Free Range on Food: Everything Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving approaches.
Nov 18, 2015

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat!

We've got this little food-oriented holiday on our minds today: Do you know about it? Check out our Thanksgiving Central page for a quick look at our favorite recipes in each category, with links to lots of other possibilities, videos, and a set of 10 special-interest menus.

Of course, we've given you lots of other content, from Bonnie's piece about National Museum of the American Indian chef Jerome Grant's menu of inspired modern takes on Native American dishes for the holiday; Jim Webster's lovely tale of trying to re-create his grandma's dinner rolls; and my own suggestion of two vegetarian dishes that can please any eaters at the table. And so much more.

This is the first of our two Thanksgiving chats -- next week's will be HUGE, as a certain GOP presidential candidate would say, a special 2-hour chat the day before the big holiday, to help you tackle any and all last-minute questions. We'll also start up a live blog that day, in which we'll take your questions by any means necessary (email, Twitter, Facebook) and answer them even on the big day itself. Go to next Wednesday to find it.

Today, we have a special guest joining us: Chef Jerome, from NAMI. Hit him with any q's you have -- not just about his menu, but really anything culinary. I bet he can handle with aplomb.

Also, don't forget that right AFTER this chat today, the inimitable Dorie Greenspan is back with her Baking With Dorie chat. She has a beautiful soup in our Thanksgiving collection; she can answer q's about anything -- but especially baking, naturally.

Now for the PostPoints code: FR1332 . Record and enter it into 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.

We also will have giveaway books for our favorite two chatters: "A Southern Thanksgiving" by Robb Forman Dew; and a SIGNED copy of Giada De Laurentiis' new "Happy Cooking."

Let's do this!

Every year I struggle to remember how long my turkey needs to be in the oven - and internet recommendations vary. Can you just give me a "golden rule of turkey timing" and put my mind at ease?

Funny you should mention turkey and cook-time calculations. We'll be publishing a story on Sunday about pop-up turkey timers, which were created more than 50 years ago to help home cooks move away from time-based recipes, which can easily lead to poor, arid, tasteless birds.


Cooking a turkey based on time-per-pound is tricky at best. No two birds or ovens are the same. The better way to cook a turkey is to have a reliable meat thermometer, one that you can stick deep into the breast and into the innermost part of the thigh to measure temperature. 


The U.S. Department of Agriculture says you're turkey is done when all parts hit 165 degrees F. But that's easier said than done when cooking a turkey, an irregular fowl with parts that cook faster than others. On Sunday, we'll give you tips on how best to cook the bird.


But for now, I'd recommend buying a decent meat thermometer. It'll be your best friend on Thanksgiving to help you avoid a dried-out turkey.

The Ellie Krieger recipe today lists 3 cups cooked, peeled mashed sweet potatoes. Does cooked mean boiled or baked sweet potatoes?

RECIPE Sweet Potato Casserole (a Makeover)

You can do either!

No one in the family likes dark meat, so I cook the biggest turkey breast I can obtain. What do you think of this recipe for bone-in turkey breast in the slow cooker?

Liked it; looks like the one  we tested a few years back. 

RECIPE Slow Cooker Turkey Breast and Gravy

Food gurus, can you suggest a pumpkin pie recipe that is non-dairy for a kosher Thanksgiving dinner? My in-laws (who are not kosher) are being thoughtful and having a kosher turkey for me, and so I'd like to reciprocate with baking the desserts. I know they'd prefer a non-fancy/traditional pie. Thank you so much!

Absolutely! Check out this beauty I made last year. I even give you a fun way to handle the topping! 

RECIPE: Vegan Pumpkin Pie With Coconut Cream

I'm pregnant. Yay! But this means no wine for me at Thanksgiving. Any ideas for something festive that would go with the meal? I'm looking for something beyond Martinelli's. A fun punch, maybe? Or suggestions for a flavorful, seasonal juice? Wine is my general go-to for this sort of thing, so I'm a little stumped.

I would look at a real, fresh apple cider, and add some mulling spices. Or go with a pomegranate punch, with some rounds of citrus added and spices like cinnamon and star anise. Both of these could go warm or cold and would be deliciously festive. You could also whip up a booze-free version of Gina Chersevani's holiday punch -- make the syrup as described, but mix it with orange juice or a caffeine-free cranberry tea instead of the gin. 

