Free Range on Food

Mar 22, 2017

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! Hope you're enjoying all our food coverage this week, including Libby Copeland's piece on butter history and Elaine Khosrova, butter savant; Maura's fun take on the pies and pierogi being served at NYC musicals right now; Tamar Haspel's exploration of immigrants and agriculture; Jane Black's breaking of the news that meat guru Bill Niman is selling his operation to Blue Apron; and more.

For all you butter lovers out there, author Elaine Khosrova will be joining the chat today, so make your questions good! We'll have a copy of her book to give away to our favorite chatter today. Our other giveaway book: a signed copy of Melissa Clark's new "Dinner: Changing the Game."

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR7326 . Remember, you'll record and enter it into the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

And don't forget: This is one of those special days when you get to just keep RIGHT ON CHATTING, because Dorie Greenspan's hosting her last-ever chat for the Post because her column, after two wonderful years, is ending, sadly. So ask her anything at this link (you can ask early and then return when we're done here for the live deal).

OK, let's get started!


Ms. Khozrova, it made my day reading about your book. Every year in March, for St Patrick's day,I splurge on Kerrygold butter, and slather it on my Irish brown bread. What's your opinion of Kerrygold compared to other brands? Also, your mention of Guernsey cows made me think of a large county fair I attended a couple years ago, in Virginia. I was very distressed to discover there wasn't a single Guernsey being shown by FFA kids. Also, hope you have tried butter from breeds such as Tarentaise who originate from the French alps. I had a small herd for a few years; extremely intelligent, and gorgeous cows, and their milk has a very high butterfat content.

Thanks for the book appreciation.

Kerrygold is a lovely butter and a very popular one too. I tend to prefer cultured butters, but in the sweet butter category this Irish one is terrific. I have had cheese made from Tarentaise cows milk but not butter (yet). There is still much to explore in the butter world!

ARTICLE: Our messed-up relationship with food has a long history. It started with butter.

Where is Dorie going? Love her column and wil really, really miss it! Hope this was her decision and not that of cost cutters at WaPo. A subscriber and Dorie lover.

We want to let Dorie announce her next moves, when she's ready. But rest assured that this had nothing to do with cost-cutting -- in case you hadn't noticed, we're not doing a whole lot of that at the Post these days -- and was Dorie's decision, yes. We love and will miss her, too!

I'm familiar with this soup, but never tried making it at home. Did you have any leftovers when making the soup? If so, how does it keep? I live alone so I wouldn't finish the full batch (or a half batch). I could make a single serving easily enough though - there would be extra egg due to how the proportions work, but I'm thinking that would be OK, and then there might be a few issues with mixing in the egg into a smaller amount of broth, but that's probably fine too with a small pot.

Leftover were not an issue for me! You could certainly chill any extra soup for a day. The cheese seemed on the verge of too much for my taste -- and I can't believe I just typed that -- so if you wanted to cut back at all, I'd lose a couple of those tablespoons when you're scaling back. Re the ratio of egg to broth: You do need enough liquid to be able to whirl the egg mixture into, so I would not cut back on that. But it'd be easy enough to stir in another egg when you reheat the soup in a pot on the stove top, using the same technique. Hope that covers your concerns!

RECIPE Stracciatella With Spinach

I'm helping recipe plan a whiskey dinner (have to drink it all before Passover!) for a friend and need some recipe ideas besides drinks for the whiskey (and also stuff that would pair well with it). The meal is going to be kosher so no dairy. I was thinking a lamb dish, paired with some roasted veggies (in a whiskey glaze?) would be nice. I'm open to suggestions! And maybe some sort of vegan panna cotta and whiskey fruit compote for dessert? Help me use my booze!

I like these ideas. I also find whiskey can be a great addition to a variety of fruit pies (especially apple) and also can pair well with bites of quality dark chocolate. What kinds of whiskey are you hoarding? :) That might influence pairings (if you're cooking, it may be less important, but an Islay whisky would likely show up strong even on a dish with a lot of flavor ... which could be a good or a bad thing!)

ARTICLE: The next big thing in American distilling: Single malt whiskey

Elaine, thank you for sharing your knowledge and research on butter. It was really interesting to learn more about an ingredient where many of us just buy the same thing constantly. With your butter knowledge and pastry background, could you please recommend your best overall butter for: (1) eating plain on toast, (2) using in a laminated dough context, and (3) that is affordable for regular baking that we can find in supermarkets. Thank you!

  Hmmm ... it's tough to recommend just one butter for all these three things. That's part of the mission of my book - to help folks appreciate that there are table butters versus utility butters (cooking and baking). But if I was going to be stuck on a desert isle with just one butter I would want it to be Organic Valley Pasture Butter. Very tasty, higher fat for laminated baking, relatively affordable, and more nutritious.

I bake a lot and thus far have made do with a hand held mixer, but it's time to upgrade. I am overwhelmed by the different Kitchen Aid models and seeking advice. What size, which features, where to start? My Cuisinart is a DLC pro 14 food processor. I bake both large and small batches so want good capacity, and would perhaps like some extra bowls (if such things are possible.) Also, while the glass bowls look pretty they are probably also heavy, but you tell me if they are worth it. Also, thank you so much for two years of Dorie Greenspan's chats (although it breaks my heart that we are losing her.)

Good call! A stand mixer is a worthwhile investment that should last you many, many years. I have a KitchenAid "Pro" mixer and love it. It's an earlier version of this one, I believe. (Tip: If you or a friend have a Costco membership, it's more than $200 cheaper than the price quoted on the KitchenAid site!) You should be able to buy spare bowls -- I have two, and I don't regret it.

At the office, we have a KitchenAid with a glass bowl and tilting head, and I have to say, I prefer my metal bowl with the lift. The glass is, as you guessed, pretty heavy. And I like snapping the bowl into the lift much better than twisting it into the base, which I never seem to quite do right. That's my two cents.

