Free Range on Food: Pig to Table project conclusion, the onion-cheese combo and pates

Dec 26, 2012

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

How's everybody on this gray D.C. afternoon? Anybody still eating cookies besides me? It's become a food group. Things are pretty quiet here at Free Range Central, but we'd love to hear about your Christmas feasts and answer any questions you may have about the next round of holiday eating. In fact, best-sounding menu might win you one of two cookbooks we'll award at the end of the hour.


With us today: Pig to Table Project author Tamar Haspel, who wins my own award for handling some hostile commentary with grace. Jim Shahin and Jason Wilson might chime in. Becky and Jane are here; Tim Carman and Jane Touzalin are away.  Ready, aim ....

(Dinner in Minutes: Moroccan Fish Stew)

Made them with the ghost pepper pear jam and they were wonderful! They haven't made it out on any of my cookie trays as, well, I'm hoarding them.........they're mine. Now, I'm wondering if I could change out the cheese in the recipe. I usually eat pears with parmesan cheese or a nice blue cheese. Think I could sub in one of these in the cookie recipe? I also make a really wicked pineapple sauce with the ghost peppers and was wondering if you had any other recipes for using them in?

See related q! Salsa seems like a good place to start. I can see that staying in the fruit zone would be complementary; how about toss them into an apple--pear mix that gets roasted? Or in a choco-riffic mole?

I adore French onion soup and the rest of the dishes sounded lovely. However, I think the French onion soup portion of the article faded away just as the author was about to suggest how to top the soup with bread and cheese. How would the author (or anybody else who wants to chime in!) suggest floating the crouton and broiling the cheese? I've never had luck with that part of French onion soup preparation and would love some guidance.

French Onion Soup

Did you see the accompanying recipe? That goes in to more detail. Here's the relevant language (details on prepping the baguettes are eariler in the recipe):


Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the broiler to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place 8 onion soup crocks on it.


Stir the port and thyme into the hot soup, and ladle it into the crocks, stopping a half-inch short of their rims. Float 2 or 3 slices of baguette on top: You want to cover the surface of the soup without the bread overlapping. Combine the Gruyere and fontal cheese in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture evenly over the toasts in each crock (don’t skimp!) and broil for 3 or 4 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and well browned. Serve immediately.


Swamped at work and didn't remember to respond back. They were great with the ghost pepper pear jam. Am thinking that I might like to try them again with a different cheese? Any ideas?


The recipe's author, FOF Cathy Barrow, says Gruyere's a good way to go. But regular Swiss and mozzarella have too much moisture or oil.

We became very attached to our Brownie and Blackie and then found it hard to eat the meat. We tried not to become attached, and knew the final results. How did you handle this and will you raise hogs for your use again?

We were concerned about that.  We didn't try to distance ourselves, and became very fond of the pigs, so of course we worried that the meat would be distasteful to us.

What we found was that we could enjoy both the idea that we'd given pigs good lives and a high-quality pork meal.  But I'm not sure I had much control over that, so I don't have any good advice on that front.

As for doing it again, we don't know yet.  We won't do it next year, since we have so much pork, but we're thinking about the year after.

Stupid brisket didn't do what I wanted! So we had what seemed to be a lovely piece of rose veal brisket. We spice-rubbed it, seared it, and then braised it at 350 for 2 hours, covered it and rested it for about 30 minutes. The temperature of the meat was perfect. It looked and smelled great. But it was tougher than expected. How can I avoid this in the future, if we ever have the guts to cook brisket again? And what can we do with the leftovers? It tastes good, it's just not the texture we would prefer.

Just how dumb was that brisket? Was there wine in the braising liquid? I'm thinking it might have needed more time; my experience has been that when you slice it and return it to the oven for more cooking, the meat will become tender. (I'm also of the belief that any brisket improves with an overnight's stay in the refrigerator.)

Leftovers: Add to a long-simmered ragu, or chop, combine with onions and/or other veg and stock to form the base of a shepherd's pie?  Filling for pasties, with cooked cubed potatoes?

I have a brie wheel and a sheet of puff pastry but I wanted to add something fun inside, without the nuts. I have apricot jam, cherry jam, quince paste. What goes best? Or would stewed fruit be more suitable. Please advise. Not sure what pairs best.

