washingtonpost.com
Free Range on Food: Last Minute Holiday Help, Storing Bagels, Venison, Cooking with Eggnog and more

The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, December 24, 2008 1:00 PM

A chat with the Washington Post Food Section staff is a forum for discussion of all things culinary: food trends, recipes, ingredients, menus, gadgets and more. You can share your thoughts on the latest Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way. The Food section staff goes Free Range on Food every Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET.

A transcript follows.

Transcripts of past chats

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Bonnie Benwick: Good afternoon and good Christmas Eve. If you're reading this in real time, you must be one of our fabulous Free Range chatters who's got all the shopping done and can concentrate on things that matter: food.

Were you intrigued by Jane Black's nouvelle smorgasbord today or motivated to make better eggs via The Gastronomer's column? Who's already eating cinnamon toast?

Spirits columnist Jason Wilson will join us today, so pepper and Worcestershire him with all your bloody mary concerns. Editor Joe's on holiday; rest of us will be typing as fast as we can.

We've got goodies for 2 best posts today, announced at the end of the chat.

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Brown Rice Pizzazz: I'm planning a low key Christmas dinner -- pork tenderloin marinated in a combo of maple syrup, garlic, ginger and soy sauce -- and need a way to spice up brown rice. Any thoughts? It needs to be young kid-friendly, simple and delicious. Thanks.

Jane Black: I'd sauté some tart apples (crab apples would be great if you magically had some), a little minced ginger, salt and pepper. Then add the cooked brown rice to the pan and toss it all together.

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Chengdu, Sichuan: Hi, I am interested in the Jansson's temptation recipe but am not sure my local Ikea will have the sprats. Can I sub any canned oily fish like sardines or mackerel?

Bonnie Benwick: Sichuan, really?

Jane B. and I were just discussing that last week. The sprats are in a marinade that has some slight spice in it, like cardamom or nutmeg, and I think between the fish and the few spoonfuls of the sauce from the can that gets added to the potatoes, you wouldn't get the same flavor using sardines or mackerel. But maybe it'd be a delightful dish in a different way. The recipe is killer good.

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Navy Yard: I'm making fava bean soup tomorrow, but it's the first time I've made it since moving from Italy. I know where to get fava beans there, but what about in D.C.?! And if I can't find favas, what would be a good substitution?

Bonnie Benwick: You can find dried fava beans (peeled) at Yekta Market in Rockville (301-984-1190); the fresh ones are a spring thing...

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Vegetarian Gravy: We are planning to have a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. However, we are also expecting a couple of vegetarians to join us at the table. Can you tell me of a good vegetarian gravy that they could put on their mashed potatoes, etc.? I don't want to leave them out of any more of the dinner than is necessary. Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: This mushroom gravy is so good I bet all your guests will like it.

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The Bog: Has anyone seen cranberries at a store? Which one? Arlington is best.

Bonnie Benwick: Harris Teeter, Pentagon Row.

I think we got a question about in the past chat or two... fresh cranberries should be around through next week at least, in most large grocery stores.

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Downtown DC: My Christmas dinner recipe calls for green peppercorns in brine and for beef demi-glace. As far as I can tell, neither are to be had, anywhere in DC. I'm guessing I can replace the brined peppercorns with plain old dried green peppercorns, but do I need to do anything differently to them? The recipe says to chop them; I guess I can coarsely crush the dried ones? And demi-glace: sitting next to the frozen duck and veal demi-glace at Balducci's was frozen beef stock, which they said was the same thing as demi-glace. Is it, really? If not, is it close enough?

Bonnie Benwick: Here's my gift to you, Downtown DC. I have a can of French green peppercorns in brine (purchased at Williams-Sonoma) on my desk right now... c'mon over and you can have it.

As for the demi-glace, I'm sure you could use the veal demi-glace you saw at Balducci's. (I've seen small round packs of demi-glace concentrate near the meat dept, too.) The frozen stock won't quite be the same, as the demi-glace is much-reduced and glaze-like, often made with sherry or Madeira.

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McLean, Va.: My interest was piqued by the October 15 article in the Post about Calvados, but I had trouble locating it at the Virginia ABC and the Montgomery County stores (my usual sources).

