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March 23, 2011

12:01
P.M.

Free Range on Food

Total Responses: 65

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About the host

Free Rangers

The Washington Post Food section is your source for cooking and food stories and hundreds of recipes.

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Food Q&A archive

About the topic

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary.
Q.

Joe Yonan :

Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range! So what's on your mind, in your fridge/freezer/pantry awaiting instruction, on the back burner reducing? Tell us what you've got, what you need, and we'll do our best to help you get things simmering.

For a little prompting, did Tim's profile of the great and powerful Kojo get you thinking? Did Bonnie's story about David Stoesz and his cooking prowess make you wish you had a dad like that when you were a kid? Did Cheryl Tan's essay about culinary anthropology make you want to ring up your grandmother and make a plan to learn her stroganoff once and for all?

As usual, we'll have giveaway books to entice you: "Cooking Light Comfort Food" and "Real Simple Dinner Tonight: Done!" will go to our two favorite chatters today.

Let's do this!

Q.

Thanks! And Question

Thanks to your producer/web guru - the link to the chat is right on the Food home page today. Easy to find! Question: just out of curiosity, what's Wednesday's connection to food? Both the WaPo and NYTimes food/dining sections come out on Wednesday, Kojo's show, too (thanks for the story, by the way), and others. I assume it's market research - but why? Thanks for indulging my random curiosity. :)
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Kind of a chicken-and-egg tale; I'm conflating based on several things I've read and been told. Long ago, in a land and time where grocery stores advertised BIGTIME in the newspapers (sigh; a 1993 Post Food section I recently had in my hands was 16 pages with 4 pages of Giant ads alone!), Wednesday was the day when they would run specials and coupons. (I know the old saying quotes Thursday as market day....) It gave consumers who shop and cook on weekends a chance to plan and organize and clip. Nowadays, newspapers use different days of the week to offer special subject sections, such as Science on Tuesdays, weekend stuff to do on  Fridays, Business on Mondays. Wednesday was already a known food-entity kind of day.

How's that? Feel free to offer other theories....

– March 23, 2011 12:01 PM
Q.

Pot Roast Problem

I have a question I was hoping you could help with. I have made pot roast the same way for years: Dredge 3-ish lb chuck roast in flour and salt and pepper, brown, toss in to crock pot with onions, onion soup mix, cup of water. Cook on low 8+ hours. A few hours before it's done I throw in carrots and potatoes (so they don't get too mushy). I've done it that way forever and it's always turned out well. Not fancy but a good standard! The last two times, however, the meat has turned out so tough I had to practically hack it apart and much of it I ended up tossing. Not the tender, shred-with-forks meat it normally is. I swear I did not do anything differently. Same crockpot (a couple years old), same ingredients, everything. I don't know for sure if I got the meat at the same grocery store but if not, they both would have come from major grocery chains. Any ideas what could be going on? I know this is not a fancy recipe (and I make and love your recipes all the time!) but this is something my family loves and I am totally confused and bummed out. Thanks!
A.
Joe Yonan :

I can think of just two possibilities: 1) Your crockpot has started behaving differently -- that is, cooking on too high a temperature; or 2) The chuck that you're buying is indeed significantly different from what you formerly got.

So to check to see if it's #1, are there other recipes you've made in the slow cooker recently that have turned out just fine, things that you've made before? If so, hmm, that's probably not it.

Then to expound on option 2, perhaps the chuck was mislabeled by the store and actually was a leaner cut, or perhaps the store started getting their meat from a different supplier? That might be worth asking about.

– March 23, 2011 12:01 PM
Q.

Tuna/Potato Galette

This recipe sounds appealing & easy, which is a big plus in my house, and I hope to try it this weekend. I was wondering what a serving is - the calories/fat content seem high - is the crust the culprit? Many thanks for these chats - always find an idea or two or three!
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Give that fan a contract! Prepared crust is the culprit. You could get away with using 1 roll of dough instead of 2, but when I was testing this recipe I found the filling needed a little more support and the second round of dough helped make a bigger galette.

– March 23, 2011 12:04 PM
Q.

sushi rice

Do you have a foolproof method (and recipe) for making sushi rice? I'm not really sure how to make it taste like sushi rice.
A.
Joe Yonan :

You have to a) use short-grain Japanese sushi rice; b) mix in a combination of rice vinegar, salt and sugar (and maybe a little mirin); and c) fan the hot rice while you carefully fold in the vinegar mixture, so the rice cools and gets that proper sticky texture. Here's a recipe that seems to cover the bases.

