Free Range on Food: Fish in the slow cooker, "Pati's Mexican Table" and more

Mar 13, 2013

Your slow cooker can help you achieve perfectly done fish, and Julia Collin Davison from America's Test Kitchen will join us to offer tips. Pati Jinich of "Pati's Mexican Table" will also be in the house to talk about her new book.
Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, nation, and welcome to Free Range! Hope you enjoyed today's section, with Tim's account of the Fojol Bros. latest attempt to change the DC street-food scene and Martha Thomas's fun exploration of slow-cooker fish and Bonnie's spotlight on Pati Jinich's new cookbook.

We're here, as always, to tackle whatever cooking or food question you can throw our way. Pretend you're one of the Pike Place fish market guys and toss 'em in this direction, and we'll try to catch and toss back.

Today we have some serious culinary firepower at our backs, both of them stars of stage and TV screen: Julia Collin Davison of America's Test Kitchen, who talked with Martha about slow-cooker fish strategies; and Pati Jinich herself, she of "Pati's Mexican Table." Martha Thomas will also be in the house, along with our regulars.

So what's on your mind?

Oh, before I forget, we'll have giveaway books, naturally: a signed copy of "Pati's Mexican Table" and a signed copy of "Slow Cooker Revolution" from ATK. Stay tuned.

A Pati Jinich cookbook, at last! If only it came with scratch-and-sniff strips!! A question about the "blissful corn torte" recipe you posted today -- Can you really make a "combination of corn pudding and corn bread" without corn bread? The photo looks wonderful and cakeish-bready, but the ingredients list only mentions 6 1/4 tablespoons of flour (rice flour at that) and no corn meal or "masa harina" at all. I can't wait to try it, I just want to be sure I don't leave anything out. Gracias!

Well, it cuts and holds its shape like corn bread but it's wonderfully light inside -- emphasis on the "souffled."  I think we're good, ingredientwise


Hi!! And hey, I also say Hooray!! Have been working on this book for a LONG time! Yes! You only need that amount of flour, you will not miss anything. There is a lot of corn, and fluffed up egg whites and beaten yolks. That's why it is like e combination of souffle and bread... You will LOOOOOOVE it!

I think I saw some iodized kosher salt. Any reason I shouldn't buy it? How about fine-ground kosher salt -- is it as good as coarse and better than regular table salt? Thanks.

Some believe that iodized salt reacts negatively with food and can create a metallic flavor. The jury is out on that, however. I'd be curious on what Free Rangers think about that.


Fine-ground, iodized Kosher salt....well, that just doesn't sound much like Kosher salt to me. From a purely cooking standpoint (and not a religious one), I'm not sure what the benefit of such a salt would be over regular table salt. The usual benefits of Kosher salt are its large crystals and lack of iodine. Otherwise, it's just Kosher table salt.

No, I wouldn't buy that. It won't taste as clean as regular Kosher salt.

Joe's vegetarian pizza recipe looks delicious. As a person who needs to be gluten-free, the wheat-based crust is off limits. Would this work using a base of polenta? I saw a recipe in a Bittman cookbook suggesting using polenta and am wondering if this topping would be applicable. Thanks. Love the chat.

Glad you like the look of the Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizza. I think it's certainly worth trying with a polenta base -- I assume the polenta is cooked, spread into, say, a pie dish so it takes the proper shape, chilled so it firms up, and then taken out and baked like a pizza? That's what I'd do, anyway. Or you can do a base of farinata, the chickpea pancake; I have a recipe for such coming in my next book (with a different topping). Or, of course, you could seek out GF crust possibilities. I swear I've seen a frozen GF pizza crust at Whole Foods, but I could be wrong. There's always making one with a GF pizza crust mix; Friend of Food Carol Blymire swears by this brand concocted by Thomas Keller & Co.

What's the difference between Mexican and Spanish chorizo? Is it just the spices? Are they cured any differently?

Hi! I wrote a (great ahem..) article for the Wapo precisely on this topic.

Main differences are that Mexican is raw and has to be cooked before eating and it tends to have vinegar, different spices and dried chiles. The Spanish one is ready to eat! And doesn't have the layers of many dried chiles and vinegar... 

Any suggestions for seasoning rice (baked, if it matters) with a nice herb mixture but less salt? We made a long grain & wild rice mixture the other night (Uncle Ben's standard mix). I used only half the seasoning packet but was still taken aback by how salty the rice tasted. We'd like to find a tasty alternative. (I don't care about throwing out the seasoning packet if we have a better way.)

Do you use a broth or just water for the cooking liquid? A broth will impart flavor right off the bat.  Lemons and minced shallot and parsley are nice in baked rice.


HEY! That reminds me of a lovely 1991 recipe, also from Lisa Yockelson, for Lemon Rice With Pine Nuts. It's in the upcoming Washington Post Cookbook: Readers' Favorite Recipes, officially out April 15 but available for pre-order now on More than 170 recipes. Excited about it. It's our first. 

I've decided to buy a pressure cooker. 1) Any recommendations on a good reliable one that won't break the bank; say, around $50? 2) Any recommendations on good cookbooks or food blogs that focus on using pressure cookers? I got Cooking Under Pressure, which has a lot of recipes I want to try, but I'd really like to find a ton of recipes. If I'm going to spend money on this sucker, I want to use it!

I have lots and lots of opinions on this subject- I love my pressure cooker. Buy a stovetop model, not an electric. And get an 8-quart so you can make stock. Fissler is a great company. Also check out our new book 'Pressure Cooker Perfection' from Americas TEst Kitchen. It is terrific and will walk you though everything from start to finish. Good luck!

I'm having some guests over for a dessert reception this evening. I'm making their favorite banana pudding and others will be contributing, but I always serve a fruit salad so anyone who wants to be a little healthier can eat as well. I have a pineapple, a cantaloupe and strawberries. Any suggestions of what else I should add? Either other fruit or some sort of light marinade? I don't think I ever considered what fruits go well together. I usually just grab whatever is available and looks unbruised. I won't have a ton of time to get it all together, but I will be swinging by the grocery store to get ice, so more ingredients are possible.

 So many ways to go. It could be just fine as is. For color, you might want to add blueberries or blackberries. Mango would be nice. I like a touch of mint in my fruit salad. Last summer I went a little crazy infusing simple syrups (water/sugar, boil for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the flavoring you like) with fresh mint or other herbs, or citrus zest or kaffir lime leaves.  You can prep the fruit and place it in a zip-top bag in the fridge. About an hour before serving, add the simple syrup and toss; let it sit at room temperature. Simple indeed. 


If you want to up the ante a bit, try Lisa Yockelson's splashed fruit recipe. It's very good! 

For the longest time, I never missed Free Range on Food. Then I went completely vegan a year and a half ago and rather than come here and lecture all of you, I just stopped coming. Last week I stumbled on the Sietsema/Yonan vegetarian experience and can't tell you how glad I am to see that you've cleared a little space for vegans/vegetarians. Thank you. (Now I'll go while you talk about eating fish.)

Thanks! There's room for you here too, though! Yes, we're talking about fish -- but we always talk about anything anybody wants to discuss. What vegetables are you cooking up these days? While I've got you, did you notice last week's chat, which focused on veg eating? Lots of good ideas there.

In Europe free range chicken is literally a chicken which has a large area to run and scratch the ground. In the US, free range means two square feet of cage. Why is the poultry industry allowed to fabricate the their definition of free range? Thanks.

That's not quite accurate. According to the USDA, a bird producer must prove to the agency that "the poultry has been allowed access to the outside." Now, as I understand it, the chickens aren't always required to be outside, and could be living in cages most of their short lives, which is likely what you're objecting to.

I love fried chicken but don't like frying. Do you have a good recipe for oven fried chicken?

