FARMINGTON — The kitchen is a guaranteed minefield for a select few days each year. Today is one of them.
Turkey-induced tryptophan stupor and the simple pleasure of family gatherings make Thanksgiving one of the most anticipated holidays each year.
It is a wonderful prelude to Christmas, when children get a long weekend to enjoy the last few days of fall.
The world slows down a little, except in the kitchen.
"I like it when we eat," said Hali Jordan, 5, a second-grader at McKinley Elementary School. "I like pumpkin pie. I like that it has pumpkins in it."
Helping out in the kitchen can be an enjoyable and educational experience, even for children as young as Jordan.
Here are a few ways for the brave men and women who bring delicious food to the table to include kids in preparing for the main event:
Start with the turkey.
Turkey is a temperamental, unforgiving bird. Its juicy meat is like no other poultry when cooked correctly, but an overcooked turkey is a tragedy — dry, mealy and tasteless.
Preparation can be deceptive.
Most Thanksgiving turkeys weigh between 10 to 20 pounds and take forever to cook through.
The thighs and breasts are best cooked at different temperatures and stuffing the bird results in an overcooked mess.
While most of the cooking is best left to adults, there are a few ways to get kids involved and help keep the turkey plump and moist.
First, truss the bird.
Trussing is a commonly used technique that involves tying the legs together and bringing them closer to the breast.
This helps to slow the cooking process, ensuring that the thighs don't finish cooking before the rest of the bird.
A simple truss is a perfect opportunity for kids to practice cooking techniques.
Tie the legs together, then tie a loop along the turkey's spine, bringing the legs as close to the body as possible.
Second, don't stuff the turkey.
A stuffed bird will almost always mean overcooked, dried breast meat. Sealing up the cavity prevents the hot oven air from reaching inside.
That forces a longer cooking time.
In addition, because stuffing absorbs the turkey juices as it cooks, it also needs to be cooked longer to avoid salmonella and other illnesses associated with undercooked poultry.
Instead, have kids stuff the bird with some aromatic vegetables such as a roughly chopped carrots, celery and onions, or some fennel and mushrooms.
The vegetables will perfume the bird while still allowing hot air in.
These are just a few ways to get kids into the kitchen this Thanksgiving.
Start slowly and introduce them to more parts of the cooking process, like making a pie crust or preparing a gravy.
Soon the Thanksgiving kitchen won't be so foreboding.