Happy Wednesday to all. Well, a big food weekend lies ahead. To those of you doing holiday cooking, I hope we’ve given you some help in figuring out your menu, starting with last week’s Passover story and continuing today with Easter and Dave McIntyre’s wine pairings. We begin this week’s coverage with Southern-cooking queen Nathalie Dupree asking the musical question Why ham? and then continue with Tony Rosenfeld’s suggestions for two Easter dinners, each with a make-ahead component. (And is one a ham? See for yourself.) Of course, you don’t need to celebrate Easter to make them.
Also today, read about staff writer Tim Carman’s attempts to make pupusas just like the Salvadorans do. He finds out it takes a thin dough — and a thick skin.
Luckily for us, the aforementioned Ms. Dupree and Mr. Rosenfeld will be joining us for today’s Free Range chat. It’s a great opportunity to ask them questions, about Easter food or any other culinary blip on your radar. So come one, come all, and we’ll see you here at noon.
Last week’s story about spring cleaning — Food staff members purged their kitchens of some of the unwanted and/or useless gizmos we all have stashed away in a drawer or under a counter somewhere — generated a ton of interest during the chat. So for this week’s leftover, I’ll answer a question from last week’s chat about some of the items I tossed on the discard pile. To wit:
Jane, Please do tell. What are the following: two pie vents; Italian cheese grater; potato baker; egg separator.
My pie vents? What, you’ve never owned one?
Technically, I don’t own one, either. I own four. Two of them (including the one pictured at left) are going out the door with the rest of the Food staff’s kitchen purge.
Briefly, this object — also called a pie chimney — is made of porcelain and meant to be placed in the geographic middle of the pie. The filling is added around it, the crust is draped over it and a hole is poked through the raw crust so the top of the vent sticks out. Steam generated during baking is supposed to escape through the vent. I say “is supposed to” because I never used mine, so I have no idea whether it works. I just use the old-fashioned method of cutting slits in the crust with a paring knife.
So, I’ve purged two vents. The remaining two are cute little things made in the shape of singing blackbirds, their open bills acting as the steam channels. You need just one per pie, not four-and-twenty, and imagine how cute your dessert would be with a little bird sitting in the middle of it. I’ll probably never use them, but my mom gave them to me, so that makes them keepers.
By “Italian cheese grater” I meant a grater made in Italy, not a gizmo for Italian cheese. Though it’d be quite handy for Parmesan. It’s a flat grater that’s just a square of gridded wires (sort of like hardware cloth) with a handle. You rub hard cheese against it, and the cheese shreds or crumbles. I have greater graters, so out it goes.
The potato baker is a hinged aluminum device consisting of four upward-pointing spikes mounted on a base. You impale potatoes on the spikes and bake them. The metal is supposed to conduct heat to the middle of the potato to make the spud cook faster. Again, I have no idea whether it works. Never used it.
And the egg separator: It was one of two that got thrown out last week. (Bonnie Benwick tossed hers, too.) It’s a small, handled cup with slits around (but not in) the bottom. When you crack an egg into it, the yolk is captured in the bottom of the cup and the whites ooze out through the slits, effectively separating the egg. I can do fine without it, and now my kitchen-tool drawer is a lot easier to open.