Thursday, November 29, 2007

Yesterday I gave the students in my Touchstones of Western Literature class an impromptu assignment: List 10 Opening Lines. From novels, not movies. I'm playing gander to their goose here, and adding three more into the bargain, plus a theme/boundary (the "from novels I have read" part). Here goes!

1. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

2. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way -- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. " (typed exactly, in ONE sentence, as per my copy of the novel). A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

3. "When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake -- not a very big one. " Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

4. "In the seventh year of his reign, two days before his sixty-fifth birthday, in the presence of a full consistory of Cardinals, Jean Marie Barette, Pope Gregory XVII, signed an instrument of abdication, took off the Fisherman's ring, handed his seal to the Cardinal Camerlengo and made a curt speech of farewell." Clowns of God, by Morris West

5. "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

6. "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem , a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream." Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck

7. "Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast." Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White

8. "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

9. "Marley was dead: to begin with." A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

10. "When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow." To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

11. "It wasn't a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance." Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

12. " Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin." Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne

13. "Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot...but the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville did NOT!" How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

Not only have I read these books, but I own copies. The lines are in no particular order, but I do profess to love some of these more than others. Some are merely nostalgic. For example, Charlotte's Web, Pooh, and the Grinch. However, you must admit, that opening line from the Grinch heralds the season better than any bell ringer huddling over a red tin pot in front of the local Walmart.

Perhaps opening lines are not so important? What moves a reader into and through a novel? Are modern readers jaded? Do they have a short attention span? Must writers grab them by the lapels and chain their wrists to the book via car chases and hair-raising adventure in the first paragraph? Or might a writer develop a story in a methodical, deliberate manner? Or am I hopelessly Victorian -- a Vermonter without time constraints, who looks forward to long winter nights tucked into a good book and a warm blanket?

I'm not sure. Who wouldn't want a first line on a list of The Best? To write words that drip off the tongue like amber honey from a warm silver spoon? Yes, that would be divine. Certainly my idea of immortality.

I love how EB White begins with the ax and death. He ends in the same place, doesn't he? Or nearly so. Anyone desiring a course in writing -- read that book and learn.

Scarlett O'Hara. Number one heroine in all commercial literature? Memorable to say the least. That opening line gives her away in a twink: charming and deceitful.

Oh, and I have read Moby Dick. Three times, for three different classes. But "Call me Ishmael" was left on the cutting room floor. Top of everyone's list. Bother. Am I always going to be bucking tradition? Probably. Typing that first line from Catcher in the Rye made me laugh in fond remembrance and want to read the little rust red book again. I wonder if it holds the magic now that I'm no longer 17? Hell. I'll always be 17.

And my number one line? Jane can write, can't she? She sums up her entire satirical jaunt into society in that one simple, thoroughly memorable, opening line. Dripping with sarcasm, waiting for readers to fall into the net. Masterful. Which reminds me....
Pride and Prejudice is the current (and final) novel in my Touchstones of Western Literature class. My students are busy reading (ha ha ha) and so must I.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

13 Pumpkin Pie Variations on a Thanksgiving Motif
(and a partridge in a pear tree?)

HUNDREDS of pumpkin pie recipes linger on the web, just waiting for you to discover them. I closed my eyes and touched the screen and gave you the first 13 that popped into my view. This week, instead of using all that space posting the full recipe (see Turkey Madness below) I gave you the link. If the title piques your interest, go in search of pumpkin enlightenment. I especially like Chiffon Pie and didn't get to it on this list. But Thanksgiving is still a week away. Hmmm, is practicing (i.e., tasting, savoring, sneeking whole pies)... fair?

1. Pilgrim Pumpkin Pie topped with Honey Ginger Cream -- Your basic pumpkin pie recipe (see Libby's can?). However, to Make Honey Ginger Cream: In a large bowl combine whipping cream, 1/4 cup honey, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger. Whip until soft peaks form. Chill 1 hour before serving. Place a spoonful on top of each slice of pie. Link to the recipe

2. Maple Walnut Pumpkin Pie -- You know I'm all about maple (VT Rocks!) and this pie sounds wonderful... except in the fine print, use maple flavoring. Okay, it's probably cost effective? Link:

3. Pumpkin Orange Crunch Pie -- Not to worry. Just orange zest and the ever-popular walnut additions. Link:

4. Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie -- Use gingersnap cookie crumbs to make the crush, et vi-ola! Link:

5. Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie -- Secret ingredient, often given away in the title, is adding a cup of apple butter. Oh, and the crunch this time relies on pecans. Link:

