The Washington Post

Free Range on Food: Meat and meatless eating; Mexican casseroles; Tamar Adler and more.

Feb 15, 2012

Today's topics: Meat and meatless eating; Mexican casseroles; Tamar Adler and more.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Good afternoon! Too bad Tim Carman's not here today to field your comments on his story about eating meat; he's on assignment. We'll try to cover for him as best we can, and we promise to pass him the nice ones. We do have  Pati Jinich on hand, an official Friend of Food who manages to make casserole history sound delicious. Joe Yonan and Tamar Adler are in the house as well, to persuade you to cook before you store those fresh vegetables.  With Jane Touzalin, Becky Krystal, maybe Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and Spirits guru Jason Wilson (white vermouth, anyone?), that's a full house.

And as if you didn't have enough reason to hang on our every word, two smart chatters will win cookbooks for their participation. Winners will be announced at the end of the hour.  Let's do it.

Is using a slow-cooker to cook dried beans a good option, and are there general guidelines for temperature, soaking and cook times?

It's a fine way to go. Some slow-cooker bean recipes even skip the soaking-overnight step.  There are general guidelines like the ones on LiveStrong's site, but this very specific one on might be just what you need.

I didn't bring to slow-cooker with me to the Maine homestead, but will return to that method of cooking beans when I'm back in DC next year. Not every time, but sometimes. Why? Well, because it's hassle-free. I do think you can overdo beans this way -- but if you overcook them, it's not a big deal because you can just turn them into soup or puree. Crescent Dragonwagon has a spiffy new book out, "Bean By Bean" (Workman), and she says this:

Place the soaked, rinsed beans in a slow-cooker set to high, ad water to cover, and cook, covered, for 1 hour. Turn down to low and let cook slowly till the beans are tender, 6 to 8 hours. Check on the beans every so often, adding liquid if needed.

That last part kind of defeats the purpose of using the SC when you're out of the house, but you get the point.

Here's a recipe for Chickpeas With Sunchokes and Chorizo I included with a cooking-for-one piece on slow cookers awhile back.

I recently decided to try a low carb diet, so I've begun to pay more attention to the nutritional info on the recipes in the food section of WP. My general impression is that there is not much for low carb people in those recipes. (Maybe it was a just an unusual few weeks. Or maybe low recipes are inherently too boring for the food section-- "buy meat, cook it, eat it".) But I thought I'd challenge your resident experts to see if you could help us find a mexican casserole that is suitable for a low carb diet (which probably means: no corn tortillas, no rice, no beans, no sweet corn).

Hi there! You can try an Aztec casserole without the layering tortillas. It would be delicious, just less sturdy, but as it is all assembled and cooked in the pot, the mess would come out in delicious servings on your plate...

You can play with different kinds of vegetables and meats: say zucchini, green beans, onions, mushrooms and meat of your choice, give them a quick saute, bathe them in a salsa verde or roja, top with cream and cheese.

Casseroles let you play that way.

Pati, I love your show! What are your favorite brands of flour and corn tortillas?

Hola!! Thanks so much!! I love working on my show so I am so glad you like it.

When buying both corn and flour tortillas I stay away from those that are packed in the refrigerator. Though they may last longer, they get a plastic feel that I don't enjoy. So go for those that are on the shelves in the Latin aisles. My favorite brand is Mission Foods. They have different kinds and sizes of corn and flour tortillas, they have a great flavor, are soft and great to cook with. And they are pretty accessible, found on most grocery stores and also online.

New question first: Is there some way to save the left-over sugar-salt-pepper mixture that I dredged salmon in (to make gravalax)? I put way too much in the bowl and feel sinful throwing it out. I would like to save it for the next time I make gravalax -- but not if it's dangerous to do so. The related follow-up is this: Last week you suggested I 'phone the packager of vacuum-packed salmon that smelled okay but had defrosted whole a week earlier in the 'fridge, to ask if it could possibly be safe to eat. Your guess was right, the spokesperson told me to throw it out. Of course, that was a lot more wasteful than the sugar-and-salt dilemma I now face, and probably has upped my feeling of guilt over wasting food.

Throw that mixture away. Pronto. Just chalk it up to learning, and move on.

After trying and succeeding at Meatless Monday, I am working on one meatless meal a day.

Seems like an achievable goal.

My husband and I are having a party. I'm making everything, including several desserts and savories. I'd like to make some bacon-and-onion tartlets, but they take about 2-3 intensive hours, what with the rolling out, shaping and blind baking of the tartlet dough. My question is whether I can go ahead and bake the shells a few days ahead and then freeze the baked shells until I'm ready to fill and bake them on party day? I can't imagine why not, but I've never tried it and I'm wary of experimenting on party guests! Thank you very much for your help!

Yes, you can absolutely bake the tartlet shells ahead. Make sure the dough is nice and cold. Droopy tart walls = :( I should think you'd be able to bake them ahead, cool, freeze and reheat, actually. Wouldn't that be nice?

I recently found a recipe for a loaf bread that calls for Saf-yeast. Apparently it's a faster rising yeast or something but I haven't been able to find it locally (Loudoun, VA). Is there an equivalent (Fleischmann's quick rising yeast etc) or do you know where I can find this particular yeast? Thanks!

Yes, SAF is an instant yeast, so I suppose you can sub whatever you find at the store. But for only $5.95 on the King Arthur Flour web site, I'd be tempted to give it a shot. The product reviews rave about it, and I trust KAF enough that they could probably sell me the Brooklyn Bridge.

Hi there, I'm trying to be better about cooking dinner, even if I might not get home til 9 p.m. I'd like to have some cubed tofu ready for a stir-fry, but I'm not sure how to best prep it ahead of time. I'm pretty particular about getting water out of it, so I usually press it for a few hours under a cast-iron skillet before I cut. If I do this a day or two ahead of time and just place the cubes in the fridge, will they stay okay? Maybe I could add a wet paper towel in there to provide some moisture?

Andrea Nguyen, who's just published a very nice book called "Asian Tofu," likes to use a waffle-weave dish towel rather than paper towel for draining.  When she's going to fry tofu, she soaks the cubes beforehand in very hot, salted water beforehand, which firms up the outer surface and lightly seasons it at the same time.

We are hosting a party next month with a wine-tasting theme. Can you suggest 4 or 5 wines to offer? Our budget is modest, and I'd be especially grateful to hear about bargain wines from small wineries or under-recognized regions. Any suggestions for finger foods to pair with the wines would also be welcome!

Wine columnist Dave McIntyre says:

Well, you could take any of my columns, especially the Recession Buster lists of wines under $15 (now we call them Bargain Bottles), and draw from there. Perhaps you could narrow your theme a bit further - say, French wines, perhaps. I would suggest off the top of my head the Clos du Mont Olivet Cotes du Rhone I recommended in December for $15; the Pied de Perdrix (Partridge Foot) from southwestern France; the Simonnet Febve Chardonnay that tastes just like the chablis it really is for a mere $12. And maybe start off with a sparkling wine, such as a Blanquette de Limoux or a Cremant de Loire (Monmousseux is an excellent one)."

