Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I love Penzey's, and have shopped with them by mail for years. When they opened a retail store in an eastern suburb of Cleveland, OH it just added another bonus to our visits to our best friends in another Cleveland suburb (not that we needed one). But, as I did an herb/spice inventory, I found that I didn't need anything. So, we just bought some as gifts.
ETA: of course when we got home, I found I DID need one thing . . .
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
What a frakking waste! Money quote from my favorite Amazon.com review: It doesn't make doughnuts. It makes tiny blobs of burnt dough. Very greasy. Do not even bother with it - a complete waste of time.
I have stopped blogging the Bills scores. It's too depressing and it ruins the appetite!
Friday, November 14, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"If you give a man a fish, he will have a single meal. If you teach him how to fish, he will eat all his life."
Last night I was invited by Andrew Galarneau of The Buffalo News and One Big Kitchen to speak to his class. The idea was to challenge the class with a thesis, defend it and answer questions. The class will then write an article based on the presentation. My actual thesis was that higher food prices might be a good thing. for our personal health and the health and environment of our Country. Yep - Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Morgan Spurlock and the like.
It was a hoot!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I had to pick the last of my peppers, befre a predicted hard frost. All-in-all it was a lousy growing year - way too overcast and rainy. The herb garden went nuts, but the peppers and tomates were sparse. These babies are headed for a hot sauce bottle!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Part of the tradition of Rosh Hashanna is to eat things that are sweet, in order to ensure a sweet year. One of my favorites of the season is Challah. It's basically a brioche without the butter, for obvious reasons.
What you see is the sponge, the dough ready to rest, and the finished loaves. You may notice that it is not baked in the traditional braided form.
For the High Holy Days it is baked in a spiral.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
It was a late game, and dinner was leftover lamb roast in pitas with feta and the trimmings.
Know him best as Hud? Hondo? Butch? Harry? Fast Eddie? Basil? Ari? Harper? Reg? Or Cool Hand Luke? He was Actor, Husband, Race Car Driver, Father, Political Activist, and somebody who enjoyed cooking. So much so that he parlayed it into a multi-million business whose after tax revenues are distributed to charities. Not bad for a guy who tuned me off hard-boiled eggs far a few years . . .
The Failure to Communicate is permanent now, rest well Mr. Newman.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
That's the primary way the syrup contributes to obesity: Not by being more fattening, but by being so heavily subsidized that it makes it far cheaper to sustain yourself on sweetened carbohydrates than on nutritious food.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Two other random factors combined to make this salsa work. The first is that my friend Andrew Galarneau of the Buffalo News and blogmeister of Buffalo Buffet. dropped off some dried chillis for me to share, including Ancho, Gaujillo, de Arbol and Cascabels. Lightly toasted and shredded they would make a a great addition, and one of each would give a balanced heat.
The other factor is that I think I have finally nailed down what I want from an all purpose mexican seasoning blend. I already have my dry BBQ rub, a Cajun seasoning I call Mab!, and a southwest sesoning blend. Penzey's Bangkok Blend is just too good to try to imitate, so southeast Asia is taken care of. But, while I am not giving upon Mole's and other wonderful mexican sauces, I wan't something I can sprinkle on a flank steak or some ground beef that says Mexico rather than New Mexico. I think I have it:
Mexican Spice Blend:
3 Tbl. Ancho Chilli Powder
1 Tsp. Chipotle Chilli Powder of Smoked Paprika
1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1.5 Tsp. Mexican Oregano, Crumbled
1 Tsp. Granulated Garlic
1 Tsp. Granulated Onion
2 Tsp. Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 Tsp. Granulated Sugar
2 Tsp. Cumin, Toasted and Ground
2 Tsp. Coriander, Toasted and Ground
1 Tsp. Cocao Powder
1 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon
As for the Ranchero Salsa,
Toast 1 Ancho, 1 Gaujillo, 1 de Arbol and 1 Cascabel chilli (or a combination to your taste) in a cast iron skillet.
Heat two Tbl. of neutral oil in a heavy saucepot or skillet and saute:
1 Cup of finely chopped white onion
1/2 Cup of finely chopped celery
And the chillies, shedded by hand
for 2 to three minutes.
add a Tbl. or so of the spice blend, 1 Tbl. Cornstarch, a 14.5 ounce can of whole tomatoes and two cups of chichen or beef broth.
Simmer for about 1/2 hour and combine in a blender in batches.
Don't worry Andrew, I have a pint in the freezer with your name on it!
Monday, August 25, 2008
I'll keep you posted!
Friday, August 8, 2008
While I am aware that scientific studies now suggest that none of the "tastes" actually exist (see the new Gourmet article), I am a big fan of the idea of umami, the so called fifth taste. Even if tastes don't exist as such, I love those foods loaded with the sensations associated with Umami. I even wrote a spec article for a proposed magazine on my favorite source of umami - Fish Sauce, my secret ingredient! I have posted it online here.
