Free Range on Food: Second generation chefs, cinnamon varieties, this week's recipes and more.

Oct 25, 2017

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat!

Hope you're enjoying this week's content, including Lavanya Ramanathan's look at up-and-coming chefs who grew up in two cultures and are redefining American food; Carrie Allan's take on vermouth and sherry; Tamar Haspel's exploration of cinnamon, cheap and expensive, "true" and not, and whether we can taste the difference; Dave McIntyre's tips on the best ways to chill wine; and more.

Lavanya, Carrie and Tamar will be here today to help answer q's, so make them count! We'll have a great giveaway book "Guerrilla Tacos" by Wesley Avila, featured in Lavanya's piece.

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR9074 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Oh, and since we're coming up on Thanksgiving, check this out: We're looking for submissions for T-Day recipes that represent your family's heritage. Go to this form and fill it out if you're interested in potentially having your recipe featured...

OK, let's go!

It is a fine Foreign Service tradition to bequeath unused and partially used food items to colleagues when you depart a post, which is how I have almost an entire 5-lb bag of whole wheat bread flour in my freezer. I looked on Recipe Finder for recipes and saw several which call for whole wheat pastry flour; can I use my bread flour there? One recipe called for either regular or bread flour; are they interchangeable? Any other ideas, possibly using my also-bequeathed bottle of molasses?

That's awful nice of you....my sense is that FS types know how to dispense things to appropriate quarters when you have to move along.

 

WW bread flour and WW pastry flour are not so interchangeable; they are made from hard and soft wheats, respectively. The bread flour will have more gluten than the pastry flour, so if you use the bread flour for pie crust or a muffin or pancakes it might create a more dense texture than you'd like.

 

You could use the WWBF for coating fried chicken or fish, and I used regular (hard) whole-wheat bread flour when  I make Alton Brown's chewy choc chip cookies.

Do you guys have any good vegetarian slow cooker recipes? The ones I see online are mostly meat centered.

Of course! My favorite use for a slow cooker is ... beans! I know that's a shock, for me to mention something that I MENTION ALL THE TIME, but let's face it, for vegetarians, there is no better, more delicious, more versatile source of protein. And they do really well in the slow cooker.

Here's a recipe from several years ago, back when I was cooking for one and eating meat, but it's still something that I make from time to time, without that chorizo (or with a soy chorizo), obviously, and with other root vegetables if I can't find sunchokes. But I'll also include another favorite bean stew that I think could also work well in a slow cooker; you might need to cut down on the liquid by a quarter or so, given that slow cooking creates no evaporation.

RECIPE: Slow-Cooker Chickpeas With Sunchokes and Chorizo

RECIPE: Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Red Lentil Chili (#OnePan) can be made in the slow cooker, and I love these slow cooker black beans, too.

I bought a dozen poblanos at a farmers market last weekend. Charred 6 so far and succeeded in peeling only half of one. If this step is really necessary, what's the secret?? BTW appreciated the poblano recipe compilation earlier this month.

I  had to roast a bunch recently and found great peeling success by tossing them into deep stainless steel bowl and covering across tightly with plastic wrap. 

 

Re the secret? Chatters etc pls weigh in with your own tips, but here are a couple: You need to char them enough for the thin skin to be encouraged to separate from the flesh, and then you need to peel them while they are still somewhat warm, or the skin may re-stick, sort of, to the flesh. Hope this helps! 

The steaming from the sealed bowl is key! And if you don't want to use plastic wrap, do what I do: I just put a plate that's bigger than the bowl on top, and it fits perfectly.

I need some ideas. Previously, I just roasted it (halved, seeded, cut side up brushed with olive oil), chopped it up and mixed it in this rice recipe I have. But I'd like to serve it as a veggie -- seasoning ideas? It's very sweet, but I'm worried it might be too "one-note" on its own. Thanks!

We love kabocha here, and are so glad it's now all over the place -- in supermarkets as well as farmers markets. 

 

Of the several Recipe Finder ways you go, I really like this easy one, with miso, and this squash and chicken one.

