Free Range on Food: Twists to Thanksgiving classics; how to tactfully take on more Thanksgiving responsibilities, and more.

Nov 14, 2018

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, and welcome to today's chat. We've got Thanksgiving on the mind, of course, and have already rolled out lots of advice and recipes for you to chew on as you plan your feast:

Our main menu is Bonnie's gorgeous collection of recipes that walk that high-wire balance of interesting and accessible. Which will you make -- them all? And did you see that gorgeous print section today??

Becky writes about another balancing act -- how to tactfully take over the cooking of the meal from your elders.

Ann Mah has recipes that prove you can actually cook the whole darn meal in your Instant Pot (or other multicooker, of course).

Cathy Barrow suggests a lovely mushroom s0up to start. My kind of idea!

I'm here to pull for a showstopping dish for the vegetarians and vegans at your table.

And more more more, coming all week, and culminating in our second Thanksgiving section this Sunday, full of ideas and some touching essays and history to boot.

We will have a giveaway book for our favorite chatter, of course: "The Washington Post Cookbook"!

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR8685 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Let's do this! 

My toddler has been begging for banana pie after seeing it in a book and we are going to try and make one for Thanksgiving. Do you have a recipe you recommend? The one challenge is that I can't taste the pie due to dairy/gluten allergies, so I need something that is fairly fail safe and doesn't require tasting as you go.

Here is one easy way to go: You could make Ellie Krieger's healthful Banana Pudding Cups recipe (which I can vouch for; I tested) and use that to fill a graham cracker crust. Put a layer of sliced bananas under the filling and maybe one on the surface, top with whipped cream?

If you're up for making the real thing, pastry chef Valerie Hill's Warm Banana Pudding Pie is the bees knees.

CATHY BARROW: In my new book of slab pies, Pie Squared, I have a Banana Cream Slab Pie that can be made with coconut milk and gluten free Mi-Del gingersnaps. It's super delicious and very easy to make.

I know, I know, Thanksgiving isn't the time to star nitpicking calories. But, we are going to our friend's house and half their house is on a year-round diet. So, they won't eat buttery mashed potatoes or cheese covered you name it. Any recipes for delicious but easy-on-the-waist vegetables? I want to bring two different vegetable options. Thanks!

I vote these, which could be slimmed down even more if need be:

Zippy Green Beans

RECIPE: Zippy Green Beans

Creamy Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

RECIPE: Creamy Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

At the bottom right corner of the front page of today's food section, there is a deep rectangular casserole type dish filled with green beans. also shown with the recipe on page E9. Any chance of getting specifics on dish? Company, anything?

Art director Amanda Soto got it from Target; it's Magnolia brand (from Chip and Joanna Gaines).

How long can I store sprouts in my fridge before cooking? Wanted to buy on Friday to cook the following Wednesday, which seems reasonable to me, but a few sites say to store only 3-4 days. They're just little cabbages, and cabbage lasts a LONG time. Thoughts?

Oh, I think you'll be fine. They don't last as long as cabbage -- and their flavor might get a little less sweet after a few days, but you're good here. BTW, if you can find them sold on the stalk, they'll stay even fresher!

I'll skip the long back story but would really appreciate your opinion on the best brand of oatmeal to use for making a bowl for breakfast. This would need to take 15 minutes or less, using only a regular pot and stove top. Thank you!

Honestly, I don't have a favorite brand. I use old-fashioned rolled oats in the microwave. I've bought everything from Bob's Red Mill to Trader Joe's to Safeway and Quaker, and they all work the same for me.


ARTICLE: Make your mornings easier with a five-minute, mess-free bowl of fresh oatmeal

Haven't noticed a difference either in the steel-cut I've bought for my Instant Pot either.

Okay, Joe, I made it. It's kinda weird, nor could I cleanly cut it into wedges (let alone EAT cleanly!). It really isn't much different than a plate of noodles, just a different form factor. Either I'm missing the magic, or it's not worth the extra step of the oven. The crispiness just made it hard to eat.

Thanks for sharing! I didn't have any of those issues -- was plenty easy to cut with a knife and eat with a knife and fork. Sounds like yours was crisp on more than just the edges, perhaps?

Bringing a side to a dinner about hour away. I am thinking of garlicky greens. I will make day before and refrigerate. Will they need to be reheated (microwaved) or can be served at room temperature? My other choices ( I like to bring things from garden) are poblano peppers, green beans, or green tomatoes. Suggestions on what to make with them?

