Cooking Help from Rick Rodgers is Now Open

Thanksgiving is one week away and our friend, Rick Rodgers, who is an expert when it comes to holiday meals, will answer any questions left in comments on this post until November 23rd. After 3 p.m on the 23rd, Rick will be busy making his own Thanksgiving dinner - so get your questions in early! 

Rick Rodgers has written some great books which I shared on my earlier post and will share them here again for those who missed that post.

Thanksgiving 101: Foolproof Recipes for Turkey, Stuffings and Dressings, Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin Pie, and More! 

In this book you will find step-by-step instructions for classic dishes, as well as new twists on old favorites. Whether you're looking for new ways to cook turkey; traditional trimmings, chutneys, or chowders; a vegetarian entrée; or fresh ideas for regional classics, including Cajun or Italian inspired tastes, this title serves up a delicious education for the novice or experienced cook. Foolproof recipes, detailed menu timetables, and down-to-earth advice - keep this book handy for all your Thanksgiving day needs. 

The Big Book of Sides: More Than 450 Recipes for the Best Vegetables, Grains, Salads, Breads, Sauces, and More 

For me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides and this tome is the ultimate side dish lovers dream. Rick has carefully compiled a variety of wonderful options, from traditional to inspired, Americana to ethnic, Southern fare to California cuisine and everything in between. Sections include "Eat Your Vegetables," "From the Root Cellar," "A Hill of Beans," "Righteous Rice and Great Grains," and "Pasta and Friends." This book is not only a perfect resource for holiday menu planning - it is also a lifesaver throughout the year. Tired of the same old side dishes during the weekly rotation? Switch it up with one of the many variations in this encyclopedia of side dishes!   

Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague

Kaffeehaus is truly one of my favorite baking books - it is simply beautiful. I have gifted this title to many friends. I've added it to this holiday arsenal to level up your dessert planning. I understand the need for tradition - but along side that pumpkin pie I like to offer something show stopping and this title delivers. 150 impeccable recipes for recreating legendary cakes and pastries in the home kitchen from some of the dessert capitals of the world. The Vanilla Crescents are to die for - if your dessert menu is set - this book can offer options for breakfast or brunch as well. 

The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery

I can never pass up a bakery cookbook and when I bought this title, I didn't even realize that Rick had help to write it (even through his name is clearly on the cover). Model Bakery is known for their sensational artisan baked goods that build lines of guests out the door! Featuring 75 recipes and 60 photos, it shares their most-requested breads, classic desserts, and fresh pastries. Pain au Levain, Sticky Buns, Peach Streusel Pie, Ginger Molasses Cookies are examples of the recipes contained in this baking book. Breakfast, brunch or dessert can be a surefire hit with the addition of a recipe from this title. 

Christmas 101: Celebrate the Holiday Season-From Christmas to New Year's

It's never too early to start thinking about Christmas. Christmas 101 offers carefree ways to entertain with proven recipes including old favorites, menus, timetables, make-ahead tips, and more. How to throw a fabulous cocktail party, traditional buffet, cook a perfect roast, and spice up your favorite recipes with a contemporary twist. Breads, candies, and desserts that are the tokens of this special time of year are also included. 

Check out Rick's library of work - there are many books besides the titles listed here - if you use the Buy Book button on the library listing you support Eat Your Books and Rick Rodgers. 

Start your comments and please share with your friends. 


  • Masmoral  on  11/16/2016 at 9:37 AM

    What dishes (appetizers and desserts) can I make I advance? Can I make cranberry sauce and gravy in advance?

  • Kristjudy  on  11/16/2016 at 12:15 PM

    What are a good mix of vegetables to roast together?

  • lhudson  on  11/16/2016 at 12:16 PM

    I have seen some recipes for do ahead mash potatoes and then warm them up in a crock pot. Do you recommend this technique and if so which reciepe is best?

  • lsgordon  on  11/16/2016 at 12:17 PM

    I'm trying to replicate my mother-in-laws sweet potatoes. She passed away in 1993 at the young age of 58 years old. She used to cut up the sweet potatoes like french fries. Using brown sugar and I believe corn syrup. They were baked in the oven and had a crispy taste to it. When my husband and I tried to make it, they weren't as crispy.

