Never Cook Naked: Host(ess) Gifts, Wax (?) Paper

Our very clever, very clothed Never Cook Naked columnists, Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein, are at your disposal, able to troubleshoot everything from questionable table etiquette to tricky cooking techniques (and, natch, proper cooking attire). If you’re curious to read more solutions to culinary conundrums explained, you may wish to peruse previously asked questions, starting with the last column’s answers regarding mayo salads, sharing steak, and shrinking pie crusts.

—–

Handy Hostess Gifts

Dear Never Cook Naked Guys: Can we discuss the type of hostess gifts one ought to bring? Something to eat or drink that night? Or something for them to enjoy on their own?–Rather Not Be Empty-Handed

Dear Handed: We majored in deportment at finishing school. It was either that or dressage. We think we chose the better part of valor. So you’re about to witness our prim side–and our rules on what to present to hosts and hostesses.

1. Forget flowers. They’re the cruelest hostess gifts. No host wants to be fussing over flaccid tulips while greeting other guests, taking coats, and shaking cocktails. If you insist on flowers, send them earlier in the day—and yes, you must splurge to have them arrive arranged in a vase.

2. Unless you were asked to contribute something, don’t bring anything edible to serve that night. The dinner has been planned. Everything’s got its place. This isn’t a family reunion.

3. Avoid gifts for children or pets. People have rules on what the wee ones can play with or eat. Sometimes they’re the same rules. Regardless, steer clear.

4. Bring a discreetly packaged food gift, but don’t assume it will be served that evening. May we suggest a choice bottle of vodka, bourbon, or rum? Maybe an artisanal food find? A box of handmade chocolate bark from a local candy store? You get the idea. When in doubt, think local. If you bring wine, remember that your hostess may have already selected the evening’s pour and will enjoy your bottle at another time. Besides, it’s a tad self-serving—nay, tacky—to show up with something which you intend to quaff yourself. To save myself from your swill, I have brought my own. It doesn’t seem to set the right tone.

5. Bring something for breakfast. Nothing’s more appreciated than can’t-stop-at-just-one muffins from a local bakery or some homemade granola and a container of ridiculously pricey Greek-style yogurt. Chances are your host or hostess has spent all day cooking and will be up half the night cleaning. The last thing that person will want to do the next morning is make breakfast and then clean up afterwards. Although if you’re spending the night and not sleeping in the guest bedroom, this is an entirely different situation, in which case you might consider something a little more . . . well, never mind. That’s a scenario that’s a little less than fit for a family-friendly column.

 

Wax Versus Parchment Paper

Dear Never Cook Naked Guys: Is there any practical difference between using wax paper and parchment paper for baking?–Also Been Known To Confuse Wrapping Paper and Wallpaper

Dear Confused: Wax paper is coated with a thin, food-grade layer of wax to create a nonstick moisture barrier. It’s perfect for keeping sandwich bread soft in a lunchbox, cheese tasty in the fridge, piecrust stick-free when rolling it on the counter, and the layers of cut blondies and brownies blissfully separate when stacked in a container.

However, wax paper is not heat resistant. In fact, it has a relatively low smoke point. This means it can burn when exposed to the heat of the oven. It can even set off fire alarms. Trust us.

Thus, parchment paper is the baking standard. In sharp contrast to the waxy stuff, parchment is heavy-duty, grease-and-moisture resistant paper treated with acid to give it high-heat stability. It’s also often coated with silicone to give it a nonstick finish. Reach for it to line baking pans and, if you’re a stickler for details, to cover casseroles before then crimping with foil. (The last trick prevents acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, from dissolving the aluminum. Which it can do. Literally.)

As a general rule, use parchment whenever and wherever heat is involved, and rely on wax paper for cold- and room-temperature storage. Technically, yes, you could cut wax paper to precisely the proportions of a cake pan so that it’s not actually exposed to the heat, but do you really want to have that wax then leach into your baked layers, lending them a film of foamy, off-white, scum-like coating? We didn’t think so.

Got more questions? Good. We do, too. That is, more questions AND answers. Take a peek at previous columns from our Never Cook Naked Guys for more cooking etiquette and enigmas explained. Anything pertaining to food or drink goes. Well, anything within reason. But first, those previously tended-to questions we promised….

“Blonde” Coffee, Old Eggs, Diplomatic Diners, Flat Cookies

Mayo Salads, Shared Steak, Pie Crust

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

Comments

  1. Another option is to order fresh (not yet roasted) from a farm in the Hatch Valley. My family actually farms there and let you order on their website. You can find them online at http://hatchnmgreenchile.com and they offer frozen as well. Frozen is quite a bit more expensive though (as stated in the store). Enjoy!

      1. Any time! And also, “Hatch” covers both Sandia and Big Jim. Hatch chile is any chile grown in the Hatch Valley. There isn’t actually a variety called Hatch :)

  2. MaryAnnC, I agree with you completely that knowing your host’s taste is a wonderful thing, as it allows you to bring something you know they’ll enjoy. So you might want to consider telling your friends you don’t like to drink–they’re not going to judge you and it will let them know your taste. They’ll probably rise to the occasion with some wonderful hostess gift that you’ll really like!

  3. If I may make a suggestion, make sure you know the hosts tastes if you are giving them something for themselves. For instance, no one in our home likes alcohol (in fact, we LOATHE it!). When we receive a bottle of wine, we say something along the lines of, “Oooh! I’ll serve it so everyone can enjoy it!” That way the gifters can tell us at that moment if it’s meant for us. If we can serve it then, we don’t have unopened liquor around our house.

    Since it’s impolite to say you don’t like a gift, you aren’t putting anyone in an uncomfortable position. We serve the gifts of wine to guests who visit but we have to hope that the people who gave it to us don’t find out we’re not drinking it.

    1. That’s a very thoughtful way to tackle the “gifting problem,” MaryAnn–hopefully it leaves everyone happy. Thanks for the suggestion!

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Upload a picture of your dish