How to Fix 5 Common Thanksgiving Dinner Fails

Alex Guarnaschelli saves the holiday with her go-to tips.

Judge Alex Guarnaschelli during the Side Challenge, as seen on Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge, Season 1.

Photo by: Anders Krusberg

Anders Krusberg

It happens to the best of us, right? Your family is seated around the dining room table with forks in their hands, all ready to eat. Meanwhile, you’re in the kitchen carving the bird. You make one cut and realize – OMG – it’s raw. The bird is still cold inside. Or (perhaps even worse), you realize that the meat is completely dry and tough. What do you do? First: Breathe. We gotchu. Actually, Alex Guarnaschelli’s gotchu. We caught up with Alex, who’s a judge on Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge (premiering Sunday, Nov. 4 at 9|8c), about how to fix Turkey Day flops at the last minute.

How to Rescue a Raw Turkey: The key here is to keep carving. You may be tempted to simply throw the bird back in the oven while it’s still intact. But according to Alex, you want to continue carving the turkey into really big pieces. (Think thighs, legs and breasts.) This helps the meat cook more quickly and keep its moisture, Alex tells us. She advises putting the pieces on a sheet pan and popping that into the oven so it can finish cooking.

How to Rescue an Overcooked Turkey: Once again, big pieces are the name of the game. “I actually like to cut it a little bit thicker, almost leaving it somewhat steaklike,” Alex explains of the breast meat. She says she serves those chunks together and is “relying on all the fat and all the skin to carry me through the fact that it’s a little bit cottony.” Her other secret weapon? Gravy! It’s built-in moisture — plus flavor, of course. She likes to spoon a ladle of hot gravy on top of the pieces right before eating.

How to Rescue Lumpy Gravy: This one is so simple. If you have a strainer at home, then you have everything you need to make smooth, creamy gravy. All you have to do to get a perfect finished product, Alex says, is pour the gravy from the stock pot through a strainer. That’ll catch all the chunky bits of flour or cornstarch as well as any fat or skin that came over from the turkey drippings.

How to Rescue Chunky Mashed Potatoes: Unless your goal is to make “smashed” potatoes, you’d probably like to avoid serving mashed potatoes with big lumps in them. “I go for the re-rice,” Alex says of her plan of attack. “If you’ve already riced your potatoes once, just rice them again.” And if you haven’t riced them at all yet, break out that handy piece of equipment, because it will indeed save your mashed potatoes. According to Alex, you can do this “even if you have the cream and the milk, the buttermilk already in there.” That’s no problem. You “smooth that texture out immediately and you don’t overwork the potato.”

How to Rescue Dry Pie Dough: Is there anything more frustrating than trying to roll out pie dough and having it fall apart in pieces right in front of you? To achieve a sheet of soft, supple pie dough, Alex looks to two things to help. The first is simple enough: just a splash of water. That’ll help bind the dough together. But the trick is to be gentle. “The more you work flour, the tougher the crust,” she says, so a quick knead is all it takes. Also, for added help, she employs what she calls “the ol’ plastic-wrap trick.” Simply place the dough between sheets of plastic wrap and again use your hands to form the dough together. “I’m not really working it a lot. I’m more spreading it and pressing it,” explains Alex.

Don’t miss Alex as a judge on Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge, premiering Sunday, Nov. 4 at 9|8c. Check out our entire collection of tried-and-true Thanksgiving recipes right here.

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