Free Range on Food: Sprucing up back-of-the-package Thanksgiving recipes, grater know-how, barbecue joints in the DMV, this week's recipes and more!

Nov 20, 2019

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 have put together another big Thanksgiving section for you, with tons of ideas, and more online, and another one coming Sunday, so ... how's your holiday lineup coming? What do you need help with?

Becky shepherded the main collection with a fabulous idea executed beautifully: back-of-the-package recipes for the T-Day classics upgraded with some simple tweaks. 

Emily Heil talked to Toni Tipton-Martin about her gorgeous new book, "Jubilee," and we feature five Thanksgiving recipes from it, including a bold chile-rubbed turkey.

Ellie Krieger comes to the rescue of all you who are hosting something smaller this year, with a stellar sheet-pan-dinner approach.

We've got lots of answers to your TG FAQs, right here.

And we have gathered up some of the best recipes in all sorts of categories:

Turkey, natch.

Cranberry sauce.


Gravy. (Along with this great new how-to by Becky.)


Later this week, we'll have more ideas for sides, vegetarian mains, leftovers, potatoes -- including a great Hasselback recipe from Cathy Barrow.

So, throw us any and all questions, and we'll do our best to answer. And don't forget that NEXT week, we'll be here for you with a special TWO-HOUR chat on Wednesday, with tons of special helpful guests.

We'll have a giveaway book for our favorite chatter today: "The Friendsgiving Handbook" by Emily Stephenson.

Let's do this!

I am smoking my turkey this year, but gravy is still expected on the table. What is the best way to make turkey gravy since I won't have the drippings from the roast? How far ahead of time can I make the gravy? Finally, anybody have an easy and simple gravy recipe? :) The guests coming aren't what I would call adventurous eaters. too much black pepper is a wild night of eating.

Oooh, hop on over to my gravy how-to and our gravy recipe roundup!

Short answer: Buy some cheap parts, such as wings/necks/legs, and roast those for drippings. The make-ahead gravy I mention in both pieces was so easy and delicious, despite some rude comments about the color, which I think is actually nice.


ARTICLE: How to make a no-stress, showstopping Thanksgiving gravy


RECIPES: Gluten-free, vegan, fast and make-ahead gravy recipes

I am making a Mac and Cheese to take to Thanksgiving and I would like to make it today and freeze it. It is a basic Mac and Cheese with a bechamel sauce, eggs and a lot of grated cheese. Would you freeze it uncooked or cook it first and then re heat it. I plan on placing it in a prewarmed Slo cooker to transport and hold it for dinner.

Cook first, then freeze!

It's margarine, isn't it? How is it not margarine? Is this just all a good marketing strategy?

Some margarines are vegan and some are not!

The thing is, some conventional margarines contain trace amounts of animal products (usually lactose or whey). So if you're vegan, it's best to stick to things that are specifically marketed that way.

Although I don’t do much baking anymore, I love to make a fancy icebox cake or cheesecake for holiday potlucks. What’s a good way to transport these types of desserts and serve them when away from home? I’d love to be able to remove the cake from my 9-inch springform pan and place it on a serving plate that has a lid to snap in place and then store in the fridge until it’s time to go. The only thing I’ve found is a Rubbermaid “Cake Keeper” sized to carry a layer cake—it’s much larger than I need and too tall and wide to fit comfortably in the fridge. I’m doing a ginger-mascarpone icebox cake for Thanksgiving and have to schlep it across town. Combed through the dollar store and didn’t find a lidded container that might work for this. Any suggestions for me?

I actually think the safer thing would be to transport the cake in the pan. Just cover with plastic or foil, or put in a carrier, and then unmold.

Has anyone participating in this chat tried using evaporated milk instead of regular milk in baked goods? I'm ISO feedback on the claim -- on a can of evaporated milk -- that it can be substituted, full-strength, for whole milk "in all your cooking and baking recipes to make them taste their best... No need to add water." I'd expect the results would be soggy. Not to mention, 2 tablespoons of evaporated milk have 40 calories. (I'm resubmitting this question you didn't get to last week.)

Putting this out to the crowd. But generally, since it's more concentrated than milk, I would not expect sogginess just from this switch.

I have some leftover mushroom mascarpone ravioli filling and I have no idea what to do with it! I was thinking about just turning it into a pasta sauce but it's blended up. Do you think that would work, or any other ideas?

I like that idea! Also could be nice spooned onto baked potatoes -- or, if you have enough (or maybe add half/half or milk if you don't), as the liquid in a batch of scalloped potatoes.

We have asked our family what we can bring for the holiday and were told that breakfast for Friday morning would be great. Any thoughts as to what can be made in in advance and brought for a group?

My family usually gets bagels for the next morning, but if you want to actually make something, I think waffles would be a hit! Can easily reheat. 

Make your mornings — or evenings — brighter with a week’s worth of waffle recipes

Here's a Thanksgiving-adjacent question: I'm going out of town for a week for the holiday and arrive back in town at midnight, and definitely won't want to go to the store the next morning. What would you stock that would sustain you for a couple of days when you got back? Milk for cereal, sure, but a little blah. And I cleared out the best ready-to-eat stuff from my freezer when I had the flu last week and don't have time to restock. Ideas?

