Free Range on Food: Southern dumplings, Lulu Peyraud, this week's recipes and more.

Jan 17, 2018

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

As I shoveled the sidewalk this am, I thought: Couldn't be a better day to make Sheri Castle's terrific chicken and dumplings! Welcome to Free Range, where Sheri will join the fun, as well as Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan, whose take on hot toddies is just as timely, and the rest of the WaPoFood gang (minus Editor Joe, who's on another mission today). Bonus: We have a few questions from last week that tonnato correspondent Charlotte Druckman was able to answer. But she's not here for our chat....


Feel free to share your thoughts on this week's stories re Lucie "Lulu" Peyraud, the best-selling beers in America, office-refrigerator yucks and any other culinary matters on your mind. We'll give 'em our best shot -- and award a cookbook or two for particularly thought-provoking queries. Check back at the end of the hour for the winners.


For  PostPoints members (you're in, yes?) here's today's code: FR1842. You will record and enter it at the PostPoints site under "Claim My Points" to . . . earn points! The code expires at midnight so be sure to get it registered by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to get credit for participating.


The bell rings, and we're off! 

We have a small pumpkin that I want to stuff and bake. The requirements are vegetarian, no soy and gluten free. I was thinking of some kinda rice and beans but would appreciate any suggestions.

Check out Joe's Thanksgiving recipe. You'll have to scale down with just the one pumpkin, or just eat the rest of the filling separately.

Biryani Stuffed Pumpkins

RECIPE: Biryani Stuffed Pumpkins

I loved last week's story on tonnato, especially after having lived in Italy (Padua) for 6 months and traveling around the country eating more than my weight in food (luckily I walked a ton). I was amazed by the regional differences in the food there - for a country so small the change in cuisine from one city to another is dramatic and really reflects the culture of eating with what's in season and grown regionally. I wanted to see if there were other surprising dishes or sauces that we may be unfamiliar with but that also have an exciting story (perhaps even beyond Italy and even in America!). I love learning about food beyond the recipe and really enjoyed the piece!

Charlotte says:

Port towns, or any stop along a trade route tend to be hotbeds for culinary mash-ups--ingredients coming together, or being swapped, in the most interesting ways. But my favorite examples of unexpected foodstuffs are those that emerge in times of crisis or deprivation. People are so resourceful, it's amazing. Here's one I'm especially fond of as a lover of green tea. The Japanese tea genmaicha is often served at the end of a meal at a sushi restaurant--it has that nutty taste because it's made with roasted rice. But it wasn't created because someone thought I'll bet adding rice to green tea would make it taste extra-toasty. Nope. It was created during a tea blight when a significant amount of the year's green tea crop was destroyed and someone thought to supplement the little yield there was with rice. People liked the resulting fix so much they continued to make it. You see similar culinary acts of ingenuity during wartime or deprivation. Navajo frybread, which is so delicious, is borne out of the rations imposed on the tribe by the U.S. Government. There was a limited amount of corn and cornmeal, which was an integral part of Navajo culture and cuisine and, instead, white flour was distributed--and still, not enough of it. Making that bread was a way to use up the flour, and in an economical way. All of which is to say that more dishes than we realize have important and fascinating stories behind them. 

I was so excited to read Charlotte Druckman’s article. We’ve just returned home from a month of eating and eating in Europe. My octagenarian nonna cooked quite a few Italian meals for us, including tonnato, which I loved, now (please don’t tell her) I am looking forward to trying a couple of the tonnatos from this article. By the way, we brought home with us several small bottles of Anchovies extract, Saba’ for salad dressing? and Condimento emerigo that I have no idea what to do with. Will be greaffull for any guidance on how best to use Saba, anchovies extract and the “Condimento.” Anchovies extract in a bottle are a lot more expensive than the ones in a tube. Are they better? Also, if possible, any guidance on “overcooking” fresh vegetables Italian way? I was horrified to watch Nonna dump gorgeous fresh nicely chopped vegetables into boiling water and cook them for at least 30 minutes. Instead of anticipated mush, her vegetable stew tasted divine. How can that be? Thanks as always.