The only missing piece of our Thanksgiving menu is mashed potatoes. We are having 10 adults + a hungry toddler, and want to soak up every minute we can of family time, so the plan is to make as much as we can in advance. I've seen recipes for making mashed potatoes in advance, but they all require adding more stuff (and way more calories). I would really prefer to make the potatoes your way (which seems easy) - but can I do this in the morning and keep warm (for example, in my slow cooker)? I am nervous about trying something too new on a special occasion. Any help or tips are much appreciated.

You can definitely make them ahead just about any way you like (pls use a ricer!); reheat in the slow cooker or via double-boiler method (heatproof bowl, covered, set atop a pot of simmering water). Recently, I happened to test a celeriac puree this way -- cooked and riced the vegetables, then reheated by that bowl over water method. They came back pretty fluffy, then I stirred in the add-ins.

VIDEO Make perfect mashed potatoes

Hazelnut Cranberry Field Roast is my holiday staple but I'd like to add a faux turkey or mock ham to the table this year. Suggestions? I've tried Quorn Turk'y Roast, which isn't bad but so dense as to not absorb flavorings well. I cooked it in a cooking bag with olive oil, garlic and sage. Outside was delicious but inside bland.

That Field Roast one is the best I've tried. But, may I suggest that one faux-meat roast is enough for the table? For something else, why not make the mushroom wellington I wrote about? It'll blow any mock meat out of the water, I promise you.

RECIPE: Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Pecan and Chestnut Wellington

VIDEO: How to make the wellington!

I see that Ellie's not on the chat today, but maybe someone else can answer my question. She says in the head note that this dish can be made a day in advance. Would it be ok if I made it Tuesday night for a 2:00 meal Thanksgiving day? I have to work during the day on Wednesday and drive to my sister's house that night!

RECIPE Sweet Potato Casserole (a Makeover)


I like this recipe and like a good option or me to make ahead to bring from out of town. But I need to omit the pecans. Should I add something else to give the topping some crunch?

RECIPE Sweet Potato Casserole (a Makeover)

Can you use another nut? Walnuts would be an easy swap if you can do that. Pumpkin seeds would be great, too!

the texture of the meat that is prepared this way or the method of cooking or something else? I've heard of confit, though I've never been able to figure out exactly what it meant from context other than it is supposed to be a delicious way to cook some meat. Is it always done by bringing the meat to a high simmer in fat and then roasting it still submerged? Does the meat absorb a lot of the fat? I know that proper frying doesn't transfer a huge amount of the fat to the fried object, but it seems like this would. Not that I object too strongly to that for a special treat....

RECIPE Turkey Leg Confit


Confit (kawn-FEE) for purposes of this preparation refers to the oldways method of first salting then slowly cooking the meat in fat. I wouldn't say it's high heat, but rather the steady simmer. In this recipe, the turkey meat becomes wonderfully tender and, of course, it stays moist as heck. The fat does good things for the skin, too; but that extra oven time to crisp up the legs, out of the fat, is not to be missed.


We could not accurately assess how much fat is absorbed. The meat does not taste greasy or leave an oily mark on the plate. 

I typically smoke the turkey breast, and confit the legs. I'm thinking about making a spatchcocked this year, as it's simple and less time consuming than my usual approach. My question is, should the bird be wet brined before cooking in this case?Or would brining the bird mean no crispy skin?

Personally, I wouldn't brine the bird if you're spatchcocking it. The turkey will cook fast, much faster than a traditional roast. If you put it on a wire rack, set into a baking sheet, air will also get under the bird, which will give you crispy skin all around.

Until I went turkey-free on Thanksgiving (and every other day), I butterflied/spatchcocked the bird ever since we ran a piece about it in 2007. Agreed with Tim that no need to brine.

ARTICLE: A turkey that really comes together

If I told my tablemates I was cooking alla carbonara, and they came running to the table to find “skinny carbonara with peas, almonds, and basil,” I would be racked, drawn and quartered, and fed to the hyenas with my children participating in my demise. THAT is NOT carbonara. It's like telling your friends you're making pizza for dinner and what shows up instead is roasted kale and beets with avocado slices (the "cheese") served on quinoa crackers. You don't do that to your friends. You just don't.