Yesterday the New York Times profiled a secret supper club in DC and today they featured three DC-area bars in their smoky cocktails story. Are you going to let them get away with this?!

Why would we care? We wrote about said supper club years ago. And we have covered those DC bars, if not the smoke "trend," too -- and write about plenty of things that they don't ever get to, of course. 

Oh how I love Mexican casseroles, so thank you for the recipes. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for substitutions for the almonds and olives in the tamal cazuela. Nuts are out in my house (severe allergy, though peanuts are okay) and I don't care for olives. I'd normally just leave them out, but thought I'd see whether anyone had some good ideas for other ingredients that might round out the meaty filling for this deliciousness. Perhaps some sort of seed instead of almonds - pepitas maybe?

Hi! Of course we can find other things to substitute. For the crunch of the almonds you can use pumpkin seeds as you say, but give them a light toast before you add them, so they can hold up in the filling and gain a bit more nuttiness. You can also add safflower seeds which are a bit harder, but also toast them before. For both, just use a small skillet over low-med heat and toast until they lightly brown and make popping noises.

As far as the olives, do you like capers? You can add capers instead. Or you can just skip them.

So great to see Joe Yonan on the front page today! Those recipes sound amazing. I'm thinking of making both for an upcoming dinner. For the pasta with chickpeas, what would you think about running an immersion blender through the sauce to smooth it out instead of just stirring it? Also, is Tuscan kale easy to find? Usually I just see "kale" at the store without a type specified. What makes that kind special?

Thanks! Glad you liked the piece and the recipes -- credit goes to Tamar for her thoughtful, beautiful book, really. Tamar should weigh in here, too, but I think the beauty of the sauce in the Chickpea Pasta is that some of it is smooth and some of it is chunky. As for the Tuscan kale question, it's sometimes labeled Lacinato kale or dinosaur kale. I find it more delicate in texture and sweeter than some of the sturdier, curly kale, but, honestly, I like all kale!

Hi! Those are from my book, which Joe did such a beautiful reading of. An immersion blender would do a great job on the sauce, for one. 

When it comes to Tuscan kale, it's a little harder to grow--a little more finicky--so often you'll find the other sorts more often on shelves. Any sort of kale, or any turnip or collard green works great in the gratin, or any other greens preparation in the book or in other books.

I soak overnight, put on to cook when I get up to get ready in the morning, and then put the whole pot in the fridge as I'm walking out the door. Beans don't require much attention, just time.

I tried this slow-cooker Rachael Ray Magazine recipe this weekend and it turned out terribly. I really want to write to Ms. Ray and tell her that this recipe turned out NOTHING like her picture, but first I want some back up. :) It called for cooking 4 lbs of pork spare ribs on low for 5 to 5.5 hours. When my timer went off, the ribs were tough and undercooked. So I let them cook for an additional 2.5 hours. They were better but not as described. So, any ideas what went wrong? Here's the link to the recipe. Any help is greatly appreciated! :)

Hmm. Well, I see some obvious things I'd do differently in that recipe. I'd brown the ribs first, to get them caramelized, rather than just dump everything in the slow cooker. And I'd saute the scallions, garlic and ginger first, too. In looking around quickly, I see lots of slow-cooker spare rib recipes that call for much longer cooking than this one, too. The other thing to keep in mind is that different slow-cookers do operate differently -- newer ones run much hotter than older ones, so if yours is older, and she calls for low heat, that's not going to do nearly what it would do if her testers were assuming you had a new cooker. 

Just a few thoughts.

The joys of CSA membership: I have baby bok choy in my box for at least the 7th week in a row. There was a time when I thought I could happily eat it forever stir-fried with garlic and chili pepper, but it turns out I can't. I've thought about adding it to a miso soup, but I'd appreciate any other suggestions.

Our recipe database has a dozen suggestions for you, including this one for Whole Poached Chicken With Lemon Grass and Bok Choy that ran with Bonnie's Book Report from last week.

Whole Poached Chicken With Lemon Grass and Bok Choy

Why is fennel sold with the stalks attached? Is there a culinary use for them? I never see recipes calling for anything other than the bulb part. Sure would be a lot easier to bag them at the grocery store if these were already removed like most other vegetables sold there.

My pal Bob Schueller of Melissa's Produce says it's for the sake of freshness. The fennel bulb will have a longer shelf life when it's got the stem still attached.  Of course, cooks like to use the fronds (a freebie herb, sort of ) and sometimes even the stalks for making stocks/broth. Stalks can be dried, too, and tossed on a fire as aromatics. Of course, Jacques Pepin, a chef who wastes nothing in the kitchen (our hero), chops up the stalks and works them into recipes.

I hope the fennel question asker is still here. The stalks of fennel are incredibly useful and delicious. So are the feathery leaves. Probably nothing does more for any braised meat, or stew, or pot of beans than a few whole stalks of fennel. The little leaves can be roughly chopped and used wherever parsley is. They are especially good on pasta!

Hi, Is there a way to see a list of all the Dinner in Minutes over the years? Would be so helpful in planning quick dinners. The recipe search's "Fast" button includes too many random options like sauces and desserts to be as helpful. Thanks.

Just search for "Dinner in Minutes" here. You'll get a lot of results, though! Be sure not to use the quotation marks in your actual search. That does not make the database happy.

That link will get you a mere 220 of the recipes, but we've got years' worth of Dinner Tonight recipes that remain in deep archives, so if you don't find what you're after, let us know and we'll track it down and get it online.

Jim Shahin, are there any particular barbecue sauces you'd recommend for beginners, either commercial or recipes?

Jeez, bigger question than you might think. Doesn't really matter that much if you are a beginner. Matters more what your taste is. 

There are lots of good commercial sauces on the market, including some made right here in the DC area, such as those by Rocklands and Pork Barrel BBQ. 

Nationally, Gates from Kansas City makes a great sauce. So does Stubb's, from Texas. 

There are traditional red sauces, South Carolina-style musard sauces, vinegar0and-pepper sauces. Way too many to go into. My suggestion: experiment. 

As for recipes, we've run several here at the Post, including winners from our BBQ Sauce Contest last year. You might just take a looksee in the Post recipe archive.

I made a wonderful cake yesterday with a whipped cream-based frosting. The problem was cutting into the cake. Even with my serrated knife, icing would squirt out the sides, presumably because it was too light to handle the pressure of the knife on the layers as I made the cuts. Is there a way to mitigate this? Would an electric knife work, or are we doomed to watch our frosting migrate?

What else besides whipped cream is in your frosting? I'd say you need a firmer frosting, especially for the filling part. If it's not already in there, I like to use cream cheese in things like strawberry cream cake. The Cook's Illustrated recipe for that, which I like, calls for 8 ounces of cream cheese for 2 cups of whipped cream (plus sugar and vanilla). That will keep it firmer. You'll get some squishing, but not squirting, I don't think -- which sounds kind of dangerous (and kind of fun).

I need to make a dessert for a Mardi Gras party. Someone else is already doing the king cake. I'd prefer finger food - cookies, tarts, etc. Any suggestions?

How about Coffee and Chicory Pralines from New Orleans native and Bayou Bakery proprietor David Guas?