At a restaurant dinner some months ago, we were presented with softened unsalted butter onto which a rather large-flake salt had been sprinkled. What are your thoughts on this? And if it is something other than a pretension, how would you determine the salt-to-butter ratio? Type of salt? Better times to use this than regular salted butter?

I think its a nice gesture - both in terms of letting you experiment a little at the table, and letting folks control their salt. I know quite a few people who prefer unsalted butter on their bread/toast, but I definitely am in the salt camp. As far as ratio - a very little salt goes a long way in butter because fat is such a great vehicle for any kind of seasoning. I would sprinkle cautiously.

Is that what really hurts people's confidence in the kitchen? Because my lack of cooking confidence is so profound, that I don't really expect stuff to look like the pictures. My problems come from recipes that say things like "sauté until softened, about 3 minutes" and my onions are still crisp and holding their shape 10 minutes after the 3 minutes is over. Or cook until browned and my mushrooms are never really browned at all. Basically, I have to ignore the bits of the cookbook/recipe that tell me how long things should take or exactly what they should look like and guess. Plus hope that my limited knife skills don't result in a piece of finger ending up in the mix. What limited confidence I have comes from having something to eat in the fridge when I get home and not having to stop off for something premade on the way home.

Good points, all. I've long thought that recipes need to be emphasize every other queue except the time, and use language to help you know what to look/go for, not just to respond when the timer goes off, since so many other variables can affect such things. The best way to gain confidence is to practice, to learn by doing, to make judgment calls and see what results, and shift if need be.

Keep on keepin' on, I say. You are doing yourself and the environment a favor by cooking whole foods in your own home. Photowise, it's nice to be able to make a dish look like it's "supposed to," but then again, working on the stylin' side of this business, I've learned that sometimes the folks who help to produce those images don't exactly follow the recipe!


The timing of intermediate steps in a recipe is one of the more variable elements therein, which is why those steps also offer the visual or textural goal you're looking for. I'd say the latter's the more important one. Please don't feel like you're failing if it takes longer to cut or saute or broil anything -- your appliance or equipment  could be a factor, too.



So many factors in timing! The age/freshness of an onion or other ingredient. Size of the pan. Humidity, too, in some cases!

I missed last week's chat but can't stop laughing over this chatter's complaint about fire-eaters considering themselves superior to those who aren't. While I would never serve anyone food too hot for them to handle or suggest a restaurant where my dining companion could not tolerate the heat of what is served there, I can't help feeling (but try not to act) smug and superior over those not able to enjoy fiery hot food. Typically when eating at a Mexican restaurant for the first time with me my dining companions will watch my reaction to the salsa before digging in themselves. While the non fire-eaters ask me, after wiping tears of pain from their eyes and gulping water, why I didn't warn them, I give them a wide-eyed look of innocence and say "Oh? Was that hot? I didn't notice." I will do my best to be more compassionate from now on.

...I'm guilty of this too, I admit.

When we were watching a TV food show, my husband asked why so many recipes seem to use cola. I made a guess (sugar and acidity would apply to its use in marinades as well as baking, I'd think) but I was surprised to not find anything in my (admittedly brief) foray into the world of Google as to what chemistry is involved in the decision to use cola as a recipe ingredient. I would love to hear your expertise on this. Also, opinions as to whether cola is really a good choice or a pedestrian/lazy choice akin to canned condensed soup.

Cola mellows and gets all caramelly in baked goods and sauces and as a glaze. I suspect folks began using it because so many households have it on hand. If you want to bake a tender, quick cake that EVERYONE will want the recipe for, try Lisa Yockelson's Coca-Cola model from her "ChocolateChocolate" cookbook. 


As to "pedestrian," no judgment here. But I could check with our knowledgeable pals at the Library of Congress and get back to you next week. Same Bat time, same Bat station....


Coca-Cola Biscuits, anyone?

I would love to make butter but the cream is problematic. If I could even find cream from Jersey cows it would be pretty expensive. I'm always reminded of the I Love Lucy episode where Ethel made butter. She proudly showed Lucy her small plate of butter and said, "and it only cost 23.75."

Ha!  I forgot about that episode! I've got to find it again. Thanks.

Inspired by some comments on this chat I bought a bottle! And now am baffled as to what to do with it other than salad dressings ... can you recommend a recipe that highlights this specific flavor? Thanks!

I noticed that it didn't call for scraping out the gills. But I have seen a bunch of portobello recipes that do include that step and, well, it is a pain in the neck and very messy. Can you speak about why some recipes call for it? Is it to let a marinade get closer to the mushroom or for even cooking on both sides or something that at least seems relevant to taste? Or is it just for appearance? Because I have to admit that I tend to skip that step when it is called for. Shhhhh....don't tell.

Some recipes call for that for one of two reasons: The gills can stain the rest of the dish, turning it kind of a murky brown. But that wouldn't be the case here, since the layers are distinct and the "stuffing" is piled on top. Another reason is that the gills can apparently hide little gritty grains of sand, but honestly I've never seen that -- and I rinse mushrooms anyhow. 

RECIPE: Portobello Mushrooms With Tuscan Kale and Sweet Potato

Maybe this should be a question for Tom Sietsema, but you could answer it as he is off this week. Why have so many restaurants stopped using spoons as part of a place setting? Some things are just easier to eat with spoons. What bothers me is if a dessert with ice cream or a lot of sauce is served with a fork. You can request a spoon, but why don't they use common sense and provide one?

Spoons are definitely on the outs with the savory courses. Unless you're at a Thai restaurant, a beacon of sanity, where you eat with both a spoon and fork (but no knives, because you don't have anything to cut). Those spoons  do help ferry the sauce.


I haven't seen the forks-only place-setting for a dessert course, especially when ice cream is involved. That just seems like a mistake on the server's part.

