Turkey on a platter

Holidays with Heinen’s: Tips from Our Chefs

With so many things to keep track of, cooking Thanksgiving dinner for your family and friends can be a bit intimidating. That’s why we talked to our chefs and experts for their best tips on how to ensure a fantastic meal that leaves your guests happy and thankful.

Chef Jacki Novotny
Chef Jacki Novotny

Chef Jacki Novotny

“Aside from being organized, and prepping and making side dishes ahead, I like to keep extra Heinen’s turkey gravy on hand. It seems like there is never enough gravy. Plus if it isn’t used, I use the gravy with the leftovers — from heating up turkey, moistening up stuffing for stuffing muffins, to soup (yes, it can be used as a quick base to a turkey pot pie soup.)”

Chef James Mowcomber

“If you would like to brine your turkey overnight, but don’t have room in your refrigerator, a large cooler works great. Place the turkey and the brine in the cooler with enough ice to keep it cold throughout the night. Additionally, buy an instant read thermometer. Cooking your turkey to the correct internal temperature is extremely important for a couple of reasons: Your turkey should be cooked to the proper temperature to avoid foodborne illness, but should not be overcooked and dry. This is where your instant read thermometer comes in. When the turkey reaches 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast and thigh, its done. Just make sure you aren’t hitting any bones with the thermometer when you take the temperature, and never trust the pop up thermometer that comes with the turkey.”

Sally Roeckell
Sally Roeckell

Recipe Developer, Sally Roeckell

“I always have olives and peppers on my table, but usually they are in small bowls or added to a charcuterie board. To add a bit of festivity to the table, give them their own platter. By spreading a few sprigs of rosemary around on a plate in the shape of a wreath you create the perfect base for olives, cheese and peppers. The great thing about this is it takes moments to prepare. It makes your table smell great and the olives and cheeses, when plucked off the plate, have a slight hint of rosemary added to their flavor.  It’s a subtly delightful flavor you will love. It makes a great take along for parties and is quick and easy to put together. ”

Chef Dana Linger

“I like to spread fresh herbs, pork fat and melted butter under the skin of the bird, particularly under the skin of the turkey breast. The pork fat keeps the breast meat moist and the herbs adds flavor. Simple, but flavorful.”

Carin Solganik
Carin Solganik

Prepared Foods Director, Carin Solganik

“I have a crazy work and travel schedule, and being in the retail business, I have limited time for holiday food preparation. After years of cooking turkeys for Thanksgiving, I bought our fully-cooked whole turkey from our Prepared Foods Department. I followed the finishing instruction to the letter and the product was outstanding. No muss, no fuss, and the kitchen still smelled liked cooked turkey.”

Chef Mitch Keener

“I like to whip up this easy Turkey Gravy: Using the pan drippings from your roasted turkey, place in a medium sauce pot, and whisk in 1/2 to 3/4 cup of flour. Simmer to cook out the flour flavor for 3 to 5 minutes. Consistency should be paste-like but not lumpy. Once flour is cooked add 1-1/2 quarts of Heinen’s turkey stock and whisk. Turn up the heat to bring the gravy to a boil to activate your roux. Your sauce should thicken, then reduce heat immediately to avoid scorching. Season with salt and pepper, and maybe a touch of heavy cream and a pinch of fresh herbs to finish.”

Chef Billy Parisi
Chef Billy Parisi

Chef Billy Parisi

“Cook your ham or side dishes in a slow cooker to save precious oven and burner space while preparing your meal. And if it’s under 40° outside, then use it as your outdoor refrigerator. During Thanksgiving, refrigerators are bursting at the seams so instead try putting your produce in a cooler outside so that it will hold temperature. Be sure to start prepping a few days before Thanksgiving. Figure out how many people are coming and then the Sunday before Turkey Day, make your menu. Do as much as you can the few days leading up to Turkey Day: trim your green beans, peel and slice potatoes and hold them in water, chop onions, chop garlic, prepare fresh herbs, make your stuffing, etc.”

Chef Chris Daw

“When planning a large holiday spread don’t worry about serving everything hot. Have some sides that can be served at room temperature, such as Heinen’s Green Bean Almondine.”

Chef Carla Snyder
Carla Snyder

Cookbook Author & Chef Carla Snyder

“Like many of you, I suffer from single oven syndrome. This malady is triggered two days a year in November and December when the desire to cook 17-plus family members a holiday meal outpaces my single oven’s capabilities. In other words, I stress about that giant lug of a turkey slowly basting away, taking up oven space and baking time that’s simultaneously required for appetizers, stuffing, rolls and sweet potato casseroles. The cure is to roast the turkey in the morning, remove it from the oven about 2 hours before dinner and transfer it, roasting pan and all, to an out-of-the-way spot (the laundry room for me.) I cover it with heavy duty foil, then top it with two or three of our guests’ heavy coats (cousin Darlene’s down-filled parka is a favorite) so that the oven is free to bake up all the remaining dinner items. About 20 minutes before dinner is on the table, my husband removes the coats to reveal a steaming hot and very rested, moist turkey which literally falls from the bones making him look like a carving maestro. You’re welcome, honey.”

Chef Dominic Rivera

“I buy additional turkey wings and pan roast them until they are nice and brown, I add garlic, fresh thyme and rosemary with a little tomato paste and cook for about 5 minutes, deglaze with a dry white wine and let simmer for a minimum of 2 hours. The longer you can simmer, the deeper the flavor will be. This is the base for my Turkey Gravy along with the drippings. (I love fresh thyme!)  In order to get a wonderful deep color turkey – I turn my oven up 50 degrees at the end for about 15 minutes, depending on your oven; this not only sets a deep color but crisps the skin nicely!”

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