Free Range on Food
Wednesday, February 14, 2007; 1:00 PM
A chat with the Food section staff is a chance for you to ask questions, offer suggestions and share information with other cooks and food lovers. It is a forum for discussion of food trends, ingredients, menus, gadgets and anything else food-related.
Each chat, we will focus on topics from the day's Food section. You can also read the transcripts of past chats. Do you have a question about a particular recipe or a food-related anecdote to share? The Food section staff goes Free Range on Food every Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET. Read about the staff of the Food section.
The transcript follows.
Joe: Greetings on this icy day. Hopefully you're logged on from the relative safety of your cubicle (or home office). If you're home, I hope you're typing while the smell of some warming soup or hearty bread is wafting over from your kitchen...
Today we introduced a new monthly column in the section: Chef on Call. We're having fun with it so far, and hope you do, too. We all face cooking crises beyond the everyday I-burned-the-sauce faux pas, with issues such as changes in family dynamics, diet, and work affecting the challenges of putting a meal on the table. Tell us what issue you need strategizing about, and we'll match you up with a DC chef who'll come over to help you out, and we'll record the whole thing for our other readers. The chefs are notable, indeed: Among those who have signed on to participate are Michel Richard, Yannick Cam, Peter Smith, Alison Swope, Roberto Donna, and a dozen more, so it promises to be a star-studded feature. Email us at email@example.com (with Chef on Call in the subject line), and tell us your dilemma, and maybe we'll pick you...
While I'm on the topic of Chef on Call, writer David Hagedorn (who was the chef/teacher for the first installment) is joining us for the chat today to answer questions about this column and to help us field inquiries about anything else.
Welcome, David, and welcome, chatters.
As always, we have giveaway books to entice particularly interesting posts from you: We'll pick our favorite two chatters today and send them one of these two: "White House Chef" by Walter Scheib and Andrew Friedman, and "Sweets: Soul food desserts & Memories" by Patty Pinner, both of which Bonnie writes about in today's section.
Let's get to some questions (and answers)...
Harpers Ferry WV: We are having what we jokingly refer to as 'gourmet night' for ten this sat. night. Each couple is bringing or creating a different course. So far we have cheese tarts to start us off , an arugula & beet salad and
prime rib ( big meat eaters here!) and creme brulee. What sides would you recommend with the beef? We are enthusiastic about trying new dishes, preferable easily prepared ahead or that require little prep time. Any suggestions for the one item that could be the big 'wow' dish? Thanks so much for these chats that give us 'novices' the idea to even attempt this!
David Hagedorn: The sauteed Swiss chard and two-potato gratin from today's Chef on Call column, available at www.washingtonpost.com, would complement your prime rib dinner admirably. They'd make a good balance of flavors, textures, and colors and, best of all, they can be made well ahead of time.
Rockville, Md.: Hi,
I made a bread recipe designed to produced two loaves of bread. Since I only have one loaf pan, I baked one loaf on the day I made the dough. For the second loaf, after the 1st rising, I put it in a zip lock bag and placed it in the refrigerator. The following day, I put it in the pan, let it rise for a few hours till it was near the top of the pan and baked it (the dough was cool to the touch when I baked it).
I compared the two baked loaves. The 1st day's loaf was about 1-2" in higher than the 2nd day's loaf. Any idea why the diff? thanks
Leigh: It sounds like the main difference is the chilling time. According to Chelsea Lincoln from Bob's Red Mill, the cooler temperature retards the yeast. It needs the warmth to gain elasticity and work with the gluten in the flour. If you bring the dough fully to room temperature and allow it to rise again you will likely get good results. She also recommends a web site for further bread baking questions. www.baking911.com with a specific link to bread you may find helpful for trouble shooting in the future.
for the cold weather: Do you have any good recipes for Spanish-style drinking chocolate?
David Hagedorn: Spanish hot chocolate always reminds me of chocolate pudding before it sets, so that is how I make it. Here is a recipe adapted from The Best Loved and Brand New Joy of Cooking;I reduced the cornstarch to make it thinner for drinking. You can adjust the texture at the end by adding more milk (or cream!!). Hmmmm, guess what I'll be making after this chat??
