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Hospital chefs give tips for a delicious Thanksgiving
Lillie Mae Raymond, left, and Charlene Key prepare Thanksgiving turkeys in the kitchen of Lillie's Cafe at the East Georgia Regional Medical Center. Paprika and butter help brown and crisp the turkey skin.
    When you consider the sheer number of Thanksgiving turkeys being defrosted at this very moment in refrigerators and sinks across Bulloch County, one thing is certain: Culinary disasters of all shapes and sizes are on the horizon.
    Take into account the woman who baked her bird with the bag of giblets left inside. Or the aspiring cook, who arose at 4 a.m., stuffed her turkey and forgot to turn on the oven. And last, but not least, there’s the story of the poor Kentucky woman who couldn’t get her tiny Chihuahua out of a turkey carcass.  
    If the pressure to prepare the perfect Thanksgiving feast has you in knots, don’t panic. Two local experts nearby can help you cook like a pro and prepare a turkey so beautiful it could grace the front of "Bon Appétit Magazine."
    Lillie Mae Raymond and Charlene Key, employees of East Georgia Regional Medical Center, have cooked in the hospital’s cafeteria for a combined 72 years. Raymond began her cooking career at 16 and learned from the many experienced cooks employed by the hospital in the 1950s.  
    “Cooking a turkey is easy,” Raymond said. “Keep it simple and the turkey will turn out perfect every time.”  
    For Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal Raymond and the East Georgia Regional’s dietary staff will cook 220 pounds of turkey to feed the 24-hour holiday staff of 170, hospital patients and their families plus visitors and guests.
    Cooking the perfect turkey begins by stuffing the empty cavity with apple, onions and celery, Raymond said.  
    “Cut and quarter these fruits and vegetables,” Key said.  “The special ingredient here is the apple which makes the turkey moist and juicy.”  
    Key added that any variety of apple works fine.   
    Next, generously season the outside and inside of the turkey with pepper and Lawry’s seasoned salt. Melt butter and brush it over the entire outside of the bird.
    “For a 12-lb. turkey, one stick of butter would be used,” Key said.  
    The last ingredient is paprika, which is liberally dusted over the entire turkey.  Next, add some water to the base of the pan and make sure the turkey is cooked breast side up.
    The pan with the turkey should be covered with aluminum foil—and tightly.  
“We don’t just tent the foil on top.  We wrap it snugly around the pan and seal her up,” Raymond said.  
    Another tip the cooks offered was to spray the underside of the tin foil with cooking spray so it won’t stick to the top of the turkey when you finish baking it.
Because of the various sizes of turkey, the two cooks insist on using a meat thermometer. Place the meat thermometer in the breast of the bird before you place in the oven. Interior breast meat should be 170 degrees and 180 degrees for thigh meat.
    The 12-lb. turkey is placed in a preheated 350 degree oven and cooked for 3 to 3 hours and 30 minutes. Both cooks said basting the bird while it cooks is not necessary.
After the designated time, you should find a succulent, golden brown turkey ready to carve.  But, just in case Murphy’s Law occurs, remember that East Georgia’s cafeteria is always open and will serve a turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day.
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