Free Range on Food: How millennials cook, eat and dine out

Oct 23, 2013

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Good afternoon, Free Rangers! 

As some of you have noted, we threw our hat in the millennial coverage ring this week, with Tim's fascinating article on restaurants, Becky's fun coverage of the Farragut Friday scenepantry suggestions (that, in truth, are fitting for anybody who would like to cook efficiently at home), recipes and more. 

 

We are a lean, mean, question-answering machine today, with Editor Joe on leave.  Jane Touzalin, a.k.a. Chat Leftovers queen, may have time to chime in, and perhaps Spirits columnist Carrie Allan.  So fire away -- we'll have a couple of cookbooks to give away, and, who knows? Perhaps Thanksgiving's already on your mind. 

Here we go...

I guess "millennial week" at the Post has even infected the beloved Food section. Maybe you are just looking for younger eyeballs but this under 40 Gen-Xer is getting almost as tired of articles touting how the Millennials are revolutionizing the world as she is of anything involving Baby Boomers. Better luck next week for me, I suppose.

So you wouldn't make any of the recipes we ran? Or eat at a food truck? Or dine at a restaurant whose chef or sommelier is a millennial? The millennial theme was a lens this week that we used to look at issues that we think still resonate with everyone.

With all due respect, I think you might not be seeing the trees. Tim's article explains the characteristics of mill-friendly restaurants. Perhaps you can use the info to avoid them. Becky's piece doesn't suggest that mills have revolutionized Farragut Fridays -- just that they like it. And I think all our recipes this week, even the ones that are not mill-related, could take the cranky out of  your pants. Just sayin'.

Joe says that Domenica Marchetti talks about meat not being available in Italian homes until recently. Could you offer a few suggestions for vegetarian Italian dishes please?

We have several tasty ideas from our Recipe Database:

 

 

Almond and Radicchio Tagliatelle

 

Beet Pesto Pasta

 

 

Butterfly Pasta With Baby Peas

 

For more ideas, check out our database!

Hi Foodies! My MIL is going in for knee-replacement surgery next week and I want to prepare and freeze a bunch of meals that my in-laws can eat while she is away in the hospital/rehab center and when she is home but not able to stand up. I think my FIL can make coffee and order take-out but that's about it.... Would you please link to the very handy how-to-freeze-foods chart please? thank you!

Of course! We'll take any chance we can get to promote the awesome freezer graphic.

Can I do anything with carrot greens? Fall always brings on the pot roast with carrots and potatoes for me (recipe welcome), and this year I want to get one of those adorable baby carrot groups with the stems for roasting on the side. Can I do anything with the stalks or the greens at the end? Throw them in my lunch salad? Add to the pot?

Lucky for you, no one ever claimed their chat prize of Tara Duggan's "Root to Stalk Cooking." She has a few enticing recipes using carrot greens, including Carrot Slaw With Greek Yogurt, Lemon and Coriander; Carrot Top Salsa Verde With Roasted Root Vegetables; and Quinoa Carrot Tabbouleh. Any of those appeal to you? If so, I can e-mail you the recipes. Send me a note to becky.krystal@washpost.com.

And think about using them like you would parsley.

How can the WaPo seriously justify writing so extensively on the perceived habits of a generation of Washingtonians? As a 30 year old, my cooking, eating, and dining out habits are no more different from my peers, my parents, and other generations.

A lot of money and time has been sunk into researching the habits of your generation. Either your peers are lying about their activities and interests or you're an exception.

Okay, I get it. Marketers are fascinated with this large demographic (at least the small subset that tweets, is self-absorbed, is white, or comes from money or is otherwise bourgeois) and I'm sure that there are folks on the business side of the Post that thought last Sunday's magazine and today's food section would help draw in that demographic, but I gotta plead... enough. As somebody just a few years outside the cuff of the ever-expanding definition of this age cohort (and, full disclosure, is also white and shamelessly bougie myself), I tossed my dead-tree copy of today's section onto the recycling bin after scanning the articles. My problem?

 

The articles themselves could have stood on their own without the pandering to millennials. Bonnie's five must-have pantry items are universal, regardless of age. Tim's article on how dining has changed, especially along 14th Street is more a reflection of the gentrification of the neighborhood (which incidentally, as a homeowner there in the late 90s and early aughts, happened long before most of these millennials had graduated from high-school or college) and changing trends in lifestyle choices among a broad set of age groups including Gen-Xers who have delayed marriage and child-rearing, and Boomer empty nesters who have chosen to move to the urban core. The fact that so many young people have decided to live, work, and play in downtown DC is a wonderful development. I'm glad that some of my younger brothers and sisters take such an interest in the pleasures of good food and good drink (although enough with the yelping and instragraming everything). I'm just disappointed that the otherwise stellar Food section seemed to take such a lazy, gratuitous approach. Y'all are better than that.

Well, we put considerable thought, time and research into the project. That you don't like it is totally cool with me, and had you ended your note, maybe after the Instagram comment, we could have just agreed to disagree. But then you took it one step further. You took a broad swipe at the people who produced the section, suggesting laziness was a root cause of its problems. That kind of comment, I dare say, is pure millennial.