I happened to have all of the ingredients in the fridge, so I made your recipe for breakfast this morning. I halved the amounts since it was just for me and added a pinch of Aleppo pepper at the end which makes everything great. It was a delicious start to the day.

Love that. We'll make sure the other chatter who was asking about a single serving sees this. Did the strands work for you?

The article regarding different types of butters is fascinating and whetted my appetite to experience tastings. Where can these different butters be purchased in the Washington Metro Area? Additionally, what is your take on substituting coconut oil for butter?

I'm in NY so hard to say exactly where you can choose from a wide variety of butters. I would start at Whole Foods, but also try any specialty cheese shops. They often stock interesting butter. I hunt around in various farm markets too. Once you start looking for different butters I think you'll be surprised that they are not so hard to find. Most of us just don't notice.

Re coconut oil and butter substitution, they are really so different in taste and texture, so I would be cautious with using them interchangeably in baking. But for cooking, if you like the flavor of coconut oil, you could saute your veggies in coconut oil as you would butter. They just won't taste the same.

I've read/heard that crushing garlic in a garlic press is a big no-no: makes it acrid, gross, whatever. True or no? When I make brines and spreadable sauces, I use a press. Other times I'll mince or use a mini mandoline. Is there any truth to this crushed-garlic-is-crappy-you-heathen thing?

No, no, a thousand times, no! It really just depends on what you're going for. Yes, when you use a garlic press, you're setting all those flavor compounds free, and it results in something quite a bit sharper than if you slice or roughly chop it or, of course, say, roast it whole, all of which offer varying degrees on the sharp-to-mild scale. But if you like the taste you're getting, then stick by your guns. IMHO, the only real misstep with garlic is to truly burn it -- and if you're cooking it that can certainly happen faster if it's pressed or minced than when it's cut bigger.

I don't really want to sound like one of those snobs, but if you can find a Viking Mixer anyplace, it is fabulous and strong and attractive (no, I'm already married). But you can only get them on eBay and such places. Worthwhile. If you do have to go with KitchenAid, nothing less than the "Pro" will do in the long run if you're a heavy-duty user.

Thanks for the tip!

I have one friend with a tilt head bowl and another friend with the lift bowl. Both think the other type would be better... I have a metal bowl with a lift. The bowl has a little bubble in the back. I have a hard time lining it up so the bowl clicks in place.

The grass is always greener... I still find it much easier to click my bowl into place on the lift than twisting the bowl in. I always screw the twisting up somehow and the bowl starts spinning when I turn on the mixer, at least until it settles into the right position.

I'll weigh in here: I also prefer the lift bowl. Not only do I have an easier time getting it in place than when I've used tilt bowls, I also find it easier to get access to the bowl...

It smelled ripe but the huge cantaloupe I cut open this morning is not ripe enough for eating "as is." Can I use it in a soup or something? Thanks!

An unripe cantaloupe will remain unripe once it's cut from the vine. You can soften an uncut cantaloupe in a brown paper bag, but you're already past that stage.



I'd suggest doing what some enterprising restaurants do in the winter: Toss those cut cantaloupe pieces with lemon and/or orange juices, a bit of sugar and maybe some dessert wine. It'll sweeten them up for eating, though they obviously won't taste like good ripe cantaloupe.

I found this product at my local Whole Foods and this Texas girl who became a vegetarian nearly 15 years ago due to her love and compassion for animals, not because I didn't love red meat, is beyond happy to have discovered the Beyond Burger. I thus far have tried it simply fried in the skillet and am hoping it will hold together after being mixed with other ingredients. In addition to a traditional hamburger, I still crave what my mom used to call hamburger steak. This was hamburger mixed with chopped onions, chopped bell peppers and Italian spices and formed into patties with an exterior of bread crumbs before frying. It was served with brown gravy. Are there any chatters out there who have tried the Beyond Burger and have successfully manipulated it?

I've tried it a few times, once when the BB team came to our Food Lab and we cooked some up and I talked to them about it, and then a couple times on my own. That's an interesting question about mixing it into a hamburger steak -- I think it would work. I haven't manipulated the raw patty yet, but it is soft and pull-apart-able before you cook it, then the fibers tighten up, just like ground beef does, when you cook it, as you probably noticed. I asked the Beyond Burger folks whether they might be selling it in any other forms, including as blocks of ground "meat" you could be using for say, a loaf, and they said they're thinking about that, so we'll see! If you make other dishes, let us know how it goes...

ARTICLE: The shockingly beeflike veggie burger that's not aimed at vegetarians

I remember, several years ago, reading to friends aloud a comment someone had made online about loving to put enough butter on her roll that, when she bit into the roll, she could see the teeth marks in the butter left behind. This image grossed people out then, and I suppose it still does today. I don't layer the stuff on quite so thickly, if only to control expenses - I'm cheap and butter can be kind of pricey - but as an antidote to the idiotic fat-is-bad talk that persisted then and persists today, it was a useful counter. Here we are, years later, and in a lengthy article on a book about the benefits of butter, we get a long passage from some doctor cautioning us not to let the pendulum swing too sharply back toward the pro-butter side. I can't take it! Really, guys, do we need cautious talk from the medical establishment that demonized butter for decades? I don't want to be antiscience, but the people who encouraged us to consume transfats and margarine in the 1970s and 80s and, heck 90s and 2000s, are hard to heed as a voice of reason. Let me be even more pointed: I love you guys and partcipate frequently in these chats. I love the Food section, but I'm squarely in the real-food camp, and I still get my back up when I read cautious comments about the risks of saturated fat. I imagine fat-phoic readers getting some challenge to their decades-long, unscientific assertions in the article, only to read a passage reassuring them that all is fine, they've always been right, before moving on to some Food-section recipes recommending skim milk, egg whites, etc. It just never changes. Sorry for the rant, but I get genuinely angry. I don't expect all-fat-all-the-time advocacy; not even I go that far. But the unembarrassed fallback on fat=danger thinking needs to be challenged. OK, fire away at me now.

