Last year I said in a column that the key to a perfect Thanksgiving is to lower your expectations and that something will always go wrong. When it comes to cooking, especially cooking Thanksgiving dinner, expect the unexpected.
That is somewhat true, but I don't want to scare anyone. Whether you've been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for one year or 40 years, or maybe it's your first year to do so, do not fear. It is possible that most, if not all, of the meal, will be wonderful. And you will feel a huge sense of accomplishment for trying and be proud of your efforts.
After all, remember what our favorite master of French cooking, Julia Child, always says, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. … You can't be afraid of doing, or of what people will think or of failing.”
So this year we are going to work on this together. Whatever the dish and whatever the dilemma, Operation Perfect Thanksgiving is here to help.
The first step is to plan the menu and anticipate where the challenges may arise. Then begin devising a plan.
To help things along, I will be having a Thanksgiving 101 workshop at FRESH by Brookshire's on Nov. 17 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. I will be there on the Saturday afternoon before Thanksgiving so that as you shop for ingredients, I can help with questions, recipes or challenges you may have with pulling off Thanksgiving dinner.
Other experts from the store will also be there. Admission is free and the event is very informal. It is designed to give each individual attention. You are free to come and go throughout the afternoon.
We will answer any question you may have about planning the meal or preparing any recipe. And if we don't know the answer, we will find it for you.
I will break down the entire meal – from starters to sides, the turkey, dessert, table-setting, and even wine pairings.
I would also love to hear solutions from those who have been preparing the meal for many years. How do you cook the perfect turkey? How do you make perfect lump-free gravy? How do you achieve a flaky pie crust? We can all help and learn from one another.
To get the ball rolling I went on Google and looked up common Thanksgiving problems. Here are some of the dilemmas.
The turkey is too dry.
The turkey didn't thaw in time and is still frozen inside.
The gravy is lumpy or flavorless.
Guests have arrived but you are still trying to finish and need ways to keep the hungry guests out of the kitchen?
How big should the turkey be to feed a certain amount of people?
Should I baste the turkey or leave it alone?
My oven is too small.
What can I make ahead of time and how far in advance?
How do I know when the turkey is ready?
So let's start the conversation and get Operation Perfect Thanksgiving underway. And mark your calendars for November 17 at FRESH by Brookshire's – where all of these problems, plus many more, will be solved.
Send your questions or solutions to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 410 W. Erwin, Tyler, TX 75702.
Christine Gardner can also be found on Facebook at Christine Gardner Tyler Paper Food and on Twitter and Pinterest @TylerFlavor.