Orlando Rodriguez
October 15, 2018 | Orlando Rodriguez

Thanksgiving Tips & Tricks from Chef Orlando

With Thanksgiving upon us, we caught up with Chef Orlando and asked him to share some cooking tips from his many years of preparing Thanksgiving dinner both in his home and at Veraisons. Perhaps you’re hosting and cooking for the first time or cooking for someone with an allergy; whatever it may be, we hope you find a takeaway or two below.

To brine or not to brine
Chef Orlando brines all of our turkeys at Veraisons to bring flavor and moisture in. He uses a saltwater solution with sugar, apples, sage, and peppercorns, but you could also rub salt on the outside of the turkey two days ahead of time and let it sit in an open air chilled environment or try the French way of rubbing butter and herbs under the skin and salting the outside.

How to make sure everything is ready on time
Do the math and plan ahead! It all depends on what time you’re serving and all you have to do is count back from there. Know what’s going in the stove, what’s going in the oven, and how much time everything requires. Be sure to leave resting time for the turkey so the juices have time to redistribute and it has time to finish cooking on the counter. It’s also helpful to set your serving dishes out ahead of time.

Staff Favorite Pairing:
Emily Edsall, Assistant Inn & Dining Room Manager
I love my sparkling wines. My family and I are appetizer people and our tradition is Baked Brie in puff pastry with walnuts and cranberries.

Turkey tips
As you roast your turkey and the fat and juices are falling down into the pan, save some of the fat for the gravy. Take the fat and make your rue (fat and flour mixture), which will thicken your gravy and give it a base flavor of turkey.  If you don’t have time to make a stock for your gravy ahead of time, you can still use the fat to add turkey flavor to store bought gravy.

Make sure your turkey is out for at least an hour at room temperature before it goes into the oven.  Chef Orlando prefers to cook his turkey uncovered all the way through to get a beautiful golden color on the outside.  Also, don’t be scared to pull your turkey out a little early around 150-155 degrees Fahrenheit and let it rest for a half hour. The temperature will rise about 10 more degrees and the juices will disperse back into the bird, resulting in a beautiful turkey that will be nice and moist, especially if you brine it. A good rule of thumb is a ½ pound or 1 pound per person to have enough for leftovers, etc.

Cook stuffing inside or outside
It’s all about personal preference. Chef Orlando’s preference is to cook it in a casserole dish to get a nice crispness on the outside. If you do cook the stuffing inside of the bird, be sure to remove it once the turkey is done, transfer it to a casserole dish, and continue cooking until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Staff Favorite Pairing:
Kerry Keller, General Manager
My favorite wine pairing for Thanksgiving is our Gewürztraminer. Gewürztraminer, in my opinion, compliments the many dishes on the table, from the turkey and stuffing to the green bean casserole.

Pairing wine
Syrah, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer pair extremely well with turkey and all of the traditional accompaniments, but it’s really all about your personal preferences. If you like Chardonnay or something sweeter like our Cranberry Chablis, it will go well. Chef Orlando says you really can’t go wrong. It’s all about having a good time with your loved ones and a good rule of thumb for any celebration is to start with bubbles!

Cooking for a gluten allergy
Keep things separate while cooking! Follow the same recipes you normally would and replace any items with gluten with gluten free items or you can also find a variety of gluten free recipes online. Be sure to keep packaging of gluten free items for your guests. Follow this link for an easy gluten free Thanksgiving guide!

Staff Favorite Pairing:
Steve DiFrancesco, Winemaker
Dark meat turkey with Oak Free Cabernet Franc and Green Bean Casserole with Dry Riesling!

Prep! Prep! Prep!
If you have time to prep, do it! Since Thanksgiving is on Thursday, you could start on Tuesday by cutting your vegetables and making sure things are ready ahead of time. Bake your pies the day before. Make sure you have everything in your house that you need and cook what you know. Don’t go too far out of the ordinary for Thanksgiving and don’t feel ashamed to use packaged puff pastry or pie dough.

Best leftover meal
Chef Orlando loves making soup. He shared, “In my family, everyone loves soup and for some reason, I’m the one that gets stuck making it, but I enjoy it. I make a stock from the carcass and depending on what is leftover, I add it in. You also can never go wrong with turkey sandwiches.”

Staff Favorite Pairing:
Gene Pierce, Owner
Scalloped Oysters with Sauvignon Blanc

Mashed potato tips
Fresh is best!  Peel the potatoes, salt the water, bring them to a boil and lower the heat until at a simmer.  It’s important to bring them to a simmer because when you’re boiling, you’re essentially blasting the outside of the potato versus cooking the inside. Simmering is more gentle and allows them to cook through, making for a nice smooth potato by the time you get them mashed and milled. Some tips: add sour cream for a nice touch and unique flavor. Put some butter and maybe a touch of cream on the top before serving to keep the moisture in, or wrap it plastic and put it in a warming oven.

All of us here at Glenora would like to wish you and yours a wonderful, warm and Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for reading!

Thanksgiving scene with quote: "There is always something to be thankful for. Like wine. And pie. And more wine."


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