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Posts posted by stevea

  1. geekdoc, I wholeheartedly agree about the grits from Hoppin John. Living on the west coast, it's impossible to find grits like this in stores here. They are an absolute revelation, even when made just with water and a little cheese.

  2. My en Papillote recipe calls for a few slices of yellow yukon potatoes, portobello mushrooms, sliced fennel bulb, and roma tomatoes on the bottom. Atop the fish goes the leafy part of the fennel, a lemon slice, a splash of Pernod, a splash of white wine, a generous sprinkle of Chef Paul Prodhomme's Seafood Magic, and a dollop of butter.

    Hmmmm... think I'll make it over the weekend! Thanks for the reminder!

    Carolyn, that sounds delicious! I may do the same. Parchment it is!

  3. Having found a really decent fish market, we've been preparing a lot of "fish in a packet" meals lately. Essentially, a fillet of whatever's freshest (salmon, true cod, snapper, etc), with flavoring ingredients (oriental -- ginger, fennel root, etc., medditerranean -- black olive, cherry tomato, basil, etc.), a bit of olive oil, seasonings, and a bit of poaching liquid (white wine or stock) all wrapped up in a packet and cooked (steamed) in the oven for ten minutes at 475F. Very easy, healthy, and quite tasty.

    Some recipes call for the fish to be wrapped in a parchment paper packet. Others call for aluminum foil. I haven't really noticed any difference between the two, but then I've never done a test where I've cooked the same recipe using both wrappings. Does anyone have an opinion on whether parchment paper or foil is better, and why?

  4. On the topic of pigs, confinement operations, et. al. -- I grew up on a pig farm in southern Minnesota. We were a small farm, raising grain, pigs, chickens, and until the laws changed and made it too expensive, milk cows. I can say that of the above animals, pigs smell about 10,000 times worse than all other farm animals combined, both in the summer when the hot winds blow the stench everywhere, and in the winter when the low outside temperature means that they're confined to the pig house and the aroma is so concentrated that it makes your eyes water and your tongue chalky (key learning: don't open your mouth!)

    We never had any problems with pig attacks, but we were always careful. There were a few two-by-four incidents, but only when they were being obstinate about going up the ramp into the truck when hauling to market.

    Besides the smell, the worst part was castrating them. Being the oldest kid, I got the job of holding up the pig by the back legs (with its head braced between my knees) while my Dad showed off his knife skills. This was doable if the pigs were young enough, but if they grew too much before we got around to it, the *%$*#& things would bite me in the ankle while I held them.

    The county where I grew up, Martin County, Minnesota, was and is (in my opinion) about as far away from anything that there is in the continental US. However, there are now many many confinement operations there. I've heard that it may have the highest concentration of pig population of any county in the country (I could be wrong about this). Although there are big companies involved in some of this, most of the operations are run by small businesses. In the nineties, everyone who could borrow a little money set up a hog operation. So it's not just the large companies you've heard of who are involved in confinement sheds.

  5. I recently purchased stone-ground, unbolted white corn grits. With about a 1:4 grits to liquid ratio, they took an hour to cook and were amazingly creamy.

    The yellow corn grits (polenta) available to me locally are listed as stone-ground and degerminated. (not sure if "germination" or "boltedness" are related). With the same liquid to solid ratio, these grits soak up the liquid much quicker and become soft much quicker (10-15 minutes). However, even though soft, they retain a mealiness that is not as satisfying as the creamy white grits. To cook the yellow grits longer without setting up solid, I would have to add much more liquid. Being relatively impatient, I have not done this. :smile: (The white grits are basically inedible until they cook for an hour, so I have no choice.)

    I have also found that using 100% milk or cream results in a "chalkiness" I find unpleasant. YMMV.

  6. Definitely Tims. And not any of the special flavors, the original lightly salted variety. Sublime!

    Back in my youth in the midwest, Old Dutch was the clear winner -- regular and not rippled. I wonder if they still taste the same as they did 30 years ago?

  7. I have a Matfer, always use the guard, and have cut myself several times. I even cut myself once washing the darn thing. Whenever I use it, I continuously say, out loud, "I haven't cut myself yet. I haven't cut myself yet." I keep saying that until I'm finished slicing and have washed and put away the evil beast.

  8. I have an Imperia and never clean it with water. I just shake the dust out when I'm finished. Then, the next time I use it, I put a small piece of dough through the rollers a few time to collect anything old that might be left around, discard it, and get on with rolling out the noodles.

