Free Range on Food: Rotisserie chickens, hot peppers, the Barefoot Contessa's new book and more

Oct 31, 2012

This week we tell you what store-bought rotisserie chickens are worth buying. Also, Tim Carman braves the ghost pepper, and Bonnie Benwick cooks from Ina Garten's latest release.
Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions. Past Free Range on Food chats

You'd think, with a big poultry holiday coming right up, that we could have saved all that rotisserie chicken tasting and testing and buying and schlepping for some other time of year. But as it turns out, it's a storm staple! And so we have it on the Free Range menu today, as well as Tim Carman and his super-hot peppers story.  The Barefoot Contessa was supposed to be in town tonight but at least we can busy ourselves with her new book, which is out today and reviewed. Of course, we're ready to talk Thanksgiving. Bring it. We have fun things and many good recipes planned for our issues of Nov. 14 and 18. There, I said it!  In addition to staffers Jane Touzalin and Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Jason Wilson  will join in at some point.


We have special chat prizes today:  an autographed copy of  "The Science of Good Cooking" from the folks at ATK, and a pair of tickets to the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show for this weekend (compliments of CityEats), where you can see Jacques and Claudine Pepin, Giada DeLaurentiis, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Carla Hall (hootie!) Michael Symon (and even Tim and yours truly; be kind!). We'll announce winners at the end of the hour. 


Shall we? (No birds were shredded for the dish below; it's the meatless Dinner in Minutes recipe of this week.

Where to buy free range turkeys in DC?

Do you mean for Thanksgiving? If so, check out the list of holiday turkey purveyors I put together. I think the word you're looking for in there is "pastured."

I wrote in a few chats ago to ask if any supermarket sells a decent rotisserie chicken and you went and did a roundup of all the supermarkets! You guys!! Thank you!!!

A couple of things -- Where did you find the time stamp on the Giant and Safeway birds? I've never seen one and it's  years  since I got a moist chicken from either store, so I'll definitely check the time stamp if I can find it. Can you offer any guidance on how many hours old should still be okay?

You didn't review the quality of the Giant chicken. How did it compare to the others? You may not be able to comment on this but I wonder if the results vary much from one branch to another of the same supermarket. You found moist dark meat on a Safeway chicken at 5th and L -- I wish I could say the same of the ones in G'town and up Wisconsin at Ellicott St.

Is it silly to try to buy a chicken with juices visible in the container, on the supposition that the chicken will be juicy? Last, thanks for validating my reaction to the Whole Foods chicken. I keep thinking I've only bought it on "off" days! Again, I am just thrilled that you did this article! Thanks so much! Now if all the places with tasty, moist birds would only move to my neighborhood. Or, even better, maybe your review will bring about a vast improvement in the quality of rotisserie or roast chicken at all the stores! Put some (chicken) feathers in yours caps -- well done!

You might have inspired us, yes indeed.  I'll try to track your q's in order:

* The Giant time stamp is on the label in small type, just below the UPC.  On the Safeway bird, there's a small clockface printed on the package, which is hand-marked.

* We did review the Giant bird, here.

* We found juicy birds without a lot of accumulated juices, but certainly the Costco bird, which was among the juiciest, had collected the most liquid in its take-home container. Like, by a long shot.



Loved the feature you guys did on roast chicken. Yes, I know how to roast my own chicken and like doing so a lot. But I love recipes that use shredded chicken, as they're so versatile, quick and easy. And sometimes I don't feel like taking the time to roast a chicken to get that meat; that's when I go with a store-bought roasted chicken. I always get enough meat for at least two meals, plus I use the bones for stock. I think that's a pretty good deal.

The photo of the rotisserie chicken sitting up with its drumsticks crossed is fantastic. Kudos to Deb Lindsey!

And to multiplatform editor Jim Webster, who styled it into submission. We actually kept trying to position a chicken to look as though it was running, but that didn't quite work. Fun with poultry.

It reminds me of the famous dancing chicken episode of the French Chef.

I have a recipe that calls for unsweetened butter and I have been unable to find any information about it or where to buy it. How much of a difference is there between sweet and unsweetened butter? Can I just use the regular, unsalted sweet butter or do I need to actually use the unsweetened? Any idea on where to even buy unsweetened butter?

You might be stumping us -- and some of our professional pastry chef pals.  What's the name/source/year of the recipe? There are less-tangy versions of sweet cream butter....

Submitting early, no internet access still. What can I do with about a dozen bell peppers that are left on my plants? They aren't growing any more, nor are they ripening. We all think they taste a bit...not very their unripened state. But I don't want to ditch them. Along the same lines, what kind of, and how much, light do I need to keep them in a dormant state indoors over the winter?

