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Investigative Solutions

Now We're Cookin'
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2001

Gentlemen, call your Moms and invite them over for Thanksgiving Dinner - or Christmas for that matter. You're going to show them something!

It is my intention to walk you through the process of creating a magic meal for your kids; we won't sauté, flambeau, dice, simmer or do any other thing you won't immediately recognize. Can you follow a Chilton's Manual and do your brakes? This will be a piece of cake.

I am also going to show you how to make ice cream - the single most useful item in the parents arsenal of tools to impress children is an electric ice cream maker. They don't cost much. I would advise you to get the big one (6 qts); you can make 2 quarts in a six quart machine but, if you have a party and need 6 quarts, you will be at it all day with the small one. They cost about the same.

If you master the making of ice cream, you'll be having lots of parties - your children will become VERY popular!

You will need a turkey - get a big one, twenty pounds or so. You will need an oven and a few pots and pans and a couple of other things you should have on hand anyway. If you don't have them, it might be nice to go out and pay for a decent looking set of plates, glasses and silverware but I can tell you for sure that the food will be just fine using paper and plastic if you have to.

If you want to impress Mom, go first class.

Here's your shopping list:

  • Turkey - fresh, never frozen. I buy the Butterball ones (Maybe they'll pay me thousands of dollars to say that! LOL)
  • Flour - All purpose
  • Milk
  • Cream - Heavy Whipping Cream - 4 Pints
  • Half n Half - 4 Pints
  • Potatoes
  • Frozen Corn or Mixed Vegetables- Family Size Bag
  • Fresh bread
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Oranges - 6, I like the big seedless navel oranges
  • Orange Juice
  • Lemons - 2
  • Limes - 2
  • Butter
  • Onions - 2 big ones will do
  • Polish Kielbasa - (2) 1 pound each
  • Chicken Broth - about 14 oz
  • Celery - 1 bunch
  • Big Bag of Malted Milk Balls or Whoppers
  • Box of Rock Salt
  • 4 Boxes of Andes Dinner Mints
  • Bottle of Chocolate Syrup - I used Hershey's Choc-Malt 16oz
  • 2 Cans Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Eggs - a dozen (you need 8)
  • Stuffing Mix - (2) 1 lb. bags. I use Pepperridge Farm, 1 bag regular and one bag of cubes
  • Olive Oil
  • Two bottles of wine - Optional
  • Aluminum Foil Roasting Pan - large
  • Roasting Bag - large
  • 2 Bags of Ice (minimum)
  • A hand held blender - these are cheap and great to have
  • Large glass measuring cup (2 cup size)
  • Spice List

    Garlic Salt
    Minced Garlic
    Black Pepper
    Pure Vanilla Extract - NOT Imitation
    Brown Sugar
    Brown Gravy Mix - I buy the big container that hold about a pint of the powder

It's not cheap to do, but making a grand dinner is a memory money won't buy.
For the ice cream (yes, you can buy it cheaper), you will need a machine (about $30), the ingredients and some time. In return, you get to convince your children that you are magic! I bought this machine two years ago and I am sure it has made more than twenty gallons of ice cream.

OK, you have every thing in the ingredient list, tomorrow's Thanksgiving Day - set your alarm to get you up by 8 AM. That bird is going to take 5 hrs to cook once you have it ready to put in the oven. If you start at 8AM, you might have dinner at 4PM - it's a lot of work.

