• Location: Washington, DC

Flour Buttercream

I saw on your Tough Cookie blog that a pastry chef in the comments recommended cooking the flour and milk on their own until very thick, and then adding the sugar off the heat. Supposedly this will help the custard to thicken nicely, preventing a buttercream that can get soupy later on. Did you ever try it this way?

Also, I wrote this on the main buttercream article page, but I think an easier way to cool the custard is to mix it at high speed for about 9 minutes with a paddle attachment. This will release all the heat and allow you to quickly move on to the step in which you combine it with the butter. I first saw this in the Ultimate Birthday Cake recipe from the book Baked Occasions ( and the technique works perfectly. It wasn't my favorite flour buttercream recipe overall, but that technique seems like a keeper to apply to other flour buttercream recipes like this one.

The World of Buttercreams: 6 Varieties to Try at Home

I really appreciate the all-encompassing approach you took here. I've made all of these types of buttercreams at one point or another, but it's helpful to discuss them all at once to understand exactly what the differences are. Thanks! My favorite type for a classic cake is the flour buttercream, and although I think your recipe for it is spot-on, you might try cooling down your pudding by beating it in a stand mixer on high for about 7-9 mins. It really releases all of the heat so you can continue right on making the frosting with very little downtime. Once it is cooled from the mixing, then I usually add the room-temp butter in chunks, a few at a time while mixing on med-low, then once all the butter is in, add the flavorings and then mix on high for a couple of mins. to get it fluffy. I don't see why you couldn't cool the pudding with a mixer though and then add it to the whipped butter, as you suggest. I'll try that next time.

The Best Spinach Lasagna

@Kenji I was surprised at first to see that this has no tomato products in it, but then the absence of tomatoes made me think of another ingredient that seems like it could work here--artichoke hearts. So, if someone just happened to be obsessed with artichoke hearts, do you think they could successfully incorporate them here for a spinach-artichoke lasagna? I would think maybe stir in some chopped hearts at the end of step one to incorporate them with the spinach, and also use a cheese like Asiago or Fontina instead of Comte. What do you think?

Easy Pull-Apart Pepperoni Garlic Knots

Made these yesterday. I would caution people against store-bought dough unless you have a reliable source that you are super confident in. Since these were part of a surprise dinner, I had to resort to store-bought dough (couldn't tip the person off with any overnight homemade doughs in the fridge). Whole Foods only had dough that they labeled "Neopolitan dough," which is what I bought and used, and I wonder if that's why these didn't quite turn out. Even after 5 hours of room-temp resting, they hadn't really rose at all. I baked them off anyway but they were tough and chewy and the flavorless dough was actually evident, despite the strong other ingredients. The mix of ingredients that you toss the knots with is super delicious, and the crust you get from baking in the CI is amazing, so I'm sure the dough was my problem here.

A few ideas--I wonder if it would be good to dip the strips into the pepperoni mix before knotting, so that the garlic/pepperoni flavor really gets inside the knots as well? And like someone else commented, I'm thinking a little grated, dry, whole-milk mozzarella might be a good addition in here somewhere, again maybe on the inside of the knots? As Kenji notes, now is not the time for moderation.

Easy Gazpacho

Loved this. I have made the original, long-form version before and Kenji is correct when he says this gets you 90% of the way there. And really, unless you're serving it side-by-side with the original, no one will feel that it is anything less than 100% delicious. I halved the recipe and blended it in a Vitamix and it was super smooth with no need for straining. This was a great way to use up my farmer's market leftovers--some on-the-vine tomatoes, some Sungold tomatoes, a bunch of small, mild peppers, and basil instead of oregano. Summer eating at its finest.

Chicken in Tomato Sauce With Chickpeas and Kale

This was delicious! Great healthy weeknight dinner and leftovers reheated well for lunch. One question--the breadcrumbs were really tasty and added a lot to the dish overall, but it seemed like the recipe called for a LOT of breadcrumbs. Are you really supposed to dump 1 cup of breadcrumbs + herbs over the top to finish the dish? I'm no ascetic but 1/2 cup seems like plenty.