Eggs, some good cheese, hummus, sturdy fruit (apples, clementines), yogurt, salsa.

[Submitting early since I'll be on plane ... ] I'm one of 20 people attending an extended family/friend Thanksgiving. The hosts have decided we're eating at 1 pm. I'm responsible for turkey #2. My 19 lb turkey will take 380 minutes to cook, which means I'll have to get up at 5:30 am to start cooking. (Ugh, I'm so not a morning person). My question is this: can I start this beast the night before, say at 11 pm right before bed and slow cook it on 250 degrees? Other suggestions? Thank you Food Gurus!

I think that's a great idea. Just make sure the turkey is out of the fridge and at room temp before you put it in the oven.

I've always noticed the flavor in whatever I use it for, so I wouldn't substitute it, but that's me.

Just wanted to let you know that I was instructed to bring the WaPo peppermint marshmallows to the Thanksgiving feast. I'll make them Monday then dip them in chocolate and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy on Wednesday.

Submitting early so I don't forget. I roasted up some pumpkins Monday evening (really, a pie pumpkin and a kobacha squash). I plan to use 1 cup of the results in some chocolate pumpkin bread. So what do I do with the other 8 cups or so of roasted, mashed pumpkin in my fridge? Note: I detest pumpkin pie. And raisins. Raisins are gross.

My aunt makes the most incredible pumpkin soup. Unfortunately, I don't have that recipe, so here are some of ours!

Pumpkin Tortilla Soup

Easy Pumpkin Soup

More pumpkin soups: Pumpkin Soup With Croutons, Sherried Pumpkin Apple Soup

You could also sub it in for kabocha in this Kabocha Squash and Peanut Stew.

And if you're finding you still can't use it all up before getting tired of it, freeze it!

It looks tasty! I have a small sugar pumpkin! But I don’t have fresh sage or walnuts in the house. How crucial is the fresh sage (I probably have some dried, but don’t usually use any)? What other nuts might work? I have black walnuts (stronger flavor, but w/o sage?), cashews, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, and hazelnuts as well as sunflower seeds to hand.

The sage gives it a nice flavor, so I think you could use a little dried for the pureed filling part, but skip the fried fresh sage leaves, sure. As for nuts, I'm a huge pistachio fan, so those would be my first choice for a sub, but almonds and hazelnuts would be great, too. (I'm a LITTLE leery of black walnuts unless they're very fresh and/or have been stored well. So much of the time, I taste rancidity with them, and that flavor is so strong it can contaminate the whole crostata.)

RECIPE: Pumpkin, Walnut and Sage Crostata

Quiche!! I need some protein at brunch so bagels alone won't do it. Quiche can be made ahead, transported, keeps well, etc.

This would be great in thise large pasta shells.

A friend gave me a recipe for a delicious dark tasty gingerbread cake made with a cup of pumpkin (I used butternut squash). You can leave out the raisins.

Linkety-link, please?

Submitting early so I don't forget, I have two items. The first one has to do with the pecan pie I'm planning to make. I don't do pie crust, I always buy pre-made. I saw a crust made with pecans at the supermarket and thought this was a great idea. Now I worry if it's overkill on the pecans. The other one is the Libby's pumpkin pie. I didn't check the back of the can I just bought, but how can you mess with success? I rely on this recipe every year. Now I'm worried. Heck, if they were going to change the recipe, I could just buy a cheaper brand of canned pumpkin.

Not sure which crust you bought, quality, etc., but the idea of a pecan pie with a pecan crust sounds intriguing to me.

The new Libby's cans have both old and new recipes. I'd encourage you to consider the new version, especially with my tweaks. 

Libby's New-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie With Dulce de Leche and Cardamom

RECIPE: Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe just got a makeover for the 21st century — and we made it better

This just in, from a reader:

Gosh!  I've always been "meh" about pumpkin pie, but this was just terrific!  I didn't change a thing.  I didn't blind bake the crust, and it was beautifully flaky (although I did sub one tbl apple cider vinegar for one tbl ice water).  Added whipped cream with a little flavoring, and there wasn't a bite left.  I love this recipe!

You could also pair the pecan crust with the pumpkin pie and the regular crust with the pecan pie. Mix n' match!

"(It won’t be perfect; that’s okay. Try not to get any tears in the rolled-out dough, but if you do, they can be patched together with extra dough.)" Even though I'm a pie crust veteran, when I read this bit in the Voraciously Apple Cranberry Crumb Pie recipe, I read "tears" as "the wet salty things that come out of your eyes when your pie crust doesn't do what you want it to because you're trying to do too much on Thanksgiving." The rest of the sentence, about patching the dough together with their salty wetness, made sense in a dramatic, Free Range sense of humor/realism about how we all sometimes treat the holiday meals. And then I read it again. I like my first interpretation better.

Hi! I love food but I hate cooking. If I won the lottery the first thing I'd do is hire a personal chef. But in the meantime, I've started cooking more to save money and eat healthier, and I stick to easy preparations that don't require a pantryful of ingredients or a 25-step process. At some point I discovered that almost every vegetable (and even some fruits!) taste delicious after being roasted in the oven and that's become my go-to Cooking Thing. I feel like I have mastered roasting though and now I'm wondering if there is another similar super simple cooking technique like this that you would recommend for cooking haters who want to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible?

