The Washington Post

Free Range on Food: Holiday goose, prime rib, Cooking for One paella and more

Dec 19, 2012

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

Good afternoon, Rangers! It's less than a week until Christmas: Do you have your holiday menus set yet? Have you stocked the liquor cabinet to keep Uncle Ed good and primed? Are all the cookies baked and stored, ready for the assault of sticky kids' hands?


We can talk Christmas dinners, cookies, cocktails, anything you want. Cathy Barrow (you might know her as Mrs. Wheelbarrow) will join us to talk all things goose, while the Once And Future Boss Joe Yonan will discuss his party-of-one paella recipesJim Shahin will be on hand, too, to tell us how to give the "kingly meat" known as prime rib a smoky robe.


Of course, a few of the usual suspects will be here to answer your holiday questions: Jason on cocktails, Jane and Becky on just about everything. Bonnie, however, is AWOL, sadly; she's spending the afternoon with Kojo Nnamdi, talking about cookbooks and gadgets (but not before answering a few questions!).


As usual, we have cookbooks to give away (perfect for regifting perhaps?) to the two best questions. So let's get this thing started.

I've been doing a bit more baking recently and wondered if a recipe does not specify which type of butter to use (salted vs. unsalted) so I assumed unsalted? Is there a different result - other than extra salt/saltiness- from using salted butter? And how much does the form of the butter matter (whipped, stick, other)?

If it's an old recipe for home use, chances are good that salted butter was intended. We tend to call for unsalted butter in Post recipes to help control/monitor the amount of sodium in a dish. There's a huge difference in using whipped butter;  substituting it in stick butter recipes is not recommended. European-style butter has a higher butterfat content than regular butter; you may find a difference in flavor/richness, but I think you bake with it in the same proportions. 

Posting question early since I'm on the West Coast and can never catch the chat live. I have been tasked with bringing a vegetable dish to my Italian families Christmas celebration dinner. Tradition has us eating Italian sausage and various cold cuts (mortadella, prosciutto, pancetta, etc.) and I need a vegetable dish that would go well with those flavors. Some of my family members aren't quite as adventurous in the food front as others so in years past, my mom has just asked me to bring a crudite platter. I have better skills than that but am drawing a blank as to what to bring. It can be a cold or hot dish as travel time is measured in minutes. Any suggestions would be most welcome! Thank you and Merry Christmas to you all. Love reading the chats.

The first thing that comes to mind is bagna cauda, the fabulous Italian version of a crudite platter, in which you dip the vegetables in a delicious garlic/anchovy/olive oil concoction. The key is to do more than just pick up a bunch of raw veggies from the supermarket, but to instead source perfectly in season, prime specimens and then very carefully blanch or otherwise gently cook the vegetables rather than just serving them raw. We don't have a recipe for such in the system, but our friends at the Bitten Word have a nice take on one that was in Bon App.

The other thing I imagine is a creative take on bruschetta. I know, I know, it may seem dated, but if you really do it the Italian way -- char the bread, rub it with garlic, and top it with powerfully flavored cooked vegetables -- it can be such a winner. And it doesn't have to be limited to tomatoes -- and shouldn't, this time of year. I got back into it in a big way after reading the A16 cookbook some years back. Some topping possibilities: garlicky stewed greens and white beans; red pepper chutney with ricotta; sweet-and-sour squash. Get inspired by what's in season and available from farmers or a market near you, and go from there.

I'm looking for a recipe for a raspberry oat bar and also a apricot crumble bar. Would you have such recipes on hand?

I just ran across these apricot squares from our 2007 cookie issue the other day; going to make them for the neighbors. We have raspberry squares and raspberry snow bars...neither has oats, tho. 

Dear Free Rangers, I took your excellent advice and went to H-Mart. Amazing! What a great selection of produce and various other stuff. Anyway, I bought a couple of packages of thinly sliced beef that have been hanging out in the freezer for a few weeks. I have no idea what to do with them! Thoughts? Thanks!

Good for you! I find that I always come out of that store with more stuff than I went in to get.

Re the steak: Stir-fries and cheesesteak sandwiches come to mind.

In Denmark there's a dish that translates as "red groats," made with red summer fruits (red currants, blackberries, raspberries, cherries ...) and a thickener, usually corn or potato starch and served with whipped cream or vanilla custard. In Germany there's an analogous "green groats" consisting of kiwis, gooseberries and usually either green grapes or pineapple. I'm mulling over a winter variation using oranges (or better: blood oranges, if I can get them), cranberries and .... A third or fourth fruit has me stymied. Something that will harmonize with oranges and cranberries, is wintery and will keep the end product from seeming too much like cranberry sauce. Any ideas?

Pomegranate or papaya?

We went to the farm market looking for a nice piece of meat for Christmas dinner, and could not resist the beautiful brisket of rose veal. Now what? It looks like it needs a low slow roast, and indeed, the farmer recommended a good spice rub and a low slow roast. But I'm looking for other ideas. Any thoughts?

Rose veal is wonderful. I like to stuff it with prunes or apricots and bread, herbs. Roll it up and tie it, then braise in broth/wine slowly for about two hours.

Just a little note with huge THANK YOU for being there (almost) every Wednesday with great ideas, info and inspiration. Special shout out to Bonnie for her recipe testing, always comes out as she says it would, Jane Touzalin for All We Can Eat responses, and Joe, for the best cup of coffee (Clever) I treat myself to every morning.

Tim Carman's appetizing article about Peruvian rotisserie chicken left me with a craving (only momentarily stilled by his mention of possible arsenic in U.S. chicken feed [he mentioned caffeine, too, but I consider that a bonus!]). So I have to ask, What, no recipes?!? Guess I'll schlep to Crisp&Juicy for lunch ... but please, please, tell me how to recreate this great taste at home -- preferably in the oven. Muchas gracias!

