Free Range on Food: Thanksgiving

Nov 19, 2014

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

Woo and hoo, chatters! We've dropped the first of our two Thanksgiving sections upon your doorsteps and #FoodHacks videos in your mobile devices, soon to follow with even more holiday recipes and stories on Sunday, in a special edition. Today we've got Patowmack chef Tarver King on hand, and we are so thankful for his heritage-inspired menu, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan; plus the rest of us. Got any aha moments of your own to share? Bring it on! Tossing in a few cookbooks to give away for the best q/most helpful comment; winners will be announced at the end of the hour.

And an FYI: We'll be chatting in an extended session NEXT Wednesday, Nov. 26.  Ready, set, gobble.....


Hi Foodies, thanks for taking my question. I was so happy to see the recipe for the Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread in last week's section online and I made it this past weekend as a test -- we are a kosher Thanksgiving and of course I can't cook with butter. This was extremely delicious (and not overly sweet, a plus for us) except that the very top, like a stripe down the center, didn't cook. I left it in the oven the full amount and then a couple more minutes, and then left it on the countertop overnight, thinking it would cook a little more. It also made a peak -- and I wonder if that was the reason. Also, I did not have whole wheat flour, so I used 1 1/2 cups regular flour. Any thoughts about how I can fix it for next week? Perhaps I should just make a tin-foil frame around the edges and let the center cook a bit more? Thank you! P.S. We still ate almost the whole thing yesterday, just cut around the still-uncooked strip at the top...

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread

We sent your question to Ellie. She said: 

I am glad you enjoyed the Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread overall. It is supposed to have a peak at the top which will not brown the same in the crevasse  (I find that appealing) but it should absolutely not be uncooked. I think you just need to leave yours in the oven for 5-10 additional minutes, until the top is just set. Also, I suggest you cook the bread in the center of the oven for even cooking. If you think the edges are becoming too brown for your liking while the top is cooking, then I agree you should place some foil around the edges, but I do not think that should be necessary.


There are so many variables in baking (the thickness and material of the pan, the calibration of the oven etc...) and in cooking in general, which is why I always provide a visual or alternative indicator of doneness as well as a cooking time. In this case a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

I just thought you should know that your articles and chats have inspired my group of friends to do a taste test of various Fall cocktails for our Friendsgiving. I'll let you know how they turn out!

That's great! I'd love to know what they are!

So glad to hear that -- have fun! So many great fall cocktail options out there, between things that are apple-y and whiskey or cognac-based, and of course drinks that are warm. (Warm sounds really good right about now.) 

You and your chatters have all given me so many great meal ideas over the years, I owe you one of my own that I just discovered: bircher muesli. I'm constantly looking for easy homemade grab-and-go breakfasts because I've been grabbing-and-going from Pret a Manger too much in the morning. I became addicted to their bircher muesli and finally decided to look up a recipe. It's SO easy. A couple of cups of rolled oats tossed with the juice and zest of an orange and half a lemon, a grated apple (Grannysmith holds up the best), and enough plain yogurt to make it hang together. You can also stir in some nuts if you want, and I sprinkle dried cranberries or apricots or pomegranate seeds on top. I make a big batch on Sunday, and it's good all week, though the oats soak up a lot of moisture so you may want to stir in some milk as the days pass, especially if you use Greek yogurt. And voila. Tasty, incredibly filling, healthy, and a heck of a lot less expensive than takeout. Enjoy!

And what a nutritious breakfast too: fiber, protein, vitamins, even probiotics. Sounds like a great way to start the day.

Thanks so much for the video today! I'm responsible for the pots for the first time this year and I'm stressing about timing. I've always thought that they need to be served right away, but I don't really want to be prepping them with all the guests around. How do you keep them warm, creamy, etc. until ready to serve?

VIDEO: The perfect mashed potatoes

Here's an absolutely amazing trick that works magic every time. And you can do this in advance!

Peel and cut the potatoes to around an inch. Put in a pot with water and gently raise the temp to 155-160 degrees. Hold it there for thirty minutes. Then drain the water and shock the potatoes by covering with ice water. This will "de-nature" the potatoes so they will never get "gluey" ..... ever. After this process is done, treat them like normal for mashed potatoes. You can even let the potatoes get completely cold after they are done. reheating them will bring them right back to perfect.

Its a little tricky holding the temp. But its an ace in the sleeve for sure

Love that, chef! 

Just wanted to report my croquet experiences from last week's book report. I made them with hazelnuts, since that's what I had. Really easy to make (I successfully halved the recipe), but they were VERY sweet. I didn't take them to a Sunday dinner because I thought they were too sweet. So I realized two things - 1. the original recipe using almonds might help with that, since they have a slightly more bitter character and 2. they need to be dipped in coffee (or tea), of course! Did that on Monday morning and the cookie was suddenly beautiful - the liquid made them slightly chewy and the coffee tamed the sweetness. Yum.

There are two reasons why I love your post.

1) You checked back w/the original recipe.

2) I get to mention that Dorie's coming to bake at my house tomorrow! Very excited. 


RECIPE Croquets


I'll have some Muslim guests at dinner, what should I serve to drink in addition to water and sparkling cider?

I would think a nice spiced or mint tea could go well with Thanksgiving foods. They'd help cut through all that richness. You could also add some interest to that sparkling cider by adding some grenadine.

