ANNAPOLIS – Dana Kline fluttered about behind the stove, chopping vegetables and stirring gravy.
“Are you guys ready for the ‘ah’ moment?” she asked the small cluster forming at the Williams-Sonoma cookware store in the Annapolis Mall.
Sure enough, the group murmured approval as she pulled a turkey from the oven and set the 12-pound butterflied bird on the stove. It was golden, juicy and slightly crusted on the outside.
“Turkey makes me nervous,” said Sarah Cook, 37, of Aberdeen, who was at the class. “I think (cooking a turkey) seems more intimidating than it actually is. It makes me nervous. I don’t know why,” she said.
Sunday was the last in a series of four Thanksgiving-themed cooking classes held at Williams-Sonoma, where the assistant instructor, Jeri Hoyle, said those like Cook don’t need to find the turkey task daunting, so long as they have the right tools and preparation.
“I think cooking the turkey is the easiest thing to do. The process is very simple … It’s fool proof,” she said.
Cook’s father, Syl Kuszaj, 64, of Arnold, who was also at the class, doesn’t share his daughter’s trepidation about cooking a turkey.
“It’s quite easy. I don’t know why anyone would have a problem with it,” he said. He’s the one who will be making the turkey for his family on Thursday.
The company holds free technique courses throughout the year, but workers at the Annapolis store said participation usually surges around holidays.
The class started with four people that day, but others filtered in. At its peak, there were 17 watching the demonstration.
“They came up and joined us when they saw what we were doing, because they’re panicking,” with Thanksgiving just days away, Hoyle said.
For those who are panicking, she said, first thing is first — buying the turkey.
Hoyle said there’s no downside to buying an unthawed turkey this close to Thanksgiving, and Kuszaj is banking on that.
“I’m going to find a fresh one,” he said, and planned to look at an Amish market the next day to find one. He intends to brine his turkey, a method that he learned at an earlier technique class.
On Sunday, Kline and Hoyle demonstrated how to roast a butterflied turkey. Their tips ranged from what temperature it should be when it’s done (between 160 and 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh) to how long before the meal to take the bird out of the oven (about an hour, no more than two).
“It’s going to continue to cook after you pull it out,” Kline said.
The actual cooking time in the oven can be cut down, though, by butterflying the turkey — removing the backbone and cracking the ribs. This allows the turkey to lie flat, creating more surface space, and thus a shorter cooking time.
Kline said a butterflied turkey will cook at least twice as fast as one that’s not prepared this way.
“They are going to be impressed, impressed, impressed because you cooked your turkey in two hours while they cooked theirs in five,” she said.
Hoyle said the greater concern on Thanksgiving should be making the pie, because “baking is a little more exact” than cooking, she said.
The instructors demonstrated the flexibility of cooking versus baking on Sunday, when Kline used a green vegetable called fennel in the stuffing instead of the spinach the recipe called for, because the spinach was wilted.
“It’s all about substituting what you have on hand,” she said.
More last-minute Thanksgiving cooking tips can be found at these sources:
MarthaStewart.com has a video demonstrating how to butterfly fowl. http://www.marthastewart.com/article/how-to-stuff-roll-and-wrap-a-turkey-breast
Williams-Sonoma describes proper techniques and tools, and wines that go well with a turkey meal: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/tips-techniques/?cm_type=lnav.
Butterball has how-to videos for choosing, thawing, stuffing, cooking and carving a turkey. There is also a Turkey Talk-Line for expert advice at 1-800-BUTTERBALL, and a Facebook page and Twitter account to pose questions: http://www.butterball.com/.
EatingWell provides recipes for all courses of a Thanksgiving meal, along with the nutritional facts for each: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_thanksgiving_recipes#2.