What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, October 14, 2008; 1:00 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 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. She was online Tuesday, October 14 at 1 p.m. to answer your cooking questions.

The transcript follows.

For daily dispatches from Kim's kitchen, check out her blog, A Mighty Appetite. You may catch up on previous transcripts with the What's Cooking archive page.

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Kim O'Donnel: Hey folks, I just got back from a
lovely two-day jaunt to Portland, Ore., where the livin' is dandy. Sigh, I could move there.
Wanted to gauge one more time your interest on this idea for a "Curry Week" in the blog space. For five days, a diff. curried recipe from a diff. cuisine would be featured. But I'd e-mail in advance all of the recipes to readers who were interested in cooking ahead with their own "curry clubs" and sharing their first-hand kitchen experiences on the day the recipe is posted in the blog. If you're curious and interested, please send an e-mail to: writingfoodATgmail.com
In the subject line, type: Curry Club

I'm also trying to organize a Mighty Appetite meet-n-greet first week of December when I am in DC for a few days. When I have more details, will let you know. And now, let's hear what's on your burners.

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Dupont Circle, D.C.: Kim, I just flew back from a long weekend in Portland! Wonderful, wonderful city. Tons of great food, wine and beer. We ate at Beast which also had communal dining and the diners at our table only reaffirmed that Portlanders are just the nicest folks I've ever met. Next time you go back I would highly recommend it. Also try Voodoo Donuts (for the kitsch factor), and the Horse's Brass Pub for amazing rare beer.

Kim O'Donnel: Great minds think alike, Dupont! This was not my first visit, but every time I go there, I feel like there's so much more to uncover. I definitely plan on getting back there sooner rather than later.

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Richmond, Va.: Greetings! I just wanted to let you know that it is chats like this, where you and readers informally share ideas, that has made me a little more adventurous in cooking.

The other night I was faced with how to make some boneless pork chops, and I wanted to use ingredients that I already had in my cupboard. Wanting to use some garam masala I had purchased for another recipe, I did a little online research and found a recipe that involved marinating the chops in a solution of olive oil and garam masala, then broiling them for five minutes on each side.

The side dish was even more thrown together. I had a box of Near East couscous, but didn't want to use the parmesan spice packet. After reading several different recipes and reviewing my pantry, I ended up sauteeing grated baby carrots, ginger, and garlic, then added it to boiling vegetable broth along with the couscous.

I really enjoyed this meal, and it was very quick and easy!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Richmond, give yourself a high-five for your gumption to get into the kitchen. I like how you improvised and did away with the spice packet. Nice going. When we take just a few minutes, it's amazing the things we can create in the kitchen, no?

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Former D.C.er, now Portlander: Hey Kim,

Happy to hear you had a great time in Portlandia. Next time you visit, you must check out Toro Bravo, Country Cat, and Ken's Pizza (the same guy who owns Ken's Artisan Bakery). Those are my fave places. Of course, if you make it down during the week, you should check out all of our wonderful food carts.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there! I did food carts last visit, and was hankering for more of that goodness, but yes, time was ticking away. Thanks, I'm addding these to my to-do list.

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Portland, Ore.: I've got some kale from my CSA and no idea what to do with it. Any suggestions? I tried it raw and wasn't to my liking.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Portland, Unless it's red Russian kale, which is really tender, raw kale is a tad bitter. Most kale needs the stems removed, so do that first. Try wilting it in a skillet, with a little oil, some garlic, chile flakes and turn with your tongs. It will cook in five-ish minutes. You might discover you need a little liquid -- and water is fine in a pinch (just a few tablespoons). I'm also a big fan of roasting kale in a 400 oven -- and topping with a can of rinsed white beans and chopped rosemary!

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Brining question from Washington, D.C.: Hi, Kim, When brining, is it a good or bad idea to pierce the meat so the brine gets inside? I've been brining everything, from whole turkeys to boneless, skinless chicken breasts. So far without adding spices but that could change. Thank you so much for your advice!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there, I've never felt the need to pierce the meat. Remember, it's a water solution, so after some time in its bath, the meat will absorb the flavors, and yes, adding spices will heighten the end result. I love adding coriander seeds to a poultry brine. Something magical happens. Star anise too!