– March 23, 2011 12:04 PM
Q.

Pati's Mexican Table

Any plans to have DC's Pati's Mexican Table host of a new PBS show on the chat?
A.
Tim Carman :

 We haven't ask Pati yet, but I suspect we will. And I suspect it will be next week when we at the Post run our profile of Pati Jinich, to coincide with the launch of her new American Public Media TV series on April 2.

– March 23, 2011 12:08 PM
Q.

Whine, ME

Any luck with that Cafe Asia cabbage & carrot salad/slaw recipe? Anyone want to hazard a guess towards ingredients? I'm thinking sesame oil, mirin, rice vinegar and something creamy...
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Still haven't the recipe but the dressing does indeed have sesame oil, sesame seeds and soy sauce is all they say is in it!

– March 23, 2011 12:09 PM
Q.

Wednesday

Wednesday or Thursday for a food section just makes sense - lots of people don't do any kind of involved cooking during the week so that gives you a day or two to decide if you want to cook over the weekend and plan it out, before you commit to doing other things.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Of course!

– March 23, 2011 12:09 PM
Q.

Koodies?

I just heard the term "koodie" this week, meaning kid-foodie. I was wondering if this has been part of food lexicon for a while and who coined it.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Wow -- haven't heard this one, so no idea. Don't think it's been around for awhile, no. And are you sure you weren't hearing "cooties"? The fact that the two sound alike will prevent me from using this term. Then again, I'm not wild about "foodie," either.

– March 23, 2011 12:10 PM
Q.

Wednesday/Food

Wednesday is also the day that many/most supermarkets start their new "week" of specials, sales, etc., from Wednesday to Tuesday of the following week.
Q.

The Clintons and the wedding

I missed last weeks discussion by an hour but I thought I would send this anyway about an experience I had many years ago. In 1996 I was attending a big wedding reception at a restaurant in Georgetown. Just as the meal was ending a big commotion outside the hall proved to be Bill and Chelsea Clinton arriving for dinner. As they were being seated the best man went over to their table and asked if they would mind meeting the bride and groom. They graciously agreed and after walking over to the lobby stood and began chatting with the couple. As they stood there a White House photographer appeared, popped a roll of film in his camera and started taking pictures, both candid and posed. By now the everyone in the place was crowed around, held back by the Secret Service detail. It ended after several minutes and the president walked over and shook hands with the crowd. Meanwhile the photographer removed the film and handed it to the bride. Finally, the President and Chelsea returned to their table to begin their meal once again.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Nice. Very nice. That's a wedding day to remember -- and they will, thanks to the photog's generosity.

– March 23, 2011 12:11 PM
Q.

Free Range v Kojo

So, there are exactly two live food discussions in DC and they're both scheduled for Wednesdays at noon?!
A.
Tim Carman :

Terrible timing, isn't it? It would have been great to have Kojo on the chat. I did get a message from him this morning. I'd pass it along, but it'd be too self-serving! Bottom line: He was happy with the profile today.

– March 23, 2011 12:12 PM
A.
Joe Yonan :

You gotta multitask and keep up with both! In different media, it's not impossible...

– March 23, 2011 12:12 PM
Q.

leftover apricot filling

Made hamantaschen over the weekend, including homemade apricot filling (a first for me!). I have leftovers and while I know it would be lovely spread on toast, I'd like to try something more adventurous. Could the apricot be used on a pork tenderloin or chicken pieces? I've got a hunch it could work, but I don't know how to execute. Failing that, I'll take dessert ideas :-) Thank you!

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Apricot and pork is a lovely pairing, but the filling you've got might be a little sweet for a savory application. You could try to make it less sweet by adding some dry red wine. Or maybe add it by the spoonful to a favorite Indian curry recipe with chicken. I like that idea.

Try folding some of the sweet filling into a combination of whipped cream and mascarpone cheese, creating a kind of fool; or make little fried hand pies (i think hand pies are going to be some mini-food trend this summer/you heard it here first). Or you could spread the filling atop a small wheel of brie and then wrap in puff pastry and bake.

– March 23, 2011 12:13 PM
Q.

Food and wine budgets?

On the dining chat Tom just mentioned that the budget issues facing the Post have not affected his dining budget - is the same true for the food and wine supplies you use to test recepies and review wines, beers and cocktails?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yep. We're fine.