Braised Kabocha Squash and Chicken

I love this Thai Kabocha Curry. (For you locals, it was inspired by the Thai X-ing pumpkin curry -- which after interviewing the chef, I discovered uses kabocha, which is truly the key, because the drier texture of the squash allows it to really absorb that curry.) For my last book, I added tofu to it.

Or leave the roasted (and still hot) peppers in a closed brown paper bag for a while. Same steaming effect.

Sure, or some people do it in a zip-top bag. I like the bowl/plate cause, well, less trash. (And I don't ever seem to have paper bags when I need one!)

Can the whole wheat bread flour be used for cookies? That, plus the molasses, reminds me of my mother's raisin-oatmeal cookie recipe, and also her shoo-fly pie.

If it's hearty/chewy cookie, sure! 

Hi, I really liked and appreciated Ms Ramanathan's article. I am going to LA next month and will seek out Badmaash! (great name for a restaurant, BTW). I too feel a bit of a twinge when I hear someone order a "chai latte" at Starbucks. For many of us, Indian food was what we did NOT want to eat growing up -- we'd rather have pizza or McDonald's. As adults, of course, we crave the home-cooked version, which the restaurants generally -- with a few exceptions -- cannot measure up to, and which often offer common restaurant dishes rarely seen in Indian-American homes. It is sometimes frustrating to realize that Americans think that that is what we grew up eating at home!

Thanks! Your experience growing up was not unlike mine. I've only recently started to cook South Indian food at home, in fact, and for me, it is a way of hanging on to my upbringing and my culture. 

One funny note from reporting this story was how many of the chefs told me their mothers or fathers went out of their way to make "American" food for their  kids. Preeti Mistry's mother learned to make meatloaf, because Mistry wanted to try it; the Chengs told me their mother made lasagna. A lot of this had to do with helping the kids feel "American" and fit in. Times have changed, haven't they?  

 When you're in LA - do  try to find Wes Avila's taco  truck (or my favorite, Roy Choi's Kogi trucks!) while you're there, too! It's a fabulous place to eat high and low.  

ARTICLE: The future of American food is here, and it’s chicken tikka poutine and meatball dumplings

Over the weekend I bought what I thought was a half gallon of Trickling Springs whole milk, only to discover I had purchased eggnog by mistake! Sadly I am not an eggnog fan and it's too sweet to give to my kids. Any suggestions for other uses? Is there something I could bake wth it? Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

A bread pudding would be awesome -- this one uses 2 cups. I should think you could use it in oatmeal or maybe even rice pudding, too.

Also good with French toast (baked or otherwise).

I'm planning on buying a new roasting pan before Thanksgiving and am wondering if stainless steel or hard-anodized is better? Anything else a must have feature? I typically roast a chicken 2-3 times a month so I'll be using this fairly often and am willing to spend money to get a high quality pan. I'm hoping to use it on my gas range to make gravies and sauces from the drippings. Thanks!

I find a stainless steel pan less heavy and easier to clean than the anodized models. Having tested some things in roasting pans and non-roasting pans recently, I'm beginning to wonder whether spending big $$ on the typical pan featured around Thanksgiving time is really worth it. (The lower the pan sides, the more exposure for crisped poultry skin, for example.) If you do a lot of braising, maybe an enameled cast-iron pan might serve you better? Friend of  Food Cathy Barrow's always telling me about good stuff she sees on eBay along these lines.....chatters, whaddya think?

Made too much, so was wondering if I could freeze it for future use? Thanks!

I never have, but it looks like that's doable. Recommendations: In smallish portions, in a container that allows for some expansion (like a ziptop bag) and maybe with a slick of olive oil on the top. 

 

Perchance, did you happen to use this Whipped Hummus recipe? Just dreamy.

 

Loved the spirits article today. One question - if one chooses to drink vermouth not in a cocktail, but on it's own, what is your preferred way and/or the typical way? What kind of glass and what size glass? Chilled? With or without ice? With a lemon twist? Other? Thanks so much!

