Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

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

Monday, March 31, 2008

Local Gems II

This past weekend was the annual Maple Weekend in New York State, always a great family event. While most people think of Vermont (or Quebec) when they think of Maple Syrup, New York is the third largest producer in the US. The focal point of syrup production is Wyoming County, but there are some very good (and friendly) ones here in Erie County.

We started our day at Maple Glen Sugar House. It was our second visit there. The first time we visited, we had screwed up the date for Maple Weekend, but ended up getting a very personal tour. They did a good job with the crowds, but we really liked the personal touch. I think we'd like to take them up on a private tour again, though we did score the last quart of Grade B they had for sale - we prefer it, especially for cooking.

Our next stop was Kist Maple Syrup in Colden. Another warm welcome, and a promise that with a call, we can score some more Grade B in the off season. Good people to know!

The last stop was one of the newer Sugar Shacks - the Smith Maple Farm in Hamburg. Carl and Bridget were great hosts, with great humor, and their farm is on the site of the famous 1824 murder of John Love. They also brew a very light, tasty Grade A syrup. The girls declared it YUM!

Having finished the tour, we treated ourselves to a meal worth repeating at the Coyote Cafe in Hamburg. On our way out of town, we stumbled upon a gem: The Crazy4Bookz store on Main Street. What a great find for lovers of used books - especially used cookbooks. Hey, I scored a first edition of The French Menu Cookbook by Richard Olney.

What a great day.

PS. Maple syrup is great on cornbread, and think a maple-chipotle glaze for ribs . . .

In the photo above: Maple sugar for home-made bacon, Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade B.

Below, My toothless wonders, and some shots of various syrup making processes.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Local Gems I

Like many of my comrades in the food blogosphere, the publication of Ruhlman and Polcyn's Charcuterie inspired me to make a more concerted effort in the curing and preservation of meats. Most books on the subject refer you to one of two mail order sources: Butcher & Packer or The Sausage Maker. We here in the Buffalo area are lucky, because The Sausage Maker is located at the Clinton-Bailey Market, aka the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal ( also the home of Willowbrook Farms and the US Foodservice outlets, to name a few.)

The folks there have always been extremely helpful, and I have never stopped by and not found what I needed. In fact the only sausage-making ingredient they don't have is a meat starter culture such as bactoferm - which I still get from B&P. On this trip I got some Hog Middles for Sopressata and other larger sausages, and Fermento for a batch of landjäger when the smoker gets set up.

Sometimes it's nice to live in Western New York!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Great Minds

I have previously noted my opinion that Mike Andrzejewski is the best cook in WNY. It appears I am not alone. While he didn't make the final cut, Mike was a semi-finalist for “Best Chef Northeast” in the James Beard awards. Well done Mike!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The End Of Breakfast?

Herb Peterson, inventor of the Egg McMuffin has died at 89. Genius or agent of Satan, I don't know. But, I enjoy my homemade Egg McMutants!

We Are What We Eat

This article is about the different meal choices men and women make, but the photo below reminds me of a recent post by Bob delGrosso, about food professionals/amatues getting fat. It's OK to put something like this in your mouth, but you have to move around and work it off afterwards, nu?

Yeah, This Will Help!

The Agriculture Department is apparently bowing to pressure from the food industry and preparing to limit information about tainted meat. So, now we won't know when the meatpackers screw up and the USDA inspectors fail! Maybe I do want to be a Vegan.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Is this our revenge for Pearl Harbor?

Anyone who knows anything about Sushi, knows that sushi is about the rice, not the toppings. The topping is variable and doesn't have to be fish, raw or otherwise. No less a personage than Ms. Asako Kishi, most famous as a regular judge on the original "Iron Chef". In her book Sushi: A Light and Right Diet, she suggest alternative toppings as diverse as canned smoked oysters, prosciutto, turkey, canned sardines and, well, Spam.