– March 23, 2011 12:13 PM
Q.

cheese cake disaster

I made a cheesecake for my husband's birthday over the weekend and after I pulled the sides of the springform pan off the cake, I found that the crust pulled entirely away from the cake. It just stuck to the bottom of the pan. So embarrassing. I ended up turning it into a trifle, but nobody was impressed. Any idea where I goofed?

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

When you say crust, do you mean you had a crust on the sides? Did  you bake it in a water bath?

Speaking of embarrassing, how about the omission of an oven temperature for today's White-Water Cheesecake? In the world of recipe editing, that's a get-up-in-front-of-the-class-in-your-underwear stunt.  It's 350 degrees, btw; the corrected recipe appears online and there will be a correction in the paper tomorrow. D'oh is me.

– March 23, 2011 12:14 PM
Q.

To answer Joe's questions

Bonnie's articles and subject matters never fail to be perfect, I always read her articles first. I also enjoyed the essay by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, although it was a bit too long and at times seemed more suitable for the Travel section. I LOOOOOOOVE anything Tim Carman writes, and would love to read his articles everyday in the Style section. Perhaps I am missing Jane Black too much, but in the FOOD section, which I read religiously, I prefer to read MORE about food the way Jane, David Hagedorn and Andreas Viestad write about it.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks for the thoughts!

– March 23, 2011 12:20 PM
Q.

Bravo Mr. Stoesz!

Raising a teenager without fast food...WOW! Not as simple, as it sounds. I know because I've been there.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

And how did that go? Julio told me he does miss eating pizza as much as his friends have it, but I guess his dad would make it at home if he wanted to.  Must be a little harder to manage once the kid is able to drive-thru on his/her own.

Many moons ago I made my  younger son read the chapter of  "Fast Food Nation" that describes how commercially produced ground meat is made.  That, plus the opening of so many Chipotles, got him off fast-food cheeseburgers pretty convincingly.

– March 23, 2011 12:20 PM
Q.

Coffeelover

For really hot water, what electric kettle would you recommend?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I'd take Cook's Illustrated's recs, and go with Chef's Choice 688 Electric Smart Kettle for something that will not just give you fast route to boiling water but can also give you lower-temp water, which is good for things such as green tea, which doesn't take boiling water well.

– March 23, 2011 12:21 PM
Q.

Can't find you all and Tom Sietsma's Q&A

Just saying, I am not a fan of the new online Post layout. Difficult finding older posts and links to the right areas. Loved Ms. Tan's essay...my hand me down recipe is grandma's tomato based beef stroganoff.
Q.

Cheesecake crust suggestion

I don't really like a heavy crust on cheesecake, it always seems to go soggy so I just crush some cookies - graham crackers, gingersnaps, shortbread, whatever - and brush the bottom of the springform pan with melted butter and make a thin layer of cookie crumbs on top of it for a 'crust'. It always comes out nicely and never tastes soggy, which is important since the cheesecake improves after a bit of time in the refrigerator.
Q.

Pie links?

I can't click through to the recipes for Double-Nut Pecan Pie or Stoesz "Game" Pie. I'm hoping the pecan pie recipe is for a better nut-to-gunk ratio; I've always disliked the gunk...

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Oops. We're fixing those links on the Food homepage. In the meantime, you can find them in the Recipe Finder database: here and here.

I hear you, re the ratio concern. I think this is a pie to love, as Jack Nicholson might say.

 

– March 23, 2011 12:23 PM
Q.

Pimento Cheese

Is pimento cheese something you typically mix up yourself, or buy in the store? I had the "chef's burger" for brunch at Vermillion recently and it was unforgettable. I tried to recreate it at home but it wasn't quite the same and I think part of it is because I couldn't find pimento cheese and just used regular old cheddar. (and the burger wasn't quite as "steaky" tasting, but I'll tackle that one later).
A.
Joe Yonan :

Make it yourself, of course! Here's a great recipe.

– March 23, 2011 12:24 PM
Q.

Asian Food and Cornstarch

Sometimes when I follow a recipe for an Asian stir fry, the instructions tell me to coat the protein in cornstarch before adding it to the wok (which I have coated with the prescribed amount of oil). I do this, and frequently a lot of the cornstarch sticks to bottom of the wok. Is this supposed to happen, or am I doing something wrong?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

The cornstarch should be just a dusting, so that you can still see the pink of the raw white-meat chicken, for example. Pat off as much as you can and if you're dropping it into oil that's very hot, you should be good.