 

ARTICLE Sherry and vermouth are shedding their stale stigmas and starring in fall cocktails

Hey there! It's really up to you. I frequently have vermouth over ice with a twist of lemon or orange in a rocks glass. In Spain and Italy, it's frequently served in a big wine goblet with ice, garnished with a few olives as well -- even the sweeter varieties, which seemed weird to me until I tried it. It's delicious if you get some good olives -- the salty of them contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the vermouth and the savory notes of some of the herbs/spices in it.

Hi! I made a lime curd that called for 3/4 of a cup of sugar and 4 tbsps of butter. I love the recipe because you don't have to futz with a double boiler, but I found the curd a bit too sweet for my tastes. Do you think I can cut the sugar? Would I have to cut the butter as well so that it thickens? This is the recipe.

Did you use key limes, as the recipe calls for? If not, I bet that's why it seemed too sweet. Those key limes have an extra edge of bitterness, which works well with more sugar, IMHO.

But I also think you can safely cut the sugar back here without worry that it won't thicken, since that's really the eggs' job! Try going to 1/2 cup and see how it works, and let us know!

Hello WA PO, I have a fresh jar of green peppercorns, and would love some suggestions about how to use them.

I like using them to make a stock -- toss in 6-8 of them. They are a natural addition to mustards. And this sauce recipe from the late Michel Richard is pretty wonderful with steak.

My husband and I recently went to Jinya in Mosiac for ramen. We've never been and never had made ramen. We've always just opened the pack of cheap ramen soup in the grocery store. Anyways there's no way we can go back to the cheap stuff anymore. Do you have a good recipe for chicken and for pork that's more the authentic ramen - complete with soft boiled eggs.

A few to try:

Creamy Vegetable Ramen

RECIPE: Creamy Vegetable Ramen

Top Tomato Ramen
RECIPE:  Top Tomato Ramen

Better Than Instant Ramen

Now that my air conditioning is off for the rest of the year, it's time to turn the oven on. I bought sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and Napa cabbage at the Baltimore City farmers market. All of them have been roasted, or are going to be shortly. It's one reason I love the fall season.

Yes! I'm a big fan of roasting, too. (Confession: I pretty much do it all year long, but I'm blessed with an oven that's so airtight it doesn't heat up the kitchen. That, an air conditioning.)

I enjoyed Carrie's column today, in part because it gave me an excuse to share this recipe from one of my favorite books, "Pale Gray for Guilt", by John D. MacDonald. The main character, Travis McGee came up with this recipe: "Two ample old-fashioned glasses, side by side, filled to the two thirds line with cracked ice. A big, unmeasured slosh of dry sherry into each glass. Then swiftly, the strainer placed across the top of one and then the other, as with a delicate snap of the wrist he dumped the sherry down the drain. Then fill to the ice level with Plymouth gin, rub the lemon peel around the inside of the rim, pinch some little floating beads of citrus oil on the surface of the drink, throw away the peel, present with small tidy bow and flourish to the folk. 'Two McGees,' said he." I like the cocktail. The sherry (I use Fino) adds a dark note to the herbal flavors of the gin and the lemon adds brightness.

That sounds like it's probably delicious, but it also sounds like the sherry version of those dang virtually vermouthless Churchill martinis! :) Maybe it's my cost-conscious dad in me, but I always get fidgety when recipes suggest throwing out a good ingredient post rinsing. I'll give the McGee a shot, but probably will leave a little more of the sherry in mine.

I was just in Harris Teeter trying to buy some hazelnuts. I suddenly remembered they're my favorite nut and thought 'I'll have some with my cocktail '. The only ones to be found there were chopped in those wee bags for baking that are shockingly overpriced. Is the hazelnut endangered? I will report back on my hunt!

Not endangered that I know of, but somewhat more costly to harvest and more likely to spoil over the course of longterm shelf life kinds of baking nuts. If you love hazelnuts, it'd be worth it to order them online from a good source like Pacific Farms in Oregon. I find them reliably at Middle Eastern markets. You can also find them at Whole Foods Markets, almost always, altho you may have to roast/skin those. 

