Substitute that saved chicken fat for butter or oil

THE WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post Food staff, cookbook author Pati Jinich, and food journalists Allison Robicelli and Molly Birnbaum recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: Over the past year, I have saved the chicken fat I skimmed off stock and broth. I have more than a pound in my freezer. What can I use it for? I had thought of making a winter birdseed treat out of it. Any thoughts?

A: You can use it instead of any other cooking fat such as butter or oil! Oh but it has that much more flavour! And sub on a one-to-one ratio. It is absolutely delicious with soft scrambled eggs and a sprinkle of salt.

Sear your potatoes or vegetables with it. Use it as a base for browning vegetables for soup or stew or pasta sauce. I just wouldn’t use if for sweets. – Pati Jinich

Q: I baked some blueberry muffins the other day. The recipe said to use liners and lightly grease them. The only ones I have are foil, so that’s what I used. The muffins are delicious but are so moist I need a fork, which makes me think foil wasn’t the best for this. I’m wondering, could I cut up a parchment sheet and use that as liners? I have both plain (uncoated) and coated paper. Is that a good hack?

Grilled baby beets with mustard sauce. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

A: My guess is that it wasn’t the liner, but possibly the recipe or the fact that you might want to bake the muffins a bit longer.

Either way, it would be good to experiment and you can definitely use parchment paper as a muffin liner hack.

It won’t look as great (parchment paper will need to be folded over, can bunch up a tiny bit, and will likely be taller than the muffin tin) but will give a nice rustic look. You’ll just need something to help shape the paper into the muffin tins, like a jar or a can or a cup that can help mold it down. – Molly Birnbaum

Q: We had a flood and are reduced to only a small toaster oven that no longer displays temperatures, a low-power microwave, an induction single-burner “hot plate” instapot and a gas grill. Got loads of beets, huge cauliflower, kale and many many carrots, purple potatoes, oh, and three butternut squash. Thoughts on how to create dinners would be very much appreciated.

A: Sorry about the flood! That is such a bummer. Lots of ways you can go with this, but a few ideas:

– Instant Pot soup all the way. Throw whatever combo you want in there (especially the carrots, potatoes, cauliflower and squash) with some liquid, maybe after sauteing some aromatics. Pressure cook until everything is soft, puree, stir in cream if you want, boom. Easy fall meal.

– Wilted kale: Do on the hot plate or even in the Instant Pot. Or just raw salad. Massage it with oil and salt.

– Cauliflower: Grill as steaks.

– Beets: Grill in foil packets or straight on the grates. – Becky Krystal

Q: I recently moved into a new apartment and anything I’ve baked has been under-done after the designated recipe baking time. Is it better to increase the time or increase the temperature to try and ameliorate this?

A: I think the best solution here is to get an oven thermometer – they’re fairly cheap, like USD8-USD15 – and check to see if your oven is accurately reflecting the temperature you’re setting it to. – Kari Sonde

A: Kari is 100 per cent right! Given the choice, definitely keep the temp the same and increase the time. Otherwise you risk burning things at a higher temp or causing other  problems. – BK.