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What's Cooking Thanksgiving

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, November 20, 2008 1:00 PM

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

Photo Gallery: Pie Dough 101

A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), O'Donnel 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. For daily dispatches from Kim's kitchen, check out her blog, A Mighty Appetite.

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Kim O'Donnel: Before we get started, let's all take a virtual cleansing breath: Inhale -- positive thoughts, a sense of adventure and good will; Exhale -- self-loathing, performance anxiety and emotional baggage. Ah. Yes. Feels good. Welcome to the official T-minus 7 countdown, folks! For the next hour, I'll answer as many questions as I possibly can to get you fixed right for next weeks' feast-a-rama. But have no fear; if your questions remain unanswered, I'll be back online for the regular Tuesday show next week (Nov. 25) and I'll dish up another Thanksgiving Chat Hotline over in the blog space. Have a look at Pie Dough 101, my how-to photo gallery that walks you through the steps and helps you get over the fear factor. Now, let's get this dinner party started.

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Kim O'Donnel: Oh! And another thing: Mark Your Calendars: Miz Celebritology Liz Kelly and I will be on hand Thursday, Dec. 4 from 6 - 8 p.m. for an official meet-and-greet at D.C.'s M Bar at the Renaissance M St Hotel. Come on out. We can't wait to meet you. (Facebookers: Details here

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Washington, D.C. - Turkey Travel: What would KOD do? Traveling to Philly for 5-person Thanksgiving via car. Turkey has not been purchased or ordered. Family there unable to purchase. Options as I see them:

1. Try to order a fresh bird still, pick up somewhere around DC, transport... in a cooler?

2. Buy a frozen bird on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning when we get there.

3. Try to order a fresh bird to pick up on Wednesday in Philly?

Something else? Help!

Kim O'Donnel: Don't even go through Door Number Two, dearest. For five people, estimate about 1.5 pounds per person (if you want leftovers) which translates into 7.5, 8 pounds. For that, you'll need nearly 48 hours of thaw time. Since the drive is just 3 hours, pack up a fresh bird and put in cooler. When are you going? The drive on I-95 on Wed. could be a nightmare. Let's hash this out more.

10 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Cooking a Turkey But Were Afraid to Ask

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Columbus, OH: Hi Kim, I'd like to contribute something to my family's Thanksgiving, but all the basics are already covered- Mom makes the stuffing, Sister makes the potatoes, etc. I'm thinking of doing a mushroom risotto. I thought the savory, creamy dish would go well with the other fall flavors, but my boyfriend says there is already enough starches on the table and thinks I should do a vegetable instead. What are your thoughts?

Kim O'Donnel: As lovely of an idea as a mushroom risotto is, Columbus, you need to consider several things: Is there space in the middle of the hubbub to stand over the stuff stirring arborio rice while Mom et al is scrambling to whip mash and heat up gravy? If there's room, would the family be okay with eating risotto first, as a separate course, then chowing down on the turkey and trimmings?

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Farmers' Market, DC: So aside from squash, sweet potatoes and apples, what other goodies can I get from the farmers' market this weekend for the holiday? Also, what markets aside from Takoma are open this weekend?

Kim O'Donnel: The autumn bounty is just awesome -- you'll find pears, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens like kale, chard and collards, bread for your stuffing, cream, butter and eggs for your desserts, maybe even a few unsold local turkeys, sausage for the stuffing...In the DC area, you've got Freshfarm Market in Dupont Circle (sunday), Arlington Courthouse, Falls Church and Del Ray (Saturday), Columbia Pike (Sunday). Am I missing any?

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Arlington, VA: Hi Kim, love these chats (and I was so excited to join the new facebook group!) I was planning on making your tofu pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving this year. I wanted to make it here in VA and then bring it with me to New Jersey because my family might freak out if they see the tofu go in. The problem is that I am taking Amtrak to NJ on Wednesday. Does the pie need constant refrigeration? Can I maybe freeze it and then let it defrost while on the train? Or do I need a cooler? The trip, all in, should take about 5 hours. Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Arlington, thanks for joining the Fb page! Please make sure that no one in family has any known allergies. As one reader pointed out last week, serving up tofu pie could be a nightmare for someone allergic to soy. That said, how to transport. Yes, the pie needs constant refrigeration. Not sure if I'd freeze it. I think a cooler would be best. You got plenty of those dry ice packs?

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Baltimore, MD: AHow long does it take to cook a turkey, per pound of turkey?

