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turkey stuffing

By Chef Todd

Get The Turkey Stuffing
Under Your Turkey’s Skin This Year!

When it comes to turkey stuffing, I’m glad to reveal one more chef secret that I’ve been keeping all these years.

Most home cooks fear that their Thanksgiving Turkey will turn out dry, yet everything they do in preparing the bird ASSURES that it WILL dry out.

Roasting your turkey in the oven means you are using dry indirect convective heat. The heating element in the bottom of your oven heats the air. This dry air cooks the turkey.

Cooking with dry air assures that your turkey will lose moisture. Some moisture loss is desired in cooking turkey because you won't get that brown crispy skin without shedding some water.

You can't PREVENT moisture loss in cooking Thanksgiving turkey, but you can CONTROL it to assure you get the most moist bird ever, and this can start with your turkey stuffing.

This is why I’ve never understood stuffing the CAVITY of the bird. This method makes it harder to cook the turkey, and increases food safety issues.

You’ll see a new way to use turkey stuffing this year, under the skin!

Placing your holiday dressing under the skin and above the breast meat will retain moisture of the meat by insulating it from direct heat, and will allow hot air to fill the cavity, cooking the turkey more quickly.

It's a radical concept for those whose Grandmothers insisted that stuffing the cavity made your Thanksgiving turkey better. It doesn't.

Grandma also said it makes the stuffing more flavorful. It doesn't.

Brining your turkey makes it more flavorful and adds moisture. Putting turkey stuffing under the skin helps retain moisture. THIS is the way to prevent a dry Thanksgiving turkey.

Hopefully, it will inspire you to think of tradition-breaking ways to present your holiday turkey this year.

Discover a simple 5 step plan to save time, save money, explode your confidence and conquer the holiday kitchen this year with my FREE Holiday Cooking Success Class.

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By Chef Todd

Does Your Holiday Stuffing Recipe Have The Right Stuff?

I don’t think I’ve ever used a holiday stuffing recipe. That’s not to say I’ve never made a dressing for turkey, I’ve had to make it for 15,000 people! Imagine trying to follow a recipe for 15,000 people. Would it say “15,000 pinches of salt”?

I’ve been urging people to “cook like a chef at home” for years now. This is a perfect example what I mean. Cooking for 15,000 people would not allow me to go back and forth to a recipe book, examining each written line. Cooking like a chef means using basic methods, eye and taste to create outstanding results without a recipe.

There are 4 elements to any holiday stuffing recipe. Whether making a truckload or bowlful of stuffing for turkey, the method is exactly the same.

First, choose your “dry element”. This is usually white bread that has been dried until it’s rock-hard. However, you can choose to use cornbread, cracker meal, whole wheat or artisan breads, oyster crackers, saltines, or anything else that will absorb the flavors and liquids to come.

The second element is some type of rendered fat for saute. I prefer the flavor of butter, but bacon fat, giblets, oysters, or sausage work equally well.

Next, you can choose the vegetables you’d like to use for your newly created holiday stuffing recipe. Most of the time it’s mire poix (meer-pwah), the combination of onion, celery and carrots. Your creativity may move you to include jalapenos, garlic, or even apples and apricots for a new flavor.

Since we have so much dried bread or cracker meal as a base, we’ll need some liquid to bind the ingredients together. After a quick sauté of your vegetables, the pan should be deglazed with a flavorful liquid like chicken stock, milk, or cream.

The most important element is the “tea”. The seasonings you choose will create the flavor profile you desire. For poultry; thyme, rosemary, sage, and marjoram are my choices. You may decide to add heat with cayenne pepper, or give it an international feel with curry power or turmeric.

It’s best to season VERY heavily when creating your holiday stuffing recipe. The object is to make an herbal “tea” with the vegetables, liquid and seasonings. It’s this “tea” that will be soaked up by the dry bread, giving you a distinct flavor profile. Don’t be afraid to add lots of seasoning.

It’s now a simple matter of pouring your “tea” over the dry ingredients and combining them. If your stuffing is still too dry, you can always add more milk, broth or cream for the desired texture.

Your holiday stuffing recipe doesn’t have to come from a cookbook. It needn’t be written on paper. You can create any dressing you’d like by following the 5 simple steps above. If you really love this method, you can go ahead and make it for 15,000 people. Or, just for two.

What are your favorite dry elements, rendered fat, vegetables, liquids and seasonings for a holiday stuffing recipe? Please leave your comment below:

 




Turn Holiday Cooking Stress into Holiday Cooking Success this year.