First, we begin by washing the bird. Put the bird in the CLEAN sink. Fill the sink with warm water as you carefully pull the tips of the legs from the flap of skin that secures them (on a Butterball). Open the big body cavity and remove the package inside. Some birds will have two packages - the smaller one in the small cavity on the other end of the bird where the neck was. Wash the bird inside and out.
While the bird soaks in warm water,you are going to start making the dressing. Your Mom doesn't make it this way - but she'll hound you for the recipe once she's had yours. I kid you not - this is nothing experimental, I make this every year this way.
Get out two average onions or one really big one. Peel the skin off them and slice them then chop up the slices to make little cubes. It doesn't matter one bit how you get it done so long as you take off that outside skin first. You should have enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet.
Put that skillet on the stove at a low to medium temperature, add 2 sticks of butter, cover with a lid and let it cook. Tell Momma you began by "dicing" the onions and "sautéing" them in butter.
Cut each of the two kielbasas in half and then split them long ways. Put them in a big glass or Pyrex bowl and nuke them in the microwave for about 5 minutes. Check them and if they don't look cooked, nuke them for a couple more. They should shrivel up a bit and get a little brown on the tips.
Do NOT overcook the kielbasa. The object of taking it for the stroll down atomic beach is to make some of the fat melt out of it. You will find a lot of fat in your bowl when you take it out. DON'T wash it down the drain - it will clog your pipes. Put it in a coffee can with some used paper towels or something and throw it in the garbage.
Remember how you chopped up the onions, we want celery chopped up to look just like it. Separate the stalks, wash them carefully in warm water, split them long ways and chop them up until you have about the same amount as you had of the onions. We started the onions cooking first because they cook slower.
Chop up the kielbasa and add it to the skillet along with the chopped celery. Sprinkle it liberally with the garlic salt. Stir it up, cover it with the lid and turn the heat down to low. Just so you know how to explain it to Momma, you are now "simmering" your "sautéed" onions with celery and kielbasa. Turn your oven on to 325 degrees so it can start warming up.
Now, take two large oranges, two lemons and two limes. Quarter them - in other words, cut them in half from top to bottom and cut each half in half. Take a sharp knife and cut the skins away. Then remove the seeds. Cut each piece into three or four pieces - we want big chunks, not ground up fruit.

In a 13 inch by nine inch nonstick pan (if you don't have one, you need one - we'll be baking your brownies in it in another article), put BOTH bags of stuffing mix (2 pounds) and add 1 cup of chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon of thyme, 1 tablespoon of rosemary, 1 tablespoon of sage, 1/2 tablespoon of pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of salt.

A "tablespoon" is not a precise measurement when I cook - it is about a goodsize spoon full - we are talking about seasoning about four pounds of stuffing so a little more/less is no big deal one way or the other.

Put the dry stuffing and seasoning in a large pot (or any other large clean container) and add the stuff you have been simmering in your skillet. Add two cups of chicken broth. Crack four eggs, put them in your 2 cup measuring cup, stir them up good with a fork and dump them into your pot. Add a cup of fresh orange juice to your pot and stir this whole thing up good with a big spoon or a spatula (that thing you flip an egg with).

Once it is well mixed, add the fruit you cut up and take all those skins you cut off the fruit and squeeze them (one at a time) so the juice falls on your mixture in the pot. GENTLY stir it up just enough to distribute the fruit throughout the mix. Again, we want big chunks when this is done, not ground up fruit.

Now, taste it - if it doesn't taste terrific, go back and try to figure out what you did wrong. It should be delicious.

Now we get ready to prepare our bird - the one that is still sitting in that sink full of water that is now cold. Drain the water from the sink, tilt the bird up so that big cavity drains and fill the sink/bird with warm water again. Let it set there while we make our baste for the turkey - the stuff we are going to smear all over the outside of the bird before we cook it.

Take 4 of those orange peel quarters, two lemon peel quarters and two lime peel quarters and cut them up into very small pieces - the smaller the better. Put them in something - your 2 cup measuring cup will do - add a 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, and a tablespoon EACH of salt, pepper, rosemary, sage and thyme. Add enough olive oil to cover everything completely and then start blending it with your hand blender until it is a creamy mix. If it is too thick to blend, add a little more olive oil.