I was surprised to see rice noodles on the list of pantry must-haves, over any other type of pasta or grain. I've only used them once or twice (though now I'll pick some up to explore the ingredient's versatility), but typically rely on other pastas or grains in my cooking. Overall, the list seemed to make sense - if you've got one bean, a grain, a vegetable and a protein, (nearly) anything is possible.

Considering the chatter today, that's a ringing endorsement! They made the cut because of their versatility, no-cook qualities and they're gluten-free. 

My family just doesn't dig pie, something about the crust, even when it's homemade. But we all can agree on a nice apple crisp. I would like to kick it up a knotch for Thanksgiving and was wondering what other combinations of fruit I could use. I'm particularly interested in mixing fresh cranberries in somehow.

Cranberries and or pears, fresh or dried; walnuts that have been first drizzled with butter and toasted; pomegranate seeds and/or pom molasses; and sauteed quince come to mind right away. Chatters, how about you?

I've recently tried the most amazing saffron broth at a local Mexican restaurant and thought I was drinking pure gold. Is this something I could replicate at home?

This Shrimp Broth, which includes saffron, might be the answer to your prayers.

Shrimp Broth

Hello! Friends and I are planning a mid-afternoon tea for about 25 people. We'll have scones, tea sandwiches, and tea cookies. Do you have other recommendations for other tea party foods that are relatively quick and easy to make? Thanks!

How about something made with tea? Have a look at Green Tea Shortbread With Poppy Seeds.

Green Tea Shortbread With Poppy Seeds

Saw a recipe for roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli with a miso dressing that I'd love to make at home, but I really really do not want to make my own miso dressing. Anyone know where I can buy it? I checked Trader Joe's this weekend, but they didn't have anything.

Well, I see this one via Amazon. And I bet if you can get to an Asian market, you may find several varieties (check the refrigerated case, too). 

No, I'm not asking about purees or finger foods. Rather, this Saturday I'm to take a food related to "baby" (baby carrots? baby corn? baby back ribs?) to a dinner, but other than those three, I got nothing. Any other ideas? I'm looking for pretty easy since (1) I'm no expert and (2) that day is already filled with lots of other goings on. And yes, it can be appetizer, side, dessert, whatever. Thanks!

I'm thinking of getting my brother a cookbook for Christmas. He's a good cook and likes to experiment with recipes. He's an engineer, so he also likes numbers and the scientific facts behind cooking. Do any of you have experience with Michael Ruhlman's Ratio? Do you have any other suggestions for me?

I haven't used "Ratio" myself, but I'm a fan of Ruhlman's "Charcuterie" cookbook, which has an intellectual rigor to it. I suspect he brings the same thing to "Ratio."

 

But I'd recommend, with some reservations, the volume "Modernist Cuisine at Home," which I reviewed last year. There is a lot of fascinating kitchen science, and if you're a geek with a lot of equipment, the book would be perfect.

I think his Ratio app is far more user-friendly than the book. If your brother's the kind of guy who likes America's Test Kitchen-type explanations about the whys and wherefores of recipes but doesn't necessarily cotton to following recipes to the letter, then Ratio will give him basic formulas he can riff on.  Just an observation: When I was cooking each month with Washington home cooks for a column, every single guy I met had some Cook's Illustrated or America's Test Kitchen volumes in their collection. 

I have found that just about every cooked apple recipe is improved by adding some apple brandy or apple jack to the apples. It seems to add depth to the apple flavor. I also like the flavor of molasses or at least dark brown sugar in apple recipes.

Nice! 

Hey Rangers - do you know of a really, really good rib recipe (either pork or beef - I trust your guidance!) that I can complete entirely in/on an oven? We sadly have no grill or outdoor space, so a nice low and slow smoke is out for us, but I'd love to impress my fiance at a delayed anniversary celebration worth waiting for. Thank you!

Few things are better than lamb chops when they're well-made. Try this oven-roasted version.

We were delighted by a gift of peach-hot pepper jam. There must be some fun ways to use this. I have thought of a glaze for pork chops or chicken, but what other ideas do you have? More broadly, what are some general guidelines for using a "flavored" jam in savory cooking? Thanks!

I'd put that on a grilled cheese sandwich in a heartbeat. Or on a round of baked brie. Or on some nachos. Yeah, I love cheese.

General guidelines? Hm. I'd say don't go overboard on it but also try to let it shine through. Don't have too many other flavors competing with it. That may be weak, though. Other advice, folks?

Not a food remark, but I'm really uncomfortable with the focus on my generation lately! As if it isn't bad enough to get a reputation as the "Me" generation, the impatient generation bent on impatience and lacking a reasonable attention-span, now my beloved Post is buying into so many of these stereotypes. Even while trying to lionize the elusive species, the Millennial! The opening question in Bonnie's article was immediately off-putting, and I skipped most of the other articles this week because I couldn't imagine any other article discussing our culture and eating habits to be any better.

Okay, I'll bite. Why was it offputting? 

I'm trying to understand the logic: Because you didn't care for one story, you thought they would all suck? Isn't that journalism stereotyping?

Hello! I love the chat and look forward to it every week. To keep it thematic, I'm a millenial living by myself with a decent food budget and I'm always at a loss over what to cook. While I love leftovers, they can get boring in mass quanities (I've been living off one baked ziti the past 6 days) and one can only freeze so much. Also, I LOVE cooking and am looking to expand my collection of recipes. Would you recommend halving recipes or are there sources out there that specialize in one-or-two serving recipes?

