What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, January 9, 2007; 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.


Kim O'Donnel: Well, hello! Ain't nuthin like a bunch of technological snafus to screw up your morning. I'm here, sort of, scrambling to talk to you. We've just published the first run of a recipe index for the blog this morning. Have a looksee. Appreciate all kinds of feedback, as it's a work in progress. What else...I'm on a bread thing right now. Baked a few loaves last night, making more today. Will report on Part2 of the bread chronicles in tomorrow's blog. How's 2007 so far? Let me hear what's happening...


Gaithersburg, Md.: How long is caviar good for, if stored in the fridge? Any recipes for leftover caviar?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Gaithersburg, caviar needs to be kept on ice, by the way. Should be nice and cold at all times. Once you open it, lasts about 48 hours. Leftover cav is nice in an omelette. By the way, anyone hear about the possible lifting of imported caviar ban? Still trying to get more info on this one.


N. Dartmouth, Mass.: Hi Kim; I am a male that tries all kinds of things in the kitchen --most come out okay. I need help with one dish. How do I cook a roast without having it come out like shoe leather? Appx. 2-3 lbs. Thanks for your time Kim.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey male, tell me what cut of beef you tend to buy and then we'll tawk...roger?


No Knead Bread: Hi Kim,

I posted this to your blog in response to today's post on bread, but have you tried the no knead bread recipe that was in the N.Y. Times? or N.Y. Post or something like that.

I'd be interested in what you think of the recipe as it has gotten rave reviews on several food blogs. I'm thinking about giving it a try, but I don't think I have anything oven safe that is big enough for me bake the loaf.

Kim O'Donnel: I too have read a lot about it. Believe it was Mark Bittman in the NYT. I don't have the space either, at this point. Anyone out there who's tried it? Kneading is one of my favorite parts of making bread, so I don't know if I'd be happy...


Annapolis, Md.: Do you have a really, really good coconut cake recipe? I am trying to avoid multi-layer-type cakes (I am a guy and my pastry skills are, well, a tad shaky).

Thank you and Happy New Year.

Kim O'Donnel: Wait. You want a coconut cake recipe, but you don't want it to be a layer cake? Hmm. Why? Talk to me.


Alexandria, Va.: Kim! I tried to make a mushroom gorgonzola sauce for my filet of beef this weekend. The recipe called for the gorgonzola, some mayo, and a little dijon mustard to be blended in a food processor, which I don't have, so I whisked the bejesus out of it before adding it to the pan where the (reconstituted porcini) mushrooms and sliced shallot had been browning. It seemed to melt together okay at first, but in about thirty seconds it was an oily, goopy mess. I was cooking for one so I skimmed some out of the pan anyway and it tasted fine, but it sure wasn't pretty.

I'm guessing the mayo got too hot and separated, but I did follow the recipe. Is a liquid-y sauce here possible, or should I have just added the mushrooms to the cheese mixture and plopped it on my steak? Did the lack of a food processor make a difference? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel:

Next time you want to make a gorgonzola sauce, put the cheese in a sauce pan and let it melt over very low heat. Gradually add some milk. Sometimes a little cornstrach is good here. But mayo? Yes, I'm sure it was a big gloppy mess and got too hot. Gentle. That's your mantra next time you make this one.


Organic Gal: Thanks for the lentil love in the blog! I have started cooking with them more often and am trying to expand my recipes. There's a Lebanese restaurant near where I work that has a lentil/rice/onion dish that I adore. Mujadrah, maybe? I have no clue on the spelling. Do you have any idea how to whip up something along this line for a good weeknight supper?

washingtonpost.com: Blog: A Mighty Appetite

Kim O'Donnel: Hey OG: Glad to be of service. I hope to expand the lentil universe just a wee bit. I've got some red ones that are crying to be used, so I'll keep you posted. You know, I need to look at one of my new books, by Claudia Roden, that focuses on Lebanon, Turkey and Morocco. Give me a few days, and I'll surface with something for you.


