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KPBS Midday Edition

Last Minute Thanksgiving Turkey Tips

Turkey Dinner
Calgary Reviews
Turkey Dinner
Talking Turkey With Chef Bernard
GuestChef Bernard Guillas executive chef of the Marine Room in La Jolla.

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. For many people, Thanksgiving dinner is the biggest meal they prepare all year. But a big elaborate meal is all in a day's work for my next guest. Chef Bernard Guillas is executive chef of the Marine room in La Jolla. And it's become a tradition here on KPBS to have Chef Bernard in on the day before Thanksgiving to give us all left-minute tips on preparing a fabulous feast. And welcome back, Chef Bernard. GUILLAS: It's so good to be here. It's the holiday season. I always know that this is it. You can feel it in the air. The weather is changing, the heaves are change, and it's Thanksgiving. I love it. CAVANAUGH: I know, and everybody feels like -- who is at work feels like I don't want to be here. We're taking questions on the multiple ways to prepare the Thanksgiving Turkey. Perhaps you've got a question about vegetarian alternatives, whatever your Thanksgiving question or comment, give us a call at 1-888-895-5727. It's the day before Thanksgiving. If someone has not purchased their Turkey yet, what kind of Turkey should they get! GUILLAS: A bird that's going to be about 12 to 16 pounds. You will still be okay. You can that you it for example in water. By tomorrow morning you'll be all set. CAVANAUGH: What do you like? Do you like a frozen Turkey or a fresh Turkey? GUILLAS: I love my Turkey fresh. And what I love about it is that if you have a fresh bird, you and start your brining, seasoning. And if you go to whole food, for example, or some of your favorite butchers who may have those fresh Turkeys. But a fresh Turkey will be the best way to approach it. CAVANAUGH: What is a heritage Turkey? GUILLAS: Heritage Turkey is an heirloom Turkey. It means they're coming from a breed who is from -- I would say 100 years ago. Those are really the true Turkey who have really kept their heritage. CAVANAUGH: Is it like a pedigree dog? GUILLAS: Yeah. Yes, you know what I mean. The only thing is this: Most likely those Turkeys will be a little bit leaner when it comes to that fat content, you know? So it means that it will cook very quick. So much quicker. And you have to really keep an eye on it, because if you overcook an heritage Turkey, it will dry out very quickly. CAVANAUGH: What is the most important tip that you have for cooking a successful Turkey? GUILLAS: There is a few ways to do it. Let's start for example if you want to deep fry it. I love -- CAVANAUGH: Deep fry? GUILLAS: I loved deep fried Turkey. I learned this in America. We do not deep fry Turkey in France. When I learned with it and I tried it, it's amazing. It takes you about 3.5 minutes per pound of the so it's really quick. CAVANAUGH: Fast, yeah. GUILLAS: You have to be very cautious that your bird is really dry, that you don't put too much oil, that there is no kids around. So you have to stay right there with the Turkey at all times. No pets, no kids. You got to make sure it's in a really safe area. But otherwise, amazing. Because it cooks in its own juices. Another way, I love my Turkey brined. Especially right now. And one of my favorite brining mixtures I would call it is you take some apple cider, a little bit of smoke liquid, you're going to bring a little bit of smoky flavor, and some fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary and maybe a little bit of garlic, and pickling spices or cinnamon. Then you want to pretty much I would say brine it for about 10 to 12 hours. CAVANAUGH: Does it matter how big the Turkey is? It's still 10 to 12 hours? GUILLAS: Well, I was still talking about the 16-pound Turkey. The bigger the Turkey, the longer you will need. So it's about I would say almost one hour per pound. CAVANAUGH: One question about the deep frying. You said you make sure the Turkey is dry. Do you have to specially dry the Turkey or just make sure it's not wet? GUILLAS: Let's put it this way. You need to make sure that your Turkey is completely defrosted. If you buy a frozen bird. Then you pat it dry inside out. Because if you have, let's say some water content still in the fresh, it will bubble. And usually this is where the accidents come up. You have all that water extracts from the flesh mixed with the oil and it goes over, and then you have a fire. CAVANAUGH: Right, yeah. GUILLAS: Now, my grandmother, she would just roast it in the oven with a little of butter, you give the Turkey a massage before you put it in the oven. CAVANAUGH: A butter massage! GUILLAS: Oh, it's so good. And you have to baste it every 20 minutes. And this is what happens. When you go into the house, this is such a gathering, the smell, and it's cold outside -- not in San Diego, but in France -- and it's just what family is all about. That's what tradition is all about. And you have the pie baking, and the root vegetables going, and it's like give me a glass of wine, please. That's it. I'm ready now. CAVANAUGH: I want to tell our listeners, we are taking your calls for your questions about Thanksgiving cooking with Chef Bernard. 