This is such a simple problem to solve: Call it whatever the heck you want -- I suggest calling it whatever won't get you dismembered, unless that's what you're going for. OR, make a more purist's version, like the Prune restaurant one below.

See how easy that was? ;-)

RECIPE: Skinny Carbonara With Peas, Almonds and Basil

RECIPE: Prune Spaghetti Alla Carbonara


The Confit of Turkey Leg sounds delicious. I am also a saver of bacon fat but always end up with bacon bits in the saved fat. What is the best method for straining the duck fat/bacon fat after cooking?

ARTICLE How to make all the dark-meat lovers happy at your Thanksgiving table

Indeed it is -- and I don't often say "indeed!"  Do it while the rendered fat is still liquid; bacon-straining Interwebz experts seem to prefer either a paper coffee filter lining a fine mesh strainer, or a metal coffee filter. For the duck fat, I use just a fine mesh strainer. 

I know I could ask the manufacturer, but dinner the other night was baked potato topped with canned chili. When I opened the can it was maybe 2/3 full of meat/beans and 1/3 liquid. There was nothing wrong with it, other than being really soupy,--can wasn't dented or bulging, smelled good, tasted good etc, but my roommate refused to eat it "in case it was bad." I just assumed it was the end of the run and missed being culled for weight shortage. Was I wrong? Could that be a sign of something wrong with the product? So far, I am alive and well.

Given that scientists found no bacterial contamination in 100-year-old canned goods found on a sunken steamboat, I think you'll be okay with your chili.

Every year I am terrible at making gravy for Thanksgiving. If I make it this weekend, should I freeze it or just leave it in the fridge?

Yes! You should freeze it, but if you add cream or milk, wait to do that after you've defrosted the gravy. 

You've seen our Make-Ahead Gravy recipe, right?

I usually prepare sweet potatoes by cutting them in half (lengthwise) and baking them cut-side-down until soft. Then I remove the peels (they practially fall off), and I mash them with a drizzle of maple syrup. They are sweet enough without added sugar!

Why, sure!

I've been thinking about making oyster dressing for years and lo and behold you have a recipe in the native American article. I love oysters but am worried that it may taste too fishy for some of my guests. Can anyone describe whether there is a pronounced oyster flavor?

I wouldn't say it has a fishy tasty but a more briny taste. if you would like you can cut back on the oyster liquor its self and substitute it with 2 cups of chicken stock to balance the flavors out.

You always have GREAT suggestions! I'm looking for a savory sweet potato side dish for my Thanksgiving dinner this year. I'm just not a fan of brown sugar/marshmallows/etc sweet with my sweet potatoes. Thanks for your help!!

Gotta have mashed potatoes on the Thanksgiving table. However, my mother, who is not a butter fan, is coming. Any ideas for making satisfying mashed potatoes without so much butter?

Well, I'm sorry to hear that. Nothing beats good buttery mashed potatoes with a little heavy cream folded in.


You can substitute olive oil and a Greek-style yogurt for butter and cream. But, obviously, it will not taste the same. It'll have a more acidic bite, rather than the soft rounded flavors of butter and cream.

How about folding in a bunch of pureed roasted garlic? Or VERY caramelized onions? 

One of these days I'll have a double oven but until then I'm dealing with the annual saga of juggling things in the oven (unless my husband wins and we get a turkey fryer). So I need to know to avoid more endless discussions just how long I can hold the turkey under foil and keep it warm without it drying out? I know I should probably roast to roast it to 165 degrees and then frantically throw the other dishes in the oven, but can I cook it to only 160 wrap in foil and put it in a warm place for a hour or so and count on carry over cooking time?

We had this handy FAQ in our print issue today:

A 12-pound, freshly roasted turkey can stay warm for up to 2 hours, especially when it's loosely tented. If you plan to pull it out even 1 hour before your guests sit down to eat, that ought to give you enough time, and oven space, to heat up casseroles and other sides, or to bake a batch of biscuits.