Kim O'Donnel: Estimate 12-15 minutes per pound. If it's stuffed, will take longer to reach the 165-170-degree range in the deep part of the leg. closer to 12 minutes/pound if unstuffed...and fresh birds take less time.

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Wilmington, Del: I watched your great slide show on pie crusts. Does a pumpkin pie bottom crust need to be parbaked, or is that just with juicy fruit pies?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Wilmington, I find this trick really helps with those juicy fruit pies, so if you've got a pumpkin pie lined up, I wouldn't worry about parbaking. Cheers.

How-to Photo Gallery: Pie Dough 101

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Arlington, VA: Hi Kim, So I am still a turkey novice. I made my first last year and it was pretty ok. This year, we are having a small group, so I would like to just make a turkey breast. I found a recipe for one that is brined and stuffed with stuffing, but for the life of me, I can't understand the directions on how to cut it to stuff it. Can you help?

Or would it be better not to stuff it at all? I am hoping the turkey breast will be less stressful than the whole turkey, but I am starting to get flustered.

Any thoughts?

Kim O'Donnel: Don't get flustered, honeypie. Make stuffing, bake it separately, and everyone will love it, and you'll save your sanity.

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Desserts: I have a dilemma--I'm in charge of desserts for a Thanksgiving dinner for a LOT of people, and I have a whole list of desserts, but still have a gap to fill. I need a kid-friendly, egg-free, nut-free, strawberry-free dessert (when did kids start having so many allergies??). The nut-free part extends to chocolate made in a factory with nuts, so I have to be careful there too. Please help!!

Kim O'Donnel: What about an apple or pear crisp? No eggs, no nuts (well, just leave'em out), no berries to worry about...and most def. kid friendly.

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Bethesda, MD: Whose idea was this, anyway?? Six hours of food prep followed by 30 minutes of frantic eating and finished off by 3 hours of clean-up?

Kim O'Donnel: I'm laughing. That is why, Bethesda, you must LAUGH and HAVE FUN along the way. Otherwise, it's a serious drag. Take your time, take a break, sip on some wine, kiss the kids, go out and smell the crisp air, and give thanks to three things.

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for Columbus Ohio: The T-Day thanksgiving tradition in our house is to serve cups of pumpkin or butternut squash soup as folks come in. It makes a nice appetizer of sorts. Serve in coffee cups if you don't have enough plates.

The soup itself is easy to make. Roast some squash in cubes, saute some onions, puree with veggie or chicken stock (enough to cover the cubes). I add a mix of pie spices with cumin. Salt and pepper. Then blend until smooth. I don't add any cream. It's light and veggie and a nice starter. You can transport it cold and heat it when you arrive or you can transport it in a crock pot and plug it in when you get there. You can even transport it frozen and reheat--to avoid spillage in transit. Very versatile.

Kim O'Donnel: Very nice idea. I like this.

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Ice, ice baby! America's Test Kitchen turkey: Hi, Kim! I caught just the tail end of a recent America's Test Kitchen show in which they talked about their new favorite turkey technique, which included icing the breast and cavity before cooking to keep the white meat moist. Do you have or could any of the chatters point me to the full specific instructions? Thanks so much!

Kim O'Donnel: Hilarious. Anyone have access to these details?

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Hampton Roads, VA: Kim,

This is the pear-ginger chutney poster from a week or two ago. So the dinner get-together is tomorrow, so I made the chutney today. And let me say, the whole time I was thinking, "It's probably going to turn out all wrong, this is weird, why didn't I just heat upa bag of frozen green beans, they woulda been just as good!" But then I decided to taste one of the pear chunks as it simmered in the pot.

Holy cow! How amazing! It was like, applesauce, only in solid form! Thank you for suggesting it, cause really, I could eat it straight, and it will probably be only more amazing with the pork tenderloin. Thank you thank you thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: Yay! I think this chutney would be great on the Thanksgiving table, too.

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Just because I'm such a novice...: So unless I'm making a juicy fruit pie, no need to parbake the crust? The tutorial was awesome, by the way. It's really given me the desire to make my first REAL pie!

Kim O'Donnel: You got it, darlin. No juicy fruit? No parbake. You dig?

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Arlington Gay: Quick update, Kim. Plans in motion for me to make locally grown dressing. Talked with my SIL the other day and I was the 3rd or 4th person to recommend brining to her, so looks like she's going to do that, too.

