Steel Rod Settles Stuffing Argument
The Roasting Wand helps settled the age-old battle between stuffing and dressing.
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I once had a running argument with a food technologist about stuffing vs. dressing (we both attended the same twice-yearly food-science seminars). He insisted that bread stuffing always tastes best at Thanksgiving if it's baked inside the bird.
I maintained that it's easier and safer to bake bread dressing outside the turkey, and that the turkey breast won't end up being overcooked and dried out. Otherwise, one has to overbake the turkey so the stuffing crammed inside heats up past 160 degrees.
He held to tradition. I added that the job of unstuffing a hot turkey is messy before carving commences.
He insisted the issue is all about flavor. Turkey juices moisten the stuffing as the bird bakes. I insisted that the turkey neck and maybe an extra thigh or two can be simmered the day before and seasoned for really good, rich stock. Then a mixture of bread cubes or croutons plus butter-sauteed celery, onion and sage can be moistened with this stock in a baking dish slipped into the oven with or without a foil covering. Moisture can be controlled better if a cook can peek in, stir and add more stock as necessary. If the bread dressing is too soggy, the foil covering can be lifted and baking can go on a little longer until the top is golden brown and as crunchy as the diners desire.
We left the argument at a draw. I didn't want to tread on his wife's Thanksgiving tradition. (Aha! She's the one who has to wrestle with a raw bird and then scrape out the hot stuffing.) Ironically, he was the scientist with a doctorate in food safety and bacteria control.
Now there's a peaceful solution to our food fight — the Roasting Wand. It works like those aluminum potato nails that conduct heat to the center of baking potatoes. Practical Innovations has recently patented new technology that may be the answer to cooking a safe stuffed turkey. There have been many unsettling stories of food poisoning due to undercooked stuffing because cooks are never sure if the stuffing will reach 165 degrees (the safe end-point temperature necessary to kill harmful bacteria). The new invention, the Roasting Wand, makes roasting a turkey faster, safer and easier by cooking from the inside out. Simply insert the hollow Roasting Wand into a stuffed turkey and the heat goes right to the stuffing. The wand is an adjustable stainless-steel tube that conducts heat to the center of any type of stuffed poultry.
Richard Sherwin, president of Practical Innovations, said that his invention will increase internal temperatures and reduce overall cooking time.
"With the heat going through the center of the stuffing, I was amazed at how fast the stuffing temperature rose," Sherwin said. "The idea came to me while attending culinary school. I wanted to safeguard my family from the dangers of food poisoning; the time savings was an additional bounce."
The Roasting Wand can be ordered directly by calling 630-257-7476 or from the website, www.roastingwand.com ($19.95 plus shipping/handling). While supplies last, customers receive a free kitchen thermometer with their purchase. The use of a thermometer is also crucial to not overcooking and thus drying out the white meat of a roasting turkey. Guesswork is too inexact, no matter how many birds you've dealt with.
Meanwhile, it's summertime, and the only people buying turkeys now are those who like to grill them or save a lot of grocery money by using sliced turkey for sandwiches and delicious salads. Isn't fresh-roasted turkey so much better than that pressed-and-formed white bologna that passes as deli turkey?
The coolest, quickest way to enjoy bread dressing during the warm months is to doctor up a box of StoveTop Stuffing or a similar brand. This is an excellent way to hide vegetables for finicky eaters. The accompanying recipe calls for three slender zucchini, a handful of grated carrots (easy to acquire from supermarket salad bar), a bit of diced onion and sweet bell pepper.
For even better nutrition, toss in a handful of butter-toasted walnuts, pecans, sliced almonds, pine nuts or sunflower kernels.
This is crunchy bread dressing, full-flavored, even if no turkey's in sight. Even better, the side dish is ready to serve in fewer than 15 minutes.
Quick Summertime Stuffing
1/3 cup butter
3 to 4 slender medium zucchini, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper or celery rib, diced
1 handful shredded carrots
1/2 cup sliced almonds, walnut pieces, pine nuts or sunflower kernels
1 (6-oz.) package chicken-flavor stuffing mix (or cornbread version)
1 3/4 cups water
Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking: 5 minutes.
Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to keep the butter from burning, if desired, or moderate heat as you add the zucchini, onion, bell pepper, carrots and nuts. Sauté, stirring often, until tender.
Meanwhile, microwave-heat the exact measure of water or use a tea kettle. Add the hot water to the saucepan full of tender vegetables and the contents of the stuffing plus seasoning packet from the box mix. Stir well to moisten all the crumbs, cover and let stand on range burner with heat turned off for five minutes.
Yield: 6 generous servings
(Contact Joyce Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Post at www.cincypost.com.)
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