Jan 26, 2011

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. You can share your thoughts on the latest Washington Post Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way.

Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range! Today we've got meat on the brain, thanks to Bonnie's Charcutepalooza story and Andreas's tale of long-cooked ribs. We're also hungry for lunch, now that David Hagedorn has tempted us with his latest Real Entertaining menu.

What are you hungry for?

We have special guests Cathy Barrow (aka Mrs Wheelbarrow) and Kim Foster (aka The Yummy Mummy) in the house to answer any and all q's about their Year of Meat project. And Andreas and David are popping in to lend a hand, too.

We'll have prizes to entice you, two meat-oriented books for our favorite two posts: "Lobel's Meat Bible" by STanley, Evan, Mark, and David Lobel; and "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes" by Jennifer McLagan.

Let's go!

What is the downside of having temps too cold when curing meat? My closet is 60% humidity but hovers around 40 degrees. Thank you.

When I started curing, I made duck breast prosciutto. The garage temperatures dipped to 40°, and the meat felt too cold to cure. I don't know the science, but I could tell the process had changed. That's when I bought the little wine fridge - I can control the temp & humidity that way.

Whenever I make my own pizza sauce, it tastes great but is orange rather than a deep red. Why is that? Do I need to add tomato paste? I've found no matter what variety of fresh tomatoes or even canned tomatoes, my sauce is always orange. It tastes good, but I'd like it to look good, too.

I wouldn't worry about the color, really. Can't improve on the taste of a ripe tomato.  Fresh sauces have an allure all their own. But if you're looking to achieve that deep red, part of the equation is lo-o-o-o-ng cooking; at least an hour, bubbling at the edges. Reduce and concentrate the flavor. Tomato paste and red wine certainly add depth.

Chatters, what are your pizza sauce secrets?

I love this grater but they should be sold with a box of band-aids! Whenever I use it to grate hard cheese - parmesean reggiano for example, it always slips and I end up grating my fingers instead. Ouch! What is the trick to do this safely? I am right-handed. Do I hold the cheese in right hand and swipe it against the grater in my left, or hold the cheese in left hand, and grate with the right. Or give up and go back to my old standby grater dime-store variety gadget that doesn't eat fingers?

Ah, I have torn up knuckles right now from another grater. This is always such a problem! With Microplanes and Parm I usually don't have an issue, cause I'm able to hold the cheese in my palm and keep my fingers away from the narrow grater, but maybe you should try doing this in reverse/upside-down, the way Thomas Keller taught us to do with limes. Hold the cheese in one hand and turn the grater upside down and drag it across the cheese rather than dragging the cheese across the grater. Your cheese will gather in the grater instead of falling through it.

Or, and this would be foolproof, buy some of these. I may do that.

About 10 years into our marriage my husband decided to become a vegetarian. That was OK. I have toyed with being a vegetarian and although it is not for me there are many vegetarian meals that I can make and when I want meat we eat separately. Then my husband realized he was allergic to soy and dairy, A little more challenging. Now he has been diagnosed with GERD which means no garlic, onion, hot peppers or nightshade. I have thought of pureeing lentils and adding to pancake batter for lentil pancakes. Pureeing broccoli or winter squash with some non-dairy milk to make a pasta sauce. Any suggestions for recipes?

We're a carnivore/vegetarian household, too, and I've been able to avoid too many nights of cooking two meals by considering meat as a garnish. Without soy, dairy and garlic and onion, I'll admit, I would be challenged. I would look to Vegan cookbooks for guidance and explore ethnic cuisines.

How long will it stay good for? It was put in the freezer right away. Also - thaw first in the fridge before cooking, or cook frozen?

Can you clarify? It was in the freezer and  now it's in the fridge, defrosting?

I just got a new trifle bowl and would love some fun ideas. I've got the usuals down pat, but is there anything super creative or impressive I can do with it? Love the chats!

I make trifle with whatever kind of cake or cookie might be in the kitchen. Pound cake is great. But so are day-old donuts. Add great jam and plenty of booze and creme anglaise or whipped cream.

I'm normally pretty good about getting a lot of veggies in my diet, but my boyfriend is struggling a bit. I try to keep them creative, but that can be hard to do when I'm also trying to keep them relatively dairy-free and healthy. Yes, vegetables are inherently healthy, but the old saute in olive oil and top with sea salt is getting old. Do you know of any cookbooks that is all (or mostly) veggie mains/sides where the focus is on keeping them light and healthy?

I'm liking the new "Cooking Light How to Cook Vegetarian."