Coffee and Chicory Pralines

Hey guys, thanks so much for introducing us to An Everlasting Meal! It sounds right up my alley and I will definitely check it out. It also reminded me a little bit of this new (or maybe just new to me?) trend I've been seeing of preparing a month's worth of dinners in one day. I like the idea of it, but then the actual meals I've seen haven't sounded too appetizing (they seem to come from the people addicted to canned soups) and in reality, there's still work that has to be done for each meal once you need to cook it. I was wondering what Ms. Adler thought about them and if she had her own spin on them. Maybe not even a month's worth of cooking (which just seems silly to me - I have no idea what food I'll be in the mood for three weeks from now!) but just the whole idea of batch cooking. Thanks!

I do. I'm so glad you're asking these questions: I don't recommend cooking a whole bunch of meals at once, or even a big pot of chili at the beginning of the wek, because of exactly what you said: it feels glum, and like punishment to eat the same chili day in- and day-out. Rather, I recommend cooking a big pot of good plain beans, with lots of herbs and olive oil, roasting a whole chicken, boiling some good potatoes. Then, one night, you can quickly dot a little pan of beans with bread crumbs for a bean gratin, and then another puree some with more olive oil into a bean topping for toasted bread. Then the potatoes can be a salad one night, a puree themselves another, and so on. It's about making components and then mixing and matching, which is actually how a lot of the very best restaurant cooking is done!

I made slow-cooker beef barbacoa over the weekend and ended up with lots of extra sauce/juice. I froze it, but I'm wondering if you have any ideas on how I might use it? It's brothy in consistency and flavored with chipotles, garlic, cilantro and lime. I froze about a quart.

That sounds like a most delicious broth!! You can do lots of things with it:

-Try a Caldo Tlalpeño style soup, and simmer some cut green beans, carrots, potatoes, cooked garbanzo beans. Place lime, chopped cilantro and onion at the table for garnish.

-Another kind of soup, is to add cooked rice or pasta in it along with same garnishes as above, and a side of warm corn tortillas.

-You can also use that same exact broth to cook cous cous, or rice, or pasta and garnish with shredded cheese.

-what my mom used to do with tasty broths like that was just heat it until very hot and serve it in a big mug, squeeze some lime juice on it, and sip it up!


my preference is for meat"free" dining, not meat"less" which has a connotation of lacking something. Which is partly true, as it is lacking the death of animals... So, some meatFree dining please!

A someone who is working on a cookbook on this topic, I'll go you one better: Why not just say vegetable-focused, or veggie, or veggie-centric, dining? Why reference meat at all? If you're going to accentuate the positive, start talking about what you love to eat, not what you love to NOT eat. Know what I mean?

I agree w/Joe. Whenever I see the Living Without mags at the checkout stand, my mind makes a :( face.

Hi there, just got my Food & Wine in the mail, and Johnny Monis shared his recipes for wild boar, goat and other lean meats. So...where oh where do you find such exotic cuts of meat in DC? And if you can't, could you suggest what to substitute? Thanks!

It would help to know where you live. But if you're anywhere near McLean, the Organic Butcher usually has boar, according to owner Don Roden. You can pretty much always find wild boar racks, shoulder, tenderloin and sausage. As for goat, they might have some frozen, but they can get it fresh if you order about two weeks in advance. Right now they also have antelope and venison. If that's not convenient to you, write back and I can probably find it somewhere else.

At least, the TJ's in the Boston area carry SAF yeast - but ONLY IN THE WINTER. They claim it's "seasonal." ??

Yes, it is wonderful. Works better and more reliably for me than others. They have TWO types: SAF red is a standard instant-active formulation. Comparable but bettet than other instant-actives. SAF Gold is the really special one. It is "osmotolerant" which means that it works better with sourdough and sweet doughs than the regular kind. I use them both, and swear by SAF Gold for sweet yeast doughs especially. La Cuisine in Alexandria sells Lallemand instant active yeast, which is pretty good too. But not equivalent to the SAF Gold. also sells SAF yeast. They have a lot of good stuff there that is unavailable elsewhere.

Though it is a little more labor intensive, the chatter looking to prep tofu ahead of time could use the WP's recipe for baked marinated tofu. The make-ahead instructions say that the cubed tofu in a marinade can be kept the fridge for a day, the baked tofu up to a week.

As source of said recipe, I agree. Thanks for the link!

Is the Food section safe from the cost-cutting at the Post? If not, would some emails, 'phone calls, etcetera from your many loyal followers be of help?

E-mails always help -- particularly the positive ones! I think we're good for now, and we appreciate your concern.

oh boy, i bet this chat will be supercharged with varying opinions on the morality of eating meat....i'm preparing myself for some emotional discussions! i am personally an omnivore who dabbled in vegetarianism and has now come back to an "everything in moderation" philosophy. i am aware of how eating all foods affects my digestion, mood, and overall health and have made changes accordingly. i only eat meat 1-2 times a week, and make sure that when I DO indulge, it is the most organic/humanely raised piece of meat that i can afford. and meat is no longer the focus of my meal, but more of an enhancement or side dish to the other vegetables/soups/salads/etc that i might be eating.

I'm with you. I've found myself cooking less and less meat at home, partly to make up, healthwise, for the fact that I eat indulgent restaurant meals. I've found myself losing my taste for big portions of meat in the process. And yes -- I haven't bought meat from a source other than a farm in I don't know how long.

All that is why I pitched to my publisher a cooking-for-one book focused on vegetables. At this point, the plan isn't for it to be vegetarian, but to be vegetable-centric, with meat accents here and there (and options for leaving them out -- and for veganizing for those who want to).

I just wanted to thank Joe for his article on Tamar Adler. I watched a web video of Tamar cooking a week's worth of vegetables in one weekend and it really opened up my eyes about how to get more veg in my family's diet. I get a weekly green box and frankly some of it used to go to waste. Now I take a little bit of time on the weekend to roast broccoli and beets and other vegetables, shred some carrots for use later in the week, and wash my spinach and lettuce and store it properly. It's amazing how much more appealing cauliflower is on a Wednesday night if it has already been roasted with garlic and olive oil! I am not a singleton but a working mom, but I have the same challenges as everyone in trying to eat better. Also, in the video Tamar Adler stores all her marvelous roast veggies in jars in the fridge, which is such a great solution if you're trying to stay away from plastic.

Hi! Tamar here. Someone at the writers' space where I work observed the little glass jar of braised pork I brought in last week and asked if it was chutney. When I answered that it was turnips he asked "in glass?" and I responded that I found it so much more enticing to find jars, transparent and pretty. A little lightbulb went off for him, and he said "ahhh." I do think that part is helpful.

I'm also so glad the cooking batches of vegetables is working for you. It saves me every week.

