Feeling a little antsy about the holidays? I have a few ideas that might help you relax and enjoy the spirit of all these celebrations. And if you missed it, see part one of my holiday tips.
11. Pick up a few extra bags of cranberries and pop them in the freezer—after the holidays, they'll be scarce.
12. It's the one day of the year to eat with no restraint. This is not the day for diets. Be full—unbutton your pants if you have to.
13. Invite guests to your home and don't get hung up on the table being too crowded or things not being perfect—it's better to invite a neighbor, friend, or relative who would have been alone otherwise, rather than to fret that someone is sitting in a folded metal chair or eating off a plate that doesn't match your pattern.
14. If a guest brings a surprise dish that doesn't go with your menu, serve it anyway. So much of Thanksgiving is about tradition and memories—if Aunt Sarah needs to make chocolate cranberry turnip salad as part of her tradition, let it slide.
15. Thanksgiving is not the day to try out a new recipe. Stick with what you are comfortable with and that you know will work.
16. Instead of one GIANT turkey, consider two or three smaller ones. Everything will cook faster (consider cooking one the day before and one the day of, so that you can present one beautiful browned bird tableside), smaller birds will be more tender and juicy, and if you have a large crowd, you'll have more drumsticks.
17. Turkeys are notorious for being finicky to cook, because the white breast meat cooks more quickly than the darker meat of the drumsticks. There are several ways to even the playing field: brine your turkey, butterfly your turkey, remove the legs and cook separately, and/or cover the breast with foil (remove the last 45 minutes to brown the skin).
18. Baste or not to baste? Basting does very little to add to the flavor of your turkey (not much of that flavor actually gets absorbed), BUT basting the breast does cool it down (by evaporation) and slows down the cooking time of the breast meat which lets the legs catch up a little.
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