I been asked to bring a side dish that requires no reheating in oven. I'm not much of a cook, and I'll have a 45-minute drive to the dinner. Can you recommend something easy that can be served room temp, and that will still impress?

Chef Jerome gave us this fantastic Grape, Butternut Squash and Green Pea Salad this year that I plan to make for my table. (My tester-guests demanded the recipe on the spot!) You could assemble but wait to dress it just before serving. It only involves simple roasting of the squash.) I will say that red seedless grapes make the eating of it less involved than when you use Concord grapes!

Yes the Grape, Butternut Squash,Green Pea Salad is an awesome dish to bring. The unexpected pairings go well together. Easy to prep  and will definitely hold up on your drive! 

I love apple pie for Thanksgiving, but several times in recent years, I've managed to underbake it, which makes for less than appealing filling. Despite looking brown and bubbly on top, the inside was a bit raw. Any ideas for making sure the pie is done? Is there like a target internal temp? It's hard to see inside a double-layer crust pie.

A lot of apple pie recipes, such as the one below, have you precook the filling. That will help get rid of that rawness and also cook off some of the excess moisture that might make things soupy.

Tiffany MacIsaac's Double-Crust Apple Pie

RECIPE: Tiffany MacIsaac's Double-Crust Apple Pie

You may also find some good tips in Bonnie's story about pie whisperer Kate McDermott.

ARTICLE: Pie a la McDermott mode, or how to know when dessert is done

Standing and applauding. I get so tired of being served "hummus" that contains neither chick-peas nor tahini.

I know -- it's easy to get tired of such things. I used to get so worked up about chile that was anything but (since I come from a Texas purist's background), but I've loosened up over the years. Sometimes it's easier to give up and relax! 

I don't have any problem with you calling the dish carbonara. That's obviously what inspired it, and what we call food changes sometimes. "Fajita" literally means "skirt steak," yet it's no great crime that the word now also applies to chicken, and even one national fast-casual Mexican chain calls its grilled onions and peppers "fajitas," regardless of whether the garnish steak, chicken or tofu crumbles.

I would like to replicate the kind my mom used to make but without the chicken broth and, if possible, eggs to make it vegan. It was cornbread (no other type of bread added, as is required in other recipes) sauteed onions and celery, lots of poutry seasoning, eggs and enough chicken stock to give it a soupy texture prior to cooking. The finshed product was the consistency of a moist cake. She'd put the oven on broil for a minute or two to make a brown, crunchy crust on top, once the dressing was finished cooking. It was delicious!

I know you guys have talked about this here in the past, but I'm looking for a beginner's or easier break making book. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

I like "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." Other favorites?

I've been a fan of hers for at least 10 years--even went to a signing at the Borders in Alexandria that has been closed for like 7 years, where she recommended I try her turkey tetrazzini recipe (pretty good!). When she and Rachael Ray faced off on Iron Chef we had some friends over--fans of Ray's--and each of us made one of our favorite dishes from either of them. Rachael won the Iron Chef competition, but I think Giada's Lasagna Rolls won at our house. :)

You are REALLY angling for that book, aren't you? ;-) That's OK -- I'm a sucker for such tactics!

Please share some creative left-over turkey ideas that are outside of just the typical turkey salad sandwich or casserole!

Can't your mom just skip the mashed potatoes if you tell her it's really buttery?

Actually, it'd be easy to make two different versions. Use a ricer to mash potatoes into one bowl, which you can add butter and cream to your heart's content (or demise, whichever way you want to look at it).


Then rice more potatoes for mother's batch.

Another thought: Make all of them with less or no butter, and then pass a little saucer of melted butter at the table that everybody else can drizzle onto their portions.

Chef, where do you get your inspiration from? What is your favorite kitchen gadget/ equipment? What are some ingredients which I can use which were used the 1st thanksgiving dinner?

I get a lot of inspiration from my family. Both my mother and grandmother were great cooks and dinner was one of the only times we would all be together at the same time. So food for me growing up was an important thing. My favorite gadget/equipment would be my chef knife. To me its the most important tool that you need. you can tell a lot about a cook from her/his knife from the way they care for it to the way hold it. Some items you can use from the first Thanksgiving are squashes 9butternut, sugar pumpkin etc.), cranberries, chestnuts, venison, lobster, corn and fish like herring or mackerel.