I would suggest none other than our own Joe Yonan. He has two books geared to the single cook, the new "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook" and his previous "Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One." Also, here's everything you get when you look up our previous Cooking for One dishes.

America's Test Kitchen is a great idea for the chatter. And I would suggest specifically last year's new volume: The Science of Good Cooking.

I'm pretty sure I made the recipe the poster is talking about. I'd encourage you to change your mind - the dressing was amazing! I've never had anything as good from a bottle.

Do you have a recipe for a vegetarian (meatless) Mexican casserole? I've never tried to cook with corn tortillas, so I thought that would be fun, but not sure what to combine with the tomato sauce.

You won't be using your tomato sauce for this one, either, but it's from Pati Jinich and it's excellent! 

 

You forgot the Pasta with Lentils (I forget theexact recipe name), which is the ultimate comfort food in my family. We make it differently than your recipe, and of course think ours is best. ;-)

I NEVER forget that recipe:  Pasta and Lentils, Italian-Style. All it takes is a temp dip into the 50s. 

 

So this isn't a cookbook, but for scientific facts I love Harold McGee "On Food and Cooking". Gets into the chemistry, physics and biology behind ingredients and cooking techniques.

As a scientist, I have really enjoyed Alton Brown's cookbooks that start each chapter (episode of Good Eats) with a knolwedge concentrate about the history and science of the food.

Cover in sauce, wrap in foil, wrap again in foil (to guard against leaks), cook in oven about 275 or so for 2-3 hours. Falling off the bone, moist, tender, delicious. Take juices and make them into more sauce if you want. Best way I've done ribs.

I have to admit I, too, roll my eyes at "millenial" stories, and will often just skip them. That is a real danger of writing with that focus. That said, the WaPo editors' comments were right on point. The pantry suggestions WERE good, the recipes seemed interesting, and Bonnie, that's exactly what I was thinking about the restaurants! A way for this tail-end-of-baby-boom reader to avoid them. People! Being crankypantses (love that) takes energy. Let go of it! Hmmm, and that could be a theme for a future issue - calming food and drink for the cross. No crabs allowed on that menu.

Thanks for the thumb's up, Good!  If only all the energy spent rolling eyes this a.m. could be rechanneled into, say, letting Congress know how you feel about the shutdown, why, wouldn't we be living in a better D.C.?

I loved the pantry must-haves, but I must object to the idea of keeping my frozen shrimp in the pantry. Sorry. ;-)

Wink wink, indeed. Why isn't the stuff you keep long-term in the refrigerator and freezer consider pantry staples? 

I got a really pretty orange cauliflower, and I wanted to make some roasted cauliflower and garlic soup this weekend, or possibly this weekend. Other than possibly creating a great Halloween-themed dish, will the cauliflower cook or taste any different than white cauliflower? I also saw some purple and green "spiky" ones at the market. Does the same go with those?

Yup, it's all going to cook up and taste the same, although "The New Food Lover's Companion" notes that the spiky, a.k.a. Romanesco, variety has a more "delicate" flavor.

"You took a broad swipe at the people who produced the section, suggesting laziness was a root cause of its problems. That kind of comment, I dare say, is pure millennial."

 

Whoa. Not the OP, but we appreciate you guys a lot -- we come back faithfully every single week, and this chat is the highlight of my mid-week! But when looking at the general chat about "Millenials" and who they are (as a monolith, apparently), so much of it is negative, and even the Post's coverage of all of this starts getting really uncomfortable. Especially when comments like this are thrown in. I respect you all and the work you do enormously, but goodness.

I think generalizations about any subject are off-putting, which is why I tried to deal in as many specifics as I could in my story.

To what extent is the overall rise in prices reflected in the cost of a DECENT Steak?

Meat production is expensive. It includes animals, feed, water, land, transportation, slaughtering. Price increases in any of those areas (gas, feed, etc.) will increase the price of steaks. 

 

And that doesn't even include the costs of running a restaurant, which are increasing too.

Any decent, moderately priced, CHAIN steak houses still on the market?

Not that I can think of. But why a chain steakhouse?

I think it's all about the crumble topping. I love oatmeal and toasted nuts in mine.

Amen to that. Raise  your hand if you are a crumble-aholic. 

I'd also say dismissing anything that you don't think applies to you personally is very millennial. I might not be a typical millennial, but I cook very differently from other people I know my age. The traits of a large population aren't going to match every individual, but it doesn't mean that the conclusions are wrong. There's enough written about the baby boomers that people don't seem to complain about. And frankly, I'm very surprised that the me generation, natives of twitter and facebook and instagram and vine and every other let-me-tell-you-all-about-me site seem to have so much backlash against this section.

Funny, I thought baby boomers were the Me Generation!

 

I've seen researchers/social scientists call millennials the Me Me Me Generation. To some extent, I think this is all a little unfair. I think self-centeredness is more a trait of youth, across the board, rather than anything reserved for one generation.

Can you explain a bit about how you cook differently? 

The best ribs recipe I've had recently was the one you ran a few months ago: "The Best Ribs You'll Ever Know" or something like that. They were amazing if you like pork ribs. Pretty easy too.

Ah, yes, you're referring to The Only Ribs You Need to Know. Good call.

