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Chef Bernard Shares His Thanksgiving Secrets

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November 21, 2012 1:33 p.m.


Chef Bernard Guillas, executive chef of the Marine Room in La Jolla.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. The time has come to talk Turkey once again! The big day is looming, pots and pans are stacked, condiments lined up, and let's get this Thanksgiving meal started! Here to answer your questions about Turkey prep, side dishes, desserts, chef Bernard Guillas, welcome back! And happy Thanksgiving!

GUILLAS: Happy Thanksgiving to you as well! It's so cool to be here. This is my favorite part of the year. Favorite time.

CAVANAUGH: Wonderful! Let me get our listeners involved in this. We invite you to join this conversation. Chef Bernard will be here for the rest of the hour. So we have plenty of time to take your calls. If you have questions about keeping your Turkey moist, barbecuing your Turkey, how to make great stuffing, what to do with leftovers, give us a call with your questions and comments. First, let me ask you, how early do you start preparing for Thanksgiving?

GUILLAS: Well, we start preparing a couple days in advance because when you have the numbers of people coming into the restaurants, I mean, you have to be well-organized. But you should do the same thing at your home. It should not be last-minute. When you are buying your Turkey, if you're buying a frozen Turkey, you need to give it about 2-3 days to that you out. Or a fresh Turkey, which is still readily available, but you really have to plan ahead. And Thanksgiving shouldn't be a chore. It should be a lot of fun, sharing that special time with the family. So you can prep a lot of things in advance. Make your stuffing in advance, your cranberry relish in advance, some of your sauce in advance. And don't forget go shopping and get your wine in advance.

CAVANAUGH: Absolutely. And that is just fabulous advice. If you wait and do it all on one day, you're probably going to be pretty exhausted, probably not going to enjoy yourself very much.

GUILLAS: Well, I got to tell you, in my case, it's 3,000 pounds of Turkey!


GUILLAS: So yeah, you are really in the flock right now! Ooh la la! But yeah, it gets to be too much.

CAVANAUGH: Alice is on the line from Carlsbad. Welcome to the show. Okay, we'll try again later. You talked about having a frozen bird. A couple of days to defrost. Tell us about buying a fresh Turkey. Some people are kind of scared to do that. They have had that frozen Turkey, it's kind of a tradition in their family!


GUILLAS: Well, are the thing is, when you are buying a fresh Turkey what are the best places? I like to buy a Turkey who's going to be sustainable, natural, maybe organic. But it has to be really a good bird. Now, the size of the bird is really important as well. You should buy about a 20-pound Turkey. If you say it's going to be way too much? No worries. You can always do something with the leftovers or bring a couple extra friends. Knock on the door of the neighbors, hey, you want to come? But in the meantime, it makes a big difference in the roasting process. Fresh Turkey is the best to buy because you just take it out of the bag. You need to make sure that you rinse it inside out, especially the cavity. Then you dry it up. And after that, you can brine it if you want to, or you can season it. You can do a dry brine, wet brine, or just put some fresh herbs and olive oil, and it will be just perfect as well.

CAVANAUGH: Let's try the phones again. Anastasia is on the line from San Diego. Hi.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thanks for having me. Question, there's a little bit of a debate going on in my family about whether it's better to stuff the Turkey and roast it in a little Turkey roaster or if it would be better because of opening the lid of the roaster to check the temperature, if we should just bake it separately.

GUILLAS: All right. So if you want to do it in a roaster, it would be just fine. The thing is that I recommend is that the stuffing, for example, if you stuff the Turkey, I'm not really crazy about it because you have a little of the dripping of the blood and all those juices and mixing with the stuffing. But if you like it that way, you will have to add about 40-45 minutes longer at 325 degrees. My recommendation is instead of stuffing the Turkey, do the stuffing on the side in a baking dish, and stuff the Turkey with fresh herbs and onions and garlic, celery, just aromatics. And what it does is in the roaster that you are cooking your Turkey in, all the flavors are going to infuse your Turkey. So you will have a Turkey with aroma therapy.

CAVANAUGH: So keep that stuffing out of the Turkey?

