Kitchen, Tools & Tips

Thanksgiving Holiday Tips Part Two
By Annie Copps

Thursday, November 18, 2010
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thansgiving turkey

Feeling a little antsy about the holidays? I have a few ideas that might help you relax and enjoy the spirit of all these celebrations. And if you missed it, see part one of my holiday tips.

11. Pick up a few extra bags of cranberries and pop them in the freezer—after the holidays, they'll be scarce.

12. It's the one day of the year to eat with no restraint. This is not the day for diets. Be full—unbutton your pants if you have to.

13. Invite guests to your home and don't get hung up on the table being too crowded or things not being perfect—it's better to invite a neighbor, friend, or relative who would have been alone otherwise, rather than to fret that someone is sitting in a folded metal chair or eating off a plate that doesn't match your pattern.

14. If a guest brings a surprise dish that doesn't go with your menu, serve it anyway. So much of Thanksgiving is about tradition and memories—if Aunt Sarah needs to make chocolate cranberry turnip salad as part of her tradition, let it slide.

15. Thanksgiving is not the day to try out a new recipe. Stick with what you are comfortable with and that you know will work.

16. Instead of one GIANT turkey, consider two or three smaller ones. Everything will cook faster (consider cooking one the day before and one the day of, so that you can present one beautiful browned bird tableside), smaller birds will be more tender and juicy, and if you have a large crowd, you'll have more drumsticks.

17. Turkeys are notorious for being finicky to cook, because the white breast meat cooks more quickly than the darker meat of the drumsticks. There are several ways to even the playing field: brine your turkey, butterfly your turkey, remove the legs and cook separately, and/or cover the breast with foil (remove the last 45 minutes to brown the skin).

18. Baste or not to baste? Basting does very little to add to the flavor of your turkey (not much of that flavor actually gets absorbed), BUT basting the breast does cool it down (by evaporation) and slows down the cooking time of the breast meat which lets the legs catch up a little.

Thanksgiving Holiday Tips

Thursday, November 18, 2010
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thansgiving feast table

Do the holidays leave you frazzled? Overtired? Confused? Overwhelmed? If so, then I am here to help with a few tips that ought make things easier for you and everyone you are celebrating Thanksgiving with.

  1. First, be thankful. Take time and pause to reflect on the big and small things in your life that you are grateful for—that means food on the table and people to share it with.
  2. Make a timeline so that you can schedule shopping for the week, the day of the feast and an oven schedule so you know what needs to go in and when.
  3. Read through all of your recipes to make sure you are clear about the order of instructions and all the ingredients you'll need.
  4. Check and make sure that you have all the pots and pans you'll need.
  5. Check and make sure you have all the plates, flatware, napery, serving utensils, glassware, and chairs that you'll need. If you are short ask a guest to pitch in.
  6. Do as much as you can before BIG Thursday. Most purees can be made a week in advance and frozen. Make the pies, stuffing, etc., the day before.
  7. Go easy on the table decor. Avoid fancy and elaborate floral arrangements and knick knacks on your table. You'll have a lot of color with all the foods being served and with plates passing around and serving utensils poking out here and there, you'll need more space than usual on your table.
  8. Make use of extra hands in your house. The night before rent a movie and put family members to work peeling butternut squash, green beans, or other time-consuming jobs that'll slow you down the next day.
  9. Make a list of all the ingredients you will need a week before.
  10. If you have a frozen turkey, be sure to begin defrosting it on Monday—in your fridge, a 14-pound turkey will take 2-3 days. If you forget, fill a large, clean cooler with cold water and put your bird in there, changing the water every hour. If you are lucky (we told you to defrost your turkey earlier!) your bird will be ready in 8 hours.

Salt Versus No Salt
By Lidia Bastianich

Thursday, November 11, 2010
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beef in suace

To salt or not salt the water, that is the question. I used to boil vegetables in salted water but I found that if I boiled them in unsalted water they would retain more of their natural flavors. And after drying them while they are still steaming hot, I toss them with some coarse salt, to enhance their natural goodness. Does it really make a difference? Indeed it does.

