Free Range on Food: José Andrés, grilled chicken, saving the top tier of your wedding cake and more

Oct 15, 2014

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

Happy Wednesday, and welcome to our chat! We hope you enjoyed this week's food coverage, including Lavanya's great piece on Jose Andres's plans for a vegetable-focused fast-casual restaurant, Beefsteak; Maura's fun take on a wedding-cake tradition some people think should die; Jim Shahin's ode to grilling chicken in myriad ways; Cathy Barrow's last Canning Class entry on the amazing hybrid fermentation project she dubs Sauerkrauben; and more.

We have a VIP guest today: None other than chef Jose himself! Take this opportunity to ask him anything you want, of course, but he'll have a special focus on vegetables and the new Beefsteak concept. We'll also have Cathy, Carrie "Spirits" Allan, Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin, Maura and us regulars.

Make your questions good -- we'll have a giveaway cookbook (or maybe two) to award the source of our favorite posts. (Given Jose's focus and my latest column on Yotam Ottolenghi's "Plenty More," that will be one of the prizes!)

Dear Chef, I'm a long time fan. Why does Jaleo downtown no longer serve bread? It's so great to dip it into your delicious sauces. Seems a shame to not have this pleasure. Gracias.

Exactly! Several of our tapas do come with bread, like the Gambas al ajillo. If you ask, you get! But we don't want you filling up with bread. you can do that home. we don't want to see all that uneaten bread go to waste and we want you to enjoy the food our team has prepared for you.

Thank you, Ms. Ramanathan, for an excellent article about Jose Andres' new venture. One of the best things I have read in the Food section in a long time.

Lavanya's not with us for the chat, but I'll pass along the compliment!

For Chef Andres: your apple and Manchego salad is one of my favorite dishes of all time and I cannot seem to re-create it perfectly at home. Can you share your secret recipe! Same with your gambas al ajillo!!!

Secret recipe? love....We will get it to you before the chat is over...

Send your email to us at, and we'll pass along your request to Jose in case he can't get this before the chat's hour is up.

I'm on a diet that requires a smoothie for breakfast that has seeds such as chia, hemp, pumpkin etc. It also has nuts such as walnut, brazil nut. What is the best way to store the seeds as well as nuts? In their bag wrapped up or open to the air? Thanks!

As Organic Gardening notes, the most important thing to remember is heat and humidity are a seed's natural enemies. With that said, the site has 10 solid tips on seed storage. Take a look.

I made the philly steak and cheese pasta recipe from last week's Food Section. The result was okay, but the flavor was remarkably muted for something with what I expected to be more "showy" ingredients -- the steak, the special cheese, the fresh pasta, the relatively large amount of onions. Did I do something wrong? Do you have a suggestion for punching up the flavor a bit, even if that takes it away from the original concept?

Hmm.  You could cook/caramelize the onions with a good splosh of balsamic vinegar, and/or you could toss sauteed mushrooms in. Did you use the optional mushroom powder?

RECIPE Philly Cheese Steak Tagliatelle


recommended the saffron/rosewater/hazelnut/etc. chicken recipe from Jerusalem after she made it for Rosh Hashanah (I wasn't there). I have a few questions. First of all, what is a "generous pinch"? I have pretty small fingers, so do I need to use an ultra generous pinch? Should I be thinking a generous pinch but with a man's fingers? Also, what else can I do with it? I picked up a packet with quite a lot from Yekta Market (not realizing that you can get what looks like a single serving at Rodman's). There is way more than a pinch here. I am trying to control carbs, so rice and desserts are out and that is what I saw in the Post recipe finder. Thanks so much.

I think of a generous pinch as an amount that separates the your forefinger from thumb -- as in, they aren't touching back to back. Maybe the pinch should not be larger in surface area than your thumb.


Saffron is lovely in risottos and soups, seafood stew (my personal fave), biriyanis and paellas; also infused in liquid for braising cauliflower and fennel. I just tested it in a Holiday Cookies recipe (Dec. 3!) and loved it, which called for making a saffron compound buttter. We ran a peach saffron jam a few years back that is phenomenal.  Check out the last recipe in this next sampler; wish we had a photo of it. Might answer your dessert wishes! 

RECIPES: Peach Saffron Jam

Saffron Fettuccine With Figs and Cambozola Sauce

Saffron Buns

Carrot Saffron Pudding



Hi free rangers! Having a house warming party on Saturday, my plan is to serve 2 lasagnas: one traditional meat/marina and the other butternut squash. Is Friday night too early to put together the lasagnas to bake Sat afternoon? Or would it be better to hold off until Sat morning? Also planning to do spaghetti squash with vegan pesto, I assume that should be a day-of item. Thanks for your help!

