Free Range on Food: Leftover ham bones, cooking gifts, chickpea flour, food allergies, New Year's Eve cakes

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The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, December 30, 2009; 1:00 PM

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. You can share your thoughts on the latest Washington Post 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.

A transcript of this week's chat follows.

Browse our 2009 Holiday Cookie Guide for recipes for 25 tasty treats!

Check out the archive of past discussions. Read the Food section blog All We Can Eat. Follow the Food section on Twitter at @WaPoFood.

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Joe Yonan: Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range on the second-to-last day of 2009. How was this year for you? Seems like there's lots of negativity in the year-end roundups, so we'll try to keep it all as upbeat as possible. Hope you liked David Hagedorn's fun profile of restaurant regulars, plus Jane and Bonnie's dual chef challenges for last-minute party appetizer cooking. Comes in handy for NYE, don't you think?

Some of the team is on vaycay today -- Bonnie and Jane -- but Leigh and I are here, along with David and special guest Tom Mueller, chef at Pineapple Alley Catering, who handled the Trader Joe's piece of the challenge with aplomb.

We'll have two giveaway books today for our favorite posts: "Knives at Dawn," which Josh Du Lac wrote about today; and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Clean," source of Bonnie's DinMin recipe.

Let's do this thing. Last one of the year!

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Washington, D.C.: A glamorous dessert: A friend of mine is celebrating a birthday tomorrow with a dinner party and I want to bring a celebratory birthday cake that is also sophisticated enough for New Year's Eve. The catch: no chocolate. Any ideas? Thanks!

David Hagedorn: Have I got a cake for you, DC! It's the crepe cake from my column last week: 25 crepes layered with ricotta, cream cheese frosting, almond, and ginger and topped with crystallized ginger and macadamia crunch.

Get cracking. You've got a lot of work to do!

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State College, Pa.: I have a ham bone with some leftover ham. What can I do with this? My husband and I are not fond of split pea soup, so I'd like to find an alternative to that. Thanks for the chats and Happy New Year!

David Hagedorn: Do you dislike lentils just as much? They make a delicious soup with ham. (I always add a little curry powder to ham soups, but that's just me.) If lentils are out, make a broth soup. My formula is chopped celery, carrots, onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, stock. Lately, I've been using brussels sprouts in these soups, too. At the end, I throw in a big handful of couscous, which adds a lot of body, thickens the soup a little, and requires no pre-cooking.

Of course, a soup with Northern beans and ham is pretty standard, too.

Joe Yonan: I just ate a black bean soup with ham!

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Posting Early from Maryland: I'd like to make more homemade soups in the new year. What's the secret to a great chicken soup? Mine are always watery and blah. Any tried-and-true recipes?

Leigh Lambert: The simple answer to flavorful stock is one word - time. My favorite chicken stock is from Barbara Tropp's China Moon cook book. She was Jewish and strongly influenced by her love and study of Chinese food. A good combination when it comes to soup making. This recipe for a double stock(using stock in place of water for the second round) is so rich you will happily slurp it straight, but it also makes a noble base for a multitude of additions.

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Cleveland Park, DC : I like to have a fruit and vegetable heavy lunch. During the winter, I also feel like I need something warm. Any suggestions on warm vegetable or fruit dishes I could make ahead of time and take for lunch? So far, I've come up with crackling cauliflower and roasted broccoli. Thanks!

Leigh Lambert: I like that you're tackling the misconception that one must include meat to make a hearty meal. This Baked Squash and Parmesan Cheese Pudding is definitely soul warming and filling. And if you use frozen berries, this recipe for Meme's Blackberry cobbler (you can substitute another fruit) is a homey way to end the meal - with whipped cream of course.

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Arlington, Mass.: I have the weekend free and a clean kitchen. I plan to cook up a storm and fill the freezer.

What shall I substitute for potatoes in beef stew that will be frozen? Does anyone know for sure if sweet potato, rutabaga, parsnip, or turnip will freeze/thaw decently if cooked?

Thanks and Happy New Year!

David Hagedorn: Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Happy soup making!

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Reston, Va.: Hi, I'm going through my cupboards, looking to pare down the stuff in the pantry. Do you have any recipes involving beef tenderloin, and molasses, that may come to mind?