Combine in a medium heavy saucepan:
1 and 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted. Mix together until smooth:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup milk
Slowly stir into the hot milk mixture. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a simmer, about one minute. Lower the heat and cook a minute longer to ensure that the cornstarch is cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in:
1 teaspoon vanilla
Curious...: Every Wednesday, it's always interesting to read and compare the food sections from newspapers around the country. I'm always struck at how different the tone and format are from paper to paper, even when the same subjects are covered. For example, I find the NY Times's stories to be very chef centric. Even when there's a story about a certain ingredient, or how to cook a certain dish, they typically interview chefs and reference restaurants that feature that item. Same with the SF Chronicle. For example, today the SF Chronicle did a story on the glories of homemade mayonnaise, which included quotes and recipes from several area chefs.
It goes without saying that the Post's Food Section has a different slant than the above newspapers, and for good reason. I'm always struck by the accessibility of your stories and recipes, and you seem to make a conscious effort to not intertwine your stories with the restaurant scene.
Which leads me to wonder, what is your mission statement (so to speak) when it comes to putting out the Food Section each week? Do you have a target audience in mind?
Whatever your mantra -- keep up the good work.
Joe: Do I have your address on file for payment?
Glad you're liking the section. As for the mantra, mine is probably something along the lines of "Inspire, entertain, surprise, and help." I want readers to enjoy stories for different reasons: because of the ideas, because of the writing, because of the personalities of the people involved, because the food sounds delicious. I want to get across the message that cooking doesn't need to be so intimidating. I want to persuade people to stretch in their thinking and in their cooking, but then I want to make sure to help them pull it off.
We do include chefs here and there, but I want to make sure that we're accessible for the home cook.
One of the joys of working for a major newspaper is that we have *many* target audiences!
Upper Marlboro, Md.: We had an ice storm. We are relying on what we have in the house. Could the Food section do a section on what to make when conditions prevent going out? We lived in California--earthquake zone--so we have provisions, but interesting ways to cook with what's on hand would be a way to help pass the restricted time (and possibly help with cabin fever prevention.)
Joe: Absolutely, an idea we've tossed around already -- but one that will probably have to wait until next year... won't it? Mr. Weatherman, I can't hear you: Won't it?
Ann Arbor, Mich.: I made the utterly amazing and delicious Man-Catcher Brownies on Saturday while my boyfriend and brother installed a remote car-starter in my Dad's car for his birthday. (We all want one of them this week in snowy Michigan.)
The brownies were a HUGE success--and so easy! The whole house smelled like giant happiness of chocolate. The best part is that one brownie is enough; if you eat two you explode.
One note: I added a whole bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and had to increase the baking time to 55 minutes (at 350 degrees).
Anyway, thanks for the recipe. I am certain that I am only one of thousands of people who spent their weekend making these remarkable things.
Leigh: You are most welcome! I agree that one of the best side effects of baking chocolate is the smell of it wafting through the house. I can hardly imagine these brownies getting richer, but studding them with chocolate chips sounds divine.
Chocolate Chip Cookies: On February 13, 1967 I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies and put them, along with a simple card, in my boyfriend's mailbox across the street from his home. I knew it was over when I never heard from him again.
Jane: That makes yesterday the 40th anniversary of the best thing that ever happened to you! Someone who doesn't appreciate a home-baked gift from the heart is not worth fretting over.
(But it does kinda make me wonder about those cookies....)
Fire and Chocolate: So... where does one get such luscious treats? I'm especially interested in the Vosges Haute Chocolate Oaxaca and Red Fire chocolates.
Leigh: You can find Vosges chocolates at the Curious Grape in Arlington.
washingtonpost.com: Vosges Chocolate.
