Parents receive Thanksgiving dinner demo

Published Nov 16, 2017 at 4:10pm

Whether it be to never cook stuffing inside a turkey or to be sure to place peeled potatoes into a pot of water so that they don’t turn brown, local parents learned the tips and tricks of making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner Tuesday.

As part of its second Homework Diner, Bellamy Elementary School teamed up with Rome Rescue Mission, Mohawk Valley Community College and Madison-Oneida BOCES to host a Thanksgiving feast, followed by a cooking demonstration that taught community members how to cook the upcoming holiday meal. Before dinner, parents worked with their children on homework and then children played dodge ball and other games in the gymnasium as mom and dad attended class. About 60 were in attendance.

The goal of Homework Diner is to provide a monthly event for family engagement, in which the larger school community comes together. Bellamy is the pilot school for Rome Community Schools, an organization that aims to increase student achievement by strengthening the connection among home, school and the neighborhood. Homework Diner begins with tutoring assistance, offered by teachers, parents, and other staff members. When the homework session concludes, families are offered a warm meal catered by a local restaurant. The evening ends with a family bonding activity, which varies month-to-month.

“Rome Community Schools engages with other members of the community to bring programs to schools and to family members, and Rome Rescue Mission was pleased to be part of it,” said Rescue Mission Community Outreach/Health & Wellness Coordinator Mary Jo Timpano.  “Because of the partnership with Rome Rescue Mission, we are able to teach families how to properly cook a complete Thanksgiving meal.”

MVCC Associate Professor of Hospitality Programs Andrew Glidden Jr. and Madison-Oneida BOCES Culinary Arts Instructor Mona Chandler hosted the cooking demonstration. Chandler opened the class with showing how to properly prepare mashed potatoes. She advised parents they should try to cut the potatoes in even chunks and place them into a pot of water, otherwise they’ll start to turn brown because of oxidation.

“You can cut them in large or medium chunks, but you want the chunks to be about the same otherwise some will cook quicker than others if they’re not the same size,” she said.

While cutting the potatoes, “Make sure you place the flat side down” on the cutting board, “so that they’re not slippery,” Glidden added. The chef then demonstrated how to properly hold the knife above the blade “like a claw” so that cooks don’t slice their fingers.

To prepare sweet potatoes, Chandler lined a baking pan with butter before peeling and slicing the potatoes. Instead of boiling, she said she preferred baking sweet potatoes “so all the flavors absorb into the sweet potatoes as they cook.”

As for rubbing the pan with butter, “This can be a fun thing for the kids to do to get them involved,” she said as she began to rub the individual slices of sweet potatoes with butter as well. Chandler finished off with adding a small amount of orange juice to the pan and sprinkling sugar and cranberries on top of the potatoes before they would be placed into a 350-degree oven for baking.

While preparing squash, Glidden cut the fruit lengthwise before Chandler scooped out the seeds and placed them onto a cooking pan with a small amount of water for steaming.

“You can always dry out the seeds and then roast them with a little salt,” she advised the parents.

Squash was followed by cranberry sauce using fresh, whole cranberries as opposed to the jelly that can be found in a can. When placing the fruit in the pot, she showed how to grate the zest from a orange without getting down to the “bitter, white part.” Chandler then added orange juice, a half cup of sugar and said if people preferred, they could add slices of apple and walnuts as they allow the sauce to simmer on the stove top.

When making the bread stuffing, Glidden demonstrated how to stack the slices of carrots like a “deck of cards” to continue cutting them in even slices and chunks. He also showed how to peel stalks of celery to eliminate the “strings” that can get stuck in your teeth. Some milk was then added to a bowl of bread chunks.

The bread used for stuffing, “should be getting hard, but it shouldn’t be stale bread, otherwise your stuffing will taste stale,” Glidden said.

A parent then asked about cooking stuffing inside a turkey.

“You don’t want to stuff a turkey because it can lead to salmonella (poisoning),” Chandler said.

Glidden said to make sure the turkey is completely thawed before placing it into the oven at a constant 165-degrees. It may also help to prepare vegetables and ingredients for side dishes the day before to alleviate the bulk of the holiday work, he said.

As for cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal, “It may look like a lot of work, but it’s really not, and it’s fun to have everyone participate,” Chandler said. “The ticket to it all is that it tastes good. You can be creative and do things your own way too.”

Parent Ashley Bird, of First Street, who has two children attending Bellamy, ages 8 and 5, said she felt the cooking demonstration, and evening as a whole, was very informative.

“The demonstration was informative, particularly about the turkey and stuffing, and it was nice to have dinner at the school with the kids and work with the teachers,” Bird said.

Henry Gleba, of Gansevoort Avenue, who has children ages 7 and 6 attending Bellamy, said Homework Diner was a nice evening out.

“It was definitely a learning experience and it was fun for the kids to play and meet other people,” he said. “It was an all-around good experience.”