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What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via The Entertaining House. Property of Patricia Van Essche/PVE

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via The Entertaining House. Property of Patricia Van Essche/PVE

If you're hosting friends and family and cooking the big meal, chances are something could possibly go wrong. We've all heard those stories where ovens haven't fired up, frozen birds never thawed, or were cooked upside-down and other so-called disasters. The bird is supposed to be the star of the show, so the pressure to cook a perfect turkey may loom large, especially if you've not had that many Thanksgivings under your belt. But an imperfectly cooked turkey can, for a myriad of reasons, happen to the best of us. I try to get as much done before Thanksgiving so that I'm free to enjoy the morning with my family.

I prepare all my sides in advance, even the vegetables - and I highly recommend doing this as it will lessen your load on Thanksgiving. I love to start cooking the day or the night before and I ease into it gently, and depending on the time of day, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine and some good music are all I need. I don't typically serve the same side dishes year after year. I like to try new things and change it up so that the meal has some of the expected and some of the unexpected. This year, for the first time, I'm brining my turkey. I expect all to go well, but there's always the possibility that something could possibly go wrong... and what if it does? What if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out quite as planned? How will you react? What will you do?

I've learned, in my 'old' age, not to take the little things too seriously. There's always something more important worth fretting about. A meal that doesn't turn out quite the way you want it to, is not worth crying over. It's up to you to set the tone and have a good laugh and encourage your guests to as well. While Thanksgiving is traditionally about the food and celebrating the bounty of the land, it's also about gathering together with friends and family. Easier said than done, I know. After all accidents and incidents happen to the best of us, even the most accomplished hosts and chefs. 

Whether we agree with it or not, most grocery stores are open on part or all of Thanksgiving Day. This can be a bit of an insurance policy as well as a saving grace. I happen to be in favor of this. Over the years we've had to cancel trips to family on several occasions due to sick children. When my daughter was not yet 1, she woke up with a raging fever. Knowing we couldn't travel our holiday was saved as we were able to have a last minute impromptu Thanksgiving at home. I found a small bird and all the other items needed for a small feast. By late afternoon our dinner was served. It was small but special. One year I cooked a turkey upside down. Some of them are so round it's hard to tell what's up and what's down! The cooked result, while ugly, was divine! I know many who swear that cooking the bird upside down is the only way to go!

I've heard so many stories of mishaps over the years that I've asked a few friends to share some of their tips and strategies on what to do should a problem arise.

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via The Entertaining House via Flickr

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via The Entertaining House via Flickr

Who better to ask than a trained and accomplished chef. Silvia Baldini is a chef and New Canaan-based caterer, and a recent winner of the Food Network's Chopped.  

Realizing at the 11th hour you have a vegetarian guest coming over for your Thanksgiving meal is almost as terrifying as competing on Chopped or discovering your oven doesn’t work and your precious bourbon red heritage turkey is still raw and will never be done on time. Take it from me. Don’t panic! Act quickly and keep calm. If you own a smoker your are golden. It takes about an hour and a half to smoke a 14 pound turkey. It comes out so full of flavor and juicy, you might never go back to roasting your bird again. If the smoker is not an option, fire up your BBQ. You can get some solid turkey grilling advice from Weber’s website. (http://www.weber.com/weber-nation/blog/gearing-up-to-grill-your-holiday-meal)

If you are really last minute and the guests are starting to appear, you can always pan roast the breasts, after you detach them from the bone, in a heavy bottom skillet. Just sear the seasoned breasts in some butter, until they are golden brown all over, deglaze with some white wine or cooking sherry, add chopped onions, carrots, celery, parsley, thyme and some rosemary. Cook on low and add a half a cup of milk and one cup of stock. Cook covered for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the breasts, set aside to rest. With a hand blender puree all the juices, brown bits and herbs at the bottom of the pan. Add a half cup of wine, some chopped parsley and rosemary, one tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and cook down for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Your gravy is now done, serve it with the sliced turkey breasts. If you have a pomegranate handy scatter some of the seeds on the finished dish.

Enjoy your succulent turkey breast and pass around a shaved brussels sprout salad and a hefty cheese board for your vegetarian guest. Happy Thanksgiving.
— Chef Silvia Baldini,
What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Popsugar

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Popsugar

Ronique Gibson is an architect and founder of Stagetecture a lifestyle website with many fabulous recipes. What would she do, I wonder?

