'Easy' Thanksgiving With The Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, known as the "Barefoot Contessa," has turned her mantra — "How easy is that?" — into a book. Her new collection of classic recipes will keep your holiday stress-free.
NPR logo

'Easy' Thanksgiving With The Barefoot Contessa

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/131544579/131544565" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'Easy' Thanksgiving With The Barefoot Contessa

'Easy' Thanksgiving With The Barefoot Contessa

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/131544579/131544565" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

For most of us, Thanksgiving is the most stress-free of holidays, when we gather in our reindeer sweaters, maybe watch a little football and stuff ourselves silly, except of course for the cook, who in between cooking a 17-pound turkey and arranging flowers over the in-laws' heirloom china can be overwhelmed and maybe even terrified.

The fact is, entertaining is not easy, and the Thanksgiving feast may be the hardest meal of the year. So who better to navigate these tricky, cranberry-scented waters than the Barefoot Contessa - Ina Garten, who has dedicated her store, her cookbooks and her Food Network show to making it easier. Her new cookbook is called "How Easy Is That." She joins us in a moment.

Later in the hour, a social scientist on how the climate change debates ossified into mutually exclusive frames. But first, Ina Garten. Thanksgiving is two days away. So this is your chance to pick the Barefoot Contessa's brain. What's the cooking problem you're trying to solve? 800-989-8255 is the phone number. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Thats at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Ina Garten hosts the Food Networks' "Barefoot Contessa" show. Her latest cookbook is "How Easy Is That: Fabulous Recipes and Easy Tips," and she's with us today from member station WLIU in Southampton, New York, and it's nice to have you with us today.

Ms. INA GARTEN (Author, "How Easy Is That: Fabulous Recipes and Easy Tips"): Well, I'm thrilled to be with you. It's so nice to talk to you, Neal.

CONAN: One of the problems many cooks will have with Thanksgiving is simply the matter of scale. I mean, most of us are used to dinner for two or four, maybe even eight. The whole family, that's another thing entirely.

Ms. GARTEN: Well, you know, one of the things I'm about is about making things really easy and saving everybody, particularly the cook, the stress. And if you think about a Thanksgiving dinner, it's really like making a large chicken and lots of roast vegetables, and you keep it really simple, and you get it organized.

So you make some things the day before, some things on the day, and you can really make Thanksgiving fun for the cook as well.

CONAN: One of the things you wrote about in your book was on the issue of appetizers. You say basically if you can avoid it, don't do it.

Ms. GARTEN: Well, you know, for Thanksgiving what I'm doing this year is I'm going to take a big white platter and I'm going to go to a specialty store and buy little thin slices of salamis and caper berries and different kinds of cheeses and some really special sort of tastes of things, nothing that I have cook. And serve it with a great glass of champagne, and you've got a fabulous appetizer.

CONAN: So the traditional Thanksgiving antipasto.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: The untraditional Thanksgiving antipasto.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: I like traditions with a twist.

CONAN: With a twist. Also, almost everybody has that special dish that comes with their family tradition, and if you're going to make grandma's, you know, creamed onions, they've got to be grandma's creamed onions, even if you have to spend half the day getting it right.

Ms. GARTEN: And how about this? I think it's even a more fun party if everybody contributes to it. So how about having grandma bring her famous...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: ... dish? And then it's exactly the way grandma made it.

CONAN: That's another thing. Can this be participatory? Can you, you know, prevail on the in-laws to bring the...

Ms. GARTEN: Well, you know, one year - this is in the don't category. I invited some friends and I said: We're going to cook Thanksgiving dinner together. I thought it would be really fun to have sort of everybody making pies together.

And then I found everybody watching a football game, and I had to make the entire Thanksgiving dinner myself while they were watching I don't even think they noticed that I was gone.

But what I think is really lovely is if it's participatory and everybody brings a dish. And then I think everybody feels like they have an investment in the party itself, and it's so much easier for the cook.

CONAN: My family, just everybody sits around stone-faced to make sure that you have to have some of their particular dish, otherwise they're not going to talk to you for the rest of the year.

Ms. GARTEN: They're insulted.

CONAN: Yes, exactly. It was...

Ms. GARTEN: Well, one of things about...

