Free Range on Food

Apr 20, 2011

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. Today's topics: Southern biscuits (with guest Nathalie Dupree), Beer Madness, barbecue, calorie labeling on restaurant menus, and anything else edible.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's Free Range! Hope you have some good q's ready for us today. Bonnie's on vacation, but we've got biscuit maven Nathalie Dupree joining us, and we have Greg Kitsock here to talk about Beer Madness, Jim Shahin to talk about Smoke Signals (and our barbecue sauce contest), and Dave McIntyre to talk about wine. And anything else you ask and we can answer...

And of course we will tackle Easter questions!

We'll have two giveaway books to motivate you: Nathalie and Cynthia Graubart's "Southern Biscuits," and "Michael's Genuine Food," source of today's DinMin recipe.

Let's do this!

I moved from Virginia to Alaska recently and dearly miss my biscuit fix. (Sadly, the best biscuit option here might actually be McDonald's.) I've been working on recreating some of my favorites up here (like buttermilk biscuits) but I am also trying to create a hybrid biscuit with Southern character and Alaska-flair. Sourdough is hugely popular here (from the gold mining days) so I was hopeful you had a sourdough biscuit you could share. Thanks!

The best place to start is with angel biscuits, which is a combination of yeast and baking powder.  I'd make a sourdough from the yeast, fool around with how much to add, and then add the baking powder and flour.

Hello! I've not been able to find actual country or Virginia ham in the grocery store in years. I mean ACTUAL country ham - salt cured, not sweet. Any suggestions?

You need some Calhoun's from Culpeper! If you don't want to drive that far, they sell at the Farmer's Market in Old Town Alexandria. Take one look at the website and you'll be hungry! I like Calhoun's because it is a good balance of salt without being overly dry and well, piggy.

Can any (or all) of the biscuit recipes be made as drop biscuits, instead of taking the time to roll them out? My love for biscuits is often thwarted by my extreme laziness.

Sure.  Just make them looser.  Time the baking according to the size of the biscuits.

Hi foodies, I've been asked to bring an app for my mom's Easter dinner on Sun. I need to make it on Sat b/c we have another Easter brunch to go to before heading to my mom's so it must be able to travel well. Any suggestions? No one has any allergies and we all like to eat. Thanks for your help.

This one may fit the bill. It's a baby artichoke salad. You can cooked the artichokes in advance as well as prepare the dressing. You can then carry all the ingredients to your mom's house and quickly combine them on Easter Sunday. The bonus? You can tell your mom that the recipe comes from "Top Chef All-Star" finalist Mike Isabella.

So excited to see the short article on biscuits, but it didn't answer the constant question in my house -- which flour to use? Every time my husband bakes biscuits, he moans that they're not as good, now that White Lilly flour isn't made in the South anymore. Is there really a difference between the new and old White Lilly? And if so, is there some other flour, or combination of flours, that he should be using?

We used White Lily for all these biscuits, and were very happy with it.  Just be sure to whisk or fork through it in the package before measuring, to lighten it.  Sometimes these light flours get packed, and the self-rising ingredients might run to the top.

Why was there a huge front page article on Passover in the food section last week and a tiny little recipe for Easter bread in the food section this week. Just a reminder....Easter is celebrated by millions of Christians and this Easter is particularly special because Orthodox Christians (on a different calendar) will also be celebrating this coming Sunday. Don't you think you could have put a little more effort into recognizing Easter????

I don't really support your take that this is some kind of contest. Not too Christian, right? But anyway -- the Passover article wasn't huge, and the biggest story last week was about the lamb purveyor, featuring a meat that is ever-popular for ... Easter. Some years we do more with one holiday and some years less, and we always try to remind readers that we have archival recipes that are well-suited, as we do on our online Food front today.

So we were able to get our hands on some ramps and sauteed them with olive oil, half a clove of garlic, and some salt and pepper. They were good, especially with some mashed potatoes, but we wondered if we were showcasing the ramps to their full potential. Any other preparations we should try? Thanks. Love the chats.

I love to, er, ramp up ramps by combining them with other alliums in a frittata: so chopped ramps, scallions, green garlic, maybe some baby leeks. I saute them first, then pour in some whisked eggs, cook for a few minutes until set on the bottom, then sprinkle with Parm and slide under the broiler for another minute or two. Shower with mint.

They're also great pickled. No recipe for that on me, unfortunately.

thank you thank you THANK YOU for the biscuit article today, and moreover, THANK YOU for writing a cookbook devoted to my all time favorite food...BISCUITS!!! my question is: what is the best way to reheat a biscuit? i always find that if i don't eat them hot out of the oven, they get a little dry and tough, or just lose some oomph when i try to reheat them. also, can't wait to try the coca-cola biscuits....GENIUS!

