Dear SOS: Please advise if pumpkin pies and pecan pies can be made the night before without sacrificing flavor.
Dear Ruth: If left in the refrigerator overnight, both pumpkin and pecan fillings tend to pull away from the sides of the crust. So I make the dough for the crust the day before, roll it out and put it in the pie plates. Cover them loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The pumpkin filling can also be made ahead and refrigerated. On Thanksgiving morning, remove the filling from the refrigerator and let it stand for half an hour to warm before pouring it into the pie shells. You can measure and prepare pecan pie filling ingredients the night before, so assembly is quick. Bake the pies early in the day.
The vegetarians will thank you
Dear SOS: My daughter is bringing home a vegetarian friend who does not eat meat of any kind, including seafood. However, dairy products and eggs are OK. Can you please suggest some special dishes?
West Los Angeles
Dear Minhlinh: You might begin with vegetable crudites; nuts are wonderful this time of year too. First-course soups such as squash, mushroom, broccoli or cauliflower can be made with a rich vegetable stock.
With all the wonderful side dishes on the Thanksgiving table, vegetarians are often in heaven. In our menu, Michel Richard's delicious collard greens and lentils and his duxelles-stuffed cabbage can be easily converted to a vegetarian recipe by substituting vegetable broth; omit the bacon from the collard greens. Daniel Boulud's luscious potato gratin forestiere and his spiced sweet potato puree are rich and satisfying too.
Make-ahead mashed potatoes?
Dear SOS: I have been assigned the task of making mashed potatoes for 20 people. Can I use my hand blender for mashing? Also, I was wondering if I can make the potatoes a day ahead and reheat.
Dear Phyllis: Using an electric mixer, food processor or hand blender to mash potatoes isn't a good idea because it's easy to over-process the potatoes and make them gluey. I suggest pressing the hot cooked potatoes through a potato ricer (available in most cookware stores). This makes for a light, fluffy mashed potato. The finished potatoes can be spooned into a baking dish, covered and refrigerated overnight. They can be reheated in the oven the next day. Brush them with melted butter and sprinkle with paprika. If your oven space is tight, reheat in the top of a double boiler over simmering water.
Brine, then roast turkey breasts
Dear SOS: I would appreciate directions for roasting two turkey breasts. I like the results of brining a turkey and would like that to be the first step. I will be fixing Thanksgiving dinner in our son's kitchen for nine people and need all the help I can get!
Dear Robin: Brining a turkey breast helps to keep it moist during roasting and seasons the meat through to the bone. Times columnist Russ Parsons adds two-thirds cup of salt to one gallon of water for the brine. Put the turkey breast in a large enamel or glass container and add brine to completely cover. Refrigerate overnight.
To roast, remove from the brine and pat dry. Put the breast in an open roasting pan on a flat rack. Brush with melted butter.
A 5 1/2 - to 9-pound turkey breast will take 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours when roasted at 325 degrees, depending on its size and shape. The breast is done when a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees and the juices run clear.