John Ash talks turkey

  • John Ash: “Every year it seems there appears another new way of roasting the holiday turkey: high heat, low heat, roasting legs separately from the breast, roasting in a brown paper bag, with stuffing or without. My preference is for not stuffing the bird. It cooks faster, the skin gets crispier, and I love the crispy exterior of stuffing when it’s baked in a dish, uncovered of course.“I’m of the KISS school (Keep it Simple Stupid). It really isn’t that difficult … “The important thing for keeping your bird moist is to brine it first, using the west or dry brine method.” From "Culinary Birds" Running Press by John Ash. Photo by Jessica Nicosia-Nadler

John Ash likes to err on the side of simplicity when it's time for the Thanksgiving feast.

That means streamlining the menu, prepping well in advance and finishing off dishes on Thanksgiving Day while the turkey roasts in the oven.

"The big issue with Thanksgiving is that we try to do too much," said the renowned Santa Rosa chef. "You should work ahead. ... You can mix up the stuffing the night before and make a fresh, uncooked cranberry relish a few days in advance."

Ash, who travels the globe teaching people how to cook, recently wrote his fourth cookbook, "Culinary Birds: The Ultimate Poultry Cookbook," released in September.

Although poultry has been a mainstay of the human diet for 7,000 years, Ash discovered there were surprisingly few cookbooks dedicated to the popular protein.

"I was intrigued by the idea," he said. "People have done a book on every other animal."

In "Culinary Birds," Ash serves up a tasty history of the various birds, tips on sourcing healthy poultry, proper handling and storage guidelines and more than 170 recipes inspired by cuisines around the world.

The cookbook also provides everything you need to know about cooking America's favorite fall fowl.

"The turkey is so appropriate for Sonoma County," Ash said. "There are so many wild turkeys here, and they're not afraid of anything."

If you're wary of the many challenges of the Thanksgiving feast, fear not. We consulted with Ash about all the big turkey debates — brine vs. no brine, stuffed vs. not stuffed, bag vs. no bag. He also suggested a few, easy side dish ideas guaranteed to perk up the plate. Let the cooking begin.

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