What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, November 25, 2008; 1:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us Tuesdays at 1 p.m. ET for 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.

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.


Kim O'Donnel: Forty-eight hours from now, we'll all be getting ready to sit down and give thanks. A nice thought to keep in mind in the midst of Thanksgiving prep and hoopla. The cranberry sauce is done, and I'm at work on my turkey brine as I type. Mister MA has been recruited to make the stuffing, and now he's talking about combining cornbread and French bread. (Should I let him?)

Tonight, there's

pie dough

to make so that tomorrow can be fairly stress free. After all, I need to tend to my peeps with their last-minute questions. Speaking of which....tomorrow in the blog space, we're gonna try something a lil' different and open up the "floor," giving you the opportunity for 11th-hour questions and hand holding. I'll be checking the blog hourly and answering your questions as they come in throughout the day. But for now, let's see what can do to fix you right for the big day. And away we go....


Minneapolis, MN: Submitting early and hoping you can help! We're getting a heritage turkey this thanksgiving, picking it up from the farm tomorrow. How should it be cooked, and to what temperature? Thanks for the help!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Minny, good for you for buying the bird from a local farm. My favorite way of doing the bird is brining, and the recipe I use is more than salt and sugar; it's got coriander seeds, fennel seeds, onions, celery, leek, a whole of stuff to make an aromatic bath. Since you're not picking up bird til tomorrow, you could make brine tonight and do a 24-hour brine. If that is not of interest, you can do a salt/spice rub tomorrow night, and let it sit in fridge overnight uncovered, let skin get taught. On Thursday, you rinse bird, then put her in the oven. I like to start the bird at 425 for about 20ish minutes, then reduce to 350 for the rest.


Richmond, VA: Hi, Kim, This Thanksgiving I'm making my first pumpkin pie. The recipe calls for a store-bought crust, but I've always preferred home-made. Do you have a suggestion for a quick and easy pumpkin pie crust? Do you think a graham cracker crust would work? Thanks!!!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Richmond, don't worry what recipe says -- if you wanna make your own, you most certainly can and should! A graham cracker crust might not be enough foundation for a pumpkin custard. Has anyone out there ever done a different kind of cookie crust for pumpkin pie? If you're game, Richmond, here are the how-to details for flaky pie dough


now he's talking about combining cornbread and French bread. (Should I let him?): Yes! sounds devine! corn bread will add sweet nuttinessa nd french will add body and slight tang.

Kim O'Donnel: Here's one vote for Mister MA's way...


Anonymous: Cooking Thanksgiving for One or Two.........What do you suggest?

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. Are you thinking of inviting someone at the last minute? Do you want leftovers but prefer the solitude of dining for one? Talk to me.


for pumpkin pie: a ginger-snap crust is amazing!

Kim O'Donnel: Ah, now that's a nice idea. Thank you very much.


Northern Neck, VA: Since it's just us 2 for T-giving, we are having lobster. I'm planning some polenta with sweet corn & mushrooms, some cranberry salsa, and not quite sure what else. Any suggestions? Thanks & Happy Thanksgiving!

Kim O'Donnel: Something green would be nice. How do you feel about Brussels sprouts? They're great roasted. I'm doing them as a slaw with apples and a wee bit of bacon. Other thoughts for a crustacean Thanksgiving?


Cranberry Sauce: I make a cranberry sauce with dried cherries and red onions and it's more like a chutney, with sugar, spices and a little vinegar. My family never eats it all; do you think it would freeze well?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, it would freeze well. I want to hear more about this though -- send us the recipe!


Seattle, WA: I'm not afraid to admit it, I like the old school Green Bean Casserole but, I could live without the cream of mushroom soup (not a mushroom fan). Any thought on what I could replace the mushroom soup with? thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey neighbor, a bechamel sauce is what you want here, and portobellos work really well with the green beans. You can frizzle up shallots in a few inches of oil and you'll never miss that condensed soup.


Philadelphia, PA: No, I wouldn't combine cornbread and French bread in the same stuffing. The textures are too different. Maybe make a regular French bread stuffing for the bird (or large dish) and then a smaller experimental dish of cornbread dressing? That way everyone can try both!

Kim O'Donnel: And a vote against Mister MA's concoction...


Washington, D.C.: Pomegranate seeds in a salad. A do or a don't? Add goat cheese and maybe some apple or pear? Too much? I'm over thinking the salad, can you tell?

