Free Range on Food: Apples, cider, poaching eggs and more

Ack! Running late.  See you've got lots of cider and apple and eggy q's already, so let's hop to it! As advertised, Greg Engert, beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group AND co-conspirator in The Post's annual Beer Madness, is with us, as are Tim Carman, Jane Touzalin, Jim Shahin (a bit later) and Jason Wilson.


Two cookbooks to give away, with apples and today's Dinner in Minutes in mind.  Here we go!

Is anybody making Artisan cider without alcohol? I've always found hard cider to be inferior in taste to the nonalcoholic nonsparkling kind.

Greg: If table cider strength is doable, one of tastiest low alcohol ciders out there is Kerisac from Brittany, France...deliciously crsip and brightly acidic...and only 2.5% alcohol by volume.

For non-alcoholic ciders, often called sweet sparkling on labels, check out the French Sparkling Cider from Duche de Longueville and Martinelli's Organic Sparkling Cider (typically available at Whole Foods)...

Let me preface this question by telling you that apples give me hives. When I was a newlywed, we bought a house with an apple tree in the backyard. An elderly gentleman in town made a point to visit us when we moved in. He wanted to be sure we knew that apple tree had been planted Johnny Appleseed. I was so enchanted by the story, I made an effort to raise and use those apples. We used some sort of organic mixture that was put in jars and hung in the tree right at blossom time. I think it was water and sugar and a third ingredient (salt? vinegar?) It attracted the worms so they wouldn't go into the blossoms and be in the fruit. Then I started having babies, and brain fog set in. I let that tree go wild. We have now moved into a new home. There are 5 apple trees in the yard. My children are adult now and my time is my own. My brain fog has lifted. I feel guilty letting that fruit go to waste, and I am looking for advice on how to inexpensively maintain the trees. I will probably donate the fruit to the food shelf, but my husband wouldn't mind a few treats made with apples if you have any suggestions.

I've tried reaching a couple of the apple growers in the region, but no luck yet. Here' s an easy apple-growing primer from the University of Illinois Extension Office. The one thing I would add is that, here on the East Coast, you'll have to figure in the humidity and rain. Which means you'll have to grow a variety of apple that is resistant to apple scab (like Gold Rush or Crimson Crisp) or spray for the diseases. Good luck!

And you saw this fun graphic today, right?



In the video posted on the Web site, chef Richard uses buttered plastic wrap to poach the first egg. Can you use any plastic wrap, or does it have to be a special plastic wrap to hold up to the heat?

The poached egg recipe testers tried it at home with Stretch-Tite; the chef used a professional grade you can pick up at Restaurant Depot. Results were the same....the plastic's only in the water for about 3 minutes. I will say that buttering the inside surface of the plastic is key!

What a coincidence! This week I've finally yielded to my swears-by-it friend and started taking daily doses of apple cider vinegar/honey/probiotics, so suddenly I care about apple cider. :) Any of the producers in the Virginia cider article distribute apple cider vinegar?

Greg: The most notable Virginia producer of apple cider vinegar is Bragg's...great stuff, and organic to boot!

My mother use to make and can her own applesauce and we served applesauce with every meal. Yes, every meal. Hmmm! Cold with toast. Warm when freshly made. Regular sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Greg: If you love homemade applesauce, try to find Sparrow Spiced, an amazing spiced artisan cider from Aeppeltreow Apple Winery & Distillery in Wisconsin...made from a blend of modern & heirloom varietals, it is spiced with Cinnamon, Allspice & Cardamom...also an excellent stand-in for Pumpkin Ales during Autumn (particularly pertinant for those with gluten allergies who have to refrain from craft brews!)

Have you ever tried the Roasted Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce in our Recipe Finder? I think it's one of the top 10 recipes in there. Solid.

Hi - Today's Chat Leftovers about butternut squash doesn't continue. When you click on "next page" it brings up the Comments section.

Yes, thanks for pointing it out. We've had some issues on the technical side of our All We Can Eat blog lately. We're looking into it.

