Dec 01, 2010

The Food section is in the holiday spirit. On this week's plate are gift ideas for food lovers and some of the year's best cookbooks.

Greetings, Nation, and welcome to today's chat. Got books, gifts, food science on the brain? Thinking about cookies? (One more week!)

We're here to help. And we're here to give books away to our favorite three chatters today, so get your wit going. (Humor always wins -- and helpfulness, too.)

Let's do this.

Thank you so much for the gift ideas! My mom has been expressing a facination with coarse baking sugars, so I'm getting her a few bottles in assorted colors and some fancy cookie cutters. Now she'll have something to do with the grandchildren!

They're very classy. That Amanda McClements, a k a Metrocurean, has a good eye.

I am making several varieties of cookies as a thank-you gift for some friends, and would like to include a few gingerbread people. Most of the recipes I've seen include shortening, which I'd like to avoid, if possible. Do you have a recipe that uses butter, or is shortening the better thing in them anyway? Thank you!

Here's our favorite, which uses butter.

Hey guys, thanks for all the cook book suggestions! I love finding new ones and some of these seem really great (Merry Christmas to me!) I also liked the food gift ideas, but I'm more interested in things I can make and give to my family. There's always cookies, of course, but I wanted to branch out, too. What are some other things that I can put together - condiments? Quick-bake breads? Mixes of some kind? I'm thinking things that don't have to be eaten right away. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

A few years ago, Nancy Baggett put together some great jar mixes for us:  Spiced Cranberry Biscotti-in Jars-Mix, Mulligatawny Soup MixMinestrone Soup Mix, Kneadless Pumpkin and Sunflower Yeast Bread Mix, Glazed Alsatian Honey Spice Bread Mix.  The last 2 are my favorites.

 

Where can I find haggis in the greater DC metro area? Either at a restaurant or at a butcher... thanks!

I believe that the easiest way for you to get haggis is to book a flight to Scotland.

The butcher at Let's Meat on the Avenue says he's never seen it sold fresh here. Scottish Merchant in Alexandria has it in a can; 15 ounces, $9.50.

Haggis in a can! YUM! ;-)

For Thanksgiving I tried Dorie Greenspan's Stuffed pumpkin recipe, and the pumpkin came out stringy, like spaghetti squash. It tasted ok, but the presentation wasn't great. Did I not cook it long enough? I had imagined that the pumpkin and stuffing would sort of meld together.

We had a similar recipe; little stuffed pumpkins. The pumpkin flesh needs to cook  a lot longer if you want it to be a fairly soft consistency -- which causes a bit of a problem because then the pumpkin itself looks a little caved in.

Hi! I've put up apple butter and a peach honey that never really set well so I'm calling it peach syrup. I'd like to mix up a large batch of a multigrain pancake mix, using buttermilk powder perhaps, and give a portion with each jar. Do you know of any multigrain pancake mix recipes I can make up in bulk? Any suggestions on packaging? I'm doing this for about 20 teacher gifts. Thanks!

I bet the dry ingreds from these Cornmeal and Dried Cranberry Pancakes would look nice in a jar.

Hi, Rangers, Just wondering if you've seen this "Tiki" electric pepper grinder and if you know if it does one little *poof* or an ongoing stream of fresh-ground pepper? (If the latter, what a bargain; if the former, what's the need for batteries?)

Actually, what's the need for batteries in general, when it comes to pepper grinding? With the exception of elderly or disabled cooks who aren't strong enough to twist, is this really something that requires electricity? You'd be much better off buying my favorite pepper grinder, the Magnum Plus. It's awesome. I've given it to many friends and family.

Finally got one, with a wood chip smoker and temp control ability. Now, what can I do with this other than turkey, chicken, pork? It's a Masterbuilt Butterball, if that matters? I am so doing a pork shoulder this weekend, just to see what the unit does. And there will be a fried smoked turkey on the Christmas menu. Will be at work during the chat but you'll be the first thing I'll pull up on the computer when I get home. Can't wait to see what else you guys are up to for the holidays.