Question regarding dressing vs. stuffing. I obviously do dressing since I'm making the stuff without a turkey. But I've heard stuffing the bird has health risks. Or is that just and old wives tale?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey GAFF, sounds like your feast is shaping up nicely. I don't have actual proof that links stuffing the bird to food safety risks, but think about it: You gotta get the temp to 165-170, including the stuffing. The stuffing is jam packed in there. Often what happens is that home cooks forget to chill the stuffing so they put hot stuffing in a cold bird. It's a party for bacteria. So...I recommend not stuffing, but if you decide otherwise, do it chilled and do it loose.

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RE: Bethesda: This letter is exactly why we need our families. Some of us love the 6 hrs (2-3 days at my house) of prep and we invite our friends and families who hate it! Want to come to California? There is always room at my table. Cheers!

Kim O'Donnel: And at mine, here in Seattle. One of the things I love about Thanksgiving is taking the time to give thanks. It doesn't have to be at table. It can be while the bird is in the oven, when the cousins stop by early, while you're having your coffee and working on stuffing. It is truly a special day. The food is the way we get there.

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philly-to-sf transplant: I'll be back in Philly for the holiday and my recently-moved-to-NYC boyfriend is coming in for a few days. He brilliantly bought bus ticket that will get him into Philly just as the Thanksgiving Day Parade is getting into full swing. Am thinking it will make sense to head down toward Old City or something and not attempt the drive back to the Main Line under parade madness has cleared. Any suggestions for where we should hang? He'll probably want to eat something (massive appetite, no danger of being too full for the feast), but I realize that many places will be closed.

sorry this isn't a real food question

Kim O'Donnel: You can always get the R5 train out to the Main Line, my old stomping grounds. Although holiday schedule. I have no idea what will be open during the day downtown while you figure things out. Philly readers, chime in with your thoughts. Have fun!

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Silver Spring, MD: Kim - would you please address roasted veggies? I was hoping to cube potatoes, sweets, onions, and brussells sprouts and roast them. how do I get the most flavor - just oil and garlic, or is there a marinade or sauce that would help? Will all of these roast in the same amount of time? I roasted broccoli last year (at your great suggestion) and it was a hit. Thanks!!

Kim O'Donnel: Ah roasted veg. Personally, I think oil, garlic, salt and pepper is all you need. The roasting releases the sugars adn they're just heavenly sweet. Some herbs are nice -- fresh thyme or rosemary. Roast at 400. If same size, they should roast pretty evenly.

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Fiance hosting the future in-laws, DC: Hey Kim, Happy Thanksgiving! Can you give me a good source for a kosher turkey around here? I am likely going to Trader Joe's on Saturday, but I worry that I'm going to need backup places. I would LOVE to find a kosher local turkey, but I have no leads.

Kim O'Donnel: I am pretty sure TJs sells kosher birds. I'd also check My Organic Market, Harris Teeter and Wegmans. Other thoughts?

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Chantilly, VA - Apple Pie: I would like to make a homemade apple pie this weekend and freeze it unbaked to later serve on Thanksgiving. Will the quality of the pie suffer after it's baked because it was previosly frozen?

Kim O'Donnel: Let pie cool. Wrap in foil, then wrap in plastic. All will be well. Thaw in fridge.

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Eastern Market: I am going to an early Thanksgiving on Saturday and promised to bring an apple pie. Problem is, I only have an hour to get ready before running across town. My plan is to roll out the pie crust on Friday night and keep it covered in the pie pan in the fridge. My question is, should I make the filling on Friday as well (I cook the apples and spices on the stove for 10-15 minutes) and then store it in the fridge for 24 hours, or will this make the filling really mushy? Should I increase the oven time or temperature, since I won't have time to warm the ingredients up to room temperature before putting them together and baking?

I made this pie last year, and it was a huge hit -- we're having a contest this year, and I hope to win so don't want to screw this up!

Kim O'Donnel: You can also bake the whole thing on Friday, let it cool and keep it covered until Saturday night. It'll be great!

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Washington, DC: Hate to admit this on a cooking chat, but I am planning on buying a pre-cooked turkey breast on Wednesday to serve on Thanksgiving. (I don't eat or cook meat, but others at the dinner table do, so this makes them happy and lets me concentrate on making all the side dishes and desserts.) My question is, how should I reheat the turkey...sliced, whole, what temperature and how long?

Kim O'Donnel: No worries -- you're doing what works for you and freeing yourself up to do the stuff you love. Breast meat can be lean, so I'm thinking to reheat whole, but covered, and do it at 300. Keep an eye on it.

