Thanksgiving 911

By: Liz Gray
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Thanksgiving can be disastrous enough even if the food goes off without a hitch, but serving runny potatoes and raw turkey can make you feel about as bad as playing referee between two feuding family members. But don't worry -- we're here to help!  Just take a deep breath (or two) and read our solutions for the most common Thanksgiving (food) woes.

TURKEY
Problem: Forgot to thaw turkey

Solution: Submerge frozen turkey in cool water, change every 20 minutes to speed up process. Or, if you don’t have time for this, consider buying a turkey breast or two, depending on your guest list.

Problem: Left the giblets in the turkey
Solution: Whisk away those giblets -- no one has to know! If the bag melts, however…your favorite pizza delivery guy might have to save the day on this one.  Cranberry sauce and sausage, anyone?
Problem: Dry turkey

Solution: Put chicken stock in a spray bottle and spray each piece as you carve. Make extra gravy and serve it next to the turkey and on the table.

Problem: Forgot to start cooking turkey

Solution: Skip the stuffing -- this increases the cooking time.  (Cook it on the side, instead...it's safer, anyway.) Butterfly turkey and cook at 450 degrees F for a 90-120 minute cooking time, depending on the size of your bird. You can also cut the turkey into pieces like you would a chicken and roast for quicker results.

Problem: No roasting rack

Solution: Use an upside-down cake pan to hold up your turkey. Alternatively, you can fashion one out of foil.

Problem: Me + a carving knife = disaster! Help!

Solution: Don't  worry - Watch Alton's step-by-step how-to for a perfectly-carved bird.

Problem: How do I tell when the turkey's done?

Solution: Grab your instant-read thermometer and stick it into the thickest part of the thigh. Take out your turkey when the thermometer reads 165 degrees F and the juices run clear.

SIDE DISHES
Problem: No more oven space

Solution: Think small appliances: Keep mashed potatoes warm in the crock pot or finish warming the green bean casserole in a toaster oven. Many dishes can also heat up while the turkey is resting.

Problem: Overcooked veggies

Solution: Transform overcooked carrots, broccoli or squash into a chic puree.  Add a little cream and some spices, then heat until just warm. Or, add some chicken stock to that mixture and voila -- a creamy soup!

Problem: Lumpy gravy

Solution: Pour the gravy through a medium-sized strainer. The lumps will stay behind, and the gravy will pass through.

Problem: Runny gravy

Solution: Thicken with flour. To add without creating lumps, pour about a quarter cup of broth into a bowl and mix in the flour in until smooth. Whisk mixture back into the gravy. Use about 1 tablespoon of flour per cup of gravy.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the raw flour taste is gone and mixture begins to thicken.

Problem: Bland gravy

Solution: Season with salt and pepper. If it’s still bland, saute a little onion or shallot in another pan until soft, then deglaze the pan with a little brandy, cognac or chicken stock. Add gravy and reduce slightly to let the flavors concentrate. Season with fresh herbs like thyme or sage if you have them.

Problem: Lumpy mashed potatoes or runny mashed potatoes

Solution: If mashed potatoes are lumpy, push through a food mill or ricer and add butter, milk or cream.  If mashed potatoes are runny, put in a casserole dish and bake to dry them out and add a crisp crust on top.

Problem: Stuffing is too mushy or too dry

Solution: To rehydrate dry stuffing, stir in some chicken stock and put it back in the oven until just warm.  For mushy stuffing,  pour off any excess liquid and bake until crisp.

DESSERTS
Problem: Cracked pumpkin pie or cheesecake

Solution: Cover it up! A pecan caramel sauce or cinnamon-whipped cream work nicely.

Problem: Burnt/Soggy pie crust

Solution: Scoop out the filling. Whip cream with a little sugar, then fold the mixture into the filling and scoop into a serving dish. You’re now serving pumpkin mousse! Alternatively, if you have parfait glasses, layer pumpkin filling with whipped cream and top with toasted nuts.

Here's to a delicious Thanksgiving!

For last-minute recipes and how-tos, visit our Thanksgiving Headquarters .

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