Turkey, chicken, pork - what else can you do??? Sounds like plenty, for starters. But how 'bout fish? They'd go well, from what I understand. Truth is, and these are the hardest three words in the English language for most men to say, I don't know. 

I've had my eye on that bad boy for awhile, and even though it isn't all that pricey, all these toys add up. Long and short, I haven't test-driven one. I can only go on what I have read and seen.

Would love to know how your weekend cooking goes. 

Rangers, any of you had experience with this baby?

Unfortunately, my wife and I were unable to attend the recent Iron Chef event at the Grapeseed and I was wondering if you heard any feedback about how it went. We are new foodies and love the show and wonder how it would work in person.

Didn't hear anything. Any chatters go? The cookoff was between the departing sous-chef and the incoming sous-chef, and the new guy won.

In April and early May the Gun Club of Goldvein has Haggis made fresh from lambs on their property. You get whatever lamb gave the herding dogs grief that week.

I guess that makes sense! So for the haggis seeker, try contacting local farms that raise lambs/sheep.

Question does he support HSUS views that no one should ever have a pet?

Tim starts next week, but given that he and his wife had a longtime pooch, Coltrane (RIP), I feel safe in saying that the answer is no.

Does anyone know what happened to the old school freezer wrap? When I was younger my mom and I would make all of our cookie doughs in advance and wrap them in freezer wrap for longer storage in the freezer. I miss that - much easier than a ziplock bag approach.

It's actually back -- I've seen it at large Giant stores.

Hi - I really wanted to make the dressing/stuffing recipe that you included in the Sunday Food Section for Thanksgiving. However, the recipe calls for English Muffin bread - is that English muffins like Thomas' or is it something completely different. Do you know where I can find this bread? I had to pass for Thanksgiving but hope to make it for Christmas dinner. Thanks!

You can use the Thomas's English Muffin bread, sure. Or you want a very firm white bread with a dense crumb. Lots of folks were looking for it over the weekend. This product locator on the Thomas's site should help.

One commenter who raved about the recipe online says that Thomas' Breakfast Bread worked well.

Hi - I'm hosting Christmas this year, and intend to serve brunch for 10. For brunch, I usually make some things (baked egg dish, monkey bread, fruit salad), and buy some things (bagels, donuts, ham). However, I am not sure if I will be able to buy fresh bagels on Christmas day. Bagels are one of my main dishes - do you know if any bagel places will be open, and if not - - what can I do instead? Thanks!!

Boy, you'd think they would be. Whatsa Bagel in Gaithersburg and Bethesda is the only one I know of.  If that's not handy, perhaps you could pick up some par-baked bagels a day in advance, or just warm up the bagels you can buy on Christmas Eve. They should be fine.

Reynolds makes freezer wrap -- available just about all groceries here (Midwest).

So my Chinese mom was visiting for the holidays and she made fried rice as a side for our T-day dinner. Over the weekend, I made turkey stock from the carcass. I then chopped some leftover turkey, added the fried rice and stock and a little salt and pepper and we had a wonderful turkey rice soup. The flavorings from the fried rice with the little bit of chopped Va smoked ham, eggs, and scallions were a nice addition to the soup. I'll be doing this combination again!

Nice! I can see why you would.

I'm going to a Chanukkah party on Saturday night and would like to bring a dish that is in keeping with the holiday but I don't want to spend hours in front of the stovetop beforehand. Any easy to make, easy to transport ideas?

Bring this Roasted Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce and people will exclaim A Great Miracle Happened There.

Looks like my office is going to have a holiday bake-off again this year. I am so used to choosing baking recipes only by flavor that I could use some help with ideas for something visually appealing. I noticed a croquembouche recipe in this month's Fine Cooking, but I wonder if that would be too far in the other direction - all show, no go! Thanks!

I'm telling you, if you made a successful croquembouche, you could very well crush the competition. It's involved, but so much fun to make (and eat). I've done it for parties a couple of times, including when I graduated culinary school, and it's really hard to beat. Just make sure that you wait until the last minute to fill the cream puffs, or they could get stale/soggy. I filled mine with four different pastry creams for variety's sake: If memory serves, they were coconut, lemon curd, chocolate and something else, maybe ginger. People LOVED it.