I loved the article on cinnamon but did you guys test organic varieties? My mom and I discovered a few years ago that there is a difference (color and spice level) between organic cinnamon and regular. Every since we started using organic cinnamon in our pumpkin pie, it is a WINNER.

Yes! We did. Several of the samples were organic, but there was no clear distinction. Both organic and conventional were in the mix (though the overall winner was conventional and the loser organic, the scores were so close that the more reasonable conclusion is that they're all good, but organic isn't a stand-out). 

And, don't forget: We tasted these blind! No offense to you and your Mom, but don't underestimate the power of suggestion. 

What substitute can I use for butter that doesn't contain: legumes (including all beans, soy and peanuts), coconut, sesame, nuts, dairy, or gluten? The dishes include mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pie, and biscuits. I'm thinking lard will work for the pie crust and maybe the biscuits, but not for the vegetables.

maybe something like Earth Balance's olive oil buttery spread? Or just a good extra-virgin olive oil. 

I also really like Miyoko's cultured vegan butter. Got a really nice tang to it. Not sure if you can find it near you, but if you can, grab some! (I buy mine at MOM's.)

Hello! About a week and a half ago, my husband and I went shopping and saw this beautiful bag of gala apples, so we got them. However, with the business of work, etc., we haven't been able to eat them so we have a bag of gala apples that are starting to go bad. Is there anything I cook to use them? And if I do use them, is it ok that they're a little ripe (mealy with some bruises)? We probably have about 10-15 apples left.

Those mealy/bruised ones sound like ideal sauce-making apples! Maybe this lovely pink-hued one? (You could use frozen raspberries.)

Raspberry Roasted Applesauce

RECIPE: Raspberry Roasted Applesauce

Or maybe cooked with sausage and hard cider: 

Apples and Sausage in Cider, Asturian Style

RECIPE: Apples and Sausage in Cider, Asturian Style

Or go super simple and saute with some herbs or some sugar and butter:

Sauteed Apples With Brown Butter and Sage

RECIPE: Sauteed Apples With Brown Butter and Sage


Definitely works. I usually make at least a double batch (a full bag of dried chickpeas) and freeze 1/2 with a layer of olive oil on top. You may need to add some more liquids when it thaws, but it works well.

Good to know! I can never seem to have any leftovers when I make hummus...

You can usually sub about 1/3 of the white flour in a recipe for whole wheat without too much problem. Just increase the liquid by a bit, as whole wheat absorbs more. Or get one of several excellent whole grain baking books - Hodson's Mill has a superb one, as does King Arthur Flour. Those recipes are designed to use whole wheat and thus have an excellent chance of succeeding.

[insert thumbs up]

Yes, I used key limes, but thank you for encouraging me to cut the sugar! I made it for a cheesecake, and I've gotten away with using 1 cup of sugar in the cake instead of 1 3/4. As I get older, I tend to find things to be far too sweet.

You talked a lot this week about spices, especially cinnamon, and all the types there are. I'd love to learn more about other spices - especially curry powders and blends - as they always confuse me and recipes don't always clarify what to use. Salt is also tricky, since there are so many types and sizes. Any tips?

You might look at one of good spice books that have come out recently: Lior Lev Sercarz's "The Spice Companion" and Padma Lakshmi's "The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs." For salt, a good primer is Mark Bitterman's "Salted." (Or his website, which includes a good Salt 101 section here.)

soup season is upon us. Do you have a favorite tomato soup recipe? Also, is there a vegetarian version of chicken noodle soup? Something creamy and chunky but without the chicken of course.

This soup is nice: 

Tomato and Rice Soup

RECIPE: Tomato and Rice Soup

Another option (I think you could use canned tomatoes): 

Tomato Egg Drop Soup

RECIPE: Tomato Egg Drop Soup

A more classic option: 

Tomato Soup With Grilled Havarti Cheese Croutons

RECIPE: Tomato Soup With Grilled Havarti Cheese Croutons

If you need more soup inspiration, check these out.