I placed a special order at the Rockville location of the MoCo stores for the Domaine Dupont Fine Reserve mentioned in the article. First, it's lovely (thanks to Jason Wilson for the recommendation)! Second, the Rockville store ordered a case, so if other readers have been searching, they should be able to buy it there.

Bonnie Benwick: You're an outstanding Free Range citizen.

Jason Wilson: Yes, excellent work! (also, glad you liked the Domaine Dupont).

Something I'm forever telling people: You can always place a special order for spirits that aren't on your local store's shelf. When I suggest a bottle in the column, we try to make sure it is distributed in the region. But even if it's available in town, what's on the shelf at individual neighborhood stores still will always vary... BUT a good liquor store is always willing to place a special order. And like the one in Rockville, if a store special orders, they usually buy more than one... and then that bottle is in stock.

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Princeton, N.J.: Hi, I love the Washington Post's food section -- even though I don't live in the area these days. I have a favor to ask the Food section: can you check the URLs for the December 10th cookie recipe article? I can't retrieve the recipes for the cookies, which is very unusual. Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: It's working for us in various browsers, so we're not sure why you're having trouble. But we don't want you to be without those fabulous recipes! Here's a different link to all of the cookie recipes that were published that day. Happy baking.

Bonnie Benwick: Everybody's helpful.

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Catching up on past chats...: and just wanted to say: PLEASE don't post the "good old recipes" in your section! That's what makes you guys great! I thought your Thanksgiving edition was fabulous. I made your chestnut/mushroom stuffing and people couldn't stop talking about it. You all are GREAT! THANK YOU!

Bonnie Benwick: Such holiday spirit today.

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Rockville, Md.: Happy Holidays, Foodies! I have a reasonable expectation that I will be getting a cheesemaking beginner's kit as a gift sometime very soon, and I'm really looking forward to playing in the kitchen. Do you have any suggestions about where I should look for very fresh milk in the area, preferably closer to my neck of the woods? As I understand it, it can be pasteurized, and even homogenized is okay, but it should NOT be ultra-pasteurized. Thanks so much for all your help, and I wish us all a healthy and prosperous 2009!

Jane Black: You can start at the farmers market. The Dupont Market sells Clear Spring Creamery's milk. It's also available in Frederick at the Common Market coop. Another option, more widely available, is Natural by Nature milk, which is minimally pasteurized. It's at Bethesda Coop near you and I think it's at some Whole Foods.

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NoVa: Speaking of brunch, do you have a good recipe for baked French toast that doesn't come out soggy? All the ones I've tried come out too wet, especially in the middle pieces in the pan.

Bonnie Benwick: Here you go, with strawberry sauce.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello and happy holidays! I am Jewish and my partner is Catholic, and he requested lasagna for Christmas dinner tonight. Any great recipes you can recommend? Thanks!

Jane Black: This Gruyere and Spinach lasagna isn't a classic Italian one. But that might be just the trick to make it special for Christmas.

Bonnie Benwick: And this roasted butternut squash with rosemary and garlic lasagne is quite nice. I have made it many times, as has Jane T.

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Leftover Eggnog?: Hi Foodies,

We bought cartons of commercial egg nog for a work event. It's not bad -- it's "custard style" -- but it's way too much to consume ourselves, and too little to take into the office. We have less than two gallons (but more than one) left.

What are good ways to make use of it? All I can think of is French toast. Can it replace milk in most biscuit/cookie/cake/bread recipes? If so, what do I need to watch? Anything else it'd be good for? It needs to be used up in the next ten days, according to the packaging.

Many thanks.

Jane Touzalin: French toast, which you've already thought of, is a great use for leftover eggnog. It works really well, too, in rice pudding, bread pudding, pancakes/waffles. I've also heard that eggnog cheesecake is terrific; haven't had it, but it sounds delicious.

Eggnog can probably replace equal amounts of milk, but remember that it is very thick and also contains a lot of egg, so it's not an exact science. What I'd do: Use a search engine to find tried-and-true recipes online (like that cheesecake), in addition to doing some experimenting on my own. Enjoy!

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re: Leftover Eggnog: Use the eggnog to make milkshakes (use vanilla ice cream). Yummy!

