A chat with chef Mark Pierce on Thanksgiving cooking
November 23, 1999
(CNN) -- Mark Pierce, Head Chef at foodvision.com and President of Fool Proof Gourmet Products joined a CNN.com chat to share tips and techniques for preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. Pierce joined the chat via telephone from Dallas, Texas on November 19, 1999. CNN.com provided a typist. The following is an edited transcript of that chat.
Mark Pierce: I'm so glad to be with all your live chatters!
Chat Moderator: How far in advance should one start preparing the Thanksgiving meal?
Mark Pierce: The article that I just had posted in on the website http://www.foodvision.com pretty much talks about preparing with a time line according when you need to start doing parts of your execution of your plan and menu. There are certain products that may be hard to find on Wednesday.. but today you can start picking those products up.
Question from fran: Can you suggest a really wonderful soup to start off the meal?
Mark Pierce: Actually, I think that because the day is full of meat and meat products, that a cream of your favorite vegetable would be a great complementary start to the meal. For instance, a broccoli or asparagus soup
Question from Bryce: How do you keep the turkey moist and not dry?
Mark Pierce: Great question! I suggest that you brine the turkey. Brining the turkey is absolutely the foolproof way to have moisture insurance to keep your turkey from drying out. Take your turkey, soak it for 8 to 10 hours in 2 gallons of water with 1 cup of salt or 2 cups of kosher salt. This procedure pumps water into the meat of the turkey, thus giving you 10 to 15 degrees of leeway in the roasting process. And it gives you the ability to hold it for longer periods of time without drying out.
Chat Moderator: Please give some tips on making gravy. There is more than one way, what is your favorite?
Mark Pierce: For making a pan gravy, the most important aspect is to take your pan drippings and build upon the flavor that you have created with roasting your turkey. I like to take the drippings, add a half-cup onion, 2 to 4 cups of chicken stock, and thicken with a "slurry." A slurry is flour and water mixed together so there are no lumps. Pour that into the boiling mixture. Add just enough to make it thick.
Question from El_Cid: I'm not a real big turkey fan, so I've decided to have a shrimp thanksgiving. Any suggestions?
Mark Pierce: Yeah! I do. If I was to have a shrimp thanksgiving, (and I grew up on the coast of North Carolina), I would have three different types of shrimp recipes that are easy; such as a grilled bbq shrimp, a shrimp creole, and a shrimp fried rice or something of that nature. And set it up in a buffet fashion to give your guests a great selection of the shrimp dishes and how different tastes you have accomplished give some variety.
Chat Moderator: What can I do if I have lumps in my gravy?
Mark Pierce: If you already have the lumps in your gravy, don't try to mash and stir em up because they won't come out. You have to drop back and punt. And you have to strain your sauce with a fine strainer, and then go back to where we were talking about the slurry... create a slurry with water and flour, bring your sauce to a boil and do that step again.
Question from Mags: How do you know when knife is sharp enough to cut a turkey?
Mark Pierce: A great test for detecting the sharpness of your knife is to take a piece of paper. Let the weight of your knife take it through the paper... if it will do that, you have a sharp knife
Chat Moderator: Many people say for food safety's sake, stuffing should be cooked in a casserole dish rather than in the turkey. However, that never tastes as good. What do you think?
Mark Pierce: I agree on the safety issue. However, if you really insist on cooking your turkey with the stuffing, the best thing is to cook your stuffing totally and bring it up to 140-150 degrees before stuffing the turkey. This will do two things; it will decrease the amount of time that your turkey will need to cook, and it will prevent the stuffing from dropping into the danger food temperature zone.
Question from Kris: What about the thermometer? How important is it that the meter reads EXACTLY what the directions on the bird say, or in Betty Crocker say? Is within 5 to10 degrees good enough?
Mark Pierce: Good question. The temperature on your thermometer, if it is a digital readout, should be adhered to fairly closely. A dial thermometer, 5 to 10 degrees can be good enough. But turkey is notorious for giving bad readings with a thermometer. So take several readings in different areas.
Question from CremeFresh: All I usually see on the table for dessert is pumpkin pie...any other ideas?
Mark Pierce: Pecan pie, apple pie... its a pie festival actually... Thanksgiving is. Don't forget chocolate cake and ice cream is great. It is a comfort holiday, and you don't need to break out the baked alaskas.
Chat Moderator: When making pumpkin pie, do you recommend using real, fresh pumpkin? Or is this too much work? Is canned pumpkin just as good?
Mark Pierce: I prefer the canned pumpkin because the intensity of its flavor is much more consistent than what you get from the fresh pumpkin.
Question from TomTurkey: Should I remove the Wishbone first when carving or the extremities?
Mark Pierce: That depends on whether it is a lotto night. Just kidding. I would remove the legs and move them out of the way so as to make an incision down the breastbone and have an easier way to carve into the breast.
Question from Bryce: What do you suggest for drinks?
Mark Pierce: hmm. OK... I think that having a combination of two types of wine, a Chardonnay and a Merlot or pinot noir. And have some non-alcoholic beverages available such as a sparkling apple cider, and good bottled water. I think that would do everyone pretty much... handle everyone from the wine lover to the kids.