I love Eggs Benedict (toasted buttered ciabatta is also a great base, with proscuitto or capaciola instead of bacon). I never make it because I'm stymied on how to poach more than one egg. After I drop the first in, I lose the vortex in the water, but can't start stirring again, because that will disrupt the first. What to do?

You know, after doing about a dozen eggs with chef Michel Richard, I found that the vortex is not crucial. What IS important is moving water. In the video, when he suggests getting a low boil going, then pulling the pan halfway off the heat, he's creating the moving-water side in which you can drop in the egg to start; within seconds, you use a spoon to gather the white around the yolk. Then you can shove the egg out of the way just enough to do the next one. Or, if you're worried about the multiples, the plastic wrap method would be perfect for you. No muss/fuss.

AAAARGH! Maybe YOU can pick up stuff at Restaurant Depot, but the rest of us proles/home cooks don't qualify for membership. Sure wish I did, though. Just call me Nose Pressed Against the Glass.

Do you have any pals who own restaurants? Chef buddies? Caterer friends? So, use the Stretch-Tite, WHICH IS AVAILABLE AT GROCERY STORES! NO AAARGHING required.

I found some beautiful decanters (not the wide open kind for wine, but rather with a smaller opening and a stopper) and I'm wondering if I can store liquor in it and for how long? I feel like I see people on TV always pouring whiskey from decanters, but I'm sure that's just to avoid labels and royalties. Would certain alcohols last longer in a decanter than others? Over the summer I made rhubarb vodka and I think it would look great on my bar in a decanter, instead of the hermetic glass jar it is in right now. Thanks!


You absolutely can store liquor in these...the stopper decanters are well-suited to this (and I wouldn't use the open, wine decanters to store anything for longer than a night).

These decanters look classy, and once the stopper has been removed, the spirit will aerate for time, allowing for a blossoming of flavor (due to contact with oxygen). Pour after a few minutes, and be sure to stopper once done...

That said, I'd probably want to drain a decanter within a week or two as quality may be lost with extended oxidation...

Spirits guru Jason Wilson's in the house!

When does the Oktoberfest season traditionally start and is October? Have any suggestions for great fests??

Greg: The fiesta that would come to be known as Oktoberfest took place on a single day, October 12, back in 1810. Over the years, the Oktoberfest celebration has expanded beyond a single day and was moved up to capitalize on longer, warmer days...

Today, Oktoberfest takes place for the 16-18 days before the 1st weekend in October. The longer fests occur in years where the 1st Sunday falls on October 1st or 2nd...during those years they extend the fest to October 3rd, which is German Reunification Day (this extension began in 1994).

google and buy it online

Give that fan a contract! #Natitude

Hi there. My coworker's wife has hurt her foot and needs to stay off of it for a while. The problem is that she is the main cook for her and her husband. I wanted to bring over some meals that would be easy to reheat. I've thought of a lasagna, but am stumped on other possibilities.


You can prepare casseroles, pasta salads, hearty soups and stews (which are often better on the second or third day) and even cannelloni, all of which reheat well. Search our Recipe Finder for your favorites.

Here are a few recipes that might work for you:


Spanish-Inspired Ham and Pasta Salad with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette


Baked Polenta With Cheese and Swiss Chard


Lemon Chicken and Rice Casserole (pictured above)


Bistro Beef Stew

Also, search our Recipe Finder with "Make It Freeze It Take It," which is an occasional series we run.

What in the world is "smoked beer"? There are a couple of mini brewers around and I just heard of "smoked beer". Thanks for any info.

Greg: Smoked beer generally refers to ales or lagers that showcase smoked flavors, and these flavors are typically derived from the direct kilning of the grain employed for brewing over open fires. These fires are traditionally started by burning beechwood which, once aflame, not only dries the grain during the malting process (important for ensuring the availability of simple sugar for fermentation), but imparts incredible flavors of spicy meats, bacon and a hint of campfire. Rauchbier, from Bamberg, utilizes this process...look for Schlenkerla or Spezial brands of Rauchbier...they are delicious and like drinking meat in a glass!

