Free Range on Food: Okra, roasting a whole fish, Jose Andres's "We Fed an Island," flavoring ice cubes for cocktails, and more.

Sep 12, 2018

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

Greetings, and welcome to our chat!

Here's what we've thrown your way recently:

We've got Emily joining us today to talk all things okra (plus much more plant-based-cooking wisdom). Tim is on assignment.

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR2080 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

And we'll have a copy of "The Washington Post Cookbook" for our favorite chatter today.

Let's do this.

For Rosh Hashanah this year I made my foolproof sugar cookie recipe (used some cute shofar cookie cutters!) which I got in the late 1990s from a Better Homes & Gardens magazine. It's that classic recipe with 1/3 cup butter and 1/3 cup shortening/margarine. But my home is kosher and so I can't serve these with a meat meal. I once read -- maybe here years ago? -- that if you use all shortening/margarine the cookies will spread and your cutter shapes will distort somewhat. Is that true or did I imagine it? And if it is true, do you have a non-dairy sugar cookie recipe that would hold cutter shapes well enough? Thank you!

Shana tovah!

I paraphrase: You don't need no stinkin' butter for good sugar cookies! Here are a few recipes from our database; I recommend rolling out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap and chilling it till firm before you start in with the cookie cutters. You can then re-chill the cutouts (till firm) and bake straight from the refrigerator. Baking on parchment paper will help keep the cookies from spreading a bit as well:

I have made these Edible Letter cookies with all veg shortening instead of butter, and they hold their shape just fine. These Biscochitos roll out nice and thin, and keep their shape. Of course you would use veg shortening instead of lard. And these Mun Cookies are made with canola oil -- you could omit the poppy seeds, but :( -- they are a longtime favorite of mine for Yom Kippur break-fast.

I hate my oven - takes forever to preheat, does not maintain its temp. I find that these problems happen with every oven I use. I was thinking of removing my oven and replacing it with a countertop convection oven. Thoughts? As an almost-vegetarian, I'm not sure I will ever need a full oven to, say, roast a turkey. Not sure if I would be making a huge mistake.

Eh, I would not ditch the oven altogether. Those are pretty typical oven complaints. That's why a lot of folks recommend preheating beyond even when the oven tells you its ready. And oven cycles can mess with temperature, although the fans in convection can help a bit. But not sure those reasons are good enough for ditching it altogether. What if you want to roast a large tray of veggies or a big squash? What if a guest comes and wants to use your oven? I mean, you don't have to use it if you don't want to (service or replace it, if you want), but I think it may be a bit shortsighted to get rid of it altogether. Plus, what if you ever want to sell your place? 

We picked up a pint of baby eggplant (the striped purple kind if that makes any difference), and we need some suggestions as to what to do with it. As a rule, none of us likes eggplant much, but we thought maybe the baby ones were sweeter, more tender, etc. and that it could be something we could like. Suggestions? Thanks!

This is basic, but I recently slow roasted some of those with a pint of cherry tomatoes and they were fantastic -- smaller ones got a little chewy/similar-ish to jerky, but with some crispy bits on the edges, and larger ones stayed more moist and meaty. So: Stem them, cut them in half lengthwise, arrange in a single layer on a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast (middle rack) at 275 to 300 degrees for an hour or two (or until they're done how you like). Teeny tiny ones might burn. That's not a bad thing.

And if you have cherry tomatoes, stem and halve those too, and do the same thing, on the same sheet. They taste great together, especially if you pile them on a cracker with a schmear of soft cheese.

I have a recipe for something like Chex Muddy Buddies that calls for white baking chips, and I"m wondering if candy melts could be substituted.

Candy melts are basically sugar and oil or non-cocoa butter fat, with or without added flavors.  I think they are designed to bring looks, not taste, to your baked goods.


At least with white baking chips, depending on the brand, you're going to get a vanilla flavor and some creaminess from the milk solids. 

I have one more "tool" to add to your list -- duct tape. I roll it into a ball, sticky side out, and use it to get crumbs out of drawer and other corners.

cleaning tools

ARTICLE: Six cheap tools to keep your kitchen sparkling clean

Clever that!

We are trying to clean and re-season a cast iron pan. There are gold spots on part of the pan that don't look like rust and won't come off. It seems like the spots are actually under the black coating on the pan (like maybe the black coating has worn off). Wondering if there is a remedy for this, or if it's time to get a new pan. Thanks!

Was this a newer, pre-seasoned pan, or an older one that you (or its previous cooks) seasoned? The reason I ask is that the manufacturers don't put a separate black coating on the pan -- it's just iron, sanded and smoothed. These days, Lodge and other makers undertake a seasoning process, too. 