I love Peruvian chicken, otherwise known as pollo a la brasa, but I think doing it in an oven would defeat the purpose of the dish. The rough translation, after all, is "charcoal chicken." To cook the bird in the oven would not give it the smoky flavor you want.


Here's a good breakdown the process, the sauces and the sides for the perfect Peruvian chicken meal.

Hey guys, I really want to make Stephanie Izard's Grilled Broccoli with Spiced Krispies and Bleu Cheese Dressing for Christmas - I know it says the vinaigrette can be made ahead of time, but do you think I could make the dressing and krispies a day before, too? The dressing I don't see why not, but I'm wondering if the krispies would get stale or something. Any ideas? I'm making the whole dinner, so the more I can do in advance, the better.

What else are you making? Vinaigrette's definitely a make-ahead item. I think you could do the krispies, too, although I'd suggest re-crisping them in a skillet before serving. So I'm not sure you'd save that much time by making them in advance.

We're hosting my husband's family for Christmas day - so I'm making breakfast, snacks AND dinner. But they're actually getting in on Christmas Eve, not to mention the fact my BIL plans on proposing to girlfriend Christmas Eve night! I'm already going to be insane from all the food prep for Christmas, so I can't imagine doing anything even slightly complicated for dinner Christmas Eve. I would just order a pizza, but I do feel like an engagement calls for something just a little nicer (I will have a special dessert made to celebrate). Any ideas on a meal that can feed six people and is easy to throw together? My best idea so far was to have a "Make your own grilled cheese sandwich" night, with us supplying the basics and everyone else bringing whatever weird ingredients they wanted.

I feel your pain! Coming up with something easy that befits the occasion when you're already worried enough about Christmas Day is enough to make you, well, think about grilled cheese sandwiches. But I think you can do better, and it doesn't have to be tough. What about a nice baked pasta dish with a crisp green salad and bread? 

Some possibilities:

Lobster Mac and Four Cheeses. That's festive, right? But also quick to put together.

Baked Roasted Squash, Ricotta, and Fusilli. If you want to make it less healthy to befit the holidays ramp it up to full-fat ricotta and go a little heavier on the Parm, IMO.

Baked Pasta With Chicken and Pepper Jack. Instructions here for preparing in the morning and baking that night, which is always helpful when you're stressed.

What drives price differences per lb. for standing rib roasts? Is it only aged vs un-aged?

   The price differences are in the grades. There are, generally, three grades: choice, Angus, and prime. Choice (while hardly cheap) is at the low end, with prime at the high. At some meat markets, the type of aging will also factor in, with dry aging being more costly than wet aging. 

I am entertaining guests Saturday and would like to know where in the DC area I can purchase a moist, flavorful fruitcake. My regular source is Sunnyland Farms, but I do not have the lead time to purchase online from them now.

I haven't had one for several years, but for traditional fruitcake I always liked the one from Holy Cross Abbey, out in Berryville, Va. You'd have to drive out there, though, and at this time of year they might be out, so call ahead. Any other suggestions?

Not sure if she is in today, because she isn't listed in the chat, but can someone please pass on kudos for a job well done last week with Ina Garten. Thanks!

I answered some q's early and found your nice comment as my reward. Ina was so gracious and lovely to work with. #girlcrush

I love the article on how to use the whole goose, and I've also been looking at some recipes for duck confit. My question is where can one get a duck or goose? I don't see them at my local supermarket (I live in Arlington). Also, is there a purveyor of duck fat, for making confit, as I do not have a supply waiting in my freezer (yet, anyway!)? Thanks!

Geese and ducks are on sale at Eastern Market, Wagshal's, some Whole Foods, and a few farmer's markets (Bethesda Central Farm Market's Our Springfield Farm) In almost all cases, you need to order the duck or goose ahead.

Duck fat is available at Wagshals in Spring Valley, or by mail order from D'Artagnan. (

Once you've cooked a duck or goose, you'll be set for duck fat/goose fat.

You can also buy duck fat, if not a goose, from Dean & Deluca in Georgetown. Balducci's should have it too.

A friend has asked me to bring home made gnocchi to a special event at his house. I have only recently learned to make gnocchi and I am at a loss as to how to dress them. Tomato sauce? Brown butter and chopped hazelnuts? What should I top them with??? (This friend is a pastry chef - no pressure!)

A brown butter sauce is classic -- and hazelnuts certainly get my attention! You could do some type of pesto, or maybe add pesto to a light cream/cheese sauce. If  you like the earthy route, try a mushroom sauce bolstered mushroom powder. BTW, have you seen this gnocchi recipe, subtly flavored with marjoram? Good stuff.

Thanks for featuring goose. I've done them a time or two for a special dinner...but what can I do with all that goose grease?

Strain the goose fat and keep it in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Use it as you might use olive oil or butter before any pan frying. It's also great for pie crust, using half goose fat half butter, for savory pies or quiches.

Wow, this is great -- I never knew you could make paella without clams or mussels and I'm not very fond of those so end up picking them out and just eating the chicken, rice and whatever teeny veggies. Big waste unless I'm with a seafood lover. FYI I looked at the store site you mention and they're having a one-day sale on paella pans and "kits" today. Maybe they saw your article! Question --The store says a paella pan bottom "is dimpled in order to spread heat evenly." Does that mean it has air-holes? Hard to tell from the pic and I'm guessing it makes a big diff in timing. Thanks, Joe, and happy holidays! Looking forward to having you back in DC, hope you're looking forward to returning!

There are a meeeeeeelllllllllllyon paellas in Spain, so it's funny to me that one style has become so widely imitated in America. Free yourself from the stereotype! I love a true paella pan, and they truly cook better in this than in any other pan, but it's not going to make a huge difference in timing to make it with something else, like a cast-iron skillet or my trusty carbon-steel French pan (like a high-sided crepe pan). Those dimples in the traditional pan help disperse the heat.