Germantown, Md.: From the time it first appeared on the shelves, I had been using Hershey's Dutch-processed cocoa in a can with a silver label. Just before Christmas, I used the last of the silver-label cocoa I had, and opened the can of Hershey's "Special Dark" cocoa, which is also labeled as Dutch processed. However, the two cocoas were very different in color -- while the silver label was a rich reddish brown, the Special Dark is nearly black. Cookies baked with the Special Dark were dry and had an unappetizing ashy-black color. I know about the effects on leavening of the alkali used in Dutch processing, but the cookie recipes I use have no baking soda or baking powder. (Unfortunately, I did not save the silver label.)
I phoned Hershey's at New Years, and the rep said she was unaware of any change in the cocoas other than the labeling.
This past weekend, I tried mixing standard cocoa and the Special Dark 50/50 in my favorite cookie recipe, but the color was still grayish, and the cookies rather tough and dry.
Q: Can you recommend a Dutch-processed cocoa other than Hershey's? Where would I find it? (Interestingly, 3 Giant Food stores near me no longer seem to carry any cocoa; Safeway carries only Hershey's; Whole Foods and Trader Joe's had no Dutch processed cocoa.)
(And a rhetorical question: Why would Hershey's say there has been no change, when the product is so obviously different??)
Jane: The brand I grew up with, probably because of my Dutch grandmother, is Droste. She used it and so do I. It's generally not carried in the Safeways, Giants, et al. in our area, but I've been able to find it at Whole Foods. It has always worked great for me.
Arlington, Va.: Planning a Mardi Gras party and was wondering if you had any suggestions for a non-alcoholic punch to go with gumbo, jambalaya, etc. Thanks.
David Hagedorn: Hi, Arlington. This might fit the bill. Years ago, Lynn Rutenberg, a woman known in my hometown of Gadsden, Alabama for her cooking prowess, self-published a cookbook called "Cooking Our Way." This hot punch is right for the weather, and will balance the strong flavors of gumbo and jambalaya nicely.
Here is a recipe for:
Hot Spiced Punch
9 cups cranberry juice
9 cups pineapple juice
4 and 1/2 cups water
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 sticks cinnamon
4 teaspoons whole cloves
Perk the liquids in a 30-cup electric coffee urn, placing the cinnamon and cloves in the urn's basket. (If you don't have an electric coffee urn, make the punch on top of the stove.)
Silver Spring, Md.: Hey there. I was given a set of ramekins years ago. However, I've never used them because I'm not sure what to cook in them. Any ideas? Suggestions? I don't even need recipes per se, just tell me what can be made in these crazy things and then I'll look for the recipes. Thanks!
Joe: Creme brulee, of course, and pots de creme (see last week's Valentine's menu for two). Individual pot pies, individual lamb biryani. Little souffles. ... So much!
washingtonpost.com: Recipe: Chocolate-Espresso Pots de Creme
Washington, D.C.: I have used part of a can of chick peas in a recipe. What is the best way to store the rest for a few days? Can they be frozen?
Joe: For just a few days, no need to freeze. If you've kept the liquid from the can, enough to cover them, just put the beans and their liquid in an airtight container and refrigerate. If you've already drained, cover them with water in the container. For longer periods, indeed, beans freeze beautifully, in liquid.
Germantown, Md.: A favorite recipe, clipped from The Post, possibly as long as 10 years ago, is Joanne Leonard's recipe for Irish bread. (The article was titled, "Bringing Home a Slice of Ireland.") Wheatena hot cereal is a key ingredient, but it has disappeared from the shelves of stores in my area. It is available online, but at a high price per box, and only in quantities too large to use within a reasonable time (and to store in my townhouse pantry). Can you recommend a substitute for Wheatena in this recipe?
Bonnie: Your local Safeway may not carry Wheatena anymore, but the Giant should have it -- so says Hank Schlake at Homestat Farm in Dublin OH, where Wheatena is made. At least he knows it's being shipped to the Giant warehouse in Carlisle, Pa.
As for substitutions, Schlake told us that they've had success using toasted, coarsely ground pecans for some bread and cookie recipes. I'm thinking maybe toasted wheat germ might work.
