NUTLEY, NJ - Nutley High School Culinary students share their tips for the a stress-free and impressive Thanksgiving.  The students know a thing or two about Thanksgiving dinner, last Thursday they catered the Nutley Chamber of Commerce's 10th annual Thanksgiving luncheon with turkey and all the accompaniments that are hallmarks of the modern American feast.

Most important: If you have not done so, DEFROST YOUR FROZEN TURKEY NOW. For safety, place it in the fridge to defrost. Stop reading now, get the turkey out of the freezer, and get it in the fridge NOW. It may seem chilly outside, but outdoor temperatures are still too high to prevent bacteria from multiplying, so the fridge is the only place for the bird this week. 

Once the urgency of the frozen turkey has been handled, follow these tips from the students.

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The students have large whiteboards to plan the tasks at hand. Their listed what needed to be done on each day before their big dinner was served, as tasked were completed they were erased and updated added. Post it notes on the kitchen cabinets or papers on the fridge door held up with magnets work well in the home situation. 

The lists included the time frame for each dish, Turkey was brined on Wednesday, the board included the time at which the turkey was to be removed from the brine and rinsed before going back into the refrigerator. Nutley Culinary Students share the secret to juicy flavorful turkey for every holiday

Phillip explained that the list has to remain someone fluid because things do change when preparing a holiday meal. A moment of inspiration may strike to make a change to a dish.  

Tasks can be broken out by skill level. One task may be "peel potatoes" for the younger family members with whom you are confident can work with a peeler safely. Cubing potatoes can be assigned to an older family member. A team at NHS peeled all of the potatoes at one time, Madison and Alexis explained that they were placing them in a large pot of cold water to prevent them from browning. Another team cubed the potatoes, returning them to the water. The NHS potatoes became mashed potatoes, but if roasted potatoes are your thing be sure to dry the potatoes well before oiling them and roasting. 

NHS students prepared the potatoes with 20 pounds of potatoes going into each pot of boiling water. Cubing the potatoes allows them to cook faster. Once drained, melted butter, half and half, salt and pepper were added as they were mashed by hand. 

Pumpkin pies for the luncheon were done more than a day in advance of the luncheon. This strategy works well in the home kitchen as well. TAPinto Nutley caught up with Isabella Thompson and Gerard DiMayayuga when they were getting ready to plate individual pumpkin pies. Thompson explained that pie crust was rolled out and carefully cut to fit into cupcake tins, par-baked, then filled with pumpkin pie filling. The secret to the NHS pumpkin pie was using eggnog instead of milk. Both students said that the secret to Thanksgiving was to relax, and don't rush. 

Green beans are a Thanksgiving classic. For the chamber luncheon, sauteed green beans and carrots were served. In order to keep the color of the green beans bright, students blanched the beans. After trimming the beans, they were dropped in boiling water for just a few minutes, they were then plunged into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. This sets the color resulting in bright green beans. The beans were blanched and refrigerated on Wednesday, then sauteed with the carrots butter and garlic on Thursday. 

Stuffing can be made in advance of the big day. Not only does that take some of the stress out of the big day, it allows the flavors to combine perfectly. Students roasted sausages in the oven before removing the casings and crumbling them. Others diced peppers and onions, while another team cubed the corn bread that was baked a day earlier. Red peppers in the stuffing gave it a very festive appearance.

"Who doesn't love gravy" said Tyler, who has his eyes on attending Johnson and Wales and CIA. The bones that were removed from the turkey were roasted with a dry rub and cut up. Mr. Huggins explained that the trick was roasting the bones in tomato paste because the acid brings out the flavor.  

The roasted bones were put into a large stock pot with mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery), parsley stems, and half of a bottle of white wine.The solids would be strained out using a colander, with the liquids being reserved in another pot where they would thickened. The gravy was made a day prior to the event. Pan drippings from the roasting of the turkeys on Thanksgiving day can always be added to the gravy for added flavor. Tyler added, that making gravy in advance "is one more thing off of your plate for Thursday"

Both Tyler and Phillip explained that "prep, prep, prep" was key to a stress free Thanksgiving. Students reiterated the idea of knowing what is going to happen on the day of the big feast and prepare for it. The carrots, celery, and onions can be chopped a day early and held in the refrigerator. Gravy and stuffing can be made in advance. Madison said "leftovers are not a bad thing - things always taste better the next day" which may be why the gravy and stuffing were so good. 

Virtually every student in a culinary class last week contributed to the Nutley Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Members of the chamber expressed their gratitude for the students work. Students and parents should all take not that the work of the students is so impressive that the Thanksgiving luncheon is always the most attended Nutley Chamber of Commerce event of the year. 

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