CONAN: Go ahead.

Ms. GARTEN: I was going to say: One of the things about easy food is really doing things really simply and organizing yourself well. And it doesn't necessarily mean it's three ingredients thrown together. It means that they're processes that are easy to do with ingredients that you can find in a grocery store. And I think that's really what I'm about.

CONAN: And one of the things that I really liked about your book was a set of notes throughout it on things that you want to keep. For example, don't buy anything that only does one thing - for example, the garlic press.

Ms. GARTEN: The garlic press, my particular favorite. If you have a good sharp knife, it'll do just the same job.

CONAN: A pasta maker, also you say - only makes pasta. What do you want that for?

Ms. GARTEN: I don't want to make pasta at all, so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: You can buy really good fresh pasta, and you can buy really good boxed pasta.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get some callers in on the conversation. Our guest, of course, Ina Garten. You will recognize the voice. Barefoot Contessa is the name of the store she opened years ago on Long Island. It's the title that she puts on all of her cookbooks and, of course, her Food Network television show. 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Let's start with Jennifer(ph), Jennifer with us from Oakland.

JENNIFER (Caller): Hi, can you hear me?

CONAN: Yes, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

JENNIFER: Hi, Ina. I'm so excited to talk to you.

Ms. GARTEN: Nice to talk to you too.

JENNIFER: We have been had the tradition of smoking our turkey for the past, I don't know, seven, eight years. And this year we've decided to roast our turkey. And we're sort of traditionalists and are feeling a little nervous about switching our menu.

My question is to you: What's your theory on putting the butter and the herb under the skin, opposed to keeping the skin intact and putting it over the skin? Because I've heard two different opinions on this.

Ms. GARTEN: I'm going to tell you what I learned from a friend of mine who used to work with the Butterball hotline for years. The turkey that won the they used to have a contest every year to see who had the best turkey, and the one that won year after year after year was absolutely the simplest one.

Is you salt and pepper the inside. You put butter on the outside. You throw it in an oven, and you roast it without opening the door. And the recipe's actually in my new book, "How Easy Is That." Because it doesn't get any easier than that. I actually put a little truffle butter under the skin to give it a little extra flavor, but it's really simple, and I think you'll find it's a lot easier than smoking a turkey, and I think you'll find it's really good.


CONAN: I have to say, Jennifer, the truffle butter, that does not start with find a truffle pig.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: No. It's very good, and you can find it in a lot of grocery stores or order it online. It's just, it's butter and white truffles, and it's just fantastic. It's about six dollars.

CONAN: It's not as expensive as it sounds.

JENNIFER: Sounds wonderful. Thank you so much.

Ms. GARTEN: Good luck with Thanksgiving turkey.

JENNIFER: Okay, thank you.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to this is let's go to Lakshmi(ph), Lakshmi with us from Cleveland.

LAKSHMI (Caller): Hi, Ina. I love your show.

Ms. GARTEN: Thank you, Lakshmi.

LAKSHMI: I'm a vegetarian - born and brought up vegetarian, but I always watch your shows and watch for all those steps, even if you're cooking some meat or whatever.

Now, my question to you is: I do celebrate Thanksgiving with my friends, and I do know that they have a tradition of making turkey, but I also hear that turkey doesn't taste as good as chicken or lamb or any other stuff. Now, is that true?

If it's true, why do people spend so much time, eight hours, cooking turkey when they could have chicken in two hours? Thank you.

Ms. GARTEN: Well, that's the problem. That's the problem. Everybody's mother used to cook a turkey for, like, 10 hours, and I think they had a thing about bacteria. I don't understand why they did it.

A turkey actually cooks, a big turkey, cooks in about two and a half or three hours, and it's moist, and it's delicious, and I think it'll change your mind about turkey.

LAKSHMI: Okay, I'm a vegetarian. Anyway...

Ms. GARTEN: It won't change your mind at all, but your friends maybe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LAKSHMI: I love hearing your voice, and TALK OF THE NATION is my favorite show. So thanks again, and Happy Thanksgiving to both of you.

CONAN: Lakshmi, thank you very much.

Ms. GARTEN: Thank you, and to you too.