Anyway, you shouldn't have to get rid of the pan: You just need to scrub everything smooth and clean and start the reasoning process. Coat it in oil and bake it at 300 or 400 degrees for an hour, then let it cool in the oven. See how it looks then.

WAPO, after reading here on the chat how many of you like steaming for hard boiled eggs. I tried it, and now I'm a fan too. Great results. My question is about the apple varieties that are beginning to show up now at the farmers market. I am going to make mincemeat (with no meat, but plenty of apples) to can and ship to my family before the holidays. What varieties do you think would work best? Thanks!

#TeamSteam -- like it! 

Re the apples, looks like Jonagold, Braeburn, Gala, Granny Smiths are good to use -- in other words, a bit firm and tart. Honeycrisp, too, but I tend to steer clear of them because they cost more (for no good reason).

And just for fun, I looked up this real old-time recipe from a farm in Maryland and it used Golden Delicious....

Okra: You were close. To enjoy without the goo (you call ooze in your headline but untruthfully “juice” as the article progresses), here is the real Indian way, and I am not Indian, but have been taught by an Indian chef from India and been there three times. [I’ve made this recipe myself a hundred or so times. It always works perfectly.] Get nice okra that aren’t old and dry, any size, small ones are better I’ve found. Wash and pat dry the pods with a paper towel. Slice – but not “split” -- the pods but not down the middle (best on the up side as the pod sits naturally). With a teaspoon, fill the split with a mixture of Indian dry spices you prefer (except cumin powder). The shake the pod and put them on a plate. Then fry them on a medium heat and turning as the cook a few times. In another pan, fry cumin seeds, then garlic, then onion. Then add that pan to the finished pods pan. Mix. Salt. The goo never appears because of the dusting of spices in the split – it keeps it inside and the slow frying makes it never appear.

Thanks for sharing! However, I can't agree that there is a single best way to reduce or eliminate okra mucilage. Cooks the world over use heat, acid, salt and drying methods for this purpose, in variation, which is a relief, because who wants just one way to cook non-slippery okra? The method you describe relies on dry heat (with the added benefit of the spices, which often contain an acidic element, like amchoor), which is probably why it's so effective.

Think you hate okra? These slime-cutting techniques will change your mind.

I have a friend who's expecting her second child in early October. I'd like to make some freezer meals for them, but she's both gluten- and lactose-intolerant and also sensitive to acidic foods like tomatoes, and everything that's coming to mind seems to have one of those no-nos. Any suggestions?

Since she seems to have a lot of dietary restrictions, why not ask her what she would like? I assume it doesn't have to be a surprise (it probably shouldn't anyway, if she's going to need freezer space). Seems like it will be easier for everyone that way.

The $4.99 rotisserie chicken at Giant is now $5.99. I'm not good at math but isn't that a 20% price increase? Are other food prices going up comparably?

Giant Food corporate hq says prices vary from store to store. Where did you see the hike?

With the weather getting ready to turn, I'm going to try French Onion Soup soon. The previous two times I have made it, the cheese basically collapses into the broth, instead of staying on top. Any suggestions on how to get this right? Thank you!

A layered approach will work for you. Apply a very thin scattering of shredded cheese on the surface so that it's not heavy/won't sink. Then place your very nicely browned toast/large crouton on top of that, which can hold prob as much melted cheese as you like. 

I feel like I have seen this asked before, but if I did, I can't find the answer. My family is currently billeting two semi-pro hockey players for the next 8 months. One in particular, likes to do his own cooking. I typically use whatever non-stick skillet I find for cheap at Home Goods (as I typically don't use them too often), and then treat it gently and replace it periodically. My new house guest is not so gentle with pans (and cooks a LOT of eggs) and I'm wondering if it is time to invest in a more durable non-stick skillet. I have a ceramic top stove if that makes a difference and I am already noticing that my current non-stick skillet is warped and doesn't sit flat on the burner. I've already convinced him to stop using metal on the non-stick, so I am considering that to be progress. I would like a recommendation for a better quality non-stick that can stand up to daily (okay, several times a day) use. I'm not even sure if such a thing exists, but I figure if anyone knows, it will be you guys. Thanks!

So nice of you to want to upgrade your skillet, but, yes, it will be good that if you make the investment you can ensure he does stuff like not using metal tools, washing by hand and drying promptly. I'm happy with the way this All-Clad nonstick skillet is performing at home and in the Food Lab. I was especially happy to get 20 percent off when I bought it from Sur La Table.

