Thanksgiving Help Desk

As promised in this week's chat, today's blog space is all about you.

Just 24 hours remain until Thanksgiving, which for many cooks is about when the preparations get underway. In the spirit of the stress kitty holiday season, I'm forgoing today's recipe and instead have opened the kitchen doors to field last-minute questions, dilemmas and any other feast-related issues. All day long, I'll be your person, help desk, kitchen shrink, coach, cheerleader -- whatever you want to call me (but don't call me Dollface. Mister MA might get jealous.). Shucks, we can even do a scheduled group primal scream and let it out before the relatives arrive!

Submit your question (please let's keep it Thanksgiving themed) in the comments area, which I'll check hourly until the sun goes down here in Seattle (that's about 7:30 ET). I'll start the day with coffee, and who knows, maybe we can raise a glass at the end of the day and give thanks for kitchen community.

Mark Your Calendars: Celebritology blogger Liz Kelly and I will be on hand Thursday, Dec. 4 from 6 - 8 p.m. for an official meet-and-greet at D.C.'s M Bar at the Renaissance M St Hotel. Come on out. We can't wait to meet you.

By Kim ODonnel |  November 25, 2008; 7:04 PM ET Thanksgiving
Previous: Gravy Train | Next: A Turkey of a Thanksgiving


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Hi Kim,

I posed this question yesterday, and I know you were inundated with questions, so am hoping by asking early that maybe you can have an answer for me?

Mashed sweet potatoes--treat them exactly like white spuds (peel, cut into pieces, boil and mash) or do I need to do something special? Wanted to try this instead of the usual high-calorie candied sweets.

Thanks so much!

Posted by: scottiedog | November 26, 2008 8:12 AM

Kim -

Am making the Caramelized Apple Cake recipe that was in the Food section a few weeks ago and realized I forgot to get buttermilk. I have skim milk and half and half - can I sub either? Can I make my own buttermilk by adding vinegar to either one? Or should I just suck it up and go and buy buttermilk? Making the recipe for the first time and don't want to mess it up! Many thanks ~

Posted by: clf01 | November 26, 2008 8:15 AM


I'm trying your apple/rosemary/pinenut pie - is that right: bake at 425 degrees for 45-55 minutes?? how does this not scorch the pie crust?

Thanks, and happy eating...

Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | November 26, 2008 8:37 AM

How long does pumpkin pie keep in the fridge before it needs to be thrown away?

Posted by: SHELLY1234 | November 26, 2008 8:38 AM

Inspired by yesterday's post I went ahead and made my cranberry sauce last night. To my taste, it is still fairly tart. (12 oz berries: 1c. water: 3/4c. sugar, plus orange zest). How can I sweeten it up a bit? Seems like added sugar wouldn't dissolve? Thank you and happy T-day!

Posted by: HEC1 | November 26, 2008 9:10 AM

To substitute for buttermilk, the Land O'Lakes website states:

1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to equal 1 cup, let stand at least 5 minutes.


1/2 cup plain yogurt plus 1/2 cup milk, blend well.

Posted by: JennyA1 | November 26, 2008 9:16 AM

This is the first time I'm roasting a turkey. I've bought an oven bag and a disposable pan and it all seems rather straightforward. I'm just curious about the neck and giblets that I'm supposed to remove. Are these just shoved in the cavity and you simply take them out (and chuck them)? Why do they include these things and what can you do with them?

Posted by: xtinal | November 26, 2008 9:17 AM

xtinal, the neck and giblets will likely be enclosed in a small bag and it will be easy to pull out of the cavity if the turkey is well thawed. Some people bake the neck and giblets with the turkey or you can fry them. The giblets can be chopped up and included in the gravy or eaten separately. I like the liver, but the heart and gizzards are a bit chewy. The neck can make for a tasty treat just eaten by itself but it contains a lot of attached small bones.

