Thanksgiving lesson: fancy marshmallows

Sometimes we want to be a little playful with the Thanksgiving meal. Although during the rest of the season I will lean towards a more savory sweet potato casserole, in this particular instance we thought we'd give a nod towards the traditional method of sweet potatoing. In this instance, that meant putting marshmallows on top of the casserole. Still there didn't seem to be any sense in going completely traditional, so we decided to try the fancier, more-like-homemade marshmallows. They would, in fact, have been homemade, had I not been quite busy that evening, but I picked up some of the Whole Foods brand and just went with those. The thing about your standard marshmallows is that they'll retain their shape in the oven and just brown.
The thing about your fancy marshmallows is that they'll melt and cover the outside of your casserole dish when put in the oven to brown.
So, if you plan to do this yourself, please be smarter than we were and leave enough space inside the dish to contain the molten marshmallows. Now you know.* Incidentally, this post marks the successful completion of National Blog Posting Month. So: Yay, me! *- And knowing is half the battle.

Char-Broil Oil-less Turkey "Fryer"

I have not been able to turn on the Web for the past week without seeing something about the new The Big Easy Oil-less Turkey Fryer from Char-Broil. What I hear is "it won't catch your house on fire like a turkey fryer will" and "infrared heat." I will start by saying that in no way am I suggesting that this device will not make a delicious turkey. I don't own one and am not going to pay for one, so unless someone wants to pony up a Big Easy Oil-less Turkey Fryer, I will not make that determination. I'm sure there'll be plenty of reviews in a few days from all over the place. However, I will tell you that this device, despite its form factor, is not going to fry your turkey. What it's going to do is broil your turkey. You know how I know? No oil. It's one of the secrets of frying, you see: you need oil. So what's happening is that the Big Easy uses some propane to feed some enclosed burners. These burners get warm, and radiant heat (a.k.a. infrared heat) cooks the turkey. The nice thing is that this happens around the whole turkey at the same time, thus providing a reasonably easy setup. Of course, a turkey is a bulky, fiddly hunk of meat and bone, and it just doesn't cook evenly, which is why pain is taken to keep the white meat from drying out while the dark meat becomes safe to eat. If you have an oven that has a rotisserie attachment, then stick your turkey on that and turn the broiler on. That's the same basic setup as this "fryer". But don't go thinking that you're going to get the same sort of flavor that you would from a fryer. You may or may not even get as good of a turkey as you would from the oven, and I might even suggest just going out to the grill and using a rotisserie there, especially if you have coal. Coal rotisseried turkey would probably be a good way to impress the relatives. You know how, in a convection oven, you don't cook the food at as high of a temperature? That's because radiant heat is a relatively inefficient way to cook something. It'll get there in the end, and is great for the right kinds of foods, but it is not efficient as these things go. Oil, being a lot thicker than air, conducts heat very, very efficiently. This is why you might stick your arm into a 500°F oven for a couple of seconds to pull out a roast, but you would never stick your arm into a 350°F pot of oil. Not even for a couple of seconds. Oil is very efficient. So when Char-Broil calls their round, only use at Thanksgiving broiler a "fryer", I scoff. Again: could be a wonderful device, but it transfers heat in a completely different way from what a fryer uses, and knowing how heat transfers is an important part of cooking. I don't appreciate the spreading of misinformation. Still, if you don't mind having a good chunk of your garage cluttered for 365.242199* days of the year with a device that is not going to fry your turkey, then feel free. Personally, I'll stick with the oven. Unless, as I said, someone wants to give me one. Then I will give it a fair shot. I might not keep it, but I'd certainly cook something with it. *- Give or take