1-888-895-5727. Christina in San Diego, welcome to the show. NEW SPEAKER: Hello. I actually have a question not about Turkey but about dessert. I am in addition to baking a tradition pumpkin pie, I wanted to have some baked apple, nice for the children and the older grandmas that can't eat for hard things. But I've never actually baked apples before. I'm not sure what would be good fillings for them. And if there are any special instructions to how to roast them in the oven, how that might work. GUILLAS: A couple of things that you can do with apples. You can do a cobbler, for example, so you would peel your potato, and use almond flour, almond meal, and mix it with a little bit of butter, sugar, vanilla, toss it together and put it into a baking dish, then just put an apple crumble on top, a bit of flour, some raisins and flour and butter. And you just bake it in the oven. That's one way to do it. Another way to do, you make a caramel with butter into a pan. So you take water, butter, sugar, make the caramel. You cool it. Then you just put your sliced apple on top of it, then make a batter. That's my grandma's recipe, again. And it was super easy. You take the egg yolks with sugar, beat it fold it together, put it on the apple, stick it in the oven, E voila. With a little bit of ice cream, it would be just fantastic. Now, baked apple also old fashion would way would be you cut the apple in half, core it, put a little bit of that cranberry relish right in the center of it, and you bake it in the oven. It is also delicious. So you can make it really, really healthy without all the butter and the flour and everything else. It's still good, a little bit of ice cream. CAVANAUGH: Not to make it too healthy! We're talking about putting things inside apples and things of that nature. What should folks put inside the cavity of the Turkey? No stuffing, right? GUILLAS: Well, there's the deal. There still is traditions where people love to put their stuffing in it. If you -- I don't really like it, personally, but a lot of people do like it. You have to make sure that that stuffing reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. For your stuffing, you can pretty much do anything you want of the you could do some sausage and apples and bred and savory breads, and you mix it together, stick is inside, that's perfect. I like to do it on the side. And what I like to do is break all the rules as usual. I use wild mushrooms, and do like a wild mushroom bred pudding. And by cooking it on the side, you have complete control of how you will have that stuffing coming out. So there's many different ways. Another way that I love is you do that corn oyster stuffing. If you want the calories on top of the Turkey, well, baby, you got it. Because it's really rich. But the flavor is to die for. So there is so many things that you can do. CAVANAUGH: How do you make that crispy top on your stuffing that people like so much? GUILLAS: The best way to do your stuffing is you put your stuffing, let's say, into a baking dish, then you cover it with plastic wrap, then you put foil on top of it. Then you bake it for about one hour at 325 degrees. The last 30 minutes, you remove the plastic and the foil, and you just dot it with a little wit of butter, then it will crisp on top of it, and that's as simple as that. CAVANAUGH: Before we move on, I want to talk more about side dishes. But let's get to the idea of grilling or barbecuing a Turkey. Do you like that? A lot of people our weather here we can barbecue all year-round. GUILLAS: I really love temperature upon I love to cook outside because it's so gorgeous outside. Plus, you don't make a mess in the kitchen. Isn't that cool? CAVANAUGH: Yes. GUILLAS: The only thing that's important is you have to make sure that your temperature on that grill when you put the lid down still is above 225 degrees. So my recommendation is try to hang around, I would say 300 degrees. If you do it on a barbecue, you still need it put it in a roasting pan because you have the drippings going onto the flame and it ignites. Smoking a Turkey. CAVANAUGH: How hard is that? GUILLAS: It's very easy to do. The only thing is you really need to make sure that you control the heat really well. And I call it Turkey cirque de soleil, it's upside down. I cook it on the breast. And the juices just flow into the breast. So it really cooks well. It takes much longer. Most likely for a 20-pound bird, you're looking at 6 or 7 hours. It takes a long time. And you need to take care of the fire. If you have about 250 degrees. Try to hang around 300 degrees. So you have about 5.5 hours, and you still need to have that little basting. So what would you baste? A little bit of oil, no butter, just a little bit of oil. Grape seed oil would be just fine. The thing that you want to do is control the smoke. Because if you over smoke it, it will be bitter. So that's very important. And sometimes when you are doing that smoker, if you have your barbecue right by, you can do a half smoke in the smoker, finish it on the grill, and it's really safe. CAVANAUGH: That sounds great. If you're traditionally roasting the Turkey in the oven the way I think probably most people still do, what do you think about the idea of a high heat searing and then followed with the roasting at about 300, 325? GUILLAS: It does work really well. I've done it before. But