For the gardening perspective on your question, I sought advice from The Post's garden guru, Adrian Higgins, who says:


"If they are approaching full size, you can harvest them as green peppers. The flavor does fall off as the weather chills, but not as badly as with tomatoes. The first frost will kill plants. My advice is to pull your pepper plants in late summer and use the ground for a cool season salad green such as mesclun or arugula. Pepper plants can be brought inside, more as a novelty than a food plant. They need bright light and coolish temperatures, a conservatory is ideal. They will develop into tall woody shrubs. Not sure they're worth it. "


As for a recipe for those remaining bell peppers, you might consider this amazing Serbian condiment known as ajvar. It will burn through between 8 and 10 of your peppers and give you lots of eating pleasure as you slather the spread over bread or meats.

Hey Free Rangers! Is it worth it to use a rotisserie chicken carcass to make chicken stock? I seem to remember awhile back someone saying it wasn't really the best, as most of the flavor you'd get from the bones is already gone. (Hence, I usually only make stock when I roast the chicken myself.) Have I been wasting carcasses all this time?!

Absolutely worth it.  Even if you can't make the stock right away, toss the bones in a 2-gal resealable plastic food storage bag in the freezer.

I appreciated the article about supermarket rotisserie chicken, but what about people who are looking for a truly outstanding chicken and are willing to go to a place that specializes in such, rather than a place that also sells pet food and deodorant? Washington is awash in quality rotisserie chicken: national chains like Boston Market or Pollo Campero, beloved local chains like El Pollo Rico and Crisp and Juicy, and one-offs like all the restaurants I see every time I drive Piney Branch Road and University Boulevard (or the beloved Carbon in Rockville). I'd like to see some coverage of these places too, and particularly the one-offs - I'd hate to think I was missing out-of-this-world chicken just 'cause I was dubious about the 47th restaurant I'd seen today with the word "Pollo" in its name.

We originally thought about including all those delicious Peruvian chickens in our taste test, but as recipe editor Jane Touzalin (rightly, I think) pointed out, the story was losing focus. How can you compare grocery-store rotisserie birds with Peruvian charcoal grilled chicken? Plus, how do you even begin to cover the waterfront when it comes to restaurant chickens? There are dozens and dozens of them; there are only four of us.


As your high school English teacher used to say: You have to narrow your topic.

Your review of the new Barefoot Contessa book mentions that she includes "tips about timing, setting a table and composing menus" and I have a long-standing question about the last item. Can you (or anyone on the chat) recommend a source for menu planning? I have some basic ideas, like incorporating texture contrasts and making sure that dishes aren't competing for heat sources, but feel very unsophisticated. For example, how much reuse of a seasoning creates a unified effect and at what point does it get repetitious? Most of my cooking is fairly casual, so I'm not doing multi-dish spreads, which limits my possibilities in another way. Suggestions?

Ina Garten tends to keep things simple, but she does go into some detail about why she chooses certain dishes for specific menus. Part of it is convenience and a matter of where you should spend the time to create something.   For example, she doesn't think making hors d'oeuvres for Thanksgiving is a) worth the effort and b) detracts from the main meal.


That said, let's open the floor for menu planning discussions....I'm not so keen on themed foods. Chatters?

We messed up. Someone gave us a two quarts of fresh gumbo. We ate one right away and then forgot to put the other one in the freezer (!) until a few days later. Gumbo was made on Tuesday and it was remembered on Sunday. It's frozen now, but should it be tossed? Thanks!

Hm, you're definitely pushing the edge there. The USDA says soups can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days (frozen for 2 to 3 months). I know it hurts, but I'd lean toward tossing the gumbo just to be safe. Although I bet there are people out there in chat-land who would disagree.

What kind of gumbo? Did it pass the smell test? If it had seafood in it, I might be concerned.  If it's chicken-sausage, I might be inclined to use it anyway. (Not consulting company lawyers on this, but going on my own personal gumbo/refrigerator experience.)

What is the "sharp" in sharp cheese -- cheddar in particular? I've bought several different brands recently and found some of them really lacking in every way but consistency, and especially in the "sharp" tone I love. This set me wondering ...

Sharp = pronounced. But that doesn't necessarily pertain to flavor. The cheese can have a pronounced aroma, or pronounced saltiness or bitterness (from "The Cheese Lover's Companion," another fine resource book to have around).

I bought some celery the other day to make some soup. I only needed one stalk so now I have a ton of celery left, and did I mention, I hate the taste of raw celery. What else can I do with the celery? I wish my grocery store had those precut celery sticks, I would have paid more not to waste a whole thing of celery.

I noticed in some market the other day that separate whole ribs were being sold (been to so many grocery stores in the past 2 weeks it's all a chicken-y blur). Have you ever tried braising celery? We're heading into big celery-use season (think stuffings and sofrito-like celery-onion-bell pepper starter combos for soups and gumbos). It'll last a few weeks in your fridge. Or you can dice and freeze till inspiration strikes.

Is it possible that's just a typo in the recipe and it's supposed to be "unsalted"?

Thought of that; that's why we asked the chatter for the orig. source. Easy mistake for someone to make.

