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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Pecan Pie without Corn Syrup

Candy says this pecan pie is a nice change from those made with corn syrup-based fillings, but warns that using brown sugar made from beet sugar will lead to a gluey filling:

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
unbaked 9-inch pie shell
3 eggs
1 lb. light brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. bourbon or 1 tsp. vanilla
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Scatter pecans in bottom of pie shell. Stir together remaining ingredients (do not beat) and pour over pecans. Bake 40 minutes, then reduce heat to 225F and bake 15 minutes longer, until pie is set.

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Pecan Tassies and no corn syrup Pecan Pie

Snazzy Sugar Cookie Decoration Technique

Colored egg yolk glazes (also called egg tempera) are a great way to decorate sugar cookies. They’re made by mixing small amounts of beaten egg yolk with food coloring, and you paint them on the cookies before they are baked. The colors after baking are bright and true, says kittyfood. The glaze doesn’t add any sweetness, but you can sprinkle decorative sugars over the glaze before baking the cookies, or outline the designs with icing after baking. Be sure to have plenty of inexpensive paint brushes, or even Q-tips, for applying the glaze. It’s an excellent cookie-decorating medium for children, who become absorbed in creative cookie painting, notes Rhee.

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Help with Decorating Christmas Cookies

Foie Gras on the Half Shell

Yes, foie gras is occasionally served “cru,” i.e., raw. One such French preparation, “foie gras cru au gros sel”, is foie sliced thin like prosciutto, and sprinkled with coarse salt. Interesting, says Robert Lauriston, but the flavor and texture are better when it’s cooked.

Soaking the foie in milk and curing with some salt before the raw presentation, changes the texture and character from truly raw, adds JudyAU.

In most French recipes for raw foie, you just keep the liver in the fridge until the last minute, and then slice it with a knife that’s been dipped in warm water. The foie gras is garnished with coarse salt, crushed peppercorns and served with toasty country bread. Only the finest liver is used, says Carswell.

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Fois gras..Cru??

Spiral Sliced Hams

For a party buffet or a family meal, spriral sliced hams are a real convenience. There are some good ones out there.

Harrington’s of Vermont has good piggy products. Emilief says their spiral hams are delicious, and there’s no need even to warm them up (though you can).

Chinowayne is awaiting the arrival of a Burger’s Smokehouse semi-boneless, spiral sliced city ham. Dhedges53 says their smoked ham hocks are something special, as well.

Nueskes is another good company, with great ham and bacon. GretchenS ordered a whole, bone-in ham (“best we’ve ever eaten!”), and they offer spiral sliced too.

DanaB is a fan of Honeybaked Hams. They’re wonderfully convenient for impromptu get-togethers. They’re at their best at room temperature. Dana has never NOT been able to get the size she wanted. “It may not be the best ‘ham’ but I think they are the best ‘spiral-sliced ham’.”

Don’t forget Costco’s spiral sliced ham! Jen Kalb agrees they’re definitely not the best, but very cost effective and very good. Tip: don’t use the sweet glaze that comes with it; make your own with mustard and brown sugar, then stud the ham with cloves.

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Spiral Sliced Hams. What is the best? Honeybaked? Harry & David?

The Emperor’s New Chocolates

Fancy chocolate doesn’t come cheap, as anyone who’s swooned from sticker shock inside La Maison du Chocolat or Teuscher Chocolates knows. But at least the flown-over stuff comes with built-in import chic—and longtime chocolate-making know-how from some of the best truffle makers in the business.

But those dainty French and Swiss nibbles are priced like a Whitman’s Sampler compared to those sold by Noka Chocolates of Plano, Texas. Packed in one of their signature stainless steel boxes, 12 of Noka’s quarter-sized, bittersweet squares will set you back a stunning $99 ($39 if you skip the metal and opt for black cardboard instead). Oh, you wanted truffles? You can get eight truffles for $139 (in steel) or $70 (in cardboard). It’s hardly a surprise that Noka was founded by two accountants.

But is their chocolate really worth the price? And what’s so special about it, anyway? That’s what Texas blogger Dallas Food set out to discover, in an exhaustive nine-part expose. What starts with mild amazement at Noka’s pricing turns into an obsession with the source of chocolate for Noka’s simple confections, since (contrary to what’s implied in much of their press) the company doesn’t do their own bean-to-bar processing, but buys finished European couverture ready for molding. He narrows it down to one unconfirmed (but named) French company—a company whose own chocolate bars are readily available in many specialty shops at a comfortably reasonable price.

Interestingly enough, the Chowhound reaction focuses less on the audacity of Noka’s pricing (after all, anyone can try to kick their product into the stupid-luxury niche by charging ridiculous amounts of money; just ask the smart marketers at Grey Goose) and more on the journalistic ethics of telling only one side of the story. Not his fault, counters Dallas Food blogger Scott; when he tried to get info from the company, they “blew him off,” while his interactions with the French folks on the other end may become part of another piece.

New Wine in Old Bottles

Serious wine collectors must have a high tolerance for risk. Otherwise how could they pay thousands of dollars for a beverage that could be the nectar of the gods—or just a very expensive vinegar?