Justin Smillie's Pasta with Shiitake, Peas, and Goat Cheese (Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria)

The flavors work really well together here but this particular preparation dirties a ton of dishes for a result that is just pretty good. It would be worth it to try re-imagining this into a one or two pot dish and also adding in additional sauce/moisture at some point so that the final result isn't quite as dry.

Jeni Britton Bauer's Blueberry Cobbler

Does anyone have a reliable conversion for using regular flour(s) to make self-rising flour? The internets are telling me some differing info. 1 cup AP/pastry flour + 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt + 1.25-1.5 tsp. baking powder? I have cake flour, AP, bread, and wheat pastry flours in the house (and a kitchen scale if you use weighted measurements!), along with salt and baking powder, and I'd love to make this without taking a trip to the store for self-rising flour.

The Food Lab: How to Pick and Cook a Holiday Ham

This guide is super helpful, thank you for writing and posting it!

Cook the Book: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I know this recipe is ancient but in case people find it and still want to use it, I thought I'd chime in. Like @dc_sarah, much of the cake portion came out dry and, as she says, "wimpy-tasting." I bake fairly often and I was surprised that the cake portion of this doesn't call for any salt in the batter. That might be because of the sprinkle of kosher salt called for atop the pineapple but I think the batter itself would benefit from a small amount of salt. Also using more interesting liquids might help, such as sour cream, buttermilk, or pineapple juice. The much bigger issue though is the low moisture in the cake batter. Anyone who has made cake even a few times will finish making this batter and think that it's way too dense and oddly holds its shape, almost as thick as Playdoh. I forged ahead, thinking that maybe the moisture from the schmear and pineapple would compensate once it baked, but they don't. I've done just a small amount of reading on cake ratios and in a traditional sweet cake, the weight of the flour would roughly equal the sugar. Here, the sugar clocks in around 4.4 oz. and the flour is at 6, so more sugar probably wouldn't be a bad idea. Then the the liquid in a cake recipe, including the eggs at about 1.75 oz. each, should weigh the same as, or more than, the sugar. If we used 6 oz. of sugar and subtracting the 3.5 oz. of eggs, we would still need 2.5 oz. of liquid (5 tablespoons). I think 5T would've improved it but still might not have been enough liquid. Maybe another whole egg or one egg yolk would help as well. My favorite upside-down cake recipe is America's Test Kitchen's Apple Upside-Down cake, and I think this pineapple version would benefit from stealing one of their steps--sauteing the schmear and the pineapple pieces first to get them caramelizing, then pour that into the cake pan, salt, then top with batter and bake.

Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers

I'm one of Kenji's biggest fans and I bookmark and frequently cook his recipes to great success, but this one didn't live up to Food Lab standards for me. I'm sorry! My final burger looked just like the ones Kenji pictured so I think they came out as he intended. I also love non-meat burgers so I'm not complaining that this wasn't meaty enough. For my husband and I, there were two issues--the flavor, which was surprisingly dull despite the bold ingredients used, and the texture, which was dry, crumbly, a bit chunky, and off-puttingly crunchy in some parts.

I'm guessing that, in the absence of an explicit amount of salt for this recipe, I didn't add enough to the mix before forming patties. That's somewhat on me, but it would be helpful to at least have some guidelines; this seems like an odd recipe to go with "salt to taste." I'm not terrified of eating some raw egg here towards the goal of achieving the right salt balance but a suggestion such as, "Start with a a teaspoon of salt and then adjust to your tastes" would be appreciated. As to the texture, the cashews really didn't work for us in this application and the final burger wasn't as moist as I would've expected given that that was a stated goal of this recipe development. Maybe what Kenji would call mushy, I would call moist. Maybe roasting only half of the beans would be an improvement. Also, roasted cashews have a delicious, strong flavor and are very crunchy, and not only was their flavor very evident in the final burger, but so were many of their little crunchy nubs that didn't seemed to soften much. I like a nice crunchy exterior sear, which we got, but I don't really want anything hard or crunchy on the interior of a burger.

