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zora

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Posts posted by zora


  1. A curious thing about the Aleppo pepper: I read about that in one of Paula Wolfert's books and went to my Turkish store and asked for it. They'd never heard of it! I buy Turkish red pepper flakes there that are labelled pul biber, and maybe that is Aleppo pepper?

    pul biber=Aleppo pepper, afaik. I think there are some variants in terms of how much they're toasted and oiled, but basically the same. Good question for the Mid East section...


  2. I'm going to Spain for work at the end of March--I've got three weeks in Granada and Almeria provinces. (Alas, not headed to the "foodier" parts of Andalucia!)

    So, suggestions appreciated this area--restaurants, local food producers, etc. Doesn't have to be fancy--just crazy-delicious.

    [edited to take out ref to Madrid--will re-post query in dedicated Madrid thread... Mod, correct thread title if you like.]


  3. I'm working on a cookbook that I want to be pretty accessible. But I live in a very ethnically diverse part of New York City, so it's easy to lose sight of what ingredients are common or hard to come by.

    My only other frame of reference is my hometown of Albuquerque, which just happens to have a ginormous international foods market, which solves just about every cooking conundrum.

    But I don't know whether other smaller cities have the same diversity--whether for "ethnic" groceries or items that are considered high-end gourmet.

    So, eGulleteers in non-coastal cities, can you let me know which of these things you can find easily (or not)?

    --Pomegranate molasses

    --Sumac

    --Aleppo pepper (Turkish-style red pepper)

    --creme fraiche

    --Mexican crema

    --Spanish smoked paprika

    --miso paste

    --sherry vinegar

    --duck (fresh or frozen)

    --duck fat

    --pancetta

    --less common pig parts: trotters, unsmoked hocks, cheeks, slab bacon, skin

    I guess it would help if you also defined "easily"--supermarket, or only at a specialty store that you just happen to know about?

    I'm also curious: how many people actually have specialized butchers to visit? (As opposed to just the meat case in the supermarket...)

    Thanks a million!


  4. Fantastic to hear about the newer joints, Holly!

    It kills me because the guidebooks I work on just came out in new editions in the fall--I probably visited right before Qubano and Olivia opened. Arg.

    What's up with Cazuela M&J? Why'd it move, and is it back in its original spot now?


  5. I second the La Lomita rec.

    In the Cancun hotel zone, look for El Fish Fritanga, just south of La Isla mall, next to the Domino's. You go down the steps to the lagoon and fish-taco heaven.

    In downtown, I loooove Los Huaraches de Alcatraces, on the southeast corner of Parque de las Palapas. Only open till about 4pm, though. In the evenings, the vendors on the park are delish.

    Oh, and those Ty-Coz sandwich shops: yummy! France meets Mex!


  6. There are discussions on Hobox sometimes on this board, IslaMujeres.info in the chat groups.  You can do a search or start a new thread.

    Not sure about Hobox, but on Isla Mujeres most restaurants don't take credit cards and the general feeling is that, security-wise, it is safer not to use a credit card.  If you do use a card, both the restaurant owner and the server will be much happier if the tip is left in pesos.

    Also, recently and I believe this is all through Mexico - not just Isla, the banks have stopped exchanging American Currency or Travelers Checks for Pesos - one has to go to a more expensive private currency exchange.  I always use an ATM card at a bank machine for Pesos.

    Last time I was there, about a year ago, Holbox was still pretty much all cash. Only one restaurant I can think of was advertising that it took credit cards--and it's not a very good restaurant. (Not even sure how this works, as the telecom situation on Holbox is so basic--certainly not an instant charge to your account!) So pack the cash...

    I had a memorable meal at La Cueva del Pirata many years ago, but have heard recent reports that it has a new owner, and is not as great. Would be curious to hear what you find. On my last visit, best meal was at a place I'm forgetting the name of--a two-story palapa situation just west off the square. (I should know these things--I write guidebooks! Der...)


  7. Oh, that didn't take so long. Amazing what gets done when I procrastinate. For more color commentary, see my blog post.

    **

    First of all, thanks again to everyone who commented on my initial whine for help upthread. Especially Ptitpois for encouraging the use of gigantes. I did quite a lot of reading, but like others, I synthesized a few sources, referring to Julia Child and Paula Wolfert for a lot of details.

