Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bammed

The Food Network has canceled Emeril Live. Is because he lacks cleavage? Discuss.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Nomenclature II



So, my wife thought she found a good bargain on what was labeled a pork loin roast at our local Tops Market.. She knew we wouldn't get a chance to to eat it right away, so we popped it in the freezer. I pulled it out and put it in the fridge to thaw without really looking at it. I figured I'd whack the chine bone, so I could carve it, and have some good eats. But, when I pulled it out of the fridge, I got a surprise. While one side of the roast showed the characteristics of a loin cut - the "T" of the back (chine) bone, an eye of both the loin and tenderloin muscle. The other side clearly showed the hip bone. It was a sirloin roast and after I made stock to turn the leftovers into pot pies, it was clear I was right.

Now it was tasty, but a consumer who didn't know the bone structure of meat would be disappointed. There has to be a way to get this right.



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Staying Alive and Changes

Saturday Night Fever is the only movie I have ever walked out of, so It is easy for me to choose Bowie over the Bee Gees. But, this is not a music blog.

Staying Alive refers to the fact that the dried sausage turned out OK, and nobody had any ill effects from eating it. When we took it off the hook, some ten days earlier than it was supposed to be ready there was no sign of mold or external discoloration. The texture felt like any dry sausage I'd buy at local stores. I cut into the link, and, as you can see, the color was uniform throughout. So I tasted it. It was good. Trish tasted it. It was good. Ellie tasted it. It was good, and she asked for more. Next time, when I try something more complex, I will take Bob delGrosso's suggestion to use a humidifier in the curing room.

Changes refers to the new meat grinder attachment that my wife gave me as an anniversary present, to replace the one that broke last month. For the most part the grinder looked the same, but there were three noticeable changes. The large cutting plate was larger than the old one, giving me effectively a small, medium and large plate now (you didn't think I got rid of the parts from the old one, did you?) The old wooden pusher is gone, it is now part of that plastic wrench thing that I have never used. Bad choice. It is not solid, more of an x-shape of plastic, and ingredients end up in the open stem. What really surprised me is the knife. It is no longer of the same composition as the plates - it appears to be stamped stainless steel. It has gone from 15 grams to 8 grams in weight. I was a bit worried, but it worked well.



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Monday, November 5, 2007

Foie Gras: A reality check

Bob delGrosso has a new post up at his site about a weekend visit to Hudson Valley Foie Gras, including a great set of photos of the operation. It looks like a nice clean, well-run facility, far more "humane" that the factory farms where most of our food comes from.

Look, if you are not a vegetarian, you have to accept that animals are killed for our nutrition and our pleasure. I myself have never killed anything more evolved than a crustacean, and I don't know that I could, but I have easily accepted this basic fact. The big problem for most who agree with foie gras bans is the visceral image of gavage. The bigger problem is that the vegoterrorists don't doesn't want to stop there - they want to prevent us from eating meat.

If the idea of the poor duckies is too much for you, don't go there, but I am glad I did.



And I can think of a lot of ways to use those Magret breasts !

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Food Comic For Today



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Strike Two

For the second time in under a month, Cargill is recalling ground beef possibly tainted with E. coli O157:H7. Locally, the potentially tainted meat is distributed by Wegmans. I recently posted that "Our local markets appear keenly aware of food safety, but that won't help if the meat they grind is contaminated and sits in the case until you buy it." It looks like it is worse - some (or all?) of that ground meat in the meat cases is not ground on site, but shipped from a meat packer. I stand by my original assertion: grind your own!

ETA 11/5 I received an e-mail from Wegmans today with details of the recall. It seems they still grind in store under the Food You Feel Good About label.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

The Great Sausage Experiment

I have wanted to try dry-cured sausages for a long time, and with the guidance provided by Ruhlman and Polcyn, and the inspiration of Bob delGrosso, I was pretty sure I could succeed. My biggest concern was finding the place with the best environment. The most temperature stable place in the house is the cupboard in the basement, where we store extra cooking equipment and our wine rack. But, it's also where the sump pump is, and I figured that was a prime source of bad mold.