CONAN: Here's an email from Kate(ph) in Lansing, Michigan: How do I make a decent Thanksgiving dinner when my boyfriend doesn't like gravy or mashed potatoes? I consider those absolute musts on the table. What other side dish might I serve that doesn't beg for gravy?

Ms. GARTEN: You know, one of the things that I think is, when you're doing a menu, I always consider everybody's taste. Somebody doesn't like nuts. Somebody doesn't like gravy. Somebody else doesn't like mashed potatoes. But there's always enough so you can have the other things.

So if mashed potatoes is imperative to your Thanksgiving, I would also make smashed sweet potatoes, which your boyfriend might like, or any kind of roast vegetables, Brussels sprouts, all kinds of things. That's the thing about Thanksgiving: It can be whatever you want it to be.

CONAN: Except for, Lakshmi aside, the turkey in the middle. That seems to be an imperative.

Ms. GARTEN: But then, see, for that I would say, I would say I'd roast a turkey, and then I'd have lots of vegetables. So Lakshmi can have a fabulous Thanksgiving as well.

CONAN: There are all kinds of shortcuts that you advocate in this cookbook, "How Easy is That." Are they applicable to Thanksgiving, do you think?

Ms. GARTEN: I think they're always applicable to all kinds of things, things in the book which you can assemble the day before and then throw in the oven. There are so many ways to think about a recipe that you don't have to do it while guests are there, and they're standing around waiting for dinner, and they're hungry. That, to me, is the worst nightmare.

So what I do is I very often will make the vegetables in advance, either early in the day, or if it's something like a spinach gratin, I can make the entire thing, but it in the refrigerator and then just throw it in the oven before dinner.

So I'm doing as little as I can while the guests are there, and if you're organized, you can really do it.

CONAN: One of the things I really liked in your book was the recipe for these Stilton crackers, basically that you can make and then freeze and just thaw a little bit and cut them up and heat them, and they're ready with no particular trouble.

Ms. GARTEN: Actually, what it is, it's like a shortbread dough. They're fabulous. It's a savory shortbread. And I make the dough, and I wrap it really tight and freeze it, and then when people come over, I'll just defrost it, slice it and bake it, and they have fabulous shortbread crackers for hors d'oeuvres, and I don't have to do anything while they're there.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another...

Ms. GARTEN: ...which to me is important.

CONAN: That's also very good.

Ms. GARTEN: Neal, can I also mention that it's if your listeners go to Google.com, I did a Google doodle with the Google people, which is just so much fun, for three days leading up to Thanksgiving, and there's a whole Thanksgiving menu there that's really easy for people to do.

CONAN: So if you just...

Ms. GARTEN: So if you hold your mouse over Google, the Google word, and you click on it, you'll get a Barefoot Contessa Thanksgiving menu.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Donna(ph), Donna with us from Oakland.

DONNA (Caller): Hi, Ina and Neal. Thank you for having this program. I want to agree with you on cooking things ahead of time. One of the things that I hate about having big parties at my house is if I'm not able to enjoy everyone who's there.

So over the years I've just developed a method whereby as much as I can do ahead of time, I do. So I have an onion relish that I do ahead of time and I reheat, and the cranberry chutney's done, and the stuffing is done, you know, days a couple of days before.

My refrigerator is stuffed with stuff that we can't eat until the day of the party, but I'm relaxed, and I get to enjoy my guests, and I think that makes them more relaxed.

CONAN: So Thanksgiving week is Chinese food until Thursday?

DONNA: Well, no, I do manage to cook something simple for dinner every night, but no, it's not elaborate before Thanksgiving dinner, but I'm cooking during the day.

I'm a teacher, and I happen to have the week off. So yesterday I made the cranberry chutney. Today I'm making the onion relish and the cornbread for the dressing and...

CONAN: Donna, thanks very much for the call, continued good luck with your cooking. We'll find out more with Ina Garten in just a moment. This is NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Im Neal Conan.

The best part of Thanksgiving, the food, of course, unless you're the one making it. With two days left before you fire up that roaster, we've called in backup, Ina Garten. This is your chance to pick the Barefoot Contessa's brain.