The Sticky Lemon Grass Burgers look delicious, but I have an abundance of fresh lemon grass and would prefer to use that, if possible. How do I make my own lemon grass paste? Thanks!

RECIPE: Sticky Lemon Grass Burgers


Good eye!

I tested the recipe with lemon grass, too. I smashed one stalk (maybe 4-5 inches long) and removed tough outer layer, then I soaked it in hot water for 10  mins. Chopped it up finely and added to the food processor. (If I were making it to just have on hand, I'd chop it with a little coarse salt and process with a little neutrally flavored oil.)

Bonnie, these sound deelish! But to avoid having to clean my food processor, I'm thinking of marinating the chicken in the other ingredients instead of grinding it up. Any thoughts on how the recipe would need to be adapted, or would it work as is?

Another yay vote! You could go all Game of Thrones and use two cleavers or big knives to chop up the dark and light chicken meat on a cutting board. The mixture needs to be fairly broken down so it can receive all the other liquid/flavor ingredients. 

What does the buttermilk accomplish in the turkey brine? I'm so intrigued!

Buttermilk has mild acidity. So it tenderizes the turkey just a bit. It also softens the skin, so the skin can get a little bit crisper when roasting. It's like using wine to braise in. Wine can tenderize meat the same way.

If you've never had buttermilk-brined fried chicken, you ain't livin'!

Hi Chef Tarver. I noticed grape seed oil in a lot of your recipes in today's paper. Can you explain why you chose it? Thanks!


Grapeseed oil is a workhorse in my kitchen. It has a really high smoke point, which makes it perfect for cooking with. It also has a neutral flavor so it works very well in vinaigrettes and such.

I was wondering if I can use homemade pumpkin purée in this recipe - is that what is meant by "pure"?

RECIPE: Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread

"Pure" just means that it has nothing added -- sometimes a canned pumpkin puree will have spices or a little salt or perhaps a preservative. 

The cornbread sounds delicious, and I love the idea of putting a sauce on top as well. Do you think I could adapt to make in ramekins, or a large pan? I think the husks are fantastic, and I know they add flavor, but I'm not so sure I'll have time for all of that. I travel for Thanksgiving so I also have to grab what I can at my family's house.


RECIPE Corn Bread Baked in Husks With Sage Cream


Of course!

It will work perfect in a standard loaf pan for sure.

safe travels!

My annual conundrum: how do I get through a day with 30 in-law relatives speaking a language I haven't mastered while having to cook most of the dishes (MIL doesn't cook)? Solution: Mimosas! Very, very early.

My mom made a delicious cornbread dressing (we never called it stuffing because it wasn't stuffed in anything) that had the texture of a moist cake. The recipe she used. which she often quoted to me, was that the mixture had to be wet prior to cooking. After she passed away I became a vegetarian and have replicated the recipe, substituting vegetable broth for turkey but using the same amount of liquid. It never tastes done no matter how long I've cooked it and the texture is never right.. Prepared vegan and vegetarian dressings I've bought at Whole Foods or specialty grocery stores are always dry chunks of bread the size of large croutons. I've had some success soaking these in vegan gravy and heating in the oven but this has not been ideal. Suggestions or recipes would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Using vegetable based broths, and stocks will always result in a "wetter" consistency. Thats mostly due to the lack of gelatin that occurs from animal bones. When animal stock reduce they get thicker. When vegetable stocks reduce, they evaporate away.


There are a couple ways to correct this. One, add gelatin. Usually about an 2 teaspoons (powdered) or three sheets per quart of vegetable stock. That will give some body. If you don't eat gelatin, agar agar can work: 1 percent by weight will do the trick. Just boil the stock with the agar for a minute first to hydrate it. 

Also using xanthan gum can add body to the dressing after being dissolved in the stock as well. About 1 percent per quart of stock should do the trick.

Hope that helps!

I love stuffing. Since I will be celebrating T-Day by myself this year (which is fine), I plan to roast a bone-in turkey breast on top of a mess o' sausage-sage stuffing in my cast iron Dutch oven. Did I mention it's all about the stuffing for me. I have some homemade chicken stock. Is that the right choice for basting the breast? I'm assuming the breast itself won't produce enough drippings to get the moist stuffing (yes, I know it's really dressing) I crave? Thanks.


Try reducing the stock some and whisking in butter before basting. The butter will glaze the turkey, and reducing the stock will help encapsulate the turkey with moisture. 

works like a charm!

This is a question for Smoke Signals. There is a story in today's paper about how you don't need to brine a turkey. Smoke Signals, you have a fantastic recipe for bourbon-brined smoked turkey. I'm wondering how the turkey will come out if it isn't brined.

     It will come out great! I am not a brine fundamentalist. In fact, I think that brining can sometimes make the meat gummy. (Not in my recipes, of course.)

     What will happen if you don't use the bourbon-brine recipe is that the meat will be tender but slightly less juicy and the the flavor will lack the sweetness the brine imparts. But you will still get the lovely smoke flavor and the meat will be moist and flavorful. 

Oops. I wasn't paying attention, and recently set my cast iron pan (inherited from my MIL) on fire while heating oil to sear fish. After it cooled, I had a gummy, smelly mess, so I scrubbed it with salt and a plastic brush. Now I have an uneven surface in my pan -- mostly grayish metal with a few portions that are darker and look plastic-like. In a chat or two ago, you provided a link to a web page on seasoning that described the plasticky coating as desirable. So what do I do now -- scrub it all down to gray metal and start over, or can I build new seasoning around what remains?