Bored at work: I have tons of left over mint ... what to do with it? Any way to incorporate into a healthy dinner as opposed to a fattening dessert?

Kim O'Donnel: Puree it with a bunch of cilantro, a plum tomato, an inch of sliced ginger, a wee bit of chile, salt. Amazing green sauce, without a drop of fat, that you can use w/ fish, chicken, rice, omelettes...


Santa brought me a dutch oven ...: and I am hankering for lamb stew, something I've never tried before, but a quick recipe search gave me so many variations that I'm not sure where to start. What are the keys to both simplicity and greatness, assuming I can have both?

Kim O'Donnel: I have details in a how-to video for lamb shanks. Nothing too fancy here. Key is a wee bit of patience. You'll need at least 90 minutes. Other key to braising is low, slow heat.


Please help! : Happy New Year, Kim! I'm really hoping you could help me come up with a plan for a dinner party for six, including a few vegetarians. A vegetarian lasagna is a possibility, but a little dull. Crabcakes are a possibility, but not sure what to do for sides. I was thinking about paella because I thought I could do some work ahead of time and the different kinds of seafood would make a lovely presentation, but I can't seem to find any meatless (non-chicken, non-sausage) varieties. Is it worth trying to make it meatless? Do you have some other ideas for an entree? Thanks so much!

Kim O'Donnel: If you have 2 or 3 veggies joining your group, that's nearly 50 percent of the guests. It is SO worth the effort to make the dinner meatless. Your vegetarian guests will greatly appreciate the extra mile you went to honor their palates, and that will go a long way. Incidentally, veggie lasagna need not be dull. I've made a butternut squash lasagna that is out of sight. This can be made in advance, too. Would you like details?


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

I love Bolognese sauce but whenever I make it at home it is not so good. Should I mix ground beef and pork? Is that the secret? Do you have a recipe? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I do have a recipe. Go to my new handy dandy recipe index and scroll down to the "M"s where you'll find link to recipe...


Keeping bread: Hi Kim,

I am slowly getting more practice with bread making, and would like to start making my own whole wheat sandwich bread on a semi-regular basis. I've had a hard time finding information on how long a homemade loaf will keep and what the best conditions are for keeping a loaf. Any tips? Thanks much!

Kim O'Donnel: I keep homemade bread in a paper bag, a trick I learned when working at Firehook Bakery about 12 years ago. It doesn't like plastic or foil. Can last up to five days in paper bag. If you've got more than one loaf, you can freeze it, by the way.


Helena, Mt.: I made the NYT no-knead bread, in a cast iron dutch oven. For those with limited time, it's very handy-you really don't do much but stir it up and leave it 18-24 hours, fold a couple times, and bake. It's crusty, nice crumb, tasty. I used 1/3 whole wheat flour. It's not the only bread I'd ever make, I like to knead too, but the taste was very good. The round loaf doesn't slice for the toaster very well-that's the only drawback I can think of!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for chiming in, Helena. How's the weather out there, by the way?


Baltimore, Md.: Do you have a recommended brand of store-bought chicken stock? I know it's fun to make your own, and I'm still wrangling with how, but in a pinch, what do you prefer?

It drives me nuts when TV chefs make a big fuss over having high-quality chicken stock and then don't say what kind. I'm not going to drop a ton of money on the most expensive type, just hoping it's "high-quality."

Kim O'Donnel: When I need a can of stock, I look for anything that is sodium free, for starters, as well as free of MSG (yes, some brands still contain it). I stay away from the boxed chix stocks, which I find very sawdusty. I think I've liked using Shelton brand. Anyone else?


Annapolis2: I've made the no-knead bread recipe three times, with great success. The first time, I used a 6-quart Le Creuset pot, but I switched to a smaller (4 quart) oven-safe stockpot for the other times, because I wanted a rounder loaf (in the larger pot, it spread out too much, like ciabatta) and also because I read that the knobs on the Le Creuset casseroles aren't oven-safe above 400.