How can you fry something without oil? Isn't this contraption really just a smoker?

It uses infrared/thermal heat to get the job done. No smoking involved.

Flour by Joanne Chang

Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter

Booze Cakes by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone

Thanks!

I like Joanne; we've got one of her cookies in next week's extravaganza.

And Jeff is cool; did you see our Gastronomer's take on his book this week?

OK, I know they're a little cheesy, but money's tight. I got my sister a decent bottle of sweet red wine, and I'd like to make something to go with it. Only we're traveling for a day in a small car, so it'll have to be a mix of some sort. The wine isn't a dessert wine, so brownies etc (while yummy) are not what I had in mind. Any suggestions?

Make these nice Wine Biscuits With Cracked Black Pepper, or throw the recipe and its dry ingredients in a nice crock.

After a few years of not eating a lot of meat, I decided to officially become a vegetarian (keeping eggs and dairy). While many of my meals have been meat free, I'm suddenly at a loss to replace proteins. What are some of the best, (and easy and if kid-firendly, even better) cook books (or apps) to get me started? Thanks!

You need to get former WaPo blogger Kim O'Donnel's "Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook." Chock full of good ideas for just such a thing. When she came through town recently, she made Bonnie this fab Tempeh Hoagie-letta that sounds right up your alley.

I've found Reynolds freezer paper at Giant and commissaries. 3M Freezer tape was another story-I did locate some at Strohsnider's hardware in Bethesda.

I've seen Menorah cake pans on-line. Make a menorah cake, put a candle in each candle of the cake and light four of the candles for Saturday night.

Bring jelly doughnuts - look up recipes for sufganiyot. People expect latkes, so surprise them. Or make some flatbread and paint za'atar oil on it while baking. Oil is the key. Anything cheesy or oily counts.

One very easy to make hors d'oeuvre that is a stand-by for me. Buy some bagel chips (or use Ritz crackers if you can't find good bagel chips), spread some cream cheese and put a small slice of smoked salmon on it. Warning, don't make too far ahead as the moisture in the cream cheese will make the crackers go limp. But if you don't have far to travel, it works well.

Christmas falls on Saturday this year, so the Kosher bagel places won't be open. I'd suggest either making your own (which isn't aall that hard though you have to boil them before baking if you want authenticity) or buying them before sundown on the 24th. Good luck.

For anyone who is looking for an interesting twist on doughnuts for Chanukah, it's become increasingly popular in Israel to fill doughnuts with a caramel cream instead of jelly. They're incredibly delicious and I highly recommend it!

I hear that you cannot real haggis here because the US banned imports due to BSE. Although I think the St Andrew's Society of DC might have events that serve haggis.

I want your BEST spiced nutes recipe! I use foamy egg whites instead of butter, cumin, sugar, cayanne. But it's just not popping the way I want. I like a savory spicey sweet mix.

I love these Smoky Almonds by David Hagedorn.

Congratulations on joining the ranks! I would DEFINTELY get a subscription to Vegetarian Times magazine--every month they have wonderful and healthy recipes. Check out their website to see what they have. You should also check out any of Deborah Madison's cookbooks. She is a genius with tofu (which can be prepared so many great ways that even the kids will love it). Finally, if you really want to get serious, check out Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It will require that you sit down for a few hours and go through it (it's huge but comprehensive). He really teaches you some basic techniques so that you'll be making your own recipes pretty soon. Good luck!

I am trying to do more weekly rather than daily food shopping. I think it will cut down an impulse buying and save money and calories. However in the meat section of my Giant the sell buy date is usually that day or maybe the next. Is this normal? Should I shop elsewhere or give up on weekly shopping?

Don't give up -- just learn to love your freezer. Here's a great graphic we ran last year explaining how to freeze lots of food.

I'm a novice baker and am hoping you can help with a very basic question - when freezing cookie dough, what's your favorite method of thawing before rolling the dough out out/rolling into balls? Just putting it in the fridge overnight? Leaving it out on the counter overnight? Thanks for your help - there's a lot of cookie baking in my future!