I am totally on board with you. And not just because I wrote a book on butter. The fact that the nutrition establishment is still saying that saturated fat is categorically bad for you, shows how out of step they are with nutritional reality. There are MANY different kinds of saturated fat (including the kind in our much touted healthy coconut oil) and some have very beneficial effects on our bodies. Much more so than highly processed vegetable oils. (I am a fan of olive oil, but not canola, safflower, etc..) Perhaps they think that consumers can't handle the nuances of fat science and nutrition so they keep using the same broad misleading brush.

Your stove may be quirky. Increase the temperature you're working with, but not too much. A little at a time.

Tip: Measure your counter space, including space from counter to underside of the cabinet. We were given a Very Hugely Large Kitchen Aid I simply could not use -- about 35 lbs, would have consumed a cabinet for storage, did not fit under the cabinet while in use and therefore would have had to use it sideways on the counter because of the height.

Another consideration, thanks. It can be a commitment. I definitely have permanent real estate on the counter devoted to mine. No way I would want to be taking it in and out of a cabinet!

Have you seen these?

I'm one of those peculiar people who prefers to actually taste the food they're eating.

Oh, here we go: It's the other side of the chile pepper wars! It's just as much a judgment to say that people who like spicy food don't want to taste anything as it is to say that people who don't like spicy food ... don't want to taste anything.

Bowl lift all the way!! I adore the bowl-lift feature far more than the head-tilt one. Something about the head-title model seems kind of...I dunno, flimsy? I've used them at friends' and relatives' homes and really didn't care for it. The only downside that I've found with owning the bowl-lift model is it can be harder to find some of the add-ons in stores like Bed Bath & Beyond--I almost always have to buy on Amazon or something. #worthit

We're in agreement!

Hi! Do you use different butter for baking as opposed to "just" eating with bread/muffins etc? I'm thinking of things like pie crust where I am always tempted to splurge on expensive/high quality butter and can't tell if it's worth it when it won't be the star.

 I splurge on a higher-fat butter (82%, sometimes called 'European-style') when I'm making pie crust or any kind of laminated dough. But I have found with most cakes and frostings I don't need the higher fat. I DO splurge on a premium butter for the table, for toast, biscuits, etc.., because its worth it. You really taste the difference so immediately when its simply spread as opposed to cooked or baked. Overall, I think its a pretty affordable indulgence.

These look great. I especially love dill and tarragon. But, when incorporating broth into another recipe -- I have several Asian recipes that use chicken broth -- would it be better to use a broth that doesn't include herbs, carrots, and other non-chicken ingredients?

The herbs go in at the end, so no prob there. If I were doing this broth with Asian recipes in mind, I might use lemon grass instead of carrot. And maybe a knob of peeled ginger.

RECIPE Chicken Soup With Benefits

For a while I was on a vegetarian, plant-based diet but now I'm back on the butter wagon. I really enjoy it. I'm wondering if the butter lady has ever tried the butter from Fen Farm Dairy in England? My brother lives there and he said it's the most amazing he's ever had. Transcendent, really.

I have not tried that butter - looking forward to seeking it out. I have relatives in England so I visit fairly often. I'll make a note about Fen Farm. Thanks!

Any suggestions for using black garlic that aren't just using them in condiments. I love the flavor but there's only so much black garlic mayo I can eat. Thanks for your help!

I like it spread on toast, or sliced and used as a topping on pasta or grain bowls. Here are a few recipes you could try, too: 

Creamy Vegetable Ramen

RECIPE: Creamy Vegetable Ramen

Fingerling Potato Salad With Gribiche

RECIPE: Fingerling Potato Salad With Gribiche

is the day we made butter. 22 little kids each took several turns shaking a bottle with cream in it, and finally WE HAD BUTTER! We felt like we had hung the moon. I date my willingness to try anything in the kitchen from that episode.

Yes it is a magical moment for all of us when that happens! I once gave a butter class for kids and I put the cream in a well sealed ziploc bag, then put that inside another ziploc. Then I had us play a game of catch, tossing the cream to each other until - about 15 minutes - we had made butter! All you need is agitation.

I use it in breadsticks that call for regular molasses. A nice perk-up.

use it with your olive oil & vinegar salad dressing...just a tad. Also great to add when making ground beef kabob , meat pies, and add to brussel sprouts when roasting.

Sure. It's good on so much! I love it on roasted root vegetables like carrots. I sprinkle them with warming spices (cumin, cinnamon, smoked paprika) and then drizzle with pom molasses when they come out. Serve them on a thick swoosh of yogurt on a platter.

Yes, but I say this as a faint protest against the overwhelming majority of smug heat-lovers.

I'm not so sure you're in the minority -- I hear quite a bit from both sides!

This was a recipe in the Feb 26 Post magazine. A week or two ago a reader wrote in and thought the chicken came out a bit too greasy. I tried it with chicken thighs, skin-on and I also thought it was too much. Did Sara Moulton ever follow up? Maybe the difference is chicken breasts are drier and need the skin but a bone in thigh is pretty juicy on its own. I'm going to try again, this time with skinless thighs.

She followed up via individual emails with that reader. In a nutshell: Make it work for  you! She acknowledged the chicken's richness but was happy with the recipe as is. I'm not sure coating will stick with skinless thighs, but I'd choose them over the white meat for this.


RECIPE Baked Garlicky Parmesan Chicken

I feel as though everyone involved in agriculture who isn't blindly partisan has said this but it needs repeating- American agriculture cannot function without immigrant labor. It's the most limiting factor in agriculture. The reason our food system is geared toward mechanized crops like corn and soybeans is because there isn't enough labor to tend crops that are more useful to the food supply. Also, keep in mind that the vast majority of crops grown in this country do not go towards feeding people. They go to animal feed or fuel or sweeteners (corn syrup).