From Charlotte: 

I wish your nonna would cook for me! And no, I would not tell her about my tonnato creations. She would not be amused. I've never cooked with anchovy extract myself (I love the salt-cured anchovies preserved in olive oil best of all). But I know it's similar to Asian fish sauce and you should be able to use them interchangeably. That means, for starters, you could use it in the recipe for Sesame Tonnato and toss those spicy noodles with it. But you can use the extract in things like pad thai, or in a dipping sauce for summer rolls, or in a sweet and sour vinaigrette for a Vietnamese-style chicken or seafood salad. It's also great to use on steak before grilling it (as a marinade, with garlic). Saba is the grape syrup used to make balsamic vinegar, so you can drizzle it on things you would think of finishing with balsamic vinegar; the saba is thicker and sweeter. It's great on chunks of aged Parmesan and pairs nicely with lots of other cheeses. It's also good on ICE CREAM; vanilla is the obvious choice but I like it on caramel, chocolate, coffee or peanut-butter ice cream--or on thick, creamy yogurt. I think I'd like it on ricotta-blueberry pancakes. Condimento di amerigo is a special strain of aged balsamic vinegar you can use it the way you would any great, aged balsamico--as a finishing agent, or else, in the saba applications mentioned above. 

I don't believe in BOILING vegetables to overcook them. I like the method where you hammer them in olive oil and a touch of water (to prevent browning) at a low temperature for a really long time (up to 2 hours). You can remove the cover at the end to brown them a bit. I love to do this with broccoli; it breaks down to a point where you could toss pasta into the pot with the finished vegetable and the broccoli would act like a sauce. It's a great way to cook broccoli rabe, too. 

How about when it's someone else's office refrigerator? I volunteer at a local nonprofit located in an area about an hour from where I live. Volunteers help out at night for 4-5 hour shifts that end just before the last train leaves. I try to go early to eat at one of the area restaurants, which offer international cuisine not available anywhere near my home. When I asked the nonprofit to refrigerate my leftovers during my shift, I was told the refrigerator is for staff. Was mine an unreasonable request?

From my vantage point, no, not unreasonable. But I could also see the office wanting to limit who can use the fridge, for the reasons mentioned in the article. (Plus if they let one outside person use it, it could snowball into letting all the outside people use it, which could lead to even more moldy leftovers, I suppose.)

ARTICLE: Passive-aggression, moldy tuna and outright theft: The curse of the office refrigerator

Is anyone else put off by the word "fridge?" #inquiringminds

So I'm trying to up my cocktail game and finally got some large ice molds (2 1/2 inch spheres and cubes). My ice isn't as pretty and clear as good bars though - any suggestions to make rocking home ice? My Googling solutions I don't think have really improved the clarity. I use filtered water, and I've tried using cooled, boiled water, but there is still a very distinct haze to my cubes. Thanks!

Till Carrie chimes in, here's the helpful guide she did.

ARTICLE You've made a good drink. It deserves the perfect ice.

So the best answer I can give you is to turn to Camper English; he's been studying this stuff and writing about it on Alcademics for a while now. Beyond buying a Clinebell -- not an option for most -- what English has discovered is that the main way of clarifying ice in a home freezer is via directional freezing (detailed in first link above). You can rig a way to do this via insulating items, but my current go-to is a device called the True Cube, which is a little on the pricey side and takes some freezer space BUT it is giving me big beautiful clear ice cubes, basically by implementing the strategy English discusses. I think there are a couple other devices on the market now that claim to do this, including a substantially cheaper one called the Rabbit -- it looks like the same principle at work, but I haven't tested it! Lemme know if you give it a shot!

I, too, was completely flummoxed when the baking chocolate was no longer wrapped in one-ounce pieces. All I could think of was, does no one bake at this company?? PLUS! The other affront is that they downsized the box from four ounces to two ounces.

I know that Baker's stuff is ubiquitous, but as far as grocery store brands (of course something like Valrhona is going to be even better) I'm switching my allegiance to Ghirardelli's unsweetened baking chocolate. We used it for the first time this year when my husband made his family's chocolate peanut butter pie for Thanksgiving and it made the ganache topping so good.

No. It's standard usage, so get over it.

The word can be found in Merriam-Webster, so it's legit to me.


But I sympathize. There are words and phrases that make my skin crawl. The latest: ___ is my jam. 