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, I love me some pom seeds in a salad. Got two poms in the house right now. Goat cheese is just lovely with pom, and pear would be just lovely. If you found a Fuyu persimmon, would add beautiful splash of color. Arugula here! No more time to overthink, time to just be and have fun!


pumpkin pie crust: I made a graham cracker crust last year, (added a little ground cin-a-min-a-fun and finely chopped crystalized ginger to the crumbs), and it worked out great. Prebaked it, let it cook, added the filling and it was plenty sturdy. I'll do a pastry crust this year because DH prefers it, but there is no reason NOT to do a graham crust if the person doesn't want to take on a new skill at this stage. YOu could even combine with the previous poster's suggestion and combine grahams and gingersnaps -- go nuts!

Kim O'Donnel: thank you for your first-hand report! This is great to know.


Washington, D.C.: Kim, I have to vote for Mr. MA's stuffing. Not for any culinary reasons, but with you in the kitchen, it's got to be a bit intimidating. You'll never know how the stuffing would be unless you try it. What's the worst that could happen. You'll sit at the table and be thankful that you have all the other food.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, I'm kidding. He's in charge of the stuffing, full stop. Now if I can teach him how to make pie dough....


Cranberry Sauce: The cranberry chutney is from a recipe at epicurious.com. I copied it out below for you. I started making this a few years ago and it quickly became a favorite.

Cranberry Sauce with Dried Cherries and Red Onion Jam

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter 2 cups chopped red onions Pinch of salt 3/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder- 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries (3 cups) 1 cup dried tart cherries 1/2 cup water 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and pinch of salt. Saute until soft but not brown, about 7 minutes. Add sugar and five-spice powder; stir until sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Add cranberries, cherries, 1/2 cup water, and vinegar. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until most berries have popped, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Cool. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice! I love the five-spice addition. I'm doing this one!


now he's talking about combining cornbread and French bread. (Should I let him?):: Yes...the most important thing I found about cooking with a partner is to let my wife make mistakes in the kitchen. Even if you are hosting guests for dinner, don't second-guess or correct unless he asks for help. Otherwise, he won't volunteer to help in the future. My wife is a reasonable cook and does things her own way. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but I don't offer advice unless she asks. You can give him your thoughts on the idea, but the final decision should be "cook's choice"

Kim O'Donnel: You're so right. Last night, Mister MA made an old favorite, Mark Bittman's Chile Shrimp, and he got things going while I was still at yoga. When I came home, we finished the dish together, but I realize how I need to step back even more and let him run with the dish.


Cornbread stuffing with French Bread: At least one traditional cornbread dressing recipe I've been exposed to has yeast bread in it as well as corn bread. I vote to let Mr M A try this. Experimentation is good for the soul.

Kim O'Donnel: More votes for Mister MA!


Philadelphia, PA: Pomegranate seeds in a salad are fab. Made one last week after a recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog. Arugula, pom seeds, sliced fennel, and proscuitto. Might be nice with slivered almonds and/or goat cheese instead of the proscuitto too. Beautiful on a big platter.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh yeah, now you're talkin'.


The textures are too different. : that is the beauty of it, you get the flavor of the cornbread, but the body of the french. Corn bread stuffing alone is tempting, but can get crumbly. It's like using two potatoes in a soup to get the different qualities from both. I've seen MANY stuffing recipes using different breads.

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting argument. I'm not crazy about cornbread stuffing, but you're right, a variety of textures can oomph it up.


Mr MA's stuffing: My family's traditional stuffing is roughly 1/3 cornbread and 2/3 regular bread -- usually a mix of white, whole wheat, french, rye, and anything else that is around the house or in the freezer. More power to him for mixing it up!

Kim O'Donnel: Aha! He's gonna love reading all of your moral support!


Washington, DC: Hello, hello, making dinner for one and I have a couple of questions:

1. What can I use non alcoholic instead of port wine?

2. What is a dried plum? Is a prune what it is?

3. What is cracked rosemary? I thought rosemary was a sprig not a seed.

Thanks in advance for the answers and Happy Holidays to all.

Kim O'Donnel: 1. Are you looking for a sub for a marinade or sauce? need to know more.

2. Yes, a dried plum is a prune.

3. Cracked rosemary sounds like a marketing term for dried needles off the sprig.

and a happy Thanksgiving to you!