6. Pumpkin Toffee Pie -- Ooooh, add those cool little toffee bits. You know, the ones you find in the aisle with the bags o' chocolate chips. Verrrrrry interesting! Link:

7. Dee's Spirited Pumpkin Pie -- Yep, you guessed it! Add booze, hence "spirited." This recipe calls for dark rum, but I'll bet you could add a favorite, as long as the spirits enhanced the pumpkin. Link:

8. Pumpkin Maple Pie Supreme -- I admit that the "supreme" sucked me right into the recipe, even though I already have a maple at #2. This one has... dare I say it... REAL maple syrup! Huzzah! To celebrate maple with even more gusto, add REAL maple syrup as you're whipping the cream. Cool, huh? Link:

9. Old Fashioned Paradise Pumpkin Pie -- The recipe blurb says, "This triple-decker pie has a cheesecake layer on the bottom, pumpkin custard in the middle, and a pecan streusel layer on top. Paradise!" Oy, da calories! Link:

10. Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie -- Every party has a pooper that's why we invited you... Here's the blurb on this one, (as if you're really gonna bake it...ha!) "A sugar-free alternative to traditional pumpkin pie. Aspartame sweetener is not heat stable so be sure to add the sweetener after the pie filling has cooled to 145 degrees F (62 degrees C)." Looks like I forgot the link, but I'm sure all you need to do is substitute Splenda for the sugar. In fact, you could cut the fat content by substituting EggBeaters for the eggs and using non-fat evaporated milk. If you can't handle going all the way to non-fat, try low fat. Same goes with cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk -- use the lower fat substitutes and do not skimp on the spices. Happy Holidays!

11. Gourmet Pumpkin Pie -- If they say so. Blurb: "A very different pie than the traditional pumpkin pie." Looks pretty basic to me. Adding pecans, sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar and cinnamon to the pumpkin base. Link:

12. Mincemeat and Pumpkin Layer Pie -- Two for one!! This might just cut some corners! "This is pumpkin pie with a twist, a layer of mincemeat topped with a layer of pumpkin. Just the thing to put the zing into traditional pumpkin pie! " Link:

13. Luscious Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie -- Oooh, baby, baby! I think we have a winner! All the major food groups are given a nod: maple syrup, vanilla ice cream, cookies for the crust, whipped cream, and chocolate curls. It. Could. Work. Link:

Well, that's it for me. Of course, to tell you the truth, I'm more an Apple Pie fan. Maybe we can conjure some great apple quotes from fine writing, or continue with the fine dining motif? Until next week then.... Happy eating and Adios Ye Olde T13 Amoebas!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Okay, I'm pulling this one outta my butt. Or rather, outta mostly Martha Stewart's butt. And other turkey minds on the internet. And OMG... trust me... if you wanna find a turkey recipe, the internet will supply gems. Gems, I tell you. Don't get me started on stuffing or pumpkin pie. Mmmmm.... Oh... that's rich. I've just stumbled upon the next two week's Thursday 13. Thank you, Martha et al.

We are mostly foregoing the basic roasted turkey, stuffed or unstuffed. I'll be listing assorted techniques and/or recipes. Hard to get a grip on exactly what that means since some of this involves secrets or ingredients or methods. Oh, who cares? For goodness' sake... it's TURKEY.

1. World's Best Turkey -- I figure we could start with the best and move down the list? Actually this is not my title. Somebody out there in the internet labeled this one, and I have not tried it. But I am tempted. Here goes:
A bottle of champagne is the secret to this moist turkey stuffed with apples and baked in an oven bag."
1 (12 pound) whole turkey,
neck and giblets removed
1/2 cup butter, cubed
2 apples, cored and halved
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 (750 milliliter) bottle
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Rinse turkey, and pat dry. Gently loosen turkey breast skin, and insert pieces of butter between the skin and breast. Place apples inside the turkey's cavity. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Place turkey in a roasting bag, and pour champagne over the inside and outside of the bird. Close bag, and place turkey in a roasting pan.
3. Bake turkey 3 to 3 1/2 hours in the preheated oven, or until the internal temperature is 180 degrees F (85 degrees C) when measured in the meatiest part of the thigh. Remove turkey from bag, and let stand for at least 20 minutes before carving.

