Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In Times of Trouble

I don't care how skilled you are as a cook, there are always times where a kitchen disaster presents itself. In these time of crisis, I always look to to the one who showed me The Way - The Way to Cook, I mean - and pray to Saint Julia for help and guidance. So I was thrilled to find this card at a Sur la Table store just outside of Cleveland (and near a Penzey's store - yum!).

I just had to share it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Real Price of Meat

I don't usually inject politics into my food blog, and I only do so because one of my favorite political bloggers, Ezra Klein of The American Prospect, has written two insightful entries on the carbon footprint on modern meat consumption. You can find his posts here and here. For me the money quote is:

"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

Cooking with Kids IV - Do The Jerk(y)

There are few things simpler than beef jerky, and Ron Popiel was right - it is loads cheaper than the store-bought pieces of flavored rubber. It's also a perfect task to involve my nine year old Chef Saucier, Ellie. Of course it helps that the two of us love the results, to the extent that Mommy has to hide the finished product or it disappears. Rapidly. Really rapidly.

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 140ยบ, 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

Texas BBQ Follow Up

The July issue of Restaurant Hospitality confirms my beliefs about the nature of Texas style barbecue. Money quote:

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

The Anatomy of a Burger, Part Three – The Mushroom Ketchup

Nobody, but nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog anymore! - Harry Callahan

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 China. It soon became a word synonymous with “sauce” and was, among other things, made from walnut, gooseberry, cucumber, and, best of all mushroom.

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.


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

Life's too short to eat bad food -