You know what's also really underrated? Steaming. Great for veg, of course, but also eggs and even chicken.


ARTICLE: Steaming is the one cooking technique that won’t steer you wrong

I'd say stir-frying is another one to tackle.

I'm going to be home with my parents for Thanksgiving for the first time in many years. When I told my mom she was NOT going to be in charge of the turkey she said, "But you won't cook it enough! I like it very dry! That's fine. You cook it for you and then I'll put it back in the oven to dry it out for me." *sound of me weeping*


*passes the tissue box*

I think Willard's should ahve made the list and I have tried all the in the area. Willard's is better than 7 out of 10 places on your list but then again look at what was rating the Q places. Urban dwellers!

Spoken like a true barbecue fan, the kind who thinks only his/her opinion matters.  :)


I will check out Willard's again. But, in my opinion, it doesn't compare to the places on this list (at least on their best days, which, as I point out in the rankings, is the problem with DC-area barbecue: It's woefully inconsistent).

RANKING: The best barbecue joints in the D.C. area

I bought two avocados and last night I though that they finally seemed ripe enough to open and mash up for guac. Well, they were only soft about a 1/4 inch down. Is there anything I can do? I basically put the halves back together and left them on the counter. Will they ripen anymore? Presumably I'd have to trim off the exposed sides, but if it is a lost cause already, I'll just toss them and not buy avocados from that store again.

Yeah they'll ripen more, but as you already know, it's an annoying waiting game.

Drinking is often emphasized over the holidays, but I'd like to have a non alcoholic drink for those who may be sober or not drinking for any reason. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Hello, wonderful Food section writers! I'm an accomplished home cook (sometimes mistaken for a caterer, which I consider a huge compliment) and am writing a cookbook for some younger family members as a holiday gift (as one does). They're some of my favorite recipes, and I've altered all of them significantly (particularly making them vegetarian). A couple of people who have reviewed what I've written suggested that I look into publishing it (again, a humbling compliment) and many people have asked how they can buy one. Since many recipes are derivative of others, I'm not sure where the line is when I can consider a recipe mine, so I'd appreciate any advice that you can give. This might not go anywhere, but I'm excited by the positive response I've received. Many thanks for any advice you can provide!!

Just give credit even when the recipe is derivative, and you'll be good. Generally, I've heard a standard that if you change three things about a recipe, you can consider it "yours," but I'd say it's always good karma to cite your inspiration and spread the love!

In addition to Becky Krystal’s how-to tips on using a rasp-style grater, chilling it in the refrigerator prior to grating chocolate keeps those feathery bits from melting. My family adores a chocolate-Irish cream cheesecake, whose recipe calls for 3.5 oz (100 g) of grated chocolate. A box grater didn’t work too well for me for this, but my Microplane has been perfect. The night before the chocolate gets grated for this dessert, the chocolate bar, a bowl, and the grater go into the fridge. The next day we spend a few minutes at a time grating the chocolate into the chilled bowl, putting everything back into the fridge between grating sessions. Keeps the chocolate bits firm for stirring into the filling. Takes some planning, but oh so worth it!

Such a smart tip! Also, that cheesecake sounds wonderful.


ARTICLE: Zest up your everyday cooking with a rasp-style grater

I like to use milk instead of water for oatmeal, cream of wheat, and tomato soup. I find that half water and half evaporated milk works well. Full strength, it cooks up a bit too thick.

Pumpkin curry - delish!

Here's the pumpkin gingerbread recipe. I used fresh apple juice instead of the water, and I cut down the sugar a bit. This is very molassesy spicy and the pumpkin just seems to make it richer and moister. If you skip the raisins I'd think you could skip the water too, but I'm not an expert.

We bought a huge Costco bag of frozen green beans bc we thought our dog would eat them. She refused! What do you suggest? We have already had some roasted and just boiled. But how can we use them up in larger quantities. Thank you!

And these Zippy Green Beans, served with roti/rice and some yogurt.

Any idea how to tell if whole roasted chestnuts are done?

If you use a sharp knife to make an X in the shell before roasting, it'll curl up around the edges, exposing the chestnut flesh, and you can use a skewer to pierce the flesh and see if it goes through without too much resistance.

My SO found a box of old liquor bottles left outside a local bike shop near him. He brought a bottle of Drambuie to me. Based on the stickers and labels, we are assuming it is from the 70s/80s, so it is decidedly concentrated. Carrie, what would you do with it?

I'd find some very good Scotch and make Rusty Nails, probably using a smaller amount of Drambuie than most recipes call for and making sure to do an expressed lemon peel garnish. And I'd try it in this drink by Chantal Tseng -- the sherry is a really good means of adding some dryness and depth to that treacle! :) You might also try it in a Kingston Club -- I haven't made this drink, but it's Jeffrey Morgenthaler's so I'm willing to give it a shot.

Where do you find them? Probably too late to find one, but each year I look and it seems like most stores carry only carving pumpkins. Any recommendations in NoVa area?

I always see small pumpkins at Whole Foods and Mom's.

since kabocha is drier in texture than butternut or pumpkin, I like to make savory things from it.

I love that texture! Makes for the best squash/pumpkin curry, and stars in the Pumpkin, Walnut and Sage Crostata I linked to earlier in the chat!