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Kim! My bf and I just moved into our first place last month and I am having fun cooking for two now! Well, I was inspired by having yesterday off that I went mad in the kitchen and whipped up some tasty chicken soup as well as spaghetti with an Italian sausage sauce made from scratch! Well, I want to keep up with the inspiration and would love to find a recipe for a lower-fat alfredo sauce. I am thinking something that I could then add lots of veggies to like zukes and peppers. You have a recipe along those lines? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm, good question. Does anyone have a lower-fat alfredo that doesn't feel like a forced compromise?

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Roasted Chicken Tricks of the Trade: I stuff the cavity with lots of celery and onion and liberally sprinkle sage and poultry seasoning also. I spray the chicken on the outside with PAM and roast it in 450F to 475F oven until the skin is brown then finish it off at 350F. I also pour 1-2 cups of water in the pan. I cook the chicken uncovered at 450F+ and cover it at 350F.

Kim O'Donnel: This is in response to last week's blog post about Roast Chicken tried-and-true. Here's the link.

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Shirlington, Va.: Hi Kim, after reading about Earth/Balance from you I decided to give it a try and I love it! I can't get over how much it tastes like butter. Can I use it in place of butter for baking? All amounts would be the same correct? And I was also wondering if you have a recipe for either a vegetarian or turkey chili? We're having a Super Bowl Election Party (how D.C. is that?)on November 4th to watch the returns and I thought I'd serve chili and root for my favorite team. Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Actually, baking is what I use it for. The sticks are the best for baking, and yes it's an equal sub. Re: turkey chili: recipe details. I'm working on a blog post for snacks that will keep us sustained for the long night of election returns, stay tuned for that.

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Arlington, Va.: You should definitely make a trip over to Minea Farm in Redmond, Wash. to try out their cider and to buy some of their lovely apple syrup (they simmer the cider at a low temp until it's syrupy.). It's so delicious.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, that sounds wonderful. Thanks for the tip! I've been craving cider.

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St. Paul, Minn.: Please help! I want to be able to put a beef roast with carrots, potatoes, and onions in a crock pot in the morning and come home to a delicious meal. Last night the roast was done but the small cut, on-the-bottom vegetables were not, and the whole thing just didn't have much flavor. What cut of meat should I use? What spices? I would prefer not to brown the roast before, because I'm assembling at 7 am. Thanks!!

washingtonpost.com: I (Michele, today's producer) made this pot roast from Everyday Food last week and it came out perfectly. I started it at 8 a.m. (no browning needed!) and it was ready when I returned home at 6:30 p.m. It doesn't include potatoes, but I see no reason why you couldn't add them. Slow-Cooker Pot Roast (Everyday Food, October 2008)

Kim O'Donnel: Here's a first-hand report on crock-potting from Michele, my producer....
but re: cut of meat: Try a chuck roast -- will be cheaper if you cut it up yourself. A shoulder roast would be great, too. A bay leaf, black peppercorns, some red wine, sprigs of rosemary or thyme. And I'd add some garlic to those onions, etc.

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Detroit, Mich.: Hi Kim! Just went to the apple orchards this past weekend and picked up a big jug of cider. Can you cook with apple cider? Anything to do with it besides just drink from a glass? They made cider slushies at the orchard which were great, but I'd love to try using the cider to marinate or make a sauce.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, you can, Detroit! In fact, you can simmer a bit in a saucepan and let it reduce until syrupy and use with sweet potatoes or squash. You can absolutely use as a marinade -- would be great with pork chops (and a little chipotle chile) -- I might also use it to cook up cabbage.

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roasted dark greens: Hi Kim! So I never thought of roasting kale before. Can you give some more details as well as other winter green roasting ideas? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: The most common mistake is to have heat up too high -- nothing higher than 400 degrees or you'll have very papery greens, very unpleasant. Lather up your greens (stems removed) with olive oil, chop up some garlic, salt, pepper, and then if you want to up the ante, add some canned white beans that could use some seasoning -- lemon, cayenne or your favorite chile, rosemary, even roasted peppers. Takes about 12 minutes.

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re: Kale: A few ideas for Kale:

Make colcannon with potatoes and kale.

