I am dedicating this week’s column to all those cooks fixing their first Thanksgiving dinners.
The mere mention of Thanksgiving produces happy thoughts of families gathered around the table eating, visiting together and making memories. Unless you are the host. The hungry hordes are descending and everything is going wrong. Don’t panic. This week I’m going to share with you some easy fixes for the most common Thanksgiving dinner mishaps so you can still enjoy my favorite holiday.
Frozen turkey: Put it in a shallow roasting pan in a 325° oven and let it cook for two hours before seasoning. Check at this point for the plastic bag of giblets in the cavity. If there is one, remove it before it starts to melt. Keep basting and checking the temperature, and at about five hours the breast should read 165°. Let it rest before carving
Undercooked turkey: Slice just as much meat as needed to serve immediately, and place it on a sheet pan in a 375° oven until cooked through. Once that’s done, place the remaining whole turkey back in its roasting pan, cover it in foil and finish cooking.
Lumpy, gluey mashed potatoes: Spread them out in a casserole dish, load up the top with butter, cheese and bread crumbs and bake until brown.
Burned biscuits (this is my most common mistake!): Cut the bottoms off with a knife, then toss the cut sides in a hot pan with melted butter. The result is a crispy fried bottom.
Too much salt: Dilute it by adding more of all of the other ingredients including the main event (potatoes, bread, etc.); Add lemon juice or vinegar (try apple cider) will help mask the flavor. But it won’t fix the problem; Turn it into something else: Green beans can get added to your stuffing or turned into a casserole. Same with roasted veggies. This takes some creative thinking, but it’s definitely on the menu of possibility.
Overcooked vegetables: Drizzle the vegetables with a little cream in a casserole dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs and grated cheese, then pop the casserole dish under the broiler.
Gravy problems: Lumps – Pour it through a fine mesh strainer then add thickener or reduce on the stove until you reach desired consistency or pour lumpy gravy into the blender and puree (but be careful that the gravy isn’t too hot, or the blender could shatter). To avoid lumps in the future, fully blend flour with turkey drippings to make a roux before adding any stock;
• Too thin – Blend 1/4 cup of gravy with 2 tbs. of flour, stirring until the flour has completely mixed in. Then add back to your gravy a little bit at a time. Alternatively, you can mix flour with softened butter to create the same effect.
• It’s Bland- Add salt. You can also add a bit of browned butter or worcestershire sauce to deepen the flavor.
Cracked pumpkin pie: Bury it in whip cream, sprinkle it with candied ginger and it will look even more elegant than an undecorated pie.
Undercooked pie: Reheat the pie in the oven, then scoop the filling over ice cream and crumble the cooked pieces of pie crust on top for a deconstructed pie à la mode.
Relax and enjoy a wonderful dinner with family and friends. Remember to give thanks!
GLENDA THOMPSON is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express and is currently writing a series on finding your hidden talents. Glenda resides in Charlotte where she is hard at work on the second novel in a series about Texas Rangers with dark secrets. Her first novel, Broken Toys, is available on Amazon.