I think any dish with cooked garlic is better when served warmed up, as the garlic becomes fragrant. You could stuff the poblanos (with stuffing!) or make these fun rings; for green beans, see kara's earlier side dish answer!

I like to include savory cookies for my Christmas cookie platter (yes, I have already started), but find that they are often too sweet. There are several shortbread cookies that I have tried from Dorie Greenspan's cookie book released a few years ago (Smoky Hearts, Sesame Sea Salt) and while I wanted to love them, they weren't quite savory enough. I'm afraid if I remove some of the sugar (her recipes call for 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar) the texture will suffer - suggestions?

CATHY BARROW: I've gone all the way savory in my collection of cookies and added these Homemade Cheez-Its.

It's tough to mess with sugar ratios in cookie recipes, as the sugar often does more than just sweeten the mix. I make these Zingy Cheese Cookies every year. They are sugar-free and AWESOME.

Hi all - My family loves your recent coffee cake recipe, and I make it often enough to justify a coffee cake pan (high praise given my tiny kitchen!). Is there one that you recommend? I'm not sure if I'm looking for a tube pan or angel food pan, and like idea of one where the bottom comes off. Thanks for everything you do. My family checks each week to see what new ideas I've learned from the chat, and we eat well because of you!

Simple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

ARTICLE: This classic coffee cake is what good mornings are made of

So glad you like it! Such a great recipe. I'm thinking I might have to whip one up for the family Thanksgiving guests.

If you're looking to make it in something other than the 9x13 pan, I would suggest a Bundt pan (this recipe will work in a Bundt without adjusting anything other than maybe the cook time). They're beautiful and can make a lot of other cakes, too. (I even use it for our Thanksgiving Jell-O mold!) More versatile than a tube pan. I can't remember the last time I pulled mine out. With a Bundt, you just have to make sure to grease and flour it well, so that the cake turns out. King Arthur sells some beautiful variations from Nordic Ware if you want something different than the traditional shape.

It looks great, but the only portion of ingredients I see when I click on it is "1/2 cup pecans." Could prob. figure out rest, kind of, but ... Am posting early so this might be fixed by time you read it. Also, am planning to take to a church committee meeting for our usual potluck. Will need to make earlier in the day. Are there ingredients (am thinking the crispy spinach) I should wait to incorporate til closer to serving time? Thanks for all your work.

I imagine you get asked this question every year so I apologize but I'm going to ask anyway. We have a small group this year for Thanksgiving (including several vegans) so I'm going with a breast rather than a whole turkey. I'm ordering one from a farm and have a choice of bone in or boneless. Which would you recommend? Thanks.

CATHY BARROW: I would always opt for the bone-in turkey breast, if only to have something to make the next day's soup! But if you want to make a stuffed turkey breast - really pretty! - you'll be glad to get a boneless one. If you're going to want gravy, think about picking up some turkey legs to make stock.

I am in charge of thanksgivings starters for 30 and am thinking that crabmeat hush puppies would be great with pre-dinner cocktails. Do you think if I fried them in the morning they could easily reheat or would they get greasy and stale ( there will be about four hours from frying until serving)? And... any other suggestions for interesting starters would also be appreciated. Nuts, olives and crackers are already taken care of... yes, we want more! :)

Personally, I wouldn't reheat crabmeat hushpuppies. Unless you're double-frying chicken wings (a la Bonchon), I don't think you should cook fried foods a second time (or in this case, reheat them). I think you're dealing with two things that don't reheat well: shellfish and fried foods. 


Last year, Kara put together a list of T-Day appetizers, some easier to prepare than others. Frankly, I think Thanksgiving appetizers are tricky. If you load up too much on cheese and crackers, or buttery puff pastries, you won't be hungry for the big bird! 


I'd endorse something like the tartines with apricot and endive (pictured above) or just shucked oysters, which are tasty and not very caloric. 


ARTICLE: Crowd-pleasing nibbles and drinks to kick off your Thanksgiving celebration

Thought I might spruce up my Thanksgiving table by having a number of fun sauces on the side, for people to add to their turkey. Gravy will be there (although my family are not cranberry sauce people) but I would like to have 3-4 other sauces out for people to mix it up (regionally, ethnically) with their turkey. I have some ideas, but thought I would see what others had. Thanks!

CATHY BARROW: Chutney, particularly mango, but also apple or pear, is delicious with roast turkey.

Where do you stand on brining? Wet? Dry? Naked?

