If holiday-dinner inspiration hasn’t struck yet, maybe Food can help. Consider the casserole, a great make-ahead way to free up the cook for socializing with family members and guests. And by casserole, we don’t mean the kind that relies on canned soup. Presenting four recipes that are elegant and ideal for entertaining: Find them here.
Also this week, Maura Judkis goes to the theater to get the story behind plays that feature food onstage. (Can you guess the secret behind the milk in “Fiddler on the Roof”?) And Bonnie S. Benwick, who reads way more cookbooks than most of us, presents her list of the best cookbooks of 2014, just in time for gift giving.
So there’ll be plenty to talk about today during the live Free Range chat. Special guests this week are Treats contributor and cookbook author Lisa Yockelson, chef Ris Lacoste and cookbook author Domenica Marchetti; the latter two furnished half of this week’s casserole recipes. They all can answer just about any culinary question you can dish up. So plan to be there at noon for an edifying hour.
This week’s leftover question isn’t, technically, left over. During last week’s chat, someone asked this:
I’m making Christmas cookies for the first time in almost 20 years. I have four recipes that call for sanding sugar. I’ve checked the usual grocery stores in the baking section, but nothing says “sanding sugar.” I live in Virginia and have tried Giant, Safeway and Harris Teeter. Where can I find this? If I can’t find it, what else can I use?
Given the suggestion that Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma would carry it, the poster apparently went to the phone, then wrote again to say that both stores had told her they didn’t carry it. So what’s a baker to do?
In fact, that baker had probably looked right at sanding sugar but didn’t see it. Harris Teeter carries the India Tree line of sanding sugars, as I know from experience; I’ve bought them there. (Find a retailer that carries India Tree products using this locator.) But even the most pedestrian of supermarkets carries a product often labeled “decorative sugar,” which basically is sanding sugar. Better Crocker, for example, sells something called Decorating Decors Sugar Crystals, which the company’s Web site describes as “colored sanding sugar.” It’s not as pretty as India Tree’s and the color selection isn’t as broad, but it will work if you need just the basic blue, green or red.
You might also have heard the term “sparkling sugar.” It has a coarser grain than sanding sugar and, as the name implies, it’s bright and sparkly, while sanding sugars tend to come in softer colors. You could certainly use it as a substitute. Another sugar that can be used in much the same way is turbinado sugar, which is coarse and golden. (See it sprinkled on Amaretti Cookies.)
So a search for sanding sugar shouldn’t take anyone far and wide.
And back to Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table: Both of their Web sites say they carry sanding sugar, and Sur la Table even has a lookup feature that told me the location of some Virginia stores that have it right this minute — even down to the exact color I might want. Another possibility to try if India Tree or Betty Crocker can’t be found. Just don’t try calling them.