I also have tons of spices that are just going to waste. Any recos for finding recipes that highlight the spices - in an effort to start actually using them regularly? Or is it just a matter of googling "spice plus ____"?

Thanks.

David Hagedorn: Even if there were a recipe to match tnederolin and molasses, it would not use up much molasses, which definitely belongs in the "a little goes a long way" category. I'd use the molasses as part of a big batch of barbeque sauce and I'd cut that tenderloin into steaks, sprinkle one of them with salt and pepper, cook it, and enjoy it while my sauce was simmering.

The extra spices? Make spice mixes or rubs out of them. Or Google "Indian food."

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SS, MD: Happy new year! Two questions:

1) Where can I get chickpea flour?

2) How to make this mousse from Martha Stewart lighter (this may be an impossible task.)

Lemon Ginger Mousse (serves 4)

Ingredients: 4 large eggs; 2/3 cup sugar; 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons); 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger; 1 cup heavy cream

Directions

1. Whisk eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and ginger in a medium, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until smooth, about 4 minutes. Raise heat to medium; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 7 to 9 minutes. Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

2. Using a whisk, beat cream until soft peaks form; fold whipped cream into lemon mixture. Cover, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (up to 2 days). Spoon into bowls.

Joe Yonan: 1. Chickpea flour is available at some larger Giant stores and at Whole Foods Market; look for the Bob's Red Mill brand.

2. The first thing that comes to mind is this: Sub non- or low-fat Greek-style (strained) yogurt for that cup of heavy cream. Add a pinch of confectioner's sugar to it if you think it's too tart, then beat it until smooth before folding in.

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Terp in the Kitchen, DC: I think David may have answered a similar question last week, but just in case I made that up...

I have leftover crepes from our Christmas eve dinner (it's become a tradition), wax-papered and frozen. I'm sure I'll need to make one more batch (used Julia's recipe) to round out the number needed for the glorious tower pictured, but...

While the gingery goodness of the cream in the recipe sounds delightful to me, my husband and visiting family aren't ginger-lovers like I am. They're more of a chocolate-loving crowd. I was thinking of whipped cream folded with nutella, but not sure if i could get the nutella to mix up well (maybe if i thin it w/ cream?). maybe alternating fillings nutella cream w/ a ginger one (choc & ginger together = my idea of heaven)...

Help?

David Hagedorn: It's always a good idea to keep a stack of crepes in the freezer, isn't it? It makes it so easy to put together a spectacular dessert at the last minute.

If you use Nutella, use it alone and spread on thin layers. OR, even better, make a thick pastry cream and then fold in some Nutella. Make sure to spread only a thin layer of filling between each crepe or else it will all come oozing out.

Another good filling is ganache. At room temperature, it is thick and spreads nicely and has a lot of body. Then you could ice the cake with a thin layer of chocolate frosting and then glaze it some ganache for a nice finished look.

I'm not convinced whipped cream and Nutella would have enough body, but make a small batch and see if it does. It's not like it will go to waste, right?

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Ham Bone, DC: The ham bone poster can also consider using it in black eyed peas and greens, both of which need the help of ham and are super seasonally appropriate. As new years is tomorrow.

Leigh Lambert: And good luck to boot.

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Reston, Va.: In the spirit of the new year, I want to try to cook more nutritious foods for my family - including my 2 young kids. The catch is that I only have about 20 minutes from the time we get home from work/daycare to get something on the table before the kids go crazy. We don't eat a lot of meat - mainly because it just takes too much time to cook after work - and have been relying too much on cheese, eggs, and pasta. Are there any cookbooks you can point me to that would help me integrate more veggies, grains, and beans that can be prepared quickly? Thanks and Happy New Year!

Leigh Lambert: You're probably looking for quick vegan recipes (vegetarian minus the eggs and dairy) and as luck would have it there's a good one called "the 30-Minute Vegan," by Mark Reinfeld. Also try "Quick Fix Vegetarian," by Robin Robertson. Both are affordable paperbacks, so you can experiment without breaking the bank.

Joe Yonan: Bonnie did a whole series of Dinner in Minutes recipes based on Lorna Sass's "Whole Grains for Busy People," so you might look at that, too. We ran these recipes: Millet Tambales with Black Bean Salsa; Curried Bulgur Pilaf With Ground Lamb and Beets; Mediterranean Quinoa With Broccoli; Soft Chicken Tacos With Smoked Paprika Sour Cream; Quick Brown Rice With Tuna and Green Beans; and Fruity-Nutty Wild Rice and Turkey Salad.