2. Maple Roasted -- Hey, I'm in Vermont, I've got syrup, and I have done this, but not used this particular internet recipe. I just basted with the pure Vermont maple syrup. You could try this:
Maple Roasted Turkey
2 cups apple cider
1/3 cup real maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3/4 cup butter
Boil apple cider and maple syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and mix in 1/2 of the thyme and marjoram and all of the lemon zest. Add the butter or margarine and whisk until melted. Add salt and ground pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until cold (syrup can be made up to 2 days ahead).

3. Cheesecloth Covered Turkey - This one via Martha Stewart's Turkey 101. Yes, I've done it and yes, the turkey is gorgeous. She mentions soaking the cheesecloth in wine and melted butter, but I couldn't find amounts. I figure you could judge that yourself. Soak some, drink some... you know the drill. Here:
The Basting Process
Cover the turkey with cheesecloth that has been soaking in butter and wine; the cloth should cover the breast and part of the leg area. Make sure the cheesecloth never dries out or comes into contact with the inside walls of the oven; in either situation, it may ignite.

Every 30 minutes, use a pastry brush (better than a bulb baster) to baste the cheesecloth and exposed area of the turkey with the butter-and-wine mixture. (The turkey pictured here is out of the oven, but basting should be done in the oven and as quickly as possible, so the oven temperature doesn't drop.) Watch the pan juices; if they are in danger of overflowing, spoon them out and reserve them for the gravy.

After the third hour of cooking, take the turkey out of the oven. Carefully remove the cheesecloth, which will have turned quite brown, and discard it. Baste the turkey with pan juices, taking care not to tear the skin, and return it to the oven.

4. Apricot Glazed Turkey-- oooooh, this sounds good. I used to make an Apricot Brandy stuffing. I might just share that next week, if I do the 13 Stuffings list... mmmm. Via the internets (I think a link might be in the text):

1 cup apricot nectar
1 cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon honey
***Herb Butter**8
3/4 cup room temperature, unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 onions, thinly sliced
6 ounces thinly sliced shallots
22 pounds whole turkey
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped sage
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

For Glaze: Combine apricot nectar, preserves, ginger, and honey in a heavy small saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened and reduced to 1-1/4 cups, about 15 minutes.

For Herb Butter: Blend 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Set aside.

For Onion Mixture: Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and shallots: saute until very soft and light brown, about 20 minutes.

Glaze, herb butter, and onion mixture can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill. Bring herb butter to room temperature before continuing.

Position rack in lowest third of oven. Preheat to 400F (205�C).

Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Season turkey cavity with salt and pepper. Place turkey on rack, and set in large roasting pan. Slide hand under skin of turkey breast to loosen skin. Spread half of herb butter over breast under skin. If stuffing turkey, spoon stuffing into main cavity. Place remaining herb butter in small saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted. Brush butter over outside of turkey. Tie legs together loosely to hold shape of turkey.

Roast turkey for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325F (165C). Roast turkey 1 hour 30 minutes, basting occasionally with pan drippings. Tent turkey with heavy duty foil; roast 45 minutes longer. Add onion mixture, 1 can broth, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage to pan. Roast 15 minutes. Brush 1/2 cup hot glaze over turkey. Continue to roast turkey uncovered until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180F, or until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced with skewer Brush occasionally with glaze, and add more broth to pan if liquid evaporates. Bake about 40 minutes longer for unstuffed turkey, and about 1 hour 10 minutes longer for stuffed turkey. Place turkey on platter, tent with foil. Let stand 30 minutes. Reserve mixture in pan for gravy.

Pour contents of roasting pan into strainer set over large bowl. Spoon fat from pan juices in bowl. Transfer onion mixture to blender. Add 1 cup pan juices to blender, and puree until smooth, adding more pan juices and chicken broth if necessary to thin sauce to desired consistency. Transfer sauce to heavy large saucepan, and bring to boil. Cook until color deepens, skimming off any foam, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe Location:

5. Upside Down Turkey --- It. Could. Work.
Upside Down Turkey
This is a simple way to prepare a moist turkey without stuffing. The secret ingredient is butter -- it enhances the bird's natural flavor. When the turkey is done, the juices may be used to prepare a gravy by adding cornstarch 1 tablespoon at a time until the liquid begins to thicken.

* 13 pounds whole turkey
* 1/2 cup butter
* 1 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Rinse turkey and remove giblets. Place turkey upside (breast) down in a roasting pan. Insert 1/4 cup butter inside the turkey. Place remaining butter in several pieces around the turkey. Pour water into the pan.
3. Cook covered in the preheated oven 3 to 3 1/2 hours until the internal temperature of the thigh has reached 180 degrees F (80 degrees C).