My mother-in-law makes a wonderful white minestrone with kale, butternut squash and navy beans in a vegetable broth. Really hearty and very seasonal. I think it's a Moosewood Recipe.

I've had great luck using all sort of greens (kale, collards, etc), parboiling them in a pot of water with just a bit of veggie bouillon for flavor, and then adding them where I would frozen spinach. I've thrown them in white sauce for "Florentine" and topped fish with it, mixed them with silken tofu and filled stuffed shells, etc.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, great ideas here!

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Olney, Md.: Speaking of brining, Gourmet magazine (I think) had a couple recipes to try as an alternative to brining. Basically you mix a combo of course salt and spices and rub it all over the outside/interior of the turkey (or chicken), let sit for 18-24 hours, rinse and pat dry, rub with oil and then roast. It ends up having a similar effect as brining (moist and flavorful meat, bronze skin) but less fuss. I'm going to give it a shot this Thanksgiving!

Kim O'Donnel: I could see this working, yes indeed. Thanks for turning us onto this alternative...

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New York, N.Y.: I want to make a cream of mushroom soup recipe that calls for fresh shitake (5 oz) to make a stock. Can I substitute with another type of mushroom? They don't even have dried available where I live.

If I order dried shitakes, since it is for a stock, should I just rehydrate the dried ones?

Kim O'Donnel: Wait a second -- you live in New York, and you can't find dried mushrooms? That's impossible. Tell us where you really live, dear. In answer to your question, yes, you can rehydrate dried mushrooms and make stock. Porcinis are nice for their robust flavor and make excellent stock.

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Arlington Gal: Hey Kim -- I've got two delicata squash calling to me on the counter. Last week I just put a little olive oil and salt on them and baked them upside down (split them in half length-wise) until soft- a great side-dish. How do I jazz it up this time and turn it into a main dish? I've got access to the Penn Quarter farmer's market on Thursday. Can they be stuffed (like an acorn squash) or cubed/roasted (like a butternut squash)? Thanks for the assist!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Arl Gal: Delicata is a great squash to stuff. I'm seeing quinoa or couscous, or maybe even some cooked barley! Regardless of what you use, you'll want to season it separately before stuffing, as if it were to be eaten on its own. Boil/steam your grain, and in a separate skillet, sweat some onions, garlic, chiles, even ginger, maybe some chopped greens (I'm seeing spinach or chard), then add your grain, salt and pepper, a spritz of lemon. I might parboil your halved squash, for just a few minutes, to speed up the cooking process.

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Low-fat Alfredo sauce: I'm sure some would consider this a compromise, but this is a recipe my grandma started making for my grandpa after he had heart bypass surgery, and then shared with the family. I've played around with it over the years, adding mushrooms, asparagus, and other veggies in a kind of primavera; mixing with marinara to create a pink sauce, etc.

It's not really a recipe; you just make a roux with butter and flour, then stir in milk until it thickens. I think the proportions are about 2 T of butter and 2 T of flour for every cup of milk. (You can go as low as skim, but I prefer 1% or 2%). After it thickens, you stir in grated parm, about 1/4-1/2 c. Season with garlic salt, white pepper, and parsley to taste.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, dear. I'm sure our low-fat Alfredo-er will be very happy to get your tidbits.

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Baltimore, Md.: Re: cooking with cider. Try using it to cook brown rice. Then toss with cooked sausage and sauteed apples and onion for a nice homey fall meal.

1 lb ground sausage

1 diced apple

1 small onion, chopped

2 cups brown rice, uncooked

3 to 3.5 cups apple juice

2 tablespoons additional apple juice

optional:

1/2 cup chopped celery

3 tablespoons almonds

Prepare brown rice according to instructions on box, except use apple juice instead of water to boil rice. Meanwhile, brown sausage and drain excess grease. Put sausage in a separate bowl for later. In the same skillet, melt about 1 Tbsp butter. Cook apple, onion, and celery until they are tender crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Add almonds and extra apple juice, and combine sausage, rice, and apple mixture together. Heat for a few more minutes until everything is hot.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, I like this idea! Thanks for sharing, Balto.

