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Alternate cooking methods ease holiday stress

By Betty Shimabukuro

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:48 p.m. HST, Dec 11, 2013



It’s two weeks and a day until Thanksgiving, not too soon to offer a couple of tips for easing the stress on Turkey Day.

Tip No. 1: Pay someone else to cook. But keep in mind that if you buy one of those turkey-to-go meals, you still may have to turn on your oven. The turkey often comes whole and chilled; applying heat is your job.

Susan Nishimura called for specifics on making this happen. This is what Zippy’s — which has been providing Thanksgiving takeout for years — suggests: Place the whole turkey in a roasting pan and bake in a 325-degree oven for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Brush the skin with vegetable oil to keep it from drying out.

A better alternative, though, is to carve the turkey while it’s cold, spread the pieces in a roasting pan, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. Be sure to include any turkey juices to keep the meat moist. It’s quicker and serving is much easier.

That option is also best for home cooks who choose to save time on the holiday by roasting the turkey a day or so early. As you probably don’t have a commercial kitchen or the equipment to quickly chill a whole, cooked bird, the safest thing is to carve the cooked turkey, chill the pieces and reheat them later. The Foster Farms help line and other food safety experts advise this approach. 

OK, that takes care of the main dish. Now, dessert.

I am an advocate of the slow cooker as a tool for increasing cooking capacity on Thanksgiving, the busiest day of the year for ovens across America. It’s great for preparing potatoes, extra stuffing or cooking a vegetable side dish. But I’d never used one to bake a pie. I didn’t think a slow cooker could get the crust right. Thanks to the “Fix It and Forget It New Cookbook,” by Phyllis Pellman Good (Good Books, 2013), for proving me wrong.

The process is simple: Press a refrigerator pie crust into the crock, add pie filling and turn on the cooker for about 90 minutes. Easy. The crust, which cooks right against the wall and bottom of the crock where it is hottest, turns out perfectly firm and crisp.

Of course, if your crock is oval, you’ll get an oval pie, which means the slices won’t be uniform wedges, but will anyone care?

This recipe was inspired by Good’s but has several modifications based on my testing.

SLOW-COOKER PUMPKIN PIE

1 refrigerator pie crust
4 eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon EACH ground ginger and salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup half-and-half

Tear off 2 long pieces of foil, fold each in half lengthwise and lay them across the bottom of a 5- to 7-quart crock — one lengthwise, the other crosswise. You will use the foil to lift the pie out of the crock, so the ends need to extend high enough for you to grab them.

Press pie crust over foil into bottom of crock, extending up sides about 2 inches. For oval crocks, stretch crust to elongate it.

Beat eggs in mixing bowl, then stir in pumpkin and remaining ingredients. Carefully pour into crust. Cover and cook on high 90 minutes to 2 hours. After 1 hour, lift cover, spread a clean kitchen towel over crock and replace cover (this keeps condensation from dripping onto the pie). Pie is done when a knife inserted into the filling comes out clean. Turn off cooker, remove cover and let pie cool slightly.

Run a knife around crust to loosen it from crock. Use foil strips to lift pie out of cooker onto serving plate. If this seems treacherous, let pie cool longer. It will firm up and be easier to handle.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Write “By Request,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or email requests to  bshimabukuro@staradvertiser.com.

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