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(article, Diane Morgan)
[%pageBreakSettings nobreak=true][%adInjectionSettings noInject=true] h3. From the chapters "Foods of the Season" and "Special Equipment and Tools" At one time, fresh or frozen was the only choice you had when it came to buying a commercially raised whole turkey. Now there are lots of choices, and quality and taste differences exist among them. Here are my thoughts on what is available in the marketplace. [[block(sidebar). h1. About the book and author Diane Morgan's new cookbook, The Christmas Table, is basically a sleighful of holiday how-to tips, including recipes. Based in Portland, Oregon, Morgan is an award-winning cookbook author and cooking teacher whose writing appears regularly in food publications; she is also a frequent television guest. Excerpt reprinted with permission of Chronicle Books (2008). ]] Standard turkeys: These mass-produced, conventionally raised birds are sold either fresh or frozen during the holiday season. This is a perfectly acceptable turkey, easy to obtain without a lot of forethought from any large supermarket and reasonably priced. Self-basting turkeys: Sold fresh or frozen, these turkeys have been “enhanced” with fat of some sort, in addition to natural and artificial flavorings. The theory behind this product is that the bird doesn’t need to be basted, saving the cook time and energy. Good idea in theory, badly executed in practice, primarily because the enhancer is flavored vegetable oil, which I don’t consider an enhancer. This is my least-favorite turkey on the market. Do not brine a self-basting turkey. These birds have already been injected with a salt solution. Free-range turkeys: These are the turkeys that get to run around the barnyard, so to speak. They aren’t necessarily raised outdoors, but they are raised in spacious, open environments. Many of them are labeled "organic" as well, and are more expensive than other turkeys. If you order from a knowledgeable butcher or have a specialty-foods store you trust, ask the staff who raises the turkeys they sell and if the birds are both free-range and organic, or just free-range. These can be delicious, moist, and flavorful birds, and I believe are usually worth the price. Kosher turkeys: Although usually sold frozen, these birds are often available fresh in large supermarkets at Thanksgiving and Christmas. They have been inspected, slaughtered, and cleaned under strict rabbinical supervision, which makes for an expensive bird. If you will be serving observant Jewish guests, this is the turkey to buy; otherwise, opt for a non-kosher, free-range bird. Do not brine kosher turkeys. They have already been salted in the koshering process. Cooking for the holidays doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment, but some kitchen items will make your life easier. [%image pan float=right width=400 caption="A roasting pan, gravy strainer, carving knife and fork, baster, and meat thermometer all make turkey roasting and serving easier."] Bulb baster: This tool certainly makes basting meat and poultry easier, but a large spoon will work in a pinch. Buy either a stainless-steel or a heat-resistant plastic baster. I prefer the latter because I can see through it. Glass basters are a mistake, as they inevitably break. Carving board: Different from a cutting board, a carving board has a “moat” that collects meat juices and a “well” that traps them. This is handy for carving all kinds of meats and poultry. My favorite type is a wooden board that is reversible, so you can use the flat side for chopping and dicing. Carving knife and fork: A carving set is lovely if you are presenting a whole bird or a whole piece of meat and carving it at the table, but it is not critical. If you don’t have one, you do need a very sharp utilitarian carving knife and carving fork. After working hard to roast your holiday turkey or prime rib, you want to cut smooth, even slices. A good knife is a lifetime investment. Fine-mesh sieve: Doing double-duty for cooking and baking needs, I have three sizes of fine-mesh sieves. I use the large- or medium-sized sieve for straining stocks, soups, or sauces, depending on the volume to be strained. I use the small one for dusting confectioners’ sugar over cakes, pastries, and tarts. Gravy strainer: This useful tool looks like a measuring cup with a spout that originates near the bottom. You pour in pan juices or gravy, the fat naturally rises to the top, and the relatively fat-free liquid that settles to the bottom is easily poured out through the spout. Although handy for making gravy and sauces from pan juices, this strainer is definitely not essential. Kitchen twine: Buy the proper twine to truss your bird or tie your roast. It should be 100 percent linen, which resists charring. Flimsy string won’t do, and dental floss can tear the skin and chars (I’ve seen it used!). You’ll be surprised how often you will reach for twine once it is in the kitchen. [[block(sidebar). h1.Featured recipes These holiday recipes come from The Christmas Table.