But this is just wrong. It is Sushi for a Sandra Lee/Rachael Ray world - not for mine!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Makin' Bacon, eh? Cheater's Style!

Last October I posted on the proper way to make Canadian Bacon, and 90% of the time that is how I make it. However, while I have no objection to using the grill or smoker during the Winter, energy conservation requires us to cover every door and window (save the main entrance) is covered with heavy duty plastic until Spring truly arrives. I could use the big grill, I suppose, but it would require me to walk around two townhouses, take the tarps off the grill, and . . . well, you get the idea.

So, if I need something during the depths of Winter, like say pulled pork for a Bills tailgate party, I cheat. The provenance of my particular cheat is Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's "How to Cook Meat", and consists of adding liquid smoke (about 1/2 cup for each gallon of water) to the brine and cooking the meat in a 200° oven. Does it work? Yep. Is it as good as outdoor smoking? No, but it will do until the plastic comes down.

By Any Other Name

KFC is going to allow franchisees to "re-brand" themselves as "Kentucky Fried & Grilled Chicken". Whatever you call it, it is still crap! Now that Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits founder Al Copeland has died will the rename it Olive Oyls?

Monday, March 24, 2008

There, Wolf. There, Castle.

When our niece Jean and her husband Patrick offered to treat our family to an overnight at a Niagara Falls water park we jumped at the chance. More than just family, they are good friends and Star Wars fans. Patrick is also a Genesis fan, so we have a lot in common - in fact the rest of the family refers to us as each other's "date". Their three daughters get along great with our two. Having said that, this is not something we have done before, and I don't enjoy crowds.

The kids all had a great time. The place is extremely kid friendly to the point of not having much for adults. The smartest thing we did was go on a beer run upon arrival, because you are basically trapped there once you get going. Not physically, of course, but because you are paying a bundle for the privilege of using the water park facilities and want to get the most of it. That means losing out on what the area surrounding the park has to offer, and dining on what is offered withing the complex: essentially a choice between a $16.00 medium one topping pizza from Pizza Hut express or the $20.00 per head all you can eat buffet.

Living in Buffalo, the Niagara Peninsula has been, until border security has increased, a "suburb" of Buffalo - certainly an easy day trip (and it's still not too bad). So we do, and have done, many fun things there. We have dined at diners, paid excessively for bad food at interesting locations, and had one of the finest meals of or lives. So we didn't miss any thing by being trapped.

But, if we were someplace new . . . .

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cooking with Kids III - Three Cornered Hats

My hat it has three corners.
Three corners has my hat.
And had it not three corners,
It wouldn't be my hat.
Happy Purim. The girls and I made hamentashen today! It was fun, and they are great!

Introducing Robby

Two weeks ago, I was pureeing a chicken liver mousse in our venerable Panasonic Food Processor, when I noticed the mousse oozing out through a crack in the workbowl. My wife's first reaction was to shop online for a replacement, but considering the fact that it at least 15 years old and Panasonic doesn't make Food Processors anymore, I was able to convince her that it was time to break down and buy a new one.

I immediately passed on spending $800 on a Robot Coupe, and started doing research on more reasonably priced models. I checked out Cook's Illustrated's reviews, read Alton's discussion in Gear, checked the reviews at Amazon and Epinions. The reality is that when choosing a Food Processor there are really only two choices - Cuisinart and KitchenAid. I have used Cuisinarts at restaurants I have worked at, but I have extreme affection for our KitchenAid Custom Edition 6 Qt. 500 Watt stand mixer. In the end though, it came down to the fact that the KitchenAid I had my eye on was available in black for $130. It came stocked with a 12 cup work bow, a 4 cup mini-bowl and blade, plastic blade, shredder disk, 2 slicing disks, a spatula designed for the processor bowl and a storage case for the acessories.

Now I could share with you the testing I did, but I didn't have to. If you are not familiar with the food blog Bakin'n'Bacon, this is as good a time as any. Darcie, the Blogmistress does all the things you want someone running a food blog to do - she responds to posts and e-mails, and she drops around your site every once in a while. But on the issue of food processors, she went above and beyond the call of duty.