Bonnie, I was pleasantly surprised by your review of Ina Garten's new book. While I find her show to be an existentialist nightmare -- trapped in a Crate and Barrel-adorned prison of her own design, she is visited only by chi-chi friends with whom she shares only a desire for inauthentic artifice and showy superficiality, leading one to ponder the morality of suicide -- it's reassuring to find out that she can really cook and has some good ideas about actually enjoying life. Thanks for the thoughtful and eye-opening review!


I'm a big fan of Cabot's seriously sharp cheddar, and it is very consistent.

I'm a vegetarian with a meat-eating family who wants to go out to eat for Thanksgiving. Most places have a pre-fixed dinner that would leave me hungry, where can we all get stuffed?

Restaurateurs, are you out there? Help this meatless diner out. Chatters, happy to hear your suggestions too.

Can you help me re-create a lemon cookie recipe? I based it on the 1970s Joy of Cooking recipe for sugar drop cookies (the one with oil, not butter), but don't remember much else. Would you put in the vanilla, substitute lemon extract, and/or use True Lemon powder? I need to make them tonight for my son to bring to school tomorrow, and given that it is Halloween, won't have time to experiment. Thanks!

Do you have a fresh lemon or two that you can zest (with a Microplane or similar fine grater)? That would be better than True Lemon, which I find can have a processed taste even though it's not artificial. Vanilla is always a good idea, even when that's not supposed to be the predominant flavor, so don't omit it. Why not start with lemon zest, then if that's not doing the trick, add a drop or two of the extract. Once you taste the dough, you'll know how it's working.

WIth the colder weather, I would like to try out braising more. Any tips you can pass along?

One of my all-time favorite cookbooks is "All About Braising" by Molly Stevens.  She gives equal chops to vegetable dishes so it's not all about the meat. You can cook your way through it, page by page. I have! And invest in a heavy-duty Dutch oven -- either a large round or oval one.  Hard to beat Le Creuset.

Does drinking milk really help counteract the heat of a chili pepper? Is it better than eating bread to "soak up" the sting? Where did you learn about this?

It's not just milk, it's all dairy products. As this chemistry professor explains, dairy works on two levels:


"Milk, yogurt, and sour cream are acidic, which helps to combat the burning. The milk protein called casein acts as a natural detergent, breaking up the capsaicin. Many dairy products also contain fat which can help to dissolve the capsaicin. To get the most benefit from dairy, go for an acidic product that contains fat. In other words, sour cream or ice cream will help you more than skim milk."


Bread products sort of help too, but not as effectively.

Jason, need another warm Fall drink (beyond hot toddy--lemon, honey, whiskey). Any suggestions? Rum based maybe...

Here's a Gingered Rum Toddy that I really like. Also, have you ever tried Hot Buttered Rum?

I really enjoyed Tim's hot pepper story this morning. Reminded me of the time I took a friend to a burrito cart that specialized in hot sauces. He insisted that hot sauce was never hot enough and ordered the hottest one I had. Although I'd warned him, he was bright red and teary after the first bite. I enjoy some spice myself, but I don't like eating food so spicy I can't stand it. Other than jalapeno and chipotle, what are other peppers that might fall in a moderately spicy range that you'd recommend?

Thank you! And I agree that the taste/sensation of pure heat is not appetizing. Good eating should not be about suffering. Ever.


As for other milder peppers, I think it's good to remember that all peppers vary in their heat levels, even peppers from the same plant. One jalapeno can be mild, another can be blazing hot.


With that in mind, you might like poblano peppers or Anaheim peppers. You might even enjoy the moderately zippy serrano pepper, which is a step up in heat level.

Why are the hottest peppers named Trinidad-something? Even if they're grown in Australia?

The peppers originate in Trinidad and Tobago. Danise Coon with the Chile Pepper Institute told me that the peppers had likely been part of the cuisine there for hundreds of years before some American chile head discovered them. From there, the seeds traveled all over the world -- to places like Australia.

I too hate raw celery...add a few carrots and some onions and turn it into vegetable stock...add Chicken bones for chicken stock. Or slather it in peanut butter hand it out to trick-or-treaters tonight. :)

I want to surprise my (grown) children on Thanksgiving with a tray of their favorite cookies from childhood. As I revisit the recipe, I see that many of them use corn syrup, which I no longer buy. Is there a good substitute for corn syrup in baking?

Seems like Lyle's Golden Syrup would do the trick. It's carried at larger Giant stores and at Balducci's. Or maybe even a simple (sugar) syrup that you can make yourself. Equal parts water/sugar; bring to a boil and stir till the sugar is dissolved; reduce the heat to med-low and cook for 5 minutes. Cool and store in the fridge, indefinitely.