  9. My mother had the disadvantage of living with three picky eaters (my dad, my brother, and me). Although I finally came around, to this day my dad and brother refuse to eat any "foreign" food. And by their definition, "foreign" would include pizza, as well as anything containing onions or garlic. This limited my mother's cooking potential.

    What they would eat is meat and potatoes, so that's what we always had. We lived on a farm and butchered our own cows, pigs, and chickens, so the quality of our meat was quite high (I still remember steaks as big as dinner plates that were fork-tender, even when cooked well done). But mom seemed to be afraid of germs or bacteria or something, so she always cooked everything to death, including vegetables. I thought I didn't like vegetables, but what I really didn't like was string beans (straight from the garden, no less) cooked in a cream sauce for about an hour.

    When I went back for a visit last summer, my mom cooked hamburgers for dinner (dinner is the noontime meal in Minnesota, supper is the evening meal). My wife watched as mom heated some oil in the cast iron pan and then fried the hamburgers. About an hour later, she and mom were still standing at the stove and the burgers were still frying. After dinner (my wife and I weren't very hungry, so we didn't eat much of our burgers), I asked my wife why she didn't stop mom from reducing good meat to cardboard and she said, "I couldn't believe what was happening, and I just wanted to see how long she would go on like that."

    Of course, in my early bachelor days, I was no great shakes as a cook. In college, my roommate and I were particularly proud of a pork chop dish we made that also included cream of mushroom soup and canned peaches, baked in the oven. I swear we once made this dish for a couple of women we were trying to impress. You can imagine how that worked out.

    We also had a habit of making what we called "Kansas shit." To make it, go into the pantry, pull out several cans of whatever you can find, mix together, and bake. "Cans of shit" yielded "Kansas shit."

  10. I don't have ready access to 00 flour, but I've had great success with both all-purpose and bread flours. It seems like every italian cookbook I own has a different flour to egg ratio, but I've found the following to work very well:

    1 lb. (about 4 cups) flour

    5 large eggs

    If I use more eggs, the dough sometimes sticks to the rollers of the pasta maker and I have to do a lot more flouring.

    I'm lazy and use the Jamie Oliver method (plunk it all into a food processor and run until if forms coarse pellets and then merges into a rough ball -- less than a minute). Then knead for a couple of minutes, wrap in plastic and store in the fridge for an hour before rolling.

    I have an Imperia machine and roll out to the thinnest setting, even for filled pastas. I've tried the next setting up, but the noodle is just too "horsey."

    Lately, I've had fun doing the shaped, filled pastas, cappelletti or tortelloni. I'm not sure exactly which name fits what I made, because I think the only difference between the two is just the size. Anyway, take the sheet as comes out of the pasta maker, cut lengthwise into four strips, then into squares. Drop filling into the center, fold into a triangle and seal, and then with your finger against the long edge of the triangle, pull the legs around your finger and clasp them together. As you do this the other corner of the triangle pops up and you have the cool little bishop's hat. I made really ugly hats for a while, but I finally got the hang of it.

    I usually make a double batch of pasta, make filled pasta until I run out of filling, then cut the rest into rough, wide pappardelle, which is really easy to do, but hard to find at the store (at least, where I live).

  11. I'm late coming into this discussion, but it's been a fascinating read. Thanks much, folks.

    I recently mail-ordered some southern white grits from Hoppin Johns (in South Carolina, I think). They are advertised as whole-grain, stone ground. I made some last night (4 cups water, 1 cup grits, 1TBS butter, salt, a little milk at the end, and about a half cup of cheddar mixed in off heat) and frankly, they were FABULOUS, the creamiest, most luscious grits or polenta or whatever you call it that I've ever had.

    However, they did take about an hour to cook on the stove. And here's where my question comes in. When I buy yellow polenta, it only takes about 15 minutes to cook and the texture is soft but a bit grainier. I have a package of Bob's Red Mill grits in my pantry now. It claims to be all natural, etc, and the instructions say to cook for five minutes or so. It doesn't claim to be instant grits, but is this what it actually is? I mean, if I stopped cooking the Hoppin John grits at five minutes, I'd have had stone soup. So there must be something different in the products.

  12. Interesting. I wonder if the colder climate (in my case, Oregon) causes the lemongrass to "harden off" more. I got my plant last spring, so it hasn't gone through a winter yet (and we'll see if it survives the cold snap we're having now -- temps below freezing for the last couple of days). But still, in the summer it really does grow like a weed. I'm glad I planted it in a pot and not directly in the garden.

