Free Range on Food: Easter tarts, Doughnut Wars, Beer Madness, Erik Bruner-Yang and more

Mar 27, 2013

Cookbook author and cooking instructor Virginia Willis joins us to talk about Easter tarts. And rocker-turned-chef Erik Bruner-Yang will be here to talk about his new indoor market project and his popular restaurant Toki Underground. Plus, we have the results of our first week of Doughnut Wars.
Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Hey, everyone, and welcome to Free Range! Today we've got some VIPs: Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground, that rock star ramen maker Tim profiled today; plus Virginia Willis, y'all! She of the Easter tarts and so much more. If Greg Kitsock can manage to sign on from the Craft Beer Conference, he'll join to talk about Beer Madness. And any of us lucky (?) enough to be taking part in our Dozen Weeks of Doughnuts can talk about how that's working, of course...

We'll have giveaway books for the chatters with our favorite questions/comments, so make 'em good. Let's do this thing!


YES! That sounds awesome. What's your favorite vegetarian kimchi?

Mac and Kimcheese With Mushrooms

Well, my own, of course. (Although sometimes I do make it with fish sauce and oyster sauce, which aren't vegetarian. Other times I use a little red miso instead.) For store-bought, I think Sunja's, which I buy at Whole Foods, is pretty good.

Oh, very timely! I happened to have my first Toki experience last week, and I had the chicken added to my soup. It was amazing. Though I loved my meal, waiting 4 hours to be seated is a one time deal for me, I am so happy to be able to make this chicken at home now. If I was going to make my own togarashi mix do I buy sheets of nori and grind them up (what's the best way to do this) or is it sold already ground? Is nori a good ingredient to have in my pantry, what else do you use it for (besides making sushi)?

you can get togorashi at whole foods and any asian grocery store. you can grind the nori if you do make it at happen or just cut tiny pieces with a pair of scissors. I love having nori in the pantry. A little salt and it is a great snack. chop up it up with some chilis over some rice. back  in the oven with a little oil to make some nori chips.

I made the matzoh praline that was part of the Mock Chestnut Torte with Matzoh Praline in your recipe database. That stuff is so very, very good I would recommend anyone buy a box of matzoh just to make it! Many thanks for this special treat.

Mock Chestnut Torte With Matzoh Praline

Word. Marcy Goldman is a very good holiday baker. Ever tried her Passover Brownies? Made with those tough leftover blobs from the can. The recipe's in the about-to-be released, first ever Washington Post Cookbook: Readers' Favorite Recipes! Bril.

I'm always stuck about what to serve for Easter dinner. We don't have any strong food traditions associated with this holiday (except for hot cross buns). I'd like to do something light and spring-like, I guess, but am still stuck in winter dishes, especially since there's still 4 inches of snow on the ground here in Pennsylvania. My husband and MIL don't like lamb, so that's out. I'm thinking maybe a pasta dish with lots of fresh vegetables (peas, asparagus, etc.) Any suggestions?

Salmon's a good alternative -- the right preparation can bring spring to your table. (oY, does that sound like an ad?) Or how about a quiche? Or Virginia Willis's salmon and leek tart?

For a pasta/salad, you could try Farro With Pea Shoots and Spring Onions, Fettuccine With Artichokes, Peas and Prosciutto or Fruited Conchigliette With Pecans and Feta.

Are rankings based only on taste? If not, what other factors counted?

Taste is paramount, of course, but with a doughnut texture is up there, too. We're considering both of those, and appearance.

Erik's nuggets look fantastic! Is potato starch something easily found in grocery stores? And, what do you think about oven baking these instead of frying?

I ate way too many; "testing" perk.  Potato starch is almost always around, but especially now because it's a much-used ingredient during Passover. Not sure these would do well in the oven. Batter is very, very thick, and I think the chicken would be overcooked by the time any browning happened. Frying goes quick, tho. If the oil's the right temp, the nuggets are not going to take on a lot of it.

potato starch you can get at whole foods. I have never tried baking but I dont think it will work well because of the breading. If you are worried about being healthy you can fry it with very little oil. 

Why do I keep repeating myself after reading the Food Section?

I don't know, why do you? I don't know, why do you?

What is the secret to keeping a sushi roll from unrolling? I like preparing my own variations on sushi and California rolls, but the seaweed wrapper or nori always opens. And that's messy. Thanks.

put a little bit of sushi rice on all four corners of the nori. You might need to up the stickyness of the rice. Try using more sugar in your sushi vinegar and make sure you incorporate it when the rice is fresh out of the rice cooker and then let the rice cool

Yo Free Range Is anyone else getting irritated by control-freaky cookbook/recipe writers? I refer to recipes that call for expeller-pressed corn oil...filtered anything...butter from grass-fed beef...unrefined salt....etc. And then there's everyone who's on the EVOO bandwagon - that term needs to die. What if I use cheap, slutty olive oil? What's going to happen to my dinner? Seriously, recipe developers, what is going to happen to my recipe if I don't follow your instructions and purchase just the right ingredient? Isn't cooking supposed to be fun and interpretive? Please stop conflating what is better in your opinion to eat for your health with what is going to work in a recipe. Also, Free Range, what is up with all these anti-soy people? I shared an idea with a food blogger recently that included TVP as an ingredient and was sent in a reply an anti-soy screed...I am still shaking my head over that one.

I hear your rant! The thing is, most people are going to do what they want with a recipe anyway, so smart recipe writers try to come up with recipes that can handle that interpretation (within reason, of course). As for the anti-soy people, well, I think it's about avoiding too much processed food, but soy can be unfairly painted with a broad brush in that respect, I think.