Then you will be happy to see our cookie issue next week! I think it's one of the best recipe collections we've had in years. For balls of dough, I usually form them, freeze on a baking sheet till they are individually firm, then transfer to a bag. I bake them straight from the freezer -- it just takes a little more time. When I know I'm going to freeze a dough, especially one that needs to be rolled thin, I roll it out between sheets of plastic wrap and freeze it flat, that way. Just makes things easier. If your dough has eggs or dairy in it, you should thaw it in fridge, not on the counter overnight.

even w/o a subscription (I read it monthly at the library) you can also get weekly recipes via email. Lots of great ideas there!

In my family, we draw names for a $25 gift. I drew my uncle, who's a big fan of smoked anything (but not much of a "foodie" otherwise)! I live out of town so I don't know much about his smoking rig, but I wonder if there's a tool or ingredient that would fit within that budget that would be useful. I noticed the poultry lifters Jim Shahin was using in the smoked turkey video and thought they looked pretty cool, but I'm open to any other ideas!

  First, thanks for watching the video. I thought only my mom watched it. (Mom, is that you?)

  Second, those poultry lifters are also great for pork shoulder and other big meats. So, they could be a gift. 

  Other ideas - a collection of different wood chips or chunks (cherry, apple, pecan), about $15-$20 for all three bags; grid lifter/hard-bristle grill cleaner, about $13; charcoal and ash scoop, about $20; a collection of locally-made bbq sauces from Rocklands or Pork Barrel BBQ. 

I could give you other ideas, but I am starting to give away my blog posts for December. Watch Smoke Signals, posted on Tuesdays this month. Each week's posting will have ideas on a specific theme (bbq books is next week; gadgets after that). 

 

So I'd like to make soups and cookies to give as holiday gifts...where can I get pretty jars and tins to put them in?

Secondhand shops are treasure troves if you have the time to scout around. I've found plenty of serviceable containers at, yes, The Container Store.

But there must be a jewish bagel shop open on christmas day!

Maybe a Jewish one wouldn't be open, because Christmas is on Saturday this year. :)

My 83-year old mother is a recent widow. She is a foodie and loves to cook and is a very good cook, but now that my father is gone, she has lost her interest in cooking. She's feels that it is no fun to cook for one. Do you have any gift suggestions on cooking-for-one books that may inspire her and bring that enjoyment back into her life? Thank you so much.

She needs Judith Jones' great "The Pleasures of Cooking for One." I wrote about her when she came to town last year; we took some other single cooks shopping and then Judith cooked. Her take sounds very much like your mother's, so I think your Mom would identify. I'm coming out with my own book on the subject next spring, but not in time for gift-giving season. (Maybe next year!)

Actually, we have several large dollar stores that have a selection of jars and tins for packaging holiday gifts. I'd start there.

I hate that "everything is beige" syndrome (turkey, potatoes, corn, bread, stuffing, corn pudding, yams). Need more green dishes (got red covered with my cranberry relish).

That was why our Thanksgiving menu this year offered more color: the pale green and pink of the avocado and shrimp salad; Concord grape dumplings; that fab mole for  the turkey.

I'll clarify the bagel on Christmas discussion: Any Orthodox Kosher bakery won't be open on Christmas for most of the day because they are not allowed to be open on Sabbath. However, there are some bagel places that may open Saturday night after Sabbath ends (around 5:30 this time of year).

Actually, along the same lines of the bagel thing, most Orthodox Jews won't be going out for Chinese food the night of the 24th because the kosher Chinese places will all be closed for Sabbath! I guess I'll have to cook my own Chinese food that night.

You could always reheat the stuff in a pan, add commercial pectin, then re-bottle. Worked for me years ago with mulberry jelly that turned out like syrup.

I am an avid cook and I usually love cooking inventive dinners every night, but we just moved into a new home about a month ago and I have yet to feel like cooking. I'm tired to takeout and leftovers---I need some inspiration! Any suggestions to get me out of my rut?

 I feel ya. Sometimes I go into a just-don't-wanna-cook phase, too. Don't know if this will work for you, but I find that I go to the things that are easiest for me, that are deeply comforting, and that I have always loved. 