I use a ton of sliced veggies but in small quantities. I don't think I need a full mandolin slicer but having tried to slice mushrooms with an egg slicer didn't work. Any ideas?

How bout the Super Benriner, smaller Japanese mandoline? I think that would suit your needs just fine.

Although, I have to ask, how thin are you wanting things? You should be able to get 1/4-inch slices with a good old knife without too much trouble. You might need to practice, but it's a good skill to have.

If I don't have a pizza stone, pizza peel, broiler, or grill, what's the best way to cook a pizza? Basically, how should I cook a pizza in my oven?

You don't have a broiler? Are you sure? Your oven doesn't have a broiler setting at all? That's my favorite technique for pizza at home. You heat up a cast-iron skillet or grill pan on the stove top until it's blistering, then you turn it over, put the pizza right on the back of it, and put it under the broiler. It also works with a long-preheated pizza stone, placed under the broiler.

If you don't have a broiler or any of those other things (and don't want to get them), I'd suggest that maybe you skip the oven entirely and make a pan-fried pizza.

I love the stove top pizza/broiler concept.

I do something similar that I got from Mark Bittman which is to pan fry the dough in the pan until it's crisp, flip it, add your toppings and cheese and cover. The bottom should be done about the same time the top gets gooey. 

But next time, I'm trying the broiler. 

Hi, I need a cookie recipe that will stand up to royal icing. I want to make those big thick cookies that you find in cookie bouquets or at specialty stores. Frankly I don't care if they taste awesome, because those never taste that great, but I do want them to look super cool once iced. Thoughts? Thanks!

I think it's a shame to make any cookie that doesn't taste great! Martha Stewart has a very good basic cookie on her site.

Just to clarify, I do have a broiler function, but it doesn't work. Oops. Thanks for the pan-fry pizza idea. Looks good!

Gotcha. Hope you like it!

I was so excited to enter at the beginning of January and have an excuse to buy Ruhlman's book. But now that I've seen the first two challenges and flipped through the book, I'm worried about my ability to do these. I live in a one bedroom apartment with no garage, backyard and no wine fridge and the heat is controlled remotely by the landlord. How will I air dry or smoke anything? I'm worried I'm going to kill myself with bacteria. I really want to do this!

In a one room apartment your options are limited, to say the least. But I have made a perfectly acceptable guanciale in my fridge. And if you get hold of a Smoking Gun, a hand-held mini smoker, you can smoke more or less everything.

Kim and I have worked long and hard to develop a year of challenges that will be possible for even the most urban apartment dweller. There's no obligation to do every challenge, just to have fun when you're able to play. This month, you could make bacon without a curing cabinet, a garage or a basement. Regarding fears of bacteria, we've got great advisors helping us out. Michael Ruhlman will be posting a treatise on safety next week.

Here's the important thing about this little meat movement - you are not alone.

I have those same fears and I've often thought over the past few weeks I was a little nuts to do this. But you are surrounded by people who love this and people who will help you. We'll help you.

If ever there was a good time to take a deep breath and a big leap and challenge yourself, it's with 200 other meat maniacs who will have your back. 



My question has nothing to do with my favorite beer, although I couldn't be happier about the news! Eating too much salt messes with me, so I try to reduce it as much as I can. Are there any guidelines for when it cannot be eliminated from a recipe? I am guessing that baked goods might need it for reasons other than taste?

Cheers for beers are welcome on this chat. Salt is  not required for baked goods -- even some bread in Italy is specifically salt-less.  Avert your eyes when watching TV cooks toss a small handful of salt in to flavor each added ingredient. You really don't need to that at all. And in particular, when you cook fish, wait till the end to season with salt. Flaky finishing salts such as Maldon give you a big bang for a relatively small amount. I think Editor Joe's recently glommed onto the fabulousness of Maldon smoked sea salt....

Yes I have...

I have a large ham bone in the freezer left over from the holidays. I have a nice recipe for country bean soup, but I've made it once already this winter and my youngest child hates beans anyway. Any other ideas for using it in the soup/stew pot (preferably not split pea)?

I don't know your religious leanings (if any), but we are approaching Lent, which is when those fine eaters down in New Orleans start making green gumbo. It features a ham bone. It also makes good use of winter greens. Here's a recipe I found from the New Orleans Cookbook.

I've forgotten to ask this the last two weeks - is it safe to microwave food in margarine tubs? The tub in question has a five in the recycling symbol and says on the side not to freeze, although that could be because it's an olive oil-based blend. Thanks!