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Alexandria, Va.: Merry (le) Creuset! I got a lovely Le Creuset cooking vessel for Christmas and am now on the hunt for, well, stuff to cook in it. I understand these are ideal for stuff that has cooking steps both on the burner and in the oven and am thinking stew, but am very, very open to suggestions. No dietary restrictions here, so anything goes! Thanks both for taking this question today (if you do), and also for the work you all do. Looking forward to a tastier 2010.

Tom Mueller: Le Creuset are great for braised items like coq au vin or braised short ribs. The items can be seared and than braised in the same pot. When braising with Le Creuset cookware be aware that the lid and pot don't make a perfect seal, you may lose more liquid to evaporation than you expect. Either watch the level of your liquid and top off or create a dough seal before placing in oven ( puff pastry or pie dough will work )

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Potomac Falls, Va.: Hopefully you guys can help - I have a friend who's son was recently told he's allergic to meat. Yes, meat - beef, chicken, pork etc. So we're now looking for some tasty, non-meat meals for a sort of picky 6-year old. Do you have any ideas? Thanks guys and Happy New Year!

Leigh Lambert: I'll start you off with this healthier version of Baked Macaroni and Cheese , You can omit the Worcestershire sauce if the fish in it causes allergic problems.

There are countless cook books devoted to the topic of vegetarian kids (picky eaters included). If it looks to be a chronic condition, investing in one or two of these for reference will be well worth it.

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One store, two hours: Loved the article today. Am both time and kitchen-challenged but love company, food and wine. Anytime you want to do articles on speedy entertaining (as in preparation, not rushing guests out the door), please do so.

Joe Yonan: Glad you liked it!

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Petworth: Chickpea flour is also easily available at Indian grocery stores. (Look for garam flour).

Joe Yonan: Yep, thanks...

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Petworth: Hey Post Food Folks - just wanted to thank you.

First, I have a new pepper mill, as recommended by Joe, and Joe is right. It is the best pepper mill ever. I can finally use fresh ground pepper without wearing myself out!

Second, we had a great dessert on Christmas, thanks to your blog. The chestnut maple cheesecake was great. (Although I am going to pre-bake the crust next time. Following the directions made the crust come out soft, and nearly soggy.)

So thank you for the good ideas and recipes. Keep them coming!

Joe Yonan: Good! Happy grinding! (And baking...)

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I love hors d'oeurvres!: First: I loved your appetizer recipes and will make them for my non-veg guests at parties. Thanks!

Next, in the interest of my not being hungry at parties, a PSA for those making appetizers:

Most cheese is made with rennet.

Rennet is made from pureed calves' stomachs.

That means if you don't eat veal, you should not eat rennet, or cheese made with it.

Thus, the "vegetarian" options in the hors d'oeuvres story were not vegetarian unless the cheese was. Veg mozzarella is almost nonexistent.

Joe Yonan: Indeed, if you're strictly vegetarian, rennet is a no-no. At the risk of creating a firestorm here, I must say, though, that I know plenty of people who call themselves vegetarians (not vegans) who eat cheese of all kind. Don't shoot the messenger!

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Chick pea flour: I submitted a comment abut rennet, so wanted to redeem myself in your eyes:

Alexandria MOM has chickpea flour (Bob's Red Mill and another brand). Alexandria WF and Tjs also do, but MOMs is cheapest.

Joe Yonan: You don't need redemption! Thanks for the rennet comment, and this one.

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Alpharetta, Ga.: I enjoyed reading the Chef's Challenge today but was wondering what the verdict was regarding the taste of their creations. I have found the items that I buy at Trader Joe's especially to be hit or miss. Thanks and Happy Holidays.

Jane Touzalin: Would we run recipes for food that flopped? Heck no!
(But I know what you mean about TJ's. It can be inconsistent.)

Tom Mueller: Since I haven't shopped at Trader Joe's before I can't speak about the vast selection they carry, but I will say that I was impressed with the quality of the items we purchased. The pie crust that we used for the turnover was very high in quality, the Indian chicken dish was authentic, quality of the lamb was good and the staff were able to give advise about the quality of any of the products I asked about.