Instead of making a saline solution out of the boiling water, which permeates the vegetable throughout, salting later allows the vegetable to retain its pure flavor. In addition, the sprinkled salt adds another dimension by seeping into the vegetable while still hot. The vegetables that best respond to this method are: String beans, broccoli, and zucchini. But I also find it's better with cabbage, beets, chard, and other greens.

Lobster Tips from the Wife of a Lobsterman
By Annie Copps

Thursday, October 14, 2010
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We have a terrific cookbook out, Best New England Recipes, which covers 75 years of recipes from Yankee Magazine. While going through our archives, from 1979, I came upon this fool-proof advice for "perfect" lobsters, from Bertha Nunan.

According to Bertha, the wife of a lobsterman, "The secret to cooking lobsters is not to murder them. Give them a nice, slow, respectable way out. Don't put them in boiling water, and don't drown them in too much water. Boiling them in a lot of water just boils their flavor out, and too much water waterlogs them.

1. I put in two inches of water, whether I'm cooking two lobsters or 14.

2. I take a salt container, and with the spout open, I pour it three times around the pot; then, plop! at the end [about three teaspoons].

3. When the water is boiling, put in the lobsters, put the lid on, and steam them for 20 minutes. Not a minute less or a minute more....

4. When they're done, draw up your butter and serve the lobster with a dish of vinegar as well.

5. Now the next step is what a lot of people, and practically all restaurants, ignore:
I always put in fresh salted water for every batch of lobsters." (Emphasis added).

annie coppsAnnie B. Copps is a senior editor at Yankee Magazine. Annie oversees the magazine's food coverage, both as an editor and as a contributor of feature stories and columns.

Basic Vinaigrette
By Annie Copps

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
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A basic vinaigrette is a whipped concoction of vinegar and oil. When done well, the vinaigrette lightly coats fresh garden greens and nudges them towards greatness. While this recipe is very easy, it is important to get it right so that you don't end up with a glunky sauce over your delicate lettuces!

You're going for a balanced seasoning to enhance the flavors. This dressing is best used shortly after mixing, but if it sits a day or two (covered and refrigerated), add a few teaspoons of vinegar to brighten the flavors again.

Yield: about 2 cups

½ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, smooth or grainy
1 small shallot, minced
1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, and shallot.

While vigorously whisking, pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil into the mix and whisk until well incorporated. Continue whisking.

In a thin, steady stream whisk in the remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper.

(Courtesy: Yankee Magazine)

annie coppsAnnie B. Copps is a senior editor at Yankee Magazine. Annie oversees the magazine's food coverage, both as an editor and as a contributor of feature stories and columns. Annie B. Copps is a senior editor at Yankee Magazine. Annie oversees the magazine's food coverage, both as an editor and as a contributor of feature stories and columns.

Tips for Using Olive Oil
By Lidia Bastianich

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
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I hear it from you out there all the time: I love it, but how do I use it? Here are my tips for how to best use olive oil.

1. Extra virgin olive oil is best when used in its raw form—to drizzle on salads and before serving a bowl of soup or pasta.

2. Do not use olive oil for frying, canola or vegetable oil is best for that, but you can add a little olive oil to the pan for flavor.

3. When cooking or sautéing, use olive oil, but keep the heat at a low temperature. Olive oil has a low smoking point.

4. Olive oil is a great antioxidant for your body when ingested.

5. To prevent oxidation or rancidity, store olive oil in full, small bottles, tightly shut in a dark and cool place.

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich was born in Pola, Istria, on the northeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. She is a cookbook author, restaurateur, and TV chef extraordinaire. Watch Lidia’s Italy Saturdays at 1:30pm on WGBH 2 or Sundays at 4pm on WGBX 44."

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