Cooks Exchange

Here is what you should be doing now to get ready for the Thanksgiving feast

Remember to check the Thanksgiving countdown list several times. Turkey Day is only two weeks away.

This is the week for cleaning, ironing and some shopping. First off, decide what tablecloths, napkins, dishes and glassware to use. If the napkins and tablecloths need ironing, do it now. Also wash all the glassware and dishes and, if using, polish the silver.

Now is the time to decide on decorations, place cards and perhaps a door wreath.

If it is a small dinner, place cards may not be needed, but for large gatherings it is a smart idea especially if guests do not know each other.

These preparations remove pressure as the big day gets closer and closer. No need to worry about these tasks, they are already done.

Gross but necessary

Now comes the icky part, cleaning the fridge. For me, this task ranks right up there with cleaning the bathroom. I always seem to find a container that should have been tossed a month ago. Ew!

While cleaning, make sure to throw away dressings or jarred items that have only a little bit left in them. Thanksgiving foods need room, so make way for the veggies, fruits, condiments and, of course, the meat, such as turkey, ham or brisket.

Early bird

If cooking a fresh turkey, order early. Fresh birds sell out quickly, so two weeks ahead may be a week too late. If buying a cooked meat, now is the time to order from supermarkets, restaurants and caterers.

Stock and pie crusts should be made now and placed in the freezer. Make several pie crusts, wrap the round crusts tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. The day before Thanksgiving remove the crusts and thaw in refrigerator.

Chef, author and TV personality Ina Garten makes an apple pie up to a month before serving. Put the pie in the pie pan in a large freezer bag and seal tightly. The day before baking move the frozen pie to the fridge to thaw.

On Thanksgiving morning bake the pie, the whole house will have the spicy fragrance, which is certain to whet guests’ appetites.

Any kind of gravy benefits from a good stock. Chefs at Food Network suggest buying turkey bones at the meat market and then roasting those bones. The roasted bones, along with vegetables, simmer in water. Strain the stock and put into a freezer container. Remove to the refrigerator the day before to thaw.

Timing

Use time wisely and shop for non-perishable items on the list this week. This is one more task to check off the list early. Frozen rolls also can be purchased and placed in the freezer until Thanksgiving.

Some skilled home chefs love to bake and love to show off their baking skills by making homemade rolls or bread. These breads or rolls can be made, baked and frozen in airtight freezer bags until Thanksgiving Day.

For me, Sister Schubert’s breads and rolls work beautifully and taste yummy.

I do like to make bread, but I like to have a free day to do nothing but make the bread or rolls. I rarely have a free day like that.

Alcohol and wines also can be bought early. Decide how much wine is needed and plan on making a special alcoholic drink in a large quantity.

This way the host or hostesses do not spend the day bartending. A non-alcoholic punch, tea, apple cider and water are must-haves. Not everyone wants the stronger stuff.

PERFECT PIE CRUST

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup cold vegetable shortening

6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water

Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust.

From Ina Garten’s ‘The Barefoot Contessa Family Style’

Note: This recipe makes 2 crusts. Remember these can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen until the day before baking the pie.

INA’S DEEP-DISH APPLE PIE

4 pounds Granny Smith apples peeled, quartered and cored

1 lemon zested

1 orange zested

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon to sprinkle on top

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Perfect Pie Crust

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut each apple quarter in thirds crosswise and combine in a bowl with the zests, juices, 1/2 cup sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

Roll out half the pie dough and drape it over a 9- or 10-inch pie pan to extend about 1/2-inch over the rim. Don’t stretch the dough; if it’s too small, just put it back on the board and re-roll it.

Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edge of the bottom pie crust with the egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top with the second crust and trim the edges to about 1-inch over the rim. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the two together with your fingers or a fork. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar, and cut 4 or 5 slits.

Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm.

From Ina Garten’s ‘Barefoot Contessa Family Style’

CHICKEN/TURKEY STOCK

Roasted turkey bones or roasted chicken wings and bones, plus giblets, but never liver

Large stockpot

Onions

Celery

Carrots

3-4 garlic cloves, optional

Water

Salt and pepper

Place turkey or chicken bones, giblets and wings in stockpot. Add twice as many onions as you do celery and carrots. If you use, 2 cups chopped onion, use 1 cup chopped celery and 1 cup chopped carrots. Mince garlic and add to pot if desired. Cover ingredients with water. Add salt and pepper.

Cook on stovetop up to 2 hours. The longer the stock cooks, the richer it gets. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze in freezer containers for up to 6 months

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