Chef, readers offer ideas for your Thanksgiving feast

November 21, 2012 

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and cooks have, or should have, begun their meal preparations.

A New Orleans chef and readers weigh in with turkey cooking suggestions and recipes for sides and desserts.

Remember, it is too late to thaw the turkey unless it is a small, below 8-pound bird. A small -- and I mean small -- bird can be thawed in the microwave. Most microwaves are too small to thaw a turkey, so some parts get cooked and others are still frozen -- a good way for bacteria to form.

Some experts say you can cook a frozen turkey, say 8 to 12 pounds, but plan on cooking it about 5 hours at 325 degrees. The internal temperature of the done turkey should be 165 degrees. You might want to remove the bird at 160 degrees because it continues to cook while "resting."

Chef Wayne Baquet, whose family has owned New Orleans restaurants since 1947, including the famed Eddie's, says seasoning is the key to a great turkey.

"You have to know how to season the turkey, especially the cavity," he said. "Use the seasonings you like, but remember to rub extra virgin olive oil inside and outside the turkey. This makes for pretty browning. Be sure to include onions, green onions and garlic."

Carving the turkey can be confounding, too, said Baquet, who currently owns and serves his late father's recipes at Li'l Dizzy's in New Orleans.

"Most people cut the breast against the grain," he said. "I suggest cutting off both sides of the breast and debone. Then, you put the breast on the chopping block and cut with the grain. It makes a nic

er slice."

Another of Baquet's suggestions: Get guests to help with the sides.

"One person does not want to do all the work. He or she wants to enjoy the holiday and family and friends, too," he said. "We get together and have turkey, gumbo, yams, cornbread dressings -- you know, all the trimmings. Everyone brings something."


1 (7- to 8-pound) fully cooked ham half

2 cups orange juice

2 cups ginger ale

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup orange marmalade

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Place first 3 ingredients in a large heavy-duty, zip-top plastic bag. Seal bag; marinate in refrigerator 8 hours, turning bag occasionally. Remove ham from marinade, reserving marinade. Place ham, fat side up, in a shallow roasting pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 1- 1/2 hours, basting frequently with marinade.

Remove ham from oven; reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Slice skin from ham; score fat in a diamond design. Combine brown sugar, marmalade and mustard; spread over scored fat. Bake, uncovered, an additional 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.

-- Submitted by Pat Kersteter

"This asparagus recipe is so easy and delicious," Kersteter said. "It is just the thing to fit into your busy day."


2 pounds fresh asparagus, tough ends broken off

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon peel

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Cut asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Bring two cups water to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus, reduce heat and simmer until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.

In same saucepan, combine olive oil, lemon peel and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Toss with warm asparagus. Serve warm. Garnish with lemon slices.

-- Submitted by Pat Kersteter


3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup melted margarine

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine potatoes and salt; add eggs, melted margarine, milk and vanilla. Pour into casserole. 


1/2 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

3 tablespoons melted margarine

Combine topping ingredients. Place on top of sweet potatoes. Bake 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Serves 8 to 10.

-- Submitted by Pat Kersteter


1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, cubed

1 can (15-1/4 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained

1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper

In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Cook over medium  heat until cream cheese is melted and mixture is blended, stirring often. 

Yield: 4 servings. Recipe can be doubled. Also make in advance and reheat to serve.

-- Submitted by Pat Kersteter

"This pie is two holiday or anytime favorites all rolled into one," Kersteter said.


3 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/3 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2/3 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup white sugar

3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup pecan halves

1 9-inch unbaked pastry shell

Stir together 1 egg, pumpkin, 1/3 cup sugar and spice. Spread over bottom of pie shell.

Combine 2 eggs, corn syrup, 1/2 cup sugar, butter and vanilla. Stir in nuts. Spoon over pumpkin mixture.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes until filling is set.

Serve with Spicy Whipped Cream.

To make Spicy Whipped Cream: In medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Stir in 3/4 cup whipping cream and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Chill 1 hour. Whip until stiff.

Makes one 9-inch pie.

-- Submitted by Pat Kersteter

Mom's Jell-O salad

On Thanksgiving, McCarthy will be having butternut squash soup for starters.

"We also will be having Greek spanakopita, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce made with fresh cranberries, and a lovely green salad with lettuce, fresh herbs all from the garden dressed with olive oil and fresh Meyer lemon juice, and a pinch of mustard to emulsify it," she said. "My mom always made this Jell-O salad." 


1 large box strawberry Jell-O

1 small box strawberry Jell-O

2 cups boiling water

2 (10-ounce packages) frozen strawberries

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple or equivalent amount of fresh Satsuma segments

2 mashed bananas (if desired)

1 cup pecans, halves or broken

1 large sour cream

8 ounces cream cheese

Mix water with Jell-O. Add strawberries, pineapple and banana (all juices remain). Pour 1/2 mixture in 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and 1/2 into deep bowl. Let first mixture solidify, second mixture gel. Mix softened cream cheese with sour cream and spread over thickened Jell-O. Pour jelled Jell-O over top. Let chill until entire mixture is firm. Makes a great salad or dessert.

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at Send contributions or requests to Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567. If requesting a recipe, include the name or describe it.

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