Ideally it could possibly be a few shades darker, but it's never going to be as dark a color with poultry as it is when making gravy from a beef or lamb roast. It'll still taste a million times better than the rubbish that comes from a packet mix. (I have opinions on gravy)

Yes, I believe "mud" was the term used. It "should" be darker, people said. I don't know who gets to decide these standards, but it tasted fantastic, and the red wine is what contributes to the color here.

Hi! In the past several years I have gone from making sandwiches every night for dinner to a fairly decent home cook....but only for 2 people. I've mastered several things that feed my husband and I well for a dinner or two, but now I have family coming to visit soon (not for Thanksgiving, thank goodness!) and have to feed 6 people at least 2 dinners. Help! What are some (relatively easy) dishes for a group, that won't require too much time in the kitchen. The relatives can help - they enjoy cooking - but we don't want to spend all afternoon doing it. I should note one of the relatives is a growing (and eating) teenage boy.... Thank you!

You should totally check out Becky's back-of-the-package guide! Will make it easier to use some premade stuff and just tweak with Becky's recommendations.

Turn back-of-the-package recipes into a memorable Thanksgiving meal with these simple upgrades

Maybe I should save this for the cookie chat, but I'm trying this gluten free cookie recipe where you basically blitz rolled oats in lieu of flour. Tasty, but crumbly. Thoughts on what I can add to make them less crumbly? Thanks!

Hm, hard to diagnose without making/tasting, but I'm thinking another egg could help with structure and moisture. Also wondering whether swapping in some all-purpose gluten-free flour for some of the ground oats would help.

The recipe I have used calls for wings/roasting, etc. - a bit labor intensive - but always requested. I usually start it on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, store in fridge and reheat in a slow cooker. I haven't had time to look at Becky's article, so maybe time for change. Warning - in NoVA, turkey wings are tough to find. Finally found them at Giant.

They had them at my Safeway!

Becky, what do you use to deglaze the pan after roasting the turkey parts? Do you just add that liquid to the drippings?

I may not be fully getting the question here, so let me know. I didn't find I had to deglaze the pan. Just tipped out the drippings, separated the fat and added to the gravy.

I have a great stew recipe that's supposed to be made with turkey sausage. For health reasons I want to substitute ground turkey, but the result is not very flavorful. (The other ingredients are chickpeas, spinach, chicken broth and garlic/onions). Any ideas for me, short of just adding harissa at the end?

I'd start throwing in some of the same spices you might find in storebought sausage: ground herbs (thyme, sage), fennel seed, red pepper flakes, maybe even some smoked paprika.

After going through the dishwasher a number of times, the painted red numbers on the 1 cup measure are barely readable. Is there a trustworthy brand of glass measuring cups that have embossed measures? I found this one cup measure by Anchor Hocking, should I trust its accuracy? 

I don't see why not -- it's a trusted company generally!

Carrie, three cheers, kudos, and gold stars abundant for your bitters piece. Not only did I learn more about what has become my favorite ingredient (#negroniallthetime needs to be a new hashtag), but you slipped in at least three 25-cent words without them sounding the least bit pretentious. Brobdingnagian, tautology, and postprandial didn't distract, as they might in other writers' hands, but added to your piece's setting. Combined with the opening story, that vocabulary means I'll be sharing this piece with junior editors and my 12yo aspiring writer alike.

Thank you so much for this sweet note-- I'm so pleased you liked the piece and glad that I didn't cut "Brobdingnagian," which I thought about doing! :)

Overeating on Thanksgiving? Bitters can make it better.

Do two smaller turkeys, one for you and one that gets put in the oven earlier for Mom.

And I do this with the steamer insert when making rice in the rice cooker - win win. You can eat simply, just letting the veg flavor carry the day or you can toss in a panwith so many things for a couple of mins to transform it. Balsamic is the obvs one but there are so many easy choices.

I learned the hard way.

If you can protect the sides for as long as possible, that's the way to go, in my book.

Over the years I've honed our menu down to our family's favorites: Cashew roast/gravy (we're vegetarian) Mashed potatoes Green bean casserole Cheesy carrots Smoked gouda corn casserole Candied yams Herbed stuffing Cranberry sauce Pumpkin pie Spiced walnut pie Dutch apple pie Spiced cranberry punch Of all of these dishes, the apple pie is the one where I have yet to land on a favorite recipe. Each year I try a different one, and they're good, but, so far none have been so great that I had to repeat them. Show me your best Dutch apple pie recipe, please!

I believe what you want is this one from our Baking Basics newsletter.

Apple Cranberry Crumb Pie

RECIPE: Apple Cranberry Crumb Pie

OMG I have died and gone to heaven.

From King Arthur Flour:

What does that vinegar do? The most common answer — that it affects gluten development — isn't actually that useful. If you had a mass spectrometer at home, you could measure the teensy difference vinegar makes in the tensile strength of gluten strands in the dough, which in theory makes it a bit more tender.

But there are two much more important perks to using vinegar: it provides a little insurance against overworking the dough. And, that splash of vinegar will keep your dough from oxidizing and turning gray.

I've been seeing them at Trader Joe's

Are certain brands of Bourbon better suited for baking/desserts? Many thanks for your help.