Those all sound like pretty good options, actually. I guess my first choice would be the quince, followed by the apricot and cherry.

Red currants are around now, and there are lots of fresh cranberries still in stores -- maybe combine/cook those with some citrus  and drizzle local honey over the lot?

Is it alright to use yams for this recipe? I have the ingredients on hand except I don't know if the tubers I have are sweet potatoes or yams. How do you tell?

Sure you can. Honestly, the yam/sweet potato thing is tricky. Can be labeled yam when in fact they are sweet potato -- or, worse yet, called the same thing on the same label. That being said, they are not from the same plant family. Chances are good that yams will be longer/larger sweet pots, although even as I type this I can think of exceptions to the rule. The flesh of true yams is not quite as sweet or moist.

Hi, I'm new to the city and want your advice on metro-accessible Ethiopian restaurants in DC proper. I've enjoyed Ethiopic on H Street NE already. I'm specifically curious about U Street places. Someone said to go to 12th & U but I see several at that corner. What's good there and elsewhere?

Check out the Going Out Guide's Best Ethiopian list. Good choice on Ethiopic -- that's right up there at the top. If you ever want to venture out of D.C., make your way to LacoMelza in Silver Spring. It's not too far from the Metro, and Tom Sietsema included it in his dining guide this year.

Tamar, you are brave for having written this last article in which you deliberately chose not to have your pigs slaughtered by experts who had the proper facilities and instead chose to do it yourself without any training by people who knew how to slaughter pigs. As would be expected, one of your pigs needlessly suffered. I am curious if you would have done anything different over the course of your pig raising based upon what you know now.

We had two choices -- slaughterhouse, or on-site, by us.  There aren't "experts" who do "training," at least not where we are.  We did it at home because that option didn't have the built-in fear and stress of a long trip and an indeterminate holding time.  It did, of course, have the possibility of something going wrong, but things go wrong in slaughterhouses, too.  The net pig suffering was undoubtedly lessened by our doing it at home, even with one imperfect slaughter.  So, yes, we'd do it that way again -- although next time we'll obviously be more experienced.

Is there a best temp for making thin crepes -- or ultra-thin pancakes -- on an electric griddle? All the recipes in your database call for medium temp but they also all use milk and I don't. The griddle goes as high as 450. Thanks!

First, I'm not sure I have the chops to make crepes on a griddle. I use a crepe pan; that way, I can evenly distribute a thin layer of the batter by tilting the pan as the batter goes in. I'd say the temperature ought to be maybe 325 to 340? Not too hot.

Speaking of crepes and using less milk: Ever tried adding beer?

Huzzah! Spirits guru Jason Wilson is in the house.

Thanks! I have a small apartment stove and the broiler does not play well with friends. Could I use a blow torch (a still-in-the-box Christmas gift) instead?

Go for it. Obviously, you won't use it for as long as you would the broiler. Get the cheese browned in spots and maybe a bit bubbly, then hit the off switch.

Knowing what you know about the stress of transportation, the personalities of the pigs, and everything else you learned in the pig to pork project, will the only pork you eat be the pork from your 3 pigs (for as long as it lasts)? Or will you eat pork at restaurants or at other people's houses?

That's a good question, and one we think and talk about.  In restaurants, I only order pork when I know where the pork is sourced -- I avoid factory pork but not conventionally slaughtered pork.  At other people's homes, I try and be a good guest.  I won't win any converts to the cause of humane meat by refusing to eat something my host has prepared for me.

I have TONS of clementines leftover from the holiday season, do you have any ideas on what I can do with them? (The more creative the better!)

I lovelovelove an old Nigella Lawson recipe for Clementine Cake. You poach them whole, then whizz in the food processor with almonds and a few other ingredients. Really moist and smells wonderful as it bakes.

Bonnie - My amazing husband hates eating out so I try to plan and execute birthday dinners and breakfasts for him at home that are better! This year, I am planning to start with a crispy, mixed vegetable patty with a fig sauce and cilantro sauce (inspired by Rasika). For the main, I am planning pav bhaji, which Kim O'Donnel has decribed as veggie sloppy joes, and for the pudding, I am planning on making sticky toffee pudding with a toffee ice cream rather than the traditional toffee sauce. What do you think?!

