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Secret Thanksgiving Tricks from Chef Gusteau

November 25, 2009

by Chef Gusteau

I love watching people carve turkeys.  On one hand, I am thrilled to see the love of food and sharing that occurs during Thanksgiving (which should be the case year-round, right?).  Like the movie Ratatouille taught us, anyone can cook.  On the other hand, I am absolutely amused by the crazy techniques and gestures that I see during the traditional turkey carving rituals.  So, here are some tips to get you safely through the holidays!

I will not get into the preparation of the turkey…it’s been done before and bastardized a hundred times over.  Truss it if you want.  Brine it or fry it if you want.  Me, I throw tradition out the window and break down the entire turkey before cooking and bake it in eight pieces (two each of breasts, legs, thighs and wings).  I am done in half of the time, and the roasted vegetables I had under each piece become the basis for the stuffing that I cook SEPARATELY from the turkey.  The taste is perfection, and the preparation is easy.  Once it’s on your plate, you’d never know that was my method.

Which brings us to the cooked turkey before service.  I can appreciate the visual impact of bringing the entire roasted turkey to the dinner table that you triumphantly prepared for over 8 hours.  I can appreciate that you’d like to add some drama and excitement to the dinner and carve each piece for your guests.  But let’s be serious.  DO NOT sharpen your carving knife at the table!  First, let’s say you miss and cut yourself.  Kind of an evening killer, wouldn’t you say?  Or let’s say you don’t, and you manage to sharpen the knife properly in front of your friends.  Do you plan on rinsing off the knife before using it, or do you prefer to slice and serve each piece of turkey with a healthy portion of metal shavings?  Even those points aside, carving a turkey table side is very difficult, and rather impractical.    Think of it this way.  It is akin to trying to serve pieces of birthday cake by slicing horizontally through layers of frosting and eventually cake, as opposed to cutting vertically down through the frosting and into the cake.  Solution, remove the breast from the turkey and carve it into slices while it lays flat on a platter.  Your slices will be perfect and the process stress free.  Your presentation will be fantastic as you can recreate the breast and display perfectly on the platter in front of your guests.

Whichever method you choose to prepare and serve your turkey is obviously your choice.  But please consider safety first.  If you prepare stuffing in a turkey, be sure to separately bake the stuffing again once you remove it from the turkey to avoid any food illnesses.  Any foods left out after two hours without having their temperatures properly maintained pose equal health risks.  Food bacteria multiply in food with temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees.  Either fully reheat items or place them in the refrigerator for later reheating.

Take care and enjoy the Holiday Season.

Monsieur Anton says: Good tips Gusteau, but you may be ruining one of my family’s long time holiday traditions; a trip to the emergency room!  Personally I like the idea of presenting the turkey whole to family and friends.  I would then pour them another glass of wine, knowing that the drunker they get, the more they will be distracted, and dissect the bird in the kitchen, returning with a platter of perfectly sliced turkey and guests lubricated enough to fully enjoy it!

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