I have about a dozen small red peppers(and a dozen more green ones still on the plant) from my garden. I bought the plant on a whim and didn't expect it to do well so I don't remember what kind they are but they're very mild. Any suggestions for what to do with them? Maybe a condiment or something that will last awhile in the frig?

You can pickle 'em! This recipe is for a refrigerator pickle, so there's no canning involved (and they'll last at least a month in the fridge).

Whole Pickled Snacking Peppers

RECIPE: Whole Pickled Snacking Peppers

Spicy, Sweet and Sour Corn Relish

Or maybe a relish? Here's a corn one (pictured above) and a bell pepper one that you could use for inspiration. 

Thinking ahead to the most likely problem that might occur with the rainfall and wind from Florence, what if the power goes out? We have a stand-alone freezer (upright not frostfree), full at this season with a lot of fruit. It should be good for 48 hours closed, but what happens if the power is out for longer? How long can ice keep some of the items? I have a gas range, so my current expectation is that I'll have to make a LOT of jam (it's okay, I've got the jars, I hope) but I wanted to know what I could do with the veggies and if there were any other options. Especially while I can go out and buy more vinegar, alcohol, or sugar.

I'm working on some storm-related content coming up, but here's a post from Bonnie that should answer some of your questions.

I actually would not be as worried about fruits and veggies in the freezer as I would about meat. If they partially defrost or fully defrost but stay as cool as your regular fridge is typically set at, you should be OK when they refreeze. (Probably the last thing I'd want to do in a power outage is start making a ton of jam, but if you're up for it....)

If it's a realllly long time and things warm up, then yeah, you may want to use them. If I had a gas range, I'd do a lot of veggie stir-fries. Do you have a grill? Because that would be a nice way to cook them, too.

For the fruit, I recently did a post on infusing, so check that out if you want to go the booze or vinegar route.


RECIPE: Add flavor and save money by infusing your own vinegar, booze and more

Wow, all of the okra recipes from this week look super approachable and delicious, I'm excited to them! Question about picking out okra from the market-- what should i be looking for in terms of quality? Do I want the long, skinny ones or the shorter fat ones?

My short answer would be to look for small- to medium-sized pods (1-2 inches long is about what I go for), because once they start getting too big (3 inches plus), they get woody and fibrous and seedy (bigger seeds, not more). You might be seeing different varieties, too, which in terms of quality doesn't, in my experience, make a big difference--it's more personal preference. More important is the state they're in--they should be firm and unblemished-- and then for best results, cook them within four to five days. Some would say sooner, but as long as they're really fresh to begin with, they shouldn't suffer in that amount of time. Enjoy the recipes!

What is the best way to freeze summer squash to use in winter soups and casseroles? Somehow this summer it has been amazing. Thanks.

As long as you're going to use it within several months' time, you don't have to blanch it (cooking for a few mins in boiling water, then shocking in cold water to stop the cooking). So rinse it well, then cut it into chunks or 1/2-inch rounds and store in freezer-made zip-top bags, pressing out as much air as possible. Be sure to label and date! 

First how old is your oven??? I have a nice recent vintage Kitche Aid stainless steel range and the oven does a great job of maintaining temp. Also can't beat two burners with over 15000btus and 5 burners total for under $1300 and with a rebate currently.

Yes, I am sure a newer oven might help.

I'm thinking of making braised or roasted radicchio for a large dinner party. Do you have any suggestions on which would be tastier and also, can it be made ahead? I'm serving it with pork saltimbocca and polenta. Thanks!

I like the sound of that menu! A few minutes on the grill or in a grill pan does wonders, and can be handled at the last minute (so you get warmth, interior crunch, exterior crisped edges/caramelization). Cut it into thick wedges. Apply a thin coat of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper should do the trick. 


I am looking for something easy to make, that keeps and that my kids would like. Vegetarian, please. I am planning on making banana bread, roasting potatoes/sweet potatoes and having hard boiled eggs.

I feel like hummus would be perfect. (Unless you mean food that doesn't require any refrigeration?)


ARTICLE: How to make the best, easiest hummus, starting with a can of chickpeas

I tried clicking on the cornmeal-fried Okra "coins" recipe link, and it brought me to a blank page. Boo. 


OK, now that we've scared each other, you will be so happy to know that the link has been fixed. (There was another link to the same recipe in the piece that worked, so we were 50/50, ahem.)

RECIPE: Pan-Seared Okra With Cornmeal and Red Chile

I haven't used my regular oven since I bought a good countertop oven. I've made cakes and cookies, roasted chickens, broiled steaks, toasted English muffins, reheated food, etc. But I'm not getting rid of the regular oven. I don't think I could bake a tall cake like an angel food cake nor could I bake a good-sized loaf of bread. But, it's great and it bakes things much better than the regular oven which isn't convection. It was expensive but worth it to us. BTW, my husband is into roasting chicken - the first time he's cooked in decades.

