The Washington Post Food section staff recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: When I host parties, people always ask if they can bring anything, or what they can bring. I understand it’s polite, and, of course, I ask the same when going to theirs, but I never know what to say regarding my gatherings, because I will have food and drink planned in advance. Usually I’ll say, if you know you’d like a particular item, bring it. (Example: A couple friends don’t drink, so I suggest they bring non-alcoholic beverages if they don’t want the sparkling water or whatever I will have.) Am I saying the right thing? Is it all situational anyway? (Is this a millennial-only anxiety?) Thank you!
A: You are saying the right thing. You can always say “I’ve got everything covered, just bring yourselves,” or “I’ve got some sparkling water for the non-drinkers, if you could grab another option that would be wonderful.”
Q: The Luxardo cherries jar says not to refrigerate, the Internet says not to refrigerate, yet my gut says to refrigerate. How can an open jar of luxardo cherries avoid going bad when sitting on the bar cart for months on end?
A: I’m with you — I’d treat them the way I treat jam. Shelf stable before opening, refrigerate afterward.
A: As weird as it seems, in my experience those cherries (whether Luxardo or the Amarena ones) should be kept at room temperature. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but twice now I’ve thought, “I really should refrigerate these” only to find that, in the fridge, they developed crystals and a white mold-like substance that made the cherries unusable. Two jars I’ve wasted! It gives me the shivers, but the jars I’ve kept at room temperature seem to do just fine.
Q: We’re getting a pasture raised turkey. It’s not a heritage breed one though. I’ve seen varying advice on how to cook it including don’t brine it so you can taste it better. Do you have specific advice for this kind of bird?
A: I’ve dry-brined my pastured turkeys in the past so that the meat is well-seasoned throughout. I don’t think it affects the “flavor” of the bird, so much as properly seasoned food tastes more like itself. So, my advice is to go for it.
Q: Are chives and scallions interchangeable as an uncooked topping? I mean, I know they’re not the same thing, but I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten them close enough together to be able to explain the difference.
A: Scallions are a lot bigger, so unless you’re chopping them finely, they are a lot more noticeable than chives. And more oniony, to me.
You have free articles remaining.
Q: I’ve been seeing Greek yogurt listed as an ingredient in a lot of recipes lately (baking, mostly), but I need to avoid dairy for medical reasons. Is there a good substitute for it? Could I use a dairy free/almond yogurt?
A: Depends on the recipe. I’d be most inclined to a nondairy yogurt in uncooked situations, but I’m worried they’d break and/or behave the wrong way when cooked.
Q: I had the good fortune of taking a cooking class in Singapore recently with [chef] Violet Oon—she is revered there—and she used a delicious syrupy soy sauce that she described as “Chinese dark soy sauce.” It’s not like anything I’ve had before. Now that I’m home (in Houston) I can’t find it. We have a large Asian community here, but I haven’t ventured out to see whether I can find it. Might any of you know if it has another name or if there is a brand to ask for?
A: There’s a bunch of different brands and names for it, but just look for “dark soy sauce” on the label, and you’ll be OK.
Q: When I was younger the leftover bacon grease was used up quickly frying eggs for breakfast. Now I use it to season things, but not very often. How long does it keep?
A: Fat keeps for a pretty long time as it has been used for centuries as a preservative (think confit) prior to refrigeration. So, I would think, if the fat has been filtered and stored in a clean jar, it could keep at least a few months. It has for me.
Q: Does it matter if you soak beans before putting them in soup?
A: Ah, the soaking question! Beans will take longer to cook if you don’t soak them overnight first, but they — and their cooking liquid — also aren’t quite flavorful. If you know the beans are from a trusted source and not very old, you’ll be fine. If they are, it could just take a good amount of time longer. You should also make sure the soup isn’t tomato-based. (The idea that any acidic ingredients in a pot of beans will cause them to not get soft isn’t really true.)