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Newton, Mass.: Hi Kim, glad to have found the chat this week. Could you suggest s side dish using chick peas (I made a pot over the weekend) that would go with grilled duck breast with middle eastern seasonings and roasted turnips? My daughter has become a vegetarian, and I would like to give her a protein to go with the menu the others of us are having. We all eat vegetarian about half the time, but it is quite challenging since one of us has a soy allergy, and none of us are wild about pasta. So we do a fair amount with beans. Thank you.

Kim O'Donnel: Hi Newton, after black beans, I think chickpeas are my favorite legume. Now, are you planning to use the pot that you made over the weekend and you'd like suggestions on grains to go with? Tell me more.

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For the New Yorker looking for dried mushrooms: Go to Chinatown! I also recommend Kalustyans on 28th and Lex for just about any "unusual" ingredient. It's officially an Indian market, but they have a huge selection of many ethnic foods including Thai, Japanese, and Middle Eastern. Their bulk dried fruits are amazing. I moved to Chicago four years ago but still visit Kalustyans every time I'm back in New York.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, indeed! If you can't find dried mushrooms in New York, then well, we all better start over.

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South Dakota: Kim, a few weeks ago a chatter asked what backstraps were, I wasn't live-chatting at the time, but do have an answer. The backstraps (game meat) are the tenderloins. Treat as you would almost any cut of tenderloin. Last night our backstraps (absolutely fresh!) took a bath in a miso based marinade and then on to the grill. Wonderful stuff.

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you so much for following up, South Dakota. And great ideas!

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Washington, D.C.: Maybe this is a dumb question, but you mentioned a bay leaf in the slow-cooker pot roast recipe. Why? What does a bay leaf do for the flavor? I have done it, but when I haven't I haven't noticed a difference. Are my bay leaves too old?

Kim O'Donnel: Ideally, a bay leaf should add a peppery flavor. There's nothing like a fresh laurel leaf. I know, not always possible, but do a mental check on last time you bought bay leaves and how you're storing them.

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Salt Lake City: Hi neighbor! My baby's first birthday is coming up this weekend and I was wondering if you had suggestions for a tasty but not too unhealthy cake. He loves squash and sweet potatoes, so I was thinking some kind of pumpkin cake with a cream cheese frosting might do the trick. I've never made such a thing, do you have any suggestions? I'm open to other baby-friendly cakes as well.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there, what about cupcakes? Does the bambino like bananas? A pumpkin-y cupcake could work, yes. I need to dig something up for you, though.

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Arlington Gal: Thanks -- that's perfect! I'll look at your stuffed pepper blog post for a little guidance, I think. Re: low-fat Alfredo, a combo of skim milk and cream cheese can get the job done with a good roux and a generous bit of roasted garlic.

Kim O'Donnel: And thank you for the low-fat Alfredo thoughts...

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Anonymous: Hi Kim, my father has had to start a new low-sodium diet, and he has been unhappy with the taste of many recipes. I was wondering if you knew some good spices or other flavorings to compensate for using less salt.

Kim O'Donnel: Gremolata may help him get over the hump -- it's a fresh mix of parsley, lemon zest and garlic, and it really helps save the day. Has he let go of processed food? That's where so much of the sodium is lurking. A little olive oil can go a long way, too, adding to the overall salinity of a dish...and a hard cheese, like Parmigiano -- a little bit can help perk up soups, pastas, salads, just a smidge grated.

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Takoma, D.C.: Hi Kim -- picked up some locally-raised pork chops and now don't know what to do with them. Last time I had pork chops they were pretty tough. Any ideas? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Pork chops don't need a lot of cooking time, because they're a tender cut, but the most common mistake is to overcook -- and turn'em into rubber. I like marinating pork chops before grilling or roasting -- what's your marinade pleasure? You want a little sweet, a little heat, a little salt and a little pungent to create balance of flavors.

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Washington, D.C.: Kim, with apples in season here, I'd like to try my hand at making apple butter. Do you have a recipe you can share? (Bonus points if I can make it in the crock pot!) Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, I'd love to hear from readers who do this on a regular basis. Tell me your secrets, and I'll put together something in the blog space.

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Kim O'Donnel: Already time to run, folks. Thanks for stopping by! Come see me over at A Mighty Appetite. All best.


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