with baking potatoes to make the best creamy mashed
is a holiday when we all eat together in a spirit of warmth,
kindness and loving togetherness. Unless, of course, someone
mentions brining a turkey. Or brings up the matter of mashed
versus "smashed" potatoes. Then things can get
really ugly really quick.
and eaters have strong opinions and are not afraid to
express them. The fact that one person has a big knife in
his hand (and controls the flow of the food) is sometimes
all that keeps dinner from dissolving into a riot.
are these two particular controversies about?
question of potatoes is purely one of taste. Or, perhaps
more accurately, texture.
mashed potatoes are silky, smooth and wonderfully rich. You
can get this combination only with baking potatoes and
copious amounts of butter and cream. The type of potato is
important because these drier potatoes have a high
percentage of starch, specifically of a type called amylose
that dissolves during cooking. These potatoes crumble almost
to flour after cooking, making them perfect for whipping
into a light, smooth puree.
are those who say that the recent popularity of so-called
smashed potatoes is nothing more than nostalgia for what we
used to call lumpy potatoes. Whatever. There are times when
a velvet-smooth puree is not what you want, when you hunger
for something a little more substantial. For these, you use
what are usually called boiling potatoes. These contain more
moisture than bakers and are higher in a starch called
amylopectin, which holds them together after cooking.
it’s this amylopectin, which is also present albeit in
smaller amounts in bakers, that turns potatoes pureed in a
food processor into a gluey mess.
it comes to turkeys, the argument is about the best way to
brine: salting the meat so that the chemistry of the muscle
changes, enabling it to retain moisture longer during the
cooking process, preventing the meat from drying out.
big question is whether it is better to brine a bird by
sticking it in a bucket of salt water or by simply
sprinkling it with salt. (Indeed, there are many out there
who are already howling at calling the latter
"brining" at all, since it doesn’t involve
salted water. They were probably hall monitors in junior
high. Pay them no mind.)
been a devoted member of both camps at different times in my
cooking career, for the last several years I have come down
firmly in the dry-brining camp. This is for reasons of both
practicality and taste.
speaking, dry-brining wins because you don’t need to keep
a big icy bucket of bird in your refrigerator.
many, that is reason enough by itself. But more important, I
think, dry-brining makes a better turkey. With wet-brining,
the bird absorbs so much moisture the meat feels spongy when
you slice through it. With dry-brining, the meat stays moist
but keeps a firm and muscular texture.
is my preference. Other cooks I respect, notably chef Thomas
Keller, disagree and still favor wet-brining. I prefer to
think this is because they have not yet tried to do it my
way, but I’m not going to fight about it. It’s
Thanksgiving, after all.
minutes. Serves 4.
baking potatoes, unpeeled
3/4 cup hot milk, evaporated milk, half-and-half or whipping
cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
Cook the potatoes: To boil, in a heavy saucepan cook the
potatoes in enough simmering, salted water to cover until
fork-tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Check occasionally and add
more water if necessary. To steam, place a wire rack on the
bottom of a kettle or large saucepan, and add water to just
below the level of the rack. Bring the water to boil, add
the potatoes, cover tightly and cook until fork-tender, 30
to 45 minutes. If the lid is not tight-fitting, check
occasionally to see if water should be added.
Peel the potatoes while they’re still hot.
a potato masher, electric mixer or ricer to mash the
Beating with a mixer or wooden spoon, gradually add heated
milk, evaporated milk, half-and-half or whipping cream,
according to taste, until light and fluffy. Potatoes will be
creamier and thinner if more liquid is used. Finish with
softened butter to taste. Season to taste with salt and
Serve immediately or spoon into a buttered casserole and
pour a light film of cream on top. Keep warm in a 250-degree
oven, covered with a towel to absorb the steam.
fat 8 g
POTATOES WITH CREME FRAÎCHE AND CHIVES
minutes. Serves 4.
pounds small fingerling potatoes
tablespoon kosher salt
cup butter (1/2 stick), cut into pieces
teaspoon fleur de sel
tablespoon finely chopped parsley
tablespoons creme fraîche
teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
tablespoons sliced chives, 1 inch long
Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water
by at least 4 inches. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring to
a boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently for about 15
minutes, until the potatoes are tender when pierced. Drain
the potatoes and set aside, reserving a cup of the potato
Return the potatoes to the pot over medium heat and smash
them slightly with a hand masher.
the butter and fleur de sel. Stir to coat the potatoes with
about 3 tablespoons of the reserved potato water to help
coat and glaze the potatoes. Adjust seasonings and stir in
serve, place one-half cup potatoes on a serving plate. Top
with a generous tablespoon of creme fraîche, a pinch of
cracked black pepper and chives.
fat 9 g
Adapted from a recipe by Suzanne Goin of Lucques restaurant.
TURKEY WITH SAGE AND BAY SALT
hours, plus 3 days chilling. Serves 12 to 14.
cup kosher salt
dried bay leaves, crumbled
teaspoon ground sage
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
to 16-pound) turkey
Pulse together the salt, bay leaves, ground sage and black
pepper in a spice grinder or mash them with a mortar and
pestle to make a fine powder. Makes 1/3 cup. The mixture can
be stored in a tightly sealed jar for up to 2 weeks.
Wash the turkey inside and out, pat it dry and weigh it.
Measure 1 tablespoon of salt mixture into a bowl for every 5
pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you’d
have 3 tablespoons kosher salt).
Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Place
the turkey on its back and salt the breasts, concentrating
the salt in the center, where the meat is thickest. You’ll
probably use a little more than a tablespoon. It should look
liberally seasoned but not oversalted. Turn the turkey on
one side and sprinkle the entire side with salt,
concentrating on the thigh. Use a little less than a
tablespoon. Flip the turkey over and do the same with the
Place the turkey in a 2 1/2-gallon sealable plastic bag,
press out the air and seal tightly. Place the turkey
breast-side up in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days,
leaving it in the bag but turning it and massaging the salt
into the skin every day.
Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt
visible on the surface, and the skin should be moist but not
wet. Wipe the turkey dry with a paper towel, place it
breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate it uncovered for
at least 8 hours.
the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the
refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1
hour. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Place the turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan; put
it in the oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the oven
temperature to 325 degrees, and roast until a thermometer
inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching
the bone, reads 165 degrees, about 2 3/4 hours total
Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer it to a warm
platter or carving board; tent loosely with foil. Let stand
at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute through
the meat. Carve and serve.
OF 14 SERVINGS
fat 6 g
hours, plus 12 hours chilling. Serves 12 to 14.
to 16-pound) turkey
Combine the salt and water in a large pitcher and stir until
the salt dissolves. Place the turkey in a pot just large
enough to hold it and pour the saltwater over it. If the
turkey is completely covered, don’t worry about using all
the brine. Cover the top with foil and refrigerate 6 hours
or overnight, turning 2 or 3 times to make sure the turkey
is totally submerged.
Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry with paper
towels. Return it to the pot and refrigerate it, uncovered,
6 hours or overnight to dry thoroughly.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the turkey on its side
on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and roast 15 minutes.
Turn the turkey to its other side and roast another 15
minutes. Finally turn it breast-side up and roast another 15
Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and roast until a meat
thermometer inserted in the center of the thickest part of
the thigh registers 160 to 165 degrees, about 2 hours.
Remove the turkey from the oven and set it aside for 20
minutes before carving.
OF 14 SERVINGS
fat 6 g