Janice Okun, the esteemed food editor of our local paper, wrote a commentary on umami this week. I did not agree with everything, but at least it brought the subject up for discussion. In her usual casual tone she had one statement that might be misinterpreted: "umami is also available commercially in monosodium glutamate . . ." This was quickly jumped on in a letter to the editors of the News:
Perhaps readers ought to thank Janice Okun for introducing us to umami — inasmuch as it is contained in MSG, a toxic substance for many — in her Aug. 6 column. We can now be on alert for what the use of umami might indicate, namely, foods containing monosodium glutamate. But Okun’s mentioning that MSG is “said to be” the cause of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, or worse” is not enough to offset her praise for this additive, which can trigger, among other problems, excruciating pain for many migraine sufferers. Moreover, high-quality and well-prepared foods simply do not require it.
Umami is not a substance. It cannot be bought, sold, traded, consumed or inhaled. It is a proposed fifth taste, along with hot, sour, salty and sweet.
The umami taste has been traced to the concentration of glutamic acid in the substance. It is especially present in aged or fermented foods, and the foods that I crave are usually high in umami. MSG is simply the extracted salt of that glutamic acid.
I am not a shill for the MSG industry, and I don't use it in my own cooking, but there are no impartial studies which show that MSG (or the many prepared foods which contain MSG under a variety of pseudonyms) causes the so called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome". Dr Andrew Weil recently stated that ". . . overall the studies have produced no evidence linking MSG with any serious reactions".
I leave my mind open to the possibility of an allergy like reaction for a few people who are especially sensitive, but calling it a "toxic substance" is just fear mongering.
Sounds like a letter to the Editor . . .
Friday, August 1, 2008
Using the guidance of Charcuterie, making it is relatively easy, even with a basic home grill. The only ingredient other than the belly that may not be easy to acquire is the Curing Salt. Yes, as I have mentioned before, The Sausage Maker is here in Buffalo so getting Instacure is easy. But, if you get into doing this, you'll pay the modest shipping charges and order your Curing Salt there or Butcher & Packer or someplace else. Another option is Morton's Tender Quick. Unlike the pink salts, which are interchangeable, Tender Quick is a proprietary formula including some sugar. But, 1 tablespoon per pound of meat is the accepted proportion. (They produce a guide for $5.99, but they only only ship FedEx at a cost almost twice what the pamphlet costs . . .)
As for the pork belly, well in these parts you are not likely to find it in your grocers meat case, and while our local grocery stores will special order anything for us, finding someone who knows what they are doing is often tough. The only store in which I have ever seen pork belly locally is Ni Hoowa, an oriental grocery on Sheridan Drive. However, things like that are hit and miss there, and in the weeks that formed my window for curing and smoking there was none to be had.
So I turned to one of our few remaining independent butcher shops - Valint's - the Cadillac of Meats. They didn't bat an eyelash when I asked for belly, and it arrived in a matter of days.
The preparation is simple the cure is made from Kosher Salt, Pink Salt, Maple Sugar and Maple Syrup (I prefer Grade B which can be tough to find) The latter two from Maple Glen Sugar House in Gowanda. The cure is applied liberally to all sides of the belly, after which it is placed in a bag or nonreactive container and refrigerated. Every other day it is flipped. After a week, the belly is removed, rinsed and and placed on a rack in the fridge for a day to form a pellicle. This version is hot smoked to 150º (I did it over pear tree trimmings).
After smoking, I removed the skin (I cannot wait to make baked beans with a piece!). I sliced some and saved some as a slab.
Oh, it was great!!!!!!!
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I just had to share it!
Monday, July 21, 2008
"The problem isn't that people eat meat, but that we've made meat much cheaper than it actually is. Make meat cost what it should cost, and diets will shift to reflect that. Make it so cheap that cheeseburgers cost less than dollar, and people will eat a lot of it."
While Ezra is correct that corn, grain and land subsidies have contributed to this process, you must also accept that that is only one aspect of a much larger set of contributing factors. I include the traditionally low cost of fuel, the insane affection for a lawn of foreign grasses, and even the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
Add to that the brainwashing of the American palate to consider feedlot beef and pork, as well as battery chicken to be edible, and pink balls of styrofoam to be acceptable as "tomatoes" and toss in the loss of the knowledge and willingness to put foods by, and you have today's food reality.
It's part of why I have become so interested in the curing of meats and preserving of foods, beside the fact that it is fun, fascinating and really tasty. It's also why I have been starting to source foods locally.
But, even for me the answer may be to have meat priced higher so I demand better taste for my buck, and so I generally eat less.