American craft brewers are innovating as usual by using all sorts of smoked grains as those that are smoked over peat fires (a la Single Malt Scotch) or those smoked over cherry oak, and alderwood...and they even are garnering smoky notes froma aging beers in oak barrels that previously held smoky Islay Scotch.

(You can tell we have an expert in the house today; he has successfully used the term "kilning.") #winning

I read recently that all ingredients other than eggs are supposed to be added to omelettes only after the eggs are cooked. Is that correct? I've always sauteed onions and peppers first and left them in the pan, added s&p to the eggs before they go in the pan, poured in any milk, cream or water at the same time as the eggs (if not first stirring them into the eggs outside the pan) and added such things as herbs, tomatoes, chives and cheese before the eggs are done cooking, sometimes even at the same time as the eggs -- and it's worked for me, but maybe the other way would be better.

The classic filled omelet is rolled around a filling that has been cooked separately, but there's no law that says you can't do it your way, and in fact that's the way I make them to save time. I don't think the Omelet Police will show up at your door if you just keep doing what you're doing.

at the top of the chat?

Today's Dinner in Minutes, Duck Breast and Zucchini Two Ways. And why, might you ask, are there food pods? The one at the far left is the round in its uncooked state (so you could see it), the middle shows it cooked, and the righthand pile is the sauteed version of the recipe.

Re "Once you cut the skin off, the fruit is fine to eat ..." Aren't you losing an important part of the vitamins -- if not the most important part -- if you don't eat the apple peel? That's what I was told as a kid. Certainly you're losing a lot of the taste. Although maybe those blemished peels taste as horrible as they look ...

Yes, you will lose nutrients (and fiber) if you peel an apple vs. eating it whole with skin. But I ate those no-spray apples from Waterpenny, and I found them more palatable without the skin. I've been told that the skin blemishes pose no harm, but the exterior's texture was so leathery that it took away from the pleasure of eating the apple. To me at least.

This is not so much a question as it is a sugggestion. I have ben tinkering with apple pie recipes and apple tartlet recipes for years. The biggest improvement I have ever found is the use of apple brandy or apple jack in the pie crust and to cook the apples, sugar, spices and alcohol slightly in a sauce pan prior to placing in the pie or tartlet. The apple brandy delivers a complexity of flavor that makes these pies and tarts incredible.

I agree that apple brandy adds complexity to baking. Remember, that apple brandy and applejack are different: applejack is a blend of apple brandy and neutral spirits. A good value domestic apple brandy would be Laird's Straight Apple Brandy, around $20 -- it's also good for cocktail making. If you want a slightly better apple brandy for the cook to sip on while he/she bakes, I'd recommend upgrading to the Laird's 7 1/2 year old apple brandy, around $25-30.

I head a great story on public radio about apple cider and they said Johnny Appleseed distributed cider apple seeds, not eating apple seeds. It was on the show and they had an interview with a historian who knew a lot about the history of hard cider. I'm so excited about the great new cideries we have in Virginia!

Greg: Cider has a fantastic history in America.

Johnny Appleseed was certainly distributing cider apple seeds and planting cider apple trees. Back before Industrialization, refrigeration and railroad, apples needed to either be consumed or preserved following the fall season. Fermenting apple juice into cider was just the way to preserve.

When colonists arrived to America, grain was in short supply--not groing well in the new terroir and heavily taxed when imported--so they turned to alternative sources of sugar for cider and pumpkin ale being hugely important (and since water wasn't potable, lower abv beverages were key for daily hydration). In the 18th century, American adults consumed--on average--34 gallons of hard cider per year.

We know that Jefferson loved cider, growing apples and making the hard stuff...and he likely drank more cider than even wine or beer. Washington also made apple cider...

I heart cider, and if you ever have the opp to go to Birch & Barley and can catch Greg at your table, you'll get a lesson along with your glass. Love that.

Say Old Crow and dry hard cider?

An easy one! I can specifically recommend the Stone Fence -- Old Crow topped with dry cider.

A note: Cider, the alcoholic beverage, doesn't need the adjective "hard." Cider is cider, a traditional American beverage. The non-alcoholic stuff perhaps should be called "soft"? It came along after the fermented stuff.