The best thing way to reheat biscuits is to wrap them in foil.  Always add five minutes for heat for thick foil, less for thin,  to penetrate the foil, and then heat a few more minutes.  Experiment one at a time and then write down what you did for your oven.

A friend has lent me his French Roast coffee roaster. At least that's what I think it's called. It holds a few ounces of beans in a small glass tube. Hot air blows up through the tube, circulating the beans and slowly roasting them. Somehow the chaff is magically collected in a hood-like top. It's a mostly hands-off roasting method, quite a change from my hand-cranked Whirly Pop popcorn maker and coffee roaster. Thing is, I roasted some decaf beans to second crack, poured them in a glass jar, let the jar sit open a few hours and then sealed it. The next day I served some coffee made from those freshly ground decaf beans. It wasn't bad, but it tasted a bit too new, like the beans needed to age another day or two. Is that even possible? I'm still learning the home-roasting ropes, and am wondering if the jar should be unsealed now for another day, or if the beans have interacted with the air sealed within the jar, thus helping them mature a bit. Or could it be the roasting device? The beans certainly look nicely roasted, but I wonder if the French Roast produces a fundamentally different-tasting bean than does the Whirly Pop.

I'm trying to get the attention of the great folks at Sweet Maria's to get their take on this, but as a home roaster it strikes me that indeed your beans may have needed more time to emit CO2 before you sealed them up. I use a container that has a one-way valve on it, so when I put the beans in, the CO2 can still escape, thereby creating a vacuum and keeping the beans fresh. There's a lot of disagreement out there about when beans are at their peak after roasting, with some saying up to 24 hours but other saying that depending on the beans and the roast, it could be another day or two. If I were you, I'd try one of these tins and see how that goes. And buy Kenneth David's great "Home Coffee Roasting" book if you don't have it already.

The price of food continues to climb in some items 10 or more percent. This has taken place in the last 8-12 months. The blame if any, seems to indicate the demand in China and India for the rise. The media remains silent for the most part on this issue.

You must be kidding. The price of food has been a source of media coverage for months. The spike in global food prices has been a focal point in stories about the coup in Egypt and the rise in food stamp recipients.

Do any of you use an offset serrated knife? I just read someone recommending them for general use (in addition to a chef's knife).

I don't, but I gave my bread-maven sister one a couple years ago, and she loves it. But uses it mostly for ... bread. I have used a utility knife, which is also serrated, for cutting soft things such as tomatoes. But I don't think you need to go out of your way to buy an offset serrated knife if you have a great sharp chef's knife, unless you eat/make a lot of crusty bread.

Ramps and Morels go together amazingly well. I always feel like spring is here when I can make a risotto using Ramps and Morels.

Yum. Absolutely. I also like both of those things with super slow-cooked eggs, in Patrick O'Connell style.

And do recommend brushing butter on the top for even more buttery flavor? If so, is it done before or after baking?

You can brush with butter before, after or both!  The best biscuits come with a little practice, but both flour and liquid make a difference.  For a starter, try using just whipping cream, or a mix of yogurt and half and half.  If you just want to practice, use water.  Pretend you are practicing tennis.

in india, we have a type of bread called "bhatura", which is very flaky and biscuit like. it is usually eaten with a spicy chickpea curry (channa). this is one of my husband's favorite meals, and i'm wondering if there might be a way to doctor up a biscuit recipe to give it some indian spice pizazz? adding finely diced chili pepper would probably give it some heat, but is there a way to add onions, garlic, cilantro, or other wet and dry spices/herbs/etc to a biscuit recipe, but still achieve the light flakiness?

absolutely!  I think Popeye's adds hot pepper to theirs (I admit - I only ate them once) but added ingredients for flavoring dont really impact the lightness that much.  If you have the typical English flour used for Scones where you are, it is just as good for biscuits.


Dave ... We're opening up in downtown Annapolis this summer and hope you'll make a trip! In the meantime, what do you find is the most intimidating factor for consumers who are wine adventurous, but are overwhelmed by the choices and knowledge curve?

If a consumer is adventurous, then the only intimidation should be "so many wines, so little time." But adventurous suggests that they don't worry about point scores from magazines and they're willing to try unusual wines from out-of-the way places, such as Eastern Europe with all those unpronounceable grape varieties. But it also takes an adventurous winemaker, importer, distributor and retailer/winebar owner to make those wines available. Too often I taste some really nice wines, but they aren't readily available because retailers won't put them on the shelves if they actually have to work at selling them.

Are you planning to be "adventurous" with your wine list? If so, I bet you'll find a receptive audience, especially among younger patrons (circa 30ish), provided of course the prices are right and the food is good. It might take some effort on your part to find those wines, but the work will be fun and soon folks who sell them will start seeking you out. Good luck!