The Only Ribs You Need to Know

Also, we'd be remiss in not mentioning Mahogany Short Ribs, which is included in "The Washington Post Cookbook: Readers' Favorite Recipes" (make a great holiday gift, wink, wink!).

You might want to try this Tuscan Carrot Top Soup, it's really easy and good. "Minestra di Foglie di Carote," from SOLO VERDURA, by Anne Bianchi (Ecco, 1997).

As a pre-war (WWII the big one) baby, this is nothing new. Each generation from Baby Boomers on has had focus at one time or another. Someday, you'll be the older generation and you'll understand.

Get thee to the bookstore or library for Rick Bayless's mexican books--his casseroles are divine, especially the crusty corn and chayote casserole.

Can we all promise NOT to cover Thanksgiving? I love getting my food news and mags, but I tend to just give or throw away the Thanksgiving issue. There are only so many ways to cook a turkey, and it's like people forget that all these vegetables (hello sweet potatoes!) are here on other days to play with as well! Please...no more "takes on the leftover turkey sandwich" I beg you!

I am beginning to think the millennial-coverage backlash is as toxic as a bacterial Superbug.  

 

No, we will NOT promise any such thing about Thanksgiving. Our two special issues devoted to the holiday are hardly ever All About the Turkey. I challenge you to find them otherwise. Each year it's pretty fun, in fact, to find new ways of presenting related stories and recipes.  I could tell you some of the things we have planned for this year, but it sounds like you wouldn't be interested. :)

Not a cookbook, per se, but I strongly recommend What Einstein Told His Cook. (I think there is a second volume now out.) So popular among my family that it took me 2.5 years to get it returned -- circulated among a finance expert, lawyer, chemical engineer, writer, and computer programmer. Does a great job of providing the "real" science as well as the "I'm not a chemist" version, broken down by food type or cooking method or whatever. Very readable, accessible, and absolutely fun.

Yes, our pal Robert Wolke, who used to write the Food 101 column for the Food section. 

I will be delighted when your talented staff turns back to first-rate food writing and away from second-rate sociology-slinging. Also, as a boomer with a raft of millenial children, house guests and friends I'm not entirely sure that the bright generational line you suggest exists is actually there (aside, maybe, from the noise thing) since we all go to the same restaurants and they're pretty much all direct-line descendents of trends that began in the 70s and 80s (more natural, less formal, hipper music, "fusion" cuisine, etc). And the fact that young single people with less money entertain themselves differently from old married people with more money is hardly unique to this generation I mean, everyone's allowed a generational trend article every now and then (since we christen a new generation about every 18 months now), but this felt forced.

Personally, I think a lot of this is marketing-driven. Companies want to understand what drives millennials so they can sell to them. So they conduct a ton of research. The issue for me, as I wrote the story, was this: Are these characterisitcs unique to millennials. In some cases, I think they were (the use of social tools to gather in large groups in minutes);  sometimes not (small plates, which have been around, like, forever).

Is it too early to order a Thanksgiving turkey from a specialty farm or retailer? Has WaPo done any reviews of such turkeys?

I just gave a little hoot when I read this question. I am closing in on finishing this year's list of local turkey sales. But, no, it isn't too early. I hope to have the roundup posted soon, but for now, check out last year's list. Some details are different, but pretty much everyone on it is selling again this year.

And have a look at this story I wrote last year about our taste test of heritage birds.

Hi all. This wasn't my favorite issue, BUT I appreciate the food section for covering a wide range of topics and taking risks, like focusing an issue on one age demographic. Lighten up people! It's great that they try new things. I don't like every article or every issue, but over the course of the year it's one of my best and favorite resources on food and cooking. Thank you!

Back atcha. Relatively speaking, you qualify as a warm/fuzzy Free Ranger today.  

I do subscribe to their Web site, but I have to say I find their recipes hit or miss. Their taste also leans to the sweet and fatty, especially sour cream, but their lean recipes are too lean. I avoid most of their bread recipes. The way they lay out the ingredient lists and instructions complicates matters, eg. list 6 T of sugar then in the instructions tell you to divide it. I wouldn't consider giving anyone their books.

Not sure I agree with your assessment totally, but they give their readers/subscribers what they want. They respond directly to their queries and interests -- so maybe that demographic and you don't see eye to eye. Chris Kimball explained it all to me in frowning detail a year ago.  I'd like to see them tackle the science of more ethnic foods/ingredients. 

We need a like button here

Hi Free Range Gang. I want to try making hard cider and I'd love to really make it my own. Any ideas where I can rent a cider press? Thanks!

I've seen cider presses for rent on Craigslist (though not in our area), and it's worth calling around to tool rental places to see if they carry them. However, on this Web site you can find step-by-step instructions on how to create a cider press using just two pieces of wood and a clean bucket. Caveat: You need to own a juicer.

Diane Flynt, the owner of Foggy Ridge Cider in Dugspur, Va., says that to keep things simple you can just buy the already-pressed juice and use that to craft your own signature hard cider. If you're going to do that, she says, make sure the juice is unpasteurized.

Last week, there were a few recommendations on books for beginning breadmakers. How does Rose Berenbaum's book on bread compare to those? thank you

I don't feel equipped to do a head-to-head comparison, but I really don't think you can go wrong with anything by Rose.

