Chef Stacey Dishes Up Thanksgiving Tips

Humor has long been a hallmark of Pemi, and anyone who attended the 2012 Final Banquet will long remember what may have been the best prank ever delivered by a Pemi chef.

“Parade of Turkeys”

As Pemi alums will recall, the sacred “parade of turkeys” launches both the Birthday and Final Banquets. The Pemi chef is responsible for roasting 25 hefty turkeys, one for each table of 10 hungry people. A musical crescendo hails the big moment, whether piano, trumpet, voice, or bagpipes. With the doors to the kitchen uncharacteristically closed but with the entire messhall filled with the aroma of Thanksgiving, the expectation is palpable. Suddenly, the “out door” swings open, and 25 waiters emerge, each with his silver platter weighted by a golden-crusted turkey. Marching in line, each waiter does a full circuit of the messhall before delivering the prize to his table.

Stacey’s Final Banquet prank

This year, however, Chef Stacey Saville-Moore—new to Pemi in June and quick to pick up on the role of good humor in the community—roasted 25 two-pound Rock Cornish game hens. When the waiters emerged carrying their miniature turkeys, confusion momentarily filled the messhall until everyone erupted in laughter and leapt to a standing ovation. Stacey peeked out from the kitchen with a smile full of delight and satisfaction. This was one of those “once in a lifetime” pranks, and those of us who were there are likely to remember it for a long time. Needless to say, the waiters delivered their game hens and returned to the kitchen, bringing out some of the most beautiful and moist turkeys that have ever graced the messhall.

Now that Thanksgiving truly is upon us, it seems only fitting to get some advice from the expert. Stacey shares her favorite biscuit recipe and offers tips for the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. Thanks, Stacey!

I have now been married for over 30 years and marrying a southern man can be somewhat of a task when you are a newly married bride and must compete with the table of the southern granny.  My husband’s granny was a wonderful little spitfire, reminiscent of the granny on the Beverly Hillbillies, but Doug’s granny was as straight-laced as they come, and certainly no moonshiner. However, she did love to feed her family. The very first time I met her, as a very nervous nineteen year old, she made me feel welcomed and loved. She also fed me a meal that seemed to never end. I always think of her hospitality when I feed people around my own table.

She shared many recipes with me and I treasure them, but she did not have a biscuit recipe. I watched her make biscuits several times but could never quite get them the way she did. So, after many a year of trial and error, I have put together a recipe that my husband approves of, and more importantly, one that I am proud to serve at my table. I must also say that my chef instructors heartily approved of this biscuit when I served them in culinary school. A+

Stacey’s biscuits, fresh from the oven

BISCUITS

4 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp salt
3 TBS baking powder
1 Cup Butter, chilled (yes, I said butter, no substitutions)
2 eggs
1 Cup milk

• Sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

• Cut butter into small cubes and either use your hands or a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mix. (I use my hands because I can flatten the pieces of cold butter into discs, which helps the biscuits rise into layers as they bake) If you are using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles small peas.

• Add milk and eggs and stir by hand until dough comes together.

• Form dough into a large mass and put it onto a floured surface. Gather it together and pat out with your hands. Do not knead this dough. The more you handle biscuit dough, the tougher the biscuits will become. Also, you do not want the bits of butter to soften or melt. Roll your dough into about a 1/4 inch thickness (about 1/2 inch for thicker biscuits) and cut. (For authenticity use a baking powder can with the ends cut out, but any round cutter will do.) 

• Place the biscuits on an ungreased sheet pan. I like to keep a small amount of space between the biscuits to give them a bit of a crunch all the way around, but some people like to let the biscuits touch. It is totally a personal preference. If you do let the biscuits touch, allow for a little more bake time, just a couple of minutes should do it.

• Bake for about 12-15 minutes in a preheated 450 degree oven. Just let the biscuits turn a little golden.

• Serve warm with butter, jam, apple butter, molasses or maple syrup.

Behind the scenes at Final Banquet

ROASTED TURKEY

Never have I roasted as many turkeys as I did at Camp Pemi! (at the same time anyway!) I do not stuff my birds with any type of stuffing. I used to stuff my bird with a sage and pork stuffing made with breadcrumbs, the way my mother did. Then I married a southern boy and he was raised on cornbread stuffing. So now I serve both of these stuffings on the side and stuff the turkey with fruit.

Before roasting said bird, I rinse the turkey in and out and pat dry with a paper towel. Stuff all empty cavities with fruit of your choice. I like to use a combination of apples and oranges. Quarter the fruit and stuff. No need to peel or seed the fruit. Roast your turkey according to directions.  I start the turkey off at a high temperature to brown and crisp the skin, and then turn the oven down to slow roast. Always, always cook your turkey to an internal temp of 165 degrees. Now, to basting… do I baste? Yes, yes and yes! Now here is the quandary; what to baste with? Keep it simple. Olive oil. That’s all there is to it. Brush that beauty with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a little cracked black pepper and some sea salt, and pop into the oven. Then, every 30 minutes or so, brush with more olive oil. If you cook to an internal temp of 165 and slow roast your bird with a fruit stuffing, it will be tender and juicy.  Remove the turkey from the oven when done and let rest for about 15 minutes, remove and discard the fruit and carve. The turkey, I promise you, will be delicious!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 ~ DGReed

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