I'd like to get into making my own stock but often don't have many bones to use. Since it's football season, aka chicken wing season, can you my discared chicken wing bones for making stock? The only catch is they are Buffalo Wings, so they are coated in something like Crystal hot sauce. Most of the meat and skin and sauce gets eaten, but the discarded wings (and clingin meat) always looks a little red (from the sauce). Will the remnants of hot sauce ruin my would be stock? Thanks!

Do it! And report back. I think this would be great for a stock that has a little kick in it, and you could use it as the base for, say, a good tortilla soup like the one pictured below.

Believe it or not, it's not unheard-of. The folks at Ideas in Food mentioned the idea in a blog post a couple of years ago -- although they didn't really report on how the whole thing went, which I'm taking as good news!

Btw, not that you asked, but here's one of my favorite wing recipes. (I'm not really eating chicken much anymore, but I'd probably make an exception for these from time to time.)

I'd like to taste that spiked-up chicken stock with rice pilaf myself!

Hi. Whenever I make any type of bar cookie or brownie, I end up with messy looking bars because they stick in the pan and they often don't cut cleanly. (They do usually taste good, however.) Is there some trick to getting bar cookies and brownies out of the pan and neatly cut? I usually make them in glass baking dishes but would be happy to switch to whatever would solve this problem.

Are you greasing the dish well? You could try that, in addition to flouring. Or you could make a sling with aluminum foil. Then you just lift the whole thing out of the pan and cut them. I'm also seeing some online chatter about reducing the temperature and/or cook time with glass. But I like metal pans for crispier edges and more squared-off corners.

Hi, Foodies, From what I've read, the Post will have a new person in charge as Executive Editor next month and it may erect a pay wall sometime next year. Change is not always good. So I want to take this opportunity to say your devoted followers don't want anyone messing with the Food section or these free-ranging chats! If you need us to defend you, just let us know. If necessary, we'll encase your offices in impenetrable fruit cakes or something to keep you safe. What are the rumors? (The article about "your goose is cooked" is a coincidence 'cause it's Christmas=time, not a metaphor, right?)

Thanks for the love! Yes, Marty Baron comes to the Post next year -- coincidentally, his first day is my first day back after my yearlong leave. I've had the privilege of working with Marty at the Globe, and while he and I haven't talked yet about the FoF, as you call it, I know that he values food coverage. And the other Powers That Be see it as part of the Post's core mission, in terms of journalism that affects people's daily lives.

There are no plans to make any drastic changes, just so you know. I have had a year away, though, which has certainly given me a little perspective, and we might shake up the formula a bit, like we do from time to time... 

Are there things you'd like to see us do more or less of, by the way?

Who is this Cathy Barrow? How impressive that she has articles in both The Washington Post Food section and New York Times Dining section today (both are excellent by the way).

She's Mrs. Wheelbarrow, but of course. Writer in old media and new, budding cookbook author, teacher... We're happy to have her!

Cathy Barrow is someone we can all learn from. One of my New Year's resolutions is to take advantage of her vast skills in charcuterie and canning.

My boyfriend has started to venture in the world of whiskey, so I would like to include a bottle as part of his Christmas present. I know nothing about whiskey, so I'm hoping that Jason Wilson can guide me. To make it challenging, I'm lookng for something that a beginner whiskey drinker would enjoy that isn't too expensive or difficult to find in the DC area. Many thanks!

I'm going to assume he's ventured into American whiskeys? If so, I'll suggest a few around $25-35 -- of which there are plenty of good bourbons and ryes available. At $25-30, you could get ryes like Bulleit or Wild Turkey, or bourbons like Weller 107, Evan Williams Single Barrel, or Elijah Craig 12 yr old. At around $35, you've got nice bourbons like Russell's Reserve, Four Roses Small Batch, or a rye like Knob Creek. All of those should be pretty easy to find locally.

Hi Food Section Staff. I am hosting two friends for a solstice dinner after we have a long yoga class to celebrate the longest night of the year. Any ideas of what could be a solstice dish? Ideally something that doesn't take too long to prepare. The restrictions are no seafood and not too garlicky. Thanks!-A dedicated chat fan.

This chicken, leek and parsley pie has a lot going for it; you can make it a day or two in advance and just heat it through. Comfort food with a bit of refinement. Or the risotto route would be an easy way to go; have any extra ingredients prepped and once the broth is warmed up, you could have the  dish done within a half hour or so. This link will take you to a slew of Post recipes, including a cider risotto with roasted sweet potato and fresh sage.

Great articles today; I especially loved the Prime Rib one. I was hoping to get my holiday shopping done early so I can spend more time with family. If I bought a rib roast tomorrow or Friday and kept it in the back of the refrigerator, would it still be good on Tuesday or would the meat texture have changed? I could run out on Sunday morning but I'd prefer to avoid the crowds if I can.

  I am not the USDA, so I cannot tell you definitively, but I have bought prime rib and other beef several days early to "age" it. I rinse it, dry it thoroughly, wrap cheesecloth around it, and set it on a baking rack on a baking tray or plate. I change the cheesecloth daily. This deepens the flavor of the meat. I have done this up to 7 days prior to cooking. 

   I'd suggest you call a reputable butcher to double-check; Union Meats at Eastern Market comes to mind, as does Wagshal's.

oooh, those recipes look great! If I don't have a cast iron pan can I use a stainless steal pan or does it have to be non stick? I don't have a nonstick pan that I can put in the oven.