Dallas, Texas: French bread--YOU BET! Add a little whole wheat into the mix with the CB and you'll have the basis of a wonderful stuffing from the original Silver Palate Cookbook. If I can remember it correctly, (and when is this ever wrong) there was plenty of butter, pecans, and sausage, but the contrast between the three bread elements was great.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks, Dallas! I like the idea of pecans, too.


what to do with LEFTOVER cranberries?: Hi, We will have a pretty straight-forward cranberry sauce but are sure to have at least a cup of leftovers or more. In the past, I've stirred it into my oatmeal in the morning (yum) but am looking for other ideas to give the leftovers new life.


Kim O'Donnel: Cranberry-Orange Tea Bread might be calling your name...hellooo!


Pumpking pie crust: I've used a graham cracker crust for a chilled pumpkin pie. It was like a pumpkin custard or pumpkin meringue pie, but it worked great and the graham cracker texture was perfect. Not sure with a traditional baked pumpkin filling, though.

Kim O'Donnel: Another thumbs up on graham cracker crust for pumpkin pie...


Washington, D.C. - follow up on turkey travel : Hey Kim -- I'm the Philly-bound traveller who asked last week about taking a bird on the road. Rest assured, I've figured out a much better plan, and have a (fresh, local) bird awaiting pickup in Philly. Won't have time to brine, so I'm going to rock the compound butter. I've never cooked a turkey before, let alone the whole Thansgiving meal, let alone in someone else's kitchen, but I've got "A Mighty Appetite for the Holidays," packed in the suitcase, I've delegated the desserts and a few sides, and I'm going to remember to breathe!

Thanks for all YOU do to encourage us in our cooking and eating adventures!

Kim O'Donnel: woo hoo! So glad you figured it out, dear. And yes, breathing and staying mindful is so key to pulling off this kind of culinary production. So proud of you.


Madison, WI: Last week you were saying that you need to pre-bake the bottom crust for fruit pies, but not pre-bake the crust for a custard pie. That is the exact opposite of every recipe I have ever made. Is that really what you meant? If you have a top crust and the bottom is already baked, then how do you crimp the two together? Why would fruit make a bottom crust soggy but not a custard? Kim, I'm a pretty experiened pie maker, but this has me so confused.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Madison: I've done pumpkin pie without parbaking, but a lil' parbaking never hurts. What I should have said is that you can do without the parbaking on custards if need be -- and the reason I say this is because most custard pies are single crusts. Double crust pies tend to be the ones that suffer from soggy syndrome, which is often the case for fruit pies. You can crimp the two crusts together, as the "blind baked" crust is not completely baked. Does that help?


Port Wine: Yes, the Port Wine substitute I need is for a Port Wine Sauce for a boneless pork loin stuffed with dried prunes and apricots.


1 tablespoon all-purpose flour 1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided 1/4 cup port wine 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Thank you.

Kim O'Donnel: What about prune juice and a little balsamic vinegar mixed together in its place?


Brookland - Washington, DC: Brining question - I was going to forgo the brine this year due to lack of space in the fridge, when a friend suggested that due to the bout of chilly weather that we have been having that I could brine on the back porch (with a tightly closed container of course). What do you think?

Kim O'Donnel: If you're below 38 degrees at all times, and you promise me to keep an eye, yes, you can do that. If you're not, then I'm afraid not.


washington dc: To the person who likes green bean casserole: Eating Well Magazine in its most recent issue has a healthier version of that dish. Apparently Eating Well also have a book out of comfort food recipes modified for a healthier diet.

Kim O'Donnel: Terrific. Thanks for sharing this tip!


Mobile, AL: Kim, I have 2 quarts of chicken stock (homemade) and had planned on making at least 4 more; however, the butcher's shop only had turkey legs they were looking to discard (and I didn't want to buy 3 chickens we weren't going to eat!), so I'm making turkey stock instead. It's simmering away now, and I have to say, the smell is quite different than the chicken stock I made yesterday. I was planning on using the chicken stock for the dressing and whatever else needs it and the turkey stock for the brine and roasting. Does that sound like it would work, or have a I just wasted a bunch of vegetables making stock I can't use??

Kim O'Donnel: Mobile, when you say it smells different, is that a good thing or bad thing? I made some turkey stock over the weekend with roasted turkey legs and thighs because that's what I could get my hands on. You'll be happy to have turkey stock for your gravy, and if you've got a lot leftover, freeze the stock for later. It'll be great in the deep winter.