She's a wonderful baker and instructor.  I think this is one of her books, maybe just the first edition, in which she used little chart elements to list ingredients? That might take getting used to. 

But--but--that's my favorite time of year! I know there are classics that I want to stick to, but I am always cycling in and out certain things that are less successful. Roasted broccoli was a bust last year, and will be replaced with something new this year. And I have yet to find a potato substitute I like more than the mashed variety with roasted garlic, but I am always looking!

We've definitely got some new side dishes for you this year. Issue dates are Nov. 20 and Nov. 24. 

Having sporadically had it , during very many visits to the USA , for the last four decades I have the impression that that JEWEL of American culinary art the STEAK is no longer what it used to be except in very expensive restaurants and steak houses. Am I right or is it that with age and the cumulative effect of life long smoking my palate is dulled?

I think there are many who would agree with you. One issue is that our beef grades are not as fatty as they used to be. And we all know fat equals flavor.

Like the first chatter, I had an "enough already" response to the Millennial coverage in Food today. However...then I read Bonnie's pantry story and really loved it. Made me want to go buy some frozen shrimp and make a simple scampi. Also, from a personal perspective. Am I a millennial or a Gen Xer? I'm really unsure. I'm 36 and seem to fall between the two. Maybe I'm a Millenexer!

Right now I'm thinking you are of the Polite Generation. 

I have noticed that bonelss pork loin has been featured in several grocery store fliers for the past few weeks. I have purchased several and froze portions. I have made pork chops, apple-cranberry stuffed pork loin, roasted pork loin with honey and sage fried apples. Any other suggested recipes for the pork loin?

Can you wait a week? David Hagedorn's done a smashing version for our Oct. 30 issue. 

Can you suggest snacks to offer neighborhood trick-or-treaters? I'd like to give things other than store-bought candy in individual wrappers but last I heard, parents won't let children eat anything not factory-sealed. Oh and a recent article warned that giving mini boxes of raisins is like asking to have your house t.p.'d!

You know what? It's one night a year. Give the kids their factory-sealed candy. Any attempt at homemade treats will, as you suspect, end up in the trash, as will pieces of fruit. The only kid-acceptable alternative I can think of would be little bags of small cookies, like maybe animal crackers. Maybe the ever-resourceful chatosphere can help you out here with some ideas. Anyone?

I found it interesting that two of the "must-haves" were for the freezer. When I think of pantry items I mostly think of food that can be stored at room temperature, onions, pasta, canned sauces. I guess I have to think a little more broadly about what I consider a "pantry item." I liked the frozen spinach idea, I eat a lot of spinach but it is usually cooked so it being frozen isn't a problem. Thanks for the great article!

As I mentioned in a previous answer, we consider long-term storage in the fridge and freezer as "pantry,"
too. Why not? And you're welcome!

I'm an older Millennial and I don't get all the backlash for this week's section. I too hate the negative slant that articles on my generation often take on, but I think it's fascinating to come at it from the point of view of food and cooking, because our generation came of age during the rise of the internet. Were I 10, 20 years older, without access to things like food blogs, Yelp, and chats like this, I just wouldn't have the personal relationship with food I do today. Cookbooks can be intimidating, and cooking shows too distant and one-way. Of course, we're not the only generation subject to this culturural transformation, but given that the digital age always been a part of many of our lives, I find non-judgmental research to be quite interesting. Just my 2 cents!

All of these cookbook suggestions are great, and I thank everyone for chiming in! I look forward to investigating them all. P.S. About the Millennial articles: Read them. Don't read them. But please stop acting like the food writers stole your lunch of the fridge at work just because you don't like an article. This section is fantastic, so let's all lay off, mmkay?

Verklempt. 

One additional way to make corn tortillas into low fat crackers or crumbles is to microwave them into submission PAST where they are pliable. I have a ridged microwave bacon platter used but once for bacon, but I use it to make great corn chips. Just lay corn tortilla wedges in a single layer (no towels involved) and give one minute pulses until they snap. Then apply guacamole! Spray with cooking spray before zapping if you must; I don't need the fat and am happy with the clean corn flavor.

Like it! 

Has anyone else ever bothered to put out a stuffing as a side to a vegetarian meal? I'm wondering how to flavor it. As I recall it's bread cubes, onion, celery, and stock. What else could I add? My son, who also doesn't eat meat, wants me to make the traditional mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, etc. Do you have a recipe for a vegetarian gravy?

Here's our recipes for Vegan Brown Gravy and Mushroom-Miso-Mustard Gravy.

You sound like you're on the right track for stuffing. Other thinks you could add: apple, dried cranberries, chestnuts, mushrooms.

Have other chatters had the experience of spending 3-4 days in preparing a Thanksgiving feast for the family, only to have the young kids (4 yrs old) turn their noses up to everything because it's not the usual, everyday foods that they recognize? With a table full of food, you find you have absolutely nothing to feed your child. So frustrating. Now that I know what to expect, I need to figure out how to plan for it.

This looks really good for pre-cooking and storing frozen. But I'm cooking solo and would like to bake it in individual ramekins, turn it out and wrap in foil, and freeze. Since the dish is oiled, this shouldn't be a problem for extraction, but I'm wondering how to adjust the baking time for the smaller pans. Thanks!

I found that if you let the casserole cool completely, it's quite easy to cut into portions that you could then freeze. 