The dessert makers may want to weigh in here, but I'll weigh in from the spirits perspective and say no, not really. If you go with something really high-proof I suppose it might have some impact on how the baking transpires? But there's no need to go for something really great or pricey in most desserts that call for bourbon -- usually we're talking about a few tablespoons, and beyond not buying absolute drek, most of the nuances of a really good bottle will be lost in the delicious dessert outcome.

Last week we went to our lake house and my husband said not to bother bringing any food. I had to cook lunch one day and didn't have onions, garlic, ginger, etc. Here's what I had: eggs, fresh herbs (chives, thyme and oregano), various grains such as quinoa and rice and some canned vegetables. As the professionals with imagination, what would you have conjured up with my measly ingredients?

Rice/grain bowls with poached/fried eggs and the vegetables roasted or stir-fried?

Hi all, I finally got the family to agree to play around with the Thanksgiving menu. We're grilling but incorporating traditional ingredients. I'm hoping to make a cranberry barbecue sauce and was wondering if this recipe would be a good start? And does anyone have advice for a BBQ sauce newb.

I think that would be an excellent place to start. The cranberries may be a little more tart/bitter than red currants, so you may have to adjust the sugar/molasses amounts accordingly to get the balance you want. 


I smoked a turkey a couple of years ago for Thanksgiving. It was my second attempt. I had learned much from my first one: Namely, don't try to cook the turkey through via the smoker. It will cook unevenly and get way, way too dark. Smoke the bird a couple/three hours, then transfer to the oven to finish. 


That year, I received the best compliment ever. My mother in law said, "This is the best turkey I've ever had." She was probably just being nice, in part at least. But I took it at face value!

Also mix the spices into the turkey and brown it. Then the turkey itself will be more flavorful.

The night before T Day we usually have pizza. We don't like the local option so I like to make one. For a trial run, I made a quick pizza option from Martha Stewart I found on the web. She spread the dough out on an oiled sheet pan. I tried that (baked at 500F) and it produced a wonderful bottom on the crust. Then I remembered a co-worker who bragged about her mother's pizza. She was from southern Italy and always made her pizza in a generously oiled cast iron fry pan which produced a great crust. Sometimes the unorthodox is not inauthentic.

I've done some pizza content in the last few years, including a simple sheet-pan recipe and, yes, a strategy for baking in a cast-iron.

The Easiest Pizza You'll Ever Make

RECIPE: The Easiest Pizza You'll Ever Make


ARTICLE: The ultimate homemade pizza, delivered

I grew the squash on a whim this year, and had a bumper crop. I understand it is supposed to make an excellent pie. I've roasted and pureed some in advance for Thanksgiving and will substitute this for pumpkin in my pie this year. I usually follow the Joy of Cooking recipe. Should I make any adjustments?

Can you wait a week for the answer? John Becker and Megan Scott, authors of the latest edition of "Joy of Cooking," will join our chat next week, and they would be the perfect folks to ask about this, for obvious reasons!

Make a big vat of fabulous chili! Everyone can help with the chopping prep - then while it's bubbling and doing it's thing you can all enjoy a beverage of choice and a catch up. Could even be the second dinner ... .

Are they usually around the squash? How are they labeled? Thanks for your help on this.

They are around the squash, yes. I haven't seen special labels, other than maybe "sugar pumpkins," but especially since it's past Halloween, any pumpkin that's with the other squash is fine for cooking.

Finishing up the potluck here at work. I tried the stuffing someone brought. It was awful. I know my stuffing is great (people have married into the family for it), and I know I shouldn't be judgey, but ugh. Someone made a carrot casserole that was outstanding. Need that recipe. My favorite non-sweet pumpkin recipe is sausage and pumpkin pasta. It's a Rachael Ray recipe that works really well and is delicious.

Try farms/farm stands/farmer's markets. We got a few from our CSA.

Our family holiday go to for decades has been this shirt-tail punch, so named because one year my grandfather couldn't find any cheese cloth, and grabbed a new tshirt. Now we just dump the spices in and strain them out later. Shirt-Tail Punch 2 Pints cranberry juice cocktail 2-4 cinnamon sticks 1/2 C. brown sugar 1/4-1/2 C. whole cloves 1/2 t. salt (optional) ginger ale Pour half pint of cranberry juice cocktail into saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and salt. Tie cinnamon sticks and cloves in a piece of cheesecloth and drop into saucepan. Simmer 20 minutes or until only about 2/3 C. of juice remains. Remove spices and dilute syrup with remaining cranberry juice. Chill. Store punch base in refrigerator. When ready use, add cold ginger ale in proportion of 1 C. syrup to 1 quart ginger ale, or vary proportions to taste.

That sounds delicious! Are you using pure cranberry juice or cranberry juice cocktail? (Asking because there will be a big difference in the sweetness factor.) 

I have a ton, picked before the frost. Someone said they eventually ripen, but so far, not much luck. I followed online directions for the larger ones and put the cherry and grape tomatoes on cookie sheets near windows where they get light. Anyone have experience with this? All suggestions welcome.

I...really don't think they're going to ripen up to red. You should just treat them green!

Fried Green Tomatoes With Avocado and Sour Cream

More green tomato recipes, Fried Green Tomato BLTs With Egg, Green Tomato Mincemeat, Green Tomato Chutney, Green Tomato Salsa, Green Tomato Frittata



They can eventually ripen to red, but it can take a really long time if they were hard-as-a-rock green, and you have to make sure they're blemish free, get air circulation, and are kept at a warm-ish room temp. Here are some thoughts.

