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Video: TODAY weighs in: Thanksgiving turkey vs. sides?

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    >> spray.

    >>> this morning in "today's holiday kitchen," thanksgiving in america! in a battle of the turkey versus the sides, it's on! meredith.

    >> al, thank you. there are two sides to every thanksgiving table, those who think the turkey is the centerpiece and the ones who love all the delicious side dishes . so, what side of the table do you stand on? kim seaverson and julia motskin are writers with "the new york times." kim thinks turkey is king. julia likes the sides. today we'll defend it once and for all with matt, ann and al upstairs to judge. good morning to both of you. before we get to the debate, you two have been arguing this for several years now, friendly debate. what started it?

    >> well, we sit next to each other at work, and you know you know everything about the people you sit next to. we're best friends , but we have a lot of disagreements about food. and i love thanksgiving , i love the turkey , and well, you can speak for yourself, julia .

    >> every november 1st , she gets on the phone with the turkey breeders and turkey farmers and i have to hear all of those conversations.

    >> annoying. i can sense it in your voice.

    >> finally, i realized i just don't care that much about turkey .

    >> okay. well, we'll make the decision today, figure out which is more important, the turkey or the sides. each of you have a chance to make your case and you'll each have a chance for rebuttal. our judges are upstairs. they're doing taste tests, even as we speak . they will be involved in this and they will have the final say as well. so, i'm going to start with you, kim .

    >> okay.

    >> 30 seconds to defend the turkey .

    >> okay, i'm ready.

    >> starting now.

    >> first of all, the judges get their envelopes of cash, first thing. we're good to go. okay, the turkey is the number one thing on the thanksgiving table. norman rockwell was not painting casserole. he was painting turkey . it gives us stock, great gravy and stuffing, which you can make stuffing muffins, all with turkey and turkey stock. the thing is, you want a good turkey , something local, pasturizeized. give it a good salt rub and don't overcook it, because i guarantee, you can strip the green beans , no one will care. mess up the turkey , thanksgiving 's ruined.

    >> and you're includie iing stuffing with the turkey .

    >> very controversial. but you don't serve steak and stuffing, you serve turkey and stuffing.

    >> i always thought stuffing was a side, but with this argument, stuffing goes with turkey . julia , you have your 30 seconds starting now to defend the sides. go.

    >> actually, i'm not crazy enough to leave out turkey . it is our national dish for thanksgiving . i'm just saying it always turns out the same, whereas these dishes are very different from one another. these sweet potatoes have coconut milk and a little thai red curry paste, which is about the best thing you can buy in a jar. i used to never be happy with my roasted vegetables. i called a chef and she said put a pan of water underneath them --

    >> in the oven.

    >> in the oven, exactly. and this is a great dish. this is frozen corn from the supermarket, then you put it in a pan, caramelize it in butter. and i guarantee you, if turkey tasted that good, we would eat it all year round, not just on thanksgiving .

    >> all right. you know, julia made an interesting case for the side dishes . i'm going to give you a chance to rebutt her. ten seconds.

    >> first of all, little miss side dish , no one goes into grandma's house and goes, "the mashed potatoes smell so good." no, the turkey smells so good. bees need a queen, football needs a quarterback, thanksgiving needs a turkey .

    >> julia , i'll give you ten seconds to attempt to top that.

    >> i say it's time that as a nation that we're honest with ourselves. the turkey is a 20-pound yankee candle . looks great, it makes the house smell good --

    >> whoa!

    >> wow.

    >> but at the end of the day, you'd rather eat something else.

    >> glad there are no sharp knives around here. this is getting very ugly. but you obviously have strong opinions, kim for the turkey and stuffing, julia for all the other sides. i'm going to throw it up to our judges upstairs to get their opinion. judges?

    >> matt?

    >> i couldn't careless --

    >> turkey or sides?

    >> i think we should do this segment at least once a week.

    >> looks like you have a turkey neck there, matt.

    >> i have to agree that without the turkey , it's dinner. with a turkey , it's thanksgiving dinner , so i'm going to go with the turkey .

    >> all right.

    >> that said, i have to say, these are the best sides i have ever had, and i pride myself on what i make, but i have to be honest with you, this is also the best turkey i've also ever had, even including anybody who's ever made it. i've got to say turkey .

    >> all right. al --

    >> how many times have you gone back for seconds in turkey ?

    >> oh, four or five --

    >> i go back for the sides.

    >> countless.

    >> sides.

    >> really?

    >> you want to eat the sides the next day or do you want a turkey sandwich the next day?

    >> yes, i do. i want the sides.

    >> do you want the turkey with the sides on top between the bread?

    >> stop bickering the three of you.

    >> hold on a second.

    >> our viewers weighed in on this matter and the results from our viewers, who really matter.

    >> ha ha !

    >> 74% say the sides.

    >> in your face!

    >> 26% say the turkey . having said that i am also going for the turkey , but i want peace. i want peace in the family, so for julia here --

    >> oh!