But, I got an email from Chef delGrosso which contained sound advice, and I have his permission to reprint it here: "Listen you can probably cure in you kitchen now. Don't overthink it. Do it, and if it doesn't work, then worry about it. My basement is actually a bit too dry (rel humidity is about 40%) but I'm not freaking out -yet." Mine too, despite the sump.

So I started it last week. I didn't bother taking pictures of the grinding and mixing process, as I just did the Italian Sausage one a few weeks ago. But, what you have below is kind of a time-lapse of the last 11 days. No sign of mold at all, but the drying process seems to going too fast. I have been concerned with case-hardening, and have taken to misting twice daily.

Today, I weighed the sausages, and after only 11 days they have lost more than the 30% they are supposed to lose in 18 -20 days from 719/694 grams to 387/371 grams. So, I guess I will cut into one tomorrow.


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Monday, October 29, 2007

Egg McMutant



This was quite a change from the Eggs Benedict and Sparkler for yesterday's brunch, instead an Egg McMutant with a slice of that same Canadian Bacon and some American "cheese" accompanied by a V-8. Darn good eating, again!

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Makin' Bacon, eh?










I could have named this post "a perfect breakfast". My wife and I had our eleventh wedding anniversary last Thursday, but couldn't celebrate it until last night. This morning's brunch was Eggs Benedict and a sparkler. A note to the purists out there, I use a Yogurt "Hollandaise". Lipitor can't do it alone!

Of all of the components of this dish, perhaps the most important ingredient is the bacon. To me that is Canadian or Back Bacon - cured and smoked pork loin. Some people recommend peameal bacon, which is a pickled, uncooked loin. Some heretics even recommend a slice of ham. It's the real thing for me, preferably home made and these days that means the recipe in Ruhlman and Polcyn's Charcuterie. So, when Dash's had their three day meat sale, I bought a whole pork loin.

A boneless pork loin is fairly easy to break down. The first step is trimming any fat and silverskin. Abandoning the latter, I still ended up with a good amount of usable trim, mostly fat for use in sausages. I cut a two pound roast from the sirloin end - sometimes I divide it further for stir frying and such, but I had some in the freezer and this is a nice sized roast for a family of four. I also cut three chops from the rib end which I quick brined and grilled for dinner that night.

That left me with a 3.75 lb. piece of center cut pork loin. You don't have to tie it up, but it holds its shape better for - well for use in Eggs Benedict or an occasional egg McMutant. It then went into the brine to be refrigerated for 48 hours. One of the reasons I wanted to do it now is that the garden herbs I needed for the brine will soon be gone. In fact, there is a frost warning for tonight.

After brining, the loin was rinsed off, and placed on a rack in the fridge for 24 hours.



After the rest in the fridge, a nice tacky pellicle had formed and the time came to hot smoke the loin. As this was to be hot smoking, the fire was in the main chamber - rather than the side car (I have to work on that!). The smoke was created with chunks of pear wood gleaned from trimming my mother-in-law's tree. The aroma was fabulous, and the result perfect for today's breakfast.



One final note, the weather factored into my equation. While Buffalo gets a bad rap weather-wise, but we are approaching the time of year when the plastic sheets go up on the windows and the back door. So I was thinking about what I would do if the weather kept me from using a grill. Ruhlman and Polcyn suggest that you can just roast the loin, but that doesn't work for me. To paraphrase Trapper John McIntyre on martinis: Yeah but without smoke, a bacon just doesn't quite make it.

My answer: A lesson that was truly brought home in "How to Cook Meat". Add a half a cup of liquid smoke to the brine!


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Monday, October 22, 2007

Fun With Intestines


Bob del Grosso is a great cook and a great food blogger. He and I share a love of Ruhlman and Polcyn's masterful Charcuterie. The book is good because it is both well though out and well explained. It has information useful to both the professional and the home cook.

What has been most intriguing is Bob's recent attempts at Pancetta and my desire to work on some dry-cured meat products. We'll get to that, and Bob's advice later, but the last week or so has been filled other projects oddly all out of Charcuterie, we will get that started soon.