The best way to handle a last minute Thanksgiving fiasco when you’re expecting dinner guests is to “Fake the Funk!” Visit your local gourmet grocer or hot bar restaurant and get a few meats, sides, rolls and dessert... and then come home and put it into your finest china dinnerware and serve with gorgeous silver or gold flatware.. as long as your dining room table is set beautifully.. no one will ever know. smile emoticon
— Ronique Gibson
What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Tumblr

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Tumblr

Michelle Jaffee is the owner of Sweet & Simple Bakery in Fairfield, Connecticut. Not local? Don't fret - she ships nationally! Would she just say "Screw it!" and serve pie, I wonder?

Don’t let the turkey get you down! Pour another glass of wine, give thanks and toss that emergency frozen pizza in the oven. Not necessarily in that order!
XO
— Michelle Jaffee
What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Tumblr

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Tumblr

Mindy Lockard is a lifestyle and etiquette expert and author of The Gracious Girl. Is there a 'proper' way to handle a mishap or fiasco?

With so much prep and pinterest pressure on us for a perfect holiday feast it’s easy to loose site of what’s most important. The people. An upside down turkey isn’t the end of the world. Even in that moment when you want to give the holiday the bird, of course I’m referring to the turkey... pour your guests another cocktail, turn on some music and pop that bird back in the oven. Sometimes it not the “perfect” holidays that we remember, but the ones that brought us together in an upside down sort of a way.
— Mindy Lockard
What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. The Entertaining House. Image via Mcphee.com

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. The Entertaining House. Image via Mcphee.com

Bettie Bearden Pardee is a former magazine editor, lifestyle expert, seasoned lecturer and author of several books on entertaining. Her most recent is Private Newport. No doubt Bettie will have the answer!

Break out the champagne! and let those bubbles heighten the festivity - and levity - of the situation. (Also, another good reason to provide a varied selection of tasty and filling side dishes.)
Coincidentally, I just. bought a lifesize, inflatable turkey...just in case.
— Bettie Bearden Pardee
What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Google images

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Google images

Patricia Van Essche, known to PVE as her friends, is a designer and illustrator whose works have graced Town & Country and the J. McLaughlin catalogues among others.  For more on her work and commissions do visit her website. Patricia is my grounded friend... I know I can count on her sage advice!

We have all had fiasco’s and I think “Improv” is the best way to handle - and to remember the real reason for gathering is friendship!

One year we flew to Monaco to have Thanksgiving and what could go wrong did. There was a leak above coming through the chandelier onto my Mother-in-law’s hand made linen table cloth from Portugal. The turkey did not fit in the oven.....but we still managed to somehow have a fun time with a bucket in the middle of the table....

I guess now with all the sadness in the world, in the end being with friends and family really what Thanksgiving is truly all about.
— Patricia Van Essche

I think my dear friend Coryanne sums it up the best... in the end, it's not really about the food. Have fun. The food is the least of it. Most likely, even in the case of a fiasco there'll be plenty to go around. She posted the following on her Facebook page early today and it touched me so that I wanted to share it with you all. Coryanne Etienne is a cooking and lifestyle expert soon to open her new shop, Etienne Market. 

 

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Huffington Post.

What to do if your Thanksgiving dinner doesn't turn out as planned. Image via Huffington Post.

Thanksgiving has held so many remarkable family memories for me, and I know I am not alone when I say that there is a special place in my heart for Thanksgiving. But this year, Thanksgiving is something all together different. This year my mother passed down the Thanksgiving torch to me, and it is an honor that is gifted in both sweetness and sorrow, but one that I will cherish always. When I think about Thanksgiving, I think of stained tablecloths, heirloom silver, treasured dishes, a mish-mash of chairs that assemble loved ones from across the globe, and that all important moment where fork takes to knife, and the carving commences. I think of my grandfather, and my father standing proud and tall at the faces looking back full of love.

I think of old jokes that are only shared at Thanksgiving, and new ones that appear without a moments notice. I think of empty seats where loved ones once sat, and babies that have grown to become teenagers. I think of elaborate hand made flashes of delight that make it personal, and strong cocktails that make us giddy. I think of love. I think of food. I think of family.
From my family to yours, wishing you a Thanksgiving where perfection comes in those moments we did not plan for, the old dishes laid before us, the knowing glances made across the table, those remembered and those introduced, and for the happiness that comes from knowing that being thankful for family, and the food we share is the essence of the season. Happy Thanksgiving.
— Coryanne Ettiene

From The Entertaining House to yours, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. XO

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