– March 23, 2011 12:28 PM
Q.

Recommendation for manual meat grinders

In the health and science section of the Wash. Post, one suggestion to control fat content and lose weight was to buy a meat grinder. I use a lot of store bought ground turkey and grinding skinless turkey breast really cut down the fats. Also can control what's in the ground beef. Any recommendations from the Free range gang and chatters for a manual meat grinder brand. Brownie points if it comes with a sausage maker attachment. Springfield VA
A.
Joe Yonan :

Hmm. I use a Kitchen Aid attachment for such purposes, so throwing out to the crowd... Chatters, recs?

– March 23, 2011 12:30 PM
Q.

Pesto substitute?

I just don't like regular pesto. It's weird because I like all the ingredients that go into it. Can you recommend a substitute when I find a recipe that I otherwise like?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Let's CSI this thang to find out which ingredient you don't like: nuts? basil? Parmesan? (Hope it's not olive oil.) There's a world of alternative pestos so I'm sure we can find something that works for you.

– March 23, 2011 12:30 PM
Q.

Eggplants

where are they? when will they be back? I guess this means they are out of season, when is their season? i am craving eggplant parm and i can't find it anywhere. or even eggplants to just try to make it my selfOne local restaurant said they can't get eggplants right now but should be able to in a few weeks.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Well, locally, the season is June-October. But I feel like I've been seeing them pretty continuously from warmer climes such as California. If not now, then very soon.

– March 23, 2011 12:32 PM
Q.

Home cooking

Thank you for writing about Mr. Stoesz's cooking. Raising a teenager without fast food takes guts. Bravo Mr. Stoesz. I wish more parents realized in how many ways fast food is bad for their kids and themselves and stopped stuffing them with sodas and delivery pizza. People who cook regularly at home not only have healthier children, they save lots of $$$$ and, once they are good at cooking and planning: TIME . Mr. Stoesz's cooking style as interesting and exciting as it may be is not for everyone, parents should know that there are as many cooking styles out there as there are cooks. Oh, how I wish more people cooked
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Not sure about the healthier children claim but it seems likely! I thought it was interesting that his cooking style fits his personality: Nothing's done in a hurry. He likes taking his time with projects.

– March 23, 2011 12:32 PM
Q.

Herbs

What is the best way to keep herbs fresh? I love parsley, but I usually end up throwing half the bunch away because it goes bad. Thanks!
A.
Joe Yonan :

It depends a bit on the herb. For sturdier ones such as parsley, basil, mint, I treat them like cut flowers: cut stems immediately, put in clean water, recut and change water often. (They can go on the counter unless it's really hot inside, or can be put in the fridge.) For more delicate ones, I wrap in a damp paper towel and then put that in a plastic bag I've perforated, then refrigerate.

– March 23, 2011 12:35 PM
Q.

re: tun and potato galette

I love the idea of a quick and easy galette, but nobody in my house like the taste or smell of tuna fish. What would be a good substitute? I guess the idea is for a protein. Would a cheese work or even spinach, or would it need to be more substantial?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Do they like smoked trout or canned salmon? I think the combo of fish and potato is nice in this galette. Or better yet, maybe chop up some cooked shrimp. Spinach would definitely work; blanch it first, squeeze out the moisture then coarsely chop.

– March 23, 2011 12:36 PM
Q.

Second the kitchen aid attachment

I also love my KA meat grinder attachment.
Q.

Caking Baking/Freezing

I'm planning to bake a cake tonight (most likely using a boxmix) tonight for a party on Saturday. At this point, is it still best to freeze it and then defrost Friday to decorate Sat. morning? If freezing is my best bet, any tips? Thanks!
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Lalalalala....is the sound of me drowning out the part where you mentioned a box mix.  If you have a kitchen with a fairly cool room temp, you could go ahead and assemble/frost the cake tonight. Should be fine for Saturday. If not, freeze the cooled layers wrapped first in plastic wrap then a layer of foil. (This will help keep cake moist AND free from possible other odors in your freezer.)

– March 23, 2011 12:36 PM
Q.

Apricot and pork

I don't know what exactly goes into the hamantaschen filling, but I use peach or apricot jam to make a sauce for pan-roasted pork tenderloin. No real recipe, but it's equal parts jam and white wine, plus dashes of salt, pepper, curry powder, and lemon juice. You could substitute chicken broth, hard cider, apple juice, or even a light beer (but not a "lite" beer, because ICK) for the white wine. It is a bit sweet, but upping the pepper and curry powder would help. I've also been known to throw in a little sriracha if I'm out of curry. You know, I'm going to have to make that for dinner now.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Like the sound of all of that. The filling includes a fair amount of sugar and spice.