Glad you like the look of them! You can use stainless steel, but it's best NOT to use nonstick, because you want to get that crispy edge to the bottom of the rice if possible, and for that, you actually want some sticking. Really, the most important thing is size (I'm resisting unseemly jokes here!); if possible, strive for a pan at around 8 inches in diameter. The ingredients need to be spread in a pretty shallow layer. (The photos that went with the piece, while prettier than anything I can take at home, show perhaps a deeper paella than I intended, FWIW.)

If you think you'll be a paella-for-one devotee, spring (only $13!) for one of these individual-paella pans made out of carbon steel from La Tienda. (The reason paella pans are so great for this, beyond the tradition and name and size is that they have dimples on the bottom that help disperse the heat, and the metal cools down quickly so the rice doesn't overcook.) 

Hi Rangers, My husband and I will be doing our annual pre-Christmas celebration alone together tomorrow night before heading to our family's house. Unfortunately, I have basically forgotten to plan for dinner. Do you have a suggestion for a simple main dish? I have the veggies and grains covered (hello, fridge perishables!), but am looking for something relatively quick (less than 1 hour of prep) and small (we are leaving town the next day, so we aren't interested in leftovers). Thanks!

Speaking of the B. Contessa, how about Mustard-Roasted Fish? Simple to cut in half, although I bet you'll want to slurp up more than 1 serving each.

I'm serving Christmas Eve dinner and am trying to go very simple thus the roasted root vegetables. I would like to prep early that morning. Do I cut all the vegetables up , drizzle with olive oil and wait to roast until that evening? Do I partially roast them early, then pop back in the oven later that day to crisp up? And what are your favorite vegetables to roast? potatoes obviously, do I include something like butternut squash? I've never cooked something like turnips or parsnips, but there's always a first.

You can do either, really. I love roasted root vegetables, but don't necessarily find them to get (or stay) all that crispy, unless I'm doing just potatoes. If you're really looking to get as much done in the morning as possible, then just go ahead and roast and then rewarm later, sure. In addition to butternut (or other) squash, throw some carrots and parsnips and sweet potatoes in there, plus some turnips or even radishes for something a little spicier. Oh, and some whole garlic cloves left unpeeled are a nice touch (You can squeeze them out of the peels before serving, or let the diners do that.) If you want to make it even more festive, you can use an earthy spice like cumin while you roast, and then drizzle with a little honey when they come out of the oven.

Just wanted to say the Salty Chocolate Nutella cookie is one of the best cookies ever - as the name implies, it has everything you could want in a cookie. It instantly disappeared from the tray of cookies I took to work and I had to send the boss' wife the recipe :-) Keep up the great work!

Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints

Hear, hear. I think that's my favorite WaPo cookie issue treat. Those Whisked! girls sure gave us a good recipe.

Good day! If Jason is around, I'd love a recommendation for a mezcal cocktail. I have grapefruit, limes and cucumber on hand, if any of those would be good with it. Thanks.

One excellent mexcal cocktail that calls for grapefruit and lime too is the Smoked Palomino, though you'll have to grab a bottle of amontillado sherry, too.

A friend called me a couple of weeks ago to tell me she was in the car on her way to the All Clad sale in Pittsburgh and did I want anything. After doing a quick search on their website, I told her to look for the 13 inch paella pan. I was thrilled to see Joe's recipes in the paper this morning (yes, I still get the paper). Will those recipes work in the larger pan? Didn't the Food section have an article years ago about the semi annual All Clad sale?

To use a 13-inch pan, you should double those recipes! Then they'd be perfect. As for a story about the All Clad sale, we had one in 1996 but it's not available online. If you email Becky Krystal at, she will send it to you.

My husband and I are hosting Christmas dinner for the first time and we're a bit stumped on the menu. We've got a standing rib roast for the main and a few side ideas - my husband's special corn recipe, dinner rolls, some form of potatoes, pie for dessert, but what should we add that's green? I'd like to stay away from a green bean casserole (nobody attending is a big green bean casserole fan) and while I'm pretty comfortable with "douse green vegetable in olive oil and roast," I think something more exciting is called for. Any other category of holiday side I've missed?

How about radiccio or romaine lettuce, halved and grilled (or broiled), chopped and dressed with a crisp vinaigrette?

There's gotta be a way to prepare this indoors, no? Or are the local joints like Crisp & Juicy cooking in the back yard?

Funny. But, no, they have specially designed rotisseries with charcoal at the bottom. They are vented into giant hoods that remove all the smoke.

Just wanted to say thank you, Free Rangers! Your cookie section last week got me inspired to bake Christmas cookies for the first time in years. We made the brown sugar shortbread from a few years ago already (over-mixed the batter a bit, but they still taste good, and hey, wouldn't they be great with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom?). Next up are last year's Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints and this year's flourless chocolate cookies. Plus some traditional chocolate chip, by request, and, just for extra fun, peppermint dark chocolate pretzel bark. If only I could stop eating the shortbread cookies for breakfast...

Trust me, you'll be eating the Nutella thumbprints and flourless chocolate cookies for breakfast, too!

I have one sheet of puff pastry that I was thinking that I could cut into squares, bake off and then slice open to use as the sandwich for egg salad or smoked salmon and cream cheese. What do you think? Would this be a difficult finger food at a party? Maybe if I made the puff squares very small? Any suggestions would be great.

Might be easier to slather/top the pastry and cut into squares BEFORE you bake it off. You could make a mixture of ricotta, a beaten egg and your favorite cheeses, shredded and spread that on, then top with chorizo or roasted eggplant or caramelized onion, for example.

I am having 20 people over on Sunday for dinner and am having trouble with the menu. There will be children and adults for a casual party and I don't want to do turkey or ham or the typical Christmas foods. Two families are Jewish, so no pork. Something where most of the prep can be done ahead would be good. I don't have enough bowls for soup or stew, unless I use disposable ones which seems unappealing. (There will be 24 people total.) It will have to be a buffet with people sitting in a variety of places in the house. Any ideas on the main course? Grilling is a possibility even though it's winter, but it needs to be something that can be done earlier and can sit around. Thanks for your help!