For my money, lasagna prepared a day ahead is better than lasagna pulled fresh from the oven. There are scientific reasons for that, such as the absorption of flavors into the starch molecules as they begin to cool and rearrange themselves. You can read about it here, but the bottom line is that second-day lasagna is the way to go.

There was a question last week about the blah flavor of spaghetti squash. I recently tried something that worked out great - using spaghetti squash instead of the rice in bibimbap. Even though I just used a package of the bibimbap veggies from the grocery store, it tasted amazing. If the spaghetti squash is in a CSA box, maybe other veggies from it could be cooked or pickled Korean style plus a little Korean pepper paste and your squash for homemade bibimbap.

Love this idea -- thanks!

Jim, thanks for the brick idea. Some folks swear you have to brine the chicken first. Your thoughts?

      Some folks that you have to brine the chicken no matter how you cook it. I am a believer in brining. But I'm not dogmatic. I think brining helps, but I have bought a chicken the same day and not had time to brine and it still comes out great. 

        Bottom line: brine if you have time, but don't fret about it. 

brining is so yesterday! I like to put my chickens in a bath of wine and get them drunk. that's the new way of brining!  I even have my own chickens in my backyard. I get fresh eggs everyday! 

Other than vegan mayo, is there a good all purpose substitute for mayo that works in most recipes? I'm looking for something (or a combination of ingredients) that would make a fat free substitution. Sour cream and Greek yogurt work only sometimes because of their consistency and are too sour for some uses. Thanks for any insights you can offer.

A fat-free substitute that can work in multiple recipes? Hmm. Mayo is largely oil, so finding something that will do what it does, without any fat at all, seems unlikely. But can you describe what kind of recipes you want to use it in? Strained/Greek-style yogurt, yes, can work in things like cold salads, but it would have to be REALLY strained to, say, spread on bread. Some of my go-to mayo stand-ins, like hummus and avocado, still have plenty of fat.

Hello, Chef! I've been to minibar, Jaleo and Bazaar. Each was a unique treat, but I'm hungry, and thirsty, for more. When can I expect to see one of your restaurants - maybe Beefsteak - in the NYC/NJ area?

Believe me when I tell you that if the first few locations of beefsteak do well, you will see us in New York. For our others, the city is like my second home so one day.... 

Alot of folks who don't eat vegetables as the "meat" of their diet can take a vegetable and make it super unhealthy. I'm really excited about this new restaurant. Are we going to get healthy vege options?

I'm just watching the First Lady dancing with a turnip! its amazing! Quite frankly I find it difficult to make vegetables unhealthy. 

I was lucky to get some dried heirloom cranberry beans through my CSA. Can you recommend a baked bean recipe that would do them justice? Vegetarian if possible, but will add some meat if it makes a difference. Thanks.

Absolutely. Can you get your hands on (or make) some Boiled Cider? That's the key ingredient in these beauties:



RECIPE: Boiled Cider Baked Beans


I'm going to pop all the lids tomorrow and just add a little more honey, pectin and calcium water (not in that order). I had initially cut the pectin a little because you could actually see the natural pectin in the apple juice, but evidently there wasn't enough or I didn't cook it long enough.

I assume you are using Pomona Pectin (because you mention calcium water). I have used this in the past and find it takes longer to cook the jelly than you might imagine. When it seems done, it actually will need more time.

Go ahead and pop the lids and reheat the jelly, then use a cold plate or cold spoon test to be certain of the gel before canning.

Keep in mind, some jellies take a few days to set entirely. Cherry jelly I made this summer didn't set up for one month. 

I pre ordered Plenty More and the new Ina Garten cookbooks back in April and I am so excited it is finally time to get them! I got an email from Amazon telling me that Plenty More has shipped, thanks for the sneak peak! Speaking of Ottolenghi, I want to make a recipe of his from Plenty but it calls for curry leaves and I have no idea where to get them. Any thoughts?

There's a new Indian market in Dupont Circle (Pansaari) that carries dried curry leaves, but I'd think you might want fresh/frozen. For those, you need to head out to an Indian market in the 'burbs, like Patel Bros (Langley Park/Rockville) and Aditi Spice Depot/grocer in Vienna. (They freeze well, so if you think you'll use them again, buy enough to make your own stash (in freezer ziptop bag). 


UPDATE: Friend of Food Shulie Madnick (aka @foodwanderings) says Mom's Organic Market carries fresh curry leaves. 

I have a ton of celery tops. Not sure I want to take on making vegetable stock. Any ideas? Should I just add them into a salad?

keep the leaves! They are good to add to any salad or briefly saute them and make an omelet 

You need to make this!


Celery, Walnut and Pecorino Salad


can you eat dried bay leaves? I saw a recipe that called for a bay leaf to be crumbled into the dish, but I thought they weren't edible and that's why they are always pulled out of a dish before eating?

