Fix Turkey Cooking Disasters | How to Fix Cooking Mistakes
As the holidays grow very near, we begin our planning and the writing of our menus for these pending events. Planning, planning and more planning, so everything is just right for the special people in our lives. Wouldn't it be great if the things we could not plan for, like those pesky Thanksgiving and Christmas Kitchen Disasters, were easily solved in one convenient spot? If we had a few solutions for these culinary traumas, we could greet the holidays free from wine and ativan with graceful confidence. Well, you have come to right place today! For your holiday pleasure, provided within this article are several seriously needed solution for your holiday kitchen disasters! Keep this article on hand so you're ready for the disaster that pops up in your kitchen this holiday season.
NOTE: I have been asked many times what the differences between dressing and stuffing are, as knowing the difference may make a difference. The turkey dressing is cooked outside of the turkey in a baking or casserole dish, while stuffing is cooked inside the turkey cavity. Notice that the stuffing is actually "stuffed" into the turkey?
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Turkey Kitchen Mishaps Solved
Even with the best planning, things can and do go wrong on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but if you can manage to keep your cool (and a great sense of humor) you can find a solution to most problems. Here are a few of the more common Thanksgiving and Christmas problems, and the best solutions for them:
1). It's the Morning of the feast and the Turkey is still Frozen!!
Your turkey will thaw at about 30 minutes per pound if you follow this holiday kitchen disaster solution. The safest way to thaw a turkey is to soak it in COLD water. Do not be tempted to use warm or hot water here, these will only damage the bird and take it right into the temperature danger zone, and nobody wants that. Making certain your kitchen sink is very clean, while still in its wrapper, place your turkey in the sink and cover it with COLD water. You will be ready to pop old Tom-turkey in your oven in no time; disaster averted! You planned on thawing your turkey in this fashion from the beginning, as there was no space for the turkey in the already full refrigerator.
2). The Stuffing is NOT done but the Turkey is!
The temperature you are looking for in your stuffing is at least 165ºF, to determine the temperature of the stuffing place an instant-read thermometer in the center of the stuffing. If your stuffing measures less than 165ºF, scoop it out of the done turkey and put it into a baking dish, return just the stuffing back to the oven. Continue baking the stuffing until it reaches the proper temperature. This gives the turkey a chance to rest awhile before carving it, and everyone knows you should never carve a holiday turkey until it has rested.
If you want to avoid having to deal with un-done stuffing all together, here are a couple of suggestions: When you fill the turkey with the stuffing keep it loose so the oven heat can get in there and do its work, if it is packed in too tight the heat takes much longer to penetrate the dense stuffing mixture. Make sure to bring your stuffing to at least room temp before putting in the turkey, if it is too cold it will not cook properly. If you just don't want to risk having to contend with this kitchen disaster at all, don't stuff the stuffing, make a dressing by putting it into its own baking dish and cook it next to the turkey in the oven. The outside of the baked dressing will crisp up nicely, just the way you have always liked it.
3). Oh, No! These mashed potatoes look like glue!!
When your mashed potatoes look like they should be part of a kindergarten art project, don't worry, this is a very common problem that most cooks have had to handle. The trouble is caused by roughing-up and over-mixing the spuds. For the smoothest mashed potatoes, always use a ricer, a hand masher, or a food mill. You should avoid using a hand mixer or (gulp!) a food processor at all cost. But, if it happens, don't let glue-like potatoes ruin your thanksgiving or Christmas holiday meal. If time (and budget) permit, your results would be better if you just started over. If making a whole new batch is out of the question, then try this kitchen disaster solution; Using a shallow baking pan, spread the spuds in a fairly thin layer. Generously sprinkle course bread crumbs over the top of the potatoes. Grate Parmesan cheese over the bread crumbs (don't skimp on the cheese). Scatter dollops of butter around on the top of the crumbs and cheese, and slide them into the oven and bake until you see the topping turn golden brown and crispy. No one will care about the texture of the potatoes because they will be too impressed with your flavorful and crunchy crumb topping. No flawed potatoes here, just a fancy new recipe you're trying out this year.
An Onion can Save Your Holiday Gravy
How to make a Perfect and Easy Roux from a Pro! (1 min. 27 sec. video)
4). All of my Turkey pan drippings are burned and I still have to make the Gravy!
Nothing makes the holiday turkey dinner better than a rich and tasty gravy made from the cooked-on and liquid turkey drippings. But if your drippings are burned, you CANNOT use them. The burnt flavor will inundate the gravy and nothing but a bitter-scorched taste will remain on your diners pallet. This adjustment for the gravy kitchen disaster may not offer the long awaited turkey drippings gravy, but it will provide you with a very tasty gravy your family and friends will enjoy.
To start with, cut or pull off 3 or 4 tablesppons' worth of the most browned tid-bits of skin and meat from under the turkey (the bottom side of the bird). Dice these turkey bits very small and add them to a clean saucepan, sauté´ the bits in bacon grease or butter. Add minced onion and parsley, thyme, and a good bit of sage, use fresh herbs if you have them on hand, if not, dried herbs are just fine. When the onion becomes browned and soft, sprinkle in some flour and cook this 'roux' until the color becomes golden brown (you must cook the flour to a brown color or your gravy will have a distinct raw-flour flavor); gradually add broth, and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened to a satisfying gravy consistency.
The most effective way to protect your drippings from becoming burned in the first place is to cook your turkey in a heavy roasting pan that is big enough for the turkey and no larger—if you have too much extra space around your turkey the pan will become too hot and that is when bad things happen to your good drippings (and the bird). If you cannot avoid using a thin pan or have extra space around the turkey, then you must fill that space with something to absorb the heat that builds during the roasting process. The best thing to use is a couple of coarsely chopped onions positioned around the turkey in the pan, they will absorb most of the excess heat. If you use this method of heat control, remember to eliminate the onion from your homemade broth or gravy recipe as these turkey pan drippings will have plenty of onion goodness built right in, and isn't that how you planned it all along!?
It's okay to strain your gravy if you encounter a lumpy outcome!
A fine sieve will get the job done nicely. But, if you strain out to much of the flour, your gravy will become too thin. To solve this 'thinning' problem, return your gravy to the stove top and simmer until an acceptable consistency returns, or whisk in a bit more starch, BUT BE CAREFUL: I recommend dissolving 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in a little bit of water or broth, then whisk it into the gravy a tiny bit at a time until the gravy is thickened. Just like with a roux, you have to cook out the starchy taste, so let it simmer for a couple of minutes to be sure the taste is just right.
5). My Pumpkin Pie has a sink-hole right down the middle!
This is a kitchen holiday disaster that most every cook has encountered at some point. Custard pies, which is what your pumpkin pie is, crack because they are over cooked or they have too much starch in the mix. The best way to resolve the issue is to pull the pie from the oven just as it sets, no longer—the custard will continue to thicken while it cools. However, if you end-up with a crevasse down the middle of your holiday pie, it's time to create the illusion of perfection, and whipped cream will be your 'smoke-and-mirrors'. Pipe or spread some lightly sweetened whipped cream to cover the entire top of your pie, try to make the repair with a decorative pattern. Or, what will be perceived as a delicate and chefly touch, slice-up the pie in your kitchen, be sure to cut along the crevasse if possible. Place each slice of holiday pie on a dessert plate, add a good amount of puffy whipped cream and serve to your diners. You wanted to treat your guests special on an individual basis today, after all, it is the holidays!
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