After hosting family holiday celebrations and graduating from the prestigious School of Hard Knocks, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to make your life easier. Read on for some unique cooking ideas so you can relax and enjoy entertaining.
A smokey trick.
When my husband and I first married, we lived on the 37th floor of what was the Embassy Suites Hotel and Apartments. Now it’s the more impressive, Ritz Carlton. Anyway, I broiled a steak one night. Smoke rolled out of the oven and set off the alarm. The high pitched beep hurt my ears. “How do you turn it off?” I asked Danny.
“It goes off by itself,” he said, smiling since he knew what would happen next.
The problem? In a high rise building, the smoke detectors are connected to the fire department. When the beeping stopped, the fire truck’s siren could be heard from hundreds of feet below. Sooner than I thought possible, there was a knock on the door. Two firemen stood in full hard hat and waterproof coat regalia.
“Is there a fire in here?” asked the man, craning his neck to see around me.
The only fire burned in my cheeks. “No, I was cooking steak for dinner.”
He laughed and I apologized. “We would rather find smoke from dinner than an apartment fire any day.”
This became the joke around our house.
Flash forward a few years.
I’m a pie baker, but not an oven cleaner. Several times, I’ve heated up the oven only to fill the house with smoke from a blueberry pie that bubbled over the month before.
We still don’t have normal smoke detectors. Ours are connected to the house alarm and sprinkler system. A lovely loudspeaker is mounted inside and OUTSIDE of our home.
It sounds like this:
“FIRE! FIRE! YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE! GET OUT OF THE HOUSE IMMEDIATELY!” This insistent message is blasted along with a siren, wait for it, to the entire neighborhood. I envision my neighbor across the street saying, “The Lindaus burned something in the oven again.”
To avoid abject humiliation and sounding the alarm, I would shut off the smokey oven. Then I would run and open all the doors and windows no matter how frigid the temperature.
A few years ago, I forgot about another one of those dang pies. Smoke filled the kitchen, but guests were due to arrive any minute. That’s when I had an AHA moment.
I turned off the oven, opened the doors, and windows. Even with a cold blast of air and the the oven shut off, smoke poured into the kitchen from the top of the oven door.
So here’s the secret.
I soaked two kitchen towels in cold water and wrung them out. Then I lay them on the counter where half of the wet cloth hung over the oven. It covered up the smoke pouring out of the vent. It worked! I let the smoke collect in the towels until the oven cooled. Then I pulled tinfoil from the bottom of the oven which was covered in burned syrupy overspill. I threw it out and started over. My guests never knew what happened. Whew!
Turkey stuffing tip.
We live in high altitude so cooking can be a challenge. One year, I made my poor mother-in-law sick when the turkey wasn’t cooked all the way through. That was the last time I stuffed a bird.
The following year, I worried about baking my mom’s famous stuffing in a casserole. Surely, it would be a disappointment. I love its turkey flavor absorbed inside the cavity.
Right before I served it, I eyed the drippings in the pan. Oh, yeah, baby! I poured some of it over the casserole and voila. No one knew the difference. It tasted great.
Dry turkey? I have an easy fix for that too.
Coming from an illustration background, the Norman Rockwell painting called, Freedom from Want, is one of my favorites. It graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Even though it was published in March of 1943, the image embodies our ideas of Thanksgiving. The turkey, of course, is the centerpiece of the meal. See how the turkey looks? That’s a perfect way to serve it.
Yeah, well, forget about roasting it in that position.
If you want a moist bird, then simply place it breast side down. I keep it covered in a roasting pan and NEVER baste it. I let it cook in its juices in the bottom of the pan. During the last 30 to 45 minutes, I take the cover off to let it brown. It is delicious every time.
Do not baste thy turkey.
Repeatedly taking the lid off dries it out. Instead of checking the temperature or if the little plastic button has popped, I use an electronic thermometer. I plunge the pointy end into the middle of one of the breasts or deep inside the thigh. A long wire connects it to an electronic timer and temperature gauge. It beeps with the turkey reaches 165 degrees.
I look a little overheated, but happy. I flipped the turkey over to carve it, of course. Then I let the Norman Rockwell celebration begin!
Will you be cooking over the holidays? Do you have any tips to share?
Here’s a turkey safety and roasting sheet from the FDA.