You could build new seasoning, but it may be better to start over. It's super easy. Just fill the pan with a half inch of salt and crank the heat all the way up. Every now and again scrape the salt around the pan with a heavy metal spatula. Let it go for about a half hour or more. Eventually the salt will absorb all the grime on the pan. Let it cool, and discard the salt. You should have a brand new pan to start seasoning again. I do this every month or so. But my pans get a lot of use.

Hope that helps!

For an upcoming writers retreat, I need a make-ahead dinner that is vegetarian and does not contain onions, bell peppers, or tomatoes. Oh, and it can't be too spicy. Any ideas? Or should I acquire new writing friends?

If you're hosting writers, shouldn't you be thinking more about drinks? ;)

A writers retreat with a vegetarian dish that includes no onions, bell peppers or tomatoes? And isn't spicy? The sound you just heard is Hemingway coughing up his daiquiri and cigarettes.



Okay, seriously, this question is legit, right, and not an inquiry to send us on a wild goose chase? After spending 15 minutes rummaging through our database, I found this, which may work: Mushroom "Risoniotto"

I have discovered some wonderful new-to-me veggies such as Stokes purple sweet potatoes, purple cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli and an old favorite kabocha squash. Any hints for finding them? I seem to just run into them randomly but would love to find a place that I can replenish regularly.

That's a tricky one. If you're a member of a  CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) you could probably request them for next year's crops.


I have a potluck to go to this weekend, any ideas for a vegetarian pasta dish that will can be served at room temperature? Thanks!


This should fit the bill: Orzo With Sweet Winter Vegetables.

Hi Rangers - we're getting a ~12lb heritage turkey this year and I've seen some commentary that suggests it cooks differently from a "traditional" turkey. We are not stuffing the turkey, and I'd like to dry brine if that's recommended. Any other guidance?

We did a taste test of heritage birds the other year and included cooking advice.

ARTICLE: Taste Test: Heritage turkey breeds

My husband loves cranberry sauce, and since I've switched to making it homemade, he's been ever the more grateful. (Honestly, if people knew how easy it is to make, I think the canned product would go out of business.) I generally make about the same thing: boiled cranberries with sugar and flavorings like orange zest, ginger or Grand Marnier. I'd like to try something different this year. Any suggestions? I might make the regular kind too, but I'd love to try something different.

I love using some chilies in mine, also at the end to squeeze in some lime juice and cilantro. 


Everybody has loved Tarver's Cranberries Cooked in Honey. I'm going to make them for my own crew. 


You might want to take a spin through our saucy roundup. too. 

I too have never been able to make a pretty edge to a pie. In Becky's article she quickly mentioned a few methods such as a pearl necklace. Could you elaborate on those techniques?

Sure! As I mentioned, these come from "Sweet and Vicious" by Libbie Summers. She suggests that for a 9-inch pie, roll the dough to an 11-inch round, 1/8 inch thick.

Drape the dough over the pie plate and turn the overhang under to create a thicker rim around the pie. Using a strand of pearls, push them into the rim of the pie and pull away to reveal the magic.

The other items can be used similarly. Just swap in a corkscrew, upside-down 1/2-teaspoon measuring spoon or tongs tip for a different patter.

ARTICLE: Thanksgiving Aha! moment: There’s no substitute for a homemade pie crust

Where does one find these hypothetical small turkeys? I haven't seen one smaller than 14 pounds anywhere...

Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Va., has a ton of different sizes. I'm pretty sure they have some small ones because I got a few 11-pounders myself last year.

Try calling the Home Farm Store in Middleburg. 

Anyone have any great ones ????

RECIPE: Oyster Stuffing

RECIPES Urbanna Oyster Stew With Surry Ham (a good one!) Hoppin John's Oyster Stew (another!) Oyster Stew (you guessed it)


And be on the lookout for a terrific, slap-your-knee, stomop-your-foot Oysters Biltmore recipe from David Hagedorn in the special Sunday edition of Food!


Loved your heritage Thanksgiving story! Thanks for that! I love how you find a new angle every year. I'm looking for a new angle on condiments (see what I did there?). I will make cranberry/orange of course but I'd like something spicy. Would like an onion jam work? Or should I look into making some sort of spicy curry paste? Something like S'chug would work maybe? (I thought a bright green color might be nice on the table) Anyway, anything particular you might recommend?

I looooooove onion jam!!! A friend used my smoked onion jam recipe at Blackberry Farm, and now its on the shelves at Williams-Sonoma! Where's my millions of dollars!!! haha

Adding some chilies to it would rock . The recipe:


                                     (makes a scant 4 cups)



2 cup red onion, thin sliced

1 cup yellow onion, thin sliced

1.5 cup apple juice

0.75 cup red wine vinegar

0.5 tsp grounded sage

0.25 tsp black pepper

1 cup light brown sugar

0.5 tsp butter

1 ea 3 oz pouch liquid pectin




1.       Boil everything except pectin for 5 min, and pectin and boil for 2 min.

super easy




Hi Rangers - I have an embarrassing amount of overripe, dark brown bananas taking up space in our freezer. It's getting ridiculous. Fortunately, tis the season to attend events (and bring along baked goods, ideally) - any ideas of how I can best use these guys? There are at least 10, possibly 15. They need to go!! Thanks for your help.

