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Philadelphia implements a new program to teach Chinese restaurants how to add flavor while cutting back on salt
Too much salt can be a big health problem. Philadelphia is working to keep Americans healthy.
The recommended daily sodium intake is 2,300 milligrams. The average American consumes 3,400 milligrams. To help keep the community healthy, Philadelphia is working with 200 of the city’s Chinese takeout restaurants to advise them on how they can lower the salt content on their menus.
The program in Philadelphia is a local take on national program that started back in 2010. While many companies worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the overall program failed to make significant progress in the reduction of salt found in popular foods.
Philadelphia, however, has made a considerable progress by providing free cooking classes that show chefs how to add flavor without adding salt.
Before starting the classes, the city analyzed the sodium two popular takeout dishes from 20 restaurants. A few months later analysts looked at the dishes again and found a 20 percent reduction in the salt content thanks to the classes.
Philadelphia also requires chain restaurants to post sodium levels in addition to calorie counts. Moreover, the city is working with schools to make sure all school lunches meet the states salt standards. The hope is to raise a generation that is less dependent on salt.
Fish-Flavored Shredded Pork
Chinese name: 鱼香肉丝 (yú xiāng ròu sī)
Style: Sichuan Cuisine
Characteristics: The eye-catching Fish-Flavored Shredded Pork tastes sweet, sour, salty, fresh and delicious. The mixture of seasonings makes the dish the fish flavor.
Fish-Flavored Shredded Pork (Yuxiang Rousi), also named Yu-Shiang Shredded Pork, is a famous dish of Sichuan Cuisine. It has fresh and fragrant fish flavor, but does not contain fish or fish sauce at all. The secret of its special taste is the blend of white sugar, salt, cooking wine, soy sauce and vinegar as well as garlic and ginger &ndash a recipe that the local Sichuan people originally used to cook fish. The pork is stir-fried with the fish-flavored seasoning sauce, which can also be used to cook eggplant, eggs and other dishes. The recipe below is the regular way of cooking Yuxiang Rousi.
Philadelphia Chinese takeout restaurants cutting salt
Philadelphia Some Chinese takeout restaurants in Philly are dropping sodium content from their dishes in an effort to curb the city's high hypertension rates.
Organizers have recruited more than 200 eateries across Philadelphia for the city's Healthy Chinese Takeout Initiative, which aims to reduce the food's salt content by 10 percent to 15 percent.
This interactive map shows which takeout restaurants are part of the initiative.
The city is focusing on salt consumption because 37 percent of residents have high blood pressure, or hypertension. The number jumps to 47 percent for African-Americans, according to a 2012 survey by the Public Health Management Corp.
Amar Jones knows that high-salt Chinese takeout isn't good for his high blood pressure -- but the lure of shrimp with broccoli is tough to resist.
So he was heartened recently to hear that his favorite dish now has 20 percent less sodium thanks to the effort.
"People might think I'm being extreme, but you're probably going to save some lives," Jones said. "You might save my life."
Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Participants have made several changes, such as flavoring orders with chilies or garlic instead of sodium using less sauce distributing soy sauce packets only on demand and posting nutrition information.
It's the latest effort by a major U.S. city to help people eat better. Many have already banned trans-fats, and some require restaurants to post calorie counts.
The multi-agency initiative, which began about a year ago, focuses on mom-and-pop Chinese joints because they are "an enormous industry" in the city, serving about 3 million meals a year, said Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz.
"In one dish, adults who go to many Chinese take-outs had been getting their full days sodium, so we thought we had an issue," Schwarz told CBS Philly earlier this month.
The dishes are cheap and easily available, especially in low-income minority neighborhoods that often lack supermarkets and access to fresh produce.
But many residents -- and even takeout owners -- didn't realize how the meals affected their health, said Schwarz.
"In some restaurants, the restaurateurs were really taken aback by the amount of sodium in their food," Schwarz said.