Loved your recipes for tarts this morning. That peanut butter cup tart took a second glance to realize it's this massive thing rather than a bite-size candy. I bet that's really good. I make pies all the time--mostly sweet but sometimes savory--but I've never made a tart. Thus, I don't have a tart pan. Is it okay to make a tart in a pie dish or do I really need a tart pan? Is there any significant difference other than the fluted edge? And do you serve the tarts in the pan or remove them somehow?

You-Got-Peanut-Butter-in-My-Chocolate Tart

Thanks for being interested in making my PB Chocolate Tart. It's over the top! I haven't tested it in a pie plate, but I think a pie plate would be too small. It's 11-inches and most pie plates are smaller. If I were to consider another pan, I would actually think maybe using a 8 x 11 or so pyrex baking dish or metal casserole.

Totally bummed because I was called in to work so I won't be able to participate live, but I hope you can take my question so I can check the response tonight. A friend just had a baby & I thought I would take a chicken potpie casserole to her next week to help her out. It normally calls for 60-65 minutes of baking at 350 degrees so the chicken get completely cooked. Would it be better to cook it entirely before taking it to her and have her just reheat it, or should I cook it for maybe 30 minutes and tell her when she is ready, just cook it at 350 degrees for another 35-40 minutes? I was planning on cooking it the day I visit rather than preparing and freezing it, although my visit will be short and I do not plan on staying for dinner (she and her family will have enough to do with homework and bathing for the older siblings, etc.). Thanks for your help - I will definitely miss you today!

We'll miss you, too. I'd bake it completely then drop it off with reheating directions -- you don't want to mess with chicken that might not get cooked through.

I've been having a hard time recently whenever a recipe calls to cream butter and sugar. I always let the butter come to what seems like room temperature - it gives slightly when I press it, but it still holds its shape for the most part. I will then mix the two for the recipes' recommended two to five minutes - I'm not even close to having a light and fluffy mix. So I keep mixing and mixing and mixing for what seems like 10 to 15 minutes. I usually stop when it looks the ingredients have at least stopped resembling sand. My baked goods seem to turn out fine, but I have a feeling they'd be even better if I could master creaming. So, what am I missing? Should I let my butter get even softer? Are the recipes nuts in the estimated times and creaming really takes a lot longer? Or is there something else at play here? Thanks. FWIW, I use unsalted butter and regular sugar, unless the recipe calls for something else.

May I ask you what you are creaming the butter and sugar with? A handheld? A kitchen aid or other kind of heavy duty mixer? 15 minutes is a looong time to cream butter and sugar.


I bet if you'd put The Corruption in the bracket instead of The Citizen there'd be another DC beer in the mix still. Just saying. But seriously, great first round and I love the line up of judges. Nice variety there.

Don't be so sure. It's so surprising what happens when tasting is blind, with no preconceived notions about the brewery or the beer. But you might be right! Choosing those lineups was very hard, of course -- Greg Engert tried to match things that are as similar in style as possible, so the first round would be as fair as it could be.

do you know where I can find them? Fresh I find every now and again at a farmer's market, but I have never seen them in the frozen section of any grocery store. Any ideas?

You can always find them, either frozen or dried or fresh (in season), at Mediterranean markets -- I'm a fan of Yekta in Rockville; btw, that supermarket sells fresh walnuts by the pound that taste so much better than anything I find at other stores. Whole Foods Markets carry the dried. MOM's has them dried and canned.


What's  your fave way to use them?

Hi guys, I love your chat! I just moved (indefinitely) to Seoul a week ago and I am in a food lover's paradise. But, I feel that I have had too much meat and want to start cooking more vegetables at home. I am baffled, however, at the unfamiliar array of leafy greens and sprouts at the market. All the names are in Korean, and I suspect, that the translations wouldn't help much either as they look quite unfamiliar (besides spinach, basic lettuce). Do you know of any websites with a primer on Korean veggies (namul?). The ones I have seen just have a handful (e.g. spinach, moong bean sprouts, perilla leaves). There is way more in the stores than that. Thanks for helping! After searching for a few days for info, I thought I would turn to you guys. You always seem to have the answers!

Hmm. I see this Korean Wiki Project list of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with translation, but there are no photos! Chatters, any wisdom?

Concerning the bitterness of dark chocolate, the tartness of cranberry, the sourness of yogurt, and the carbonation of soft drinks, is there a term that describes that thing which gives an edge to (usually) sweet things?

The Tao of Tang?

Ooooh, wonderful idea! Here's an image you might like. Doughnuts and optimism -- a great couple!

Too funny. Eyes on the doughnut, everyone!

I bought cardamom pods for the first time for a recipe (Ottolenghi's chicken with cardamom rice), but I'm not sure how to eat them. Once they are cooked in the recipe do I remove them, like a bay leaf, or are they edible in the pod? Also, for the future, if I grind them in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle, should I grind it in the pod or take the seeds out first? thanks

You're on the right track. Before you put them in your dish, crack open the pods so the flavor of the seeds can infuse whatever you're cooking (I use the back edge of my chef's knife to do this). Then remove the pods when you're done -- don't sweat it if some of the seeds come out. For grinding, remove the seeds and discard the pods.

If you're looking to further flex your cardamom repertoire, I can highly recommend Joe's Cardamom-Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles.

Cardamom-Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles

Wait! Don't discard those pods, I say. Put them in a glass jar and pour over granulated sugar to fill it, and within a few days you have beautiful cardamom-scented sugar, perfect for chai, other tea, to sprinkle on various baked goods, ice cream, etc.

Yes, listen to Joe. I always do. :)

Aw, shucks!

