Thanksgiving is the Super Bowl of food holidays, with a plethora of side dishes and a challenging bird to cook, and with two weeks to go until the main event, now is the perfect time to get your plans in place and prepare for the feast.

It's not hard to cook a turkey, but there are a few basic rules to follow in order to avoid some classic Turkey Day pitfalls.

Today, we're sharing Tony's Top 10 Turkey Tips (T to the fifth) to help ensure your success, and we've also included a great leftover idea with our recipe for Turkey Chipotle Chowder.

If you have questions along the way, feel free to ask us by posting a comment on our AreaVoices blog or emailing us at dine@sarellos.com. And don't forget to breathe.

Tony's Top 10 Turkey Tips

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1. Make your lists:

  • Guest list
  • Menu
  • Grocery list
  • Equipment list (What will you need to make and serve each dish?)
  • Review timing for preparation of each dish (What can you do in advance?)
  • Wine and other beverages (In many areas, liquor stores are closed on holidays, so purchase any alcoholic beverages before Thursday.)

2. Prepare the refrigerator and storage containers for leftovers.

3. Buy the turkey well in advance of Turkey Day. This should be done at least three to four days in advance of the dinner if buying frozen to allow ample time for thawing.

If you're ordering a special turkey or side dishes from a butcher or caterer, place your order this week to ensure that what you need is available.

How much turkey do you need? Rule of thumb: Allow 1 pound of uncooked turkey per guest.

4. Thaw the turkey! If buying a frozen turkey, you will need to allow ample time for thawing, and you can find thawing guidelines on our blog.

NEVER thaw at room temperature. It is always best to thaw the turkey in a refrigerator, whenever possible, but a cold-water method can also be used. It takes less time with cold water, but is not as safe as a refrigerator.

5. Cook the turkey. Cook at 350 degrees for approximately 15 to 17 minutes per pound. If the turkey is also stuffed, add an additional 30 minutes of cooking time.

6. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey is thoroughly cooked. Once the turkey has reached its cooking time, you will need to take two temperatures to test for doneness.

  • Insert a meat thermometer into the breast — the temperature should be 165 degrees.
  • Next, insert the thermometer into the thigh of the leg for a reading of 180 degrees.
  • If you stuff your turkey with dressing, you will also need to insert the thermometer into the stuffing for a reading of 165 degrees.

7. Allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes after removing from the oven. This will help to retain its moisture.

8. Sharpen your knives! A proper carving knife is the best utensil for carving a turkey, and the sharper, the better and safer. Check your local kitchen or hardware store for sharpening services.

9. Use portable steam tables to hold side dishes to ensure that everything is hot when the turkey is served.

10. Make your leftover plan: What do you plan to do with the leftover turkey and side dishes? Make our Turkey Chipotle Chowder, or, instead of throwing out the turkey carcass, use it to make turkey stock. For more ideas, visit our blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

Turkey Chipotle Chowder

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

3 cups yellow onion, medium-diced

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, finely diced

2 russet potatoes, peeled and small-diced in ¼-inch cubes

6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable)

1 ½ cup heavy cream

5 whole plum tomatoes, medium-diced (canned or fresh)

2 cups sweet corn (canned, frozen or fresh if available)

1 cup white cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup colby cheese, grated

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced

2 cups turkey meat, plain or smoked

½ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

3 to 4 tablespoons roux (recipe below)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a stock pot, saute the onions in olive oil over medium heat, stirring until soft and tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add diced potatoes and cook for 2 more minutes. Add chicken stock and cream; bring to a boil while stirring constantly.

Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and add diced tomatoes, corn, cheeses, parsley, chipotle peppers and turkey meat. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes until vegetables, especially potatoes, become soft.

Add the roux, starting with 3 tablespoons, and stir to thicken soup, adding another tablespoon if necessary to reach desired thickness. Add salt and pepper to taste; serve hot and enjoy.

To store: Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for at least 2 months.

Roux

Ingredients:

½ cup butter, shortening, lard or vegetable oil (the more flavorful the fat, the better the roux)

½ cup flour

Directions:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly until a light straw color is achieved. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com and their blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.