Drain the water that the bird has been soaking in and use your sink sprayer to flush out the cavities with hot water. Dry the bird inside and out with paper towels making sure that you don't leave any bits of paper towel inside the bird.
Fill the bird with your stuffing - use your nice clean hands. You'll have lots of stuffing left over. Carefully tuck the tips of the legs back into that flap of skin that was used to hold them. If you cannot figure out how to do it, just tie them together across the big hole with a piece of string. Coat the bird with your mix that you blended - coat it liberally (use it all) and slide the bird into the baking bag - DO NOT TRY AND PICK YOUR TURKEY UP BY THE BAG - it isn't made for that and won't hold it.
Tie off the end of the bag with the ties they provided and set the bagged bird on that string thing that should have come with it. Use the string to lift the bird and set it in your roasting pan. An aluminum foil pan is not meant to hold the weight of that bird - it just holds the liquids that come out of the bird as it cooks. Support the bottom!

Put your bird in the oven that is set to 325 degrees. It should take about 15 minutes per pound to cook. In other words, divide the weight of your bird by 4 and cook it for that many hours. Be sure and note the time when you put it in or set your timer.

Put the rest of your dressing in your 13x9 pan and set it aside with a towel over it. Don't put it on the oven until the bird is almost cooked. I cook mine after the bird is done while I prepare everything else.

Assuming you have a twenty pound bird, you have 5 hours to kill - start cleaning up and put your wine in to be chilling. Get everything you have used thus far cleaned and put away. You're going to be back in 4 hours to make everything else but, before that, we'll be making the ice cream since it takes some time to "cure."

In your nice clean kitchen, assemble all the ice cream ingredients. You will be using that hand operated blender a lot; it is good to have everything blended together before you put it in the ice cream maker tank. You will also need a good supply of ice and rock salt.

Mr. Mom's Chocolate Chip Malt Ice Cream Recipe


2 Cans Sweetened Condensed Milk (14 oz ea.)
2 Pints Half-n-Half
2 Pints Heavy Cream
5 Table Spoons Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Bag Malted Milk Balls
1 16 oz Bottle Hershey's Chocolate Malt Syrup
4 boxes of Andes Dinner Mints

To start, put one of the 14 ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk in a big container - I used a huge car cup - add the 16 oz bottle of Hershey's chocolate malt syrup and a pint of Half-n-Half, blend completely with the hand blender and dump in your tank (the aluminum cylinder on the counter in the left hand picture below).

Put the malted milk balls (I prefer them but I used Whoppers) in a food processor and powderize them. Put the powder, the second 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk and the second pint of half-n-half in the big container, blend well and add to your tank.

Put 1 cup sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 5 Tablespoons of pure vanilla extract, 4 raw eggs and 2 pints of Heavy Whipping Cream in your container, blend and add to your tank.

Follow the directions that came with your machine. Put the agitator in the ice cream, cap it, put it in the bucket, surround with layers of ice and rock salt, plug it in and it should be about time to get back to making dinner while your ice cream maker does the work. It makes a lot of noise. Be sure and read the directions that came with it. You need to periodically pour off the water and add more ice and salt.

Take a dozen of your potatoes, peel them, cut them into quarters and put them in a big pot of water with salt to keep them from turning brown as you cut them up. This makes enough to feed a small army - you might want to use 6-8 potatoes for a smaller pot. Put them on the stove at a med-hi heat and let them cook.
Cooking the potatoes is a no-brainer; just let them cook while you take care of other things. Take your bag of mixed vegetables, put them in a microwaveable bowl and have them standing by. By this time, you should be ready to take the bird out of the oven - be careful. I slid the rack out, and then slid the bird and roasting pan off onto that big black cutting board to support it. Remember, DO NOT try to pick it up by picking up the pan - it isn't strong enough.
Now, bearing in mind that the bag we cooked the bird in is now full of cooked bird and the liquid drippings (about a half gallon of drippings), let's remove the bagged bird but leave the drippings by poking holes in the bottom of the bag and lifting the bird out of the pan using that string.
Next, we start in on the giblet gravy and the orange sauce. Take the stuff out of the packages that you pulled from the cavity of the bird, There will be a neck, heart, liver and gizzard. The neck is the long thing and the gizzard is so tough you can hardly cut it - throw them away. Cut the heart and liver into small pieces and nuke them for about 5 minutes. The will turn grayish -- all the red will go away when they are done
For the turkey gravy, put three cups of the drippings in a sauce pan (small pot) and let it sit for a while. Use a spoon to carefully spoon off the fat (oil that rises to the top) but don't worry about getting it all. Add three tablespoons of brown gravy mix and use your hand blender. Set it on the stove on a low heat.
Put three cups of drippings in another sauce pan and spoon off the fat. Add two table spoons of flour and blend with your blender. Put it on the stove on low heat and cook it slowly. Stir both of your sauce pans until they begin to bubble/boil. To the second one, add a cup and a half of orange juice and a cup of heavy cream.