Makes total sense, thanks for weighing in.

Slimy okra was a no-go when I was a kid but my aunt made a soup recipe which was not slimy at all. She layered her okra and vegetables and steamed them without stirring. When they were cooked, she added the broth. It was pretty good.

Interesting! I love okra in soup, partly because the okra mucilage thins enough in the broth to work as a subtle thickener without any of the gooey effect.

About a month ago, I asked for recommendations for heart health cookbooks. I bought two of them, and absolutely love the one by Ellie Krieger. The recipes I've made are pretty quick and easy, and they all taste great. I haven't used Deborah Madison's book as much (because I bought it at a different time), but two vegetarian friends have raved about it, so I'll certainly try lots more of the recipes.


For convenience and cost, we eat a lot of frozen vegetables. We try to buy a wide variety -- you might be surprised at what comes frozen. Generally, we just steam/defrost and serve (enough to be hot; not to mush). As you know, this is not particularly flavorful and family is starting to complain. We sometimes try to roast them after defrosting, which helps, but still not very exciting. Any ideas on how to prepare frozen vegetables to make them more appetizing but without substantially increasing prep time? Thanks!

This won't add substantial time, and it won't work for every variety, but I like the technique of cooking same-size veg in a saute pan in a little bit of water or broth (not enough to even come halfway up their sides); once they are tender and the liquid has cooked away, I add butter and seasoning (sometimes a pinch of sugar, too) over low heat so the vegetables take on a lovely glaze.

TheKitchn has cornered some useful rules for cooking with frozen veg here.

You're killing me. The link Joe just posted goes to a really garbled chat page.

Clearly, gremlins! I believe I have captured the gremlins (humanely, naturally), and am petting them until the chat ends, upon which time I will release them back into the wild.

I'm stocking up on shelf stable food that I like, and will donate to a food drive if I don't need it.

Good thinking.

I submitted a wine-column-related question this morning but it hasn't been posted. Does Dave not take part in these conversations? He used to submit replies from afar, presumably.

We send him questions, but ... was that a question?

Bonnie, I am wowed by your skill with those teensy numbers on the cookies/Scrabble tiles! I'd have to use an actual fine-point pen to manage that.

Fun to make, fun to eat. They were penned by the fabulous former Post editor Jane Touzalin! She used an edible magic marker with a fine tip, which I believe she got a cake/candy supply shop in Va.

They freeze well: Fry, blot, lay in a single layer on a large cookie-sheet and freeze. Pour into a freezer-bag to store. They contain enough residual oil that they can be reheated in a dry sauté pan (unless you really like grease).

This I did not know--thanks for the tip!

Is there a good web site that helps one adjust to a convection oven? The few times I've used mine (it's an LG gas range with the lower/larger oven having a convection option) the cooking has been VERY uneven, as if there were a broiler on the bottom of the oven. The instruction manual is no help.

Interesting. I haven't found that huge of a difference when I use the convection feature in my home oven or here. Usually the advice is just to reduce the temp by 25 degrees when using convection (my home oven automatically does this). The idea is just that convection has a fan that circulates hot air for more even coverage. I don't think it should really be doing anything that dramatically weird. Have you used a thermometer to see what the temperature is doing in regular and convection mode?

Instead of "making something" with them, cut off ends, remove ribs/seeds, dice the shells, then pour into freezer bags and freeze. Even if the pieces stick together, a few good whacks of the back against the counter will loosen up the ones on top, which you can use in cooking throughout the off-season, when fresh peppers cost a fortune in the store.


In Massachusetts, it is actually illegal to sell a house that does not have a stove. Don't ask me why, but that is a compelling reason to keep your oven.

Also, what would you do about the giant hole?

I bought a variety of apple which is new to me called "Ozark Gold." It's slightly tart and very tasty. Have any of you tried it? I'm wondering if it would be good in a pie. I'm always looking for the perfect pie apple and it's elusive.

Haven't had that one! Where'd you get it? And there's only one way to find out if it'd work in a pie. ;-)

Re: looking for the elusive perfect pie apple, I realized that my apple preference changes from year to year, because the growing conditions mean the apples change from year to year (or even batch to batch). This year -- for eating apples, at least -- I'm really into zestar. Haven't done pie yet, but when I do, I'll go for a variety -- two thirds tart kinds, one third sweet, three different types of apples; then the pie has different apple textures, and varying flavors. (I've said this before, I know.)