Cabin Fever: How about next year, in November, you publish the Cabin Fever Shopping List (heavy on the non-perishables) so that we'll have the right stuff on hand for when we get snowed in? I mean, I have the basic staples - but I already know how to cook rice, beans, onions, and frozen burritos!
And Kim O'Donnell's slowcooker rice pudding is perfect for a day like today!
Joe: Sounds like a plan, CF. We'll think about that. Being an ex-Bostonian, of course, I tend to scoff at the DC definition of snowed in, but even I have to admit that this ice has been a pain!
Speaking of rice puddings, just you wait: Next week Bonny Wolf's second installment of "Kitchen Stories" tackles the subject in all its glory...
Washington, D.C.: Just a quick note on staying in and cooking what you have on hand. Coming from an emergency management background, I'd encourage you not to think of being stuck inside as only a winter time event. Being prepared should never be a seasonal consideration. And on a personal note...the food section has been great...Cheers.
Joe: This takes me back to my Boy Scout days! Of course, it never hurts to be prepared...
finger food entertaining: Hi - I'll be hosting a few friends for an Oscar party, so I'd like to come up with a variety of finger foods - sweet and savory - that don't require too much last minute prep, and that my guests can easily grab and eat in front of the TV. Nothing too fancy, but beyond chips and dip. Any suggestions for some new things to add to my menu? Thanks
David Hagedorn: Sure thing, fingers. This piece appeared in the Post Express just before New Year's Eve. "Just Cheat and Serve" features finger foods quickly put together using store-bought (or delivered!) prepared foods.
Baltimore, Md.: I wanted my chicken soup to turn out as rich as my mother-in-law's, so I did what she does: I left in on a very slow simmer all night. Like, ten hours. I couldn't help but be nervous all night about leaving something on the stove -- more for food safety than for house-burning-down reasons. It was about 190 degrees when I checked it this morning. I am wayyyy not a stickler on food safety, but is that okay? It sure tastes good.
Joe: Here are the numbers to remember: Two, 40, and 140. To be perfectly safe, food shouldn't stay for more than two hours between 40 and 140 degrees. That's the "temperature danger zone." So you're good.
Washington, D.C.: I made the Chocolate Espresso Chews (http:/
Leigh: I developed this home version of the cookie with Kate Jansen, the creator. Firehook may have tweaked the recipe to include pastry flour since she moved to Willow restaurant. You could try them with the change of flour to see if it makes a marked difference. Also try them at 25 degrees lower and check them at the given time, adding on 5 minutes from there as you suggest.
Washington, D.C.: I keep seeing recipes that call for a tablespoon or two of sherry. If I bought a bottle would it keep for a while? Would substituting sherry vinegar be a disaster? Better to just omit?
Bonnie: Negatory on the vinegar. You can refrigerate sherry for several weeks, or do that freeze it in ice cube trays routine. Or substitute with vermouth, sake or even dry white wine with a pinch of sugar.
Washington, D.C.: What is nonfat half-and-half, and how does it do in baked/cooked recipes? David mentions it his 2-potato gratin recipe.
Joe: Our good friends at Cook's Illustrated tackle this question ably in their March/April issue: Fat-free half-and-half uses skim milk, corn syrup and many additives (natural and artificial) to improve the consistency. Cook's liked Land O'Lakes brand and found that it performed better in recipes such as fettuccine Alfredo and mashed potatoes than in a chocolate cream pie filling, in which it didn't set up properly. But in the gratin it should work fine.
Fennel: I was inspired to buy a bulb of fennel the other day and now it is just sitting there starting at me. I have no idea how to prepare it or what I can use it in. Any good ideas for me?
Jane: How about an easy recipe of grouper baked with fennel? (Or you can substitute any thick white fish.) Here's a recipe by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick from last year. Only 1 gram of saturated fat!
washingtonpost.com: Recipe: Grouper Baked with Tomato and Fennel
river city, Va.: instead of Wheatena, couldn't you use Ralston? it's a similar hot wheat cereal. I see it at my Krogers in Richmond.