6. 7 Up Turkey -- I'm just the messenger.
1 turkey (any size)
1 (2 liter) bottle 7 Up

Pour 1/4 of the 2 liter bottle on the turkey when preparing in the pan. Cover with tin foil and place in oven. Cook like normal and baste often. Baste with fresh 7-UP every 45 minutes to an hour. Remove tin foil for last 45 minutes of baking to make the skin crisp and brown. Baste one last time with fresh 7-UP for the last 45 minutes. Use drippings for making gravy, makes a sweet excellent gravy. Carve and enjoy!

7. Your Basic New Orleans (or any southern city basing its cuisine on frying) Deep Fried Turkey -- Yes, I know. Many, many people (men with heart conditions?) swear by this bird. Probably more a testament to how many women truly hate this holiday and will do anything to avoid responsibility for the fate of the day -- even foist the cooking of the bird to the males who gather just outside the garage for this deep frying ritual. I have not been a party to this one, and YES I have heard that the oil never touches one's lips. Mmmm. Here's one recipe I found:

New Orleans Fried Turkey

New Orleans fried turkey is just what the name implies, a whole deep fried turkey. This method is used with chicken or with small turkeys. An 8 to 10 pound turkey is stuffed with garlic, onions, peppers and various seasonings and the entire bird is lowered into a huge vat of hot oil and fried until crispy and golden brown.

8. Turkey in a Smoker -- Again, I think this move the responsibility to the male of the species, and that might not be a bad idea. I'm not sure I'm ready to give up control, but the temptation lingers outside the boundaries of my inner chef. Vi-ola:

* 1 (10 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
* 4 cloves garlic, crushed
* 2 tablespoons seasoned salt
* 1/2 cup butter
* 2 (12 fluid ounce) cans cola-flavored carbonated beverage
* 1 apple, quartered
* 1 onion, quartered
* 1 tablespoon garlic powder
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 1 tablespoon ground black pepper


1. Preheat smoker to 225 to 250 degrees F (110 to 120 degrees C).
2. Rinse turkey under cold water, and pat dry. Rub the crushed garlic over the outside of the bird, and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Place in a disposable roasting pan. Fill turkey cavity with butter, cola, apple, onion, garlic powder, salt, and ground black pepper. Cover loosely with foil.
3. Smoke at 225 to 250 degrees F (110 to 120 degrees C) for 10 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F (80 degrees C) when measured in the thickest part of the thigh. Baste the bird every 1 to 2 hours with the juices from the bottom of the roasting pan.

9. Braised Method -- Wins for most boring.
Braising is cooking the turkey in a small amount of water or stock in a covered roasting pan in a 325° to 350° oven. The roasting pan needs to be large enough to accommodate the turkey and the lid must fit snugly on the pan. Braising is a moist-heat method similar to the oven cooking bag method. The cavity of the turkey can be filled with onions, celery and other vegetables or with your favorite stuffing.

Insert a meat thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and cook to 165°F or higher. Check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast and the wing as well. Temperature in all areas should be 165°F or higher. Pour off the wonderfully flavorful cooking liquid that accumulates in the bottom of the pan and use it for a side dish of dressing. The turkey will brown lightly during braising and this method creates a moist tender turkey.

10. Apple Cider Brined Turkey - You could go to all this trouble (see below for lots o' details) or you could do what I'm doing this year. I spent $16.00 and bought the brine from Williams Sonoma. Yeah, I know. Pricey. But I'm worth it. Maybe. If you want to know what WS says, go to their website. Actually, I bought the brine before I found this recipe. If you try it, let's do dueling turkeys?
Spiced Apple Cider Brined Turkey

* 4 cups water
* 1/2 cup kosher salt
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 3 whole cloves
* 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
* 2 bay leaves, broken into pieces
* 4 slices fresh ginger
* 1 teaspoon whole allspice, crushed
* 1/2 gallon unsweetened apple cider, chilled (8 cups)
* Turkey, 12 to 14 pounds, fresh or completely thawed
(With no injections or pre-basting)
* 2 turkey size oven-cooking bags or large plastic tub

1. Use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to crush whole peppercorns and allspice. Do not grind to a powder; large pieces should remain. In a 4-quart saucepan combine water, kosher salt, sugar, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and ginger. Stir as you bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Boil gently for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Add chilled apple cider. Stir to combine. Refrigerate brine while preparing the turkey.

3. Remove turkey from wrapper. Remove giblets and neck from body cavity and neck area. Refrigerate these parts for stock for making gravy, later.