Hello! I’m hosting Thanksgiving and need to make an extra turkey breast to accompany the bird. Various relatives have offered (unsolicited) advice about cooking the turkey breast in a crock pot versus the oven. I would prefer the crock pot for oven space issues, but not if it will sacrifice taste/texture. Any thoughts? Thank you!

Check out this slow-cooker recipe from our friends at America's Test Kitchen!

Turkey Breast and Gravy

RECIPE: Turkey Breast and Gravy

By deglaze I meant how do you get the browned bits that stuck to the roasting pan?

Yeah, I didn't have anything stuck! Maybe it was the generous oiling of the turkey legs, but everything came right out. If you need to deglaze, you can use broth, wine, even cider. More tips below.

pan sauces

ARTICLE: Learn to make quick pan sauces, and you can turn dinner into something special

Several years ago, Bisquick changed their pancake recipe on the box. I went back to the store and located an older box on the shelf for the recipe. Now I take a picture/make a copy of any back-of-can recipes in case the company decides to mess around with perfection. You can also google those recipes using the keyword "original".


How about some sturdy vegetables you can use in a few different ways? Like a cabbage! It will keep, can be stir fried into an egg roll bowl, shredded with apple for a hot apple slaw and cooked in a pan (90s Joy of Cooking), or with frozen shredded coconut (unsweetened), and some Indian spices makes a nice cabbage thoran. Potatoes should keep for baking if you also have some shredded cheese. Then you could also use the cheese to make quesadillas and serve with boxed tomato soup.

All good tips.

I totally feel you - lately it seems that we've been feeding eight people at the dinner table every other week with all the parties and get-togethers we've been hosting. I've found that large dishes, like lasagnas, casseroles, and roasts, are useful - you can mostly prep them ahead of time, then pop them in the oven before company arrives. Plus, it's something you and your SO can work on together, so it's less muss and fuss for you. A couple examples I can think of off the top: mac and cheese bake (we like to add things like green chile or tuna to ours to 'beef' it up) served w/a veg (broccoli?); Joe's smoked mozzarella kale lasagna that he posted a few weeks ago (amazeballs) w/salad and garlic bread; or a beer or lamb roast with scalloped potatoes on the side and a veg. Food doesn't have to be complicated to wow a crowd. Good luck, and most importantly, have fun!

Glad you liked the lasagna!

RECIPE: Kale and Mushroom Lasagna

When will we get a list of cookbook reviews for holiday giving? I’m particularly wondering if the newest version of the Joy of Cooking is worth asking for as a gift since I already have the 1997 and the 1964 reprint of the original.

We will have a collection of our favorite cookbooks of the year in early December, with recipes.

The new "Joy" looks fantastic, IMHO.

In a conversation about unusual thanksgiving family recipes, this was mentioned and, dang, I am curious. I enjoy mixing in some new and different dishes each year. Anyone familiar with this beast and have a recipe/link? Pineapple, cheddar cheese, and flour were mentioned as ingredient. Also, love the mindset of the SO who rescued antique drambuie from a bike shop!

It's a Southern thing!

I've never made, but here's a recipe from Southern Living you might check out.


Do you mean ground turkey breast? I believe turkey sausage is made from dark-meat turkey so it's not all that healthier than pork sausage. Ground turkey breast is indeed bland.

If you haven't made them, please do. Everyone loves them, and they take very little time. Thanks for a great recipe.

People do love those!

Snickerdoodle Blondies

RECIPE: Snickerdoodle Blondies

Just reading Joe's intro to this chat, including the titles of so many Thanksgiving recipes and compendiums of recipes and the promise of even more abundance and help to come, I felt like I could see and taste and smell the food and was surrounded by supportive people, and now I don't even need to go to an actual Thanksgiving gathering because you just gave me virtually everything I could hope for at the in-person celebration.

This is the nicest thing we could have possibly read. Thank you so much!!

What do you think of using vegan wonton wrappers to make pumpkin ravioli? If you think using wonton wrappers is not a problem, which of the pumpkin ravioli recipes in your archives do you think an easily-frustrated cook should try? I have a pound of pumpkin puree and also a lot of wonton wrappers left over from a failed experiment in homemade potstickers. I loved the TJs pumpkin ravioli that won't be back until next year.

I would actually model them on this recipe, swapping in pumpkin for the squash of course. And skipping the turkey, etc.

Turkey and Squash Ravioli in Brown Butter-Sage Sauce

RECIPE: Turkey and Squash Ravioli in Brown Butter-Sage Sauce

Sorry, don't know how to insert a link, but every October I live for Wapo's Pumpkin Chicken Chili. So earthy; so yummy.

So this question is sort of Thanksgiving-adjacent, given that it has to do with roasting meat. I love to start baked chicken (legs or thighs) on the stove in a cast iron pan, and then finish in the oven to get super-crispy skin. However, the leftovers are never as good as the skin doesn't maintain the crispiness. Any suggestions on the optimal way to reheat? Thank you!

It is really hard to re-create on the second day. I suppose you could reheat skin side down in the skillet, but I'd also be worried about then overcooking the meat... Thoughts, chatters?