WaPoFood has been in the no-brine camp officially since 2014; a watershed year in which local butcher icon Pam Ginsberg shared her Roast Turkey au Jus recipe -- one of the simplest around. For me there's a fine line between dry brining and seasoning the bird before you roast it (as in, I can see the benefit of letting the bird air-dry in the refrigerator overnight but don't quite agree that all that seasoning affects the meat. 


I very much liked the results of both our Herb-Slathered Turkey and Simply Seasoned Turkey (the latter, practically 'dry-brined,' pictured below) -- so much so that I couldn't decide between them. Flavorful! Easy! Moist white meat! #Yaythanksgiving

The turkey roasting recipes you have do not mention covering the turkey in the oven with foil. Does this mean that it isn't necessary to cover a turkey to ensure that it remains juicy (or at least not dry)? Do you baste it instead?

CATHY BARROW Because I am devoted to a bronzed bird with crispy skin, I never cover the bird (it leads to steaming the skin - ugh). Instead, I might start the turkey with a butter soaked cheesecloth draped over the top. I baste the bird every 30 minutes for the first hour and a half, remove the cheesecloth, and continue basting every 30-45 minutes until the bird is done. Tipping any accumulated juices out of the cavity about 30 minutes before the turkey should be finished will also help.

From the chat page, it says no chats scheduled today...had to hack to get here...

Can you link to the exact page where you saw that, please? On, what I consider the "chat page," all looks fine.

I opened a bottle of red wine which I've had way too long as it taste like vinegar. Should I throw it away or can I use it for a dressing or for basting?

Not sure about making vinaigrette with it, but you can braise and marinate meats with wine that has gone bad. In those cases, the acidity helps. More ideas here.

I'm looking for suggestions for a main dish for my vegetarian guests, something that's special and fancy. In the past I've done fake turkey (tofurkey and quorn), stuffed acorn squash and a mushroom/nut loaf with mushroom gravy. The loaf is tasty, but I feel like it's the equivalent of serving turkey loaf to my meat-eating guests (or am denigrating the loaf too much?). It doesn't have to be a super easy recipe, I'm an experienced cook, but I'd like it to be something that can be all or partially prepared ahead of time. I like to minimize the amount of work I have to do on Thanksgiving day so I can spend time with my guests. Thanks.

Let's see: Do I ever! How about the one I wrote about for this year's package? It's a stuffed butternut squash, and it's gorgeous (and tasty). Plus, you can do pretty much EVERYTHING IN ADVANCE.

RECIPE: Stuffed Squash Roast

Y-you mean there won't be a chat next week? Or a twelve-hour chat on Thanksgiving Day, from 5 AM to 5 PM, to talk us through every single slow roast, mishap, and emergency replacement side dish?

We WILL have a chat next week, as always. Two hours, from noon to 2! With some VERY heavy-hitting guests: Stella Parks, Andrea Nguyen, Sheri Castle, Kathy Gunst and Angela Davis!

yes, it was crispy on the bottom too. I guess I had it in too long. Will try again!

The goal is a little crispy on the bottom and on some of the edges of the top, and creamy inside.

OK, it *might* be a little early to be asking about leftovers, but (a) I love leftovers, and (b) as a result I usually make a little more of favorites so that there's plenty of leftovers. So, other than Turkey, what are your favorite Thanksgiving leftovers?

CATHY BARROW I look forward to Turkey Pho the day after the day after. (On the day after, I'm making the stock from the carcass, the next day is soup day!) I also anticipate my favorite heart stopping sandwich (challah, turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and chopped liver)  which I allow myself only one day each year.

I have a 10-lb Narragansett turkey in the freezer that I intend to dry-brine, a la Russ Parsons, before roasting. My question is, what's the best roasting temperature or combination of temps? Some cooks swear by all-high-heat (425 to 450) and others say to start high for 30 minutes then drop to 350 or 325. Also some say to tent with foil or oiled parchment the whole time and others are more variable about that. What do you say? Thanks!

I would not go high heat to start with a heritage bird, because that kind tends to not finish as moist, esp the breast meat, which is often not as large/thick as on other turkeys. Check out what Molly Stevens -- author of one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, All About Roasting -- has to say about handling heritage birds.

I recently had duck wings at a restaurant, prepared like chicken wings but they were duck wings. They were delicious and I'd like to make them at home. Is there someplace in town I can buy raw duck wings? Thanks!

I can't think of any, off the top of my head. 


Chatters, any place to buy duck wings, sans the rest of the bird?

