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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Release the Kraken!

Release the Kraken!

This week's mission: A giant mythological squid wants you to get your rum on. READ MORE

Ren Faire Food an Uncreative Anachronism

Spring ushers in a period where Renaissance Faires are held all over the country, attracting clever nerds who like to dress in linen costumes, say "prithee" a lot, and gnaw on giant turkey legs. But is the festival food served at Ren Faires a decent representation of Elizabethan cooking?


Chug from a Kug

A couple of young Brits, in search of a way to help arthritis sufferers who struggle to lift a full teakettle, have come up with a keen new way to make and drink hot beverages. Britain's Daily Mail tells the story of the sleekly designed Kug, an easy-to-wash-cup that nests inside of a small heating element capable of boiling water in 90 seconds.


Bananas and Caramel Meet in a Pie Plate

Banoffee pie, a British dessert named for the toffee and bananas that flavor it, is a rich confection that layers caramel (generally dulce de leche made from sweetened condensed milk), sliced bananas, and whipped cream in a pie shell.

Banoffee pie, says Harters, is believed to have been invented at the Hungry Monk restaurant in East Sussex by its chef, Ian Dowding, in the early 1970s. Here's his recipe.

Rubee used this banoffee recipe from Gourmet magazine, with delicious results. roxlet has enjoyed a version that uses a crumb crust made from digestive biscuits.

Discuss: Banoffee Pie

Cook with Peaches in Any Season

Excellent fresh peaches are a fleeting summer phenomenon, but you needn't look down on canned for year-round use. They're canned when fresh and ripe and can work well if you use them in dishes where they will be cooked.

BamiaWruz thinks they work nicely in this peach upside-down cake. Hounds also use them in cobbler and add them to bread pudding. "They're lovely in a pie," says rcallner, "with some brown sugar, honey, fresh or frozen raspberries, a touch of vanilla, and a splash of cinnamon."

bon oeuf recommends Jacques Pepin's caramelized peaches, made with an intriguing technique: Peaches in heavy syrup are drained; the syrup is cooked until caramelized, and the peaches are added, along with heavy cream.

boyzoma uses canned peaches in frozen daquiris: In a blender combine half a large can of peaches, a small can of limeade concentrate, the empty can's measure of light rum, and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Fill the blender jar with ice, and blend.

Discuss: Recipes for commercially canned peaches

Will This Booze Make You Evil?

Will This Booze Make You Evil?

This week's mission: good and evil in potable form. READ MORE

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Before there was prepared black bean sauce, I learned to season with fermented black beans. Not complicated. Just rinse several times in cold water, crush with a spoon, and use. I suggest you wait until beans are added to add salt to the dish. The beans will keep in the fridge for months." – OldTimer

"One variation I do like is using a scattering of diced tomato instead of slices, pretty as those are, and spreading on a chiffonade of basil instead of getting visually cute with the leaves is an improvement, too." – Will Owen, on margherita pizza

"I like to roast them in a foil packet on the grill. Usually I toss with salt, pepper, and soy sauce, add a few pats of butter, and grill the packet for about half an hour." – 2m8ohed, on roasted radishes

Your Allergy IS Bogus!

For years, my husband has insisted that the general incidence of food allergies is vastly overstated. "It’s another form of public hysteria," he insists. Well, chalk one up for the grounded midwesterner (Michael's from Kansas). Today in the NY Times, Gina Kolata reports that a new study has been released, commissioned by the federal government, that estimates only around 8 percent of children and less than 5 percent of adults actually suffer from food allergies. The remaining 25 percent who think they do might be suffering from simple intolerance or from information gleaned from an unreliable test (the pin-prick test should not be considered conclusive, says Dr. Joshua Boyce of Harvard).


Chocolate Sticky Rice with Dried Herring

In all the cuisines of the world, are there any desserts that feature fish or fish products as ingredients? Strictly speaking, it's not a dessert, says JungMann, but the Filipino dish of champorado at tuyo pairs chocolate sticky rice with dried herring. It's typically eaten for breakfast, but it can serve as a snack anytime. "It's like Asian Cocoa Pebbles ... with fish," says JungMann.

Champorado at tuyo is a very simple dish, and quality ingredients really make it shine. "A high quality chocolate with dark earthiness will make perfect champorado, while your tuyo should be thoroughly dried, escaping the chewiness that sometimes comes with inferior preparations," says JungMann.

Discuss: Are there any desserts that have fish or fish products (roe, nam pla) in them anywhere in the world?

The Delicate Art of Overcooking

Why are the crispy, blackened, burnt bits of any dish so delicious? The crunchy, slightly burnt tail of a whole fried catfish is Veggo's favorite; cuccubear likes the crispy, charred leaves that fall off roasting Brussels sprouts: "better than potato chips," says cuccubear.

The crispy bits from rice dishes like paella and bibimbap get fond reviews from Chowhounds. toodie jane likes "corn on the cob, slow roasted on the barbecue till the kernels are dry and brown—they pop right off the cob whole and into your mouth," no butter or any other dressing needed, she says. "I always cut any kind of grilled sandwich with cheese in half so the cheese can run out and burn," says wekick. "Reubens with the cheese and kraut burning on the pan—delicious."

And there's a whole culinary culture built around overcooking frozen pasta dinners. scarsdalesurprise likes the overcooked, burnt edges of a Stouffer's tuna casserole. "After you nuke a tray of Stouffers mac 'n' cheese, stir it a little and nuke it again," advises Veggo. "Now you'll get a few interesting little chunks and delicious edges."

Discuss: Those Little Burnt Things That Taste So Good