For example, one of my go-to dishes is Philly-style red gravy (spaghetti sauce) with homemade meatballs. I love the way the house smells. There is something satisfying about putting together the meatballs and rolling them into perfect (or imperfect) balls. And I like that, in the version I learned, thin pork chops are added to the sauce - when they are very tender, the sauce is done. I love waiting for that moment.

Then, of course, there is the eating it. All of that, the cooking, the smells, the tactile nature of making the meatballs, the sharing with family rekindles my interest and, within a few days I'm back into playing in the kitchen. 

You might try it with whatever dish is relatively easy for you to make and that you love, see how it goes. 

Having a hard time finding greens that are sold "loose" as opposed to pre-chopped/washed and sold in those plastic bags. Any suggestions for where I can find, say, spinach, that I bag myself? Whole Foods, maybe?

Asian markets are a good place to shop for unbagged produce.

As are the year-round farmers markets, such as Dupont Circle's on Sunday.

Any thoughts on a festive drink that can be made in advance for a large crowd? The only thing I can think of is sangria, but that just seems so summery to me (but let me know if it doesn't to you!). Unfortunately, the party is taking place in a location without a constant heat source so something warm on the stove doesn't work.

This will be stealing a little fire from an upcoming effort by Spirits columnist Jason Wilson, but he recently told me he likes to put a punch together to serve as guests are arriving. He's added several good ones over the years to our Recipe Finder database. This link will give you a list of 9.

Submitting this early because I am six hours ahead of you ( in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina) visiting my family and our dinner is almost on the table. It has been raining or "wet-snowing" since I got here ten days ago. Sightseeing is out of the question, so we are cooking and cooking. I was asked to make an "all-American meal" in a rather strange kitchen with rather limited tools sans sharp knives, FP and many familiar ingredients. Because I had no cookbooks I turned to your treasure trove, RECIPE FINDER (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/foodanddining/recipes/search/index.html) and thanks to all of you I have a good cook! My reputation started to grow because of Joe Yonan. I made an apple strudel. I made it because they had lots of apples and philo pastry is easily available. I remembered Joe recommending Rose Levy Beranbaum's method of dealing with apples that prevents them from being soggy. And voila, first success! Then I went through the recipe finder and made Bonnie-tested Marcel's Roasted Farmhouse chicken. The chicken here is so good, I also made Jaques Pepin's Crusty Chicken Thighs with Mushroom sauce. Mushrooms here are amazing. I have a kilogram marinating according to Bonnie-tested Pickled mushrooms recipe. Two more days to go before we taste. Also made and loved David's Celery root and Apple Salad and Andreas's Pumpkin soup with Croutons (used left over cooked pumpkin from Dorie Greenspan's "Pumpkin stuffed with everything good). Tomorrow will try your veal chops and the next day Jane Black's Arroz Caldo. (I will sure miss her articles in WaPo) Next Wednesday I will be reading Food section at home, this is just a note to say thanks for being in whatever kitchen I cook. Happy holidays.

Okay, I think I love you.

Get in line, Bonnie.

Although there may be non-kosher bagel shops (but still owned by Jews) opened on a Saturday...that being said, I've found from many years of experience that very fresh bagels frozen immediately and then baked/defrosted taste pretty amazing just the same. But they key is to get them very fresh and then freeze them immediately.

This is true. And we cut them in half before freezing them, don't we?

I accidentally made way too much brown basmati rice a couple of days ago. Can I use it for the rice salad recipe in today's paper? We'd add some protein, too.

Yes it would be fine.  Maybe warm it up first? I think the dressing kind of soaks into the rice a bit. I just love that recipe. So simple but great.

Have you tested/do you have a position on pie weights vs. pie chains vs. home-made alternatives (e.g., beans, etc.). For Thanksgiving, I used polished river stones from a crafts store (the kind intended for floral arrangements or crafts or whatever). Why? Because they were handy. Worked quite well. But I am willing to put pie weights on my Amazon wish list... just wondering if there are any clear "best" options or if they all much the same. Thanks.

I use coins, cause I always have some around, and they work well. I don't think you need to spend money on this...

I used loose, dried beans this year and they seemed to work fine...