Quelle coincidence! I just made French Onion Soup during the cool temps this past weekend. To keep the cheese on top, I first spoon the soup into each ramekin. Then I top it with the slices of toasted French bread, and push them just slightly under the surface of the soup. Finally, I sprinkle the top with grated Swiss cheese that's been mixed with a little grated Parmesan cheese. Bake.

Well, that's another way to go.

More a comment (Kudos!) than a question: While grocery shopping after listening to weather forecast and Florence updates, I thought Allison Swope's Braised Chicken with Olives and Dates would be just the ticket for rainy nights. Using Google, I found the complete recipe with list of ingredients then and there! And for the accompanying Barley Risotto. We haven't had them for a while, but they both stand up beautifully after 11 years. Thank you for the chats, the links, the columns. It's all so helpful.

So glad we can help!

I loved your story on flavored ice cubes - but that's a graduate course. I have an Ice Cubes 101 question: Why do the the cubes made by my ice maker shrink? They are not melting, as there's no ice on the bottom of the bin and everything else in the freezer is solid. The ones I've made with an ice cube tray don't seem to do this, nor do the ones from the freezer in my workplace. If they stay there for a month or so, they become slivers of their original selves. Any idea?

So I'm no physicist, but a little poking around indicates that some modern freezers may function in a way that the ice left inside may sublimate over time -- that is, change directly from a solid to a gas rather than melting into water. It sounds like that may be what you're seeing? 

To make a cocktail with a surprise in every sip, start playing with your ice

Ok - I have many feelings on this. I have a pretty new cooker and an older countertop oven. I got the countertop oven originally because of not wanting to heat the whole oven for small things. I actually tested this using the handy dandy hourly power usage stats that pepco gives us online. My test was 30 mins at 350 for lunch with nothing else running. They both logged about the same amount of power. Factors to consider: the cooker oven has much better insulation so I would think the longer in the oven and the higher the temperature the better the cooker oven is power-wise. The countertop oven heats up much faster so is probably better for short and sweet. I find my countertop pretty good at acting like an oven - I've even baked in it with decent results.

Thank you for this thoughtful response! I feel like the general consensus is hold onto the oven, even if you're not going to use it a lot. It's a big decision to rip it out entirely.

hooray for your okra recipes! As a former Yankee, I've learned to love it, and appreciate the new recipes. I'm far from sophisticated food shopping and I only make a trip to the big or "ethnic" stores in Fredericksburg every month or two, so, is there an acceptable substitute for curry leaves?

hooray! In answer to the curry leaves question, I'm not aware of a good substitute, but: they freeze really well! So buy a bag when you do hit that store, seal them in a freezer bag, and they will be good for months. You can use them straight from the freezer; they'll thaw almost instantly.

I took some eggs out of the 'fridge this morning and didn't get around to using them. They're still safe to use, right? What's the most time they'd be considered safe unrefrigerated? How about if I boil them and forget to refrigerate them? Is it acceptable practice to re-refrigerate eggs that have sat out a few hours? This info will come in handy if the power goes out ...

Ugh, I hate to sound like the food police, but especially if you want to play it safe, then, no. Short answer from the Egg Safety Board:

No, after eggs are refrigerated, it is important they stay that way. Maintaining a consistent, cool temperature is critical to safety. A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating bacteria growth. Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than two hours before re-refrigeration.

Longer answer with more details in this piece from the LA Times.

I would not eat boiled eggs left out at room temperature for hours. That definitely spells danger zone.

Search for oven roasted eggplant fries and oven roasted eggplant chip recipes. I've done both, and they are a great way to eat eggplant! The chips I've done are a variation of a Jacques Pepin recipe. Slice the eggplant 1/8 to 1/4 " (I alternate doing coins vs. strips) spray with oil, salt and pepper and roast @ 400-450 turning as necessary for until browned. Once done, turn off the oven, leave the pan in until they cool and they will crisp up. The fries are shake and baked - panko, s&p, egg white, roasted in oven. Delish!

I put a little butter or oil in a non-stick frying pan and saute frozen asparagus along with whatever herbs or spices are calling me at the time.

Yeah - I often just throw the veg into a pan with a mix of melted butter oil and seasoning - herbs, garlic maybe just cumin. Often the water in the veg is enough for it to cook through - if not, I add a little. You can add a bit of balsamic or harissa paste or mustard and cream at the end if you like.

Those are actual words from today's Dave McIntyre wine column. I try to keep an open mind about wine. I've even accepted screwtop bottles! But if I ever buy wine in an aluminum can or "other wine formats," just shoot me, OK?

Dave says (laughing):

Don't worry -- glass bottles aren't going anywhere!