I hear ya. I am scared of/incompetent at frying. Check out this 'Fried' Chicken recipe, as well as Virginia Ali's Catch-a-Man Fried Chicken, which has a variation for baking.

What was your experience with lingering fish smell that typically accompanies cooking fish at home? Early in the article you allude to this, but it wasn't clear whether slow cooker methods eliminate that odor, or if it is still an issue. (I have ways of dealing with it, if it is, but I am curious.)

Well, the salmon didn't send any fish vapors into my house at all; made it twice.  And the tester who made the tuna recipe reports no smell as well.  Which reminds me of an old Gastronomer column on poaching fish on the stove top...also a method that wasn't odoriffic. 

there will be an odor, but nothing extreme in my experience. 

I made Alton Brown's salt and vinegar roasted chick peas this weekend for a party. It was the first time I'd made roasted chickpeas, and it was a let down. The chickpeas themselves seemed fine - nice and crunchy, like a nut. But despite adding salt and red wine vinegar, they were really bland. I like a big "pow" from S&V anything, and I could barely taste any vinegar on the chickpeas, even though I kept pouring more on. I think that actually backfired, because the chick peas seemed to get soft and soggy after awhile. So, what's a good way to get flavorful roasted chickpeas? It just seemed like neither the salt nor the vinegar was sticking. I did forget to add the S&V right after I pulled them out of the oven. It was probably about 20 minutes later when I did so. Could the cooled peas be why the seasonings didn't adhere?

Yes, I bet that's what happened, though I'd love to hear Julia's take since she's, well, smarter than I. Salt doesn't just stick to hot things; it can melt and soak in a little. And the vinegar, too, would be absorbed a little if applied when the chickpeas were warm. Now, not to quibble with Mr. Brown, since he's so good at this kind of stuff, but I'd be tempted to add the S&V when they're fresh out of the oven, yes -- and then to put them back in for a few more minutes. That, it seems to me, would help avoid sogginess.

Yes- we've made similar things in the Test Kitchen. Here is a recent recipe of ours. Word of warning- these are nearly impossible to stop eating once you start. This recipe is from our upcoming book '6 Ingredient Solution' due out  this Fall.


2            cans chickpeas

1            teaspoon smoked paprika

1            teaspoon sugar

1            cup olive oil


1. Drain chickpeas, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels. Combine paprika, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over high heat until just smoking.

2. Add chickpeas and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer chickpeas to paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain briefly, then toss with spices. Serve.

It's true that frying them solves any problems! These are truly addictive.

Was unable to participate in last week's chat live but was glad to see so many great vegetarian/vegan recipes. I was invited to a Passover Seder next week and among the list of things recommended to bring was "veggies kugel." Not sure if this is the product of a forgotten comma for 2 items or if there really is such a thing but it intrigued me. However, I cannot find recipes for anything other than potato kugels. Is there such a thing as a vegetable kugel and, if so, do you have a recipe? Thanks for the chats - I love my Wednesdays off so I can (almost always) participate!

Thanks and good question! No comma required. We've got Passover recipes and stories coming next week. 

Usually, kugels are made with noodles. Potato kugel for Passover's a classic way to go. This skillet version is kind of thin and crisp, different from anything heavy.  There are Passover noodles (made with potato flour) that you could use instead; this mushroom-leek kugel's quite tasty. You could try your hand at using matzoh farfel (like bits and pieces of matzoh) or even layering roasted/sauteed vegetables between layers of matzoh (subbing for lasagna sheets) if you feel like experimenting. 


Chatters, what's your non-potato fave veg kugel way to go? 

Can't wait for Pati's chat tonight at 6th & I with Joe! Two questions for Pati: 1) What are 5 must have ingredients to have on hand if you want to make Mexican food 2) What's your favorite (if any) Mexican restaurant in DC area.

Yey!! Thank you for coming to chat with Joe and I!!

1. Chipotles in Adobo Sauce, Queso fresco (or farmers cheese), Tomatillo, fresh chiles like Jalapeño or Serrano, tomatoes. If you let me add more... dried Ancho chiles

2. I see there is a mushrooming of Taqueriías in town! And can't wait to try many of them. I love going to Oyamel for their tacos and Guacamole... 

See you tonight!

My mother-in-law is already thinking about Passover which means I'm already thinking about Passover. I was told to make either sides or dessert. Anything fun and interesting?

We (and by that I mean me and our recipe testers) are in full Passover mode. It's all I can do to keep from setting the table. We've got some good recipes in next week's edition. Please peruse some  of the couple dozen recipes we've already got in our Recipe Finder. Of my personal faves: Fennel and Kohlrabi Salad, Lemon Layer Cake, granola, Passover Popover Rolls,  Zucchini Quajado

Many times recipes involving Shellfish tell you to add the shellfish at the very end as not to overcook, is this a good rule to follow for slow cooking too? Is most of the slow cooking to create a flavorful "base" or "sauce", then the shellfish protein is added in the final minutes?

you got it.


How do you make these things!!!

If you have to ask -- and I think you asked a question despite the use of exclamation points over a question mark! -- you might be better served just going straight to McDonald's instead.

Generally, the best French fries are fried twice -- poached at a lower temperature and finished at a higher one. For a home cook, it can be a pretty messy endeavor, but with a nice deep pot and a thermometer to make sure the oil is at the right temp, it certainly can be done. And no "natural flavors" to contend with. If you want something healthier than that, try our oven fries.

Some combos to try: chives and lemon zest; oregano and mint with pine nuts; a pinch of thyme and chopped dried apricots. You might try adding some fragrant vinegars (tons of flavor, no salt), or using umami boosters (dried mushrooms), a couple of drops of fish sauce or soy sauce will go a long way toward imparting flavor without turning it into a salt lick.

The best breakfast that I have found to use my slow cooker and while I sleep is steel cut oats. Milk/water, cut up apples, dried cranberries, vanilla, spices, chopped pecans, a little brown sugar. WOW, wonderful in the A.M. breakfast!

With meats, I think it is widely believed that certain cuts are more suited to long, slow cooking. Is there a parallel with certain types of fish? Should one avoid the delicate types like trout, sole, tilapia? Seems like they would cook to mush or small shreds if done to long..

I would imagine that heartier fish such as swordfish, halibut, salmon, atlantic char are great. Cod would also be OK, but you'd have to be a bit more gentle. Small, thin fillets like sole and tilapia might work if you roll them up into bundles?

I used the tilapia in my Thai dish, and was able to remove them whole, but it's okay if they break was still tasty (I called it "hash")

What is barbacoa exactly?


Here is a story and a recipe for barbacoa

Basically, it is lamb that is rubbed in an Adobo marinade, covered in banana leaves and cooked over low heat for a looooooong time, until the meat succulently falls off the bones. Many times it is cooked with vegetables like chickpeas, carrots under it. Traditionally it used to be cooked in an underground pit! But you can make it in your oven... 

It is ususally eaten tucked in corn tortillas with one or another kind of salsa. I go for salsa verde.... 

Free range and organic chickens can not be raised in cages. Both must be provided outdoor access. Just remember that access does not mean that the chickens choose to go outside. If you really want chicken that comes from outdoor birds, look for pastured birds that are raised in "tractors" that are moved across fields over time.

I liked the beef and broccoli recipe with mango, except I could not understand why you would add chicken broth to a beef dish. Why not use beef broth?

This was a good Dinner in Minutes. A few reasons: It's lighter-tasting; people tend to have it around/on hand more than beef broth. 


beats mom's and grandma's. best cornbread I have ever had I got from Absolute Barbeque in Manassas. Nothing else even comes close even my wife's grandmother's and she is from Memphis. When she was up here we took her T Absolute and she spent dinner discussing cornbread and Q with the owner. I think she got his recipe since she was that impressed. She thought his ribs were as good as any she had or made and still raves about the pulled pork. She is coming up for Easter and has already informed us where we are dining on Saturday night. Sunday dinner is leg of lamb grass fed, local and selected by my collie for dinner.

