Tips for prepping & cooking your Thanksgiving turkey

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Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest and, a time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for, and for many of us, a time to gather with family and friends to share a meal. While we may all have different traditions as to what should be on the Thanksgiving menu, many tables will feature a roasted whole turkey at the centre. Here are some tips to help you successfully prepare and cook your Thanksgiving turkey.

THAWING

If your turkey is frozen, leave the turkey in the original package and choose one of the following methods to thaw your turkey. Do not thaw turkey at room temperature.

REFRIGERATOR METHOD

This method is preferred, as it keeps the turkey meat cold until it is completely defrosted. Leave turkey in original plastic wrapper. Place turkey in refrigerator on a tray with sides (this is helpful to catch any liquid that escapes during defrosting). Allow 5 hours per pound (10 hours/kg) defrosting time.

COLD WATER METHOD

Cover the turkey completely with cold water (the sink is a good place for this). Change water at least every hour – we recommend refreshing water every 30 minutes. Allow 1 hour per pound (2 hours/kg) defrosting time. Turkey should be cooked as soon as it is thawed and held in the fresh state for the minimum time possible to discourage bacterial growth.

CLEANING

• Wash hands thoroughly in hot soapy water before handling raw meat
• Remove plastic wrap from thawed turkey
• Remove neck and giblets from body cavity
• Rinse turkey well inside and out with cold water (optional)
• Thoroughly pat dry with paper towels
• Do not let raw meat juices touch ready-to-eat foods, either in the refrigerator or during preparation
• Do not put cooked foods on the same plate that held raw product
• Wash and sanitize any utensils, dishes or surfaces used for cutting turkey
• Keep cutting board and utensils in good repair as they can harbour bacteria inside cracks and crevices

COOKING

There are different points of view on the best way to cook a whole turkey. To brine or not to brine (click here for brining tips)? To flip or not to flip? One of the most common methods is to place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Tent loosely with aluminum foil. Roast in 325ºF (160ºC) oven until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180ºF (82ºC) for a stuffed turkey or 170ºF (77ºC) for an unstuffed turkey. For golden skin, remove foil tent for last hour of roasting.

You can find a helpful guide to cooking times depending on the size of your turkey on the Turkey Farmers of Ontario website.

When turkey is done, transfer to warm platter. Tent with foil and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. This allows time for juices at the surface of the bird to distribute evenly throughout the meat. Remove all stuffing from cavity. Carve turkey. Enjoy!

Visit http://makesitsuper.ca/ for more tips and tasty recipe ideas from the Turkey Farmers of Ontario.

Community Spotlight: The Stop CFC Drop-in Program

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Healthy, fresh ingredients are an integral part of The Stop’s community meals.

Located in Toronto’s west end, The Stop Community Food Centre strives to increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds health and community, and challenges inequality. This season, Yorkshire Valley Farms is proud to support The Stop through the donation of organic whole turkeys to be served as part of the Drop-in Program holiday meals. We chatted with Scott MacNeil, Community Chef at The Stop, about the Drop-in Program’s impact on the community, what inspired him to become a Chef, and what’s on the menu for the holidays.

What is the Drop-in Program?
The Stop Community Food Centre’s Drop-in is a safe and welcoming space where anyone, regardless of where they live, can enjoy nutritious food, meet others, and access information on social issues and community resources. Breakfast and lunch are served four days a week (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays). On Wednesdays, the Drop-in hosts The Stop’s Healthy Beginnings program, for pregnant women and new mothers.

The Stop’s Drop-in offers: services in partnership with other agencies, including an ID clinic, housing and legal services, a settlement worker, and dietetic counselling; workshops on tenants’ and employment rights; and demonstrations on how to make low-cost, healthy, delicious meals.

How many meals do you serve each year?
Last year, The Stop served more than 53,000 meals in the Drop-in.

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Community Chef Scott MacNeil in action preparing meals for the Drop-in Program.

What first inspired you to become a Chef?
It’s difficult to name one single inspiration for becoming a Chef. I cook because my mother and father made delicious food when I was growing up, always hosting dinners with friends and feeding my brothers and I well. My mother was an expert at shopping on a budget. I cook because when I was in grade 8 and was on our Quebec City school trip I ate carrot soup, and pate, and other foods that tasted better than anything I had ever had. I cook because I was not feeling fulfilled working at a desk and I wanted to work with my hands creating something immediately tangible, with immediate results. Most of all I became a Chef because I like to please people and make them happy.

How long have you worked with The Stop?
I have been at The Stop Community Food Centre for 6 years now.

What’s on the menu for the holiday meal?
We have a number of holiday meals planned. For the Christmas dinner, we will be serving dry-brined, roasted turkey with a sage butter. Stovetop stuffing, since in order to cook 15 turkeys, I need to cut them up first. Mashed potatoes and rutabaga (a personal favourite). We are also making cider glazed carrots, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts (maybe), of course gravy, our house made Stop sourdough bread, and for dessert, sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce.

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Community members share a meal.

Can you share a great ‘food moment’ that expresses the impact of the Drop-in?
I remember my first day cooking a meal at The Stop. It was the summer, August, which tends to be our busiest month of the year in terms of meals served. When we brought the food out to the Drop-in for service, the mood was tense. It was past mid-month and folks were well past the point of having any money for food, since their rent probably took the bulk of their money for the month, leaving them with basically nothing. A very stressful and disheartening situation made worse by the desperate feeling we can all relate to of not having any food energy to face your day. We started serving the meal, I think it was lasagna with Caesar salad and garlic bread, and something wild happened. The room, which had been loud and aggressive a minute before, became quiet. And for the next hour we served out that food while people ate and left, and were replaced by other diners. I received a few smiles and one or two compliments for the food, which is a good day here, as we have some harsh critics to be sure. I was struck by the power of food to change people’s mood, and their energy levels to deal with whatever the day was going to throw at them. It was a powerful moment for me to see, in a radically different way than in a restaurant, the effect my food could have on someone.