I love Tim Carman's writing, but articles like the meat/meatless one today make me sad. Why is it always framed as a war between veg- and non-? I realize that defenses are high when it comes to something personal like food choices, but articles like this only further the us-vs-them mindset, which helps no one. McDonalds quotes represent the meat eaters and PETA the vegetarians? Really?! I am not a vegetarian, but I eat veg in most restaurants since I don't eat factory-farmed meat. So had I taken either of those polls cited in the article, I might have been a vegetarian in one and a carnivore in the other. I suspect (and the research cited seems to agree) that most people are somewhere in the middle, and for myriad reasons. I have no problems with anyone else's diet choices, but I do have a problem with the extremist agendas pushed by both PETA and the American Meat Institute and wish other sources had been a part of this article.

You seem to have missed the quotes from thoughtful meat-eaters such as Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle.

One of the stands at the Silver Spring farmers market on Saturday mornings has goat. It's good and they give you recipes. Also, try halal butchers who always seem to have it. I'll never forget sharing an open taxi in New Delhi the day before Eid with a goat...which probably had a short future lifespan.

Goat's not so hard to find around Washington: farmers markets, halal shops as you suggest, Eastern Market.  Is the stand you're talking about Painted Hand?

I have a leftover grilled lobster tail from Monday night. Think it will still be good if I use it for lunch on Thursday? (scrambled eggs with lobster and mascarponeO

You're right on the edge...guess I'd run the seafood passed the smell test. I guess if you froze it today you might compromise the texture. But you'd eliminate any concerns and it's all going into eggs anyway, right?

If it smells and tastes good it is certainly good, and I would say that there's almost nothing that can't be perked up with a little vinaigrette. While something creamy like mascarpone and/or eggs will be lovely if it smells and taste perfect, if it's on the edge, make a little mustardy, herby vinaigrette and marinate the lobster in it, then serve it with boiled potatoes and more herbs. It will be great.

I realize this is off topic, but...I made some cinnamon yeast rolls recently and froze a pan before the rising stage. I thought I'd be able to take them out of the freezer, watch them slowly rise and bake as if I had just made them. They didn't rise at all. Did the stay in the freezer kill them? How should I go about this next time. Thanks.

I have made the same process but instead of freezing the dough, I've refrigerated it. It is less harsh than the freezer and works out beautifully. It slows down the rising process to the point where it almost stops, but it doesn't let it stop! Which can be harder to control in the freezer if the dough is not super sealed. Also make sure that it is tightly covered.

At the grocery store I always see what looks to me to be fennel, but it is labeled anise. Are they the same? If not, what are the differences and can they be used interchangeably? Thanks.

Hello! They're in the same family, and often labeled as each other. Yes, they can be used interchangeably. Taste what you have so that you know whether it's a different varietal--it may be Florence fennel, or Bronze fennel, and then you can adjust the amount of it that you use--less if it tastes very strong, more if mild. But use away!

One difference is that fennel is commercially grown. Anise isn't (or so says my pal Bob Schueller).

This might not be to everyone's taste, but I like to cube tofu, then toss them with a little bit of oil and roast the cubes. The cubes wind up lightly browned on the outside and chewy (but that's a function of how long they're roasted) and the water cooks out. They get a meaty texture that seems like it would hold up better in cooking. Confession, I like my tofu chewies plain. :-)

Just wanted to let you know that the amazing Sesame Thins cookie recipe you ran a few years ago in the Christmas Cookie article works as gluten-free. There are only 3 TBs of flour, and the recipe works fine if you substitute a mix of GF flours. I used rice, tapioca and millet flours, and got excellent results.

Love these cookies. Thanks for the tip!

The one to express support for the Food Section (and this chat and AYCE). To the publisher, or who?

The publisher, the executive editor, letters to the editor....all good.

Someone must grow it somewhere, otherwise where would all the aniseed in grocery stores come from. Aniseed looks and tastes different from fennel seed.

Surprised me as well, but I think Bob's an expert on this stuff. I'm sure he's referring to large commercial ops, not small-scale vendors.

My boyfriend and I are actually having a Valentine's dinner tonight because he had a major due date yesterday, and I've just decided to make pots de creme for dessert. I've never made them before, and have come across 2 major methods, one using a water bath and one using a blender. Is there a significant difference in the results based on the method? I don't own ramekins - if I go the water bath in the oven route, is it possible to use a small Pyrex baking dish instead and then scoop the custard into wine glasses after it's set and chilled, or would the size of the dish throw off the setting process and I should use the blender method instead? Thanks so much, I'm not a dessert maker by any means and appreciate your help in making my evening special!

If you have any small, oven safe containers, it would be good to use them and the water bath method. Is that an option?

Not really a question, just more of a have you had it before? Do you enjoy it? Favorite recipe?

I believe that's three questions, in fact! ;-) I have to say, you sent me to Google with this one. I wasn't sure at first glance whether the popcorn was in the Jell-O or the Jell-O was on the popcorn! Turns out it's the latter, for those of you not in the know (as I was just a few minutes ago). 

Most recipes seem to call for butter, a sweetener (honey, corn syrup, sugar) and the Jell-O packet, melted/dissolved, poured over popcorn. Since I'm not too keen on ingredients like adipic acid, disodium phosphate, sodium citrate and Blue 1 on my popcorn, I'd be tempted to remake this with stuff that's closer to natural, like a combination of gelatin, freeze-dried fruit (pulverized to a powder) and sugar.

What section of a grocery store would I find demi glace in? I want to make the Anthony Bourdain boeuf bourgignon, and the first time I tried it, I didn't use demi glace and was a bit underwhelmed, so I'm hoping that will make the difference. I went to whole foods and the guy stocking shelves looked at me blankly when I asked if they had it and thought I should try barbecue sauce instead. Or do I need to go to a specialty store?

We've seen it in the refrigerated and freezer sections, but those little flat pods of demi-glace (Demi-Glace Gold brand) are often on the soup aisle. Also, look for D'Artagnan brand demi-glace right where that brands meats are displayed. Balducci's carries demi-glace; think I've even seen them at the big Westbard Giant in Bethesda.

Why did the article take such a negative tone when supposedly trying to present a debate objectively? Using an illustration of a cow with very non bovine features and certain phrases such as "pumping animals full of antibiotics" shows a clear bias.

I'm finding reactions to the cow illustration most surprising! It's a cow, with vegetable-shaped spots instead of that breed's standard markings.  It's neither neg nor pos...just trying to show a personal conflict. The "pumping" language echoes arguments made on one side of this particular fence.

I have seen, but not tried, a recipe for pesto made with fennel fronds.

Tim, great article. I tried a vegetarian diet out of frustration with the way meat is produced not because of my disdain of meat. Aside from animal welfare, CAFOs are gross. I didn't want to eat flesh from animals who spent their lives standing in their own poo. Polyface was great but a pain to pick up (Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m.--perfect for stay-at-home moms, but not me!) I am now vegan and feel so much happier. Jason, I took your advice and tried club soda with the apple ginger vodka (it's still gross!). I've also learned that I'm not fond of tonic water and drink gin with club soda. I bought a bunch of mini-bottles to sample and like Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire best. Are there other brands similar to those in taste? I didn't like those labeled "extra dry".

Thanks -- I'll address the non-cocktail part of your comments.

You represent one important piece of the movement toward less meat eating. I will say, though, that it's certainly possible to eat meat that is produced humanely. You can decide to eat less meat and eat better meat. But there's nothing wrong with deciding to eat none at all.