And to the chicken noodle without the chicken question...maybe take a cue from this Creamy Greek Noodle Soup recipe, but use veg broth instead of chicken and stir in some cooked beans or lentils instead of the meat. (Or use other vegetables -- roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes, perhaps?)


Not a question, but a suggestion for anyone who's starting to think about Thanksgiving dessert and might want to stick with pumpkin but, like me, is tired of pumpkin pie: Check out the recipe for roasted pumpkin 5-spice ice cream from "Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home." It's been my go-to ice cream cookbook for a couple of years but I just recently tried this recipe. Oh, boy, is it good. The 5-spice lends a savoriness that I find really appealing. I also added roasted, salted pepitas. I served it recently garnished with very thin chocolate cookies (like those Moravian thins, but chocolate instead of spice), and the flavor combo was amazing.

Nice!

I saw new cast iron pans with a price tag under $8 for a 10-inch or 3 diff sizes (8, 10, 12") for under $10 on my first ever visit to a certain big box store. Had I not been on foot, I couldn't have resisted. Instead, I get to ask your opinion. They're made in China.

Opinionwise, I'd go with a pan that fits your needs and is well made & heavy. Interweb concerns about possible lead in China-made solid cast-iron pans seem to be offbase, as there's no lead involved. But I did find that Lodge pans, otherwise made in the US of A, does get its enamel-coated cast-iron stuff manufactured in China! #whoknew

I'm planning to make a cheesecake this weekend, but will be in a kitchen without a stand mixer, but WITH a food processor. In order to beat the cream cheese (3 packages) together with the eggs and sugar etc, I was thinking of using the food processor. Do you think this would provide the same creamy results, or even acceptably creamy results? Other option is buying a hand mixer for the cheesecake occasion.

Yep, that will do it. Be sure it's soft enough before you begin, so it will process smoothly. 

I have a tiny apartment and I am slowly getting sick of using a hand mixer. A few times a year I'll make a cheesecake, and each time I ask myself why I don't just suck up the loss of counter space and get a stand mixer. I love the copper mini-artisan kitchenaid at Williams Sonoma - is there any reason I shouldn't get it?

I can think of no reason!

Last night my husband started discussing Thanksgiving dinner with me. He's already thinking about what he wants. He said maybe we should avoid potatoes because they're not special enough. (??!!) He wants green beans. I never cook green beans so if you guys have a good recipe recommendation, I'd really appreciate it.

Personally, I'd make these green beans, which go (slightly) beyond the same old plate of beans without stretching the Thanksgiving flavor profiles too far.

 

Plus, it's an easy side to make, which is important with this labor-intensive holiday meal.

Micro-Steamed Green Beans With Olives and Almonds

Micro-Steamed Green Beans With Olives and Almonds.

Lodge pans made in China? I just bought one at Costco last week and it only says the silicone handle is made in China. I had no idea.

Specifically the ENAMELED cast-iron ones, is what the Lodge site says. I don't know about the handles....

Carrie, thanks for your article. I've decided to get more into sherry because I live alone and don't like opening bottles of wine that then sit around for a few days. I'm looking for a dry sherry. I've tried a Lustau Amontillado, which I find I like more several days after it's been opened than I did when I first tried it. Any recommendations in that vein?

Hey, this is such an interesting comment about liking it more after a few days. Typically the word on sherry is that it's very sensitive and the finos and other very dry ones start declining as soon as you open the bottle, and are virtually dead within a day or two. I've felt differently about this, as long as they're refrigerated -- I find that a couple days or a week they are still often very drinkable, sometimes even improved to my taste. And especially for cocktails, I don't think they should be automatically presumed off based solely on time they've been opened. But they do change quickly, that's for sure. So at least for me, it's less a matter of assuming that opened bottles have gone off and more understanding that it likely won't be the same wine you tasted a few days ago, and that may be a bad thing but is occasionally a good one.

As far as other bottles to try: Tio Pepe is really good stuff, Valdespino Inocente ... and I have yet to try one of the Lustau line I didn't like (try the Oloroso). And if you really want to get into the stuff, Talia Baiocchi's book on sherry is terrific.