Absolutely not. Use only containers that are labeled "microwave safe." Here's what nonprofit food-safety group NSF says:

  • Only use cookware that is specially manufactured for use in the microwave oven. Glass, ceramic containers, and all plastics should be labeled for microwave oven use.
  • Never use plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, take-out containers, whipped topping bowls, and other one-time use containers for cooking or reheating food in your microwave. These containers are not heat resistant and can melt, possibly leaching harmful chemicals into your food.
  • Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper, and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe to use. Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, or aluminum foil in the microwave.

would you please tell us more about the trip to Paris and how you found the judges? Thank you.

We are so excited to have announced the trip to Paris and Gascony yesterday. Trufflepig  is a boutique travel experience company - the name and their exciting business model seemed perfect. Kate Hill at Camont in Gascony has a well respected butchery and charcuterie school. She came to us, almost immediately, with the offer and we are SO GRATEFUL.

The judges - Michael Ruhlman is the author of our guiding book - Charcuterie. Bob delGrosso had already agreed to host our TwitterChat, Matt Wright has a very well-respected charcuterie blog. Ariane Daguin is a leading spokesperson for humane farming and healthy meat. And Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs are just great wonderful generous people. I knew them through Food52 and they said Yes when I asked. We're so so lucky to have such a prestigious panel.

Back to the whole Duck Prosciutto business, I have mine out in a storage closet with a very large bowl of heavily salted water. I, too, am afraid that it's going to be too cold (maybe I'm just paranoid? Very possible). What are your options if it is? Leave it go a little longer? Scrap it?

Give that duck breast a squeeze. It should have a little give, still. Not be as dry as jerky. The fatty side won't dry out, only the meaty side, so that's where you want to poke. Remember, it's already cured (with the salt) and you won't get botulism. Really. Bob delGrosso told me so.

I recently made my first successful souffle using a pan I received for Christmas. I made a classic grand marnier souffle using the recipe in the Joy of cooking, but increased the number of egg whites (and yellows) because of my extra large souffle pan. It was beautiful and delicious but, dare I say, too liquier-y. I wonder if I could make the same orange souffle but omit the liquor and keep the orange rind (maybe increasing it?) or would I need to add aditional orange liquid in some form? And speaking of orange rind, I have been looking to no avail for a challah recipe which has some orange rind. Do you know of any? Or would you just add some rind to the challah dough? At what point in the process? How do you think that would turn out?

Good for you. I'd keep that same amount of liquid in the mix, but maybe sub half or all with orange juice? And if you like the taste of orange, sure, increase the orange zest. Check out this very clear souffle walk-through from Nathalie Dupree. Love her.

As for the challah, add the zest (a teaspoon or two) when you add the dry ingredients; since the bread will be sweet, maybe toss in a tablespoon of honey?


Just as an FYI: The number inside of a recycle symbol indicates what kind of plastic the container is. It's also known as the resin identification code.

Yep indeed.

I love cinnamon and among other things, use it quite generously in my morning oatmeal. I've heard that the cinnamon found in most stores is actually cassia, and that true cinnamon is much better. I've found the true cinnamon online and it doesn't actually seem any more expensive than what I usually get in the grocery store--except that I hate paying shipping, especially on something that's only a few bucks to begin with. So is it worth it? And if yes, is there any reason I shouldn't get a 16 oz bag? I go through it pretty fast, but don't want it to lose its flavor before I get to it. I'm taking about ground cinnamon, not sticks.

John Martin Taylor taught me to freeze true cinnamon, whose sticks are softer than those double-curled 3-inch things you'll find in a grocery-store-aisle spice jar.  Penzeys Spices (in Falls Church and Rockville; online at http://www.penzeys.com) sells the equivalent of a quarter-cup of its Ceylon cinnamon for less than $4. The best spice for the job is available for a song at many Latin markets or found in the international aisle of larger grocery stores. That's what I have lots of now and grind it as I need it, so I don't buy already-ground cinnamon anymore. Economical, and great aromatherapy!

I absolutely love roasted sweet potatoes, but am looking for a new way to kick them up a notch. Normally I go one of two ways - slightly sweet with brown sugar or slightly spices with cumin/paprika. They are definitely what I consider a cozy winter lunch on the side of some soup or a sandwich. Any updated suggestions or new spice combinations?

I use southwestern style seasonings and stir roasted sweet potatoes into black beans for a quick pseudo-chili. Great on a day like today. For even more fun, top it with an egg and some Sriracha.

I second that, and add the ideas of miso and curry. I used those in two recipes I developed for the CF1 column. The miso gets paired with ground pork and scallions (below), and the curry with coconut milk, shrimp and red pepper.