There is a rant here, but not 'til my brain has wrapped itself around the issue more cogently.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
We start with top round, a relatively inexpensive cut even with the rise in food prices we are now enduring. If fresh, it is popped in the freezer for a half an hour; if frozen, it is thawed until still slightly frozen. I trim it of external fat, slice it on a bias as thin as possible with the grain and immerse it in a marinade.
Ellie's favorite marinade is made of one cup each of Soy and Worcestershire Sauces, a tablespoon each of granulated garlic, granulated onion, liquid smoke, hot sauce (Frank's, in this case, and since I don't make wings as much as I used to I have a half gallon to use up.), Hot Pepper Flakes (in this case Aleppo Pepper from Penzey's). The basic marinade is subject to infinite variation, and we have used other formulas from teriyaki sauce to nuoc cham.
The meat is marinated for an hour or two tossing occasionally to coat all the slices. They are placed on a rack over a foil lined sheet tray and placed in the lowest temp possible, in my case 140º, for about 12 hours - I like it drier than usual as it seems to keep better.
I have also used my electric dehydrator, though cleanup can be a beyotch! Mine doesn't disassemble easily!
Monday, July 14, 2008
And don't ask for no dadburned barbecue sauce at Kreuz. They have none. Only some hot pepper sauce on the tables. Although most other Texas barbecue joints serve barbecue sauce nowadays, it's something totally different from what most of us call barbecue sauce. Beef don't cotton to sweet sticky sauces, so most Texas sauces are typically thin and tart, flavored with vinegar, chili powder, lots of black pepper, cumin, hot sauce, fresh onion and a touch of ketchup or tomato sauce. They often resemble a thin tomato soup and penetrate the meat rather than sit on top. Some of the best have meat drippings, and so they cannot be bottled. They are used as an optional finishing sauce for everything, including sausage, mutton, pork ribs, chicken and goat.
Monday, July 7, 2008
However, my favorite condiment for a burger is ketchup. But, I also like mushrooms on a burger. Anyone who knows the history of ketchup knows that tomatoes are a fairly recent addition to the item. It likely began as ketsiap, a fish sauce of southern
The idea of creating a modern version of a Mushroom Ketchup was intriguing! I took inspiration from a recipe for Smoked Shiitake Catsup from Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys and Chowchows by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby. For the mushrooms, I used some shiitake added some maitake, oyster and portabellas – one pound in all. They were tossed in olive oil with a quartered onion, and grilled until the exterior was charred.
When they cooled, I put them in the food processor with a couple of cloves of minced garlic, ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of molasses, salt and pepper and about two teaspoons of fresh minced basil. Upon tasting, I added a bit more of the balsamic and molasses, and about a tablespoon of pureed chipotle chillis in adobo. YMMV.
Monday, June 30, 2008
We had the Love Boat. Sorry, no photos. Among other things, we forgot the camera.
Hey, an evening of Sushi, Eddie Izzard, and Sean Bean as Sharpe is tough to beat!
Sunday, June 29, 2008
But he was a Hispanic- American, and that has to count for something in a recommendation, don't you think?
So we started off the day with one mile jaunt to the Mercado (Market) District, the kind of place tourists go to find stuff for their kids, or if you really need a Chilli Pepper Kippah, as at right.
Mi Tierra may be the first restaurant to challenge Salvatore's of Buffalo for an excess of kitsch, all in a Tex-Mex way, but the food was everything I had hoped for. The Ranchero sauce was a perfect blend of flavors. The flour tortillas a revelation, warm, and fluffy even.
When hot sauce was requested by me, it came not in a bottle, but two ramakins of housemade salsa, one rojo and one verde. Yum.
We ended up making a second hike to the Mercado that afternoon, after a visit to the Alamo, and stopped at La Margarita, a sister restaurant. If you look at the photo, only the right hand third of the bottom shelf is not Tequila. We had a frozen margarita that went down nicely, and it wasnt the last time I would be there!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Requiescat in Pace, George!
Sunday, June 22, 2008
So I needed expert help, and that meant Premier Gourmet, the place with the best cheese selection in town. And as Andrzejewski suggested, that is a horrible fate to be condemned to.
You see, the deli manager at Premier is a quite lovely lady named Amanda. Better yet, she knows her job and she knows her cheese. After a few pointed questions about what I was trying to achieve with the burger, the sweetness and smokiness of the bacon, the same of the mushroom ketchup, Amanda asked perhaps the most important question in the entire process of developing the burger - why cheddar?
What a great question! Why cheddar? I was focused on it because that's what I like on my burger, a slice good sharp cheddar - sharp enough to cut through the usual condiments. But this was a new playing field.
Amanda selected the first cheese and offered a sample. Marvelous. A flavor I had never contemplated. We spent the next twenty to twenty- five minutes sampling different cheeses - old friends and new. But, in the end I went with Amanda's first choice. The instincts of an expert are worth listening to.
