In Good Taste

Turkey Tips

A local caterer talks turkey for the big day.

No doubt about it: Turkey is the reigning bird of the holiday season. To guide you on your culinary adventures to Birdland, we turned to Sascha Wolhandler, caterer and owner of Sascha’s cafe. “Turkey is a really bland thing, so season it up,” says Wolhandler. “Don’t be afraid to flavor your bird and let it fly!”

What type of turkey is best to buy?
Sascha Wolhandler: I always get a good organic turkey. I often get mine from Friendly Farms, but there are so many great farmers’ markets out there. Remember, it’s never too early to put your order in.

Any favorite turkey recipes?
SW: I use my mother’s recipe from a million years ago. I make herb butter with rosemary, thyme, and whole sage. I create a little pocket underneath the skin to rub some of the herb butter to add great flavor. I also like to cut up lemons or oranges to put inside the cavity of the bird to give a nice citrus aroma.

Any other tricks in terms of seasoning the bird?
SW: I mix mayonnaise, along with the sage, rosemary, and thyme, and add onion and garlic powder. I put a very sheer coating on the whole bird. This gives it an incredible crispness and golden color.

What advice do you have on cooking time?
SW: The general rule of thumb is 15 minutes a pound for an unstuffed turkey. I put mine in a 450-degree Fahrenheit oven for a half-hour, and then lower it to 350 Fahrenheit. Everyone should get an instant-read thermometer. Instead of the aunts and uncles bent over the oven, the thermometer takes the guesswork out of whether the turkey is done. Let’s move into the 21st century people!

Aside from gravy, do you have any serving suggestions?
SW: I like to add a few interesting chutneys. On its own, turkey doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Pairing it with chutney makes it rich.

What about the all-important sides?
SW: I like to make a cornucopia of roasted veggies: turnips, carrots, ciopollini onions, beets, and Brussels sprouts. Roast them individually, because they all have different cooking times. Use a nice olive oil and a good sea salt. And a roasted parsnip is just as delicious as chocolate cake. You can also take a cup each of balsamic vinegar and honey. Combine the two, heat, and reduce them down to wonderful syrup to drizzle on your vegetables.

Any final words on the feast?
SW: Taste your food as you cook. Cooking is all about tasting and adjusting and creating. Be fearless.