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Roasting a Turkey

With few exceptions, I’ve never known a Thanksgiving holiday that didn’t have a deliciously roasted turkey on the table. In fact I often cook two or three during the winter months just so I plenty of leftovers for making turkey pot pie, turkey burritos, turkey & dumpling stew and other family favorites.

Despite my love of turkey, this native bird tends to take up the entire oven, which leaves no room for roasted roots, stuffed sweet dumpling squash, whole-grain biscuits, and other tasty sides. As such I usually plan on sides that I can microwave or cook in the oven once the roasted turkey is done and “resting”. Plan “B” is to make it potluck and have guests bring the sides.

This year is going to be different because I ordered a Nesco 18 Qt. Professional Roaster Oven at Kmart’s online store. Not only can I roast a 20 pound turkey to perfection (I did a test run yesterday and the turkey came out amazingly tender and juicy), but I can also use this portable appliance to bake muffins, pies, lasagna and casseroles, use it as a steamer or even as a slow cooker.

Regardless of whether you cook your turkey in a roaster, in a deep fryer, or cook it the traditional way in the oven, there are a few turkey basics for safe cooking and storing to keep in mind.

- To safely thaw a frozen turkey, place the turkey in a container in the refrigerator for up to 6 days. The number of days will depend on the turkey’s weight. Plan on 2 to three days for a 6 to 12 pound turkey; 3 to 4 days for a 12 to 16 pound turkey; 4 to 5 days for a 16 to 20 pound turkey, and 5 to 6 days for a 20 to 24 pound turkey.

The second safe method is to thaw the turkey in cold water, changing the water ever 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Plan on about 30 minutes submerged in cold water for every pound of meat.

- Cook the stuffing as a side dish in the oven is always best when it comes to food safety. But if you prefer to stuff your turkey, do so at the very last minute just before cooking. Be sure to use a food thermometer to ensure the center of the stuffing reaches at least 165 degrees F.

- Test the turkey with a food thermometer as well at the meaty portion of the thigh and breast to ensure the internal temperature is at the minimum 165 degrees F. Once the turkey is done, remove from the oven or roaster and let “rest” for 20 minutes to allow the juices to soak into the meat.

- Foodborne bacteria multiplies rapidly in the “danger zone” temperatures between 40 to 140 degrees F. As such, be sure that any leftover turkey is packaged and stored in the refrigerator or oven within two hours or less.


Rosemary-Balsamic Roasted Roots

This makes a colorful and tasty side dish for turkey day or for any winter meal.

2 small to medium purple or red potatoes

2 large carrots

2 large parsnips

2 small beets

1 small rutabaga

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary)

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450°.

Peel carrots, parsnips, beets and rutabaga; cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch chunks. (Cut the larger end of each parsnip in quarters lengthwise, then cut them into 1/2 inch thick slices.)

Combine all cut vegetables in a large bowl and toss with oil, vinegar, rosemary and thyme until well coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss again.

Coat a shallow baking pan or sheet with cooking spray. Place a single layer of root vegetables in the pan. It may take two baking pans or sheets to ensure the vegetables are spread out evenly in a single layer.

Roast vegetables at 450° for 20 minutes. Stir vegetables and roast for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until they are slightly crisp and golden but tender. Place in a serving dish or plate and serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

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  1. Perfect timing for this as I was just wondering how I was going to make my side dishes when the turkey will take up the entire oven! So you convinced me and I will be going out today to buy a roaster oven for the turkey. And your recipe for roasted roots looks delicious so I'm putting that on my Thanksgiving menu too. Looking forward to your next post.

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