What to do with leftover herbs purchased for soups and stuffing and such? Do they freeze? How long do they last in the fridge in an air-tight container?

Great questions. I deal with this a lot in my book, An Everlasting Meal. Herbs keep for much longer than we think, and especially long if they're stored very dry, in single layers, with paper towels between them, in an airtight situation. It sounds like a pain, but it's really not, given that it allows you to keep all the money you spent on useful, beautiful herbs from going down the drain. They can store easily for over a month. Which ones do you have? 

Also, I wrote a piece on what to do with herb stems here:

One thing I do with extra herbs, especially basil, is make this paste (sort of like a pesto without the nuts or cheese). Freezes great, and you can break off pieces to throw into sauces/etc.

I bought something called ajenjo or wormwood in the herb and spice section of a Hispanic grocery in Mt. Pleasant, but some websites say it's not edible. Pati Jinich, do you have any recipes that use ajenjo, or do you know of any rituals where it's used in a non-food way? Muchas gracias.

Yes! In Mexico we call it Hoja Santa and I just wrote a post about it yesterday. It is edible and Mexicans have eaten it for centuries! It's just that it should be consumed in small quantities because it has the same kind of oil as sassafras.

Hoja santa has a very unique flavor, aromatic, fragrant, a bit like anise, a bit like black peppercorns. It is used for flavoring stews, soups, all sorts of dishes and also as an edible wrapper for tamales. It is used fresh and dried.

Just like the epazote herb, it is used in small quantities and as such, is harmless and DELICIOUS.

Here's a recipe for you.


Beware. Commercially produced demi-glace is often disappointing.

Or at least very salty. All it takes is our time at home, right?

If you don't mind telling, where do you purchase your ingredients? I recently bought some jalapenos (because there were no serranos) at the local supermarket, and they're as mild as bell peppers! Plus, someone was complaining here recently about tasteless cilantro. Do you run into those problems too, or have you found a store or stores that always have good quality? Grateful for the information!

Your comment is making me laugh so hard because it is so true!!! I have ran into really mild jalapeños and the mildest of cilantro. What I have done in the months when it is possible: I grow my own! I buy the seeds and plant them in my backyard and I was fully stocked for almost 10 months last year. They are very easy to take care off, you have to practically do nothing.

I tend to go to Panam International on Parkwood and 14th st NW to get my load of Mexican ingredients. It is a very small store (that plays great music as you shop too!) and has fresh ingredients delivered almost everyday. And chiles tend to be as spicy and as full of flavor as they should, because the custmoers that go to that store demand it (!)

It is true that imgredients change their flavor depending on where they are grown. So the same seed in the soil in my backyard may turn out tasting differently than the one in my sister's backyard in Miami (soil, weather, water...)

Pati, I love your recipes in the Post and at your blog. The make it, freeze it, take it article today was perfect for someone in the last stages of pregnancy who may have time to squeeze in one or two more freezer meals before delivery. My only concern is that many of your main dish recipes that I've tried or looked into call for a lot of fresh tomatoes or tomatillos which are off-season now or dried peppers which seem to be fairly expensive. Is there a way I can work around these issues?

Yes you can!! (and thank you for your lovely comments!) Buy your dried chiles in a Latin or international store and not in a high end store. Dried chiles are insanely cheap if you know where to get them. Here in DC I go to Panam International on 14th st NW and Parkwood and pay less than $2 for like 50 ancho chiles, for example (Shoppers also too...). Less than $2 for a bag with more than 100 chiles de arbol... 

As far as the recipes that use fresh tomatoes, just substitute with whole canned! Just rinse out before you use them. Tomatillos are around these days in most grocery stores and also year round, but again, I recommend finding an international store that sells these kinds of ingredients at a much friendlier price.

And yes, you are so right, I think casseroles are perfect for someone in the last stages of pregnancy. Or to make ahead for any reason....

Pati Jinich, If this might cause trouble, do not answer! But I wonder what you mean when you write, "The Americans in the group (though they consider themselves Latin)..."

It is an inside joke with our friends. All in good spirit. The group started out with some Latin families, and as American friends joined along we just joked and joked that they were Latins too...

About this delicious sounding casserole, what is the texture of the dough on the bottom after it bakes? I'd like to make it tonight, but I don't know if I can find the right dried chilis. Would chili powder be ok? And a non-related tip: To weight spaghetti, tare a jar and place the pasta in it.

The texture of the dough before it is cooked, it is like a traditional fluffy cake batter... After it is cooked it hardens a bit, especially on the top and the sides. So it would resemble corn bread a bit... but soft, and more packed...

If you are in DC, you can get the dried chiles in Panam International, Shoppers.. I am pretty sure Whole Foods carries them too (though more expensive...). No chili powder wouldn't work because in this case the chiles are used in their entirety, they are not really spicy and what makes the thickness and body of the sauce are the chiles themselves. After they are cooked, they plump up and get a lot of body, so in this case you do need them... unless you added some tomatoes in there too...

I know that you can't thaw meat and then freeze it again. Saturday, I made mandu and thawed my extra wonton wrappers. It's kind of a moot question now, but could I have frozen the wrappers I ended up not using again?

Yeah, I think with those wrappers it wouldn't be too big a deal. You might need to put something in between them (plastic, or parchment) to keep them from sticking, I suppose. Hmm...

loved your article on Tamar Adler's new book and tips. After years of finding myself throwing out almost the entire crisper drawer, I have been using my shopping day as my cooking day. I plan (roughly) what types of things my family would like to eat that week, shop accordingly, and then come home and either cook the full dish, or a part of it that can be finished off before eating. my faves? buying a bunch of onions or peppers and dicing them all at once. then i put them in quart size freezer bags and freeze. then, whenever i need diced onion, i just pop one out of the freezer and into the pan! huge timesaver! i also love cooking up a big bunch of greens and then using them throughout the week as pizza toppers, stirred into soups, or as a side dish. same goes with grains.......quinoa gets cooked up in a big batch and then made into "fried rice" one day, stuffed into peppers the next, and fried up into croquettes no the last day. it's fun to come up with new ways to use ingredients......and now my crisper drawer is almost never full anymore :) plus, it's alot faster (and tastier) than take-out!! :)

Tamar here. The onions and peppers sound delicious. I thought I'd pass this along, too, since you are a fellow appreaciator of the wonders of food that's alloweed to settle into itself a bit. Olive oil braising vegetables is just as easy as roasting them. I wrote an article about it for the current issue of Fine Cooking. They're great made ahead and can be sauce, side dish, topping, or ingredient.

FYI - Safeway sells their own brand of tofu already cubed, and it is on sale a lot! The package is smaller than the uncubed one for the same price, but since you just have to drain it in the colander and then can use it almost immediately the convenience is worth it. And being a single person, the smaller package is actually something I can use up without getiing tired of having to eat tofu non-stop before it goes bad.

Interesting -- I like the idea of the smaller package, but not sure why they would pre-cube it. That's not a time-consuming step, after all...

For packaged chips, I find a brand called Herr has the most authentic taste. Unfortunately, not many stores carry them.