This salmon with pink peppercorn citrus sauce looks very festive and can be made ahead. Goes a long way on a buffet table. Meatballs might be a fun option, as in a meatball bar -- easy to make; can be done in advance; lots of flavors/ways to go such as ground chicken, turkey, lamb. Kids would like them and you could offer a variety of ways to serve them (warm hoagie rolls and onions/peppers; buttered noodles; with a yogurt or parsley sauce). Big kale salad, maybe a rice pilaf.  Or maybe a big pot of ratatouille, with warm polenta and freshly shredded cheese on the side.

Hey guys! Thanks for taking my question. We're eating Christmas dinner with a group of 12 adults and 9 kids (ages 2-5). I'm in charge of desserts. Any ideas for how to feed that many? There will already be a pumpkin pie. Thanks!

Want another pie? I always do. There's Maida's Big Apple Pie, meant to serve 16. And apple always goes nicely with pumpkin. You'd be more than covered. 


Does the recipe listed on the WaPo website really intend to exclude eggs from the batter? I made these cookies over the weekend and there's no way my dough would have held together if I hadn't added in two eggs after the butter/sugar step. The cookies turned out awesome - I just want to make sure I'm making them correctly!

The recipe is correct -- there are no eggs in the dough. Our tester said the dough may have been a little stiff but he had no trouble turning out great cookies with it -- so I'm not sure about the cause of your problem.  However, since yours turned out so well, I guess it doesn't matter!

2 weeks ago, in the food section of the Post, there was a listing of suggested cookbooks. One was supposedly the best book on southern cooking published in a long time. Not sure if it will beat my old copy of Edna Lewis, but do you recall its title or author?

Nathalie Dupree (and co-author Cynthia Graubart) spent years on it: "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking." It's so well researched, and it's also a good read (Nathalie's voice comes through). You'll be glad to have it on your shelf.

Happy holidays, and thanks for hosting the chat! My grandpa loves tea, but he will only use tea bags (he is elderly and can't manipulate small objects, doesn't want the extra steps of cleaning a strainer, etc.). I'd love to get him tea for Christmas, but all the high-quality tea I've come across is loose leaf. Do you know where I might find nice, gift-worthy tea that is already bagged? Thanks!

We were just talking about Tea Forte here the other day. The tea is good and the presentation quite nice. Use the store locator on their site. Looks like a bunch of places around here sell the brand.

I'd recommend Teasim, but they're only showing loose teas on their site. Anyone else have a favorite bagged tea to recommend?

Hi, I'm making cheese fondue for friends on Friday. I've always just prepared bread cubes and apple slices -- are there additional suggestions? I'll probably also have a salad -- what else could I serve? Thanks!

Steamed until crisp/done broccoli or cauliflower florets. Don't overcook them. Then, dust lightly with some dry bread crumbs, so the fondue will cling.


Hi there, How do I figure out the roasting time for turkey parts? I'll be cutting a whole turkey into individual parts and roasting the dark and white meat separately. At what point do I start checking the temperature? Last time I started checking either 1 1/2 or 2 hours, and it was already over cooked. I usually like the stuffing baked in the turkey the best, if I put some under the parts will it be similar?

I would estimate 12-15 minutes per pound for the turkey parts, and would check after an hour, at most.

I don't like the idea of the stuffing under the raw turkey. Instead, once the turkey is finished, and resting, try spooning some of the pan juices over the top of the stuffing (in a baking dish) and zap it under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

Every year, I bake cookies or make desserts to take to my family and my new in-laws. The in-laws are not adventurous, to say the least, so I tend to play it safe. Last year, I did gingerbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate truffles, and meringue cookes. My family loves it all, but the in-laws have so far only eaten my chocolate chip cookies and the sugar cookies from a pouch. I love baking anything and want to please them, but I get tired of the same old stuff that I make year-round. Suggestions for a dessert that's easy to transport (driving 4 hours to see them) and can please my "vanilla" in-laws and my adventurous baking needs?

If they're really traditionalists, that peanut butter chocolate cookie will be perfect. I've got a picky cookie eater in my family, too.

How big of a sin would it be to use a 12-inch stainless steel skillet instead of a carbon steel paella pan? I'd like to try making paella soon. I think my husband would love it, but I can't justify buying another pan for my already over-crowded kitchen.

Absolutely, you can do it. For a 12-inch pan, I'd be tempted to double my recipes, though.

I'm curious what you think of using a duck instead of a goose. Other than serving fewer people, are there major differences? I've done duck instead of turkey for small holiday meals, and I don't recall it being anywhere close to the high price of goose in the article (even proportionally)

The recipe, the technique, all transfer easily from goose to duck. Goose meat is slightly richer, denser, than duck meat. And you're right, duck is less expensive.

Jim, can you use the dripping from the smoked prime rib to make gravy or is the drip pan there just to prevent flare-ups? I know that you are partial to horseradish sauce, but I love my gravy. Just wondering if the smoke gives the drippings an off taste. Alternatively, is there a way to render some of the trimmed fat that can then be used to make the roux?

    The drip is there for three reasons. One, avoid flare-ups (although, truthfully, that's not a big issue, since you're cooking indirect). Two, for easy clean-up (you don't have to scrub the grill). Three, for the juices themselves.

     You may find that you don't get as much juice as you hope; depends on the amount of fat. But I can almost guarantee that, while the prime rib is resting, it will ooze fabulous juice. I have not found it to be too smoky, and have used it as a wonderful jus. But it would make the base to a wonderful gravy, too. 

     Yes, you can use the trimmed fat to make the roux. 