I'm sure the bakers among us will have plenty of thoughts, but I'm going to step in and point out that 'tis the season to be drinking. I'm pretty sure that any guest who showed up to a party bearing a banana infused rum drink would be welcome. Banana rum seems a little summery, perhaps, but think dark rum with a dash of pimento bitters, infused with your bananas, warmed with a pat of spiced butter on top? In case you want the basics on infusion, check out this guide. 

Blind baking a pie crust causes me anxiety! I never know if I've baked it too long, not enough, etc. Do you have any tips that might help? I usually use beans as the weights.

Beans are great as weights. That's what I use. (You are lining the crust with foil, right?) You just want to bake the crust until it's set and turning a teensy bit golden before removing the liner and beans and baking for a few more minutes. The whole thing should be 15-20 minutes total. No sweat! Though I totally get your pie crust anxiety. Here's a blind-baking tutorial from the Kitchn.

I like using rice -- gives wild rice an even nuttier flavor. 

My husband is a mashed potato traditionalist and wants only the standard masked potato ingredients. Any way to keep it traditional but also gussy it up a bit? Also - can you use the Kitchenaid on them? I don't want to overstarch them but I recall eating some really smooth mashed potatoes once that were made in the Kitchenaid.


VIDEO: The perfect mashed potatoes

There are a couple ways to gussy those tubers!!

One of my favs is to peel the potatoes and fry the skins until really crispy. Then steep the fried skins in the milk/cream to be used in the final recipe. The mashed spuds taste like french fries!!!!

(now I'm hungry)

Also, spend some money and get some really really good butter. Barrate beurre is insanely expensive. But it will send the potatoes over the moon. Theres also Plugra, etc.

As far as the KitchenAid goes, the literature says the machine works as well as a ricer or a hand-masher.


Personally, I always use a ricer and then gently fold my other ingredients into to the spuds. (I usually had roasted garlic, heavy cream, butter, salt, sometimes even some wasabi.) The key is not to overmix your potatoes if you want to keep them fluffy and light. The more you mix, the denser and pastier your potatoes become.

Check out the video link above for some good ideas. Use either a ricer or one of those mashers that has very fine holes -- those keep things fluffy and smooth. I also like to melt butter into the milk and have that all nice and hot before it goes into the potatoes.

Oh, one more tip: Salt the water you boil them in! 

Wait, one more! After draining them, put them back in the pot and stir them to dry them out a little bit. All those things together make for gorgeous mashed potatoes.

Thank you so much for the two columns on hard cider for Thanksgiving. It's been 30 years since I first made my own hard cider in college by buying a half gallon of unpasteurized apple cider from the university's Dairy Store and leaving it in the fridge for a week. It stayed quite sweet but developed a nice little kick. Hadn't drunk any cider since then, but I rediscovered hard cider a few months ago when my supermarket tried to order 6 bottles of J.K.'s Scrumpy and somehow ended up with many dozens, which were put on display in a prominent location. When I looked at the bottle I realized it was produced in Flushing, Michigan, close to my hometown of Flint, so I had to try it. J.K.'s makes several kinds, and I think my favorite is the Northern Neighbor. I wish I could still make my own in the fridge, but I'm looking forward to trying some of the artisan ciders that were reviewed if I can find them where I now live (Florida Panhandle). Hard cider is the quintessential taste of autumn!

Seconding the chilies! I made tamales for my annual Fakesgiving in September and the jalapeno-cranberry sauce stole the show. (It was also delicious on the tamales.)

I'm loving the videos you've started doing on the site. It's nice to connect your writing with a face and voice. I hope you do more of them.

Thanks! We're having a ball doing them! Stay tuned for some more that we're helping with that won't show our faces -- Bonnie worked with the video team on a video with Marcus Samuelsson in her kitchen, and I just got finished helping them film one with Sean Brock in mine.

I am flying home on Thanksgiving to be with family, but want to arrive with something edible in-hand. Considering some sort of spicy/sweet roasted nut, such as pecans. Any suggestions for a treat that would fly well, and wouldn't require cooking once I have arrived?

ooohhhhh yes I do.

my family freaks out on this one every year.










8 ea bacon slices


1 Tbsp thyme


1 Tbsp salt


¾ tsp Old Bay


½ tsp cayenne


½ tsp dry mustard


3 cup cashews


½ cup maple syrup


½ ea vanilla bean






Render bacon 90%.


keep fat for another use.


mix everything together and bake on a silpat  325 F for 15 min, stir, 15 min. more.


Cool on parchment.


Would love to see a piece about smoking in below zero temperatures. I’ve got a horribly inefficient barrel smoker that I’ve often contemplated wrapping with a fireproof blanket when trying to smoke in February. There’s got to be better ways but any tips you have on keeping the temperature up (and constant) when it’s 20 F outside would be helpful.


I'm right there with you. I have an inefficient barrel smoker -- which I still love with all its flaws -- and I have a similar desire to smoke in the teeth of winter.


Meathead Goldwyn over at Amazing Ribs has some tips, both obvious and inspired, like: don't open your smoker in the cold weather (duh!) and place bricks in the chamber to absorb and retain heat (brilliant!).