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Annapolis, Md.: Hello Food Section! Lucky me - Santa brought me a Sous Vide Supreme! Last night's chicken breasts were incredible. So far I'm finding that the (relative) lack of recipes out there in the ether for using it is actually kind of freeing. I know there are detractors, but I've gotta say, if the prices come down, I'll be shocked if this doesn't catch on.

Joe Yonan: Good for you. Now, tell me, are you doing anything to the chicken afterward? Maybe with chicken you'd want them to be velvety through and through, but I find that with sous vide red meat, I want cooks to broil, grill or otherwise get some texture onto that flesh, otherwise I find it too, well, one note. You've seen the Thomas Keller sous vide book, right?

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New Years Eve for one: Friends are scattered around the globe this new years. So I am alone. I want to come up with a decadent interesting menu for one so that I can spend new years eve pampering myself since nobody else will. So far I am inclined towards:

Appetizer: endive with goat cheese and blood oranges with almonds and honey

Main meal: not sure this is where I need help. I am thinking maybe seafood

Dessert: fudge eggrolls with mixed berry dipping sauce.

So what do you suggest for the main course? What wine or drink do you suggest to compliment this.

Thanks for helping out a lonely cook on new years.

Joe Yonan: How bout this Salmon Braised in Pinot Noir? Sized just for one, and celebratory... And since it's pinot in the dish, drink more of the pinot to go with it!

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When to freeze - 3 days later too late?: I made this soup on Sunday. Today is Wednesday and I haven't made a dent in it and I didn't put it in the freezer yet. Too late? What is the rule of thumb for "how long food can stay in the fridge before being tossed"?

David Hagedorn: The only rule I use is this: when in doubt, throw it out.
If you stir the soup and it bubbles (meaning the presence of gas), that's a bad sign. Taste it. You'll know if it's sour. I just froze soup that was on the third day and it was fine. The biggest obstacle is mental; if the thought is in your mind that maybe it wasn't good, that will leave a lingering doubt.(See rule, above.)

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Foggy Bottom: I made some lovely lemon curd...8 days ago and still haven't used it. I feel like a horrible person but can I still use it?

Leigh Lambert: The eggs in the curd are cooked and assuming it has been consistently refrigerated, it's probably OK to eat. Give it the sniff and taste test (one fingerful only. Just in case). Your sniffer and tongue will tell you if something is off.

Joe Yonan: Yeah, I'd say you're on the edge. Most trusted recipes I've used for lemon curd put its refrigerator life at about a week.

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Sterling, Va.: Started using the "Deceptively Delicious" cookbook for my kids and I have a question. When adding purees to a recipe, should I measure the 1/2 cup in a dry or wet ingredient measuring cup?

Leigh Lambert: Purees are best measured in a wet measuring cup.

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Indecision City: So my folks are AWESOME and I am now the proud owner of a Kitchenaid stand mixer (6 quart bowl!). Two weeks ago I could have easily told you what to do with a stand mixer, but now that I have one sitting on my counter I feel kind of frozen. Where do I start? Maybe the problem is that so many of the "obvious" recipes (bread, bread, rolls, brioche, and still more bread) take a little more time than I have right now - they'll need to wait for a free weekend.

In the meantime, can someone kick-start me in the right direction? For those of you with stand mixers, what recipes (either special-occasion or everyday) are your favorites?

Thanks!!

Leigh Lambert: I'm sure chatters can contribute their favorites. Your suffering from new-ownership-syndrome, as if the first creation has to be a meaningful one. Just dive in. I bake almost exclusively cakes and cookies with my stand mixer and love the freedom of no-hands needed so you can measure ingredients while current ones are whirling around the bowl.

Joe Yonan: I'd say start off with something that gives you immediate gratification about the powers of the KitchenAid, such as beating egg whites to stiff peak.

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Pepper mill: Joe,

Which pepper mill is it that you recommended?

Thanks!

Joe Yonan: This one.

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NYE41: Would they mind sharing the recipe for fudge egg rolls? I have won ton wrappers in my freezer!

Joe Yonan: Egg roll maker, do you hear this? Send that recipe!

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Petworth: Hey, can you ask that previous poster for the recipe for fudge egg rolls? Thanks!