I was pleased to see the Maida Heatter cake recipe in today's Food Section, and your praise of her books. I've been making her "Black and White Pound Cake" recipe (from "Great Desserts") for my husband's family at Christmas for about 35 years - it hasn't failed me yet. I also like her biscotti recipes (especially the Palm Beach Biscotti, in one of her later books) and most of her cookies. She's very detailed and precise, but her directions are easy to follow, and almost everything I've made of hers has been delicious.

That Black and White Pound Cake is terrific, especially with a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream. Have you made the Walnut Fudge  Pie a la mode with Hot Fudge Sauce? I think I gained a pound just typing those words. BTW, that hot fudge sauce is one of the best I've ever tasted.

Since someone will undoubtedly ask for the recipe now that I've teased everyone, here it is:  Melt 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate with a tablespoon of butter and 1/3 cup boiling water, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup and a cup of sugar. Place that mixture in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring and let the mixture boil for exactly 8 minutes. Remove from heat, plunge the bottom of the pot in an ice water bath to stop the boiling, then remove from the bath and stir in the vanilla. Smasheroo!

The Chicken/Squash/Chickpea stew looks fantastic - can't wait to try it. I have a couple of questions - is there a quick way to access the Nourish recipes on-line? And do you have a good go-to cookbook for flavorful healthy meals?

Yep, the quickest way to access Nourish recipes in our Recipe Finder database is to click on the Advanced Search button and type in "Nourish." I just did and got 113 recipes. As for cookbooks with healthful recipes, a recent one that I'm kinda keen on "The Simple Art of Eating Well" and Martha Rose Shulman's "The Very Best Recipes for Health." There are many good ones these days...currently testing my way through a stack of 'em.

Hi! Hi! I did the home cured bacon without the pink salt. Last night I rinsed it off (it has been a week) and popped it in my 200 degree oven. It was getting late and I had to put my kids to bed, so after 2 hours I took it out of the oven and put in the fridge (and forgot to check the internal temp). Should I put it back in the oven today - back at 200- to make sure the proper temp was reached?

Slice off a piece and cook it. See how it tastes. Does it need more time to slow roast? If so, back in the oven for 30 min. (after it's come to room temp)

I have tons of venison in my freezer. Never sure what to make with it. Any ideas?

Do you know what cut? I love venison used in an Italian style sausage! Or try a traditional bolognese with venison, either ground or cut into chunks.

Thanks for the response - I cured the duck breasts in the chilly closet and they seem fine and taste good but look like awful. I have yet to post my photos but will get around to it this weekend. I also have loins curing in there and the bacon and pancetta is in the frig ready to come out this weekend. Onward! Kim Adams - blogs.gangofpour.com

Yay! Gang Of Pour is one of our Charcutepaloozers!

We make them all the time - and you don't have to have a stone or broil them, all you have to do is put them right on the oven rack, around 425. Helps to put foil underneath to catch any drippings. Get a couple of pizza pans, then make your raw pizza on it, and use a spatula to help you slide it off the pan and onto the oven rack. Then when it's done, pull the rack out, position the pizza pan at the edge, and use your spatula to help slide it back onto the pan. Then cut it and you're ready to eat.

Yep, good to know. I like going even higher on the temp, as in the broiler, but whatever works for you, keep on keeping on...


hi all. I asked this last week and apologize because I know you've answered it before, but I have no idea what to search for in your archives. Haven't you recommended a cookbook for the single guy learning to feed himself? I"m looking for something that will work for a guy in an NYC apartment with limited space and equipment. Unfortunately, Joe's Cooking For One book is a little too ambitious with ingredients. This needs to be super-basic. Thank you!

I think you might be surprised about some of the recipes in my book, which isn't out yet. My publicist recently asked me about 15-minute recipes to send to one publication that asked about that, and when I started going through, I found 20 that qualify! But for something immediate, you should look at the good old 'How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. Covers so much ground, and lots of basics in there. Not sure if he wants to go the following route, but there's also David Joachim's wildly popular "A Man, A Can, and a Plan" series you might check out.

Also, outside of books (assuming this isn't a gift), I love the food in GQ every month. I know, crazy. But their food, techniques and recipes are simple, flavorful and geared to men. I collect them in a folder.


During the winter, I like to get my veggies from homemade soups and stews. If you make the broth yourself, you can really limit the sodium. Also, you might want to look to recipes with winter squashes. Butternut squash is really versatile and tastes amaaaazing.

As a woman married to a Kansan who loves his barbecue, I'm very intrigued by the 48-hour beef ribs. Unfortunately my oven doesn't go down to 140 and I don't have space for any sous vide equipment (or even a big enough cooler to try the cooler hack for sous vide). Should I just go for the other rib recipe? We do pork ribs frequently, but I haven't yet tried beef ribs after eyeing them for over a year in the store.