I have several friends coming to visit this weekend, and am looking for some ideas of what I should make for them. I'm looking for pretty simple dishes that won't keep me in the kitchen for too long. I was thinking of starting with a lentil soup in the slow cooker, but wanted to know if you have any other suggestions. We don't have any dietary restrictions, but I'm looking for seasonal and not too difficult,

Speaking of lentils, love this dish. It's easy to do, makes great leftovers. Pati Jinich's Mexican-Style Pasta With Tomato Sauce and Chorizo is a great option too. (We heart Pati; isn't the new season of her PBS show really fun?)


We live in a small town in MI, any advice on which chickens are cleanest to buy? Also any way to compare Gerber and Miller Chicken?

Not familiar with that chicken. The cleanest? You might want to ask the deli manager of whichever store you buy rotisserie birds from to either give you a tour or at least explain their process and chicken producers. 

How about a shout-out to rotisserie turkey breasts? We don't care for dark meat and rotisserie turkey breasts do the trick. Unfortunately, they're not as easily found as their chicken counterparts. Even when Giant has them on sale, they never make enough of them.

Not all stores carry them, but a fine product, certainly. Woot. What are they like after a day or two in the fridge?

Early Thanksgiving question. I've managed to wrestle most of the Thanksgiving cooking duties away from my mother, but she won't give up the bird. The problem is that every year she keeps it covered with foil for pretty much the whole cooking time, and the skin is always floppy and beige and gross instead of the crispy brown skin that everyone wants. What is the rule of thumb for when to take off the foil? I think I can manage to be sneaky about it if she refuses to listen to reason, but I need to plan in advance. Thanks!

Have a look at our basic Roast Turkey recipe for foil guidance. Good luck!

Roast Turkey

Wow...why do you watch the show then?

We have been blessed with an abundance of figs this year. Now what to do with them. First Can they be frozen? I cannot get to them this weekend due to Sandy cleanup. Second Any good recipes? Vegetarian recipes especially appreciated. Third I was thinking of a fig paste of fig jam preferable a freezer fig jam. Any recipes for that? Thanks a lot.

Thanks for your suggestions last week regarding the breakfast potluck. I hope that you made it through the storm intact. I took advance of the weather and baked pumpkin bread and banana bread, which are now in my freezer. What's the best way to defrost them for my work breakfast in a couple of weeks? Over night in the counter? Thanks again.

24 hours or so in the fridge should do the trick. Don't unwrap them until you're ready to use.

I've decided to brine my Thanksgiving turkey breast this year. The recent America's Test Kitchen talk at the American History Museum convinced me. Brining recipes I've seen are for whole turkeys, but I always roast only a breast. Do I need to do anything differently?

No need to rely on recipes for whole turkeys: Check out our Brined Roasted Turkey Breast recipe. I made this one myself a few years ago and liked it a lot.



Do these ultra-hot peppers cause blisters or anything inside the mouth or throat, or do you "only" FEEL like they're burning you?

Yes, when I talked to Danise Coon from the Chile Pepper Institute, we talked about the damage these peppers can do. She mentioned skin blisters as well as "temporary blindness" caused when folks accidently rub their eyes with capsaicin on their fingers. But she dismissed the notion that these super-hot peppers cause ulcers. The peppers may inflame an existing ulcer, but they won't cause one.


She also mentioned that super-hot peppers sometimes cause anxiety attacks with people who fear the heat may never go away.  "I’ve seen people taken away in ambulances because they were having such a severe anxiety attack," she told me.

Did you make stock from the bird carcasses? I would have liked to see which won in that regard, because for many of us that's half the appeal of picking up one (or two) of these birds!

I have a few carcasses in my freezer but havent' yet made the stock. Problem is, I didn't keep them labeled! I'm thinking that which bird it was might not make that much of a difference when it comes to making stock.

The cinammon baked donut recipe from Ina looks scrumptious! But I live in a small apartment with an even smaller kitchen and I'm hesitant to buy a single purpose pan, like a donut pan. Is there any way I can still make these? Perhaps in a sheet cake? or mini bundts?

If you have a mini Bundt pan that might work.  I dont think a sheet cake pan would do the trick (unless I'm misunderstanding your suggestion). Re the single-use pan issue? Remember there's a big world of baked doughnut recipes out there. Plus, I'm thinking you could use it to make muffins (fewer calories because of the hole!) Or cornbread rings. Or maybe do things with apple rings or onion rings. Chatters, got a hot tip for multipurposing doughnut pans?

Somewhere back in the old memory bank I kind f remember some recipes referring to salted butter as sweetened.

Yep, that "sweet cream" label is often on the package of salted and unsalted kinds.

I wish you would have included Sniders' rotisserie chickens. They are my favorite, by far. They also do turkey breasts. Just delicious! They're in Silver Spring, Georgia Ave. and Seminary.

I wish I we could have too! I drove by a few stores that we didnt get to include. Tell us about the birds, if you don't mind. How much do they cost, and how often are they cooked during the day?