Question from Mags: What's your opinion on all these low fat/ healthy cooking cookbooks? Have you sampled many of those recipes? Are they worth trying? Or what is your favorite cookbook to recommend?
Mark Pierce: I have tried several different low-fat cookbooks and have had some good results with recipes that I could relate to, such as a book .. The 99% Fat Free Book of Appetizers. It has good desserts and breads... has a great pizza dough for instance. Make sure you pick a low-fat cookbook where you can relate to the types of foods in the book. That would be my best criteria for picking out a low-fat book.
Question from Mags: Any wine brand suggestions ?
Mark Pierce: It is very difficult to suggest wine brands when I don't know someone's budget. You can never go wrong with a Berringer Vineyard. The Mondavi coastal Chardonnays. They are in the affordable ballpark for most people.
Question from zip: When a recipe says to start a turkey @ 400 degrees for X minutes, then reduce to 325, does this take into consideration how long the oven takes to cool?
Mark Pierce: Great question. No it doesn't take that into account most of the time. I would suggest that you take that time of letting the oven cool to 325 to take the turkey out. Give the oven a chance to cool a bit. Use that time to maybe baste the turkey.
Question from Mags: how often should a turkey be basted?
Mark Pierce: I like to baste mine about 20 or 30 minute intervals, and do it fairly quickly. Sometimes, rather than using a spoon or one of those bulb basters, I do it with a fairly large pastry brush. It does it wonderfully... it soaks the liquid and gets it on the turkey so I don't lose a lot of time.
Chat Moderator: How do you cook everything so it is done at the SAME time?
Mark Pierce: My advice on having everything done at the same time is to look at the cooking times of all the items you have on your menu. Reverse them and create yourself a timeline. For instance, if the turkey process will take you 5 hours, you take the turkey -- the longest item -- and put it at the top of the list. Bring your other items underneath it. Create yourself a prep list that goes in accordance with the longest time first. Another aspect in organization is to try do as much of your cutting and chopping the day before. Put it all in containers, cover it, refrigerate it. You will be amazed at the time you will save if you don't have to do all the cutting and chopping on Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m.
Question from Kris: What do you serve with turkey? any suggestions besides the traditional stuffing and squash?
Mark Pierce: I like to take and do some nice roasted vegetables and have a really good variety of sautéed, steamed and roasted vegetables that are out of the norm, and make that my "guinea pig dish."
Question from Debbie: My thing is the stuffing and being afraid to put any inside of the bird since my turkeys usually come out so delicious without. What difference in cooking time is there and should you remove stuffing right away?
Mark Pierce: Debbie, if you get great results unstuffed, don't fix something that isn't broken. Cook your stuffing independently.
Chat Moderator: My stuffing is often too gooey and moist. What can I do to fix this?
Mark Pierce: Decrease slightly the amount of liquid and look in the recipe and look at the fat content of the products in the stuffing. If it has sausage, take half the fat out of the sausage renderings. Build the stuffing with less moisture. Add the reserve moisture to it as you go along in the recipe in order to get a more desirable texture. Also another aspect of having too moist of a stuffing is if it is a stuffing that has been in the turkey, and the turkey released more moisture than normal. Sometimes that happens.
Chat Moderator: What will you be preparing for Thanksgiving dinner? Are you cooking?
Mark Pierce: Yes I'm cooking dinner for my wife. It is very simple this year. We are not leaving town. But we may have something simple here at the house and then go visit some friends and sample their goodies
Chat Moderator: Do you have any ideas for using the leftovers?
Mark Pierce: ThatŐs a great one. I have some great ideas off the beaten track. There is always the stand by turkey "Dagwood Sandwich," pot pies, soup. Other alternatives, a little more creative, are turkey tetrazini, which is nothing more than turkey sautéed with onion, tomato and fresh basil, a little of the gravy and tossed with fettuccini or spaghetti noodles. Turkey cacciatori is a great one as well.
Chat Moderator: It is bad to serve BOTH mashed potatoes and stuffing? ThatŐs two starches, is it too much?
Mark Pierce: No, I like to get back to the preface that comfort food is what Thanksgiving is all about. Yes, there is usually more than one starch in the menu, and there is usually more than one vegetable and more than one meat. It is a bountiful time that should be reflected in a bountiful menu.
Question from Mags: How long can turkey stay good in the fridge?
Mark Pierce: I would not let the turkey stay in the fridge more than 72 hours without processing the meat. Take the meat off the bone, making a stock with the bone, separate the white and dark meat, freeze what is not going to be used right away. Frozen turkey should not be eaten after 120 days after cooking, from a taste standpoint.
Chat Moderator: Do you have any comments you'd like to leave us with?
Mark Pierce: Be realistic about your Thanksgiving Day food production. Make it simple enough so that people can enjoy the day with friends and family. It is about friends and family, not about cooking all day and being deprived of the social part. I learned my lesson by missing out on the social part and togetherness, and that is important when putting together your menu and guest list. It isn't just a day for over eating and overproduction. Both can be disastrous
Chat Moderator: Thanks for joining us, Mark Pierce!!!
Mark Pierce: Be sure to brine that turkey! For "moisture insurance." Thank you for having me! It was nice being had!
Turkey links: Online help
LATEST FOOD STORIES:
Texas cattle quarantined after violation of mad-cow feed ban
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.