  • RickRodgers  on  11/16/2016 at 6:36 PM

    Hi everyone! I will be getting to these questions first thing tomorrow morning...hang on! Rick

  • Keatinm21  on  11/16/2016 at 8:55 PM

    Hi Rick! I want to cook my turkey using convection this year- I have a new Dacor oven. My bird is 16 lbs- unstuffed. I'm not sure about the timing. Any tips would be appreciated! Btw I love Thanksgivibg 101- (and I miss your classes at Adventures in Cooking in Wayne)

  • RickRodgers  on  11/17/2016 at 6:21 AM

    Masmoral: You can make a lot of the traditional dishes ahead of time. Most pies can be done a day ahead, stored in a cool place or fridge. Often, I choose desserts that must be made ahead anyway (pumpkin chiffon pie) or taste better if they age (gingerbread). Cranberry sauce you can definitely do a week ahead because its sugar (and Vitamin C) are preservatives. Mine is already done and sitting in the fridge. Here is my recipe for make-ahead gravy. It allows you to make as much as you want, so figure on doing a little multiplication to get the amount you need.

  • RickRodgers  on  11/17/2016 at 6:41 AM

    Kristjudy, roasting a lot of vegetables can be a hassle because you have to have a dedicated oven for at least 30 minutes for roasting the vegetables when the kitchen and ovens are plenty busy with reheating other sides. Just keep that in mind. The vegetables taste best and have the best texture when freshly roasted and not warmed over, in my opinion. You have a few options. One is to choose vegetables that cook in relatively the same time, say, parsnips and carrots, or winter squash and yellow turnip (waxed rutabaga). But, just to be sure, I still roast them on separate racks in the oven and then mix them at the END of the cooking time. I have tried to put them on opposite sides of the same half-sheet pan, and that work's OK, although one is always done before the other. When I am using baby onions, I will sometimes blanch them for about 5 minutes, then peel them to give them a slight precooking--they only get roasted in the oven to brown them. This doesn't work for all vegetables because if you break down the cellulose in root vegetables, they get soggy. My favorite roasted vegetable recipe is my Brussels Sprouts with Maple and Bacon. If you were to add a vegetable, try baby carrots, but don't blanch them first, as you do with the sprouts.

  • RickRodgers  on  11/17/2016 at 6:48 AM

    lhudson, about make-ahead mashed potatoes. I use this recipe, which I got many years ago from my friend, food stylist Katy Keck. I usually bake them and serve them from the casserole, but there is no reason they wouldn't work in a crockpot. I have not tried to actually cook mashed potatoes in a crockpot, so you are on your own there! The secret to the ones in my book is the cream cheese and sour cream, which gives the potatoes some body and helps cover up any "recooked" flavor.

  • RickRodgers  on  11/17/2016 at 6:50 AM

    lhudson, also be sure to allow lots of time if you are going to reheat them in the crockpot. I'd say an hour on HIgh at least! And you never know because the temperatures from the different brands vary.

  • RickRodgers  on  11/17/2016 at 6:52 AM

    lsgordon, family recipes are notoriously hard to replicate. Sometimes you find out that Mom used frozen sweet potatoes, which will bake up more crisp than fresh sweet potatoes. I would also broil the sweet potatoes (be sure to use a flameproof serving casserole!) just before serving. Looks like you might have to keep experimenting.

  • RickRodgers  on  11/17/2016 at 7:05 AM

    Keatinm21...yes, we all miss Adventures in Cooking! What a wonderful school. Arlene does teach at Classic Thyme in Westfield. You will love cooking the turkey in a convection oven. I always use the convection feature in my oven for my turkey, and we did at Arlene's too. Keep the temp at 325F. (Some guides say to reduce the temp to 300F, but I find the turkey browns really well at 325F convection.) The other rule of thumb is that a convection oven turkey will cook in 2/3 of the estimated time for a regular oven. So, if you allow 12 minutes per pound for an unstuffed 16-pound turkey in a regular oven at 325F, that is 3 hours, 10 minutes. So, your turkey should be done in about 2 hours, 10 minutes. Allow more like 2 hours, 20 minutes because if it is done early, no harm is done. It takes at least 1 1/2 hours for a turkey to cool off enough for it to be truly "cold." I hope this helps!