      I, too, have used those good ol' cheap horizontal smokers and, like Tim, still love 'em. In addition to checking out Meathead Goldwyn's site, Weber has some tips. So does Stephen Raichlen. And, well, Smoke Signals does too. You can either wrap, as you suggest (mylar is good), or you can just deal with it. Keeping the temp up and constant when it is 20 degrees is pretty much impossible. You can have a second grill with charcoal burning to add to the smoker because, especially for longer cooks, it will just take longer. Also, make sure that, when it snows, you shovel a path to the grill. And make a hotter fire to burn longer at the start than you normally would to help bring the barrel up to temp before using. Winter grilling is a challenge, but the barbecue somehow tastes all that much better for the effort. Good luck!

I vote for the fractal Romanesco. Coincidentally, I roasted 2 last night, sliced in half and they are charming, decorative and delicious. Each half looks like a baby Xmas tree, the points char and add character. Great center of the plate and if you buy small ones, each guest gets half. More impressive than slicing the round cauliflowers.

I love those cauliflowers -- aren't they beautiful? I can totally see the Christmas tree connection. Lovely idea.

By the way, I've long wanted to write a recipe for Romanesco Romesco, part of my ongoing series of word-play dishes. Cannelini Canneloni is another.

ARTICLE: Big or small, vegetarian dishes worth centerpiece status

RECIPE: Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Chimichurri and Almonds

Hi! I'm flying to Utah to visit friends for Thanksgiving (flying next Thu morning!). What kind of dessert can I bring that's gluten free and that will survive a 5 hour flight in my carry on luggage and would not take me hours to make? Thanks! PS: also no coffee or alcohol.

A pavlova could work? They can be a bit delicate so it couldn't shake around to much.

Also a corn pudding would rock!

A sturdy gluten-free cookie or bar might work.

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Pecan Pie Cookies

Pecan Pie Cookies

Anna Stellato's Pignoli

Cinnamon Balls

White Chocolate Honey Crisp Bars

White Chocolate Honey Crisp Bars

More ideas here and here.

I made some hazelnut ice cream last weekend, but was disappointed with the level of hazelnut flavor. I used this recipe: but used toasted/skinned hazelnuts to replace peanuts. I let it sit overnight. I've made the peanut version before and it was VERY preanutty, so I thought this would be the same. Do you know if hazelnuts take longer to absorb? Maybe I should have given them two days to soak in the milk?

Hazelnuts naturally have less flavor than a peanut. Its not there fault though. 

to boost the flavor of the hazelnut make a praline with them first. I saw in the recipe that it was with peanut butter so it will work perfectly since the consistency is almost identical.




60 g sugar (confectioners' ?)

2 Tbsp water

220 g nuts



1.       Boil water and sugar.


1.       Constantly stir nuts until powdery and coated.


1.       Clean pan.


1.       Caramelize nuts.



1.       Blend nuts with 30 g oil until smooth.



then just follow the recipe as normal

Thanks for the suggestion of the chicken-fried cauliflower for vegetarian comfort food! DH and the kids loved the sandwiches. I liked it, but my experience was a bit off because the rolls I used weren't as perfect as I would've liked. And while I had the batter and oil out, I gave some brussel sprouts the same treatment (as a side, not on the sandwiches) and they were also enjoyed by all.


Personally, I love breakfast for dinner. There are so many things you could freeze and reheat: eggs made in a muffin tin (with other veggies), waffles (waffle bar anyone?), scones, breads, plus cut up a fruit salad.

I wonder if "breakfast for dinner" dishes will be the next restriction placed on our search. :)

Hi, I'm looking for a fairly simple dessert recipe that is holiday-special, seasonal and will feed a crowd. There will be one person bringing a pie - either pumpkin or pecan, so something other than that. Emphasis on simple... I was thinking some kind of Bundt cake, perhaps? I found an interesting one but it required Meyer lemons and I have no idea where to find those...! Thanks!

How about Lisa Yockelson's Brown Sugar-Sweet Potato Cake?

Brown Sugar-Sweet Potato Cake

I've seen Meyer lemons already (seems a little early?) at Whole Foods Markets. 

Thank you Foodsters and Dorie Greenspan. I received the prized book just three days before my kitchen was gutted. Reading the recipes and planning for when I have a stove again (or sink or floor...) is getting me through. Just a wonderful book; thank you again.

You're most welcome!

I love you, Food Section: Gluten free roll recipes? Check! Dry cider review, Check! I would also recommend Vintage Virginia's cider, at least for folks on the VA side of town. They cidery (if that's a real word) is based south of Charlottesville, but last I checked they were selling in VA Whole Foods too. And it's delicious.

So glad to please! Time for us to give thanks, for you.

not a question, just wanted to let you know I made the salty nutella thumbprints this past weekend and they were so easy and SO good! Thank you for the inspiration!

Yessssss. Those are a favorite.

RECIPE: Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints

Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints

I'm a fan of this one from Epicurious

Wow! What a great guest.

Agreed! Although I don't think he's said "AWESOME!" yet, and that seems to be a standard part of his lexicon. He's fun to be around in the kitchen -- or anywhere, I'd reckon. 




I'm bringing a Fall Salad (and pumpkin donuts) to a Friendsgiving. I was thinking of topping it with roasted sweet potatoes, feta, and pepita seeds, but I'd like to include at least one more vegetable. I'm also making a maple walnut vinaigrette. I was thinking brussels sprouts, but those are a side dish on their own from another friend.