You don't eat any animal products but do not go so far as to check lables on toothpaste or shampoo??

Probably not, since those products can contain animal products. But I'm not a vegan and don't know the nuances of its culture.

This is completely random and maybe a better question for Adrian Higgins, but here goes. My yard right now is full of what we always called spring onions. When you pull them up, they look pretty similar to what you'd find in the produce section. Are they edible? Tasty? Or am I going to far with this whole sustainability/eating local thing?

Yes they are, and yes they are, and no you're not!

I married a man who loves to have frozen biscuits on hand for lazy weekend breakfasts. Since I prefer to make as much of our food myself I've taken to trying to prep biscuits in advance and freeze them uncooked. When I take them out of the freezer I simply lower the temperature and up the cooking time to get the biscuits right. I've been doing drop buttermilk biscuits but am looking to get into rolled cream biscuits. Can I freeze them like with the drop or with the Shenandoah biscuit recipe you provided (thanks for that), or do I need to alter my technique?

I don't see any reason why you couldn't adapt to rolled cream biscuits.  I froze them the night before I did Good Morning America a long time ago and they were delicious.   Experimenting is the key -- cook half the batch for eating right then, and then freeze the rest individually.  Try each on slightly differently, starting with the way you have been successful.

Thank you for the article about Sothern biscuits, and especially the Shenandoah Valley biscuit recipe which does not use buttermilk. I live in southern Turkey, where buttermilk is in short supply. Yogurt is in plentiful supply, however, and I wonder if I can substitute it for buttermilk in biscuit (or other) recipes.

Yes try the first one and see if the yogurt that is available is too strong.  If so, then add a bit of half and half to the next batch, or milk -- you can use any liquid, even soy milk -- and adjust to the ingredients you have.

For the poster who can't get buttermilk often--some recipes I've seen say that you can use vinegar or lemon juice to sour regular milk. I think it's 1 tablespoon of vinegar/lemon juice per cup of milk, and you let it sit for a few minutes before using it in the recipe.

I'm hosting an anniversary party for my parents and am wondering if you have any suggestions for food options in the Bethesda area. Do you recommend any caterers or do you know of any restaurants that would deliver some platters to serve about 40 guests?? Thanks for any advice!

One of best caterers in the area is based in Bethesda. It's name is Ridgewells, and I believe they handle intimate parties of your size. Give them a call 301-652-1515. Or check out their Web site.

We always have the same thing for Easter in my family, ham, asparagus, mac-n-cheese, sweet potatoes and homemade dinner rolls. Dessert varies, but this year I have requests for a chocolate cake. Do you have any suggestions for a new dish I can sneak in there? Everyone loves the tradition but I am sleepwalking through the cooking - so boring!

A silly thing I am doing this year is hard-cooking quail eggs and stuffing them like regular deviled eggs.  Be sure, as always, to add baking soda to your water when cooking them to make them peelable.

and after it is fork-tender this afternoon, I need to do several things before it is reheated tomorrow evening: remove the garnish for serving, strain the vegetables out so that the fat will easily rise to the top, puree the vegetables with the liquid, slice the brisket, and put the gravy back on top. In what order should I do this? Slice the meat while warm or cold? Can I put it in the fridge without liquid on top? Or should I put the vegetables on top while the liquid gets cold? Can you help? And lastly, what kind of booze can I drink while preparing this? Even I couldn't stomach my usual wine before 7 in the morning.

Just be absolutely sure you chill the brisket before slicing it.  If you slice it hot it will shred.  You can put the liquid on top after you slice it.  Reheat it in the microwave or oven with all the goodness on top.


I'm finally ready to upgrade my bottom-of-the-line Krups coffeemaker to something that will actually make decent tasting coffee. What should I look for? I'm used to a coffee maker and freshly ground beans, but I'm open to a French press, too. Please help!

I think that if you're really serious about making good coffee, you should go lower-tech. (After you invest in a burr grinder if you don't already have one.) French press is a good method if you don't mind the sediment; I use it when I make coffee for company. Just get a really good tea kettle. I actually prefer the pour-over method, which involves a dripper that sits on top of the cup. Some you have to get the hang of, pouring slowly so it steeps correctly, but the Clever Coffee Dripper that I have come to love is like a cross between pour-over and French press. Check it out.

How wrong would it be for me to refuse to cook one of my guests' steaks to well done? I know, I know, I'm not the one eating it. But I AM the one paying for it! Bah, only heathens get their meat well done. Talk about a waste of a good piece of steak.

Personally, I think it's wrong to refuse. Part of a host or hostess' job is to create a hospitable atmosphere for all your guests. The person who likes his/her steak well done probably has fears about raw meat. It wouldn't be cool of you to force a cooler temperature of meat on them. It seems far more important that everyone is happy at your dinner than everyone eats the way you want them to.