  • RickRodgers  on  11/17/2016 at 7:08 AM

    Keatinm21, I want to add that even if you "unstuff" your bird, do add a chopped onion and maybe a small carrot and celery rib, too. This will flavor the juices in the body cavity. Before you make your gravy, tilt the bird so all of the collected juices run into the pan. This will give you extra turkey-flavored juices that will boost the flavor of the gravy.

  • Kristjudy  on  11/17/2016 at 7:32 AM

    Thank you Rick, wonderful advice and great linked recipe.

  • Keatinm21  on  11/17/2016 at 12:49 PM

    Thanks for tbe convention cooking tips Rick! And have a great Thanksgivibg!

  • Jane  on  11/18/2016 at 4:41 PM

    My son is a vegetarian. What do you serve to replace the turkey when there are vegetarians at the meal?

  • RickRodgers  on  11/18/2016 at 6:42 PM

    Jane, it depends on if you are replacing the turkey altogether or if you are still having the turkey and want something special. I make a vegetarian lasagna with winter vegetables like winter squash, mushrooms, or radicchio--look online for something you'd like--and then it can be served in large portions to the vegetarians and smaller ones as a side dish to the turkey eaters. I looked at your profile and you have all of the Ottolenghi books, so surely you'll find something suitable in there! The main thing is to do something spectacular and really make everyone feel like they are truly celebrating. I know people whose attitude is "Oh, the vegetarians can eat more of the side dishes." Now, that is really a poor attitude, and I can't believe it still exists...but I have already heard it this year. Also be sure that no meat like bacon or sausage sneaks into the supposedly vegetarian dish. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • katiegirl  on  11/19/2016 at 9:55 AM

    Hello Rick, happy holidays and good health to you and yours. I've got a back to basics issue... my turkeys have been inconsistent. Temp and time charts, not much help. This year, I have a 24 lb turkey, organic, no brine, no stuffing inside. How long at what temp lease. Thank you in advance.

  • RickRodgers  on  11/19/2016 at 1:38 PM

    HI, Katiegirl. I know...those pesky charts. There are so many variables: the temp of the turkey (chilled or room temp?), its size (the bigger it is, the more meat, and heat passes through heat more easily than bone., it makes a difference), stuffing or not (stuffing adds extra poundage to the turkey)l and so on. I use 12 minutes per pound for unstuffed at 325F. BUT, in your case, I'd allow a little more, because that way you aren't stuck if it takes longer. Remember, it takes a LONG TIME for the turkey to cool off, so it's better to get it done and let it stand for an hour or so anyway. Err on the "done too early" side. I have done a number of tests and the turkey actually tastes better and is juicier if allowed to stand for 45 minutes or so. Don't worry about covering it--i just loosely tent it with foil, but I usually don't even bother with that. One time I had an accident in the timing at a class, and the turkey stood out for 2 hours (the USDA limit), and it was STILL hot enough to eat. Happy holidays!

  • Jenny  on  11/19/2016 at 3:52 PM

    Rick, someone just asked in the group - for mashed potatoes - which potato should she use -Yukon?

  • RickRodgers  on  11/20/2016 at 8:58 AM

    Jenny, the best potato for mashed potatoes in a brown-skinned baking potato like russet, Eastern, or Idaho. Yukon Golds are OK, but they won't be fluffy as the baking potato. Definitely avoid the thin-skinned boiling potatoes.

  • Jenny  on  11/20/2016 at 9:53 AM

    Christine Dutton asks I'm seeking ideas for salads to have on Thanksgiving. I would like to make a salad that will be gobbled up as much as the other comforting Thanksgiving dishes. I have some thoughts, but would love to hear your suggestions. Thanks!