Hey! Grain bowls are some lovely easish suppers (roast once, recombine in different ways all week). What would be some great (vegan) sauces to keep on hand? I tend to do a curry, a pesto, or just hotsauce, but would love some other ideas (such as the chimichurri today, ty!)

How about Tamarind Chutney?

Tamarind Chutney

Or Romesco Sauce.

Romesco Sauce

What restaurant? I'd like to drink some liquid gold, too, next time I eat out!

Chatter, some insight, please?

I cook from scratch much more (bake my own bread, make my own egg rolls to freeze for snacks, make pasta by hand). I cooked a pig head, and could not give the second one away to anyone my age who had expressed interest before it was real. I try to buy whole chickens and cut them down myself, then use the carcass for soup. Most of the recipes I see my contemporaries pinning or reporting on are crockpot recipes that call for a packet of this or a can of that. Don't know about all millennials, but my friends my age aren't cooking the way I do. I do think it's fair that self-centeredness is more a trait of youth than anything, but we've got the platforms that ehm..enhance...that trait. Time will tell if we grow out of it :-)

You are my kind of cook!

Given the backlash today, just wanted to send a quick thank you to all of you for what you do. Even if the topics covered one week aren't something I'm likely to whip up in the kitchen myself, I appreciate your thoughtful and varied coverage of the mulit-faceted food world. So keep it up! And please don't skip Thanksgiving - that would be like asking ESPN to skip Super Bowl coverage one year. ;)

Thank you. We appreciate your virtual hug.

I, for one, cannot WAIT to see your Thanksgiving coverage. It's always really good and something I most look forward to about the Food section. And there are lots of ways to cook turkey: roasted, deep-fried, grilled parts, BBQ, with herbs and butter under the skin, with duck fat, wet-brined, dry-brined, air-chilled, stuffed, unstuffed, butterflied, breast only, legs only, etc. Eek! I'm getting excited just thinking about it.

And that kind of comment is why I hate focusing on generations of any kind. It just becomes another stereotype. And I say this as a millenial who gets tired of being told I'm either selfish and narcissistic or uber and technologically hip. Yes, I daresay I share some things in common with my generation simply because we all went through various time periods at the same points in our lives. But I just get really peeved whenever someone tries to define us as a whole, whether with a positive or negative brush, because it's about the same as trying to define someone by their ethnicity. I still love you guys, but I definitely do not like focusing articles by assuming Mills are as one. We're actually pretty diverse.

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I appreciate the candor, the directness and lack of personal attack. You are a model commenter, no matter what generation.

I was born in 1985 and I cook different from most of my peers. My mother and grandmother both are absolutely wonderful cooks and can use up leftovers like you wouldn't believe. There has never been a time in my life (even college!) that I did not cook. Nobody could leave our family without being able to put together a decent meal. Something to consider: a lot of my friends either cook something elaborate and time consuming or not at all. Is it the influence of food television that perpetuates this "perfect" ideal? Or something else? I am of the mind that I cook every day, sometimes it is great and sometimes it is just fuel. But I find that is rare among my peers.

That's a complicated question, I think. Some have opined that we lost of generation of home cooks during the '60s and '70s, when advertisers and marketers tried to convince everyone that cooking was a drag and that you could turn to convenience foods instead. So many children were raised in households, the theory goes, in which they were not taught how to cook. You were among the lucky ones.

I bought two boxes of refrigerated crusts to make my favorite juiced apple pie recipe. But now, I want to make an apple crisp. Can I throw them into the freezer for later?

Your answer should be right there on the box, which should say something like "use or freeze by ...."  If it doesn't, call the company phone number on the box and ask. But in general, if it hasn't already been frozen the answer is probably yes, you can.

I don't even eat Turkey, but fall food is fall food--I have tons of recipes ripped form November magazines.

I like the Thanksgiving issue because it gives me ideas on how to take a familiar ingredient and then tweak the recipe to make something that is both new and familiar.

Thanks for the articles today, although I expect some interesting responses in this chat. I also appreciate that most (I haven't had a chance to read all) of the articles aren't just trying to make a point by making fun of the faux-hipsters, erm, "millenials." I mean, so what if we enjoy Farragut Friday and demand a bar have a great wine list? Either way, I loved the shout out to Pleasant Pops and a few other great local places!

 

On another topic, I was reading a recipe recently for pumpkin pancakes that added vinegar to the batter. I didn't include it because I had just run out of the type they recommended (white), and didn't notice a difference. What would be the point of it though? Break down the pumpkin? Acid? I just can't picture what it would help.

Well, you were right about the interesting responses, weren't you?

As to the vinegar, I'm thinking maybe it was in there to react with something else to give the batter some rise. Did the recipe call for baking soda? But, hey, if it worked as you made them, then great.

Her recipe for Jewish rye is the closest I've ever come to it, a great loaf. And I've never seen people chow down on dinner rolls like they did hers.

It also depends on where you are from. I am southern--and a vegetarian--and my mom makes me the traditional cornbread dressing, just without the turkey bits (she uses vegetable stock).

i've gotta say -- lots of the millennials have way more disposable income than I do or seem to, at least. Then again, I live in San Francisco. I just wish that not EVERY millennial with a food fetish felt they had to open their own restaurant or gimmicky shop (like upscale cinnamon toast, yes, we have that. Another place just does bread pudding). It's gotten to the point here that you can't find a place to resole your shoes or buy a hammer, but you can get artisanal whatnot at every turn.