I'm sorry that Tamar can't join us today! Interesting points. I'm not so sure that this is THE reason we have commodity crops, though; I think that has more to do with subsidies ...

UNEARTHED: Why don't taxpayers subsidize the foods that are better for us?


I make pies and cheesecake, and butter is such an essential part of the crust that I wonder if you have a recommendation for a butter that is best suited for that purpose? And in honor of Dorie's last day I will ask her the same question in an hour!

For pies, to get a flaky rich crust, I use a higher fat unsalted butter (82%, sometimes called 'European style'), which has less water in it (which can toughen a crust). There are several good brands out there including Land o Lakes new premium higher fat butter.  For cheesecake with a graham cracker crust, I am less fussy about the fat content.

I replaced the stand mixer I got my brother and sister-in-law for their wedding recently. They asked for one of the new ones that has a much improved motor. SiL said it is MUCH better. Quiet and obviously more powerful. It would be overkill in my house since I don't use it anywhere near as much as they do, but that is worth looking over. Sometimes some of the higher end kitchen stores will have good explanations of the differences among models on their websites. You can research there and purchase where the price is best. Try William Sonoma to start. If you find a better price, call the store and see if they will match it. Or sometimes they have really good sales in the spring for Mother's Day.

Thanks for the insight. Definitely agree on doing research into models and looking for sales. Williams-Sonoma is wonderful but not necessarily where I'd look for a greatly reduced price! Like I said, the Pro mixer is a steal at Costco. And those ubiquitous 20% off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond can help too, although I think they exclude certain KitchenAid items, alas.

Food folks - I have a recipe that came from my great grandmother for kuchen. It's a yeast kuchen. Sadly, the second page was lost at some point, so it takes you all the way through forming the dough into filled rolls and rising, but has nothing after that. My mother and aunt do not remember what comes after that. If I type it up and mail it to you all, might you be able to help? Or do you have any thoughts on general resources to help figure out how this recipe should end? Thanks!

Sure, I'd give it a go. Send me a note at so we can be in touch directly.

Tamara Haspel's article, I would hope, should open lots of eyes. I think we should all bless the immigrants who do very, very hard work. Without them I bet tomatoes would cost $25 each!

An Irish friend gave me a recipe that we make every St. Patrick's Day called Ulster Pork, but I suppose anyone wishing to use up the grain alcohol before Passover could substitute chicken. Basically you slice up a pound of tenderloin thinly, saute it and chopped carrots in butter, add chopped onion and sliced mushrooms, keep stir-frying, then add sour cream and a quarter cup of Irish whiskey, heat through and top with lots of chopped fresh parsley. Oh. wait. meat and sour cream aren't kosher, right? Sorry!

Remember that with a tilt mixer, it will get a bit taller as it tilts back. The bowl lift is already as tall as it will ever be (unless you stick an attachment on the front.).

Was there a heat cue in the 'saute onions recipe'? I ask this because what you write says to me you were sauteeing on too high a light. They shouldn't be turning crispy but but soft and slightly 'gooey'. This is achieved on a high-low or low-medium light. (You wrote - My problems come from recipes that say things like "sauté until softened, about 3 minutes" and my onions are still crisp and holding their shape 10 minutes after the 3 minutes is over.)

I think the OP meant "still crisp" as in still crunchy, not browned, but let's check!

Sorry I'm late submitting this, but I want to thank all who threw out suggestions for my lemon thyme last week. I couldn't be here for the chat, but wanted to thank you all!

You're welcome!

Although I love the look of the glass bowl (the Hax nutterati giggle here), word on the street is there is too much space between the beater in the bowl; people have been having problems with mixing low volume.

I'd not heard that. Interesting.

I have found that a grapefruit spoon works really well for this - a lot more efficient and less messy than many other ways I have tried.

There is an excellent Middle Eastern spread with red peppers and nuts and pomegranate molasses called muhammara. it goes great with a lot of different foods - on crackers, on fish or chicken, a spoonful on lentil soup. I don't see a WaPo recipe, but most Middle Eastern cookbooks will have a recipe, and a certain newspaper located in NYC has a nice recipe for it.

We don't need to send people to to no stinkin' NYT! We've got your muhammara spread right here.

...which is why those immigrants need to be paid decently and be given health benefits. Yes, it would raise prices. That's just the way it is. The idea that our food cannot be raised without treating people like chattel is unacceptable in this day and age.

I've been having a love affair with spinach lately, ever since I realized how easy it is to microwave it for 30 seconds, then toss it with some sauce or dressing. It also seems to take out some of whatever is in the stuff that gives me the weird mouthfeel. I usually squeeze out the excess water so it can soak up more dressing. How much nutrition am I losing? Significant or negligible?

That weird mouth feel's perhaps due to the naturally occurring oxalic acid found in spinach; its effect diminishes with cooking. Not sure you're losing nutrients just because the spinach is cooked -- you may be getting MORE of them because the greens are more concentrated, per weight of what you're consuming. Vitamin C does decrease, though, because it's water soluble. Further deets here.


Besides the spinach in #DinnerInMinutes today, I'd have to say my recent new fave way to enjoy it is Sara Moulton's Sweet Potato Dumplings and Spinach Gratin, a #SundaySupper recipe that appeared in TWP Magazine. Give it a try! 

Generally, if what you were asking is about the microwave specifically, that form of cooking results in better nutrient retention than most. And that oxalic acid Bonnie mentions actually keeps you from absorbing calcium and iron, so cooking spinach helps there.

I used to be able to get really fresh butter at a dairy store next to Russ and Daughters in NYC. It has since closed (or possibly went wholesale only; I can't remember exactly). Is there a good source for really fresh butter, without having to buy my own cow? Most supermarket butters have an "off" flavor to me; I can eat Plugra salted, and that's about it. I cook with sweet butter, but I can't spread it on bread; it always tastes like it's spent a lot of time in the refrigerator (which I'm sure it has, to be fair). Any help would be greatly appreciated, since I'm quite sure my HOA would object to me keeping a Jersey in my yard!