Hey - chatter again who just moved to Seoul. Funnily enough, I had okonomiyaki this afternoon for lunch that was to die for. In addition to the cabbage, mayonnaise, and bonito flakes, this one had pieces of fried pork and - no joke - corn flakes! Great article! Wish i could join the discussion, but 13 hours ahead. :(


Joe - since you like it so much, curious where you've foudn the best source/brand. When you do opt to buy it and not make it yourself that is. :)

For a vegetarian version, I like Sunja's. For a non-veggie version, my favorite would be the freshly made stuff at H Mart or Super H or the like. I also like a Japanese brand whose name I can't recall that I buy at Hana on 17th and U.

I love, love, love a quick lunch of couscous and StarKist Sweet and Spicy Tuna. I'm trying to eat fewer foods that are so processed, but I'm not great at figuring out how to replicate something like the tuna. The identifiable ingredients on the package--besides tuna--are sugar, white vinegar, tomatoes, red bell pepper, chili powder, salt, garlic, and onion. Where do I start trying to make a sweet and spicy tuna myself?

i would find just a great sweet and sour sauce recipe that you can make at home from scratch. with that sauce you can incorporate into anything. Canned Tuna is really just overly baked tuna. So you can make your own replica with fresh crabmeat, boiled chicken, steamed fish, etc.

Try using America's Test Kitchen cookbooks. When they suggest a particular brand or type of ingredient, there is usually an explanation about why that choice is superior. They also do not default to the most expensive ingredient.

It might be good to remind folks that potato starch is different from potato flour. They are often side by side in grocery stores.

correct! thanks! if you cant find potato starch you can always incorporate a little bit of corn startch into your regular flour to get that great crunchy texture.

Best line of the month.

Yeah, I chuckled, too. (Puts on British accent here) Dirty, dirty olive oil!

You are not my best Wednesday at noon friends anymore. I'm going to visit with Reliable Source until Passover is done. So there....(see you next week).

We couldn't wait! Too many doughnuts to eat.

Chock Full o' Nuts whole wheat donuts, to be precise. No glaze. Or so my memory tells me. Once a month in the 1950s and 1960s, my grandmother would take me to the Chock Full o' Nuts coffee shop in midtown New York, where I'd order one donut and a small glass of something not so memorable (milk? Chocolate milk?). I ate the donut with a fork and knife, savoring each bite like now I would the finest steak. It was my introduction to whole wheat anything and I loved it so much that more than half a century later, I recall the culinary thrill those doughnuts inspired in me as clearly as I remember favorite dishes at any top restaurant. Maybe someplace around here will try making whole wheat doughnuts, too.

Wow! The first I'm hearing about these. I wonder if they were ALL whole wheat? Probably not.

I went to an awesome breadmaking class and brunch at Enrico's in Pittsburgh last Sunday. Lots of great information, some really cool stories about how world history was shaped by bread, 3 different loves to bring home -- and they're all really amazing -- one baked in the wood fired oven. One of the loaves was the basic flour, salt, water, yeast. One problem -- he never gave us the proportions. Can you enlighten me with the proper proportions?

That depends on the individual recipe, of course! Maybe if you contact him, he'll get you those details.

As for another basic bread recipe, we all really liked Marcy Goldman's Favorite French Bread .

Favorite French Bread

I realize that this is out of your control, but it would be great if you can pass it on to the relevant staff. I just downloaded the WaPo's new Ipad app, thinking it would somehow improve upon the prior version. What's the first thing I notice? There is no longer a dedicated "Food" section, instead your articles are lumped in with other "Lifestyle" stories, which frankly leave little to be desired. I seriously can't fathom why an award winning section like "Food" no longer merits being featured on its own.

Interesting. I left my iPad at home today, too -- was going to download to check out the new app. I believe you can look at the whole print paper, though, and zoom over to Food and then click on various stories and see them in a digital version. But I'll look as soon as I get a chance and complain, of course!

Do you think it is okay to refrigerate the blender jar with something in it, then place it directly back on the blender base to re-mix? Or should it come to room temperature first? I made a big batch of pancake batter and wondered if it was necessary to transfer the leftover batter, which eventually separates, to a different container before refrigerating and eventually remixing. Thanks.

As long as it doesn't leak, I'm in favor. Maybe let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes before remixing?

I'm making the Easter Ham this year and I really want to do something different. I'm not big on glazes since they tend to be too sweet for my taste, I'm not a big sweet person ( and yes I've tried adding savory spices, but it's still just too sweet). Is there anything else I can do to jazz up a pre-cooked spiral sliced ham?

You can  easily make your own glaze with a syrup like honey or cane, Dijon mustard, orange juice and of course, bourbon!

That's CSOO to you! I"m like you, so tired of hearing people say EE VEE OHH OHH.

Wondering if you had a recipe for a somewhat quick and easy paella? Would love to try it out in my kitchen - willing to try shortcuts on time but not on flavor. And frankly, I think some restaurants are trying some shortcuts to the detriment of the dish. (do I sound fussy? Too much Lenten fish - ) Thanks!

Joe has several variations in our database.

Personal Paella With Squid and Scallions

Personal Paella With Squid and Scallions

Spinach and Chickpea Paella

Spinach and Chickpea Paella

Squash and Artichoke Paella

Squash and Artichoke Paella

And one more from our friend Stephanie Witt Sedgwick, Shrimp, Andouille and Sweet Pea "Paella."

Shrimp, Andouille and Sweet Pea "Paella"

I totally get the OP's rant about organic ingredients, filtered water, special meat, etc. But I have to disagree with the extra virgin olive oil anger. Extra virgin tastes different from regular olive oil, so unless the recipe is for frying or some similar use (nevermind that frying in olive oil is not terribly ideal), swapping one for the other will give you a different-tasting outcome from what the recipe writer intended (whereas my soup isn't going to taste any different because I used tap water).