I made a cookie recipe from a usually reliable source, and the cookies spread further and became flatter than the picture indicated. Next batch, made the same way, didn't spread like that. Why?

A few possibilities. Perhaps your flour measurements differed -- a cup scooped at different times can vary in weight by something like an ounce. More likely, I would think, is it had to do with your butter. Was it a recipe you creamed butter with sugar? You have to hit that sweet spot in butter temperature where it's soft enough to incorporate air but cool enough to not melt.

That's just a guess anyway. Let us know if there are any other details so we can refine the diagnosis.

The next two Wednesdays are the day after Christmas and the day after New Years. Will the chat and the Food Section be here those days? Which reminds me to wish you a Soulful Solstice, Contented Christmas, Festive Festivus, and Kool Kwanzaa between now and then.

Yes, we'll be chatting both weeks, as usual. Well, some of us will.

Probably overthinking things but how do you decide on a nice mix of cookies? I tend toward chocolate since I love the stuff but try to be mindful of the nut lovers, the citrus lovers, etc. How do I keep everyone happy without opening a bakery in my kitchen (a lovely problem to have, I guess)? We'll be having and attending a number of parties so would like to have a nice variety. Thank you and merry Christmas!

Think about the types you like: soft, crisp, chocolatey, nutty, fruity, bar cookies, rolled, dropped, etc. And pick from a few categories, going for not just differences in flavor but texture. So, chocolate shortbread (crisp) + oatmeal bacon (soft) + almond buttons (nutty, chewy) + pineapple date squares (soft, fruity) = perfection.

Where do I find Good to Go on the new internet Food section design? Also, Ask Tom (not the chat, but the sidebar to his weekly reviews)? PS--Congrats to the Post for finding an even less user-friendly design than before! Please don't tell me to solve the problem by bookmarking every writer I want to read.

Sorry you're finding the new layout confusing. I think there may be some tweaks coming. Good to Go will always come in on that list of stories. You can see this week's on One Dish Cuisine on there. It wasn't originally labeled as a Good to Go (I just added it), but I'll suggest we consistently work that into to the display headline. Don't have an answer on the "Ask Tom" blurbs -- those are in the Magazine, and right now neither Tom nor I know where they're going online.

Jason, I've ordered the aerator & the wine glasses now I need a suggestion for a great Pinot Noir (or two) for a gfit basket. No clue where to start because i"m more of a white wine drinker, Thanks!

Not sure what your price range is...but I'm guessing you're thinking of domestic pinot noir rather than Burgundy? I had a bottle of Domaine Drouhin 2009 from Oregon (around $30-35) that was really nice. They also have a second label called Cloudline that's around $20. Another budget one from Oregon is A to Z, which sells for around $18. Leaving the U.S., one less-known region I like is Alto Adige, the northernmost part of Italy, which is producing interesting pinot nero (ie pinot noir). For instance, the J. Hofstatter Meczan Pinot Nero is usually found under $20.

I made, and we enjoyed the Zimtsterne cookies. The instructions say to dust the rolling surface with confectioners sugar. I used a tip from Martin Yang for dusting a surface with cornstarch: Put the sugar on some cheesecloth and tie up the bundle. Then pat, pat, pat and your surface and pin are dusted.


Nice! Love that idea.

Not a lot fits in my refrigerator so I tend to leave veggies including cabbage, onions and potatoes on the counter, even after I cut them, for as long as several days. Am I risking any illness, even if I slice off the top layer if it's gotten dry? Not too worried about myself since I'm doing fine so far, but don't want to make my guests sick!

It's best to leave them whole; they last longer that way. I don't think you're causing any food-safety issues by leaving them out for a few days, though, just risking dryness. When they're whole, onions and potatoes should NEVER be refrigerated. They both, like garlic, should be stored in a cool, dry place, preferably with air circulation to prevent any molding or sprouting. Cabbage (again, whole) is traditionally stored in a cool cellar, which would be 50-ish degrees. It'll start to rot sooner if it's at warmer temp, but a few days don't hurt anything.

So leave them out, but cut just enough to cook. That's my two cents.

I got the bright idea (I thought!) to make colored Russian Tea Cakes. I found a hint online, that you can color the powdered sugar by putting the sugar on a sheet of waxed paper and work the color in. Nope, it just clumps. Any other ideas? I thought about coloring the cookies themselves instead. I guess I could just color regular sugar but it's just not the same. Thank you for your help! I've loved all your recipes!

How 'bout the powdered food coloring available on

How can I tweak a cranberry pumpkin muffin recipe so that they don't fall flat out of the oven?

To diagnose, we'd need to see the whole recipe. And get our experts on it.

What is it exactly? I have a sauce recipe that calls for it, but I've never bought it. I assume it's at the liquor store, but I'm not sure if it's a wine, liqueur or spirit. Thanks.

Madiera is somewhere between sherry and vermouth.

Perhaps this is TMI, but...Madeira is a fortified wine that is quite different than sherry, port, or vermouth. It's made on a Portuguese island (Madeira) off the coast of Africa. Lke any fortified wine, neutral spirits are added during fermentation. But what makes Madeira different is that it undergoes what's called an estufagem aging process, in which the wine is aged in cask in hot rooms or the direct sun, sometimes for many years. This is supposed to replicate a long sea voyage through tropical climates, and it introduces some oxidation. Because of the process, Madeira can live a long time, sometimes hundreds of years. The result is a unique wine with flavors and aromas similar to sherry, but often more intense. There are dry Maderias (Sercial or Verdelho) and sweeter styles (Bual or Malvasia). I'm not sure which type the recipe calls for for, but that's something to look out for.

Hope that helps, even if a little geeky.