I have never tried that one! Will be sure to look out for them...

i always use dried beans, and cook them up in my pressure cooker...same goes with lentils. is there a benefit to soaking them first? or is that just for stovetop cooking?

Seems that the only thing you accomplish by soaking them first, is to reduce the time of cooking, from anywhere to 1/4 to 1/3 less time. The thing with soaking, is that if you soak beans or lentils to long, they may ferment. If so, nothing happens yo you, but your dish will have a fermented flavor (like Chinese beans which are meant to have that flavor..., not great for Mexican, Latin or Mediterranean takes though).

Cooking them in the pressure cookes is the fastest way to go!! You really don't need to soak, just give them a good rinse before.

Lentils never need to be soaked, which is a truly wondeful quality about them--they are as easy to make as pasta.

Other dried beans do benefit from soaking overnight. I cook mine in a pot, not a slow cooker, but it really it just a question of giving them a chance to rehydrate slowly. The great thing is that beans are so good made a few days ahead that you can just soak them whenever you think of it, cook them the next day, then get home hungry one night and realize: Aha! Thank god I made those beautiful beans.

Thanks to both Joe and Tamar for another great article that is of help to those of us who cook for one often. My job often results in me going a few days without being able to cook again; while I try to cook a bigger meal and use the leftovers when I have the chance, I find that things will sometimes tend to spoil. Any tips for ingredients/foods that tend to have more staying power to be reused later on?

Yes, yes, yes! I completely understand. Two things I recommend are cooking individual elements of meals, like I do in this video

And also cooking your elements with one of two things in mind--or even both: olive oil and vinegar. When you make a batch of quickly pickled vegetables, whether onions or beets, they last longer becuase of vinegar's preservative quality. When you either cook something in a good deal of olive oil, or toss it with some olive oil before storing it away, you similarly slow its going bad--and actually it improves a little, as it gets to suck in some of the good oil. If that sounds unhealthy, rememember that if you've cooked something in good oil, or dress it with some, you won't need to add any other fat to your meal, and won't feel a yearning to stop at a burger joint instead of eating your lovely, oily kale for lunch tomorrow.

Are any of the "national brand" cab-sauv worthwhile? I am going to ask our local wine guy for a $20-ish recommendation, but thought I'd ask you too. Trying to make something a bit special for hubs b'day tonight, working around the need for me to eat only soft/pureed foods (sounds appetizing, huh?-)

Dave McIntyre says:

I just had a really nice cab from Argentina called Angulo Innocenti that comes in right at $20, but might be hard to find. Of the national brands, I suggest the Beringer Knights Valley.

He adds, "Chateau Ste Michelle would be another good one."

I am newly widowed. My late husband and I loved to cook and to try new recipes. I am finding cooking for one a bit of a challenge, but great therapy. Besides Ms. Adler's and Joe Yonan's books, any suggestions for books or websites that aren't just for college kids and young singles? By the way, I make Joe's Brussel Sprouts, Rice and Corn Soup about twice a week (sometimes using brown rice and bok choy). It's great comfort food.

Do you have Judith Jones' lovely "The Pleasures of Cooking for One"? That's a good one, and seems like it might be right up your alley. There's also Joyce Goldstein's "Solo Suppers," which I think you'd like, too. And glad you are into that soup (below)! Appreciate it.

Hi. I don't have great website recommendations, but I do recommend the approach Joe mentions in his column, and that my book lays out. Here is also a video of how to do it with vegetables. I cook for myself, though guests rotate in and through, and find that I always am within a few minutes of a wonderful meal when I cook elements ahead. And that fact--of its ease, seems to give me the room to make little creative decisions and elaborations that I otherwise might not, if I had to deal with all the emotional and mental energy of starting from square one--so suddenly I end up adding a little preserved lemon to the chicken pan, or thinking that a touch of cinnamon would be nice in the coconut milk. I know that's a touch digressive!

The end has come for our Krups stick blender handed down from family (who never used it) +/- 15 years ago. Any brand recommendations to look for or avoid? Or features? Thanks

I love my Braun Multiquick. It's powerful, has multiple speeds and came with a ton of attachments, most of which, I confess, I never use. But I like having them around, just in case! Bonnie Benwick, sitting next to me, calls out that she loves her Cuisinart. In 2008, we tested immersion blenders and the Hamilton Beach Hand Blender came out on top, followed by the Bamix Mono. But models change from year to year, so take that with a grain of salt. Maybe other chatters can recommend their faves.


Hello! I was wondering if you have any suggestions for canning classes in the area. I'm especially interested in a class that focuses on summer fruits and making preserves, syrups, etc. Thanks so much!

Friend of Food Cathy Barrow will be teaching several canning classes this year. And Susan Holt over at Culinaerie said there's a good chance they'll have something on their schedule too.

Thanks for the recipe ideas, Joe! I saw the kale and chickpea recipes on the Web site yesterday and that inspired me to make myself a delicious solo meal yesterday. I didn't manage to actually follow either recipe, but wound up with spicy kale (braised your style) and chickpeas on polenta (made in the rice cooker). If you're willing to take credit for it, I'm definitely giving it to you!

I will take ALL credit, even though it seems like I don't really deserve it. Actually, I'm glad to inspire in whatever way works. Thanks...

Good job with the recipes, Joe! (This is Tamar, good naturedly razzing Joe, who knows I don't believe credit for recipes exists.) 

I'm glad you made kale and chickpeas, and this is all making me hungry.


I've been having some serious grapefruit cravings - something light / summery to help cure my winter blues. Any suggestions for delicious cocktails using fresh grapefruit juice? Not a huge vodka fan...

In honor of today's Mexican theme, how about a Paloma? Fantastic, with tequila and lime. Or one of my all-time favorite drinks: the Antibes (below), with Benedictine and gin. It's a new summer classic for me, but what the heck -- pretend it's summer and enjoy.

I must take advantage of this too-rare opportunity to pose a question to Sra. Jinich, to ask if she has any Seder recipes with a Mexican flavor. Any that are spicy would be especially appreciated. If not today, maybe she can send you some to publish closer to the date.

Hahaha!! I love eso de Sra Jinich and it will be my pleasure. Try my matzoh ball soup with jalapeños and mushrooms.

Or chicken with apricots, tamarind and chipotle

This brisket is unique.

I rarely cook meat (though I leave eating it out at restaurants), so when my eyes caught a stack of packaged pork bellies in passing at Whole Foods yesterday, I was pretty astounded. It just hadn't occurred to me that non-pros could obtain it so easily and more importantly, so cheaply! Any suggestions for preparation for dinner tonight? I searched the Recipe Finder, but I'm not in the mood for an Asian take or to have it ground up. Thanks!