I think you're up for Spouse of the Year. And the menu sounds like small surprises. May I suggest David Lebovitz's Caramelized White Chocolate Ice Cream instead of the toffee-on-toffee action? Looks toffee-ish, but so much better. Another surprise.

Hi Rangers! I submitted a question a few weeks ago about making chicken cordon bleu in advance to feed about 20 people on Christmas Day. I just wanted to follow up and give a huge thank you to the confidence boost this chat provided. The food was delicious and my future mother-in-law was pleased. Thanks!

Hooray for you! Anytime an MIL is pleased, so are we. #projecting

Because my friends and I have small children, I'm hosting a new year's party where we'll celebrate the new year at 12:00 a.m. GMT (or 7 p.m. our time). Any ideas on fun British food for the party? Or just things we can make look British? Thanks!

Oh, man, I have been thinking about British food a lot lately  -- shamless self-promotion -- thanks to my upcoming Jan. 2 story on the food of "Downton Abbey."

Not to scoop myself there, but we have some fun stuff in our database, including Black Treacle ToffeeShiitake Beef Wellingtons and Victoria Sandwich Cake.

Shiitake Beef Wellingtons

Bonnie, that clementine cake sounds great! Look forward to trying it. Any other ideas?

I'd like to know if Bonnie, Jane, Tim, Becky, Jim and Jason drink and cook with unfiltered District tap water. I read (in City Paper) that some chefs embrace the DC water authority's effort to re-brand our local tap water as "hip" while other chefs and the Natural Resources Defense Council choose to filter it prior to use and one pizza place even brings in water from elsewhere for its dough.

I drink tap water at city restaurants, but I wouldn't know whether that's filtered or not. Here at the Post, there are filters built into the water fountains that I use to fill my bottle. The rest of the time I'm drinking and cooking with unfiltered tap water at my Arlington County condo.

Eh, whenever the word "rebranding" is used my b.s. radar revs up. I raised my children on unfiltered tap water, and I think those extra protruberances from their heads are barely noticeable. KIDDING. NO THREATENING LAWSUITS, PLS.

A client gave my husband EIGHT pineapples. I hate them, but I also don't want to see them wasted. Can I chop them up and freeze them, for my husband to eat later? Some other way I can use them?

Make this fresh piña colada recipe (which I humbly submit is the greatest piña colada of all time) and pretend it's summer time.

Thank you Bonnie - yes, vermouth in the braising liquid. Hmmm, didn't think to slice and then cook more. I'm not keen on pasties or shepherd's pie, but have been thinking about enchiladas and tamales. Hadn't thought of a ragu either. Thank you!

Hey Jim, Just wanted to let you know that I tried your smoked prime rib recipe on Christmas Day. It came out AMAZING! The whole family was absolutely floored by the taste, both the rub and the tenderness of the meat. The consensus at the table was "best prime rib I've ever had!" Thanks for making me such a popular chef, it really helped with the in-laws! This prime rib came out so great that I just might have to make it again on New Years. Thanks for a great recipe and a great meal!

     Jeez! Who is this, really? Mom, is that you? 

     You've inspired (and intimidated) me: I want to resolve in the new year to write recipes that always help with the in-laws. 

And I'm so glad you mentioned it, so we could run that photo again.

Good afternoon! I just ate three ginger cookies, so Bonnie you are not alone. I wanted to commend Tamar on her honest article. I chose not to read the comments, in anticipation of too much vitriol for the day after Christmas. When I was in high school, we were stationed in southern Germany. A group of people (my father included) decided to buy and raise a pig with the intent of eating the pork when ready. My father grew up as an only child in northern Minnesota during the Depression and World War II. The only meat he and his parents ate was what they caught, hunted, or raised (and slaughtered) themselves. He knew what was required to raise and eat this pig, and he made sure I understood too. It was tough, but I still eat meat. I will always take eating meat that was raised humanely with care over the mass-produced products from giant agri-business.

Thanks for the kind words.  (I probably would have chosen to not read the comments, too, but I was pleasantly surprised at how many thoughtful, intelligent people on both sides weighed in.)