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kosher turkey: I get mine every year at kosher mart in rockville. But order soon!

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you!

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Ohio: On freezing apple pie: In times of abundance of apples,I make double crust pies and freeze them "raw" apples, crust, spices and all. When I want a fresh apple pie, I pop it frozen into the oven and bake until done. They taste like they were just assembled and baked.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. Thanks, Ohio!

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Washington, DC: I make lots of pies, but (shame on me) almost always use frozen pie crusts. I've always been led to believe that baking a pie crust is an art that requires rare skills. I'm going to a friend's for T'giving who's a very accomplished cook. I'm comfortable with my basic but classic pumpkin pie filling, but feel I really should make a homemade crust. Do you have any suggestions for easy recipes, or any tips for making it? Oh, and I don't have a food processor, which seems to crop up in a lot of recipes. Many thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Check out the how-to photo gallery linked a few times earlier in the chat. Don't worry that the photos show a food processor. The video link on the left hand side of page show you how to do it by hand. Have a look, see what you think.

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alexandria,va: ARGHHH! Haven't ordered a turkey and am so confused: natural, free range, pasture raised, butterball, fresh, frozen etc.???? what is the difference in flavor/texture? which is best?? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: It is a matter of preference. Personally, I go for local, pasture-raised birds. There is a chance of still finding one at your closest farm market, but if that feels too stressful, buy a fresh bird at the store. Frozen, in my opinion, often are tasteless. But let's ask the crew: what's your fave bird?

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Washington, DC: There was an article in the food section yesterday that referred to icing the breast of the turkey

"Allowing the legs to warm to room temperature while cooling the breast with ice cubes gives the legs a head start. Covering the breast with foil during the first part of the cooking further reduces the danger of overcooked dryness."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2008/11/18/AR20081118007 73_pf.html

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks! I am still catching up on my reading.

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please help me: I do thanksgiving every year and my stuffing always bombs. But, its the dietary restrictions of my guests. So, ready. It needs to be vegetarian, or at least can be made with vegetable stock, no nuts, and no diary, no raisins or dried fruit or corn. My dad has diverticulitis, we have someone who keeps kosher and many veggies. I know, why have stuffing at all? Any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: Stuffing is easier than you think. Bread-liquid ratio should be 2 to 1. So, yes, you need to measure out your bread cubes. Heat your liquid and keep on simmer.

Start with sauteed onion, garlic, celery, shallots, even mushrooms. Season well and with herbs of choice. Fennel seeds are nice. Add the cooked stuff to the bread cubes. Ladle liquid gradually over cubes to keep an eye on moisture, ensuring it never gets too goopy. TAste for salt and pepper. When you're happy with flavor, pour into a buttered casserole dish and bake for about 25 minutes, until there's a little crust on top.

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for late turkey orderers: MOMs still is taking orders and has a variety of sizes. Fresh and organic/free range of course. We got ours there last year and it was perfect (Maple Lawn).

Kim O'Donnel: Terrific. Thanks for this!

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Arlington Gay: For the roasted veggies, I find chopped shallots add more flavor than onion. And a little cumin seed can really add some flavor. (Both tips I learned in this chat, of course.)

Kim O'Donnel: Shallots rank high in my book. Good point. And a double yes to cumin seeds!

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Stuffing for turkey breast: Stuffing that has had bird juices on it is SO much tastier. I've done it by putting stuffing in some cheesecloth, (make a bag of the flat cloth)twist the cheesecloth closed and place the bird on top on the stuffing bag. When it's done, pull the cheesecloth away from the bird and put in a bowl. Delicious!

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting. Sounds like a nice idea.

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Arlington, VA S: Mushroom risotto (if you have the space) is a wonderful first course for Thanksgiving. My family and I have either this or a winter squash risotto every year as a first course. We have a lot of courses though, so it's not a big serving. Courses: appetizers (olives, pickled foods, vegetables in oil, etc), first course (risotto), second course (turkey, potatoes, other side vegetables), cheese plates, dessert.

Mind you, while we do have potatos (rosemary pan fried usually), we're not the kind of family that has a sweet potato casserole or other really starchy food.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for chiming in! A vote for risotto as first course, with a little rest before the big bird.

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washington, va: for Bethesda who says cook for 6 hours, eat for 30mn and clean for 3 hours, that sounds like no fun.