Temperature is the crucial element for the 48-hour ribs. Unfortunately there is no way you can achieve the same result if your oven is much hotter. But when we tested the recipe for the restaurant we tried a number of different settings. If you think the flavor combiations used sound nice, it will still taste great. And the cooking time is significantly shorter. I dont have chart with me, but test it after a few hours. When it is so tender that it starts to fall apart, it is done. (To reduce uncertainty the dish can be made the day in advance and reheated.)

You picked up my question about marshmallows for your chat leftovers on All We Can Eat. After going round and round in circles (Should I use a raspberry puree? Seedless jam? Jelly? Candies?), it was great to get some advice from the recipe author and the experts at the Food Section!

You're welcome. Jane Touzalin, a Multiplatform Editor here, does a great  job with that All We Can Eat feature.

I've seen quite a lot of meat recipes around that have use pork and look delicious, but as someone who keeps kosher, it's obviously impossible to use pork. Can pork based recipes be easily adapted to beef across the board, or would changes need to be made?

I more often substitute lamb or (even better) goat when cooking for friends who don't eat pork.

I loved David's lunch article and menu. I'm very glad to hear Maida Heatter is still with us. I can vouch for the Kentucky Bourbon pound cake, our favorite. Everyone who bakes should have her Book of Great Desserts. About the menu, can the meat for tartare be ground in the KitchenAide meat grinder ok? I can't get pasteurized eggs, but I trust the local eggs we get for myself (and I'll be the only one eating the tartare), but the genius who finds a safe way to make Maida's Chocolate Mousse Pie will be my hero!

You know, as I expected, I actually got an email from a reader who asked if there were a substitution for the bourbon. Scotch came to mind, but she wanted to make it for children. I say, find another cake, right? At least no one asked to substitute the cake.

About the tartare: you can use the coarsest  die on the Kitchen-Aid to grind the meat, but still I prefer the texture you get by chopping by hand. If you freeze the meat to firm it up, it's a cinch to chop. Just cut thin slices, stack the slices, cut them into strips, turn the pile 90 degrees and then slice again.

The egg issue: to be honest, I mention the pasteurized thing basically because I have to, but I never use them.  If you buy good farm eggs, I don't think there is an issue. It certainly wouldn't stop me from making that pie!

I just lay out 4 unglazed red tiles in a 2x2 array, pre-heat in oven, then slide pizza onto them for a crispy crust bottom!

Yep, this is a tried and true method.

Several of these, which I have, are wonderful (nonveg husband loves all the things I have made so far) and healthy.

Did you ever think that the response via twitter would be so immediate and strong to something I can barely type #charcutepalooza ?

Ha! We had No Idea. Seriously. We're still pinching ourselves. I think Bonnie really hit the nail on the head when she said " a prime example of new culinary education where pros don't lead the pack, newbies aren't afraid to join in and no classroom time is required." It's like cooking school.

The CIA (the culinary one) put out a very nice vegetable cookbook called Vegetables. I like it because it specifically isn't a vegetarian cookbook, that is, the dishes aren't meant to be the main food in a meal. The list price is expensive, but I found a perfect used copy on Amazon.

I just bought a couple of bags of baby spinach, and it's just calling out to me for a wasabit vinagrette or a sesame ginger vinagrette, like they serve at japanese restaurants. I would love it if you had a recipe to share.

Love this one from chef Peter Smith of PS 7's. It uses crystallized ginger.

Remember Deborah Madison's "What We Eat When We Eat Alone". Lots of simple recipes to be found there.

Yep, a good one. I interviewed her about it, even. Thanks.

I use sea salt, rosemary, olive oil, black pepper, white petter, maybe a litte paprika, but that is optional. I also sometimes use panch phoron, unground, and a little oil and sea salt. That is amazing with whole roasted baby potatoes, too. (FYI, that is a Fenugreek seed, Nigella seed, Cumin seed, celery seed, Fennel seed blend)

Nice, thanks! Also, you're reminding me that I really like to make smashed/flattened potatoes, with sweets sometimes, too. Boil small ones till tender, then let cool a bit and flatten, then pan fry or roast until crispy-edged. With sweets, a little sweetness from honey and spice from ground chiles works quite nicely...

What kind of wine would you suggest for Honey Baked Ham? Last year we served a Rose and it was good, but we are really red wine drinkers and don't care for Piont Noir. ANy other options that you would suggest? Or just stick with a Rose?