Your father may have known my mother, who grew up in northern Minnesota, also.  Her uncle had a subsistence farm there, and she learned about eating a pig you knew, who had a name, when she was very young.  

I agree that it's those pigs -- cared for, named, treated well -- that we should be eating.

I made them last week, and my husband loves them! Thank you for the great recipe.

Yeah, those Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints are rockin'. We've been talking about them so much lately, I think I'm going to have to make a batch soon.

Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints

you know the old fable: you can't please everyone

That's for sure. 

I rarely bake, but have a variety of flours for those times when I need them, usually for pancakes and quickbreads. Can I store them in the freezer so they won't get stale, or is it better to keep at room temperature? And can I freeze nuts for longevity, too?

The freezer's your friend for longterm storage of flours and nuts, yesirree.  Especially for whole-wheat or buckwheat flours that can go off more quickly.  Make sure to park paper-bagged packages in a freezer resealable food storage bag, with as much air pressed out as possible.

Since it was just the two of us yesterday, I had leeway for some experimentation and decide to try very slow roasting a small roast the butcher calls "spoon roast", some piece of the loin that's tied. I roasted it at 180 until the temperature reached 131, about 3 1/2 hours. Oh wow, perfection, the same color throughout and it did brown on the very outside. If we can spend that much time braising a piece of meat, why not for roasting?

Happy dance.

Given the weather, I think a bowl of French Onion soup sounds better than any other holiday menu! I've made it a few times with decent results but nothing that wowed me. I am very excited to try David's tips and tweaks.

Me too.  Was out and about in the cold last week. As I passed by restaurant doors in the a.m., when kitchens had their pots of onions on. What smells better than that?

A foolproof way to cook it is the slow cooker! Sear it and toss it in and forget it. Falls apart. I know, it's lazy but hey! Good every time.

I made the nutella cookie recipe you had this year. The cookies were delicious, but I do not know that I will ever make them again because they were so hard to make. The sugar and butter mixture was like glue and stopped the hand mixed several times. I had to repeatedly scrape out the mixer to continue with the mixing process. I caution other readers about making this recipe (in particular, if you have any hand strength issues, this is NOT the recipe for you). I followed the recipe closely (I'd say exactly), but given my experience, do you think I did anything wrong?

Hm, the butter and sugar mixture shouldn't be gluey. It should be light and fluffy. Did you leave the butter out overnight, as suggested in the headnote? I could see the creaming being a little tough on your mixer if it wasn't soft enough.

Not a question but a thank you for the article by Tamar Haspel which I thought showed a lot of sensitivity and was also informative. To the person looking for other ideas for Brie en Croute which I almost made for Christmas Eve (but made warm artichoke dip instead), there are lots of recipes with cranberries out there if you do a google search! For Christmas Eve eve, I served cheese fondue, with a selection of cold cuts and mustards, and brussel sprouts (which I found out my Mom loves) and potatoes (to dip in the fondue along with bread), and salad. We had butter tarts (nod to my Canadian heritage and grandmother) with a dollop of ice cream for dessert. I am doing some baking today to gift and still contemplating making some tourtieres (meat pies) before the holiday is over. Thank you !

Thanks for the kind words.  And, I must say, that sounds like a wonderful menu!

Is it better to grease the pan for each crepe or pancake, which ends up being a lot of butter, or does it work to add some melted butter directly to the batter?

I like to start with more butter than called for (first crepe close to a dud; goes to the cook for "quality control."  But I end up adding little bits occasionally after that. The pan gets coated nicely and things move quickly.

Since I just cooked a British Christmas dinner, I'd suggest roast potatoes and individual Yorkshire puddings. Although you have to get the oil screaming hot in the oven (not fun with little kids around), the payoff is kid-friendly British foods for NYE.

Thanks for the suggestions.

Santa listened this year and I got a brand new  electric deep-fryer. Any suggestions for a festive, yet impressive appetizer for new years?

We were captivated by a favorite finger food at the Inn at Little Washington: check out Green Beans Tempura With Asian Dipping Sauce. They look striking and taste terrific. The dipping sauce is great and can be made in advance -- another plus.