I enjoyed the hot toddy article; I'll be making the alpine version as soon as it gets cold again (it's 67 degrees in DC as I'm writing this). I vaguely remember when we were kids with a chest cold we’d get a honey, lemon juice, whisky concoction – my southern mother and Caribbean father swore by its healing properties…or maybe it was a way to finally get miserable children to go to sleep :-). As an adult, years ago I went out with friends and told the bartender I wasn’t drinking because I had a cold. To my pleasant surprise, she came back with a toddy made with tea, whisky, lemon and an orange wheel spiked with cloves. I was so appreciative – it was the best I’d felt all day – that I tipped her double. Ever since, hot toddies have been my go to winter drink, whether I have a cold or not.


So glad you enjoyed the story! I think toddies do make one feel appreciative -- years back, a bartender in Brooklyn served me one that was probably only OK, but because it was 12 degrees out, it felt like the best drink ever.

I have a fish recipe I love (Ina Garten.) A sauce of creme fraiche and other ingredients is poured over the filet which is then baked for 10-15 minutes @ 450. Can't get creme fraiche here. Can sour cream be substituted and take that heat? Thanks!

You can DIY it by combining heavy cream and buttermilk; see this way. Not sure what else is in with creme fraiche; the basic diff between the two is that the latter has more fat and less tang than sour cream. 


Is it her Mustard-Roasted Fish, perchance, or something similar? A fave o' mine! I am betting in that instance the sour cream swap would be fine.


Try stirring a pinch of cornstarch into the sour cream, which often prevents it from separating when heated.

I recently learned how to clarify butter and was wondering the difference between using clarified butter and the technique of mixing your butter and oil. I know both can withstand greater temperatures unlike plain butter and obviously, the latter is simpler, but are there major differences between the two? Who doesn't love that wonderful buttery flavor!

Alas, the theory that a mixture of butter and oil has a higher smoke point than butter alone is a kitchen myth. It's been busted on repeated occasions, like this test from Serious Eats.

Happy Wednesday Food Rangers! My favorite day to read the WaPo! I want to make the strawberry clouds for my Valentine's tea party. Has anyone seen these freeze dried strawberries around here? I'd appreciate the help. Thanks and happy cooking!

Raises hand! Sometimes they are carried in the produce department, near the nuts and such (Harris Teeter, Shoppers) and sometimes they are on the dried fruit aisle (Whole Foods). 


Good choice on the Strawberry Clouds.

Trader Joe's pretty consistently has them, in my experience.

Thanks for the dumpling tips - it's always hard not to peek! I wondered if you could tweak the dumplings to be more like corn bread. I'd love to do corn bread dumplings with chili and wondered if you had tips to do that. Sub some of the flour with cornmeal perhaps and add some jalapenos?

Cornmeal dumplings are delicious.  You will want to replace at least half of the flour with cornmeal. Adding an egg is optional, but will make them lighter.  In my part of NC,  cooks like to add cornmeal dumplings to pots of greens and potlikker. They sometimes use some of the potlikker to moisten the batter instead of milk.

We bought some DOP aged balsamic vinegar direct from the producer in Modena over the summer and now of course I'm feeling nervous about ever using it. Any ideas that'll help me finally crack open the bottle? Serve over parmigiano? Pasta? Steak?

You are wise to view it as a condiment rather than an ingredient. When fresh strawberry season rolls around, drizzle a couple of drops over sliced berries and premium vanilla ice cream. It's heavenly. Then do the same in fresh peach season.

Drizzled on a good aged chunk of Parm > also recommended. Chef Massimo Bottura served this as hors d'oeuvres at the Italian ambassador's residence years back and I've never forgotten that!

I'm having 2 girlfriends over for brunch. Any ideas outside of the french toast or egg casserole I usually do where I won't be crazy in the kitchen trying to keep eggs hot or flipping individual pancakes when they get there?

Love these chats - and finally plucked up the courage to ask a question. Does it freeze well? I am concerned it might get too "mushy" on defrosting and reheating? Cooking for a lot more people than I normally do so feeling slightly anxious but trying to get ahead of the game...

Yes, you can freeze the stew. It will never taste quite the same as Boeuf Bourguignon straight from the pot. But let me ask you a question: How far in advance do you plan to cook this? You could put the stew in the fridge for two or three days. and it will reheat very well. Some (me included) love the flavors of the stew after they have sat in the fridge for a day. They seem to intensify. If I were Harold McGee, I could tell you why. 