  • RickRodgers  on  11/20/2016 at 10:52 AM

    I am all about fall flavors at this meal. My favorite is a baby spinach salad with Fuyu persimmon slices (this is the "hard" variety, not the Hachiya that need to be soft-ripe), pomegranate arils, toasted pecans, with a ginger vinaigrette. For the vinaigrette, make a vinaigrette with rice vinegar and vegetable oil (olive is too heavy for this recipe), and season it with fresh ginger juice. The ginger juice is easy to make--shred a couple of inches of fresh ginger on the large holes of a box grater, and squeeze it in your hand over a bowl. If I need a lot of ginger juice, I squeeze it in a potato ricer. The basic recipe is in Thanksgiving 101, but I add more or less to it depending on how many other things I have on the menu.

  • Masmoral  on  11/21/2016 at 12:24 AM

    Hi Rick! I will be serving a 7-Rib roast and using a thermometer while it cooks. About how long (ballpark figure) would it take to cook? Also, I'd like to bake a cake for dessert. Could I make it on Monday, cool, wrap, and freeze? Defrost and apply frosting on Thursday morning? Could I do the same thing for cupcakes?

  • RickRodgers  on  11/21/2016 at 7:33 AM

    Masmoral you go by pounds for the rib roast not really the number of ribs. That is a big roast! I would allow 4 hours because if it is done earlier, it takes a long time for it to cool off. Also, if you make pan sauce (au jus) it will be hot, and it will help warm up the roast...although I never have a problem with the roast cooling off. This is a huge subject and I recommend reading this article, which is one of the best I've seen on the subject: As for the cake, yes you can freeze it. I don't know what kind it is, but usually freezing doesn't affect cake. It only takes an hour or so for it to thaw, so frosting on Thursday is a good plan.

  • Joannabar  on  11/21/2016 at 12:37 PM

    Hi... I'd like to make the buttermilk cloverleaf rolls before Thursday. Can I do them today and freeze for Thursday? Or do everything except bake before Thursday. (E.g. Put dough together in muffin cups and fridge Wednesday night, remove in the morning and bake straight from fridge)?

  • RickRodgers  on  11/21/2016 at 1:10 PM

    I like the idea of baking and freezing today to remove one more thing from your "to bake" list on Thursday. You can make dough on Wed nite, do not let rise, put balls of dough in pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in the fridge. Let stand at room temp for 1 hour before baking. But you get more reliable results from baking/freezing. Sometimes the flavor gets a little sour in that dough from the overnight rise, which isn't always a bad thing.

  • ccav  on  11/21/2016 at 6:57 PM

    Rick, your books have always been my favorites and I have relied on them to cook for holidays for many years! This year I am making a whole turkey breast and wonder if there are general adjustments you would make to seasoning (with herbs, etc) a breast versus a whole turkey? And what are your favorite seasonings for a whole turkey breast?

  • SouffleChef  on  11/21/2016 at 7:31 PM

    Hi Rick! I happened upon an 11 lb. heritage black turkey and couldn't resist purchasing it. Can you give me some pointers for roasting it? There are precious few recipes or guidelines. Thank you!

  • Keatinm21  on  11/21/2016 at 7:52 PM

    Hi Rick! I have another question. Can I freeze my leftover cranberry relish? I always have a lot leftover and it would be great to have it for Christmas!

  • RickRodgers  on  11/22/2016 at 9:22 AM

    SouffleChef, well good luck with that! (Frankly, the purveyor should have told you more about how to prepare it...just sayin'!) (How do they expect to have happy customers come back next year if they send them into the world without a recipes?) You will find the flavor to be very full, maybe gamey, maybe not. That's the iffy part about heritage birds: You never know what you are going to get. Check the pinfeathers--you might have to pull them out with tweezers. Be sure to cover the breast area well (not the wings) with foil so it cooks more slowly than the dark meat. remove the foil during the last third of roasting to let the skin brown. Put some stock in the bottom of the roasting pan so the underside gets extra moisture to be sure the dark meat cooks through. I hope you like it, but my results with heritage birds have been variable, not because of dry meat or anything like that, but because the other diners had too many reservations about its unusual appearance and unfamiliar flavor. BTW, for expensive birds, I do not brine and only use butter, salt, and pepper on the skin. I find brine adds another flavor, and not always one that I want. Forge ahead! You need to experiment, right?

