When Larry and Rachel Gebaide of Tastebuds Catering in Davie told me they had a recipe for roasting a 20-pound turkey safely and easily in two hours I was skeptical. But I was also intrigued.
Like most people, I have only one oven, which makes it pretty tough to bake homemade rolls, pies and stuffing and roast vegetables for Thanksgiving dinner while a big old turkey is hogging the space for six hours.
So I pulled a turkey out of the freezer —not a premium bird, but a self-basting one — let it thaw in the refrigerator for a couple of days, and then called some friends to come and watch the process and sample the result. I had a backup plan for Chinese takeout in case the method didn’t work.
Two hours later, I was a believer. The turkey was evenly cooked through. It was moist, if possibly a bit less tender than a slow-roasted turkey. The method was safe, with no vats of sizzling oil from a deep fryer. The skin was crispy. The method even produced a delicious light gravy that was perfectly seasoned, requiring no effort beyond skimming fat from the pan juices.
The method evolved when the Gebaides started catering in 1995 on a tight budget, and learned too late that the used oven they had purchased only worked on broil. They had to adapt, and the two-hour roast turkey was born.
Learn from my mistake: My turkey was only 16 pounds, but because I was sure it would need at least the full two hours, I failed to watch it closely. At the two-hour mark it was at 170 degrees, so I over-roasted. I also realized too late how important it is to not leave a thick coating of the flour rub, as this burns. You can see that in the photo of my finished turkey. To avoid this, make sure the rinsed turkey is absolutely dry before rubbing, and use a pastry brush to remove excess.
And be careful: Because of the water, the pan will be quite heavy. Do not rely on a disposable aluminum pan unless you put a sturdy baking pan underneath. To reduce the weight, use a ladle to remove most of the pan juices before pulling it out of the oven.
Q: Fifteen years ago I got a recipe around the holidays for a cranberry relish made with jalapeños. I gave it out for gifts at Christmas and served it at Thanksgiving. I cannot find it anywhere. I am wondering if you can send it to me and also suggest you share with your readers and friends. It is excellent — sweet, with a little spice, just the way the holidays should be!
Charlotte Smith, Macon, Ga.
A: The addition of jalapeños to the usual cranberry-orange combination really makes it pop. I like to keep it simple, but I’ve known cooks who add a teaspoon or so of ginger, cumin or ground coriander to the basic recipe. You could also add chopped pecans or apples or dried fruits and/or add a tablespoon or so of orange or hazelnut-flavored liqueur. Or make it a salsa by adding garlic, onion and cumin.
Q: Many years ago a wonderful Jewish lady told me about a brisket she made with cranberry sauce and onion that was moist and tender. I didn't ask if it was the jellied kind or the berried sauce. Any ideas? Thanks much.
Sheila Bell , North Miami
A: This recipe has been around about as long as the grape jelly and chili sauce version, but seems particularly appropriate this year with Thanksgiving coinciding with the first night of Hanukkah. I think whole berry sauce makes a nicer presentation, but I’m sure jellied cranberry sauce would work. You can find a parve onion soup mix in the kosher section of the supermarket, or substitute finely chopped onions, salt and seasonings to taste if you keep kosher.
St. Honore Pie
Becky Gardner of Myrtle Beach, S.C., asked for help finding a recipe for a pie titled St. Honore that her grandmother loved ordering at a Charleston restaurant. Marlene Dixon, Bess W. Metcalf and Katharine Michaels all sent recipes, crediting Perditas, a restaurant that was considered the ultimate in Old Charleston fine dining during the 1960s and ’70s. It closed in the 1980s.
“The story I’ve heard about the name is that the real Perdita’s during the British occupation was a bordello, and the madam got her name from the character in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale,” wrote Michaels, who sent the photo of the pie here, from a 1978 book published by Benson & Hedges cigarettes titled Recipes from 100 of the Greatest Restaurants.
Karl Boreau tells us the name almost certainly refers to St. Honore, patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. Thanks also to Geraldine Amy, who found the cake recipe in her 1950 Gourmet Cookbook.
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