Bonnie: I know that box. Good idea.
re Swiss Chard: David, your recipe for swiss chard is basically the way I cook
spinach and kale. If I wanted to cook and eat the chard right
away, how long would I allow for cooking on top of the
David Hagedorn: The same as for spinach and kale. Just cram the chard into the pan and start turning it with tongs until it is all just wilted. At thesis point, they are done in my opinion. Of course, many people prefer their greens cooked much longer, so it is really a matter of personal taste.
Upper Marlboro, Md.: Ice storms are winter. Hurricanes are summer. We survived Isabel--5 days no power. It's not just that we can't go get provisions, it's also that we might need to cook on Coleman stoves, gas grills, charcoal Weber grills---because the electricity is off and there is no running water (electric well pump).
Joe: Another reason for this story, eh?
Great mashed potato recipe?: I lost a bet and owe my husband a homemade romantic dinner, but he got to decide the menu. They may not be romantic but he wants mashed potatoes. Can you believe I've never made them before? What can I do to make them special?
Joe: To make them particularly special, you could attempt the Joel Robuchon way, which is just loaded up with butter and milk or cream. I've got it memorized because it's 2, 2, and 1: 2 pounds unpeeled russet potatoes, 2 sticks butter (cold, cut into little pieces), and 1 cup milk (or half/half, or cream).
Boil the potatoes until tender, let cool, then put through a food mill or potato ricer right into another pot. Put over medium heat, stir until dry, and start stirring in the butter, beating with a wooden spoon, until absorbed. Then drizzle in the milk while continuing to vigorously stir. If you want it really really smooth, you can put it through a strainer, but that's such a pain! Salt to taste, of course...
Washington, D.C.: Need some help working out the final stages of tonight's Valentine's dessert. I'm planning on serving Greek yogurt in martini glasses, with orange segments and pistachios. I'd like to make a honey-cardamom syrup to drizzle over the top. Any suggestions for steeping the cardamom pods? I was thinking simmer them in hot water, take them out, and mix honey and water 1:1, then reduce til I like the consistency. Will three pods be enough for half a cup of sauce? Thanks!
David Hagedorn: This sounds like a great dessert, DC. Why not steep the pods (crushed, and 3 will be more than enough for 1/2 cup of sauce) in some Cointreau to enhance the flavor of the oranges or perhaps sherry or Marsala wine? You could also put a few saffron threads in there; saffron suits the dessert and the bright yellow color will have a stunning effect. Could add a few drops of rose water, too, or, for that matter, steep your pods in rose water. Strain the essence and then add it to your reduced syrup. For the syrup, add the honey to the water until you achieve the sweetness you are looking for, then reduce it. A little honey goes a long way...especially on Valentine's Day.
Chef Scheib: Hi, Bonnie Benwick, and Happy Valentine's Day. I'm curious, since Chelsea Clinton is between the ages of my two daughters (no sons OR sons-in-law YET)--both of whom taught themselves to cook by watching me and now love to cook--what did Chef Scheib teach Ms. Clinton to cook when they were both in the White House?
Bonnie: Er, hi Chef. Vegetarian pizza, buckwheat linguine with lentils, carrots and Swiss chard, black bean enchiladas, to name a few. Apparently there was some tofu and tempeh cooking going on in the Clinton WH. Who knew?
Anchovies: I have some anchovies leftover after making salad dressing. Any idea what to do with them and how long they fresh?
Bonnie: Talkin' tinned? In an airtight container they should last a month or so in the refrigerator. Add them to an olive oil-based pasta sauce or try this mussels recipe, which was excellent:
Mussels With Olives (Mejiollones al Estilo de Laredo)
The most time-consuming element of this quick meal is prepping the mussels. The sauce is enriched with olives and wine, both perfect counterpoints to the sweet and briny bivalves. Serve with crusty bread for soaking up the sauce. Adapted from "One Dish Meals -- The Culinary Institute of America" (Lebhar-Friedman, 2006, $35).