– March 23, 2011 12:36 PM
Q.

Leftover coffee grounds

Any culinary use after making a pot of coffee (French press if that makes a difference) or are the grounds just fertilizer/trash?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Nah, not that I would recommend. But fertiziler/compost, yes! Tomato plants love coffee grounds, I've been told.

– March 23, 2011 12:37 PM
Q.

Local eggplants

I have seen some out of season vegetables (eggplants and tomatoes) for sale from Twin Springs Farm (Courthouse, Columbia Pike markets) before. I know they have greenhouses, which is how they get the veggies in the off-season. I think they usually show up late spring/early summer.
Q.

Yet another layout complaint

I went to the online Food section this morning looking for articles. Found Kojo very easily, which was nice (and now I want to go download all the old podcasts of that show), but I didn't see any of the other articles. Or rather, I found it very hard to differentiate, based on the current layout, between real articles and blog posts (which are important content, sure, but aren't articles), so I didn't figure any of them were what I was looking for (other feature articles). This is the second week in a row when I've arrived at the chat and found out, from the introduction, that there were articles published that sound like just what I'd be interested in, but that I couldn't find on the main page.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks for the thoughts, but are you going to washingtonpost.com/food? I easily see all the articles there...

– March 23, 2011 12:39 PM
Q.

Apricot Jam

I'm a fan of spreading apricot jam on salmon and sticking it in the oven until done. It's simple and tasty.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Jam, sure. But maybe a filling with brown sugar, cardamom and vanilla extract might turn that salmon into salmon brulee!

– March 23, 2011 12:39 PM
Q.

Question for Dave

My husband and I are celebrating his 30th birthday in Madeira - we're going hiking, enjoying the sunshine, and hopefully eating some great meals. When it comes to the wine of the region - any recommendations? I don't know that I've had Madeira, but I think of it as sweet and too dessert-y for me. Am I wrong? Would love some recommendations on how to navigate the wine scene and enjoy the best of the region. I'm definitely looking forward to indulging in Vinho Verde (one of my favorites on a hot summer day) from the mainland often.
A.
Joe Yonan :
Dave says:
I've never been to Madeira, but I imagine there are a range of styles to the local vino that will pair nicely with a variety of foods. We probably get the sweeter ones here because they travel better and are considered more special. After a few days you may be longing for a more familiar wine from the mainland, but the local wines should be fun to explore. If you're eating at casual restaurants, look around and see what the locals are drinking.
– March 23, 2011 12:40 PM
Q.

re: cheesecake disaster

I only had the graham cracker crust on the bottom of the cake. I pulled the sides of the springform pan off the cheesecake and then had to invert the whole cake on to a plate, because I didn't know how to do it to keep the top nice and flat. Then when I tried to pull the bottom of the pan from the cake, the whole crust came away from the cake, still stuck to the pan. Even a knife didn't get the crust off, i had to just soak the bottom of the pan to get it to disentegrate. The cake was ruined.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

With a bottom-only graham cracker crust cheesecake, you don't need to invert. (I think I'm not understanding the part where the top of your cheesecake is not flat.)

Unless I'm serving royalty, I usually keep the cheesecake on that bottom part of a springform pan, placed on top of a serving platter. If you want to present the cheesecake with no part of the pan, line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper before you build the crust.

– March 23, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

Two wine questions?

Dave, I hope I am allowed two; you column is the first thing I turn to in the food section. I often see advertisements for various wine clubs, some sponsored by various newspapers, where a variety of wines (usually 6-8 bottles) will be shipped to you every month. Are you a fan of these arrangements and if so can you suggest or recommend any of these programs? Your column today was among my favorites. While not as critical as last week's chatter, I wonder who your target audience is - are you writing primarily for the wine and food lovers who populate these chats, or to educate and perhaps influence the wider Post audience? If your focus is the wide readership of the Post, then I think last week's chatter had a few (very few) valid points. I personally would love to see an article pointing out that for the cost of a latte, the "Chuck" drinkers at TJ could dramatically increase the quality of the wine they are buying. Thanks and keep up the great work.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Dave responds:

Thanks for your comments. Actually, I consider both those groups to be my audience. I hope the general readership of the Post will enjoy my Recession Buster picks, the occasional "traditional" wine column that declares "this week is Chardonnay Week!" or whatever, and my newsier items about wine and the wine industry. And I hope readers appreciate my emphasis in the column and on the All We Can Eat blog on local wines.
 

