A beautiful cut of steak will only get you so far . . . next, it's all about mastering the Maillard reaction (a fancy way to describe the process of creating that crispy, caramelized crust on the outside of meat). Lucky for us, we have experts from Omaha Steaks to teach us the best technique for prepping and grilling steaks.
On the West Coast, the holidays aren't all about parties, roasts, and cookies; they're also about fresh, abundant Dungeness crabs, which are in peak supply during this time of year. But everything about the crustacean, from understanding the season to selecting the right live one, can be tricky.
To get a better handle — er, claw — on all things Dungeness, I turned to two seafood experts: wholesale distributor Mike La Rocca of La Rocca Sea Food and Misael Reyes, executive chef at the sea-centric Bistro Boudin in San Francisco. A few points I learned from the pros:
- Dungeness crabs own the West Coast. They live in Pacific Ocean waters that run all the way from San Luis Obispo, CA, to as far north as Juneau, AK.
- The season has official start days. The official kickoff of Dungeness crab season for the San Francisco Bay Area is the second Tuesday of November, and Dec. 1 for any area north of that, such as Oregon or Washington.
- Things don't always go smoothly, though. Crab conditions and price negotiations can easily delay the season. This year, it took several days for fishermen and processors to reach an agreed-upon price.
- Crab season is long, but timing is everything. Dungeness crab season doesn't actually end until June, but around 80 percent of Bay Area Dungeness is brought in by the end of the year. The rest of the harvest is brought in from regions farther north, such as Alaska.
More — including how to tell if it's a good season — when you keep reading.
A bowl of whole shell-on walnuts can be a beautiful part of a holiday spread, but the question arises: how to get at the nutmeats nestled inside? A nutcracker may be the most efficient way to go about this task, but there is another less conventional way to do it without tools, and it's a great party trick to boot.
Place two walnuts in your palm. Find a ridge on one of the nuts, and line it up with an indentation on the other, as if putting together two puzzle pieces (this keeps them locked together). Curl fingertips inward using firm pressure, as if trying to make a fist, until the ridged nut cracks open the other.
You've grilled, braised, or roasted up a beauty of a bird, but now what? While carving a turkey might seem daunting the first go-round, all it takes is a little know-how and practice (it gets easier every time!) to carve and plate a turkey worthy of centerpiece status.
P.S. Don't forget to show off the intact bird before you dig in, but carve it up in the kitchen (rather than table-side) to avoid prying eyes, all the pressure, and contain any potential mess.
Thanksgiving is one of those rare occasions where entire families gather, appreciate one other's company, and chow down on some seriously decadent dishes. But with so many dishes happening at once and tons of hustling and bustling busybodies in the kitchen, there's room for a lot of minor (and major!) Turkey Day snafus. While we should never expect the worst, being prepared for whatever predicament presents itself will only make you more grateful. Keep reading for solutions to have in your arsenal in case your Thanksgiving feast is falling apart.
- Is your turkey still frozen? There's a solution for that.
- What to do once you've brined your turkey.
- Find out a cooked turkey's internal temperature.
- Here's how to carve a turkey like it owes you money.
- Will your favorite cranberry sauce just not jell? Don't panic.
- Eek — not enough oven space? Here's the fix.
- Struggling with a sauce that's too thin? It's all gravy, baby!
- Crumbly pie crust can be delicious, but is yours literally falling apart? We'll show you how to keep it together.
- Is that dessert of yours beyond salvageable? Here are a few makeshift sweets ideas.
Last but not least, if all else completely fails, you can always eat out instead.
Anyone can carve a turkey like a pro! Using only a standard chef's knife, Eric Greenspan breaks down the whole process, saying you should carve the turkey "like it owes you money." What the heck does that mean? Watch the video to learn, and refer to our turkey-carving tutorial (with pictures!) for a detailed refresher.
Generally, I stick to basting or butter rubs to ensure a moist bird, but many Thanksgiving cooks swear by brining.
The Culinary Institute of America certainly does: they recommend brining as the very best method to ensure bold flavor and moistness. Essentially a brine is a seasoned aromatic liquid in which the turkey bathes before roasting. This technique is often used in preparing all kinds of poultry to maximize juiciness in the finished product. The salt in the brine breaks down the turkey's proteins, making it more tender and keeping in moisture that would normally be squeezed out. Here are a few important brining tips:
- Plan ahead: turkeys generally should brine anywhere from 12-15 hours.
- Choose a container large enough to hold the brining liquid and the turkey. You don't want any spillage situations!
For more tips, keep reading.
If it's crunch time and you've reached for the turkey in the fridge only to realize it's still a frigid solid mass, don't freeze: we've got some methods for quick thawing, pointers for how to know when your turkey's completely defrosted, and what to do if you don't have time to thaw your bird.
For our favorite quick-thaw method, try submerging the turkey (with its wrapping still on) in a sink or a cooler full of cold water, changing out the water every half hour. Allow 30 minutes to thaw for each pound of turkey. (If math's not your thing, then simply plug the weight of your turkey into this defrost calculator.) Keep reading to find out more, including how to tell if your turkey's completely defrosted.
Given just how much has to go down in one day over the course of Turkey Day, I'm all about planning ahead — and cooking ahead. Less craziness in the kitchen, after all, means more time to spend giving thanks with family and friends.
I'm also a huge fan of soups, which not only can be made ahead, but also imbue the entire house with an intoxicating aroma. But former Top Cheffer and restaurateur Dale Talde gave me another do-ahead dish to add to my Thanksgiving arsenal: a slow-cooked roast. With any kind of braise, "the longer it sits, the better it gets," he explained. One to two days beforehand, he pops the non-turkey main in a ceramic cooking vessel in the oven with some cooking sauce (Talde uses Korean barbecue sauce), lets it cook for several hours, and serves it right out of the pot.
I love the idea, and want to try a braised pork shoulder roasted simply with stock and herbs — nothing could be simpler. Are you braising anything for Thanksgiving this year?
Are apple cores a myth? Foodbeast thinks so — its new video on how to eat an apple like a boss has the entire apple-a-day-eating universe talking. The premise? Eating an apple from the bottom up eliminates the issue of the dreaded apple "core" and helps prevent waste.
We have to admit: we were skeptical. After all, the core of an apple is tougher and thicker, and there are seeds, stems, and other not-so-appetizing apple parts. Would this breakthrough apple-eating technique really work? We put the new method to the test, eating the apple bottom to top, "core" and all, as instructed. See the results.