The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine - November

Every cook has a go-to cookbook for recipes but also as a resource for conversions, measure, and cooking guidelines. One of my resource books is The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Since Thanksgiving is coming upon use, I thought I would answer some of the most asked questions about cooking your turkey according to America’s Test Kitchen.

Guidelines: Start turkey in a 425-degree oven then finish at 325 degrees following these directions:

For a 12-14 lb. turkey start at 425 for one hour, finish for 1-1 ½ hours serves 10 to 12

For a 15-17 lb. turkey start at 425 for one hour, finish for 1 ½ to 2 hours serves 14 to 16

Knowing my oven, I use these times and temperature as a guideline, but I rely on a good temperature and I want my turkey to read at least 165 degrees everywhere in the bird, thighs and breast. Remember to let your turkey rest at least 15 minutes after removing from oven. There will be further cooking with the temperature increasing at least 5 degrees.

My personal recommendation is do not stuff the turkey. However, do not forget to check inside the cavity of the turkey and remove the giblets (heart, gizzard, liver, and the neck) that are usually in a parchment paper bag. Use these for your giblet gravy. For the stuffing to get to a safe temperature, the rest of the turkey is over cooked. That is why in the South, we make dressing. Another tip: If you do not brine your turkey, buy a self-basting turkey. If your turkey has a pop up indicator on it, ignore it and use a probe thermometer.

As I was strolling down the aisle at the grocery store, I noticed the large number and varieties of butter and margarine. At my house, butter is preferred. Margarine has some advantages such as no cholesterol, but to keep the calorie count down, water is whipped with it. So when you melt the margarine it

evaporates away. In baking, using a high water content margarine can lead to tough baked goods. Pick your butter for your taste and price you want to pay. Just use either in moderation.


I have had a lot of pushback about trying new dishes and alternative cooking methods for Thanksgiving. This is one of the holidays where the meal is set in stone.

"This is the way we always served it and nobody will eat it if it is not the way “Aunt Hettie” fixed it."

The one side dish that I always try to change is the sweet potatoes. I am not fond of canned or over-cooked sweet potatoes drowning in butter and brown sugar and with crispy browned marshmallows floating on top of the liquid sea of syrup and then with pecans that are so water logged they sink to the bottom of the dish and have lost their natural crunch.

My contribution to an alternative side dish for Thanksgiving has some brown sugar, but no marshmallows, no pecans and no sea of sugar syrup. I found many recipes for different ways to roast sweet potatoes. I seem to be getting more popular to not raise your blood sugar when you eat sweet potatoes and to add some zip to the dish.

I have mentioned in previous articles of prepping a meal with the intention of using the leftovers as a base for another meal. I just finished eating what I think was my greatest repurposing of a meal so far. It started with making Chicken Pezole, a traditional soup from Mexico, and ended as a flavorful chicken potpie. Thickening the leftover soup and adding peas and carrots made the base for the potpie. In addition, I checked how much chicken was still in the soup and added more. The hominy in the soup substituted for the potato in the chicken potpie. I lined the bottom, and sides of a casserole dish with pie shell pastry. You can use either, store bought or homemade. Added the filling and topped with more piecrust. The only changes I would make for later potpies would be to par bake the shell and top the casserole dish with puff pastry. I still have leftover soup frozen in Mason jars to make individual potpies in the future.


I found a variation on one of my favorite chicken and garlic dishes. Baked garlic becomes very mild and sweet, so do not be afraid when a recipe calls for roasting with 40 to 50 cloves of garlic. My favorite recipe calls for a ceramic pot with a tight fitting lid. You place a whole chicken and 50 cloves of garlic in the pot with a tablespoon of oil. Seal the lid with salt dough like the one you use for crafts. When you chip the crust off after cooking, the most fragrant moist chicken you ever had is waiting.

This recipe calls for only 40 cloves of garlic and you do not have to make the craft project to enjoy it. The recipe is adapted from “American Gourmet” and found on the New York Times cooking app.



2/3 cup olive oil

Eight chicken drumsticks

Eight chicken thighs

Four celery ribs, cut into four inch-long strips, about 12 total.

Two cups chopped onion

Six parsley sprigs

One teaspoon dried tarragon

Half-cup dry vermouth

Two and one-half teaspoons salt

Quarter teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Dash grated nutmeg

Forty cloves garlic, unpeeled

Freshly sliced French bread.


1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a shallow dish, coat the chicken pieces evenly with oil.

3) In a heavy 6-quart casserole, combine the celery, onions, parsley, and tarragon.

4) Lay the oiled chicken pieces on top. Pour on the vermouth.

5) Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.

6) Tuck the garlic cloves in and around the chicken pieces.

7) Cover the casserole tightly with aluminum foil, then the lid.

8) Bake 90 minutes without removing the lid.

9) Strain the pan juices and serve the chicken, pan juices, and garlic cloves with French bread.

10) Diners should squeeze the buds of garlic from their husks onto the bread, and then spread the garlic like butter.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes


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