This was the easiest bread recipe I've ever made, and the crust was wonderful. I'm still tinkering with the amount of water -- the inside of the bread was a little too moist. I know from reading some of the posts on various blogs that the amount of water in the printed recipe is more than was used in the accompanying video, but I still want to cut back more.

Kim O'Donnel: More first-hand reports on the no-knead bread. Thanks!


Boston Sausage: Three part question:

So I got the bf a meat grinder for Xmas, and we made sausage together last week -- freshly ground pork plus salt, garlic, spices and herbs, nuts. Mine had chopped dried apricot in it.

1. After the proscribed two days curing in the fridge (we didn't have casings so we cured in freezer paper wrapped with aluminum), both batches tasted kind of sour, although the spice flavors tasted good. Any idea why this happened or what we could do to prevent it in the future? If it matters, our mixture was a little too meat heavy -- next time we'll add some more fat to the batch.

2. After a run-through the freshly-washed grinder, the meat turned from pink to more grey ... is this normal? Can it be prevented?

3. Also, do you or the peanuts know where, in Boston or online, we could find saltpeter or collagen casings?

Kim O'Donnel: I don't own a meatgrinder, and the last time I used one was in cooking school. There's a reader who chimes in regularly with his tales of making sausage. Maybe he'll pop in today, she says hopefully...


Hyattsville, Md.: Hi! My problem: every time I try to cook any Indian recipe that requires yogurt, I curdle it. I've tried different varieties of yougurt and added flour once as per a suggestion online. What am I doing wrong?

Kim O'Donnel: Your heat is too high. It's gotta be way, way low. Stirring helps, too.


Organic Gal: For the person planning the dinner party and doesn't want to do veggie lasagna, I noticed all the alternatives were seafood-based (crabcakes, paella). The alternatives were being looked for because of vegetarian guests. Fish and shellfish aren't vegetarian. There are pescetarians that will not eat other meats and also eat fish. Sounds to me like the host needs to find out if she has vegetarians attending, or if she has folks that are willing to eat fish. I'd hate for the host to go to all the trouble and prep and work that making a great paella makes, only to have it be something that the guests can't/won't eat ...

Kim O'Donnel: Agreed. Thanks for adding on to this thread...


N.Y., N.Y.: I noticed you mentionned your butternut squash recipe. I made it for Xmas dinner and it was a huge hit. Thank you! Except, I messed up slightly and layered in marinara and the bechamel sauce. In your experience, do you prefer one or the other? I was thinking I would prefer just the bechamel ...

Kim O'Donnel: Reader is referring to butternut squash lasagna...I think I prefer the bechamel, if I recall. It's been a while.


Fried Rice: Hi Kim! I made your fried rice recipe from the blog the other night, and it was great! It was almost better reheated the next day, too. Reheated, it was closer to the consistency of restaurant-style fried rice, if anyone prefers that.

Kim O'Donnel: Fantastic. I ate mine next day, and then at last minute, while my dough was rising last night, made another batch because I just couldn't get enough. It's a keeper, that one, from Grace Young.


Lentil love in: Did you happen to catch Iron Chef America this week? It was Battle Lentil and I have to admit that in spite of growing with with them in an Indian household, I was amazed at the variety of uses. Sadly though, Mario Battali's attempt at lentil fettucine wasn't smooth texturally according to the judges. Still, I wonder if there's a way to fix that?

Kim O'Donnel: Hilarious. Did not hear about this. Yes, lentils are a global thread, from India to Turkey to Lebanon, all over Europe...


Bethesda, Md.: I would like to cook a beef tenderloin for some friends this weekend. I would like try some different side dishes than the normal ones. But ones which aren't too labor intensive so I can enjoy some conversation.


Kim O'Donnel: Hey there, check out yesterday's blog, which features a Thai pineapple salad. Wonderful partner to steak...and you can make rice to go with. Salad can be made in advance, and you'll wow all your friends.


Parsley: What does parsley add to recipes? I understand it as a garnish or as a breath freshener after meals, but I never notice a difference from putting it into a recipe. Oftentimes, I just ignore it.