A few years ago I calculated the prices of wine recommendations in several newspaper columns over several months - they averaged around $20. Yet I'm aware that the average price paid for 750 ml of wine in this country is about $5. I want to be responsive to that metric, with the excellent point you made, that for just a few bucks more we can trade way up in quality and interest. Yet I also think I should be able to write for the readers who do spend an inordinate amount of time and money on wine, that occasionally I can write about someone really doing something special and new even if the wine costs $90. Those of us who can't afford to buy those wines can afford to read about them once in awhile. If I ONLY wrote about $90 wines week after week, last week's chatter would have had a valid complaint.

– March 23, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

Tuna substitute

I kid you not, replace mashed chickpeas for tuna in tuna salad and it's delicious! The taste is a little different, but not much.
Q.

re: eggplants

Monsoon in Mexico cause disease and rotting of eggplants so they hard to find and expensive right now.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Ah, right. All the more reason to anticipate as the local ones get closer...

– March 23, 2011 12:44 PM
Q.

Swiss Chard

Can I do a happy dance in honor of Swiss chard? I've got a bunch growing in the garden. Pick those leaves, add in garlic and serrano peppers, salt and garam masala. Top off with fresh mint from the garden. Then do a happy dance. :)
Q.

Wenesday food posts

Wednesday is ALSO the day when I'm starting to get a little tired from the work week already and need a fun break with a food chat!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yes -- us too!

– March 23, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

Fast Food

I've raised one child (off to college) and have two others on the way up. I do not, and will not, go to fast food restaurants. I have never forbidden it - I just won't take them. When they want it, I make pizza, burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, occasionally real french fries cooked in peanut oil. When they get a hankering, my kids will get a grandparent to take them but I think they are more jazzed about the toy prize than the food ... in fact, generally will eat only the fries because the rest is too salty. I think it's all about how your palate is trained. Kudos to Julio's dad. People need to just get in the kitchen. Start easy (burgers, chicken nuggets, ha!) and expand their horizons along with their palates. Libraries have cookbooks; start with your favorite tastes, and go from there. I loved the article but thought it was a sad commentary that this is the exception rather than the rule.

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Wish those nuggets had another name! They're chunky with ginger and red onion.

As much as we are empowered to cook fast-food types of things at home, I'm  sure children never see them the same way. Perhaps we should wrap them in crinkly paper.

– March 23, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

RE: Leftover Coffee Grounds

My grandmother always put a little instant coffee in her baked bean recipe. It added a nice depth to the flavor. Maybe you could try it with the leftover grounds... if it cooks long enough it shouldn't be gritty.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Hmm -- are you sure about that lack of grit? I'm not...

– March 23, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

Cornstarch

If you have cornstarch building up in the bottom of the pan, you are probably using too much. Make sure you pat your meat dry with a paper towel before coating the protein. That will reduce the water letting less cornstarch adhere to the meat. If the sauce ends up too watery for your taste, you can always mix a small amount of slurry into the sauce later to thicken it. But too much starch on the meat and the coating of starch and oil on the bottom of the pan reduces the contact surface of the meat to the pot meaning it will take longer to cook and not brown as well (and your fond may not get as flavorful as it can be. The cornstarch will not produce the same fond as the meat will.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Expertly put.

– March 23, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

Joe Yonan dinner open to public?

I saw the 5 course menu you are going to serve at the Press Club on Tuesday, which looks very interesting, but will you really alternate beer and wine with each dish? I love beer, I love wine, and I can switch once during a meal from beer to wine or vice versa, but I think constant changing will kill my tastebuds.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks! Hope you can make this dinner; I'm excited about it. The promise is that there will be wines and beers paired with the dishes, not that there will be a straight back and forth. And you can just sip!

– March 23, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

Chipotle

Chipotle was a subsidiary of McDonalds until recently (how do you think they got off the ground and expanded so fast?). I'm sure quality-wise most of the ingredients are better, but they're not innocent of many of the evils of fast food either...
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Not claiming innocence. And later on we discussed the amount of calories and sodium in a burrito. But I did not raise my kids in a fast-food-free enviro.  There you have it.