Your best bet may be to make your own butter - you don't need a cow! Just plain fresh cream (without additives; check the label since they add chemicals to make whipping it easier.) It takes just a few minutes in a food processor. My book has a recipe but there are plenty online too. I am not in NYC so I haven't scoured the markets there to see who has the most frequent turnover of butter--that's the key to freshness. But also, it helps to choose a butter that's packaged in foil wrapper; it keeps out any light and air that can make butter taste a little off, sometimes cardboardy. Sounds like you have a excellent sensitive palate!


RECIPE Cultured Butter

The recipe for Cultured Butter (butter made while listening to chamber music?) calls for “real buttermilk”. It seems to me that “ real buttermilk” is the fluid remaining when the solidified fats are removed from churned cream. But is that was meant? Since most of us have access only to what is sold as cultured buttermilk (which has nothing to do with “real buttermilk” as defined above; or does it? ), is the recipe really calling for “real cultured buttermilk” (the grocery store product) or is something else intended?

Yes, that's what was meant -- it needs to be the byproduct of cream, not low-fat milk, to be real. Of course it can be cultured as well, as Kate's of Maine is. That means they start with the buttermilk that comes from their churning of cream, and add live cultures to it (for richer flavor). 

Generally few of us have access to "real" buttermilk - the tangy byproduct of making butter from cream that has been ripened with lactic bacterial cultures. Occasionally a small commercial producer of cultured butter will also market their buttermilk, but it's hard to find. The store version will nonetheless "ripen" your cream to make cultured butter because it too has lactic bacteria, though not necessarily identical to a "real" buttermilk. These authentic buttermilks can vary quite a lot since not every buttermaker uses the identical mix of bacteria.

I was making pizza dough the other day and was wondering about yeast "blooming". I grew up stirring the yeast into warm water and letting it sit until it bloomed. But as an adult I sprinkle it on top of the warm water and wait a few minutes for it to activate. Which is correct? Thanks!

It depends on what kind of yeast you're using. Dry active yeast needs to be activated in warm water (around 110 degrees F, but not hotter because you could kill the yeast!) before using it in a recipe. Instant yeast (it's ground finer than the cornmeallike grains of dry active yeast) can be tossed straight into the dry ingredients.

Yes, I had some nice strands. But I was prepared to eat it no matter how it looked!

You are my kind of cook. :)

Usually this chat is a haven away from politics, but the article on illegal immigrants is a clear instance where politics meets food. I like how the author laid out many of the pros and cons to the use of migrants and immigrants who provide most of the labor for hand picked fruits and vegetables. The one aspect I think the author missed is how increasingly using migrant labor hollows out rural communities and how using illegal immigrant labor further leads to hollowing out communities due to their earnings being sent out of country rather than spent locally.

is available still, I think. Nothing to eat voluntarily but it might work in the whisky chicken recipe.

I'm reminded of the time when I was a 3-year-old at the grocery store with my grandmother and she offered to bake the boxed cake mix of my choice. I chose the most beautiful cake I'd ever seen. It was a flat-topped round spice cake with a snowflake-like topping. What my grandmother served me was an unappealing and unappetizing brown lump. When she insisted that was the cake I had chosen, I got the box from the trash and showed her the photo. I have to give her credit. Instead of simply telling me to shut up and eat it, she went into great detail on what was needed to make a cake look like that. A different type of pan, large sharp knife to cut off the rounded top, paper doilies to place on top, covered by powdered sugar and lifted off gently to preserve the snowflake like design. She had none of the required items, she told me, so the cake was baked in a loaf pan and served plain. Even though I refused to eat it I appreciated her taking the time to explain the process. Fast forward 11 years and while taking homemaking in school I learn that everything she had told me was true. And I told her so.

A lesson from grandma that continues to resonate in 2017: Be patient with young minds with questions about food (or the marketing of food). Take the time to explain things.  Thanks for sharing the story.

Your grandmother sounds amazing, truly.

Subsidies have essentially gone away now and there are just crop insurance programs. But what is planted has not changed much. People used to eat far more beef than they do now. Compared to other livestock species, the total life cycle of cattle, even now, is mostly powered by roughages and grazing grass. In contrast, the total life cycle of poultry and pork is almost entirely grain. As consumers moved away from beef and towards pork and poultry, they caused a decrease in range land and in increase in commodity grain production.

As Tamar would no doubt say, "What do we want? Crop-neutral insurance! When do we want it? Phased in slowly over 10 years!"


Thank you for permission to continue using my garlic press. Sincerely, Another barbarian

brown and crispy. I'm not a great cook, but I've cooked onions often enough to know you have to have the heat down a bit to avoid a mess. Though I've done the burned, nasty mess a few times too. Just not very recently.

I keep seeing a kind of oak they use in Texas called "post oak." What is it, exactly? And I've never seen it available here in DMV, and is it really any different than "oak?"

    Folks say that post oak is given that name because it is used as fence posts in Texas. And that may well be true. But it is also a hardwood with broad, flat leaves that is a type of white oak. It is sometimes called Box White Oak. For barbecuing purposes, you can use local white oak. I have. But I believe (though haven't experimented enough to prove) that it burns a little hotter and doesn't have quite the same mild flavor profile of post oak. So, I sometimes order post oak from Fruita Wood and BBQ at It's expensive, but I know I'm getting the real deal. I especially like it for brisket because it smolders nicely and gives the meat a deep smoky flavor without over-smoking it. 

Very timely butter stuff today. I was in Costco yesterday and saw Irish butter. Is that really a thing? What's the difference between that and regular butter?

Yes that's a real thing. Butter made in Ireland. If you taste it side by side with an American butter you'll note subtle differences in color, texture, flavor. Even more so in the spring when the cows get tender new grass to eat in the pasture.