I recently ran out of my dried parsley, and wasn't going to replace it. But several new recipes I'm looking at call for 1/2 cup (in things like a spicy Moroccan Stew), so I'm wondering -- what's it's role?


Kim O'Donnel: I wonder if you would feel the same way if you were using fresh parsley instead. In my opinion, the dried stuff is tasteless, but the fresh stuff lightens the tongue, cuts through fat in a dish, adds an herbaceous note.


Takoma Park, Md.: So how much of your job is reading cookbooks? How much is cooking? Should I be very jealous?

Kim O'Donnel: I have a pile of cookbooks by the bed as well as current food mags. I read constantly, fishing for ideas and inspiration as well as latest trends and news. Cooking takes up another chunk of my time, particularly to test recipes for this very blog. I feel very grateful I can earn a paycheck doing work that I love.


Pennsylvania: I made paella for the first time this weekend and learned how expensive and hard to find it can be. Most supermarkets in my area didn't carry it because of the price. I did find it in a tiny amount for 15 bucks. The paella was amazing but i only have enough saffron for one more dish. Since i have now fallne for paella, where I can get more reasonably priced saffon.

Kim O'Donnel: Check out latienda.com. Good resource for all things paella and Iberian. You can buy a paella pan from them as well. I don't know what prices are, but yes, it's expensive. You can keep it in a metal tin and it will last a good long time.


Stock Options: I really like Kitchen Basics stocks. They have all kinds and they are really good. They are all natural and have less sodium than most and no MSG.

Kim O'Donnel: One stock option...


Takoma, D.C. re: canned chick stock: Cook's Illustrated rated the Swanson low-sodium boxed stock as the best, then regular Swanson box. Then some canned ones but I don't remember which. They didn't like the two organic box brands Whole Foods carries, though -- those names escape me, though I can picture the boxes...

Kim O'Donnel: And another...


Woodbridge, Va.: Hi Kim!

What kinds of items would you keep in the cupboard to do some last-minute soups or chowders?

Kim O'Donnel: Dried legumes -- lentils, white beans, black, black-eye, etc. Tomato puree. Wine. RE: perishables: Onions, garlic, ginger, chiles, leeks. Herbs I get from my pots that haven't yet wintered over. Spices too are key. Coriander, cumin, cayenne...


Sausage guy to the rescue:1. Sour taste, I have no idea. Never seen that before

2. Yes, meat turns grey when it oxidizes -- the longer you leave it in contact with the air before stuffing, and the more finely you grind it the grayer it will get. Did you 'thoroughly' wash the grinder out before using it? Several runs through hot soapy water are usually necessary.

3. Saltpeter is hard to find anywhere -- I've found sodium nitrate but not food-grade potassium nitrate. Best way to find the things you need are to talk to independent butchers and high-end restaurants.

Kim O'Donnel: You're the best!!!!


Arlington, Va.: I made a roast (beef) last night and was wondering if you have any suggestions for leftovers.

Kim O'Donnel: Besides sandwiches, which are oh so lovely? Slice up for a salad, with watercress, arugula, some red onion, a sliced pear...


Re: saffron: Don't know if they have them up in Pa., but it's surprising cheap at Trader Joe's (when they have it in stock).

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for chiming in.


Veggie: Kim -- Can I make the veggie fried rice in a frying pan? I don't have a wok!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, you can. But it will need to be pretty wide and a bit deep to accommodate all of your stuff.


Tenderloin Side Dish: I made a fantastic stuffed tenderloin for Christmas (stuffed with caramelized onion, blue cheese and spinach ... yummm), and we had a Leek Tart for a side. It was super easy -- chop and saute about 4 leeks, add a dollop of mustard, 1 beaten egg, and about 1/2 cup or gruyere, crushed walnuts and diced red pepper. Put into a store-bought pie crust and bake. Very light, nice vegetarian side and pretty!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for following up on the tenderloin thread...


Fish Sauce Quandry: HI Kim,

I adore pineapple and as part of a New Year's resolution and am trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. Your pineapple salad sounded fabulously different and tasty. However, I'm not a fish sauce fancier, if I omit it should I put something in its place?