U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day - about a teaspoon of salt. The American Heart Association recommends an even lower amount - no more than 1,500 milligrams per day.
Yet an order of chicken lo mein from local takeouts averaged 3,200 milligrams, while shrimp with broccoli had 1,900 milligrams.
Organizers offered a series of low-sodium cooking classes last summer with the goal of changing the ingredients but not the taste. Nine months later, salt content in those two dishes dropped 20 percent in samples taken from 20 restaurants.
"It's wonderful," said Dr. Schwarz.
Researchers plan to test the food again in a few months, and expand the program to other items.
Diets high in sodium may raise risk for stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease, according to the heart association.
In March, researchers tied more than 2.3 million annual deaths worldwide to high sodium intake.
Steven Zhu, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association, recruited participants by saying healthier food could attract more customers. Still, some owners declined because they worried about losing business.
"Change is always not an easy process, and there was some reluctance in the beginning when we started this project," said Grace Ma, director of Temple University's Center for Asian Health.
Xue Xiu Liu, owner of Choy Yung Inn in the city's Point Breeze community, said through a translator that he got involved to improve customers' health. Business is about the same, Liu said.
Jones frequents the takeout because he works just up the block at the Arabic Institute. And he said he's hardly alone, often joined by colleagues or neighbors.
"We're always going in there, even if we don't want to sometimes. There's nothing else to eat," Jones said. "You want something hot, you want something now, so you order from the Chinese store."
The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based organization that promotes healthy eating, praised the city for working with the takeouts instead of pointing fingers. The eateries are community gathering points and not going away anytime soon, noted spokeswoman April White.
"Let's find ways to make everyone a part of the solution," White said.
The Food Trust is not part of the study. Participants include the city health department, Temple University, Asian Community Health Coalition and restaurant association the project is supported by local and federal funds.
First published on August 23, 2013 / 12:35 PM
© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Chinese Salt and Pepper Shrimp
Chinese style deep fried salt and pepper shrimp is a great appetizer or snack with excellent crispy shell and tender inside.
In Sichuan province, we are using the mixed salt and Szechuan peppercorn (花椒) as the main flavor of a series of dishes including salt and pepper small potato, salt and pepper mushroom, salt and pepper chicken and etc. Although shrimp is not an native ingredient in inland Sichuan province, but we have ways to make them outstanding.
I understand that cooking unshelled shrimp might be a litter weird. However they are the perfect protection of the meat inside during the deep-frying or sautéing process. In addition, the shrimp shell is quite good after pan-frying. You can resort to this post to know the tips about how to devein the shrimp without removing shells.
- You can use well salt or coarse salt for this recipe.
- Sichuan peppercorn can be replaced by black pepper. But I highly recommend using Sichuan peppercorn for an authentic taste.
- 300g shrimp, deveined
- 1/2 tsp. salt (well salt)
- 1 thumb ginger, cut into smaller sizes
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. whole Sichuan peppercorn
- oil for shallow frying
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 scallion white, minced
- 1/4 fresh green pepper, minced (optional)
- 1/4 fresh red pepper, minced (optional)
Devein the shrimp and marinate with salt and ginger. Set aside for 15 minutes.
During this process, let make the real deal “salt and pepper”. Toast Sichuan peppercorn with salt over slow fire until aromatic (takes around 1 minute). Transfer the mixture out and then ground into powder.
Heat up oil in wok until you can see waves on the surface. Fry the shrimp for to 1 minute by two batches. Transfer shrimp out. High oil temperature is the key factor to a great flavor.
Pour the extra oil out and leave only around 1/2 tablespoon. Fry garlic, scallion and chopped fresh peppers until aromatic.
Return the shrimp and sprinkle 3/4 of the salt and pepper.
Transfer out and sprinkle the remaining on the surface or on small corner of the serving plate.
Salted Duck Egg
Salted duck egg is a very famous Chinese traditional food across the entire country. We usually make this duck eggs with preserved eggs together. It has been a long family tradition and memory.
