18 Fixes for Holiday Party Mishaps

No matter how prepared you are for your holiday party, it’s inevitable something won’t go according to plan. From over-salted soups to tipsy guests, we’ve got every possible Christmas dinner disaster covered.

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Split pea soup
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1. You Over-Salted the Soup

Add water back in a little at a time, tasting as you go. If you already have enough liquid, add potatoes (raw or cooked, depending on where you are in the cooking process) or another starch (noodles, rice, or pasta) to absorb the excess salt.

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Cranberry sauce for autumn
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2. Your Sauce is Too Thin

Knead together equal parts soft butter and flour. Drop marble-sized balls into the simmering sauce one at a time and keep adding flour pellets until you get the consistency you want. Or, thicken the sauce by boiling it down: Leave the lid off and keep stirring so that the sauce doesn’t burn until the excess water evaporates.

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Holiday Party Beef Bourguignon
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3. The Roast is Burnt

Make it moist again by creating a casserole. Trim and discard the burned layer, cut the rest into thin slices and put them in a casserole dish with some beef broth. Stir in canned pinto or black beans, chopped onions, and canned or frozen corn, and warm on the stove or microwave. Grate cheese on top and place uncovered in the oven to melt the cheese. Serve with warm tortillas or tortilla chips.

If you want to eat it as is, just trim off the burned layer, shred the interior meat with a fork or your fingers, and stir in barbecue sauce or gravy from the drippings. Warm on the stove for five minutes, and serve over potatoes or biscuits.

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Holiday party gravy
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4. Your Sauce is Lumpy

Get a good-sized colander with holes big enough for the liquid but not the lumps. Set it over a container, fill the colander with gravy, and gently press the liquid through. Throw away the lumpy material that’s left behind. Repeat until you have strained all the gravy. Thicken the new sauce using the pellet technique above.

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Pumpkin soup with bacon
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5. Your Vegetables are Overdone

Convert them into a creamy soup. Drain and puree in a blender. Heat the purée in a pot and add chicken or vegetable stock, salt, seasonings, and simmer for five minutes. No need to add cream or milk. If it’s not smooth enough, purée again.

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Lemon juice
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6. Your Soup is Bland

Whisk a beef, chicken, or vegetable bouillon cube or two in a little hot water to dissolve and then stir it into the soup. This also works in a stew or sauce. Another option is to give the pot a few shakes of salt, stir, let the liquid simmer a bit longer, and then give it a taste.

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Ground beef meatloaf
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7. Your Meatloaf is Bland

Create one of these brush-on sauces that will garnish it with an unmistakable zing:

1. Mix salsa, as spicy as you wish, with an equal amount of apricot preserves. Heat in the microwave just long enough to marry the flavours (about a minute), and spread lightly on your meat slices.

2. Put together a sweet-and-sour sauce by blending apricot preserves with apple cider vinegar to taste, again heating for just a minute in the microwave.

3. Mix a bit of honey, horseradish, mustard, and fresh chopped mint or mint jelly to taste.

4. Add a little lemon juice, vinegar, ground red pepper, curry powder, or cumin to any of these three sauces, in small amounts at a time and tasting as you go.

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Lemon juice
Photo: ShutterstockPhoto: Shutterstock

8. You Over-Salted Your Meat or Vegetables

Sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. The sugar will subtly offset the excess salt. Alternately, you could try a splash of vinegar or lemon juice, which will give a slight edge to the taste, so your taste buds won’t focus on the salt.

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Ladling fat
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9. Your Soup is Covered in Fat

If you have enough time, cool the dish in the fridge for a few hours. Then simply skim the coagulated fat off the top. If you are running short on time, fill a metal ladle with ice. Run the bowl of the ladle on top of the liquid without letting the liquid spills into the ladle. Fat will stick to the cold underside of the ladle. Wipe it away and keep skimming, adding more ice to keep the ladle cold.

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Fish tacos
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10. Your Food is Too Spicy

For any sauce or dish that’s too hot, increase the proportion of everything in the recipe except the hot stuff. Then serve your spicy dish over unsalted rice or tortillas and sour cream – this will help cool the heat.

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Christmas party with lights
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11. You Call Someone by the Wrong Name (or Forget Their Name)

Apologize for your slip-up and let it drop. If your mistake insulted a person of authority, such as your boss, you might want to send a quick note later, apologizing again for the lapse. If you forget someone’s name, don’t be mortified. We all do it. Just say, “Oops, I’ve forgotten your name,” and lightheartedly promise to remember it next time. When the person reminds you of his or her name, repeat it aloud as a way of helping you remember it better.

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Sour cream and green onion dip
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12. You Catch Someone Double-Dipping

Discreetly remove the dish from the serving table and replace it with a fresh one.

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Spill on dinner table
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13. There’s Been a Spill

Discreetly gather napkins, seltzer water, or any other items that might be useful in cleaning up. Offer to pay the cleaning bill for the stained garment. But keep your hands to yourself.

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Holiday dinner party with guests
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14. You Catch a Guest Sitting Alone

Find someone who’s a good talker or has something in common with the solo guest, and introduce them. Have a three-way conversation for a few minutes and then excuse yourself.

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Pints at a holiday party
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15. A Guest is too Tipsy

If the guest is someone you know, take them aside and say that you’re glad they are having a good time, but please tone it down so everyone else can have a good time. If you don’t know the guest very well, have one of the guest’s friends give that a try.

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Annoying person at a dinner party
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16. You’re Stuck With Someone You Dislike

Don’t let your feelings ruin the party. Greet your nemesis as cordially as possible and move on. If the party is a sit-down dinner, inform your hosts of the situation, and ask that they keep you apart.

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Couple arguing on Christmas
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17. There’s a Loud Argument

Walk up to the guests and say, “Is this a matter that you two can resolve? If not, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.” This simple expression of question and consequence makes both arguers accountable for their actions and you are not forced to take sides.

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Friends at a Christmas party
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18. Your Guests Don’t Know When to Call it a Night

The party was a success. The guests had a good time. But’s 1 a.m. and you want to go to sleep. Thirty minutes before you want guests to leave, start putting away the drinks and food and turn down the music. Then just thank the stragglers for coming and help them to the door. Be polite, but firm!

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