Even great chefs have bad days. Rocco DiSpirito, star of ‘The Restaurant‘ and ‘Rocco Gets Real‘ talked to us about how as a young ambitious culinary school student he almost ruined Thanksgiving. He also shared tips to help the average chef avoid a turkey day disaster.
“I did once ruin Thanksgiving,” Rocco revealed. “I was a young culinary student and when you’re just learning, you make things and you’re very excited about it. So impulse control is not the strongest suit.”
“I of course wanted to do something creative with the turkey because for me — 19 and being in culinary school — the idea of just roasting it was just too simple for me. So I took the turkey apart and created a roulade. I made medallions out of the breast meat. I made a sweet potato sweet and sour sauce. I took all day to do it and I finally served it at 10 o’clock and it was just awful. I think it might’ve been the worst Thanksgiving in history for my sister, who dreams about thanksgiving from the day after to the day it comes next year. It’s her favorite holiday.”
Rocco confessed, “I was more ambitious than my skill at that point and I didn’t really get the big picture. “
Rocco’s Tips and Fixes
Problem #1: I overcooked –or undercooked — the turkey.
Rocco’s Kitchen Fix: You’ve overcooked the bird and it is super dry; what do you do? Make an easy-to-prepare, extra-rich gravy using Heinz jarred pork gravy mixed with your pan drippings, chicken stock, and a lot of butter. Slice the breast and leg meat off the turkey, put it in a pan and cover it with the gravy. Then, heat it up and serve on a platter, as if you had planned it that way.
If you undercook the bird, usually the breast is fully cooked while the legs are undercooked. Cut the breast meat off using an electric knife, serve the breast, and put the drumsticks and thighs back in oven and cook them at a really high temperature.
Problem #2: I forgot the cranberry sauce.
Rocco’s Kitchen Fix: Cranberry sauce is a sweet and sour relish to complement the rich flavor of turkey. In its place, you can use whatever fruit you have on hand, whether it be frozen strawberries, canned peaches, or sliced pineapple, and process it in a blender with sugar and vinegar, until it is a sweet and sour combination to your liking. Your guests will think you invented a new relish.
Problem #3: The stuffing is too dry or too wet.
Rocco’s Kitchen Fix: Most people think that when their stuffing is too dry, it needs fat. On the contrary, it needs moisture that comes from chicken stock or wine, not fat. The bread has to absorb the liquid, so you can add water, chicken stock from a can, or your favorite mushroom soup to achieve your preferred texture.
If the stuffing is too wet, it’s easy to fix. You lay it out in the thinnest layer you can on a sheet pan and put it in oven with the turkey to dry out. The thinner the layer, the faster it will dry.
Problem #4: My sweet potato pie is too sweet.
Rocco’s Kitchen Fix: You can remedy this. Take two sweet potatoes and microwave them for ten minutes. Peel them, mash them, add a little salt and pepper and mix them into the sweet potato pie. Adding potatoes to the fixed amount of sugar will balance your flavors.