Obviously you have done your research already and know that rose and pinot pair up well with the flavors of Honey Baked Ham. I'm no Dave McIntyre, and he may chime in later, but some quick research indicates that sommeliers sometimes recommend a Zinfindel to pair with the ham. That sounds like a rather large wine for the occasion, but it might be worth a try.

I have some chicken cutlets. Would this work in today's dish if cut into strips?

You mean the Dinner in Minutes?

It'd be better to use chicken breast halves and cut them in half horizontally. You want a piece that's about 4 inches wide.

Or not. Sure, use the cutlets but you'll shorten their cooking time, I think.

Hi, I purchased a membership in Arganica earlier this week. Have you guys heard anything about them? They're not a CSA, but work with other local farmers, bakers, etc, to get the food to members based on the order said member submits. Only trying it for 3 months, so not a huge committment, just curious if you or others had heard anything about them. Thanks!!

We have heard about it. In fact, my predecessor, Jane Black, wrote about Arganica about a year ago. She had some criticisms, but perhaps the company has ironed out the problems since then. You can read about Jane's experience here.

Yeah - I too have mine out in the chilly closet - but I squeeze it twice a day to make sure it's still ok, and it still has give. :-) I won't know for a week how it turns out - I'm just really paranoid. http://upstateadventures.blogspot.com

It should have some give. Otherwise it will be jerky, not prosciutto. I had to remind myself what Italian pork prosciutto looks like to understand what I was looking for in the finished product.

Thanks. While it's not all that easy to find kosher lamb around here (and I'm guessing goat is even harder) it's good to know that there's a way to adapt the recipes.

KOL meats is at many of the local farmers markets.

Hi gang! I would like to cook more fish at home, but the bf is picky about it. I'm looking for ideas that will ideally not smell up the house, not require a grill, and not be salmon based. Any ideas? Thanks much! Oh and sorry to ask a fish question on meat day :)

Fish tacos are a staple in this house. Cod, fluke or any simple white fish will work (and fresh fish shouldn't smell.)

Any inspired quinoa dishes you recommend? I have a box I have been meaning to use. Something veggie-heavy that could be a main dish?

Sorry, wording was confusing. It is in the freezer and has been for about 6 weeks. Is it too far gone? I was just wondering that if I can still cook it, if I need to defrost it first or cook as-is. I would also love a recipe if you have one up your sleeve...

Six weeks, no problem. It can go for at least 6 months. My mother used to keep a roast in the freezer for up to a year -- but then again she'd cook it till it was dead and gray. This Slow-Roasted Beef is a good way to go for perfect, medium-rare all the way through.

I bet the Gastronomer or D Hagedorn have some good ideas for your roast....

The most important thing is to defrost the meat slowly. (General rule, freeze it fast, defrost it slowly in order not to interrupt the muscle fibres too much.)

Six weeks in the freezer is not a problem. (Another thing to remember is to wrap the meat in plastic or foil to avoid drying out the surface.)

As for the recipe, any slow method will do. Use a meat thermometer and aim for a cure temperature between 155 and 160 degrees. (Or, for the more adventurous, try to adapt the 48-hour beef ribs.) Big, bold flavors work well, such as soy sauce, honey and ginger. Oh, and lots of garlic.

As a twofer, I can answer this question and chalk up a brownie point with the boss:  Have you tried Joe Yonan's chili con carne ? It's smasheroo.  I also like using beef shoulder for stew-y type things, like Ina Garten's Burgundy Beef.

I am now the proud owner of a souffle dish. Do you have any pearls of wisdom for a beginner? Any favorite recipes?

Huzzah. See my earlier reference to Nathalie Dupree's basic recipe. It is a veritable string of such pearls. 

This is the most recent one I made, and I liked it a lot. Wouldn't kick this bittersweet chocolate souffle outta bed, either. So to speak.

Seeing the photos of the pancetta makes me think of my mom's inspiration to make Cantonese duck for New Year's dinner at the beginning of this month. She was inspired when she was visiting over Christmas and was browsing through my cookbooks. Apparently, it was quite an issue about hanging the duck to dry without the cat getting to it, and all of the hoisin sauce and honey dripping off of it. I have to say I enjoyed listening to the tale, but wouldn't have wanted to have been part of the circus. From what I hear, it turned out to be a great success though.

When I was a kid, my mother decided to make Peking duck. The first instruction was hang a duck in front of a fan for 24 hours. The resulting activity, and attempt to hang the duck and keep the cats out was so hilarious. It's likely that was the inspiration for my DIY life.