    First, about 8 days before the dinner, I made some duck confit. I followed Paula Wolfert's edict of 22g of salt per pound of meat, but either I did my math wrong or that is just really a ton of salt--more than I've ever used for confit before. I didn't add all that I'd measured, and it still turned out very salty.

    gallery_14370_6432_6940.jpg

    I also confited the whole duck, instead of just the legs. The breast meat wasn't as tender, but in the end product, you couldn't tell at all. I think for this purpose, it's fine to do the whole duck, and easier to work with.

    And letting it age a week did noticeably change the flavor. AND I got the air cleared out of the kitchen, which helped my attitude a lot.

    A few days later, I made some sausage. It was kind of a weak sausage effort, seeing how no meat grinder or casings were involved. I basically used Julia Child as inspiration to just make patties, and was heartened to read Paula Wolfert's encouraging words re: the use of a food processor. So my little sausage patties didn't have the fluffiest texture, but they tasted great. Amazing what a slug of brandy will do for some pork, and I subbed pancetta for straight fat, per Wolfert, and added more garlic than either called for.

    I fried them up the day I assembled the cassoulet:

    gallery_14370_6432_48981.jpg

    For the beans, I had a pound of gigantes, and I had half a pound of great northerns. I threw those in a separate pot. This was handy, actually, because I got to try a couple of different approaches to simmering the beans.

    Results: whole onions are fine, pork skin is good and cloves stuck in the onion are fun to do and help clear out years-old spice inventory, but may or may not make a difference in the long run. I was happy to have gotten the pork skin--part of the effort in this cookbook is making it beyond-fancy-NYC-shopping-friendly, and it does seem like the average US supermarket carries more odd bits of pig than it used to. I got unsmoked pork hocks there too.

    For the meat, I did mostly lamb, with a smidge of pork left from the sausage-making--maybe about a pound total. Per something I'd read somewhere (losing track now), I put this in its own garlic-onion-carrot-tomato-wine-stock stew for about an hour. I'm very pro-carrot--I guess I'm weak-willed, but I like to see a little veg in among my hunks of meat and beans.

    Then I layered everything together. I wound up using only about 2/3 of my duck confit, and the same of my sausage (I had a little more than a pound of that). The unappealing orange stuff is the lamb stew. But it tasted good. Oh, I remember why: I put about 1/3 of a pound of pancetta in too.

    gallery_14370_6432_11471.jpg

    Oh, I forgot: on the bottom of the pot, I put in the pieces of pork skin, kind of as a buffer. I already knew from my restaurant visits that I was not keen on the pork skin, but I figured it would be nice to line the pot with, and maybe someone would like it. But I left it in big hunks, so it would be easy to pull out.

    I grated some nutmeg on top. It felt a little ridiculous, but whatever. In the end, it's hard to tell whether this or the clove did anything substantial, but I'd hate to go to all the trouble again without them, and then have it be boring...

    gallery_14370_6432_30431.jpg

    I poured in a lot of bean stock and let the baby bake a couple of hours. Slid it in the "walk-in"--aka the uninsulated pantry--for the night. Pulled it out two hours before dinner and stuck it in a cold oven set to 300, after adding another cup or so of bean liquid.

    About 20 minutes before dinner, I sprinkled on some bread crumbs, mixed with some chopped-up parsley. (The vegetables--I cling to them like a mirage), and then scooped up some of the fat layer to drizzle over them.

    They crisped up beautifully at the end:

    gallery_14370_6432_34482.jpg

    I was a little nervous digging into it, especially for the texture. The beans had cooked more quickly than I thought they would, and were verging on too soft when I layered them into the pot. I had also been very liberal with the bean stock, to counteract previous efforts, where the beans had just glommed up in a wad. And I wasn't sure if my little sausage patties would actually hold together.

    Aside from the confirmed nastiness of the pork skin, it turned out pretty well. (One person at the table ate his piece of skin, and said he kind of liked it...) The key thing was the textural variety, I think. Although the beans were a wee bit squishy, they hadn't gotten totally gummy yet, and the less-than-standard sausage texture was actually a plus--it gave a little something to properly chew on. And the bread crumbs rocked. I don't care what the hard-liners say.

    Next time, I will make doubly sure the beans are not too soft, and I might add even a bit more liquid. What I got was brothy enough to serve in bowls, but had also gotten a smidge thicker and starchier than I would've liked.