Posted by: SHELLY1234 | November 26, 2008 9:31 AM


The only turkeys I could find were WAY too big for our small gathering, so I had the butcher quarter one for me. Anything I need to do differently when cooking a quarter-turkey than when doing a full bird?


Posted by: lindy47 | November 26, 2008 9:48 AM

Scottie - braising sweet potatoes is a great way to cook them. Remove the skin and slice the sweet potatoes to about 1/4" - 1/2" slices. Add the requisite quantity of milk and cook over slow heat. When very tender, mix all together. [We use coconut milk--very tasty, but not so good for you.]


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 26, 2008 9:48 AM

Hi Kim!

Happy Early Thanksgiving. I will be making a pecan pie tonight as my contribution to the family thanksgiving. Do I need to refrigerate it after it is finished or do I leave it out on the counter? Much love to you and Mr. Mighty Appetite! :) :) :)

Posted by: Merdi | November 26, 2008 9:49 AM

xtinal-- I boil/simmer the giblets (without the liver) and neck with some salt, pepper, garlic, celery and parsley while the turkey is cooking. Use the broth instead of water in the gravy.

Posted by: Sportster | November 26, 2008 10:03 AM

Scottiedog-- My favorite way to make mashed sweet potatoes is by baking them whole and unpeeled. They take longer than you would think. For medium to large size potatoes, at least an hour, maybe 70 minutes. You want them really soft. The peels slip right off and then mash with a little milk and brown sugar. I find the texture much better baked than boiled. I make my sweet potato pie filling the same way.

Posted by: SweetieJ | November 26, 2008 10:04 AM

I recently read a good tip about using vinegar in milk as a substitute for buttermilk.

The recipe recommended warming the milk for about a minute in the microwave, just long enough to take off the chill. THen add the white vinegar (1 TB of white vinegar plus enough milk to equal a cup), stir and let sit. You'll see the milk sort of curdle and thicken as it sits for about 5 minutes. Then just use it.

The warming tip was new to me, and seemed to work very well. But as for the substitution itself, I've done this a number of times and always found it successful. Happy THanksgiving!

Posted by: Agathist | November 26, 2008 10:05 AM

Good morning from NM, where it's getting ready to snow.

Plain yogurt can be sub'd for buttermilk - I do it all the time.

Try maple syrup in the cranberry sauce (I think Kim suggested this in her recipe).

I do my sweet potatoes in a steamer. Peel, chunk into about 3/4" rounds, steam until tender, and then mash with butter and maple syrup - not too much of either. If I'm doing them for company, I sprinkle finely chopped pecans on top. You can stick them under the broiler before serving if you want the top a little brown.

I second the suggestion for using turkey neck and veggies as a basis for stock for gravy, and also to moisten stuffing.

Happy holiday. Linda

Posted by: lsgc | November 26, 2008 10:33 AM

Hi Kim! I am at a loss on a stuffing recipe. I know I would like to incorporate prunes and pears into it and make it a veggie dish, but don't know where to start. Is there a basic recipe for stuffing I can use? And then just add in the dried fruit to?

Posted by: Krizia | November 26, 2008 10:40 AM

Top of the morning, Scottiedog! The sky here is just lightening up here, with lots of pretty pinks. As for your mashed sweets, you most certainly can boil, but I think roasting them releases their natural sugars in the best possible way. Are you up for a little experimentation?
Take a look at this recipe, for roasted mashed sweets with Thai red curry paste and coconut milk. These are wonderful. Even Mister MA who's not crazy about sweets, likes these.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 10:45 AM

Clf01, If it's white vinegar, yes, you can do this, but you only need 1 tablespoon acid for one cup of milk. You can also do this with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon. Alternatively, you can combine 2/3 cup plain yogurt with 1/3 cup milk. Have fun, let us know how the cake turns out.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 10:50 AM

Hey Centre, I've done it at both 400 and 425. When it's at 425, it bakes for about 45 min, at 400, it bakes for closer to an hour. Make sure you place on a baking tray!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 10:52 AM

Thank you Shelly1234 for your fine description of the giblets. I'm with you, like the liver but so crazy about the heart and gizz...