Many of the recipes I see for Thanksgiving turkeys call for an extended period of "resting" the bird on a counter/room temperature for 1-2(+) hours before roasting, post-refrigeration. Is this safe?!

As long as you're pulling the bird from the fridge (with a temperature in the mid- to high 30s), you're perfectly safe. The USDA advises that you don't hold raw meat in the "danger zone" (between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit)  for more than two hours.

Post-oven, 30 minutes works for 14-16 pounder -- might still be a bit warm to handle the dark meat but once you start carving it cools off faster. I think an hour's fine and safe for pre-roasting, given a not-too-warm room temperature.

I am assembling the ingredients to make the Portobello Wellington, but cannot find soy cream to keep it vegan for my guests. I've tried MOM's, Whole Foods and The Fresh Market in Alexandria, with no luck. Any idea where I can find it? What can I substitute? Also, can I assemble this the night before, bake it in the morning before I put the turkey in, and then reheat while the turkey rests?

You're looking for soy creamer, like that made by Silk? You could also use a little vegan (soy, coconut, almond) yogurt, thinned out with a little water.

RECIPE: Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Pecan and Chestnut Wellington

I will literally re-arrange my day for her presence next week (you guys are awesome but still!)

She's fantastic, isn't she? Spread the word!

Hi, Do you have a suggestion for a show-stopper, delicious vegan dessert that would be at home on a Thanksgiving table? I often make vegan brownies and bars, but they're not particularly festive. Thank you!

I personally haven't tried these, but they're quite attractive: Vegan Pumpkin Pie Parfaits.

Oh my gosh. Best.dressing.ever. Is it okay to eat it out of the jar with a spoon? (Asking for a friend.)


I'm confused about the Bavarian cream recipe from 11/9. In the Make Ahead note it says: "The cooled Bavarian cream needs to be refrigerated overnight before it is whipped." But nothing in the recipe directions says to cool overnight, it just says cool to 68 degrees. Is the overnight cooling required, recommended, optional? And when does it occur? Thanks - I'm excited to try the recipe!

Such a cool recipe. Sorry for the confusion; will clarify online. You can blend it with the whipped cream and use it right away; it'll be a bit soft. But you can also refrigerate it overnight and then re-whip before serving.


I'm submiting super early since I missed last weeks chat by 30 min. I love foodnetwork magazine and there was a little blurb about soaking cheesecloth in butter and roasting the turkey with the cheesecloth on top. Do you think it will really add to the juiciness of the bird? I always do a wet brine and then bake it normally basting every 30-45 min or so.

I used to do this, from an '80s Martha Stewart recipe (and probably the technique pre-dates her). It gives the bird a lovely color; unless you keep opening the oven to baste/re-moisten the cloth, I don't think once the thing dries it offers much of an advantage for juiciness. But....mayo does! #onenote

Nowadays there are often so many versions of a recipe on the internet that I wonder, how can I determine the best one to choose? While I realize that WaPo's should be my first choice, if you don't have it, how do I choose from among the rest? Assuming there's no ingredient I dislike, how can I tell which recipe has the right flavor balance, and offers the best techniques?

CATHY BARROW Always look to reliable sources. If you have liked a particular writer or food section (ahem) and found that those recipes work and align with your own tastes, return to those sites to search for new recipes. 

Three questions on Joe's fab looking squash recipe. (1) I see it says to slice with a sharp knife. I still have visions of filing everywhere and ruining the presentation. Maybe a serrated knife? Other tips? (2) Not a big butternut fan and thinking of kabocha. Would make the slicing worse, but would probably work? Delicata or other individual squash would lose the drama, but might be good. I'm actually thinking for entertaining beyond Thanksgiving. (3) It looks like the rice even before adding the squash would be a great everyday meal. Would you recommend it hot or cold? Thanks for the great recipe and any help!

Glad you like the look of it! Answers for you:

1) Yes, a serrated knife! It sliced beautifull with that in the lab.

2) I love kabocha (esp for stewing, cause it soaks up sauces so well, as its texture is dryer), while delicata is actually my favorite for roasting. I think it'd be worth trying the latter especially if you can find a nice big delicata! A bonus there is that the peel is a little more pleasant to eat than a butternut's. 

3. Yes, the rice mixture is delicious -- I think you could serve it hot or room temp in the cold-weather months, cold in the summer...

You can find all sorts of fake creams (including soy) at Giant. Look for the coffee creamer refrigerated section (strangely it isn't with the milk). If it isn't there, it may be in the organic aisle. Most of Silk's are soy milk, but some are almond.

