Commissary Highlights 1978 - 1985


Turkey Time


At the time of America’s founding, Benjamin Franklin insisted the turkey, not the bald eagle, be selected as the national bird of the new United States. Ben claimed “the eagle was a bird of bad moral character; like those among men who live by sharping and robbing are generally poor and often very lousy”.

Fortunately, Jefferson got him to change his mind. Not only would the turkey look ridiculous on the backs of coins, but eagles would be impossible to carve, not that wrestling with a hot, slipper, 20 lb. bird is a breeze. Should you find yourself in charge of cooking the turkey on this memorable holiday, the following tips should prove useful.

Buying a turkey:

Whether you choose a regular or self-basting turkey, figure on ¾ to1 pound of meat per person. You’ll probably have left overs. The hen or tom designation that appears on the label of each turkey is an indication of size rather than tenderness. The tom being the larger of the two.


If you were to buy a fresh (not frozen) turkey, you could purchase it 1-2 days prior to cooking. However, since fresh birds are not available here, you will most likely select a frozen bird.


Keep the turkey cold while it thaws. There are two methods of thawing frozen turkeys, the more preferable being in the refrigerator. Simply place the wrapped turkey in a pan large enough to keep the water accumulation from spilling over in the refrigerator. The USDA recommends allowing 1-2 days for 8-12 pound birds to thaw, 2-3 days for 12-16 pounders, 3-4 days for 16-20 pounders and 4-5 days for 20-25 pounders. Alternatively, one can place the wrapped frozen turkey in a cold water bath and change the water every 30 minutes. The thawing time using this method is 4-6 hours for 8-12 pound birds, 6-9 hours for 12-16 pounders, 9-11 hours for 16-20 pounders and 11-12 hours for 20-24 pounders.


Remove the neck and giblets and carefully wash inside and out with cold water. Drain well and pat dry. Salt and pepper the inside of the bird. Keep your hands washed after touching the bird and remember to keep utensils clean throughout the cooking process.


No one would intentionally serve staphylococcus aureaus with the Thanksgiving meal, but to avoid problems, careful attention must be paid to this step. There are two ways to handle stuffing. One method is to bake it in a greased and covered casserole dish for the last hour the turkey cooks. This option entails less mess and less cooking time for the turkey. The other alternative is to pack the cavity loosely by hand and close the opening with a skewer, toothpicks or a clean piece of string – or cover the opening with the heel of a loaf of bread. Do not stuff the bird in advance to save time. If you want to get as much work done as possible in advance, assemble the dry and wet ingredients separately the night before, making sure to refrigerate the latter, and combine them just before stuffing the turkey the next day. Allow ¾ cup per pound of turkey.


In a shallow roasting pan, place the turkey breast side up and brush the surface with a coating of cooking oil or butter if desired. To avoid overbrowning and promote heat circulation, cover the bird with a tent made of foil, crimping the edges loosely on the sides of the pan. Poke a meat thermometer through the foil and into the thickest part of the thigh muscle. (The turkey is done once the temperature reaches 165 degrees here. Another way to check doneness is to press the meat of the drumstick between your fingers. The meat should be very soft.) To brown the turkey, remove the foil 20-30 minutes before the cooking time is finished. Basting is not necessary using this method. Use the accompanying guide to roast (in a 325-degree oven) your turkey. Let the turkey rest, covered with foil, at least 20 minutes before carving. Despite what your grandmother may have done or what the latest fad tells you to do, it’s best not to cook a turkey over the course of a day or more at low temperatures. This only increases the chances for bacterial growth.

Storing leftovers:

Turkey and stuffing should be allowed to remain standing no more than two hours from the time they’re removed from the oven. (Be sure to remove remaining stuffing from the turkey as soon as possible.) Store large portions of leftovers in small quantities in shallow covered containers. Turkey leftovers should be kept in the refrigerator no more than 3-4 days. Stuffing and gravy leftovers should be used within 1-2 days.

Roasting the turkey:

Approximate times required to attain internal temperature of 165 degrees

Weight: 8-12 lbs Unstuffed: 3-4 hours Stuffed: 4-5 hours
  12-16 lbs   3 ½-5 hours   4 ½-6 hours
  16-20 lbs   4 ½-6 hours   5 ½-7 hours
  20-24 lbs   5 ½-6 ½ hours   6 ½-7 ½ hours

And, as Johnathan Swift put it:

Carve to all but just enough,
Let them neither starve nor stuff,
And that you may have your due,
Let your neighbor carve for you.

Turkey Mexicana Quiche

(Makes 1 individual serving)

If your holiday company dotes on quiche but you haven’t the stamina to make the traditional pastry crust, try these individual quiches. Each can be made in its own 2-cup ramekin with a quick crust of a flour tortilla.

7” flour tortilla, softened
1/3 cup chopped turkey
1/3 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
1 tablespoon scallions
1 teaspoon jalapeno peppers (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped olives
½ tablespoon chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon wheat germ
2 eggs
½ cup milk
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
Sour cream and avocado slices for garnish

To soften flour tortillas, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Put in the tortilla and turn it over several times until it is heated through and pliable. To soften in microwave, put tortilla in plastic bag and heat on full power for about 10 seconds. To prepare quiche; fit and loosely fold a tortilla into the bottom of a round, un-greased 1 ½ - 2 cup ramekin or ovenproof bowl to form a muti-petalled flower-like shape. Put the turkey, cheese, vegetables and wheat germ in the bottom of the tortilla-lined dish. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, mustard and salt. Pour carefully into tortilla to cover turkey-vegetable mixture. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until center of quiche is set. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and this slices of avocado.

Marilyn Townsend