You asked us your toughest Turkey Day questions. Here, Real Simple’s Food Director provides expert advice.
We asked you to post your Thanksgiving food dilemmas on Facebook—everything from burned pies to gluten-free meal options. Real Simple’s Food Director Sarah Copeland answers your questions for a delicious, stress-free holiday.
Julliette Liu: How do I time everything just right with one stove? No matter how much planning is involved, something always takes longer than expected and holds everything else up.
Sarah Copeland: You’re so right. It helps to work ahead—restaurant chefs use this to their advantage on a daily basis to make sure many different entrees arrive hot and fresh to your table at once. You can cut vegetables, pick your herbs, peel your potatoes (or use our delicious, no-peel mashed potato recipe and save this step), and get ahead on anything that re-heats well hours or even days ahead.
Meredith Darbyshire: Last year I burned the bottoms of my pies. Yet the middles were still undercooked. My oven was preheated to 350. Is it possible that this was/is due to using a silicone pie pan vs. a traditional glass pan? If so, do you have any recommendations or should I just toss the pans and stick with what works?
SC: It is possible! Classic works—in our test kitchen, we still use good old-fashioned glass or metal pie plates, and sometimes ceramic if we want a more elegant presentation. If you’re making a custard that needs to cook at a lower temp, like our Cranberry Custard Pie or classic pumpkin pie, it can be helpful to par-bake the crust. And, despite some instructions to bake pies on the bottom rack, baking on the middle rack is a good safety measure to make sure crusts don’t get too brown before the pie is set.
Amy Matney: My family doesn't like turkey. What are some good alternatives to use that can become our new tradition?
SC: I think most families would be thrilled with 2 plump roasted chickens, stuffed with stuffing (just like you would a turkey), and they make for great, easy-to-use leftovers. A whole side of salmon (see ours in the December issue) is also a welcome centerpiece for anyone who doesn’t eat meat. A roast pork loin is another great option—especially one that’s a little spicy and unexpected. Here’s our favorite one (you can skip the black bean salad and serve all your other favorite Thanksgiving fixings).
Ashley King: I have celiac disease. How can you make a meal around that? This will be my first Thanksgiving as gluten free.
SC: There are so many wonderful things you can do with vegetables and gluten-free grains, you can still make a beautiful Thanksgiving without wheat or gluten. Try making a wild rice and mushroom stuffing (instead of one made with bread), and make a pumpkin flan or pudding instead of a pie. The only thing you’d really be missing is the Parker House rolls!
Nicole Trudeau: We are planning to fry our turkey, so we won't have any turkey drippings to use for making gravy. Can you suggest a good gravy recipe that doesn't call for turkey drippings?
SC: Yes! Before you fry your turkey, take out the giblets (neck, liver, heart). Brown them in a large pot in some olive oil, then add in some herbs, aromatics (onion, carrot, celery) and water to make a flavorful stock. Then, pull out the larger pieces and add in some flour to get your gravy started. Here’s our 5-star giblet gravy recipe!
Carol Taylor Hofmister: I need to bake 4-5 dishes in a single oven…
SC: Ooh, that’s always a tough one! First, use square or rectangular pans, since you’re likely to be able to fit more in the oven at once. Make anything that can stay warm and reheat easily well in advance (creamed corn casserole, sweet potatoes), and throw them back in when the turkey and stuffing are fully cooked (too much cooking in the oven at once will make it all take longer). Finally, utilize cookie sheets to keep things straight and help move things in and out of the oven more efficiently.
Kelly Bannister: I usually do the whole Thanksgiving to-do, but this year my first granddaughter is due on the 22nd. I expect that I will be preparing some sort of very easy Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter's home with minimal work, fuss and cleanup. Table space is also a premium. This year, I expect people to fill their own plates from the kitchen in order to have the family all together. Any recommendations to keep stress at a low level and allow us to run to the hospital if we have to?
SC: Congratulations—what beautiful news! We have the perfect solution–our low-key, delicious, do-it-in-a-day Thanksgiving made just for times like this. There are many portions you can make ahead, and easily step away from when you need to. Here’s our whole menu. I hope the baby arrives safely, and right on time.