Ah, the bittersweet time that is Super Bowl week. No Redskins again this year, and my other favorite team is out, too. (The tete de fromage is back in storage until next season.) That’s the bitter part. The sweet? It’s the Food section’s great Super Bowl Smackdown, back for year VII with — pizza! Food editor Joe Yonan and staff writer Tim Carman go helmet to helmet in a contest involving intrigue, secret weapons, professional coaching and possibly — you be the judge on this one — rigged vote counts. And the winning pizza creator? Well, you’ll just have to read for yourself. Like I said, sweet.

Also in Food this week, columnist Jane Black introduces us to the Food Recovery Network, founded at the University of Maryland, where students started noticing how much food was being thrown out from the campus dining hall and resolved to find ways to donate it to the needy. And Bonnie Benwick lets us know about a new cookbook that takes favorite breakfast foods and repurposes them for dinner. Chocolate brownie waffles, anyone?

Got a question or comment about any of those articles? Or about any other food-related topic? Or do you just like to be entertained and amused? Then don’t forget to join us at noon sharp for the Free Range chat, our weekly lunchtime get-together. We’ll be happy to have you. And you’ll be happy if you win one of the two books we give away every week to the people who ask our two favorite questions.

Let’s get the ball rolling with this leftover from a recent chat:

I made potpie with a puff pastry crust over the weekend, but the puff pastry did not bake properly; it just got soggy. The recipe instructions said to poke holes in the pastry to let the steam escape, bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then pull the pies out of the oven, cover them with aluminum foil and bake for another 25 minutes. I suspect that moisture got trapped under the foil. Your thoughts?

My thought is that you are absolutely correct. Baking puff pastry over a pie under aluminum foil seems like asking for trouble. You've built an efficient little steam machine under that foil: The moisture is wafting out of vents you’ve cut into the pastry; it is trapped by the foil and effectively steams your crust. It’s not like, say, covering the edges of a pie crust with foil if they’re browning too fast, which I’ve done many times; in that case, the steam from the pie filling still is able to escape without being trapped by the foil.

The easiest way to deal with this is to cook the two components separately. Your potpie filling, it seems, needs to cook for 35 minutes, which at 425 degrees would be too long for the crust. So read your puff pastry box and see how long the manufacturer wants you to cook the pastry (probably 20 minutes or so). Start the pies in the oven and then, 20 (or whatever) minutes before they’re done, start baking your puff pastry tops by themselves on a baking sheet. Then just assemble pie and crust at the end. That gives you much more control over the final product. It also gives you a nice, crisp crust that isn’t soggy underneath from long contact with the filling. Sweet.

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