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 10:54 AM

Hi Kim: You have sometimes mentioned "frizzled" shallots. I want to make some broccoli raab with garlic for Thanksgiving and thought putting some shallots on top would be good. But how do I frizzle them?

Posted by: southeastpenn | November 26, 2008 10:57 AM

HEC1, Put the sauce back on the heat, on low, and warm it up. Gradually add more sweetener, stir well 'til your liking, turn off heat and let it set up again. Cranberries are easy going like that.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 10:57 AM

Lsgc, wow, a snowy Thanksgiving! How fun. Steamed sweets is a very fine idea. I'm very partial to pecans with my sweets...

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 11:00 AM

It is a custard, so it will eventually break down, but anything inside of a week (provided it's stored well) will be fine in the fridge.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 11:04 AM

Krizia, stuffing is one of those things that responds well to improvisation, but it does require a little bit of math. Bread-liquid ratio should be about 2 to 1, so I highly recommend measuring out the amount of bread cubes you want to use and from there figuring out amount of liquid you will need.
I always start off with some sauteed onion, garlic and celery, and build from there. Herbs too, like fresh sage and thyme. Bread cubes get coated with cooked aromatics. You may want to soak those prunes in sherry or rum not only to reconstitute them a bit but for flavor. Chop coarsely after a little soak, and reserve the soaking liquid for the stuffing! Pears will brown, so keep that in mind. You could add just before serving. Have you got your bread cubes set up yet? Holler if you have more questions.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 11:13 AM

I feel so foolish for asking this, but I can never remember, and I apologize if this could easily be googled, but... What's that rule about how many minutes per each lb. of turkey? I have an 18lb. bird that my recipe calls for cooking at 350 -- first, is that temp. right, and if so, how long should I cook it? Thanks so much, in advance!

Posted by: schair | November 26, 2008 11:16 AM

Kim - I don't have red curry paste, but have curry powder and a wide variety of other spices - is there some way I can substitute in the mashed sweet potato recipe? Thanks and happy t-day to you and the mister.

Posted by: Lizka | November 26, 2008 11:19 AM

Thanks for the advice Kim! No, I haven't had a chance to grab some bread yet, but I was going to swing by the Foggy Bottom Farmer's Market today to grab some bread from them. Any suggestions on how to dry it quickly? Should I stick it in the over to toast?

Posted by: Krizia | November 26, 2008 11:21 AM

My turkey is sitting in a nice salt/sugar water and apple cider mixture brining away, question after I take it out of the bath and rinse it, do I still season with more salt or will it be too saltly since it sat for 24 hours in the brine?

Posted by: tk1224 | November 26, 2008 11:23 AM

A wee bit of deep frying will get those shallots "frizzled." Pour enough veg oil (peanut has a high smoking point) into a deep saucepan or skillet so that it's at least one inch high. Heat it til it's about 330 degrees. It will be shimmering. Drop in thinly sliced shallots and let the oil do their thing. They will frizzle up and get golden within 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and place on paper towels to drain. Season with salt and pepper immediately. Wait til oil returns to 330 degrees before adding more oil and adjust heat to keep it around this temp at all times. Burnt shallots taste kinda yucky. Have fun!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 11:24 AM

Shair, no such thing as a foolish question! Cooking times for turkey do vary, but you can bet on 12-15 minutes per pound. Hold on, let me get out my calculator: Okay, cooking time will run between 216 minutes (3.5 hours) and 270 min (4.5 hours). My preference is to start the bird at 425 for the first 20-30 minutes for some good browning, then reducing heat to 350 for remaining time. Put the bird in legs in first, so they are in the back, where it's warmer, as they take longer to cook than the white meat.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 11:34 AM

Hey Kim,

Need help on coming up with a diabetic friendly dessert. I'm completely lost on what to do. Looking for anything except pie. My thought is to sub agave nectar for sugar, but not sure what ratios are or what other ingredients work best, so figure its best to use an already worked out recipe.