Washingtin, DC: this isn't exactly about cooking, but I know so many people celebrating a meat-free Thanksgiving this year and found this link all about DC's vegan thanksgiving scene -- and thought others may also find it useful:


Kim O'Donnel: Sure thing. Thanks for passing along the info!


Baltimore, MD: Hey Kim! We're doing pheasant instead of turkey -- any advice? Should we brine? We're picking up at the farm tomorrow morning.

Kim O'Donnel: Is this Leslie H? I've never roasted a pheasant myself. But I've got Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book, "The River Cottage Meat Book" and am happy to consult it this afternoon, see what he suggests.


New way to cook a turkey: I thought this sounded good!


Here is a turkey recipe that also includes the use of popcorn as a stuffing -- imagine that. When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect for people like me, who just are not sure how to tell when poultry is thoroughly cooked, but not dried out. Give this a try.

8 - 15 lb. turkey 1 cup melted butter 1 cup stuffing (Pepperidge Farm is Good.) 1 cup uncooked popcorn Salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush turkey well with melted butter salt, and pepper. Fill cavity with stuffing and popcorn. Place in baking pan with the neck end toward the back of the oven.

Listen for the popping sounds. When the turkey's rear blows the oven door open and the bird flies across the room, it's done.

Kim O'Donnel: Have you done this before? could be a hoot.


Baltimore: Last year at this time you posted wonderful, simple directions for making gravy that helped me make the best I've ever made. . . unfortunately, I failed to save them. Can you post again? Thanks so much - I enjoy your chats!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Balto: check out today's blog space for details on boarding the

Gravy Train


No cooking for me this year...: ...and I am really sad about it! We are heading over to a friend's house, who is catering the entire thing and refuses to let me contribute anything outside of alcohol. I was in Whole Foods the other day and was so sad looking at all the produce and turkey stuff. I was thinking that maybe I could recreate Thanksgiving another time, but maybe on a smaller scale (though a "real" turkey vs. cornish hens are a must).

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, re-create Thanksgiving next month, and invite some pals to celebrate the end of the year...or the winter solstice...or being there for each other...


Falls Church, VA: I am in charge of bringing salad to the Thanksgiving feast. I was planning on making an elegant one with port poached figs, candied walnuts or pecans, granny smith apples and goat cheese over greens. I've made this before for Thanksgiving to rave reviews but wonder if I should change it up this year.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, that sounds luscious. When can you come over?


State College, PA: Hi Kim,

I'm doing a very scaled back Thanksgiving dinner this year as my mother has pancreatic cancer and can't stand the smell of food in the house. She can't eat much of anything anymore, but, ever the hostess, still wants us to have a Thanksgiving dinner.

I'm cooking most things at my house and transporting to my parents. We have all the usual suspects, but I need a green vegetable of some sort--one that I can cook there that won't have too much scent.

I'm thinking something very easy--like green beans done in the microwave and then sprinkled with some feta (non-traditional, I know). Any thoughts? Thanks so much.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey, please send our best to your mom. Are you making her favorite dish? Even steamed green beans would work, with a simple compound butter, herbs and chopped walnuts or pecans. Do what works. I'm happy you'll be there with her.


re;brookland: Kim- I always bring my birds in coolers and keep em outside. After my brine cools down, i add my birds than a few pounds of ice and close the cooler. After a 16ish hours i check and make sure theres still ice, if not i add more.

Kim O'Donnel: Some thoughts on brining al fresco...


Fran: We're doing turkey for two this year and our solution is to ask the butcher to halve the bird and we'll freeze half. We're getting a fresh, local turkey. My experience with the grower is that it will be a very fresh turkey, and I've never found it necessary to brine or pre-salt the bird. This is a good thing since my husband should restrict his salt intake. Fresher is always better.

BTW, we tried a new to us squash - ambercup, the orange relative of buttercup and turban squashes. I just put it in oven on a sheet pan without cutting it. They have very hard skin, so that's the easiest thing to do, and after cooking, peeling back the skin and spooning up the flesh was easy. It smelled so good and the flesh was so sweet and non-stringy, we ate some right away. The rest will become a pumpkin pie or cheesecake.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks Fran! I like the idea of a halved turkey. Brilliant. Love to hear discoveries like ambercup. This one is new to me. Cheers.


Baltimore, MD: Yep, it was me! Thanks for checking into this...I can't wait to hear what you come up with.