Best part of using a Slow Cooker is you can setup in the AM, and come home after work to a house full of great smells and a dinner ready to eat. Are there any suggestions for Fish dishes that can be done in the same way? Or are most Fish Slow Cooker recipes sub-4 hours?

I'm guessing no (Julia?), but you can definitely develop a base for the fish, come home after a long day, plop in the fish, pour a glass of wine and hang out for 20 minutes or so!

No real question, but I just wanted to let you all know that I won the copy of "America's Test Kitchen Best of 2013" a few weeks ago, and the food that has come out of that book is AMAZING. The gingersnaps are particularly genius; I've been looking for a recipe like that forever and finally have it!! Many, many thanks.

Hi there- So glad you like them! They are a terrific cookie. 

I'm hosting a large shower (~60 people) for my wonderful sister-in-law who, after years of trying to conceive, will have a baby this summer. She's kind of fancy, but my budget is not. She also loves artisanal cheese, but that's not in my budget either. Would creating a cheese plate from Costo cheese be tacky? And, if not, could you recommend any of their cheeses? I like their Manchego but that's as much as I've explored their cheeses. The rest of the menu will feature cauliflower soup, smoked salmon, green salad, and lots & lots of dessert.

Not at all! You can buy great long logs of goat cheese and gussy them up with crushed pink peppercorns, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Find pink peppercorns in gourmet shops- worth the hunt.

Greetings Free Rangers! I loove Kimchi, but don't have the time to always make it. I was wondering if you had a recommendation for an online source that I could have shipped to my house? Thanks so much!

I don't know of an online source, but if you're near any of the Asian superstores such as H Mart or Super H, they sell freshly made kimchi in as large a quantity as you can handle, and the stuff is sublime. The best kimchi needs to be refrigerated, so unless you're talking dry ice, any mail order stuff would be shelf stable and in my opinion not as good.

Can the salmon and tuna recipes from today's article be increased (perhaps doubled) in the slow cooker?

The salmon might not work as well, because there isn't quite enough liquid to cover the fish as it is. And it's a little difficult to keep the fillets together/in one piece when you are ready to serve. The tuna should work; probably don't need to double the amount of oil. 

Is it a good practice to use fillets of fish vs. whole fish in a slow cooker so your not worried about small bones?

I think either would work fine here. If bones are a concern, then fillets would surely be best. 

sorry, but i can't see the point of cooking fish in the slow cooker. what would take 10 minutes on the stove, now takes 30 minutes of monitored time in the slow cooker. you can't "set it and forget it" so you can't really use the slow cooker to it's intended purpose. plus, i can't imagine that the house would smell all that great with fish stewing away for that long in the slow cooker! but maybe i'm wrong....convince me !!!

ha ha, you sound like an editor I know!

Hi. A few weeks ago you were going to look into getting the brussels sprouts pierogi recipe from Cityzen. You asked for the OP's email address but I'm hoping you can share it with all of us instead of just him/her.

Still working on that. We will share, after testing. Thanks for your patience! 

I am never sure if I should measure sugar with wet or dry measuring cups. Thoughts? Any other tricky ingredients like that? Thanks!

Sugar's not tricky -- it's dry! So use that. The tricky things are the sticky things, like peanut butter, honey, etc. And for that it's a judgment call about which one you think you can best get them out of. (One trick: If your recipe also calls for oil, measure that first and use the same measure for the sticky thing without cleaning first, and then the latter will slide out.)

Not to recommend that anyone read anything OTHER than the best Food section in the country at WaPo... BUT... the NYTimes own Melissa Clark has a veg kugel in her book, "In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite." It might be online, if one were inclined to open a new Web tab and navigate away from WaPo for a wee moment (AFTER the chat, natch.)

For one that tastes like the real thing, use the Bob's Red Mill bagged mix. For a healthy option, the cauliflower and mozzarella recipe you always see on blogs and pintrest works really well if you make it super thin.

I know I shouldn't use vinegar or other acidic foods in my cast iron skillet, but what about in my non-stick skillets, and in my new ceramic skillet? Will vinegar/acid harm these finishes?

No- those finishes should be fine with acidic food.

Pati, any suggestions on where to buy fresh or frozen banana leaves in the DC area. I prefer fresh for tamales, but haven't found any. Also sources for fresh masa?

I buy my frozen banana leaves at Panam International. A small Latin store, that is really my go-to. Look in the frozen section. Those leaves are heavenly. They keep in the freezer for-e-ver. Panam is on 14th st NW and Parkwood. 

You can make pretty good masa if you buy a bag of corn masa flour, such as Maseca. You just mix it with water and salt. I haven't found a source for fresh masa made from scratch here... But this streamlined version works beautifully. 

Husband is on a low carb diet for the next few months (or year). He's looking for something low carb for breakfast, he's getting sick of eggs. Under 10 net carbs is good, but under 5 net carbs is better; that gives him wiggle room for the remainder of the day. Help please!


You usually can't go wrong with Greek-style yogurt (which has about 5 grams of carbs) or fruit, of course, though some commercial yogurts can provide a little too much sugar in the morning for some. Or for something really different, why not try this Citrus, Mint and Pomegranate Salad (pictured above). It might be hard finding pomegranate seeds right now, but it could be something to try in season.

Julia - For Slow Cooker Fish recpies, do you recommend working with fish fillets vs. whole fish cuts to avoid stray bones?

Fillets are best for bonless fish. Steaks and whole fish def. have more bones.

My family is in a tex mex rut. Lots of quic fajitas, quesadillas, burritos and tacos. We tend to think of Mexican food as something we can make quickly. I would like to explore more in depth Mexican cooking. The pork tenderloin recipe looked very good. How sweet is that dish? What other suggestions would you have for getting out of the tex mex rut?

Hola!! I can expand your menu, get my cookbook!! or go on my site :)

Try Chicken Tinga! That is a big hit in my family.  

I've dozens and dozens of ideas for Mexican home style cooking, easy, wholesome and tasty. From pasta, rice and bean dishes (for your good carbs) to lots of vegetable salads and sides. 

The pork tenderloin is sweet and citrusy at the same time. Not too sweet. And if you have leftovers, you can tuck slices into baguettes and make for great tortas. 

How strong is the smell from slow cooking fish? I like to eat fish, but am not enamored with the aroma. If I were to slow cook fish would the whole house be filled with fish aroma? Most of the time I cook fish on the grill outside to deal with this issue.

No - it is kind of surprising but there is very little smell when cooked this way.

The kosher salt question reminded me of my question. I've noticed that a lot of brine recipes call for kosher salt instead of table salt. Do you know why? My impression was that kosher salt is generally more expensive and for a brine, since it's fully dissolved, table salt would be preferable not only because of cost but also because it dissolves faster.

Might be preferred because most kosher salt is not iodized; most table salt is. Some people say the iodized kind might impart a flavor, or maybe they just don't want that in their brine. Kosher salt does cost more than table salt -- but we're talking pennies and nickels, right? It dissolves well enough for brines, I think.  If you sub a kosher salt brine recipe for table salt, it's quite likely that you'll end up with saltier food in the end, because kosher salt weighs by volume. 

My husband recently bought a stovetop smoker. It seems to me like most of the things you can do with it involve meat - smoked fish, sausages, even burgers - which is fine for him, but I'm vegetarian. Any ideas for veggie-friendly indoor smoking?

I've been thinking about this too. I want to try smoking plum tomatoes (I'm thinking halved) -- more of a pantry thing than a dinner though. 

Dirt Candy in NYC smokes their cauliflower before pan-frying. It's pretty amazing. The thing here, though, is that with some vegetables I think it'd be hard to get them done solely in the stovetop smoker. I think Amanda Cohen & Co. at Dirt Candy steam the cauliflower first until almost tender and then finish in the smoker.

