• October 31, 2014

Cooks share Thanksgiving dinner tips

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Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012 4:30 am | Updated: 11:50 am, Wed Jul 16, 2014.

When it comes to stuffing the table with turkeys and the fixin’s for Thanksgiving, there are several ways to serve the holiday meal. A handful of Copperas Cove restaurateurs shared their takes on the dinner.

“The sky is the limit on (Thanksgiving dinner),” said Dean Lock, owner of Five Hills Bar-B-Q. “You can make it whatever you want to do. You can just make it your own or you can do all your own versions of all your childhood favorites.”

Lock has cooked turkeys a variety of ways, just like Joy Lambert, kitchen manager at Lil’ Tex restaurant and Rebecca Hamilton, owner of Rebecca’s Kitchen in Kempner.

Lock and Lambert said deep frying the large bird can result in a great Thanksgiving meal, but make sure to do so safely.

“Deep frying to me is the best, because the juices stay in the bird,” Lambert said.

Fry it outside and make sure the bird is completely thawed, she said.

Thawing a turkey should always take place in one’s refrigerator, Lambert, Lock and Hamilton all said.

The three also said the traditional oven-baked is another “do no wrong” method to producing a great main course for the holiday.

“I like the old-fashioned way — a nice baked turkey,” Hamilton said. “Take it out plenty early, let it thaw in your fridge, rinse it off and do your magic.”

For Hamilton, the “magic” means placing salt, garlic and butter inside the cavity of the bird, she said. Then cutting slits into the skin and placing butter there.

“I cook it on the lowest setting all night,” Hamilton said. “I take the foil off just before dinner is ready to be served, turn the temperature up to brown the top and then, voila, the perfect turkey.”

Lock suggested a similar method but he said brining and injecting the turkey is his key to success. He uses Cajun butter and kosher salt when applying his method.

“I used to cook it breast-side down, so all the juices ran to the breast,” Lock said. “It is hard to do, especially when you have to flip a hot bird.”

Lambert said when people are baking their bird they should really, make sure that is covered with plastic cooking bags or foil, but if they don’t have they could use a paper shopping bag as well.

The three recommended cooking the turkey for several hours. Hamilton and Lambert said when baking their Thanksgiving meals, they cook turkey all night on the lowest setting possible.

“Leave it alone, let it cook,” Lock said. “Every time you open the oven you alternate the temperature. Put it in there and leave it alone.”

Another option is smoking, a method Lock enjoys.

Again, brining and injecting is the key when smoking, Lock said. He follows a similar method when baking.

When it comes to side dishes, the three said people should cook items their families enjoy.

For Lambert that means candied yams, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie and a pea salad, she said.

Lock prefers mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and seasonal squashes, he said.

Hamilton recommended whipped potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce mixed with one package of raspberry Jello, and candied yams.

To prevent stressing on the day, shop early and prepare as much as you can ahead of time, they said.

“I think the key thing is, that people don’t over-think it and stress too much,” Lock said. “It should be a stress-free day. ... Just sit back relax follow the directions and you will be all right.

(Thanksgiving) is always a good time to sit down and catch up with friends and family. It is a good time to sit back, eat, watch some football and take some naps.”

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