Posted by: RaTheFunktress | November 26, 2008 11:34 AM

We like to add some chipotle to our sweet potatoes (when not braising). You get a nice smoky, sweet flavor from the combination.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 26, 2008 11:35 AM

Tk1224, No more salt is necessary. You're doing great!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 11:35 AM

Krizia, with a serrated knife, cut off crusts and cube your bread. Put on a baking tray and into a 200-degree oven. Fresh bread will take a while to dry, maybe a few hours. Don't worry, it will happen. And it will dry up even more overnight, if you leave it on tray in oven (turned off).

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 11:38 AM

Do you have any shallots, ginger, garlic and chiles in the house? You can make sorta an ad hoc chile paste. Whiz in food processor to make a "paste," then in lieu of the prepared curry paste, you'll cook this combo in a few tablespoons of veg oil, over medium heat, til soft, and add your favorite curry powder. Once that's incorporated, you can add the coco milk. You might see spices reacting to milk, though, not wanting to blend in, but don't worry.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 11:44 AM

I am looking for dessert ideas which are an alternative to pumpkin pie (or anything pumpkin flavored). I am thinking of a spice cake with cream cheese frosting. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you so much for spending your day with us!

Posted by: wilmington1 | November 26, 2008 11:50 AM

RaTheFunktress, I'm looking at "Baking With Agave Nectar" by Ania Catalano. She's got a fun recipe for spiced pumpkin apple cupcakes, which sound plenty festive. You game? And have you talked to your diabetic guest(s) to make sure agave is cool? I know it's low-glycemic, but better to be safe than sorry.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 11:50 AM

Wilmington1, check out the details for pumpkin bread pudding

...oh, and this upside down pumpkin cake with cranberry-pecan topping is luscious.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 11:55 AM

Wilmington, if I read your question correctly, you wanted NON pumpkin desserts. Spice cake sounds delicious. Carrot cake would be very nice, too, and very harvest-y. Apple pie or apple cake are always great. And a lot of things that are "apple" recipes can also be converted to use pears, or a combination of apples and pears. A cranberry cake would be festive, too, and very colorful.

For an apple cake, try the recipe at Smitten Kitchen. It is nearly identical to one my dear father cut from the Post in the '80s and asked me to make. It has been a favorite since. (The only diff I can see at close glance is that our recipe called for sliced apples instead of chunked. But the recipe in the Post was from A Treasury of Jewish Recipes, or something similar, so I think this Smitten one might be the same). Good luck!

Posted by: Agathist | November 26, 2008 12:12 PM

Guess the Smitten link would help, no?

Posted by: Agathist | November 26, 2008 12:14 PM

Reading too fast. Thanks for coming to rescue, Agathist. I will post link to my Dark n' Stormy Pear Crisp shortly.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 12:21 PM

I bought a fresh turkey from Whole Foods on Friday, planning to cook it last weekend. I'm going to a late out of town Thanksgiving this upcoming Sunday, but I wanted some leftovers here. Stuff came up over the weekend that prevented me from cooking the turkey, is it too late now? I usually only keep fresh poultry a few days after purchasing it, but the turkey has a sell by date of 12/3.

Posted by: erinh605 | November 26, 2008 12:47 PM

Dark 'n' Stormy Pear Crisp: A terrific Thanksgiving sweet ending...

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 12:51 PM

Erin605, I wouldn't delay much longer. Get that bird in the oven today. If it's off, you'll smell it, but if it's in wrapping since you bought it, it *should* be fine.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 1:04 PM

Kim, no questions from Boulder, just a big THANK YOU for all of your advice over the years. I hope you and Mr. MA have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Posted by: jraines | November 26, 2008 1:17 PM

Hi Kim - I think I may give your cranberry pumpkin upside down cake a go today - 2 questions. 1 - the recipe is talking about fresh cranberries, correct? 2 - if I make it tonight to serve tomorrow, do I invert it before wrapping for storage, or can I leave it in the pan for easy travels and then invert it before serving tomorrow? thanks! I love refreshing and reading all your hints today!