GUILLAS: Yes. And I would do is I would put a lot of butter on the Turkey, just before you start roasting it. And remember, even in a roaster, one very important thing to 2 is baste, baste, baste! Baste every 20 minutes! Put a timer on, but you will see that your Turkey will be super moist and super delicious.

CAVANAUGH: Some people want to put the stuffing in the Turkey so it gets nice and crisp. How do you get that crispiness if you're going to make your stuffing separately out of the Turkey?

GUILLAS: Well, what you do is you bake stuffing at about 325 with the Turkey. So separately, of course, but in the same oven. And for the last, I would say, 15 minutes, you raise the temperature to about 375 to 400 degrees. And dot it with a little bit of butter. And the butter really makes it nice and crispy. Keep an eye on it, you don't want to burn the stuffing.

CAVANAUGH: If you had a Thanksgiving secret, it would be butter!

GUILLAS: Butter, butter, butter! But when it comes to butter, you have to keep everything in balance. Don't put too much. My family, if you go to grandma, there is a pound of butter on the table. She has zero cholesterol. Nobody has cholesterol in the family. It's just everything has to be done not too much, you know? Just only what you need.

CAVANAUGH: Exactly, exactly. Let's take another call. Mille is calling from Chula Vista. Welcome to the program!



CAVANAUGH: What is your question?

NEW SPEAKER: I'm looking for a good recipe for making cranberry sauce with port wine.

GUILLAS: You are talking to the right guy. I'm not kidding, that's exactly what I did last night when I came home. Packages of 12 ounces of cranberrieses. 1 cup of ruby port win. Then 1 cup of brown sugar, one tea spoon of star Aniece, one vanilla bean. And that's it. You just put everything together, you bring it to a boil, and then reduce it to a summer. And your cranberries are going to start popping. Then about 10, 15 minute, it will be ready to go. It will be a little bit runny, but it's good because you let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, then it becomes almost like gelatinous. Of it's so delicious! If you like, you can also put a little bit of cinnamon, and that will be it. If you really want to add that gorgeous flavor, make it day. If you want to jazz it up a little bit more, and you have some candies ginger, a little bit of orange zest, even better. So you can really play with it.

NEW SPEAKER: No water, right?

GUILLAS: No water. Your port will be your liquid. And by the way, leftovers on a sandwich the day after, to die for!

CAVANAUGH: Sounds like it! Thank you for the call. I want to go back to the Turkey. What do you think about barbecuing a Turkey?

GUILLAS: Barbecuing a Turkey works out really well. The only thing you have to be very careful, every time that you are lifting the lid, you are losing all that heat. So there is really very little basting there. So what you want to do is make sure that you have a good amount of butter and the best way for barbecue Turkey, brine it first. By being brined, you aren fusing a lot of flavor. 2 gallons of apple cider, 2.5 cups of salt, rosemary, time, garlic, infuse all this together and it really is good. You should brine one hour per pound. So if it's a 20-pound Turkey, it takes 20 hours. Be very careful with the salt. You don't want to oversalt. If you oversalt, you have a Turkey that will be swimming in La Jolla cove!


CAVANAUGH: Nobody wants that.

GUILLAS: We don't want that! The other thing that you can do is you can also change a little bit of the flavors. So instead of apple cider, parricider. What about pomegranate juice? Your Turkey comes out of the marinade and it's kind of purple, but when it cook, it turns completely brown and is really, really delicious that way.

CAVANAUGH: Alice is calling us from San Diego. Welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi. I was wondering what he thinks of cooking Turkeys fast on high heat.

CAVANAUGH: You mean sort of searing it?

NEW SPEAKER: Well, just cooking on high heat for the whole time.

GUILLAS: Well, depending what you call high heat, 450 degrees, you will run into trouble because the skin will burn. Even if you tent it. So this is what I recommend. Put your oven at 475 degrees, and you go, ooh that's hot! Then you put that Turkey for about 30 minutes, is and after those 30 minute, you cool it down to 325 degrees. So what happens is you're sealing all the juices in the Turkey. And after that, you're able to cook it nice and slowly, and you need to make sure that you baste, baste, and baste. If you want to cook a Turkey really fast, 3 minutes to 4 minutes per pound, you deep fry your Turkey. So you can deep fry Turkey, and that would be very, very quickly. The only thing is when you deep fry Turkey, you have to be very cautious because you have a lot of safety that you have to be aware of.

CAVANAUGH: Most people don't have the capacity to deep fry a big Turkey, right?

GUILLAS: Last year I go to the Marine Room, I start at about 5:00 in the morning. And I look outside, right in front of the Marine Room, on the beach, there was three guys deep frying a Turkey. So I went to see them, like you got to be kidding! The tide was coming in, and they were having a blast! They cooked that Turkey really fast, and it was perfect. Now, talking about being really safe, that was a safe way to do it. You need to make sure that you don't put too much oil. Just enough to cover the Turkey when you deep fry. If the oil goes over, you will create a fire. There is a lot of accidents when it comes to frying Turkey. The other thing is, peanut oil, you got to be very careful because a lot of people are allergic to peanut. My favorite, grape seed, or canola.

CAVANAUGH: Do you bread the Turkey just stick it in the oil?

GUILLAS: You drop it very gentle, very slowly with to thinks, for example. Or sometimes there is a basket that it fits right inside. But the most important thing, very dry. Make sure that you dry that Turkey, I mean, super well with paper towels, for example, and especially in the cavity. This is where you can have some water. And make sure that that Turkey is completely thawed out.

CAVANAUGH: Sean is calling from Santee.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, how are you doing? I have a heritage fresh Turkey that you'll be doing that I've been brining. There's been some -- been reading different places. Should I cook it -- I've heard anywhere from 150 to 180 degrees because it's a heritage farm fresh Turkey. It's going to dry out a lot quicker. What temperature would you be looking for?

GUILLAS: Well, this is a really good question because I was going to review that. When you're cooking any Turkeys, including your Turkey, the right temperature is 160-165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. And the reason why you don't want to go over that, it will really dry up. So for a 12 pounder, I would recommend 160. Now, you have to remember that the heat continues to carry through. So it carries over. So by having the heat carrying over, you can take that temperature 15 minutes after you take it out of the oven. And you see that that temperature by itself will go to about 170-180 degrees. If you cook it all the way to 180 degrees on the thickest part of the thigh, you killed the bird twice.


GUILLAS: And you don't want to do that. You want to cook it with love.

CAVANAUGH: I was going to ask you, a heritage Turkey is any kind of fresh Turkey a heritage?

GUILLAS: Oh, yes, and they are delicious. This is a Turkey who is 100% organic. The genetics really go back ages, and the flavor is just simply unique and delicious. Really, really different.

CAVANAUGH: That's a great place to stop and take a little break, and we'll come back with more of your calls.

My guest is Chef Bernard Guillas, executive chef of the Marine Room in La Jolla, and we're taking your calls on how to make your Thanksgiving dinner maybe just a little bit better than last year. Call us with your questions. Let's talk about side dishes. For convenience sake, a lot of people just use frozen vegetables what. Is your feeling on that?



GUILLAS: Frozen vegetables?

CAVANAUGH: They do have such a thing!

GUILLAS: We're in California! We are in the bread basket of the United States! We have so many beautiful veggies over here. What if you want to use frozen vegetables, please do. But my recommendation is go to the farmer's market. I mean, for example there is one open day which is in OB. I was at one yesterday which was in Coronado. What's brought about it is you should buy vegetables that are in season. If you use fresh vegetable, they will roast really well, candy really well: What's really good? We have carrots, rutabaga, parsnips, beets. There is so much. Potatoes and fennel. There is so much you can add. This is the way I like to do it. I take all those, mix it together, a little olive oil, fresh thyme, are sage, salt, pepper and I roast it in the oven. When it comes to vegetables, you need to let them speak. You don't have to really add much to it. If it's in season, it will be simply delicious.

CAVANAUGH: That brings me to gravy. A lot of people have struggles with their gravy. And I'm wondering if you have any advice for people how to make great gravy with perhaps not adding so much fat.

GUILLAS: Well, the best way to do it is, we talked about the Turkey being stuffed with all those vegetables and fresh herbs. When the Turkey is cooked, you remove up those aromatics and leave it into the pan. You put your roasting pan on the stovetop, and start roasting this even more. Then you add some flour, and then just a little bit of butter. At that point, I think that you will have enough fat already. So dust it with flour, and it creates the rue. The rue will be cooking nicely, then you add your -- well, maybe a little bit marsala or madara, or any wine that has wonderful flavors, and you reduce this by half. Make sure it does not ignite. And then after that, you add your -- the best is to add some chicken stock. But if you want to jazz it up and get that flavor, I would do chicken stock and beef stock. Then you cook it to a sauce consistency, then you just strain it. The best way to do it is almost do it the day before. So it means that you take your giblets and your neck, and you can roast all this together with aromatic vegetables. Fantastic.

CAVANAUGH: Let's go to the phones. Allen is calling from Encinitas.

NEW SPEAKER: How are ya?


GUILLAS: Very good.

NEW SPEAKER: My question is a contended one, but it's about basting. And I think I know where you stand. But I'm curious what your reasoning is behind basting. I'm playing devil's advocate for a second, it seems like the skin kind of fights off moisture.

GUILLAS: Well, what will happen is when you are basting the whole bird, and you have to baste -- make sure that you have already quite a bit of butter in that pain. If it's basting with the juices only, it's not going to do that much. But that level of fat will still start to penetrate. So you will be able to get a really nice flavor. Also by having that basting right on top of that skin, that steam that is trapped underneath the flesh will stay nice and moist. So you have your skin, then it's nice and basted, and then you have that nice fresh underneath, and it's perfect. But if you want to try it with not basting, I'm sure you will call next and say you were right. My Turkey was dry.


CAVANAUGH: Esteban in San Diego. Welcome to the show.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you very much. My question is about a different bird. We decided to, along with the Turkey, we decided to go with Cornish hens. And we pretty much bought everything under the moon yesterday. And we're just looking on some ideas on what to do with these.

GUILLAS: Well, Cornish hens, they cook very, very quickly. I have a recipe that I like to do at the house. If you have for example a small cast iron pan where you can put your Cornish hen in it, take the hen, put some butter on top, salt and pepper, fresh herb, and I put all my root vegetables around it. And you make sure that you cut it into about 1-inch cubes or so. If you have fingerling potato, cut them in half and put it all around. And I cook it in the oven, but these have to be cooked at a much higher temperature. 375-4 hundred degrees. And the skin of the hen will get really crisp. The vegetable will be completely cooked at the same time as the hen, and that's really, really good. Stuff the hen with some fresh herbs, and tell be just delicious. But this is like -- I would say it's like that 1-pot dish, which is really cool. It will cook within most likely 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the hen. But I have to tell you, it is a delicious bird.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for the call. I want to talk about our vegetarian friends. Of it's very important to welcome vegetarians into this festive Thanksgiving celebration.

GUILLAS: Oh, you bet! You know, they have created a new tofu. It is pretty much the uncle of the turducken, which is, you know, you have the duck and the Turkey, and the chicken, they all got together. And then boom! They created a really cool fish. The toif youKen, what's cool about doing this type of dish and using the tofu Turkey, you can still give amazing flavors. So it can be marinated, or brined. To brine, cut the salt by 50%. I take a fork and I make little holes. And it's really, really delicious. You can roast it, same thing, about 350 degrees in the oven. But instead of butter, you use extra virgin olive oil. That will be delicious. I also have done it with glaze which is a blend of teriyaki size, ginger, tangerine juice, lemon grass, and you baste it with that, and it's really, really delicious. When it comes to side dish, you have all your roasts vegetables. You can do your mashed potato. I did a mashed potato that I finished with silk tofu, guess what? It came up simply delicious. It was so good. So you can really play with that and really have a lot of fun.

CAVANAUGH: Is that your newest tip on mashed potatoes?

GUILLAS: My grandmother would not be happy about that. In 5 pounds of potato, she puts 1 pound of butter! And that's why it's so good. The mashed potatoes, when you are cooking mashed potato, you need to get the right potatoes. Russet, which is your regular potatoes, it's going to be the best. You cook it when it's all the way, just like tender. Then you drain it, and you need to use a food mill. And then after that, you just finish it with a little bit of creme fresh and butter, salt and pepper, and you're done. You want to jazz it up? You do it the day before and then you mix some of your favorite cheese, some cheddar, for example, and then you put it in the oven and you do it almost like a twice-baked potato! In the dish, and it is simply delicious as well.

CAVANAUGH: That sounds fabulous. I want to take a call that's going to lead us into some dessert talk. Bill is calling from Point Loma. Welcome to the program.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thanks for taking my call. I wanted to cook my Turkey with an apricot jam. What are your thoughts on that?

GUILLAS: What do you mean cooking it with apricot jam? You want to put the jam on top of it?

NEW SPEAKER: Like glaze it with some jam I got at the farmer's market the other day.

GUILLAS: All right. If you want to do that, I would dilute a little bit that jam with some orange juice in a pan. Make sure that the jam is nice and silky. What I mean by that, strain it through a fine sieve, then you can fresh it on the Turkey. The only thing is, you need to be very careful because it's going to be very high in sugar, it's going to caramelize very quickly. Now, there is a better way to do it. You take the jam, just the way that you bought it, and you just put it right under the skin. And by putting it right under the skin, it will penetrate the flesh of the Turkey, which will be really delicious. So with your hands, you separate the skin from the flesh, and then you just put that jam right there. I would put a little bit of butter, of course. And then after that, I would put my Turkey in the oven, and cook it the regular way, 325, 20 minutes per pound, and baste it. And the cool thing about it is, the jam will be trapped underneath. I my add a little bit of ginger if you want to jazz it up.

CAVANAUGH: Wonderful. I would never thought that was possible! Let's talk desserts. People have a tendency to overindulge, but if you have the right dessert, people will eat so that they have a little room left over. So what are some desserts that people are going to keep themselves a little bit of stomach room that they absolutely have to enjoy?

GUILLAS: Let's talk pies! To make a wonderful pumpkin pie, you need to have a fantastic crust.


GUILLAS: So you can use butter instead of Crisco, but some people still use that Crisco. You make your dough and don't overwork the dough. When baking the crust, cook it until golden, then you chill it. When it's chilled, this is the trick, melt some chocolate. I don't think there will be much problem with that.


GUILLAS: Then brush the inside of the crust and put it back in the fridge. Then you put your pumpkin mix and you can bake it. What will happen is the chocolate will prevent the pumpkin mixture to penetrate the crust. So you won't have a soggy crust. Tell be nice and crispy. There is different squash that you can use. You don't have to use only pumpkin. What about the sweet potato pie? And what I like to do, don't get stuck only on one single pie. What about pecan pie? Make a really beautiful pecan pie. A chocolate pie, a lemon meringue pie. And then it is the apple season. You can make a great apple pie as well. My favorite, you still need to have fresh fruit salad for the kids. Don't forget the children. Make sure that they will have something that's going to be balanced. And this is a great platform and opportunity to bring the kids in the kitchen to teach them about nutrition. And if you have a farmer's market open today, go to the farmer's market, and you'll be able to expose them to something so unique, which is the ingredients, the fruit, connect with the farmers, makes a big difference. Carmel cheese cake, yummy! I love this one. Almond short bread. Poached pears. Apples. A 3-layer chocolate mousse cake. And make some cookies! Macaroons, and oatmeal raisin. You can really have so much fun.

CAVANAUGH: If you could tell us, what do you like to drink with your Turkey?

GUILLAS: Oh, well, that's going to take a while!


GUILLAS: Just kidding. When you are getting into the gathering, which is when all your friends and family are coming in, you don't go right away into that Turkey feast. So usually you have some bites. So my recommendation, get some hummus and some things with vegetables, and something that maybe you can bake that will be really delicious such as puff pastry, GruyËre. Sparkling rosÈ, I love rosÈ. With my Turkey, Pinot noir, Sangiovese, Grenache. A beautiful rosÈ as well. But make sure that you have everything for everybody. And it can be also a nonalcoholic, just gorgeous lemonade.

CAVANAUGH: I feel like I had a meal already!


CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much, Chef Bernard.

GUILLAS: It is my pleasure. Bottom line is keep it simple! Life is delicious! Celebrate and have fun!

CAVANAUGH: And have a happy Thanksgiving.

GUILLAS: Happy Thanksgiving!