Yep! Beans, coins, stones. They all work.

This is becoming a perennial question for me, more so now that Daruma has closed in Bethesda: Where can a non-driver in D.C. find Asian ingredients in a Metro-accessible store? The International aisle at the Safeway and Giant don't cut it for me. Thanks for you help!

I feel your pain. I don't have a car, but I do use Zipcar to get out to the H Mart periodically for my kimchi (and double-dark soy sauce and fish sauce and oyster sauce and pickled garlic and bonito flakes and seaweed and and and) fix. But I do see that Julia Watson over at Eat Washington includes a market called Korean Korner on her list of fave ethnic markets, and looks like they have a good kimchi selection. I plugged it into Metro's Trip Planner, and you can get there by train/bus combo from downtown DC.

Make sure that the tin is either designated as food-safe, or that it is well-lined with a food-safe material before you put mixes or cookies or whatever into it. Many of these tins are designed to look pretty but contain substances that aren't good for you...better safe than sorry.

A good point to make.

Bonnie answered both of my questions today and was very helpful - one of the many reasons I love this chat!

:) there is no relative of mine who participates in this chat.

How about homemade vanilla extract? Just plunk some vanilla beans in vodka and let them chill out for a while (I'm sure you can find a more detailed how-to on the web). If the recipient is not a baker, then just call it vanilla-infused vodka.

Yes!

I use (and re-use) dried beans, lentils, but may be overdoing it. Should the pie shell be filled to the top (3 cups of beans) or would just a thin layer do the job?

Just a single layer works. All you're doing is holding down the crust while you blind bake so it doesn't puff up.

I found glass flat marbles for floral arrangements sold at Walmart that were pretty cheap (a couple of dollars for a bag). They work pretty well. Over the last 8 years, I've had one or two crack from the heat and then I just throw it out. Haven't had a problem and I've only had a few crack. Works fine for me and a lot less expensive than the things designed for baking (chains and weights).

Sure!

I actually don't...That way when they are heated in the oven, you don't miss out on that crispy outside and warm inside...but that's just me.

Well I'll be a....

Farmers markets are indeed great for that. The Yes! Organic at Georgia and Taylor NW also has loose greens.

In searching for a Christmas gift for my boyfriend, a blooming chef and foodie, I decided to purchase a Wusthof 8-inch chef's knife - a tool, I am told, that any chef would be happy to have in the kitchen! Now, I'm trying to think of fun gifts to go with the knife that won't break the bank. Thoughts?

A classic go-together item: a good cutting board or cutting board set. In addition to plastic and traditional woods, there are some eco-friendly bamboo cutting boards out there that you might check out. 

It's not impossible to find haggis in the US: there's a restaurant in Boston that serves their own (The Haven in Jamaica Plain) and a butcher (Savenor's, a favorite of Julia Child's) that makes it as well. Guess it's just harder to find in DC.

Oh, now you've gone and made me miss Boston by bringing up Savenor's. Sigh.

OK, I just wanted to share a funny story with you guys. I had a huge baking fail this weekend when I tried to make sugar cookies for my husband - the dough was all crumbles! No adhesion at all. I didn't even bother to try to roll the dough because there was just no way it would stick together. I've been thinking and thinking as to what could have gone wrong and even was just now preparing a question for you guys to see if you knew. Turns out I'm an idiot - as I went to get the recipe to post in my question, I realized it called for 1 cup of butter, not 1 stick. Oops! I'm going to bet that was my problem. Still doesn't beat the time I forgot to add water to my instant oatmeal before putting it in the microwave....

The butter thing can get all of us. My friend and I make batches of round challahs for the Jewish New Year and for about 3 years we made with twice as much butter as was called for. (This was an old family recipe of hers, written out.) I guess we compensated by adding extra flour, but when we figured it out, it sure made a happy difference.