What about a maple glaze? It's the right time of year for maple syrup, too.

maple would be great with that combination, too.

any syrupy (real, not imitation) will do. Just heat it up and brush on the ham while baking. The alcohol in the bourbon bakes off, but it leaves a lovely lingering finish that cuts the edge of the sweetness.

I'm going to be honest with you: we go through olive oil like water and the one we get get is pretty reasonable in cost. And it's delicious. The concept that olive oil has to be expensive to be good is incorrect. Also, dirty olive oil makes good dirty martinis, right? heh

Some people are allergic to soy. Try to find food without soy lecithin or soy oil. Also most soy is GMO.

Lets rant today! I posted this a few weeks ago but it wasn't answered. Why is the farm-to-table movement so heavily centered on exotic charcuterie and animals that are high on the food chain (antithetical to sustainability, no?)? I understand that many people under 60 haven't tasted offal before and want to try it with friends, properly prepared, etc. I'd rather have localvore cheeses and veggies than the next big shock-value trend, e.g., the restaurant in Phila that is now trying to get horse meat on their menu. The one-upmanship is really annoying. Also - EVOO vs. slutty olive oil was pure brilliance, thank you chatter.

We're going to have 24 hard boiled eggs after dying them for Easter. Need some ideas on how to use them up... egg salad, added to green salads and??? How long are they safe to eat after hard-boiling?

you can make a lot of great sauces with hard boiled eggs that can increase shelf life of the eggs. you can make some great aioli's with just hard boiled eggs, oil, and your favorite spices. try pickling them too!

I'd eat them within three days of hard-boiling. But they need to be refrigerated, pronto. (If they're out for more than two hours after boiling, toss em.) And the dyes need to be food-grade for you to eat them.

I don't know if I've ever seen a casserole where the chicken isn't cooked first. Have you made it before? Having had a mac and cheese made for me where the cook didn't realize the mac had to be cooked first, I just wanted to throw out a warning to make sure!

Not too often, you're right. My condolences on the mac.

I have 2 cans of "lite" coconut milk (the contents of one are in the freezer). Ideas for what I can make? I'm not a fan of Thai or Indian food, so a curry is out of the question. I also have a carton of frozen whipping cream--can I use that to make caramels? Any tried-and-true recipe? I've made caramels once and it was a mess, but I'm blaming an old thermometer.

If you don't like Thai or Indian, I am not sure if this will work, but there are some Caribbean and South American recipes that use coconut milk....

So are you cake or yeast doughnuts fans? As a New Englander I am firmly in the cake doughnut camp (preferably the buttermilk and nutmeg ones my mom makes at Christmas), although a fresh yeast doughnut isn't too terrible. I think that cake doughnuts continue to be delicious even if they aren't hot of oil even the next day, yeast ones quickly get dry and have to be consumed very quickly or they are no good. However, I have found that people from other areas of the country have different doughnut alliances and feel that yeast are better. How does the difference between the two types play into your rankings?

I'm a yeast-doughnut guy. I like excellent cake ones, but I prefer the yeast. But the panelists don't all agree on this preference, so I think it works out.

I hope you'll make categories. Personally, I hate cream-filled doughnuts so would be dismayed to see one of those win overall! Also, categories will let you have a top cruller, top churro, etc.

Yep, we'll certainly have categories by the end, yes. We're waiting to see how everything breaks down week to week, but some other winners and losers beyond the big ones will certainly present themselves.

I thought that was Filly Cheese steaks


I'm a food blogger and the only harsh comments I've ever received have been in regards to my use of extra virgin olive oil. I don't know the science of why it tastes better, I just know that it creates a smoother taste when it comes to dressings and doesn't have any acidic after taste like the non-EVOO varieties I've tried. When did this anti-EVOO party begin? Is kale going to be the next target?!?!

I think it's Rachael Ray's fault. That acronym, especially if you pronounce it like a word, sounds just too silly and pretentious to many.

I've used both a hand mixer and my Cuisinart stand mixer.

Hmm, well, it might just be the "wet sand" description. If you are creaming for 10-15 minutes with a stand mixer, that's a really long time. Creaming is essentially aerating the mixture. So, by beating the butter and sugar that long you may be making air bubbles -- that you then essentially pop. Go shorter for better results. Thanks for asking!

I think I may have submitted this in years past, but my favorite dish for Easter dinner is the classic northern Italian dish for Easter pie. I don't have a recipe handy, but googling "Torta pasqualina" should turn up some good ones. The crust varies (pasta frolla, others that are filo-like, etc), but it always has ricotta and greens (usually spinach or chard). It is cooked with whole eggs in it, included by indenting the filling and then cracking the egg into the indentation, which shires the egg while cooking and is both a lovely presentation when cut and very tasty.

I'm pregnant with our first baby (yay!) and the one food craving that is just overwhelming is a yen for all things citrus. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits...nothing is safe from the voracious citrus-eating-machine that I've become. But beyond juice and eating the fruit whole, I'm a bit stumped. Can you give me some recipe ideas for incorporating citrus into appetizers, entrees, and even desserts? Many thanks!

That is a very responsible craving to have! First thing that pops into my head is our recent recipe for Blood Orange Curd. So much you can do with that, including Cathy Barrow's recipe for Coeur a la Cremesicle.

Coeur a la Cremesicle

For main courses, have a look at Californian Chicken (bonus -- it's make-ahead!) and Ginger-Poached Salmon With Orange and Honey.

Also appealing:

Carrots With Onion-Orange Marmalade

Carrots With Onion-Orange Marmalade

Grapefruit Risotto With Seared Scallops

Grapefruit Risotto With Seared Scallops

Blood Orange and Grilled Grapefruit Salad

Seriously, we have a ton of citrus recipes in our database!