I recently read the Post's recipe for a pie using thawed frozen puff pastry, and cutting out a circle so the crust will fit into a round pie pan. This made me start wondering if I could just use the pastry as the bottom of a slab pie, in order to minimize waste?

CATHY BARROW Yes, puff pastry makes a terrific base for many types of slab pie. It's best to score the pastry where you plan to slice it -- it's easier to make clean cuts after it's baked. Also, long cooked fillings won't work as well as others. (There are several examples of both sweet and savory puff pastry slab pies in my new book, Pie Squared.)

Thanksgiving dessert: I don't want to make a pie or cake this year. I will have 4 or 5 people for dinner, and we're usually too full to want to eat much dessert. Can you suggest some alternatives to pie or cake?

CATHY BARROW: I'm bringing Budino, Italian pudding, for our small dinner. Two people are gluten free! Here's one example from the recipe finder.

The Portobello Wellington will be awesome for Thanksgiving. I doubt I bought vegan cream when I made it. I'm thinking I sealed with water or nondairy milk and probably didn't brush anything on it. Absolutely terrific!

So glad you liked it!

I made our traditional cranberry relish earlier this week (to freeze for the holiday). When cleaning the cranberries, I noticed a lot of softer ones. Should I only be using the firm ones and getting rid of the rest? Or are cranberries that are soft and intact OK to use?

Lose those soft, shriveled or brown ones! #compost

I'm not great at pie crusts and blind baking them is worse. I'm intending to make a pumpkin pie in a black walnut crust, but I'm worried about getting this nut crust to stay cohesive and flat enough both pat-in-pan and through the blind baking. Last time I both weighted down the crust with rice over parchment and placed a second pyrex pie pan on top, but it still sort of puffed up and also stuck to the parchment. Suggestions PLEASE.

CATHY BARROW That black walnut crust sounds delicious. Because I don't know all of the ingredients, I'm going to go out on a limb and offer up ways that I work with press in crusts.

First, build up the sides of your crust before starting to work on pressing in the bottom crust. Too often, the bottom crust is just too thick to bake well. This makes it hard to get a crisp base. Use a flat bottomed glass or metal cup measure to press the crust in hard, so it's quite cohesive before beginning the bake. Less butter works better than more butter. (Words I never expected to type.)

Because most custards, like pumpkin, need at least 45 minutes to cook, I'm not convinced you need to blind bake. Instead, bake the pie on a hot surface, like a preheated inverted baking sheet. This will cook the bottom of the pie evenly and avoids that dreaded soggy bottom.

If you want to blind bake, use non-stick foil to line the pan, with the non-stick side touching the crust. Then fill the pie pan up to the top with your pie weights (beans, rice, pennies, sugar), not just the bottom of the pie, but the whole foil-lined pan should be filled. 

After 20 minutes or so (for a pie that will continue to bake), remove the weights and foil carefully and return the pan to the oven for about 10 minutes to dry the pastry out, then add the custard and bake the pie.

Is there ANYWAY to healthify a pecan pie?I love it, but there's just so much sugar!!

Not judging, but "healthify pecan pie" makes me #sad. Here's a link that might get you thinking about ways to achieve your reduced-sugar goal (have not tested it).

I recommend nutpods (lower case letters intentional because that's the brand's style), which I buy at Whole Foods. To me it tastes most like dairy cream than any other brand I have tried. The others taste too sweet. 

Apple pie (just use vegetable shortening for the crust!). I also seem to recall the Post had a bourbon pecan pie filling that's vegan.

Yep, this is a good one! The crust is vegan, too!

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Less filling, more nuts on top? Even blend chopped nuts into the filling?

Yes, one of my favorites is Virginia Willis's, which employs a higher nut-to-goo ratio, which I appreciate since I'm anti-goo. I almost suggested it to the "healthify" chatter, but it doesn't list the amount of sugar in the nutritional analysis because the recipe happened before we started doing that. But hopefully we can re-run it to fill in that blank!

RECIPE: Mama's Pecan Pie

With a crab dip that can be made ahead and easily reheated. Then toast English muffins, spread the dip and cut into serving size wedges. Or just have a sliced baguette.

Thanks for the suggestion.

Tim, where would you go for a good muffaletta lately?

That's a tough one. My favorite muffaletta in DC was untraditional but tasty: It was the one at Straw, Stick and Brick, which is sadly just a memory now. 