Joe Yonan: The chorus is mounting!

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Arlington, Va.: Hey there! This year for x-mas I brined (cider/brown sugar/mustard) and roasted a fresh ham (center cut leg, about 7 pounds). After cooking and eating a good bit of it, I've trimmed off some crunchy skin and also some creamy white fat. I'm thinking that I should be able to use the crunchy skin in my black-eyed peas this weekend, but is there something I can do with the creamy fat? I know it isn't terribly healthy, but I rarely eat meat usually, and the fat looks like something I could render or cook down or add to something else (in dabs!)--and I just can't bear to throw it away. Any ideas? Thanks!

David Hagedorn: You could chop that fat up and use it in a savory pie crust as part of your shortening, or use it in cornbread, which would make it very rich and flavorful. Or you can add it to any beans you cook Southern-style, meaning for a long time and with ham hock or smoked turkey wing.

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Washington, DC: Good afternoon! I'm making pork chops tonight, served with roasted root vegetables. Normally I make a balsamic reduction glaze, but I'd like to try something different tonight. I have some apply brandy on hand--any suggestions for some kind of apple brandy sauce or glaze?

Tom Mueller: A quick sauce with the brandy is to saute some onion or shallot in butter, add about a cup the brandy and reduce to 1/4 C, add about a cup of cream and again reduce to sauce consistency. Season with S&P

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hello,

Can you give me the names of restaurant supply stores open to the general public? I would prefer stores in MD or DC. Thanks!

Tom Mueller: What type of supplies are you looking for?

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Boulder, Colo.: 2009 was a great year cooking-wise for me - with lots of help and inspiration from the WaPo's food section and these chats! I definitely cooked and experimented more than I have done in years past. For Christmas Eve I decided to do an evening of appetizers (would have loved today's article last week but I'll save it for another time!). Normally we stay in and cook a nice fancy meal for NYE but this year decided to do a summer style BBQ in the snow - why not?

Is Jason with us today? I'd like to make a summery rum cocktail and could use a good recipe. I checked out the recipe archive but the ones that looked intriguing call for falernum and I don't have time to make it.

Thank you Food Section for a great 2009 and I look forward to reading and participating in 2010!!!

Jason Wilson: Summery rum cocktails, ok! For classics, why not a pina colada? Bonus points if you use rhum agricole in this recipe. Another tropical rum favorite of mine is El Macua, which was declared "the official drink of Nicaragua" a few years back.

BTW: you don't always have to make your own falernum anymore. There's a good brand called John D Taylor's Velvet Falernum that's available in many places.

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Molasses Idea: This is a wonderful spiced butter - be sure the butter is REALLY warm or the molasses won't incorporate. You can up the cayenne easily for a little heat, I don't even taste the amount called for.

1 stick butter room temp; 3 T molasses; 1 t cinnamon; 1 t grated orange peel; 1 t chili powder; 1/4 t salt; 1/8 t cayenne

Leigh Lambert: That sounds divine - on toast, on a baked sweet potato, roasted squash, etc....

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Kensington, Md.: Question about coconut milk - Last Friday (Christmas Day), I opened a can of coconut milk for use in a cookie frosting. I used only 1/2 cup and put the rest in a container in the refrigerator. Tomorrow night, I am wanting to make a lobster dish that contains coconut milk. Is the coconut milk I've been keeping in the refrigerator still fresh? And in general, do you have any recommendations for books or guides that contain food safety / storage facts? Thanks and happy New Year.

Leigh Lambert: Your coconut milk should be fine. I've kept leftovers for a couple of weeks without any ill affect. I would not store it in the can just to avoid a tinny taste. If it smells sour or is gray in color, I'd throw it out.
"Putting Food By," by Janet Greene may be a good book for you to have on your reference shelf.

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Alexandria, Va.: Worried about food after 3 days? Are you kidding? Unless it looks or smells bad I never even think twice as long as it's less than a week.

Joe Yonan: Yeah, I'm pretty much with you. But this is a very personal thing, don't you know?

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Veggies for lunch & lightening mousse: For the poster who likes veggies at lunch - I like vegetarian chili (lots of beans, some hominy, tomatoey base, cumin, a little bit of oregano, and as much chili powder as you like) or what we call "orange soup:" a blended soup from sauteed carrots, orange/yellow peppers, and pumpkin, seasoned with smoked paprika and a hint of lemon juice and worcestershire sauce.