Posted by: AmberGale | November 26, 2008 1:28 PM

AmberGale, Yes, Emily Luchetti's killer recipe for Pumpkin Upside-Down cake calls for fresh cran. Gosh I'm so on the fence -- was going to make pie, but am really craving this cake right about now.
2) If you line pan with parchment, as she suggests, I think you'd be okay keeping cake in pan until you arrive at your destination.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 1:38 PM

Hey Kim,
I'm a fellow DC-SEA transplant and have followed you for years. I just wanted to let you know that I am telling everyone I know here in Seattle about your blog and chats! Thank you for all the love you bring across this entire country. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Posted by: Sportster | November 26, 2008 2:00 PM

Thanks Kim! I am going to be adventurous and try your (new to me) Thai sweet potato recipe.

Best regards to you and Mr MA

Posted by: scottiedog | November 26, 2008 2:15 PM

11:26 here. Early break for lunch -- a grilled cheese and tomato on English muffin. Sat outside on the front stoop to savor. Weather here brisk but sunny and clear, gorgeous day. Have decided to scrap pie plans and go ahead w/ upside down pumpkin cake, as I've got leftover frozen berries from Alaskan tundra that I'd like to use up. I'll be back when cake is in oven!

Posted by: kimodo | November 26, 2008 2:28 PM

Happy T-Day, Kim and fellow Peanuts! There will be no dark meat lovers among us tomorrow, so I'm planning to do two turkey breasts instead. If I put them both in the same large roaster, should I plan for them to take the same time as a comparably sized whole bird or as each breast would take individually or somewhere in between? Thanks, and if you're travelling, be safe!

Posted by: hun-e-b | November 26, 2008 2:46 PM

I too tried to get this in yesterday, but maybe I'll have better luck today! Thanks for all the good info in general, regardless of my own question's fate.

I have two large spaghetti squash and one very interesting recipe that calls for butternut squash. It's a pureed dish. Will the spaghetti squash work? I'm not that familiar with either kind, so I'm concerned about the "stringy" texture of the spaghetti squash, or will any puree-ing take care of that? Taste issues?


Posted by: jklemm | November 26, 2008 2:56 PM

I'm roasting winter veggies for a side dish and wondering if I include beets, will they turn all the other veggies purple? I'm including carrots, sweet potato, mixed 'shrooms, parsnips and garlic - anything else you'd reccomend adding?

Posted by: emily12 | November 26, 2008 3:04 PM

Kim - HELP! I plan on making you gingerbread recipe (no pie lovers among the guests tomorrow) but for some reason the measurements are showing up weird in both Firefox and IE, which makes me think it's on WashPost's end and not mine. Can you reprint in the comments, or check the original recipe? I'd like to make tonight...

ex: ½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup unsulphured molasses


Posted by: LaurenMcK | November 26, 2008 3:10 PM

hang on, LaurenMck! I know 'zactly what the problem is...

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 3:17 PM

Okay, that icky code is all gone. Your gingerbread recipe is now safe!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 3:21 PM

Hi Kim and company! I could use some sauce advice. Last night we made a roasted veggie and wine sauce to use in place of gravy tomorrow. It came together pretty well, but is still kind of watery. So my question is, how can we thicken it? When we reheat it, can we add a flour and water mixture? We started with a roux, so I'm hesitant to add more fat. Thanks for your help!