Bayou Bakery in Arlington has a "muff-a-lotta" sandwich, which is about the closest thing you're going to find to the real deal in the DMV. Chef David Guas is a New Orleans native, so he knows the sandwich well.


Little Red Fox has offered the sandwich occasionally, but I don't see it on the current menu. Same with Red Apron.


Chatters, you know of any good muffalettas out there?

Hi! I'm asked to bring an appetizer, am traveling by metro, and will have to consider vegetarians in my selection. Any suggestions appreciated!

CATHY BARROW: The mushroom bisque in today's paper can travel in a thermos!

Does the skin brown? I assume not.

It does, actually. A perenially favorite recipe 'round these parts.


Have a favorite recipe for oyster stew or something simialar???

CATHY BARROW My New England-born mother had only one way to make oyster stew. She would shuck the fresh oysters and capture the oyster liqueur which was mixed with heavy cream in equal parts. Heat this liquid gently until tiny bubbles are forming at the edges of the pan and it's steaming. Add the oysters and cook until they firm up very slightly and the edges ruffle. Remove from the heat, dash in a splash of cognac and top with chopped chives. Sometimes she would make a big toast crouton for the top. (And now this is all I will think about for the rest of the day.)

Anyone know of some good places to get the best deals on raw unsalted nuts (extra points if it's in the MD burbs)? With the holidays approaching, I use a lot ... cashews for the veggie roast; mixed for spiced nuts; walnuts, almonds, and pecans for pies and cookies, etc. So far my best bet seems to be the large tubs at Costco.

Yekta (Rockville), maybe? They have very good walnuts in bulk, at least.

What is the standard pie pan size? 9 in, 9.5 in? I am baking pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and bought the pyrex 9.5. Is that too big?

CATHY BARROW Round pie pans come in sizes ranging from 9-inches to 10-inches. All recipes will work in any round pie pan in that range, they will just be taller with a 9-inch pan and less tall with a 10-inch pan. If the recipe is called "deep dish" pie, be careful about using a standard 9-inch pan. There will be too much filling. Either find a deep dish pie pan or use the 10-inch model.

We're hosting Thanksgiving this year, so I'll get another shot at carving the turkey. My last attempt didn't go so well. I don't blame our kitchen knives, but it just so happens that my wife and I are planning to put any Christmas-gift money this year toward some new knives, possibly a new knife set. I've looked at Consumer Reports, which warns that its info is dated, and I've checked a New York Times-owned ratings site that had knife recommendations. Has the Post done the same thing? What knives are best - for carving a turkey or other food-prep chores year-round?

Turkey-carvingwise, here's my 2 cents: You don't really need to buy anything new or special, although a fillet knife that's 6-8 inches and flexible is a nice one to use. A sharpened 8-inch chef's knife ought to serve you well. The carving sets come with a useful big fork, though. 

A few weeks ago, you suggested that a poster with too many chilis slash them and steep them in vinegar for hot sauce. I decided to do the same with my last three jalepenos... so now what? Do I puree it? Add anything else? Just use the vinegar? (I did half white vinegar and half cider vinegar with a wee dash of balsamic for a possibly somewhat sweeter taste with a little more depth--which may not work at all, but if it doesn't, I'm out a cup of vinegar and three jalepenos that I wouldn't have used anyway, so no biggie.)

Nothing else needed! I did this with hotter peppers -- Thai chiles -- not jalapenos, so yours won't be as spicy, but it'll get spicier! Try it after a couple of weeks and see what you think.

OP here: I just read that recipe you recommended, and I HAVE to make it!!!

CATHY BARROW It's very fancy looking, isn't it? Let me know!

or Pea-Con? And where did you grow up? ;)

I am always looking for different ways to prepare faux turkeys such as Tofurkey, Quorn and Gardein. Would covering them with a cheesecloth soaked in vegan butter render the same results as for a turkey? I know this question is late in the chat. If you can't get to it, please save for next time. Thanks!

Just Mayo, blended with herbs!

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of these faux turkeys, but if you love them, go to town! As for the same results from vegan butter, well, I don't think it's the butter here that's making the difference, it's the lack of ... skin.

Saturday was cold and dreary and needed some baking to brighten things up. I asked my husband what he would like, and he immediately chose the coffee cake you mentioned earlier in the chat. I made one in August, froze part of it and can vouch for its freezability. It thawed perfectly in Oct. I had wrapped it in freezer plastic wrap and put it in a freezer-weight plastic bag. It's a winner.

