Food and cooking queries answered

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(Barnes and Noble)

In a recent online chat, one special guest was John Holl, editor of All About Beer magazine, who wrote about Russian dressing. Here is an edited excerpt from that chat. (Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found at www.washingtonpost.com/recipes.)

Q: I'm a terrible teacher and haven't done well by my children in teaching them to cook. Is there a cookbook designed for beginners with simple recipes as well as explanations of cooking terms (mince vs. chop, simmer vs. boil, etc.)? Ideally, recipes would have only a few easily found ingredients.

A: The one I recommend all the time is Linda Carucci's paperback Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks. She's an instructor and does a terrific job in explaining principles and techniques and storage info very well. No fancy recipes.

- Bonnie S. Benwick

A: Are your children fully grown? If not, check out ChopChop magazine (and cookbook).

- Joe Yonan
Q: Is there a preferred beer to have along with a standing rib roast of beef?

A: You'll probably have success with a roasty porter. Think about how the roast cooks: a bit of a crust on the outside, with the fat caramelized and maybe even some little black bits; and then inside, the savory juices. You'll want a beer that can stand up to both. A roasty porter will have some of those caramel and deep (but not overpowering) coffee or chocolate flavors. That complements the outside of the roast. The beer is also a bit sweet, so it will nicely contrast with the savory inside. - John Holl
Q: Are there any simple rules of thumb for converting recipes from stove top to slow-cooker? I have a steak and mushroom stew that I use for making meat pies, and it would be handy to put it in the slow-cooker and leave it.

A: Here are two guidelines Candy Sagon mentioned in a 2009 Post Food section article on slow-cooking:

1. For every 30 minutes of cooking time in a traditional recipe, cook one hour on high or two hours on low in the slow-cooker. (For example, a soup recipe that calls for an hour on the stove top needs two hours on high or four hours on low in the slow-cooker.)

2. Reduce the amount of liquid in the traditional recipe by about one-third for the slow-cooker, since there's little to no evaporation in the latter. - J.Y.
Q: I need to serve hot cider for more than 50 people at an event. . . . What's the best way to heat it up quickly? And do you have any recipes for mulling spices?

A: I'd go with a big pot over low heat, so you'll want to start it in advance of guests showing up. For the spices: Try six to eight whole cloves, six to eight allspice berries, a few sticks of cinnamon, and a few black peppercorns. Add half an orange peel (with as little white pith as possible) and a few slices of fresh ginger, tie it all up in a spice sack or cheesecloth, and add it to the pot as you warm the cider. - M. Carrie Allan