Well, it’s getting to be that time of year again. That time when majestic shades of reds, browns, and golds grace countrysides across the nation, and the novelty of school starting back up is wearing off. You’re beginning to think about covering your rose bushes, and weekends are filled with cheers and cries from football fanatics everywhere. And of course there’s Thanksgiving: the feast to end all American feasts.
Whether you’re a long-time host or long-standing guest of this epic meal, you’ve likely experienced or heard about your share of Turkey Day disasters. Of course, when you’re preparing a meal of this magnitude, there are things that are bound to go wrong. Here are a few potential day-ruiners and some handy solutions.
1. Vegetarians on the guest list.
These days, more and more people are cutting meat out of their diets. If you have a vegetarian on your guest list, it will be a nice gesture to prepare a dish with them in mind. It can be hard to change the entire menu—the main dish is a turkey for crying out loud! But you can have an alternate main menu item, like vegetarian lasagna, and plan to make at least one batch of stuffing without any meat-based broth, along with other vegetarian-friendly side dishes.
With a little forethought, you can adjust your Thanksgiving recipes to your guests’ dietary needs and coordinate accordingly. You could even do a quasi-potluck where guests bring some of their own favorite dishes as well. That way, you can be sure that everyone there will have a dish they enjoy, and they can share their favorites with each other, embodying the spirit of the holiday: sharing and thanks.
2. The turkey didn’t thaw all the way. (Or at all!)
Did you rely on someone else to pull the turkey out of the deep freeze for you? Perhaps you did it yourself, but didn’t allow enough time for the bird to thaw completely and the inside is still frozen solid. Never fear, for you have options here.
If you have enough time, you can thaw it using cold water. Just submerge it breast-side down in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Soak it this way for 30 minutes for each pound of the turkey that’s frozen still (you’ll probably have to make your best guess here). Now, if you’re on a time crunch, you can cut the turkey into quarters before you roast or fry it to cut down on the cooking time.
Further, if you aren’t in a position to thaw it, contrary to popular belief, you can cook it frozen. For future reference, the bird will need to thaw for 24 hours for every four to five lbs. of girth.
3. It’s dinnertime and the turkey isn’t done.
You’ve spent all day preparing the meal of a lifetime, but come dinnertime, you pull the turkey out to carve it and it’s still completely raw in the middle. Now what? First things first: breathe. Take a deep breath and roll with it. Carve up the parts that are cooked—usually the white meat—and serve that. The key is to not panic, and not let your guests know there’s anything wrong. Put the rest of the turkey back in the oven for 20-minute increments until it’s done, and add it to the spread.
4. It won’t all fit in the refrigerator.
If you find that your goodies won’t all fit in the refrigerator, it’s time to get creative. Pull out everything that isn’t essential to the meal. Make some hard decisions about what you need to keep and what can be thrown out. Chances are there are some expired items lurking in there.
Then channel your inner Tetris champion and stack those items in there as best you can. Remember to leave a little space between food items to encourage airflow. If it still won’t all fit, enlist the help of a neighbor, or if you live in a cool climate you may be able to temporarily store some dishes outdoors while you guests help make more space in the fridge.
5. You’re fresh out of oven space.
It’s no wonder with that many dishes people often run out of oven space. The trick is to time your masterpieces based upon the temperature they need to cook, and coordinate them accordingly. Surely there will be some items with flavors that you won’t want to cook together, but generally speaking, timing is everything. But even the most perfectly timed dinners can be more than a single oven can handle.
Counteract this potential disaster by making as many dishes ahead of time as you can. That way you’ll just have to warm them up in the oven rather than cook them from the beginning the day of your dinner party, minimizing the time spent in the oven. There are also several recipes that can be done on an outdoor grill or on the stove top. Think outside the oven!
If you encounter any of these Thanksgiving disasters, don’t panic. There’s always something that can be done to save the day. Just stay calm and summon all the ingenuity you have at your disposal.
What Thanksgiving disasters have you experienced? How did you overcome them?