As an alternative for anyone wanting to try this without added calories: I've roasted chick peas in the oven without oil dozens of times and I like them better this way. Make sure you mix your spices before you apply them so they're evenly combined. Then, rinse the chick peas and drain them thoroughly. Toss / stir everything in a bowl really well and put in a single layer in the pan. The pan must have sides. Stir every few minutes while in the oven. It takes a lot longer than you think to roast these. The spices WILL stick, even without oil.

Bear in mind that pregnant women should only eat hard cheese ... . Costco manchego is fine - if you're near calvert woodley get some of their 'cheese treasures'. That's the ends of the cheese they sell off cheaply.

Loved the article on using the slow cooker for fish! I have a 70s-era slow cooker that I grew up with (mom always made corned beef for St. Patricks Day in it!). I don't eat much (if any) meat anymore, so I mostly use it for side dishes ike homemade applesauce (add an old vanilla bean -- it's heavenly!). I'm intrigued by the fish idea -- but it does sound like a weekend project. Can i justify buying one of the fancy new slow cookers with a timer? or do all the fish recipes require constant attention?

I hate to encourage buying more "stuff" but the newer slow cookers are a good investment;  they are easy to clean and have good timers that  switch to "warm" after cooking time, so you can walk away. 

When in South Korea, freshly made kimchi isn't refrigerated during the process or after it is done processing. They bury the kimchi pot in the ground for fermentation ..there have been accidents from exploding kimchi pots.

Right! I know. We're not in South Korea, though.

I suggest grating some fresh ginger on a microplane and then squeezing the ginger to add the ginger juice into the fruit salad. Add a splash of agave syrup and your guests will rave.

Had the most amazing gimlet in Philadelphia at because of the homemade lime cordial. Want to try to make some myself this summer. Recipe reccs most seriously sought.

Well, I hate to pump the competition, but Toby Cecchini at the NY Times has the best lime cordial recipe I've seen.

Trader Joes also has great cheese at very good prices if you don't like the selection at Costco. I would also do cheese-themed appetizers if she is into cheese (just remember to avoid those cheeses that some pregnant women avoid -- you might ask her in advance). I would make some of the homemade cheese crackers (tons of recipes around for those -- I used blue cheese or smoked cheese and they come out great). By incorporating the cheese into other appetizers you can stretch your cheese investment!

I bought a small slow cooker for a party, but now would like some recipes scaled down to small size since I'm single. I have no problem making standard recipes in the large slow cooker and freezing it, but every once in a while I'd like to make just a single or double serving. It would be easier to clean and put away, which makes me more likely to use it.

We have a bunch or recipes scaled down for these small cookers. Overall, I think you can scale down recipes yourself and give it a whirl. The cooking times, however, will be a few hours shorter.

I tackled the subject of smaller-scale slow cooking awhile ago. You might look for a slow cooker with different-sized inserts for variation's sake.

I cook mexican food or tex-mex for my family all of the time but just can't seem to get anything with masa the correct texture. I can make flour tortillas like a pro but even using masa as a thickener is a challange. Any suggestions> If it helps, I keep it in the freezer. HELP ME!!!!

Hahahaha!!! I will help. Don't freeze it! Corn masa is very amicable: it is just a matter of adding the right amount of water. I always add like 1/4 more than what the bag says. You need to get play dough texture. Should be soft and malleable, and when you make a ball and rolll it out: the edges shouldn't crack. That is how you know wether you need to add more or less water. 

As far as for thickening: once you have masa in the right consistency, add it to the stew or soup or atole... stir and give it time to thicken: it is not instantaneous, will take more than 5 minutes. 


I made the best fruit salad I have ever had back in January (Hawaii-themed dish for an innauguration party). The key ingredient that made it so delicious was toasted coconut flakes!!

Last summer I added finely chopped jalapeno and basil to my watermelon/blueberry/mango fruit salad. Give it a try! 

Nice. And that's why we love our chatters. 

Thank you for such an interesting article on Slow Cooking fish. I never considered using my slow cooker as a tool for a weeknight dinner that wasn't having it on for 6-8 hours while I was at work but I will definitely give this new method a try. Speaking of the actual long slow-cooking, I recently tried to transfer one of my favorite beef stew recipes to my slow cooker and realized that the part that didn't transfer well was the "let it reduce" on the stove part and it turned out way too watery. Is the only solution to this to transfer to the stove at the end of cooking to let it reduce or are there other tricks? Thanks

There are other tricks. First, use less broth than usual. The beef releases a lot of liquid into the pot. Also, try adding more roux to compensate. Good luck!

Where are the slow-cooker fish recipes that call for a can of tuna, a can of cream of mushroom soup, frozen peas and a bag of noodles?

they're out there! :)

Half the fun of a cheese and cracker tray is what you put with it. See what you have in your cupboard. Did you ever get a gift basket with fancy preserves that had you stymied at the time? Do you have any honey? Olives, capers, almonds? Set these out in ramekins. Borrow pretty China plates and buy a packet of 99 cent paper doilies to line the plates. It will be a huge hit.

hi! i have a question for patti.....whenever i make mexican inspired dishes, my filling never have that authentic flavorful taste as what i get in good mexinan restaurants. despite using alot of spices (cumin, coriander, chilis, etc), i don't get the flavor i'm looking for. would it help to grind my own whole spices as i do in indian cooking to release the optimum flavor? should i be buying my spices from a mexican or latino market?

Yes- toast the spices in a dry skillet until fragrant, then grind. Also, don't forget to add the spices to the pot with some fat ahead of the liquid so that their oil soluble flavors can bloom.

Hola blah to yah! 

One of the secrets of the layered flavors of Mexican cooking is that rather than being overly spiced up (although it may seem that way) is that ingredients are added in a way that they get time to change in the cooking process. 

So, for example: toasting the herbs, slightly on a medium heated skillet or comal, takes them to a different dimension. Or, when you add spices to say the onion that is cooking and softening in the pan, after you add the spices, you give them a chance to cook and mingle with the onion, before adding the next batch of ingredients, be it vegetables or chicken. 

Yes! Buy your ingredients in a Mexican or Latin market: Mexican oregano is different, more fragrant and sweeter than Mediterranean Oregano. True/ Ceylon cinnamon (which is mainly used in Mexican homes) is more softer and warmer and kinder than the Cassia cinnamon which is harsher and sort of stringent. 

Hope that helps!

I really enjoyed Jason's story on orgeat today. I liked that he told us what it was (with a recipe) and delved into the history of the syrup and its place in cocktail history. He even told us how to say it! Very nicely done. My question is, if I were to try to make orgeat, where do I get the ingredients? I've never bought orange blossom or rose water. Do I have to buy flowers and soak them? Or is this something made up to purchase?

Yes, definitely something to purchase. Middle Eastern and/or Indian markets would be good places to find both, although you may even be able to get them in well-stocked chain grocery stores. The rest of the ingredients in that recipe, I think, are pretty straightforward.

You can find both at specialty food stores, and probably even at someplace like Whole Foods. Also, higher end liquor shops like Ace Beverage usually have orange blossom water in with the bitters (you also use that for the Ramos Gin Fizz).

I can't seem to keep my cast iron skillet seasoned properly! food sticks to it even if I rub vegetable oil all over the skillet before and after each use. Thoughts?

It's likely the oil you're using. Opinions vary on the right type of oil, but read this thorough (and thoroughly researched) post on cast-iron seasoning. The author recommends a food-grade flaxseed oil, since it dries harder than all other oils. She includes photos. Take a look.

A long while ago, I asked what to do with some smoked salt I received for Christmas. One of the chatters here said to just put it on some meat to kick up the smoke flavor. I decided to use it on a braised brisket I made. The smoke flavor really enhanced the overall dish. Thank you for the encourgement to just use it and try it.