Bonnie Benwick: That's a good one.

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For Downtown D.C., iso beef demi-glace: Williams-Sonoma has it! I saw it at the Friendship Heights store in Mazza the other day.

Bonnie Benwick: Great, thanks!

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Baking for the troops: I'm the baker Kim O'Donnel interviewed for A Mighty Appetite. I said I was considering making the chocolate mole cookies for next month -- if I could figure out the pepper. I've found chili powder and cayenne pepper and I don't know which is specified in the recipe. If I remember, this ingredient was originally left out of the ingredient list but called for in the body of the recipe.

washingtonpost,com: Baking for the Troops (washingtonpost.com, Dec. 23, 2008)

Bonnie Benwick: 1 to 2 tablespoons of chili powder.

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Frederick, Md.: A friend recently gave me some ground venison. What can I do with it? I have heard the meat can be gamey. What does that mean? Do I need to heavily spice it to cover up some peculiar taste?

Jane Black: The easiest answer to that question is venison burgers. Pack the meat loosely, throw it on the grill. Serve with a cranberry (or other) chutney to balance the richness.

People do say that venison meat can be gamey. But I often think that people are surprised it has more flavor than everyday beef. I assume if a friend gave it to you that it's probably fresh and you shouldn't have to treat it carefully. Any meat you have to heavily spice to cover up the taste probably isn't good!

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Kudos for Bonnie: Submitting early before rushing out for last-minute shopping. Just wanted to thank Bonnie for the great cinnamon toast story. Cinnamon toast is truly one of the under-appreciated wonders of the breakfast world. My kids love it as a comfort food snack late at night. And now I know where to find the best cinnamon, too. Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: You're welcome!

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Central Virginia: I loved the cinnamon toast article. Funny that this should be on your page today, as I just made a batch of cinnamon biscotti. One side of the biscotti is sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

Happy Holidays to all.

Bonnie Benwick: Of course you did. Cinnamon's good for us. There are even cinnamon-infused insoles you can buy to make your feet happy.

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Hard bagels: Is there a way to keep a bagel soft for longer than two days? By the second day, it's chewy and the third they're usually hard as rocks.

Bonnie Benwick: My pal Patti, who has lugged H&H bagels back from NYC for 30 years, has put me on the path of true bagel freshness. Bring home, slice, freeze right away. Pull out as needed.

Goldberg's Bakery in Pikesville confirms this. But a good bagel should stay pretty chewy kept at room temp for 2 days.

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Chicago: I bought some lamb loin chops to make for my husband and me on Christmas (it will just be the two of us.) Any simple ideas on how I can prepare them? Also, what side dishes would be best? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Any chance you'd be grilling? This one is a little different, with a mint salsa that has a splash of balsamic vinegar. I bet you could modify and use a grill pan on the stovetop just as easily, or pop them under the broiler. Potatoes and onions always go nicely with lamb chops, but sometimes I just do broiled/baked tomato halves, with some flesh scooped out and bread crumbs/olive oil/Parmesan cheese and seasoning of your choice sprinkled on the top. Have a lovely day tomorrow. I know you've had snow...

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Rockville, Md.: I have not worked with puff pastry before so would appreciate your advice. I was thinking of using a pasta machine to roll the puff pastry sheet to be much thinner. If I did that, do you think the puffiness of the pastry would be significantly diminished? thank you

Jane Black: Are you talking about pre-made puff pastry or homemade? If it's premade, why do you need to make it thinner? If it's homemade, absolutely not! The pastry is very delicate and needs minimal handling and a light touch.

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Vegetable soup: I recently had a truly light and wonderful vegetable soup at News Cafe in Georgetown. It had diced zucchini and carrots, and a wonderful broth. My toddler devoured it. Do you think you could get the recipe please?

Bonnie Benwick: Cafe manager Kari Fiorello says that might not be possible today, but she suspects the owners would provide you with the recipe soon. Call 202-965-5535 on Friday and ask to speak with Kari or Paul. I see the cafe does post some recipes on its Web site (www.newscafedc.com) but not this one. In fact, the soup isn't even listed on the menu, but I'm told it's often the soup of the day.