Jerusalem kugel is a staple at after-synagogue prayers on saturday morning. the commercial ones have too much oil and pepper for my family. Is there a good recipe with less or little oil and I can adjust the black pepper myself. Thank you.

My early pick for a cookbook, because again, Free Rangers, we learn something new! Friend of Food Vered Guttman tells me that the kugel is one of those baked-overnight, staple dishes specific to Jerusalem. Here's her recipe.  Re the oil: She says it's necessary! And to think of this like you would a cake. It has that much fat, so cut small portions.

Hi Rangers! Today's tian recipe is timed PERFECTLY; we just received three butternut squash from our farm share and went apple picking last weekend. However, we have buckets of cameo and suncrisp apples - no jonagold. Would either of these work as a suitable stand-in in the tian? Also, any recipe ideas for that last squash? I can make a squash risotto that beats the pants off of anything else, but I'd love to introduce another solid recipe for squash into my rotation. Thanks!

The Cameo might be a little tarter than the Jonagold and the Suncrisp will be tarter still, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Go for it.

As for that third squash, we love love this Butternut Squash Lasagna recipe, though it's admittedly a little time-consuming. A less fussy version of that would be Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese. And a really fast one is Cranberry-Glazed Butternut Squash.

Check out Recipe Finder for dozens of other recipes that will help you use up your squash.

I've been wanting to try to make Hollandaise sauce and your article this morning has given me further encouragement. What I don't quite get is the double boiler. I've seen general descriptions of it, but it would be helpful if someone would explain more specifically how to make one and whether it matters that it be made a certain way. I have a wide 2.5 QT saucepan and a standard 4 QT saucepan. I have a large (like 12 inches across) metal bowl and glass bowls in all sizes. Is there a setup among those options that would be ideal? Should the bowl hover inches above, barely above or touch the boiling water? Thanks.

Generally a sturdy, Pyrex-type glass bowl will be better for the double boiler, since it is non-reactive. You just need to make sure the bowl covers the entire opening of the pot. You want a tight seal between pot and bowl. 

The bowl rests directly on top of the pan, which means it has to be at least a tad wider than the pan so the bowl part will be seated inside the pan, in effect; its bottom getting steamed by the barely bubbling water below it. You DONT want the water high enough to touch the bottom of the bowl. You DO want the bowl to create, in effect, a lid so that no steam escapes from the pan. Does that help?

Your fried apple rings reminded me of the banana fritters in orange sauce that our girl scout leader's husband made us on every camping trip. I'm sure my kids would love them as much as I did, but I never paid much attention to how they were being made.

Kids definitely would love these.

Thanks for your apple-centric issue today, especially the article on organic apples. Had a question about the Batter-Fried Apple Rings: I tried a similar recipe that was making the Internet rounds a few months ago, and i found that it really needed a longer, lower heat if you wanted the interior apple cooked at all (as opposed to being still crisp inside). When you tested it, didn't you notice the same thing?

No, I didn't, but I imagine it depends on the variety of apple and the thickness of the slice. For this recipe, you cut 1/8-inch slices, and those were thin enough so that the apple did get cooked. But it wasn't mushy -- it still kept a hint of firmness, which I didn't find objectionable. You could substitute a more tender apple if you'd rather have a perfectly soft apple pancake.

I just started getting a CSA share and it includes cider every other week. I love drinking cider (hot and cold and spiked and every which way) but want to have some recipes at the ready to use some for cooking or baking too. I saw the vegetable tian recipe in today's paper - what else ya got?


How about an Apple and Sausage Risotto? (which sounds pretty delicious right about now.)


Or Apple Cider Doughnuts?


You can also make your own Boiled Cider (pictured above), which can serve as a syrup for pancakes or bread or as a drizzle over root vegetables.

Hi Rangers: My fiance and I have a running argument (and not that huge of a problem in the scheme of things). When out running errands or during a long weekend of travel, sometimes fast food is the easiest and quickest way to avoid a blood sugar drop. I get particularly nasty when hungry. My fiance and I are both pretty into food, but she refuses (or pouts) to eat fast food -- even on a once-every-6-weeks-cycle and even when there are no other options and we are low on time. Two part question: 1) what, if any, standard fast food items do you enjoy when in a similar pinch, and 2) what snacks/pick me ups are good to pack and carry?

