Madison College chef solves Thanksgiving dinner disasters

November 26, 2013

From “Thanksgiving dinner disasters averted” — As Thanksgiving approaches, visions of burned turkeys, lumpy gravy and burned stuffing can bring kitchen anxiety to even the most seasoned cooks.

WKOW visited Madison College Culinary Arts to talk with Chef Paul Short, who teaches us how to fix the most common cooking disasters on turkey day.

“If the turkey’s not thawed completely, don’t crank up the oven — delay dinner,” Short said. “We don’t want to make people sick. It’s about getting together and having a great time, so having that great time destroyed because we rush something, that’s not going to work.”

Short says people who don’t thaw their turkeys well enough often crank up the oven temperature to compensate; however, “it’s not cooking any faster. It’s only cooking faster on the outside.”

The solution is to cut the turkey meat off the bone, slice it into 1-inch thick slices, place the slices in a pan, cover the meat with gravy, and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes until the meat reaches 165 degrees in the middle or is no longer pink.

“You just need to serve it differently,” Short said, explaining to serve the slices and gravy on a platter. “It’s not going to look like a normal Rockwell turkey.”

Short makes sure to mention that people should sanitize all knives, boards and surfaces if there are raw turkey juices.

“You really need to clean this up before you do anything else because you don’t want to make your guests or family sick from your turkey,” Short said.

Lumpy gravy is an easy problem to fix, according to Short.

“Just sieve it,” he said, holding up a fine mesh strainer. He explains that if people are adding a thickener to hot liquid, the thickener needs to be cold. Otherwise, it will form lumps or what Short likes to call “dumplings.”

To avoid burning stuffing, set the baking dish in a pan of shallow water and bake.

“The water will cause steam to come off there, so it’s going to help us create a moist stuffing and also help us in the cooking process to help that custard bond together,” Short said, explaining to bake the stuffing in the water bath the entire time it’s in the oven to avoid burning the top and bottom.


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