Darcie did the same research I did, found the same bargain at Amazon. Out of the box she noted her concerns, and the results of some initial cookie dough tests in a post. Unfortunately, mine was in the shipping pipeline before she made her post. When I got mine out of the box I shared her first concern - the chopping blade is small, flimsy and looks for all intents and purposes like a Ginsu knife (including the scalloped blade edge making steeling impossible). But, I also noticed that, to make the mini-bowl work, the central shaft on the workbowl which the drive stem fits through, is quite short, limiting the actual capacity of the bowl.

But, if that weren't enough, Darcie purchased a 14 cup Cuisinart and put both through a deathmatch! The results are here and here.

In the end, Darcie went with the Cuisinart, I think in part because she was used to them. i am not unhappy with the KA. It worked fine on Hummus, and a lot of the things Darcie tested are not things I do in a food processor. (Which begs the question of why I own one!). One of her deciding factors was the larger control buttons on the Cuisinart - I go the other way. The KA's are sealed and easy to keep clean. And that little flimsy blade? It works fine, and when removed lifts out way less stuff to scrape off.

As for Robby, I never gave it much thought until I saw the box, but apparently Robot is "processor" in French. So, welcome, Robby!

By The Way .

My second favorite thing to do with leftovers from St. Patrick's Day is a breakfast of Red Flannel Hash with an egg. Yum!

If there was no faith there would be no living in this world. We couldn't even eat hash with safety. - Josh Billings

Of course, you could just eat this . . .

I thought I had an appetite for destruction, but all I wanted was a club sandwich. - Matt Groening

I love sandwiches, whether or not they were invented by John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich or not. They can be on bread or toast, a bun, roll or bagel, it doesn't matter. Banh Mi, Cuban, Croque-monsieur, Panini or PB&J, I love them all. I also love flatbread wraps, but as we all know they are not sandwiches. Of them all, my favorite is the Reuben. Some may disagree, but this is my choice, and I will stick to it.

Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world-except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe - Miracle Max

The Corned Beef is leftovers from the home cured one I did for St. Patrick's Day. The cheese is Jarlsberg, which I have mentioned is my favorite all-purpose swiss-style cheese. I am still having trouble finding my favorite sauerkraut, Strub's, so I picked a bagged, refrigerated kind. Not great, but better than canned. My biggest regret is the bread. It was store-bought from Wegman's. Not a bad product, but I spent a lot of time making my own loaf of sourdough rye - only to find out I had forgotten to add salt. It is the third or fourth time in the last two or three weeks that my wife or I have had senior moments remembering to add salt when baking!

The Thousand Island is made with Hellmann's (known as Best Foods west of the Rockies), a splash of lemon juice, a teaspoon of horseradish, two tablespoons of Weber's Hot Piccalilli Relish (my secret ingredient) and Ketchup.

The sandwich was delicious! So join me and hoist a Dr. Brown''s Cream Soda!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reason For Hope

This article on some local makers of prosciutto is heartening on three levels. One, I am not the only one in the area trying to cure things the old fashioned way. Two, the Buffalo News chose to print it, rather than the usual Easter Butter Lamb article. Three, a new source of good pork just across the border. Yippie!

Food Comic For Today

Childhood's End

The great Sir Arthur C. Clarke has died at age 90, the last of the greats of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. May he finally hear the Songs of Distant Earth!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Boil three days in a deep kettle . . .

"Take two pounds of meat from the rump, boil three days in a deep kettle with the head of an axe, and, then, throw away the meat and eat the axe." - The WPA Guide to Utah (1941).