    And I was skeptical of Paula Wolfert's declaration way upthread that smoked meats should really be avoided. But now I'm with her. Previous cassoulets I've had a hand in have usually had smoked hocks, and some bacon and some very toasty lard, which might contribute to the overall flattening-out of the flavors. This cassoulet, with nothing smoked, was a little brighter tasting--or as bright as something with that much meat in it can be.

    So my co-author on the cookbook is still an avowed fan of the bean crust (no crumbs), and she hates carrots. So the recipe is going to be filled with options--but maybe that gets to the spirit of cassoulet best anyway. I feel like devising a flow chart for it... I'll let you know how it goes!


  8. Yeah, I'll definitely draw it out longer next time--I was doing it over one weekend. But I like the idea of giving the confit a week or so to age...and giving the air a chance to clear!

    Re: dried beans...there's just no way to know how old they are, is there? I mean, if you're not buying them from someone who's v. close to the source...


  9. Thanks a million for the detailed analysis, chrisamirault! I've spent the last couple hours reading the cassoulet cook-off thread.

    Don't get me wrong--I love duck confit, and I've made it at home quite a few times. I think the queasiness kicks in when I spend all day doing a duck chop shop--breaking down the whole bird and making stock, making pate, etc. Then I wake up in the middle of the night with the smell all around me. (Doesn't help that my bedroom is directly upstairs from the kitchen.) Bleh.

    My next attempt will definitely involve more liquid, and more and better sausage... It was just my butcher's standard house-made pork business, and it got lost in all the other business.

    And pork rind. I didn't really appreciate the function of it before--I thought it was just in there for flavoring, not as something you end up eating.

    On the other hand, I have to say I don't have a huge natural affinity for beans. A byproduct of being raised by hippies in the 70s? But I just had some beautifully cooked pinto beans the last time I was in New Mexico, and they were splendid. So I know there's hope!


  10. I am of the mind that nobody on Earth could ever dislike a properly-made cassoulet.

    See, that's what I'm thinking. I mean, what's _not_ to like?

    Thanks so much for the specifics on beans and liquid levels! I will definitely try a batch with the gigantes--I think it might also give it a little more visual interest...


  11. Ah, see, I haven't explained the whole story. I'm working on a cookbook with someone who really, really loves cassoulet, and she wants to include a recipe.

    So I am, effectively, obliged to like it--or at least make it something that I like better than the version we currently have. But I am leery of going too far, and inadvertently taking out the innate cassoulet-ness of the thing. (Like, would anyone consider it cassoulet if I used big Greek-style gigantes beans?) I don't quite feel like I have the right to tinker much, if I haven't yet had the Platonic ideal of cassoulet. And I unfortunately don't have time or budget to fly to Toulouse and dine at the source. (Or wait...do I? <opens new tab for kayak.com>)

    One more precise question: What's people's preferred liquid level? I've had stuff that's very soupy, and I've had more of a baked casserole texture. And all the recipes I've read all seem to peter out at the end, finishing up with a vague "cook till beans are tender" and no mention of what the texture _between_ the beans ought to be.


  12. [Moderator's note: Starting with this post, the topic "Cassoulet -- Is It Really All That?" mas been merged into this general cassoulet topic. CA]

    I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but...I don't think I like cassoulet? Much?

    The trouble is, I haven't eaten a whole lot of it, but I have cooked it a couple of times. (I know...that's flawed, but what the heck. I basically merged a recipe from Saveur with various wisdom from Larousse.) And the cooking involves filling my house with the smell of duck grease, which is initially lovely but later makes me feel a little queasy.

    So I can't tell if I don't like cassoulet because a) I haven't eaten the good stuff, b) I've cooked it badly, c) I'm queasy from the duck grease, or d) all of the above.

    In an attempt to educate myself, I recently ate cassoulet at a couple of restaurants. One version was totally awful--like Van de Kamp's canned beans, with some slithery bits of meat, and what tasted distinctly like a maple-flavored breakfast link. And the other was good and garlicky and fully of tasty sausage, but still...kinda just pork and beans, when you got down to it.

    SOOO. My question: Is it constitutionally possible to just not like the stuff? (To hear people talk about it, you wouldn't think so...) Or am I missing some magical ingredient/element?

    Concrete tips, as well as general moral support, appreciated.