Thanks to Kari and Joe for the suggestions. I will keep trying. My neighbor, "Mr. Tomato Man," insists they will ripen. We'll see, and will keep you posted.

Be patient! I've been there, and was shocked that they did finally start to come around!

I'd love to make a slightly spicy TG bean dish. Any suggestions?

Or ... did you mean green beans? If the latter, I think Becky's green bean casserole would do just fine with a little spice! How about a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes added with the garlic?

Hi! can I use your Jiffy buttermilk scallion cornbread recipe for stuffing? just add salt, pepper, celery, onions and broth?? what do you think? thanks!!!

Buttermilk and Scallion Jiffy Cornbread

RECIPE: Buttermilk and Scallion Jiffy Cornbread

Sure! Here's a cornbread stuffing you could consult for reference.

RECIPE: Prosciutto and Cornbread Stuffing

My mother-in-law has a self-diagnosed gluten and cow dairy allergy. Either I can work around, but both together are giving my difficulty for a dessert option. Can I make a pumpkin cheesecake and sub any cream cheese for goat cheese, or should I use strained goat milk yogurt or something else? Thanks!

Could just get a block of vegan cream cheese.

Be cautious about trying to make a crumbly cookie recipe not crumbly - Some cookies are meant to be sandy/crumbly and they might turn to rocks if you try too hard to make them what they're not meant to be. If you're looking for an alternate that's not essentially a shortbread style, you could check out some of the GF flours which have additives that simulate the gluten effect to make a more standard cookie result.

True, sometimes it's best to find something different rather than tweak.

Ancestory has confirmed it: I'm a genetic anomaly. I just don't care about stuffing. Any sort is fine by me. I could happily eat just a big plate of turkey (dark), roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and gravy. That said, my family likes it so I am doing my usual doctored up corn bread boxed mix. With garlic, onions, celery, lots of fresh herbs, and a touch of chili garlic paste, everyone is content.

I'm here for the chili garlic paste addition. Genius.

Our vegetarian relative absolutely hates pumpkin ravioli especially since too many restaurants use it as their only vegetarian option other than salad.

Ha! Yeah, it is up there with the mushroom flatbread of years past.

Recipe calls for 10-inch pie pan, that is at least 2 inches deep, and I can't find one anywhere. Some vendors advertise as 2 inches, they say from base to rim 1/2 inches, and no 10-inchers I can find.

I believe my family has also struggled to find 10-inchers, and one of my husband's aunts at one point made it her goal to scour secondhand shops to find them. Barring that type of dedication, I'd just make in a 9 or 9 1/2 dish and reserve some of the filling. If pumpkin, just bake off as little custards. Or just scale back the recipe a bit.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, substitute green tomato pie for the apple pie. And, now, wondering if it is possible to do a combination of the green tomatoes and the apples?

Never heard of a green tomato pie before, am ABSOLUTELY going to make one!

My brother does it every year, and they turn out great, but a ton of work. Would you brine a turkey before deep frying?

You can! Alton Brown does. Just pat it dry thoroughly after you take it out of the brine, and let it sit for a half hour before frying.

Speaking of pie crust: I am taking a French conversation class on Monday nights. The teacher is a French woman. I mentioned that I had made a quiche on Sunday, and she started questioning me about what kind of crust I made, she says there are many kinds. I was embarrassed, I had to say "It was Pillsbury, from the supermarket!"

You know, people do like that one. Nothing to be embarrassed about! I used Pillsbury in testing pumpkin pies for today's issues and it got the job done.

The instructions that came with our fresh heritage turkey last year said to take off the skin and put it on a baking sheet in a hot oven to crisp up while the carving was going on. I'd do the same with the leftovers.

Definitely always an option.

Remove from the meat before packing away, store in a lidded container in flat sheets, reheat separate from the meat (duh) in a cast iron skillet with a little schmaltz. Feel the need to reunite the meat and skin? Balance delicately on top and enjoy.

After Halloween, all the pumpkins became a bargain at our favorite farm stand ($1). I bought a couple, made a pie out of one and have one in reserve in a cool spot in the sun porch. It was a very good year for pumpkins, not at all watery.

I've been making this for 40 years, it came out of a House Beautiful, I think. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees and put a combination of butter and flour in to melt. Have enough chicken pieces for six, a variety or just chicken thighs. Dredge in flour, salt and pepper. Put the chicken pieces in the baking pan, side with the most skin down. Bake for 40 minutes. Pull the pan out of the oven, drain off the fat, and put the chicken back in the oven now set at 325 degrees. Take the drippings, if it's not about 6 T add some more butter in and melt. Gently stir in 6 T of flour and let it cook a bit. Then stir in 2 c. of chicken stock, or a combination of wine and chicken stock. Pull out your chicken pan again. Add to the pan cherry tomatoes, artichokes (canned or frozen is fine) , some tarragon, some sauteed mushrooms. Pour the sauce over all and bake at least 25 minutes. The handy thing about this recipe is you can keep it on low heat in the oven indefinitely and it always seems to just get more tender. So it's forgiving when you don't know exactly when you are going to heat. Or, you could just cook it all the way through, chill, wrap and keep in the refrigerator and reheat. Change up the vegetables and the herb if you want.

