Eric and I love to cook and consider ourselves fairly seasoned!
But we too mistakes! And when the pressure is on during the holidays, whether you are new or a veteran, we can make some pretty disastrous mistakes when cooking a holiday meal. It happens to everyone, but what you do with the problem is what is more important. It is impossible to go out and buy another turkey and cook it up quick for the holiday dinner. You have to do something with what you’ve got instead. I know someone who cooked their first turkey not realizing you had to rinse it out. If she did she would have seen the little package containing the neck and innards of the bird. Instead she cooked it with those inside. Now that was a disaster that couldn’t be fixed. It’s all about having solutions in your hip pocket so when the problem strikes, just like any home project, it’s no worry because YOU are ready! Here are some problem solving tips for Turkey Day Crises:
The Turkey is Still Partially Frozen when Ready to Cook
This really isn’t a bad problem, it just takes a little time to fix so make sure to check the bird the night before you plan on cooking it. A full turkey takes 5 hours per pound to defrost in the refrigerator. Therefore, if you have a 20 pound turkey, it will take 4.15 days for it to defrost. (20 x 5 = 100 ÷ 24 = 4.15). If the bird is still frozen, do not open the turkey. Keep it in the wrapper and place it in a sink full of cold water. Completely cover the turkey and if it won’t fit in the sink, put it in the bathtub. Drain and refill with cold water every half hour. The turkey should defrost about ½ hour each pound, so you are up for a late night the night before the holiday.
The Turkey Becomes Burned
This is also not such a big problem. If the top is burning but the turkey is not done, just flip it over upside down in the pan and keep cooking. If the turkey is actually burned, just remove any of the charred parts and hope the turkey does not taste burned. Remove any pieces of turkey that are really dried out by carving it in the kitchen and taking out the slices instead of carving it at the table. You can also put some Cajun spices in the gravy to hide that charred taste and tell guests you are having “Jerk Turkey” for a change. To prevent the problem from happening again, check your oven to see if it needs to be calibrated, or cover the turnkey with some thick foil while cooking up until the last hour or so.
The Turkey is Dry
Just slice the turkey before taking it out to the guests in the dining room and pour gravy over all the slices. Some of it will permeate the meat and make it moister. Next time be sure to baste that turkey with its own juices at least the last hour of cooking. This helps to make it moist.
Lumpy and Burned Gravy
Lumpy gravy is easy to fix. Just run the gravy through a fine sieve and rub it through with a rubber spatula. Reheat the gravy and it should be just fine. Lumpy gravy is caused by not dissolving the flour in pan drippings well or the gravy is cooked at a high temperature. Lower the temperature of the cooktop and whisk in the flour very well.
If your gravy becomes burned and sticks to the bottom of the pan, do not scrape it out. Pour out what you can into another pan, leaving the blacked goop out. It is always a good idea to have back up gravy in a jar around, just in case.
Potatoes Gone Wrong
If potatoes are over cooked, they tend to become gooey, sticky and generally unpalatable. If this happens just form the potatoes into small patties, chill for an hour and fry in oil until brown. You have a holiday potato pancakes. Another good idea is to scrape the gooey potatoes into a greased casserole and add some butter and cheddar cheese on top. Serve as baked potato casserole.
Rolls Become Burned
Scrape or slice off the burned parts and put butter on. The bottom is usually what burns. Flip them over, remove the char and put butter on them.
Problems with Deserts
Soggy crust is a real problem because pie just doesn’t taste very good with one. When you make a fruit pie, try precooking half of the filling on the stove in a pan first. This will activate thickening agents and get rid of excess liquid. If there is no hope for the soggy bottom crust, just scoop the pie out of the crust and put into a bowl and serve with whipped cream on top.
IF the crust around the edges of the pumpkin pie burns, and that is very easy to do, just remove them and pipe whipped cream around the edge of the pie to make it look like crust.
Some people might serve cheesecake on the holidays. Cheesecakes are notorious for cracking down the middle. Prevent this from happening by placing a pan of water in the oven with the cheese cake. Fill a baking pan with cool water and place it on the bottom rack while the cheese cake is placed on the top. This will provide moisture in the oven and the cake will not crack. If you only have one rack in the oven, fill a cupcake tray with water and place the cheese cake on top.
Most holiday food disasters can be turned into a delicious meal. You just have to stay calm, have a backup plan, or perform some alternate magic to make everything delicious again.