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Thanksgiving for dummies

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Thanksgiving for dummies November 19, 2000 BY MIKE KNIGHT Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be a thankless task: too many mouths, not enough help. And let’s face it, turkey’s just damn dry meat. Being a guest is no cakewalk either – damn dry meat. Around Town Books Calendar of Events Classical Music Crossword Galleries Gaming Horoscopes Jazz Pop/Rock Television Theater Travel Showcase

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A few tips, then, for which we do hope you’ll be grateful. Thanksgiving’s at my house, and I don’t know how to cook a turkey. Your first option, of course, is to lie. Go out and buy the thing prepared – we recommend Heaven on Seven’s jerk turkey – then pop it in a warmed oven and make the place smell like you cooked it. If queried for the recipe, explain it’s an old family secret you can’t possibly share. Option two: Call the Butterball Turkey Talkline (1800-323-4848). They’ve talked plenty of novices down from the ledge, and they’ll help you, too – even if you didn’t buy a Butterball. What should I do with that stuff that’s packed inside the turkey? Those would be the giblets. Nick Stellino, PBS-TV cooking show host and cookbook author, says to open the trash container and insert the giblets. “There’s a whole subculture out there against that,” he admits. But to his palate, giblets, the supposedly edible “innards” of a bird that exists on grains sprinkled liberally with turkey poop, make the gravy, well, funky. If you insist, however, simmer them down, and pour the resulting liquid into your gravy. No gravy recipe? Get a cookbook, or try this thing called the Internet that everyone’s talking about. Turkey is damn dry meat. How do I moisten it?

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Thanksgiving for dummies

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Invest in a plastic cooking bag. Stellino says bagging a bird can turn your turkey tender – but don’t just stuff the bird in the bag and walk away. You’ve got to turn Birdie occasionally, making sure the breast is pointed down for a while to ensure complete distribution of the juices, which is what makes the meat moist. Another alternative: Get to know your bird well. Very well. First, whip up a batch of stuffing. Then, Stellino advises, work your fingertips beneath the skin at the neckline of the bird; slowly separate the skin from the flesh, sort of like prying off a sopping wet T-shirt, and jam some stuffing under the skin. That’s right, under the skin, and inside the cavity, too. Stellino says the juices dripping through the stuffing will impart a fabulous flavor to the white meat, while the stuffing acts like a sweater under a jacket to keep the moisture under old Tom’s collar. Stellino also suggests brushing the bird with a light olive oil (butter will burn) and spices – thyme, sage, pepper, oregano – and searing it for one hour at 475 degrees, then lowering the heat to 350 or 375 degrees. Don’t forget to baste. Frequently. I’ve been invited to a friend’s house. Should I bring a gift or food? Gloria Petersen, owner of Global Protocol in Chicago, says flowers, candy or wine make nice, safe gifts. But she says a grape-giver’s feelings shouldn’t be bruised if the hosts don’t pop her cork. After all, they “may have other wines selected for the occasion, and it’s important to understand that.” For mothers tempted to bring a “few dishes, just in case,” a word of advice: Don’t. Just because I’m a woman, do I have to help clear the table? That one is female doesn’t necessitate helping with the cleanup. That one is not an inconsiderate cretin does. Men and women should both offer. “By offering the hostess help, she has the option of saying, ‘No, that’s fine, I’ll get it myself,’ or ‘That would be great, if you could just do those few little dishes over there,’” says Maryanne Downes-Bagley of Chicago-based Social Presence Inc. All the other guys are planted in front of the game, belching and drinking. Should I join in? Depends, doesn’t it? If it’s an unabashedly open display of loosened belts and belches, a man may be derided for not being one of the boys. But if you’re uncomfortable hanging out with the guys, try this: Sit for a spell, then, when the commercials come on, say you’ve got to run to the “head” (that’s manly lingo for bathroom). Get sidetracked on the

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Thanksgiving for dummies

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way back, help clear the dishes, then hang with the women in the kitchen. You’ll score points with both groups. I like turkey and all, but wow, the smell lingers. Still wonder why we only cook turkey once a year? As though you’ve wallpapered your home with dirty socks, the essence of day-old turkey creeps into everything. Chef Nick, who says he personally enjoys the smell, advises that you burn candles, open windows, or run the exhaust fan on the stove’s hood. We, however, prefer the old-fashioned method: vacationing in the Caribbean until it’s safe to go home.

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Crash Course How To Cook a Turkey