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

Sweet Wine Has a Purpose

Many hounds aren't wild about drinking wines on the sweeter side, but they use them to good effect in both savory and sweet cooking.

A lightly sweet wine is good for braising sauerkraut, according to Will Owen, either with bacon as a side dish, or as part of a full choucroute garni. buttertart steeps prunes in sweet wine and uses this as an accompaniment to pork chops or roasted pork. miss louella loves the results so much when she uses a sweet wine in risotto that she buys sweet wines solely for that purpose.

Vetter uses sweet wines for poaching pears or stone fruit, while Querencia pours sweet wine over cut-up fresh fruit. HillJ says sweet Rieslings are a good base for sorbets and granitas.

Discuss: Half a bottle of too-sweet Riesling

A Gingerbread Home for the Holidays

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A sweet holiday story built on spices and icing. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Beets, Beets, Pretty and Sweet

Roasted beets are perennially popular in salads or on their own, but there are other fine ways to cook the sugary root.

Grated beets are nice simply sautéed in butter or oil; add a bit of liquid, cover, and cook until tender. If you add onions, use vinegar as the liquid, and finish with a sprinkle of celery seed: "You get sort of a warm beet-pickle effect," says sfmiller. Grated beets are also a component of recipes such as fettucine with grated beets and cheese, cumin-scented beet latkes, and beet rosti with rosemary.

bizkat likes this beet tzatziki. "Very good," he says. "Beautiful color. Definitely snazzy." Cherylptw adds beets to risotto, and smile81 says beet ravioli with poppy seed butter is simple, but beautiful and "super-tasty."

Discuss: Beet recipes - other than roasted or in a salad?

Mummies With Hardened Arteries

Over at the Huffington Post, Kathy Freston has compiled a list of the most recent newsworthy happenings in vegetarianism. It's an interesting recap whether you are a meat eater or not. Some highlights to ponder:

• An LA Times report about CT scans revealing evidence that high-status ancient Egyptian mummies had hardening of the arteries, likely from too much salt and a diet full of too much fatty meats.

• The recent publication of a study by World Bank scientists concluding that livestock is responsible for more than half of the world's green house gas emissions, much higher than previous studies have found. (Link leads to a PDF file download.)

• The story of the Stanford biochemist Patrick O. Brown who is taking an 18-month break from work to try and convince people that for the sake of the environment we need to "eliminate animal farming on planet Earth."

Image source: Flickr member wonderferret under Creative Commons

Truffle Butter, a Luxury Fat

Gilding dishes with truffle butter gives them rich, luxurious flavor. To play up the truffle flavor, keep the background simple.

Mashed potatoes are rainey's favorite vehicle for truffle butter. "It's a simple, hardy base that really lets the truffle flavor take center stage," she says. egging suggests making truffled french fries: Toss fries with a light coat of melted truffle butter and sprinkle with Parmesan.

SpareRib puts a pat on grilled steak, and uses it to finish pan sauces; Kelli2006 uses it to make hollandaise. AndrewK512 stirs it into a basic risotto, and several hounds like it in scrambled or shirred eggs.

maria lorraine puts it on popcorn, and recommends a suitable wine pairing: "Serve with bubbly."

Discuss: What to make with truffle butter?

Controversy with a High ABV

An immoderate beer—an 18.2 percent ABV brew called Tokyo, produced by the Scottish company BrewDog—is stirring up controversy in the UK. A key British beverage distributor is refusing to distribute Tokyo due to the wording on its label, as reported by Dan Mitchell at Slate:

"Everything in moderation, including moderation itself. What logically follows is that you must, from time to time, have excess. This beer is for those times."

Translated: Drink this to get trashed in a hurry.

BrewDog, which also makes the world heavyweight of high-alcohol beers (Tactical Nuclear Penguin), is quickly making a name for itself. Bad boy reputation or not, BrewDog is putting itself on radar screens, which translates to buzz. Whether that buzz translates to sales is something that has yet to be seen.

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"I usually make them in the crockpot and there is something magical about leaving for work with what is essentially a pot of water with stuff floating in it and coming back to find it has turned into soup."

"Any lengthy cooking seems to destroy truffle oil. Drizzled over a chicken for roasting results in a lovely aroma for the first half of cooking, then nothing more, and no flavour addition. Drizzled whilst resting after cooking though, is terrific."
-Robin Joy

"When meatballs add grease to your sauce, it's because of the of the fat content from the ground meat you use to make the meatballs."

The Shape of Pasta

Why is the shape of pasta so important? After all, it's all made from the same ingredients.

"It occurred to me that I adore macaroni and spaghetti—but penne, farfalle, etc. give me no pleasure at all," says Peg. cookie44 notices the same phenomenon with her husband: "I can make two dishes with the same exact sauce, one served over penne and the other served over, say, spaghetti and he will love the spaghetti and not want to eat the penne," she says. "For me, penne is the best pasta ever," says Aramek. "Something about the size, shape, cooking time, just seems to click for me. Penne are the punji sticks that trap, kill, and drain all the wonderful flavours from the tiger that is my sauce."

Why some shapes but not others? "Some pastas traditionally go well with certain sauces," says Harters. "You never hear anyone rave over their 'farfalle cheese.' So, it may be that you like certain pastas because of the sauce that goes with it," he suggests. "Applying the same logic, you might like an ice cream cone because of the ice cream it contains—but you wouldn't enjoy the cone without ice cream. Unless you were odd."

On the other hand, you might like certain pastas because of their texture, suggests Harters. "Macaroni and spaghetti both being thin-ish tubes," he says. "There's probably many foods where you enjoy the texture perhaps more than taste—for me, mussels are like that. Love them, but I like the slipperiness more than the actual taste." And then there's the issue of doneness. "Some pastas are harder to cook because of their shape," says Ruth Lafler, "especially ones that are folded or pinched (farfalle would be one)—the thicker parts don't cook at the same rate as the thinner parts, and so it's hard to find the right compromise on doneness." And also, "some pasta shapes scoop up more sauce than others," says mnosyne.

For a complete guide to which noodles to use when, check out CHOW's story When Pasta Met Sauce.

Discuss: Pasta - why is the shape so important?

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