This is a common dilemma, particularly when on the road and the options are limited. Fortunately, many convenience stores are stocking more "healthy" (or less "unhealthy") options, like protein bars, fresh fruits, prepared sandwiches and fresh fruit juices. When I'm crashing and I'm near a 7-Eleven or something like that, I'll grab one of these items.


But I also believe that, for the health of your relationship (if not your body), you should be able to indulge your fast-food jones every six weeks. It won't kill ya!

I've read that it was moved to September in Germany because climate change has made the harvest earlier than October.

Greg: Interesting notion...but Oktoberfest was moved to September way back in 1872, so I don't think they were as aware of, or concerned with, climate change in those days. Alpine weather in October was rainy and cold, so they held onto the warmer weather with the move...

And while I am pretty sure their harvests have generally occurred in August and September for centuries, grain and hop harvest have mattered little to the timing of the Fest for some time...since refrigeration, beer are brewed year-round. Before this, beer couldn't be brewed in the summer due to heat and concomitant infection...but beer was needed year-round! So they brewed until March (or Marz in German...thus Oktoberfests also know as Marzen) and stored the beer in caves packed with winter river ice...this would be consumed all summer and then once fresh beer returned in fall, they'd dump the old and hardly palatable Marzen on the Harvest partiers....

Nowadays, no Oktoberfests are produced from the Autumn harvest of grain or hop immediately...and most start being released in July!


Yes, that's another good option.

Maybe this has been asked before, but I wonder how a "smoked pumpkin" would taste and how would you do it? Seems like smoked pumpkin seeds would be pretty tasty.

Greg: Elysian Brewery, maker of more Pumpkin Ales than any other American brewer, utilizes roasted Pumpkin seeds in their Dark O' the Moon Pumpkin Stout...which is delicious (and can be tasted at the upcoming Snallygaster Beer Fest on October 13th)...

Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale combines pumpkin along with smoked malt, and may be the liquid iteration of what you are after...


What is the difference between steel cut and old-fashioned oats, in texture, cooking method, and use?

Here's a  phrase that might stick in your brain today. Oat groats.  That's the cleaned, toasted, hulled and cleaned again (sayeth Food Lover's Companion), then cut into 2 or 3 pieces but NOT rolled, they are called steel-cut oats. SCO take longer to cook and produce a chewy consistency. If the oat groats are steamed and flattened with big rollers, they become rolled oats, or old-fashioned oats.  The texture of RO/OFO is not as chewy as SCO, and they take less time to cook than SCO.  You can use the latter interchangeably with quick-cooking oats in recipes.  Think of it this way: The oat groats that have been cut the least (SCO) will yield more texture and body in a dish.

How do I search online to buy "a professional grade you can pick up at Restaurant Depot"? Yes, I can get Stretchtite both locally (at La Cuisine) and online. Yay.

Well, I just searched Amazon using "professional plastic wrap" and got 805 results.

It is a real problem to not include garlic in a recipe in the manner specified? Like if I don't have a head of it to provide smashed cloves, is it OK to just use a dollop of the jar of mushed garlic I have from Trader Joe's? I'm especially wondering if the paste is different than mincing it myself. I'm not sure my knife skills are up to mincing anything.

Trust me, it doesn't take chef-level knife skills to mince garlic. It just will take you more time than it would for someone whose blade can fly through a clove in nothing flat. The fresh garlic you chop is always going to be better than the jarred garlic from a store.

Why not sign up for a knife skills class to boost your confidence?

Little bit of coarse/kosher salt while you're mincing could make all the difference.