– March 23, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

Cooking sherry and spoilage

Greetings, O Spirit Guides, I use sherry primarily as an ingredient for cooking Chinese food and to add to lentil soup, and only rarely do I drink a teensy amount. I'm hoping you'll advise me what kind of sherry I should buy next and how to store it, since it's primarily for cooking. I know we're supposed to use good wine for cooking so I assume the same is true of sherry and that the small bottles of "cooking sherry" in the supermarket are strictly "blech" and to be avoided. My last bottle of sherry, which was full-sized and from Jerez, Spain, lasted about three YEARS and I kept it on a shelf, unrefrigerated, and never noticed a problem except for lots of dregs at the end, but I realize that probably says more about me than it does about the sherry, which I think was amontillado. Thank you.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Dave sez:

You're right to avoid any "cooking wine", sherry or otherwise. It's bad wine adulterated primarily with salt so people wouldn't drink it. I'm not sure, but suspect it's a vestige of Prohibition.
 

For cooking purposes, probably a Fino would be appropriate - it's drier (less sweet) than amontillado (Monty Python fans are breaking out in song right now) and closer in taste to Chinese shaoxing (though that can vary in body and sweetness, too). Since you only use it for cooking, I might even ..... lean closer so I can whisper this .... suggest Taylor from New York. Cheap cheap cheap, not really bad, and if it does go off, you're not out much. But the door of the fridge is probably the best place for it once opened.

– March 23, 2011 12:50 PM
Q.

coffee grounds

I've felt it's better to to compost them rather than putting them directly around plants (which seems to attract slugs--ugh!)
A.
Joe Yonan :

Interesting. I've put them around my tomato plants and haven't gotten slugged, but maybe I've just been lucky!

– March 23, 2011 12:51 PM
Q.

"Stirring chocolate into spaghetti sauce..."

So starts the article about Mr. Stoesz. But I don't see the recipe. Hard to imagine how this would work.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Nor did he offer the recipe. But maybe he'll do so at those monthly dinners for his think tank. Ask him! I think he's fond of Southwestern and Mexican foods, so I can kind of see the connection when you think in terms of moles.

– March 23, 2011 12:51 PM
Q.

Pesto ingredients

In fact, I LOVE all those ingredients! What a dilemma. Maybe the basil flavor is too strong. I love fresh cilantro more than life itself. Maybe use less basil and substitute some cilantro?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

You can sub the basil, certainly. Spinach, parsley, cilantro, arugula. Go to town.

– March 23, 2011 12:51 PM
Q.

Eggplant Shortage

Actually, there is, indeed, an eggplant shortage as I learned last week when trying to order the eggplant parm at the Kalorama Pines of Florence (Best. Parm. In the City.) Anyway. It's due to freezes in various places eggplant are grown: http://www.cleveland.com/taste/index.ssf/2011/03/eggplant_supply_down_because_o.html
A.
Joe Yonan :

Gotcha.

– March 23, 2011 12:52 PM
Q.

Coffee grounds in chocolate mixes

Am I thinking about something different for coffee grounds? I've made chocolate cake and other chocolate desserts that are super rich with adding ground coffee to bring out the chocolate. Are ground coffee beans not the same as coffee grounds after you make a cup? Can't say I've done the later, since I don't actually like it.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Did your ground coffee go in super-fine? I've added instant espresso powder to baked goods and love that effect, but I'm still struggling with the grit possibility. Ground beans are not exactly the same thing as coffee grounds post-cup-making, because with the latter, you've extracted much of the flavor with that hot water. So it wouldn't be nearly as powerful.

– March 23, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

Pesto

S/he said s/he liked all the ingredients. The problem is the proportions or the texture, most likely. If texture, then something less grainy. Or how about some kind of thick salsa verde?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

That's something to think about, sure.

– March 23, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

Follow-up on the apricot filling suggestion

I neglected to mention the steps: brown the meat in a little olive oil, cooking until almost done. Remove and cover to keep warm. Add the wine or other liquid and scrape up any brown bits. Add the jam and spices; bring just to a boil and cook until it's reduced by about a third and is slightly thickened. Put the meat back into the sauce and heat through. Serve over rice, orzo, or spaghetti with some sort of green vegetable.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Thanks for following up.

– March 23, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

James Beard Award

I thought I read that there's another James Beard nomination for the Food Section, but now I can't find the story. True? Is there an award ceremony where you get to dress up and make speeches like at the Oscars? And does the award include something besides honor and prestige, like gold-leaf toques?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yep, true. Here's the story, and here's Tim's blog post. Tim was also nominated for his City Paper columns!

