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The Daily Dish Top Chef

Gail's Holiday Entertaining Mistakes to Avoid

Exclusive: The 'Top Chef' judge shares her tips for a flawless feast.

The bird, the stuffing, the relatives!

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Thanksgiving is 48-hours away and as the nation runs around like a turkey with its head cut off, finalizing last-minute meal preparations, Gail Simmons is here to save the day.

What are the Top Chef judge's four tips for a flawless feast? She shares the mistakes you can avoid with the Dish.

Don't Be Intimidated By the Bird!
This should be really simple. The best turkeys are the ones that aren't fussed up. Before you start deep frying or brining for hours, people forget that a turkey is just like cooking a chicken—only larger. There are ways to cook them that are simple. You can break it down: cook the thighs and legs, separate from the breast. And then you can tackle them as smaller pieces. You can also cook it whole: just smother it in butter and stuff with lemon and herbs and put it in the oven. Get a turkey with that pop-up thing and it'll let you know when its done. Baste it often, too, so it's evenly brown and golden. If the top gets too dark, put foil on it. You don't need to be intimidated about cooking this huge bird.

With Prep, Timing Is Everything
This is the hardest part to get right. It's all about practice and timing with preparing the meal. A big mistake people make is not to plan in advance. I think Thanksgiving, and cooking for a large group on any day, is just to be organized. Do your shopping the week or so before. If you can, do it today! Get out the platters and make lists. How many servings do you need? Who's bringing what? How much wine?

Some Dishes Can Be Made In Advance
A lot of dishes can be done the day or so before. You can prep the salads in advance: that morning, keep them in a bag in the crisper so all you have to do is assemble. And you can roast vegetables in advance, too. It's the same with desserts.

Don't Be a Martyr—Ask for Help!
You don't need to feel like you have to do everything yourself. The most important thing is when people ask what to bring, have a list ready. Make someone else bring the wine, the ice, and the pie. Have them provide a side dish. My favorite Thanksgivings are always collaborative. I have close friends, and we've been going to their house for years. He always does the turkey and she always does sides. I always bring the vegetables and the pie. We all know what our jobs are beforehand.

The competition on 'Top Chef' this season is hotter than ever—watch a preview of what's still in store below.


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