HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Okay, Reds, you know we’d do anything for you. If you lived nearby, I would happily bring you some extra folding chairs, a lemon, some cinnamon, two eggs, an extra tablecloth, one more white candle...you know, all the little annoying things that you THINK you have but you’ve forgotten on Thanksgiving and there’s no way to get them. I’d be there.
But since you live far away and your sister Reds and I can’t step in to help like that, I’ve put together (from scouring the internet and my experience) a sort of Thanksgiving emergency kit for you.
Here’s why. There was the time, I remember it all too well, when my turkey just WOULDN’T COOK. It had been in for HOURS, and should have been done. But it was all pink and yucky in the joints, and the juices were running red. Why why why? The over was on, the correct temperature, I had timed it for the correct weight, the pan was the right kind. WHY? I plied the guests with more appetizers, watched my Brussels sprouts soufflé rise—and FALL—and kept adding more butter and cream to the mashed potatoes.
DISASTER. But at least there was champagne. (See below for why.)
The Thanksgiving meal is fraught with possible such disasters. But here are some solutions! And then we want to hear from you.
Oh, no, the soup (or whatever) is too salty!
My Mom told me that adding a raw cut up potato would absorb the extra salt, but apparently they know now that doesn’t work. I’ve read that the only real way to give the salt the correct proportion is to add more of the other ingredients to the soup; in other words, make more soup. And add more of everything except salt.
Oh, no, the turkey is still frozen!
Use cold water. Put the turkey (still in its wrapper) in the kitchen sink and cover it with cold tap water. Every half hour, drain the water and refill the sink. The turkey will thaw at a rate of about 30 minutes per pound. And don’t forget to remove the giblets after the bird is thawed. (Yup. And that’s why my turkey took forever to cook. I have NEVER told this story before.)
Oh, no, which eggs are hard-boiled? Which are too old?
Spin them! The hardboiled ones will spin. And too-old eggs will float in a pan of water. Good eggs will sink.
Did I sift this flour, or not?
Experts say, when in doubt, sift.
Yeesh, the vegetables are overcooked!
Make it a feature! Do a creamed vegetable soup by combining the mushy vegetables with fresh cream and spices in a food processor. You could make a casserole with cheese and breadcrumbs on top. Puree them! Pureed vegetables–add cream and butter and seasonings—are very chic. IF you have wrecked the carrots or sweet potatoes, whip them together with raw eggs and pumpkin pie spices and bake. Voila. A souffle.
The gravy is lumpy!
Mush it through a sieve. The strainer will retain the chunky bits and leave you with super-silky gravy.
The mashed potatoes are glommy!
Spoon the potatoes into a casserole dish, sprinkle on some grated Parmesan and dot with butter. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 20 minutes, or until hot in the center.
The cream will not whip!
Put the whisk and the bowl with the cream in it into the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
The sauce is burned!
Remove the pan from the heat immediately. Don't stir. Place the bottom of the pan into a sink full of cold water to stop the cooking. Don't stir the sauce! Pour the top 3/4 of it into a new pan, leaving the burned part behind. Taste the sauce. It might still be okay. Sadly, if you detect any burned flavor, you'll have to throw it away and start over. Or just forget the sauce.
Take it out of the oven and wrap it tightly in several layers of aluminum foil. Then wrap it in a big towel. The trick here is to let the turkey hold its temperature without letting it cook anymore. (If you have one, put it in a cooler.) When serving time comes carve and serve.
The cake won't come out of the pan!
Real Simple suggests saving your cake by popping the whole thing in a freezer. Let the cake come to room temperature, then cover it in plastic wrap and freeze it for 6 hours to a day. Remove it and run a butter knife around the sides. Then insert two forks at opposite ends and, using them as levers, nudge the cake upwards. Do this around all sides of the whole cake. Finally, invert your pan and tap one edge at a 45-degree angle on a board.
There’s a disgusting layer of fat on the soup/gravy/whatever.
Use a paper towel to soak it up. It works. Starting with one corner, the paper towel will just wick up the fat.
It’s too spicy!
Dairy can help here: add cream or butter to a too-spicy soup or sauce. Or, top over-spiced meats with a large dollop of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, or even cream cheese! If you don’t want to change your spicy dish, add a mild ingredient, like cooked rice.
The cake is gooey in the middle!
Smashed it up and add whipped cream and fruit. Or chocolate sauce and nuts. Hurray, it’s pudding! Trifle! Chocolate surprise!
HANK: And adding champagne to anything will work wonders.
Dearest Reds, you all must have your own special emergency advice! What can you tell us?