A couple years ago we had an incredible meal at Komi that included a braised goat shoulder that we're still thinking about. I'd love to make it, but haven't been able to find a goat shoulder at any local markets. Any idea where I might be able to find a goat shoulder?

Halal markets are good sources for goat. You may wish to call first and find out when during the week they get in their goats for butchering. In DC, I think you can get it frozen at Union Meat in Eastern Market. When Harvey's Market in Union Market has it (call a week ahead for pickup), it's from a local farm. 

Here's a list of markets that sell fresh goat. It's about three years old, so I would call them before making the trek. Good luck!


LIST: Where to buy fresh goat in the D.C. area

I made a huge mistake in baking temperature and wound up with a chicken that was pink in the middle. We ate the outside of the breast which did make it to safe temps (and we seem to be ok two days later!) and I put aside the rest to toss into some soup, but I'm not a very accomplished soup maker. I have stock, I have canned white beans and some veggies, but I'm not sure at what point to put in the chicken. It is mostly cooked already, so I can't treat it like raw, but neither can I treat it as happy leftovers that just need a bit of warming. Help?

More info, pls? Tell us about how you "put it aside" -- did you not cook it further? Do you have a meat thermometer?

OK, it may be standard by now, but I don't have to like it. In the same category: phone, pics, sub, indie (I had to ask the meaning of this one). Is it too difficult to pronounce words beyond two syllables?

In a chat where one is typing quickly and/or using Internet speak in general, using shortcuts certainly makes sense to me. :-) 

If I were channeling Oprah (and her wealth), this is where I'd say, "and YOU get a car!"

My yankee mother taught me how to make dumplings. Mmmmm, dumplings....

Great dumplings know no borders, but this type of leavened dumpling is more popular in some parts of the South.

Newly widowed, I have little appetite and no interest in cooking. Can you suggest easy to make recipes for casseroles and stews that can be frozen for re-heating? Thanks.

Very sorry for your loss. Have a look at our Make It, Freeze It, Take It recipes. I think these are some for you to consider:

Beef and Guinness Stew

RECIPE: Beef and Guinness Stew

Lemon Chicken and Rice Casserole

RECIPE: Lemon Chicken and Rice Casserole

Might be good to portion them among smaller containers, too -- disposable aluminum, or bake-able/freezable glass. 

I'd like cocktail suggestions that could help me use up the liquors we currently have, namely Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo, and Grand Marnier. I don't mind buying mixers. We're having a casual supper of chili, carrot apple soup, and grilled cheese, and the kids will be having lemonade.

I'm not sure I'd put all that in a single drink, unless you feel like making a punch -- which might be a good option if you're having company, and the great thing about making punch is it's very forgiving (you can usually add more of something to balance it out if you're not liking the results). You could try out this recipe, subbing the Grand Marnier for PART of the simple syrup. 

You could also make margaritas with the tequila and Grand Marnier (sub the latter for the Cointreau). Whatever you pick, you'll definitely need some good fresh citrus.

I got mine at Target. They have a pretty good selection of trail mix and trail mix-type ingredients.

Plus a lot of other freeze dried fruit

Good call. They are the best for hard-to-find ingredients.

Don't forget this summer when you can get fresh local tomatoes! Or better yet grown your own. Caprese salad is a wonderful lunch all by itself.

Curiosity: Why would I incorporate water into the drained yogurt instead of using some of the drained whey?

V good question -- the same one food writer Jane Black had when she tested the recipe for us. Jane sez: "It mellowed the flavor and softens the tang; opens up the "canvas" to the additional flavors.


P.S. Make the Mint and Egg Salad from the same batch of  Paula Wolfert recipes that the Megadarra was in. It'll change your life, as we hyperbolic recipe enthusiasts like to say.


ARTICLE 'Unforgettable' pays tribute to the 'most influential cookbook author you've never heard of'

RECIPES Megadarra and Turkish Yogurt Sauce


Not be a downer, but the cocoa industry is notorious for forced child labor. I use Guittard, which is fair-trade certified.

Something to consider, for sure.

Two of my favorite local health-food stores (David's Natural Market in Columbia and Roots in Clarksville) carry a variety of freeze-dried fruit. I love the raspberries.

