Thanksgiving, notably the most elaborate feast of the year, is a celebration of beloved foods and customs that evokes happy memories of good times shared with our family and friends. It’s a day when we all come together to express through words and the pleasures of a bountiful table, how grateful we are to have one another.
Yet, the flip side to all of the enjoyment we experience on the fourth Thursday of every November is the daunting prospect of pulling off the “Perfect Thanksgiving Meal.” And, let’s be honest here, it can be stressful.
Here’s some sage advice and a few smart strategies to help make the big day a little easier and a little more enjoyable for you. And remember, if something does goes wrong, keep calm and carry on – because after all, Thanksgiving is about bringing people together.
Let’s talk turkey:
- When buying a turkey, plan on about 1 pound per person.
- Defrost a frozen turkey slowly, in its wrapping, on a rimmed baking sheet in the refrigerator. It will defrost at a rate of about 4 to 5 pounds per day, so plan accordingly.
- If your bird is still frozen when you’re ready to slide it into the oven, finish thawing it in cold water, changing the water frequently. It will defrost at a rate of about 1 pound every half hour.
- If your bird is late going into the oven, cut into legs and wings; remove the breast meat and roast on a baking sheet.
- When roasting an unstuffed bird, allow about 15 minutes per pound in a 325 degree oven.
- Tent the turkey with foil after it roasts and keep it in a warm spot.
- If your turkey is too dry, slice the meat and place it on a pretty platter. Drizzle over some hot broth or gravy to moisten.
- To garnish your turkey platter, have some fresh herb sprigs (sage, rosemary and thyme) and colorful fall fruits, such as pears, cranberries and crab apples, on hand.
What to do if your gravy is too:
- Lumpy: Strain it through a fine mesh sieve or puree it in a blender.
- Thin: Simmer it a little longer. If it’s still too thin, mix equal parts of softened butter and flour into a paste. Whisk into the gravy and bring it to a boil.
- Thick: Whisk in a little more broth or stock to thin it out.
Help! My mashed potatoes are:
- Dry: Add more cream!
- Bland: Add more salt and pepper.
- Done too early: Keep them warm in a double boiler or a slow cooker on low. Never cover them with plastic wrap since it will trap steam, making your potatoes watery.
I’ve saved my best piece of advice for last: Hold sacred that half hour before your guests arrive. Take that time to decompress, maybe pour yourself a glass of something happy and try to relax. If you’re cool and calm, your guest will be, too!