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If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc

November 2, 2009

November brings us to turkey time again. I get a lot of patients wanting to talk turkey this time of the year. I'll give a short rundown of everything I know and save you having to write in.

  • Turkeys, for the most part, come frozen hard as granite. You need to follow the instructions on the package and thaw it in the bottom of the icebox for three or four days before cooking.
  • You want to give your bird a good bath before you start getting him or her ready for the oven or smoker or frying pot. Just wash in cool, running water. Make sure you get all the giblets out of his inside. Pull off anything hanging loose. Pat dry with paper towels and you are ready to proceed.
  • I prefer cooking the dressing on the outside of the bird. (Yeah, I know, some of you say stuffing; I say dressing. It's the same.) If you want your filling inside the bird, do it that way. I would put in just a peeled onion and a peeled apple.
  • The little pop-up thingie don't always work for telling when the bird is done. Get a meat thermometer or learn the clear-juice deal.
  • If you are going to smoke your bird, I would recommend no dressing or fruit in the body cavity. If the smoke and heat has room to circulate, it will work a lot better. Again, learn how to tell if he is done.
  • Turkey fryers scare me to death. I really doubt I will ever use one. If you are comfortable with them go ahead on. Remember, they don't belong on a wooden deck or wooden anything. You don't want anything else near that can catch fire. That includes small children. As a matter of fact, you should bar any child under the age of twelve from being within twenty feet of an operating turkey fryer. All the fryers come with instructions. Read and understand them. I don't want to be having to wrap you in gauze on Thanksgiving Day.
That said, let's get to the business at hand.

John asks:

I have a recipe for a braising liquid that calls for white wine. Do you have a recommendation? Should I use the cooking wine?

John: I have been on the wagon so long, I can't recommend a vintage. Ask your friendly wine dealer. As for the cooking wine, forget them, they are bad. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Haley has a coffee maker problem:

We live where the water contains lots of minerals. My coffee maker will load up with lime in a short time. I have tried cleaning it with vinegar as recommended, but it's not very satisfactory. Do you have a secret way to clean a coffee maker?

Haley: I have the same problem with hard water here in the hills. There are two solutions to the problem. Number One: You can use only distilled water for making coffee. Number Two: My solution to the problem is to buy the cheapest coffee maker I can find. When it gets to running too slow, I throw it away and replace it. You can get a decent coffee maker for about fifteen bucks. The cost of the vinegar you save will near pay for the coffee maker. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Ellen wants to know:

I have heard of red eye gravy. What is it and how is it made?

Ellen: Red eye gravy is a sauce popular in the southern United States. It is made with country ham. To make red eye gravy, after the ham is fried, you pour the grease in the pan into a container and save it. Then you deglaze the pan with a cup of strong black coffee. Next the grease is added back in and stirred until it comes to a boil. Simmer it a few minutes and season to taste. Some recipes call for thickening the gravy with flour. It is nearly mandatory that you serve hot biscuits with your ham and red eye gravy. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Jason has a nutty question:

What is the best way to peel pecans?

Jason my lad: The folk I know who peel a lot of pecans use a Texas inertia nutcracker to make the crack, and then peel the shells off with a pocket knife. This nutcracker uses a rubber band for power, so you do not have to develop the strong hands required by a regular nutcracker. In my humble opinion, unless you like spending hours shelling pecans and getting sharp pieces of shell all over the house, find a source of pre-shelled pecans. If you find some good ones, they will keep in the freezer for a long time. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Josie wants to know about wild game dinners:

Dr. John: I was looking at an events schedule for the Hill Country, and I see a lot of wild game dinners scheduled in the fall. Why just in the fall?

Josie: The fall of the year is a beautiful time here in the Hills. A dinner is a good way for various organizations to raise money for their works. They are held in the fall of the year, just before hunting season opens, so the hunters can clean out their freezers in expectation of having a good hunt this year. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Alice wants a change:

Dr. John: My family likes mashed potatoes. I use just butter and a little milk in them. How can I perk up the recipe?

Alice: My favorite mashed potato recipe is stolen from Chili's . You boil or bake the potatoes whole with the skins on. When they are done, you cut them into chunks that you can use the potato masher on. Add butter (the amount depends on how many potatoes you are mashing) and about a teaspoon of minced fresh onions per potato. Add about a quarter cup of shredded, mild cheddar cheese per potato. Mix it all up good and add enough milk to get the texture you like. Adjust for salt and black pepper. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

I hope all you patients will remember the good doctor when Christmas rolls around next month.

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
end article

Traditional Texas Food Articles
By Dr. John, Ph.B.

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