Ask the Food Dude 

Q: Dude, I’m desperate for a boneless chicken bake that will come out moist and tender every time. After years of cooking for seven, it’s down to just my husband and me, and we need quick and good. Do I need to brown the breasts before baking or what?

A: You don’t have to brown your breasts to get some “quick and good,” but it‘s a great way to increase the color and flavor. Try this, and see if you and the old man like it: Over medium-high heat, melt about a pat of butter with a tablespoon or two of olive oil in an ovenproof pan. Just as it starts to sizzle, lay in 2-4 salt-and-peppered boneless, skinless breast halves and brown them all over. Put your breasts on a plate, scatter two tablespoons of flour over the hot grease and stir constantly until it starts to brown, scraping up the bits stuck to the pan. Pour in a good splash of dry vermouth; stir or whisk to blend. Add a cup of whole milk or half-and-half, and whisk until smooth and bubbly. Return breasts to the pan, spoon some of the sauce over them to cover, and bake in a 350-degree preheated oven until the temperature in the thickest part of the breast is between 155 and 160. (The only thing that can cinch moist tenderness is an instant-read thermometer.) Let your breasts rest out of the oven for 10 minutes, sprinkle with good paprika or chopped fresh herbs, and present your juicy, savory breasts to your daddy.

Q: I know you’re not supposed to use soap or scouring pads on seasoned cast iron pans. But aren’t I taking a chance on getting bacteria belly?

A:Properly seasoned cast iron skillets are precious, heavy metal. They’re treasured heirlooms and damn fine non-stick, even-heating, last-forever, economical cookware. Never use soap or abrasives on a seasoned pan. You’ll end up having to soak the thing in lye and scrub with steel wool, then start over seasoning it again. When it’s still warm, clean the pan under hot running water, wipe out with paper towels, and repeat until clean. If stuff sticks, boil a little water in the pan, then clean. Is it safe? Consider that you’re heating the pan before you use it.


Spit Or Swallow?

Placentophagy— We are, after all, mammals. And in keeping with the rest of them, some of us snack on placenta, or “afterbirth,” as either postpartum ritual or for medicinal reasons. When it’s practiced in modern midwifery, the beef-like variety meat is used to prevent postnatal depression, promote self-cleansing by the uterus and milk production, treat anemia and a whole bunch of other things, including making the new mom’s skin and hair all shiny. A visit to an online midwifery forum reveals some very creative preparations: Cut into raw nubbins to be held between cheek and gum like snuff; served with sticky rice and soy, as sushi; blended in fruit smoothies or V-8 Juice (V-9?); in veggie stir fry; dehydrated for jerky; simmered in soup; and as a very special crème brûlée (that last one might be made up). Once you get past the cultural patooey factor, the mommies say, a nice medallion of placenta can actually be tasty. None of this explains why new daddies also sometimes munch on their baby’s original feedbag. Something to do with bonding. If you try it, don’t forget to floss. Send comments to

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