Posted by: Sacto | November 26, 2008 3:24 PM

Jklemm, I'm not crazy about spaghetti squash, so I typically work with other varieties of wintter squash. I could see the stringiness as a factor, but let's ask others what they think, see if you can pull it off.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 3:25 PM

Sacto, how much roux did you make compared to overall amount of sauce? For two cups of sauce, it's a good rule of thumb to use two tablespoons each flour AND fat. You could try reducing the sauce a bit over low heat, and adding either a cornstarch or flour slurry (cornstarch tends to seize less), with some elbow grease and a whisk.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 3:32 PM

I'm only "wedded" to my spaghetti squash because it represents something harvested by friends for us, and it feels like a nice local and personal addition to the table. But I don't want to be dealing with separating strands with a fork, and all that, after cooking. I'm cooking for 17 adults, so I need to keep it simple if it's going to work for the big meal. Thanks again!

Posted by: jklemm | November 26, 2008 3:36 PM

Emily12, Keeping the skins on beets will minimize the bleeding. If everything is in a single layer in a baking dish, you shouldn't have to worry about the beets dying the rest of the veg. You'll love roasted parsnips -- they're one of my faves!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 3:48 PM

Hun-e-b, if they have room to breathe in the same pan, they *should* roast at about the same time. If the pan is inserted vertically so that birds are in a front to back position rather than left to right, you'll prob want to rotate pan every hour to make sure they are in fact cooking at similar rates.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 3:54 PM

Hey, Kim, you are insane to do an open thread like this. I love it!

I have two loaves of Italian bread rising, sauerkraut simmering in the crockpot with brown sugar and pork loin, a turkey brining for the weekend (we aren't hosting, so no leftovers... have to make my own.), veggies/apples/sausage (onion, parsnip, celery, carrot, red bell, shalot, brussel sprouts) sauteed and ready to make into dressing. All is under control so instead of a question, I have a funny anecdote to share.

About an hour ago, I had the turkey rinsed, in the giant ziplock bag, and added the brine. And the zipper part BROKE. I couldn't get it into another bag. Mr. AG is still at work. I'm stuck in the corner of my kitchen holding a turkey bag of brine.

Luckily, I had the bag sitting in a roaster. Moving very slowly, I managed to lay the bag down in the pan. I got out my largest stock pot, transferred the bird and most of the brine. It nearly fit, but the tiny leg buds were sticking out. I can live with that. Three layers of aluminum foil and the pot barely fit onto the bottom shelf of the fridge. Whew!

Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | November 26, 2008 3:58 PM

Yes, I probably am insane. But it's so much fun hanging out with y'all today. Upside down pumpkin cake just came out of the oven, and now i'm listening to some Jimmy Cliff. Life is good.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 4:31 PM

While I'm waiting, and hoping!, for any other reader thoughts on the spaghetti squash/butternut squash question, I do want to say thanks, Kim, for turning me onto Dark 'n' Stormy drinks. Everyone I know who likes ginger ale really enjoys them, and they have the additional benefit of being unusual and interesting to talk about - what's ginger beer as opposed to ale, what makes rum dark or light, isn't lime a nice change from lemon, and on we go. (Maybe we need more substantial conversation topics?!) Eager to try the pear crisp with its darkness and storminess - missed it the first go-round, so thanks for mentioning it today.

Posted by: jklemm | November 26, 2008 4:50 PM

I just punched down the bread and formed the loaves for the 2nd rising session. Now I can wash my big bowl and assemble the dressing. In about an hour, the aromas should be wonderful. I have a boon many in this blog would probably envy tonight/tomorrow; I have a double oven. (For now; we're probably replacing it soon and have the basic stove with microwave.).

And Mr. AG is going to order from Armand's so I don't also have to cook dinner.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | November 26, 2008 4:52 PM

Hi, Kim & Crew -- Happy Thanksgiving to all! I just caught up with the Food Ranger chat and saw the Alexandria Question about cooking a 12lb lobster (picture included) with only a roaster pan & a 12 qt pot but it didn't get solved. in case she/he checks in here -- James Beard has a number of recipes in which you kill the lobster by cutting between head and back shell, then cut in half to broil or other prep. They should be able to roast it successfully if they kill it first.