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Cranberry Thanks!: The Harris Teeter on Glebe Rd. didn't have any Monday night, but the store you mentioned is bigger. Merry Christmas!

Bonnie Benwick: And they do have them; I called. Back atcha.

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Anonymous: I'm serving baked scallops (the large ones) for a dinner party Saturday evening and no other meat will be served. How many scallops would be a nice portion for each person? Thanks!

Jane Black: If they're really big, you can get away with three per person (as long as there are other sides with it). Otherwise, I'd go for five. Odd numbers always look nicer on the plate.

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Frederick, Md.: I've been tasked to bring pork and sauerkraut to the feast tomorrow. In lieu of pork, I was considering using two or three types of sausage (bratwurst and knockwurst) cut up into bite size pieces. Do you think this is a good idea?

Bonnie Benwick: Except for the cutting into bite-size pieces, sure.

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Lusby, Md.: This may be out of your specialty but I'm going to ask anyway. A school was selling Otis Spunkmeyer cookies for a fundraiser. I purchased a bucket of cookies already shaped for $14 dollars -- Butter Cookies was the flavor. My gawd they were absolutely delicious! Now, I'm desperate to know where I can buy more. I went to Otis's web site and everything I found was for businesses to purchase or for fundraising. Do you or any chatters know if there is a recipe that is pretty darn close to tasting as good as OS cookies?

Bonnie Benwick: We'll throw it out to chatters, Lusby.

I see some copycat recipes for your OS cookies on www.recipezaar.com and www.community.tasteofhome.com.

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Eggnog Creme Brulee: I just saw a recipe for eggnog creme brulee that looked pretty good. That should use up a fair amount of leftover eggnog and make people very happy at the same time. Google it -- you'll find it on several sites.

Bonnie Benwick: That could work.

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Princeton, N.J.: Any ideas for what to do with kumquats, beyond decorating the table with them?

Jane Touzalin: Ah, kumquats. The best part about visiting my parents in Florida was the kumquat tree they had in the back yard. Okay, maybe not the best part, but right up there.

Not everyone likes to eat these fruits out of hand, but I recommend it. You devour the 'quat peel and all; the peel, in fact, is the best part, and the insides are just along for the ride.

My second-favorite use for them is in cranberry sauce or chutney; I chop them and cook with the cranberries and brown sugar. If you have a favorite cranberry sauce/chutney recipe that calls for oranges, use kumquats instead. Substitute them for oranges or other winter fruits in compotes accompanying chicken or other poultry. For dessert, they're great poached in a syrup and served over ice cream.

I saw great-looking (i.e., not green and shriveled) 'quats at Harris Teeter yesterday.

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bork bork: I'm making Sweeeedish pancakes with lingonberries (thanks IKEA!) for Boxing Day breakfast. Thanks for the timely article.

Any suggestions as to how to use the gooseberry preserves they sell at IKEA? I have an unopened jar and I'm not sure what they will taste like (tart?).

Jane Black: I've never had the preserves from Ikea. But gooseberries generally aren't terribly sweet. My advice: Open it. Taste it. Then, decide. At the very least you can offer it as an alternative to ligonberry jam for the pancakes.

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Arlington, Va.: Can you use the leftover eggnog to make waffles or pancakes?

Bonnie Benwick: They'd be tipsy.

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Fairfax, Va.: My husband only wants his ham, bourbon and rye bread & dill dip. It will only be the two of us. Any other small appetizer-like ideas? Maybe stuffing balls or something?

Jason Wilson: It sounds like your husband and I could be friends. Maybe you can try some of Paula Deen's bacon-wrapped bread sticks -- they'd probably go swell with the bourbon.

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Deviled Eggs???: What is it about deviled eggs that folks love them?! Winter, spring, summer or fall they are always a hit!

Do you know where I can find deviled egg plates?

Jane Black: I love them too. Check out Crate and Barrel for the platter.

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Smorgastarta, TN: The link provided for the recipe for smorgastarta, a layered sandwich cake of bread, shrimp and salmon salads and dill is NOT CORRECT?

Bonnie Benwick: Hmm. Try this.

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Bonnie Benwick: Where are all the bloody mary drinkers?