I agree. But I do think that you would be perfectly justified in secretly serving them a slightly lesser-quality piece. Do you remember the "save for well-done" exchange in "Kitchen Confidential"? Bourdain writes about how kitchens he worked in would take the worst ends of beef used for other purposes, throw them in the freezer, and mark "save for well-done," meaning use this one the next time someone orders a steak that way.

I can attest that this works. I recently had some old overripe bananas and my wife had a brunch the next day...I had to make banana bread from what I had in the house and this (1 TBSP lemon to 1cup milk) worked perfectly and the banana bread turned out great.

I'm a New Englander transplanted to the South, and love all sorts of Southern food. I've learned to make a good pulled pork, but every time I've tried biscuits they resemble hockey pucks! (I can't make decent fried chicken, either.) Mixing too much? Too long? Wrong ratio of ingredients? (Just got my copy of Serve Yourself and can't wait to try, first, the sweet potato soup with chorizo! Thanks for making it "OK" to live and cook alone.)

You are probably using the wrong flour to start.  Use a Southern flour like White Lily or Martha White, or if not available, use a national brand like Gold Medal or Pillsbury, et al.  Avoid King Arthur and bread flours as they have too much gluten -- doable, but only with skill.  Start with one of the simple biscuits and practice.  Overworking  makes a tough biscuit, but if you fold them rather than knead it makes them much more tender. 

And thanks for getting my book! Let me know how the recipes go...

I have been asked to make blueberry shortcake for an upcoming family birthday, and upon reviewing the internet, it seems essentially to be angel food cake sliced in half with whipped cream and blueberries as a filling. It seems to me to be a bit lacking in something. Would you have any ideas?

Shortcake is really a biscuit....add blueberries to the biscuit (although take care as they bleed) or just use as filling with cream.

Hi Dave - My fiance and I would like to serve the sparkling wine from Kluge at our wedding this fall. With the news that the Donald has purchased the winery, any idea if they are still producing and if they have stock on hand to buy a couple cases? We'd like to highlight this local wine and one of our favorite wineries in the C-ville area.

Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!

I think the winery stopped shipping to suppliers months ago, and most of their stock was sold for a pittance at auction in December. So you may be able to find some still on store shelves, especially if you do some legwork (or phone work) in the C'ville area. If you can't find any, I would recommend Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay, made near Charlottesville by Claude Thibaut, who was Kluge's initial sparkling winemaker and whose family makes real Champagne back in the homeland. You should be able to find it at several stores in DC and NoVA for about $30. Barboursville and Veritas also make good sparkling wines - Veritas' Scintilla is excellent.

I've been roasting big batches of veggies lately, and we'll eat them in several recipes over the week - pasta, pizza, eggs, by themselves. (this week I have the challenge of cooking for a six-month-old, a husband who doesn't eat meat, and a wife who's trying to celebrate Passover). Usually they work great, but I have two challenges: some veggies take longer to roast than others, so my onions and zucchini and tomatoes get over-roasted while cauliflower, parsnips, carrots, and chickpeas need more time. I try to separate into different pans, but I only have so many pans and space in my oven. Any suggestions? It's so hard to know how much time everything will take. My second problem is that usually carrots and parsnips turn out beautifully, but last night they were complete duds. I had quartered them, but the core, especially of the parsnips, never got soft and was hard and bitter. I think part of the problem was my selection of parsnips at the grocery store was pretty slim, so I had to get enormous parsnips. Any suggestions on avoiding that in the future? How do you select parsnips for most delicious taste? Is smaller better? But then I never know how long to roast them...argh.

Separating is the way to go if you want them to all roast evenly, but I have to say that I kinda like it when there are some differences in texture, cause it makes things a little more interesting. So over-roasted as in very soft doesn't necessarily bother me, if some things are crisper, but of course you don't want too much charring or total mush. With parsnips, you've discovered a very important thing: I tell people to make sure to cut out the woody core of the parsnips, especially if they're bigger than even an inch or so round, for that very reason.

Do you have any recipes for using cake flour? I was thinking of a bundt cake, but am having trouble finding recipes that use cake flour.

Here's a delicious recipe for Brown Sugar-Ginger Cake that uses a combination of cake and AP flours.

If that's not your style, here's a chocolate cake recipe that might suit you better.

Wegmans in Farifax and Sterling have it.

Regarding the reader who thinks the Post is favoring Passover over Easter, it seems people are overly sensitive about this. Here in Boston the Globe Magazine published three different haroset recipes for Passover, and a friend of mine was offended they ran AFTER he had shopped for Passover groceries. In my opinion, the Post is very inclusive in its approach to holiday foods, and I appreciate that.


ha ha....i'm the one who posted about the indian flavored biscuits. i'm in the midwest, (not india!), so i have access to all of the ingredients. however, i am now intrigued by the English flour nathalie referred to. is there a particular brand?