OK, follow up on a question from some time back, re. organic vs. local milk. I typically get organic milk from my preferred large grocery chain store. BUT, I'd rather get milk locally. So happens we have a local dairy farm which sells its milk (ice cream, etc.) through their dairy store (it's a local tradition w/ a long history). At any rate, I was able to find out that they don't give their dairy cattle any hormones or antibiotics (unless sick, then milk is quarantined). They don't feed their cattle organic feed, BUT, they do grow the corn and hay that the cows get (in fields you can actually see!) -- so no animal by-products in the feed. AND the cows do get to be outside -- we pass one of their barns all the time, you can see the cows outside. SO, even though not truly "organic", my take is that it's better to go local. (Not to mention that they sell their milk in glass bottles, and also offer chocolate and strawberry milk that they can't keep in stock!). PLUS it's much cheaper than store milk ($1.75 for 1/2 gallon). So I'm leaning toward local, even though it's not organic. Your take on it?

I've always been one for local over organic. I mean, it's great if it's both, but getting organic certification can be too onerous for some small farmers, so I ask questions and feel great about buying from those that don't use pesticides but aren't certified.

Don't forget the small Thai store in downtown Silver Spring on Thayer. 10 minutes from Silver Spring metro. Not just Thai, either. Not a patch on H Mart or Korean Korner, but metro-accessible and friendly.

They have kimchi?

There's an Asian grocery and furnishings store across the street from the Gallery Place Metro stop, on I think 7th St NW, two doors up from where the CVS is under endless renovation. I find lots of ingredients there that I can't find elsewhere in DC -- but not fresh veggies, unfortunately.

Any kimchi?

IMO and IME, rum and vanilla beans make a nicer extract.

OMG, TUVM.

The H-Mart in Wheaton is within walking distance of the Glenmont Metro station. It's about 3 long blocks (about 10 min) walk South of Glenmont. I have a friend who lives near that metro station that says that it isn't a bad walk from the station down to the H-Mart (Han Ah Reum) It's a pretty good store...I used to go there regularly before we got a good Asian market in Laurel (the old Giant at MD-197 and Contee Rd is now a Super Grand with a ton of Hispanic and Asian foods)

Hallelujah! Thanks!

I also prefer to use local--if you aren't sure about a farm's practices, check out localharvest.org. Not only does it provide you with a bio of the farm, summary of its produce, where you can get it, etc, but it tells you about their farming practices, i.e. organic, no pesticides, animal friendly, etc.

And a lot of rivetingly fascinating frozen fishy things. And all the standard stuff. Low on fresh produce, but they do have kimchi. Then you can get some kimchi at giant and safeway these days too. Not to mention whole foods and the other biggies

Thanks -- but I don't mean that kimchi in a jar at WF and other grocers. I'm talking the freshly made stuff, which H Mart and the like excel at.

I think the Asian grocery on 7th St NW does have kimchi, but in glass jars -- heavy to carry on Metro. (I know I've seen kimchi in glass containers somewhere and that seems the likely place.)

Great little kinda run-down international supermarket that's right near a bus stop. Whenever I'm in the area I pick up their kimbap or dumplings (hot or cold to be heated at home). They also have a decent selection of non-Asian spices and ingredients (African, Jamaican, Hispanic, etc.). Don't be intimidated by the store looking a little sketchy on the outside, it's a great place to get cheap, seasonal produce and foods you won't find at the regular supermarket.

I'm so there.

Get him a set of inexpensive flexible cutting boards. For years, I didn't have one, but a few years ago, got one and love it. You cut on the board, then can easily move the board, including bending to a funnel shape to pour cut objects into smaller objects, bowls, containers, etc. Also, at the hardware store you can get a nice knife sharpener that will actually sharpen the edge (see America's test kitchen video on the differences between bending the edge and sharpening the edge). You can get each of these items for under $10.

But joe-oe, you didn't specify. I think the SS place does have some unjarred kimchi.

Well, now you know! (And so do I.) Thanks...

I want to make a special dessert for an upcoming work-related holiday party. My idea is to make a layer cake, with alternating layers of brown butter-hazelnut financier and hazel nut dacquoise, held together with mocha buttercream. I've never made (or even eaten) dacquoise before, and I saw it suggested on a blog that it can get soggy and turn chewy. Is this true? I'd have to make this cake several hours ahead of when it would be eaten, and I wouldn't want that to happen.