They are edible, but just make sure you crumble like a WWF champion. I'd run them through a spice grinder -- not to the point of being ground, but at least into very small pieces. And you may want to just remove that stem right off the bat.

ARTICLES: Bay leaf -- should it stay or should it go?

Six ways to use bay leaf

I was wondering if Cathy can point me in the direction of a slow-cooker apple butter recipe? I'd love to be able to have these cooking in the slow cooker all night and then can in the morning, is this realistic? Also, for apple butter (or apple sauce) what variety of apples would you recommend?

Here's a recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. I'm sure it could be reduced in the slow cooker, but be careful not to make it too thick or it won't can well.

Apple Butter


Dear Rangers! After not being able to entertain for over 30 years, I'm now in a position to so so again. But my cooking repertoire is limited (read almost non-existent' other than baking). I need some advice on a simple dinner menu that I could practice and perfect and start having guests again with confidence in my cooking. Suggestions please, but no fish! Thanks for all your hard work, read chats every week.

How about something simple like dates stuffed with goat cheese or some kind of dip for an appetizer or snack to start? Then this Lemon- and Honey-Flavored Chicken is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser, and it smells great. Get some bread to sop up juices.

Lemon- and Honey-Flavored Chicken

And since you bake, choose your favorite make-ahead dessert.

Hi Joe and Andres and all of you! I have recently become totally hooked on vegetables. They are consuming my life. Are you inspired and exhilarated by vegetables too, and is this the basis for not only advocating more of a vegetarian lifestyle, but also the concept for your wonderful Beefsteak idea?

I've been saying it for years, vegetables are sexy! I cannot wait to share Beefsteak with all of you! I was planting swiss chard yesterday and for a second I was thinking what it would be like to be planted right next to them. I discovered that the biggest lovers of vegetables are deer. My house is surrounded by them ever since I planted my garden. 

Happy Wednesday -- this chat is always one of the highlights of a crazy day. One of my favorite comfort foods has always been the crispy fried chicken sandwich. I've been veg for awhile now, and honestly, it's the one thing I miss. I'm a texture person, so looking for the perfect crispy, juicy beer-battered crunch on a Kaiser roll. If I want to make one for myself, what should I use in place of the chicken? Cauliflower slices? Tofu slices? Other ideas? Thank you!

Cauliflower, yes! Look at this recipe for chicken-fried cauliflower. Leave out the miso-mushroom gravy and instead just put your favorite condiments on the sandwich.


RECIPE: Chicken-Fried Cauliflower

I made a couple of the recipes you've recommended from the Post database recently and had great results with both the chipotle black bean vegetable soup made in a slow cooker and with the pumpkin sloppy joes. As the headnotes for the soup say, it can be started in the morning to be ready for lunch, and we enjoyed it last weekend. My husband loves black bean soup, and this one won him over immediately.

Chef: My father's diet is burgers, fries, steak and pizza I want to introduce him to a few of your vegetable dishes without scaring him. What 1 or 2 dishes can turn this veggie phobe into a convert? Thanks!

you should find a new father! I joke.. if he watched football during the football he will not be paying attention to what he is eating. Make sure he has a beer in his hand and then you attack! My mother used to make me cauliflower which she would boil and then deep fry with egg and flour. And then maybe you can top it with your favorite BBQ sauce. The key is not to over boil it. By the time his team score the first goal, he will be in love with cauliflower. 

I just can't help myself. I bought a bottle of pure pomegranate molasses (seemed like a good idea at the time) and now i have no idea what to do with it. Help?

Just wanted to tell Jose Andres how much I loved watching his discussion with Tom at the Newseum awhile back. I came away from it dying to work for him. Or at least eat at his restaurants. I haven't lived in the area in years, but when we visited this past summer, the whole family counted Zaytinya as one of the best places we've ever eaten!

thank you amigo!!! 

We used to have a great chef in our small town who once made pickled fennel as a condiment for sandwiches. It wasn't very pickled and just right. I have some fennel from the farmers' market. Any ideas on how to pickle fennel?

Pickled fennel is fantastic, I completely concur. I make a brine from 2 cups each of white wine vinegar and water, dissolve 1 tablespoon of salt and sugar in the brine and then add a fistful of herbs - thyme, marjoram, tarragon all work beautifully. Pour a hot brine over slices of fennel and let it pickle for two days on the counter, then refrigerate. 

This recipe looks absolutely fantastic and combines several of my favorite foods. However, it reminded me that I've had a lot of trouble grilling or roasting eggplant slices. Sometimes they come out mushy and sometimes perfect, even if they are side by side in the oven! Also, they soak up so much oil that they can also be unappetizingly greasy. Any tips on how to make them consistent?