No particular brand.  But I once took some White Lily to the British Flour Institute to compare, and they were very similar. 

While the lemon/vinegar method works chemically, it doesn't recreate the taste. A better suggestion is to buy cultured buttermilk (I know Amazon sells it) and use it to get both the correct chemical reactions and the buttermilk taste. Even though I have easy access to buttermilk I use the cultured stuff because it lasts a lot longer and tastes close to the same.

Is there any particular reason why biscuits are round instead of square? Rolling the dough into a rectangle, and slicing would eliminate dealing with the scraps left over from cutting round biscuits. I was wondering if the corners would limit rising or brown too quickly.

Absolutely no reason why they can't be baked square.  They are easier.  Just pat into a buttered square pan rather than shapiing.  Cut into the dough before or after baking.

This week I received rainbow chard, carrots, and two enormous russet potatoes in my delivery from the local organic co-op. Suggestions on something delicious and vegetarian that will use some or all of these ingredients? I'm especially interested in trying something new with the chard, other than the usual steaming on its own.

Greens and potatoes really work well together. You could make a simple mashed potato and served with chard sauteed with lots of garlic.

Quick vegetable soup/chowder with cubed carrots, potatoes and some bacon, or pancetta finished with the chard.


Another one...chard and potato frittata.

I know this is a Southern book, but have the biscuit cooks tried any recipes using the New England staple Bakewell Cream? I love what it does to a normal biscuit recipe and the biscuits turn out great. For the poster who can't get buttermilk easily, why not make your own by agitating cream enough to get the butter solids to separate? What you have leftover is buttermilk. I can't imagine that yogurt would be as nice in baked goods (though it is a good baking ingredient in its own right).

I don't even know what Bakewell cream is.  Send me some Bakewell Cream and I'll send you some White Lily.

I have the earlier version of the pour coffee device (without the closed bottom) and I don't love it. Now I see you recommend pouring the water slowly so that it seeps correctly. This is the opposite of what I have been doing. I fill it up so some water sits there for awhile while the coffee comes out (the coffee comes out pretty quickly--and I don't think I am saving much over buying coffee because I need to grind so much for a strong cup). I am spatially-challenged but you're recommending pouring just a bit of water in at a time? That will yield a stronger cup of coffee?

Yeah, you want the first pour to just barely saturate the grounds, which will "bloom" a little. And then after 15-20 secs you pour the rest of the water, very slowly, in a circular pattern. (This is why some baristas use a Hario kettle with a thin spout, because you can control the speed of the pour.) See this from Stumptown for more info. The other thing is, if you don't want to do this or have trouble with it -- get the Clever Coffee Dripper! It's cheap.

If it's a woman she might be pregnant and not sharing that information and the person may have an immune issue.

True ... or they might just like their meat well-done.

An ex took me to a very high end steak house in Boston and we decided to be cutesy and order the "meal for two" where we would share a steak together. I love my beef close to rare and assumed someone who suggested this for dinner would be on the same page. He ordered it well done. There is a reason he is my ex.

It's not just the gluten in King Arther or bread flour that makes tough. They are unbleached flours. You want to use bleached flour...the bleaching lightens the flour and makes it work better for pastry and biscuits. After White Lily moved production up north (hurting quality) I wrote to King Arthur suggesting they create a bleached all-purpose, but they didn't even understand the suggestion. Southern, bleached flour is the way to go.

Yes, bleaching tenderizes the gluten.  I do know someone who uses unbleached White Lily, however, and is happy with them, so I'm not as adamant as you are. Nonetheless, I use bleached.

I typically make my lunch at home and bring it to work, but on nice days, I like to eat at the DC food carts. Which are your favorites? Thanks!

These days, there are a wealth of tasty food trucks roaming our streets. I wrote about the Pi on Wheels truck for this week's Food section. The guys turn out surprisingly good deep-dish pizza.  Their accompanying restaurant, District of Pi, is set to open in Penn Quarter in June.

I'm also a fan of the Floridano truck and its international sandwiches as well as the Red Hook Lobster Truck, the Porcmobile and DC Empanadas.  You can follow the trucks on our Food Truck Twitter Aggregator.

As I scrambled my eggs this morning, I looked at the two room-temperature eggs awaiting baking later, and wondered: would bringing eggs up to room temp make for fluffier scrambled eggs and souffles? Or is that the rule strictly for baking? Also, this misplaced and displaced Southerner thanks you for the biscuit article!