 

Brining Turkey

By Chef Todd

Brining Turkey
Is Better Than Drying Turkey

Brining turkey is my favorite way to prepare my holiday bird.

People’s biggest fear is that their turkey will be dry after cooking it. This is a reasonable fear, because “roasting” is a dry-heat convective cooking process. When roasted, your turkey is cooked indirectly through the use of hot air. Hot air will evaporate moisture, making your turkey dry.

When your frustration rises from another dry bird, you might resort to a deep fried turkey in an effort to achieve your goals. Deep frying turkey is expensive, dangerous, unnecessary, and the just the wrong way to cook a carcass. Submerging your holiday bird in liquid is a much safer way than deep frying to get a moist result. You can’t burn down your house while brining turkey.

If you fear a dry turkey, adding moisture BEFORE cooking is the best strategy. Just like a grilling marinade adds moisture and flavor to your steak, brining turkey is the opportunity to add flavor and retain moisture when cooking in a dry heat process.

The most important part of brining turkey is salt.

Salt will be the medium that draws the liquid and flavors of your marinade into the meat of your turkey.

It’s important NOT to use a Kosher or Self-Basting bird, because they have already been injected with saline solution. Brining these types of turkey will give you a very salty result.

I use 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of brown sugar as a base for brining turkey. These first two ingredients must be completely dissolved in hot liquid first. If salt or sugar crystals remain in the brine, they will not penetrate the muscle tissue. This would be like sprinkling salt and sugar on the outside of the bird.

Using a 5-gallon bucket for brining my turkey, I can now add any combination of flavorful liquids and seasonings that I desire. To keep with the Fall flavors, I decide to use apple juice, apple cider vinegar, bourbon, chicken stock, cinnamon sticks, and whole peppercorns in my mixture. I’ll add enough liquid to fill half of the 5 gallon bucket.

Food safety is extremely important when brining turkey. While the presence of Apple Cider Vinegar, an acid, will lower bacterial growth, the raw bird should be brined no longer than 24 hours, and must be kept below 40F (4c) to be safe. Most people don’t have a refrigerator large enough to hold a 5 gallon bucket, so improvisation is necessary.

If you live in colder climates, the bird-in-a-bucket can simply sit in your garage. If the temperature is to climb above 40F, you can use a large cooler to brine your turkey. Add ice to the cooler every few hours and use a thermometer to assure the safety of your dinner to be.

Now you’ve combated the drawbacks of roasting. The dry cooking process has been thwarted by the liquid and flavors you’ve added 24 hours before subjecting the bird to evaporation of liquids in your oven.

Brining turkey takes no special skills, no study, no special equipment, no gallons of expensive oil and fire extinguisher at the ready like a deep fried turkey. It’s a way to create the most moist, flavorful thanksgiving turkey you’ve ever been that proud of. And, it will leave the firemen out of your holiday dinner plans.

Discover a simple 5 step plan to save time, save money, explode your confidence and conquer the holiday kitchen this year with my FREE Holiday Cooking Success Class.

Click HERE to hold your spot!

By Chef Todd

The Most Important Thanksgiving Cooking Tip of All

Of the many Thanksgiving cooking tips I can give you, this is perhaps the most important. It can be the difference between a triumphant meal and an undercooked case of food borne illness.

I get many questions on email about correct roasting temperatures. “What temperature should my oven be for turkey”? “What is the correct temperature for chicken”? “How hot should my oven be for…?”

All these questions can be answered simultaneously with the one important tip I told you about. Forget your oven temperature. Your oven is wrong anyway. It’s probably been lying to you. Your oven temperature is different from your neighbors, and it’s much different from my commercial kitchen, so why cook by EXTERNAL bird temperature?

Cooking by INTERNAL temperature is the only way to assure and quantify that your item is fully cooked. An instant read digital thermometer will tell you EXACTLY when your thanksgiving cooking efforts are complete.

You don’t need to guess. You don’t need to poke anything with a fork or gash it with a knife. A thermometer is insurance from overcooked turkeys and especially from the dangers of under-cooked poultry.

Most people’s household ovens have a range of 200F to 500F. What’s in the middle? 350 degrees is exactly in the middle. Is this why most recipes just say “cook at 350 degrees”? Would your turkey be ruined if you cooked at 375 degrees or 325 degrees? No, probably not.

Your turkey is completely cooked and safe when the thickest part of the bird reads 165F. This means if its cavity is filled with stuffing, take the temperature there. If it’s not stuffed, at the deepest part of the thigh.

