You've written to her with questions about what you'd like to learn in the kitchen, and she has responded.
Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions
Laurel Rockefeller: I am deathly allergic to onions and trying to prepare a great Thanksgiving for my new family in rural Pennsylvania. My attempts to make dressing and gravy especially completely from scratch have all been massive disasters. None of the recipes I've found are onion free and I cannot find onion-free mixes or bases. Help! How do I make my Thanksgiving onion-free without tasting bland or having horrible texture? Is there a way to taste great--without triggering my allergy?
Don't worry, just leave the onions out. For your gravy - make your own stock and enhance it with vegetables you like. Take the giblets (the stuff in that little package) and neck from the cavity of the turkey (but not liver, that can give the stock an off taste) and put them in a saucepan with a carrot or two, that you have cut in half and a celery stalk or two, halved. Maybe you'd like to add parsnips or mushrooms. Add some parsley stems, thyme and bay leaf. Then cover all the ingredients with water or store bought chicken broth (one that doesn't contain onions) and bring to a simmer and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Strain and use for your gravy.
Likewise, for the stuffing, just leave the onion out. Saute maybe some celery and mushrooms in butter, you can add nuts and dried fruit, or chestnuts. Add chopped fresh thyme/and or sage and you are good to go.
Susan Halsey-Swanson: Can frozen foods be thawed then refrozen? Wondering about such items as ground beef, both cooked and uncooked, chicken broth, uncooked chicken pieces? And, can uncorked bottles of white wine and champagne that were chilled, then not used be stored at room temp for future use? THANKS
Susan, this is a question for the USDA. I get very nervous at the idea of defrosting and refreezing meat, particularly ground meat which is so perishable to begin with and chicken which has salmonella issues. I would recommend trying to cook that protein in a simple quick way - like crumble the ground meat and saute it with some onions and garlic, poach, grill or saute the chicken and then refreeze it after it is cooked and cooled for another meal on another day.
Regarding wine and champagne, if you are not going to drink it all, you can certainly use it in cooking and it is a great ingredient to enhance your soups and stews but it will die if you leave it on the counter. Keep it in the fridge, or, if there is no room in the fridge, freeze it in freezer bags. By the way, the champagne will lose its bubbles but it is still fine to use in cooking.
Patricia Campbell: When you are baking etc. cooking, roasting in the oven, is that on the middle shelf or the lower shelf?
If you want the item that you are baking or roasting to cook evenly on the top and bottom, put it in the middle of the oven. If you want the top to brown a bit, put it in the top of the oven. If you want to brown the bottom, cook it in the bottom of the oven. I always cook my pies on the bottom of the oven because I want the crust to cook through and not be soggy.
Marty Krider: Dear Sara - What is sthe the most important thing I need to know about cooking with a convection oven? Just bought a new home and it has a convection oven. Not used to cooking with this. Should I cook my turkey using the convection setting? Thanks! Marty
Convection ovens combine heat with forced air so that the temperature is more even throughout the whole oven (no hot spots) than in a conventional oven. However, when you turn on your convection oven, the temperature tends to run a little higher than in a conventional oven. I believe, in the original convection models, they told you to lower the temperature by 25 degrees. I advise you to read your instructions carefully and then start cooking and figure out what works best for you.
Vickie Boyer: Sara, Thanksgiving is approaching as you know, I've always been plagued by how to get the turkey browned on the bottom and the skin not having that steamed pale look along with the meat not to have that pinkish to reddish undercooked appearance inside the thigh bone area. Thermometer always reads done in that area but it always scares me (the color) so I put those thigh parts in the microwave or back into the oven after I carve it!! Very annoying! Thanks Sara. (maybe your first turkey question but I know not your last!)
We are going to cover all of this on GMA on Thanksgiving day in the morning so please do tune in. But let me try to help right now. It is almost impossible to get crispy skin on the bottom of the turkey because it sort of steams on the underside, particularly if you are basting and adding liquid to the pan to keep it moist. However, if you put the turkey on one of those solid v-racks in a solid roast pan the air will circulate under the turkey and you will get just a little more crispy skin all around (I am a huge fan of skin too, that is why I make sure nobody is in the kitchen with me when I carve the bird). Regarding the overall color of the turkey, I cover it for the first half of the roasting to keep it moist and then undercover it the second half to let it brown. There is not much you can do about those pink parts in the dark meat right next to the bone except what you are already doing. But you might try searing the leg thigh joints, meat side (pink side) down in a little oil or butter in a large skillet. That will very quickly turn the pink to brown and not overcook the whole leg thigh joint (which is what might happen in the oven).