Went to H Mart and was in a veggie purchasing frenzy bc everything looked so good. Bought more bok choy that I know what to do can i incorporate bok choy into an easy lunch?

just steam it and eat with soy sauce. so easy. you can pull the leaves for a salad. you can pickle the stalk part. I love steamed or quick blanched bok choy just as is. you can make a quick stir fry for lunch?

I used to have several recipes I made that required it, so I would keep it on hand. I never had any trouble finding it. A few months ago I needed potato starch and couldn't find it at the Giant, which is where I'd always bought it. I talked to several employees and none of them had ever heard of it. Finally, one of them (since I was asking for something so exotic) walked me over to the natural foods section and there we found a package of Bob's Red Mill potato starch. (BRM also sells potato flour and, as someone noted, they're different, so read the label carefully.) So, for someone looking for potato starch out of Passover season or in an area where no one knows what it is, Bob's Red Mill sells it.

I just did a cooking class at CulinAerie (highly recommend, by the way), and we made fettucine with guanciale (though you could use pancetta, pork belly, or other ham), onion, cream, peas, and parmesan. It was delicious, filling, and excellent for cold weather. Plus, when I think of Easter, I think of ham. This gets the hamminess without having an actual ham.

OP, here. Bonnie, thanks for your suggestions. I went and looked at the Food Section (which I should have done before posting the question) and found the marvelous-sounding recipe for poached salmon and potatoes with asparagus, so that's what we're having. Dessert will be a lemon cake with balsamic strawberries. One question: my husband is not fond of salmon; is there a white fish I could substitute for salmon? Although he might just have to put up with it for this dinner because I love salmon. Thanks much!

Hmm. Is arctic char too close? (Light pink; hasn't got much Spam in it, if you get the reference). Thick cuts of rockfish or even monkfish could work for him.

My fiance and I are spending Easter alone and he requested Kentucky Hot Brown in lieu of more traditional Easter dishes. Given where we live (upper Midwest) hearty food is sadly still welcoming. The tomatoes, however, are not so good this time of year. Any suggestions for replacements or a type of tomato that would be good this time of year? Thanks so much for your time here!

How about roasted red peppers? Or you could get some hothouse/roma tomatoes, split them in half, drizzle with a little olive oil on top and roast at 400 degrees until deflated and more fully flavored. Have you seen our recipe for hot browns?


Go to Trader Joe's for your tofu. None of their products have GM ingredients. I don't know why Whole Foods got such great press for labeling GM products when TJ's doesn't even carry them!

I put it into morning blended drinks (I have an irrational hatred of the synonym for that phrase that starts with "sm," sorry) with banana, yogurt, and honey, and with rice, black beans, onions, garlic, and green peppers for the base of a Caribbean-style rice dish.

Why, might you mean SMOOTHIE? Sorry. Couldn't resist.

I'm invited to dinner this weekend and have been tasked with bringing a dessert. need something impressive looking to impress some of the guests but nothing too tricky. thinking along the lines of a tart or something with a girl out!

This frangipane cake is easy, and awesome. You can make it a day or two in advance; hold at room temperature. Or freeze it. You can substitute blackberries, which might be easier to find right now. I even tweaked it for Passover, using matzoh cake meal instead. People liked it better than the chocolate thing I made. You can even look online to make your own almond paste, which is cheaper (and prob better) than the tubes you'll find on the baking aisle.

Beer folks, Greg Kitsock is in the house!

that recipe makes me want to leave work right now and try it!! however, i am more of a savory cook (ie i'm not big on detailed instructions, i'm more of a little of this little of that type cook) - any pep talk advice you could give on that miles long recipe?! thank you!

I know. It's a bear. It really is a long one, but oh-so-good. One suggestion would be to use store-bought pie crust. The flavor cannot compare, but they are a time saver. And, I mention flattening the peanut butter mousse with plastic (hang-up from my Martha Stewart days) but if you don't care so much about the eveness, you can skip the fussy steps. Frankly, this tart would be good any which way!

A quick search finds that the Chock Full o' Nuts whole wheat donuts were a "signature dish" of the chain, either plain or with powdered sugar on top and ... they're back, at least in Manhattan, where the coffee shop reopened in 2010. Not clear if bleached-flour donuts were/are available too.

To keep the nori from opening up after wrapping a roll, I was taught to mix a little bit of water and rice wine vinegar and apply that to the edge of the nori opposite of the filling. Once you wrap the roll all the way up on your bamboo matt, the wetttened nori will stick to the rest of the nori and the roll will not open up.

For Easter every year I make Chinese egg custard tarts. I saw a photo in a magazine and googled til I found a great recipe. The delicate size and custard is perfect for spring. and the egg connection is good for easter and the increased egg production at the farm.

shrimp in coconut milk, arroz con coco, coconut flan, smoothies, tres leches cake with one of the milks being coconut.

This southern coconut sweet potato bisque is one of the best things I've ever made. I usually use the full-fat version of coconut milk, but I'm sure it'll still be great. It sometimes comes out a little thick, depending on how much water evaporates, so feel free to add a bit more back in at the end.

i use coconut milk a lot in pancakes also you can use coconut milk for bun xeo!

Ooh, we may need that recipe, Erik.

I'm baking a ham for Sunday. The ham I purchased says it is glazed. In the past, I have purchased hams with glaze packets, but this one came without. Any suggestions for a great glaze? Thanks!

oops - I think I answered this somewhere else. For a homemade glaze combine some kind of syrup like cane, maple, or honey and add Dijon mustard, orange juice, and of course, bourbon! Simmer until it's warmed and bath the ham in it while it is cooking.