RECIPE: Eggplant Cheesecake


These work well because the eggplant slices are cut fairly thick, the oven temp isn't super-high (400), and you brush on the oil. Yotam calls for a full 1/4 cup of olive oil, but I think you could cut that in half and still have enough. Generally, though, I'd say, it's best to not do the eggplant super-thin, and to keep an eye on it.

For more eggplant thoughts, check out this great take by our former Gastronomer columnist, Andreas Viestad:

STORY: Eggplant, Without All the Oil

I've been trying to nail down my late MIL's recipe for Hungarian yeast cake, a slightly sweet yeast dough, rolled out, spread with a filling such as poppyseed, rolled up, placed in a loaf pan then baked. The tops of the roll lift up leaving a gap between the top dough and the filling underneath it. Is there a way to avoid this gap on a rolled loaf?

Have you tried putting the roll in the pan seam-side down? I've made a number of those types of breads and that's what the recipes suggest.

Hi all, While I'm very excited about the opening of a new veg focused casual restaurant, I'm wondering when we'll get a veg focused restaurant that's not so casual?

After over 20 years of having restaurants in the city, I saw how popular vegetables have become. If you come to any of my restaurants, take Zaytinya, you can create an astonishing meal of all vegetables if you like with some of the best wines of the world. 

My mom is not an adventurous eater. My dad is. When they came to visit a year ago, I took them to both Zatinya and Jaleo. My mom found a few things that she "could" eat and enjoyed the heck out of them. My dad and I got to play around. A great time was had by all.

thank you!  you are always welcome in my restaurants. 

For Jim Shahin, please. I was just given seven (yes 7) pumpkins and while we'll carve a couple for Halloween, have you every smoked a pumpkin? If so, how would you go about it - the pumpkins vary in size and shapes, some tall, some small and round. Need help in doing something different.

    Yep, I have smoked and grilled pumpkins. I find that, generally speaking, the larger the pumpkin the stringier and less sweet the meat. I look for small ones, about 2 pounds. 

     Then I scrape out the innards and slice the fruit about 1/2-inch thick, brush lightly with olive oil, then grill for about 2 minutes per side over a direct fire. Off the grill, sprinkle with a little salt and ancho powder and maybe a little drizzle of olive oil. Makes a great appetizer. 

Loved the wedding cake article. Our bakery provided a first anniversary cake, and my husband, driving through two counties to pick it up decided to a) stop at our wedding florist to have them recreate my bouquet, and b) stop at our engagement ring jeweler for a matching necklace. Yes, he did such a good job on the first anniversary that he is officially off the hook for all future anniversaries.

ARTICLE: Wedding cake, thawed for your anniversary --should this tradition die?


Wow, your husband is a real gem! The anniversary cake option has become very popular -- unfortunately, it wouldn't have worked for us because we got married in Pittsburgh. But based on my experience, it's something I (and most pastry chefs) would recommend to any couples who are planning their weddings.

Luckily in 2003, my then-fiance and I employed a baker who included a 1st-year anniversary gift of a replica of the top tier of the wedding cake, if we called about 6 weeks ahead of time. Of course we also froze some, too. It was not as bad as the experience in the article, but it did remind me of Miss Havisham in Dickens' Great Expectations, jilted at the altar, still wearing her wedding dress years later as the mice and rats and bugs ran rampant over all the banquet food still left out. Not an image to replicate on your anniversary!

Ha, you're right! When I told my macaron-wedding friend that we saved the cake, she joked that when we brought it out of the freezer, it would look like an artifact from Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance.

Incidentally, I just got a phone call from a reader who accidentally (because she forgot about it) saved her cake for FOURTEEN YEARS. She said it tasted pretty good!

Twice this summer, I had jams that set with a weird texture - very hard and almost rubbery, though the taste was delicious in both batches (one peach, one strawberry). I'm assuming that I used too much pectin, though I followed each recipe exactly. Is it possible I should have skipped the pectin in both cases? How would I know that while the fruit is cooking? I'm still relatively new to making jam and want to make sure I get a texture that is more jam-like the next time I head into the kitchen. Thanks!

That rubbery texture is an indication the jam was overcooked. Pectin is designed to make a very solid set, so it's also possible you just like a softer gel. I rarely use pectin because I prefer a slumping jam. Check out the strawberry and blueberry jam recipes for another technique to consider next summer.

