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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 11/24/2010

Chat Leftovers: Good gravy!

By Jane Touzalin

Holiday time. You're busy. I'm busy. So I'll skip the small talk and get right to the business of answering a leftover question from last week's Free Range chat. In fact, I might as well take care of several Thanksgiving-related questions today; after all, next week will be too late.

So away we go. Oh, and remember: Though there was no Food section today, we are chatting today as usual, at noon. Last chance to get your Thanksgiving questions answered!

We plan to brine and roast just a breast of turkey this year, for just the two of us, and I'm pondering ways to get a good base for gravy. Canned broth is an option, I suppose, but not my first choice. Ideas?

(Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)

Canned broth, no. But I have nothing against the boxed stuff. I'll be roasting a turkey breast the day after Thanksgiving and won't have a lot of time, and for my gravy base I'm using boxed turkey broth from Kitchen Basics. But first, I'll roast some turkey wings and necks, deglaze the pan, then pour everything into a pot with the boxed broth and simmer to coax more flavor into the mix. If I have some onion or carrot or celery around, I'll add a little of those, too. I'll make my base in advance and then add whatever drippings the breast generates -- and there should be some -- at gravy time.

Now, what gravy to make? We've got two recipes for mostly-do-ahead gravy that I like. One is, in fact, called Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy. It has a pretty standard turkey flavor that's nice and rich, The other, Cider Herb Gravy, is delicious and tastes very strongly of apples; that fruit flavor can be tempered a little by adding less cider and more broth. (That's how I make it.) Follow the links to find the recipes.

I am going to give up my cornbread-sausage stuffing; want to make something vegetarian. I am looking for an outstanding bread stuffing with some nuts, fruit, leeks, etc.

We've got two stuffing recipes in our archives that are nut- and vegetable-oriented, but both call for chicken broth. However, I think you can substitute vegetable broth, and you'll be fine. Chestnut and Thyme Stuffing gets its flavor from roasted chestnuts, and raisins introduce a fruity note. Mushroom, Fennel and Parmesan Stuffing includes fennel, two kinds of mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs.

Really, there are so many stuffing recipes out there and when you see one you like, you should be able to remove the meat elements and substitute nuts, fruits and/or vegetables and come up with something great.

Our extended family is having a tailgate themed Thanksgiving this year. I am cooking turkey legs and am interested in some ideas on their prep. I plan to brine them overnight in a maple-bourbon-water-salt mixture and then roast them in the oven. I will be taking them to the party and keep them warm in a chafing dish. Other ideas would be most welcome.

I have to admit: When I think turkey legs, I picture those scary ones sold at Renaissance fairs -- big, tough and stringy. So I asked our grill expert, Jim Shahin, how he would handle the job. His reply: "I think if cooked slow, whether using indirect heat on the grill or in the oven, they should come out pretty tender. To me, the brining itself will help enormously. After that, the method of cooking isn't so much important as the temperature, which I would keep pretty low: around 275 F in both the oven and the smoker/grill." So there you go; good luck with those legs.

I had a bad year (divorce, illness and death of a close relative). I have a few friends whom I really want to thank for their support getting me through it all. I would like to do this on (or near) Thanksgiving, and since I love being in the kitchen, I'm leaning toward something homemade. I just don't want it to be tacky, like a fruitcake or something. Maybe something they could eat right away or save for later. Baked goods, of course, come to mind first, but I don't think it needs to be limited to that.

(Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)

My absolute favorite treat to make for other people -- as a Christmas present, hostess gift, you name it -- is Honeyed Pecans With Sesame Seeds. They're elegant and beautiful (the photo here, trust me, doesn't do them justice), and people just can't stop eating them. I wouldn't try sending them through the mail -- I'd be afraid all the sesame seeds would eventually shake off -- but if you're planning to see your friends in person, this would be a killer gift. Maybe put them in a beautiful reusable tin, and you're good to go.

Time to go start my gravy. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

By Jane Touzalin  | November 24, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers, Thanksgiving  | Tags:  Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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