  13. And, incidentally, getting back to markemorse's comment about Mexican food... I'm not sure what it's like in AZ, but in NM, the devotion to New Mexican food (which everyone calls Mexican, and when they mean Mexican from Mexico, they say 'Mexican Mexican') is so strong that it overpowers a lot of regional Mexican Mexican stuff. Basically, you have to treat Mexican Mexican like any other ethnic food, and seek out the immigrants cooking it in a dedicated restaurant--and there aren't many full sit-down restaurants devoted to it, mostly just taco joints.

    Case in point: There is (or was) a restaurant in Taos called Antonio's, specializing in high-end regional Mexican. He had a token page of New Mexican stuff on the back of the menu. Soon, he had to move it to the front page of the menu. Then he had to shut down that big space and open a smaller cafe, specializing in chile rellenos (NM-style), though he does still squeeze in chiles en nogada on the side.

    Down in the southern part of the state, Mexican Mexican is more "out," probably because it's closer to the border. And even what I think of as New Mexican food is weird down there--creamy green chile? Nasty... But that's what I start thinking when I go into AZ or TX and order enchiladas. Just not the same, and almost never as spicy-hot.

    Chufi, was it still chile-roasting season when you were there? Green chile roasting is one of my favorite smells.


  14. So sorry to hear about your abrupt dinner at Aqua Santa! I love that place so much...

    And, ha, the scene at Coyote Cafe is pretty silly, no? Santa Fe's flashiest. (Most New Mexicans would say all those flashy people must've come from Dallas.) I think the restaurant is not so hot, but it's a cultural experience...


  15. I've been to Syria a couple of times, and would love to go back and take some kind of cooking classes. Does anyone know of anything? I speak half-decent (Egyptian) Arabic, so I could muddle through in that language if necessary (my food vocabulary is disproportionately large, so that's a start). I could also handle French if necessary.

    Thanks for any leads...


  16. edited to add: adam, that's the line of thinking i think i'm heading for here.  when i make tabouleh, i soak bulgur in water for 10 minutes or so and drain it.  no cooking.  granted that's fine bulgur and not coarse, but still, coarse isn't that different.

    This boiling-water trick is the technique I always use, for pilaf and everything--but if you use the right amount, you don't even have to drain it. My Moosewood Cooks at Home cookbook says, I think, 2 1/4 c. boiling water poured over 1 1/2 c. bulgur and set aside. I use the mid-weight grind--#2? Not the super-coarse or the super-fine (I have used this on super-fine, and it winds up v. soggy). It looks alarming at first, like the bulgur will not absorb it all, but I just fluff every so often while I'm prepping the rest of the stuff, and it's fine by the time I'm ready to combine everything, in 20 or 30 minutes.

    If you want to use fat, then sautee your onions, etc. in that, and just combine it all the end. And I see no reason why you couldn't use boiling stock instead, for more flavor.


  17. Saveur, Oct 2007

    Special Issue: Chicago

    First: James Oseland explains the choice to dedicate an issue to the Windy City.

    Fare:

    The Originals: Chicago inventions in food: The Jibarito (skirt steak in a plantain ‘sandwich’), Shrimp de Jonghe (garlic-stuffed shrimp) and of course the Chicago-style hot dog. By Dana Bowen and Katherine Concila

    Midwestern Beauties: Artisanal cheeses from Wisconsin, Indiana and elsewhere. By Dana Bowen

    Everyone’s a Critic: Chicago’s homegrown restaurant-critic show, Check, Please! is a hit on the PBS affiliate. By Elaine Glusac

    Deeply Delicious: Burt’s is the underground place to go for deep-dish pizza. By Michael Nagrant

    Old School: Old-fashioned glamour, and food, at the Drake Hotel. By Todd Coleman

    Recipe: Lobster Thermidor

    Mother-in-Law Mystery: Is the ‘mother-in-law’ sandwich the progeny of Mississippi Delta hot tamales? John T. Edge investigates, and finds many variations.

    Agenda: Chicago, 2007-2008

    Nov 16-18: The American Indian Center of Chicago’s Annual Pow-Wow; Dec 1-2: Julmarknad Christmas Bazaar (lots of glögg); Feb 9: For the Love of Chocolate Scholarship Benefit; April 27: Greek Orthodox Easter; June 7-8: Ribfest Chicago; June 27-July 6: Taste of Chicago; August 29-September 1: Taste of Polonia; 100th anniversary of Ferrara Pan Candy in 2008

    Lives: The Entertainer

    Rich Melman is the man who reinvented eating out in Chicago. By Jonathan Black

    Ingredient: Let Them Eat Pate

    Notes from the foie gras underground. By Peter Sagal

    Essay: Tomorrowland

    What Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Chicago’s cutting-edge restaurants have in common. By Peter Meehan

    Sidebar: Chicago’s Taste for Invention: weird food inventions!