Posted by: lvie | November 26, 2008 5:31 PM

ok Kim - pumpkin upside down cakes in the oven. I doubled the recipe and almost did it in a 9 x 13, but chickened out at the last minute and did 2 8" squares. I'm a little worried, there seems to be an awfully high ratio of brown sugar/butter goodness to batter. I'm hoping this cake doesn't rise too much, because it's pretty close to the top already! Hope this works!! Just for the record - I also eliminated the oil and added extra pumpkin - we'll see how it goes! Up next: 2 pumpkin pies!

Posted by: AmberGale | November 26, 2008 5:38 PM

AmberGale: I reduced butter from 2 sticks to 1 stick and some change, and I reduced oil as well, adding a smidge of applesauce. It may be time to tweak the recipe to account for all these adjustments. Have fun tonight with your pies!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 5:47 PM

Hi Kim! Still around? I just finished my cranberry sauce, and am a little unsure.

3/4 c water, 1/2 water, 1/2 cup OJ, bunch of orange zest, bag of cran. It's good, but the orange flavor is STRONG, leading my taste testers to ask if I thought it was bitter? I added a tsp or so more sugar, and don't want to add anymore, but wondering if a squeeze of lemon or or orange might counteract the bitterness in a tart/sour way? Or should I just let it go?


Posted by: Boots202 | November 26, 2008 6:22 PM

Two pies down, one to go. Pumpkin and pecan pies took most of the afternoon because the kids helped. There is flour e v e r y w h e r e. (Needless to say, the apple rosemary pine nut pie is last, to be assembled once the anklebiters are in bed!) Happy Thanksgiving Kim, and to everyone.

Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | November 26, 2008 6:28 PM

Do you have any honey? The strong flavor is coming from the zest. Maybe a tad more oj?

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 6:38 PM

An anecdote for the "sometimes, you should just listen to your mother" category. Made a pie crust with Earth Balance today. Turned out lovely (used Mark Bittman's recipe, subbing EB for butter. Didn't need ice water, possibly b/c the kitchen was humid from steaming some veggies.) Rolled out nicely. Tried to blind bake it as Bittman suggests (greased foil, weights).... a disaster. It is burned in some spots, nearly raw in others, and is peeling off all over the foil. Argh. Good news is that the parts that are done "right" are flaky and tasty. So, I think I am starting over with Mom's way of blind baking-- poke holes in the crust with a fork, don't weight or line the crust. It always worked for her!

Happy Thanksgiving to all. And Kim, thank you, especially, for keeping us in good ideas and good humor through many cooking escapades. You have created a community and fostered it, and we are grateful.

Posted by: Agathist | November 26, 2008 7:37 PM

Pies done, orange cake baked and iced, chutney finished, everything else on deck for morning.

Beautiful, sunny day. Expecting 4-6" of snow tomorrow (further north is supposed to get two FEET).

To the person with the spaghetti squash - run it through the blender to puree it, with a little butter and a little nutmeg. The stringiness will go away, but the flavor is great.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.
Thank you, Kim, for all your help. Linda

Posted by: lsgc | November 26, 2008 7:41 PM

No question here, either, but wanted to thank you for being here. I'm here with two pecan pies in the oven to take to friends tomorrow. I love your column and chats. You give us such great ideas and have inspired me to try many new foods. I made the stuff pumpkin from your recent column, and it was great!

Posted by: FL_native_now_in_MD | November 26, 2008 7:46 PM

Agathist, I've noticed more of a "sticky" quality to pie dough made with EB than with butter. I had uneven results recently as well. Poking crust with a fork is a goodie but oldie method. I just hung up with my brother, Tim, in Key West, where he is caramelizing onions, prepping mac & cheese and salt-curing a 20-pound turkey overnight. Here in Seattle, the sun has just gone to sleep and Mister MA and I are considering tacos at a local joint. What a fun day this has been. Thank you all for keeping me company, and before I sign off, let's have that virtual toast: Here's to kitchen community. For that I am very grateful! Talk to you after the long holiday weekend.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 26, 2008 7:50 PM

Hi Kim,

Thanks for the help! I'm bringing your roasted broccoli to a family dinner tomorrow afternoon. I've been chopping florets tonight and had been planning to toss them, with the oil and spices, into a ziploc bag to bring along. Would it be bad to combine the broccoli with the oil tonight -- would it change the texture if they don't get roasted until tomorrow?