There's no mention of how good or bad the Giant chicken is. See below. In my experience, it's way overcooked, same for Safeway. Thanks for "fleshing out" your review. $7.99 / 2 pounds, 101 / 4 ounces Unsold birds are pulled from the shelf after three hours; some are put into the cold case and some are used to make rotisserie chicken salad. Time-stamped.

I bought a rotisserie bird from the Giant in Columbia Heights. Its skin, I thought, looked much better than the other birds: a deeper shade of bronze and some welcome patches of char. But the flavor didn't quite match the appearance. A little dry, a little unwhelming in flavor.

I am a real wimp when it comes to hot peppers; even jalapenos are too hot for me, so I must ask: how on earth can people eat those ghost peppers? Is it an acquired taste, or are people less sensitive to the burning sensation? Can eating them actually cause physical burn damage to your mouth and tongue?

The peppers can cause  problems, such as blistering and temporary blindness if you rub your eyes. But, yes, some people are more immune to the heat of capsaicin than others. Our former Food aide Tim Smith tried a ghost pepper (with seeds and ribs!) and didn't even flinch. I mean, nothing. He kept eating more of the ghosts to show off his iron palate. (He suspects that all those cigars he smokes may have dulled his tongue to pepper heat.)

I think Zankou had the jump on Boston Chicken by a year or so. I'm lucky to live in a rotisserie-centric area of L.A. where every neighborhood has at least one Armenian/Persian rotisserie chicken place. So much better than supermarket chicken.

That would be interesting to know; I went down many roads trying to nail down exactly when supermarkets jumped into the fray. Rotisserie birds  have long been a staple in France and in Med. countries. It certainly might be better, but apparently we're buying hundreds of millions of them at the supermarket, so that's what steered our survey.

You missed my 2 favorites - Chix, and Yes Market (Georgia and Taylor location). I can roast a mean chicken. But like those in your story, the convenience of an already-roasted chicken is hard to beat on a busy work night. And the leftovers are so versatile!

First off, I was so thrilled to see my tomato question in the Chat Leftovers. Thank you! Secondly, I cooked two spaghetti squash on Sunday evening, without really considering how much I was going to be able to eat this week. Is cooked spaghetti squash something I can freeze?

Glad you saw your answer! I haven't frozen cooked spaghetti squash, but experienced cooks on the Internet say you can do it. Pack it into freezer bags, seal and freeze. Reheat by partially thawing the squash, then steaming it until it's tender but still firm. Move it around in the steamer for uniform results. Try it!

Any chance you can offer up a recipe for Peruvian pepper sauce like the stuff sold at Crisp and Juicy? I am almost addicted to the orange version, which they consider medium-hot. It's not just for chicken anymore, but it makes any chicken taste good!

This might be close: Piri-Piri Sauce.

While on my honeymoon, I bought a massive bottle of Mexican vanilla extract (and tequila, of course!!) What can I do with the vanilla besides using it in baking?

I hate to say this, but many of those massive bottles of vanilla you can buy in tourist areas in Mexico are of poor quality and sometimes aren't really vanilla at all. Bake with it first to make sure it's decent. And if it is, congratulations, and head right for our Recipe Finder database, where a search for the word "vanilla" will turn up many delicious possibilities for draining that bottle.

If you don't get something here, ask Tom.

Yup, that would be next Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Thank you for the affirming my belief that Wegman's has great roast chicken. Consistently good and the price beats my local Giant and Safeway! One tip I would like to pass on to others. If you don't want to eat all the skin and a lot of the warm, moist, delicious meat the minute you get it home (i.e., you have plans to use the meat for several meals), stick it in the fridge right away. Otherwise, the aroma will inspire/encourage/compel immediate consumption. Thanks - as always - for the weekly chats and keep up the good work!

Well, not giant chicken--roast chicken from Giant. I am not the OP, but I was also wondering about the Giant chicken. You said that you reviewed it, but there was no description of the flavor or texture like the reviews of the other birds, only a mention of how unsold birds are used. Do you have infomation on the taste?

Just posted Tim Carman's assessment.

What's the difference between stock and broth? Is it alright to sub one for the other?

Not silly! Technically, stock's made with bones. Broth can be made with bones and/or fish, meat and vegetables. In Post recipes of the past several years, we tend to use the broader term "broth."

If you peel your celery stalks and saute them gently you will have a lovely and totally inexpensive "new vegetable" to serve your family and friends, in case you still hate celery.

Right you are! It's very nice in stir-fries too.

We're in Mobile, so crab and shrimp all the way! Thank goodness I have the recipe that was used so I can make my own to make up for it. :)

Ask Tom is on hiatus next Wednesday; he returns in two weeks. (I just finished reading *his* chat transcript!)

I believe so, yes.

I think the chickens are $5.95. I don't know how long they keep them before they pull them - but I do know that they go quickly, and if I get there too late after work, there might not be any left. I like them because they're juicy, flavorful, and not too salty. My family can't wait to tear into one when I get it home. There is never anything left -- picking the meat from the bones is their favorite part.