You can choose any roasting temperature, as long as you understand the basic cooking method of roasting. Roasting is a dry-heat convective cooking method. It uses hot air to transfer heat to food.

Roasting is the best way to dry out an item because of the indirect use of hot air to cook foods. The higher the temperature, the faster that moisture will evaporate, proteins will stiffen, and sugars will caramelize and turn brown.

Whatever temperature your oven tells you it is, whatever temperature you choose to roast your bird, just assure you have a thermometer to tell what the internal temperature is. Internal temperature is much more important than external when it comes to thanksgiving cooking.

Do you roast, grill, smoke or deep fry your turkey? Leave a comment below:

 




Turn Holiday Cooking Stress into Holiday Cooking Success this year.

 

Buying Turkey Tips

By Chef Todd

Buying Turkey Tips Starts with Choosing Your Bird

I’ve got a lot of buying turkey tips for you this year, but the very first must be choosing your bird. There are many different classifications and labels that are placed on Thanksgiving fowl, and it can be confusing knowing which type of poultry to purchase.

A “Free Range” bird may not have as much free range as you think. The USDA requires only that birds have “some access to the outdoors”. It’s more important to know what your turkey was fed than the USDA label placed upon it by narrow definitions.

If you're buying turkey, you might think a “Fresh Turkey” must never have been frozen.

You’d be wrong. A “fresh” turkey is held at 26 degrees Fahrenheit, 6 degrees lower than the freezing temperature of water. This is allowed because turkey skin and flesh don’t freeze until 26 degrees. However, the water within the turkey does freeze and expand, causing potential damage.

The best of my buying turkey tips is don’t ever buy a turkey with ice crystals formed on it. These quick-frozen turkeys can defrost and then be re-frozen slowly, causing ice crystals to form.

The USDA will also attach “Inspected for Wholesomeness” and a “Grade” stamp on slaughtered poultry. The grading is a purely voluntary program that examines the quality of the carcass, not flavor or nutritional value.

Turkeys are graded by age. A “Fryer/Roaster” is under 16 weeks of age. It’s a very young turkey with flexible cartilage and low body fat. A “Young” turkey is 5-7 months old and represents most of the turkeys sold. A “Yearling” is about a year old, and a “Mature” turkey is more than 13 months old.

Generally, the older the bird, the tougher but more flavorful the meat. Obviously, larger birds are more mature as it takes longer to back on the pounds.

If you don’t have the ability to pre-order and visit your local turkey farm to get the most absolutely freshest turkey, my buying turkey tip is to visit your local grocery store.

The commercially produced turkeys are flash-frozen at extremely low temperatures in a short amount of time. This keeps the ice crystals that form to a minimum. Ice crystals expand and tear the flesh of a slowly frozen bird.

How much turkey should you buy? I recommend 1 pound per person that you’re feeding. After about 20% cooking loss and 40% trim loss, you’ll have 5 ounces per person. That’s enough for Thanksgiving dinner and some leftovers for the next day.

These buying turkey tips are designed to give you the information necessary for making your own decisions about what to buy.

Discover a simple 5 step plan to save time, save money, explode your confidence and conquer the holiday kitchen this year with my FREE Holiday Cooking Success Class.

Click HERE to hold your spot!

By Chef Todd

Thanksgiving Cooking Planning: Start at Your Desk, NOT Your Stove.

Are you anticipating holiday cooking stress already? Is Thanksgiving cooking planning getting you down? I fully understand, because even as a professional chef who has prepared food for thousands, I still feel the anxiety of cooking for family in my own home.

Planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, serving, wrapping leftovers, not to mention straightening your house are worthy of your worry when you don’t have a good plan. While I can’t help you with house cleaning, I can help turn holidays cooking stress into Thanksgiving cooking success this year with a few simple tips.

First, have a written plan for your menu, grocery shopping, and preparation. Don’t just “eye-ball” it at the grocery store, checking to see if that “looks” like enough potatoes. You’ll wind up at the end of the meal forcing people to eat more for fear of it “going to waste”. If it’s not consumed, then you’ve got more time in wrapping leftovers, only to discard them a few days later anyway.

Thanksgiving cooking should start with a calculator and multiply a standard portion of 5 ounces of protein, 4 ounces of starch, 3 ounces of vegetables, by the number of people you’re serving, your shopping and cooking will be more cost effective, efficient, and less wasteful. Use any number for your portion estimates, but adhere to your plan when you start shopping.

