Thanksgiving day is rapidly approaching, and local chef and owner Ernest Servantez, of Burnt Bean Company in The Warehouse, is offering tips to help keep area chefs from cooking up a dry bird this holiday season.
The key to creating a perfect turkey dinner starts long before the bird even reaches the oven, Servantez said.
“It all has to do with a great selection of turkey,” he said. “Make sure you get what you pay for, as I say. Be sure to get yourself a nice, medium-priced turkey from your local grocery store.”
Although there are many ways that holiday cooks prefer to prepare their turkeys, Servantez said the surefire way to prep a bird for the cooker is with a little salt.
“The key really is to brine it,” he said. “I truly believe a good brine will keep the turkey’s moisture and flavor throughout the whole cooking process. And once it goes in the oven, I cook it until the thigh area is around 180 degrees.”
Administer seasonings like thyme, bay leaves and peppercorn for an extra kick of flavor while brining the bird, Servantes said.
“As a chef, I didn’t really know what brining was until I was introduced to it, and it really was an eye-opening experience,” he said. “Ever since I learned of it, I brine everything from pork loin to chicken. Anything with white meat, in my opinion, is good for a brine. So if it’s white meat, I brine it because it breaks down the fibers, but at the same time, it really brings another level of moisture into the meat. It’s kind of like a safety net, if you aren’t good at cooking it’s still going to be juicy.”
Servantez also suggested to lather up the meat under the birds skin for additional juiciness. He also likes adding a little spice with in the gravy to give it a good kick.
“With my turkey instead of making a traditional giblet gravy, I make a cajun giblet gravy,” he said. “It gives it a little wake-up call as I call it. I start off by making your basic giblet gravy, and then I add a good blackening seasoning to it and a couple splashes of Tobasco.”
With the bird down, the next step to a delicious Thanksgiving meal is the sides, Servantez said.
“My favorite side is definitely green bean casserole,” he said. “And of curse cornbread stuffing is my second favorite. Life is good with those two guys. “
An abundance of leftovers to take home is a common occurrence in most homes and Servantez has a few tips for those who wish to avoid the disheartening taste of dry scraps.
“I always say the key to not drying out your bird after it has been cooked is to make sure you wrap it in really tight Saran Wrap or put it in a Ziplock bag,” he said. “What happens is if you put the turkey straight into the refrigerator, the air tends to dry it out.”
If brining and cooking an entire large bird sounds like too much of a stressor this holiday season, Servantez is inviting all to join him every other weekend at the Warehouse to indulge in a little slice of turkey, he said.