I absolutely loved the "Only ribs" recipe but felt the parboiling part leeched some of the flavor out of the ribs. The next time I brined them instead (about four hours), wrapped them in foil and tossed them in the oven at 250 deg. for close to four hours. Took them out and used another recipe from your database (Spicy S.C. Mustard Sauce), tossed them back into the oven for about 20-25 minutes. They were slap your mama good.

I let my carrots in the garden grow too large. I now have a dozen or so carrots about a foot long and 2 to 3 inches thick. I cleaned them and placed them in the fridge. How would you prepare these carrots? Roasted? Sliced and glazed?

 

I'd be inclined to pickle them. Mmm, pickled carrots! Try this one for Asian Pickled Carrots and Radishes.

 

You could also use them for stocks, which keep well in the freezer.

Hi! My kitchen has been out of commission for 3 weeks due to a bug infestation (yuck) but I get it back at the end of the week (hooray!). I'm overwhelmed with where to begin after nearly a month away: some kind of complicated stew? something uber-seasonal? keep it simple with a quality steak? What do you all like to make after a long time away from the stove?

Something that will make the house smell wonderful. Lemon- and Honey-Flavored Chicken, bread and a batch of brownies or chocolate chip cookies.

I agree with all of your suggestions (although I keep chopped chicken instead of shrimp as my protein staple). The one thing that I think needs to be added is canned tomatoes - take all manner of leftovers, add a can of tomatoes and you have a soup!

My suggestion might be to incorporate dishes that they like during the rest of the year (if they are not yours, talk to their parents). I think one reason people like Thanksgiving is because one rarely has a dinner like that during the rest of the year--it isn't the everyday food! But familiarity can be nice, and maybe if one or two things are comfortable for the kids, they'll be willing to try other things as well. And, failing that, there was a time my uncle bribed me with a dollar for every deviled egg I could eat, just so I'd eat something...

"Carrot Top" makes me picture the comedian and that destroys my appetite. Romanesco whets my appetite! Chop. Roast with salt, pepper, olive oil and capers. Serve with a tahini/lemon/water/salt dipping sauce. Bliss.

Leah Leneman's Vegan Cooking for One has a great concept. She includes a shopping list for a week's worth of (mostly dinner) recipes, and the week's recipes use up all of the food, so you don't end up with a third of a can of beans or half of a cauliflower, or other perils of the single cook (of course, if you dislike the gimmick, you can ignore the shopping lists and use the book like a regular cookbook). I love the recipes (well, most of them). Warning: her "single" portions are VERY generous.

I was the one who objected to Bonnie's opening paragraph, not the one who mentioned how differently they cook, but the reason I took exception was because of the over-arching assumption that Millenial = fast and easy thing or takeout it is! I like having a few staple meals I can put together when I drag myself through the door after working late (not a "Millenial" trait, right? That's why Rachael Ray managed to build an empire with 30-Minute Meals, and why Joe has the Weeknight Vegetarian column, isn't it?) but cooking brings me joy, and I know lots of people--young and old--who fit that same category. I'm uneasy with sweeping labels (particularly since the "millenial" label is largely referencing a middle-class, mostly white, yuppie demographic), especially when they're tied to an ongoing debate is a cacophony of people telling Millenials what they are and what they do, and Millenials shouting back that it's not their fault. It's wearying.

I find most food is improved by adding some brandy to me ;) Seriously, tho, what is "apple jack"?

Funny you should ask. Next spirits column will be about apple-based spirits/cocktails, including applejack. It's a distilled spirit traditionally made from concentrated cider. It's mildly appley on the nose, but not too sweet. It's not expensive (I found a bottle for $15 recently) and should be easy to find at most liquor stores (Laird's will be the brand).

Enjoy your preparations for Thanksgiving WITH the kids participating. For example, scour the shirtless child fingertips to armpits (make this fun and include tickling), then have them use their hands to mix warm stuffing ingredients with their hands. Get the kids into the process. Put the kids at a kids' table if possible and serve tiny bits, especially of foods THEY had helped prepare. Don't give a hoot if they eat or not and serve pumpkin pie for nutrition. See the wise comment about Halloween candy. NO CHILD HAS EVER STARVED AT A THANKSGIVING FEAST. Enjoy your kids and the cooking.

actually, the only recent change to beef grades resulted in what otherwise would have been choice (more fat) being labeled select if the carcass was labeled B maturity. the biggest difference with steaks is that the underlying breed makeup of the US cowherd has changed from British breeds to more continental breeds. This has reduced the amount of choice and prime beef available. So many steak houses have switched from prime to choice or choice to select. A prime steak now is likely just as good as a prime steak decades ago. There are just fewer of them for sale now.

Thanks for this. I was trying to look up the grade changes that restaurateurs are always taking about, but couldn't lay my hands on it quickly. This is helpful.

 

Personally, I've also wondered how many of the steaks for sale now have been properly aged. A well-aged steak (I prefer dry-age, but realize that many steakhouses can't afford the rooms for this task) tastes better to me than one fresh off the truck.

A group of coworkers plans a themed potluck just about every month. We've had all sorts of fun topics and challenges - tomorrow's is "orange and black." But I'm stumped on a quick, vegetarian, sweet or savory, dish that I can make this evening? Any thoughts? Thanks!