Thanks for highlighting Virginia Vintage Apples + Albermarle Ciderworks. I love both their apples and cider, and stop every time I drive through. A new favorite apple is their Russet Beauty - absolutely delicious (though has that brownish "old" skin). I do have a question about alcohol content: I thought the ciders were a bit less than wine, but it looks like that may not be the case. How heavy duty is it really? And also, how do I keep all the nice bubbles in the bottle if I only want 1 or 2 glasses from the bottle? I don't open them as often as I would otherwise. P.S. Since it's apple season, can't wait to make dutch apple pie soon (with a walnut, graham crumb, melted butter topping--none of that streusel stuff!).

Greg: In the old days, ciders were fermented to somewhere between beer and wine...typically around 7-8% (and this was the tradition of the English cidermakers as well). As they were stronger, they could even be referred to as apple wine.

In the 1990s, early artisan cidermakers began experimenting with lowering their apple wine abvs to the more modest beer-like abvs of around 5%. These ciders were then packaged, like macro beer, in 6 packs and kegs. Woodchuck Ciders are an early example of were the Hornsby's brands from E & J Gallo.

Nowadays, artisan producers like Foggy Ridge, Albermarle, and Castle Hill from VA are bringing craft back to cider, and--in so doing--are upping the alcohol contents...

The first time I tried to make Hollandaise sauce, I read the directions a few times and shrugged. It just didn't seem like it would be that difficult. I set out my mise en place for Eggs Benedict. I began confidently. Things progressed rapidly. I suddenly realized that the bowl part of my double boiler setup was extremely hot, and my oven mitts were too clumsy to pick it up. I grabbed the bowl with a towel and gave myself a scalding steam burn. And tipped over the Hollandaise into the burner on the stove top. When all was said and done, the kitchen was a mess and I ate cereal for breakfast. Sigh.

We feel your pain, Lesser. Really, we do. Been there. We appreciate your sharing. But don't be thinking that this is an excuse not to get back on that double-boiler and try it again! Today's recipes too good to miss. :)

It's heresy, I know, but I have some commercially smoked sausage (which doesn't have a lot of flavor) - want to make good sausage/sauerkraut dinner - what can I do (if anything) to get a better smoked flavor out of that sausage?? Thanks

I guess you could try to smoke it further, if you have a grill or smoker handy. (Although you'll need to be careful about drying out the sausage; there are few things worse than a sausage that has been reduced to dry, juiceless crumbles.)


You could also try one of the Jim Shahin's indoor smoking suggestions, but generally speaking, these techniques work on lighter fare, such as fish.


Other than that, I'd just go buy different sausage!

You might even have luck with those stovetop smokers or a smoker bag in the oven. Jim wrote about them last February.

Does anyone make real applejack made using fractional crystallization?

I hope not, since that method -- which relies on a freezing process rather than distillation -- leads to seriously bad hangovers, since it leaves a lot of impurities behind. But if any readers know of a company that does, write in.

I love hard cider. It's gluten-free, a little bit effervescent and slightly sweet while still being dry. I wish I lived in Virginia to go on a cider tasting trail. Maybe I'll just have to make a trip there to do it. Do you know if anyone ships cider? I'd love to try artisinal cider and not be stuck with grocery store cider.

Greg: At this point, Foggy Ridge is distributed for sale in Virginia, DC and North Carolina...visiting the ciderhouse is also probably the best way to taste and experience the wonderful products...

Foggy Ridge Cider is available to ship direct from the cidery to Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia residents.

Also available at Trader Joes is DORET. It's a frozen cube of minced garlic (they also have other spices). You just pop out how much you need. Easier than doing it yourself, better tasting than jarred.

My co-worker and I have regular bake offs and the next is cheesecake. I've never made a good cheesecake. Do you have a favorite recipe or tips that will help me out? She's sure she'll win this time because she says her cheesecake is fabulous.

One of our cheesecake recipes really stands out in my memory, and that's the Chestnut-Maple Cheesecake from 2007. The tester couldn't locate sweetened chestnut puree, so she roasted her own, but you won't have to do that if your grocery store is well stocked. Take a look at the recipe and see what you think.

I want to give a shout out to your Mango-Cranberry Chicken on your Make it Freeze it list. Have given it to multiple new-baby households and always get asked for the recipe!

A favorite of mine as well. Thanks!