I've been told that back in the early 1910s when my father was a little boy, he had an uncle who ran a dairy business in their small town. One of my grandparents' favorite treats was to hand-crank homemade ice cream, with the youngest child (my dad) starting while the mixture was still easy to turn, then the older boys in ascending order according to age, ending with my eldest uncle and finally Grandpa when the mixture was nearly frozen. According to family legend, one time my dad's eldest brother decided on his own initiative to get a few quarts of heavy cream from the uncle's dairy, mix it with sugar, then make ice cream for the family. No, he didn't mix it with milk. And you can guess the rest of the story!

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for inspiring me to make my own this weekend and to give up Swanson's canned broth, which has sugar in it! My question has to do w/ how long to cook the chicken. I cooked the stock on low simmer (after bringing it to a boil) for an hour, 15 minutes past the time specified in the recipe. But some of the chicken pieces were underdone. How long should I let the stock go to make sure the chicken is safe to eat w/out having to reheat it?

Huzzah to you! Can you explain "underdone"? Did you insert a thermometer? Hard to believe the pieces were not cooked through in that time. But once you shred and finish them in the soup, they'd be fine, I'm sure. The broth can go an hour longer but doesn't need to. 

used to be US citizens, back in the 30s. Check out Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath for details. It was a hard life then and a worse life now.

Butter with an 86% butterfat content was mentioned in Libby Copeland's article today. Although I can tell the difference between Land O'Lakes and the grocery's store's house brand butter, when I tried one of the high fat butters I didn't notice much difference. Then I got a bright idea: if I buy Land O'Lakes and heat it (as if making ghee) to evaporate off the water content, will the result be a higher fat butter after it cools?

Land O' Lakes standard butter has the same fat content as the grocery store's house brand. By law, American butters have to have 80% fat, so that's the content of most butters unless they are labelled "higher-fat", or "European-Style."  But if you melt the Land O' Lakes premium butter -sold in a black box - you will notice you get more butter oil and less water.

This is one of many reasons I prefer the late Julia Child's TV cooking shows to, say, Martha Stewart's. Julia never pretended that her dishes would turn out perfect-looking, just that they'd be delicious!


I think I've mentioned this before, but this video is the perfect example of what you say: Check out the differences between Martha and Julia's croquembouches!

Has anyone been baking up anything fun lately? (Beyond what's published in the paper.) Are we going to see a new baking project like the bagel one? :D

We are! We're working on something that we hope to have to you in the next month or two...

So...questions for Mr. Shahin, guru of all things smokey. Can you recommend an electric smoker (or a way to smoke in our gas grill?). Apparently one's fifth anniversary is the "wood" one and it seems as good a reason as any to get a smoker! We recently moved to CO and there is already a fire ban in place...

     First, electric smokers don't provide much smoky flavor to food. But of the ones out there, Masterbuilt and Bradley make good smokers. 

     With gas smokers, all you need is a smoker box (about $20). You put the wood chips in the metal box, set the box on the flavorizer bars and, voila, smoke. You can achieve the same thing by putting wood chips into an aluminum foil packet and poking a few fork holes in the top for the smoke to escape. 

      I don't know what the fire ban, uhm, bans, but if you can use a basic charcoal grill, you will get much better smokiness than from either electric or gas. 


I'm looking for a 1.5 to 3 cup food processor that I can use for my daily cooking of 1-2 person meals. Something to make a tapenade or a salsa or chop nuts. Would like it to be durable and easy to hand clean. Any suggestions?

We have a mini Cuisinart in the Food Lab. Editor Joe and I used to share custody of one before that....It's handy and easy to clean. No pesky problems with the blade! 

Have you seen the latest Cook's Illustrated magazine, showing an actual device that makes heavy cream from milk and melted butter? I'm strongly tempted to find one on eBay, since I miss the UK's double cream so much.

Wow. No I haven't seen that! It sounds like it rewinds the butter process, creating a fat-in-water emulsion (cream)  from one  that's a water-in-fat emulsion (butter).

WP recipe is my go to...although I hold on the brown sugar. Tastes just as good and less sweet. Make it a week ago and stays good for 2 weeks. Thanks!


Hi, Is there a way to do it, rather than combing through each date? I learn so much and sometimes don't have time to go back and jot notes, then can't remember when I read it.

I'm afraid there's not a smooth way to do this. But you can always use Google site search to narrow down a little. So type: " Free Range lemon thyme" and see what you get.

No butter questions, just loved the butter coverage. We joke about there being a "butter gene" in my mom's family My grandfather would put a small pat of butter on each bite of bread ever time he ate (and died in his mid-90s with perfectly good health other than a bad fall), I like butter cold (I basically shave it off with a sharp knife to put on bread) - and my kid perfers her's with a spoon to her daddy's chagrin.

Perhaps you can find some in Takoma Park, where there's a concentration of Seventh Day Adventists.

I asked because I found it too greasy, but am trying it again tonight with skin-off, bone-in thighs and less butter. Will let you know how it goes. Thought Bonnie had some ideas on how to tweak it, but yes, Sara M did stand by her recipe.

As a child, I used to eat butter by the stick! Loved it so much....and everyone thought I was crazy, and tried to "hide" the butter in an extra fridge downstairs. So nice to see your article, and wish my parents were alive to read it. Thank you!

Thanks! I tried this a long time ago and it still didn't taste very fresh, but my Whole Foods has a local cream in glass bottles that might make the difference. BTW it's nearly impossible to find cream without additives (gellan gum) in a regular supermarket anymore (I was complaining on Bonnie's chat a few weeks ago).