As far as lightening up the mousse: the poster might also look at a few other mousse recipes that use whipped egg whites for all or part of the bulk, then experiment with using egg whites for part of the cream. Usual caveats about uncooked egg apply. :-)

Joe Yonan: Yep, egg whites are a good idea...

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Tina in Falls Church: pepper: I buy all kinds of varieties of pepper at Penzeys Spices in Falls Church..talk about depth of flavor...what a difference in cooking when you can season using the different qualities of different peppers. When I roast a piece of beef I use about 4 varieties at one time. BTW: I have a pot of bean soup going, must be the weather. I favor dried cannellini beans rather than navy or northerns, they cook up very tender yet intact.

Leigh Lambert: I had a similar revelation with salt when I started experimenting a few years ago. Sea salt, gray salt, smoked salt. Vastly more dimensional than table salt or even my fall back of kosher salt.

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Question about China Moon Double Chicken Stock: Sorry to ask a dumb question but what is meant by "fresh chicken bones." Should I assume that means uncooked (as the other meaning of "unfresh" chicken bones seems like a recipe for food poisoning)? Meat on or off? How does one obtain these bones? Help, please.

Leigh Lambert: Not a dumb question (no such thing, as my grandpa use to say). You are right that it means raw bones, usually with some meat still clinging to them. You can ask a good butcher for these or if you are so inclined you can get a whole bird and bone it yourself. The larger grocery chains likely don't do much of in-house butchering for poultry. Try Wegman's, Whole Foods or a smaller butcher shop.

David Hagedorn: I like to use whole chickens for stock. I then pick the meat and freeze it for later use. You can also buy chicken backs in the store and use those for stock.

Joe Yonan: I'm a wing man.

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Fairfax Station, Va.: Loved the Costco/TJ's feature, my two favorite stores. Just a quick question on the deep-fried ravioli -- can they go from freezer into oil immediately? Should they thaw at all? Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Chef challenge: An hors d'oeuvre party in two hours (Post, Dec. 30)

David Hagedorn: You can fry them frozen.

Tom Mueller: I agree, in a frozen format they are less likely to come apart.

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Washington, DC: New Year's Eve for one -- though the Salmon with Pinot is great -- I'd opt for a large cold-water lobster tail to go with the rest of the menu. And I want to know how to do the fudge egg rolls. Please share!

Joe Yonan: More calls for the fudge egg rolls! Hello, egg roller, wherefore art thou?

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Washington, DC: Do you have a recipe for a really good gimlet? Preferably one made with fresh lime juice? I've seen some that call for the addition of lime cordial. What is that exactly and where could I find it?

Jason Wilson: By "lime cordial" it means Rose's Lime Juice, which I strenuously encourage you to avoid. Definitely use fresh lime juice and make your gimlet with gin instead of vodka. 4 parts gins, 1 part lime juice, and maybe a dash of simple syrup if it's too tart. If you really want lime cordial, I'd suggest using Todd Thrasher's key lime syrup from a few weeks ago.

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help! : Boyfriend is on a (doctor's orders) strictly bland bland diet. No dairy or cheese, no acid, no spice. What can we cook?

Joe Yonan: Oh, my. Well, let's see: salt is ok, though? I'd go with braised or roasted meats and polenta, seasoned with salt and/or fish sauce if that's allowed. Like a nice roast pork tenderloin with polenta, and/or a roast chicken with a good crunchy (but acid-free) salad, baked sweet potatoes and other root veggies, winter greens, that kind of thing...

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Salad Inspiration Needed: I am making the salad for a multi course meal and I need help. Lobster is the main course.

Tom Mueller: Something light and seasonal might be nice, Mache with some local chevre and maybe some roasted beets and a citrus dressing. If you are serving wine you may want to use citrus juice ( orange or grapefruit ) for the acid.

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13th St. S.E.: Happy New Year! I am going to smoke some Ribs on NYE (weather be damned), any good rubs and/or mop ideas? Also can you resend that awesome website url for using the Weber smoker you sent a couple months ago? My bookmark was lost when my PC died. Thanks for all the help in 2009!