Tamar, Did you make scrapple or any other sausage type products from your pigs? I miss the scrapple made just from parts of the heads that my wife's grandfather used to make.

We didn't make scrapple, but have made sausage, and will continue to, as we work through the 20 pounds of scraps in our freezer.  If you really miss scrapple, perhaps there's a pig in your future ...

First, thank you all for being here for the chat today. Second, could the Recipe Finder have a NOT option? In particular, I would like to eliminate recipes that require a food processor, which I do not have.

You're welcome! Would really, really like that feature as well. It's on our list.

While it may "fall apart" every time, crockpot brisket cannot compare to braised in the oven brisket!


I'm planning to make beef stock with the bones from my Christmas prime rib. I'm going to roast the bones and then make the stock from a recipe I've used before. I don't have prolonged periods of time available before Saturday to do this, and am wondering about how long I can keep the bones in the refrigerator before doing it. Is that too long to keep the bones from Tuesday? I don't really have much freezer space to freeze them and then do it later.

       I've made stock from bones that have been in the refrigerator for several days. I think it will be fine to make the stock on Saturday, but I wouldn't wait any longer.

I'll second Jim's 'yes' vote. You'll be heating the bones to 212 degrees, so there's no real danger of bacteria, and a few days in the fridge will be fine.

Thanks for the recipe today. I love kasha varnishes but my husband doesn't, so I'll try it. Is there any other use for the groats, if it turn out he doesn't like this preparation either?

You can always go the breakfast/oatmeal route, or fold them into pancakes or bake them in a granola mix. 

The "black mint" is green. And the "green pepper" -- better known as "yellow pepper" -- is red. My head is spinning!

You're referring to Tim Carman's Ten Reasons* to love Peruvian markets blogpost? He's not here to respond. Perhaps a comfy chair and light beverage can alleviate your condition. Happy holidays! 

I bought some puff pastry thinking I'd use it to make my own Field Roast en croute. What are some other uses for puff pastry for a vegan? All courses welcome. I'm thinking mushrooms and garlic but I'd hate to waste the juice resulting from cooking. I've never used puff pastry before, so easy preparation is the goal.

A friend just fixed me a sort of mock spanakopita using puff pastry. If I were trying to replicate it, I'd saute some onion, defrost and squeeze out frozen spinach (you said easy, right?), season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and wrap it inside the puff pastry. The version I had included cheese, but since you're looking for vegan, that's out. You could also try this recipe for Eggplant and Potato Pastries, omitting the mozzarella and using water rather than egg to stick the pastry together. I'm sure other chatters have good ideas, too.

We had a simple spread this year: roast leg of lamb; carrot "coins" in honey; mashed sweet potatoes; green beans sauteed with garlic; onion-heavy risotto. Dessert was a feather-light goat cheese cheesecake with orange zest, topped with a pineapple-and-rum compote. Not quite like my family's traditional seafood spread, but it's hard to find halibut and King Crab legs now that I'm not in Alaska anymore!

Can we have some of that cheesecake? Now?

I made roasted chicken for the first time for Christmas dinner. No food poisoning--yay! I followed your basic recipe (15 minutes at 425, 15 minutes at 375, then cover with foil until reaches temperature) with a few add-ons based on Martha Stewart's online recipe (I put salt, pepper, thyme sprigs, garlic, and a cut-in-half-lemon in the cavity). The chicken was cooked properly and moist, but I had two issues--the skin was not brown crisp and the chicken was pretty bland. Any suggestions for the next time I make it?

Try a light, all-over coat of olive oil on the bird before it goes in, with lots of salt and pepper on the outside as well as inside. Herbes de Provence always welcome.  I'm a little stumped about why the chicken didnt brown, especially with the head start. Was the foil on a long time?

Am I correct that it took longer for me to read about "Plan B" for Doc than it took to implement? I'm hoping the rifle was right at hand and his suffering was momentary, although the discussion in the article about Tamar's feelings and the supportive friends and yadayadayada made it sound like it took a while to regroup after the first shot failed.

Yes, it took a while to regroup, and decide how to proceed.  Also, to make sure the shot was safe (a 30-30 is a much longer-range weapon than a .22).  Plus, we needed extra time to yadayadayada.

