So that you can be truly thankful for your Thanksgiving turkey, keep the following safety tips in mind when preparing the bird:

Storage: Use a fresh turkey within two days of purchase, a frozen turkey within six months.

Thawing: Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator for about 24 hours per five pounds or in the microwave or a container of cold water if the water is changed frequently.

Preparation: Always wash hands, utensils and equipment before and after handling raw poultry and rinse the cavity as well as the skin of the turkey and pat dry with a paper towel. Remove the bag of neck and organs that are stored inside the turkey.

Stuffing: Stuff the turkey just before roasting, or cook the stuffing in a separate pan.

Cooking: The turkey should be cooked at 325 to 350 degrees, for about 20 to 25 minutes per pound. The turkey is done when a meat thermometer reads 185 degrees when inserted in the thigh and 170 degrees in the breast, and when the juices run clear when the skin is pricked with a fork. Never partially cook the turkey and take it somewhere else to finish cooking.

If you're still confused, call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line for help, at 1-800-323-4848. On Thanksgiving Day, the lines are open from 6 a.m.-6 p.m.

The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is also there to help, daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from now until Thanksgiving, and from 8 a.m. till 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Call 202-447-3333 (1-800-535-4555 outside the metropolitan area).



6 to 8 pounds......2 1/4 to 3 1/4 hours..........3 to 3 1/2 hours

8 to 12 pounds.....3 to 4 hours............3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours

12 to 16 pounds....3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours..........4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours

16 to 20 pounds....4 to 5 hours............5 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours

20 to 24 pounds....4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours..........6 1/2 to 7 hours

24 to 28 pounds....5 to 6 1/2 hours...........7 to 8 1/2 hours

PUT THIS IN YOUR PIE, and smoke it? Chewing tobacco could have new meaning if the results of Shuh Sheen's experiments ever came to fruition. Sheen, a plant pathologist at the University of Kentucky, has isolated the protein crystals from young tobacco leaves and whipped the white powder with water into a meringue.

"It's bland and has no taste," said Sheen, adding that the protein-packed substance has been washed of all its nicotine. Since protein deficiency is not a prevalent problem in the United States, Sheen does not see any urgent need for a new protein supplement source, but added that it might be applicable for pharmaceuticals or tube feeding for hospital patients.



Since you have a little more time to cook on the weekend, try this hearty recipe from Patricia Wells' "Bistro Cooking" (Workman, 1989). It's a one-dish meal, with the gratin being flavored by the juices that drip down from the lamb.

1 garlic clove, split and 5 cloves, chopped

2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced

5 medium tomatoes, cored and sliced

2/3 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 to 7 pound leg of lamb, bone-in

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rub the bottom of a large oval gratin dish, about 16-by-10-by-2 inches with the split garlic clove. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer. Season generously with salt, pepper, some of the thyme and garlic. Layer the sliced onions on top and season as with the potatoes. Layer the tomatoes on top of the onions and season with the remaining spices and garlic. Pour on the white wine and the olive oil.

Trim the thicker portions of fat from the lamb. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Place a sturdy cake rack or oven rack directly on top of the gratin dish. Set the lamb on the rack so the juices will drip into the gratin.

Roast, uncovered, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes for rare lamb; for well-done lamb. roast an additional 30 to 40 minutes. Turn the lamb every 15 minutes, basting it with liquid from the dish underneath. Remove from the oven and let the lamb sit for 20 minutes before carving.

To serve, carve the lamb into thin slices and arrange on warmed dinner plates or a serving platter, with the vegetable gratin alongside.

Per serving: 552 calories, 60 gm protein, 24 gm carbohydrates, 22 gm fat, 7 gm saturated fat, 193 mg cholesterol, 161 mg sodium.

BUY YOUR CRANBERRIES now or you may not have any for Christmas. The cranberry harvest is down 30 percent this year in Massachusetts, due to a hard freeze last December and a wet July, both of which conditions adversely affected the berry bogs.

Although nationwide the harvest is down only 12 percent and should not affect the cost or availability of processed cranberry products such as juices and sauces, a spokesman for Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., the nation's largest producer of cranberry products, says bags of fresh cranberries may be out of stock by Christmas.

By contrast, wild Maine low-bush blueberries have had a record year. This season's crop of more than 65 million pounds of the flavorful berry leaves last year's puny yield of 26 million pounds in the dust. Perhaps New Englanders will be eating blueberry sauce with their Christmas turkeys.