5 to 6 dozen mussels (about 3 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups seeded and diced plum tomatoes or vine-ripened tomatoes
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup whole black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
Clean and debeard the mussels and rinse in a colander under cold running water, discarding any whose shells are cracked or do not close tightly when tapped. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and cook about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the anchovies and crushed red pepper flakes, stirring constantly until the anchovies "dissolve." Add the shallot and garlic; cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until they are aromatic. Add the tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then add the mussels to the pot. Cover tightly and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the mussels have opened. Scoop the mussels into a large heated bowl or individual bowls. Discard the bay leaf; discard any mussels that have not opened. Add the olives to the remaining sauce, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the mussels and serve immediately.
Per serving: 183 calories, 12 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 26 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 465 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber
idea for fingerfood: I toast baguette slices, top with my favorite garden herb cream cheese spread and top with a crisp cucumber slice. People go wild for this. I have one group that actually jokes about having contests to see who can eat the most. It is VERY quick and easy. It is the contrast between the toasted bread, creamy spread and crisp veggies that's so good.
Joe: Anything with texture contrasts scores big, with a crowd... Thanks!
River City, Va.: apple juice is a good nonalcoholic substitute for sweet sherry
Joe: Thanks, River City...
Brrroken furnace, D.C.: I had a deliciously beautiful V-day meal planned at home for my girlfriend tonight, but sadly, our furnace has broken, so it's too chilly at home.
Just wanted someone who could appreciate the efforts I already went to:
- Starter: Water cress, greens, sundried-tomatoes with toasted pine nuts and a homemade raspberry vinaigrette.
- Heart-shaped truffle oil-dusted Polenta, topped with shredded mascarpone cheese, and a red/pink/white tomato-basil-garlic shrimp.
- Sides: Haricot verts w/toasted almond slivers; strips of roasted yucca - dusted with chili powder and white pepper.
- Dessert: Raspberry sorbet, already softened and placed into heart shaped molds, topped with a few canned litchis. (will Pam spray ensure an easy removal? I've never tried this.)
Sadly, it appears only the dessert will make it to our newly booked hotel room tonight! Since she won't know the difference, any recommended substitutions/additions? Thanks for your sympathy, and for the weekly chats!
Joe: Well, Brrrrrroken, you had an ambitious plan, didn't you? A lot going on there! (How DO you manage to shred mascarpone? That's a nifty trick indeed...) The Pam spray should indeed help unmold your sorbets, although they'd be just as delicious served in little cups as molded this way. (I have to confess, I'm not a big fan of heart-shaped things...)
Washington, D.C.: Any ideas on where I can buy garam masala in the dc (metro accessible) area? thanks!
Leigh: Most grocery store spice aisles will offer a garam marsala blend. When we tasted several we liked the balance of Whole Foods garam marsala brand.
Joel Robuchon potatoes: Those are delicious but too rich (and I almost never say that about anything). I went to L'Atelier in Vegas last week and that was the only dish of the tasting menu I could only take a couple bites of. You don't want to feel weighed down when you're aiming for amour.
Joe: Well, the question was about "special" mashed potatoes, so is not up to me to judge... Indeed, they're rich.
Silver Spring, Md.: On this snowy Valentine's Day, I am remembering that my sweetie absolutely loves venison. Any idea on where to find Bambi steaks locally?
Walter: Silver Spring, the only place that I can find, at the moment, with fresh venison is Organic Butcher in McLean (703-790-8300)The tenderloin is going for $29.99 per pound.
Washington, D.C.: I have some questions on baking dishes. What exactly is a gratin dish, and what can I substitute if I don't have one?
And how do I know the capacity of my baking dishes without having to fill with water and measure how much they take?
Is there a conversion guideline between inches and quarts?
David Hagedorn: A gratin dish is generally a ceramic baking dish fired at a high enough temperature to be able to withstand high-heat broiling. It is also decorative enough to use as a serving dish, since transferring bubbling, cheese-drippy dishes would result in an unappealing presentation. You can use any baking pan for a gratin; it's up to you whether you wish to present it to company or plate in the kitchen.