Salted duck egg can be used in many recipes-like duck egg fried bitter melon, steamed with minced pork etc. Besides, the duck egg yolk is also used in classic Cantonese Moon cakes, which is a traditional food for Chinese Mid-autumn day. Now, there are packaged single salted duck eggs available in the market. But as long as you tried once at home, you will never want to try the store-bought version again.
The standard of well-made salted duck egg is the texture and taste of the egg yolk. Usually good ones will diffuse oil and has oily sand like texture. We call this as “翻沙” in Chinese. They are around 5 ways to make salted duck egg, the method I introduce today is dry method using wine and salt only. Some of the traditional ways are not feasible since we cannot find the tools and materials needed like yellow sands. But there is another way popular among housewives—pickled duck eggs. I will introduce that way later. Relatively, this wine and salt method is quicker but not so evenly than pickled version. That’s why we need to turn the eggs over each week.
Picture below is my homemade salted duck egg after boiled.
How long to make perfect salted duck egg?
The actual time needed is very much depending on how salty you want the eggs to be and on the room temperature. A perfect well fermented salted duck egg has a oily egg yolk and acceptable saltiness in egg white. But in most cases, we need to find a balance.
In warm days, we need to start testing for around 3 weeks (in shadow places). Start testing the saltiness of the egg after 3 weeks fermentation. Just boil one and cut in halves for testing. Wash off all the salt on surface (to stop the fermentation) when they are appropriately salted. and place them in the refrigerator. However in winter days, one or two more weeks might be needed.
Let’s start:Roll one duck egg around in the hard wine liquor for around 5 seconds.
Then transfer the egg to the bowl with salt. Roll them around so it will be evenly coated with salt.
Package each one with plastic wrap.
Exposure under sunshine for half a day and then remove your box to shadow places for around 25 to 35 days. Turn the eggs over each week.
The fresh and un-boiled duck egg yolk is an essential ingredients for traditional Chinese moon cakes.
Other Chinese Recipes You Might Like
To make the best and authentic Mongolian beef, please follow the cooking tips and techniques below:
- Make sure you cut the beef against the grain.
- Marinate the beef with cornstarch to tenderize the meat.
- The step above is called velveting in Chinese food. It makes the beef tender, juicy, moist and silky.
- Stir fry the beef on high heat using a wok (preferred) or skillet.
- The brown sauce shouldn&rsquot be too sticky and gooey.
How to Reduce Sodium in Chinese Food
With more than 41,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States, it's safe to say Chinese food is a popular choice. Chinese food is known for its variety of noodles, meats and vegetables. However, it also contains a high content of sodium due to added salt, flavor enhancers, spice mixes, marinades and sauces. Eating excess sodium can contribute to high blood pressure in some individuals, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Make your own Chinese food at home. This allows you to avoid adding salt and other ingredients high in sodium. If you are eating out or getting a take-out meal, purchase only freshly prepared dishes that have not been pre-marinated and look for dishes not prepared in sauces, such as grilled items. This gives you more control in requesting low-salt and low-sodium ingredients and sauces on the side. Ask your waiter to explain how dishes are prepared if you are unsure.
Avoid adding table salt to your food. If you are eating in a restaurant, ask the waiter if the chef can hold the salt on freshly prepared dishes. Table salt is composed of sodium chloride and contains about 40 percent sodium. Eating salt increases your sodium intake a teaspoon of salt contains about 2 grams of sodium. A safe intake of sodium is generally between 0.9 and 2.3 grams per day.
Request low-sodium soy sauce. Soy sauce is a staple ingredient used to flavor and marinate Chinese food, but it is very high in sodium. Just 2 teaspoons of regular soy sauce contain almost 6.8 grams of sodium.
Avoid MSG or monosodium glutamate. If you are eating out, ask the server to hold the MSG, which adds more sodium to your food. This flavor enhancer is commonly used in Chinese food as well as canned soups, vegetables and processed meats.