Room temperature eggs DO work better!  For just about everything, particularly for getting egg whites to rise.  They are harder to separate, however, so the trick is to separate them when cold if necessary rather than waiting until they are at room temperature.

Jim - I have a new Weber Smokey mountain. My fire always seems to burn on the cool side - 200-220 degrees. The vents are open all the way. I use briquettes. Would changing to hardwood charcoal raise the temperature to the recommended 250 degree mark?

Yes, changing to hardwood charcoal would raise the temp. But it will also burn faster. I'd add a few wood chunks (not chips) to help keep your smokiness/fire going and steady. 

With apologies for the indelicate question... I'm enjoying beans more and more in my diet--they're tasty, adaptable, shelf-stable, and healthy. But I find as I get older, they agree less and less with my digestive system. Is there anything I can do? I use canned because they're so darn convenient, but I'd consider cooking from dry--would that help? Are certain types of beans "safer" than others? Do I just need to start taking Beano with every meal? Thanks!

You're forgiven!


I find the best thing is to cook the beans myself in a pressure cooking. Easy, fast way to put an end to indelicate problems. I presoak even though I'm not convined it makes a difference, then cook at high pressure for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on the bean. Not only takes care of indigestion, but the beans taste great.

Best place to get Carolina-style barbecue in DC? Seems unlikely that one can find a good pulled pork sandwich anywhere outside the Piedmont...

HarborQue in Baltimore is pretty darn tasty stuff. "Carolina 'que with a Baltimore view!"

Well, you're right. Ain't nothin' like North Carolina for North Carolina-style barbecue.  I like (get ready for the name) Carolina Brothers in Ashburn. The owner is from northeastern NC. His sauce is terrific. His bbq is delicious, too. 

I LOVE Zaytinya's roasted brussel sprouts. I've tried to recreate them at home, but I just can't seem to get my sprouts as crisp as the restaurant's. The chef also manages to get the leaves to ruffle out and crisp up. At home, I quarter my brussels sprouts and then roast them tossed with olive oil and with olive oil cooking spray on the sheet pan. I've tried it at 400 and at 350, but while the outside does brown and crisp, the inside sort of steams and the leaves seem so compact. Any ideas on how they do it at Zaytinya?

I don't know how they do it at Zaytinya, but I ahve a lot of success with this method:

Halve the sprouts and toss with garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. Place in roasting pan and cover with foil. Roast 20 minutes in 375 degree oven. Remove foil and roast about 10 minutes longer until crispy.

Good luck!

Let's say you had some biscuits and some chorizo. What else would you put on your breakfast sandwich?

Fried egg. Maybe an avocado. Oh, boy, that sounds good.

Julienne carrots, cube potatoes. Microwave potatoes about 6 minutes (rotating after 3 min if you don't have a carousel), then pan fry the outsides of the potatoes to a nice golden brown. Next sauteed ginger, garlic and carrots in olive oil until the carrots are mostly cooked, add chard and wilt. Add potatoes. Lovely way to use that combination.

As a girl from the South who gave up cheese for Lent, I'm excited to try the pimento cheese biscuits after Easter! Is there a reason wooden bowls are the preferred bowl for mixing? I'm wondering if I should invest in a good wooden bowl! Thanks!

I find the wooden bowls are wider and larger.  Most people tend to use a small bowl and the flour becomes overworked.  A broader (rather than deeper)  container makes a big difference.   I like wood because it is easier to scrape clean and keep clean.

Could you please post the link to the biscuit article? Thanks!

Sure. Here it is!


Thanks for posting the recipe! I made Mike Isabella's pepperoni sauce last week. It is SO strong, so concentrated, I had to drink some water every time I tasted it. I ended up thinning it by adding another can of diced tomatoes to the blender. I served it with baked breaded chicken tenders, and everyone loved it.

I haven't tried the recipe myself yet, but I still remember the Pavlovian drool response I had when Mike Isabella talked about it on the finale of "Top Chef All-Stars." If you haven't seen the recipe, here it is.

Hey Jim! Read your blog yesterday and really enjoyed it. I was wondering if you had any specific recommendations for anyone just getting started, and what some of the most important things to look for would be. Thanks a lot!

If you mean you are thinking of just getting started in smoking, I would say that you should get as good a rig as you can afford. The cheap smokers are hard to use, although, personally, I think they are both great learning tools and very good at turning out top-notch 'cue. Just takes more effort. 

I like a smoker with easy clean-up. A slide-out ash shelf is nice. Also, make sure that the handles on the chamber and the firebox don't get hot, as you don't always want to have to wear a mitten to open the rig. Be sure that you can adjust your chimney; some chimneys just have a top that fits on, but what you want is one that slides across to allow you to better calibrate your heat. Finally, try to find something with pretty good wheels. You will likely move the rig around somewhat and you want to be able to move it easily and you also want the wheels to last. 