Perhaps this dear man should become an active participant in the menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. It is illuminating and fun to learn to cook your own food. Sure, you make mistakes, and yes it is challenging for the main cook in the house to have someone else in the kitchen. But imagine what it would be like in, say, three months when Husband has eight solid recipes under his belt and makes dinner twice a week?

To get a better color, I would recommend that you take a small amount (2-6 oz depending on the quantity of sauce) and then carmelize it. It should turn a rich reddish brown...add that to your sauce and it should adjust the color and add flavor. I've often found what the paste really helps with with flavor and color when the fresh tomatoes just aren't enough.

This is likely due to using a blender or food processor to puree the sauce, introducing air. You can get around this by using a food mill.

I vary a lot between 1" and 1/8", depending on dish and mood but I do so much for soups/stews/big pots that I feel i spend too much time on it. Also, salad prep.

Gotcha. I'd get that Benriner.

Your husband's diet sounds like a strict Macrobiotic plan. There are lots of Macro cookbooks out there and it can be quite tasty.

I purchased Mr. Ruhlman's book about 3 months ago and have been fascinated by the Charcuterie "process" ever since. As a district resident I am always searching for steady supplies of quality, organic, humanely raised pork and beef for use in the recipies. Pork belly is especially hard to find... Any recommendations as to where I might be able find this type of meat?

You can source any of the meats you need at Stonyman Farmer in the Bethesda Women's Market. Just call or email - they need one week's notice. They're offering deals for Charcutepaloozers, too.

I love shrimp and think it's pretty easy to cook well, but I hate cleaning it. I don't mean the deveining, I mean the degunking. I find I'm so grossed out by it that I can't enjoy the finished dish. I tried buying cleaned, frozen shrimp, but I found once defrosted it was pretty gunky too. Is there a solution to this other than to buy pre-cooked shrimp from the seafood case?

What other gunk are you referring to, besides the deveining?

Obviously microplaning bigger pieces of cheese aren't a problem. With smaller pieces, I take a small fork with small tines (best is like a shrimp fork), spear the small cheese chunk and use that to grate...keeps the fingers away from the microplane.

I really feel for the woman who wrote earlier asking about veg protein options since there was a soy and dairy allergy. Koreans and Indians use a variety of lentils that are soaked, cooked and made into puree to make pancakes, stuff dumplings, form into balls and patties, and even use a stew base. Try moong, split pea, and chick peas first. Look up italian recipes using chick peas and favas. And there is always falafel and variations thereof. Good luck and good health.

Exactly! Excellent suggestion. A few weeks back I made some lentil balls for a chaat recipe and can't wait to make them again. They eat "like meat."

What are you favorite temples of charcuterie in DC (butcher shops, restaurants, etc)?

I'll admit that we don't go out that often, but last weekend, at Palena (in the bar) I had an amazing and beautiful pate campagne.

I think Peter Smith's charcuterie at PS 7s in Chinatown/Penn Quarter keeps getting better and better. It's a pretty wide-ranging selection, too, from bresaola to prosciutto to more traditional sausages.

I've also been digging chef Pedro Matamoros' house-made charcuterie, particular his terrine, at 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring. Sit at the bar, order his charcuterie plate with a glass of wine, and you're set for the evening.

Love the gumbo suggestion (jambalaya also would be good). But just so you don't send people screaming to their calendars... Lent doesn't start until March 9 for Western churches, March 7 for Eastern/Greek Christian churches. You made me jump when I saw that 'starts soon' reference....

Well, I guess we were just talking about Lent here for planning purposes. So it seems sooner to me!

Greens or lentils

For a thicker, chunkier sauce (such as that used in Chicago-style pizza), there is simply no beating the 6-in-1 ground tomatoes by Escalon. You can't get them in the stores here, but you can pre-order them for a surprisingly inexpensive price from the company online. They have just the right amount of sweet and more tomato flavor than even garden-fresh tomatoes in summer. So perfect. They are literally the difference between "eh" homemade sauce and "whoah" homemade sauce for me.

As a soy alternative, you could try oatmilk. Pacific makes a nice one. Ground oats are also a good thickener. Look for tempeh made without soy, as well. And rice, beans, corn (corn pasta), nuts, winter veggies are good now (parsnips, turnips, squash). I just made a split pea soup with turnpis, parsnips, and chipotle for the smoky flavor, then pureed after cooking. Does he eat eggs? Eggs add a whole other arena. Potatoes make a good base for things, too.

