THE TURKEY COOKBOOK BY RICK RODGERS

It was not so long ago that I was writing about Rick Rodgers – I reviewed his book READY AND WAITING for you earlier this year. Last year, I provided you with a review of one of my favorite Rick Rodgers’ books, MISSISSIPPI MEMORIES.

And, recently, I reviewed another favorite book, WILD ABOUT TURKEY – not one of Rick Rodger’s books but I had turkey on my mind at the time and it’s been my inclination to go with the flow – to review whatever captures my attention and feels worthy of reviewing. Well, I had to laugh at myself a few weeks ago; while searching for something in the poultry category, I came across THE TURKEY COOKBOOK by Rick Rodgers and wished I had had that at my finger tips when I was writing WILD ABOUT TURKEY.

All I can say is, I confess – I really don’t know anymore how many cookbooks I have, or where they are all shelved. Obviously, since I didn’t know I had THE TURKEY COOKBOOK. And I can tell by a red circle on the cover that this book had ended up in a Barnes & Noble book store bargain bin—it was most likely the primary reason I bought it at the time. I’m always on the lookout for cookbooks by authors whose names I recognize.

And one of these days, I am going to get my bookshelves updated and make more room for the collections of favorite authors. The bookcase in my spare bedroom that started out housing the collections of favorite cookbook authors is bursting at its seams and overflowing to stacks on the floor in front of the bookcase. I should have known exactly how many Rick Rodgers’ books that I have—and I don’t. My bad.

That being said, let’s take a look at THE TURKEY COOKBOOK in which the author provides us with 138 new ways to cook America’s Favorite Bird.

In the Introduction which is a better than average introduction to a cookbook, Rodgers starts out commenting that no less a patriot than Benjamin Franklin was a great fan of turkey—and he considered it a better choice for the national bird than the eagle, noting that turkey is a more respectable bird and a true original native of America. Franklin even lobbied for the turkey to be featured on or national seal.

Rodgers says that while the turkey never made official status, the large bird remains a glorious part of America’s folklore and it is a well-established staple on holiday tables. But, writes Rodgers, the new turkey choices – ground turkey, turkey cutlets, turkey sausages and boned turkey roasts, to name a few, are causing a lot of excitement these days.

He adds that with easy to prepare, reasonably priced cuts so accessible in supermarkets throughout the country, cooks are reaching for turkey as a light alternative to red meat and as a welcome change from the omnipresent chicken and high-priced veal. “As a result of developing these recipes,” says Rodgers, “I’ve learned that turkey is amazingly versatile—as shown by such diverse dishes as Guadalajara Grilled Drumsticks, Turkey Pasta and Vegetable Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing and Sweet-and-Sour Baked Turkey Cutlets—but it is so low in fat (and cholesterol) that it requires its own cooking temperatures and techniques…”

And, it’s important for you to know, quoting Rodgers, that you cant jut make a one-to-one substitution of ground turkey for ground beef or turkey cutlets for veal scallop. In flavor and texture, turkey makes a fine alternative, but to remain tender and juicy, it should be prepared according to its own standards (something I did not know!). Rodgers says that is what is offered in THE TURKEY COOKBOOK. He explains how to cook all the turkey cuts you’ll encounter to their best advantage, in the most delicious and sometimes surprising ways.

Rodgers brand new collection of recipes was inspired by seasonings and cooking styles from all over the world. “There are,” he offers, “Buffalo Turkey Wings with Blue Cheese Dip and Turkey Drumsticks Osso-Buco-Style, There’s easy Pennsylvania Dutch Turkey Noodle Supper for everyday meals and Red, White, and Green Turkey Lasagna for company. Turkey cutlets rival veal scallopini in delicate taste and speedy preparation”. He has included a large group of these recipes—such as Turkey and Mushroom Stroganoff and Chicken-Fried Turkey Steaks with Ranch-House Milk Gravy—to get you out of the kitchen in record time.

Rodgers notes that a big bird is still one of the easiest foods to cook up for a crowd and he has not neglected the piece de resistance that graces every Thanksgiv8ing table: whole roast turkey. He will let us in on the most sure-fire way he knows to create the juiciest, crispiest and most succulent turkey ever. He provides both traditional and new ways with turkeys, from Perfect Roast Turkey with Gorgeous Giblet Gravy to Wild Turkey with Glazed Chestnut Stuffing and even a Texas Turkey roasted split in half for speedier results.

And since Thanksgiving would not be complete without all the side dishes from which to choose, Rodgers has provided a cornucopia of stuffings and “other fixings to enliven any turkey dinner”. I can’t wait to try Gingery Lemon-Cranberry Chutney or Oyster and Sausage Gumbo Dressing, Scalloped Sweet Potatoes with Streusel Topping and Rick’s Melt-in-Your-Mouth Corn Bread, (I just looked up Rodgers’ Scalloped Sweet Potatoes with Streusel Topping and can’t wait to try this recipe. I have bellyached for years that most sweet potato recipes are cloyingly sweet. And I refuse to eat any kind of sweet potato that has marshmallows on top of it. I’ve searched for years for the sweet potato custard that used to be served in Kenny Rogers’ restaurant and failing to find what I am looking for, have experimented year after year to come up with just the right recipe. I think I’ve found it in Rodgers’ Scalloped Sweet Potatoes with Streusel Topping—the only sweetener in the recipe is brown sugar that is in the streusel topping!) yowza!

The Turkey Cookbook is sure to become one of your all-time favorite cookbooks. Rodgers provides detailed information on the various kinds of turkeys available to us – from fresh to frozen, from self-basting to organic free-range, from Kosher turkey to farm-raised Wild Turkeys. Take a few minutes to read this chapter—there is new information for even the most experienced cooks and chefs and you will be able to choose exactly what you want to prepare.