We’re obviously big fans of organic poultry here at Yorkshire Valley Farms. Can you share some of the your favourite ways to prepare chicken?
Being budget-minded, when shopping for myself I like to buy the whole chicken and roast it with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, or herb salt (that we make here at The Stop). I stuff a halved lemon, fresh thyme and sage, rosemary, and garlic cloves in the cavity and roast it on high for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to about 325°F for another 45 minutes, or more if needed. I will usually throw some potatoes, onions, carrots, and whatever other vegetable I feel like under the chicken before I cook it. You have a nice one-pan dinner. Then I pick all the meat off the bones, make a stock with them, which will become soup the next day. The remaining meat will become a pasta dish, or a Thai coconut curry, or a chicken and kale Caesar wrap for lunch.

I would also say that one of my all-time favourite chicken dishes is Chasseur, or Hunter’s chicken. I first made it in chef school in Niagara College, and remember thinking it was the best thing I had ever cooked in my life.

To learn more about The Stop, visit http://www.thestop.org/

Photos courtesy of The Stop CFC.

Creamy Leftover Turkey Soup

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This recipe comes to the YVF Kitchen courtesy of YVF team member Amberlee, who brought this to the office for lunch the week after Thanksgiving. Her soup was a big hit with the YVF crew, so we wanted to share with the YVF community so that you too could enjoy this tasty way to use up extra turkey meat.

Amberlee also explains how she makes her own turkey broth for this soup. Homemade broth is really versatile, so you can make a big batch and then store extra broth in the fridge or freezer. Substitute into your favourite recipes instead of water for a flavour boost – try using broth instead of water when cooking rice or grains.

Creamy leftover turkey soup
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery ribs with leaves, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4-5 small potatoes, cut into small cubes
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp each dried parsley flakes, herbs de Provence, and ground sage
1 tsp fresh thyme, stems removed
1-1/2 cups milk
4 cups cooked Yorkshire Valley Farms organic turkey, cut into bite-size pieces
5 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 cups homemade turkey broth (See note below regarding turkey broth. Alternatively, you can substitute chicken stock.)
2 cups frozen peas
1/4 cup half-and-half cream (optional)

Heat butter and olive oil in a large soup pot. Sauté onion, celery and potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and seasonings. Gradually add milk and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add broth. Add turkey meat and carrots. Add more broth, if necessary, to achieve desired consistency. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add peas. Cover and simmer for 15 more minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Finish with cream, if using.

Tip: Don’t use purple potatoes or carrots for this soup. While they are a fun way to add colour to other dishes, they will turn your soup an unpleasant greyish colour.

Homemade turkey broth
1 Yorkshire Valley Farms organic turkey carcass
1 onion, quartered
3 celery ribs with leaves, quartered
10 peppercorns
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1/2 tsp dried ground sage
water

Put all ingredients into a large soup pot. Add enough water to cover turkey carcass. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and allow to simmer for 1-1/2 hours. We suggest you hold off on adding salt during the cooking process. This gives your broth more versatility for use in a variety of dishes and avoids over-salting. Adjust the seasoning when you add the broth to your desired recipe.

To store extra broth, allow to cool and then transfer into containers for storage in the fridge. Broth can also be frozen. Skim fat off the top before freezing. To cool broth quickly, fill sink with cold water and set pot into sink. Change water after 10 minutes, if necessary, until broth is fully cooled.

Spending the Holidays with Fidel Gastro’s Matt Basile

During the summer we had the pleasure of working with Matt Basile of Fidel Gastro’s. We got to see first-hand how he jumps from Priscilla (his beloved food truck) to Lisa Marie (his beloved restaurant), while filming Rebel Without A Kitchen on Travel + Escape  in between. It got us thinking, what would the holidays look like for a guy like him? So, we asked!

The Original Lisa Marie Family

The Original Lisa Marie Family

Not too far off from his day-to-day life, being surrounded by food and people is what Matt looks forward to the most once the holidays come around. Some of his favourite dishes he’ll bring to the table are lemon butter roasted turkey breast, slow roasted beef tenderloin and grilled large shrimps in tomato gravy. We sure would love to have a seat at his Thanksgiving or Christmas table!

Since turkey is usually the main event at any holiday meal, we asked Matt to give us some advice on how to make it with a hint of Olé!

“Make sure you season the turkey well before it goes in the oven and that you’re basting the turkey every 45 minutes to an hour after the first hour of cooking.”

A Fidel Gastro's Yorkshire Valley Farms Organic Turkey

A Fidel Gastro’s Yorkshire Valley Farms Organic Turkey

After sitting down from a day of cooking, with a glass of wine in-hand, Matt will set all his worries aside and focus on what’s right in front of him; family, friends and food.

His most memorable holiday moment was the first time he hosted Christmas for his family, just a few years ago. Matt says,

“I did all the food planning,  the Chris Kringle and even the sorry looking Christmas tree. It felt good to give back.”
Matt continued giving back to his family and sharing the holiday spirit, this past Thanksgiving. He and his partner hosted both of their families at Lisa Marie, which brought both sides together to celebrate.
Fidel Gastro's Matt Basile & Kyla Zanardi

Fidel Gastro’s Matt Basile & Kyla Zanardi