Joe Yonan: Here's the First-Timer's Ribs recipe I always recommend. Sounds like you're not a first-timer, and if you want to smoke for longer/lower than this, that's fab, but the simple rub and mop recipe here is pretty hard to beat, if like me you like the taste of peppery smoke.

And here's the URL for using the Weber I think you're referring to. (Thank goodness for Google.)

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Crumb Topping: I have about a cup or so of crumb topping left over from a blueberry crumb pie. How can I use it? No coffee cakes. I'm thinking of baking it up and just eating it--let's be honest...that's the best part of a pie! (can I do that?) It's flour, almonds, butter, sugar and cinnamon.

Tom Mueller: Sure you can, bake it on a silicone sheet, maybe drizzle some melted butter on it before placing in oven.

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New Years eve for one: Thanks that salmon suggestion sounds excellent. I'll add the ingredients to my shopping list for tonight. For the stand mixer newbie Spinach artichoke dip: 1 box chopped spinach thawed and water squished out; 1 can artichoke hearts drained; 1 cup hellmans mayo; 1 cup shredded cheese ( mix mozerella and parma and any other italian cheeses in your fridge); 1 pinch chilli poweder; 1 pinch salt; 2 cloves crushed garlic

Put it all in the kitchenaid. Mix until combined Take out put into 350 degree oven. Serve when golden brown on top and bubbling 30 min if whole recipe less if baking less. If you want this freezes great. Place into oven safe freezer safe dish (ok I use those cheapo aluminum ones) and then in a large ziploc. Take out whenever company shows up. Good in freezer for about 6 months but really you will eat it before that.

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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Ginger : Sis gave me tin of crystallized ginger at Christmas and I've been dipping into those (delicious) treats like crazy since. Can you give me some ideas as to incorporating sweet ginger into recipes -- both sweet/savory?

David Hagedorn: Dare I hawk this crepe cake again? Yes, of course I dare. Topped with loads of chopped crystallized ginger. Modesty keeps me from suggesting another recipe of mine. Ha, just kidding! Here's a recipe for peach apricot cobbler , which also has crystallized ginger in it. I also like to load up shortbread with lots of dried apricots and crystallized ginger.

Not sure about using crystallized ginger in savory applications rather than fresh ginger; it's pretty sweet.

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Slow cooking rabbit: I'm willing to use either a crock pot or the Le Creuset - two rabbits waiting to be thawed and cooked. Something with a nice rich red wine sauce? Can anyone help?

Tom Mueller: You could do rabbit au vin ( use same techniques for coq au vin ). I would consider breaking down the rabbit so that the pieces can be dusted in flour and seared, but I don't know that I would braise the loin.

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Sous vide chicken: I did a quick saute in some clarified butter, just for the skin. Put a small amount of seasoning mix in the packet - as Keller promised, a little bit went a pretty long way! Tonight I'm trying hamburgers, so that will of course also need some direct heat post-cooking. Can't wait to confit!

Joe Yonan: Fun!

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Washington, DC: I want to thank you, thank you, thank you for being here.

Your knowledge, your patience, your humor -- it's all wonderful, and something I look forward to every week.

In fact, if I'm not at the computer at 1:00 on Wednesdays, I get upset with myself afterwards!

And I particularly love the witty close you come up with every week, as fresh as just-picked carrots (or some other farm-fresh metaphor), about how you're cooked to perfection. In fact, I'd love it if you'd collect them all in one place!

As the decade draws to a close, I'd like to throw a few questions for you and today's guests to answer or not:

When you don't cook from scratch (perhaps a blizzard keeps you from getting fresh foods), what prepared foods do you like -- including brand names? I mean things like pasta sauce, bottled chutney, packaged cookies, commercial apple-sauce, cakes, frozen meals, etc.

I can't think of any other questions right now!

Thank you again!!

Joe Yonan: Aw, shucks. Thanks for reading! Glad you like the signoffs; they're my favorite part of the chat, pretty much. Your question is a big one, perhaps too big to be handling so late, but I'll say that I tend to go for the most stripped-down prepared foods possible, if that makes any sense. For instance, just last night I bought a bag of frozen brown rice from Whole Foods, cause I thought that was a pretty cool thing. For truly prepared, I don't do much pasta sauce, cakes, etc., but I have been known to eat a Kashi frozen dinner every now and again. And I certainly like lots of Asian condiments, like sriracha, chili-garlic paste, some simmer sauces (like those from Rasika).