Who amongst your friends/community would love to ply you with food? I'm so sorry for your loss.

I too have noticed that I can't purchase the individual squares anymore, and the solid lump comes in a 4 oz box instead of the previous 8 oz. However, the chocolate is marked / scored so it is easy to break into 1 oz pieces. I generally whack the paper wrapped chocolate on the counter, and it falls into the appropriate pieces.


Trader Joe's. They also carry freeze dried blueberries and pineapple. I was disappointed in making meringues with freeze dried strawberries, which I powdered. The lovely pink meringue turned an unpleasand beige in the oven. I still have some of the strawberry powder and cannot muster the enthusiasm to use it.

Sprinkle it on top of things, maybe?

Experiment with adding it to whipped cream.

Crêpes that you could make the day before (also the sauce, filling). Then you could fill, sauce and bake them the day of.

I like this, I like this.

We watched the garlic episode of Rotten on Netflix last night. I've never bought peeled garlic and definitely won't now. Have you seen this show? I don't know what to believe anymore and I wish I could have a garden and eliminate the middlemen.

Well, you have piqued my curiosity. I haven't seen the series yet. (But I will!) I tried doing some quick searches for the garlic episode and couldn't find much aside from some vague mentions of the Chinese industry.


What freaked you about the episode? (Assuming "freaked" is the right verb here.)


My N.Y. Jewish mother, when we had colds, also mixed lemon juice, whiskey & honey - by the spoon for coughs or in tea. And aren't matzoh balls pretty much dumplings?

So did my Jewish dad! Re matzoh balls: Even if you are clever enough to produce floaters instead of sinkers, they aren't as light as Sheri's Southern-style dumplings. You must trust me on this. 

Excellent! Glad you had that matronly toddy-instruction that I missed out on :) And now I want some soup.

I have some delicious leftover bourbon chicken I made in the crockpot (originally served over rice). I was thinking about heating it up and serving it on buns or rolls. What toppings would you suggest to complement the tangy-sweet flavor of the chicken?

I personally think pickled red onions make almost everything taste better. Below is a recipe for pickled red onion and chard stems. You can ignore the chard stems and just focus on the red onions.


RECIPE: Pickled Red Onion and Chard Stems


If you're strapped for time, you can do this quick-pickle from the Kitchn.

Thank you. I was just about to say the same thing. However, objecting to "phone" is pretty laughable. Do you also insist on saying "luncheon"?

Was thinking the same thing and also lol-ing about probable generational differences on this one/how language morphs over time in general, but that's neither here nor there, and also this is Free Range on Food, not Free Range on Language, amirite?

Irony alert: there was a time when people like you frowned on the use of "ok." Language evolves.

Are lovely mixed in buttercream frosting- they give flavor and color!

I too didn't have luck with the strawberry clouds, but used the remainder of my powdered strawberries to make a strawberry milkshake.

In my experience, dumplings appear wherever there are German-descended populations -- more in the Midwest than in the South.

I agree that Germans introduced wonderful dumplings into our repertoire, including the South. My ancestors on my mother's side were German. 

One time I put a salad in the refrigerator and over the course of the morning the container got upended and shoved up against the back of the fridge. When I went to retrieve it at lunchtime, my salad was frozen. Never again. I keep my lunch in a lunchbag and if it warms up, so be it. Frozen salad is a no go but I can live with room temp.

I read this week's story on office refrigerators with great interest. Many years ago, I left some homemade leftovers in the fridge (not at the Post, but another workplace) and come lunch time, I found it gone. I was outraged, but who could I complain to? It's not like there was an office fridge supervisor? Or even clear culprit.


I found it fascinating that "higher-paid employees" are often the fridge thieves. Doesn't that jibe with the worst drivers on the road, too? The ones in late-model luxury vehicles? There seems to be a sense of privilege working here. 

I have spent a lot of time in Ireland and I hate Guinness, so when I’m there I drink what is known locally as a hot whiskey – basically a hot toddy with Irish (of course!) whiskey, boiling water, lemon, sugar, and cloves. Delish! At one pub, I mentioned to the bartender that you couldn’t get this in the States (true at the time in my experience). He looked at me like I was crazy and said,. “Why ever not?” Indeed.

Reminds me of when I couldn't get a Negroni at a bar that had Campari, gin and sweet vermouth all visibly present. "Why ever not?" is what I should have said.