Thanks! Our chatters are the best.

made this last weekend. It came out kind of blah. AND I've got a huge vat of the stuff, half of which must go into freezer. Your 6-8 servings must be really big. Any ideas to jazz this up if I ever make it again?


It makes a ton, yes indeed. Add harissa or Sriracha. Roasted garlic. Some of Tim's super-hot peppers.

Love Carla!

Wow, some places just discard the chickens? That seems like a seriously awful waste.

Er, not that we were told. Did you read that somewhere? Most stores chill them, then use the meat and/or bones.

Wouldn't that just be normal, real butter? I always get the unsalted butter from WF. It's actually cheaper than anywhere else, go figure.

My grandfather used to put them cut side down on the grill for just a minute, then serve them with mint and annisette sprinkled over them. Yum.

I've tried some recipes and they all differ so much one from the other, so, what would you say is the key ingredient to make the best Peruvian style roasted chicken? Or they key is the way you roast it?

I once wrote a story about rotisserie chickens for the City Paper years ago that tried to compare Palena's version to El Pollo Rico's. Both shared one thing in common: a long brine in various spices. That struck me as key to all good rotisserie birds. It keeps them moist and injects them with lots of flavor to complement the smokiness of the skin. Cumin, of course, is a prime flavor to Peruvian chicken.

Not the OP, but: if stock is technically made with bones, then what's the difference between "vegetable stock" and "vegetable broth"? I saw both this weekend, right next to each other on the shelf.

I can't vouch for what a commercial brand wants to use on its label. Just sayin'.

Always have had great success with Alton Brown's brine method..down to using plastic bags and coolers.  

I'd like to have a chocolate option for Thanksgiving dessert, but I don't want anything elaborate. Something that will just provide a taste of chocolate if anybody wants it. Any thoughts?

How about Chocolate Snowflakes or Real Chocolate Pudding? This recipe for Soft-Centered Chocolate Pudding With Espresso from our former Gastronomer Andreas Viestad also sounds pretty cool.

Soft-Centered Chocolate Pudding With Espresso

Since most stomach ulcers have now been found to be due to an infection by a particular bacterium (Helicobactor pylori, I believe), it's extremely unlikely that a hot pepper could cause one.

Which is what I wrote.

The first time I ate Ethiopian food, back in the 1970s, I thought there were drugs in the food, probably hallucinogens (again, it was the 1970s...), because the pores on my scalp started tingling and having something like convulsions as I sweated out the peppers. And I'd never felt that way before! That was in the restaurant that used to be on the main floor of the Chastleton, I think called Blue Nile. I returned several times for the delicious food ... and the thrill of the scalp "massage." Nothing similar happens to me at today's DC Ethiopian restaurants.

If I may speak in gross generalities, I think Africans prefer a lot more heat than your average American does. This probably explains why American-based Ethiopian restaurants tend to tone down the heat: They're catering to many diffrerent palates.

Have to disagree with the Ina hater. As I'm hurrying at 100 miles an hour to feed my kids before they hit the cookie stash, getting grease on my work clothes, pushing the pile of old mail to accomodate the cutting board, in my mind's eye, I see that lovely kitchen and feel the calmness Ina always has as she cooks, and it truly helps.

Jason Wilson will appreciate this--I finished chemo a couple of weeks ago and will be allowed to resume drinking TOMORROW. I'm very excited to have my first glass of wine in almost nine months. :)

Good news! Cheers to better days ahead! What will your first pour be?

Hi Tim, Loved your piece on the chiles, and especially the video. What's your feeling about covering your hands with oil before handling chiles?

Thank you!


I've heard about that technique, but didn't try it. I have to admit that the idea of slathering my hands in oil is, well, a rather slimy proposition.


Has anyone else tried it?

My daughter has made a baked donut from Fannie Farmer's latest edition. It calls for them to be baked on a cookie sheet. They are yeast raised and the hole pretty much disappeared, but were still round and yummy

Ah. These use baking powder and  need the structure of the pan, I think.

If you're up to splurge, go to Kent Manor Inn in Easton, MD. Their menu is outstanding, and you can even spend the night in their cute B&B.

I think the writer who asked about the Giant bird was curious about your reaction to its taste. Your review just mentioned the time stamp issue and how expired birds are reused, but I'm curious too about your thoughts on its flavor, saltiness, juiciness, etc., which you included for many of the other stores. Thanks.

We'll add comments to the online version. Thanks for pointing that out!

Thanks for the answer! Our seemingly reliable tour guide said that I picked out the good stuff (and steered me away from something else). But I will definitely give your "test run" a shot. And at the worst, I can bake with it and it was cheap!

It's in the blogpost about the different stores.

Sorry! Addled. Yes, Jane Touzalin confirms that those stores reported no repurposing of the meat or bones. Does seem like a waste. I'm inclined to not believe it.