Corned Beef and Cabbage, more often referred to as a New England Boiled Dinner, is something we look forward to when St. Patrick's day rolls around, even if there isn't a jot of Irish blood in any of us. For years I had heard that Corned Beef and Cabbage was unknown as a dish in Ireland, but recent scholarship suggests that the Irish used corned beef as a substitute for their Irish bacon - unavailable in the United States. My lone, slim Irish Cookbook, by perhaps the most famous Irish cookbook author Darina Allen, contains a recipe calling for either corned beef or Irish bacon. She does indicate that it is rarely eaten in Ireland.

Despite the name "New England Boiled Dinner", and like many similarly named dishes, don't boil this. I gently simmer it with aromats: onion, garlic, and a some home-concocted pickling spice. After about 2.5 hours I added cabbage, and 10 minutes later potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, and parsnips. The beets were cooked separately, in salted water. It was great, but I am baking rye bread today for the Reuben I am really lusting for. I also need my annual red-flannel hash fix.

Cooks notes: I corned this beef (point cut brisket) in the Ruhlman/Polcyn liquid pickle. I have also had great success with a dry cure modified from Cook's Illustrated. I should also note that when I corn beef strictly for the purpose of creating a cold-cut, I steam the meat à la David Rosengarten, rather than simmer it. It gives a better consistency for slicing.

Oh, and there are no photos of the brining process. I have been battling pneumonia for 10 days and was barely able to through the brine together!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Paean to Campbell's Soups

If you read this blog even occasionally, you know of my love and devotion for the mere concept of soup. I believe it to be not only as close to perfect a food as food gets, but often also a perfect representation of the culture from which that soup originates. When I say I am making such a soup, I am painstaking in doing it properly, and with authenticity. Yet my pantry almost always has two Campbell's condensed soups: Tomato and Chicken Noodle.

They do in fact qualify under any definition of "soup", but for me they take a special place - a comfort, or sick, food. This is what I my Mother fed me when I was under the weather. And, man, have I been under the weather the last week. I decide it was a good time to get pneumonia. Chills, fever, barking cough, difficulty breathing and worst of all a complete and utter loss of appetite. For the most part I was living on water and Canada Dry Ginger Ale (accept no substitutes). But when I did crave something more, it was one or the other of these.

So, here's to the pride of Camden, New Jersey, and here's to comfort foods!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Oh S**t!

Anybody in or around the food and restaurant industry knows this stuff happens. A business gets in trouble, purveyors no longer extend terms, money goes out and doesn't come in. You can close your doors and file for Chapter 11 protection, or you can do something really stupid. It's not just anonymous chef/owners - it can be someone famous like David Ruggerio. Or it can be someone like this.

The problem is that Kevin is a friend. I have his home phone number on my refrigerator. I almost went into a restaurant with him in 2001. Heck, he came to my restaurant for his first date with his (now) wife so I would cook that dinner.

He did the right thing in owning up to his acts. My thoughts are with him, his wife and two year old child. He has a good support system here, and I think he'll be OK.

Yeah, both the cook and the lawyer in me can understand how this kind of thing happens. But, how stupid . . . . .

Monday, March 3, 2008

Lacking in Taste

I am finally recovering from a week-long bout with the flu - fever, chills, dripping nose, sluggishness, the works. But for me the worst was the loss of both appetite and taste buds for the duration. Even my usual solution - Cholula (or any of my homemade hot sauces) - was of no help.

I can handle the slow deterioration of my hands, and thus what knife skills I have attained, over time. I can accept the other various aches and pains that come with age. But the loss of my sense of taste would really freak me!

ETA - it wasn't, after all, the flu, but the beginning of a bout of Pneumonia!

Sunday, March 2, 2008


I was cleaning up the "food" directory on my hard drive, when I came across a June 2006 interview with Bourdain. Money quote:

Rachael Ray. She's paid more and is more popular [than Emeril], and I see a day when the executives say, we don't need Emeril anymore, even though he built their network. They'll replace him with some industry-created freakozoid who's been grown from a seedling into a recognized brand.

The man knows his stuff!

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

Life's too short to eat bad food -