I didn't realize different cake flours could produce such different results. I made the same one egg, one layer spice cake I'e been making forever using the same techniques, the same pan, and the same oven, but this time I used Bob's Red Mill cake flour and the cake rose higher than ever. Why would this be?

Interesting. Bob's Red Mill says it's unbleached, which according to these super-informative pieces by King Arthur Flour and Stella Parks (aka Brave Tart) at Serious Eats should in fact have led to a denser cake. BUT, if you'd been using a cake flour that had cornstarch in the mix, that also could have led to your previously stouter cakes since Bob's doesn't have it.

For Christmas a friend gave me a bottle of Chocolate Jalapeno Balsamic Vinegar. My only ideas thus far have been to dip bread or drizzle it over roasted beets, but that has barely made a dent in the bottle. What else can I do with it?

Do you like the flavor on its own? I have a bottle of mango balsamic (three or four years old at this point, oops) that I stir into bubbly water. Might work for yours? Also curious how it'd pair with strawberries or on toast spread with ricotta or mascarpone. Or maybe drizzled over cheesecake?

Whole Foods sells store-assembled containers of chocolate pastilles in all different %s of cocoa. I buy and use them regularly for baking. They are usually just the amount you need for a recipe, and also easy to crush or break up in the Vitamix.


The piece on Lulu Peyraud was fascinating as I have just finished Justin Spring's "The Gourmands' Way," a tome about the lives and influences of France on six American culinary icons: Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, Alexis Lichine, A.J. Liebling, Richard Olney, and Alice B. Toklas. All had significant impact on importing French cuisine to America. He is gushing about Olney, affectionate about Toklas, and savages Fisher. But he gives scant attention to Peyraud, which I find puzzling, given her relationship with the others, particularly Olney, who penned a book about her. I suppose it was because he was focusing on Americans. But more about the Olney-Peyraud relationship would have been welcome.

I had a meat thermometer - the chicken had been in for over an hour and was still way too pale and at about 130 = that's when I discovered the temp was only at 360. I cranked it for about 15 more minutes. We ate the outer white parts, I stripped the rest off the carcass, put it in a sealed bowl in the fridge where it's been waiting since.

Assuming it's been 2 days, I'd think the chicken will be okay to cook further. But ideally I'd have chucked it back in the oven or at least stripped the meat and poached it broth right away. 

I recently made chicken paprikash for the first time and read a suggestion to stir some of the hot cooking liquid into the sour cream. Similar to tempering eggs before adding them to something hot so they don't end up scrambled. I did this and the sour cream mixed in beautifully.

I'm 9 years into widowhood and food is one of the biggest concerns. I have learned to cut down the recipes and which ones of our standards survive freezing. But it is hard to learn to look after just yourself when for so long it was the pleasure of cooking for someone you loved and the compliments that came from a meal he loved. My friends didn't step up to the plate with food. I think I got one single meal. Now, I make soups and stews and freeze in one pint wide mouth jars for lunches and I love having options in my freezer. I also cook with the plan to freeze one meal portions--something I did in my single days.

Love our chatters. Thank you for sharing.

Any idea how to make gnocchi that don't sit in my stomach like lumps of lead afterward? I love the taste but the heaviness doesn't agree with me. And gnocchi are potato dumplings, right?

Forgive a quick endorsement here: Bonnie's piece is one-stop-shopping on the subject of making gnocchi. It's authoritative.

Hi all, hope you're all staying warm (our thermo read 0F today in the Midwest...)! Apologies if the question is a little 'off trend' for the chat today, but my husband and I have been experimenting with making Ethiopian food at home, and we're struggling to find recipes that bring that authentic taste. We've googled quite a bit, but there seems to be quite a range and a lot of Americanization happening. Our taste buds aren't evolved enough to lead us in the right direction. Searches on amazon for Ethiopian cookbooks haven't produced many results. So, my question is: can you help? Do you have any good (vegetarian) recipes, an idea where to look, trusted sources? Thank you in advance!

I would highly encourage you to explore work of Harry Kloman, a journalism instructor at the University of Pittsburgh who has devoted much of his career to the study of Ethiopian food and culture. He has background and recipe links embedded on this page.

