Christmas Cooking Dilemmas Solved

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When you plan a large festive event, such as Christmas dinner, things are bound to crop up. Of course, we all want to pull off a flawless day, where everything turns out perfectly and those we love best are fully satisfied. Given the propensity for something to go amiss, your best weapon is preparedness. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Below, we’ll offer some typical problems experienced by kitchen commandos while preparing a holiday meal. Then, we’ll provide solutions—kitchen hacks, if you will—to get around these issues. So, roll up your sleeves, grab a pencil and paper, and let’s get to work.

The Turkey’s Not Cooking!
This is most often a problem with an uneven core temperature to begin with. However, when the countdown to showtime has begun, you may not be in the mood to hear “I told you so” from your bird.

On the Fly Solution:
Joint your partially cooked turkey. Then return it to the roasting pan to continue cooking.

Make sure your bird is at room temperature and fully thawed before cooking. Another tip is to prepare your stuffing separately, since it lengthens the time for the bird to cook fully, and don’t tie the legs. A turkey cavity with a few herbs and an onion cut into chunks and without bound legs, will allow the hot air in the oven to circulate freely, speeding up the cooking process.

The Turkey is Dry!
This can happen, even to the most seasoned of cooks. While getting fresh, high-quality meats from a service such as Butcherman can reduce the chances nearly to zero, sometimes, turkey is just dry.

On the Fly Solution:
Before carving, rest the turkey for thirty minutes to an hour tightly wrapped in foil. This allows the meat juices to soak back into the bird. If you’re coping with what you feel is an excessively dry specimen, rest it breast side down. While that’s taking care of itself, deglaze the pan with a little white wine and strain the resulting sauce. Serve it with your turkey at the table.

The one sure-fire way to prevent a dry turkey is to brine it. Prepare a simple or spiced brine and allow the turkey to rest in it for up to twelve hours. Then, pat it dry, and allow it to come fully to room temperature before roasting.

Gravy Like Lumpy Glue?

Gravy is more important to the festive meal if you’re going with a traditional roast turkey theme than if you have a summery harvest theme in mind. However, in spite of our best efforts, sometimes it comes out both bland and lumpy. Here are ways around that.

On the Fly Solution:
If your gravy is lumpy, and time is of the essence, blend it until it’s smooth. You can use a traditional pitcher blender, but be careful not to spill or burn yourself! We recommend a stick blender or wand for this task. If it’s bland, you can pop up the gravy flavour by adding a little chicken or turkey bouillon. Dissolve the cube in a bit of warm water before adding to speed things along.

Make your gravy the night before and reheat it the next day. To avoid lumps, dissolve your thickening agent of choice–corn starch or flour—in a bit of warm water or stock before stirring it into the pan. This is a practice that helps the individual grains of your thickener become friendly with the liquid and prevents clumping. To prevent blandness, taste as you go. Remember that starch will blunt the flavours of your stock base, so be prepared to add additional flavourings.

While there are many problems that could arise at the last minute, being prepared is your best defence. For crisp textures in meats, you’ll want to ensure that your meat or bird skin is completely dry and a fat of some sort has been introduced as needed. In a pinch, a heat gun or hair dryer can actually provide a little crispness after cooking. Remember, the festive meal is an occasion when we come together with those we love most. We can present them with delicious, perfectly cooked dishes—even if we have to take matters into our own hands.

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