Hey food folks - I'm making my Christmas dinner menu. Yes, I know I'm late. And I haven't even STARTED on my New Year's Eve menu either! Anyhow, I want to make brussel sprouts. Specifically, the brussel sprouts they make at Zaytinya. They are crispy and have that delicious yogurt sauce. So you have the recipe? How can I make these delicious things?

Too late in the chat to get a recipe from Zaytinya, but as one who loves crispy Brussels sprouts (and now to let my inner copy editor our for a second, note the plural -- they're from Brussels!), the key is a hot oven and a big enough pan so they don't crowd and steam. Cut them into halves or quarters (the latter if they're particularly big), toss with generous olive oil and salt, spread on a big rimmed baking sheet -- more than one if need be -- and roast at 500. You read that right. 500. OK, 450-75 if you can't crank up that high. And roast until they're almost charred in spots. Another, more involved way at it would be to blanch them until crisp-tender, halve or quarter, toss with aforementioned oil/salt, and slide under the broiler.

As for the yogurt sauce, hmm. Lots of ways you could go here, but I'd start with raw garlic, maybe a little za'atar (Middle Eastern spice blend).

How big are they? Saute green pepper, onion and mushrooms, cook bacon and make rolled stuffed steak. Cook in basic tomato sauce and serve with side of spagetti.


I thought there was a study done on wine experts and sommeliers that demonstrated that they were unable to determine terrior from the same varietals in different regions? I've been trying to find it to link you, but it made a splash about 18 months or so ago.

How does one debunk "terroir," which is kind of a philosophical, untranslatable concept to begin with? If you grow the same grape in two different geographic locations, especially in different soils and climates, you will get different results -- that's just basic agriculture.

Baked pasta sounds great. Just wanted to throw out the suggestion for a hearty soup or stew. They could be made a day in advance and (often) gently reheated in a Crock-pot. Get some nice rolls from the bakery and call it a day. Soup often tastes better after it sits anyway, plus the cleanup (bowls and spoons) will also be easy.

Sure, a make-ahead soup or stew would be nice here, too.

How do they attach to stay on? We tried these. Ended up using toothpicks as supports.

Hey, if the toothpicks worked, good for you. But the recipe suggests a firm royal icing.

Meringue Angels

Yes! Reader comments on recipes. None of that "I didn't have X so substituted Y and it was just terrible" or "I hate mushrooms" for a mushroom recipe; but ones that offer insight or helpful hints re: something they've come across or from a slightly different skill level, taste profile, etc. Also, I WOULD pay for content if that's what keeps you all around so fear not.


Keep your eye out for Wasmund's single malt. On a trip to the Inn at Little Washington, we stopped at the Copper Fox Distillery for a tour (fun stuff) and got a bottle of the Wasmund's. My husband, a fall of all things whiskey says it's good stuff.

Ok! Will do!

If you're willing to do a starch with the veggie, a butternut squash risotto would be really good. Otherwise, I'd look at doing high temperature oven roasted veggies with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and rosemary or balsamic vinegar.

Risotto, always a good idea. I love roasted veggies (see previous answer), but I'd put them on bruschetta (see previous answer).

Fry up the meat (which is sold for hotpot) with sliced onions and taco seasonings and use in tacos or burritos. Quickie fajitas!

Get that cast iron sizzling.

Hi Rangers, My husband came home from a holiday party with a plate of food. One item was a (thick!!!) slice from a bundt cake. It was basically white (maybe pale yellow?), with nuts, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. But I swear I tasted cheese in it! It was dense and so moist, even after a night in the fridge (yes, I ate it for breakfast!). It was made by a lovely German lady, but I don't know that it was a German cake. Do you have any idea what it might have been, and even better - a recipe for it?? Thanks!!!

I have just the source for this recipe! It's the German lady who made it. Seriously, if you loved it, your husband should hunt her down and demand it. Can she not be found? Off the top of my head, it's reminding me of this ricotta custard cake I had from Standard Baking in Portland, one of my favorites on the East Coast, and they have a recipe for it in their new cookbook, "Standard Pastries."

Thanks to Cathy for answering my question. I've never heard of grilling romaine - what should I expect if I try it? We're big romaine lettuce fans, so I'm very intrigued.

It's a little bitter, crunchy, with that grilled flavor shining through. Grassy. I think it's one of the more appealing winter recipes for sturdy lettuces (try grilling escarole, frissee, radicchio, too.)  Use a lot of lemon juice or bright vinegar. It will be a good offset to rich meat.

I believe Teasim (or maybe it was Hill's Kitchen or Rodman's. Sorry. Call ahead I guess) has bags for you to make your own teabags. Maybe you could get those and make him teabags from loose tea?

Just a big thank you to all the staff: writers, editors, online producers, and all the many others I'm sure contribute to the wonderful Food section. You really make my Wednesdays, all year long.

Thank you, we're blushing!

Harney & Sons sells wonderful bagged teas with the bonus of coming in really lovely tins that can be saved and reused.

Great, thanks!

How about Watergate Bakery, Stella in Rockville, Flavor in va, Whole Foods maybe.

You can buy ducks fresh or frozen with or without heads and feet at most Asian stores, especially at Great Wall, H Mart, G Mart and Loties. They are cheaper there than at the regular grocery stores. Great Wall also sells cooked ducks and they will cut them up for you if you ask.

Thanks for the suggestions.

I think you're right about the butter. Different brands, but in one case the butter softened overnight in a cool kitchen while in the other case the butter softened only for about an hour and a half.

Aha! Mystery solved.

Hello, I'm making a ham for Christmas dinner, but what sides? I do not want to make a Southern themed dinner and was thinking about making Persian Jeweled Rice. What do you think? What kind of glaze should I use on the ham? Any suggestions for vegetable sides that are a bit fancy and out of the ordinary? Many thanks and Merry Christmas!