What's the cooking problem you're trying to solve? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Thats at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

We've also posted recipes for easy cranberry and apple cake, rich celery root puree and herb-roasted chicken breast at the site, all from the new book, "Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That." And as Ina Garten mentioned just a moment ago, you can go to today's Google doodle, and if you click on the word Google, there's some recipes there, as well, that you might find useful for Thanksgiving.

Ina Garten, you might be surprised to know that Ina Garten did not start out as a cook. She started as a wonk in the White House, in fact, before she was the Barefoot Contessa. How did that happen?

Ms. GARTEN: Well, that's what I was doing in Washington. I worked on nuclear energy policy. And I thought to myself: There's got to be more to life than this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: And I saw an ad for a business for sale in the New York Times, and it was a specialty foods store in a place I'd never been before. It was the Hamptons. And I came home and said to my sweet husband, Jeffrey(ph): You know, I really want to do something different.

And he said: Pick something you'd love to do. Pick something that would be fun. Don't worry about whether you'll make money at it. Just, you know, just do something that's fun. If you love doing it, you'll be good at it.

And I said: Funny you should mention that. I've seen this ad for a business for sale. And he said to me: Let's go look at it. I think he was humoring me.

And so we drove up the next day and saw this store, and I made the woman an offer on the spot, thinking, well, you know, she'll come back, we'll negotiate, I'll think about it, and she called me the next day in my office and said thank you very much. I accept your offer. And I went: Oh my God, I think I just bought a food store. And it's been wonderful ever since.

CONAN: Did you know anything about running a food store?

Ms. GARTEN: Not a clue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: I'd never had an employee. I'd never I didn't know how to tell whether the wheel of brie was ripe. I didn't know how to slice smoked salmon. And I certainly didn't know how to make dinner for more than four people. But I learned really fast, and it's been it was great.

I had the store for about 20 years and then went on to write cookbooks. It was great training ground.

CONAN: Sara's(ph) on the line, calling from Davis in California.

SARA (Caller): Hi Neal. Hi Ina.


SARA: (Unintelligible). Ina, you really inspired me to cook and to show me that it's not such an intimidating thing to do, and I'm really grateful for that.

Ms. GARTEN: You're welcome, thank you.

SARA: Your hands-on prep has really taught me a lot and your saying that your guests are not going to enjoy you unless, you know, you can enjoy the party has really kind of changed my life.

Ms. GARTEN: It's the key, isn't it?

SARA: What I was interested in is: How did you come to decide you were going to do this in front of a TV camera?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: Well, fortunately, Food Network came to me and asked if I would do it, and of course I said absolutely not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: But this isn't something I'd know how to do. But they were insistent, and I thought well, I'll do a pilot and see how it goes. And that was I think nine years ago. So the rest is history.

So I'm very grateful for them for being so insistent. It's actually really fun doing.

SARA: Your show is just different, and I love the scenes, and anyway, I am really grateful. So best to you.

Ms. GARTEN: Thank you, thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And I've read, Ina Garten, that in fact you also have a line of food products that are being sold under your brand but that in fact your empire is rather smaller than it might be. You've had offers to do other things, too.

Ms. GARTEN: Well, there are a lot of things coming across my screen, but I really only want to do the things that I think are really important. And actually, the line of products are made by Stonewall Kitchen. They're Barefoot Contessa baking mixes. And it's been really fun because I get enormous satisfaction from people being able to bake.

Everybody thinks they can't bake because it's so exact, and with the mixes, and you add a few fresh ingredients, and they're all natural, you end up with something just fabulous, a chocolate cake or, you know, some wonderful cookies, chocolate chunk cookies, that and you put it down, and people say: You made that yourself? And I just think it's wonderful.

You know, cooking really is not about the food as much as it is if you cook, everybody comes to your table. And so I think the easier it is to cook, the more important it is, and I think it creates a community around people. And I love hearing stories about people feeling not intimidated about cooking and doing it more.

CONAN: One of the things I liked about your cookbook is that the sizes of the materials you're using come the same as the size that you buy it in the store. If it's two pints of strawberries, it's two pints of strawberries. That's the size you get in the store.

But I have to ask, the cynic in me has to ask you: You recommend, you say I use Empire turkeys because they're pre-salted. I use collagen beef brother, for example. Do you get paid for those endorsements?

Ms. GARTEN: Never. I don't. I don't endorse products. So it allows me to recommend the products that I really like.