Posting early as I can't join live. This time of year I buy most of my produce at farmer's markets. On Saturday I bought apples, eggplant, tomatoes and parsley at different stands at a market in my neighborhood. The eggplant seller weighed it at three pounds. The next day I was deciding what to cook and weighed the eggplant on my own scale - it weighed 2 1/4 pounds, not 3 pounds. (My kitchen scale is accurate - I have re-weighed items from the supermarket and compared weight for a 1-pound package of pasta and other pre-weighed items.) I had already eaten several apples so could not re-weigh them. I had purchased items from multiple stands and cannot recall which one sold me the eggplant so cannot go back next week and discuss. Farmers market produce is costly, and inflating the weight of items further adds to the cost - and makes me feel taken. Has happened to you or your readers, and how do people suggest I handle it? It's not practical to carry my own scale to the markets, and when they only convene once a week a mistake would have to be addressed the following week. Thank you for any advice you can offer.

I have a hard time imagining this is an ongoing scam. It would be extremely short-sighted of the farmer/vendor: In this day and age, SOMEONE would have found out, and the farmer's reputation would be damaged.


Your issue is complicated by the fact you cannot remember the producer. I guess the first task is to recall the vendor, so you can conduct a test (if you're up for it): Buy some more produce from the farmer and see if it weighs less at home. If so, you would have ample reason to talk to the vendor about the issue.

That pickled fennel recipe looks fabulous. Would I need to sterilize the jar or can I just put it in any glass container?

Any clean glass container will work.

Hello Jose, since you love veggies so much--what is your favorite way to fix kohlrabi and/or celeriac? I love these two not-so-common veggies!

I don't eat vegetables I can't pronounce.... 

Chef, I can teach you to say anything! In English, anyway. ;-)

Check out these 8 recipes for kohlrabi, and these 20 that use celeriac (celery root).

When I BBQ my whole chicken I start it bone side down, flip it every 30, I put a little tin foil hat over it to keep the smoke/moisture down over the bird, finish skin side down on the hot side. Basting in between. Question, am I wasting my efforts, do I need to flip, baste, and/or cover?

      Can't say, because I've never tried that method. My guess is, you don't really need to do all that. There is moisture in heat and it is creating juiciness in the bird. But you might try our recipe alongside yours and see if there is a difference. Let me know. 

Do your chickens get their wine bath before or after slaughtering? ;)

hey... these chickens are only for egg production!

I suggest everyone to look into these are two guys based in Potomac with what i think is a great ideas. My family and I love it! I've been feeding chickens pomegranate. I can't wait to see what the eggs will look like in a few weeks. 

When I fed my sister's chickens a bunch of shrimp heads/shells in Maine a couple years ago, the yolks were the most gorgeous deep orange. Post pix of these eggs when you crack 'em, chef!

I love the crunch of fried fish in fish tacos. This weekend, I bought frozen pollock filets to batter and fry myself instead of a pre-battered, pre-fired, processed product. I thawed the fish, dipped it in beer batter and fried it in a small pan of oil. I didn't use a thermometer, but I only fried 1 filet, halved, at a time and I let the oil reheat after each. The fish batter had a nice crunch, but the fish itself was pretty mushy. Can you tell me what I did wrong?

How thick were your fillets? That can make a difference. Also: Did you dry them completely with a paper towel before frying? If not, they will retain too much moisture.


After that, I'm stumped.

That leek recipe looks great! How do you clean the leeks and get the grit out, if they are cut in 4 inch segments and not split in half?

RECIPE: Sweet-and-Sour Leeks


The grit in leeks is concentrated toward the green end, so by using the whites only, it's not as much of an issue. But I rinsed after cutting, turning the leeks to make sure the water went in the cut end. And inspected.

Cool substitute...but can't call it Bibimbap. The Korean word for rice is bap. Bibimbap translated is mixed rice.


I do put the dough in seam side down. The roll doesn't open up rather, it lifts (rises) up leaving an internal gap.

Oh, I see. Then I'm not sure how you'd avoid that. Chatters, thoughts?

I love kohlrabi but my husband, not so much. One time I threw some slices on the grill while I was cooking other stuff and it the kohlrabi was transformed! It became sweet - my husband couldn't even identify it!

A neighbor gifted me a bounty of pears. I have about a half bushel. I've never cooked/baked with them and would like suggestions for their use.

If you have a dehydrator, dried pears are a wonderful treat (especially when dipped in chocolate.) If I had a bounty, I'd be canning pear halves in syrup. Use the same ratios as this recipe for apricot halves in syrup.

UNLESS it's a fruitcake. That's why the tradition developed, because those cakes lasted. Trying to do it with a fruit or custard filling is just crazy.

I'm sure a traditional fruitcake would be quite the conversation piece for that wedding's guests.

Maybe, Chef Andres, your next project should be an all-venison restaurant. Two birds with one stone....

I know for a fact that venison are vegetarian.... 

people are we getting a tornado?? Be safe!! 

We certainly have a funky sky and phone alerts. So everybody get inside (that's where the kitchen is). 