The fall is sausage time, as the weather has cooled enough (or not) for grinding pork products with greater safety. It is also, after a long summer of grilling, a time when I have a whole lot of trimmings - especially pork trimmings. There were scraps of meat and fat from whole pork loins used in Canadian bacon (we'll get to that next), and a whole lot of rib trimmings (The boneless brisket portion and the skirt flaps). Since they were leaner than the pork butt called for in the recipe, I adjusted the proportion of meat to fat. Everything else was just ground for use in meatloaf or meatballs.

The Photos show the progression from cubed meat to ground meat, being beaten briefly with the paddle, stuffed and portioned. The links were tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen in a ziplock bag. Except for one. I cooked it up and had it on a bun with some sauteed onions and peppers and some Weber's Mustard.

Darn Good Eating!

Oh, and the last photo is the cracked housing on my KitchenAid sausage grinder. Rest well old friend!



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Friday, October 19, 2007

Made it, Ma! Topps of the world!









Topps Meat Company, LLC has closed its doors after 67 years as a direct result of the recall of over 21 million pounds of frozen ground beef products for E coli contamination. (author's note, though Topps has a Buffalo connection, it is not related to the Tops Supermarket chain from which I have just returned from.) Topps is not alone. Cargill has been sued for a similar outbreak which led to a recall, and ConAgra had to recall frozen pot pies, including the Banquet brand, for salmonella contamination.

When salmonella shows up in your peanut butter, or E coli in your spinach, that's their fault. When it shows up in pre-made burgers or pot pies, it's the consumers. I am going to stay away from the pot pie issue for now -- Frozen pot pie + microwave is too vomit inducing.

But, frozen burgers are considered by many to be a convenience. I disagree. I have no problem with shortcuts, but I have never tasted any of them that have any beef taste, and frankly they impossible to cook to the nice medium rare - the way I like them. In fact, I am a bit surprised that anyone could undercook them.

The particular problem with ground beef is that pathogens infect the surface of the meat, and most methods of cooking it eliminate, or at least reduce, the possibility of infection. But, once the meat is ground, the surface area increases and the contaminated surfaces are mixed in. Cook the burger mid-rare and you may be creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

The threat of a food borne illness is a risk, especially if you choose to not cook your food up to USDA recommendations. I'm sorry, but a burger cooked to an internal temperature of 165ยบ is tasteless, so I choose to ignore that. So what can someone do? Well, you can buy irradiated beef, if you can find it, but in my experience it is too finely ground and may pose health risks of its own. Our local makets appear keenly aware of food safety, but that won't help if the meat they grind is contaminated and sits in the case until you buy it.

The best choice - grind your own. David Rosengarten once created an arcanely crafted recipe for the best hamburger meat, using bits from a variety of cuts. I just use chuck. I semi-freeze the meat, slice it into strips, and run it through the grinder with the large die. But, if you don't have the time or equipment to grind it yourself, allow me to suggest an underused alternative. March into our local supermarket, buy a chuck roast and ask the guys behind the counter to grind it for you there and then.

It's not perfect but it works. If you enjoy your burger after all this work, call your congressperson an demand an increase in funding for the USDA's inspection program!

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Dim Sum or Dim None


My kids were first exposed to Dim Sum in Toronto's Chinatown during one of my family's "secret" visits to the city in 2003. We have a lot of relatives that we love to visit, but, to paraphrase Primo in "Big Night": Sometimes the family likes to be alone. Alison's most famous encounter with Dim Sum came the following spring when she literally fell asleep on a plate of steamed dumplings in Philadelphia's Chinatown. Ellie is the one who really had her heart touched be these small bites. We make them at home on special occasions, or just because we feel like it. I'll be posting soon on that.

So, it was with great anticipation that we approached our trip here this weekend. We left early to avoid Friday afternoon traffic and headed straight for Spadina avenue. After another fruitless attempt to find Shaoxing wine at the LCBO store we entered the well-recommended Bright Pearl Seafood Restaurant. We were welcomed and pleased to find a handy chart, complete with color photographs - always a help when one is Mandarin or Cantonese impaired.

