Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks

For teenagers, Thanksgiving often brings up images of mounds of delicious food and relaxing with family. For a host, however, Thanksgiving often brings up images of mounds of dishes to wash and stressing over family. Here are a few tips for aspiring teenage hosts so that they can have a delicious food-filled, stress-free Thanksgiving.

Mashed Potatoes
No other starch has worked its way into pop culture more than the potato. Mr. Potato Head and Ross’s “Spudnik” costume from “Friends” are a few references that come to mind.
The perfect potato dish is mashed potatoes, and the perfect mashed potatoes are soft and fluffy mounds of carbohydrates, light on the tongue and smooth in texture. However, all too often, mashed potatoes end up as gummy piles of library paste.
The main culprit is the way the potatoes are mashed. There are few ingredients in the recipe, so the way the ingredients are brought together is crucial.
The traditional potato masher is a poor tool for mashing; it over kneads half of the potatoes and leaves the other half as lumps.
A far better tool is a ricer. It looks like an oversized garlic press and can be purchased at most kitchenware stores. It is a minor investment for making superb mashed potatoes. A ricer consistently makes light and fluffy potatoes by pressing the cooked potatoes through millions of small die, resulting with an ideal, lump-free mash.

Roast Poultry
Roast poultry, whether chicken, turkey or the occasional pheasant, is the quintessential symbol of Thanksgiving. It is also the source of endless fear for home cooks. Many spurn the bird in fear of dry, tough meat.
Chefs everywhere have tried thousands of different methods to try and add flavor and moisture to the bird, and these involve more injections than plastic surgery and more knots than a trans-Atlantic sailing trip.
The most promising method is brining. Brining is the process of soaking food in salt and sugar water, and it brings moisture and flavor into the substance through the process of osmosis. Making brine is easy: Simply dissolve some salt and sugar in water with whatever flavoring desired such as herbs and spices. All it requires is some planning beforehand because the food needs to soak overnight in the solution, approximately 4 to 12 hours.
Furthermore, any roast chicken recipe can be adapted and made better by brining by simply omitting the salt.
In a taste test with two roast chickens, one plain and one brined, both turned out relatively well compared to some past disasters. However, the brined chicken was far moister than the plain. The breast meat, notorious for being dry, was leaking juices when it was cut. Overall, the brined chicken was a much better dish and had amazing results with very little effort.

Pumpkin Pie
Although the turkey might take the spotlight during Thanksgiving, the pie is everyone’s favorite part of the meal. But making a pie is no small feat, often requiring days’ worth of preparation, precise technical skills and close monitoring of the oven.
For that reason, many home cooks look toward the grocery store for help. Canned pumpkin and frozen crusts provide a quick and easy way to produce a decent pie in a rush.
In a taste test between a pie made with fresh pumpkin and a pie made with canned pumpkin, tasters overwhelmingly favored the fresh pie. While both pies taste good, people liked the fresh pies complex flavors. It is described as “delicate” and “not overpowering.” The canned pumpkin pie however, received many compliments as well. Many liked it for its bright orange color and because it “tasted more pumpkin-y.”
Although the fresh pie was far tastier, making a pie from a fresh pumpkin requires much more effort than canned. Rather than spending an hour and a half cutting, cleaning, cooking and pureeing the fresh pumpkin, one must simply open a can to make a pie from canned pumpkin.
The filling of the pie might provide much of the flavor, but the crust is equally important in providing texture and contrast. Yet the crust is the part of the pie most neglected by home cooks. Although the process of making pie crust from scratch requires a bit of planning ahead of time and extra work, a fresh crust is infinitely better than frozen.
Most recipes warn of adding too much liquid, but it is better to have too much water than too little. Due to its tendency to crack and tear, dough that doesn’t have enough moisture is very difficult to work with for amateur and veteran cooks alike.
Excess liquid however, tends to make for a tough crust. To remedy this problem, let the dough rest overnight in the refrigerator. This allows the dough to relax, resulting in a much more tender crust.
Thus, in order for the best crust possible, liberally moisten the dough and give it a good, long rest. The extra water makes the dough as malleable as Playdough, although far more delicious, while the twelve hour nap makes the flaky, tender texture that everybody loves.