I feel like a bit of a fangirl right now with Julia and Pati here--we watch a LOT of ATK and Pati's Mexican Table in our house! What about whole-fish preparation--is that something that would work in a slow cooker? Or would the skin get rubbery?

I am happy you are an ATK fan! Whole fish should work fine in the slow cooker. The gentle even heat would help it cook through evenly and remain most.T he skin will be goners, however, and you'll probably need to use a foil sling to get the fish out one piece. Good luck!

Julia, I just want to thank you for your ATK Weeknight Roast Chicken recipe, it is so simple and is our go-to! However, it is not my go-to anymore due to pregancy nausea. Any mild veggie suggestions? Thanks again!

Yes- I love that recipe too. Make it about once a week myself. How about roasted broccoli and cauliflower? Very easy and very good. NOt boring, but not spicy. Kids love it too- has a popcorn-like flavor

don't forget roasted brussels sprouts, the outer skins fall off like potato chips! My daughter's favorite vegetable. 

I'm having some friends over on Sunday, and have promised corned beef. Now I've realized that I never paid attention to when my Mom was cooking it growing up- though I think she just boils it for a long time, with the spice packet that comes with. I have a corned beef round in my freezer, ready to thaw and do I just boil it for 5 hours like the package says? To tell when it's done do I just use a meat thermometer?

Here's something novel. A corned beef recipe that doesn't use the spice packet. You might like it. Figure that a 4-pound hunk of round will need to  go low and slow. Four or five hours sounds about right. Meat should be easily pierced with a fork when it's done. 

Would a gelatinous-boned fish such as skate possibly benefit from a protracted slow cooking? I am envisioning a cooking reaction similar to what happens with say, a shoulder of pork!

Interesting. It would surely have a very tender texture, which would be very different than it's sautéed texture. Not sure if that is a good thing, or a bad thing?

Hey guys, I'm the poster who asked last week about the best way to cook chicken breasts to keep them moist. I wasn't here during the chat, so I'm just now getting back to you. First, I did want to say that I agree roasting a whole bird gets me great chicken breasts - it's the only way I can do so right now! But sometimes I don't want to have to cook a whole bird just to get a couple of cups of shredded breast meat, PLUS, I kind of went on a buying spree when boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale. So, now I have a ton of them sitting in my fridge, and I'm trying to use them up. Which is why I wanted to know the best way to cook boneless and skinless chicken breasts. As for how I cooked them before, the most recent recipe I tried was from Sara Moulton that claims to get you perfectly cooked chicken every time - lies! Basically, simmer them in stock for 7 minutes, turn off heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. I've tried this three times, and each time the chicken was still really raw inside. I'd turn the heat on the stove back on and cook them for several more minutes. I'd let them sit in the steam for a while. Each time they were still raw and I had to just finish them in the microwave. So, is there a better way to poach them? When I tried other recipes that cooked them longer or at higher temps, I found them to be a little overcooked. I will try whatever you suggest. (And if the recipe allows me to start with a frozen chicken breast, even better!)

I'm not really cooking chicken anymore, but in my not-so-distant past, I found that my favorite way to cook the boneless breasts was to pound them to an even thickness (between plastic wrap), seasoning with salt and pepper and grilling in a hot grill pan for just a few minutes per side. They go lightning quick.

But I have done this poaching-off-the-heat method and liked it very much. I used a 4-ounce breast half, brought a combination of stock and ginger up to a boil, put the breast half in, turned off the heat, covered, and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes -- much longer than you do, and probably with a smaller piece of meat. But the thing to remember is, if you do more breasts, you need more stock in a bigger pot so that they don't reduce the heat too much when they go in. Also, they should not be ice cold; leave out of the refrigerator for a half hour or so to take the chill off. Check out my recipe for Gingered Chicken Salad that uses this method.

What are some fun ways you can bring Mexican flavors to Passover dishes? Thanks!!

Soooooo many!!! Adding a base of cooked onion and jalapeño chile to the soup, adding Chipotles in Adobo to brisket or chicken dishes. Making a piloncillo syrup to drizzle over fruit or cakes. Please visit my site for specific recipe ideas too! 

I like to add starfruit to fruit salad for a pretty and delicious touch. Also, to liven up the salad, make a quick "dressing" of equal parts honey and fresh-squeezed lime juice. Add some mint that has been chiffonaded. Pour over the fruit salad and toss. Brightens up the flavor just enough, not too much.

for patti: whenever i peel a chayote squash, my hands get this strange residue on them. it takes me numerous washes to get it to go away. does this ever happen to you? and do you have a magical way to prevent this from happening? i LOVE chayote squash's sweet crunchy flavor, but really hate peeling it because of the icky stuff that's left on my hands!

Hey! I think I know what is happening!!! Try this: cook them just until dente, just to the point where the tip of a knife can go in. Then drain them and let them almost completely cool before you peel them. I think both those things will help!

I am so excited to get to ask a question or two of Julia Collin Davison! . What I want to know most is, how many people vote on what's the "best' version of a dish, and is it often decided by a slim majority, like 51-49%? Do the home cooks' votes count as heavily as the staff's, in which case, I assume they could approve a version that the staff doesn't favor? And when it comes to something like, say, chewy vs cake-like brownies, or a spicier vs milder version of a dish, who makes the final call on which is best? Thanks so much. And thanks, too, for not starving yourself down to a size zero.

Hi there!  When we develop recipes, there are lots of us in the kitchen tasting (and we are all quite picky) so when we all agree we know its got to be good. Then we send the recipes out to be tested by our magazine readers, and we take those comments very seriously. If the readers don't like it, then we test some more.So there is not really one person making the call, but rather a group of us.

First, I'd skip the Uncle Ben's. Just get a bag of rice from the store and that will be cheaper. If you're not very good at cooking rice, rice cookers are inexpensive (about $20 or less for a simple one). I stick the rice in with the requisite water, then I might toss in a little chunk of butter and then just start sprinkling things in there. You could also replace some of the water with lemon juice or coconut milk or broth.

I have a slow cooker than only has two options low or high. It's old, but it still works and I don't want to buy a new one. By the time I leave get home from work, it's been between 11-12 hours. Most recipes call for 8-10 hours so I only really use it during the weekend. Will the extra time ruin the food? If I pull the lines directly from the fridge before I start, will that help?

Good questions. The longer cook times will probably ruin the food, which is a bummer for you. Not sure about the chilled liners- we wondered the same thing in the Test Kitchen but it crossed too many food safety lines...

I loved Joe's recipe for the pizza this morning and can't wait to make it. I make a lot of pizza at home and was a little surprised by the "can't load it up" comment, though. When I use fresh dough (or more often, something I have frozen then defrosted), I either pop it on the grill or cook an individual size quickly in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray. This turns your raw dough into a cooked base you can add plenty of toppings to and finish under the broiler in just a few minutes. There's probably a downside I'm not considering, but these always turn out delicious for me! My kids love my version with Spanish chorizo, their choice of cheese, and a little fig jam. We then top with either spinach for the kids or arugula for us. YUM.

I'm glad you like your pizza! Sounds good. My comment was about pizza that's cooked start to finish in the oven (or under the broiler). I tend to like a more restrained approach, because in those cases it's really all about the great crust, which has nice holes and a chewy exterior. Too many toppings, for me, weigh it down and compromise it. But it's all about whatever works for you!

Are you guys going to do an article on Easter dinner? I'm thinking lamb, but I'm a little lost at how to prepare it and side.

This is the kind of inquiry where our recipe database shines. I looked up lamb main courses for Easter and came up with nine recipes! This Grilled Butterflied Herbed Lamb was also quite a hit last year.