Next, have a plan for your oven space, refrigerator space, and serving vessels and utensils. You’ll have more food stored, prepared, cooked, and served than you do the rest of the year, so proper prior planning will again save last minute indecision, wasting time and increasing your stress.

“Potatoes in Grandma’s china flower dish”, “green beans in glass casserole with serving tongs” are notes you can make next to your menu plan. Estimate what can be purchased, prepared or cooked before other items. Not all Thanksgiving cooking needs to take place on Thanksgiving. You can buy things like onions or potatoes well in advance of salad greens. Buy them and cook them ahead of time for simple re-heating.

You may also want to keep an iced-down large drink cooler in your garage for the overflow that your refrigerator may not handle. Certainly, bottles and cans can go in the cooler. Ziplock or vacuum bags of mashed potatoes or butternut squash soup can be kept on ice to save fridge space for the turkey.

Lastly, consider doing “plate-up” this year. Instead of a large buffet where people’s eyes are much larger than their plates, present everyone’s first plate to them, like a restaurant. This way, you can control the initial portion, eliminating much waste, and keeping to your original portion plan. You can still have a buffet set for those that want second portions, but preparing the first plate will save time, food, and money. Perhaps you’ll do less Thanksgiving cooking this way.

There are many more methods I’ve developed to turn holidays cooking stress into holidays cooking success, but proper prior planning is the most valuable of them all for a stress-free holiday dinner.

Do you have any tricks for planning your Thanksgiving Cooking? Please leave a comment and share with everyone else. Thank You.

 




Turn Holiday Cooking Stress into Holiday Cooking Success this year.

 

By Chef Todd

Asian Squash Dumplings


My last members-only post showed you my secrets to making rustic squash ravioli with poached and mashed squash. Learning to make Asian Squash Dumplings is much easier than all that.
First, you can buy wonton wrappers at any grocery store. This is already easier than making pasta dough.
Today’s members-only blog post is meant to inspire you to create your own stuffed dumplings using wonton wrappers. Your dumplings certainly don’t have to be made with squash. Chopped shrimp, ground beef, or shredded chicken work just as well.
As always, there’s no recipe here for you, just something to make you think of a new item to cook with.
What would you use to create your own dumplings? Leave a comment below:

By Chef Todd

This Asian Slaw Squash Salad Recipe is Shaken, Not Stirred.

The Asian Slaw recipe I like to make this time of year is with the abundance of Fall squash available. The recipe isn’t a top secret; you don’t need security clearance or a license to kill. But, in secret agent fashion, this squash salad is shaken, not stirred.

Proper knife skills will make this job much easier, and holding your chef’s knife correctly is the first important step. Many people think you hold the handle of a chef’s knife like a club, with a death-grip of fingers meeting palm.

The correct way to hold a chefs knife is between thumb and fore-finger where the handle meets the blade. Then, wrap the remaining three fingers around the handle. This grip “locks” the knife in place to avoid it turning in your hand.

For our Asian Slaw, we have to create an attractive julienne of yellow squash and green zucchini. I don’t want to include the seeds in this squash salad, so the first cut is around the core of the squash, leaving as many seeds behind as possible. Those seeds I have cut from the core are scraped out with a spoon.

Cutting ingredients into attractive, consistent pieces is the reward of good knife skills. I’ll cut 2 inch pieces from the squash, and then cut them into thin julienne of 1/8th inch. Like many of my students, I find that using the chef’s knife is addictive and fun.

However, for a more consistent cut, we can also use a mandoline. This very dangerous, very sharp slicing device will cut a perfectly consistent julienne just by passing the squash over the sharp blade and teeth. If I set the depth correctly, it will leave all the seeds behind.

Now, this squash salad just needs a “flavor profile”. If we’re to make an Asian Slaw, then we’ll need ingredients and seasonings that remind us of Asian cuisine. My first thought is green onion, and using the “tip/fulcrum” method with my chef’s knife, I cut green onion tips into thin slices and add it to the julienne squash salad in a plastic container.

The real flavor is created in the seasonings that I add from this point forward. With some sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, black sesame seeds, and wasabi powder, I create an immediately identifiable flavor profile for our julienne squash salad.

It’s a very simple process to place a lid on your plastic container and shake, shake, shake. You’ll be combining ingredients better than stirring or tossing. When I let this rest in the refrigerator, I know that the vinegars and salts will be acting on the vegetables to change the flavor, texture, and moisture content to make a flavorful, crispy fresh, nutritious Asian Slaw.