I was surprised to read about the presence of so many apple orchards in Virginia. Is it safe to say that New York State apples are superior to those grown in Virginia?

Well, it would not be safe to say that in Virginia!

I appreciate articles like today's eggs Benedict that show thinking outside the box to redefine classics. A local chef has done the same for hash, easily doable at home: peel and slice potatoes as you like and partially cook them, Brown the potatoes while you're cutting up vegetables such as onion, red peppers, mushrooms. Shove the potatoes aside in the pan while the veggies cook, then cut up some deli ham and add the pieces to warm. Of course, place cooked eggs on top. It may not seem so different, but it becomes more vegetable hash and a more elegant dish.

I have used Laird's apple brandy and Laird's apple jack. Thank you for explaining me exactly what is different between those two products.

I read that saffron can act as an anti-depressant. Aside from rice, what else can I stick saffron in?

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is osso bucco with risotto Milanese (which, of course, is just another rice dish).


But there are also dishes like Delmarva Bouillabaisse or a Persian noodle soup or  even paella. Our Recipe Finder offers more than 50 dishes with saffron in them.

Hi, I recently aquired (was left behind by guest) a small bottle of Grand Marnier. I otherwise have a pretty basic bar - vodka, rum, gin. What is a good simple cocktail that I can use the GM?

There are a lot cocktails that call for orange liqueurs in the recipe database -- you can try Grand Marnier in anything that calls for curacao or Cointreau. But for drinks that work best with Grand Marnier, why not try a Yellow Daisy (gin, dry vermouth, GM) or Satan's Whiskers (gin, GM, orange juice, dry and sweet vermouth).

Beyond a few oddities - a pumpkin porter here, a pumpkin stout there - most pumpkin beers follow under the same idea. Wouldn't it be advantageous for a brewery to try and expand the idea of what a pumpkin beer would be, especially at a time when most other seasonals are Oktoberfests which as a group are pretty similar.

Greg: Unsurprisingly, craft brewers are already at it with Pumpkin Ale innovation.

One such notable is the La Parcela from Jolly Pumpkin: brewed with Pumpkin, Cocoa and Spices, then aged in oak barrels for a mildly tannic, and tantalizingly tart brew...the Pumpkin brew for lovers of sour ales.



Posting early again to thank you all for so much great information on market pricing and other issues. I think the person who wrote that farmers charge what people will pay is correct...and Washingtonians seem to be willing to pay more then what I'm used to. But there is some variation. Last weekend I went to three different markets...fall-fresh apples were $1.50 per pound at one, $2.99 per pound at the second, and $2.59 per pound at the third, so it pays to shop around. But a market with cheaper apples might have other items that cost more. Meanwhile, the most affordable market I have found so far turns out to the Federal agency where I work! It's only got one farmer but it's pretty good and fairly priced. (Perhaps it's subsidized somehow?) Great chatting with all of you about this, and thanks so much for the advice. (Oh, my favorite variation on eggs Benedict substitutes a potato pancake for the English muffin.)

Excellent intel. Thanks for sharing!

Do you think this can be made in a crock-pot?

I don't think so. You might not be able to get a crust going, and there'd be steam/moisture issues, I think.

Every fall when I was young, my father bought several bushels of apples and we set up a production line to make applesauce and can it. We did not peel the apples. We washed, cored, and sliced them, then cooked them with sugar. Then we put the cooked mixture through a foley mill to remove the skins, then in canning jars in a water bath. This gave us a pink-colored applesauce that was pretty smooth, not chunky.

I don't think I've ever had pink applesauce. Thanks for passing this along.

Greg, my friends and I did a taste test of pumpkin beers, and out of the 16 Shlafley (sp?) won. Out of 16 beers, there was a lot of mediocrity, but only a couple of beers really stood out. I was the only one who enjoyed the Southerntier Pumpking. What made that beer so buttery and delicious?

Greg: I love both the Schlafly & the Southern Tier...they are both stronger, and I am sure this adds to complexity and standing out from the crowd (as well as to the buzz!).

Southern Tier is super hush-hush on how they craft that brew...the graham cracker aroma, the notes of sugar cookie, vanilla, and whipped is unreal.

