Q: Any seasonings suggestions?
Rodgers: One of the things that I’m trying now is a dry rub or brine. I’m seasoning the bird with about 1/3 cup of kosher salt, dried herbs and pepper overnight. So, this again is going to create moisture that’s going to deeply season the bird, but I don’t have the mess of having to worry about where I’m going to store a 20-pound turkey in 3 gallons of [liquid] brine.
Q: You’ve provided a sense of what kind of bird to choose and how to cook it. Are there any safety tips you’d stress?
Rodgers: The most important safety issue concerns stuffing. The best thing to do is to put warm, freshly made stuffing into a cold bird because you want to get the stuffing up to 165 degrees to kill any bacteria. The worst thing you can possibly do is to stuff the bird and let it sit overnight—even in the fridge—because the bird will end up being tepid for quite a long time, and that’s the perfect temperature for bacterial growth.
Q: How do you clean your bird before roasting?
Rodgers: You do not need to rinse the bird before you roast it because the bird is going to reach 165 degrees. Actually, if you’re overly aggressive with washing the bird, you could splash the turkey juices all over your kitchen. [And that could spell salmonella.]
Q: How about tips for avoiding another potential danger—serving the wrong food to the wrong guest? As chef and host, how do you plan for guests on weight-loss or medically prescribed diets?
Rodgers: For anyone who is [concerned about] menu items at a Thanksgiving feast, bring your own food, stick it in the microwave, and your host will be your friend forever. You should talk it over with the cook [before you arrive].
Q: Any suggestions for cutting back on fat and calories?
Rodgers: If you look at the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, nothing goes together. Everything is sweet and heavy. Look for ways to lighten your menu. If you’re going to have cranberry sauce, then keep fruit out of your other side dishes. [Include] plenty of vegetables in your stuffing. If you control the amount of gravy that you put onto your mashed potatoes, [then don’t heap on so much of the fatty brown sauce]. The popular fresh foods are on sale, too. Sweet potatoes are pretty cheap in November.
Q: So with all this turkey talk, we have to ask—does it really make you sleepy?
Rodgers: There’s [the amino acid] tryptophan in turkey, and tryptophan will make you sleepy—but you’d need to eat an entire turkey to get sleepy. What makes you sleepy is the carbohydrate overload combined with the stuffiness of the room, the change of the weather, the amount of alcohol that’s consumed and your boring brother-in-law’s jokes. That’s what makes you sleepy.