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.
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.
Ronique Gibson is an architect and founder of Stagetecture a lifestyle website with many fabulous recipes. What would she do, I wonder?
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?
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?
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!
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!
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.
From The Entertaining House to yours, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. XO