I can't think about holiday ham without dreaming of ... scalloped potatoes. Yum. You could fancy them up by using sweet potatoes. In fact, here's a two-potato gratin recipe that fancies them up even more, using a mix of sweets and white.

As for the glaze, this honey-whole-grain-mustard one looks pretty nice.

Other sides? Maybe a nice sauteed Swiss chard

I tend to buy beef by the side or carcass. I always ask the butcher to age at least 21 days. Most beef in the grocery store is only a few days after slaughter. Keeping the beef cold for another 2 weeks should not be a problem. The key is making sure not to temperature abuse the beef. Take a cooler and ice packs with you to the grocery store if you plan on aging the beef. You can dry age as suggested or wet age in the vaccum packing.

Hi, and Happy Holidays! I've been trying very hard to cut down on processed foods, but fruit for fruitcake has me a bit baffled. I know I can go heavier on the dried fruits and the nuts, but I'd love to either find some more natural candied fruits or maybe even try my hand at candying myself. Do you have suggestions for either or both options? Thank you.

Candying your own peel couldn't be easier. We don't have a recipe in our database, but there are plenty online. I've used the one on Epicurious for grapefruit (but using orange and lemon peel instead of grapefruit, so I blanched the peel one less time because it wasn't as bitter).

More everything-about-a-topic pieces like the ones on freezing food and which sauce goes with which pasta. The centerfolds for those were great, too - the pasta one is hanging on the side of my refrigerator. Topics I'd like to see include food safety (should I toss the week-old roast and expired but unopened mustard even though they look okay?) and which oil (corn, peanut, olive, extra-virgin olive, sesame, etc) is best used in what way -- stir-fry, salad, high heat, etc -- with recipes and hopefully brand recommendations.

Yep, I love those graphic stories, too. We'll brainstorm some of the next ones. Bonnie's great at spearheading those. Thanks!

Last time we bought a prime rib roast from our local butcher we discovered that the roast had been cut away from the bones then the whole thing was tied back together. Thoughts? Should I ask them not to do this, especially if we plan to age it for several days before cooking?

    The boneless prime ribs I've bought have been intact, not in parts tied together. Part of the luxury of a boneless prime rib is the gorgeous look of it. For that reason alone, I'd ask the butcher for a whole one, not one in tied-together pieces. 

My significant other insists on buying lots of butter when it is on sale and freezing it to be thawed for cookie marathons. Can butter really be frozen for a month and still do its thing in baked goods?

Yes! Here's what Land O'Lakes says:

Butter can be frozen in its original carton for up to four months from the time of purchase. To protect the delicate flavor of butter, wrap the carton in aluminum foil or in an airtight, resealable plastic freezer food bag before freezing. Once the butter has been thawed, it should be used within 30 days. 

Your great fruitcake issue inspired me to make some fruitcakes. I used the Cheese Board recipe. They're delicious, have no weird green things, and the cookbook says they'll be even better next year if I keep putting on extra cognac and rum. Special note, there is one with the new WP editor's name on it that I'm saving to send him as a "thank you" if he fixes this awful Web site! Hope he likes fruitcake, but I don't have much hopes it will ever happen, so maybe it's a moot point. I was at least glad to hear about the coming paywall. Maybe some of the subscription income can be delegated to making the Web site a real one. And if Mr. Baron doesn't like fruitcake, I'll send cookies.

Send both! Just to be safe.

The Joy of Cooking specifically says to use unsalted butter in all their recipes.

None of my pans has oven-safe handles except a Pyrex casserole dish and a wok. If I cover the pan sooner, do you think stove-top only will work? Or is the Pyrex a better bet?

Rather than doing Pyrex, which you can't put on the stovetop, I'd try skipping the oven step, yes. You may need to sprinkle on a little water on top of the paella if the rice is looking dry, and, yes, you could try covering a little sooner and seeing how that goes. Or you could just spring under $20 and buy a great paella pan from La Tienda, you know.

A searchable database of these chats would be wonderful! Sometimes I want to find, say, a suggestion for a pepper-grinder or a reader-submitted link or recipe but I don't remember what week's chat it appeared in.

That's a good point. We'll add it to the suggestions pile!

using chicken bones from eaten wings for stock??? Please do not ever serve this stock to me

I completely agree with the suggestion that more worthwhile comments make it in, and that "I hate mushrooms" on a mushroom recipe and "I substituted X for Y, and it was horrible" are worthless comments. Let me add one more pet peeve: those who find it necessary to say "Ooooh, this recipe looks wonderful. I'm going to make it." Now if you actually MADE the recipe, that's different, but news that it looks like it might be good and that you'll try it... yeah, no need to share.

I suggest Harney & Sons tins containing 20 tea bags, called "sachets". I get mine at Barnes & Noble, but I think they are also available on line. Nice variety of black, green, and herbal teas.

Recipes from local restaurants. Maybe if it were a regular feature, in the chat or the Food section, restaurants would be more likely to respond when a chatter asks how to make a particular dish at home.

I know scalloped potatoes were mentioned and I can't let this chat end without seconding them to go with ham. My favorite recipe is a sweet and white potato gratin that layers in caramelized onions from The Kitchn.

Well, our goose is cooked! Thanks to all the great questions today, and special thanks to Cathy Barrow, Jim Shahin, Jason Wilson and the Once and Future Boss Joe Yonan for joining us today.


The cookbook winners are the chatter who asked about the Christmas Eve dinner menu (the one with the added engagement!) and the chatter who suggested the Buffalo wing stock. The former will get the "Soup Sisters Cookbook" and the latter will get the "Morocco" cookbook by Jeff Koehler. Please send your contact information to Becky Krystal at


Happy holidays all!

In This Chat
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is the Food section staff writer. Joining him are interim recipe editor Jane Touzalin, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson. Guests: blogger Cathy Barrow; Cooking for One columnist Joe Yonan.
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