frying process seals the outside, yielding a deliciously juicy bird with a crispy skin. Deep-frying equipment suitable for both indoor and outdoor cooking is available at local hardware and department stores. A few rules of thumb to keep in mind when deep frying a turkey:
- A bird weighing no more than 14 pounds is best for deep frying.
- Do not stuff the bird.
- Make sure the bird is completely dry before immersing it in hot oil.
- Many chefs recommend injecting a turkey with a seasoned marinade.
- Cooking times are very short for deep frying, about three minutes per pound.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy for either indoor or outdoor deep frying.
- Be careful to follow the manufacturer’s directions for the equipment you use.
For a tasty, juicy turkey this holiday season, and to save oven space and time, cook your holiday bird in your slow cooker. In most cases you’ll need either a small turkey or a large Crock-Pot. A slow-cooked turkey may be stuffed before cooking. Rub a layer of olive oil on the bird; then dry-rub it inside and out with your favorite seasonings, including salt and pepper. For the best flavor, season a bird 24 hours in advance of cooking. Place vegetables around the bird, if desired, and begin cooking at the high setting. Internal temperature of a fully cooked bird should be 180 degrees. No basting is necessary, but if you wish to have a crisp top, baste once or twice with whole cream or egg whites.
Grilling your bird on a gas or charcoal grill will keep it moist and flavorful, giving it that wonderful taste of charcoal or wood chips. Before grilling, inject the bird with the marinade of your choice or mix together:
6 tbs. chicken stock
1 tbs. bourbon
1 tbs. Cajun seasoning
Season the inside of both cavities with Cajun seasoning or salt and pepper. Set up your grill for indirect grilling, with the heat source off to one side, rather than directly under the food. Place the bird breast side up, with a drip pan underneath, cover the grill and cook until the skin is nicely browned and the internal temperature is 180 degrees. Cover with aluminum foil if the bird is browning too quickly. Let it rest 10 minutes before carving.
Other alternatives you may want to explore include rotisserie cooking, smoking and pit cooking.
If you’re experimenting with a new cooking method – and you have the time – give it a trial run: Deep-fry a chicken or a smaller piece of meat in advance, and let your family test it out before the big day. Try out some unusual rubs or marinades. Have fun and be creative; your holiday dinner may never be the same. One exception: The kids can still have their drumsticks!