Yay, Becky will be happy to hear this!

Simple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Is there any way to make stuffing healthier but preserve the taste? Most recipes I'm seeing have an absolutely insane amount of butter... can that be cut back? Any other ideas? Do you guys have a favorite, traditional stuffing recipe that I could start with? I've never made it before.


Last year, I wrote about many of the regional variations of stuffing/dressing. With Bonnie's help, we tested a few recipes. One of my favorites was the Charleston Rice Dressing. It still has a stick of butter, but it serves six to eight people, so that's only a pat or two of butter apiece.


RECIPE: Charleston Rice Dressing

Anyone have any particularly memorable disastrous Thanksgiving dinners? Ours have been relatively smooth, but that's because we cook the same thing every year. I keep trying to suggest changes, but they don't usually take. Last year it was roast the carrots instead of steam them and the carrots of course came out raw because the timing was off. Le Sigh.

CATHY BARROW I planned my entire meal around cooking the turkey on the grill, due to limited oven space. Only no one got any propane. We eventually found a gas station with propane tanks, but dinner was served after 10pm. My husband refers to that holiday as "the time Cathy sat on the basement steps and cried." 

Can you offer a rule of thumb as to how long meat will remain hot while it rests (e.g., x minutes/pound or some similar way of thinking about it)? I am looking for general guidelines that I could apply to any occasion/cut. For instance, if I roast an 8-lb. bone-in turkey breast, it can rest X amount of time and remain hot. If I make a 4 lb. beef pot roast, it can sit X amount of time off heat and remain hot. Thanks.

Not sure there is a rule of thumb, per se. Here's a scientific take on the resting-meat phenomena from Kenji Lopez-Alt. The chart gives pretty small windows of resting times.

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my houseguests this year is totally freaking me out, because they include one person who can't have gluten and another who can't have dairy or soy. Also, there are multiple kids in attendance (as well as adults who are going to be sorely disappointed if their Thanksgiving favorites are either not there or stray too far from what they're used to, so I'm trying to figure out how to come as close to a traditional Thanksgiving meal as possible. But I fear my old standbys and crowd-pleasers (like the ATK green bean casserole) will be very tough to do well without dairy, flour, or soy. Do you have any favorite go-to sources for multiple "-free" recipes, particularly those suitable for Thanksgiving? A lot of what I find online seems to be on websites that I don't particularly trust. Heartfelt thanks in advance for any advice!

I'd pick up a copy of Anna Thomas's "Vegan, Vegetarian, Omnivore," which lays out a smart strategy of cooking for multiple dietary needs! 

I've found that the best way to have plenty of good turkey stock available while making stuffing is to make it a couple of weeks in advance. I buy a couple of packages of turkey wings or drumsticks, brown them in the oven, and then make a big pot of stock that I can throw in the freezer and pull out when it's time to make the stuffing and gravy.


Is it best to blind bake a regular-size pecan pie crust? I didn't blind bake last time and after about a 40-minute bake, the filling looked done, but the crust was really light. How about for a deep-dish pecan pie? Thank you!

CATHY BARROW There are many theories about blind baking. In my opinion, most pie crusts need about an hour to fully cook. I usually bake my pies hot - around 425 - for 20 minutes and lower the temperature to 350 or 375 for the last 40 minutes. Baking the pie on a hot surface (preheat with the oven a baking steel, pizza stone, or inverted baking sheet) will ensure a fully cooked bottom crust. 

If you want to blind bake the recipe you cite, and if it only cooks for 40 minutes, you can blind bake the crust for about 20 minutes, the last few minutes without the weights, so the bottom crust dries out. The same rules apply for a deep dish pie.

You cheddar thumbprint cookies with pecans (?) and pepper jelly are the BOMB. I'd make those once a week if they didn't take so long (and if I didn't care about putting on 30 pounds this year). I suppose the pepper jelly may make them too sweet for the poster, but I just had to give them a shout out.

"take so long?" :) 

The dough freezes well; slice and bake, baby.

Don't forget about the mushroom wellington!

Mentioned, I believe!

Would it be a bad idea to add a little Dijon mustard to the cream in a potato leek and gruyere gratin?

That would be an excellent idea. Ever since Tanya "Newsletter" Sichynsky posted her dad's recipe for Cod With Dijon Potatoes (whole-grain mustard!), I've been a little obsessed. That's why I added powdered mustard to my Garlicky Roast Potato Mash, in fact.

