When private chef Gail Arnold cooks Thanksgiving dinner for her clients, director Steven Spielberg and his family, she makes two turkeys: One for unveiling, and one for eating.
That’s because the whole, roasted birds that people ooh and aah over aren’t actually that delicious.
“If you have a whole turkey, and you’re waiting for the thighs to cook thoroughly, the breasts tend to dry out,” Arnold tells The Post.
Different parts of the turkey cook at different rates. So, for taste’s sake, it’s actually better to cut the turkey up, separating the breast, thighs and legs, she says.
But sliced meat on a plate looks less appetizing than a beautifully browned whole bird. So she makes a “presentation turkey” — a bird that basically exists for the “wow” moment and tasty leftovers.
“In the magazines, it’s what they call the money shot,” says Arnold, a Watertown, Mass., resident who has prepared Thanksgiving meals for the Spielbergs in East Hampton for the past 20-odd years. To pull it off, she cooks the eating-turkey ahead of time, and reheats it just before dinner. That gives her plenty of time to cook a pretty presentation turkey in between.
While splurging on two turkeys just to have one for show seems indulgent, Arnold and other chefs say it’s the best way to make a delicious Thanksgiving bird and still deliver the showstopping centerpiece that dinner guests expect.
On the Thanksgiving episode of “The Bobby and Damaris Show,” Food Network chef Bobby Flay said he makes not two but three turkeys — one for show and two for eating.
Chef Mazzu Kirstein, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who has cooked for everyone from Hillary Clinton to members of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia, decorates her butter-browned presentation turkey with colorful fruits such as pomegranates or apples.
“Clients love when it’s nicely presented for all their guests,” says Kirstein, who works for the domestic staffing company Hamptons Employment Agency. Plus, it’s not like it goes uneaten, she points out: After dinner, you use the presentation bird to “prepare a nice soup or have a nice slab of turkey for a sandwich.”
“To me it’s a no-brainer,” Arnold says. “You got the picture-perfect turkey and you’ve got plenty for leftovers.”
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