Free Range on Food: Stuffing (or dressing) from around the country, last minute Thanksgiving tips and more.

Nov 22, 2017

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 our special two-hour, pre-Thanksgiving chat! 

If you're cooking today (and/or tomorrow), you've come to the right place for last-minute advice. Of course, we've already given you plenty: Bonnie's menu and strategies for the T-Day procrastinator (including a brilliant tested recipe for roasting a turkey from frozen); Tim's fun take on stuffing/dressing as the dish that demonstrates America's diversity; yet another great piece from Tim on his own history with Thanksgiving, starting as a picky child; a spotlight on some of our reader's favorite dishes for the holiday; Kara's roundups of our favorite soup, salad, potato, side dish, dessert, gravy, bread, veg main and cranberry sauce recipes; Fritz and the rest of the drinks team's  suggestions for how to handle holiday imbibing responsibly (and deliciously); and more. (Don't forget all the great content we had for you last Wednesday, including Julia Turshen's tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving; and my own contribution to the plant-based table with Biryani Stuffed Pumpkins.)

We have special guests today: Julia Turshen, recipe maven and cookbook author extraordinaire (her latest is "Feed the Resistance"), and Erin McDowell, author of "The Fearless Baker" (and guest on a recent FB Live here). They will help us regulars handle any and all dilemmas or other questions you may have today!

We will have giveaway books to entice your questions today -- one each of Erin and Julia's latest book!

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR6782 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Let's do this!

At what temperature do you remove your turkey from the oven, so it ends up at 165 in the breast after resting? I have a 20lb turkey.

The USDA recommends cooking your turkeys to a temperature of 165. A fair number of cooks and chefs say otherwise. They aim for something closer to 150, which all but guarantees the breast meat will remain juicy.


So are their turkeys unsafe?


No. Because when their turkeys reach 150 degrees, they hold the temperature there for approximately four minutes, which is enough time to kill potentially harmful bacteria. It's the same, more or less, as pulling your turkey from the oven at 165.


Remember: Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature. Also remember to take the temperature of the turkey in more than one place. Measure it in the leg, taking care that the probe doesn’t touch a bone. Then measure it in the innermost section of the thigh and wings, where temperatures often run the coolest.


ARTICLE: How to cook your turkey to perfection: tips from the pros.

One thought to add: Even if you do want to get the breast to 165, you certainly don't need to heat it higher than that, so it ends up at that temp after resting. That's overkill, bigtime. 

Hi, Quick question - Can I cook the oyster stuffing recipe in the bird? Thanks!

I think not for this recipe -- just to be sure that a) the oysters don't get overcooked and b) the dressing doesn't get too salty. But if you felt like spatchcocking your turkey, maybe a mound of it beneath the bird could work? If you do stuff the turkey with this dressing, here are some tips to keep in mind.


RECIPE West Coast Oyster Dressing

Help! I Am a dairy lover who discovered how much healthier I am without dairy in my life. (No more migraines, great improvement to my rheumatoid arthritis and clear skin!) I’ve been off the stuff for more than six months, and it’s not too bad cooking meals at home but a real bummer when I go out and can find only a few things on a menu without cheese or cream. I am a little embarrassed sometimes to be seen as picky, but I am picky now because I don’t want to suffer. Can you recommend a good dairy free or vegan cookbook? And, what can I say when someone invites me over to eat? Nobody wants to hear about headaches, swollen joints and zits, and I don’t want to be a high maintenance party pooper. Thanks! Also

If you're dairy-free life improves your health and well-being I don't think you have anything to apologize for! Jessica Murnane's book is really great, as is Amy Chaplin's. Highly recommend both of theirs. When you are invited somewhere, I would suggest bringing something you know you can eat and enjoy that everyone else would too and saying something along the lines of "For health reasons I can't eat dairy so I was thinking I could bring SOMETHING DELICIOUS to round out the meal, does that sound good to you?" This way you slip in your 411 while also being a helpful guest...and you guarantee you'll have something you can enjoy.

Erin, Julia, Happy Thanksgiving!! Erin, I just watched your pie crust video and the details about proper dough hydration were super helpful. I'm about to make a double crust for a blueberry pie for tomorrow using a recipe from Serious Eats. My question is do I want a mealy or flaky crust to make a lattice top? Which is easier to cut and arrange in the pattern? Also, should I make two doughs or can I mix one batch and halve? Thank you so much!

It's true that a flakier crust can be harder to control because that awesome flake is somewhat unpredictable. That said, it can still look really good with a flaky crust, even if it's a bit wonky. Plus, a fruit pie is the BEST with a flaky crust - so I say, go for that lattice and keep it flaky all the way!

Thanks for the interesting article about different kinds of stuffing. My mother (and her mother before that) has made a variation of the Pennsylvania Dutch Filling for decades. It is, as you say, a bit bland. But our family’s version has a few more eggs and I think bakes at a higher temperature, so it gets a nice brown crust on the top and sides (the photo with the recipe looks a bit pasty). This adds some more interest to it.

Thank you!


If I learned anything about Pennsylvania Dutch stuffing, it's that no two recipes are alike, and everyone think their recipe is the best.  I better put a winky face after that statement, right? ; )


ARTICLE: Thanksgiving stuffing (or dressing) is the dish that best reflects America's diversity.

I have about 2 cups of fresh cranberries left over (Tiny Tim Tartlettes) and a cup of canned pumpkin from Friendsgiving baking projects. I’m traveling for the holiday and can’t take any additional food items. Will the cranberries freeze well? And, what should I do with the leftover ingredients?

Yep, the cranberries will freeze well. You could even freeze that pumpkin. 

When you're back, make breakfast cookies!

Holiday Breakfast Cookies

RECIPE: Holiday Breakfast Cookies

Or use that pumpkin to make Pumpkin Sloppy Joes or a pasta sauce.

Thanks so much for doing this chat today! I contribute roasted brussels sprouts and roasted green beans for Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house. They always do a bit of a potluck approach, and have an old, finicky stove and oven that are in great demand the day-of. I would vastly prefer to roast the veggies at home tonight at a high temperature (I've had the best luck with 450-500 degrees) and reheat them in the oven there tomorrow with the other dishes needing more moderate temps. Is that possible, or will they be soggy, mushy, bitter, or just flat out gross?

I think that's a fine plan! I'd offer a few adjustments/tips: 

Make sure to fully cool both dishes before your pile them on top of one another for refrigeration. That way they won't steam and overcook. You can probably just let them cool on the roasting pan. (You've spaced them out enough so there's air circulation around them, yes?) Then make sure to give them lots of breathing room again on the pan when you reheat.

Thank you for the recent article on cooking a frozen bird. I've filed it away in case it's ever needed. I did have a question about the type of pan recommended. Bonnie Benwick advocated using a rimmed baking sheet, but it seems to me that the fat and pan juices would overflow, or at the very least make a huge mess when removing the pan and turkey from the oven. I cooked a turkey Tuesday in a conventional roasting pan and had at least 4 cups of liquid, and I did not add water. Am I missing something?

The relatively slow-roasting over hours method (@325 degrees) does not yield as much in pan juices as you might think. 

I tested 7 birds of various sizes, the largest being 19+ pounds, and I never even had to use a turkey baster to reduce the amount of liquid in the rimmed baking sheets i used, which have 1-inch-tall sides.  None of those birds were Butterball, btw.  It is important to place the turkey on a rack  inside that baking sheet, too, so air circulates all around the bird.


One of the reasons why your roasting a bird in a conventional pan yielded so much liquid is that a pan with high sides effectively steams the bottom third of the turkey, and helps keep juices and liquids contained, as it were. 

I'm a disaster worker working one of the hurricane missions and living in a hotel. Several of my colleagues are getting together tomorrow for dinner and I'm supposed to bring a dish. I'm a good cook, but my room has only a microwave - no stovetop or oven. Besides a salad, what are some tasty no-cook options? I'd like to avoid bringing something from the grocery store. Thanks for your help! All y'all rock!

That's so wonderful that you're celebrating the holiday with such generosity of spirit! Instead of just a green salad, you could do a heartier salad like this one with chickpeas and feta cheese or pick up some cooked brown rice from a Chinese takeout place and make a batch of this brown rice salad with herbs. Both 'salads' but not obviously so!

As a vegetarian, I always check the online menu. Even though sometimes they're not up to date, you get an idea of how 'friendly' they are to your restrictions. You'll also likely find vegan and 'ethnic' restaurants can have good options for you.

This year I am staying home alone and will make the Pumpkin Biryani and I am so excited for that. I am thankful for all my friends and family. I just didn't want to get into that holiday travel nightmare this year. I am also thankful for all you guys and all I've learned from this food chat. Happy Thanksgiving to all and safe travels.

happy thanksgiving! your plan sounds lovely.

Yes, the Biryani Stuffed Pumpkins, which Joe wrote about for his column, sounds delicious. I may even try to sneak it into one of our upcoming Thanksgiving dinners. 


RECIPE: Biryani Stuffed Pumpkins

Not a stuffing or T-Day question. I've been binge-watching the Great British Bake Show and want to try making a Hot Water Crust. I think this would be great with T-Day leftovers but what I'm really interested in making is a deep, hearty vegetarian pie. What veggies would you suggest? Love cauliflower, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, onions, spinach, arugula. Tolerate small mushrooms and some sweet potato. Don't like beets. I guess I'm looking for some interesting flavor combinations and guidelines for a hearty pie that isn't too gloppy (technical term). Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

The great thing about hot water crust is it really holds up well to almost anything! The main thing to consider is not making it too wet, as even though the crust is hearty, you can still get a problem with the dreaded soggy bottom. One of my favorites is to do a cauliflower curry with potatoes and peas. I also like to do an oniony deluxe - onions, leeks, scallions, shallots, all caramelized deeply and loaded up with cheese!

I'm making Mamie Eisenhower's Chiffon Pumpkin Pie from your recipe archive. Do you have any tips on how to make the chiffon? Should the bowl be cold as when you make whipped cream or is there some other way to ensure that the consistency is at the correct level?

That pie is so lovely and light, and such a reader favorite, that it's also featured in the WaPo Cookbook! The bowl will be cold because you will have chilled the gelatined pumpkin mixture before you fold in the beaten/sugared egg whites (meringue). 


You will know the chiffon is at the right consistency once your egg whites are just incorporated enough to lighten the mix -- showing no streaks of white. 

I'm making stuffed (with greens and beans) portobello mushrooms for tomorrow. I've never made them before and have read conflicting advice about how to prep the mushrooms before filling (scrape out the gills or not, pre-roast before filling or not). What do you recommend? Happy Thanksgiving to you all! P

When I make stuffed mushrooms, I do scrape out the gills from portobellos, mostly just to make extra room for the delicious filling! I don't pre-roast before filling.

Scraping out the gills also keeps the filling from getting too discolored -- that stuff is the squid ink of the plant world! 

I was planning to make the Savory Sesame Butternut Squash Pie for a Thanksgiving guest who is gluten-free. I just found out she is also currently not eating/drinking cow's milk. Can I use canola oil or vegetable shortening to make the crust? Also, is there a replacement for the butter in the pie? I was going to use sheep's milk for the topping instead of Greek yogurt.

You can use shortening in the crust no problem - it's actually even easier to work with than butter, though the flavor isn't quite the same. You should be able to replace the butter in the filling with oil - I would recommend coconut oil at first glance!

Is that possible? I'm tasked with making one for Thanksgiving, and it won't take any more work to make two, to save for Christmas. The recipe calls for bourbon as well as the sugar and corn syrup. Will it freeze OK?

I'm always a fan of fresh, but pecan pies do freeze particularly well. Thaw the pie overnight in the refrigerator before serving. You can even "refresh" it in a 300 degree oven for 12-15 minutes to lightly re-crisp the crust, which can sometimes get a smidge soggier during defrosting.

Several years ago, Whole Foods made a farro stuffing that I absolutely went head over heels for. Alas, they haven't had it since, and I would *love* to see a recipe for it. Anybody want to help me? Thanks in advance, and Happy Thanksgiving!

What else was in it? 

Taking a stab in the dark, but maybe something like one of these recipes would come close:

Apple, Fennel and Farro Salad

RECIPE: Apple, Fennel and Farro Salad

Wheat Berry Salad With Oranges, Cherries and Pecans

RECIPE: Wheat Berry Salad With Oranges, Cherries and Pecans

You could borrow technique from our rice dressing, too: 

Charleston Rice Dressing

RECIPE: Charleston Rice Dressing

Roasting some Brussels sprouts and carrots in olive oil. Would like to do earlier in the day to have oven space. Or later in the day at a lower oven temperature - would that work? Then I could share the oven. Can they be served at room temp or somehow kept warm? Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

I would do them earlier in the day so that they get caramelized at the higher temperature and also so you can cross something off your list! You can warm them in the oven later if you have space or they're good at room temperature.

The brown sugars in the kitchen are rock-hard. Do I need to buy light AND dark to follow each of the recipes exactly, Or can I adapt granulated white sugar, which I already have? This is for pies, yams, cookies, applesauce, candied nuts and the turkey itself. Thanks for saving the day!

Sugar and brown sugar don't weigh the same for their volume - brown sugar is a little heavier and therefore it's not ideal to substitute them 1:1. Granulated sugar weights 7 ounces per cup and light + brown dark sugar weigh 7.50 ounces per cup (FYI light and dark can be subbed for one another easily). You can also make your own brown sugar by adding 1 tablespoon molasses for every 1 cup of sugar. 1 1/2 tablespoons will more closely resemble dark brown sugar.

Hi Free Rangers - I'm hoping to begin prepping today for Thanksgiving dinner. Could you let me know which of the side we plan to make could be prepared today, or tomorrow morning, and reheated at the last moment? Thanks! 1) Stuffing; 2) Mashed potatoes; 3) Sweet potato casserole; 4) Roasted green beans; 5) Roast Brussels sprouts.

All could be made ahead and reheated at the last moment! If you top your sweet potatoes with marshmallows I would wait to put those on until the end when you warm the potatoes/toast the marshmallows.

Hi. Two or three weeks ago, you gave a link for the slow cooker garlicky shrimp, and I finally made it yesterday, and it is really good. I used 1 lb of shrimp, so halved the ingredients (except for the red pepper flakes - we like hot food), and it fit with room to spare in a 1-qt slow cooker. Thanks very much for the recipe. We mixed it with steamed broccoli, and voila! Dinner ready in less than an hour.

Thanks for reporting back! Glad it was a hit.

Slow-Cooker Garlicky Shrimp

RECIPE: Slow-Cooker Garlicky Shrimp

I would like to make a wild rice dish for Thanksgiving, preferable something cheesy. I am not a big casserole maker, in fact I'm not sure I've ever made one. Is there something I can make with wild rice and veggies (no meat, please) that can be cheesy and spooned or sliced from baking dish?

I ADORE this wild rice salad I wrote about a couple years back. Incredible -- and so perfect for Thanksgiving. The only thing it's missing is the cheese, and TBH, I'd suggest you let go of that particular desire and just make this. That's how good it is. If you MUST have it cheesy, go ahead and try topping it with grated mozzarella and baking. Let us know how it goes!

RECIPE: Wild Rice, Pear and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad With Walnuts


I saw on Twitter that Fritz and the DC Beer editors are pleased about the owner of Denizens being named to the board of the Brewers Association. What does this mean for the local beer scene?

Honestly, I'm more excited about what Julie Verratti can do for the national beer scene than the local one, to be honest. She's been a great voice for Maryland craft beer as the state and brewers spar over HB1283, and she brings some much-needed diversity to the body that represents the interests of craft beer in America. She's always been a straight-shooter with me, and Denizens is growing like crazy, so I look forward to seeing what she can do as part of the Brewers Association's board of directors. 

No question, just best wishes to the Food Section staff and the community of regular chatters for a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thank you so much! We are grateful for all our readers/chatters.

Not a Thanksgiving question, but more of a seasonal concern. Now that we're back on Standard Time, I'm grilling dinner under the porch light (and stars, when it's clear). Is there a grilling light that you'd recommend to help me see things better as they're cooking on my Weber kettle? Thanks!

I wear a headlamp! Makes it easy to see wherever I look and they're cheaper than grilling lights.

Hi! I have some frozen rhubarb in my freezer. Should I thaw and drain it before using it in the pie?

Thawing any frozen fruit is usually best, because the fruit releases extra moisture when it thaws. I usually thaw it fully, then drain all the liquid off and put it in a medium pan and reduce it. Take it down to just a few tablespoons (1-2) and then add it back to the fruit - you'll get all the fruit flavor without any unwanted sogginess.

We’ve been invited to a pot-luck Christmas brunch early next month, and I’m looking for something interesting to bring. My three main constraints: there will likely be too much sugar among the other contributions, we have to drive for 45 minutes, and the kitchen is TINY so I need to bring something that won’t require stove or oven. Right now my only thoughts are savory muffins, or dates wrapped in prosciutto (which is always popular, to the point that I fear over-exposure — but this IS a new crowd ...). Can you give me a jump-start?

There is nothing wrong with proscuitto-wrapped dates...yum...a big grain salad (like this simple brown rice and herb one) could also be nice since it's great at room temperature and can sit for a long time no problem.

Is coconut oil the same as palm oil? If it's different, are there the same environmental concerns with its use?

According to the Ethical Consumer, coconut oil production hasn't led to widespread deforestation, as palm oil has. But there are other issues for you to consider with coconut oil, since you are clearly a conscientious shopper. 

I am excited to make Grandma Webster's dinner rolls this year for my Thanksgiving (and not just because I happen to share a last name with the original baker!) but I have a bit of a problem. I want the rolls to come out of the oven right when we eat, so that they are warm and fresh....but given a bunch of other events that day, I would have to make the dough earlier in the morning. So, my question is: will the dough suffer in any way if it rises for an extra hour or two? If I make the dough around 7 or 8am, and let it rise until 3pm (when I will form the balls and bake them), will the extra time rising cause any problems? I don't want to resort to making them the night before....but if 6 hours of rising (versus 4) will be a problem, then so be it! Thanks for the help -- and for the recipe!

You can make the dough earlier than the recipe states by making a few simple changes to the method. If you use cool (not ice cold, just cool!) water instead of warm water in the recipe, the dough will rise more slowly (bonus: this actually yields lovely flavor, too!) - You can still rise the dough at room temperature, but not in a warm place. The dough should take about twice as long at each stage to rise fully. If you need to slow it down even further, you can refrigerate the dough at one of the stages, where it will then take 3-4 times as long to rise.

Hi, folks. The instructions for Turkey Breast Stuffed With Pears, Fennel and Hazelnuts say "The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat (not all the way into the center, where the stuffing is) registers 160 degrees..." But since the stuffing has been in contact with raw poultry, doesn't IT have to get to 160 in the center as well, just as stuffing in a whole turkey would? Thanks...and happy Thanksgiving to you all.

RECIPE Turkey Breast Stuffed With Pears, Fennel and Hazelnuts


Stuffing temperature is more crucial when egg is involved as a binder; here, that's not the case. And this meat is all white, so the 160 degrees is fine, food-safetywise; the internal temperature of the stuffing, at that point, will rise to about 165. We don't recommend taking the stuffing temperature for this recipe because you might just pierce a screaming hot cranberry, which could give you a false reading.... 

I bought a fennel bulb (with stems attached) and some leeks, and I'm planning to make this casserole tomorrow:  I've never cooked fennel before. Do I use only the bulb, and throw away the stems? (Or save them for the turkey stock I will make with the turkey carcass?)

Just took a look at the recipe...I would grate the fennel starting just with the bulb and if you still need more for the recipe, grate some of the stems. Whatever you don't use (bulb and stems) are wonderful in stock, definitely hold onto them for that. Or thinly slice either and dress with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt for a quick crunchy salad. Parmesan and toasted nuts too...yum. 

Specifically, Joe's last name, which is both short enough and unique enough that I can google it with a single ingredient and find the recipe I'm looking for. (Actually, I'm thankful for all of you!)

Ha! I'll thank my ancestors for that!

My wife has ordered a full (ready to serve, hot) turkey from a local restaurant which I am scheduled to pick up midday tomorrow with dinner to be served several hours later. Her internet research has revealed a variety of advice on how to handle this timing dilemma: keep it warm in a low oven with a pan of water for several hours; cut it into parts to cool and reheat; don't cut it into parts, that will dry it out; put the whole thing in the refrigerator but it's so big it may not cool entirely before we have to warm it again, etc. First goal is food safety. Second goal is moist turkey. Bonus points for crispy skin. Any recommendations?

How big is it? How many hours is several? And re these bonus points -- how can we retrieve them? :) #holidayq's

Hi! Do you have any favorite vegetarian stuffings? I'm looking for something meat eaters will enjoy since there will be quite a crowd.

This simple bread stuffing couldn't be easier to make and is good for all! Feel free to add chopped apples, nuts, dried cherries, roasted chestnuts...anything you'd like!

RECIPE: Easy Bread Stuffing

I wanted my two 6-year-old grand nieces to feel a part of the Thanksgiving celebration by contributing to the food preparation. So they could proudly proclaim I made that! They won't come up until to closer to the meal so I'm focusing on two desserts that don't need the oven as the turkey will be roasting away. Thinking I can prep things like a crust or cake before the turkey goes in. So looking for advice here on what you think two 6-year-olds can help with. Chocolate cream pie - I can bake the shell before they arrive Caramel-pecan Dacquoise - could bake the meringues in advance Pumpkin bread pudding - using the slow cooker Gingerbread and pear trifle - could bake the gingerbread in advance I guess I'm concerned that I have too many desserts of the same consistency. Maybe I need to circle back to the brother in law to bring another dessert to help round it out. But I didn't want the girls' efforts to be overshadowed. I've been noodling on this one for a while now and would appreciate your sage advice! Thanks!!

So great you want the kiddos to help in the kitchen - I love it when my nieces and nephew want to help me! I do find that finishing items is best - it's the most exciting part of the process, it doesn't take too long, and they get to feel super accomplished. Things like folding the final ingredients in, sprinkling stuff, and assembling are what I love to enlist kid's help on. Oh, and whipping cream by hand - it's fun and everyone can take a turn and reap the rewards!

I am hosting a T-day brunch this weekend. I plan on serving an egg casserole, sausage, bagels, a fruit salad. And other ideas, especially for an appetizer folks could nimble on? thanks.

sounds like a delicious menu! what about deviled eggs with a little cooked bacon crumbled on top? if that's too many eggs for your menu, could do slices of banana bread or muffins (maybe these whole wheat + spiced carrot ones?) baked in a mini muffin tin.

My family always enjoys sautéed (until they have browned spots) green beans with toasted almonds on Thanksgiving. We have a larger group than usual this year and I can't imagine sautéing a suitably large quantity of beans, I've seen recipes for roast green bean soup and wonder if that will yield a similar result. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or extra ingredients to experiment today. What do you think?

What if you roasted them on a sheet pan in a 425 oven instead of sauteing them? You can cook a whole lot more at once and they'll get similarly soft and browned in spots. Serve topped with toasted almonds. 

I am interested in making a maple custard pie, with heavy cream and eggs, with a hint of nutmeg. I would like to sprinkle some gingersnap cookie crumbles in there somewhere for some textural difference. Should I maybe sprinkle them on top of the pre-baked dough and under the custard before it sets? Or maybe on top of the cooked custard when it's done?

Sounds lovely. Why not sprinkle them both on top of the crust and on top of the custard? You could take a cue from our Maple and Pumpkin Custard recipe and sprinkle the crumbs on top of the custard, then return it to the oven for a bit until the custard's done. 

Maple and Pumpkin Custard

RECIPE: Maple and Pumpkin Custard

Hi! Sorry this is a bit last minute. We're deep frying our turkey, which provides great meat/crispy skin but no drippings. Are there tips for making good tasting gravy with no drippings/turkey pieces? I'm planning to make it with chicken broth, but was wondering if there was something better.

There is, of course, turkey stock available in stores. You could try that, but chicken stock is absolutely fine. 


It's easy to make gravy without pan drippings. Here's one method you might try, and it comes with variations for vegetarians and the allium-adverse.

To make phyllo dough appetizers tomorrow, do you recommend brushing on butter or oil or an egg wash? Butter sounds much more delicious to me but my friend tells me to use an egg wash. How about if I use both?

I would brush butter on each layer as you layer it and then egg wash on top...big fan of AND!

I am making a pumpkin pie with the frozen GF crust. Should I blind bake the crust before adding the filling and baking?

Par-baking, or partially baking the crust, is great for pumpkin pies because it helps prevent that dreaded pie problem of the soggy bottom! I pierce my pie crust with a fork all over the base, then place a piece of parchment inside and load it with pie weights (could be dried beans!). I bake it at 425 fahrenheit for about 15 minutes, just until it starts to look set and is barely starting to brown. Then remove the pie weights and return the pie to the oven for 3-4 minutes more, or until the bottom looks dry. Let the crust cool completely before adding the filling.

I have a lot of dried mulberries-and i'm tired of having them with team or just plain. Was going to make smitten kitchens fig and walnut biscotti and was thinking of replacing the fig in the biscotti with the dried mulberries. would that work? would i have to soak the mulberries first? And if so, in what? tea? Thanks team!

Are you dried mulberries still a bit chewy? I would recommend soaking them a bit just to more closely resemble the texture of a dried fig, which is still quite moist. I would just barely cover them in any kind of warm, flavorful liquid (tea works, I might opt for something boozy like bourbon) - but you can even just use hot water. Let them soak for about 15 minutes, then drain well (give them a squeeze to release any excess moisture). They should work lovely in that recipe!

I bought a Maple Lawn Farms 20 pounder and the website says 10 minutes per pound. I know fresh turkeys cook faster, but I'm afraid of either serving raw turkey or overcooked turkey. They also recommend starting at 450 for an hour. Any advice?

I bought a turkey from Maple Lawn Farms, too, though a bit smaller one. They are pros at Maple Lawn. I've spoken to them in years past. I trust their cooking recommends. 


But, again, remember to have a thermometer on hand to check the temperature. If you don't have one, go buy a cheap stick thermometer at the store. It will save you a lot of worry in the long run!

To the chatter with the rock hard brown sugar. I had the same rock hard brown sugar issue the other day and put a slice of bread in the bag of brown sugar and the next day (half a day later) it was moist and soft, ready to go! Try it now and it might work for tomorrow!

Wonderful! A jumbo marshmallow also does the same trick, and it's shelf stable - so you can leave it in the container to keep it moist in the long run!

Hello! I would appreciate suggestions for daytime appetizers to have available for guests to enjoy while waiting for dinner to be served. I would prefer to serve things that don't require use of the oven, but don't want something different than the standard cheese/fruit/veg tray. Bonus for anything that isn't really heavy since we will be having a big dinner! Thank you.

Roasted Grapes

Take a look at these suggestions!

Of the bunch, sounds like roasted grapes (you could make them today, so oven space isn't an issue tomorrow) or Tartines With Apricot and Endive could work for you. 

Marinated olives are also a good choice -- it's something salty to nibble on that doesn't fill you up.

Olives With Citrus Zests and Fried Herbs

I have a 9 lb one tell me how long in oven and at what temp? What prep should I use

This Extremely Slow-Roasted Turkey Breast recipe has never failed me -- and has been a highly rated recipe with our readers year after year, so I recommend that!  You can do it overnight -- it takes 8 to 9 hours.

For the poster asking about a grilling light. We have one on our weber that we got from home depot (it's a weber accessory). I was to say it was maybe around $20 but it's been perfect. It turns on when you open the lid (we have a gas grill). I think it's been on for the past 4 years and never had an issue.

Link, please!

How easily can different flours be substituted when baking bread? For some reason we have a ton of rye flour, but all the bread recipes I look at seem to use a quarter cup or so. Can I replace larger quantities of wheat (or even AP) flour with rye, or would that throw the baking proportions out of whack?

Rye is a unique flour in that it doesn't naturally contain high levels of protein. In bread baking, protein is super important - it's what gives bread every part of it's texture and chew. It's difficult to make 100% rye breads, as they can be quite dense, which is why most recipes use rye flour for flavor and other flours to provide texture to the bread. That said, recipes do exist for 100% ryes - just be prepared it might not be the lighter, chewier loaf you might be expecting. Other ideas of what to do with rye flour - you can substitute 1/4-1/2 cup of all purpose flour in a pie crust with rye, or try making rye crackers! 

Back in the dark ages of the mid nineties, an American fellow student and I hosted Thanksgiving for about 40 people, 35ish meat eaters. The best part was discussing with the butcher how large a bird I needed. 'Will it fit in the oven?" You know, those European cookers are small! The butcher scratched his chin, thought and said - it will, but with only an inch or so to spare. It was a bit of a leap of faith - but he was right. It fit the oven like a glove! The Thanksgiving dinner, held Thanksgiving night after work, was a success. I actually recently reminisced with my co-host - over twenty years later!

What a fun memory!

Yes to finishing - and the livelier the better. I have fond memories of my mum giving me a fork and mashing the &*% out of the potatoes. Well she did stop me before they became a starchlike mess. There is plenty for a six year old to do - I'm sure they'll have fun.

I would like to add a spice to my apple pie besides the usual cinnamon. I am thinking cardamom might be nice, but I don't want to shock my grandmother's fragile taste buds. I'm looking for flavor, but not too much. Fresh ginger and lemon? Ground ginger and ground cardamom? Just ground Cardamom?

I just used some garam masala in an apple drink and was pretty happy with how it turned out. Might be worth a try? I'd use a light hand and taste it in advance -- it can have different make-ups depending on which brand you buy.

I'd say cardamom, ginger, nutmeg would all be good options! I'd vote for one, not a combo, at least to start...

Why does it seem so much better than the pie I can buy at the store? It's so simple to make, and I'm counted on every year to make one for the Thanksgiving get together.

I think homemade always seems and tastes better than store-bought...even the simplest things.

Couldn't agree more with Julia! Homemade is automatically yummier! Plus, store-bought pies sometimes have preservatives in them to make them last longer on the shelves, which isn't always discernible to the palate, but there is certainly a difference.

How do you feel about serving appetizers during T-day (while the big meal is being prepared)? I don't want people to fill up, but I don't want people to starve either (especially if I run late)! I have cheese/crackers and nuts planned right now. Happy Thanksgiving!

I come from a family that like to graze, so we always have a few small bites out. My mom's advice to me once was to have a few things, but don't replace the trays when they get low or empty - that way, people can snack but don't fill up too much before the main event!

I normally host for Thanksgiving, but my family (somewhat mercifully) canceled. So, Thanksgiving is a much smaller, faster affair. I'm using the extra time to freeze dishes to simplify Christmas dinner, which I also host. I've already frozen applesauce, spinach artichoke dip, apple slab pie, port cranberry sauce, bread, scones, and twice baked potatoes, but I'm a little stuck on the sweet potatoes. The family recipe calls for baking the potatoes, slipping the skins off, and cutting into coins. The coins go into a buttered dish, and a cinnamon/butter/brown sugar sauce is drizzled over. The dish is baked and basted with the sauce. Is this freezable in some way, or is it likely the sweet potato coins would disintegrate?

Sounds like a delicious recipe. Are the sweet potatoes baked until entirely soft before slipping off skins? If so I have a feeling if you proceed as you described, they might disintegrate a little bit after defrosting and reheating. That said, if that does happen, I would just take a masher to them and serve delicious mashed sweet potatoes! 

If you're doing homemade rolls the girls can help shape them. This became a tradition at our house. Decades ago we found a recipe I have labeled as Rich Egg Turban rolls. You shape them by making a snake then tying into a knot. I'm sending the recipe, sorry it will make a long post: 1 pkg dry yeast 1/3 cup sugar 1 ¼ cup warm water (like nice bath water – not too hot) 1/3 cup oil (either olive or vegetable) 2 Tablespoons honey 2 ¼ tsp salt 2 eggs 1 egg yolk ~ 5 cups flour Put warm water in bowl and sprinkle with ~ 1 tsp sugar. Add yeast and mix; let stand a few minutes to dissolve yeast. Stir in the sugar, oil, honey, salt, eggs, egg yolk and mix. Stir in about 4 cups of the flour. Add little more flour at a time until dough is not real sticky. Flour table top and turn dough out onto it. Work in remaining flour and knead 8-10 minutes. The dough should not be real sticky and once you’ve kneaded it enough it will be elastic. That is if you pull on a piece it will retract back into the dough ball. Butter large bowl or pot. Put dough into bowl and cover with either plastic wrap or towel. Let rise in warm place ~1 hour. Punch down dough and take half out. Roll into snake and cut into 8-12 pieces. Form into knots and put onto cookie sheet – line with your baking paper. Roll out rest of dough and cut into 8-12 pieces etc, place on second cookie sheet. Cover rolls with towel and let rise 30-60 minutes. Make egg glaze: Beat one egg with 1 T water, 1 tsp sugar and dash salt. Brush rolls with glaze just before baking. Bake 350o 15-20 minutes.

I'm a pescetarian but am eating Thanksgiving with my friend who does not eat gluten or dairy and her daughter who doesn't eat dairy plus doesn't like a lot of creamy foods. Do you have any idea what binder I can use instead of mayonnaise? Butter for maybe a warm scampi-ish version? Or maybe I could try a little dairy free cream cheese (it's really very good!)?

How bout Greek yogurt?

Super pregnant woman from a couple of weeks ago here. I bought a frozen bird - and am keeping it in the freezer until post baby (who will come any day now, really!). I should probably print out the recipe and tape it to the bird. We decided to splurge on a meal from Whole Foods and use our (limited) cooking time to make some pie and some freezer meals for later.

right on! good luck to you and yours and glad your freezer will be there for you when the baby comes.

You are all the best!! Thank you for everything you do year-round. I'm making a pecan pie tonight and planning to drive it down, about 6 hours, tomorrow. Should I refrigerate it tonight? Pack in ice tomorrow? I have no idea what pecan pie needs to stay safe/delicious.

No need to refrigerate your pie (though you can if you're squeamish)- keeping it at room temp will be better for the crust. And no need to refrigerate it or ice it for the drive, either! You can also refresh your pie just before dessert time by warming it in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes, which crisps the crust a bit and gives it that nice warm freshly baked thing going on!

There's just going to be the three of us for Thanksgiving, so I'm planning to butterfly a 4 pound chicken and roast it on top of homemade stuffing. Butterflying shortens cooking time, but having in on top of the stuffing will probably extend cooking time. About how long do you think it will take? What oven temperature do you recommend? Any tips on getting crispy skin (I'm already planning to dry the chicken off with paper towels and rub it with butter)?

Sounds like a great plan! My suggestion would be to roast it at 425 and I bet it will take 45 mins, 1 hour at the most. Drying the skin with paper towels will definitely help for the crispy skin. Also take the chicken out of the fridge about an hour before you roast so it's not so cold when you put it in the oven. I would also season the chicken with salt now and refrigerate it before roasting tomorrow. Will help season it through and through.

To my palate, French-cut green beans have always tasted better than their canned or frozen counterparts? Any ideas why?

I don't believe it's the cut, I believe it's the canning/freezing, of course! Fresh is going to taste better -- especially for something like green beans. UNLESS you cook them low and long, and they get really tender (as opposed to the crisp-tender thing). That's the Southern way, and it works really well with frozen green beans, too. Canned? DON'T.

My husband has to work at 1 tomorrow (thanks to retailers opening on a holiday) so we're going to eat an early "lunch". I want to make the mashed potatoes (w/ creamcheese and half/half) and a sweet potato casserole (with syrup, butter and marshmallows) and maybe green bean casserole today so I only have to do the turkey tomorrow. How can I reheat them so they don't appear dry or reheated?

There are techniques that chefs and home cooks have developed to prepare mashed potatoes and a potato casserole ahead of time. The key is to prepare the dishes part way, leaving out the main liquid ingredient. A few years ago, Serious Eats offered professional tips on potato dishes. Take a look


As for the green bean casserole, here is one cook's solution to making it ahead.

With the potatoes, I've found that reheating them slowly on the stovetop with more milk (or half/half) works.

I have a recipe somebody gave me for a cranberry torte. The directions call for putting 8 oz of fresh cranberries in a pie pan and then topping with a mixture of beaten eggs, sugar, walnuts, flour, and melted butter. The instructions call for 1 1/2 cup sugar, divided, but doesn't say what to do with the extra cup. The 1/2 cup goes in the topping. I'm going to just dredge the cranberries in the cup of sugar. I've googled this recipe and can't find anything like it. Any opinions or advice on this?

It seems to me like the 1 cup is for the cranberries, for sure - I think you're safe to add them as you describe. Best of luck, sounds yummy!

Dear Food writers and fellow rangers, May you each get the longer piece of the wishbone tomorrow! (Is there a wishbone replacement for vegetarians?)

Thanks! And ... the pumpkin stem? 

I LOVE your holiday cookie recipes, but I start my cookie planning early (I make a lot) so I've usually solidified my plans by the time your list comes out. From the 2016 Holiday recipes: 1. Can the cookies for your Cornmeal Thumbprints with Tomato Jam be mixed, shaped and then frozen? 2. Is there something I can use in place of the 1TBS of coconut oil for the coating in the Toasted Coconut Brown Butter Matcha Cookies? I generally make 8-12 different cookies so I try to pick recipes that allow me to freeze the dough, as well as those that don't require buying too many one-use ingredients (i.e. coconut oil). Thanks and I'm looking forward to the 2017 list.

I do too! For you very organized early bakers, we can never produce the next year's collection soon enough! We are updating some classics and keeping things simple for 2017, so pls be back in touch and let us know what you think. 

For the thumbprints, which are favorites of mine, you can take the recipe up to the point of filling the centers with jam. Freeze them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

For the matcha bars, you could use vegetable oil instead of coconut oil. 

Nutmeg - as a Brit, we cleve to adding nutmeg ... and some cardamon along with your cinnamon. It would be a nice flavor profile and I think suit all tastebuds.

I'd never thought about making crackers-- thank you!

Any way to jazz up some simple baked sweet potatoes still in their skins? I have family members that love them simply baked whole, but I would like to offer something special to go with them or some special way to prepare them that is still similar to what they love - plain old baked sweet potatoes!

Highly recommend sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds (see here). Couldn't be easier and they're so good! Could use any toasted, chopped nut instead of pumpkin seeds if you'd like.

Greek yogurt won't work if the issue is dairy. Sounds like OP should pick something else to bring!

Just re-read that q again -- thanks! I was thrown by the suggestion by the OP of butter! I agree: a shrimp dip doesn't seem like a good idea if you want neither dairy nor creaminess.

What Julia said - and I may I suggest just a breath of chili powder. Not so much that you taste, but I find the heat really adds depth and a bottom note to sweet potatoes.

I want to make this pie but using Pillsbury pie crust - I know, I know, but homemade crust is the bane of my existence - do I still need to freeze the crust and blind bake it first? Thanks!

You're still making a pie yourself, so way to go!!! It's always a good idea to have the crust nice and cold before it hits the oven, but you don't need to par-bake for a double crust - I do often recommend baking on a pizza stone or towards the bottom of the oven for a double crust to make sure that bottom crust gets crisp!

I'd like to serve a sparkling wine cocktail with appetizers tomorrow. Looking for a suggestion that isn't mimosa/Bellini or similar. I just don't much like juice...

My dad is making a yummy spritzer tomorrow: a splash each of St. Germain, Aperol, and sweet vermouth, finished with cava!

Hey there! You'll find some non-Bellini/mimosa low-juice options in the recipes for this story on setting up a holiday champagne cocktail bar. I'm considering making a sparkling wine drink I read about in Imbibe magazine -- called a Last Waltz (1/2 oz. rye, 1/4 cherry Heering, tsp. yellow Chartreuse, 2 dashes of mole or Ango bitters, top with chilled sparkling wine), but I can't vouch for it until I try it out! :) Good luck! 

I need to pre-bake a pie crust. Do I use egg wash on a dough that I then cover with pie weights? Also, suggestions for alternatives to pie weights are welcome, I don't like using beans and then dump them, and I used coins once but found it kinda yucky.

No need to egg wash a pie when parbaking. I like Stella Park's method of using granulated sugar as the pie weights (just make sure you use enough to sufficiently weigh it down) - then she says you can use the "roasted sugar" just like regular granulated sugar in any recipe for a slightly toasty flavor!

And here's a pie crust recipe from Stella Parks, that uses that sugar method. Brilliant.

No-Stress All-Butter Pastry Crust

RECIPE: No-Stress All-Butter Pastry Crust

I just learned that I don't have enough time to defrost my frozen turkey in the fridge (oops). I'm planning to do the water bath method tonight. I'm confused about what temp the water bath should be at. My plan is a ~6 hour water bath this afternoon than back into the fridge overnight. Will this give me a defrosted ready to cook turkey (that doesn't come with food poisoning)?

You don't have to mess with any of that. Bonnie said so!


ARTICLE: Yes, you really can roast a turkey from frozen -- and it's delicious. Here's how to save the day.


Here's the link to your federal government's guidelines for defrosting. The cold water bath approach calls for changing the water every half hour, fyi. 

I don't roast turkey or other birds often. Several times, I have tried to cook a turkey or cornish hen, I wan't sure which way the bird was supposed to sit. It isn't like they have an arrow saying, this side up. Is there a good way to remember what to do?

The backbone of the bird, the hard part without as much meat, goes down first so the breasts are facing up. I like to think of it as they sleep on their backs...hope that helps! Also if you roast it upside down it's not the end of the means the white meat will be extra moist, you just lose the chance for crispy skin on top...but by no means the end of the world.

We're having ham this year and I'm not sure what to do about gravy. I won't have pan drippings to make normal gravy. I'd love some suggestions. I really don't want to resort to store bought stuff if there's something I can make myself.

Making homemade gravy without drippings is easy enough. Scroll up for my previous answer on this same question.

No question just wanted to share: I recently fell in love with fresh fennel. Thanks to all of the amazing recipes on WaPo using fennel, we are definitely having a fennel-themed Thanksgiving! Here's hoping that everyone loves it as much as I do!

Love the idea of that! Then you will be so very happy one day to make this Sammy Tamimi (Ottolenghi) Fennel, Cherry Tomato and Crumble Gratin. Bookmark it. 

I will do the gingersnap crumbles everywhere, as you suggest. Why didn't I think of that? The more the merrier! Thank you! Should I use a flaky butter crust, or maybe I should go all out and make a graham cracker/gingersnap crust!

I prefer cookie/graham cracker crusts with custard pies (I like the crunchy texture boost) but you do you! Both would be nice, I'm sure.

My new oven has 3 different settings (convection bake, convection roast, and regular bake) and I'm having a hard time figuring out when to use each setting. When I roast vegetables at 425 using the convection roast they don't get as brown as I would like. Can you offer any guidelines on which setting I should be using for roasting vegetables, roasting meat, braising, and baking? Thank you!

Convection ovens aren't always best for roasting - the plus of a convection is it's constantly circulating the air via the fan - but that isn't always best when you're trying to get something really brown, like roasted veggies. While every oven is different, I would suggest using convection bake when baking cakes/pies/cookies, regular bake for things like veggies or delicate baked goods (the fan can disturb delicate items like a souffle or meringue), and convection roast for things like meat dishes.

Sorry, guess I didn't make my question clear enough. Why do frozen French-cut green beans taste better than frozen regular-cut ones, after both are cooked? Why do canned French-cut green beans taste better than canned regular-cut ones, after both are cooked? The cut seems to make the difference.

Ah! Well, I have to say, about that I have no idea, but maybe one of our chatters does? One reminder: The power of suggestion is REAL. Have you tried comparing them blind? I wonder if you'd really taste a difference then.

This is not a Thanksgiving-specific question but could apply to many meals. My friend, who has become vegan for health reasons, has invited me to visit her over the holidays. I would love to cook for her and my multiple food allergies might make it difficult to create food we can both eat and enjoy. Is there a recipe book you could recommend to help me?

Very kind of you to consider her allergies. Wrote about a similar situation last year (right here). Hope that's a helpful start. Someone asked a similar question earlier about cookbooks and I recommend both Jessica Murnane's One Part Plant and Amy Chaplin's At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen.

I agree on both those ideas -- particularly Amy Chaplin's book. I'm a HUGE fan.

Hello Rangers, I am vacillating between two of your pecan pie recipes. One has bourbon which sounds great but has flour as the thickener. The other is classic and has corn syrup that I am sure makes it thicker too. How do they differ in texture and can I add the bourbon to the classic recipe?

Think of the classic pecan pie as exactly that - the lightly caramel flavored nut pie where the pecans are surrounded in a set, sweet custard. The bourbon pie has additional liquid, so the less traditional flour thickener is just to balance that. Both pies have similar overall texture - the main difference will be in the flavors! Is it a bad suggestion for me to say you should make both?! :)

Hi! Breaking the rules and trying a new recipe for Thanksgiving contribution. (I've been charged with squash.) I am trying Lidia Bastianich's Butternut Squash with Agrodulce Sauce. But she calls for frying the 1' thick slices of squash, and I don't want oil spatter everywhere. I was going to roast them, instead. How long should I aim for so that they are cooked through but not mushy? Also, she recommends basil, but could I try a more seasonal herb with the sweet/sour marinade?

I'd check them after about 30 minutes at 425. And try rosemary!

Which are better for prep today and which really should be left to be cooked tomorrow: mashed potatoes, simple green beans (maybe just baked per prev post today), basic stuffing recipe (also from today), gravy, maybe pearl onions recipe from WaPo. My wife is expertly handling dessert duties, I need to keep ut!

I'd prepare the mashed potatoes (without the milk or half and half) and the stuffing (uncooked) ahead of time. Then you can heat the milk and fold into the mashed potatoes right before dinner, making for some fluffy mashed spuds. You can also then bake the stuffing after the turkey is out and resting.  

I'm thinking perhaps some olives or a green salad - something to cut the rest of the wonderful sounding menu or to bring a bit for freshness. Maybe even a choucroute?

I'm always a fan of serving something to cut the rich stuff...highly recommend this easy-t0-make but also festive salad: All-Red Radicchio, Radish + Pomegranate Salad.

Hi, love the chats, always a pleasurable interlude during the work day! I feel like this question has been answered a hundred times, but I need to confirm to confirm. When I make a butter pie shell (from a delicious WP recipe), can I make it tonight and put it in a glass or ceramic pan (I’m using both for different pies) and freeze it, and then blind bake it tomorrow straight from frozen, it won’t break the pan? (I ask because I’ve had two glass pans explode on me before in other recipes.) And, for pies that don’t need blind baking, can I fill the pastry while frozen and bake immediately, or do I defrost it, fill it, and bake it? Also, does baking the filled pie with a frozen crust increase baking time? Pie is the best part of the meal, and it will bring shame on the family if I fail. :P Thank you!

It can be dangerous to bake a glass or ceramic pie pan straight from frozen (it can also work, no problem). What I would suggest is transferring the pies from the freezer to the fridge early in the day so they aren't ice-cold when you go to the oven. Alternatively, you can just refrigerate your crusts in the pan overnight (wrap them in plastic wrap or they can dry out!) and just freeze for 15 minutes before you bake - this way you get the benefit of a healthy chill without the risk of breaking the pan and ruining your pie!

Why not make a condiment that pairs well with ham perhaps some mustard, vinegar dill and honey?

Rye flour is so unlike wheat flour in behavior that you can't mess with it too much. Try this website for a lot of rye-centric recipes. There's a recipe for rye breadsticks/pretzels in the Hudson Mills Baking Book that is ace, and you can google for rye cracker and cookie (yes!) recipes.

I mostly make bread and cookies and roast chicken in my oven. So why do i need convection?

Convection refers to a fan that circulates air, arguably creating a more even heat environment (less preheat cycles and less heat lost). It's great for baking because the oven temperature stays even, but it's usually advised to lower the temperature that the recipe suggests by 25 degrees. It's also never ideal for recipes with delicate structures, like say a souffle - the fan can actually blow it over, so regular bake is still best in those cases!

Bonnie, I suspected you would ask about turkey weight! I am not sure and there is not an online number I can call at present, but it was advertised as Thanksgiving service for 8 people. We anticipate about 5 and a half hours between pickup and serving our guests. Bonus points can be awarded in the form of an instagram shot of the food, tagged to any social media presence at your request, from a private instagram account with a horrifically meager number of followers :)

LOLing. Let's assume it began as a 14- to 16-pounder, and that when you receive it, it will be warm. Go ahead and take your social media pix, because you'll be breaking that bird down into parts.


I'd wait an hour, carve it into big sections -- 2 breast halves, leg and thigh quarters, wings -- and refrigerate until an hour before serving.  I would reheat those on a flat rack inside a rimmed baking sheet at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, placed skin sides up. I'd keep them all covered with foil until the last 15 minutes of oven time.


Crisped skin might be too much to ask for, but your best shot might be to brush those pieces with olive oil or butter once the reheated turkey parts are uncovered.

If anyone is still deciding what kind of pie to make, the Persian-Spiced Sweet Potato Pie is delicious and so very beautiful. We really enjoyed it!

Aw, shucks! Thanks so much! So glad you've liked it. I love that one too.

RECIPE: Persian-Spiced Sweet Potato Pie

I'm planning to make the rosemary biscuit recipe tomorrow. Can I make the dough in the morning, shape the biscuits, and keep them in the fridge until ready to bake while the turkey is resting?

No worries about letting the dough sit: We actually did that in our test kitchen last year when we were prepping the final batch of the rosemary biscuits and they turned out great. Enjoy!

Recipe: A tender biscuit easy enough for the non-baker, and perfect for Thanksgiving

What's the secret?? mine never get really crispy, just sort of chewy/stuck in the teeth. What’s the best way to get this right? When I de-string a squash, should I wash the seeds, and should I let them dry overnight or even longer? One thing I tried recommended boiling them with baking soda for a few minutes, but this didn’t seem to change anything.

I've found the type of squash seed makes a difference. I've had luck with delicata seeds but not butternut, for example. I take the big pieces of squash string off, but I'm not super careful about it. Then I coat them well with oil, add salt and other spices, and roast on a lined baking sheet (at 375 degrees or so) for about 10 minutes, turn them over to check how they're doing, and roast longer if they need it. They'll start to crackle and pop and brown. I think the key (or one of the keys!) is to make sure they're spread out and not piled one on top of the other, so they roast and get crispy rather than steam. And yes, it'd probably help if they were drier to begin with, if you do go the rinsing or boiling route.