Hello! It's so funny, because when I opened a restaurant in Georgia in 2004: The man from whom we bought pigs couldn't give away the bellies. I bought them and braised them, and roasted them, just like every fancy restaurant does now, and diners were perplexed. Intrigued but perplexed. Pigs' middles--which are turned into bacon and sausage, normally, make up so much of their body that it's an incredibly economical cut. And so easy to cook. So, for ideas: first you can substitute belly for shoulder roast in any recipe you read. Any, any recipe: milk-braised, persimmon braised, wine braised. Second, my favorite thing to do with belly is in my book, An Everlasting Meal, but it's originally from Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall's book, the River Cottage Meat book. It's very simply scoring the skin, rubbing with herbs and garlic, and roasting in a medium-low oven. It's also super easy to make your own bacon. Just brine the pieces in sweet and salt water for 2 nights, then follow instructions for making a little, simply stovetop smoker. It doesn't even take any special equipment. 

I am absolutely delighted that you are in Maine living close to the land. I am doing the same thing and I find it immensely gratifying. As I sit here typing, my chickens are scratching & pecking outside my window and I am looking forward to harvesting turnips, radishes, herbs and greens from my cold frame. I hope you are enjoying the lifestyle, too.

I'm loving it. Are you in Maine, too? I'm finding it so invigorating to do physical work -- and to learn about things I didn't really know that much about. We have onions coming up in their little trays inside, to be transplanted soon, and I can hear the runner ducks quacking and the chickens rustling around. My third-floor window has views of mainly trees, trees, trees.

are the green tops of carrots edible? my CSA just delivered a gorgeous bunch of carrots with the tops still on them, and i hate to just throw them out. should i just add them to my green smoothie in the morning, or is there a more delicious option?

You know, I am the ultimate user of all things oft discarded (a lot of the everlastingness in my book, An Everlasting Meal, refers to the fact that meals do keep going and going when you can use all your delicious trimmings and tops and bones.) I've only ever used carrot tops in small amounts in soups of greens, like the one I describe here.

A few weeks earlier though, in the same column, a writer had a ton of ideas for carrot tops!


I live in Arlington but I'd be happy to scour the District or Northern VA. Does that help?

Then the Organic Butcher in McLean should be good for you. I just called a butcher in Alexandria to ask about goat. He said he doesn't carry it, and it's hard to find at most butcher shops because they would have to buy the whole animal and would be able to sell only some of it; the rest would be wasted. If you want goat, he suggests finding a halal butcher, which would be a likelier source.

Yes, Painted Rock.

For the past decade, I have been diagnosed with a new autoimmune disease every few years- skin, thyroid and gastrointestinal. I also had horrible nasal allergies and painful ovarian cysts/fibroids. Last year, I tried a low carb/high protein diet to lose the weight I gained from the havoc of thyroid disease. I lost weight, but I also stopped sneezing, stopped throwing up after every meal, lost the "brain fog" and had zero pelvic pain. I reintroduced whole grains, and ALL the symptoms came back. Once I started looking, I found a wealth of research on gluten sensitivity and autoimmune disease. It's no longer simply about weight loss for me; it's about the optimal nutrition for my health.

Glad you found an eating strategy that works for you.

Would refrigerating before cutting help?

Yes, it should. But the effects might not last long!

Enjoyed Shahin's Valentine's Day blog - question, though, would the grilled strawberries get mushy?

Nope. Because you grill them quickly and at high heat, they just get a couple of beautiful char-lines on 'em, but otherwise stay pretty much intact. 

Whenever I'm in Giant, I always see anise, but never fennel. So it's either mislabeled or someone is growing it.

So, I love Cheerios. I also love peanut butter. This led me to buy the new multi-grain peanut butter cheerios. Wow, was that a mistake. These are as sweet as Captain Crunch! I can't eat them as cereal. Is there something like a Rice Krispie treats recipe I could use them in? Thanks!

The cold winter weather keeps us from smoking/grilling or 'cueing as much - any ideas on what we can do to keep us happy?????

    Yeah, read my story in January's post on indoor smoking  at and read the one coming up at the end of this month on cooking with smoked beer. (Yep, there is such a thing.)

I've found lately that the major supermarkets are carrying less and less of fairly standard ingredients, and I'm spending more time either driving from one to the other, looking in vain, or trying to find acceptable substitutes. I'm not talking about arcane ingredients, like rare Tibetan Saffron, but basics. Last week, it took me four stops and 2 hours to find polenta; this week, it was super-fine sugar (for a Valentine's Day dessert). In each case, I think the problem is that so few people actually cook that the supermarkets don't stock these ingredients. They all had pre-made polenta in tubes, but none of the cornmeal. Is there someplace(s) in town that would be reliable "go-to" places to find this stuff?

I can speak to the superfine sugar shortage. The only supermarkets where I have always been able to find it are Giants. About driving around, though, why not use the stores' Web sites to see if they have the products you're looking for? Some sites are better than others but at least it's a start and might save you some gas.

If it's any consolation, I've seen superfine/caster sugar at several Harris Teeter locations.

Interesting, I went to take a look at Bean to Bean on Barnes and Noble (thinking of buying it for the Nook). I ordered a sample which gave me exactly zero recipes to look at. From what I can see on Amazon there is no nutritional listing in the recipes. I would like to know sodium, sugar, etc. content on the recipes. However, the recipes do look tasty.

No nutritional information, it's true.

I accidentally bought another 3 lb bag of onions without realizing we already had one at home! Time for French Onion soup. Usually I have beef stock in the freezer, but all I have now is chicken and crab stock. Knowing how essential the stock is for the soup, what's the best supermarket (or local market) brand stock?

Oh, just make onion soup with chicken or crab stock. It will still be delicious, just a differnet version. If you do it with crab, make a very lemony mayonnaise and put that on your crouton instead of cheese. If you do it with chicken, add lots of herbs. And I'd love to know how it turns out.

I just realized you are Pati of Patti's Mexican Table. You are so wonderful and I love your recipes. I recently made your hibiscus salad dressing and I will never buy salad dressing again. . . . never miss your show!!

Thank you so very much Kelly C! I LOVE that hibiscus salad dressing and you can make it ahead of time. I like it so much that if there is any leftover I just spoon it right into my mouth :)

We noticed when we barbeque or grill in the winter/cold, there's a difference in timing than when we do the same in much warmer weather. Is there a way to determine timing or is it just via experience?

    You're getting into the Great Mystery of Fire. The external temperature impacts the cooking time, and there really is not much you can do about it except to learn how to "read the winds," if you will. 

    Depends, too, on the type of you rig you have. A well-insulated cooker, like a Big Green Egg, is less prone to variation than a leaky offset smoker or a basic kettle. 

    I don't have a formula, such as, say, for every 10 degree drop in temperature add another half-hour cooking time, because it also depends on what you are cooking, and the dampness of the wood you are using (assuming, of course, that you are using wood). But, basically, the colder it is, the longer it will take. Not much help, I know. 

     That's why they call it a mystery. 

You can freeze food in glass jars as long as they are wide mouth and do not have "shoulders" that would prevent the food from expanding upward.

This is referring to a chatter last week who was having trouble freezing stuff in glass jars because it expanded and leaked. I suggested plastic freezer bags and got nailed for being environmentally insensitive. :-(

Yes, it does sound like a fun night, eh? But even I draw the line at sharing it with 20-30 guests -- I'm just not that kind of girl! OK, the recipe: 6 oz. chopped white chocolate, melted with 1/2 cup heavy cream 2 cups heavy cream, whipped till stiff 2 T citrus liqueur 1 T grated zest Once the chocolate-cream mixture is cooled, you add the citrus ingredients and fold in the whipped cream.