Spicy Sweets and Green Beans

Can also vouch for this Spicy Sweets and Green Beans recipe from Marcus Samuelsson. You'll have a good amount of the spiced butter leftover, too.

The Chinese use forced prison labor to peel the garlic. Eventually their fingernails fall off and they are forced to use their teeth to bite off the garlic skin. Google Christopher Ranch in Gilroy and you can read about it. They say it is false and slanderous. Maybe it is. I don't know

Well, I'll never view this scene from Goodfellas the same way again:


I'm so old, I grew up saying "ice-box" and continued to say it even after we got a Frigidaire, as all refrigerators were coloquially known. Eventually, I trained myself to say "refrigerator." I wonder if "fridge" comes from the brand-name?

Good thought! #wehadonetoo

These past 2 snowfalls, my neighbor has shoveled our sidewalks before I had a chance to go do it. I want to give his family a gift, but some of their family members are celiac. Fortunately, I've got a lot of GF baking ingredients, but I was hoping for a quick recipe to make this afternoon/early evening to give them after work?

We have a lot of gluten-free desserts. Do a search so you can look for ingredients you have on hand.

Some possibilities:

Lucia's Walnut Cake

RECIPE: Lucia's Walnut Cake

Fudgy Walnut Cookies

RECIPE: Fudgy Walnut Cookies

Bettyanne's Florentines

RECIPE: Bettyanne's Florentines

Hi there - please tell me how much, preferably by weight but if necessary by cups, chicken to use for the chicken dumpling recipe. I don't buy rotisserie chickens and quite frankly wouldn't know the difference between a small, medium, and large one. Also, what are the actual measurements (weight preferred, but cups is ok) for a small, medium, large bell pepper or onion or carrot or etc etc etc. I can guess, but would prefer the first time in a recipe to actually know what the recipe writer means. Thank you!

I figure on 3 cups of chicken per bird, but you'll be fine with 4 to 6 cups in the chicken stew. The key is to not add so much that the stew is too thick for the dumplings to float on top. 

Yes. But I'm also put off by the word "curate" when applied to restaurant menus.


Read the label closely. I've seen boxes of "cake flour" that are actually AP flour lightened with cornstarch. not the same at all...


I worked for a publisher in DC for a while. One of my co-workers was fairly mild-mannered and funny as all get out. Someone took her lunch out of the fridge and she went desk to desk, office to office to find out who took it. Of course it was one of the salespeople who made 3x what we made. He gave her 20$, was publicly shamed and I never heard of anyone stealing lunches in that office again.

Not all heroes wear capes.

That's some great investigative reporting. It changed an entire office culture!

Years ago I had a meeting with someone from across town, which provided me the opportunity to pick up lunch, a delicious green chile stew, from a restaurant I liked but rarely visited due to the distance. I returned to the office around 10:30 and placed it in the office refrigerator. All morning long I looked forward to my stew, only to discover it and many other items gone when I was ready for lunch at 1 p.m. Turns out our office's receptionist had taken it upon herself to clean out the fridge and mistook its green color for mold and tossed it out. I couldn't even dig it out of the trash can because she'd asked the custodian to empty it in the dumpster following the purging. Despite my being nice about it, she took offense, taking on a martyr attitude and complained that she was the only one whoever cleaned the office fridge and no good deed goes unpunished.

Well, I can see both sides of that discussion. I suspect the office receptionist was the only one (or one of a precious few) who handled that thankless task. BUT she also could have been far more sympathetic to a co-worker who had just lost a tasty lunch.

I picked up a bag of raspberries that had been frozen over the summer at the farmers market this weekend .... and promptly realized I don't know how to use them. Can I just let them come up to room temp and eat them? Or should I be looking for baked goods and such that would be ok with frozen fruit. I don't want something like a smoothie since I want to enjoy the actual raspberries

I kinda think they would be a bit sad and mushy eaten straight up. Personally I would use them in some chocolate-brownie type of situation (if you can wait, Bonnie has a great recipe coming up next month that I tasted yesterday and, wow). Or make a sauce that you can highlight with whatever you want.

I'd probably do this.

Double Chocolate Pancakes With Raspberry Sauce

RECIPE: Double Chocolate Pancakes With Raspberry Sauce

She sounds wonderful - - but this also makes me think about gracious and talented cooks I've known who never gained fame. I've lots of scribbled recipes from them. No doubt each of you also had the good luck to learn life-changing kitchen secrets from generous souls, probably starting with whoever did the cooking in your childhood home. Do you ever wonder about how they might have done on a larger stage?