Now they have yet another thing to worry about: Experts say 5 percent of the world’s most expensive wines could be counterfeits.

There are no definite numbers on how many counterfeits are changing hands, but Serena Sutcliffe, Sotheby’s international wine director, had a sobering assessment for investors at a London meeting. The number of 1945 vintage wines being sold exceeds 1945’s output, she said.

Of course, no one is switching the Two-Buck Chuck for One-Buck Chuck, as evidenced by the fact that this news was reported in the Palm Beach Post rather than the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But just in case we’re lucky enough to be drinking a wine of spectacular vintage, Sutcliffe tells us how to tell the difference between the real and the faux:

‘The vast majority of counterfeits are drunk with enormous pleasure,’ Sutcliffe told Decanter magazine. In fact, that is one way to ferret out a fake: Very old wines are seldom drinkable; fakes tend to be consistently good.

New Food from the New EU

There’s no question that the ever-shrinking world brings with it a host of problems: new vectors for pandemics, global terrorism, monotonous rave compilations, and so on. But the shrinking globe (and growing EU, specifically) offers some exciting new culinary opportunities, or so writes the BBC.

In a brief but nicely illustrated story posted on its website, the Beeb introduces us to Bulgarian and Romanian favorites such as ciorba de perisoare (soup with meatballs), mititei (sausage-shaped hamburgers), and lyutenitsa (a roasted red pepper relish).

Although the story sheds some welcome light on the region’s folk favorites, it lacks recipes, which is sort of a shame. Those who traveled to Eastern Europe in days of yore and sampled the hotel fare (think: discs of gray mystery meat embalmed in clear gelatin) might enjoy a chance to redeem the cuisine without having to schlep back to Warsaw.

Death Be Not Hungry

We don’t yet know what Saddam Hussein’s last meal was, but the website the Spoof seems to have already put some thought into it. In one story, the Spoof suggested that Michael Jackson’s plea for Hussein’s life was unheard because of some cell phone company issues, so Saddam’s final meal of a Whopper with fries continued to be prepared. In another piece, the Spoof opined that he was pleading for “Death by Chocolate”.

Saddam Hussein has written an open letter to U.S. politicians and a human rights group requesting he be allowed to gorge himself on Mars chocolate bars until completely comatose, as part of his upcoming execution.

Riffing on the issue of botched executions by lethal injections, the Spoof suggests that death by Crock-Pot might be a good idea.

The thinking behind the change of heart by death penalty opponents is the so-called ‘boiled frog’ analogy. ‘If you throw a frog in a pot of hot water he will jump out,’ says Nathanson. ‘If you put a frog in cold water and gradually raise the temperature he won’t notice and will invite friends over for a hot tub party.’

Slow-cooked meats tend to retain their juices, making them more succulent. At present, the bodies of executed inmates are disposed of by burial, where they are devoured by worms, if at all. ‘It’s such a waste,’ says Eli Mannheim of the Committee to Feed America. ‘Throw in a few carrots and a potato and you could feed a family of four with a crack dealer or a three-time check forger.’

And since I’ve already reserved that corner table in Hell, I might as well continue with this particular strain of morbidness.

For over 20 years, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice recorded the gory details of executed prisoners’ last meals on their website. Apparently, it was the most popular feature on the entire site. However, a few years ago the meals of over 300 executed killers were expunged from the site because of claims they were “tasteless and demeaning.” (Couldn’t have been that tasteless—a lot of them ordered fried chicken.) However, if you are rabidly curious, The Memory Hole has managed to, ahem, resurrect them. Pardon the pun.

But not, apparently, the prisoners.

Catch of the Day: Senegalese ‘Paella’ at La Marmite

La Marmite does a super job with the Senegalese fish specialty thiebou djenne–as good as any version around town. It’s a heaping plate of goodness, says Polecat: garlicky fish, rice, and huge chunks of carrot, yucca, and other vegetables, with an authentic sheen from palm oil and a unique green hot sauce served on the side. The difference here is the fish, more tender–and more of it–than you’ll get at other restaurants.

This paella-inspired dish (pronounced “cheb-boo jenn,” or just “cheb”) is on the lunch menu, which gives way to a lineup of grilled meats at dinnertime–though you might still be able to get it later in the day if they haven’t run out.

La Marmite will soon open a second location on 7th Avenue (Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.) between 133rd and 134th streets, Uptownflavor reports.

La Marmite Restaurant [Harlem]
2264 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.), at 121st St., Manhattan

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La Marmite in Harlem

Le Bistro Elephant

Le Bistro Elephant serves very good small plates at a good value, says A Amore, like thick-cut, buttermilk-battered onion rings, dusted with melted cotija cheese and accompanied by a ketchup doctored with powdered chilis. Lamb sliders, duck tacos, and barely seared three-day-boat scallops are also recommended. Food and drinks for two, including tax and tip, will run you about $58.

Le Bistro Elephant [East Bay]

2134 Oxford St., Berkeley



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Le Bistro Elephant–Berkeley