What is all the fuss about eating turkey?

OK, OK, it’s high in protein and low in fat, a low-carb dieter’s dream. It is also an inexpensive source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B-vitamins.

Turkey does have a strange power, though. It has the ability to be a natural sedative. Turkey has an amino acid called tryptophan that helps the body produce the B-vitamin niacin, which in turn helps the body to produce serotonin that acts as a calming agent in the brain and plays a role in sleep. Now you know why everyone falls asleep after Thanksgiving dinners.

By the way, it was Abraham Lincoln who had Thanksgiving declared a federal holiday in 1864.

Turkey is a variety of the pheasant and recent fossil evidence shows turkeys have roamed the Americas for 10 million years. I can’t quite understand that dinosaurs didn’t make it, but turkeys did.

The Aztecs are believed to be the first to domesticate the turkey. And Christopher Columbus brought turkeys back to Europe and, by the 1500s, turkeys were being raised domestically in Italy, France and England for royalty and the aristocracy.

Turkey with all the trimmings was the first meal eaten on the moon by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Now that you know what all the fuss is over turkeys, let’s talk about the best part … eating turkey. Do you like it smoked, fried, braised, baked, boiled or stewed? What is best is really up to you, but here are a few tips that might help:

•Purchase at least one pound of uncooked turkey per person for dinner and leftovers. If your family members have big appetites figure on one and one half pounds per person.

•Fresh or frozen? Both are great choices. I prefer fresh, though. I think it is a little moister when cooked. Fresh turkey may only be kept in the refrigerator one to two days before cooking.

•Frozen turkey should be thawed in the refrigerator.

8 to 12 lbs. 1 to 2 days

12 to 16 lbs. 2 to 3 days

16 to 20 lbs. 3 to 4 days

20 to 24 lbs. 4 to 5 days

•Once the turkey is thawed, it may only be refrigerated one to two days before cooking.

•It is best to cook stuffing outside the bird in a separate dish. The turkey will cook faster, and the breast will retain moisture better. If you decide to stuff the turkey, stuff it just prior to cooking. Dressing should cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

•How much stuffing is enough? Usually one cup per pound of turkey.

•A thermometer is the best way to tell if a turkey is done. The dark meat must reach 165 degrees. Be careful not to touch bone when temping, as you will get an inaccurate reading. When reheating turkey the next day, it should be heated to 165 degrees.

•To store cooked turkey, it should be placed in a covered container, plastic food bag, or wax paper and aluminum foil for up to 7 days in the refrigerator or three months in the freezer.

•Season the cavity with your secret ingredients for best results. As for myself, I love garlic – hmmm, my father used to call it Greek perfume!

My all-time favorite sandwich is made from left-over turkey. Thank you for Thanksgiving!

The Turkey Club.

Ingredients

Toasted bread, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, bacon and heavy mayonnaise.

Costa Magoulas is dean of the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management at Daytona State College. Contact him at (386) 506-3578 or magoulc@daytonastate.edu.

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