CONAN: Let's see if you can go to another caller. David's(ph) on the line, David calling from Monroe in North Carolina.

DAVID (Caller): Hi, two of my favorite hosts in one place.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: Thank you.

CONAN: Thank you.

DAVID: I grew up, from the time I could remember, the time I could stand, helping my mom in the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning, helping around, cutting, doing her prep cook. And she made this great sausage and cornmeal stuffing that she actually was stuffing. She stuffed it in the bird.

But over the last five or so years on the food channel, it is, like, taboo to stuff anything. And I was just wondering what was my mom just out of touch? I mean, this was 20, 30 years ago, but it just doesn't seem like that's the thing to do anymore, and I was wondering what's going on.

Ms. GARTEN: It's really not it's a matter of style, and it certainly was it's not that your mother was out of style at all. And I think it's wonderful when you stuff the bird.

Sometimes, what I find is, and in my new book, I've done a deconstructed turkey. If there's no stuffing in the turkey, the turkey cooks for less time because you don't need to cook the stuffing. So I find the turkey's a little moister if you don't stuff it.

And then what I've done is I've taken mushrooms and done a sausage and herb stuffing in the mushrooms. So they're sort of crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. And it's delicious. I think that's the only reason for not putting the stuffing in the bird, but if that's the way you like it, it's fantastic.

DAVID: Fantastic. Thank you very much.

CONAN: David, good luck.

DAVID: Happy Thanksgiving.

CONAN: You, too.

Ms. GARTEN: Happy Thanksgiving.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to this is Eric(ph), Eric with us from Madison. Eric, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

ERIC (Caller): Hi. A friend of mine mistakenly put the bird in upside-down and roasted it that way. He claims it's the moistest turkey he ever had. I was just wondering what your views were on that. I'll take your answer off the air.

CONAN: All right, Eric. Thanks very much.

Ms. GARTEN: I think it's actually a great idea because actually that means the legs are up, and they probably get more heat, and the breast of the turkey is down, and it stays moister. So not a bad idea, and sometimes the best discoveries are by accident, aren't they?

CONAN: Here's an email from Mary(ph) in Hammondsport, New York. I'm making a pumpkin cheesecake with fresh pumpkin, not canned. So today, I baked the pumpkin, and to me, it's bland. I'm thinking about blending in a couple of sweet potatoes to the pumpkin I just baked, a couple of sweet potatoes. They are luscious. What do you think?

Ms. GARTEN: This is one of the dirty little secrets of pumpkin is canned pumpkin is always better than fresh pumpkin.

CONAN: Really?

Ms. GARTEN: It's not as stringy. It has more flavor. I don't know if I think it's because they use a certain kind of pumpkin. The kind of pumpkin you find in the field that you make jack-o'-lanterns is not the best kind of pumpkin for a pie.

So I would after having cooked the pumpkin, I'd recommend you use canned pumpkin instead.

CONAN: But if she's got the...

Ms. GARTEN: And how easy is that?

CONAN: And how easy is that? It's hard to argue. Let's see if we can go next to Brita(ph), Brita with us in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

BRITA (Caller): Hi, there. I have a question about pie crusts, actually, just to follow that up. How do you keep that pie crust from starting to slip down into the pie plate after it starts baking?

Ms. GARTEN: The key to pie crust not shrinking is that when you roll it out, you handle it really carefully. If you put it into the pie plate and stretch it a little bit, it's going to shrink back. If you sort of sit it into the pie plate and don't stretch it at all, it'll come out perfectly.

BRITA: Well, that's exactly what I've been doing, so thank you.

CONAN: That's a problem.

BRITA: That's a very good tip.

Ms. GARTEN: Oh, good. I hope that helps.

BRITA: Thank you.

CONAN: Happy Thanksgiving.

Ms. GARTEN: You're welcome.

BRITA: You, too.

CONAN: Another baking question, this one from Samantha(ph) in Wichita: I love to bake, usually have no problem, but pecan pie simply defeats me. I use my grandmother's recipe, which is very basic, but I either end up with a soupy mess or a horribly burnt crust and pecans. Any hints would be much appreciated.