I think  with a time frame of a few hours you'd avoid Soggytown. But if there's a way to assemble the layers just before serving, why not do that?

Are they called wine biscuits b/c of the wine in the recipe, or b/c they'd be good wtih a glass of wine? And, the recipe notes that bread flour makes them crispier.. so if I used all purpose flour (KA) will I get a more tender result (which we'd sort of like, I think?) These would be a gift for wine-loving friends, as well as a thing to have on hand for casual entertaining here. Thanks.

They are made with wine, and meant for serving with wine. To me, the bread flour gives them a little more heft.  You don't have to worry about tenderness here.

Mr. Shahin, Thank you! My husband made your superb bourbon-brined turkey this past weekend and we enjoyed it for two days and have vacuum-sealed the leftovers to enjoy later. He did tweak the recipe to smoke the turkey using the offset smoke box which took 7 and a half hours. He wasn't quite the believer that he could "smoke" a turkey at that high a temp in that short a time frame. Whatever the method, thank you again for the terrific recipe. It was considerably better than the oven-roasted turkey we enjoyed at my aunt's on Thanksgiving! Looking forward to trying more of your recipes.

Gotta tell ya, that is music to my ears. I smoked the turkey on a Weber because I figured more people have Webers than offset smokers. However, I have smoked turkeys in the past on an offset smoker and, yes, it took longer (more like 5 hours than 7, but might be the size of the turkey). 

Anyway, a friend tried my recipe on an offset and had all sorts of problems. I've been feeling responsible ever since. So glad to know that yours worked out. Glad you liked the brine recipe, too. 

If you freeze them, you may as well toast them. Feh.

And what's wrong with a toasted bagel, the Breakfast of Champions?

Tracee Hamilton, the 9:30 am sports chatter & staff sportswriter, was looking for chocolate bark for melting to dip peanut butter balls. She says that in her home state of Kansas it's ubiquitous, but she can't find it here at all. Can you help?

Maybe they call it that in Kansas? I'll check into it. C'mon back next week.

Is there any way to make latkes and reheat them without getting soggy? The problem is I only will have access to a microwave, not a stove/oven/toaster oven.

Oy. A microwave won't do. You need dry heat. Sorry to get to this late; I bet our chatters would have been more helpful!

My cranberry sauce did not gell properly this year. I've been using the same recipe for thirty years (Ocean Spray), so am puzzled about this (I used fresh--not frozen--cranberries and followed the recipe exactly). However, I'd really like to know what I can do with all these cranberries and juice. I've probably got about four cups to use up. Any thoughts? Many thanks.

When life hands you too many cranberries, make cranberry chutney. 

Oh. Guess what? Just so happens we're working on a recipe for cranberry chutney. If you can't wait until it comes out later this month, I recommend adding some toasted pistachios, a little freshly grated ginger, a half-teaspoon or so of cayenne (or more if you like things spicy), about a half-cup of raisons, a little sugar, a bit of salt, and you will have a pretty great facsimile of what I modestly call The World's Greatest Chutney. 

Help! I'm making a roasted ham for a Holiday Party this weekend, and I just fully read the recipe and it says to have a pre-cooked ham. Is this how they are normally sold? For a 12 pound ham, how long should it roast? I'm trying to keep it traditional with the good old pinapple rings and cherries. Thanks!

Yes, they are normally sold pre-cooked. (Hint: It may come wrapped in foil.) Are you glazing it? In this recipe, which I highly recommend, a 5-pounder takes 3-4 hours.

Where is it?

Follow previous linky-link.

Well, you've used a slotted spatula to transfer us to individual plates, have discarded the oil, and sprinkled each of us with a little lemon juice and zest, plus a little flaky salt, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for playing today. Hope we helped!

Now for our book winners. The Christmas brunch host who started off the bagel discussion by talking about looking for them will get "Sweet Magic" by Michel Richard. The office worker planning to enter the holiday bakeoff (and maybe make croquembouche) will get "The Perfect Finish" by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark. And the chatter who admitted to being bored with cooking will get "My Cooking Class: Pasta Basics," which hopefully will inspire. Send your mailing info to food@washpost.com, and we'll get them to you!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, and reading...

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