Grilled Butterflied Herbed Lamb

FOF Tony Rosenfeld had a nice Easter story last year, with a few side suggestions. More here.

never. Now for a creole or gumbo I take the time and make it on the stove top. Shellfish or fish go in last and maybe spend 2 minutes in the pot before they are served. Anything more results in overcooking. I guess folks are too lazy to properly cook fish and charge their communication devices before going to dinner.

I beg to differ, Mr./Ms. Grumpster. The Garlicky Shrimp recipe from Cook's has made me a believer. Perfectly cooked seafood, in the slow cooker. 

Truth be told, OLDER Slow Cookers heat hotter. Do you think so, Julia? My newest slow cooker is about 5 years old and my oldest is....well.....MUCH older ;)

Not sure, but we have def. noticed that slow cookers have very different top temperatures. Also, we found that low vs. high is more like slow vs. fast. 

I stumbled on this last week. Use one of those oven-safe roasting bags. We were out of parchment/wax paper, and I needed something other than foil so that I didn't get a reaction with the acid in the lemon juice. All I had was a turkey roasting bag [perplexed as to how I came into possession of one since I can't recall having ever used them :) ]. I put the whole pan (13x9 with 4 bone-in breasts) into the oven in the bag at 350 for about 50 minutes. Really moist, tender chicken with good flavor.

Thanks. All bets are off when those breasts are boneless, though...

Many times the chicken breasts that go on sale are from larger birds. This means the breasts are twice as thick or so as smaller, portion controlled breasts that almost never go on sale. The commenter could pound the breasts thinner or slice the breasts in half before cooking.

Thanks! (And I believe I said as much, didn't I?)

Actually, kugels are basically just puddings/casseroles. They can be sweet or savory, dairy or parve. In the US, the most common kind is probably a noodle, or lukshen, kugel, but there are recipes for all sorts, including lots of vegetable based ones! Try searching for spinach, carrot, or broccoli kugels to get you started. One of my favorite pesach dishes is a soufleed carrot kugel!

I have a half a container of spicy tomato juice left from a bloody mary bar a few weeks ago. It hasn't passed the sell by date so I'm guessing it's still usable. Other than drinking the juice, what are other ways to use it? I looked online and they suggested tomato juice for deoderizing plastic containers and ive done my containers and still have tons of juice left!

My first thought was to use the juice as a braising liquid for meats, like chicken thighs, to add a zesty flavor. There are lots of recipes that combine tomatoes and meat, braised in a liquid that's often chicken stock. I'd guess you could use some of that tomato juice instead of the stock and have some terrific, spicy flavors.


Here are a few more thoughts on what to do with leftover tomato juice.

What is the best way to smoke ribs without a smoker?

If you have an outdoor grill, then you can easily turn that into a smoker. If not, you can use the oven and use tea (Lapsang Souchong, which is smoked). Place ribs on rack over smoking tea. 

I make spicy black beans or pintos just about every week for an evening meal and lunches, but want to expand my horizons past burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas. What are some other main courses I can try?

So many choices!! You can make lots of hefty vegetable sides. Do you like salsa verde? Make a big batch and then cook potatoes, or any other veggie that you like, green beans, zucchini and finish it off in that salsa verde: YUM. Its like a velvetty vegetable thick stew! You can decide how spicy you want it depending on how much chile you add. 

What about rice dishes? You can use white, jasmine, or brown rice as long as it is a long grain kind, Try this red one. With lots of veggies. 

There are lots of options for cold filling salads using chayote squash, jicama, catcus paddles: vegetarian heaven....



Hi Julia. I really love watching you on both Cook's Country and America's Test Kitche. My question for you is how can make a delicious strawberry cake that won't come out too dry?

Dry cakes are most often due to overbaking, so check your oven thermometer and be sure to pull it from the oven just as it finishes baking through. As it cools in the pan, it will continue to bake and set up.

I need to do a dinner for 4 tomorrow night and only have about an hour between arriving home from work and guests arriving. Would one of the make it/freeze it options be ok, prepped in the fridge overnight? Do you have any other cheese-free, non seafood suggestions? Thank you!!

Well, let me just say that I love the fact that you know our Make It Freeze It Take It series exists. Mango-Cranberry Chicken would do nicely in the fridge overnight, as would any of the casseroles (including the great recipes from Pati J.). I liked this spicy carrot, tomato and chorizo soup a lot, too. 

HI all, my go to cake is a yogurt cake (from orangette)...I use it all the time. Oftemtimes I pour half of the batter and then scatter berries and then the rest of the batter. Othertimes I top the cake with sliced pears or apples in a pretty form. Problem is that oftentimes when I top th ecake with the fruit, it sinks so that it just looks like a plain boring cake. I've tried putting flour on the fruit, but end up with a white ring around the fruit when it bakes which is not appealing. I've also read that it helps to put the cake in the pan in the fridge before baking, and then after a half hour topping with fruit so that it doesn't sink. this doesn't work either. help! And congrats to Pati on the new book!

Sometimes dusting the berries in flour will help suspend them in the batter. But for heavier fruit, think about arranging it on the bottom of the pan -- perhaps line it with parchment paper first -- and serve the cake inverted. Should be handsome. 

Flour tortillas are not common to Mexican cuisine? How did they become so popular here?

Flour tortillas are VERY popular in the North of Mexico, that is where they rule. And that is probably why they made their way faster and more strongly to the United States, due to their closeness to the border. 

Corn tortillas are also eaten in the Northern Mexican states (less than flour tortillas) but they are MOSTLY eaten in the Ceneter of Mexico and Southern States. 

Another factor that may have helped their rise in popularity is that they are very malleable, foldable and practical; As in for wraps and gigantic burritos. Whereas corn tortillas have to be heated before you roll them or they will crack and they are smaller... so can't stuff that many things in them. AND corn tortillas taste best hot. 


I tried a recipe for blood orange curd last night, the taste is great but the color is sort of a dingy looking brown. Do you think this is because the recipe used honey as the sweetener (along with the usual butter, 2 eggs, 4 yolks, 2/3 c blood orange juice, zest)? Do you have a normal sugar based curd recipe that would keep the color?

Not sure about your color problem, but this Blood Orange Curd from our friend Cathy Barrow... wow. As, you can see, it retains the color wonderfully.

Blood Orange Curd

I really hope people who called Pati "Patti" don't win her cookbook :)

Hahaha!!! Thank YOU! Truth is... few people spell my name Pati... I have fits about it all the time... but hey. 

Don't even get me started on the people -- even those on national television who are of Latin descent! -- who mispronounce Jinich as GIN-ich. Sigh.

When and how could I use rum or brandy as a replacement for vanilla in cakes and cookies? Would it be a direct replacement or in addition to?

I would do in addition to, but the trick is to not add too much liquid to the recipe or else the texture will change dramatically. Could try adding it to the frosting, or make a rum/brandy glaze that would sit on top? That wouldn't ruin the recipe.

Bonnie, You have never had perfectly cooked shrimp! and wouldn't know perfectly cooked shrimp if it bit you!

Woot! Bring it, sir or madame.  I am a shrimpaholic. Ready to pit my taste/buds against yours any day. 

If a cooked shrimp starts biting, btw, I would say that it's a tad -- no, make that significantly -- UNDERCOOKED. Wouldn't you say?

Sorry it's farm raised catfish. It will always be catfish. Lets stop being pretentious and call it by its real name.

Yes, tilapia is farmed. Yes, many chefs hate tilapia and would never serve it. But tilapia is not catfish. Catfish is not even an acceptable market name for tilapia, according to the FDA.

Is your cooking from any particular state/region or more diverse? I grew up in L.A. (a very long time ago), so my "comfort" Mexican food is pretty much Sonoran and Baja style. It seems it's difficult to find once you leave the area. Thanks!

My cooking is a sprinkling of everywhere. I grew up in Mexico City where peple from all over the country intermingle. And once I moved to the US, I have really made an effort to explore the different regions of the country. And, I like it all : )

I found tender, moist chicken done but baking in the oven, covered in my favorite BBQ sauce (I MEAN COVERED) with extra in the bottom of the pan. 350 for about 30 minutes...test to see if they are done.