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Freezing food: How can I freeze eggplant rollatini or vegetarian lasagna without getting that frozen layer of ice on top?

Bonnie Benwick: Sounds like you might be freezing things while they are still somewhat warm?

For the eggplant rolls, I'd put them on a tray and freeze for 20 to 30 minutes until they are firm, then place them in a heavy-duty freezer bag, making sure to push as much air out of it as possible.

For the lasagne, let it cool completely, then wrap the whole pan tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap a layer of aluminum foil around that.

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Rockville, Md.: For the McLean person who got MoCo liquor to order the Calvados: which Rockville store got the shipment? thank you

Bonnie Benwick: Info sharing, pls.

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Falls Church, Va.: Caramels --

I'm hoping to spend the day after Christmas at home hanging out with the family. One potential activity is to make caramels (some for us, some for friends). I'd like soft (but firm) vanilla caramels that can be cut into squares. Do you have a great (best if foolproof) recipe?

Bonnie Benwick: Not sure about how foolproof a caramel recipe can be, but Nancy Baggett recipes fall into that category. This one ran in 2002:

Cream Caramels

(Makes about 128 candies, or 21/2 pounds plain and 2 3/4 pounds nut caramels)

Old-fashioned, homemade caramels have a succulent, mellow flavor and creamy-chewy texture that make them a memorable gift. These can be tucked inside an attractive reusable tin or glass canister or slipped inside cellophane bags.

It is important to follow the directions carefully and to avoid preparing the candy on rainy days. You'll need a candy thermometer (or other thermometer that registers up to 300 degrees); I find digital models the easiest to read. It's also a good idea to have kitchen mitts or heavy potholders on hand for lifting the cooking pot -- it gets hot.

Nonstick spray oil for the dish

11/3 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

11/4 cups light corn syrup

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

1/4 teaspoon salt

11/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 tablespoons hot water

1 cup (4 ounces) chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with heavy-duty foil, allowing the foil to extend at least 2 inches beyond the narrow ends of the pan. Generously spray the foil with oil. Place the dish on a wire rack.

In a heavy 6-quart, nonreactive pot or Dutch oven, stir together the granulated and brown sugars, corn syrup and 1 cup cream. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, making sure the tip is submerged in the mixture but doesn't touch the bottom of the pot. Place the pot over medium-high heat and, stirring constantly with a long-handled wooden spoon, bring to a boil. Using a pastry brush dipped in water or damp paper towels, carefully remove any sugar crystals from the side of the pan. (This prevents the resulting caramel from having a grainy texture.)

Reduce the heat to medium so the mixture boils briskly. Stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, gradually add the remaining 1 cup cream in a thin, steady stream, adding the cream in a slow enough stream so that the mixture keeps boiling slightly. When the mixture returns to a full boil, add the butter and salt and stir until the butter melts and is completely incorporated.

Continue to boil, gently stirring and scraping the pan bottom, until the mixture turns a light caramel color and thickens somewhat, 8 or 9 minutes. Reduce the heat slightly and continue cooking, scraping the bottom and watching carefully for signs of scorching, until the caramel turns a rich caramel color and reaches 250 to 252 degrees, about 15 minutes longer. Using kitchen mitts or heavy pot holders, immediately remove the pot from the heat. Standing back to avoid splattering and steam, carefully stir in the hot water, vanilla and, if desired, the nuts, and stir until well blended.

Again using mitts or pot holders, immediately pour the caramel into the prepared dish, being careful to pour it slowly so the hot caramel does not splash. Do not scrape the pot. Set the caramel aside to cool completely, about 60 minutes.

To cut the caramels, refrigerate the caramel until slightly firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Grasp the pieces of foil extending beyond the pan and remove the caramel from the dish in 1 piece. Invert the caramel onto a large cutting board and remove and discard the foil. If very even pieces are desired, use a lightly oiled sharp knife to trim and discard any uneven edges of the slab. (These are good for nibbling.) Using the same knife, score the caramel in half lengthwise, then cut each half into fourths. Cut the caramel in half crosswise, then cut each half into sixths.

To wrap the caramel, have ready about 128 pieces of wax paper cut into 4-inch squares. Place a caramel in the center of the paper and twist the ends to keep the paper from unwrapping. (It's best to store caramel in the refrigerator or in a very cool place. However, the caramel should be allowed to warm before serving.)