I'm making a double batch of limoncello for holiday gifts (from the Post's fabulous 2005 recipe) so I have a big pile of skinless organic lemons left over. Could you recommend some recipes that use A LOT of lemon juice? I'd rather go savory than sweet, and I'm not really looking at cocktails. Thinking that my best option may be freezing it in ice cube trays for future use...

Now, come on. You know the saying. Life has given you lemons!

Sorry, dinner for six chicken: melt butter and olive oil in pan, not butter and flour

Any hearty, bean-based soup would be good. Think chickpeas or lentils. Filling, mostly hands-off, and goes well with a salad or steamed veg on the side. Three personal or family favorites are a warm chickpea soup and the Tunisian tomato-lentil soup from Vegetable Heaven as well as a curried red lentil and squash soup on-line. We’re bringing the last to Thanksgiving as the vegetarian main.

A friend makes a turkey corn chowder that is great. Healthy, no, but re-start clean eating on Sunday, especially if you just hosted a big group of people. I have no idea if she made up the recipe or where she got it, but it is really, really good. I think a old recipe, so may involve some cream of something soup.

I'm planning on bringing sweet potato biscuits to a potluck on Friday. Do y'all have a trusted recipe? :)

We don't, but I would put faith in this one from Stella Parks at Serious Eats.

Suggestions - I've never tried the separator thing

The best way is to chill it, if you have time -- in the fridge or freezer until the fat solidifies at the top. Then just scrape off.

Can them, definitely. I had a ton that I wanted to use up when i cleaned up my garden for the winter and made a roasted green tomato salsa (variant on tomatillo) and green tomato marmalade. Both turned out great. Don't be afraid of canning - it's really easy, just steamy.

Absolutely LOVE the Post's red lentil and apricot soup. I double the lemon juice and apricots.

That's such a good one! Popular, too. Thanks!

RECIPE: Apricot and Red Lentil Soup

And you're not slaving over a hot stove in July or August!

I'd love to be able to "like" some of these posts. So far today it's the tears in the pie crust. Usually, each chat Joe posts a good one, too.

Aw, thanks! And thanks for using your words!

Thanks Joe, that's what my mother did. Mom knows best.

I've missed the last few chats in real time, but just wanted to say thank you for the feet loaf idea. It was a big hit with my kids the week of Halloween. I'm just disappointed I wasn't aware of the idea years ago or creative enough to think of it myself.

The first time I went to Montreal I remarked to friends how lovely to find it so French. I said to friends that it was place where the we had a serious discussion with the sales assistant about *which* unsalted butter to buy ... 'moi, je prefere - mais il y a quelqu'un qui dis ...

Several days ago I was making spaghetti for dinner and put the garlic toast in the oven but hadn't turned the oven on yet. My hungry husband came along and turned the oven on broil without telling me. He was trying to be helpful and speed things along. I started smelling something and saw the oven was on and I panicked. The bread was edible but only just barely. I gently advised him to always look in the oven before turning it on.

Have you made the mistake so many of us have made and stored pans or bread or some such in the oven, only to preheat and ... yeah?

And a rather large local chain uses butternut squash ravioli as their vegetarian pasta and I was assured it was vegetarian, but it's not--it has chicken stock, which I could taste immediately.

i need your help! now that it is soup season i am trying out new recipes but am struggling to give my soup's flavor in spite of using low sodium broths and without adding salt. do i double the herbs and spices or is there a magic ingredient out there that will make my tuscan white bean soup or veggie split pea soup taste like something other than watered down yech.

It depends on the recipe, so I don't think there's a general rule to follow. Starting by sauteing aromatics is always a good bet (onions, garlic, etc.). Pureeing roasted garlic into a soup packs a lot of flavor. An herb puree on top is nice, too.

Also, making your own broth can help you amp up the flavor, especially if salt is out of the question. 


ARTICLE: Homemade broth is the key ingredient your bowl of soup deserves

And! Adding a hit of acid like vinegar or citrus (lime/lemon) at the end.

Not sure if you're trying to stay away from pie (or just don't like it or just like cheesecake better) but this is a great Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie recipe: You just have to make or buy the crust gluten free.

That reminds me, we have this dairy free/gluten free Passover Key Lime Pie.  Might not be super autumnal but BOY is it good!

Here's a recipe for green tomato bread. Hope I'm not too late to submit.

Thank you!

The photo makes me laugh.

Lemon chicken / tofu - yum!

Well, you've baked us until we're bubbling, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and many thanks to Carrie for help with the a's.

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who said just reading this chat was as good as a Thanksgiving meal will get "The Friendsgiving Cookbook"! Send your info to, and she'll make the arrangements.

Don't forget to return next Wednesday for a special TWO-HOUR live chat, complete with experts Joy "the Baker" Wilson, Toni "Jubilee" Tipton-Martin, John "Joy of" Becker and Megan "Cooking" Scott, and Dan "Cook's Illustrated" Souza!

Until then, happy cooking, eating, reading -- and planning!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables," "Serve Yourself" and the upcoming "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Carrie Allan
Carrie is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining for Weekend.
Olga Massov
Olga is a food editor at The Post.
Kari Sonde
Kari is the food editorial aide.
Emily Heil
Emily is a staff food writer at The Post.
Becky Krystal
Becky is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Recent Chats
  • Next: