What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, November 14, 2006; 12:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us for another edition of What's Cooking, our live online culinary hour with Kim O'Donnel.

A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly known as Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), Kim spends much of her time in front of the stove or with her nose in a cookbook.

Catch up on previous transcripts with the What's Cooking archive page.

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Kim O'Donnel: Many of us are in denial, and I'm right there as well, eyes in deer-headlight fashion. THANKSGIVING IS 9 DAYS AWAY, PEOPLE. Holy moly, how did that happen? We have no time to waste scratching our heads; let's get busy! To help jumpstart the engine, the Food section tomorrow is chockful of Thanksgiving goodies, the first of two holiday-centric issues (second one runs this Sunday.) Online, I'll have another Tgiving chat this Thursday, Nov. 16 at 1pm. New WP food editor Joe Yonan and I appear in a turkey carving video with a local chef; as soon as I get the link, I'll post it in the blog space. On the radio, I'll keep feeding Sam Litzinger this Friday, and possibly next Wed, Nov. 22, for a last-minute procrastinator's call-in. So stay tuned! There are lots of ways to get help in JUST NINE DAYS. Now, let's hear from you...

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Burke, Va.: Kim, we're traveling to Buffalo on Wednesday for Thanksgiving and I'd like to bring something with me. It doesn't seem like Thanksgiving if I haven't cooked anything and I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable going empty-handed! I'm planning pumpkin pie, since it's my favorite and it'll be different from the other pumpkins there since I make it from fresh pumpkin. How early can I make the pies and do I need to keep them on ice on the drive up? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Wow, that's a long trip, Burke. Of all pies, pumpkin pie, particularly if it contains dairy and eggs, needs to be kept cool. You can make pie and freeze, no prob. In fact, that would help keep things cool. That said, you'll need a cooler with a bunch of those dry ice packs.

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Vegetarian Substitutes for Chicken Broth: Hi Kim. I know you can substitute veggie broth for chicken broth, but I don't necessarily like the vegetal flavors of canned veggie broth. It seems like such a poor substitute for saltiness of chicken broth. Do you or readers recommend any of the No-Chicken chicken broth alternatives available? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Make your own. You will be so much happier. And it's really that much work. Throw in a quartered, peeled onion, a chopped cleaned leek, a few cloves of garlic, a bunch of pepper corns, a bay leaf, celery if you like, a few parsley sprigs, and add water. Bring up to a boil, then simmer for at least 30 minutes. Strain, and then you've got stock. No salt, please. You add that when you cook. Freeze and you'll have on hand.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim! Can you please tell us where we can get a fresh, free range turkey for Thanksgiving? Thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: Aha. My story in tomorrow's Food section is all about preparing a 100-Mile Thanksgiving, meaning putting together a feast with food that has been grown or raised within 100 miles of DC. It includes a list of places to order locally raised turkeys, which include organic as well as pastured turkeys. Hope you'll find it useful. Holler at me tomorrow if you have questions.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

Please answer! I've been waiting all week to ask you ...

I'm attempting to make a veggie-friendly stuffing for Thanksgiving (with pecans and dried cranberries -- yum!). I have a great recipe, and I plan to substitute veggie broth for the chicken broth, but I'm wondering if there is anything else I need to to compensate for the loss of flavor (e.g., more onion, etc.)?

Thanks for your help!

Kim O'Donnel: As I mentioned to another reader, make your own veggie stock. You'll be happy you did. In this case, a mushroom stock would be lovely, giving the stuffing a nice earthy oomph. Herbs are key to stuffing, in my opinion. Also, one note, regardless of the kind of stuffing you make: Start with cubes, then add liquid. Add gradually, wait to see how cubes absorb, then add as needed. Don't pour liquid all at once. You'll be sorry.

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Louisville, Ky.: I am hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner for friends the weekend before Thanksgiving. There will be about 12 of us, and I have turkey questions: 1. How big should my turkey be? 2. What is the best way to prepare it? and 3. Do you have a good stuffing recipe? I have cooked a turkey before, but it was fairly plain, so any suggestions that you have to add some flavor would be appreciated. I am so excited about this meal, and really want it to turn out well! Thanks for your help!

Kim O'Donnel: Congratulations, Louisville! You are about to embark on an exciting kitchen journey. For starters, check out this primer I put together last year: Ten Things You Always Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask About Cooking a Turkey. Also, check out my bird buying guide from last year's holiday blog. Cheers.

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Olney, Md.: How do you dispose of old knives? They're not sheathed or in a block or anything, and simply throwing them out doesn't seem right ... any advice?

Kim O'Donnel: Take'em to the nearest thrift shop. They will go to good use, somehow.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Kim: Can you recommend a place that sells Cajun fried turkeys in the D.C. area. I would prefer not to order online. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Let's ask. Cajun fried turkeys, anyone?

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More on broth: I freeze my broth in small containers in the amounts commonly needed (1 cup, etc.). This is probably obvious -- but helpful, as it takes less time to thaw, etc.

Deborah Madison has many variations on broth recipes (such as mushroom) that may be nice at this time of year in all those casseroles.

Kim O'Donnel: Great point, glad you mentioned.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Re: your veggie stock. Can I freeze it? How long does it last in the freezer? What's the best kind of container to freeze stock in? My mom always used tupperware for freezing turkey stock after Thanksgiving, but I'm not sure if that's the best.

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely you can freeze it. See above post from a savvy reader who freezes it accordingly to amount. Airtight containers are easy.

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Ohio: Hi Kim,

I'll be alone for Thanksgiving. What food can I cook for myself (i.e., small quantities) that is festive enough? Could you also suggest a dessert.

Thanks,

P.S. I am a vegetarian.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Ohio, I was just thinking about this as an idea for a column. Thanksgiving for one. A stuffed squash is quite festive. You could make quinoa and flavor it with walnuts, herbs, garlic, onions, and fill it with an acorn or other hard squash that you roast. I'd make applesauce to go with, for sure. I might also make my own bread for the occasion. For dessert, I'd probably do a fruit cobbler. Are you a fan of pears?

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Annapolis, Md.: Hi,

I am allergic to mushrooms and want to know what is a good substitute for cream of mushroom soup that is in so many recipes.

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Guess what? So am I. If you like canned cream soups, maybe you should explore using cream of celery? Thoughts out there?

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Arlington, Va.: I LOVE the flavor of rosemary with turkey at Thanksgiving. Last year I purchased some rosemary bread at Eastern Market to use for stuffing my turkey. It was WONDERFUL. I noticed this year they do not have this bread at the market. How can I make my own? I make a lot of bread. Would it be okay to simply add rosemary to the dough of my farorite dough? If so, at what stage should I add it? My favorite bread is a french bread made with half whole wheat and half white bread flour. I start by adding half the flour and all the water and yeast then let it set for about 3 hours. I then add the rest of the flour and let it rise about an hour then punch it down and shape it in to 2 loaves then let it rise again before baking.

Kim O'Donnel: Before bed, I was reading Peter Reinhart's books about bread, and I got to thinking rosemary bread myself. Yes, I think it would be fine to add rosemary to your fave dough. Go right ahead. Do it when you first mix, for the first rise. You'll get a nice aromatherapy treat while kneading, by the way.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Copeland's of New Orleans has Cajun Fried Turkeys. They are on Rockville Pike, Md., and in Va.

Kim O'Donnel: Wow! Thanks for chiming in.

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Oatmeal Cookie Question: Kim,

Thanks for your oatmeal cookie recipe, it sounds great. Question -- I only have the old fashion oats at home, not the quick cook. Can I use them and if so, what adjustments do I need to make?

washingtonpost.com: Oatmeal-Raisin Philosophy ( Blog: A Mighty Appetite, washingtonpost.com, Nov. 14)

Kim O'Donnel: Great question. As far as I know, the old fashioned oats act fairly similarly to the quick cook -- so long as you don't use instant or at the other end of the spectrum, steel rolled. Give it a whirl!

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Cauliflower: So what's the secret to making mashed cauliflower taste like mashed potatoes? I tried it for the second time yesterday, and the texture is still off.

I basically boiled cauliflower till soft, pressed it through the ricer, mixed with some sourcream, laughing cow cheese, salt, pepper and sauteed onions and garlic.

It tasted okay, but the texture was way off.

Thanks,

Kim O'Donnel: The secret to making mashed caulif taste like mashed potatoes is to add at least one potato to the mix. Are you off carbs? If not, add one or two potatoes, still keeping the cauli ratio the same.

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Washington, D.C.: I am traveling by car for Thanksgiving, and having all meals at homes of friends and family of my boyfriend. Normally, I love to bring a dish or some sort of food contribution, but with more than five hours in the car, my options are obviously limited. Can you suggest some holiday-appropriate gifts of food that I can enjoy preparing and giving as a gift?

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Spiced nuts are terrific. A batch of biscotti, a loaf of pumpkin bread. Holler if you need details.

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Ohio : Re: T-day for one: Thanks for your suggestions. It would be great if you could write a column for suggestions for cooking for one person. BTW, I do like pears. I was thinking of pear marsala with some vanilla ice cream. How does that sound?

Kim O'Donnel: Make sure to send me an e-mail: kim.odonnel@washingtonpost.com and I will let you know if the column comes together. Re: pears: I am a big fan of roasting them or poaching them in wine or marsala...

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Re alone on Thanksgiving:: How about making a small vegie stuffing? (use apples, cranberries, bread cubes, seasonings, vegie stock as noted in the earlier responses) and bake it in muffin tins for individual portions.

Kim -- could this chatter do this then freeze the leftovers for later use?

Kim O'Donnel: A veggie stuffing is a lovely idea. And yes, it could be frozen for later.

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Glover Park, Washington, D.C.: A recipe from last year's TDay, which was Very Well Received:

Sweet Potatoes Au Gratin

Butter a baking dish. Slice a peeled sweet potato (or two) in thin, even slices (the thinner, the better). Lay slices evenly over bottom of baking dish until you can't see the dish's bottome any more. Crumble blue cheese on top of sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Layer on more sweet potatoes, crumble more cheese, sprinkle more nutmeg. Repeat until you're near the top of your dish, ending with a generous helping of crumbled cheese. Pour in 1 cup of milk or stock (do not over-fill ... it'll get soupy). Put in a hot oven for 45 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly, and the sweet potatoes are fork-tender. Let stand for 15 minutes or so, if possible, so it will set up.

Eat. Eat. Eat.

Hate blue cheese? I weep for you. Substitute a nice, moist, crumbly goat cheese.

Kim O'Donnel: Yowza! This sounds heavenly.

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Triangle, Va.: Should I put some broth in the roasting pan to avoid burnt bits? I want baked-on goodness, but not blackened bitterness. The turkey will be a free-range 12-14 lbs if it makes a difference.

Kim O'Donnel: My suggestion with roasting the bird is to let it do its thing at first. I always start mine at a higher temp, around 425, for at least 20 minutes, then I reduce temp. to 350 or 375. I may add an inch of liquid but I don't like too much or else a steaming effect is created.

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Purple and Green Food: Hi, Kim! Yes, you read that right. The annual reunion of my college friends is on Saturday and I'm at a loss. The official colors of the group are purple and green (long story) and it permeates the entire get-together, from clothes to activities to food. So, what can you suggest to bring for an appetizer or dessert that would fill the bill (it would have to travel about two hours and preferably be made the night before, if possible. If it was made that morning, it would have to be something quick)? We have both hardcore vegetarians and meat eaters in the group.

Thanks for any suggestions you can offer.

Kim O'Donnel: There's never a dull moment in this chat.

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Confession: I have a confession to make -- my family does not like turkey (gasp). Do you have any suggestions to non-turkey Thanksgiving?

Kim O'Donnel: Duck. Goose! Ham. Winter squash lasagna. A pork roast.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

This is the first Thanksgiving that I am cooking ... EVERYTHING. I'd like to brine a turkey, but I've never even cooked one before? What do you think is the best way for a turkey novice to cook one? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You've come to the right place. Here's a link to my brined turkey Recipe/video how-to. I was just saying to a few folks that brining a turkey is very beginner friendly. Have a looksee.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim. Yesterday's blog post got me in the mood for meatloaf, but when I got to the store, they were out of ground beef. Not wanting to give up, I bought some ground turkey, but I'm not entirely sure how to tweak your recipe to use with turkey. Tips? I also have some mild italian sausage in the house, if that would help spice things up. Or if you think meatloaf is best with the real thing, any other suggestions to use the ground turkey?

washingtonpost.com: The Meatloaf Rivalry ( Blog: A Mighty Appetite, washingtonpost.com, Nov. 13)

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there, ground turkey, since it's so lean, needs lots more adorning/seasoning. Sausage to the mix would definitely add flavor. In addition to the mustard, I'd add an egg white to help keep it together (it never holds together as well as fattier meat), plus maybe some Worcestershire or something similiar, maybe Pickapeppa sauce?

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Purple food: Kamata olive pasta. Olives, heavy cream, penne pasta and parmeasean cheese. Yummy!

Kim O'Donnel: Something with squid ink, perhaps...

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Pre-cooking for Thanksgiving: Is it okay to assemble the stuffing on Thanksgiving morning, then transport it and bake it in the early afternoon?

Likewise with mashed potatoes, how much preparation can be done ahead of time?

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, if you're not traveling far. RE: mashed: I don't love them made in advance. If you have no choice, cover with foil when you get them in oven...and you might need a little dairy/cream, something to lube things up during the reheat.

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Purple: How about kalamata olives (app) and plum crisp or cobbler (dessert).

Kim O'Donnel: Here's a second vote for Kalamatas...

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Fairfax, Va.: Popeyes, the fried chicken chain, also sells fried turkeys around Thanksgiving. Their Web site gives the nearest locations that carry them.

Kim O'Donnel: I did not know this. Anyone ever have a Popeye's turkey? Do tell.

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Green and purple: Grapes and green apple slices with a fruit dip.

Kim O'Donnel: Grapes, excellent. Eggplant is no longer purple when cooked. Does that count?

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Baltimore, Md.: Thanks to a 2-for-1 sale, I now have twice as much bacon as I need. Suggestions on ways to use it.

Kim O'Donnel: Freeze one pack and use as you need. Bacon is a good thing to have in the freezer. I like it to start my stuffing. Also enjoy it, when I'm indulging, to cook with hearty greens.

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Sterling, Va.: Mashed Cauliflower: Drain the cauliflower really well. That will eliminate the wateryness (is that a word?) Don't need to rice them either. Just use a regular mixer or potato masher. DON'T ADD A POTATO!

Kim O'Donnel: Roger that.

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Purple Food: How about purple basil pesto?

Kim O'Donnel: Nice idea, but will one be able to get purple basil at this point in the season?

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Washington, D.C.: Hello,

I'm in the same boat as the chatter spending Thanksgiving with the boyfriend's family. I am not much of a cook -- is there a particular wine that goes well with turkey?

Kim O'Donnel: Don't worry, dear. We've all been there. Have a look at a q&a I did last year with a local wine-o on what to drink with turkey. Cheers!

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Bethesda, Md.: I have a question regarding brining fresh turkeys. I have read you can store the turkey in a cooler to save space in your fridge. Won't the turkey freeze if you put it in a cooler with ice? Should it be ice water? How much water-to-ice? Thanks for the help!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Bethesda, A lot depends on current weather conditions. If it's below freezing, and you store a turkey in a cooler packed with ice, well, yeah, the bird is gonna freeze. But, if it's in the 50s like it is today, that bird may go above 40 degrees, which makes it unsafe for storage. You need the bird to be below 40 degrees, around 38 preferably.

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Adams Morgan, DC: To brine or not to brine, that is the question. I've been brining for the last 5 years or so and love the result. Has this trend run its course though? I saw someone on TV dissing the brined turkey saying it tasted too much like ham!

Kim O'Donnel: I too have been brining for past five years and never tire of it. I guess it all depends on what's in your brine. Take a look at the brining solution I use (in video link earlier in the hour), which is chockful of interesting aromatics, which def. makes it distinctive from ham. My thought: Do what works for you. If you love the brine and it makes you happy, keep on brining!

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Purple food:: Purple cauliflower with pasta or gratineed is awesome!

Kim O'Donnel: Purple cauli. That's right. As well as purple brocc.Forgot about that. You guys are amazing.

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RE: Purple food: If you're anywhere near an asian food store, get UBE ice cream, or UBE jam. It's yummy and extremely purple. Maybe serve with a nice blueberry sauce? Or, I make a simple "ice cream" at home with blueberries and raspberries, frozen, mixed with fat-free half and half and one box of cheesecake flavord sugar-free pudding mix. Food processor for about 4 minutes, done and very purple!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed.

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Turkey-Which Way is Up?: Hi Kim!

I'm embarrassed to ask this question, but here it goes:

How do you know which side of the turkey (and a chicken) is the breast side? When it's not cooked I really can't tell and I want to make sure that I'm placing it in the pan and into the oven the correct way.

I ask this bec. I can't tell and always do the opposite -- which is now a long-standing family joke -- or maybe I was ahead of my time with roasting breast side up?

Help -- and thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: The breast side looks like a hump. It's not flat, like the bottom side, where the spine is located. Does that help?

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Kim O'Donnel: Time to sign off. But come back Thursday at 1pm for an all-Tgiving extravaganza. Blog, starting tomorrow, will be filled to the gills with holiday hoopla. Thanks for checking in. I can't wait to hear about the purple food fest. Bye!

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