Let's talk turkey

By By Penny Randall / staff writer
Nov. 19, 2003
Thanksgiving is the biggest family meal of the year for many people. Everyone looks forward to the dinner that typically, in the South, features tender turkey, smooth gravy, tart cranberry sauce, rich dressing, homegrown vegetables and an abundant array of desserts.
Even if it's your first time to face the holiday stove, there's no need to worry. With good instructions, ingredients and a game plan, anyone can cook a successful Thanksgiving dinner.
Connie Shannon, one of the owners of the Village Kitchen restaurant in Meridian, said the key to a successful meal is planning.
This year instead of waiting to do everything the day before and the day of Thanksgiving why not start a week ahead.
Start by selecting the decorative accents of your table and centerpieces. Get out your serving pieces, table linens and napkins.
Shop for groceries about four days ahead. Purchase produce and fresh herbs. Begin to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. Prepare the cranberry sauce and dressing. Do not bake the dressing simply place it in freezer.
Shannon said the secret to the perfect dressing is seasoning.
Three days before Thanksgiving, start baking items like muffins and breads. Then freeze them.
With two days to go, you can prepare dishes like casseroles. Don't bake them; instead, cover and place them in the refrigerator.
On the day before Thanksgiving, remove the dressing from the freezer and place in the refrigerator to thaw. Set the table. Pick up fresh flowers and keep in a cool place. Bake your desserts.
Thanksgiving has arrived. Begin by roasting the turkey according to your recipe. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Damon Lee Fowler, author of "The New Southern Kitchen" (Simon Schuster, $26) suggests cooking the smallest turkey you can get away with, and roasting it breast side down for the juiciest results.
Finally, early on Thanksgiving, remove your breads from the freezer and thaw at room temperature. Remove the dressing and any casseroles from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before baking.
About 30 minutes before serving, heat the muffins until warm, prepare your gravy and slice the turkey.
Dinner is served.
Here are some tips to help you carve the perfect holiday turkey. Be sure to use a good, sharp knife. Sharp knives are safer and will help you smoothly cut thin, even slices without shredding the meat.
Step 1: The turkey is done when a meat thermometer is inserted in the thickest part of the turkey and reads 175 degrees. Allow the turkey to rest at least one minute per pound before carving resting makes the meat firmer, easier to slice and juicer.
Step 2: To slice the turkey, begin by removing the legs and wings. Pull the leg away from the body to reveal the joint that holds the leg to the bird. Use your carving knife to cut through the bone at the joint. Set aside the turkey legs and wings.
Step 3: After the bird has rested and the legs and wings have been removed,
separate each breast by
running the carving knife down the breastbone along the ribcage until the breast has been completely removed from the bird.
Step 4: Place the breast on the cutting board and slice it across the grain.
Source: Chef's Choice,