I love a good roasted chicken. I hate taking out the rotisserie for that. I seem to dry it out even though I brined it HELP

Couple of things that might be helpful: 1. Monitor the progress using an instant-read thermometer (165 in the thigh, taken away from the bone), and you'll be golden.

2. Use your fingers to gently separate skin from breast meat. Use an herb paste mixture w/olive oil or even just softened butter under there, maybe a tablespoon total. 

3. A la Martha Stewart, and this is a turkey maneuver, in truth: Melt a mix of butter and white wine; soak cheesecloth in it and drape that cloth over the bird as it roasts. Remove in the last 15 mins of oven time, for even browning. 

4. Try Thai Roast Chicken, which has never failed to turn out anything but juicy. 

Jose, I was at Jaleo in Las Vegas recently and had a *wonderful* meal there, but among all the "which was our favorite dish" chatter, my husband and I couldn't stop talking about the clarity of the spherical ice cubes (Ice spheres?) in our gin & tonics. What's the secret for their clarity, and is it something I can do at home?

The water has to be very pure. Distilled water is very pure. 

I had the same impulse :) I made a killer dressing earlier this year with it and ramp "pesto". It's got a note of earthiness that balanced the STRONG garlic in my pesto. Dressed a salad of orzo, olives, chickpeas, currants, and pistachios (I think I had used pistachio in the pesto). I'm hoping to develop a cocktail with it -- just havent had the time.

Can you give us a sneak preview of what you have in store for Beefsteak? What are some of the main menu items you are working on?

Quite frankly it will be a very simple concept. You will be able to choose from a bunch of vegetables, which will be flash-prepared right in front of you. You will be in and out in no time. Even in a fast casual restaurant, why shouldn't your food be cooked a la minute. This is how my wife and I feed our daughters every day of the week.  Here you will not find faux meats. this is about real food FAST. 

One more question from me: I'm confused about cooking dried beans and using canned beans. I would prefer to use dried beans rather than canned. However, most recipes used canned. How do I cook dried beans so that they are "cooked" for use in a recipe such as chili, so that they can be substituted for canned in a recipe?

Just soak and cook the beans, then portion them out into freezer packages of 4 or 8 ounces - whatever the right size is for your needs. Remove them from the freezer an hour or so before using. 

Freeze them in their liquid!

I'm in the market for my first good dutch oven after the enamel on the cheapo I bought a year ago chipped. (I don't regret buying a cheap one first as I wasn't sure how much I would use one). Anyway, I know La Creuset is considered the gold standard, but I wanted to see if it's the only brand you guys would recommend or if there are any others that are considered worth the money. And also, why is La Creuset the gold standard? Is it just that the enamel never chips or are there other benefits?

I can't speak to Le Creuset dutch ovens, because I don't have one. (Others, of course, have much to say about the pricey cookware.)


But I will throw in my affection for the Lodge dutch oven. It requires more work to maintain its seasoning, but I love the food it produces. It's also much cheaper than Le Creuset.

Lodge also makes enamel-coated cast iron, like Le Creuset's, so the seasoning for those isn't an issue. Much cheaper, too -- and the company's great. I bought my LC before Lodge started selling theirs, or I probably would've gone Lodge.

I'm trying to get into the habit of putting scraps into the freezer to make vegetable stock. I'm also trying to cook more kale. Are the thick stems too strongly flavored for stock? And it's great to see Jose Andres here. We adore Jaleo and adore Jose for his Haitian efforts.

I make  broth this way all the time -- even wrote about it. I leave the stems of very strong-flavored things like kale and broccoli raab out.


RECIPE: Scrappy Vegetable Broth


I use bounties of pears to make your Pear and Chocolate Jam. Keep some, give some away in the course of the year.

Pear and Chocolate Jam

Yes!!! What a great recipe. About time for me to make a batch.

As was mentioned in the article, my husband and I got a complimentary fresh cake on our first anniversary. It was so good that we've ordered the same cake on a few more anniversaries since then, which I'm sure would not be the case if we'd had something freezer-burnt. Seems like a good business practice.

That is definitely the case -- it both protects the pastry chef's reputation and ensures repeat business. That sounds like a sweet way to celebrate your anniversary!

I live half a block from Jaleo DC and though I don't get there as much as I'd like love the food. Went there this weekend with a friends who have lived in Spain - we we all enjoyed a couple of my favorites: cauliflower and the chickpea stew, the cheeses were phenomenal as always. But the Tortilla de patatas, which I'd never had, was very soggy on the bottom (I didn't want to make a scene so we didn't say anything). Another thought - they seemed to think the coffee itself and the coffee choices could have been more Spanish (there was some conversation about a coffee with condensed milk).