Would it put me over the top if I said my spouse is a clergyperson AND her cinnamon carbonara was a Christmas Eve staple between services when he just needed some time to relax?

This is getting shameless.

Thanksgiving related because this broth can be used in place of water almost anywhere... saving scraps in the freezer, and every month or so lining my crockpot with cheesecloth to make a scrappy broth bag that simmers overnight on low has changed my cooking life. It's wonderful! A question: what about radish stems and leaves? They are too yellow/hole-y to chop into salad for my taste. Too strong? Thanks!

Glad you are on the scrappy bandwagon!

I have to say, I do think radish stems/leaves would be too strong. But if you want, you could make a separate batch with just them, and use it to make a radish soup!

RECIPE: Scrappy Vegetable Broth

I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year, and wanted to make these Parker House rolls: To keep my sanity in check (well, as best I can, anyway), I wanted to bake these guys this weekend and freeze them. The plan was to let them thaw on the counter overnight and then warm them up in the oven while the turkey is being carved. Think it'll work? Also, how important is the whole milk to this recipe? Could I use 2% (or better yet, almond milk)? There are no dietary restrictions at play here--I'm just trying to minimize the amount of ingredients I have to buy.

Your freezing and thawing sounds like a good plan. I bet 2 percent milk would work just fine. Almond, not so sure. I'd stick with the dairy.

My menu includes mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, sprouts, and roasted root vegetables, cranberry sauce, and pie. Do I need a main? It's just myself, hubby and the kids.

Depends! I'm totally fine with a bunch of side-type items. But it might also be nice to have something more of a centerpiece. Did you see Joe's story and recipes?

ARTICLE: Vegetarian dishes for a Thanksgiving table that welcomes everyone

Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Pecan and Chestnut Wellington

RECIPE: Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Pecan and Chestnut Wellington

Three Sisters Mini Tamal Pies

RECIPE: Three Sisters Mini Tamal Pies

I made farro for the first time and enjoyed it in a spicy tomato soup. It tasted like barley. What's the difference? I'm assuming it can be used similarly.

They're pretty similar in texture. I find farro a little more forgiving to cook, but like them both. Indeed, they can be used pretty interchangeably in recipes, if you watch the cooking time.

"Fajitas" is the name of one ingredient, while "carbonara" is the list of ingredients plus the manner of preparation. Can't we think of another name for the pasta with almonds and so on?

I'm sure that you CAN think of another name -- and that's what you should use!

My father used to put everything but the onions into his turkey stuffing, then separate a small bowlful to bake for my grandfather, who couldn't eat onions, before going on with the onion show in the stuffing for the turkey.


I'm having 12 people for Thanksgiving and planning to serve 4 pies (apple, pumpkin, pecan, and french silk) with apple butter and cinnamon ice cream and whipped cream. My family thinks a ratio of 1 pie to 3 people is aggressive. I disagree. Your thoughts?

    Let's grant that your family has a point - a ratio of 1 pie to 3 people is pretty much guaranteeing leftovers. The way I look at it, though, is this: Who cares? For one thing, you get to send guests home with some, which is nice. For another, there's nothing like leftover Thanksgiving pie for Friday morning breakfast. Finally, deciding which pie not to cook is always a drag. I say, if you want 4 pies, have 4 pies.

I don't own a potato ricer, but I do have a food mill with three discs (small, medium, and large-holed). Will the food mill do a good job on the mashed potatoes? If so, which disc should I use?

It sure will! I'd go for the medium disc, but I think any would work.

Can you suggest an easy, quick appetizer for a work Thanksgiving potluck tomorrow? I would prefer something that does not have to be served heated.

How about something like these Cheese Wafers? Easy to make and transport. People will gobble them down like candy.

It wouldn't be vegan, but since s/he said vegetarian is ok, wouldn't the poster's recipe work by just replacing the chicken broth with veg no-chicken broth?

The OP also said, "if possible, without eggs."