  13. Gin



    Olives (I'm sure you know where I'm going here)

    And for later in the evening...



    Dried rice noodles

    Coconut milk

    Green, Red, or Yellow curry paste

    Lemongrass (which is easy, because it's growing in a big pot in the back yard)

    Bay leaves (ditto)

    Chicken stock

    Canned or frozen tomatoes

    And for breakfast...

    Coffee and half-and-half for the SO

    V8 for me

  14. I always thought that wearing glasses made the "onion effect" worse, because the glasses "trapped" the sulfer compounds in that area between the glass and the eye. I usually whip off my glasses to try to relieve the symptoms. However, this could be my own myth as to why I seem to tear up more when chopping onions than others I know (I wear glasses and don't have contacts, so I can't test myself in both situations).

  15. The whole cooking water topic is pretty interesting and I hope to learn more, but on the subject of another cooking "myth"...

    What about the practice of slowly drizzling oil into vinegar to make an emulsion when making a vinagrette? I always do it, but Christopher Kimball (America's Test Kitchen) says it's a crock (but maybe not in those words), just dump everything together and whisk.

  16. I love root vegetables, but in my garden, they just didn't grow big. Lots of delicious greens, but not many roots. Now, my parsnips, on the other hand, are large and ready to pick. But I wish I had better luck with turnips.

    Anyhow, I definitely agree with roasting and sauteing. I love having a variety of vegetables (carrots, potatoes, parsnips, turnips) coated with a little olive oil, salt, and thyme, and roasted. Also throwing the turnips in with other vegetables in a pot roast is good. And there's always vegetable soup.

  17. One trick I use when making polenta is to use the standard mixture (four cups water or broth to one cup polenta) but heat three cups of the liquid on the stove and pour the other cup cold in with the polenta. When the liquid comes to a boil, add in the wet polenta, which doesn't clump.

    And Suzanne F, thanks for the info about instant grits. It's the only kind I can get locally and I wondered whether it was worth mail ordering the real stone ground stuff (from Hoppin John or somewhere similar in the south). Now I think I'll have to do that so I can taste the difference myself.

  18. Concerning soggy crust (which some may not care about), Cooks Illustrated had an article about tomato tarts a few issues ago (don't have them handy now). They recommended baking the crust first and sprinkling some parmesan on the crust while baking to create essentially a moisture barrier. We used that to great success. I had a leftover piece that had been in the refrigerator for five days and the crust was flakey and not at all soggy.

  19. We get most of the popular cooking magazines, which take up a lot of space in the basement bookshelf. We've gotten into a rhythm of marking the interesting recipes in each new issue with sticky notes. Then, when I have a pile of magazines cluttering up the kitchen, I record the type (main dish, veggie, etc), name, important ingredients, magazine name, month and year, and page number into an excel spreadsheet, and move the magazines down to the basement (keeping the issues in order of course).

    I keep a printout of the entire recipe list, organized by category, so we can browse through it and figure out what we'd like to make, then go down and grab the issue for reference. The printout is also good for notetaking (hated it, would make again, needs more salt, etc) that I can add to the spreadsheet when I have time.

  20. For me it was the home made pita bread, from the recipe in Crust and Crumb. It was easy to make, with kneading and rising done the day before. Plus it was an impressive show with me multitasking rolling out the dough, drinking champagne, spritzing the oven tiles, drinking champagne, talking to the guests, throwing some dough on the stones, drinking champagne, pulling out perfectly puffed pitas to oohs and ahhs, drinking champagne, starting over again with the next set.

  21. Well, the microwave technique worked no better than the hot water technique or any of the others. Way too tedious and the end result was not worth it. I have come to believe that I do not have access to the right kind of noodles (or I'm a complete idiot and can't perform a simple kitchen task, but I hope not).

    My next plan is to visit as many Thai restaurants as possible and ask where they get their noodles and how they prepare them. At least I'll get to eat out a lot!

  22. Spaetzle maker -- the kind that looks sort of like flat cheese grater, which you hold over the pot, pour in raw spaetzle, and slide the bar across the grating to presumably drop the spaetzle into the water. It doesn't work at all, just gets jammed up with goop that won't drop out. A simple colander and spatula work much better.

    Also, the OXO soap-dispensing dishwashing scrubber tool with the sponge on the end. I broke the first one the second time I added soap. I broke the second one the first time I opened it up. Garbage. However, I complained to OXO and they sent me a new design with a brush on the end that is fabulous. However, I finally wore mine out and I've never seen one in a store. Bummer.

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