A Hearty Helping of Thanksgiving Chat Leftovers

As promised in yesterday's What's Cooking Thanksgiving special, I'm serving up a little extra chat luv on the side, as there were just too many leftover questions in the queue begging for attention. And as always, weigh in with Thanksgiving tips and suggestions that have worked for you in the past. Have a delicious, mindful weekend -- and let's get busy!

Iowa City, Iowa: I used to get this fantastic raw (I think) cranberry sauce/relish from a deli back in my hometown, but this year I'm not able to go back for Thanksgiving. I've been looking for months for a similar recipe online, but no success. The relish was all sweet -- besides cranberries, it had mandarin oranges, walnuts, maybe other berries. I would love to make something similar for my dinner on Thursday, but don't know where to start. Do you have a recipe or any guidelines to make a sweet, cold cranberry sauce?

Iowa City, you most certainly can recreate the raw cranberry relish of your hometown deli dreams. Place the berries in the bowl of a food processor and pulse -- do not puree -- until you have the chopped consistency that you want. I would add the zest of at least one orange, maybe two, rather than throwing in an entire peel with bitter pith. Add the nuts at this stage as well, and again, chop with the pulsing action.

Sweetener is up to you -- if it's dry sugar, then add while berries are in food processor. If it's more of a liquid -- honey, maple syrup, agave nectar all come to mind -- then I'd add after you scoop out of food processor, and incorporate with a rubber spatula until well combined. Go gradually with sweetener -- I'd start with 3/4 cup for every 16-ounce portion of cranberries and taste along the way, adding more as necessary. Add the juice of those oranges as well. If the mixture seems too wet, return to food processor for a quick pulse to incorporate.

A diced apple makes for a really nice addition here, as do pomegranate seeds. I also like to add chopped candied ginger for a little extra zing on the tongue. Let me know how it all comes together.

Washington D.C.: What are your thoughts on offering to cook in other people's kitchens? We are going to my in laws for Thanksgiving, and I'd love to help cook, but I don't want to disrupt their plans/get in their way... I have offered before and she usually says yes but doesn't seem especially enthused, so I am not sure what is best.

Is there any way you can take the in-law bull by the horns and convey what you've just related to me? It's tricky business to assume what people are thinking and react based on that perception without getting all the facts. If climbing Mount Everest would be an easier task than confronting your mother-in-law, what about another tactic -- offering to bring one of your culinary creations from home? This may feel less threatening, which is possibly the vibe you are getting from your husband's mother. And when you arrive at their place, present your dish (and maybe a little token gift to make her smile - something just for her!) and look her straight in the eye and say, "I'm ready to be put to work. Just let me know what you'd like me to do." This gives her the upper hand and an opportunity to delegate. If she balks, well, at least you tried, and we can go back to the drawing board for next year.

Washington, D.C.: I'm looking for a substitution for green beans. My boyfriend just doesn't like them (any of the 3 ways I've made them for the past few Thanksgivings). We need something green on our table, and have agreed on broccoli or broccolini. Do you have any creative ways to prepare. I typically just steam it. Vegetarian suggestions are best.

Last weekend, I was cooking at my mom's place, and due to little advance prep time, I put her to work. Her assignment was to break down two heads of broccoli into individual florets, preparing them for what I call in my book "Roasted Broccoli Pick-Up Sticks." Chop up an inch-sized hunk of peeled fresh ginger, a clove or so of garlic, and mix in some cayenne, cumin, salt and olive oil. Rub this all over the florets, place on a baking tray and roast at 400 degrees until fork tender. You can eat warm or at room temperature. And because my mom learned how to make this dish on the fly, she's now planning to whip it up herself next Thursday.

Brining Question
: I have brined before and the turkey comes out superior every time versus non-brined birds. I will be smoking two birds, and I want to brine them starting Tuesday night in the same cooler. The birds are both 14ish pounds, should I double the cider/kosher salt/brown sugar/honey/bay leaves/lemons/red pepper/worstch sauce? I also plan on keeping the brine/birds cold by adding bags of ice. After 24ish hours, I fully expect most of the ice to be melted, should I add a little extra spices, to compensate for the extra liquid?

Yes, go ahead and double the amount of your brine. But in order for me to sleep well tonight, I need you to consider a few thoughts on your proposed storage/cooling method: Keep a thermometer in the cooler; it needs to be below 40 degrees at all times. Don't add ice directly to brine unless you are using it to replace some of the liquid from your brine. I would keep ice in bags - even if it means several smaller zip-style bags -- surrounding top, sides and bottom of birds. Or some of those flat cold packs for the bottom surface to keep the birds level. Have you considered those Ziploc XXL bags? I found them at Target over the weekend and am going to give them a test run this weekend.

New Haven, Conn.: Mashed potato question here: Our feast will be mostly vegan this year but I've had great luck in the past with making mashed potatoes will cream cheese. Have you tried soy cream cheese and do you think it's worth a try as a substitution?

I checked a few vegan cookbooks, including "Vegan Planet" by Robin Robertson and "Veganomicon," the newest title by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero, and both recommend the use of heated, unsweetened soy or rice milk for a vegan take on the mashers.