Try any of the Clyde's restaurants for a great Thanksgiving dinner for vegetarians and meat eaters. I am a long time vegetarian and have had numerous terrific veg T. Day dinners at their Tower Oaks Lodge restaurant.

I also don't find her show that great (then again, most cooking shows aren't all that great), but her recipes are always good - I have NEVER had one fail. The only quibble I have with her is her bias toward extra large eggs. I just don't get that.

Word on the extra-large eggs! I had planned to ask her that at the Sixth and I event that was rescheduled from tonight to Dec. 12. We will get to the bottom of it, I promise.

I love chopping up leftover rotisserie chicken, sprinkling with tarragon vinegar, and mixing with mayo, celery, onion, mustard, s/p. Makes amazing sandwhiches!

Now you're talking.

From the article - BJ's: "Unsold birds are removed and discarded after four hours. " Fresh Greens: "Unsold birds are removed after four hours; breast meat is used to make chicken salad." (So I assume they discard the other parts) Harris Teeter:"Unsold birds are marked down after three hours, discarded after one more hour" Wegs: "Unsold birds pulled after three hours; the breast meat is used to make chicken noodle soup." Again, I assume the rest is discarded?

Yep; see earlier answer.

For the last 8 years I've done a liquid brine for my family's approx. 20 lb turkey. I've heard great results about people dry salt brining in their fridges. My question is, would a 20 pounder work for that? and how can I explain to my family that it won't make the turkey insanely salty? Or maybe I should just stick with the tried and true.

You should read Bonnie's story from a few years ago on dry vs. wet brining. Here's a recipe we had for Salt-Encrusted Turkey Breast, which also talks about using the technique on a whole bird.

Didn't see cost for the chickens...that would be nice to know that when making a decision. Is there correlation between the cost and the taste?

We definitely had the cost. Have a closer look.

Hi there food gurus! I am pregnant and really craving kabobs (thinking of marinading and using shrimp, pineapple, onions and peppers). However, I don't have a grill. Any suggestions for successful kabobs sans grilling?


Here's a tasty recipe for Shami (Spicy Chicken) Kebabs that you can make in the oven. Give 'em a try and let us know what you think.

I've gone all crazy and started making my own "cream of" soups for casseroles. I make it extra thick to mimic the undiluted canned stuff. Anyway, I'd make cream of celery soup. My new favorite thing is to roast potatoes in 1/2 cream of celery soup and 1/2 ranch dressing (also homemade). It's incredible with Buffalo wings!

It sounds like you could start your own sports bar with that recipe!

I'm nowhere near an expert, but my belief is to always have foods that balance each other. If you have something with a strong, smokey taste, have something vinegar-y to cut through it. Also always think about how your guests will eat it. Are they going to be standing? Do they need utensils? Will it be easy for them to portion control, or do you have too many options?

I put some chicken breasts in salted water yesterday. How long is it okay to leave them there before cooking? They're skinless and boneless. Thank you! (I'd forgotten about them but this chicken discussion reminded me.)

Get them out now if the water is very salty. Might already be too late to save the texture. Chicken breasts can get mushy fast in a brine, especially if they're skinless. 

I'm trying to lose several extra pounds that suddenly appeared on my rear and now I want to bake donuts, make figs into all kinds of things, and for some reason I'm craving a roast chicken, even though it's still breakfast time here!

It costs no calories to read -- in fact, I'm sure you're burning a few just moving your eyeballs from one side of this screen to other. Have faith. Stick with us. Eat savory for breakfast!

Does the lemon cookie person need the recipe in the 1970s JoC? It's kinda late in today's chat but I think I have that edition and would be glad to look ...

I made a lemon cookie recently based on a snickerdoodle, and also used lemon zest in the rolling sugar. Really helped support the flavor. I also noticed that adding the extract will made a difference also in the scent (more lemony smelling). You could also play with it by adding some yellow food color (if you're not color adverse) to give people more of a cue that it's lemon flavored.

I clean them as soon as I get them home from the store. In less than 5 minutes I have 2 little kids, a dog, and a cat waiting for pieces. The oysters go to my husband and I. I'd say half of it makes it into the fridge! All the scraps go into my stock bag in the freezer with carrot, celery, and onion scraps. Once the bag's full, I throw it all into the slow cooker, cover it with water, and cook on low overnight. It's so delicious.

I enjoyed Tim's pepper article, and noticed he used food-safe gloves to prepare them. I wasn't so smart the first time I handled peppers and ended up with burning fingers for the entire night. I tried EVERYTHING to try to cool the burn - soaking in milk, putting them on ice. Nothing helped. Any ideas for dealing with pepper burns on the skin?

Thank you!


This garden forum has a number of ideas on how to handle such burns.  Among their suggestions: rubbing alcohol, a bleach-and-water solution and automotive cleaner!