I think I'll stick with the Southwestern Black Bean Burgers from the cookbook "Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health" unless Kenji tackles the topic of black bean burgers anew. I know you were shooting for a more neutrally-flavored burger here but for us it ended up having not enough flavor generally. I love beans but maybe we just need to accept that black beans, without any adornment, aren't as flavorful as beef without adornment, and given that fact, it makes sense to make bean burger recipes that shoot for a purposeful flavor profile (such as "Southwest").

Kimchi Chicken and Cabbage Stir-Fry

Made this for dinner last night over brown rice and we really liked it! It's dort of a perfect weeknight meal--sufficiently healthy, not expensive to get the ingredients, lots of interesting flavors and textures, and the recipe is pretty straightforward and easy to prepare. Thanks! This will definitely become part of our dinner rotation.

Banana Ketchup

@Bruce Howard Thank you! I think you are correct!

Turkey-Ricotta Burgers With Leeks and Dill

These weren't just "good for a turkey burger," these were so delicious that, in a lineup next to a decent beef burger, I would still sometimes choose this turkey burger! Plus they work well with lots of different toppings. One night I used basil pesto, Torrisi hot sauce, Greek yogurt and feta and ate it without a bun, and the next night I did cheddar, ketchup, and mayo on a toasted bun, and it all tasted great. They are moist and full of flavor and if the trolls who commented on the recipe intro page would actually sample these before ranting, maybe they would know that. Probably not though, they are trolls after all and would continue to deny that turkey burgers "exist." It's so funny to see people insisting that things like burgers exist in the Platonic sense, like there is only one true definition of a Burger, and ground turkey is not a part of that definition. It's madness. Burger, defiant poultry cheese allium patty, whatever--this thing is great and it has earned a spot in my dinner recipe rotation. Plus, the cooked patties freeze well and makes for a great packable lunch. Thanks for posting this recipe!

Seriously Delicious Holiday Giveaway: Cacao Drinking Chocolate Basket

Salted caramel.

Cherry-Amaretto Tart

I bookmarked this recipe when you originally posted it, based on your description and beautiful picture, and the urge to make a tart finally hit me this past weekend. Of course, it's not cherry season, so I made the crust and mascarpone layers you describe here, and topped it with Tartine's lemon cream that I made with Meyer lemons ( It was DELICIOUS! This is such a tasty and versatile tart base and I think it would work well for so many different toppings--fruits, nuts, chocolate, etc. Everyone I've fed it to loves each layer. The only thing I changed is that I added a touch of almond extract and a bit more sugar to my mascarpone layer, but I bet the correct balance in this layer depends a bit on the brand of Amaretto you're using. Thanks for such a great recipe, I know I'll use this often to whip up easy but impressive tarts!

Brussels Sprouts and Kimchi from Roy Choi's 'L.A. Son'

Random thought--I haven't made this yet so I know I really shouldn't comment, but as soon as I read it I thought, "I bet bacon would be a good addition to this." I make bacon+kimchi quesadillas all the time, and we know bacon+sprouts is a winner. And this is coming from someone who is not one of those "bacon makes everything better!" people. It makes some things better, some things like this perhaps?

Seriously Delicious Holiday Giveaway: Cacao Drinking Chocolate Basket

Toffee or salted caramel.

Cook the Book: Roy Choi's 'L.A. Son'

I made Kenji's lasagna bolognese for my dad not too long ago and we all loved it.

Seriously Delicious Holiday Giveaway: Zingerman's Phantom of the Fridge Secret Stash

A hunk of cheese topped with whatever jam is in the fridge.

Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing (or Dressing)

@kenji Any suggestions as to how to modify/reduce the liquid if we're planning on cooking all or part of this under a spatchcocked turkey that is on a grate above this?

Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing (or Dressing)

@kenji Sorry for being an idiot and not removing the foil at the end. That one is totally user error! I hope you weren't insulted by all my questions and comments, btw. I am a longtime huge fan of yours and I feel like many of your recipes over the years have actually taught me how to cook, so I certainly wouldn't want to come off as a troll. I was just dissatisfied with how this turned out for me and I was hoping to get some additional tips, which you provided. Thanks! I hope maybe you'll consider being on-call on Twitter again this year for day-of emergencies, you helped us out a lot last year with how long we needed to cook our spatchcocked turkey. Either way, enjoy your holiday.

Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing (or Dressing)

This is now the third year I've used this recipe for stuffing, but something isn't quite right about it. Year one it turned out the best, and I'm kicking myself for not taking better notes about what brands of sausage or stock I used, plus what fruit I added and how much and when (I know it was just fresh apples but I don't know the type, amount, or when I folded them in). Year two, last year, the final product was bland and I was disappointed at the Thanksgiving table.

So in preparation for this year's feast I just did a test run of this recipe last night. I used a mix of high quality sandwich bread from the bread aisle (i.e., soft, not artisan bread) plus an artisan sourdough loaf because my family loves the sourdough tang. I had a tub of duck fat in the fridge so I used 4 T of duck fat and 4 T of butter as my fat, as I was hoping to add in some poultry fat richness. For stock I used Kitchen Naturals Turkey Stock, and for sausage I went with Jimmy Dean Sage Breakfast Sausage. I sort of loathe using Jimmy Dean anything but last year I used a sage sausage from our great Dupont Circle farmer's market and since the overall stuffing was a letdown, I thought I'd go more mainstream with this test (presumably Jimmy Dean is filled with more salt and additives to make it stronger-tasting is my reasoning here). I also peeled and chopped 3 Granny Smith apples and added them at the very end of the vegetable cookdown, so they got about 2-3 minutes of cooking on them. I know Kenji recommended adding fresh fruit at the bread stage but every other fruit stuffing recipe I referenced has you add them with the veggies and cook them down, so I split the baby and put a few minutes of heat on them.

In the end, my husband liked it but I still thought it was kind of ho-hum. Solid, but could definitely be improved. It still feels bland to me, in texture and in flavor. I want some acid/sweetness in there to balance the savory aspects, and I'd like some textural contrast too. Since you leave the foil on the whole time, it's a mushy affair throughout with not even a crunchy top. And I was surprised that the addition of three tart apples seemed to add no sweetness or tartness to the final product (although I'm sure that without them, it would've been even more boring). But then it occurred to me that this recipe lists salt and pepper in the ingredients but never actually directs you to add them to you stuffing, and when.

So a few questions, Kenji, if you're still monitoring this: (1) Assuming our stock and sausage of choice are not bringing enough salt to this game and that additional salt and pepper are necessary, how much would you guess we need (or how much should we start with) and when would we mix it in? With the egg mixture? I'll take my chances and taste-test the raw egg stuffing if it means getting the seasoning right here. Do you think that looking at the sodium content of our respective sausage and stock choices, assuming they are not homemade, would provide some clues to how much more we should add? (2) My family likes stuffing with fresh apples in it and is open to dried fruit as well. Since my three Granny Smiths didn't do the trick, what would you recommend? Fresh apples added at the bread stage? What kind? Peeled? Unpeeled? Dried cranberries too? How much? (3) I often find that my soups and sauces, when they taste bland to me, are corrected by adding a touch of acid like lemon juice, a tip I probably picked up from SE. Do you think adding an acid component to the stock would possibly help here? (4) Texture-wise, what do you think is a good way to add some crunch to all this mushiness? I'm hesitant to add nuts to this stuffing since I'm not sure I want that flavor in here, but if I was going to do that, what type and how much would you recommend? And if I don't use nuts, should I just crisp up the top under the broiler at the end of baking this?

I know this is a lot but I feel a Thanksgiving table with a ho-hum stuffing is just as bad as a Thanksgiving table with a poorly cooked turkey. The other classic side dishes are easy to execute but getting this stuffing right is stymieing me! Help, please :-)

Open Thread: What Do You Want to Know this Thanksgiving?

This is great, thanks! I am hosting Thanksgiving for a small crowd (up to 10 people) in my small condo. We like to have a traditional meal and have no dietary restrictions. I have a standard oven, microwave, and one slow cooker. Last year I hosted in the same circumstances and despite a lot of pre-planning and time-lining, I was doing way too much cooking right before the meal and I felt like it was tough to serve everything at the right temperature. So, more tips about how to use the stuff I have and if I should invest in other things (chafing dish type elements) would be very helpful. Recipes are great but I would really appreciate tips in the holiday recipes about which elements can be done ahead, how to reheat or keep a dish warm, etc.