Can you give me advice for making maple marshmallows? Should I even try? I've not gone through even half of my store of syrup and we'll be tapping again in March so I figured this might be a good way to use it up. Marshmallows would be a nice gift for the holidays and we'll be celebrating early, around Thanksgiving, hence the early holiday sweets advice. Any other suggestions for using maple syrup would be appreciated as well. Many thanks!

Oooh, I love that idea. I make marshmallows every winter for folks here using recipes from our friend Nancy Baggett. Here's a basic one I use, and I think you can swap out the honey for maple syrup. You could maybe even add a little more maple syrup to cut back on the corn syrup.

These little guys will also help you burn through maple syrup.

Maple Syrup Tarts

RECIPE: Maple Syrup Tarts

I was thinking of trying a boneless turkey breast this year. The kind that is a breast with bones removed, then tied up with twine. I would want to go for the least processed one I can get. Are these tasty? Any tips I'd need to know for preparing or cooking?

For "least processed," bone it yourself! It is not difficult, but you do need a sharp knife. Check it out:

VIDEO How to prepare a turkey breast for stuffing

Make a separate dish of skordalia for your mother and let the rest of the attendees rejoice in true mashed potatoes.

Should the mother be banished to the kid's table, or maybe shunted outside to eat on the porch by herself, too? ;-)

It will just be our small four person family for Thanksgiving this year and I'm wondering if I can simplify things and cook most of Thanksgiving dinner in a crock pot. Do you think this could be done? How would you do it? Like a roast more or less? Thanks!

I found the perfect link to answer your question: Just a couple days ago, Chowhound published a story on how to prepare your entire Thanksgiving in a crock pot. I can't vouch for how it turns out, but it should get your started.

I really love these chats and look forward to them every week! Can you help me regarding decorating with whipped cream? I am planning a "sinful pumpkin mousse" pie to take to a family Thanksgiving potluck. When I have made this at home in the past, I have just plonked each serving with a dollop of freshly made whipped cream as it is served. However, making and serving the whipped cream might get complicated since I won't be in my own kitchen. I thought of decorating the pie with whipped cream before we leave for the potluck (about an hour's drive away), like a swirl around the outer edge. Although I bake, I don't do cake decorating and so don't own a pastry bag or any tips. Should I run out and buy something for decorating desserts?

Why not just whip the cream, take it with you, and plop it on top of the whole pie when you get there? I don't think you need to pipe for these purposes -- plop in the middle and smooth/swipe around the top. I think big swooshes look great in this type of thing.

Don't recall where the recipe was from, but I once made dairy-free mashed potatoes with olive oil and rosemary. So delicious. I think it was part of a recipe where the potatoes were served underneath navy beans.

Thank you for the Mitsitam recipes. I volunteer at 3 different DC museums and Mitsitam is my go-to place to eat on the Mall. I always include it among suggestions to visitors looking for a convenient place to eat.

ARTICLE How to eat like a Native this Thanksgiving

Thank you for supporting us here at the Misitam Cafe!! i truly means a lot to us to hear feedback like this!

Chef Grant, what do you recommend for a heartier Thanksgiving entree option that isn't just a side dish?

Try utilizing squash and beans to form a little hand griddle cake. I would boil them both separately then strain the liquid from them and give them a rough mash. Season them with a little salt, fresh chopped herbs like sage and thyme then hand form them similar to like you would crab cakes. Then let them cool. When you're ready pan sear them with a little oil to and crisp both sides before you serve. You can top them of with a cranberry relish to really bring it together. 

That sounds amazing! Love this idea.

I bought a jar of anchovies in oil to make the Serious Eats Caesar salad. Now the partial jar is in the refrigerator. How long will it keep?

I've read that opened anchovies in a jar will hold anywhere from four days to two months in the fridge. Personally, I'd say closer to the latter than the former.

Anyone tried this yet? I love Follow Your Heart products and am eager to try it but haven't found it in my part of Texas yet.

I just saw this and have been meaning to try it. Thanks for the reminder! Any chatters tried it?

Does it have recipes for the long slow rise that eliminates the need to add extra gluten?

Not sure what you mean by extra gluten -- you mean more flour, or something else? But, yes, there is a longer rise (and the dough can last up to 2 weeks in the fridge).