Bakewell Cream is a gluten-free leavening agent that produces a lighter, flakier, biscuit and better tasting baked goods. Those who try it have become loyal customers for life. This is a made-in-Maine product that is a staple of most Maine households. From: (but available many places online)


Hi all, I've been invited to an Easter weekend at my aunt's house that includes dinner Saturday night and brunch Sunday morning. I asked if I could bring something and my aunt listed what we were having and it looks like all the bases were covered. We're having pasta for dinner (salad, bread and dessert are spoken for) and eggs, ham, borscht and pierogis (we're polish) for brunch. She also said they have plenty of wine and beer. So what to bring? I was thinking maybe an appetizer - something easily transported and snackable pre-dinner? Either that or something to add to brunch? Any genius ideas?? Thanks!

Sounds like your aunt's got the meal done, so why not think about her? I host many family gatherings and I prefer doing most of the cooking, but I do like gifts....which makes me a big proponent of hostess gifts, a custom that needs to be brought back: flowers (in an arrangement), chocolates, pretty kitchen towels, beautiful reusable tote bags, special kitchen gadgets. etc...




May be cheap on its own, but when I was looking to buy it, the shipping from Sweet Maria's was astronomical. The dripper itself is only $15 but shipping was another $9. Do you know another place to get it, either online with more reasonable shipping or (preferably) a bricks-and-mortar shop? Thanks!

I don't. I think it's worth $21, though.

I find brining dry beans lessens the unfortunate musical accompaniment problem.

I'm interesting in making my own chicken stock. How should I go about doing this? Roast a chicken and then boil the bones afterwards with some vegetables?

You can roast a chicken and then use the bones, which makes a more flavorful broth in some ways, but a bone-only stock is more gelatinous than one made with a whole chicken.  I usually "boil" a chicken and then use the cooked chicken for salads and sandwiches.   Any time there is any little bit of bone or flesh left, add some water and cook for a while.  Every bit of flavor helps when cooking.

Smokin' Jim- Saw smoked paprika the other and was wondering: how the heck is paprika smoked and how is it used? Thanks!

I've gotten a lot of interest in this. The best smoked paprika is called pimenton and comes from Spain, where it receives an official designation, like wine and olive oil. 

Pimenton is made from peppers that are harvested at the peak of flavor and set on racks in a smokehouse where they are oak-smoked for two weeks. Each day, they are turned by someone to assure that the smoke infuses the entire pepper. 

Different peppers are used. So, you can get pimenton in hot, bittersweet, and sweet. 

Oh, and the stuff they sell as simply "smoked paprika"? Nowhere near as good as pimenton. You may have to search online to find it. But it is worth it! Try

My father's from small-town Alabama and makes homemade biscuits with pan-fried ham with a coffee gravy every Sunday morning. As such, have always considered biscuits a breakfast food. Is this normal? Have not ever considered the history of the biscuit before, I guess.

Certainly for breakfast -- yum -- but also for other meals -- like with cream gravy poured over -- and split and filled with something -- ham will do, as will pork or strawberries, or whatever. 

Be sure to get a video of your dad making biscuits and do a lot of close ups.  You'll want to make them some day.

good afternoon! i consider myself a good cook. advanced, even. but for the life of me, while i can whip up a souffle without blinking an eye, i cannot roast potatoes properly! they either don't brown up, or look lovely on the outside while being uncooked on the inside. i've tried roasting them whole, sliced, in foil, on a baking sheet, in butter, in oil.......i'm determined to make this work! so....i have a few pounds of mixed baby fingerling potatoes sitting and mocking me in the pantry. any suggestions on how i can with this battle?!?!

Make sure your potatoes are spread out on the pan; a too large pan may be blocking the heat, so make sure there is room in the oven to circulate around the pan.  I cut mine in half and toss them with oil and rosemary -- and I use a pizza pan.  Roast on high - 450 or so - and keep a good watch on them. Avoid salting until you get the hang of them, as water follows salt and they may be sweating.

so my doctor wants me to cut way down on carbs, I gave up chocolate for Lent and I just read the vegan chat. Now I want cheddar biscuits, strip steak and devils food cake. All I have is a salad for lunch!

You can't diet by giving up things entirely.  You'll just binge.  Once a week or so, eat what you love.  Make a special occasion of it.

My wife is from DC and I want some biscuits for her birthday. She makes lots of biscuits with flour and milk and butter. I want to try something different for this--Is there a real special southern biscuit recipe I can wow her with?

Try the whipping cream one -- or the Coca Cola one in the paper today if you want to pretend she is from Hot-Lanta.


Any clues as what will be served at the wedding luncheon in London?

