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Virgin Islanders' Recipes Stir Up a Happy Thanksgiving

Nov. 26, 2008 — Happy Thanksgiving! First things first: If your turkey is still frozen, skip right to the sixth paragraph, and come back here later.
While the holiday is celebrated all over the United States, here in the Virgin Islands we have our own special recipes for this day of thanks, which we spend with friends and family. The recipes for turkey and side dishes that follow come from Virgin Islanders of many different backgrounds, who all celebrate our good fortune to be here for this special holiday.
If you live on St. Thomas, St. John or Water Island, chances are good that you can thank the V.I. Water and Power Authority for assisting in the thawing of your bird. (See "WAPA Gives Update on Power Outage.")
Late Wednesday, Department of Health Commissioner Vivian I. Ebbesen Fludd advised the public to be cautious in consuming perishable foods that may have been contaminated as a result of the power outages.
"Perishable foods including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more should be discarded," according to a news release from the DOH. "Food with an unusual odor, color, or texture should also be thrown away."
Important Note: According to the Butterball Turkey Talk Line, turkey should never be thawed at room temperature. Refrigerator thawing is recommended, but if you are reading this on Thanksgiving morning and haven't thawed the turkey yet, you might want to use the water method of thawing your turkey. Thawed turkeys should be kept at 40 degrees until ready for the oven. For detailed information about preparing the turkey, home economists are standing by (yes, even on Thanksgiving Day) at the Butterball Turkey Talk Line at 1-800-288-8372. For those who want to access tips online, visit butterball.com.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has advice for tips on cooking turkey at the Let's Talk Turkey site.
For baking times and temperature, Butterball recommends roasting 10-to-18-pound unstuffed turkeys at 325 degrees F for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, and 18 to 22 pound birds for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, according to Sue Smith from the Let's Talk Turkey Line.
Stuffed turkeys, Smith said, require a little more cooking time (also at 325 degrees F): 3 3/4 hours for 10-to-18-pound birds and 4 1/2 to 5 hours for 18-to-22 pounders.
Butterball's method for browning is at the beginning of the cook time. Butterball recommends brushing the skin with oil and starting the bird without a cover for the first 30 minutes.
When the skin is light golden brown, about 2/3 done, shield the breast loosely with a piece of lightweight foil to prevent overcooking, the Butterball website says.
And now for the recipes:
Roasted turkey, contributed by Blanche Mills, who has been preparing Thanksgiving in the territory for 23 years and works at the University of the Virgin Islands with the Cooperative Extension Service. Mills' recipe was recently enjoyed by many who attended the St. Thomas — St. John Agricultural Fair.
— Wash thawed turkey inside and out with vinegar
— Dry thoroughly with paper towels
— Puncture skin
— Rub entire turkey with one or two whole chopped knobs of garlic
— Season with a rub of thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper
— Cover turkey with foil and baste occasionally
Taking the foil off for the last part of cooking will allow the skin to brown, but it is critical that the turkey is not allowed to overcook or it will become dry.
The first lady's red bean soup, contributed by Cecile deJongh.
1 lb red beans
8 cups of water
1/2 lb. pork or ham
1 bouquet of thyme, parsley and celery
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup canned tomatoes
1 firm, ripe plantain
sugar to taste
Wash beans and soak overnight. Boil for two hours in water in which beans are soaked; add all ingredients except plantain, which is added only after beans are soft. If adding dumplings (separate recipe, and I don't add them) add them and cook for 10 more minutes.
Mashed rutabagas, contributed by Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
Three rutabagas
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt water to taste)
A little brown sugar (also to taste)
A pinch of ginger
1/4 cup margarine or butter
Peel, slice and cook rutabagas. (Slice or cube into 2-inch pieces. Boil in salted water 20 to 30 minutes or until tender; drain well.) In large bowl, mash hot rutabagas using a potato masher. Add remaining ingredients; mash until light and fluffy. Makes six servings.
Buttermilk biscuits with green onion, black pepper and sea salt, contributed by Kim Wilson-McCall, who works as a sales representative for Merchants Market.
3/4 cup chilled buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper, plus a little for sprinkling
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, plus 1 TBSP melted
Sea salt
Heat oven to 425 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine buttermilk and onions in medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar and 1/2 tsp black pepper in large bowl to combine. Add 1/2 cup chilled butter and rub into flour with fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir just till moist clumps form.
Turn dough onto floured board and knead gently to combine three or four turns. Roll out to 3/4-inch thickness and cut rounds with a two-inch floured cutter. Place biscuits on sheet pan. Re-roll scraps, cut and add to sheet pan. Brush tops with the melted butter and sprinkle the tops with a little more pepper and sea salt (go easy on the salt). Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly, serve warm.
Option: Adding a little shredded cheddar cheese and diced ham for brunch biscuits.
Sorrel drink, contributed by Crucian Bertilia Daniel, who is celebrating Thanksgiving in Maryland.
1 lb sorrel sepals
1 knob of ginger
5 tbsp sugar
2 liters water
Big splash of rum, sherry or wine
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp ground pimento
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp orange peel
1 tbsp lemon peel
1 tsp mace
Combine all, refrigerate and serve cold.
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