Hi all I have a very pregnant friend and was thinking of making some sweets for her to store in the freezer so she can have something to serve when people come to visit the baby. I'm thinking banana bread definitely but what are some other options? do the donuts freeze well?

I think cookies freeze really well. Of course, we have tons of cookie recipes in the database...

Our Big Chill freezer guide from the other year has useful info on how long different baked goods freeze.

I have 2 frozen 8" cakes in the freezer with a batch of frozen vanilla buttercream. Once I thaw it, how can I kick it up a notch to make it more interesting?

Quickly because we're running out of time: Defrost the cakes; brush the layers with a simple syrup -- maybe one flavored with a bit of passion fruit puree or concentrate. Or use your favorite jam to spread between the cake layers.

I'm probably too late, but for the poster who thought the recipe was bland, try substituing chopped fennel for the celery. To be truly Sicilian, it should be wild fennel, but the bulb kind works. I use a about a pound, including tender stems and fronds, for a pound of lentils.

Just a quck little tidbit from down here in Lima, Peru. Best Peruvian chicken (unless you wan tto tavel city-wide and it's big and heavily trafficked city) comes from Metro, a supermarket.

Tim Carman's headed down your way soon, so he can check it out. Thanks for our most long-distance tip o' the day!

I loved, loved, loved her books. I bought each and every one of them until her last book. All of her recipes come out perfectly. They taste divine. Both my family with "well educated taste buds" and guests with "none" love her dishes. I've used her recipes over and over. I rarely do now. I am turned off by the amount of weight she and I have gained. I did not buy her last book and won't buy this one either. I hope she comes up with a bit more sensible use of fat that will help both of us to shed a few extra pounds.

I too enjoyed the review of the Ina Garten cookbook. I could be wrong, but Free Range doesn't seem to do such reviews often (the last one that comes to mind was a comparison of celebrity diet cookbooks). I personlly would like to see more reviews- I like to know what is out there. Just a thought.

Free Range might not review books, but the Food section certainly does. Google "Book Report Washington Post Food" and see what comes up.

I'm a big fan of the rotisserie chickens. I'll get one from Costco on a Sunday and it will feed me all week. I strip the meat off the bones when I get home and then use the carcass to make stock (with celery, onions, carrots and garlic). But what is their secret? Whenever I try to roast a chicken at home, it's never the same

I'm in a rural area with no local rotisserie chicken. I like the taste, so I use Rotisserie flavor canned chicken broth (College Inn). What are your favorite seasonings found on store rotisserie chicken? I can't identify them other than salt and would like to season roast chicken like some places do their R-chicken. Doughnuts - are baked doughnuts brushed with butter any less fat saturated than fried doughnuts? Hot peppers - Use the poison ivy oil remover Tec-Nu to remove hot pepper oils from your skin if you get them on your hands.

I ate Thanksgiving at Arlington's Liberty Tavern last year and they had a huge buffet. I recall some meatless options -- including pizza! -- but you could call for more details.

Don't know if this helps, but the main thing, imo, is to think about the flavors and textures, and colors, of your main dish, sides, etc. and make sure there's some contrast. When I was new at cooking, one of my first dinners I put together had chicken in an alfredo-like sauce, a cheesy cauliflower side and a baked potato. When I saw that on the dish, I realized that even though every tasted amazing by itself, it was so unappetizing to look at and eat.

i love Kurma's menu planning and recipes - it is vegetarian. You sound like you're looking for something different - but if you want a weekly menu all planned out with a shopping list, is excellent.

These look amazing and I am going to make them ASAP. Any reason why the recipe calls for bok choy but specifies "not baby bok choy." Is there much difference beyond size?

Yes. The baby bok choy are tender and tend to lose crunch even in a quick stir-fry. The reg size bok choy stays firmer here; even the leaves. But hey, if you like the baby bok choy and have it on hand, go for it.


Speaking of " a big poultry holiday coming" is there any way you could invite Diane Morgan to one of your upcoming Wednesday chats? It looks like she will be in town on November 13, Tuesday. I saw her name listed as participant in the Press Club's Book Fair that is open to public. I have been using both of her Thanksgiving books and her Christmas book since they came out and I have lots of questions to her.

Good idea; we're fans.

I've tried it. Greased hands and a sharp knife: NOT a good combination.

You guys have been keeping me after hours with all your good questions and comments. Thanks for joining us today -- a particularly spirited exchange.


Prize winners: The chatter who let us know about Snider's rotisserie chickens gets the Metro cooking show tickets; the chatter who first asked about the efficacy of drinking milk to soothe the bite of a hot pepper earns  "The Science of Good Cooking."  Send your mailing info to for the book; the tickets for the Metro cooking show this weekend at the Washington Convention Center will need to be picked up at WILL CALL, so just send us your name(s).  Till next week, happy cooking and eating!

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie Benwick is interim editor of the Food section; joining us today are interim recipe editor Jane Touzalin, staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Jason Wilson and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.
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