For weeks now, friends have been calling to ask how they can use their microwave ovens to simplify preparations for the big Thanksgiving feast.
Is it safe, they wonder, to "nuke" the big bird? The stuffing? The stuffing in the bird? And how else can they use their microwaves to lighten the holiday load?
Quite honestly, food researchers can't make up their minds about the safety of microwaving turkeys. They all agree, however, that it's not safe for big birds (more than 12 pounds) because they won't cook evenly or thoroughly.
The latest recommendation is that you roast your turkey the old-fashioned way--preferably unstuffed. These days, everyone is concerned about salmonella food poisoning, and roasting your turkey unstuffed minimizes the risk of that. Don't worry about the bird drying out. Today's turkeys have been bred so successfully that they'll roast well whether they're stuffed or unstuffed.
Combining microwave and conventional cooking may not make your Thanksgiving totally hassle-free, but it will surely help.
1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries, stemmed
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Mix together cranberries, sugar and water in microwave-safe 2-quart casserole. Cover with lid or vented plastic food wrap. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 6 to 7 minutes, stirring at half time, until cranberry skins pop. (Frozen cranberries will take 2 to 3 minutes longer to cook and should be stirred twice.)
Stir again and cool, covered, to room temperature. Stir and serve or chill before serving. Makes 2 cups.
Spicy Cranberry Sauce:
Prepare as directed but mix 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves with sugar.
HOMEMADE PUMPKIN PUREE
1 (4- to 5-pound) pumpkin
Halve pumpkin. Cover cut sides with plastic food wrap and place, cut side-up, at least 1 inch apart on paper towel on microwave oven floor, keeping pumpkin at least 2 inches from oven walls.
Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 20 to 25 minutes or until very tender, rotating pumpkin halves 180 degrees at half time. Wrap each half in foil and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Unwrap and discard seeds. Scrape pulp into food processor and puree 10 to 15 seconds. Use in any favorite pumpkin pie recipe. Makes 3 to 4 cups puree.
1 1/2 pounds small white onions, peeled (about 18 per pound)
2 tablespoons water, dry white wine or chicken broth
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Place onions along with water in microwave-safe 2-quart casserole. Cover with lid and microwave 10 to 12 minutes on HIGH (100% power), stirring at half time, until tender-crisp. Let stand, covered, 3 minutes, then drain well.
Place butter in wax-paper-covered, microwave-safe 6-cup measure. Microwave on HIGH 55 to 65 seconds until melted. Blend in flour and nutmeg. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 30 seconds until foamy. Gradually mix in milk.
Add salt and pepper and microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 minutes, beating well every 1 1/2 minutes, until sauce boils and thickens. Let stand, uncovered, 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Pour sauce over onions and toss gently to mix. Makes 8 servings.