Use cast iron to replicate a Japanese restaurant trick

Charlotte Druckman recently joined The Washington Post Food staff to answer questions from readers. Here are edited excerpts from that chat. Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found in our Recipe Finder at washingtonpost. com/recipes.

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.

- Charlotte Druckman

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

Q: I made the Ricotta Frittata With Spring Vegetables from the archive 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.

- B.K.

Q: Just made the Stir-Fried Parsnip and Carrot (Kinpira) and it is delicious. I had all the ingredients except for Japanese soy sauce, 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.

- C.D.

Q: I needed some fresh rosemary and parsley for a recipe and now I have a ton extra. What should I do with it all? I also have some extra tarragon from a different recipe too. Hate to have it all go to waste.

A: When I have fresh rosemary I tend to dry it. A sprig is great tossed in a pot of beans, chicken soup, or braised or roasted potatoes. To dry it, just tie it in bundles and let it hang upside down in an airy spot. It takes maybe a week to dry, and then you can store it in a zip-top bag or glass jar for a year. Or for almost any herb - saying "almost" because I haven't done it with every herb - you can finely chop the leaves and mix with some olive oil, then freeze the herb-flecked oil in ice cube trays. Use the cubes in sautes, in roasts, or . . . wherever!

- Kara Elder

Q: I love the Savory Pecan, Parmesan and Thyme Shortbread recipe, but roasting the pecans in a 375-degree oven for 8 minutes isn't working for me - they're dark and bitter. Would you recommend 350 for eight minutes, or 375 for four minutes? Or something else?

A: Sounds perhaps like your oven is a bit hot. I toast most of my nuts at 350, so sure, try that and start checking sooner. Most of the time it's in the 8 to 10 minute range for me, but I open the oven about halfway through, shake the nuts around and smell to see how they're coming along.

- B.K.

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