Second question: I have tried many pie crust recipes over the years now, and one thing I notice is that no matter what recipe I use (and most of them are very similar of course) I seem to require more water than most pie crust recipes call for. I've seen some recipes call for as little as 5-6 tablespoons, but I feel like it's not unusual for me to need up to 12 to make the dough come together. I've used a food processor, forks, and a pastry cutter to cut the butter in. I usually use King Arthur unbleached AP flour and butter as my fat (I've tried Plugra, Land O'Lakes, and a couple other brands). I figure the problem must be me and not the recipes, but I can't figure out why I need so much water compared, apparently, to other people. Any ideas?

Cook the Book: 'Franny's'

Pasta alla checca is always a go-to for me because it lets good tomatoes and basil shine.

Ideas for Gifting Food in Jars

I'm going to a holiday party this week at the house of a professional acquaintance, and I would like to bring these three jars along with a nice spoon/scoop as a host gift:||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-Feature_Recipe_Rule-_-

I'm going to fill the large one with homemade granola, one of them with a local roaster's ground coffee, and I need an idea to fill the third one. I am going with a breakfast theme but it doesn't necessarily have to fit. I thought of putting Greek yogurt that I flavor myself with maple syrup/vanilla in the third jar for the recipient to enjoy granola parfaits, but my SO says he doesn't think we should gift anything that requires refrigeration. What do you think? Help appreciated!

NYC Cake Delivery

I'm visiting NY next week to celebrate my fiance's birthday, and I thought it might be nice to have a small cake or other treat delivered to our hotel so that it is there when we arrive, as a small surprise. Can anyone recommend a good treat from someone in NY who will also deliver? We're staying at the Eventi, roughly at 6th Ave and W 30th.

Dreams of Queso, Realities of Separating Cheese

I am in love with cheese dips when I eat at your basic Mexican restaurants, especially the kind that have refried beans on the bottom. It's a serious guilty pleasure of mine. When I lived near a Harris Teeter they sold some cheese that said on its label that it was for melting and making hot queso dip, and I shamelessly bought it and it produced perfect results (it was a white cheese and otherwise had Spanish on the label, so I'm not talking about anything even close to Velveeta here). I now no longer live near HT but I am sandwiched between a Whole Foods and a great local grocer who sells a fair amount of Mexican cheeses.

Can someone please recommend what type of cheese I should be buying, and exactly how I should be melting it? My latest attempt was buying Oaxaca cheese and trying to melt it covered and with a splash of milk in the microwave, which is how I used to melt the HT kind. As you can probably predict, this resulted in a stringy, not really melted, separated mess that hardened into cheese brick. Oaxaca in the oven produced the same result. I don't know why I'm being such an idiot about this but please SE'ers, show me the queso light here.

Incredible Veal Recipe Needed

Hello Serious Cooks! I am traveling with my fiance to St. Croix next week to vacation with my future in-laws and they have asked us to prepare a meal while we are there using veal as the main dish. We are skilled in the kitchen but I don't have a go-to veal recipe since we don't eat it that much. If someone could please recommend a great recipe I would really appreciate it! I am told there is a decent grocery store there so I guess don't worry too much about my ability to find ingredients.

Eating & Cooking Veal in St. Croix

Greetings Serious Eaters! Next week I will be in St. Croix with my future in laws (yikes) and I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations for eating out. Additionally, as my future in-laws know that my fiance and I like to cook, they have asked us to prepare a dinner while we are there that has veal as the main course. Super random, right? Although we're serious cooks it is very rarely veal. So any recipe recommendations would be helpful. Also, can I travel with a chef's knife? Thanks! (I might cross-post this in cooking, btw, sorry in advance).

Question about my First Try at Home Frying

Greetings serious eaters! After many years of wanting to fry foods at home but never trying for one reason or another, Superbowl Sunday will be my first time. I want to make fried wings and beer battered onion rings. My question: can I use one pot of peanut oil for both of these foods, or do I need to change it in between? It's SO EXPENSIVE so I'm trying to use as little as possible. Also, should I do the onion rings first? Seems smarter for sanitation, no? I have no idea about any of this and I'm just going to use a deep pot and oil, any tips appreciated!

