The Washington Post guess experts and staff writers recently answered questions from readers. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: I noticed that Japanese restaurants with the best teriyaki seem to cut the vegetables, bread the tofu or meat, and pour teriyaki sauce over the cast-iron plate. Then the plate is broiled until things are golden and sizzly. Could I re-create this at home with a 12-inch cast-iron skillet?
A: I love cast iron and know a lot more about it than I do Japanese cuisine. You can and should use the cast-iron skillet for this, but make sure it’s well-seasoned, because that will reduce your changes of sticky-gross teriyaki aftermath. What I think the real trick to this would be is adding the teriyaki at the very end.
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Charlotte Druckman, food writer
Q: Assuming you measure out your ingredients before cooking, where do you put them? I end up using lots of tea cups for spices and seasonings that need to be added to a stir-fry or other dish one at a time, even if there’s only a spoonful in each. Then they all have to be washed. I suspect there’s a better way, but I can’t think of it.
A: If you prep things, you’re going to have to put them in something that needs to be washed. There are little glass prep bowls made for just this purpose, but I’ve never bothered to get any. I use little bowls or plates. Doesn’t much matter to me as long as I can toss them in the dishwasher when I’m done.
Becky Krystal, staff writer
Q: I’m hearing conflicting opinions on whether sauteing with extra-virgin olive oil is a waste of the extra money paid for it, as it breaks down with high heat. Others say to go ahead and use it. What is the real deal?
A: It is perfectly safe to fry or saute with extra-virgin, despite all the myths to the contrary. In fact, it might be the safest oil for frying. However, a fine extra-virgin can be very expensive. I don’t use an estate-bottled oil for frying any more than I use a Château Mouton-Rothschild to make boeuf bourguignon. There are, fortunately, plenty of lower-priced California extra-virgins that make sense for this. And for deep-frying, they can be used a second time if you strain them thoroughly after the first use.
Nancy Harmon Jenkins, food writer
Q: I made a recipe recently and didn’t have any milk. So I used some cream. It was past its date, but it didn’t smell bad and it tasted fine, just a little thicker than usual. A few bits looked suspiciously like clotted cream. Is that what I had?
A: Yes, this pretty routinely happens to me with heavy cream. In fact, this weekend, I used a slightly thickened cream in scones and ganache - no problems. It has a tendency to clump thanks to the higher fat content. You did the right thing in smelling and tasting. As long as those check out, just use the cream as is or shake it up a bit to try to reconstitute it. It’s not quite clotted cream, in the sense that traditional clotted cream is made by heating the cream. But I do wonder what those curds would be like spread on something, as you would with butter or clotted cream. Something to try next time.
Q: Just made a recipe that called for Japanese soy sauce, which I did not have, so I used regular soy sauce instead. Not knowing what this is supposed to taste like, is this substitute okay, or should I pick up Japanese soy sauce?
A: Soy sauce tends to vary from one country to another, but that’s not to say you can’t substitute them. My advice is to start with a little less than the recipe calls for, to account for one soy sauce being saltier than another. You can always add more.
Q: Whenever I make a 9-by-13-inch cake, the corners don’t rise the way the center does — any suggestions?
A: Since things bake from the outside in, it sounds as though your edges are baking and setting too far in advance of the rest of the cake. I’d check the oven temperature with a thermometer. You could also try putting the cake pan on a baking sheet to help even out the heat. Another thing might be to slow down the baking — try lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
Dorie Greenspan, baker