Turnips would be super tasty. Rutabagas are amazing with maple flavors. Try shaving them thin and frying them to make them crispy. It would add some nice texture for sure.

Also, mushrooms are a huge part of fall. If there are no mushrooms at the table they would be amazing in a salad!! The meatier the better too. If you can get your hands on some lion's mane, they get amazing when roasted. Hen of the woods were born to be in a salad, as well as oysters!

My family keeps kosher so we have tried countless non-dairy pumpkin pie recipes and never been satisfied. I'm willing to try one more time with your recipe. Would it work if we substituted the roasted pumpkin purée for canned purée? Would any ingredients need to be altered if committed this heresy?

No heresy. Go for it! Just measure out 4 cups of puree. No alterations needed.



RECIPE: Vegan Pumpkin Pie With Coconut  Cream

I was wondering about your opinions on the optimal number of photos a cookbook should contain. I like lots of photos of the finished product (gives me something to aspire to) and tend to base my purchases on this, particularly for desserts. I had thumbed through Baking Chez Moi but the lack of photos for a number of recipes I was interested in held me back. I also happen to already have what has turned out to be my favorite sweets book - Patisserie at Home, by Will Torrent - which has at least one beautiful color photo for every recipe and the most fail proof macaron recipe I have across to date. Your review last week did sway me so I ended up purchasing Dorie's book, but I can't help still being a little disappointed about the photos, though I love the background stories. Since you review so many books, I was wondering if there is some magic photo formula or a reason why having lots of photos isn't necessarily a good thing (maybe too costly)?

These days, photos can come at the expense of the author (often paid for out of advance fees). But I suspect in Dorie's case it's a matter of the sheer number of recipes in the book and how big the book is/costly to produce. Don't let that hold you back from this one! 

I've been busily saving recipes and tips. Thanks for the wonderful contributions to the chat.

Thanks so much for the link! Thanks, also, for hosting these chat and everything you do!!

You're welcome all around!

I use Julia Child's method of making the potatoes, then covering them with about a quarter inch of milk and put in low oven until ready to eat. The milk is easily incorporated back into the dish. You can hold them up to half an hour this way.

Yep, that works, indeed. You can also do them in advance and refrigerate them in a dish with milk on top, then bake when ready.

Hi Rangers, So I've heard that a turkey with saline solution or any evidence of salt on the label should not be brined. Is that correct? Because I'm having a hard time finding one without it. My dad picked up the turkey I'm cooking and he said it had salt as an ingredient, so I'm guessing I can't brine it? For future years, where can I find a turkey that I can use a brine on? Thanks!

That has been the standard thinking on brining commercial turkeys such as Butterballs. If the label says it contains a salt solution, you should not brine it.


But one year, my mother in law brined a Butterball. And you know what? It wasn't a mushy, salt bomb. It was, in fact, mighty tasty.

The purple sweet potato and kabocha squash are available at Asian markets such as HMart, etc. There are lots of other vegetables and fruits to explore there too!


You could also do orzo with mashed avocado, lemon juice, olive oil and S&P. If you want add some roasted and cooled broccoli/cauliflower.

Good idea! I'd probably add some nuts, too.

The new Penzey's catalog has a recipe for a banana cake in a Bundt pan (recipe also available online).

Just a note that for today's lunch, I'm enjoying the leftovers from my first-of-the-season batch of Pasta and Lentils, Sicilian Style.  It's become my favorite cold-weather dish, so thanks again!

Mine too. Thanks for reminding me about it! 

Hello! I'd like to find a way to volunteer to cook for a charity or an organization in need. Hoping you (or chatters) can point me to good resources to research and learn more about how I can help. Prefer the Northern VA area, if possible. Thank you!

AFAC has volunteer opportunities for cooking demos. Other ideas?

I loved the article and recommendations on cider. I also really loved the article on 17th century inspired recipes. They all look delicious and I plan on trying those recipes, though maybe not all at once this Thanksgiving.


ARTICLE and VIDEO: Cider, fit for Thanksgiving feasts old and new 

This is for Joe. Your vegetarian Thanksgiving looks great and since my spouse is vegetarian I am trying to so vegetarian Thanksgiving. I am not but my turkey thigh is really a side. I want this Thanksgiving to be a celebration of our wonderful harvest. We have an abundance of Sweet Potatoes, Winter Squash and Dried beans. There are alos greens still growing under cover. I am thinking of the sweet potato cake and having stuffed (what is Thanksgiving without stuffing) delicata or sweet dumpling squash. for the main dish I want to do beans. We have cranberry beans, black eyed peas, crowder peas, and rattlesnake beans. I want something celebratory and robust. I am thinking garlic, wine, maybe shallots or leeks or mushrooms or kale or jalapeno peppers. So do you have a suggestion for a nice centerpiece bean recipe? Also I would like to do a cornbread stuffing (I think of the three sisters at Thanksgiving) so I would appreciate a nice cornbread recipe. Thanks O spouse is allergic to soy so that cannot be in recipes.

Glad you like the menu!

Now, how bout this great Bean and Winter Squash Gratin from Emily Horton, for that celebratory bean dish? 



For cornbread, nothing beans Sean Brock's (you would want to leave out the bacon, of course), but we won't have that recipe in the system for another few weeks. You could instead make an oven version (if you don't want to grill) of Jim Shahin's Grilled Skillet Corn Bread. That would work nicely.