4. Rinse turkey inside and out under cold running water. Twist wing tips and tuck behind turkey. Place two plastic oven cooking, one inside the other. Set the bags in a large stockpot or roasting pan. Or use a large plastic tub, bags not needed. Roll top of bags over for ease in handling. Place the turkey, breast first, inside the double thickness of bags. Do not use trash bags or any bag that is not food-safe (chemicals from bag will leach into turkey).

5. Pour chilled brine into turkey cavity and around outside of turkey. Pour an additional two cups cold water around turkey. Secure bag with twist tie. If using a roasting pan, turn turkey breast down. Rotate turkey four times during brining so brine reaches all parts. If using a stockpot the brine should cover the turkey, rotation is not needed. Refrigerate turkey for 12-14 hours.

* 1 cup each chopped, celery, onions, carrots
* Zest of one lemon or orange
* Olive oil or butter

6. Remove turkey from brine. Rinse under cold running water. Rinse well inside and out. Pat skin dry with towels.

7. Place turkey on a platter and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. This will allow the skin to dry. The skin will be very crisp with this drying step, however this step can be omitted. Turkey skin will still brown, but it will be less crispy.

8. Preheat oven to 350 F. Transfer turkey to a heavy roasting pan. Stuff the bird with chopped vegetables and zest. Position meat thermometer in thickest part of thigh. Tie legs together and tuck wings underneath the bird.

9. Cover the skin with softened butter or olive oil. Add 1-cup water to bottom of pan and place turkey in hot oven. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the turkey. Check the wrapper and cook according to weight. Roast turkey until temperature in the innermost part of the thigh reaches 165°F or higher. A 12-pound turkey will take about 3 hours and 15 minutes to roast. Add 15 minutes for each additional pound.

11. The turkey is done when the thermometer reaches 165°F or higher. Using an instant read thermometer, check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast and the wing. The internal temperature for all areas should be 165°F or higher. Use of an instant read thermometer is the best method to check for doneness in all three areas of the turkey.

Other methods of testing: The thigh juices will run clear when pricked with a long tined fork and/or leg wiggles freely in the joint. You may want to cook your turkey to 170 or 180°F; personal preference, if you prefer a more tender texture. Poultry is safe to eat at 165°F. Allow the bird to rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to redistribute evenly through the meat. Reserve pan juices for use in gravy, dressing, etc. Store leftover turkey in the refrigerator or freezer promptly after the meal.

11. Turkey on the Grill -- Another way to share the joy, because in my house, Steve loves to handle the BBQ, and that's fine with me (except when he overcooks my steak, but that's another list). Martha Steward magazine (in some zones) has a great picture of a salt and pepper encrusted grilled turkey on the cover. Looks great. Some basic tips for success:
Grilled turkey can be a wonderful variation from oven roasted turkey. Grilling a whole turkey or turkey breast requires indirect heat and a drip pan. Start by washing and seasoning a fully thawed bird. The covered kettle-style grill and medium hot coals are recommended for grilling. Arrange hot coals on either side of the drip pan and position the turkey, breast side down, on an oiled V-rack directly over the drip pan. Use a small 8 to 14 pound unstuffed turkey.

About midway through the cooking process, turn the bird breast up. Place about 10 briquettes on each pile of hot coals every 45 to 50 minutes to maintain medium heat. For good smoky flavor, dampened wood chips and/or chunks may be added as well.

Cover the wing tips with aluminum foil and tuck them underneath the bird to prevent burning. Insert a thermometer in the thickest innermost part of the thigh. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the wing and the thickest part of the breast too. For reasons of personal preference, you may choose to cook the turkey to higher temperatures.

If the temperature under the hood is hot enough (325°F to 350°F), grilling a 12 to 14 pound turkey should take approximately 4 hours. If your grill does not have a thermometer, an oven thermometer can be used. Cooking time may vary depending on temperature of the fire, wind and outdoor air temperature.

Okay, here are 2 officially declared (by the internet) as Downright Unsafe Methods:

12. Brown Paper Bag -- hasn't everyone heard of this one? I thought it was a joke, but I guess people try it every year. So... one word for you... don't do it:
This method involves placing the turkey in a large brown paper bag, the type used in grocery stores, and cooking the bird at a very low temperature. Experts agree that brown paper bags were never intended for use as cooking utensils. The glue, ink, chemicals and other materials used in recycling grocery bags are unsanitary and some bags may even contain tiny metal shavings.