Why wine in cans is 'not a fad'

I haven't, but I'll give that a try. It's disappointing because I was looking forward to shortened cooking times and more even baking, but it hasn't worked out so far.

Do. It's possible your oven just needs servicing. I'll say this, though -- convection doesn't really dramatically reduce baking times. A few minutes, maybe 10. Plus, there are things you don't want to cook on convection anyway -- cakes, especially. Here's a post from King Arthur Flour that might help.

Mine last about 3 years max. I am currently using a Green Pan non stick skillet. Sur Le Table currently has a 12" on sale for $63. So far my Green Pan is performing just a well as my All Clad. No differences is sauting scallops and shrimp and doing scrambled eggs.

Another rec, thanks.

My favorite way to cook eggplant is to slice them into about 1/4 in to 1/2 in rounds, brush on some olive oil, salt and pepper, and them grill them four minutes a side on about medium to medium heat (I usually cook them on the upper shelf of my grill because I don't like the skin getting charred). After I flip them to cook on the second side, I top them with slices of fresh mozzarella. Once they're done cooking, I serve them with a bruschetta topping (so seeded chopped tomatoes and basil, minced garlic, and a couple swirls of olive oil all mixed together).

The article on roasting a whole fish has inspired me to try again. Five years, while visiting my son in Cameroon where he was a Peace Corps volunteer, I had the most delicious whole grilled fish I've ever eaten.


Once was in a restaurant, the other was in the living room of a local resident who grilled them on her front porch. I attempted to grill a whole fish once (Wegmans sells them), but it stuck to the grill and was good but not great. I think I need bolder seasoning.

That hiking reference may actually be referring to backpacking. Yes, you want water as you trudge along. But, you may like a nice red to go with that Sticky Mountain Stew before retiring to your sleeping bag. A can is so much easier to pack in and pack out.

I've been watching the "new" season on Netflix, and once again am inspired to try some of these British bakes that I haven't seen over here... the hand raised pie was really catching my eye. But "hot water crust" dough seems daunting, and when I google "hand raised pie" I only get British recipes. Is there a traditional British cookbook you'd recommend made for Americans (its the ingredients as well as the measurements). Or, maybe i could try a British recipe but where to get lard?

Lard is carried at several large grocery stores, like Shoppers and Giant. It might be in the frozen section, so check there.  Also via butcher shops. "Hand-raised" is the Brit term for a layered potpie, right? The term, according to Chicago Trib, comes from using a tool to push the dough up the sides of the deep tin those pies are baked in. 


We've been watching that hot water crust pastry being made on GBBS for many seasons now, and I still haven't tried it. But I happen to know that in addition to the recs you can find online, there will be a recipe for hot-water crust in Cathy Barrow's soon to be released "Pie Squared" cookbook


As for British cookbooks, many of Mary Berry's have US/nonmetric measurements in them, and by now there are dozens of GBBS winners' cookbooks and the show has released compilation volumes of its own. I happen to like  Richard Burr's and Chetna Makan's cookbooks, who were both show competitors.

Any recommendations for a cooking class in Paris in the next two weeks? Something basic, maybe sauces or novice baking skills, in English and not too expensive? Thanks!

Throwing this out to chatters to see if anyone has a personal rec!

I have used the Crisbee cast iron seasoning products and the method they suggest for seasoning. It does a great job. I purchased it on Amazon after reading glowing reviews on cast iron web sites.

We love our Breville countertop oven. It was well worth the price. We bought the lower priced model, and use it often when doing smaller amounts and the larger oven will take too long to heat up. But we also do roasted veggies and larger meals in the larger oven. I would not ditch the large, but definitely recommend the countertop supplement. One of the reasons we went for the Breville is that it was top rated in making toast, and we didn't want a separate toaster as well as the countertop. (And yes, it does toast better than any other toaster oven we've had.)

All together: Keep. The. Oven. :)

Now that I'm exploring trail running, I've been made aware of small, handheld water bottles that carry about 10 oz of fluid. Maybe I'll fill 'em with wine!

Are you using steel wool? If you want to get back to re-seasoning basics that's a must.

I bought one a while ago because I was intrigued and wanted to try it. I absolutely love it! And I only paid $25 for a 10 inch pan.

and say that so far, the DC area is going to be nothing but grey and a bit rainy this weekend. No deluge and little wind is expected. Not that there can't be power outages, but it is not time to plan for complete freezer defrosting. Of, course, things could change, but we have probably lucked out this time.

Thank you!

Help. When I make a sweet and sour brisket in a glass 9x13 Pyrex pan, too much of the liquid seems to evaporate. I cover it with aluminum foil but it doesn’t grip the sides well. I don’t have a roaster. What is best pan for roasting a brisket so it ends with all that delicious liquid? (I usually use the Smitten Kitchen recipe.)