This is apparently a somewhat widespread if rare Christmas morning menu based in the Virginia Piedmont region that celebrates both the oyster and citrus seasons. The oysters are fresh shucked from the Chesapeake. 1. Oyster stew - cream based with lots of oyster crackers 2. Fried oysters 3. Grape fruits

Probably true, but if I want really good brisket, I go to my brother's house where he smokes it!

Or you can do it yourself, with this great recipe from Jim Shahin. Just looking at this picture makes me hungry......


I have a long list of embarrassing cooking mishaps in my history, mostly because I get forgetful in the middle of cooking. Christmas dinner, my poor memory hit again. I roasted a 6 lb leg of lamb and used a recipe that called for it to be cooked at 425 degrees for 20 minutes and then at 350 for 40 minutes. I had the timer set to make the switch and even reset the timer when it went off - but I forgot to drop the temperature! Luckily the recipe was for a smaller sized leg, and I caught mine just in time - it ended up being quite tasty, and only the very outer layer of it was slightly dry. The rest was fine. Ended up pairing it with Stephanie Izard's spicy grilled broccoli with bleu cheese dressing, a warm spinach and bacon salad and green beans with garlic and tomatoes. For my first time hosting Christmas dinner, I think I did pretty well!

Great save. That all sounds quite festive.

My menu will be smoked salmon parfait crostini, egg salad on rye bites, Georgian salad with beets, mini cakes with jam and cream, and cheese cake bites with cranberry drizzle.

Most colorful! Cranberry drizzle sounds so promising.

My father used to make very thin pancakes, although not as thin as crepes. But it took 12 or more of his to make the meal that restaurants serve as 3 pancakes. He used an electric skillet with the temperature at 350 F. The trick is a thin batter and temp that gives it time to spread out before setting. Using water instead of milk might make for tougher pancakes, though, since milk solids are used to tenderize dough.

Electric skillet's one of those appliances you just can't beat -- especially for temperature control. Great for latkes. Thanks for the intel!

I have a box of seriously seedy clementines - can I still make Nigella's cake? I have wanted to make it for a long time, but I wonder about the seeds.

The fruit cooks for a couple of hours and then meets the food processor blades....I've made the cake a half dozen times and seeds have not been an issue.

I read that Julia Child chose onion soup for her last meal! This despite a much more elaborate last meal menu she had written and spoken about. That's quite a recommendation for onion soup!

First, thanks to Tamar for the brave piece. It was well done. To my question - is brisket a special cut of meat that has to be ordered? I tried to find it for Hanukkah but didn't see it at Giant or Safeway. I ended up with a chuck roast, I guess, and the results were quite poor.

And thanks to you. Moral support is much appreciated.

As for the brisket -- yes, it is a specific cut of meat.  It's from just above the foreleg (below the chuck), and it has long fibers that need long, slow cooking.  Try it again, with the right cut -- a well-cooked brisket is a beautiful thing.

I have seen (and bought) brisket in supermarkets, but it never hurts to special-order it -- that way you get exactly the cut you want and can specify the amount of fat you want trimmed off.

I see it year-round now in the DC area markets.

In Scotland I once had St. Clements pie, which was basically an orange meringue pie. You can probably use a lemon meringue pie recipe but substitute clementine juice for part of the lemon juice. You could arrange slices on top before adding the meringue, too. (But I don't see the problem with too many clementines. I buy them all winter to eat out of hand. Much more convenient that oranges, and they *tend* to be better quality.)

My mother in law has a set menu which we were luck y enough to have shared on XMas eve - Roast goose, with what we all call goose potatoes which is mashed potatoes with onions cooked in gooose fat and toped with extra goose neck skin that gets crispy , sauerkraut cooked in lager with juniper berries, and almost best of all, her homemade pickes and preserves. Dessert is poached pears with honey and ginger and of course, a bit of chocolate after - there is champagne to start and good red wine during and port after - I'm still stuffed!