I think that my duck breast problem stems more from too much salt than from the chilly closet. Even though I had mine in salt for only 24 hours, I think the breasts were too thin to begin with (a Whole Foods duck) for the amount of and the length of salting. Is there a magic formula? Kim Adams - blogs,gangofpour.com

I have heard the same comment from others, particularly those who butchered whole ducks and didn't buy Magret or Moulard breasts. Kate Hill (Camont) says the French just dust with salt overnight, rinse and hang to cure. Perhaps that's a better method for the smaller duck breasts.

I've been charged with coming up with a special cocktail for my friend's superbowl party next weekend. Mind you, I know nothing about football, but I do know cocktails. Something representative of the teams would be cool, either having to do with their colors (isn't one of them black and gold? Could be tricky) or where they are from. Any suggestions? I could also do a cocktail for each.

I've been making some fun cocktails using Domain de Canton, a ginger liqueur. Mixed with Bourbon or Rye, it's a snappy drink (I modeled this on a drink I had at Rasika.) I top it with a little bit of seltzer and garnish with orange peel.

This is a cocktail that was made for last year's Super Bowl but it'll work for the Steelers as well as the Saints.

I have a couple of non-related questions, due to curiousity. 1) I have a bunch of disposable metal pans that I have saved from store bought baked goods of different sizes, but they are all so shallow, I can't think of what to use them for. 2) When a brownie recipe calls for 1 egg and one egg yolk, what is the reason? Like, what would happen if I went crazy and just used two eggs? What would the extra white do to the batter? 3) I just bought some creme fraiche on sale (dated) but now not sure what to do with it. 4) Why is a copper pan one of those valuable, expensive pieces of equipment, that people yearn to have one of? What is it used for? Why is it so special?

Gonna try to do this fast, since we're nearing the end of the  hour:

1. You could make small roulades (treat them as small jellyroll pans) or use them for baking sweet potato fries or broiling fillets of fish.

2. That extra bit of yolk may help bind the brownie batter. Go crazy with two eggs and you'll affect the texture of the brownies and possibly lengthen the cooking time.

3. You can use creme fraiche as a dollop at the center of soups, or with a fruit compote or on top of crepes.  Or beat it together with mascarpone cheese and flavor with whatever you choose for a rich light dessert, with fresh fruit.

4. Copper lasts forever, provides even heat with no hotspots. Kinda beautiful with years of patina, but it is high maintenance. Egg whites whipped in copper bowls achieve more lift than when you use a plain stainless-steel bowl.

Whew. Feel free to c'mon back next week with follow-up q's....


Do you have any tips for introducing gourmet or "real food" into a child's diet so that they will appreciate fine food in the future?

I have a one year old and a four year old and my only advice is to give them the good stuff. Let them sample everything you have, the food you love.

I am frustrated when my son insists on eating all his scallops, and mine, and when he insists on the expensive stuff at the fancy sushi place, or forces my to buy duck breast in the store. But then I reconsider; It is merely paying for his education.

I had a DC area meat delivery truck ring my doorbell yesterday, trying to sell frozen steaks off the truck at a deal. I wasn't sure if this was legit, leftovers, or poor quality meat they're trying to get rid of. I did check the website of the name of the company as read on the truck, and it did seem legitimate. Would you have purchased from an anoymous knock at the door?

How bizarre! When it comes to meat, I am picky. I like to develop a relationship with my butcher, like with Pam at Wagshal's, so you always know you're getting fresh, high-quality meat. Would I buy from a stranger selling frozen meat door to door? No.

I have sitting in my fridge a half-rack of smoked, cured, and (this is the key) uncooked ribs.I have tried previously to pressure-cook them into something resembling regular ribs but the results were... salty and stringy. Any tips? The flavor is insanely good, but I'm at a loss for a method to properly utilize them!

The higher the temperature, the more stringy the result. You could try the 48-hour beef ribs. But even if you oven does not go low enough (140 degrees), try it at your lowest setting until tender. A pressure cooker is in a way the worst thing you can use, as it deliberately raises the temperature.

I've made pizza in the oven without fancy pizza stones, etc. I make it on the darkest baking sheet that I have (one that is charcoal grey in color) to help promote browning of the crust. Also, brush olive oil on the exposed top crust and that will help the top brown. Comes out great...but then the dough recipe and the sauce recipe make much more difference to me than the effect of a pizza stone or broiler vs oven.

Well, you've hung us out to dry (and cure), so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and hope we served you up some decent a's. Thanks much to Cathy, Kim, Andreas, and David for helping us answer...

Now for the book winners: The Charcutepaloozer-wannabe who confessed to bacteria fear will get "Fat." The chatter who asked about what to do with all that venison in the freezer will get "Lobel's Meat Bible." Send your mailing info to us at food@washpost.com, and we'll get you the books.

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

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