Seeking Pretty Packaging for Supervisor's Cookies

Hello! I am very fortunate to have two bosses who are pretty great to work for, and this year I'd like to give them a small token of appreciation by baking them a small batch of delicious cookies. The trouble is, I am not sure how to package them so they look elegant/pretty/classy and not overly cheesy, cheap, or carelessly thrown together. A nice small tin would probably be okay, but I'd almost prefer something else. Does anyone have any good online sources for something like this? I live in DC but don't have a car so if someone local has local suggestions, I would also be glad to hear of those. Disposable or reusable, either is fine. Thanks in advance!

36 Hours in New York for a Delicious Birthday-Please Help!

Dear SE NYC Food Experts,

I'm planning a surprise trip to NY at the end of July for my boyfriend. We'll be traveling from DC and arriving very late Friday night, so we'll have all day Saturday and then Sunday morning before going back to DC. I'm hoping to take him to Le Bernardin for dinner on Saturday night because he loves Eric Ripert, or Per Se as an alternate. Other than that, I don't know what we should do. Neither of us have been to NY for at least 5 or 6 years and we've never gone together, so where else should we go? We are not picky eaters at all and love everything from greasy spoons to fancy high-end meals. No dietary restrictions. Would prefer to have at least one affordable breakfast/brunch idea. Boyfriend is also really into bourbon so any ideas related to that would be good. I haven't made our hotel reservations yet but I'm thinking I'll want to stay near wherever we have dinner on Saturday night, so close to Le Bernardin hopefully. I was also thinking about going to Eataly b/c we love to shop for food and go to interesting food stores but maybe it's just a tourist trap?

I know Talk is full of NY recommendations and so is SE NY but I'm hoping you NY experts will take some pity and help me make plans for this specific trip. I want to have a memorable trip and I know that requires the knowledge that only locals can provide. I will answer any questions you have if more info would help make recommendations. We're adept at public transit but won't have a car, so that's something to keep in mind as well. Thank you in advance! I just want to give him a really special birthday.

Seeking Eats Near Baltimore Convention Center

I'll be staying in Baltimore this week at the Kimpton Monaco, a short walk up the street from the Balitmore Convention Center. I need quick lunch recommendations within walking distance of the convention center, and dinner recommendations that are walking distance from the Kimpton or offer tasty delivery food to that area. Anyone have any recommendations? I read about Two Boots, any thoughts on that? I'd prefer to keep both meals affordable, especially lunch. Thanks!

Need Recommendation for Best Coffee Grinder

I would like to buy a coffee grinder as a gift, and I am hoping the SE community can recommend their favorite models to me. The little research I have done so far suggests a conical burr grinder would be best, but is that true, and if so, what brand/model? This is for a coffee fanatic so I'm really looking for the best. Thank you in advance!

Cake-Like Cookies Need Some Tinkering & Frosting Recipe Needed

Hello! I have a recipe that I really like for cutout cookies, with one minor issue: although they work really well for cutting out shapes and they do taste yummy, I find them to be a little too cakey for my preferences. I prefer chewy cookies in general, or cutout cookies that are more dense and crumbly. Can someone help me adjust this recipe to achieve the right result? I was thinking maybe reduce the eggs, or melting some of the butter first. Here's the original recipe:

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
3 eggs
3 tsp. baking powder
1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the above ingredients until fluffy. Stir in:

1 cup milk
1 Tbls. vinegar
1 tsp. baking soda

Add enough flour to form a soft dough. Roll it out, cut out shapes and bake at 400 degrees F.

I would really appreciate any suggestions! Also, does anyone have a good basic frosting recipe for cutout cookies? Thanks in advance.

The Best of Las Vegas?

One of my very good friends is going to Vegas for a conference next week, and he is a total foodie like all of us. He asked me if I had any recommendations for Las Vegas restaurants, and since I haven't ever been, I thought I would turn to you guys. So, if anyone has any Vegas restaurant recs, I would really appreciate it! Money isn't really a concern, though a mix of high and low recs would be great. Also, if anyone can comment specifically on Restaurant Guy Savoy, that would be really helpful.