Ms. GARTEN: Hmm, I would try another recipe, with all due respect for your grandmother's recipe. But I think if you have trouble with it over and over again, there are great pecan pie recipes around, and I think I would try a new recipe.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go to Marie(ph), Marie with us from Salisbury in Maryland.

MARIE (Caller): Hi, question. The cooking bags, the plastic cooking bags that you put a turkey in, I used to work at Purdue Farms, and we always told people don't ever use them because they steam the turkey instead of baking it. But I always find that the turkey comes out moist. And I'm just wondering what you think.

Ms. GARTEN: You know, I've never used a cooking bag. So I really can't give you my opinion about it. But it comes out so well without a cooking bag, and it sounds like it probably would steam it rather than I like a nice, crisp skin on the outside. So it might stop it from browning, and frankly, it's so easy to put a turkey in the oven and not have a cooking bag. I'm not sure that I would do it.

MARIE: It's a little less messy, that's for sure.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: That's a good reason.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Salisbury - you used to work for Perdue, Salisbury, Maryland, the headquarters of Perdue. Do they do turkeys as well? Of course, we know their chickens.

MARIE: Oh, they do indeed.

CONAN: Okay. Well, Mary, good luck and happy Thanksgiving.

MARIE: Thank you. You too.

CONAN: Juanita in Petaluma, California, writes: I would like to make the turkey the day before and have the oven ready for other uses on Thanksgiving. Any tips on how to keep the turkey moist and fresh for the next day?

Ms. GARTEN: Actually, I would reverse the process. I would make the vegetables the day before, roast the turkey the day of the party. I wouldn't do it the day before. I think it would probably be quite dry. And then when the turkey comes out, it's really important to cover it with foil and let it rest for about 20 or 30 minutes, and then all the juices get back into meat. And in that 20 or 30 minutes, put the vegetables back in the oven and heat them up so everything's ready at the same time.

CONAN: It let's the fluids gets back into the meat and also makes it much easier to carve?

Ms. GARTEN: And it does - well, then you're not handling something that's piping hot.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. GARTEN: But I think it's really important, with any kind of protein, whether it's a steak or a turkey or chicken, to take it out of the oven, cover it with foil, it'll stay nice and warm, and let it rest about 15 to 20 minutes at least.

CONAN: Here's an email from Bridget(ph) or Bridgetta(ph), perhaps: I'm cooking for 16. Can you ask Ina if she recommends peeling yams and potatoes the day before, storing them in water? I've heard the starch content is modified by peeling the root vegetables and leaving them in water true.

The other is in advanced prep for turkey gravy, any suggestions? I'm also always racing against the clock since the turkey comes out, and all the last-minute running around to get the dishes warmed and plated, the gravy is like an afterthought.

Ms. GARTEN: Well, for the potatoes, what I always do is peel potatoes and leave them in water, and they - it works out perfectly. For the gravy, I have a little secret. I always keep the pan drippings from the last turkey in the freezer. And then like days before, you can make the turkey dressing. You can make the gravy and then save the pan drippings from this turkey for the next time. Because I hate making the gravy while the turkey's hot and everybody is sitting there, waiting for dinner.

CONAN: It raises another interesting point. One thing you mentioned in the book, is always - and this is not necessarily for Thanksgiving - but always have plan B ready, which is food frozen in the fridge that you can heat up. Have you ever had to go to plan B?

Ms. GARTEN: Oh, hasn't everybody?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARTEN: Of course. There's - I mean, I - and actually, even if you don't go to plan B, it's nice to know there is plan B. And for me, it's always like a chicken pot pie that's in the freezer or some kind of Indonesian ginger chicken that's ready to throw into the oven. Something that's ready that if - and I just think it's about reducing stress while you're cooking now. Just knowing there something there just in case, it's great. Or anybody can throw together pasta and some pasta sauce from the pantry, just something there as a fail-safe. It's always a good idea.

CONAN: Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Her new cookbook is "How Easy is That? Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips." You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Let's go next to Beth, and Beth calling from St. Louis.

BETH (Caller): Hello? What a pleasure to talk you, Ina. I've been watching your shows and reading your books for many years. And I really appreciate that you join us today.

Ms. GARTEN: Thank you, Beth.

BETH: You, too, Neal.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Of course.