Pol Roger will be the official champers, according to Decanter magazine.

Hi Jim! It's your Candian cousin Susan on Vancouver Island and I'm looking for your all time favourite BBQ sauce recipe. Thanks!

Oh, jeez! Hi Susan. How's everything? Your mom? Your dad? Siblings? Family? Hey, email me. 

Oh, and I don't have a favorite sauce recipe. Depends on what I'm in the mood for. Email me anyway. 

My fiance and I returned from a weekend charter boat fishing trip in MD with several rockfish filets. Any ideas of recipes that would work well with rockfish? Also, how would you recommend freezing the remaining filets? My fiance isn't a big fish eater, but loves fish and chips - do you think it could stand up to a heavy batter and frying?

Here's a tasty recipe for oil-poached rockfish. You might give it a try.

As for freezing the filets, the key is to keep air out. Most suggest variations on this tip, which suggests covering your fish with a thin layer of water. Even with that, though, you shouldn't let those filets linger in the freezer longer than three to six months.

Posting early in case I miss the chat. Hey guys, my grocery store had a great deal on semi-boneless rib roasts, so of course I bought one. Now I need to figure out what to do with it. I'm assuming I should roast it, but at what temp and for how long? And what kind of herb/marinade/whatever should I use to flavor it? It's a fairly small cut - just under 2 pounds (I'm planning on making it for just me and my husband). Thanks!

A small roast like that is going to cook quickly. I'd just salt and pepper it. Rub with oil and sear on the stove. Preheat oven to 425, then turn down when you put roast in to 350. My bet is that it takes under an hour from start to finish. A digital thermometer will help you a great deal. I take the roast out of the oven out at 130 degrees for medium-rare. Let it sit for 15 minutes before carving. Should be delicious. You can use spice rubs. but if the beef's good you won't need it.


What would be delicious is to cut up vegetables (carrots, rutabega, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, onions ) and potatoes and roast in the pan alongside the beef. It's amazing what a little beef fat does!

Trader Joes has been out for ages, Whole Foods has an empty bulk bin......and I have them every morning with my oatmeal!

Pecans mature in the winter -- we usually get them in December or January.  So I am not sure why you can't get them.  The cold may have hurt the crop.

Hi foodies, I have two frozen packages of pork backbone but am unsure what to make with them. Any suggestions? Each package is about 1-1.5 lbs.

I brown them and add them to greens.

Where? I just popped in from garden cleaning. Are there scones recipes in your book Ms. Dupree? I love biscuits and syrup a bit too much but if you have scones, I'm a buyer! And what's the bbq sauce contest about?

I do have scones in the book.  :>)  Someone else will have to answer the BBQ sauce questions.

The sauce contest is going to be great! (I hope, since I'll be testing a lot of sauces.) Turn in your favorite recipe of any sort (red ketchupy KC-style, vinegar-peppers North Carolina-style, or something exotic) by May 1. 

We'll announce the winner in the paper on May 25. 

Watch the paper and the website, which will have all the particulars. 

Hope you enter! 

I joined a CSA for the first time this year. I love salad and spinach (raw) but have never had cooked greens. I hear that much of the early bags have greens and I am worried that I will be wasting food. Is there hope for a raw spinach lover to be able to learn to like cooked greens?

Relax, many of the greens are a lot like spinach. Chard can be cooked exactly like spinach. Escarole can be used in salads. The others don't have to be slow-cooked. You can blanch (cook quickly in salted water) and add to rice, grains and soups. Hope this helps....

Help! I bought a buffalo tongue and am having a hard time finding recipes. What would you do?

I'd suggest making a buffalo variation on lengua tacos. Just substitute your buffalo tongue for the beef tongue.

I know there's ham and I know there's lamb, but what's a good way to have a delicious Easter dinner with smoked foods? (Including ham and/or lamb would be great, but any other ideas would also be great!)

Grilled lamb is fabulous! We're outta time, but bascially you butterfly it, rub olive oil, lots of minced garlic and minced herbs on it, put it directly over the fire for a few minutes on each side, then move to the cool side of the grill for about 7 minutes. It should turn out medium-rare - and phenomenal!

Well, you have removed us from the oven and brushed our tops with melted butter, then turned us out upside down on a plate to cool slightly, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and to Nathalie Dupree, Jim Shahin, Dave McIntyre and Stephanie Sedgwick for helping us answer them!

Now the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about wowing his wife with biscuits will get Nathalie's "Southern Biscuits." The one who asked about whether it's cool to refuse to serve a well-done steak will get "Michael's Genuine Food" by Michael Schwartz and Joann Cianciulli. Send your mailing information to us at, and we'll get them to you.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading! And don't forget ... if you love to grill or barbecue, enter our sauce recipe contest!

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