Choose sauces lower in salt and sodium content. Chinese cuisine uses many different types of sauces to add flavor and as marinades for meat and vegetables. Some common types are higher in salt than others. For example, oyster-flavored sauce contains 11.5 grams of salt per 100 grams, and Szechaun kung po sauce contains 3.68 grams of salt per 100 grams. In comparison, satay sauce contains 1.60 grams of salt per 100 grams, and sweet and sour sauce has 0.33 gram of salt per 100 grams.
Use less sauce and flavor your food with vinegar and herbs instead, to reduce your salt and sodium intake. If you are marinating meat or vegetables, wash off some of the marinade before cooking or grilling.
Check processed, frozen and prepared Chinese food such as noodles for added salt, sodium and MSG.
Eat plain, whole-grain pasta noodles instead of salted rice or rice noodles with your Chinese dishes.
If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, consult your doctor or nutritionist before eating Chinese food and other cuisines high in sodium.
Salt and Pepper Pork Chops: Recipe Instructions
Combine the pork, 3 tablespoons water, Shaoxing wine, salt, sesame oil, and five spice powder (if using) in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix and coat the pork evenly. Let sit at least 15 minutes.
Move the pork to one side of the bowl, add the ingredients for the coating (flour, cornstarch, white pepper, oil, and water). Mix until you get a loose batter. Next, combine the pork and the batter until everything is well-coated, and set aside.
Heat the oil in a small sauce pot to about 250 degrees, or until you put in a piece of garlic and it bubbles a little. Toss in the garlic and cook until it just starts to turn color (30 seconds). Scoop it out onto a paper towel to drain. Be careful not to brown the garlic, or it will be bitter.
Heat the oil to 380 degrees using a thermometer, fry the pork in batches until golden brown, and place on a paper towel to drain.
Once all pieces are done, drain the oil leaving 1 tablespoon in the wok and heat your wok over very high heat until just smoking. Add the long hot green peppers and long hot red pepper, salt, and white pepper to the wok and toss for about 15-30 seconds until fragrant. Turn off the heat, and add the pork chops and the fried garlic.
You can now practice your pow wok skills to toss everything together.
Serve your salt and pepper pork chops immediately with white rice, and maybe a little extra salt and white pepper.
Enjoy this Cantonese Salt and Pepper Pork Chops recipe!
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Here’s How To Do It Right
After getting my Camp Chef Pellet Grill, I decided it was time to attempt this Chinese BBQ pork at home. I did a high smoke until it reached JUST the right internal temperature, wrapped it in foil for a few minutes, and tried a slice. It was heavenly. I am not even kidding when I say it was by far the best Char Siu pork I have eaten. It was tender, flavorful, and perfect. It blew my favorite Chinese place’s pork out of the water and that is saying something because I used to REALLY love their pork.
The trick to getting this perfect is smoking the pork, however, if you don’t have access to a smoker or pellet grill, I have offered some alternative methods of cooking in with the recipe. Another thing to keep in mind if you want your pork to be nice and tender is to go by internal temperature, NOT cooking time. This is crucial.
Pro Tips for Pork
The National Pork Board (yes, that is a real thing) recommends cooking pork such as tenderloin, to an internal temperature of at least 145-degrees (this is medium-rare temperature). I pulled the pork off of the pellet grill at 147-degrees and it was perfect. Wrapping it in foil for a few minutes will actually allow the internal temperature to increase a little more. This is crucial, even if you aren’t a “medium-rare” meat kind of person. By the time you start eating it will be closer to a true medium. Pork isn’t like beef where you can see the doneness. Honestly, medium rare will look pretty much the same on the inside as medium-well, which is why judging by internal temperature is even more important in this recipe.
Can I Cook It Longer If I Want?
If you are wanting it to be a little more done, feel free to cook it longer (only if you must). Just don’t let the internal temp get above 160 before removing it from the grill/oven or you will have dry pork and you will be sad.