By the way, I just noticed those folks have an online class on Craftsy (as does bread expert Peter Reinhart), a platform I really enjoyed when I was working on story about web-based cooking classes.

ARTICLE: They’ll let you cook in your PJs, but can online classes improve your skills?

This year I discovered the Paloma, and found I liked it just fine without tequila when made with Izzie's sparkling grapefruit juice. Just add fresh lime and club soda to the juice.

Make quesadillas with some leftover turkey. I don't have a recipe handy, but I'm sure you can find dozens of recipes on the internet.

We make four pies every year for 8-10 people. What if everybody wants to try more than one? Leftover pie is a great problem to have. Just make them the day before is my advice. Recommend for a change of pace this black bottom oatmeal pie for anybody who's going nut-free and missing out on the pecans.

This one is on my menu! From the Fat Free Vegan blog.

If I want to make the top crust with cutout shapes, like leaves cut with cookie cutters, should I roll out a regular top and spread the leaves on top or could I just form the top with leaves? Thinking option A could make too-thick crust, but option B could ooze out too much because of gaps.

I think either would work, although I lean toward option A. Unless you are plying the leaves ALL over, some decorative ones here and there aren't going to make the top too tough. B would be more like a lattice crust with those gaps, but the little pieces might get too brown. I'd just make a little extra dough or use the scraps for your plan A.

Do you have any opinions on the best grocery store turkey? My planning and budget did not allow me to buy a local farm-raised turkey, so I'm wondering if there are any differences between private label and brand name turkeys and if it matters if the turkey is "fresh" or frozen.

I assume you're referring to turkeys specific to a certain supermarket chain? I'd go with fresh when you can, unless the frozen birds have a date on them (typically whole raw turkey can be frozen for a year). Thing is, the frozen ones I've seen at Wegmans, Safeway, Giant have been treated to salt solution, and that can wreak havoc if you plan to brine (and generally I guess I'd rather stay away from that solution stuff.)

FYI, Maple Lawn Farms is local and can be ordered through Mom's Organic Markets ($1.99 per pound); that's a good option. The store brand Wegman uses is a Pennsylvania-grown bird...that's practically local, right?

For the stuffing, I highly recommend Serious Eats' Croque Madame Waffles made from leftover stuffing. For the turkey, I make a batch of Makhni sauce (used for Indian Butter Chicken). It's extraordinary with leftover roast turkey.

Not a Thanksgiving question, obviously. When I make stir fries, they come out watery. I do blanch (quickly - like about 10 seconds) all my big leafy greens like spinach, bok choy leaves, even kale, because if I add those in unblanched, my wok would seriously overflow. And I've also tried unblanched, but often get the same result because (theory being) all the moisture is being released into the fry. And the kale is way too tough. I've seen chefs at Mongolian buffets do this too - blanch and then add to the stir fry with successful results. But mine always come out watery. Any thoughts?

Hmm. Interesting! Are you squeezing the extra moisture out of the greens after you blanch them? I think that'd be key. And make sure your wok is VERY hot.

At the grocery store in the freezer section, I saw artichoke, kale and Swiss chard bites that had egg and breadcrumbs as the binder. I would like to make these gluten free. Do you have a recipe and suggestion for breadcrumb substitute please?

Use a cornbread that uses ALL cornmeal and no flour for the crumbs.

Sub in rolled oats (the old-fashioned kind, not instant). You might need to up the butter or margarine in the topping to allow for extra fat that would have been in the nuts.

Hi Joe! I'm hosting a Friendsgiving this Friday, and am planning on making the Salt Encrusted Turkey Breast recipe that y'all shared in 2008. It says "the encased turkey breast can be cooled for 2 hours and then refrigerated until ready to reheat" - how do you think I would go about reheating it? I checked the source, and that wasn't too helpful either.

Wrap it fairly tightly in foil, place it in a pan with maybe 1/2 cup water or broth and reheat at 300 until it's warmed through -- which could take 30 minutes or so, at least. If you carved the meat off the bone and wrapped that, it'd take less time.

Hi Rangers, I would like to make some home dried cranberries to last the year. They are now in the market looking very tasty. My question is, should I quick cook them first? Do I need to coat them in sugar? I use them in salads all year long, but my dehydrator is a fairly new addition. Any suggestions?