I am curious why the editors let through the Food Activist article. The article contains several assumptions that are wrong. 1. Feed efficiency is the main reason sub therapeutic antibiotics are fed, not growth rate. Feed is the largest variable cost of raising livestock. Increasing feed efficiency also lowers the ecological footprint of the livestock. 2. Ionophores are one of the main substances used in livestock which are classified as antibiotics. However, they are not used as antibiotics in humans. The article should have mentioned that these substances reduce methane production in ruminants. 3. Supposed changes to livestock industry if all sub therapeutic antibiotic use was banned were not realistic. Subtherapeutic antibiotics in almost all cases, are not used for disease prevention. If there use was banned, the livestock would not all of sudden get sick. There would not be many if any changes to the way livestock were raised. What would change is that more feed would be needed and more crops would be raised.

Posting this so you could be heard, but we didn't hear back from author Jane Black in time to provide her response.

I don't think she *knew* when her last meal would be!?

Time to plan a New Year's Eve menu - and I have to work on NYE? Any good thoughts on stuff that I can prep over the weekend and get on the table in about an hour? I'm looking at 6-10 people for dinner.

Hey, since we've been talking so much about brisket today, have a look at this recipe for Brisket With Onion Gravy. And try one of today's pâtés.

Beet-Walnut Pate

Hi rangers, I made the salty chocolate nutella thumbprints but they came out delicious but dry. My husband made the dough, so I'm not sure...maybe he overmixed it? After I rolled them, when making the thumbprints and flattening them, they cracked. They also didn't really spread out at all during baking. Was I supposed to make discs instead of balls? The other thing I can think of is maybe I baked them slightly too long?

Those cookies do crack a little -- that doesn't indicate a problem. It has been a while since I made them, but I don't think they spread much. You make balls and then flatten them a little, along with making the indentation for the Nutella. As to the dryness, the cookies shouldn't be too dry, so maybe they were overbaked.

Could the gift have been a retro-TV reference? Giving a pineapple as a gift was a gag in an episode of the sitcom "Mad About You." Paul wanted to make a documentary film about Alan Brady -- Carl Reiner reprising his role from the Dick Van Dyke show -- and Brady gave Paul's wife a pineapple as a gift. Then his former editor said he only ever gave pineapples as gifts.

is not cream-based, but oysters, oyster juice and butter and pepper

Tamar, I've been reading your posts and articles about the pigs (and other things) regularly. The pig articles especially strike a chord with me...we raised our own beef and pigs, and always the worst thing was hearing the pigs squeal as they had to be loaded onto the truck to go to the local butcher's. So I'm glad you made the decision to not have your pigs go through that. And you're right--there was always the chance that something at a place you took your pigs could have gone wrong, too.

Maybe the recipe was followed a little too closely? The humidity was very low the end of last week; maybe the dough needed a touch more liquid.

I recently had 3 dozen chickens "processed" and most of them ar now in my freezer. One of the hens was older and very friendly. the morning of the slaughter, she walked over to me, I scooped her up and carried her around under my arm until it was time to leave with the truck full of meat birds. I feel like I betrayed my pet chicken but she had a good life and this was probably better than her dying slowly from illness.

I doubt ours will win any prizes, but we had a "surprise me!" potluck for Christmas Eve: roasted ham; bread dressing with Italian sausage, greens, rosemary & parmesan; potato salad; deviled eggs; meatballs; a green chile dip with chips & crackers; chocolate caramel mousse pie; broccoli, cranberry & sunflower seed salad; pumpkin pie; probably forgetting something, but everything was wonderful!

And with that, the last Free Range chat of 2012 is in the books. Thanks to Tamar, Jim and Jason for joining us today -- and to you, dear readers, for what has been a very fast and fun year while Editor Joe's been away.  (He returns to the helm next week.) You've been curious and supportive, helpful and mostly well mannered. We couldn't ask for more.


Speaking of helpful, prizes go to the chatter who spoke of cheese fondue and meat pies; and to the chatter whose holiday menu included roast lamb. Take your pick of "Cooking Light's Food Lover's Healthy Habits" or "50 Best Plants on the Planet" from the Melissa's Produce folks. Send your druthers and mailing info to  Happy, happy New Year to you all.  Together, we'll cook up a storm in 2013.

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie Benwick is interim editor of the Food section; joining us today are editorial aide Becky Krystal, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson. Guest: blogger and Pig to Table writer Tamar Haspel.
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