A good omelet should be slightly runny in the center. Next time you can order the eggs well done... I hope you like it. we have great coffee at Jaleo, including the cortado. But let me tell you.. coffee with condensed milk, although you might find it in Spain its not very mainstream. 

You can also get them at Minerva Indian grocer on Lee Highway (adjacent to Minerva Express cafe). I also bought a plant at the Arlington Courthouse farmers' market, but they take a while to grow sizable enough to start cutting. For Carrie and Cathy: I made pear preserves and have some pear-infused syrup left. Any ideas for uses with (or without) spirits? I can drink it straight but want to be more creative.

Thanks for the intel!

I have a casserole recipe that calls for frozen cauliflower, thawed. I bought fresh cauliflower and want to use that. Should I cook the cauliflower first? Is frozen cauliflower cooked? I know it is "blanched," but is that "cooked?"

Nope, it's not cooked. So you can certainly use fresh.

Do I cook them with onion, spices, etc., or just cook them plain?

After soaking overnight, drain and combine them with enough water in a heavy pot to cover by a couple inches. Add a chunked-up onion, a few crushed cloves of garlic, a couple bay leaves, bring to a boil, and reduce so low the liquid is BARELY bubbling. Cover, and cook very gently until the beans are tender but not broken up. This could take an hour or much longer depending on the age of the beans. Wait to salt them until they're tender.

maybe if you poke holes in the raw dough it won't rise so much?

One thought.

Diagonal slashes on the top of the dough?

And another.

What are mitaki mushrooms and where do you find them dried? MIL wants to use them but where she lives in upper Minnesota...can't find them. She read about the mushrooms somewhere...idk.

They're maitake, aka hen of the woods mushrooms, one of my favorites. Lots of online sources for dried, or see about your local health-food stores. They have lots of medicinal qualities, so they're often found there.

No, a hurricane. Don't you read the Capital Weather Gang in the Post?

Alert's over, we hear. 

We do, and it was tornado. Don't you read them?

I put it on roasted Brussels sprouts and they were divine! (Same husband who doesn't like kohlrabi also doesn't like b. sprouts but he couldn't stop eating these!)

Dingdingding. Pom molasses = many uses. 

Hi chef Andres, Can you tell us a little bit about what price point you are aiming for for your new fast food concept? It seems that a large part of the fast food appeal is not only the convenience, but the pricing as well. Will the prices at Beefsteak be comparable to the other fast food chains that America has gotten use to, and if so, how do you plan to keep them low?

yes.. but it's still a little early to talk about price. We see the pricing around the same level of Sweetgreen or Chipotle... Speaking of which, I am so proud of what those boys at Sweetgreen have done. It takes boldness and courage to open a fast casual and what they have done is amazing. Also I love the the taco ladies of Chaia who sell  at FreshFarm markets. 

I've got more lemongrass growing than I can use before cold weather overtakes the plants. Any tips on freezing or otherwise preserving them?

It's more complicated than you would think. Here are some solid tips for making sure your fresh lemon grass stays fresh-tasting after a stay in the freezer.

Call the organizer and tell them you had a discrepancy and would appreciate if they could make sure all scales are calibrated.

That's reasonable, too, but I still think it would be better to have more evidence than one batch of eggplant.

I've had thoughts of getting an anniversary cake from our baker because the original was just so tasty - but I have to say the frozen tier was unexpectedly delicious and moist both when we had the first half at a month, and the second half for our first anniversary. I don't see any reason a well made cake, wrapped and frozen with care can't be a tasty tradition.

That's what RareSweets' Meredith Tomason thinks, too. If you package it up well -- exposure to air is the enemy of wedding cakes -- it may not look as pretty as it did a year ago, but the taste should be fine. The problem with mine, of course, is that we were rushing out the door to catch out flight to our honeymoon, so we did a slipshod job of it.

The thickest part of the filet was about 1/3 inch. No, I did not dry the fish before frying. I will give that a try next time. I was worried that the oil temperature was the problem.

I hope that works for you. Few things are less appetizing than soggy fried fish!

So, what do I want for lunch today? Figure I have an hour before the rain his B'more. Any suggestions? You guys always have such good ideas.

How 'bout these?

RECIPES: Marquita Farm Squash Tacos

or Bouchons au Thon?  (pantry friendly)



I specifically do ask for bread to get all that gorgeous sauce!

just don't make the mistake I made - freeze them on a solid shelf, not a rubber-coated wire one. Before they solidified, the liquidy beans sagged through the gaps and are now stuck on my shelves. Waiting for the power to go out this winter to remove them...

Been there! I freeze things on flat trays first, for this very reason. So frustrating, isn't it?

There is a surprisingly great recipe for a dip made with ground carrots and walnuts. My oh so afraid to try new things family even liked it. I think I got it from WaPo. It is the reason I bought the molasses!