Make It Safe - To make this method safe, replace the brown bag with a turkey-size oven-cooking bag. Cooking turkey at temperatures below 325°F is unsafe, so increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Use a food thermometer. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, you may choose to cook the turkey to higher temperatures. The temperature in all parts should read 165 °F or higher.

13. Turducken -- I thought this was a joke. But it's not. And if you realllllllly want to try it... they give you "safety" tips. Here goes:
A turducken is a partially boned turkey layered with a boned duck, then with a boned chicken and spread with layers of stuffing between each bird. The entire mass is rolled, tied and roasted at 190°F for 12 to 13 hours. According to the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline, this recipe has been circulating for a number of years.

Make It Safe - USDA Hotline representatives recommend keeping the birds chilled until ready to assemble. While boning each bird, keep the others refrigerated. After all three birds have been boned and the stuffing has been prepared, assemble the Turducken ingredients and quickly get it into a pre-heated 325°F oven. Use a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the bundle and cook the turducken to an internal temperature of 180°F or more. Check the temperature in several locations.

**One tip I gained from all this turkey research -- line the cavity with cheesecloth before you stuff, for easier removal of the dressing. Very cool. I think I'll be combining methods: apple cider brine, cheesecloth baste, and maple syrup.

Wish Bone Appetite!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

You're in a jam. You need some help.
Who ya gonna call?
Your patron saint, of course!!!
Everyone's covered!!
I did a little research. Here's an all-purpose (okay, ODD) assortment of Useful Saints. Yes, they are all real, honest-to-God (well, to the Catholic God) saints. Some were dropped off the official calendar in 1969, but that doesn't mean they aren't really saints. Those dropped off the list are just lying in wait for better times. I found all these and more on:
If you need a saint, a saint name (for baptism or confirmation), or just a good laugh, I heartily suggest taking a spin on that site.

I could have written their sad, sad stories, including a great deal of gore about their martyrdom, but I decided against piling on, with a couple exceptions. I listed what each is "for" and/or "against" but I'll tell you, that can be confusing. For example.... for: difficult children... or ... against? You be the judge!

In honor of All Saint's Day.... here goes:

1. St. Ursula - for writers, for a holy death, and for the British Virgin Islands (hey! the operative word here isn't "wtf?"... the operative word is "USEFUL" ...)

2. St. Expeditus - (I'm not kidding) - against procrastination, for merchants and navigators

3. St. K/Catherine of Alexandria - (very popular; has her own cultus which was outlawed by a pope) - she was tortured on the wheel, sooooo..... she's for craftsmen who work with a wheel, like potters and spinners, but also for knife grinders and knife sharpeners (and probably those knife thrower guys at the circus 'cuz that would combine spinning wheels and knives, right?); she's also for WRITERS (yippee!), scribes and teachers, AND... spinsters and old maids (well, maidens, too... go figure) ...and the saint for the University of Paris (rah! rah!)

4. St. Lucy - (not the one with the lights around her head; this is the Catholic list, the one who saved her mother from a hemorrhagic illness) - Lucy was sentenced to forced prostitution, but the guards sent to fetch her couldn't move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen (Go Lucy!). So they tore out her eyes. Then, after trying to burn her at the stake (the fires wouldn't light) they stabbed her to death with a dagger in the throat. Wait! Wait... it all makes sense! For: the blind, sore throats, eye problems, the blind, and authors! Also for dysentery, hemorraghes, and stained glass workers.

5. St. Clothilde - for disappointing children; also for queens, widows, and parenthood. Honestly... I don't know if "disappointing" is a verb or an adjective in this sense. Either way... well, it's a mystery.

6. St. Monica - for alcoholics, difficult marriages, and victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse, victims of adultery, wives, and mothers. I think she's our girl, ye Romance Writers!

7. St. Fiacre - for: taxi cabs, taxi drivers, tile makers and gardeners; against: hemorrhoids, sterility, syphilis, and venereal disease.

8. St. Martha - for dietitians and laundry workers, maids, and manservants. That covers me most days.

9. St. Ambrose of Milan - for: wax melters, bees, domestic animals, and learning

10. St. Angela of Foligno - for (or is that "against"???) sexual temptation (and why do they always throw "widows" into that mix?)

11. St. Draucinus - for invincible people and champions; against enemy plots

12. St. Hilary of Poitiers - against snakes, snake bites, and backward children (one must ask... who are these??)

13. St. Isidore of Seville - for computes and computer users and the internet; must therefore be against computer viruses, spam, and penis enlargment