Kim O'Donnel: You know, one time I didn't have fish sauce and just let it go. Soy sauce is enough to yield the pungent salty result you're looking for. No worries.


Sour sausage: If meat tastes or smells sour, its usually gone bad. Especially if it was graying quickly, this would seem the case for that poster ...

Kim O'Donnel: Good point. Sour meat sounds off.


Morristown, N.J.: On Sunday I made a mess of mashed potatoes and have quite a bit leftover. Any suggestions??

Kim O'Donnel: There's nothing like a potato pancake. You can make into patties with bread crumbs and a bit of beaten egg, and return to fridge to set up again. Then pan-fry in oil and cook til golden on both sides.


Oklahoma: Hi Kim. Any ideas for plantains that don't involve frying? My husband and I are on a diet and he is determined to try everything in the produce department. I have only made them by frying them twice. Thank you.

Kim O'Donnel: NOt exactly a good time of year to do it, but plantains are good on the grill. They can be brushed with olive oil and put on skewers and will caramelize nicely over coals. Anyone else w/ nonfrying options for plantains?


Mint Ideas: I never like to buy lots of extra ingredients just to use up one that I already have. So I use mint to freshen up a salad, or I make iced tea, put it on my ice cream or mix it with couscous and parsley. Dave Lieberman has a great cheap and easy recipe!

Kim O'Donnel: More minty thoughts...


Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: For the bolognese sauce, Mario Batali's recipe is the simplest. Instead of canned tomatoes he uses just one 6 ounce can of tomato paste. When added to the wine and milk called for in most recipes, the sauce is more thickened without the hours of cooking. I've made with combos of ground bison, beef, turkey, etc., and they're all good. Just depends on your own preferences and what's on hand. Plus it's a great way to use up the rest of the can that you've opened previously for just a couple of tablespoons.

Kim O'Donnel: Another take on the meat sauce scenario...


Alexandria, Va.: I've got a hankering to roast a butternut squash for dinner tonight, but I also have a lot of spinach and a bit of goat cheese that need to be used up. Any ideas on how I could possibly combine the three? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Roast the squash. Make some rice. Saute the spianch w/ garlic and raisins. Mix w/ rice once it's cooked. Top with a smidge of goat cheese. Plate it up w/ that squash. You've got quite a pretty picture.


Best Salad Ever!: Hey Kim, made this for Christmas dinner and New Year's dinner -- so easy and so tasty.

Romaine-Dill Salad

Finely chop 1 head of romaine

Finely chop 1 small bunch of green onions

Finely chop 1 small bunch of fresh dill

Place into a large bowl and toss well.

Drizzle in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1/3 cup red wine vinegar.

Sprinkle with coarse salt and cracked black pepper.

Toss well. Let rest in fridge for at least 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Serve!

Hope your chatters will enjoy it as much as my family does.

Happy New Year!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for the dilly of an idea...


Arlington, Va.: Hi Kim -- I am planning a Mardi Gras-themed cocktail party for next month. On the menu: Andouille sausgage pigs-in-blankets, blackened chicken skewers, shrimp cocktail (with remoulade and regular cocktail sauces), and mini muffulettas. Do you think I could do beignets in advance, and reheat them before serving? Do you have a good beignet recipe?

Kim O'Donnel: I'm not crazy about the idea of doing beignets in advance. You'll lose a lot of the gusto that comes from freshly fried beignets. Hmm. Let's think on this.


re: Plantains: I lived in Ghana for several months and really liked my plantains boiled. Make sure they are nice and ripe, though.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, dear. Boiled plantains are actually a staple in many parts of Africa. It's nice to serve them with a spicy sauce. Thanks for the reminder.


Kim O'Donnel: Gotta go, I'm afraid. Thanks for the lively to-and-fro on all kitchen-y matters. Type to you next week, but stay in touch via the blog, which is updated Monday-Friday. Thanks, and take good care!


Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company