    >> remember the turkey , all right?

    >> thank you, meredith. i never dreamed of such a thing.

    >> and kim , remember the sides.

    >> sides rule!

    >> please, can we have a hug? a little loving! aww!

    >> aww.

    >> it's all in a day. thanks to our judges and also kim seversaverson and julia moskin.

    >>> from babe ruth 's called home

TODAY recipes
updated 11/20/2009 9:45:56 AM ET 2009-11-20T14:45:56

Recipe: Dry-Brined Turkey

  • 1 12- to 16-pound turkey, preferably a heritage or pasture raised bird
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt, more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 2 small onions, halved
  • 2 small apples, cored and halved
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)

Two days before serving, rinse turkey and pat dry. Rub all over with kosher salt, slipping salt under skin where possible and rubbing some into cavities. Use about 1 tablespoon per four pounds of bird.

Wrap bird in a large plastic bag and place in refrigerator. On second night, turn turkey over. A couple of hours before cooking, remove turkey from bag and pat dry. Place in roasting pan and allow to come to room temperature.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle half the pepper into main cavity of turkey; add thyme, parsley, half the onions and half the apples. Truss legs with kitchen twine. Put remaining apples and onions in neck opening and tuck neck skin under bird.

Rub butter under breast skin and onto thigh meat. Sprinkle bird with remaining pepper.

Roast for 30 minutes. Remove turkey from oven, reduce heat to 350 degrees and cover breast of bird and wing tips with foil. Add a cup and a half of water or white wine to bottom of roasting pan and roast bird for another two hours, depending on size; figure 12 minutes a pound for an unstuffed bird. Remove foil in last half-hour so breast browns.

When turkey has roasted for two hours, begin to test for doneness by inserting a meat thermometer (digital is best) into two places in thigh, making sure not to touch bone. It should be at about 160 degrees.

When roasting is done, tip turkey so interior juices run back into pan. Remove turkey to a separate baking sheet or serving platter, cover with foil and then a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Pour fat and drippings from pan into a measuring cup. Deglaze pan with white wine or broth and pour that into same measuring cup. Fat and drippings can then be used to make gravy.

Recipe: Two-Way Chanterelle and Pear Bread Stuffing

Time: One hour plus 24 hours for drying bread

Yield: Enough stuffing for a 12-to-14-pound turkey and a dozen muffin tins. If not stuffing a turkey, recipe will fill two dozen muffin tins or a small casserole dish.

  • 1 large loaf Pullman or other firm white bread
  • 1 pound chanterelle mushrooms
  • 1/3 pound pancetta, diced small
  • 10 tablespoons butter, more for greasing muffin tins
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (about three)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 3 1/2 cups diced pears (about four or five firm, ripe varieties like Bartlett or Anjou) plus one whole pear
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup minced chives
  • 1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 cups turkey stock

Tear bread into small pieces and set in roasting pan or bowl. To dry bread, cover with paper towels and leave out overnight. Or, place on a baking sheet in batches and lightly toast. Set aside.

Wipe mushrooms with a clean, damp towel. Trim tough ends. Slice some thickly, chop others. Set aside. Place pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook slowly until fat is rendered, about 7 minutes. Remove to a large plate.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to fat in pan and turn heat to medium high. Add onion and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just soft. Do not brown. Remove to plate holding pancetta.

Add 3 tablespoons butter to pan. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and quickly sauté until starting to brown. Remove and add to plate.

Add wine to pan and deglaze over medium high heat, cooking until wine reduces by about half. Pour remaining liquid over mushrooms. Wipe out pan and add remaining butter. Add pears and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Sauté pears, in batches if necessary, over medium high heat until they begin to brown slightly.

In a large bowl or roasting pan, add sautéed ingredients to bread. Toss lightly to combine. Add herbs and toss again. Slowly pour one cup stock over mixture and toss. Add more broth to make a very moist stuffing. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. If you are stuffing a brined turkey, remember that the bird will add a bit more salt.

Just before roasting turkey, place some room-temperature stuffing lightly inside a prepared bird. Place whole pear in opening of cavity to help hold stuffing in the bird.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter muffin tins and fill each with stuffing, pressing down so each cup is well filled. Top each with one tablespoon stock. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, until a golden crust forms on bottom. To serve, use a butter knife to remove each stuffing muffin and invert onto the plate.

Recipe: Fiery Sweet Potatoes

  • 5 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake potatoes on a baking sheet until very soft, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, peel and mash.

In a small saucepan, heat coconut milk with curry paste over low heat. Mix coconut milk mixture, half the sugar, half the butter, and salt into potatoes. Keep warm until ready to serve, or cover and refrigerate up to two days.

At least 30 minutes before serving, heat oven to 425 degrees. Put potatoes in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover potatoes, dot with remaining butter and sugar and broil until brown and crusty on top, checking often to prevent scorching.

Serving Size

Yield: 10 to 12 servings


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