I'm not sure your quest for the best doughnuts will take you as far as Annapolis, but if it does, go to Carlson's Doughnuts (and Thai Kitchen) on West Street. Wonderful doughnuts (particularly the sour cream ones). I don't know who the Carlsons were, but by the time we moved to Annapolis, in the 1970's, the shop was owned by a Thai family.

Thanks for the tip! We'll mull.

Last week there was a discussion about how far a recipe's description can stray from its (alleged) inspiration before it becomes deceiving. An example given was a Nicoise salad that contained none of the traditional ingredients, but made one of you "think of" a Nicoise salad (although he didn't say why). But while Cobb salads never contained cobs, the traditional Salad Nicoise is named after its (Nicoise) olives. So while playing with the protein and other vegetables is legitimate, once you abandon the olives it's no longer a Nicoise, just as a spinachless dish can't be "Florentine."

It can in your own mind. ;-)

I've seen a recipe making chocolate pudding using coconut milk! It didn't turn out so well for me, but I'm willing to put that on my own cooking failures rather than the recipe! I also keep it around to make a quick weeknight dinner of fish poached in coconut milk. I start by warming up a little bit of oil, add ginger and garlic, kale, some kind of very hot pepper (omit if you dislike them, or substitute for green peppers), and then add the milk and some water. When the kale is close to done, add a white fish (I like tilapia!) and let it cook through. Serve over a little bit of brown rice, or whatever your thing is. Not gourmet at all, and I'm sure I'll offend some purists, but it's easy and delicious!

Why do apples cost about twice as much by weight as apple juice? Whole apples aren't peeled, cored, pressed or bottled, all of which must add expense. If I made my own apple juice, wouldn't it be crazy-expensive? Just wondering ...

That's a good question. I called Maddy Beckwith with FreshFarm Markets, who was also intrigued by the question.


It's hard to say exactly why there's such a counterintuitive pricing on bulk apples vs. cider. But Beckwith checked with other staff members and they thought it could be a function of "what varieties of apples they're juicing, which may not be as expensive as the ones you're buying." The apples could be seconds or those apples too ugly to buy at a market.


She was going to check with apple farmers for more answers.

I've never heard of making chicken pot pie with raw chicken. It was my understanding that this delicious meal was creative and thrifty way to use up leftovers. I make it several times a year. Basically, you cut up cooked, leftover chicken, add cooked, leftover veggies, put it in a rich sauce and bake it in a pie crust. When the pie crust is done, the dish is heated through and the flavors are combined. If you want to freeze it, you can before the baking step. Me thinks people overthink (and over pay!) for the ingredients in this comfort food.

Sometimes you parcook chicken; it finishes in the potpie. But sure, perfect for leftovers/thrifty cooking.

The rolled mustard greens in Toki's ramen broth -- is that traditional in Taiwan? Do you steam first. I love it.

i think was really attracted to  the visual of  the rolled mustard greens. i saw them once in some old photos of traditional ramen. I cant remember now if we used them in Taiwan but sour greens are used a lot in taiwanese food. We wash them for about an hour and then we blanche them for about two minutes. then we roll them. They rotate between a chinese mustard green and a "american" mustard green. 

I'll be baking a ham Sunday at the request of my husband. We'll have several pounds of leftovers, which we'll freeze. I have a few ideas for re-use, and he's always game for sandwiches, but I thought I'd ask if you have any clever "new" ideas. I am not a huge ham fan (I like it OK, I just wouldn't walk across town for it... or even around the block), so this is a new adventure for me.

My grandmother always made ham "salad." (Only in the South is something combined w/ mayonnaise and called a "salad")  She'd grind it up and combine it with chopped pickles and mayonnaise. It's pretty good. You could also freeze in smaller pieces and use bits of it as a flavoring agent in soups, sauces, and vegetables for salt and a savory umami flavor.

looks delicious, thanks for the tip...i dont have cake flour...can i use regular flour?

I bet it'd be okay.

Good Housekeeping ran an easy recipe for Bee-Sting Ham Glaze that doesn't look too sweet. It is made with cayenne and ginger as well as honey and brown sugar. Maybe make it with half of the sweetener, taste, then see whether you want to add the rest. Alternatively, I don't see why you couldn't do a savory or spicy dry rub, maybe with a little oil (pure or slutty, your choice) to hold it.

I have not looked at that recipe. I usually use one from Bobby Flay Bar American, but this one looks fantastic. And thanks for the roasted red pepper tip! Sounds great.

I know that Rebecca Lang's new book Southern Table has a yummy looking recipe for a KY Brown.

Doing a big brunch soon and making several large dishes ahead, like mac and cheese and an egg casserole, and wondering if my initial plan to also do a baked French toast is unnecessary. Maybe I should just do some baked goods instead, like a nice banana bread? What are your favorite brunchy treats that keep well a day or three (i.e. not biscuits)?

I think with the egg casserole, you might not want the baked French toast, indeed, since it's also an egg casserole of sorts. So I vote for banana bread and the like, yes. I like stratas for brunch. Just also make sure you have something crisp to offset all that richness -- like a nice green salad.

Joe's right. It's not the extra-virgin olive oil that has people hating, it's the "word," evoo! And, as someone who's eaten/used mostly olive oil instead of butter for 70+ years, I keep different extra-virgins, plus pure and extra-light oils on hand. You don't need EV for everything.


Break out the grill, people! If you're not feeding the whole extended family, cut a few 3/4 inch slices of ham off the bone, 5-6 minutes each side; bake a few sweet potatoes ahead of time, and steam some green beans from the farmers market. A simple spin on the same old thing that also gives the wife a day off (so she can concentrate on dessert!).