my tradition and even at the Marine room, the way we cook it, we like to keep it at 325 degrees all the way through. When you start at 500 degrees, you still have to be very careful because everybody has a hot spot in their oven. So if you don't pay attention, you're going to have one part of the bird went to Hawaii, and the other part of the bird will stay in Minnesota. So one is going to be white, the other is tan. And it creates a problem. You want to make sure you keep an eye on it. The best is you do 15 minutes and flip the pan and you're all set. The other thing I like to do is I like to bake a cookie sheet with cookies on it, and then I know exactly where all my hot spot is. If you have a hot spot into that oven, I know exactly what to do. CAVANAUGH: That's something people could do today to know where they are. GUILLAS: That's it. CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know we're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Before our break, I want to take a call. Nancy is calling from La Jolla. NEW SPEAKER: Hello. CAVANAUGH: Hi. Welcome to the show. NEW SPEAKER: Can you hear me? CAVANAUGH: Sure can. NEW SPEAKER: OKAY, well my question is I'm told to turn my radio down, but my grandmother is my grandma always made a Greek stuffing that's a meat based stuffing. And I don't know anyone else who does that. It had roasted chestnuts that we made in the oven and burned our fingers on. It had maybe ground lamb or beef, rice, golden raisins. CAVANAUGH: That sounds like some stuffing. NEW SPEAKER: And I was wondering if you were aware of that. GUILLAS: I was wondering if your grandmother and my grandmother were related because in Brittany, my grandmother would do pretty much everything that you just said, but we would use sausages just like pretty much an Italian sausage style. And by having that fat in the sausage, it keeps that stuffing really, really moist. And actually, I do believe it is on my website at You'll be able to get that stuffing in there. If you're not -- just contact me and bingo, I'll send it to you. It's really, really good. And that's my favorite stuffing. CAVANAUGH: Let's take a short break now so we can talk a little bit longer on the other side. Talking with Chef Bernard, and coming back, we're going to cover things like vegetarian Thanksgivings, holiday deserts, and more, and of course we'll be talking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. CAVANAUGH: 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 at 1-888-895-5727. I know you have so many recipes and side dishes to talk about. One quick question, overall, how do you cut down on the stress of preparing a Thanksgiving meal? GUILLAS: It's quite simple. You just have to prepare everything in advance. What I mean by that is you need to shop a couple days before. So you don't have to run around. I have news for you. There is so many people who are shopping right now for Thanksgiving. So it means there is a lot of traffic, a long line at the cash register. Then you have the kids and the family is coming, and it becomes oh, my God. No, just get organized and it's okay. What you want to do if you didn't do anything until today is you make sure that you write everything on a piece of paper that you will be Ning for the feast. And then organize it into a way that you went to that store to get your protein, this one to get your fruit and vegetables, for example. And then don't forget you node to go buy some beverages. And you do everything at once. And you're all set. CAVANAUGH: And if you prepare the meal rundown like that too, your preparation, I guess that would be an easy way to go about it. GUILLAS: And another thing to do, it's like -- I really love to do this. If you can take your stuffing tonight and already bake it tonight, this is what will happen when you reheat it, all the flavors will marry overnight, and it will be even better tomorrow. What about your cranberry sauce? Make your sauce tonight. It's going to really be the kickoff of the holiday season because everybody is going to be so excited about tomorrow. CAVANAUGH: Let's take a call. Nancy is on the line. NEW SPEAKER: Hi. I have a question about our Turkey. We're going a little different route this year. We're doing Indian, and so I'm going to have a yogurt lime tan dory recipe. But we'll see how it turns out. My husband always cook the Turkey, and he's nervous about the cooking method that was recommended in the recipe in that you're supposed to do it in a roasting bag, then maybe poke some holes in it to vent it. It says the last half-hour you roll the bag down and roast it till the 69 gets crispy. What do you think? Or should we just do our usual method? GUILLAS: You can do it that way. It does work really well. But the thing they would do is I would follow the instruction that you got from the bag. But I would -- instead of giving it 30 minutes, give it an hour out of the bag. And the best thing to do at that point is -- because it's an Indian Turkey, get some Salas spices and mix it with melted butter, and then you can really apply it on and brush it on the Turkey. And what will happen is that Turkey is going to become really nice and crispy skin. Tell be just perfect. There will be that last hour which is just going to make it pop. CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you