The week leading up to Thanksgiving can be frantic, running last minute errands, hunting down ingredients, welcoming any out-of-town guests… and during the chaos it is easy (too easy), to have our perfected recipes turn out less than perfect. We have included a few tips to avoid common recipe mistakes when it comes to Thanksgiving fare.
Potatoes can be frustrating–they seem so easy, yet they can easily get too lumpy, too gummy, too runny, or too dry. With a few simple techniques your mashed potatoes can be a smooth, fluffy perfect texture. Start with a starchy variety of potato–russet and Yukon gold are the most widely used. To avoid lumpy potatoes, make sure the spuds are cooked all the way through. After boiling in salted water, a fork should easily glide in the middle of the potato when they are done. If you realize after mashing that the potatoes were in fact not cooked through, simply put the half-mash back on the stove on low, adding butter and cream, and mashing constantly until they smooth out.
Be careful not to over cook, as this can cause dreaded gummy potatoes. You will know if they are over-boiled if they fall apart when a fork is inserted, or fall apart on their own in the boiling water. The two best tools for mashing are a potato ricer for smooth taters, or for chunky tubers choose a handheld masher. Avoid food processors and immersion blenders as they produce purees. Use plenty of butter and whole milk or cream to bring out the best in your spuds and for extra flavor allow them to boil in chicken stock, instead of water.
The bird is the highlight of our meal, and unfortunately this added pressure often ends up the biggest disappointment. Undercooked turkey is yucky (and dangerous!). Over cooked, it is dry and chewy. Under seasoned is unflavored. The perfect turkey is simple, juicy, and flavorful. The first step is making sure that the turkey is completely thawed. Allow about one day for every four to five pounds, or immerse in cold water for thirty minutes per pound. Turkey is naturally on the dry side, however this allows the meat to soak up moisture and flavor easily. The best ways to flavor a bird are by brining; allow at least an extra day or two for brine. For a shortcut to adding flavor, simply use an injection needle (sold at any kitchen store) filled with flavor enhancing butter, herbs, or stock. These methods greatly reduce the risk of dry, unflavored meat. The breast meat typically cooks faster and gets dried out before the rest of the meat. To prevent this, simply cook the turkey breast side down for the first hour to hour and half, then flip over and continuing cooking, with tented foil on top. The FDA recommends cooking turkey to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Pull the turkey out of the oven when a thermometer reads a few degrees less and let the turkey remain cooking as it rests. Allow the juices to redistribute through the meat by leaving at room temperature for twenty five to thirty minutes. Finally, carve into your juicy, perfectly cooked Thanksgiving turkey!
When it comes to making pumpkin pie, the two biggest concerns are having a soggy crust and having a cracked top. The reason pie crust becomes soggy is because it has soaked up the wet filling. The best way to prevent this is to always prepare your piecrusts by blind baking them. This method bakes the crust without the filling, letting it harden. After the crust is baked, allow to cool completely before adding the filling. When filled with custard like fillings, like a pumpkin filing, the key is bake until just set. Custards are set when still a tiny bit moist in middle. Avoid pulling the pie directly out of the oven, as the temperature swing is what causes the gaping cracks. Instead, turn the oven off and prop the door open for ten to fifteen minutes. Then bring to room temperature and serve. If the pie is not being served right away, allow it to cool completely before refrigerating. If your pie does end up with a crack this year, just top with extra whipped cream!
From our Serendipity family to yours — we hope this is your best Thanksgiving ever!