Is it APE-ricot or APP-ricot?

The latter, obviously. ;-)

How long can it last in the freezer if it's never been opened? Years? I found some buried deep in the freezer recently, and would hate to have to consign it to the compost heap if it can be salvaged somehow.

Should be a "use-by" date on the package. If it's still wrapped or unopened, about a year. 

Could someone use your recipe for walnut tacos to stuff squash? Just the walnut and seasonings part of the recipe. Would you make any changes?

Hmm. I love these as a taco filling, but I think you'd want more going on as a squash stuffing -- and more liquid. Try combining with some tomato sauce?

At Salt & Straw's ice cream shop on the west coast, they have a whole set of five ice creams covering Thanksgiving dinner, and they're amazing. One of their flavors, Roasted Peach & Sage Cornbread Stuffing, includes cornbread brown sugar shortbread cookies. Have you heard of any such cookies? They're delicious and I would love to recreate them (sadly the store doesn't sell them on their own), but I can't think of how to start. Many thanks!

CATHY BARROW These sound intriguing. I would start with a solid shortbread recipe, like this one, then substitute 1/3 of the flour with cornmeal.

I am hosting a birthday dinner for a friend who loves mushrooms. I bought a big selection of "wild" mushrooms at the Dupont Market and some cremini and they are sitting in open paper bags in my fridge. I have a lot of mushrooms. What recipe do you like best. (ps - I love the sauteed mushroom side dish at La Piquette if that helps).

I'm attending a (very, very organized) potluck Thanksgiving, and I'm at a loss for what to bring. Most of the regulars are accounted for--turkey, stuffing, potatoes, brussels sprouts, pies. I suggested to my brother, who's one of the co-hosts, that I could make the Post's amazing roasted squash with tahini dressing, pomegranate and kale, but he said that would be too heavy. (Um, wha? It's so NOT heavy, but in the pursuit of family harmony, let's move on...) He wants to stick with nice cheeses for appetizers, so that's out. And while these folks have adventurous taste buds, I don't want to venture too far afield, spice-wise, because I doubt it would go with the rest of the meal. I'm stumped, Rangers! Can you help? I have the whole day before to cook. Thank you!

I'm also attending a well-oiled machine of a Thanksgiving, but I feel these gatherings could always use more raw and/or not soft and smushy things, so I'm bringing one of these:

Winter Salad

RECIPE: Winter Salad

All-Red Radicchio, Radish + Pomegranate Salad

RECIPE: All-Red Radicchio, Radish + Pomegranate Salad

And also maybe this stuffing because I love it and it plays well with the other Thanksgiving flavors.

Chinese Sticky Rice Stuffing

RECIPE: Chinese Sticky Rice Stuffing

As I shuffled through my paper printouts of Thanksgiving recipes, I say that I had several copies of your FABULOUS spatchcocked turkey which I've been making since you published it. I now see "regular" roasted turkeys and think they look odd. Flat is the way to go, fast, easy, easy to carve and with one oven they leave extra room for shelves of other stull in the oven Happy one to all of you.

Thanks for being the best - I read y'all religiously. Advice on how far in advance I can make a pecan pie? Is two days ok?


What if the Frozen phyllo dough or frozen puff pastry has been in the freezer for, ahem, a lot more than a year, but never opened or unwrapped?

if there are no obv signs of freezer burn, defrost it overnight (still wrapped) in the refrigerator, then assess via smell and maybe even a small baking sample.

I am always stumped by what to have for the family to eat for lunch(ish) while everyone is busy cooking the Thanksgiving dinner (to be served during the Redskins game -- why do the Redskins do that??? But I digress...) It needs to have a little protein, easy to grab whenever my cooks are hungry and requires very little prep. Ideas most appreciated!

Quiche works!

There was the year my sister's new boyfriend (now husband) was going to join us for the first time. My mom had just bought new loaf pans, which we used for our usual cashew roast. When we took them out of the pan, the silver lining of the pans came out, too, attached to the outside of the roast. We were in the kitchen madly slicing it all off, so we could serve lunch to our unsuspecting guests.

Well, you've let us rest for 30 minutes before carving, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Cathy for helping with the a's!

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who asked about Thanksgiving starters for 30 will get "The Washington Post Cookbook"! Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your copy.

And don't forget to come back next week for our special TWO-HOUR chat, with lots of VIP guests helping.

Until then, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow is the author of "Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet and Savory Slab Pies" (Grand Central Life & Style, 2018).
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
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