For Julia: Why do you recommend a range-top pressure cooker over an electric one? My electric range is inadequate (don't ask), so an electric pressure cooker would seem to be the solution.

We've cooked in both of them side-by-side, and while the electric has a 'walk-away' time, we found that their timers are not reliable. It can take some time for the timer to start (long after the pressure has been going) and then most seem to have a 'keep warm' function that continues to cook the food. If you time things yourself rather than rely on the cookers internal timer, they are pretty good.

The measure-oil-first trick is great, especially for honey. But for peanut butter (or molasses, or anything else that's sticky), I reach for my Pampered Chef plunger-type measuring cup. I LOVE this thing. As for the gluten-free pizza crust...I made the cauliflower crust several times and tried many different methods and NOTHING worked. It just wasn't crispy enough for me. Tasted fine, though. I'm not gluten-free, but if I were, I'd head for a GF flour as opposed to the cauliflower "crust."

Pati, Do you make your own adobo here or do you import it? Are there adobo recipes in your book? I wish I could walk to the corner adobo store where there are 50 different kinds and colors, the way you can in Mexico.

Adobo is super easy to make! I always make my own. One good version is in this barbacoa recipe, which you can use to marinade other things... You can use this recipe to start off, and then play with it: add more or less or different vinegars, more or less or different spcies, as well as dried chiles!

I just bought a packet of boneless, skinless chicken and while healthy it's not always flavorful, usually I think because it's dry. I'm wondering if a marinade or rub would help. Can you recommend something with tons of flavor?

Za'atar! Or smoked paprika! Or sprinkle on dukkah, an Egyptian blend, afterward.

Perhaps you should re-season it. You really need to get that oil into the pores and the heat chemical reaction etc. You're not using washing up liquid or like on it are you?

Re-seasoning, I think, only works if you're following a good seasoning procedure in the first place.

The smell of broccoli, cauliflower and brussels spouts would have made my stomach turn when I was pregnant. How about roasted carrots, beets or turnips?

Those would all work great! Good luck

Soooo glad you posted a recipe link, thanks! Definitely one of my top-10 foods, even including desserts! Of course, everything tastes better if you're eating it in Puebla, don't you think?

Oh yes! Puebla is one outrageously tasty city. But if you can't get there that often... next best thing it's cook it's food... 

I would love a coconut cake recipe that really brings out the flavor of coconut. Could you help me please?

This version is made with fresh coconut, and won a local cake contest.  

Can pork shoulder be subsituted for lamb in the barbacoa?


Joe: my son loves the 365 whole wheat pizza crust too, however, Whole Foods never has it in stock lately. I've searched the past 3 weeks! Any Other brands that you recommend?

Boboli whole wheat is pretty good.

Thank for the idea, he can't have it. Milk products and citrus have too much sugar and contribute to the carbs. However, I WOULD love to try it, I can have the carbs.

Well, shoot. I was hoping to help out. How about this low-carb breakfast skillet? It sounds pretty tasty, though it's more eggs!

Hi foodies and chatters, I'm trying to expand my cocktail orders when I go out. I usually order a Capt Morgan's and coke but I'd like to have a signature cocktail that, while not fancy, is sophisticated without being stuffy. I also don't want to order drinks that are typical and can be boring, such as rum and coke, gin/vodka tonics (unless that gin/tonic is from Estadio). For instance, my husband will order a Hendrick's gin with a cucumber. Others might order an old fashioned but I always feel lame ordering my standard Capt and Coke. To get out of my habit of ordering rum and cokes, I've ordered Bailey's on the rocks, Disaronno (on the rocks or with ginger ale), a lemon drop martini but they don't feel grown up. I like rum, gin and vodka and would like a drink that I don't have to explain too much on how to make it. I tend to prefer sweeter drinks but am open to trying others. Can you help? Thanks!

There is a hip new cocktail out there made with gin and elderflower liquor. Can't remember the name, but it is delicious. Also made with cucumbers I think. 

I don't know how many varieties of chorizo are available where the questioner lives, but there are dozens of different types in Mexico. So while all Mexican chorizo needs to be cooked, there may be almost as many kinds as there are kinds of bread! Well, not that many, but a lot. Pati, please weigh in here.

Si!!!! Of course in Mexico there are so many kinds of the "Mexican" chorizo, all depending on how its flavored, including the Green chorizo from Puebla with fresh herbs and Poblano chiles. In Toluca there is one that I love called almendrado, that has almonds and raisins in it. Possibilities are endless. However: they are all raw, all have vinegar, all have spices and either fresh or dried chiles. 

Hi Julia, I've always wondered why CI & ATK keep all the recipes for the mid-western audience and not for the fast-paced, home cooks who want to keep everything light, fresh, healthy, and vegetarian. I would love to see more vegetarian friendly dinners, or at least suggestions for substitutions in your meals to make it vegetarian.

Good idea! I work on the cookbooks and we do a lot more vegetarian / light&healthy recipes than the magazines do. Have you seen our ATKFamily Healthy Cookbook? It might have what you are looking for.

For anyone thinking of serving corned beef this weekend who can spend the time on a gussied-up version, the one in Sheila Lukins' All Around the World is fabulous.

Thanks for the tip!

Not about fish, but one that has pestered me for some time. If I plan to cook a meat in the slow cooker, can I brown it first, then chill in the fridge (in crock with other stuff, or separate) before cooking? I haven't tried it because I couldn't quite do the mental algebra on food cooking/holding/safety temps if it is seared but not cooked, then chilled. Thanks.

Yes- you can do that (we've done it) but the flavor gets quite metallic/iodine-like. You are better off browning the vegetables (onions work best) for fond, then adding some soy sauce or other glutamates (like mushrooms, anchovy) for a meaty flavor. 

Why? (I'm not challenging the statement, just curious.)

It's because of the risk of listeriosis, an infection that even in mild form "can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness in a newborn baby."

Pati, How would you simply cook a piece of white fish for versatility and flavor? I don't want anything fried.

You can bake fish in the oven covered with a green or red salsa!  Or in this adobo fish taco recipe (you dont need to sautee the fish, you can bake it too)

In my new cook book (hint!) there is a recipe for Pescado Rodrigo, which has a very easy chunky salsa on top. 

Just wanted to say that, although the ATK Slow Cooker Revolution recipes can take a little time, they're worth it! My wife has prepared a few from our copy of the book, and they've all been smashing successes. We've yet to try a fish recipe in the slow cooker, however. I'll check the book later and consult this chat transcript for tips and further ideas. Thanks!

hmmm. you won't find any fish recipes in the current slow cooker revolution book, but stay tuned for volume 2 -- 

The first is about my slow cooker, a Rival, given me as a gift, which is about 5 years old. It only has settings in hours-4 hours, 6 hours 8 hours or 10 hours and a warm function. difficult to correspond to slow cooker recipies that suggest cook on low,high etc. It seems like the newer cookers are better designed? Is it worth replacing this cooker- Makes great chili but have had less sucess with other things. Does anyone have a cooker that they really like?

Yes, that does sound limiting in terms of cooking times. Also, the reason there are such big time ranges in slow cooker recips (usually 1 to 2 hours) is becuase different slow cookers work quite differently. In our recent testing, we like the Crock-Pot Touchscreen which runs about $150. We have roughly 20 of them plugged into a special wall in the Test Kitchen right now- the wall has its own electrical breaker!

It *is* refrigerated after fermentation in Korea. Households even have dedicated kimchi refrigerators.

I tried making my own corned beef last year but it turned out too salty. I have the same problem with brining, too. I don't want to be on high blood pressure meds due to my own homecooked meals. Can you tell me how to make my own corned beef without it being overly salty? Brining, too? A great, big THANK YOU if you can figure this out for me. I can cook most anything but this one has me stumped.