The last time I had access to a shared fridge, it was tucked in an odd spot isn’t the building (eaves/large closet turned “kitchenette”), so I rarely used it. I ended up with one of the crock pot lunch warmers. With the longer time from plug-in to hot, an insulated bag with ice pack was cool enough. Plus, it gave the added bonus of avoiding the shared microwave, which always seemed to have old, burnt cheese spackled somewhere in it.

I'm with you on the office microwave. It always smells vaguely of jarred pasta sauce. I hate reheating anything other than, well, pasta in it.

The smell of that black plastic gets me.

and I wonder how many people refer to their purse as a "pocketbook" when it's way too big to fit into their pocket? ;-)

When my brother's kids were little my sister in law showed us a book she had gotten to teach them the alphabet. There was a different picture for each letter. For F it was Frigerator. No kidding. And the worst part: my sister in law didn't know the difference.

Can you suggest any recipes that might work with some freezer burnt chicken breasts? Our vacuum sealer apparently didn't seal well and we have a number of burnt packages...

Gumbo or something looong simmered.

I love Judith Jones's "The Pleasures of Cooking for One" which I think she wrote shortly after her husband died. It's perfect.

I threw out someone's instant coffee and iced tea not realizing they were gong to retrieve it by COB Friday of Christmas break. I felt so badly.

This has become quite the confessional! 

Hello all, hope you can give me some ideas. My son's Scout troop is going to a competitive outdoor event in PA which draws lots of boys from a multi-state area. Each year, the troop makes chili for at least 100 boys to eat as part of the event, and, we've been asked to also make cornbread to accompany it. So, guess who will be making it? I can certainly go the Jiffy box route - would certainly be easy, but not so tasty. Would any of you have any alternative suggestions? I'm proficient in the kitchen, so making it is not a problem (plus, my son can help!). Thanks!

Our recipes seem to be for smaller batches in a skillet and that would take a lot to get up to 100 servings.

I was hoping I'd hear back from the folks who worked on this cornmeal mix with advice on how to scale up. (Send me a note in case I do.)

Big Batch Cornmeal Dry Mix

RECIPE: Big Batch Cornmeal Dry Mix

I think you could probably reasonably scale up to bake in a larger pan (like roughly 1.5x the 8-inch pan so you can bake in a 9x13 pan and do a few of those) or do a bunch of muffins.

Personally I like the idea of muffins too because then everything is already portioned out. Just set up an assembly line and get going! Or make them over a few days and freeze. You could use this recipe and leave out the basil.

Corn and Basil Muffins

RECIPE: Corn and Basil Muffins

I don't use the office refrigerator any more; I have one of those sturdy small Gore-Tex bags with an insulated liner. I put a small reusable ice pack in with my lunch and keep it at my desk.

I'm reminded of when Strom Thurmond would preside over Senate hearings, and instruct witnesses to speak into "the machine" (by which he meant the microphone). I suppose nowadays some people are offended by "mic."

This is why you have a specific time to toss things and don't just randomly do it because it looks strange. As long as it's not friday when the fridge gets emptied or it's not affecting anything else - I say leave it and don't overextend your remit.

Yes, they send warning emails here at the paper about fridge clean-outs. It's quite humane.

I started wiping out the office microwave after I "boiled" water for tea in it; the steam helped soften the spackle. But I also sent around an e-mail noting that this was what I was doing, which made a few people straighten up and fly right.

Well, you've simmered us into a fluffy state, so you know what that means...we're done! Thanks to dumpling maven Sheri Castle for joining us today, and, as always, to you, dear readers, for offering advice and comments we can print in a family newspaper. 


The chatter who first inquired about freeze-dried strawberries gets a Sheri Castle-signed copy of "The Southern Living Community Cookbook";  the "Office Thief" chatter gets a copy of "Supper Love," source of this week's Dinner In Minutes recipe.

Send your mailing address to and she'll get those right out to you. Till next week, happy cooking, baking and snow shoveling (and word shortening)!

In This Chat
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.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Sheri Castle
Sheri Castle is an award winning food writer and recipe developer based in North Carolina.
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