Maybe you mean Walnut and Red Pepper Spread?

Walnut and Red Pepper Spread

Make sure to roll it really, really tight to prevent gaps.

Yup, I was thinking that too, thanks.

My friends swears that if you stand leeks up in a glass of water, the osmosis takes out the grit. I can't answer for the science in that but her leeks always taste fine ... .

As a vegetarian I am so excited you're giving veggies back their confidence! Why are My in laws are 'meat and potato' types who like mainstream 'American' restaurants and I never understand why the chefs at those places are so uninterested in creating an interesting veg dish or two and give the veg pasta or veg plate (basically sides). Most run-of-the-mill British pubs have an inventive veg offering and ... omnivores will eat them!

your in laws are the result of thousands of years of human evolution....  But i believe more and more we are rediscovering the amazing bounty of the earth. 

Jose--I planted too many tomatoes this summer. I believe you provided this recipe in 2006, and I made 6 batches this summer, with a variation here and there. I cut way back on the olive oil, but had delicious results every time. Looking forward to your new veggie restaurant--superb idea.

you can add as much or as little of every ingredient as you like. But the credit goes to my wife for that delicious recipe. 

It doesn't matter that it's chipped - that's just cast iron, it won't hurt you.

Gertrude's at the Baltimore Museum of Art serves an apple-fennel slaw that I adore. The fennel is so mild it's hardly noticeable (I like a bare touch of the flavor; there's way too much fennel in stuff these days), the dressing is very light and NOT SWEET. Can anyone point me to a recipe that would give me a reasonable facsimile?

Without the benefit of tasting Gertrude's, it's hard to approximate. Perhaps these might work? Add half the sugar to start, and taste as you go. 

RECIPES: Crisp Autumn Apple Slaw

Warm Ginger, Apple and Cabbage Slaw


But I found the description in the nutrition recipe today of "practically effortless" when it involved measuring 6 spices and whisking them together as well as chopping up three sets of vegetables to be a little much. I don't mind making a little effort when I have time, but that's not what I would consider effortless. Though if you roast vegetables like that ahead, is there a good way to reheat them? I often lack vegetables at lunch because they don't reheat well in a microwave.

All relative, I guess; key word "practically." Cutting 10 veg into quarters and whisking spices is work, but it's not challenging. Is it?

We recently cooked this chicken tikka masala crock pot recipe (didn't soak the chicken first, but sauteed the onion and garlic. Used coconut milk and even upped the spices) but it is bland and so disappointing! What is the best way to rescue it? We still have a huge amount left over and I want to enjoy eating it but I assume there is a better solution then dumping in spices at random.

I think you could gradually add in a little more garam masala to taste. Or even salt! Did you use the cilantro garnish? I always find that really punches up my Indian dishes.

You guys are great. I love your column.

Thanks -- but which column do you mean?

Is salsify considered a vegetable? My great aunt made a dish with it ... it was a scalloped casserole. Do you have another recipe that would be better that her version?

Yes, salsify is a winter root vegetable, very tasty.


Try this Salsify Provencal recipe that Bonnie tested two years ago. (Photo above.)

Sounds delicious, but what is a "chipotle in adobo sauce" and where do I find one?

Very common ingredient found in Latin markets and good supermarkets: chipotles packed in a sauce and canned. Must get.


All of them. And your blog.

I'm making Ina Garten's spinach pie this weekend. Do you have a favorite filo dough? I usually buy whatever brand is available at Giant or Whole Foods.

I like using the Yufka leaves sold in frozen dept at  Yekta -- good quality, plus they're easy to work with because they are smaller than whole sheets. In fact, since they're in a wedge shape, they might be really easy to layer in a round pan (pointy sides toward the center). 

Well, you've left us in a dark, cool corner for 2 weeks, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great q's today, and many thanks to special guests Jose Andres, Cathy Barrow and Jim Shahin for helping us answer them!

Now, for the giveaway book: The chatter who asked about a vegetable substitute for chicken in a fried sandwich will get "Plenty More" by Yotam Ottolenghi. Just send your mailing info to, and she'll get it to you!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

was amazing to be with you all today! see you very soon at Beefsteak and always love seeing you at Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya, minibar/barmini, America Eats Tavern and beyond.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Travel editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew. ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is the Food section's Spirits columnist.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow's Canning Class appears twice a month. Her first cookbook, "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton), will be published in the fall. She blogs at
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Food and Travel's editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
José Andrés
José Andrés is chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup, which includes such Washington restaurants as Jaleo, Oyamel and Minibar. He recently announced he is launching Beefsteak, a fast-casual, vegetable-focused eatery.
Maura Judkis
Post staff writer Maura Judkis wrote this week's story on whether you should save the top layer of your wedding cake.
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