As friends and family descend for Thanksgiving festivities, celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito comes to the rescue with his tried-and-true tips for hosting a happy holiday.
“Don’t panic,” he tells me this week during Animal League America’s Celebrity Gala held at Waldorf Astoria in NYC. “As a host, your job is to make people happy, not cook turkey. And a lot of people confuse their jobs. When you host and invite people to your home, there’s an implicit contract that you make that you’re going to give people permission to have a good time, and if you’re anxious and nervous, and you’ve overloaded yourself with responsibilities, you’re not going to be present for them, so don’t freak out.”
Plus, he says, “Accept all the help you can get. If you have to buy a pre-cooked turkey, go for it. Make sure that you’re present and you’ve got a lot of time to pay attention to your guests.”
Despite conventional wisdom dispensed by pop-up technology, he urges holiday chefs to refrain from using the method.
“Use a thermometer, not the pop-up thing, the little pop-up device in the turkey just to know when they turkey’s done. That pop-up pops up when the turkey is overcooked.”
He continues, “You should take your turkey out at 155 degrees and let it rest for about an hour, tented under foil. That pop-up thermometer comes up at 165 degrees, when the turkey is completely overcooked.”
Also, he says, “Don’t cook the stuffing in the turkey. The inside of the turkey never gets hot enough to fully cook anything,” he explains. “If it does get hot enough to cook something, the turkey would be way overcooked. Basically, you’ve created a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. It’s called the Danger Zone.”
He adds, “What you should put inside of a turkey are things that will flavor the turkey, like onion, garlic, herbs, bay leaves, peppercorns—things that are aromatic.”
While many stash their pets away from guests during their celebrations, he encourages party hosts to include their pets.
“Unfortunately lots of pets get sequestered during the holidays when people come over,” he says. “I think it’s the perfect time to let your pets enjoy the company of other people. You’ve got family and friends over—your pets probably miss them, probably have relationships with them, so it’s a great time for creating special moments for your pets.”
He adds, “I think your pets should eat when you eat; I don’t think they should be anywhere separately eating. I don’t think they should eat at different times.”
Is it OK to share turkey with them?
“No, absolutely not,” he says. “Never share human food with them, because dogs live on a specific diet. There are a lot of human foods that are potential allergens and are toxic to dogs, and almost no one remembers them all, and you could inadvertently harm your dog.”
He continues, “Never feed them human food, and then they won’t beg.”
Were Rocco’s turkey tips helpful? Do you let your pets come into the dining room during mealtime? Tweet us @OKMagazine.