Don't forget to do what I always forget to do - don't just take the cream cheese out of the fridge to let it soften - also take it out of the foil..... Much easier to do when it's cold.

And I think that it is probably about time. I'd love to be able to make soup and there just isn't room for a regular blender in my kitchen. Plus, I'm not going to need to crush ice. Any recommendations?

A hand (aka immersion, aka stick) blender is a must-have for soup lovers, yes.

Cook's Illustrated rates this one tops.

How about nutmeg - Brits tend to use it quite a bit where Americans use cinnamon and it has a nice note.

Me, I'm a big nutmeg fan. It has a much more assertive flavor than cinnamon, and I don't think it plays as well with others. Part of cinnamon's popularity is the fact that it melds so well (she asserts, without a shred of evidence). 

I made one last weekend and tossed it. It turned out completely grainy and rubbery. I was trying to find a recipe that is like the classic diner cheesecake, almost fluffy, mile-high and creamy. This one was not it. Did I mix it too long? Is there something better? Sara Lee ain't cutting it.

I am sure Dorie Greenspan's Light and Creamy Cheesecake would work for you. Bake it in a 6-inch pan with tall sides and it will look mile-high (be sure to adjust baking time, for doneness). 

Hey Free Rangers -- do you have make or have a Thanksgiving recipe that tells a story about your family's heritage? We're collecting them...use this submission form

I'm seeing this called for in a lot of Chinese recipes. Is there anything I can use as a substitute? I don't really drink. I use wine and spirits in cooking but live in a small apartment and have limited storage space.

Most of the alcohol will cook off as you're cooking, so may not need to worry about that factor. I'm not sure I would say there's really a substitute for cooking sherry -- the flavors it brings are really fairly unique and you can definitely taste it in some of those Chinese dishes (my mom made a chicken with cashews when we were growing up that had a splash of sherry, and you notice if it's not there). But you certainly don't need to buy anything pricey for this (and actually, even very good sherries are often very affordable). 

I'm experimenting with a new cupcake recipe that I made where I loved the texture but thought there wasn't quite enough chocolate flavor (it was only 3 oz unsweetened chocolate and 2.25 cups of both flour and brown sugar). I was thinking about substituting some cocoa powder for a bit of the flour- recognizing that the texture will change. Any other suggestions for getting more chocolate flavor in there?

You've hit on a discovery: Cocoa gives you a more intense chocolate flavor than chocolate in baking. So give it a shot. Sub it by weight, not volume. And if it doesn't work, try this amazing chocolate cupcake recipe that uses ALL cocoa. The ratios and method are tried and true, so you can stop experimenting! (If you want to, that is...) Bonus: They use ganache on the top, which is another great way to add more chocolate flavor, naturally.

RECIPE: Georgetown Cupcake's Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes. 

While shopping online recently, I bought a bag of green pea flour on a whim. I now have it and have no idea what to do with it? I get the sense it's used as a wheat flour substitute by people who have gluten free diets but I don't eat gluten free (although am always happy to try anything that tastes good). Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

I'm always amused when people buy food or cooking products with no idea what they'll do with them! (I thought the idea would come first, then the product, but I've been proven wrong again and again; people ALWAYS ask us what to make with their newly purchased Dutch ovens...)

I'm not personally familiar with green pea flour, but Bob's Red Mill has some good info, including some recipe ideas.

But it doesn't have a mini food processor attachment. I use that more than the food processor itself and perhaps more than the blender attachment, hard to tell. Mine is culinary and I've had it about a decade - it gets a fair amount of use.

My Cuisinart is 30+ years old and the blade needs sharpening. Do I need to send it to the manufacturer for sharpening? Or would regular knife-sharpening businesses be able to sharpen properly? If so, can you recommend one that would not be so expensive that it makes more sense to buy a new processor?