What is a Good Technique for Preparing Steak Under the Broiler?

Hello! I know it's wonderful summertime outside, but I just moved into an apartment complex where I don't have any personal outdoor space for grilling, and the communal rooftop grills won't be installed for over a month or so from now. I enjoy the occasional steak at home though, and I haven't been having great success preparing them under my broiler in the oven. Although they come out rare to medium rare like I want, they are often tough and dry. I do let the steak rest after taking it out, so I feel like salt is probably one large culprit here.

That being said, can someone suggest the right methods and techniques for ensuring a nicely prepared steak from the oven? Do I salt the meat well in advance, right before, or not at all before cooking? Do I rub with olive oil? Pepper? Seasoning? Use the high or low broil? Flip during cooking, or no flip? I do use a thermometer, so I'm not worried about cooking to accurate doneness. But should I preheat the pan I'm using? I would like to not have to use very expensive cuts--if a good result can be achieved with sirloin, that would be ideal, but I'm open to suggestions there too. My cholesterol thanks you in advance for your tips :-)

Etiquette for Eating on Planes/Trains/Buses

I just read the CNN article that I think was linked to in a recent SE post, here:

The article begins with a story about a woman who was irritated and disgusted by some fellow plane-mates. During her flight, a couple seated next to her ate some food that they had brought onto the flight in Tupperware containers, "full of some kind of food that had a lot of curry and garlic and onions and all those yummy scents" recalls the irritated woman. She continues by saying, "They proceeded to have a feast, and they were pretty happy about it," but that the homemade food made her gag. She calls the experience "terrible." Note that this was on a four-hour flight from NY to Denver.

As an infrequent flier but someone who is about to take a flight myself this Friday, I find myself wondering, really? I mean, I understand how it can be annoying to be seated in a confined space with others who are consuming something fragrant, good or bad. But with airlines no longer feeding you for free, and with for-purchase options at crazy prices for miserable food, what is a hungry traveler to do these days? Tips in the article suggest, among other things: (1) Pre-packaged snacks and cold foods--no hot foods at all; and (2) No foods with fish, hard-boiled eggs and any foods containing garlic, onions, parmesan cheese or vinegar, as well as freshly fried foods.

Is this article right? I want to pack something tasty and satisfying for my upcoming flight, so some thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated!

Noticing a Change in SE Members?

Does anyone else feel like in the last few weeks or so, you have been reading comments from members you are unfamiliar with, who are posting really negative, nasty comments? I feel like I have seen it very often recently in Talk threads as well as comments to normal posts. Is SE advertising its site more broadly or in new places now, attracting these newer members? I love new members, but I don't understand why some of these people would come to SE, take the time to join and comment only to be so downright nasty, adding nothing constructive to the site except to bash its contributors. Are these rogues from a competing site trying to squash our good vibes? Seriously though, in the SE "About" section it states, "Serious Eats is a website focused on celebrating and sharing food enthusiasm through blogs and online community." So let's see--celebrating, shared food enthusiasm, and later, they also mention "inclusive conversation." I'm all for healthy debate and different points of view, but let's be civil. I felt compelled to post this because it is making SE less enjoyable for me, and it feels less like a community. Does anyone else notice any of these changes, or am I totally off base here?

Appropriate Vessels for No-Knead Bread

Hi SEers,

I made no-knead bread for the first time a few weeks ago, and I used a cast-aluminum dutch-oven. It came out pretty tasty, but I would like it to be a little bit taller, which would require a smaller pan than my large dutch oven. I'm afraid to put some of my smaller baking dishes in the oven at the 500 degree temperature. In particular, I would like to use either of these vessels, as they both have similar diameters that I think would produce the result I am seeking: (1) a 1.3 Qt. souffle dish by Anchor Ovenware--it appears to be clay-based, with a clear glaze on it; (2) A stainless steel 3 Qt. pot with lid. I don't see any non-steel parts on the entire thing, and it doesn't have any non-stick finish on it or anything. I would prefer to use this the most, since it comes with a lid.

