Holiday Helpers - Kitchen calamities at the last minute....

Holiday Helpers

Kitchen calamities at the last minute???.

No buttermilk? Use plain yogurt or thinned sour cream or crème fraîche instead. Or add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup milk and let stand 5 minutes.

No dry bread crumbs? Just get some bread, tear it up into small chunks, saute in a skillet with a little butter until browned.

No cornstarch? For every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, use 1 tablespoon arrowroot or 1 tablespoon potato flour or potato starch or 2 1/2 tablespoons flour.

No eggs? If it’s for baking, substitute 1/4 cup applesauce for 1 egg.

No cake flour? For 1 cup of cake flour, sift together 7/8 cup all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons cornstarch.

No sweet potatoes for a casserole, soup or gratin-type dish? Use butternut squash or pumpkin.

No confectioners’ sugar? For every 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, use 7/8 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch and whirl in blender for a few seconds.

No granulated sugar? For every 1 cup needed, use 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar or 3/4 cup honey.

No parchment paper? Use brown paper or waxed paper (not over high heat), or just grease and flour the pan.

No kitchen twine to truss the turkey? Use unwaxed, unflavored dental floss.

Defrosting a frozen turkey in the refrigerator takes about 24 hours for every 5 pounds. If you wake up Thanksgiving Day and it's still rock-solid, take it out immediately, plunge it in a pot or clean bucket large enough to hold it and cover it with cold water; keep the water cold by changing it frequently. It should take 30 minutes per pound to defrost this way. Alternatively, if the turkey is small and your microwave large, try hitting the defrost button. Whatever you do, don't start roasting it in the oven if it's still frozen. It will cook unevenly and turn into a big dry mess. If all else fails, light some more candles, eat at midnight and tell your guests you're starting a new dining tradition.



Did you turn away from the stove for a second, but now your (broccoli, cauliflower, peas, sweet potatoes, parsnips, insert vegetable here) has turned to mush. What can you do?
Thank goodness for cheese and cream. When you're floating in a sea of mush, they're the greatest lifesavers. You can put said squishy veggie in a casserole dish, spoon on tomato sauce or a cream sauce, then top with grated cheese and bake. Serve as a fancy gratin.
Or puree the vegetable with some chopped herbs, stir in a little butter and heavy cream, season with salt and pepper and serve as a trendy side dish puree worthy of a four-star restaurant.
Or add the overcooked veggie to a pot with chicken or vegetable stock, some sauteed onions or garlic, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cool a bit and puree. Return to pot to reheat, and stir in a little cream or butter, if you like. Serve as an elegant soup.


Did you go overboard with the salt shaker while making soup (or gravy). Need to salvage it?
If you have a potato, peel it and throw it into the over-salted soup or gravy. Let it simmer for a while, then remove the potato and discard. The potato should have absorbed some of the salt. If the soup is still too salty, try adding some mushrooms or tomatoes or a little milk or cream to neutralize the flavor. Or try squirting in a little lemon juice or adding a pinch of sugar to balance.


What's the secret to gravy?
When your turkey is done, you have two kinds of liquids in the pan: an oily liquid (the melted fat) and a watery liquid (the meat and vegetable juices). You want to incorporate both of these liquids into your gravy. The trick is to get them to mix into a smooth, homogeneous mixture -- no lumps, no puddles of grease.
Flour contains certain proteins that form a sticky substance -- gluten -- when they get wet. If you just dump some flour into the pan, these proteins will get together with the water to form a glutinous goop that the oil can't penetrate. You'll then wind up with little lumps of dough swimming in pools of grease. Most experts agree, however, that gravy should not be the chewiest part of the meal.
Make sure to mix the flour first with some of the fat, which you have previously separated from the watery juices. That way, the individual, microscopic particles of flour become coated with oil, which the watery juices can't penetrate to gum things up. Result? Later, when you add the juices, supplemented as necessary with broth or other watery liquids, these individual, oil-coated flour particles become widely scattered. And that's just what you want, because the thickening agent and the fat it carries are uniformly dispersed throughout the watery juices, giving you a smooth, uniformly thickened consistency.
You must keep the amounts of flour and fat just about equal. Use one part flour and one part fat to every eight parts of liquid juices and/or stock. Mix the flour with the fat, cook it a bit to brown it, slowly stir in the watery liquids, and simmer to let the flour do its thickening job.


Your gravy didn't turn out. What do you do?
Gravy too thin? Simmer it until reduced; or thicken with a little arrowroot or cornstarch that's been dissolved in cold water, then whisked into the boiling sauce.
Too thick? Thin with water or stock.
Lumpy? Put it through a fine strainer.
No taste? Use salt and pepper, soy sauce, more pan drippings, chicken stock, or port, Madeira or bourbon.
Looks muddy, not glossy? Add cold stock or water, simmer, then skim often.
Unthickened gravy or jus didn't emulsify? Skim off almost all the fat, then add more stock, boil hard to emulsify. If the fat is still separating, take it off the heat, whisk in 1 tablespoon heavy cream or cold butter for every 1 cup gravy.

Did you drop the pie? Did you burn the pie?  Don?t give up!
That's why you should always have those packaged cookies and tubs of ice cream around.
If it's an apple pie, scrape out the filling from the burned crust, put it into a baking dish, whip up some streusel topping with bits of butter, brown sugar, oats, flour or even some granola, and bake. Serve this warm fruit crisp with ice cream.
If it's a pumpkin pie or cheesecake that's slipped off the counter and was caught in time but looks bad?  Layer the filling in parfait or wine glasses with whipped cream, and top with toasted nuts, crystallized ginger, or crushed amaretti cookies or gingersnaps. Julia Child would be proud.