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Ina Garten answers viewers’ last-minute Thanksgiving questions

The Barefoot Contessa also shares her “favorite Thanksgiving dish.”

We’re officially one day away from Thanksgiving. At this point, your guest list should be solidified, your shopping should be done and your turkey should be thawed. What else can you do to set yourself up for success before the big day? You can prep ahead.

Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, is here to answer your burning, last-minute Thanksgiving questions so that you can go into tomorrow with confidence rather than concern. From the best way to avoid dry turkey to her absolute favorite Thanksgiving dish (which can be made ahead!), Garten is sharing her tips and recipes to keep Turkey Day easy and simple. And remember, even on Thanksgiving, store-bought is fine.

What’s your go-to holiday drink?

“My cranberry martini, of course,” says Garten.

Ina Garten's Cranberry Martini

Settle the debate: Wet or dry brine? 

“Wet brine out, dry brine in,” she says. “Brining makes me crazy because a wet brine takes us so much shelf space. I believe in a dry brine. Salt, thyme, lemon zest, and you just rub it into the turkey and let that sit for a day or two.”

What’s the secret to a moist turkey?

“Not only is this the best way to keep the turkey moist but it’s easy to make ahead,” says Garten. “I roast the turkey early in the day and then take an ovenproof platter, fill the bottom of it with gravy, slice turkey on it and set it aside. About 30 minutes before I’m ready to serve, I put it in the oven. Because the gravy is on the bottom of the platter, it keeps it hot!”

What’s the simplest way to make staple sides?

“I love to look around where I am — the local specialty shop for mashed potatoes or another side that I know is going to be good and I work around that. Look to your local bakery for a pie,” says Garten.

“But if you want to make your own — when you’re at the grocery store, buy items that give you a head start on those side dishes to help save you time in the kitchen,” she continues. “Pre-cut anything is the way to go because of the time it’ll save you. Like butternut squash — buy a pre-cut package or even frozen sweet potatoes and roast that with your own kind of seasoning. When it comes to stuffing, instead of toasting the bread yourself, buy stuffing mix and go from there.

“If you’re making mashed potatoes, start with premade mashed potatoes and make Parmesan mashed potatoes. It’s really simple: You add your own sour cream Parmesan and butter, and finish with salt and pepper. Your guests will never know they weren’t made from scratch, and it takes five minutes.”

What’s the secret to a crispy crust?

“Sometimes I feel like store-bought pie crusts are the best way to go,” says Garten.

“Most people find making pie crust daunting. There are a few secrets that will change all that. First, the butter, shortening and water must all be very cold. Second, let the dough sit in the refrigerator (bakers call it “relaxing” the dough) for 30 minutes before rolling, and finally, don’t stretch the dough when you’re placing it into the pan.”

“You want to use a metal pie pan because it’ll brown better than a glass one,” she advises.

How do you like to serve your guests?

“I like to do a buffet with all the food and put condiments on the table,” says Garten.

What’s your all-time favorite Thanksgiving dish?

“I like to make a mushroom and leek bread pudding instead of stuffing,” she says. “A turkey with stuffing needs to cook longer than a plain turkey so you end up with dry turkey and soggy stuffing. I prefer to roast a turkey like I roast a chicken, with just onion, lemon and thyme in the cavity. Instead of stuffing, I make a savory bread pudding with mushrooms, leeks and rich Gruyère cheese to go with the turkey. It’s crusty on top and moist inside. Make this in advance and reheat it while the turkey rests.