BTW on the stuffing front, we're on the fence. Sounds kind of crazy, but maybe it will be amazingly good.

Kim O'Donnel: I'll get back to you later today!


Cornbread dressing: In my family, we use a pan of cornbread and a few biscuits to make the dressing (plus sage, onions, celery, etc.) So Mr. MA's French bread isn't totally off the mark, as far as "lightening" the cornbread ... .

Kim O'Donnel: Mister MA really owes you all a cup of coffee for your troubles.


Washington, DC: For the pumpkin pie crust, my family makes a gingersnap curst that holds up well and tastes delicious. It does need to be pre-baked, but the crust is well worth it!


Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. Now we've got some how-to for this cracker crust!


Not so sunny, Ca: Good morning! Well, morning on this coast at least. I have a question about pie crusts. I want to avoid battling with the pie crust on Thanksgiving, so i was wondering if I can roll it out, put it the pan, and then wrap it up and freeze it? If I do this, should I still put it in the fridge the day befoe baking to defrost?

I would also appreciate recipe ideas for kale. We've been roasting it like you suggested, but our CSA has a bumper crop this year and we're looking to diversify.

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey not so sunny! Not so sunny here in SEA, either. Yes, you can roll out and set it up in your pie plate. But if you're doing this tomorrow, no need to freeze.

Did you see recent blog post on kale pesto? Oh, it's killer.


Alexandria, VA: So I tried to make the flaky pie crust and the recipe seems off. I needed a lot more ice water than you recommended, and I was frustrated with the lack of information you provided. Can you update the recipe to include things like: HOW the weather will affect the recipe? The photos (but not the recipe) indicate taking the dough out of the chilled mixing bowl for the first rest period, but at that point it's just butter and flour and won't stick together. It would be great if you could clarify some of the points!

Kim O'Donnel: Sorry you're feeling tripped up. Pastry dough is finicky. I've never needed to use more than 7 tablespoons of ice water for my dough --and usually only need 5. Been making this dough for years. What exactly do you need help with?


Baltimore, MD: HI Kim,

I have a turkey breast question. I'll be brining it, and was planning on following a Cook's Illustrated recipe, which calls for cooking a 7 lb breast for 1/2 hour at 425 degrees, then 1 hour at 325. This isn't consistent with the directions on the turkey package, which suggests about 3 hours. Any guidance? I'm not sure if the Cook 12-15 minutes per pound is correct with just a breast. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Let's see: 12 minutes times 7 pounds is 84 minutes, just under 1.5 hours. I'd say this is about right. Three hours seems like a really long time for turkey breast. If anything, it might take two hours. Hang in there!


chicago: Kim - Thanks for the great chat, and I hope you can help me.

I have all my inlaws - 15 people, arriving from all over the country this week to celebrate T-Day in our (tiny) home. I have Thanksgiving under control -- my problem is dinner tonight! I will get home from work at 5:30 and now unexpectedly (long story) will be making dinner for everyone. I'll definitely have 8, and it may be 10 or 13 people. A mix of rabid vegetarians and confirmed meat eaters, young kids and people in their 80's, foodies and fast foodies.

I have rice, a ton of veggies and boneless/skinless chicken breasts. I'm thinking steam the rice, stir-fry the veggies, and marinate and grill the chicken. Can you think of a way to make these ingredients a bit more festive? I'm set on dessert with apple crisp.

Won't have time to shop, and will have to get dinner on the table in something like an or so from when I get home! But I do have a pretty diverse pantry.

Help me Obe-wan!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Chicago, you're a good egg for feeding everyone tonight AND cooking on Thursday. You menu sounds good and fuss free, which is key for a party of 15. Don't stress yourself out; you're doing great.


Yes to Mr MA's Stuffing Idea!: I helped my SO's daughter make a mixed cornbread/regular bread stuffing for her day-care class over the weekend. We combined cornbread and regular (dried) bread with diced sauted celery, red pepper, onions and apples, sweet italian turkey sausage and chicken broth. It was so good I had a hard time convincing her not to eat it all right then and there!

Kim O'Donnel: And the final word on Mister MA's stuffing idea...and a great story to boot! Well, that about does it for today, and thanks so much for stopping by. As promised, the blog space tomorrow with be an open house, where you can drop by and seek last-minute advice and throw those troubles out the window. Hang in there; you're all doing great. And when you do get to the table on Thursday, let's all give thanks. All best.


Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over 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.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company