The winner was Beaufort, a raw cow's milk cheese from the Savoie region of France. It is classic mountain cheese - think Gruyère on steroids. It has fruity sweetness, herbaceous notes, and a distinct tang that did all that I wanted from cheddar.
The bottom line, if you live in WNY and want cheese advice, go to Premier Gourmet and talk to Amanda. If you live elsewhere, it pays to get to know your local cheesemonger, and other purveyors. Every cook needs outside advice on occasion!
Monday, June 16, 2008
Yes it's a chain, but I draw a distinction between a local chain like Ted's and a national chain like the Olive Garden. This falls into the latter category.
Irrespective of that it was a good burger at a good price, and a decent meal for an Airport meal.
We got into SA at about 5:30 Central Time, checked into the hotel and met some of the friends we'd be spending the next few days with. We wandered a bit about the Riverwalk (part wonder, part tourist trap). About 7:30 we were really hungry, and the aroma of BBQ beckoned. Texas BBQ was one of the goals on this trip - this wasn't it.
Google search will give you the answer. The meats were properly cooked. The sauce sucked. There is debate in Texas as tho whether the sauce is slathered on the meat or served on the side as a condiment, but nothing I have ever read expresses a description of Texas BBQ other than the Wikipedia definition:
"Texas sauces are tomato based, less sweet than Kansas City and spicier, and are not generally used during cooking, but are used as a table sauce." Look, this may have been an old family recipe, handed down through the generations, but it was sweet and cloying and it looked and tasted an awful lot like Cattlemen's or another foodservice brand.
When you trimmed the sauce off the brisket, it was lovely. And the hot links, minus sauce, were quite good. The sauce gets a big thumbs down.
Oh, and the restaurant was a chain!
But the day did introduce a new friend:
In repertoire bread and related there of three types I have yet to be fully satisfied with the final product: Rye Bread, Bagels and Hamburger/Hot Dog Rolls. The perfect bun will be somewhere between those 8 packs of insipid grocery store buns and a crusty sourdough roll. I want a softer crust than the latter, as well as a lighter, less dense crumb – soft enough not to obscure the burger, but tight enough to absorb the juices without dissolving.
My current recipe is a constantly evolving variation on David Rosengarten’s Philly Cheesesteak Roll. I have changed over time from oil to trans-fat free shortening and reduced the flour, but it’s still not there. I need a slacker dough. I have even been thinking of experimenting with cake flour.
But the real purpose of this is to raise a variation of a theme that Michael Ruhlman posted on a about six weeks ago – the importance of a kitchen scale, with flour as his primary example. Flour measured by dry measuring cup can vary in weight by as much as 3-4 ounces per measured cup, sometimes even within the same brand. That is why the best books on baking measure by weight as well as volume, the best of the best give that weight in more accurate grams.
But there is another variation between packages of flour, moisture content – not just moisture caused by kitchen humidity, but the moisture content of the flour itself. When we are between trips to the Clinton-Bailey Market, where we usually buy all purpose in 25 lb. bags - bread flour in 50 lb. bags, we get a usual supermarket type brand.
The last 5 lb. two bags, bought at the same store on the same day, were very dry. Both Trish in her sweet baking, and me in my bread work, noted how thirsty the flour was. One loaf of a regularly made bread took almost an additional cup of water.
Whether it was how it was milled, or stored, or how long it was stored, this flour was dryer than usual.
Bottom line, the best cooking tools aren't one you buy. Your eyes, nose, ears, fingers and taste buds are bettere than any machine - and with practice, awfully accurate!
Monday, June 2, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
The gift is very thoughtful - a piston style sausage stuffer - but it will be a bit before I use it. I know this type of stuffer often has leakage around the piston so I want to investigate materials to create a flange for the end.
But it's really cool! Thanx Fred and Maggie.
It was yummy!
Sunday, May 25, 2008
No not Zappa (though Apostrophe(') is in the CD player in my car).
No, this is about something you find in the sinks in many commercial kitchens - an overflow tube (lift the lid on your toilet tank and you find a similar thing). The idea is that with this device you can allow water to flow into a sink and when it reaches a certain level the water goes down the tube, so you can have a continuous flow of fresh cold water. It's good for thawing large objects, or cooling soups and stocks. Ice bath's may be best, but I don't have room in the freezer to stockpile ice, so I end up buying it when the stockpot cannot be put in a snowbank.
The commercial versions won't work in a home sink - the drain is too big - so I fabicated my own. The base is a basic home sink drain plug.
I cut off the "knob" portion, and used a glue/sealer from Locktite to attach a measured piece of 1 1/4 inch PVC pipe to it. I think, after trying it, that I may trim another 1/4 off the pipe.
The result is placed in the drain and voilà!
Of course a home sink has the drain in the center, but I just had a 16 pound turkey in there, and stock in a Cambro bucket fits just fine. Not perfect, but it works!