Chapter One is titled the BIG BIRD: COOKING A WHOLE TURKEY and Rodgers provides comprehensive, detailed instructions—some of which surprised me. For instance, he suggests using a large shallow roasting pan with sides no higher than 2”. He says he knows many people, including himself formerly, use a deep dark-blue speckled enamel roasting pan (I have a couple of these in different sizes!) but says that the height cuts down on heat circulation and the bird doesn’t brown as well. He also says to “Always put the turkey on a roasting rack inside the pan to raise it out of the drippings and allow the hot air to circulate underneath”. I am non-plussed. Fifty years of roasting turkeys and I’ve just learned something new. He also tells us to always use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh near the body but not touching the thigh bone. Or, he says, use an instant reading thermometer to test the bird often during the last hour of roasting. He also says if your bird has a pop-up thermometer use it as a signal to tell if the bird is done but double-check with a standard meat thermometer. And, says Rodgers, “Low slow roasting at 325 degrees yields the best results. The meat will not shrink as much as at a higher temperature, more juices will be retained and the drippings will not burn as easily.”

The first whole roast turkey offered by Rodgers is PERFECT ROAST TURKEY WITH GORGEOUS GIBLET GRAVY. This turkey is roasting without stuffing because, writes Rodgers, it cuts the cooking time by up to an hour and the aromatic vegetables and herbs used instead add a lovely fragrance to the bird. If you choose this method, simply bake your stuffing in a pan on the side.

There are many other recipes for roasting turkey, including Roast turkey with Pomegranate Sauce, one that I look forward to trying. (Hopefully my son’s friend with the pomegranate trees will keep us supplied again this year). And, much to my amusement, Rodgers uses the same method of removing the seeds and juice from pomegranates that I learned a couple of years ago and now wouldn’t do it any other way.

Chapter Two is titled SOLVING THE LEFTOVER TURKEY PROBLEM in which Rodgers offers yummy recipes for using up the leftover turkey and gravy. You might want to try Lazy Day Turkey Potpie—or Quick Turkey Curry with Fruits and Nuts, or how about “Take it Easy” Turkey and Dumpling Casserole? Californians like myself will like Turkey and Olive Enchiladas with Red Sauce or Turkey Chilaquiles—but there are pages and pages of leftover turkey recipes from which to choose.

This is a fantastic cookbook—and I’ve only touched on the first couple of chapters. I’m really excited about trying some of the recipes and Rodgers offers 138 new ways to cook America’s Favorite Bird.

My edition of The Turkey Cookbook was published in 2003 by Castle Books and was published in arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers. I found it listed on Amazon.com starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy or starting at $2.75 for a new copy. Remember that pre-owned books from private vendors have a standard shipping/handling price of $3.99. This will be a valuable addition to your cookbook collection.

And for those of you who are interested in finding more of Rick Rodgers’ cookbooks here is a list:

365 WAYS TO COOK HAMBURGER AND OTHER GROUND MEAT 1991

READY AND WAITING by Rick Rodgers, 1992

Mister Pasta’s Healthy Pasta Cookbook: More Than 150 Delicious, Low-Fat Pastas… by Rick Rodgers 1994

Slow Cooker Ready & Waiting: 160 Sumptuous Meals That Cook Themselves (paperback edition) 1998

PRESSURE COOKING FOR EVERYONE with Arlene Ward and Kathryn Russell 2000

Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food: Warm and Homey, Rich and Hearty with Chuck Williams, 2001

CHICKEN/WILLIAM-SONOMA SERIES WITH CHUCK WILLIAMS 2001
Dip It! Great Party Food to Spread, Spoon, and Scoop by Rick Rodgers, May 14, 2002

Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague by Rick Rodgers, 2002

THE TURKEY COOKBOOK 2003*

WILLIAM-SONOMA COLLECTION AMERICAN 2004
Thanksgiving 101: Celebrate America’s Favorite Holiday with America’s Thanksgiving Expert by Rick Rodgers 2007

Christmas 101: Celebrate the Holiday Season from Christmas to New Year’s by Rick Rodgers 2007

Kingsford Complete Grilling Cookbook by Kingsford Charcoal, Rick Rodgers and Ben Fink, 2007

Summer Gatherings: Casual Food to Enjoy with Family and Friends hardcover, 2008

AUTUMN GATHERINGS; CASUAL FOOD TO ENJOY WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS 2008

WINTER GATHERINGS; CASUAL FOOD TO ENJOY WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS, 2009

Cooking Essentials: Getting the Most Out of Your Stove Top & Grill (Williams-Sonoma) 2010

Breakfast Comforts (Williams-Sonoma): With Enticing Recipes for the Morning, including Favorite Dishes from Restaurants… by Rick Rodgers and Maren Caruso, 2011

I LOVE MEATBALLS! 2011

Coffee and Cake: Enjoy the Perfect Cup of Coffee–with Dozens of Delectable Recipes for Café Treats 2010
SARABETH’S BAKERY WITH Sarabeth Levine and Quentin Bacon, 2010

Carrabba’s Italian Grill: Recipes from Around Our Family Table 2011

The Essential James Beard Cookbook: 450 Recipes That Shaped the Tradition of American Cooking James Beard Author, Rick Rodgers, Editor, and John Ferrone, Consultant Editor, 2012

THE MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD SIXTIES RETRO RECIPES with Heather MacLean 2012

THE EVERYDAY DASH DIET COOKBOOK, WITH Marla Heller, 2013
The Chelsea Market Cookbook: 100 Recipes from New York’s Premier Indoor Food Market Michael Phillips and Rick Rodgers to be released,
October 2013

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

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