This post at The Spruce suggests that you shouldnt need to sharpen a food processor blade. But if yours is that old, it may have those rivets that cause cracking -- and tons of long-awaited replacement blades and conversations about them on this very chat! From my 30+ experience/own Cuisinart, the motor tends to last longer than plastic parts, so I wouldn't recommend a new machine. But def look into getting a new blade

I was gifted about 20 hot peppers-some thai chiles, jalapenos, and serranos. I plan to make a batch of chana masala with some of them, but was looking for ideas for what to do with the remaining ~10 peppers

We make an Italian egg-drop soup pretty regularly. We use this recipe from Eating Well. It's delicious, hearty, and comforting.

In the last month, my father died and I had two surgeries and shingles. I cannot tell you how delightful it is to read this chat today and immerse myself in a totally different world from the one I have been living in lately. It's so comforting to read about food and holidays and the pros and cons of different cinnamons! Thank you for the escape, and for the service you provide every week.

You're welcome. So sorry for your troubles -- and glad to offer a distraction!

Yes to green beans almandine - you must simply have lashings of butter for it to reach its full potential. How about Potatoes dauphinoise - that should be special enough and the bonus is you can put it together in advance and just pop it in the oven later.

Yes, potatoes dauphinoise is a terrific dish, though much more labor-intensive, which might be a problem for the time-crunched.

 

Here's a recipe from Snoop Dogg's favorite kitchen mentor, Martha Stewart. 

Does Lodge make sauce pans? I'm looking for a 4 or 5-quart saucepan in cast iron. Dutch ovens don't have a long enough handle. The problem is, I can't seem to find them anywhere.

The company makes pots that size with a pair of short handles (on opp sides), looks like. 

 

Just curious -- long enough handle, for what? Did you know that much of the weight's in the lid of Dutch ovens, so if you are looking for a good way to convey it  out of the oven without popping a button, remove the lid first. 

Try Shaoxing rice wine as a sub sherry in Chinese cooking. Probably available in the Rockville Pike Chinese markets or HMart or Lotte. Generally doesn't have enough alcohol to make a difference.

I think that sherry comes up in Chinese recs as a substitute because it's assumed more folks would have that on hand rather than Shaoxing wine. (And I think the latter's carried at regular supermarkets these days.)

My cooking got much better once I discovered Shaoxing many years ago. I call it my Shaoxing redemption. (Sorry.)

Your article on cinnamon reminded me that I always wonder how much brands and price points of various ingredients really matter to experienced, but non-professional, chefs. (Did you do an article on tasting butter once? Or am I misremembering?) When a recipe calls for a certain brand of chocolate, flour or butter or tell me to use a chopped chocolate bar versus chips, would the average person really be able to tell the difference? I've always thought it would be interesting to make the same recipes side-by-side but switch up the brands of key ingredients and see if I could tell the difference.

You're asking exactly the same kinds of questions that prompted us to do the cinnamon tasting in the first place.  While there are definitely times when a recipe specifies a particular kind of ingredient for a good reason -- like maybe the butterfat content of the butter, or the texture of chopped chocolate vs. chocolate chips -- there are other times when it doesn't matter much.  We all have a tendency to imbue the foods we like the idea of (like backyard eggs, or wild salmon, just to pick 2 we've done tastings of here) with great flavor, but those two things are different. That's why we test!

I plan to make the Frankenmuffins but I'd like to frost them since they are for a party. Is there any such thing as white chocolate ganache for frosting? Any other suggestions? Thank you!

Sure there is. Should be a 1:1 swap in the choc ganache recipe you are using (maybe stirred with hot cream?) Be sure to use a good block of white chocolate rather than white "baking" chips -- for better flavor and melting.

I noticed McCormick had it for sale. Have you tried it?

I haven't, but I'd love to hear from anyone who has.

Are you familiar with the seaweed "snacks" at Trader Joe's -- they're just small rectangles of dried seaweed, not much taste, I don't know how people eat them straight. So I've had an opened but basically uneaten package of this stuff for a long time and am wondering if I could use it for the kombu in that ramen recipe... Or do you have other ideas for using it up?

Sure, why not? 