Thank you, Tamar Haspel, for your thoughtful article. There are no easy answers to this one, unless consumers are willing and able to pay much more for a head of lettuce, a pound of apples, etc. (And I don't think you even discussed farmworkers' exposure to pesticides and what it would cost to better protect them or only grow organic crops.) I do wonder if our new government's promises to create more jobs for US citizens and to prevent unauthorized foreigners from working here, might combine to mean more Americans picking crops. ...

that is very much packaged to look like something you would get at a farer's market - a fairly large, irregular lump, wrapped in paper. Claims to be Amish, I think. Is this likely to be anything other than fairly ordinary, commercial butter made to look like something hand made from the milk of blissfully happy cows? I guess you can hear my skepticism, but I wonder if there is any reason to believe it is higher quality than butter that comes in 4 convenient 1/4 pound sticks with the tablespoon markings on the paper. Thanks.

It is good handmade butter, but not essentially much different from the convenient sticks UNLESS it's made from the milk of cows on pasture. In which case it may taste better, be more yellow, and be more nutritious. In the spring, when cows are back on grass it may be worth trying some to see if has some nice seasonality.

I like pan frying fish in refined coconut oil.

No question really, just a proclamation that butter is so good on so many things - why, it's the bacon of the dairy world! :-)

I have an older model KitchenAid stand mixer. The new models, I notice, have a different dough hook. The old ones were a regular hook, while the new ones are spiraled like a corkscrew. Is there a discernible difference in performance? And will the new one work on an older model mixer?

Good questions, all. I've only ever used the spiral hook, as opposed to the C-shaped one. Anyone have experience with both? I'm seeing some differing accounts of whether the attachments are cross-compatible. Here's one thread on Chowhound, but I bet you could call KitchenAid for more definitive information.

I feel like a need a primer and perhaps you could do an article or a video. It's really difficult to cut cheese cloth w/ kitchen shears. I've also tried w/ a sharp knife but that's dangerous and not effective. What's the trick? Also, how many layers of cheese cloth should one use? Thanks!

Good idea. I generally use whatever package-ful I buy (3-4 feet?), as I've never come across a recipe that suffered from straining through more layers of cheesecloth than required. In terms of layers you need, depends on what you are straining. The finer/clearer you want things to be, use more layers.

Husband's favorite line to me: "Gee, have a little bread with your butter!"

Hat seen in a farming community: "Butter: Because I trust cows more than chemists."

I'm looking at the Stracciatella with Spinach recipe, which looks delightful, but I had a question about one of the steps. After adding the spinach and cooking, the directions are "Remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes." Does it refer to the entire mixture, or just the spinach? Thank you!

At that point, it's just broth and spinach. That mixture needs to not be quite so hot, so that when you stir in the egg-cheese mixture, it won't immediately dissolve but rather "strand up." 

I have one of these and it's great, use it a lot. It comes with an immersion blender - that is one of my most used items (theres's a whisk too, but that I don't use much. It's not expensive - great value. It's lasted many years and the motor is for both the blender and the processor.

Even in the most prosperous nations of Europe, food generally costs a higher percentage of people's incomes than it does in the US. I do hope that both the European farmers and their farm-workers get paid better, in return for that higher price.

Hello, I've agreed to take dinner to a colleague going through chemo. It has to be gluten free, and must also serve his wife. Any ideas?

Running out of time, but how about a nice roast chicken with a veg side and/or salad? Or Bonnie's chicken soup with some gluten-free noodles instead?

Chicken Soup With Benefits

RECIPE: Chicken Soup With Benefits

Google 'Common Agricultural Policy' and enjoy the rants and gnashing of teeth ... . Yes, food is much more expensive in Europe.

Elaine, sorry for any confusion. I was asking for three separate butter recommendations when I asked this question: With your butter knowledge and pastry background, could you please recommend your best overall butter for: (1) eating plain on toast, (2) using in a laminated dough context, and (3) that is affordable for regular baking that we can find in supermarkets. Thank you!

Ah I see.  Table butter really runs the gamut in my house, but I do love a classic French AOC butter, like Echire or D'Isgny, but also the easier to find Organic Valley Pasture butter. For laminated doughs, like croissants, I go for an unsalted 82% butter like Plugra, Buerremont, or Land O Lakes. For regular baking, I generally choose an unsalted organic butter or Cabot brand. But there are many other good choices out there in each of these categories.

I almost always buy unsalted butter for cooking and eating, but after a near decade of living in France, one thing I truly miss butter-wise is French demi-sel butter. The "salted" butter generally found here is the US is just not the same - not salty enough. But sprinkling additional salt onto it does not help. Any recommendation on what to look for here on this side of the Atlantic, and where to find it?

Dean & Deluca sells Pamplie butter, which the employee at the Georgetown store says contains 2 percent salt. That percentage, she said, typically qualifies as demi-sel.


The store also sells a similar butter, the lightly salted Lurpak, which is from Denmark.


Both butters retail, she said, for under $10.


Mum likes a 'scarping' of butter and a great whallop of marmalade on her toast. I love it exactly the other way round - lashings of butter and a schemer of marmalade. Mum kindly would bring me in tea and toast to wake me up when we had to get up early. I could barely force it down. I asked if she might change the ratio, but this didn't seem to compute fore her. So then I told her just a cup of tea would be lovely - as I'd like to wait a bit before eating. Problem solved! Ahh the importance of the right amount of butter!

I'm with you. Lashings of butter, freshly melted, on my toast!

Well, you've pressed us into molds, so you know what that means -- we're butter! I mean, we're done!

Thanks for the q's today, and many thanks to Ellen, Carrie and Jim for helping with the a's.

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who headline his/her post "Butter With Teeth Marks" will get a SIGNED copy of Ellen's book! And the one who asked about food that doesn't look like the pictures -- and recipes whose times don't always line up with his/her experience -- will get a signed copy of "Dinner: Changing the Game." Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your book.

Now, go on over to Dorie's chat and keep this up -- and say goodbye and thank you!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, who farms oysters on Cape Cod and writes about food and science, is author of the monthly Unearthed column, winner of a James Beard Award.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Elaine Khosrova
Elaine Khosrova is the author of "Butter: A Rich History,” (Algonquin Books, 2016).
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