A hotel pan, which you can buy at any restaurant supply store and also at some Bed Bath Beyond stores. I use it for brisket all the time. Relatively cheap and multipurpose! 


Liquid will stay in if you make sure to braise with the fat cap on top, and seal the foil tightly. Not sure the material of your pan would cause the liquid to evaporate at a different rate.....

I've recently come across Dr. Steven Gundry's viewpoints on food, nutrition, health and weight in which he highly recommends staying away from lectins like tomatoes (unless you remove seeds like in Italian sauce making), peppers, black beans, cashews and many other of what happen to be our family favorites. What are your thoughts on lectins in a healthy diet?

Gundry's writing on lectins is problematic, to say the least. One writer for WaPo called it a "pseudoscience diet fad," and others have pointed out that he makes claims unsupported by research -- and that his points should be taken with a huge grain of salt (or maybe beans?) because he's also selling supplements designed to "fix" the lectin problem. Sigh.

The eggs we buy in the grocery store usually have been washed, removing any protective coating. So we must refrigerate them.


That's what they cost now at the D.C. Giant near the National Cathedral

Store manager Dave confirms the price increase, and says the chickens they now get in for rotisserie-ing are larger/weigh more; so they are charging more for them. 

Thanks for the radicchio answer! And may I ask another question? I'm planning to do a special cocktail for the honoree of the dinner party. Her name rhymes with Negroni. But most Negroni's I've had taste like cough syrup. So I'm thinking of doing a custom cocktail and calling it a "Joni Negroni." (I know...) pureed and strained watermelon, Pimm's cup and vodka ( I tried this on some friends - I thought it was good but they didn't like the gin so they suggested subbing in vodka). Anything else I should add?

This sounds like a lovely drink, but -- while I love the wordplay -- I wouldn't call it a Negroni, which will suggest to anyone who knows drinks a certain flavor profile (strong, bitter, no fruit juice -- that cough syrup taste you don't like is basically the drink's definition, so this would be a bit like calling a drink a gin & tonic and not putting any gin in it). But ... how about a Pimmjoni? Or a Joni's Cup? Or a Jonimelon? Those seem like fun options to me ... but I confess to being a major Negroni aficionado, so I'm clearly biased on this one! :)

Bonnie, have you Jonagolds for sale locally? They have such a short season -- I'd hate to miss it!

I haven't seen them yet, but the Sat morning farmers market at the Lafayette School in Chevy Chase DC has an apple vendor (cant recall her name right now) who carries a wide and terrific variety of heirloom apples. 

Almost 50 years ago my then fiance was going to business school in Spokane Wa. A door to door salesman talked her into buying a set of Regal Wonder Waterless Stainless Steel cookware for around $250 with a monthly payment of $10 a month. When we got married she had only made a couple of payments so I started paying them off and eventually we got them. I though she had been ripped off and we were just going to get some crap pot's and pan's. Almost 50 years later we are still using them and other then the bakalite handles that have to replaced every now and then they look nearly new. Like they say, they don't make things like they used to.

What a fabulous investment! And a steal give today's prices. 

Mustard goes well with broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc. I mix a little mustard with some lemon juice (you can also add butter/olive oil). Make just enough to lightly coat the vegetables, since a little mustard goes a long way.

Hey guys! Does anyone know where one can find an authentic Portuguese egg tart in DC, please? Thanks!

Oh, good question! I had delightful ones in Newark, but that is probably a bit far to travel. :) Not turning up a whole lot other than... Nando's. Chatters, what am I missing?

In NYC, where every inch of apartment space is precious, some people use their ovens for storage. I think the Sarah Jessica Parker character does this in "Sex & The City." They're also good for heating clothes on a cold morning.

I broil them till the skins have blackened, at least most of it, put them in a paper bag to steam the skins some more, then peel them, open them to remove the skins and freeze them, usually cut in half.

Speaking of non-stick skillets, I like to make home fries / potatoes Anna. I’ve had trouble getting potatoes to brown in a non-stick skillet. Is there a way to make that happen?

Don't crowd, pack into a single layer, and resist the urge to move them until they get a crust.

As a Southerner of German heritage, I grew up using lard. Look in the Mexican section at most groceries or meat case. Some stores seem to believe it is a Mexican item. I bought my last pound at the Rockville City Farmer's Market from the people selling meat.