Posted by: mailergoat | November 26, 2008 9:12 PM

Hi Kim,

I'm hoping you'll be able to answer a post-Thanksgiving Day question (Hope yours was happy!)

I was excited to get a fresh heritage turkey from my CSA. I spent a lot of time looking online (here, for instance: see if heritage birds needed to be cooked differently. The consensus was, yes they do - they should be cooked at a higher temp for much less time than a big-breasted bird (internal temp only needs to reach 145-150).

I followed your suggestion to start the bird at 450 for 20 minutes or so, then turned it down to 350. It was only an 8 lb. bird, so I checked it at one hour. The meat thermometer showed the thigh meat at over 160. I was pretty stunned, not being much of a bird roaster anyway. It didn't seem possible the bird was done, but I didn't want to risk overcooking it. I let it rest, then carved a slice or two. The breast meat clearly wasn't done. I returned it to the oven for another 20-25 minutes, then let it rest again.

I should mention that this was a post-Thanksgiving Day turkey for two, so I didn't have a crowd waiting, thank goodness. I took off the drumstick and a little breast meat for my meal. It was OK, but a little tough. Worse, one portion of the breast was still bloody and mushy - pretty gross.

Sorry for the long post, but this was so disappointing. Any idea what went wrong? I couldn't find any info that gave me a guide to minutes per pound for a heritage, but I gave it my best shot based on the information I could find.

I should add that the oven is fairly new and seems well calibrated. The meat thermometer, too, is fairly new and has proved accurate in the past.

Posted by: mwallace8831 | November 29, 2008 11:25 AM

Mwallace - Hopefully, Kim can get to this one, but I have a thought or two. Did you have the bird with the back side up the whole time?

The approach I've generally used is a hot oven (425) with the back facing up to start, then flip the bird (oven mitts or paper towels will do the job) and reduce heat to around 300-325 with the breast side up. The point being that the breast will overcook if up the whole time.

If the breast isn't cooked, definitely send it back to the oven until ready. Something's a little off if the thighs were cooked, but the breast wasn't. Probably worth cutting into the breast and taking a look to be sure.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 29, 2008 5:28 PM

I need a post-Thanksgiving "what went wrong" help desk. I made tofu pumpkin pie; it didn't set right/it wasn't quite firm (but it was delicious!). I also made cranberry sauce; it didn't set right either/was a little runny. Maybe next year. (sigh)

Posted by: onthescenewitheileen | December 1, 2008 3:01 PM

Thanks, Fairlington, for your suggestions. I've done the turkey flip before, but didn't think it was necessary with heritage birds, since they weren't bred to have disproportionately-huge breasts that would cook before the dark meat.

I agree with onethescene above - please, Kim, can we have a post mortem (or perhaps a more appetizing title) - a sort of "what went wrong" forum? We had a couple of weeks of "what I'm going to do"', so this would balance things out!

Posted by: mwallace8831 | December 1, 2008 9:56 PM

I've tended to use Cooks Illustrated (various editions) as my guide. They usually go for smaller birds and recommend the whole brining/flipping approach regardless of mass market vs. heritage birds. It sounds like it's still needed. If you'd rather not take that approach, you could separate the legs/thighs from the rest of the bird and pop them in the oven while the remainder cools.

I like the idea of a "what went wrong" post-mortem. My meal worked out fairly well, though my layered beet/chevre salad had to be dumped in another container as the bowl was too large for the amount of food. So much for presentation! Fortunately, the squirrels were merciful and didn't raid any of the food I had out on the back porch while cooking.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 2, 2008 3:08 PM

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