Per caramel: 42 calories, trace protein, 6 gm carbohydrates, 2 gm fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

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re: chili powder: Does the recipe for the cookies really call for "chili" powder (which, typically, includes not only ground chiles but also cumin, oregano, etc.), or for "chile" powder, which is only ground chiles?

Bonnie Benwick: Ground chili powder, made from pure ground chili peppers. Or grind your own; ancho would be good.

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Pine Plains: I enjoyed Andreas' egg article; but for those of us without his patience, there's the "Egg-Perfect egg timer", a plastic oval you put in the pan with your eggs that changes color from red to dark from the outside edge inward as the eggs cook. There's a scale that shows doneness, so once you decide what degree of doneness you like, it can easily be replicated time after time. It's a gadget that works.

Bonnie Benwick: Where's the mystery science theater in that? But thanks, we'll check it out.

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Pine Plains: For bagels: Freeze right away, but whole, not sliced. Reheat gently in a toaster oven at 150 degrees until warm and they're like fresh again. My question is when reheating frozen baked goods, what temp. is considered ready?

Bonnie Benwick: Not sure there is just one temp that works for all baked goods. Why not sliced? It gives half-bagel eaters some flexibility, and the bagels defrost faster.

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Bowie, Md: I like Bloody Marys! The spicier the better!

Jason Wilson: I like them, too! And I like them spicy, too, but the right kind of spice is important -- I prefer a pinch of cayenne pepper instead of tabasco. What's most important for me is that the bloody mary doesn't get too gloopy and too tomato-gravy-ish. That's why I go for equal parts vodka and tomato juice.

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Rockville: Let's say you've got some leftover spicy chicken breast that you'd like to shred and put on a pizza. What else would you put on that pizza to make it taste great? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Caramelized onion and goat cheese.

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Deviled egg plates: Look in thrift stores or garage sales. These things are somewhat old school and are often discarded.

As with exercise equipment, many people buy kitchen gadgets and items and only use them once or twice, then part with them readily.

Bonnie Benwick: Good idea.

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re: ground venison: Sloppy Does!

Jane Touzalin: I thought that was a joke, and then I looked it up and found it's an actual dish!

This may be helpful to the ground-venison experimenter: The meat is hailed as being less fatty than beef, but that can be a liability if you're looking for a juicy result. Use a sloppy joe recipe to make sloppy does, but you might have to add some olive oil to the pan when browning the (less-fat) meat to keep it from sticking to the pan and drying out.

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rarer baking ingredients: Any ideas for a store where I can find both meringue powder and instant espresso powder? D.C. or Md. preferred, unless it's very close Va. Yes, I'm making lots of your cookies. Plus the olive oil spice cookies from last year which were the hit of the party!

Bonnie Benwick: Meringue powder is carried at Sur La Table, but as of yesterday, the store on Wisconsin Ave. was down to 1 container. Little Bits in Wheaton always stocks it. The instant espresso powder is usually carried in larger Giant stores.

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Crispy duck: I submitted earlier, but haven't seen a response.

Best method for roasting duck with crispy skin? Low oven more time? High oven shorter time? Steam first? Boiling water poured over bird before roasting? There's as many methods on the interwebs as there are ducks.

Have a great holiday food staff!

Bonnie Benwick: We were waiting for an expert to weigh in, but try following the recipe in our database for best results (I know, you want to go hiking).

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Pine Plains: Bonnie - Half bagels dry out a bit; but if you toast them, it probably doesn't matter.

Bonnie Benwick: Ah.

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demi-glace: frozen beef stock is NOT the same thing as demi-glace. And I wouldn't chance reducing a commercial stock to get tot he demi-glace state. Places like Williams Sonoma and some top shelf supermarkets do carry demi-glace, but I recommend for future use learning to make beef stock yourself and reducing down to make your own. It keeps almost forever (though it never stays around long). I do the same for chicken stock. A Tablespoon of one in a frying pan after deglazing and you're halfway to a gorgeous sauce.

Bonnie Benwick: Not the same thing, we agree.

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Calvados: Available at the store at 832-836 Rockville Pike.