Feel free to soundly NOT endorse this, gang, but... this obsession with keeping raw eggs cold at all costs and throwing them out if they are sitting out for a few hours is ridiculous. If you buy your eggs from a known, safe source (e.g. a small, pastured hens operation) your eggs are most likely FINE. It's the massive farm operations where overcrowded, sick hens are living on top of each other and laying eggs in their own waste that creates contamination in the cheap, "conventional" eggs at the grocery store. /rant over/

Okey doke, but when I'm dishing out advice to readers, I'm always going to err on the side of caution and safety, you know? Plus we don't know anything about the eggs, so. I stand by my answer.

I just bought the ingredients to make this Mushroom Moussaka, so I haven't tried it. Everything I've made from this blog has been good. While it's a guest post, the recipe is from that guest's cookbook.

just in case people aren't aware... there's a fair amount of wine that is actually fermented in stainless steel vats (not wood barrels) so an aluminum can isn't *really" that far from the wine's true "origin" while a glass bottle would be.

I roasted an eggplant a few days ago and when I cut it open, there was almost nothing inside! Yet it was heavy when I put it in. Would this happen just because I left it in the oven for too long?

Intriguing. How long did you roast it/what temp/how large was the eggplant/you roasted it whole?

Location, location, location. I do my father's shopping at a Giant in Bethesda. I find their prices to be a bit higher than the one in downtown Silver Spring where I usually go.

One of the pubs stations we get is showing the GBBS Master Class series with Mary and Paul. They give many great tips. One from Mary is when removing a cake from the pan, tip it onto a kitchen towel then it's easy to set it on a rack without gettin rack marks on the top of the cake. One from Paul was how to mix fruit into a yeast dough: dump all the fruit onto the dough which is in a bowl. Then keep pulling dough from the side into the middle.

Yes! I totally binged on those Master Class eps on Netflix when I was home on maternity leave last year. Good stuff.

Just moved back to the area after a few years away, and very sad to learn La Cuisine in Alexandria closed. Is there a similar great kitchen store around, preferably either in Virginia or DC?

There's nothing quite like La Cuisine! Since we're running out of time, quick names for you to Google:

Hill's Kitchen.

Sur La Table.

Best Kitchen Supply.

Home Rule.



I've figured out that my way of coping with these stressful times is to concentrate on the holidays. Now that I've got my Thanksgiving table planned and sorted, I'm thinking of the Christmas box I need to mail fairly early to friends in Australia. I was thinking of including some homemade treats. I have a candied nut mix that I know mails well. What are some basic guidelines about what types of cookies hold up to spending several days meandering through postal systems? I'm assuming drier textures would stay fresh longer, maybe peanut butter cookies? Maybe wedding cookies/snowballs? Would jam thumbprints be ok since the jam has been baked? Trying to figure out if any of my old family favorites will check the right boxes.

Nothing too delicate. Peanut butter cookies might work. Various bars, such as brownies. Definitely biscotti! Coconut macaroons too.

Many varieties of wine have been available for many years in 4-packs of single serving plastic bottles, and also in 500 ml soft packs. That's what I take when I am camping.

Hi team---canola v. vegetable oil? any preference? i always thought that they could be used interchangeably but that canola oil was more heart healthy so that is what i always pick up. is that true?

What seems to be the main diff is that veg oil can be soy-based, and canola oil is made from rapeseed. All kinds of health claims out's what our Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger says.

You might want to have a look at this website send an email: He might answer.

What is a hotel pan?

click on the link

I'm turned off by the little hair-like things, or fuzz, on raw okra. What is it and how do you deal with it?

It won't bite! It really doesn't hurt anything, but you can rub it off with a brush or cloth if you want.

Is that the same as nightshades?


There's a Portuguese community down in Manassas, but i don't know if they have any bakeries there. But it's a place to start searching online.

Yes, wasn't sure if they just meant D.C. proper, but this is good to know.

I have a huge glut of tomatoes, and this year canning not practical, so I AGAIN tried roasted and they just burnt - am I cursed? Well anyway, I need to get my baking pans clean and someone suggested something like baking soda and hydrogen peroxide or vinegar? Help me before I toss them - thank you for any advice

Baking soda is good for cleaning! Also just a looooooooong soak in water can help. And Bar Keeper's Friend! Even if you can't get every last spot off, they're probably still usable. I call that acquiring "character."

How about a frittata - you could ask about veggies to put in. They freeze well and are great at room temperature. Bonus - can hold and eat wedge in one had while baby is in the other.


Well, you've cooked us just until we have begun to collapse, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Carrie and Emily for helping with the a's.

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who weighed in as the voice of reason from the Capital Weather Gang chat and told us the latest forecast will get "The Washington Post Cookbook." Send your mailing info to, and she'll get it out to you.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Emily Horton
Emily Horton is a freelance writer based in Seattle.
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