With a flaky crust and delicate filling, Chinese egg tarts evoke sweet memories and a fusion cuisine
Baking has always been my source of stress relief, especially now when I’m stuck at home due to the pandemic.
Instead of taking it out on a punching bag, I find myself mixing everything by hand, working it out with the dough. I also use that time to find recipes to reconnect to my roots, evoking memories of childhood, like egg tarts.
Going to the Chinese supermarket with my family was a weekly pilgrimage, and the reward was always egg tarts. As the evil older sibling, I convinced my brother that they were disgusting, so I could have his share. I kept this charade going until college when he reluctantly bit into one and realized just how heavenly they are.
More recently, when I moved to Hong Kong for work, I feasted on egg tarts on the regular. It became a favorite afternoon pastime to wash down a few with coffee and people-watch at a cafe.
“Egg tarts have a long history in Hong Kong, they are indispensable, and they are completely integrated into the lives of Hong Kong people,” said Siu Yan Ho, a former chef who teaches at the Department of Chinese at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.
Now back in the states, I’ve used quarantine time to figure out how to make them at home. It’s not easy, especially for a pastry newbie like me, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort. Even before the pandemic, it was hard to find a Chinese bakery in Washington, much less one with freshly baked egg tarts.
“While it is possible to make egg tarts at home, due to its delicacy, there is a lot of work and preparation involved,” said Janice Wong, corporate manager of Kee Wah Bakery in Los Angeles and granddaughter of its founder, who started the bakery in Hong Kong in 1938. “Be patient, as it may take many trials and errors before a satisfactory result is reached.”
It took me six batches to get it right. For the first try, I used a pie tin, which I don’t recommend. As a full-size pie, the egg tart simply had too much filling. It’s like an Oreo cookie — the filling-to-crust ratio has to be just right. I like to take my time eating an egg tart, nibbling around the crust before devouring down the middle.
The dessert is a representative of Hong Kong’s fusion cuisine. There are variations with flaky or cookie crusts, caramelized or glossy tops, and even with Hokkaido cheese or green tea. But, my favorite has always been the flaky crust with a simple, delicate egg filling.
The flaky crust with a puffy pastry is from Guangzhou, China, an open port like Hong Kong, Ho said. It was created in the 1920s with lard when restaurants were coming up with new combinations of dim sum. Many of these restaurants had branches in Hong Kong.
The cookie crust, however, is made with butter and derived from a custard tart during the British colonization of Hong Kong, Ho said. But instead of the more expensive cream and milk filling, Hong Kong bakeries used eggs, sugar and water. This is similar to a Chinese-style stewed egg dessert, he said, which is much softer and smoother.
Basically, it’s like a flan or a creme brulee, said Dave Lazaro, marketing manager for one of my favorite Taiwanese bakeries, 85 Degrees, which has 65 locations in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Texas. The egg tart is also one of their top selling items out of 50-some types of bread and pastries.
“It’s just that subtle combination,” Lazaro said. “It’s not overly sweet. So when you eat it, you don’t feel like it’s too heavy or too rich, and then it has that texture where it’s just right.”
After testing multiple batches of egg tarts, here are mistakes to avoid. First off, invest in 3-inch wide, fluted metal — not disposable — tart tins. (The throwaway types are too shallow for a proper ratio of filling to crust.) The ruffled edges give you crispy, pretty finish. Lightly grease the tins with cooking spray.
Second, make sure to work out the large lumps of butter in the dough. Small chunks are okay, but bigger ones will result in a crust that sticks to the tins. Third, don’t skip the multiple kneading, folding and refrigeration steps. Although extremely tedious, following through will ensure the crust will be easier to handle and super flaky.
One more tip, while the tarts are heavenly fresh out of the oven, they do not keep well past a day.
If your household can’t eat a dozen, you can bake them in batches. Place the dough in the tart tins, cover them tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate them overnight or freeze them for up to a month. The filling can be mixed and refrigerated for up to two days.