Bonnie Benwick: Thanks.

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B'More Cat and Food Lover: Love the food section and the chats (and I only read the on-line version of the WaPo). A couple of comments and a question...

I've made Jansson's Temptation before and used anchovies. Served it with a roast Leg of Lamb for a Scando dinner party a few years ago.

I bought the Williams-Sonoma Veal Demi-Glace after the sous chef at Petit Louis in B'more recommended it.

Finally, my question...I have a bottle of Pimm's Winter that I'm going to open tonight. The label suggests serving it heated with apple juice or mixed with ginger ale. Has anybody tried it? Any other suggestions?

Jason Wilson: I've only had Pimm's Winter once or twice. It's brandy-based (instead of gin based like the regular Pimm's) so it might theoretically mix well with apple juice or ginger ale -- though frankly I'm not too certain about a heated drink with ginger ale. I might try mixing it with a real cider like the ones I wrote about around Thanksgiving. And skip both the heating and the ginger ale. Maybe you mix it just like the Stone Fence, substituting the Pimm's Winter for the applejack or whiskey? Just a suggestion. I'd really be curious as to how it works out.

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Egg Cutter: I saw an episode of a cooking show with professional chefs on WETA a long time ago and I am looking for one of the tools they used. The chef had a machine that took the top off of eggs so you could use the shell as a serving dish. It wasn't the kind that are like scissors. It was like a plunger. Every time it punched out a perfect circle with no chipped edges. Does anyone know where I can get one?

Jane Touzalin: I'm thinking you saw the Inox egg topper, or something like it. Looks like a plunger, costs about $50-$60 and can be found online at a number of kitchen purveyors.

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Silver Spring: Just wanted you to know that I made several zillion of last year's sesame thins cookies to give away this year.

They make perfect bribes for programmers so they will talk to the hapless tech writer.

Easy, inexpensive if you get bulk sesame seeds from a Middle Eastern market (Yekta is fabulous) and butter on sale, and people love them.

Bonnie Benwick: Great, great to hear.

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Bowie, Md: Does anyone know where I can buy buttermilk powder? Would prefer PG County, Annapolis, or Alexandria/Arlington area.

Bonnie Benwick: Giant and Safeway should carry it, on the baking aisle. Can't remember the brand name but it is a squat cardboard container with a red plastic lid.

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Douglass Park, Va.: My date with the chopping board lasted longer than anticipated, sorry for joining so late. Of course, I started chopping later than planned because I had to read the Food section from the first line on the left on page 1, to the last line line on the right on page 8. Another great issue. I particularly enjoyed eggs discussed with two different approaches with two amazing chefs. Kudos to Jane for once and for all defining "brunch,", and to Bonnie for explaining to me why while I adore cinnamon, (I get mine from Penzeys) I have an aversion to "cinnamon doughnuts" served at my church. My chopping board is calling me again, but if there is any time left I would love to know what you guys are eating tonight and tomorrow. Brunch with scrambled eggs anyone?

Bonnie Benwick: Oh, you're kind but cruel, Douglass Park. Happy holidays!

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Kensington, Md.: When we slice and freeze bagels they end up shriveling in the self-defrosting fridge.

Bonnie Benwick: Boo. Freeze them, not fridge them.

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Egg plate and more: Wegman's Dulles has the egg plates in its kitchen section and the most divine cinnamon sugar butter near the fresh breads.

Bonnie Benwick: Aha. Cinnamon sugar butter??

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Md.: Eggnog ice cream is divine.

Jane Touzalin: Oooh, another good idea.

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Cinnamon sugar butter: Betcha can't just eat one bite! It is fabulous. they got me with a sample spread onto cranberry walnut bread.

Bonnie Benwick: Okay...

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Bonnie Benwick: Well, as editor Joe might say, we're golden brown and bubbling at the edges, which means we're done.

For Pine Plains the bagel storage expert, we have "Great Party Dips" by Peggy Fallon, and for our helpful Calvados shopper in McLean, we're sending "Slow and Easy: Fast-Fix Recipes for Your Electric Slow Cooker."

Be sure to send your mailing info to food@washpost.com.

There's no chat next week, so see you in the new year.

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