You don’t have to make Asian Slaw. You can create any type of slaw recipe you desire with this same procedure. After using your knife skills or mandoline to create a julienne of your favorite vegetables, you can add any combination of vinegars, sauces, seasonings, and flavors you desire.

What goes into your favorite slaw? Please leave a comment and list the ingredients.

By Chef Todd

Why this Vegetable Lasagna Recipe Changes Everything.

A Vegetable Lasagna recipe is easy to find on the internet. Everyone will have you cooking dry sheets of pasta, letting them cool correctly, then wrestling with the limp, soggy, wet sheets to create a layered Italian dish.

I’ve taken a long hard look at lasagnas and I think something dramatic has to change. So, I went about changing it. My “new-age” layered and baked dish contains no pasta at all! I’ve created a new vegetable lasagna recipe that is going to blow your minds!

I use thinly sliced vegetables and cheeses layered into a small loaf pan to maximize the great flavor and nutrition of the farm fresh vegetables available to me. Using a chef’s knife or mandoline, I slice yellow squash, green zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes as thinly as possible. Along with sliced provolone or mozzarella cheeses, I have the basis for my new vegetable lasagna recipe.

Lining my mini loaf pan with parchment paper to assure quick removal after baking, my new way of thinking about lasagna begins with a slice of yellow squash pressed into the bottom of the pan. Then, a slice of provolone cheese, green zucchini, tomato, cheese, eggplant, squash, cheese, tomato, and so on, until the pan is overflowing with stacked slices. I press down firmly to squeeze as many layers as possible.

Of course, there are a lot of possible variations to this new age of vegetable lasagna. I thought about adding tomato sauce or sliced garlic. Perhaps next time I’ll add goat cheese or basil leaves for even more flavor. Since I’m the inventor of this new movement in layered baking, I declare there not be a written recipe for this type of thinking. All incarnations should be simply “inspirations”.

Today’s inspiration of 4 vegetables and two cheeses is removed from the 350F degree oven after about 45 minutes and the loss of much moisture. Quickly turning the mini loaf pan upside down onto a plate and removing my parchment paper, I see the beauty of my creation.

The layers of yellow, green, red, white, and purple are glued together by melting provolone cheese. Topped with marinara sauce, the blanket of red makes it even more appetizing to the eye.

Your vegetable lasagna recipe doesn’t have to include pasta either. Simply thinking of the ingredients you desire can be the inspiration of a new way that a written recipe has never covered before.

Which vegetables would you use to create a new lasagna? Be sure to leave your comment below:

By Chef Todd

Happy Birthday WebCookingClasses!

Chef Todd Mohr's online cooking classes is celebrating its first anniversary!

When he started burning recipes, Chef Todd never thought he'd be teaching thousands of people all over the world how to cook. Now, a year later, his cooking cause is catching on.

Originally, these revolutionary video cooking lessons were 16 weeks of basic cooking methods. That's almost 5 1/2 hours of cooking instruction without a single recipe! Concentrating on cooking methods over written recipes has made WebCookingClasses unique on the internet.

As the cooking classes became more popular, it expanded to 32 weeks with Advanced Cooking Methods, and then again to 48 weeks with the Pro Cooking Techniques module. In the past year, many members only benefits have been added, including a Discussion Board, new class access scroll, and members-only blog posts.

Graduates of this new approach to teaching cooking rave about the changes it's made in their lives, and their cooking. They should rave, beside being pioneers of this new type of online cooking classes, they've traveled and cooked on the beach in North Carolina, in Hawaii, Paris, and many other great food discoveries.

If you're not yet a member of WebCookingClasses, you don't have to miss-out any longer. You can join all the fun with a FREE 14 day trial. It comes with "5 Chef Secrets for Creating Amazing Meals", a fun DVD to get you started. Join the online cooking classes here.

WebCookingClasses has been successful because of all the fans, subscribers, members, viewers, and purchasers that have spread the word around the globe. Thank YOU to everyone who has helped make these online cooking classes a great success on their first birthday!

Review the past year with video clips and a SNEAK PEEK of the first four weeks of these unique online cooking classes.

What's your favorite moment from the first year of WebCookingClasses? Leave me a comment and let me know...

"5 Chef Secrets for Creating Amazing Meals at Home" DVD comes with a 14 day trial in WebCookingClasses. Cancel any time, but start your online cooking classes today!

Not just online cooking classes, chef Todd has a great cooking dvd too!

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