Alison is a picky eater at the best of times, but Ellie let us down. She loves Spring Rolls, but wouldn't touch them. She just didn't want to eat. So we left and bought them each a banana. It turns out the Ellie has become spoiled by the variety of dipping sauces we serve when we do Dim Sum, not only traditional Chinese sauces, but things like Vietnamese Nuoc Cham or peanut sauce. But she also prefers deep-fried or pan-fried to steamed, and I was surprised at their absence.

Of course it all made sense after we got checked into the hotel and I went on Bright Pearl's web site - we got there just in time for them to stop serving Dim Sum for the lunch break. I will tell you this, as a lover of Asian food, and the art of Dim Sum in particular, I have to tell you that the food here was wonderful. I look forward to going there again. Without the kids, perhaps?

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Food Comic For Today

Bliss

Is that real Wasabi!

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blogorroea

I have a number of posts waiting in the queue from last week, but between getting those underlying tasks done, and preparing for a family trip to Toronto, I just couldn't finish them. So, expect a purge of my system next week.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Cowboys 25, Bills 24

In the last second on Monday Night Football. Reason No. 254 that I am learning to accept the reality of why I gave up season tickets after twenty years!

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Monday, October 8, 2007



A new PETA ad via John Mariani's weekly newsletter, Virtual Gourmet.

Mariani's take:

YOU'RE ALSO BUCK NAKED,
LYING ON ASTROTURF, AND
LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT


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Friday, October 5, 2007

Nomenclature


Bugbear - 2. a persistent problem or source of annoyance. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc.

We were in DC last week, and were treated to dinner at the Capitol Grille. The wine list was extensive, which is really great when someone else is picking up the tab. The dry aged beef hanging in the entryway cooler looked as good as it tasted. However, there was something about that meal that bugged me then and bugs me now. Before continuing, I should also mention that I really don't get the whole idea of steakhouses. More meat than anyone can or probably should consume at one time (which was especially annoying when we had no way to preserve and use the leftovers) and, I'm sorry, but no creamed spinach is ever worth eight bucks.

This isn't about that, it's about the nomenclature - more precisely the lack thereof - regarding various cuts of beef. This has been something that has been a bugbear of mine for a long time. Take the Strip Steak. Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby describe the many names of this cut: "For boneless being called:
ambassador steak, hotel-style steak, boneless club steak, New York strip, Texas strip, Kansas City strip; for bone ­in: club steak, country club steak, shell steak, sirloin strip steak, strip steak, New York steak." Bruce Aidells would add veiny steak and delmonico steak as choices. Heck, I thought a delmonico was a rib eye, but you can find that explained here. And what's worse is that, with no rules, a supermarket can call it what it wants.

For me, the real problem is my favorite steak, it's pictured above. I know it as a shell steak or club steak, it is basically a strip steak with a bone. In its purest form it is the transition steak between the short loin and and rib sections, where the the tenderloin has whithered to nothingness, and the top loin is becoming a rib steak. Not as good, but still acceptable, it a steak from the t-bone or p-house section, where the tenderloin has been peeled out and the "t" bone trimmed.

So, what does this have to with the Capitol Grill. What they call a sirloin, I know as a strip. Though Sirloin Strip is used, the phrase "sirloin" by itself should only apply to the meats more to the south of the beast. It was annoying, to say the least.

Lots of people have raised their voices regarding this issue, but without success. So, let's get those politicians who want to play with our food off of foie gras, raw milk cheese and cholesterol, etc. and on to a national standard of nomenclature for beef. I propose adopting that put forward by the Cattlemen's Beef Board and the National Cattlemen's Beef association (PDF chart here). Here is to the Top Loin Steak - the bone is optional!




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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Another Reason to Fear a Vegan Invasion

















This speaks for itself!

