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Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Classic T-Birds

November 18, 1998

Over the years we have accumulated countless turkey recipes. Some of them we like to make again and again. This year we've chosen six favorites, the four given below and two that will run in Sunday's special food section. Some show off cooking methods that are different from the standard roast; others are just great-tasting birds. If you feel like going beyond the basic turkey in our Thanksgiving Survival Guide, be daring and choose one of these classics. They're all good eating.

The Salt Solution

Staff writer Russ Parsons worked out the brining solution for this turkey in 1996 after talking to several chefs and cooks and experimenting with different proportions of salt and water. Brining--the soaking of meat or poultry in a liquid solution, most often salt and cold water--has long been used for smoking and more recently for roasting meat. Brining proponents say the technique leads to increased juiciness and improved tenderness. The technique requires no special equipment.

Roast Brined Turkey

Total Preparation Time: 2 hours and 35 minutes, plus 12 hours soaking and drying. Active Work Time: 15 minutes.

2/3 cup salt

1 gallon water

1 (16-pound) turkey

* Combine salt and water and stir until salt dissolves to make brine. Pour brine over turkey in pot just large enough to hold both. If turkey is completely covered, don't worry about using all of brine. Cover with foil and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight, turning 2 or 3 times to make sure turkey is totally submerged.

* Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Refrigerate, unwrapped, 6 hours or overnight.

* Pat turkey with paper towel so it's free of moisture, then place on its side on rack in shallow roasting pan. Roast at 450 degrees 15 minutes. Turn turkey to other side and roast another 15 minutes.

* Reduce heat to 325 degrees and roast until meat thermometer inserted in center of thickest part of thigh registers 165 degrees, about 2 hours. Remove from oven and set aside 20 minutes before carving.

10 to 12 servings. Each of 12 servings: 394 calories; 792 mg sodium; 236 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 65 grams protein; 0 fiber.

Turkey Express

The Times Test Kitchen developed this Ultimate Turkey recipe in 1992. We were tired of eating dried out turkey every Thanksgiving and found that this method, in which the stuffing is placed under the skin instead of inside the body cavity, protected the breast meat during cooking and added flavor to the meat (especially if you use a flavorful sausage stuffing). We were happy to discover that the method also reduced the cooking time needed to roast the bird. Note that the method works best with smaller to average-sized turkeys, 10- to 14-pounders. Also, don't truss the bird or tuck under the wings.

Ultimate Turkey

Total Preparation Time: 2 hours 30 minutes * Active Work Time: 15 minutes

1 (12- to 13-pound) turkey

Salt, pepper

4 cups stuffing, about

1 stalk celery, cut into thirds

1 carrot, cut into thirds

1 small onion

Melted butter

* Thaw turkey thoroughly. Even fresh turkeys normally have icy sections and must be thawed.

* Rinse turkey inside and out. Pat dry. Season whole bird inside and out with salt and pepper.

* Run fingers carefully between skin and flesh of turkey, loosening skin. Working slowly, push stuffing in thin layer under skin on breast and thighs. (Excess stuffing can be baked in lightly greased casserole until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour.) Put celery, carrot and onion into body cavity of turkey.

* Put turkey in large roasting pan, breast-side up. Do not truss bird and do not tuck wings under bird. Brush turkey with melted butter. Roast at 350 degrees until turkey registers 165 degrees when thermometer is placed deep into both breast and thigh, nearest bone, 7 to 10 minutes per pound.

* Remove from oven. Let stand 20 minutes before carving.

12 to 13 servings. Each of 12 servings: 416 calories; 223 mg sodium; 189 mg cholesterol; 21 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 52 grams protein; 0.13 gram fiber.

The Banana Wrap

In the Yucatan, turkey is as common as chicken, and one of the most delicious ways of cooking it there is in a backyard pib or pit, smeared with seasoning paste and wrapped in banana leaves. This version, submitted by cookbook author Nancy Zaslavsky, who lives nearby in Venice, does not require a pit; an oven will do just fine. Zaslavsky adapted the recipe from one made by her friend Rosario Chavez, who is originally from Espita, Yucatan. We love the red tinge of the bird from the achiote paste and the tender meat that results from the banana-leaf wrap. Banana leaves, the herb epazote and achiote paste (made of annatto seeds and often sold in small blocks) are available in most Southern California Latino markets.

Yucatan Turkey Pibil

Total Time Preparation: 3 hours, 15 minutes * Active Work Time: 15 minutes

1 cup achiote paste

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 cup lime juice (about 6 limes)

1/2 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons oil

1 (10-pound) turkey, giblets removed, thawed if frozen

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