How to Survive Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving emergency? We have a fix! Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is full of unusual problems—maybe the turkey isn't fully thawed, or perhaps the pie crust is burning. Whatever the woe, our Kitchen-Tested Thanksgiving hacks are here to save the day.
The holiday kitchen can be a bit chaotic, and mistakes are bound to crop up. Luckily, surviving Thanksgiving just got a little easier. We've compiled a Thanksgiving cheat sheet full of surefire turkey-time tips that will come to the rescue when disaster seems imminent. Print this article and post it on your refrigerator just in case something goes awry.
If the bird won't thaw: Place it in a clean sink full of cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. Don't be tempted to thaw at room temperature, in warm water, or in the microwave, all of which are invitations to harmful bacteria.
If the breast is cooking faster than the thighs: No one wants an over-brown turkey. Cover the breast of the turkey lightly with aluminum foil and continue roasting.
If the stuffing isn't crisp: Put it under the broiler for a minute or two to score a Thanksgiving stuffing that's crisp on top and moist inside.
If the cranberries boil over: Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to the pot for every 12-ounce package of cranberries you're using. And remember this basic cranberry sauce tip: cook cranberries only until they pop. If you cook them any longer, they'll turn bitter and mushy.
If potatoes start to brown: Cook the potatoes in milk (don't let the milk boil) to brighten them.
If you have stringy sweet potatoes: Use an electric mixer to beat the cooked potatoes. The strings will wind themselves around the beaters and your potatoes will be creamy and smooth.
If your vegetables are overcooked: Put them in the food processor with a little butter, cream, fresh-ground pepper, and salt, and puree them until smooth. Don't tell a soul that you didn't intend to serve them as a soup in the first place, and no one will be the wiser.
If gravy's looking (and tasting) flat: Enrich the color and flavor with a few shakes of soy sauce, or add a teaspoon or two of instant coffee powder or unsweetened cocoa powder.
If the bottom burns: Stir in a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter to smooth out the rough edges and soften the smoky taste.
If gravy's too salty: As a general rule, don't salt your gravy until right before you serve it, as its flavor intensifies as it cooks. But if you find that it is too salty, you can fix it a couple different ways. One option is to peel a raw potato and cut it into large chunks and add it to the gravy, cook it for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove the potatoes. Or you can stir in 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vinegar.
If gravy's separated: Whirl it in a blender at low speed until it's smooth. Pour it into a clean pan and cook over very low heat.
If gravy's too thick and pasty: Just whisk in a little chicken broth or dry white wine over low heat and cook until bubbly.
If a cream-based soup has curdled: Strain the soup into a blender jar (fill it only two-thirds full) and blend until it's smooth. Make sure the lid is on tight and that you hold it while wearing an oven mitt. Return it to a clean pan and heat over low heat.
If soup seems too fatty: Add a few lettuce leaves to the pot of finished soup and let it stand a few minutes. The leaves will help soak up extra oil.
If broth is too salty: Fix soup similar to the way you fix an oversalted gravy: Peel and thinly slice a raw potato and simmer it in the soup for 10 minutes or so to absorb some of the excess salt. Scoop out the slices with a slotted spoon before serving.
If dinner rolls are a little dried out: Wrap them loosely in aluminum foil and heat in a 300°F oven for 15 minutes. In the last 4 or 5 minutes of reheating, unwrap the rolls slightly so the outside crisps up just a bit. Serve immediately.
If pie dough has too much liquid: Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it just until firm (but not hard as a rock) before you roll it out.
If the pie crust is starting to burn: Cut the bottom out of a disposable aluminum pie plate that is the same size as the pie you're baking. Turn it upside-down over the pie to cover the edges. The center will continue to bake and the crust won't burn.
If cream is overwhipped: Simply fold in a few tablespoons of milk or unwhipped cream.