I am interested in making my own pumpkin puree for both Thanksgiving and Xmas dinner. I saw a demo on the Food Network channel the other day. It seemed very easy to make. I wondered about a couple things about making your own puree. When you are following a recipe that asks for a can of pumpkin puree, usually in the 15 oz range, do I subsitute it by weight (on a scale) or by volume by filling a mesauring cup until the level reaches 15 oz? Also, my other question is about freezing it. How long can homemade puree be kept frozen? I don't plan to keep it in the fridge since I would not know how much puree I would have until I actually make it. Love your chats! Thank you.

If you want to be exact, yes, measure that puree by weight. As for freezing, I'd say you're good for a year. Do it in zip-top bags, and get as much air out as possible.

Hi there, can you please tell me what the difference is, if any, between these two? If a recipe calls for "cacao", can I substitute cocoa...does kind make a difference? thanks!

Some say, yes, the two are interchangeable when unsweetened. And some say no, with qualifications.


Really, the unsweetened powders are interchangeable, unless you are concerned about the nutrition of the ingredient. The roasted and processed cocoa powder has fewer nutrients.


Every Thanksgiving my mother assigns me "other dessert," meaning a pumpkin pie alternative. This year it will be a cheesecake. Do you have any thoughts on what kind of cheesecake? And what are your best, foolproof cheesecake tips, especially to avoid cracking?

Chestnut-Maple Cheesecake would be seasonal.

Chestnut-Maple Cheesecake

Or this Orange Cheesecake? The water bath and slow cooling should help prevent cracks.

Orange Cheesecake


Go with Joe's butternut squash lasagna - a huge hit everytime this vegetarian has made it for her non-onions/mushrooms/peppers/olives eating husband. It was even requested as the vegetarian entree for his family's Thanksgiving last year.

I can't take credit for this one! But I've had it and made it, and it's great indeed.

Kim O'Donnel's Union Square Bar Nuts recipe, from previous WaPo Food column. They rock!

And here is the recipe.

that is all.

I don't have a lot of experience cooking celeriac, though I love the taste. I'm looking for a recipe that spotlight that one ingredient. I've found many that feature it with other root vegetables, or encased in a gratin, but I'd love to find one that really lets the distinct taste shine through. Ideas?

A soup would do the trick nicey! Uuuuugh I love celery root so much..




2 ea large celery root peeled and chopped

1 ea large sweet onion peeled and chopped

1 qt cream

2 qt chicken broth

½ lb 83% butter fat butter

tt salt




  1. Put all ingredients in a large heavy pot except butter and salt.


  1. Bring to a boil.


  1. Reduce to a slow simmer and cover the pot.


  1. Let cook for 30 minutes or until completely tender.


  1. Blend the root with the liquid until smooth adding the butter little by little until incorporated.


  1. Season with salt to taste.

The soup is super simple as far as flavors go. Just pure celery root. 

From here you can add all sorts of stuff. Try some toasted cashews, parmesan, garlic oil, and lemon juice.

Or: roasted mushrooms, country ham, and red wine mignionette

Or: curried peanuts, pickled raisins, crispy chicken skin, and lovage

there is so much that works

A lot of articles about planning for Thanksgiving talk about making food in advance, but not a lot of details on what should or should not be made early? The normally say to look at the recipe, but many recipes don't mention if it can be made in advance. Is there a website or article that gives guidance, like cranberry sauce- yes refrigerated up to 5 days, mashed potatoes-no try to make the same day you're serving. Thanks!

We offer MAKE AHEAD recommendations for the majority of recipes we publish. For Thanksgiving, you can make everything in advance. Really. // Also, check this out. 

Pasta--especially lasagna, since there are six of you--may come to your rescue! Just make a riff on lasagna without the offending items (a white lasagna, or one with butternut squash sauce, or whatever your heart desires) and voila!

Do you have a recipe you prefer? It would be helpful to the poster.

After returning from a couple weeks of vacation, I found myself in the possession of about eight (!!!) butternut squash, a few carnival squash, and a couple of other miscellaneous winter squashes, thanks to the squashy abundance of my CSA. I can think of a few things to do with them, but any suggestions for recipes of mass squash destruction?

Mass squash destruction was hilarious by the way.

Do you have a basement? Or some sort of root cellar type place? Anywhere cool around 65 degrees and under, and without light will do the trick.

those squash will keep until spring!

If not, try juicing them! squash juice can be used for a thousand things. Including great cocktails as well as amazing jellies for a sweet treat.

heres a recipe for a cake that is AWESOME (thats for you Bonnie lol)

I use this all the time. Very often for brunch and we always end up selling it in whole loaves.

375g all-purpose flour

6 g salt

5 g baking soda

5 g baking powder

7 g ground cinnamon

3 eggs

235 ml vegetable oil

450 g white sugar

15 ml vanilla extract

225 g roasted squash pulp

115 g chopped walnuts


1. roast squash whole and let cool. split open, remove seeds, and scoop out pulp. measure out what is needed.

2. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

3. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.

4. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

5. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

I saw the recipe with black walnuts. Any good suggestions for how to harvest the meat part of the nut from the many black walnuts in my yard this year?

These nuts are a chore!!!

the best thing to do is let the outer shell turn black. Its easier to get the nut out after. 