That way, you can bake a half-dozen at a time and make the happiness last longer.
Chinese Egg Tarts
You can make these tarts the traditional way, with a multistep, homemade pastry dough that turns the process into a weekend baking project. If you want to cut the preparation time, you can use a flaky pie dough, a press-in cookie dough recipe, or store-bought puff pastry dough, which will get your closest to the homemade dough. One 9-1/2-by-10-inch sheet of puff pastry (about 10 ounces) works, but you may need to re-roll scraps for a few of the tart tins. You will need tins that are about 3 inches wide by about 1-inch deep. You’ll also need a 3 1/4-inch cookie cutter.
These tarts taste best fresh from the oven. If you do not plan to serve all 12 at once, make the filling and press the dough into the tart molds. Then refrigerate the filling and the tart tins, tightly covered, for up to 2 days. Then, fill and bake the tarts as needed.
Make Ahead: The filling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, but must be rewhisked before using. The dough can refrigerated, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days. It also can be rolled out and molded into the tins, then frozen, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week.
Storage Notes: The baked tarts are best the day they are made they do not store well.
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) hot water
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) evaporated milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 stick (4 ounces/113 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- Cooking spray or vegetable oil, for greasing the tins
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the hot water, then refrigerate until the syrup is cool to the touch, 30 to 45 minutes.
In another medium bowl, whisk the egg with the evaporated milk and vanilla until combined. Whisk in the cooled syrup until combined. Using a fine-mesh strainer, pass the filling through several times, so it is completely smooth. Refrigerate until well chilled, 20 minutes.
Make the butter dough: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the butter, flour and salt and pulse until it clumps into a ball. (Alternatively, you can work the butter into the flour by hand until it becomes a ball.) Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) thick rectangle, wrap tightly and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Make the egg dough: When the butter dough is sufficiently cold, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, egg, water and salt and mix until not overly sticky to the touch. Dust the counter with additional flour and roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch (about 3 millimeters) thickness. If the dough sticks to the counter, use a thin spatula or bench scraper to release it and add more flour to the surface.
Unwrap the butter dough and place it in the middle of the egg dough. Wrap the butter dough in the egg dough — first folding top and bottom and then right and left — as if wrapping a present.
Generously flour your work surface and dust your rolling pin and the dough with the flour. Roll out the dough to a large, 1/4-inch-thick rectangle you may need to rotate the dough a quarter-turn every now and then and dust with a little more flour as you go. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, and then fold the shorter side in half, creating a compact rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Repeat rolling out, folding and chilling of the dough two more times. Try to keep the dough in a neat rectangle as you roll and re-roll it.
Once the dough has chilled for the last hour, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
On a generously floured counter, roll out the dough to about 1/16-inch (2-millimeter) thickness. Using a 3 1/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles for the crust. You can re-roll the dough scraps twice, as needed. Lightly grease each tin with cooking spray or oil and place a circle of dough into each tin. Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the tin and, using a fork, prick the bottom and sides of the crusts. Chill the crusts for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the tins on top. Fill each tin to about two-thirds of the way with the filling, about 2 tablespoons.
Bake the tarts for 15 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, or until the crust is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a tart can stand up on its own without falling over, or the center is set, but still slightly jiggly.
Transfer the egg tart tins to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving, about 20 minutes. Remove the cooled tarts from the tins and serve at room temperature.
Calories: 261 Total Fat: 17 g Saturated Fat: 10 g Cholesterol: 105 mg Sodium: 54 mg Carbohydrates: 22 g Dietary Fiber: 1 g Sugar: 9 g Protein: 4 g.
Recipe from staff writer Marian Liu.
Tested by Alexis Sargent, Olga Massov and Ann Maloney email questions to [email protected].
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Correction: A headnote as well as make-ahead and storage notes for this recipe were omitted when this story was first published. They have been added.
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