BETH: I am doing an almond theme with turkey breast, and duck breast and chicken sausage.

Ms. GARTEN: (Unintelligible)?

BETH: And I have always brined my turkey, and so I'll brine the turkey breast. I'm wondering if you would suggest brining the duck breast as well.

Ms. GARTEN: You know, brining is about getting the flavor and the salt into the middle of the meat. So in a funny way, what I always do is just - when it comes home from the store, I just salt things then and then store it that way, and it does the same thing brining does.

So if you have different kinds of meats, you can do that with anything, fish, meat, chicken, poultry, anything. And it just - and then it'll just have much more flavor.

BETH: Wonderful. Good to know. Thank you so much.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Beth.

Ms. GARTEN: Thanks for calling.

CONAN: Let's see if we go to - this is Kim, Kim with us from Blythewood in South Carolina.

KIM (Caller): Yes, hello. It's nice to speak with both of you. I'm a fan of both of your shows.

Ms. GARTEN: Thank you.

CONAN: Okay.

KIM: This is my question. I'm going to be part of a very large family gathering and everyone in the family has elements of the dinner that they can agree on -the turkey, the dressing, the Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. But the palates are very different. And some of the family don't like to go beyond butter and salt and pepper with their seasoning. And then other members of the family won't be happy unless the sweet potatoes have been roasted with chipotle powder, and onions and garlic. And so that we don't end up with a buffet table with 37 dishes, what would you suggest?

Ms. GARTEN: Well, that's an interesting - I would suggest half of the dishes are spicy and flavorful and half of them aren't. But it's so easy to take smashed sweet potatoes and divide it in half and flavor one of them and leave the other one. It's very simple. So I would probably just do that. I'd make -out of every dish, I'd make two dishes.

KIM: Well, thank...

Ms. GARTEN: And it will just look like a feast.

KIM: Well, it absolutely will. Thank you so much for your suggestion. And I can't wait to get my copy of your new book.

Ms. GARTEN: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

KIM: Happy Thanksgiving. Bye-bye.

CONAN: Kim, thanks very much for the call. Let's see if we can - this is Kerry, Kerry with us from Oakland.

KERRY (Caller): Kerry speaking, yes. What I - well, I just wanted to say that I was telling this chap when he answered the phone, my wife has a very stressful job which has been quite stressful in this economic circumstance, as a financial adviser. When she comes home, one of the first thing she does is turn on the recorded she's recorded the "Barefoot Contessa." And I'll tell you, it calms her down.

And my comment is that, you know, that program is good not only for the body but also for the soul. And I used to make fun of her watching food programs -she's got me listening. I really enjoy the program. And since I'm retired and she works, I'm cooking three or four nights a week, and I find her advice -including the other day, she showed how to slice the turkey - very, very helpful. Now, I just wanted to say we really love the program.

Ms. GARTEN: Thank you, Kerry. That's so lovely.

KERRY: Happy Thanksgiving.

CONAN: Kerry...

Ms. GARTEN: Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

CONAN: Kerry, are you cooking the Thanksgiving dinner?

KERRY: I'm assisting. I'm making a maple pumpkin pie and a cranberry apple pie. And then I'll be sous chefing. Although I cook during the week, holiday is a layoff. My wife takes over and I just take direction - other than the pies, I'm in charge of pies.

CONAN: Well, let's...

Ms. GARTEN: I'm thinking, Neal and I are going to be over for Thanksgiving. It sounds delicious.

KERRY: (Unintelligible) Drop in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KERRY: I'll give you the address off the air.

CONAN: All right. Kerry, thanks very much for the call and expect us at around three.

KERRY: Okay. Thanks. Bye-bye.

Ms. GARTEN: Neal, you don't have anything else to do, do you?

CONAN: No, no, plans whatsoever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Thanks very much. And have a great Thanksgiving yourself. Family and friends coming over?

Ms. GARTEN: Yes, they are, absolutely. It's my favorite holiday of the year. All I have to do is cook.

CONAN: Ina Garten is the Barefoot Contessa. She joined us from member station WLIU in Southampton, New York. Her new cookbook is "How Easy is that?" If you made us hungry, check out those recipes for herb-roasted turkey breast and other things on our website.

This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.