  • RickRodgers  on  11/22/2016 at 9:24 AM

    As for cranberry sauce, I always have a lot leftover, too. But the natural vitamin C and sugar are preservatives, and it takes forever for the sauce to go bad. I never freeze it because it lasts in the fridge until Christmas and often longer. Because I have never frozen it I can't recommend it first-hand. But it should work.

  • sjmitche  on  11/22/2016 at 9:13 PM

    Hi Rick, Where can I find your how to cook a turkey recipe? I forgot to buy the book in time! Will for sure get for next year! :) I have a 15# turkey, when should I take it out of the fridge (it's fresh), and how long will it cook? At what temp? Thank you! Sarah Hansen

  • sjmitche  on  11/22/2016 at 9:17 PM

    Rick, I saw your response above on how to cook in a convection oven. So you really think at 325, less than 3 hours? And how long should I leave out to get to room temp prior? Also you recommended putting foil on the breast? Thanks again! Sarah Hansen

  • Joannabar  on  11/22/2016 at 9:38 PM

    Now that I've made 2 dozen delicious buttermilk cloverleaf rolls (love the way the dough handles, btw) do you suggest I thaw them? Open the bag and just leave it on the counter on Thursday morning? Wrap in aluminum foil and put in 350 oven for 10 mins? Please advise...before I eat them all up myself! Thanks.

  • RickRodgers  on  11/23/2016 at 6:14 AM

    My turkey recipe is all over the web. Here's one place: You don't really have to let the turkey come to full room temperature. One hour out of the fridge is enough. I know that seems short for the convection oven, but every convection recipe uses about 1/3 to 1/4 less on the roasting time. I am annually surprised that my turkey roasts so quickly in my convection oven, too. Remember there are many variables with roasting turkey (the exact temp of the bird, your oven's efficiency, stuffed or unstuffed, hot stuffing or room temp, the shape of the bird, the kind of bird because wild or heritage turkeys are leaner. So, if the turkey cooks more quickly or slowly than the estimate time, either turn up the temp or turn it down. When the turkey is done, don't hassle about keeping it hot. It takes a LLLOOONGGG time for it to cool off. After all, you have a round, dense ball of protein at about 170F. (BTW, I know that the SF Chronicle and Sunset always say cook to 160F. DO NOT BELIEVE THEM, as that undercooks the thigh meat and you have blood running all over the platter. I know many Californians who have had their dinner ruined by following their recipes.) The foil goes right on the buttered skin. Really wrap it tightly. Leave the legs and wings open to the oven heat. During the last 45 minutes or so of estimated roasting time, remove the boil and baste the bird a few times to "paint" it with the pan juices and bring up the skin color. By the way, I do not baste as often as I used to. Once an hour is enough, and often I just skip it. Basting only helps to brown the skin and does not sink down past the thick skin into the meat and promote moistness. Anyway, go for 3 1/4 hours, because it is better to err on the side of too much time because the turkey has to stand for at least 15 minutes (I usually go 45 minutes) before carving anyway, and then you have the oven free for side dishes, and time to make the gravy.

  • RickRodgers  on  11/23/2016 at 6:15 AM

    As for the rolls, just take them out in the morning for a couple of hours to defrost. They thaw pretty quickly in a warm kitchen, which most are on Thanksgiving morning anyway!

  • RickRodgers  on  11/23/2016 at 8:45 AM

    Due to unforeseen circumstances, I will be starting my travels earlier than expected. I cannot promise an answer after Wednesday 12 noon EDT. Have a great holiday!

  • Jane  on  11/23/2016 at 5:19 PM

    Thank you so much Rick for all your wonderful advice for EYB members on creating the best Thanksgiving meal. We so appreciate you taking the time to answer all the questions. EYB members - don't forget to buy Rick's Thanksgiving 101 for a stress-free holiday next year.

  • Jenny  on  11/23/2016 at 5:33 PM

    Rick, thank you for your help. Happy Thanksgiving!

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