I woke up before dawn and realized that I did not have the sugar cookie mix for a recipe I needed. I dashed to the store and grabbed some, but is there a go to recipe that I can make that would resemble the dry sugar cookie mix? I usually have a stocked baking pantry. Thanks!

You know, I don't think I have ever used a cookie mix! From Land O'Lakes: 

6 3/4 cups AP flour

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

And how to use it here.

Stupid question: Why do I have to change the water every 30 mins? Won't the water stay cold with the frozen turkey in it (like an ice cube melting in a drink)? Or is the issue that the water gets too cold after 30 mins?

The water needs to stay as cold as possible so the turkey remains within a safe temp zone -- not analogous to an ice cube, in this case. A 16-lb bird takes 8 hours to thaw this way. 

OP here: I'm making dilled onions, Tim's microwave green bean recipe and FDR stuffing. I read the gravy article and am ready to proceed, full speed ahead! Thanks everybody.

Help! So I bought all of the ingredients for the Savory Sesame Butternut Squash Pie, but am suddenly short on time. I just love the flavors proposed... Could I serve just the filling itself, in a bowl? With or without eggs? Adjust the amount of coconut milk? Thanks!

Bring It! columnist Cathy Barrow sez:

Sure! Do not alter the ingredients. Bake the filling in a well-buttered casserole dish — shallower will be better than deep in this case at 400 degrees until a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. If you bought the ginger snaps, crumble a couple of them on the top. 

We are celebrating two Thanksgivings which is fun except that my Friday pie needs to be made today if at all possible. Can I make an apple/cranberry pie with a crumb topping today that will still be tasty and fresh on Friday? Many thanks and a very happy Thanksgiving to you all.

I usually only recommend making them one day ahead, but you should be fine! You can try refreshing your pie on Friday by warming it in a 300 Fahrenheit oven for about 15 minutes to re-crisp the crust and freshen it up a bit!

Kara you read my mind - delicata are my faves.

High five!

In addition to the cheese tray I'm going to make spiced popcorn with pecans and raisins. I think it's a Washington Post recipe.

Desi Jacks? Good call -- but no raisins in it. #shudder

Due to a very small dinner party (2), I'm only cooking a dark/light meat turkey roast. I'd like to get drippings to make some gravy. The slow cook method they suggest seems like the turkey would come out moist but soggy. There is skin on top, can I put it in a hot oven for a bit when its done slow cooking and brown the top and drippings? Or will this dry it out too much?

I am not sure how much in the way of drippings you'll have from that kind of roast, so why not in advance roast some turkey necks/wings and use them plus turkey stock, to make your gravy?

I love the taste of stuffing in a turkey but know it's not safe. I've heard that you can put stuffing under the breast skin instead. Is this a good idea? And if so, how does that affect the turkey roasting time, etc.? Thank you!

I guess some of  us are wondering how much stuffing will fit there?

can I peel them today to slice tomorrow? Using them as a healthy option to dessert. Thanks.

yes for sure...wrap in damp paper towels and store in a plastic bag or covered container in the fridge to keep them from drying out

Hi Joe, happy (pre-) Thanksgiving. Have you ever spent Thanksgiving in Europe? Couldn't find any turkey while only soup-salad-potato-pie don't feel quite Thanksgiving-y :( Ideas? Merci xo

I have not -- chatters? I have tried to roast a chicken in Paris (back when I ate that sort of thing), only to discover my apartment didn't have an actual oven! I braised it stovetop instead -- cramming it into a little saucepot and wrapping foil on top cause couldn't get the lid on there.

Now, with that in mind, why don't you just find the biggest chicken you can and ... pretend?

I came across some Jiffy corn muffin mix in my cabinet and made it for the sense of nostalgia. I liked it! Are there any delicious ways to spruce up some plain ol' cornbread mix?

But of course there are! Here's a simple way to go, from Giada De Laurentiis:


RECIPE: Scallion and Mozzarella Cornbread

And two more ways to use that Jiffy mix:

Tex Mex Frito Slab Pie

RECIPE: Tex Mex Frito Slab Pie

Nana’s Andouille and Corn Bread Dressing

This from two years ago - apparently Carrefour has turkey legs.

Thank you!

so much for doing this!

You're welcome! Thanks for swinging by!

I'm not sure if the Paris chatter is looking to roast a turkey, or have a Thanksgiving meal in a restaurant, but capons should be available. Roasted capon is a traditional Christmas meal in France.

Good thought!

Keep reading stuffed turkeys have to cook longer, which dries out the breast. Any tips?

Some folks invert the bird as it roasts, on the theory that juices flow down into the white meat to help keep it moist. The look of the right-side up turkey may suffer....also, you can soak cheesecloth in a saucepan of melted butter/white wine (a la Martha Stewart from long ago), and drape several layers directly on the breast meat.  You can pour more of the melted liquids on cheesecloth as it dries out. Eventually it will dry out and can easily be lifted from the bird (it shouldn't stick to the skin). At the very least, it makes the bird look bronzed and pretty.

Any suggestions for hostess gifts? We are bringing cheesecake and wine, but would appreciate some suggestions

How about a nice apron or dish towel? We love this company's.

I've done Thanksgiving while living in Europe. The first 4 years, I was in Edinburgh and I preordered turkey from the butcher. The first of those, the butcher misheard and got me a cooked turkey!! I told him I wanted to cook it myself (I was 20) so he got another for me--frozen, raw. Later, in London's suburbs, we ordered from another butcher who got them from the local turkey farm. Thanksgiving turkeys were cheaper than Christmas turkeys from the same source (supply and demand). The first of those was delivered by the butcher because of a slip up in their system. The years after that were no problems. In Belgium, we got a turkey through the American Women's Club of Brussels--until we saw that Delhaize carried them. In any case, look in a strongly expat area's markets. Contacts in the diplomatic community will help you find what you need. I've never been a diplomat, and for me the hardest thing to source is white cornmeal--which I import from the US.

Good thoughts -- many thanks!

Isn't mayonnaise typically dairy free? Eggs & oil for the most part? With some lemon? I always consider it to be non-dairy, even if it's creamy.

We have this one. It's identical to what the other poster referenced at home depot but when we went at the end of summer they were sold out.

We do shrimp mixed with guacamole, and a drizzle of cocktail sauce, served in endive leaves

I've seen lots of questions regarding dairy-free sauces/creamy things, here's some thoughts. If you're not heating it at high temps, blending silken (or soft, just not firm) tofu very will in a blender or food processor works really well, especially with some lemon juice, herbs, or whatever seasoning. I've made potato salad spreads, dips, salad dressings, etc. Or, soaked cashews (boiling water over a cup of cashews for 10 min, drained, blended) work well also, in both savory or sweet dishes. Just mix in your flavors once smooth. Cashew cream can stand higher heats, I think. Also, thanks for all the suggestions for pie crusts!

Thanks, everyone, for the great q's, and thanks to Julia, Erin and Carrie for helping with the a's! Hope you've got your Thanksgiving meal in hand and are keeping it as stress-free as possible this year!

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about lattice crust techniques will get Erin's "The Fearless Baker." The one who first asked about appetizers will get "Feed The Resistance." Send your mailing info to, and she'll arrange to get you your books.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading -- and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Fritz Hahn
Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003.
Julia Turshen
Julia Turshen is the author of "Small Victories," (Chronicle Books, 2016).
Erin McDowell
Erin McDowell is the author of "The Fearless Baker," (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2017).
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