about your suggestions for some side dishes that really make the meal. And it goes in with one of our callers on the line who wants to know about traditional vegetables for Thanksgiving. So can you give a wow factor to any of the traditional vegetables? GUILLAS: Traditional vegetables, the thing they would recommend first of all is double check figure there is a farmer's market open today or early tomorrow morning. Because what you buy at the farmer's market will have so much more flavor. It's out of the ground and right in your kitchen. So sweet potatoes for example, you can use your regular sweet potatoes. And I like to do it with a little bit of cinnamon, sugar, some spices. You can finish it with the mash mellow if you want to. But you already have all that sugar so I don't like to do it that way. Which it comes to sweet potatoes, what about breaking the rules and doing it with baniato? They are yellow sweet potatoes from Cuba, but it's available everywhere. BONIATO. It's beautiful. You can make it also mash. If you mash it, I would add a little bit of spiced rum. It's amazing. CAVANAUGH: Really? GUILLAS: Yeah. But what's good about it is because your mashed potatoes are going to be really hot. That alcohol disappears. Completely disappears. But you keep all that flavor. It is so cool. It really works out well. Mutt a little bit of muslix on top of it. Then do your root vegetables, rutabaga, parsnips, carrots, fingerling potatoes, and roast it separately in a pan with a little bit of fresh herbs and thyme. And I would say finish it with a little bit of truffle oil. I know it's not traditional, but man, it's so sexy. And then the other way to do it is, and like my grandma would be doing it, are when the bird is almost done, an hour before it's done, you put all the vegetables around the Turkey and you cook it into that roasting pan. Now you have all the juices sucked in by all the vegetables. It is delicious. Mashed potato. CAVANAUGH: I was just about to go there. GUILLAS: The right way to make a mashed potato is you have to use not a very fancy potato. You use the Russet potatoes. Those you can find everywhere. You cook it just I would say when they just pass al dente. It means there is a crunch, but they're just going to be cooked right. Then you mash it, and the best way to have that gorgeous mashed potato is don't overwork it. The more you mash it, the more elasticity it will bring. Then you just mash it, add butter, or you can use creme fraiche. Or mascarpone. Or you can rebake it again. CAVANAUGH: I've always cooked potatoes to the inch of their lives so they're soft enough to mash and mash. But that's not the way to do. GUILLAS: Oh, those poor potatoes. CAVANAUGH: I know! GUILLAS: If you over cook it, they become watery. So then you have to drain it, right? CAVANAUGH: Right, right? So you're washing a lot of the starches and the flavors. I don't say they'd have to be al dente. They just pass that, and then they just start to fall apart. Very important. And if you don't want to peel those potato, buy the little red ones, you know? The new potatoes. Wash it really good, and you cut them in half, and you just bake it or cook it in water, then mash it, and do it exactly the same. It's really, really good. CAVANAUGH: Let's take a call. Again, our number, 1-888-895-5727. Jasmine is calling from San Diego. Welcome to the show. NEW SPEAKER: I wanted to ask if you could recommend anything other than tofurkey as a main dish. I have as a vegetarian made dish, I have five different family members that are all vegetarian. So it's kind of a big deal. So we kind of have been looking for something that's really delicious and just haven't found the right thing yet. CAVANAUGH: Thank you. GUILLAS: Well, the tofu turkey is really good. The only thing is, if you do it just the regular way, this is what you're stuck with, one dimension. So you have to glaze it. You take some pomegranate juice and tangerine juice, for example, and you reduce it together, and it becomes a really nice glaze. I put a little bit of lavender flour in it and that to if you Turkey is really good. If you want to did it with just to fu itself, you could do a kalbi glaze which has soy and ginger and a little garlic. And citrus zest. Really delicious as well. When it comes to your stuffing, just do a vegetarian stuffing. It would be what? Use the mushrooms. Mushroom stuffing is so delicious. And if you go to a lot of Asian stores such as 99 ranch, you will have these king oyster mushrooms that really work so well. I still have to say, Bernard, five years ago you would say to fu, I would say what? And now I love to fu. I mean, I just love to fu. I cook it all the time at my house. We even make it from scratch at the Marine room, and we have that tofu dish available. What's tool about it is it absorbs all the flavors. If you marinate it, for example, if you put a couple of drops of the liquid smoke, it just take its to another level. So you can have a lot of fun with that tofu Turkey, and you can also marinate it, it will soak a lot of those flavors. CAVANAUGH: Lori is calling us from Oceanside. Welcome to the show. Oh, okay, lore couldn't stay on the line. Kika is calling us from Rancho PeÒasquitos. Welcome to the show. NEW SPEAKER: Thanks so much. I have a question about cooking my Turkey breast in a cook pot. I don't have enough room in my oven to make a whole Turkey, and I'm also making a am ha. I've done it once before, and it came out okay. But I couldn't brown it. So I'm wondering if I can take it out of the crock pot and brown it in the oven or will that overcook it? GUILLAS: This is what you need to do, you take a nice, large roasting pan, a little bit of, you know, oil butter or both, actually. Then you seer your Turkey skin side down first for about -- and season it any which way you want. And when it is nice and golden brown, you seer it on the other side. So what you're doing is sealing all the juices and you're creating a crust. And then you put it into the crock pot. It will come out beautifully. Same thing. I would put a little bit of butter in my crock pot, I would take some thyme sprigs and put it right on top instead of doing chopped thyme. And when you cover it, you have that infusion which is really good. Another thing that takes it to another level, if you have some lemon grass growing in the yard, just clip the lemon grass and put it on top of it, then you have that really cool citrus flavor come out. It's delicious. CAVANAUGH: That sounds wonderful. Let's talk desserts. We're getting to the end of our hour. I can hardly believe it. Of so what -- any idea -- of course everybody thinks about pumpkin pie as a dessert for Thanksgiving, which is fabulous. Is there any way to maybe jazz it up or think of another dessert? GUILLAS: Well, when it comes to the dessert, what you can do -- I also like pumpkin -- I like the pumpkin pie, but I like it done with kabocha. It's a Japanese pumpkin. And you have a very different result. CAVANAUGH: How? GUILLAS: The density of the flesh is very different. The pumpkin pie itself is very watery. But kabocha is much dryer. It is delicious. The sugar content is higher as well. I like to do this and seven it with some candied pecans. I do a little whipped cream, I like to put some card mom. And I like to have a little bit of chocolate on it. What can I say? I want to add one more thing. We didn't talk about gravy. CAVANAUGH: Oh, yes. GUILLAS: Make your gravy, for the best way to do it, you can do the gravy tonight for tomorrow. You don't have to worry about it. So what you want to do is you take the desserts and you take the neck and you roast them, then you put a bit of flour, butter, rue, then port wine Marsala or Madera, then you put chicken stock and you can summer it for an hour and get an amazing gravy. And again, you don't have to be stressed out to make the gravy and everything else. CAVANAUGH: That is a problem, at the very end of the meal to try to get that together. GUILLAS: What you want to do is when your Turkey is done, you remove the Turkey, put more of the alcohol, whatever it is, and you want to scrape all the butter out of the pan. And then you mix it with your gravy. It is really, really good. CAVANAUGH: And that doesn't sound to me to be too terribly fatty either. GUILLAS: No, it's pretty light below you look at it. You can put only one table spoon of butter and one table spoon of flour, and will be good for eight people. It's really light. But I would say use a really nice, good, chicken stock that you are able to have that would you feel flavor. And the day after? Really fast, the day after with the legs you can do Turkey pot pie. And with the bones, you do a Turkey soup. And you can also do a Turkey curry. Upon I have a recipe that you can make in ten minutes. It's on, same thing, and it's so easy to do, you'll go, you're kidding. That's it? And it's really good because you are using all your left overs. Everything can go in those preparations. But you know, when you look at an easy one to do as well, if you have to keep leftovers, a nice sandwich with the cranberry, a little bit of mustard, you know? Maybe there's some wine left, then you can have a nice glass of rosÈ with that. That's it! That's a good way to do it. CAVANAUGH: My last question, so your drink is rosÈ with Turkey? GUILLAS: Well, I love rosÈ with Turkey. And other wines that would work well is a nice pino grigio. If you take a Chardonnay, it's got to be more still, like style. I don't know it depends what you're doing and what you're liking. I like a nice zip, for example. I'm a red wine guy. CAVANAUGH: And champagne goes with everything. GUILLAS: Oh, yeah. A nice Pinot noir will be very, very good as well. CAVANAUGH: We have to end it there. GUILLAS: Oh, no! I don't want to go! CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Chef Bernard of the Marine room in La Jolla. It's great to see you. Thank you for coming in. Happy Thanksgiving. GUILLAS: Thank you so much, and happy Thanksgiving to everyone who's listening to KPBS. You guys have the right station.

For many people, Thanksgiving dinner is the biggest meal they prepare all year. But a big, elaborate meal is all in a day's work for my next guest. Chef Bernard Guillas is executive chef of the Marine Room in La Jolla. And it's become a tradition here on KPBS to have Chef Bernard in on the day before Thanksgiving to give us all last minute tips on preparing a fabulous feast.

We're taking questions about roasting, brining, even frying your turkey. Or perhaps you've got a question about side dishes, desserts, vegetarian alternatives?