And I have found that using a wood vice is the best tool for the job. Not as messy as other means

Not sure if this is ok here, but our absolute favorite cranberry recipe is Russ Parson's mom's cranberries. They are the best and we always have them along with whatever new recipe someone tries, plus the canned with the ridges cran sauce. Note: we make this as originally published many years ago--simmer the syrup for about 10 minutes before adding cranberries and then cook only 2 minutes or so. You want the cranberries to remain whole. Makes about 2 1/2 cups relish 1 1/2 cups sugar 3/4 cup water 3 cloves 3 allspice berries 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries Grated zest of 1 orange 1. Bring sugar, water, cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks to boil in 4-quart saucepan. Cook, stirring, until syrup is clear, about 3 minutes. Add cranberries and cook just until they begin to pop, about 5 minutes. 2. Remove from heat, add grated orange zest and cool. 3. Refrigerate 1 to 3 days before serving. Remove cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks before serving.

Just to clarify, do you mean add the praline to the ice cream? I was hoping the ice cream itself would have the hazelnut flavor, versus having the add to it, since I added a salted caramel swirled in instead of peanut butter. If I leave the hazelnuts in the milk for two days, do you think that's enough, or double the amount of hazelnuts? I was also thinking of adding a hazelnut liquor or hazelnut baileys, but I worry that will hurt the custard.


Then double the hazelnuts, crush them, and toast them.

Also frangelico will add a lot of hazelnut flavor. Don't worry about it hurting the custard. But try and use something with a strong flavor of the hazelnut. Baileys is a bit mild. For a quart of anglaise, a quarter cup of liquor will do it. Also, let the liquor sit out overnight so the alcohol evaporates.

I haven't had the chance to view the video, being at work. Any suggestions on mashing with skins? I'm fine with what I do now, which is to dice the potatoes and then cook them - dicing first means I don't end up with big pieces of skin. I've thought of trying the ricer method, but what happens to the skins? I generally use red potatoes, if that matters.

The ricer will catch the skins, so if you want them in there, don't use it. The ricer is for those pure, fluffy, smooth potatoes, with no skin. (Not that there's anything wrong with the skins, but I think they're best suited for a more rustic style of potato, that you mash with a big fork or masher so they stay a little chunky.)

To the poster looking for a slightly different sauce--here's a recipe I got from a Glamour magazine a few years ago for Cranberry-Pomegranate Sauce: 12 oz. fresh cranberries 1 c. granulated sugar 1.5 c. pomegranate juice Pinch of salt 1 c. thinly sliced red seedless grapes In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries, sugar, juice, and salt to a boil, then cook over medium heat until most of the cranberries burst (12-15 minutes). Cool, then stir in the sliced grapes. Chill for several hours or overnight. The grapes help thicken the sauce. I usually make at least a double batch because I like the leftovers with plain Greek yogurt for breakfast!

I've brined a fresh Butterball with no ill effects. A frozen one, no.

Interesting. I wonder what accounts for the difference?

I loved Joe Yonan's suggestion to serve soup to lengthen the time spent at the Thanksgiving table. Any suggestions how to easily serve soup to 18 guests?

Glad you liked it!

You need trays to carry soup out to people -- and helpers to help you do it. Make sure it's piping hot in the pot, and for extra insurance, warm the bowls in the oven, so the soup doesn't cool off when it goes in them.

ARTICLE: To slow down the frenzy, I serve soup

I'm not a fan, but if I do eat mashed potatoes, they're the ones my husband makes. He uses a potato masher (the old-fashioned one with the 's' shaped wires) and mashes the h.e.l.l. out of them with an obscene amount of butter. No milk or cream, just more butter than anyone should consume. He's famous around these parts for his potatoes.

When I worked at a college, they held a lunch for students who couldn't go home for the holidays. Since food services was closed for the holiday break, it was an all volunteer effort by faculty and staff. Check with local colleges in your area to see if they need similar help?

The restrictions made me laugh because they are similar to ones my children collectively have. Here are some of the things I use when I actually feel like trying to cater to all their preferences: Butternut risotto (skip the traditional onion) Butternut squash lasagna (also meets make-ahead restriction) Lentil soup made with coconut milk (red lentils are great here) with some naan

Have you done any testing of purchased broths/stocks? I have found grocery-brand turkey stock in aeseptic packaging, but I have not found turkey stock from my preferred brand (Swanson). Do I need to hunt around for other stores, or will the store-brand suffice? Typically, I'd make stock with legs/bones, but we are having a small group this year and I really don't need more leftover turkey.

We haven't conducted a commercial turkey store tasting (yet!). But Serious Eats has. Check it out.

Well, you've dried us in the pot and run us through the ricer, so you know what that means....we're done! At least until next week. Thanks to chef Tarver, Carrie and Jim for outstanding contributions today. 


Cookbook winners: The chatter who asked about blind baking a pie crust gets a copy of "Baking Chez Moi" (maybe signed by Ms. G herself!) and the chatter who asked about bringing a cast-iron pan back to life gets "Cook's Meat Book."

Send your mailing info to and he'll get those out to you soonest. Till next, week, happy shopping, cooking, schvitzing and eating! 

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Travel editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew. ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is the Food section's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Food's editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Tarver King
Tarver King is the chef at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, Va.
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