Yep, there's an awards ceremony; it's not quite as dressy-dressy as the chef awards, but fun nonetheless. Indeed, short speeches. The award comes with no toque, but with a nice hefty medal and a beautiful frame-worth certificate (two of which I have yet to frame!).

– March 23, 2011 12:57 PM
Q.

church/community cookbooks

Hi, I was thinking about what kinds of recipes to submit to a community cookbook in production. It would be nice to put in something that won't already be there from five other people. What's usually missing from community cookbooks?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

They're usually light on beverage recipes and basics like stock and pie crust, I think.

– March 23, 2011 12:58 PM
Q.

Food Trucks Galore but....

Where's the Farmer's Market truck? I long for the day when our country will treat shopping and meal prep like they do in Europe -- you go to a specific store for a specific item (bread, meat, veggies, dessert) and you prepare it all/eat it the day you purchase it. I think a Farmer's market food truck could be very profitable. I would love to walk to Franklin Park on my lunch break and buy some ramps and argula for dinner. Does such a thing exist?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

That would be swell.  (But don't you get to farmers markets downtown?) New Morning Farms sends trucks into neighborhoods...are you listening, truck people?

– March 23, 2011 12:58 PM
Q.

Elizabeth Taylor and food

I saw a clip of an interview with Ms. Taylor with then-hubby John Warner, wherein interviewer Barbara Walters asks if Ms. Taylor, who looked a bit chubby, is worried about gaining weight. Hubby Warner answers says yes, and says he wishes she'd eat more vegetables. Ms. Taylor then responds, quite decisively, "potatoes are vegetables!" (or words to that effect.)
A.
Joe Yonan :

Funny!

– March 23, 2011 12:58 PM
Q.

Chipotle was a subsidiary of McDonalds

Nope. Chipotle was founded by Steve Ells with a loan from his Dad. in 1993. The second store opened in 1995 using Chipotle's cash flow, and the third was opened using an SBA loan.
A.
Joe Yonan :

But McDonald's bought in. From 1998 to 2006, the burger corp. owned a majority interest in Chipotle. But there's no connection now.

– March 23, 2011 1:00 PM
Q.

cooking with protein

I just found out I'm pregnant (hurray!). I need to drastically increase the amount of protein I eat. I'm not a vegetarian, but I've just never been all that good at cooking with meat. Do you have any full-proof recipes for someone who has more than once managed to simultaneously burn and undercook the same chicken breast?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

You don't have to run for the chicken. What about soybeans and lentils and even canned cannellini beans? Send your email to food@washpost.com and we'll give you a list. Mazel tov!

– March 23, 2011 1:00 PM
Q.

richmond

Baking with coffee grounds means instant coffee or espresso powder, not used coffee grounds, which would be horrible!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Right. That's what I think (and kinda said).

– March 23, 2011 1:03 PM
Q.

Koodie

Then all the kids teasing me on the playground got it right after all! *I wish*
Q.

white fish salad

I'm finding smoked white fish salad quite expensive, so I bought a pack of smoked white fish from Whole Foods and then stuck it in the freezer because I didn't know what to do with it. How can I make a smoked white fish salad?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Depends on what you like, but options are many. Make your own mayo, or use a store-bought Dijonnaise, or flavor an olive-oil mayo with capers and red onion and celery seed or whatever you prefer. Add the crunchy vegetables you like best, perhaps chopped finely so as not to compete with the flakes of fish. Maybe a little hard-cooked egg, too.

– March 23, 2011 1:04 PM
Q.

re: apricot filling and pork

Hi all, excellent chat as usual. I'd suggest adding a little hoisin sauce, cider vinegar, allspice and tabasco to the apricot filling for any pork. Something to deepen the flavor and tart it up. A little instant coffee works well too.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

I'm smiling at the thought of this.

– March 23, 2011 1:04 PM
Q.

Joe Yonan :

Well, you've transferred us to a platter, and lightly spread us with glaze, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's -- hope you got some good strategies and ideas out of our a's. Now for the giveaway books: "Cooking Light Comfort Food" will go to the chatter who asked about other uses for apricot filling. And "Real Simple Dinner Tonight: Done!" will go to the chatter who asked why Food sections traditionally appear on Wednesdays. Send your mailing info to us at food@washpost.com, and we'll send you your books.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

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