Finally found the perfect devil's food recipe for my son's first birthday cake but am now at a loss for how to frost it. Might do a Swiss buttercream (that's the whipped one with the cooked egg whites, right?) since it holds up so nice. What are some other frosting options that all ages can enjoy?

I'm a fan of cream-cheese frosting.

I'm with you on glazes. Last year I made a glaze with reduced Dijon mustard and beer. Brush it on the ham about 25 minutes before you want to serve. Top with crushed pretzels (get low sodium unless you like things very salty). Return to oven to crisp everything up. Nice and savory.

That pretzel touch sounds fun. Goes with the mustard and beer, doesn't it?

I feel that I have to speak up about the olive oil rant. Olive oil is one of the most adulterated agricultural products in the world. I buy the "expensive" stuff for the superior taste and the high levels of polyphenols, which have known health benefits. There is clearly a taste difference between good olive oil and the stuff that costs $4 a bottle. Please read "Extra Virginity", a book by Tom Mueller and you will know why.

I'm shocked Joe writes that we should use hard-boiled eggs within three days of boiling. I thought they'd last longer than raw eggs -- weeks or months! It's amazing I'm alive ...

OK, a week is probably more like it. But not weeks or months, no! And just because you are alive doesn't mean people should follow your lead!

check out the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel food section online today ( for recipes that address leftover hard cooked eggs (and a successful trial of Alton Brown's plan to bake eggs to hard cook them). According to the author (Nancy Stohs), Google yields dozens (pardon) of recipes for hard cooked eggs. No affiliation to the paper, just impressed that our town is publishing some decent stuff these days.

I would say Google yields THOUSANDS of recipes for hard-cooked eggs, not dozens. But will have to check out Alton's. My method doesn't fail me, though. After pricking the round end of cold eggs, put them in simmering water for 9 minutes, then ice bath to stop cooking. That results in yolks that are shy of being chalky inside.

Try a boiled frosting! Easy, easy, easy.

Love these chats and everyone is always asking what to cook, how to cook something, why something didn't turn out etc. But.. what do YOU like to cook? How often do you cook, any meals you make that are in a "regular" rotation? etc.

Dessert. I will confess, above everything else I like to make sweets. My husband calls me the compulsive baker.

I usually cook several days a week. Pretty much every day we're eating a home-cooked meal, but leftovers account for at least a couple of weeknights.

Meals in our regular rotation? Chickpea Curry, grilled cheese, pinto bean burritos, aloo gobi, pizza...

I cook at home at least three or four nights a week. Lots of chopped salads made from pre-prepped ingredients, braised greens, roasted vegetables. Stir-fries, sandwiches, pizza, tacos. So much more.

five guys. just kidding. only a little though. I love making chicken soup at the house, congee, and a stir fried beef dish called lok lak. 

In season, I break out the off-set smoker and slow-smoke briskets and ribs and sausages. But this winter, I've been making a lot of bread, which has been both fun and frustrating. I've also been doing a number of slow braises; I recently did a long and leisurely braise with a Border Springs lamb shank, and used the meat for homemade tacos on homemade corn tortillas. Man, I'm hungry for those all over again.

Well, I'm usually trying out recipes for Dinner in Minutes fame. But when I'm not, I like to do Ina Garten's Mustard-Roasted Fish (in heavy rotation, like once a week) or a salad with avocado, soft lettuces, my own vinaigrette and maybe a few pieces of flank steak or grilled shrimp on top. What I love to cook: choc chip cookies, a diff recipe every time. Although not so much as an empty nester. I make a lot of scones for the husband.

I'm looking for a light spring cocktail to serve on Sunday at our Easter "linner". What would you recommend mixing with cava or soda water for the non-drinkers in the family? I would rather not do OJ. Also, I am very bummed that Easter is so early and the local asparagus isn't this year. Thank you.

Since citrus is still in season what about freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and soda (you could have a bottle of campari for the adult version). Freshly squeezed lime juice combined with pureed mango and soda for a tropical feel would be nice, too.

What are the important veggies to use in Tonkotsu?

you really just want to find the balance in the vegetables to help you cut through the richness of the soup. A nice vegetable that does not get lost in the broth. That is why mustard greens and the pickled ginger work so well. bulky greens like bok choy are great too. mushrooms and corn work better in the lighter broth, in my opinion, because they dont get as lost. 

Does it taste like sauerkraut?

Like spicy, funky sauerkraut. In other words, no.

Is potato starch the same as potato flour? I use potato flour instead of regular to thicken stews etc.

same same but different. starch is better for frying.

I made some fried rice last night (from cauliflower, actually), and while it turned out pretty well, it was missing some 'oomph.' For veggies I used carrots, mushrooms and green onions, then added scrambled egg and cashews. For seasoning I used soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic and ginger. What am I missing? I thought maybe a lime?

You've got some good things going there, but you might add some red pepper flakes, maybe some miso. Also, for soy sauce, ever tried double dark? That's a good one for stir fries.

It would be ironic if "processed foods" are their concern. As I understand it, the toxins in soy are in the unprocessed beans. (Which is true of toxins in most beans.) The more processed, the more toxins are removed. For example, the articles I've read suggest tofu is a safer source of soy than soy milk. For that matter, many vegetables contain substances when raw that interfere with the absorption of other nutrients, but not when cooked (oxalic acid, which interferes with absorption of acid, is a biggie). Cooking also increases the healthful compounds in some foods (lycopine in tomatoes).

Do you cringe at the spelling "donuts" or is it an acceptable alternate spelling? Or are doughnuts and donuts two different things??

Personally, I don't cringe at it. Both are acceptable. According to the 21st Century's favorite teacher -- Wikipedia -- "donut" is considered the American variant of "doughnut" in the UK.