As to conversion, if such one exists, it certainly could not take so much less time to perform than filling your with water and measuring it would, no? I'd advise relying on trial rather than mathematical error here!
Alone in the office: Good afternoon all. I noticed that Harris Teeter is having great sales on fresh ginger, bok choy, bean sproats and snow peas. I am going to buy them all! Now what should I make with them. I'd be happy to throw in some chicken or tofu, but no red meat please.
Thanks and stay warm!
Bonnie: Alone, pick up Kylie Kwong's new "Simple Chinese Cooking," a gorgeous cookbook with great, easy recipes. And read about her in next week's Food section.
New York, NY: Quick last-minute question, help! I'm making a risotto
tonight with asparagus, tomatoes, and corn, and I want to
serve it with shrimp. the recipe says to mix in the shrimp,
but I think I'd like to sear them and put them on top...is this
a good idea and what's the best way to sear shrimp?
Joe: Sure, NY, sear away (especially if the shrimp are large, which would be good and dramatic). Just peel and devein those shrimp (if you're really ambitious, you should use the shells to make stock for the risotto...), salt and pepper em good, heat up a skillet, use just enough olive oil to keep things from sticking, and when the oil is shimmering, put the shrimp in the pan and cook for just a couple minutes on each side until they're just pink...
unmolding the sorbet: pam won't do too much if the dish is right out of the freezer. better to put a warm wet towel on the mold to every so slightly soften the outer layer enough to let the item plop out.
Joe: Yep, it needs to wait a minute, absolutely. And the towel (or a blowtorch) can help speed things up.
Silver Spring, Md.: Hello! I have a cupcake recipe that calls for canned egg nog. I never even knew this existed. Where can I find this? My local Giant and Safeway didn't carry it. If I can't find it, what can I use as a substitution? Milk? Coconut milk? Thanks!
Leigh: You might call around to liquor stores in your area, but it is likely that egg nog, canned or not, is a seasonal offering. You could substitute heavy whipping cream and add a bit of nutmeg and rum extract for flavor.
Baltimore, Md.: Had to cancel a long-anticipated dinner party at the last minute Sunday because my husband got sick, boo-hoo. I could freeze the soup, cut up the chicken for soup (I'll get another one), the homemade ice cream will still be fine. The salad I had to toss (haha). But I had already made the base for an apple-potato "gratin" -- basically, lots of onions caramelized with butter, white wine, thyme, sugar, water. It's been in my fridge since Sunday. Can I freeze it? Just leave it in the fridge till maybe this coming Sunday?
David Hagedorn: It should be fine until Sunday since the butter will congeal and the white wine provides some acid. It will freeze fine, though, just to be on the safe side. Tossed the salad. If I tried to sneak that in, the pun-deditors would cut that pronto!
Joe: It's true, we would.
Philadelphia, Penn.: I recently picked up a book on WWII cooking in the U.K., that includes recipes and suggestions on how people stretched rations and tried to disguise unfamiliar food as familiar meals. On method of cooking it mentions as a way to conserve energy is to use a hay-box to cook soups, stews, etc. That sounds like it could be a neat project to try with my niece one day - do you have any suggestions where I could get the information on how to make such a box?
Jane: Yes -- go to www.lostvalley.org and do a search for the word hay. You'll find more information than you can possibly use!
Washington, D.C.: On a completely different topic, does anyone know if there are any places in the Washington area with good Polish food? Either store or restaurant.
Walter: You're in luck. There is fine Polish fare at little Domku Bar & Cafe in Petworth (202-722-7475). The aquavits alone are worth the trip.
Joe: Well, as Dr. Melfi would say, that's all the time we have for today. Thanks for the great questions, and hope we were able to help.
The two book winners are... "Chef Scheib," who will get, of course, "White House Chef" (unless, of course, this chatter really WAS Walter Scheib, in which case you have all the books you need!); and the chocolate-chip cookie baker whose boyfriend in '67 didn't know just how good he had it, who will get "Sweets: Soul Food Desserts & Memories."
Until next time, stay warm, and happy cooking, eating, and reading!
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