As we rush to the finish line of the perfect Thanksgiving meal, there are a number of pitfalls that even the best of cooks sometimes stumble into.
The following are some helpful tips to repair mistakes to the holiday meal that can save the day or at least the dish!
The safest way to thaw a turkey is to put it in a pan and give it a few days in the refrigerator. Leave it in its original packaging and sit it breast-side up. It will take about 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. The following is a guide to thawing the Thanksgiving bird.
Turkey weight: fridge thawing time: cold water thawing time
4 to 12 lbs.: 1 to 3 days: 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 lbs.: 3 to 4 days: 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 lbs.: 4 to 5 days: 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 lbs.: 5 to 6 days: 10 to 12 hours
When it is time to put the bird in the oven and the cook discovers it just is not thawed, turkey experts say use the following to help the bird thaw.
Wrap the bird tightly in plastic or a plastic bag and put in a large bowl and place under running cold water. Use a bucket or cooler to hold the turkey and cold running water from a bathtub or even an outside hose. The only mandatory requirement here is the water temperature. The water must stay cold. Change the water every 30 minutes and remember thawing time will take about 30 minutes per pound.
If the water is not cold bacteria can grow and food poisoning can result.
When the breast meat feels springy and the legs and wings move loosely, the bird is ready to dress and cook.
Although not the best, a partially frozen turkey can still go in the oven, but the cooking time should extended up to one and a half times the original cooking time, depending on how frozen the turkey is.
If the bird comes out of the oven golden brown, but a little on the dry side, heat three cups of turkey, chicken, or vegetable broth in the microwave. Carve the turkey and soak each piece in the warm broth for a few seconds. Remove, shake off excess, and serve.
Gravy is the key to masking the dryness of an overcooked turkey. Add gravy to the bottom of the serving dish, pile on the turkey and then add more gravy on top.
If the turkey isn’t browning quite the way it should, here is a tip to create a golden brown, crispy skin. Mix together some honey and melted butter and brush it on the turkey. The sugars will caramelize, creating a crispy skin, and your meat inside will stay moist.
Gluey Mashed Potatoes
Starches in potatoes can sometimes get overworked during the mashing process resulting in a glue-like consistency. There’s no direct fix for this problem but changing the presentation can result in a delicious, appealing potato casserole.
Mix a couple of eggs into the potato mixture, place in a casserole dish, and pour some melted butter over the top. By adding toppings like cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon; Parmesan cheese and french-fried onions; or caramelized onions the dish will be a hit on the Thanksgiving table.
Bake in 350°F to 375°F oven for 30 minutes and serve. No one needs to know the delicious twist to the potatoes is a cover-up for a mistake.
Runny Mashed Potatoes
Try adding some dehydrated potato flakes or powdered dry milk to thicken runny mashed potatoes.
If the stuffing is too runny, try cutting some dried bread (a couple minutes in the oven will dry it out quickly) into cubes and add it to the stuffing. Mix after each addition, until the right consistency is reached. If you over do it a bit, add some chicken broth (1 cup for every 4 cups of stuffing) allow to soak for a minute before adding more
If there is no extra bread on hand, put the stuffing onto a baking pan, break up the pieces, bake it a little longer, and then return the stuffing to its original dish.
Season with bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir in a tablespoon of fruity white wine (such as Chardonnay) for a bright, floral flavor. Bring to a simmer for 3 minutes or until fragrant.
All is not lost if there’s no gravy plan for the holiday feast — because the drippings from the turkey provide a flavorful gravy base. This is the easiest fix ever. Add a cup white wine to the drippings and stir the good brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Then add chicken stock and reduce until it thickens. Straining the gravy will take the left over brown bits out.
Lumpy gravy can be a holiday cook’s worst nightmare. There are a couple of tricks to smooth out the turkey gravy. First try putting the gravy through the blender to instantly smooth those lumps or put the warm gravy through a fine-mesh strainer.
Too salty gravy
Take a raw, peeled potato and cut into thick slices, add to the gravy and let it cook for 15 minutes in the pan. The potato will soak up some of the salt. Just remove the potato before you serve the gravy. Some cooks recommend adding a little brown sugar or lemon juice to the gravy to help cut down on the saltiness.
A cook can also dilute the salt with more water and a thickening agent (like flour or cornstarch).
Adding a touch of vinegar to an over-salted sauce or soup can cut the problem of a salty taste. Other recipes can be helped by adding a bit of sugar to temper the saltiness or adding sour cream.
If there is time, add half of a raw peeled potato to the dish and simmer for a few minutes for the spud to soak up the saltiness. Remove the potato before serving.
Burnt pie crust
If part of the pie crust goes black, as opposed to a golden brown, try scraping off the burned bits. Try trimming and remove the burned crust and use canned whipping cream to create a decorative rim to replace the burnt crust.
Or if it is a fruit pie, spoon the filling into another pie plate and top it with a simple crumble made of butter, sugar, flour, and oats.
If it is beyond repair, try creating a trifle by layering the pumpkin or fruit with ice cream or whipped cream and using granola to top it.
Cracked pie or cheese cake
Use confectioners’ sugar or whipped cream to top the dessert and hide the cracks. Avoid the crack next year by cooking the custard for less time. Custards need to cook only until just set.
Cool custard gradually by turning off the oven, propping the oven door slightly ajar and letting it come to room temperature before refrigerating.