See the earlier corned beef question. The recipe we tested in 2011 uses just ginger ale as a braising liquid. No added sodium. Surprisingly good. 

Is there a Mexican/LatAm version of stir fry? I like the option to load veggies in a stir fry and reduce the meat. However, my husband tends to prefer (or at least is more familiar with) Mexican-styled foods (albeit Americanized, I'd guess) over Asian-styled. He likes spicy, too. So, I am wondering if there is something authentic or fusion I can do in this respect. Thanks!

Yes of course!!

Here is a great choice for you, you can do it with meat, chicken or seafood. 

Classic one - Kamakazi -- vodka, triple sec and lime -- on the rocks.

Try a Pimm's cup

For the rum and brandy question. We finally made the King Arthur Flour Tender white cake, replacing the almond extract with single malt whisky and halving the vanilla. Worked wonderfully. House smelled of whisky. Icing was simple butter/confectioners sugar/whisky with a tiny bit of milk (the icing I remember from my childhood--poor people's buttercream?)

Ah, yes, I remember that question. Thanks for the report.

The question about fish smell prompted me to ask -- can caramelized onions be made in a slowcooker or in the oven? I'm trying to eliminate or minimize the smell. I love it, but my neighbor throws temper tantrums when people in the building cook strong smelling food -- sadly literally. Don't bother recommending open windows, candles, air circulators, etc. All tried and none are acceptable to her. Thanks

We've tried a few times,. but it is hard to get them brown. They get soft and sweet, but we found adding soy sauce helps with the color. Also, if making soup, roast some beef bones (which you can do in the microwave, believe it or not) and add to the pot for a hit of beefy flavor.

I think it's ok to use tomato/wine, etc., if it's only going to be in the skillet for a minute or so. The best sauce for finishing beef I've ever seen came from a Julia Child article--after browning a steak in the skillet, add garlic and or shallot for a minute or so, then a little splash of wine and tomato paste. Really good and never hurt my cast iron skillet. Of course, my skillet was already 30 years old so maybe that's why it works?

This source suggests cooking acidic foods in cast iron only if the pans are well-seasoned and if the heat is low. Otherwise, you can damage your pans.

this might be frowned upon, but I'm looking for a way to roast chicken on the bone, either pieces or whole, without the skin. I know fat is flavor and I can just take the skin off before eating it but I need to cut out the fat for health reasons. I am not sure, however, if it would dry the meat out too much. thanks.

It does dry out the meat without the skin. If roasting, consider putting another 'protective' layer over the skin, like flour or a cornmeal coating. OR, try cooking slowly in a covered pot in a low oven- known as en cocotte. Not to mention the slow cooker would work well for you here too.

Slow cooker all the way, on low for 6 hours, stuff half a lemon and some garlic cloves in the cavity.

HiYa! Okay, my wife always crinkles her nose when we are viewing ATK and you set a piece of meat, just off the heat, to rest (for the juice retention thing). She prefers her meals to be as hot as possible. I tease her that she likes her food, drink, one degree cooler than lava... Anyway, is it imperative the meat sits at room temperature for resting, or can I put it in an oven set at warming temp? What about throwing it in the microwave for 30 seconds just prior to serving?

I agree with your wife that hot food is best. However, resting meat is pretty crucial or else the meat will taste really dry and leave large puddles of jus on your plate. Micorwaving isn't a bad idea because it is fast. I would undercook the meat slightly to compensate for that last minute microwave, and possibly cover the meat with a lettuce leaf to help prevent it from drying out. Good luck!

I have a can of chipotles in adobo sauce but am afraid to open it. I just don't know how to use this ingredient and wonder if it will be too hot.

Chipotles in Adobo are FABULOUS! Please open the can!! You can use a bit to make Chicken Tinga. You can use some other to make Mexican style pasta. Listen: they are so good, I eat them with scrambled eggs in the morning, I add them to beans for a punch of flavor. Just wait: once you open it you will want to have some always in your pantry. 

I read the article today on the parked dining bus and I'm not sure I completely grasp what's going on. The bus is going to be more or less in the same spot every day? Is the kitchen on the bus (full kitchen or a smaller kitchen like the regular food trucks?) or is the bus just for dining and food made elsewhere (on an outdoor grill, for example). Will there be a bathroom? I'm not sure if it's required once seating is made available. I find the bus idea interesting but I didn't really feel like I got all of the info on it. Perhaps since it's still in the planning stages there isn't more info? Thanks!

The buses would be parked in some private space, like a parking lot or on company's property. Food trucks would gather around the buses and serve food. People then could take their food to the buses to eat. The benefit for trucks is that they would not need to rely on public parking spaces or adhere to any time limits; they could vend all day. The benefit to consumers is that you would find a bunch of food trucks in one spot -- and have a place to sit.


The Fojol Bros. do not plan to install bathrooms on the buses, if I remember correctly. But they plan to have portable toilets wherever they are.


Make sense?

Hi Free Rangers! Love the chats. I made the greek style lima beans featured last week and while they were quite tasty, the lima beans never got as soft as i would have liked - some of them we still quite hard although soft enough to chew. I soaked them overnight and then some (probably about 18 hours total), and I cooked the recipe for 10 hours in the slow cooker on low heat. I had this problem when I made black bean soup as well that used soaked dried black beans. While I've used my slow cooker a lot, these are the only times I've used soaked dried beans. Would it be better if I did perhaps an hour on high heat and then finish on low? Or is my slow cooker possibly not getting hot enough on low? Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Our tester (and food blogger) Jim Webster says: There are so many variables with dry beans. When you buy them, you have no way of knowing how long they’ve been sitting around, and the older they are, the more time it can take to resuscitate them. But with an 18-hour soak followed by a 10-hour slow cook, I’m surprised you didn’t end up with mush, so something is afoot.


If you’ve had a similar problem with other beans, it seems possible there could be an issue with the “Low” setting on your slow cooker. Have you noticed the problem when you cook other things on low? I think your idea of starting on “High” and then lowering it is a good one. It’ll bring the dish up to temperature faster, and give it a nice jump start before gradually dropping back to the lower temperature.

Nice to see some slow cooker creativity! Like the above chatter, though, I mostly use mine so that dinner is ready when I get home, and I'm tired of pulled pork and heavy beef entrees. Any suggestions for lighter dinners that can sit all day in the slow cooker?

Chicken works really well- even boneless skinless chicken if done on low with a relatively short cooking time. Also, dried beans are perfect for the slow cooker

I can vouch that tilapia is not-not-NOT catfish. I can't stand the taste of catfish even if you tell me it's something else and no matter how it's prepared. But I like tilapia a lot.

Yes, catfish has a much different flavor. Or actually has flavor.

So exciting to have Julia to chat with! Could you give simple weeknight techniques for cooking fish at home please? I try to keep the fish smell down.

I mostly roast fish, or throw it on the grill. Or rather, have my husband who was a chef and is now a fish monger throw it on the grill. En cocotte is another great way to cook fish, in addition to the slow cooker. Or in foil/parchment packets.

Well, you've poured marinade over us and cooked us until reduced by half, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great q's, and thanks to Julia, Pati, Martha and the team for helping us with the a's.

Now for the cookbook winners: The chatter who confessed to never getting "anything with masa the right texture" will win a signed copy of "Pati's Mexican Table." The chatter who asked about reducing slow-cooker beef stew so it's not so watery will get "Slow Cooker Revolution." Send your mailing info to Becky at, and we'll make sure you get your books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading...

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson. Guests: Julia Collin Davison, executive food editor for the cookbook division of America's Test Kitchen; food writer Martha Thomas; Pati Jinich, host of "Pati's Mexican Table" on public television and author of a new book by the same name.
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