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Phrase of the Day:

From the guy who brought you "Vegoterrorist", I now present to you:

Simultaneous Blogasm: the act of posting on another blog at the same time that the owner of that blog is posting on yours. It may be rare, but almost always enjoyed by the participants. ;-)


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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Vegoterrorism

Since I read several food blogs regularly, especially those of Michael Ruhlman and Bob del Grosso, it was likely that there would be some crossover. I didn't expect it this soon. I was working on a future post for the blog on what the late David Shaw called "the Pleasure Police", in my case a rant on efforts to outlaw raw milk cheeses.

Then the poster child for the Pleasure Police rears its head: Foie Gras. Bob has done a particularly good job of keeping us updated on the fight to keep us safe from the threat enlarged poultry liver - today another vegoterrorist "infiltration" of a Canadian Foie Gras farm.

I use the term "vegoterrorist", because not all who accept a Vegan lifestyle feel the need to impose their personal choices on everyone else. The majority of Vegans would never even consider doing what was done to Laurent Manrique. I question both the motives and the methods of those I dub the vegoterrorist wing of the Pleasure Police.

Bob asked: "
How do these people get in to these farms? Do they get jobs under false pretenses or bribe workers to let them in?" My answer is the same as I made in one of my first posts at his site. They are targeting the small producers of Foie Gras because they are small producers. This is the opposite of the "deep pockets" theory we learned in Law School. They want to force us all into a Vegetarian diet, but rather than oppose Smithfield, ConAgra or Tyson, they start with small businesses without lobbyists or a lot of money. They got on those farms because the producers lack the wherewithal to do background checks or have a lot of on site security. And without that monetary base, the Politicians can afford to score some points with those who oppose food choice. It's not a fair fight.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Elegy for a Dead Rosemary Plant

When we moved here, about five years ago, I carefully transplanted some rosemary from our old garden to a pot. Each Spring it went outside, and each Fall it came back in. It seasoned many meals.

But, when we went away for four days last week, I neglected to provide for its care in our absence and returned to find it had shuffled off the mortal coil.

The trip was well worth it, if only because it was the first time my wife and I had traveled alone since the kids came along. I will, however, miss my fragrant friend.

Funeral services will held Saturday, when, after a gentle soak in water, the remains will be gently placed on a bed of coals in my grill's firebox - to season, for one last time, a picnic shoulder.

Flowers are gratefully declined.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And So It Begins

Hi there,

I am am Scott (I prefer Scotty) Harris. This is my blog which should soon be incorporated into the web site of a new regional food magazine for Western and Central New York and Southern Ontario, called
Vine Dining.

I was born in Rochester, New York, attended the University of Buffalo majoring in History, and the University of Toledo, College of Law. It was while in Law School that I had my culinary epiphany. I had worked in restaurants while growing up, but never learned
how to cook. And growing up in the 60's and 70's mostly in a Kosher home limited my exposure to many foods. My first attempt to cook a dinner (to impress a red haired nursing student at Bowling Green) was, if not a disaster, a disappointment. While it would be fair to say that I didn't follow the recipe properly, what I really discovered is that I had no idea what it means to cook. I had no understanding of the fundamental knowledge of what cooking is.

I went to a local Used Book Store (I love them, but I'll talk about that another time) and asked the very nice lady there for, not cookbooks, but books about cooking. She sold me three books: Vol. I and II of Julia Child's
Mastering the Art of French Cooking and La Technique by Jacques Pepin.

It would be a lie to say that I cooked my way through all three volumes, but I came damn close. I lived for days on the scraps of chickens as I taught myself to bone them. It would be easy to say that was a useless exercise - it's not something I have needed to do again - but the cooking disciplines I learned during this process have been invaluable.

I left the Law after I almost died in a fire; got married and, with the encouragement of a friend and restaurateur, embarked on a career as a cook After years as a Sous Chef in some of the nicer restaurants in the area, that same friend asked me to be his opening Chef, but soon thereafter I was faced with a choice - and I chose to be a father rather than a Chef.

I still cater with that friend, and I am constantly thinking about, and playing with, food. This blog is the latest part of my culinary adventure, and I hope that friends - old and new - will join with me on this journey.

L'chiam

Scotty


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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -
Me