Can't say how it is achieved, except to wonder if any vanilla, or even lactose milk sugar is added...

My work is doing a breakfast potluck on Friday, and I'm looking for an easy, put-it-together-the-night-before dish. Bonus points if it's a fall/autumn recipe! Oh, and I'd prefer it to be a dish that is safe to sit at room temp for about 4 hours.

I think a challah bread pudding with apples would be great -- altho served warm, better.

I forgot my favorite apple main-dish suggestion: apple sandwiches. Either (1) grilled (cheddar) cheese with apples: (slice firm apples thinly and caramelize lightly in your grill pan--I've found that I don't even need to oil the pan--and add the warm apples to the sandwich before grilling the whole thing). Or (2) Just put sliced apples in the middle of a cheese sandwich. Nothing like sweet-tart apple + cheese.

Two snaps up on that.

Do you have any recommendations for cookbooks that focus on recipes for roasted vegetables? I've realized that my 7 month old daughter eats a much wider range of vegetables than I do and I'd like to catch up. Thanks.

Few places do vegetables better than Alice Waters' Chez Panisse. And she has a cookbook dedicated to the vegetables of every season. It's called, in rather straight-forward fashion, "Chez Panisse Vegetables."


Personally, I'm also quite fond of Nigel Slater's cookbook, "Tender," which focuses on garden-fresh produce.

Just thought you would also find this comical - went to a restaurant last night and our server gave a detailed description of their dessert special, Bananas Foster. His words, "A crisp tortilla topped with apples in a caramel rum sauce, topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream." I looked at him and responded, "Apples?" at which point he blushed, apologized and corrected himself. Seems everyone has apples on their minds today!

You can tell fall is here.

I saw that you recommended a glass bowl for a double boiler. Most recipes I have seen call for a metal bowl. I did not have a metal bowl and used the pyrex one we had. Cooking time seemed to be double or more using glass compared to the recipe. Glass does not conduct heat nearly as well as metal.

Yes, it's a tradeoff. Metal for speed, glass for non-reactive surfaces.

I love, love, love Eggs Benedict! The best and easiest Hollandaise Sauce recipe is the one in the cookbook that came with the microwave I bought 25 years ago, a Tappan, I think. I'm still using the same microwave and I've tweaked the recipe a little to give it more zing -- adding a little more lemon juice and some cayenne pepper. If I have green chile sauce in the house (I live in New Mexico), I'll add a little of that, too.

I finally got my hands on some fresh figs! I put them in a salad last night. So good. What else should I do with them?

Is there a better snack than figs wrapped in prosciutto, with a small drizzle of aged balsamic?


And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Check out all these ideas from our Recipe Finder.

I love them poached in Beaumes de Venise, finished with a little cream.

Another cookbook focusing on vegetables is The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash - it's been around a while, but has so many great suggestions for what to do with all kinds of vegetables - it has both the basic preparation (how long do I steam potatoes of what size, how do I cook beets?) and more finished recipes. And I'm pretty sure she has roasting directions for most of the vegetables. (Now that I looked it up, it may be out of print again, but it was reprinted not too long ago and it's a real gem)

boiled cider is also a great ingredient in oatmeal cookies (KAF)

And...ack again! Outta time. BIG thanks to Greg Engert and Jason, as well as our usual crop of very helpful and polite Free Range chatters.  Always entertaining, I find this hour (and why I'm typing like Yoda right now not I can explain).


Chat winners:  The Jerusalem kugel chatter wins "Stephane Reynaud's "Barbecue & Grill"; the chatter who shared the sad hollandaise story gets "The Apple Lover's Cookbook," by Amy Traverso.  Send your mailing info to with CHAT WINNER in the subject field and we'll get those out to you asap. Till next week, happy cooking and eating and apple-ing!

In This Chat
Bonnie S. Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is interim editor of the Food section; joining us today are interim recipe editor Jane Touzalin, staff writer Tim Carman, Spirits columnist Jason Wilson and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Special guest: Greg Engert, beer director, Neighborhood Restaurant Group.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is the Food section staff writer.
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