I cringe, I rail, I fret at the Decline of Western Civilization. It is spelling "lite." We cannot let the denizens of lazy usage take over. Donuts are what Homer Simpson eats, and they are what you order with sprinkles at Dunkin's place.

I LOVE Alton's method. It's so much easier to peel than any other boiling method I've tried. I haven't yet tried pricking the round end, though.

For using up bok choi, it's good raw. When I was out of celery one day, I sliced up the stalks and used it in my favorite lunch: mackerels, cherry tomatoes, sliced celery, green onion or shallots and lemon salad. (the tiny mackerels in olive oil, not those big cans of mushy stuff in the supermarket!)

Edited version of earlier question: When making Tonkotsu broth from scratch at home, what veggies do you like to use?

ahh gotcha. we use ginger, garlic, onions, apples. thats it!

In addition to Yekta (love that place) you can also find them at Lebanese Taverna Market if you are in Virginia.

Do the non-yeast doughnuts have a different leavening, or none?

By non-yeast doughnuts, I presume you mean cake doughnuts? Yes, these rounds often include baking powder for leavening.

Don't take "creaming" so literally. It just means a thorough mixing. The more sugar the recipe calls for, the more "creamed" butter and sugar look like sand. The sugar isn't supposed to dissolve into the butter. They don't look "fluffy" until you add the eggs.

I am talking about soy lecithin and soy oil which is in most foods not tofu.

I think I saw some fresh ones at Harris Teeter within the last couple of months.

Excellent, thanks!

One of my 20+ year old (anodized, not non-stick) Calphalon sauce pans has become pretty scratched up on the inside. Do I need to worry about this or is that normal? I've had pan "polish" in the past; is that good, bad, or irrelevant?

I have a few Calphalon pans and am curious about your question, too. I googled it and there's a whole conversation about it on a site I like called "cooking for engineers." It's too long to post here, but check it out, and it might answer your questions!

Ate at Range over the weekend, and while much was much less fabulous than I might have hoped or expected BUT the bacon marmalade served with the corn bread was truly spectacular. Would love to add it to my brunch menu. Do you have the recipe, or can you get it?

man that bacon marmalade is good. so good. good call on that. if you can get the recipe from chef voltaggio let me know too!

In the meantime, you could check out this bacon jam from America's Test Kitchen.

I've made this one, and can attest to its goodness. Looks like Martha Stewart has a slow-cooker version. I'll check in with the Range folks today for their recipe!

I need to make an apple pie. I've never made one. Any tips? Also, any recipes? There are SO many on the internet that it is hard to know which are good and which to ignore. I really want this to be a special pie and I don't have the time to do a practice run. I have to get it right on try #1.

I baked an apple pie with crystalized ginger last year over the holidays, and thought it was terrific. It has a rich, buttery crust and a nice zing in the filling. You can find the recipe online at America's Test Kitchen, but they will make you jump through a bunch of annoying hoops to get it.


Chatters, other apple pie ideas?

What does that mean?

It means the apples that are not perfect enough to sell at markets.

Or at least not perfect enough to sell at full price...

Great chat -- fast typing, awesome answers, a little humor. Who could ask for more?

A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants! That's us.

one reason for the cheapness of apple juice by weigh compared to fresh apples is that a lot of apple juice consumed in the U.S. is made from apples grown in CHINA!

That would help explain it...

I did wonder if the OP was talking about supermarket apples vs. juice rather than farmers market produce...

I cook a lot at home and I use extra-virgin olive oil anytime the olive oil is in the meal for flavor. But if I see a recipe use the acronym EVOO, I assume the author is a Rachael Ray advocate and avoid them.

The va state agriculture site had a recipe for apple pie with a cream cheese bottom and crusty top

My mom made this too, and we're from Michigan. The key is to grind the ham well--I'm sure you could use one of those new-fangled food processors instead of the clamp-to-the-table meat grinders with the hand crank like we used in the 1980s. Let me tell you all about the endless possibilities of ham salad...add a lot of mayo and sweet pickle. Or, you can add chopped olives. Or, chopped dill pickle, but never a combination of these things. It's also delicious on toast, put under the broiler with a slice of cheese, by the way.

Can easily be because they use the bruised apples. Also can be because they concentrate the juice and reconstitute it at the bottling plant (perhaps dilute it more than it was originally and add sweetener to make up for it). Makes storeage and transportation costs a lot less.

Who doesn't love a good donut?? I would love to try my hand at making donuts at home, but don't have a pan. Are there any brands/types that work better than others? Also, do you have a recipe for blueberry donuts? I don't see one in the recipe search, but other than Apple spice ones from MI, they are my favorite!

Pan's for baking them; this recipe from Ina Garten's latest cookbook is lovely.Check out the recipes in this piece by Shulie Madnick, aka,, too.

Add a bit of sherry to the filling. The sherry goes so well with cinnamon and apples--it's a wonderful and delicious surprise.

Also, there's this: Caramel Apple Pie!


Well, you've transferred us on parchment paper to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before slicing, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great q's, and thanks to Erik and Virginia for helping us answer them!

Now for the giveaway books. The chatter who ranted about EVOO (the one who owns CSOO) will get "Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings" by Michele Anna Jordan (you might want to pull out the non-slutty OO for these recipes, however). And the chatter who asked about the possibility of baking those chicken nuggets will get the American Heart Association's "Low Salt Cookbook," source of today's Dinner in Minutes recipe for Thai Sweet Potato Soup. Send your mailing info to Becky at, and we'll get you 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, Beer columnist Greg Kitsock and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson. Guests: French-trained Southern cookbook author and cooking instructor Virginia Willis; Toki Underground chef and owner Erik Bruner-Yang.
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