I do not experience playing with soy cream cheese, but I think it's worth a dress rehearsal this weekend with a few boiled potatoes to see what transpires. Here's hoping you're using a hand masher to get the fluffiest results! Keep me posted.

Minnesota
: This year will be quite strange for me -- just me and my college-age son. Any thoughts about a turkey-day feast for two? I love the standards -- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, but don't want a fridge full of leftovers -- what say you?

I say you've got a college-aged son, who probably eats like a weightlifter, who will be thrilled to indulge in day-after leftovers over the long weekend. Instead of a big bird, roast a turkey breast, plus a few roasted turkey wings to make drippings for gravy. As for stuffing and mashed, make as little as you think you need. Estimate one potato per person for the mashed, so in your case, maybe throw in two extra for that growing boy-man of yours. If the idea of pie is overwhelming, what about your favorite cookie or brownie that can keep well in a tin? Don't worry, be happy -- and see if you can enlist your son to lend a hand.

Newtown Centre, Mass. My New Jersey s-i-l who is not a cook but is the Turkey Day host, is ordering the (already cooked) turkey, fixings, and sides from some deli. This is contrast to previous years, where I was "allowed" to bring down a fresh bird & roast it on site. (I am, however, going to bring down four of my signature pies) We anticipate overcooked, dry turkey; any suggestions for doctoring it? We already plan to bring down the basics: garlic, garlic powder, cumin (if there's squash), thyme.

Hang in there, my dear - and propose to host next year's feast! Are you thinking of a saucy alternative to gravy? What if you did a sage-y pesto to go with the anticipated dry bird? Sage goes great with the stuffing and all the rest...I might also propose making the gravy, or encouraging her to roast a bunch of turkey wings so that y'all can have proper gravy with your take-out feast.

P.S. I'll take last-minute Thanksgiving questions Tuesday, Nov. 20 at noon; join me for one more round of What's Cooking before you turn on those ovens!

By Kim ODonnel |  November 16, 2007; 9:27 AM ET Chat Leftovers , Thanksgiving
Previous: How Do You Do Your Turkey? | Next: Thanksgiving Pudding: What's Your Pleasure?

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Help! I can't read your blog or any of the site's recipes on my OSX Safari Apple. The pages appear blank. (I'm writing on my husband's windows machine and it's painful.) Please let tech know. I would hate to have to say goodbye. This started yesterday. I've made no changes to my machine and have no other problems with it.

Posted by: Fran | November 16, 2007 12:40 PM

For Mass going to NJ:

Keep in mind that NJ delis are different from MA ones. You just may end up with an almost-as-good-as homemade turkey.

Hope for the best!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2007 12:51 PM

Fran, As a fellow Mac user, I can relate. I too am having the same problems on Safari, but not Firefox. If you've got that on your machine, use that for time being. Meanwhile, our tech folks have been alerted and are working to make a fix.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 16, 2007 12:57 PM

Kim - I checked for updates and updated OSX which included an updated version of Safari and it works!

Posted by: Fran | November 16, 2007 4:03 PM

The times the holiday has been for two, I ask the butcher to cut the bird in half, which he does with their bandsaw like tool, and I freeze one half and have another holiday some other time.

Posted by: Fran | November 16, 2007 4:08 PM

Here's my recipe for cranberry relish. It's not raw, but it is very fresh tasting. I highly recommend it.

12 oz package fresh cranberries

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 teaspoons peeled and finely minced ginger root


In a saucepan over medium heat , combine all of the ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries pop open, about 10 minutes. Skim any foam that rises to the surface. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until chilled through, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Posted by: MBinDC | November 16, 2007 5:11 PM

I've been cooking my turkey upside down for years now. Always a success. I don't bother to flip it. Upside down it stays through the whole cooking process. I don't stuff it either, except for assorted aromatics.

We flip it over when it has rested and is time to carve. We never put an uncarved turkey on the table, so no one has the change to comment about the rack marks on the breast. They're too busy piling food on their plate.

Luckily for me, I'm the only obsessive cook in my family. Everyone pitches in as they can with their specialties--but nobody rags me about the turkey.

This year, my challenge is that one of my guests is allergic to onions. I put onions in everything! I have to make two batches of everything to accomodate him. I'm actually quite pleased to do that. I consider it a challenge and it's just an extension of good hospitality to ensure the health and well-being of all my guests.

Posted by: Silver Spring | November 16, 2007 5:48 PM

There's a great recipe for raw cranberry relish on the food network's site (http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,,FOOD_9936_25003,00.html). I actually prefer a cranberry chutney of Martha's, but this cranberry relish is so good that I've taken to having both. I don't remember the proportions but I know that in addition to the bag of fresh cranberries (chopped in the processor), it has a can of crushed pineapple (well drained), lime zest, lime juice, and a chopped jalapeno (maybe there's honey too)! Unconventional, but I love that whole cold/spicy/sweet thing!

Posted by: Sean | November 19, 2007 7:07 PM

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