    Source: State Street Sweet

    The inimitable Frango mint, now available at www.macys.com. By Danny Miller

    Classic: A Sandwich to Dress Down For

    Chicago’s Italian beef isn’t for dainty eaters. By Carol Mighton Haddix

    Recipe: Italian Beef Sandwiches

    CHICAGO!...The Features

    Heartland of the World

    You’ve attained gastronomic heights, Chicago, but your roots go deep. By David McAninch

    City of Pork

    Chicago’s Polish butchers elevate the humble pig to a smoked and cured art form. By Dana Bowen

    Recipes: Bigos (sauerkraut and smoked pork stew)

    Golabki Grzybami (stuffed cabbage rolls)

    Schab Pieczony y Powidlami (plum-stuffed pork loin)

    Mielone Kotlety (Polish pork hamburgers)

    Sidebar: Polish Pork Primer: from szyszkowa to karczek wedzony

    At the Market

    Chicago’s food shoppers have the world at their feet: a photo essay, visiting Super H Mart, Baylor’s Melon Market, Moo & Oink and the Lincoln Park Farmers Market.

    A Chef’s Journey

    For an acclaimed restaurateur, finding success meant returning to Chicago. By Bruce Sherman of North Pond

    Recipes: Soft-Boiled Eggs with Bacon-Infused Sweet Potatoes and Parsley Coulis

    Beets Two Ways

    Spice-Braised Lamb Shanks with Lentils

    Apple-Lavender Tarte Tatin

    Bread-Crusted Halibut with Leek Ragout and Red Pepper Puree

    South Side Soul

    Chicago’s soul food restaurants, infused with history, remain close to their Southern roots. By Tracy Poe

    Recipes: Izola’s Fried Chicken

    Helen’s Corn Cakes

    Macaroni and Cheese

    Mustard Greens with Salt Pork and Spicy Vinegar

    Rose’s Famous Caramel Cake

    A Place at the Table

    For Chicago native Raquel Pelzel, home is where the food is.

    Recipes: Caviatelli (ricotta dumplings)

    Sunday Gravy (hearty tomato ragu)

    Scarola (escarole, sausage and cannellini bean stew)

    Cauliflower Fritters

    Chicago Guide: Where to Stay, Where to Eat and More (three whole pages’ worth…)

    In the Saveur Kitchen: Bruce Sherman swears by a spoon as the ultimate kitchen implement; Katherine Concila praises Chicago-invented flaming saganaki; how to make a parchment-paper lid for a slow-cooking coulis; assorted pork parts, identified; interview with soul-food queen Izola White; how to make the bread crust for the bread-crusted halibut; wine and drink suggestions for the recipes

    Recipes: Root Beer Cake

    Moment: a silver-covered street performer snacks on a submarine sandwich on Michigan Avenue.


  18. Definitely try Sabores! Very sweet place, literally in this woman's backyard. I _have_ heard that one of the waitstaff has tried to overcharge people, but as long as you go in knowing that the flat price (M$50 last time I checked, but it could be a little more by now) includes a soup and a main dish, as well as the jamaica (hibiscus) drink, it shouldn't be an issue. If you order sodas or whatever, that of course costs a little more.


  19. And re: Arabic in Turkish, I was always so relieved when I saw something in Ottoman Turkish--I'd usually end up saying, "Ooooh, so _that's_ what they're going for."

    "Itfaiye" reminds me I have no idea how to say fire department in Arabic! But I'm guessing it's _not_ connected to the word for ashtray, which comes from that 'extinguish' root.


  20. Salicornia--good to know! And good to know it's common, as well. The guy at Ciya did write "deniz fasulye" (or the closest thing--I cannot remember sp now), and then we saw "deniz [sth I don't remember]" in the market as we were walking out, which was clearly the same thing.

    Where that leaves your mystery green, I don't know. Now that I look more closely, I do see the leaves, and it looks suspiciously like that hyssop/zaatar/caperberry/whatever overlap we were talking about over on the sumac thread. But then _everything_ looks like that. Oh well--Ciya will always have some great mysteries.

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