It wouldn't be quite the same as the original recipes, but you could also try it in one of these:

Beet and Macadamia Poke

RECIPE: Beet and Macadamia Poke

Beluga Lentil 'Caviar' With Potato Blini

RECIPE: Beluga Lentil 'Caviar' With Potato Blini

Or simply crumble it over rice or fish.

OP here: It's just the two of us and I will have plenty of time. I appreciate any and all ideas.

What a wonderful thing: time.

Just be careful not to overmix the batter, especially once you've added the eggs. Overbeating is one of the major causes of cracking in cheesecakes. I've never tried making a cheesecake using a processor, but I'd be concerned that I might not be able to control the blending as well.

Yeah, not sure I'd blend the whole batter in the food processor, but the rest of the ingredients would be easy to beat by hand.

I use a cast iron sauce pan or dutch oven when making homemade caramels for the Christmas season. My parents have the sauce pan, and the long handle makes it much easier when it's time to pour the caramel out. My dutch oven is a lot more difficult to hold during that stage.

I never boil the bloomin pots. I use Gordon Ramsay's recipe and just layer the bloody thing! It takes twenty minutes tops - more like 15.

I'm late today but I wanted to say I love fish tacos. Is there a good recipe for them?

These Baja Fish Tacos are pretty terrific, but if you don't feel like frying (beer-battered!) you might like Ellie Krieger's healthful version

True - although the back of a box grater or my trusty mandolin make it pretty quick .I have to admit I pop the cream/milk with seasonings into the microwave. And it's nice subbing a bit of sour cream ... .

When I make potatoes, I go the true masochist's route: 

 

Fifteen-Layer Potato Gratin

Try a "perfect vermouth" half sweet half dry with a twist on the rocks. Really nice and light

I don't do the Halloween candy thing, but I would like to have a special sweet treat for a few people, maybe something to give away to 5-10 people. Any ideas for individual, maybe even portable sweets that can translate to "Happy Halloween"?

I saw spiderweb decorated cookies somewhere (and so has the internet). They're kinda cute, in a not-too-creepy or difficult to achieve way. 

Kudos to the folks at MacArthur's, who told me that one of the virtues of sherry was that you didn't have to drink it on a schedule. I love those guys because they're not trying to gouge you.

isn't connecting to any recipes... have you changed your format or is it just me that's having problems. thanks

It's a glitch that our developers will fix soon! But you can still search for recipes. 

I'm all for adventures in food, including the ones covered in Lavanya Ramanathan's article. But I also can understand being upset if you're looking for a familiar dish - think comfort food - and are served something with the same name but different taste or different ingredients. Along the same lines, a high-end meal is a treat if you go for it expecting to pay more than you would at a not-fancy place, but most of us rely on the continued existence of the not-fancy places for our usual, budget-constrained meals out -- so I hope the less-expensive eateries aren't squeezed out.

I don't think the appearance of chefs such as those in this piece necessarily means the death of less-expensive eateries. ChiKo in Washington, for example, is a counter-service operation, as quick and accessible as a Chipotle, and so is Mimi Cheng's in New York and Guerilla Tacos in L.A.

I don't think the choices of these chefs will preclude us  from enjoying familiar dishes -- it's pretty clear in the story that these dishes are familiar to them, the product of a multi-cultural upbringing.  I do think you're right that change may be ahead; the immigrant-run restaurants we've known for generations were opened for various reasons, including economic necessity.  (Badmaash's Nakul Mahendro speaks to this in the piece.) Why wouldn't we be excited for this new wave of restaurants whose owners have some privilege, and some training, and want to make dishes that reflect passion for cooking and tradition?  

Well, you've let us cool completely before adjusting our seasoning, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Carrie and Tamar for help with the a's.

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who wrote in about second-gen chefs and plans to seek out Badmaash in LA will get "Guerrilla Tacos." Send your mailing info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get you your book.

And don't forget: If you have a Thanksgiving recipe that represents your family heritage and want us to consider it for an upcoming project, please go to this site and fill out the form. We look forward to seeing what comes our way!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading.

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