How to request a restaurant’s recipe and other questions
Q: What is the etiquette for asking restaurants for recipes? For example, I loved the kale at a local restaurant, but it’s not on the menu right now. I’d love to make it at home. I know there are differences in large- and small-scale cooking, but I think if I could get a list of ingredients and the process, I could come up with something. Is it OK to ask? How does that work?
A: Chefs and restaurants are used to getting recipe requests these days and will typically comply with pleasure. It will help if you can be specific, perhaps in a followup email, with how many servings you’re interested in. Be aware that measurements will most likely will be listed by weight (grams) and that you can assume things like salt is kosher, butter is unsalted, and there might be some ingredient that may be difficult to find. If the last bit is true, a request for a substitute ingredient may be in order.
•Bonnie S. Benwick
Q: I received a sous-vide cooker as a present and have been looking at recipes to try out. Most that I have seen tell you the temperature you need to set, as well as the cooking time. However, it is not clear whether you have to let the water reach that temperature before placing the food into the water, or if the cooking time includes the warm up. Is there a general rule for this, or does it depend on the recipe?
A: When you’re cooking sous vide, you shouldn’t start the clock on your cook time until the water is up to temperature. Many sous-vide recipes give you a wide range for timing — say, one to five hours for a steak. You have to hit the minimum amount of time at the indicated temperature for the food to be cooked. Another thing: The food must be completely submerged. After you hit the temperature and minimum time, your food is done, though you can leave it in longer. It can’t overcook as long as the water temperature remains the same.
Q: We have a neighbourhood potluck dinner coming up where the host has planned an Italian main course. We have volunteered to bring an appetizer and a dessert. Both need to be gluten-free. Do you have any suggestions? For the appetizer, we were thinking maybe a prosciutto-and-melon combination. But we aren’t sure about a gluten-free Italian dessert. Are gelati difficult to make?
A: Prosciutto and melon sounds nice for an appetizer — easy to make a lot, hand-held and should last pretty well. Gelati aren’t hard to make if you have basic ice cream skills and equipment. But it might be a challenge to make enough and to keep it from melting. I think a gluten-free Italian cookie would be great. Some to look for: Sardinian Almond Cookies, Amaretti Cookies and Anna Stellato’s Pignoli.
Q: I got grapefruit bitters as a gift. I love grapefruit in cocktails but have no idea how to use this! Any ideas?
A: Oh yes! They go great with gin — throw a dash or two in a standard gin and tonic or a martini (not the dirty kind, but the crisp, but the bitters will add a nice note to the clean variation with vermouth and a twist of lemon). You could also use them to take an Old Fashioned in a more summery direction.
•M. Carrie Allan