Gotcha. Two thoughts: 1) You need to refrigerate that frosting until it's as stiff as possible. 2) I stand by the idea of adding some cream cheese to the party.

Use the term they use in India: non-veg for carnivorous stuff, veg for what's the norm there (at least for non-Muslms)

Thanks so much, mil gracias. I had no idea ajenjo was the same as Hoja Santa!

I agree with Joe Yonan that it's great to have a whole chicken and "eat off it, in various ways, for days" -- but my home-made never taste as good as the ones in the supermarket or anywhere near as juicy and fabulous as the ones from the Latin chicken carry-outs. Do you or Ms. Adler have a recipe to share?

That comment was a TEENSY bit disingenuous, because, actually, I have a tough time roasting chicken for myself, because I actually eat the thing within a day -- no self-control! I'm trying to get better about that.

Here's my favorite roast chicken recipe, with or without the potatoes.

During our interview, it's true, Joe told me that he finds his own chicken so delicious that he eats a good deal of it all at once. I always roast my chickens the same way and I also find that they're better than the ones from any restaurant or store. The key is to salt them well, well, a day ahead, then leave them in the fridge overnight. Then I brown the skin in a pan on the stove in olive oil or peanut oil--in an oven safe pan. I then start them in a 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, then add 3 tablespoons of butter to the pan, lower the oven to 360, then baste them with butter and pan juices every ten minutes until they're done--juices run clear. Then I rest them on a cutting board for 15 minutes, then serve the pan juices drizzled over the top. I stuff any herbs I have under the skin, and others in the cavity. And I rarely worry about trussing. 

I have to find a way around this! Usually I eat one (generous) serving right after roasting, and then I pul the chicken off the carcass to save as leftovers, but in doing so I tend to eat another (generous) serving. And then I'm back at it by midnight, or certainly by breakfast. Sigh.

Perhaps I should eliminate the one serving I can most easily control: The one for dinner right after roasting. I should just let the thing cool enough to handle and then immediately pull off the meat from the carcass. Since I'll eat a serving in the process anyway, I'll be ahead. Or behind. Or something. 


There are also several good Latin food markets in Mount Pleasant. I won't buy avocados anywhere else!

How much would it take to get a restaurant to use free range, humane, and/or sustainable meat? As an activist with organizing skills who would like to see more restaurants using sustainable meat, I'd like to get the opinion of people highly involved in the restaurant industry.

Does that airtight container go in the 'fridge or on a sunny window ledge or --? (I recently lost a lot of dill to mold.)

Always always in the fridge. Herbs like to be dry and cool and covered from air. They're tidy, delicate little things. Parsley can both be cleanly picked off its stems, and the stems saved in a plain, uncareful plastic bag. The leaves are good in a quart container, bag, or jar. Others need all that fussing, but they'll stay as long as you fuss and store well.

What is the difference between Mexican vanilla and regular grocery store vanilla like McCormick's? Can they be used interchangeably, or do you have to adjust the amounts?

Mexican vanilla properly processed (in artisanal plants) will BLOW YOUR MIND when you open the bottle. It is not only that the vanilla pods are growing in their original and natural habitat it is that the entire process, from planting, to harvesting, to what they call "beneficio" which is the slowly drying/sweating process, and the slow technique for making the vanilla extract is unique and dedicated. Test with the different kinds and you will see...

They can be used interchangeably, but they do taste a bit  differently...

Good Lord! The tamal casserole featured in the paper serves 12 and each serving contains 740 calories, 39 grams of fat and 30 grams of protein! That's half a day's intake in calories and fat and 2/3 of RDA in protein. The chicken and tortilla aztec casserole isn't much better. Could you offer some ways to lighten this up? And include some recipes that are not so high in calories?

Hi! Well, it is really a main dish, all you need on its side (of either of the three) is a light green salad. You have an entire meal in a full serving. If you want to make it lighter, you can:

-reduce the cream and cheese in the Aztec casserole, and do just a single layer of tortillas, or skip them!

-do half the dough for the tamal casserole and you will have a thinner lighter take.

-do brown rice for the mushroom one and use light cheese.

I want to start making my own bread and rolls and such. Do you have any recommendations for a good beginners cook book? I have never worked with yeast before, and quite honestly it scares me. Thanks!

I'd start with a good book on no-knead bread, such as Jim Lahey's "My Bread" or Nancy Baggett's "Kneadlessly Simple." You can go from there.

Jim Shahin, do you know if there is such a thing as a "barbeque convention"? Don't know anything about that possibility, where, when, etc. Thanks.

Yes, there are barbecue conventions.  The Mid-Atlantic Barbecue Association has its annual meeting on March 3. And the National Barbecue Association has its annual convention on Feb. 22-25. This year's will be a little poignant, as one of the most prized barbecue joints in America, the Shed in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, burned down a few days ago. People from around the country have been rallying around it. 

No small oven-safe containers here (if i weren't unemployed, I'd go out right now and get some ramekins!) Should I just go to the blender method then, or give up on the idea altogether? If the latter, any ideas for another creamy, not too sweet chocolate dessert I can serve in a wine glass (I'm rather set on that presentation!)

I haven't done the blender method, so I can't get behind it unquestioningly, but definitely don't give it up! What I would do would be to find a nice custard recipe. Any lemon custard is inexpensive and easy to make. Then you don't have to worry about it setting or being perfect, but just whisk it over a water bath, and taste it till it's right, and let it cool, serve it in your wineglasses, and toast!

In Mexico, I ate what looked like stewed rosemary at Eastertime. But I found out it is something different, called Romeritos. I would like to try to prepare some here and wonder if rosemary can be used, and how to make it.

Yes! Romeritos in Mexico is a dish made with a kind of wild green and dried shrimp, sometimes potatoes and a Mole sauce. It has actually nothing to do with the Rosemary herb... I will try to post a recipe soon.

Check with your local extension office. In Ohio these classes have been very popular in the last few years. Virginia -,,

Good idea!

Great way to use the "fronds" would be, saute onion in a bit of oil, add washed lentils and water to cover, cook until lentils almost done, then add chopped fronds and cook until all are tender - salt and pepper as desired - can be eaten hot or cold - tastes good!

Beware the artificial Mexican "vanilla" sold cheaply in huge bottle in stores along the US-Mexican border, however. Tastes fake and vile.

That hour zzzipped by, didn't it? Thanks to Tamar, Joe, Pati and Jim for joining us today, and, as always, to you, dear chatters. I always learn something new.

Today's  prizes:

The person who had trouble with the Rachael Ray recipe gets "Meat: A Kitchen Education," by James Peterson, and the person who asked about anenjo/hoja santa gets "My Sweet Mexico," by Fany Gerson.

Remember to send your mailing address to, and Becky will get the books right out to you. Until 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, Food aide Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Jason Wilson and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guests: Joe Yonan; Patricia Jinich, chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute and host of "Pati's Mexican Table" on public television; and Tamar Adler, author of "An Everlasting Meal."
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