I had the chance to interview Carla Hall, author, celebrity chef, and motivational speaker to ask her about Thanksgiving Tips for the perfect holiday turkey feast. Here’s the interview…
Carla joined us courtesy of Country Crock and it was during her successful run of ABC’s The Chew. Now she has her own website touting even more delicious recipes. I decided to dust off the interview and bring it back as I’m starting to ponder mixing up my Thanksgiving routine a little bit.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What is the guide for the size of turkey to buy?
Carla Hall – The Chew on ABC – A lot of times, the guide is that people will buy a turkey, you figure, one pound per person. And, then if you know you’re going to use leftovers, 1.5 pounds per person for a turkey.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What time-saver tips do you have for preparing a Thanksgiving dinner, e.g. can anything be made ahead of time, do you have any shortcuts you’d like to share?
Carla Hall – The Chew on ABC – Yes, absolutely. Well, first of all, get all of your shopping done ahead, and you figure five days ahead for the most part. Everything is fresh. People are buying so much that the stores are getting things in really fresh at Thanksgiving, like your green beans, your brussels sprouts… all of those are probably coming in that day. So, if you get those five days out they’re going to be perfectly fine on Thanksgiving. If your turkey is frozen, you’re going to thaw it out five days ahead in the fridge. Make a list of all of your dishes. Your pies, your crust, your cake… those can be done four days in advance. Your stocks… those can be done in advance because you’re going to be doing your gravy. Get bones from the store, or get a smaller turkey. I you like a lot of turkey, maybe you want to get one big turkey that’s going to be your presentation turkey, and then get the smaller turkey that you break down and you’re going to use that carcass and some of the bones and the wings for your gravy and your stock so that can be done ahead. For these casseroles that I have here, I have the green bean casserole with Caesar croutons and then I have the brussels sprouts casserole with this panko crunchy top… what I would do for a lot of my veggie dishes is I blanch my veggies three days in advance and then I put them in zip top bags – that’s ready. My croutons can be done, my sauce that I’m doing for this.. this is onions and half and half – that can be done ahead – so that on the day that everything’s being made when your turkey is in the oven and then it comes out to rest for 1/3 of the cooking time. So, what you’re then going to do, now you have your oven back, you balance what’s going to be cooked on top of the oven and what’s actually going to be cooked in the oven. And, these dishes, the green beans and everything that’s ready… once the turkey is resting, then they go in the oven and they can be cooking and so you should also put your dishes, your casserole dishes in the oven and see what you can fit in there. Whatever can’t fit in there after the turkey is out then put them on top. So, plan all of that out instead of that day saying “Oh shoot!” and something’s cold and something’s not hot…Have a balance of room temperature dishes, hot dishes, and cold dishes so that nothing’s coming from the same source…The other thing is if people need help, they should ask for help. Maybe they’re having a friend that’s going to bring the appetizers, or maybe they’re going to bring one of their favorite side dishes. It doesn’t mean that the person who is hosting can’t sort of direct them to help plan their dinner.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What can you not live without at your Thanksgiving celebration?
Carla Hall – I can not live without corn bread dressing. Everybody makes it differently. This year I’m going to my husband’s family’s Thanksgiving dinner in Michigan. So, I’m hoping that there will be some kind of corn pudding or something like that.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What’s your favorite dessert on Thanksgiving day?
Carla Hall – My favorite dessert, and it’s because I’m from the south, I like sweet potato pie. I don’t necessarily need pumpkin pie… I ususally make some kind of sweet potato mousse thing. I take whipped cream and the sweet potato puree and fold it into the whipped cream so it’s like sweet potatoes on top of sweet potatoes.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – How do you prepare your turkey? Any unique or different secrets you’d like to share?
Carla Hall – Yes! I’m so glad you asked! I tend to like I told you about breaking down the turkey… I never really had a lot of space in my kitchen. So, I break the turkey down and then I use the bones for my gravy (I already talked about that). But, when you break the turkey down and you have a small family, like you said there are only four of you, I take the one breast and I will do a spicy lemon gremolata, I take the other breast and last year I did… in Tennessee we have what’s called hot fried chicken. I had hot sauce and the hot fried chicken going on with that breast. Then I have the legs and thighs. I did those in a curry. So, we had all of these different flavors but it’s all one turkey. So, then when it comes to the leftovers, then I had different flavors to choose from.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – That is awesome! Do you brine your turkey, too?
Carla Hall – It is awesome! I did a dry rub. I usually brine my turkey and that was one of the reasons why I started breaking it down because I couldn’t brine a big turkey. I didn’t have anywhere to put it. But, last year I brined a couple of the breasts and then I did a dry salt rub on the dark meat. Please visit CountryCrock.com and you’ll see more recipes and tips for your holidays!
For more on Carla Hall and her recipes on The Chew, visit her website carlahall.com.