Now, the thing about the gravy and the sauce that is different is they require adjustments to make them taste the way you want them to. The gravy will be a lot thicker than the orange sauce.

They should both be sitting on the stove, slowly bubbling - taste them. Add about half a tablespoon of salt and pepper to each and taste them again - keep doing that until they taste right - you should have more seasoning in the gravy than the orange sauce.

If your gravy isn't thick enough, add more brown gravy mix BUT remember that this will make it taste stronger too. Once it tastes strong enough, if you need to make it thicker, add a tablespoon of flour, blend it and slowly boil it again. Note that you should blend it and bring to a boil with each table spoon of flour you add - the boiling makes it thicken. Once the gravy is thick enough and tastes just right, add your giblets and turn the heat as low as possible.

Your orange sauce does not taste very strong and is not thick like the gravy is. Do not try and thicken it to match the gravy. It is supposed to be a thin sauce with a light orangey taste. Leave it warming on the lowest setting just like the gravy.

Put your pan of dressing in the 325 degree oven UNCOVERED and set your timer to 40 minutes. Remember to keep adding ice and salt to your ice cream maker.

By now, your potatoes should be well cooked. They have probably been boiling for about 45 minutes or more. Drain off all the water and add two sticks of butter (one if you used fewer potatoes). Just push the butter down into the hot potatoes and leave the pot sit somewhere off the stove while the butter melts. Stir your sauces.

Put that big bowl of mixed veggies in the microwave for about 5 minutes. Take them out and stir them up and nuke them again. Keep doing it until they are steamy hot. Keep an eye on those sauces - they are supposed to be on warm, not sitting there boiling.

To your pot of potatoes, add 2 cups of Half n Half (one if you used less potatoes) and a Tablespoon of salt. Use a hand mixer on a low speed to whip them up. Add more Half n Half as needed but be careful not to add too much. If you get them too watery, you have a problem. Whip them until they are they way you want them.

Open your cranberry sauce and put it on a small plate. Put your sauce in a large bowl and your gravy in another large bowl. Put them as well as a large bowl of mixed veggies and a larger bowl of mashed potatoes on the table.

By now, somewhere along the line, your ice cream maker should have stopped - pour the ice cream into some large Tupperware containers or a coffee can and put it in the freezer to cure. The ice cream will taste great at this point but will be softer than we'd like. Also, we have yet to add the chips.

If your ice cream machine is still grinding away, keep adding ice and salt. You can feel free to unplug it and move it into another room while you eat.

At my house, we "Say Grace" or ask a "Blessing" before dinner - the kids take turns with that, except on special occasions, when I prefer to ask the Blessing myself. How you handle things at your house is your business, but if you choose to follow this tradition, I think it is very important to make it a point to mention everyone in your prayer, and be sure that you leave no one out.

After dinner, you and the kids can open all the dinner mints and layer them on top of the ice cream which should still be pretty soft. Once you have the ice cream covered with a layer of mints, push them down into the ice cream and put it back into the freezer to get hard.

It is better to serve it once everyone has gotten over that stuffed feeling. It is really, REALLY rich stuff!

You can do this, and it will turn out to be delicious but, even if you make some mistakes, so what? You will have made a grand dinner no matter how many mistakes you made and the memory will taste better and better in the minds of your children as the years go by, while you get better and better at making it happen.

From my family to yours, Good Luck & God Bless



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