I know this is probably an elementary question, but can either of these withstand the 500 degree oven without damaging themselves or the bread? Thanks in advance, I am planning on baking tomorrow!

Help with my Pizza Dough Please!

I'm new to pizza making at home, but last weekend I gave it a try. I made a crust from scratch using a recipe I read about on SmittenKitchen's website: 6 Tbl. warm water, 2 Tbl. white wine, 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast, 1/2 tsp. honey,1 tsp. salt,1 Tbl. olive oil, and 1.5 cups flour. I whisked the wine, water and yeast in a medium bowl until the yeast dissolved, added the honey, salt and olive oil and stirred, added the flour, and worked it with a spoon and my fingers until it came together as a dough. I kneaded it for 2 mins., and I let it rise for about an hour to an hour and a half. I had preheated the oven to 500 with my pizza stone in it. After letting the dough rise, I formed it into a ball and let it rest for 15 mins. I then rolled it out, topped it with sauce, cheese and pepperoni, and put it in the oven. I was hopeful...

The pizza appeared to bake up nicely, with good brown spots on the crust, and good melty cheese action--when I took it out, the edges were crispy, and it looked like a "professional" pizza. But when we dug into eat, the middle of the pizza was soggy and seemingly undercooked, while the rest of the dough was pretty crispy. I was careful not to overtop it with too much sauce or other toppings, and I'm fairly certain I rolled it out pretty evenly, and leaving it in the oven longer would have only burnt the pizza.

What went wrong? The house in which I was making the pizza (not my own) was a bit drafty, and the dough, even after 1.5 hours, didn't appear to have risen as much as I was expecting it to. Could an inadequate rise have been the problem? Bad yeast? I'm confused. I know some SE and Slice readers are pizza gurus so I come asking for your wisdom. What's up with the soggy center?

48 Hours in Chicago!

Dear all-knowing SE'ers: I will be spending 48 + hours in Chicago in about 10 days, and I would like some recommendations for eating out! I know that's a tall order, which could result in hundreds of delicious recommendations. But I can't really narrow it down too much because I don't even know yet where I will be staying.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night eats, ethnic, bakeries, pizza, hole in the walls, cool bars, just about anything would work. There isn't really any type of food me or the bf won't try, so bring it on. I guess the only parameter is budget--I could afford one dinner somewhere where the entrees float around $20 or $30 maybe, but one night only, so try to keep the other recs affordable please. Dim sum might be nice, as well as some good Mexican or other ethnic eats--good sandwiches too. Bring it on please :)

Help ASAP! In Need of a Perfect Side Dish!

Hi Serious Eaters :-) This Friday, my aunt is hosting twenty of our relatives for an early Christmas celebration. She is making the dinner and I am pretty sure that a ham is her main course. She has asked me to bring a side dish. I know for sure she is also making pierogi and a broccoli side dish, so I should probably avoid anything that would have potatoes or broccoli as the star. I need some recommendations for your favorite sides! Something that will really wow everyone. Don't worry about calories, this is Christmas dinner so I'm not thinking about that, I just need your best ideas.

Please help! Ideas are very much appreciated, especially accompanied with links or copies of recipes.

Washington D.C. Best Restaurant/Best Birthday Dinner Spot?

I'm in D.C. for the summer with my boyfriend, and we're both really into great food. I want to take him somewhere spectacular for his birthday in July; any suggestions? We're not picky at all (also we do eat meat), and I'm willing to pay . Somewhere with outdoor seating or beautiful decor would be a plus, but the food and service are most important. We are living in NOVA but I'm happy to take him anywhere in the DC area, and I do have access to a car. Please help! He likes French food but appreciates almost every cuisine. I want to plan now to make a reservation, so suggestions would be much appreciated.

10 of Our Favorite Cookbooks in 2011

This gift guide has a book for each of the unique cooks on your holiday shopping list. Everyone from the solo eater to the CSA junkie to the science-minded inquisitive cook to the time-pressed weeknight chef to the hardcore griller—they're all covered on this list of our favorite cookbooks of 2011. More