Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd doesn’t have to be complicated

Thursday, November 9, 2006

DENTON (UNT), Texas - Getting nervous about cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a house full of people? If you're used to cooking for a small family, how do you cook for a party of 20 hungry people expecting one of the tastiest meals of the year?

Former New York chef Jodi Duryea, the general manager of the University of North Texas' student-run restaurant, offers several tips for cooking a Thanksgiving feast in large quantities - and getting it on the table before it gets cold:

• Choose menu items that can be made ahead of time

Duryea suggests making stuffing, desserts and casseroles in advance, and reheating them on Thanksgiving day.

• Stick with tried-and-true recipes.

"As tempting as it is to try all new things, try to keep to things that you're familiar with cooking," says Duryea, who planned, opened and reorganized two Manhattan restaurants and worked as an executive chef at Delia's Supper Club in New York City. "If you do try something new, practice it ahead of time or keep it to one or two new items."

• Heat food in a serving dish so the dish stays warm on the table.
This trick keeps all of your food hot at once, Duryea says.

• After you pull the turkey out of the oven, let it rest for 20 minutes.

Not only does this ensure a juicy bird, but it gives you time to pop other dishes in the oven for heating, she says.

Because healthy eating is a must for many people, even at Thanksgiving, Duryea suggests buying a fresh turkey and marinating it yourself, even though it takes more time than cooking a frozen turkey.

"Often, the frozen turkey is filled with sodium solution to plump it up and make it moister, but it contains a lot of extra salt and chemicals," Duryea says.

She suggests putting a fresh turkey in a clean garbage bag, covering it with marinade, tying the bag and marinating the turkey overnight. Duryea uses a marinade of a quarter cup of salt, a quart of water (or a half-quart of water and a half-quart of wine), fresh sage, peppercorns and cumin.

"You'll get a much better flavor, and you can control what's going into your turkey," she says.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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