I say make it an extensive inclusive feast! Cook for a couple of days, startng to make things like ice-cream the week end before - take long breaks with walks, cusp of hot tea, glass of beer, whatever, nimble, cook, listen to some music. Set a lovely table. Serve it not all at once - leisurely over hours. Amazing what it does for conversations!

Have fun!

Sylvie http://www.LaughingDuckGardens.com

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, yes!

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Anonymous: Happy Thanksgiving, Kim! Is it possible to make pie dough in advance (like made this weekend to be used on Wednesday night)? If so, what should be done? Also, should the crust for pumpkin pie be blind baked?

Thanks so much!

Kim O'Donnel: You can freeze the dough. Be sure to cut into halves, then wrap separately. On Tuesday, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge. You'll be in biz on Wed. nite. And no, pumpkin pie crust need not be blind baked.

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Washington, DC: We are doing "dressing" outside of the bird this year and wondering what (if anything) to put inside and how this will affect cooking time.

Kim O'Donnel: You can add sprigs of herbs in the cavity, a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves, a quartered orange or onion...it will cook more quickly unstuffed than stuffed. Think 12 min/pound rather than 15ish.

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mushroom risotto: I did a test run over the weekend for the meatless option I'm taking to a gathering next week. It tasted great (maybe a little salty--duly noted) but the color was nasty. Grey and not at all appetizing. Any suggestions besides hiding it under a mound of fresh parsley?

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm...How did you prepare the shrooms? Tell me more.

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Arlington: After realizing I am getting ham (ham!) for TG dinner, I decided to cook a turkey this weekend. Picking up a fresh one at the store tomorrow, and popping it in the oven. Any suggestions for rubs/seasoning for the fella? Will be in the 8-12lbs range, just the turkey so we can have leftovers.

Kim O'Donnel: You can do a salt rub, with coriander, fennel seeds, black pepper, paprika, rub inside and out. Put in a bag, refrigerate overnight. Then before cooking, rinse off the rub. Roast.

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San Luis Obispo, CA: For making the day itself fun, the rule at our house is that when the pies are out of the oven and the turkey is in we make a batch of Ramos Fizz (think gin-citrus milk shake, like drinking a cloud) and start enjoying our guests. The rest of the cooking can be done easily and we have a lot of fun.

Kim O'Donnel: This is getting me thinking about a blog post...

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Southeastern Pennsylvania: Hi Kim,

Our family's three usual go-to cooks are essentially out of commission for Thanksgiving. One of us is recovering from a hip replacement, one has a herniated disk, and one is almost nine months pregnant (that's me, by the way). Thus, we're trying to keep things simple. I ordered a honey-baked ham, but I'm feeling totally lost for what to serve with it. The typical stuffing and potatoes don't feel right. Any suggestions, especially for things that can be prepared in advance to minimize time on our feet on Thursday?

Kim O'Donnel: Wow, this is a tall order. Hang in there. I love apple sauce or pear chutney (as mentioned earlier) for pork. Easy and can be made in advance. What about a cornbread stuffing ? Or wild rice stuffing? And you need some greens, dear. A quickie saute of spinach? Some roasted root veg?

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turkey breast or whole turkey?: my husband is insisting on making a turkey breast rather than a whole sized turkey for thanksgiving. we'll have 5 people, and one doesn't eat meat. does this sound like enough turkey for everyone? plus, we'll have all the side dishes, pies, and probably even appetizers of some sort. thanks! love the chats!!

Kim O'Donnel: For four turkey eaters? Hmm. I think I'd go with a small bird, an eight pounder, rather than a breast. In fact, at Casa Appetite, we're a small group of three, and I've ordered a local bird, just under 8 pounds. If you want leftovers for turkey sandwiches over weekend, go with whole bird.

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Arlington Gay: You're cutting into Liz's chat time...

But since you haven't left yet, do you have the squash soup link handy? This chat got me thinking about soup for T'giving and my SIL wants the link.

Kim O'Donnel: Please send smooches to Liz!

Impromptu Squash puree

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Goes great with ham: Sweet potatoes go great with ham. Peal, slice into wedges, bake in butter and rosemary until soft. They would be terrific with apple chutney or cider sauce and the ham.

Kim O'Donnel: excellent idea! thank you.

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Kim O'Donnel: Time to run! And remember, walk, don't run, enjoy, don't fret. It's supposed to be fun! I'll be back next Tuesday, and I'll also dish up some of your leftover questions, too. Hang in there!

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