Joe's Chimichurri-Pumpkin Bowl from today? It has pumpkin and black beans!

Chimichurri-Pumpkin Bowl

I used much of the furlogh time to catch up with my vegetable garden's carrots, green beans and peppers and to cook from the pantry to save some money. Having a well stocked pantry, freezer and garden allowed me to dramatically cut my grocery bill while I was not receiving a paycheck.

Well done, sir/ma'am, well done.

I made the Baby Beet tarte tatin with regular beets and it was delicious. If you can't find/don't want to search for baby foods, just cut regular beets into small pieces and fib.

I have some plans to make herbed simple syrups for cocktails soon. I saw an article recently (may have been one of Carrie's; can't remember) that suggested using demerara sugar. I was thinking of trying just brown sugar, to add some nice molasses flavor. Has anyone tried that? I was thinking of flavoring the syrup with some hearty herbs: rosemary most likely, possibly sage or thyme. Thanks.

Yes! Go for it. I think messing around with sugar varieties can produce great results. Brown has been great with some whiskey drinks I've done, and you might try a honey syrup too. Nice, nuanced difference in your drinks, and particularly good and rich with the darker spirits that are so autumnal. Let me know what results you get! :)

We saved them, molasses popcorn balls, doughnuts for our friends.

As a millennial, I was annoyed by the headline of the article. I cook with a pan on the stove just like everyone else (or whatever is the kitchen equivalent of putting on pants one leg at a time). But then I read the article, and I agree with a lot of the observations. My grandma has her tried and true cookbooks from her favorite authors and uses the newspaper to find new recipes (and will occasionally snail mail me some!) I've never bought a cook book and rely on trusted recipe websites,and I've learned a lot of tips from reading user comments. Also agree that it's very easy for us to learn to cook ethnic food, with access to many ethnic groceries stores and cooking classes. My grandma still considers olive oil "strange" and won't cook with it :)

Make what you have time to make, but in mini versions. (Babies are mini people...well, sort of... work with me). Cheesecake in small squares instead of a full size serving. Mini muffins or mini cupcakes. Virtually any sort of tapas. Mini sandwiches/sliders/bbq (either on v. small rolls, or on regular bread cut into fourths like tea sandwiches). Salad/veg/crudite in individual (mini) serving cups on a tray. OR go with pink and blue something -- cookies, cupcakes, whatever.

I have whole, yellowed Food sections of your Thanksgiving issues. Cornbread stuffing with apricots and pecans, mac and cheese and Jaques Pepin and Julia Child's version of Thanksgiving, the same one broadcast every year on PBS. No Thanksgiving issue? Madness!

Just meant that we ate them immediately while still trick-or-treating, instead of taking them home where our paranoid parents would throw them out.

I'm a Gen Xer and I remember vividly how peeved I was in the 90s when everyone labeled me as "apathetic", "lazy", "directionless", "angst-ridden", etc. Just like the Boomer commented earlier in the chat, every cohort gets hazed. It's just the Millenials' turn now.

Lame-o Gen X-er here (although I'm apparently at the end of Gen X). After hearing the millennial term tossed around a lot I finally had to Google it to see what years qualified- and lo and behold, it's what used to be referred to as Gen Y, right? Ha! Anyway, I thought Bonnie's column was quite useful across all age groups! What would be your equally-convenient substitute for frozen shrimp if there were a shellfish allergy?

I guess Gen Y was too derivative. Thanks for your kind words -- and you seem to grasp that it was widely applicable. I guess maybe I'd say good-quality tuna, packed in oil. It's not just for casseroles and tunafish salad. 

I love roasting, love veggies, but my results have been inconsistent. It sort of depends on which online source I believed that day. Do you have a link or a title that you would recommend for good veggie roasting advice?

Not sure what may be the problem without knowing more here. But it's very simple process: Take vegetable, place on roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until slightly caramelized and tender.

Different density vegetables might call for different cooking times.  Give the hardest/firmest ones the longest time in the oven, then add the others later on.  And make sure things are cut at relatively the same size. 

Use the sauce from the Pork Chops with Root Beer and carmelized onions on WaPo

I ignore His FrownySmugNess. In their defense, when Jack Bishop was there they did a really good feature on Indian curries with a functional recipe you could use for lots of stuff. And their Jewish Rye recipe is the best I know of after trying a lot of them. Too bad medium rye is no longer available in grocery stores.

Well, some of  you have managed to send us scurrying for Advil and comfort food, so you know what that means...we're done! Thanks for a spirited discussion all 'round.  We are mulling our next special project: Emerging Trends Among Laid-Off Baby Boomers Toward Urban Foraging and Dumpster Diving, With Exotic Recipes. (Just a little joke.) 

 

And now for the prizes: The chatter who gave us another way to use corn tortillas gets a copy of "The Washington Post Cookbook: Readers' Favorite Recipes," and the chatter who asked about adding vinegar to pumpkin pancakes gets a copy of "The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook." Send your mailing addresses to becky.krystal@washpost.com, and she'll get those right out to you. Till then, happy (or happier) cooking and eating! 

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie Benwick is deputy editor of the Food section; joining us today are staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal and Spirits columnist Carrie Allan.
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