I would bring a pot of water to a v boil and pour them over your cranberries and let sit for about  8-10 minutes. Strain and dry them off immediately. Generally  after we toss them with a little simple syrup then lay them out on a baking sheet and dry them in the oven at about 145 degrees and let them go for about 7-8hrs.

Do you have any recipes for turkey giblets? Maybe a spread to serve as an appetizer?

Perhaps you didn't see Cathy Barrow's story and recipes last week about turkey liver!

RECIPE: Inside the holiday bird, there’s a present you ought to appreciate

Thanks for the suggestion and I might try that some year when dining with those who like sweet dressing but this year I and my follow diners prefer one that isn't sweet. Anu other ideas?

FYI, this one's not sweet!

Is your wok really hot? I stir fry protein first, take it out, then cook the vegetables at high heat so the moisture cooks away quickly, and I have never had a problem.

Are you using blanched greens like the OP?

Sorry, joining late, but I have been making this for a few years, and it's really good: Would fit for both requests for a room-temp dish and non-sugary sweet potato recipe.

As I'm finishing my lunch of store-bought sushi, why does imitation crab exist? Do you know who created it first?

The history seems a little sketchy, but it's been around for centuries in Asia, and is widely considered to have come about so that manufacturers could replace a much more expensive product.

The turkey leg confit sounds like a great idea. I happen to have a pint of rendered duck fat in the refrigerator. Would it work to remove the legs from the turkey that we're going to roast and confit them in a lesser amount of fat? Also, we don't do bacon and so lack that fat additive. Perhaps render some fat from pork fatback? I also wanted to thank the staff for the recent article on celery. I was disappointed to not find any at my favorite farmer's market in Falls Church. However, I found a gorgeous bunch last weekend at the Sunday Farmer's Market in the Mosaic District. It was wonderful in Etto's Celery, Celery, Celery and Walnut salad (which is now a standard for our Thanksgiving table).

What a revelation that farmers market celery is! 

ARTICLE What's wrong with the celery you're buying

I was actually wondering whether lard would work re the confit; fatback would give off more flavor/aroma, I'm thinking -- not that that's a bad thing. Since you have some duck fat, how about getting more? You can use it again and again....

I recently noticed leaf lard for sale at Red Apron at Union Market. I remember reading a few years back about it making the holy grail of pie crusts. I make a pretty darn good, fairly flakey, all-butter crust, so I'm wondering...will leaf lard really be that much better? Curious if I should spring for it for a turkey day pie.

You can make great pie crust a number of ways, but every time I've used leaf lard it's yielded terrific results. Give it a try! 

We've been charged with making two loaves of bread for Thanksgiving dinner, and have settled on a 12-grain (whole wheat base) and a fig-and-walnut (white flour base). Given travel and timing issues, I have to make one on Monday night and one on Tuesday night. Which one will stay a day longer (and so I can make first)? And how should I store and package them to make them last until Thursday evening?

Author and editor Sam Fromartz, my go-to source on all matters bread, suggests that you freeze both loaves since it doesn't sound like you're using sourdough for either. 


The whole grain bread will last longer than the fig-and-walnut bread, he says. But regardless, you should wrap and freeze both loaves the morning after you bake them. So for Monday's 12-grain bread, freeze it on Tuesday morning. For Tuesday's fig-and-olive, freeze it on Wednesday morning.


Then on Thursday morning, no later than 10 a.m., pull put loaves out and let them defrost.


If you need to, Fromartz says, you can pop them in the oven to heat up.


ARTICLE: Home bread master Samuel Fromartz learns by doing — and writing


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

Thanks for the q's, and big thanks to chef Jerome for joining and helping us answer!

Now for the giveaway books. The shameless Giada fan will get ... Giada's book. And the chatter who asked whether oyster dressing is fishy will get "A Southern Thanksgiving." Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your books!

Don't forget: Starting at 1, we have Baking With Dorie Greenspan, right here, so take your questioning spirits right over to her right now!

And next week, remember we'll be here from noon to 2, so don't fear!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading! 

Thank you for having me Rangers!!!

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.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Jerome Grant
Jerome Grant is executive chef of the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
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