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Chicken soup: I put a whole cut up chicken into the slow cooker and cook on low all day with onion, celery, favorite spices. Refrigerate all night. Next day, strain. Pick meat off bones and put in stock with carrots, more celery, onion, spices, egg noodles. Cook on low til noodles are cooked.

Joe Yonan: Sure!

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New Years Eve for one: Fudge egg rolls They are easy. In a heavy deep pan heat up about 2 inches of vegetable oil. Take egg roll wrapper ( since you have wonton wrappers I assume they would work fine.) cut a piece of fudge into pieces such that you have approx 1/2 inch wide x1/2 inch tall x3 inch long pieces. (I cheat and use commercial chocolate fudge remember I largely cook for just me plus grandma gave me fudge for Christmas.) Put them in the freezer for and hour or more. In reality I will freeze them the morning before. Put this on the egg roll wrapper such that it is in the middle of the egg roll wrapper with a corner hanging off the end. Melt a little butter. Wrap the side corners in and then wrap the corner near you over and roll. (Like you would with any egg roll) use the melted butter to help the last corner seal. Do not be afraid to push hard to get a nice seal. When you have made as many up as you want. Put them into oil and fry until they turn golden. Take them out and drain over some paper towels.

I usually serve them with berry dipping sauce which I typically make by taking frozen berries and putting enough red wine to cover the fruit and then simmering it. After a few minute of simmering I use my potato masher to mash the berries and then simmer until it reduces to about 1/2. Then strain in a fine mesh stainer.

Shortly before serving I will dust the fudge eggrolls with powdered sugar.

Joe Yonan: Thank my lucky fudge you heard our pleas...

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Maryland: I don't know if this is the stuff you typically speak of on this chat, but to my surprise this Alton Brown fella is really popular. I'm in my mid twenties and if I'm on some forum for my age group or for older everyone seems to like him, I don't get it. He will take an avocado and in half an hour tell you how to make good use of it in guacamole or putting it on a blt, like really?

It kinda makes me angry people enjoy this.

Thoughts?

Leigh Lambert: It may have to do with the particular episode you watch. Some are simple, but others tackle real kitchen science that is quite useful in understanding cooking success. Hosts are called "personalities" for a reason. They're selling more than food and cooking techniques. They're paid to entertain. I, for one, can't stand the chipper persona of a certain host with the initials RR (not naming names). I may be in the minority, just keep going 'til you find a cook/chef who echoes your style.

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Please, pretty-please: ... tell me you'll be here all next year!!

With sugar on top (you and the "pretty-please")!

Joe Yonan: Us? Of course we will! Not going anywhere -- except home to cook, and then back with the recipes...

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To David H.: "If you stir the soup and it bubbles"? Please explain. Don't all soups bubble when heated up? I guess I just don't get the reference. Am in complete agreement with the "When in doubt" rule.

David Hagedorn: If you stir cold soup that has been sitting in the fridge for 3 days and it bubbles all on its own, without cooking, that's bad.

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really quickly....: Hope I get this in:

What meat thermo do you recommend? I thought you did a story on it, but cannot find and the ones I buy all seem to be terribly wrong.

THANKS!

Joe Yonan: Too short on time to find the link, but it's a Thermapen.

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Fairlington, Va.: We're having some friends over on New Year's Eve for a variety of sushi and sparkling wine. Given the menu and the difficulty of finding a NYE cab, we were planning to have several stay over out our place?

Would you have any breakfast ideas for the morning after?

David Hagedorn: As a matter of fact, I happen to have a recipe...of mine (!) for sausage and egg casserole that is do-ahead and delicious. Happy New Year!

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Joe Yonan: Well, you've stuffed each of us with a tablespoon of cheese-pecan-balsamic filling, then sprinkled us with salt, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and thanks much to David, Jason and Tom for helping us answer them. Now for the book winners: The chatter who just got a sous-vide machine will get "Knives at Dawn" (practice for the Bocuse d'Or!); the one who corrected us on rennet for vegetarians will get "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Clean."

Send your mailing info to food@washpost.com, and we'll get you your books.

Until next time -- next year! -- happy cooking, eating and reading.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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