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Chris Amirault

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Chris Amirault

  1. Mail-Order Virginia Country Hams

    Hi folks. Last year, I was very happy to buy a Virginia country ham from Edwards for the holidays, and I want to do so again. However, the price has jumped over 40% (from $90 to $130 for a 15-16 lb uncooked, bone-in ham) in the last year. I know pork prices are zooming up, but it prompts me to post here to see if anyone has had any good experiences with other mail-order Virginia hams. Thanks in advance!
  2. Chicken Liver Paté: The Topic

    Egged on by my daughter, who has a real jones for the stuff, I've become a chicken liver paté nut. I admit that I used to toss most of the goodies inside whole chickens, but for a while now I've been getting excited if I find a bird with extra livers packed in there, as I did today. At first I sorta followed the recipe from Craig Claiborne's NYT Cookbook, but now I pretty much wing it thusly: 1. Slice up some onions and lightly brown them in schmaltz. 2. Add trimmed livers and cook until they're just un-pink, no more. 3. Add some booze (applejack, cognac, rum) and deglaze; then add a bit of cream, quatre epices, thyme, and scrape up everything off the bottom. 4. Beat a couple of eggs with the immersion blender, and add a few tablespoonfuls of the hot juice from the pan to temper the eggs. 5. Toss in everything else and blend until smooth. 6. Fine strain into ramekins, and cook them in a bain marie at ~300F until they're set (30-40 minutes, usually, but depending on the depth of the paté in the ramekins). Couldn't be easier -- and they're pretty damned good, if I do say so myself. However, I'm sure that there are tweaks, tricks, and other things to learn. I've also been wondering about other flavor combinations -- something Mexican, say, with a añejo tequila, toasted cumin and ancho, bit of garlic, perhaps. I dunno. What's your take?
  3. Tequila Cocktails

    I've got a bottle of Sauza Añejo Commemorativo for mixing, and I've quickly grown bored of fiddling around with the ratios for margaritas. It's time to find a few new cocktails for the rotation. Tonight I started with the Bunny Bonanza. I didn't add the sugar and clearly should have done so, as it's got a bit more bite than I'd like. What are people's favorite tequila cocktails?
  4. Welcome to the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off! Click here for the Cook-Off index. This cook-off focuses on felafel. I've enjoyed fine felafel here in the US and overseas, but I have literally no idea how to make this, the national street food of at least a handful of Middle Eastern countries. Several people who have recommended this cook-off did so because, while they felt they had some clues, they didn't really have a consistently successful recipe or method. Sounds like a good cook-off topic, eh? There are a few topics on the felafel matter, including this one on tips and tricks, an older topic that finds more woes than techniques, and this preparation topic, How Do You Like Your Falafel? I also found this recipe by Joan Nathan, which seems like it might be useful. But what do I know? Not much, I'll tell you. Time to chime in, you!
  5. Burgers/Meatloaf--Cook-Off 10

    Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index. Over the last few weeks, there are been two camps vying for particular cook-off dishes. On the one hand, those people in the northern hemisphere who are heralding the arrival of grilling weather are eager to have a cook-off on that grilling favorite, the burger. On the other hand, several people have been pushing meatloaf for the next cook-off, against the objections of the burger grillers, who don't want to heat up their kitchens with their ovens. (While I haven't heard from those in the southern hemisphere, I can imagine that a toasty kitchen might be just the thing as the days grow colder.) I hate such dilemmas between well-meaning, kind-hearted food folk, and I've been stalling about the tenth cook-off for a while now. But this past weekend, as I was grinding a chuck roast for burgers and had a couple of pounds left over, I heard a voice in my head.... Yes, as with many of my life dilemmas, I was freed from the blur of misunderstanding when I read Jinmyo's post in the Don't Make Fun of My Sandwich! thread. And I thought: what a brilliant idea! So! For our tenth Cook-Off, we're going to pick up Jinmyo's gauntlet and battle burgers versus meat loaf. Let's face it: both involve ground meat of some sort mixed with other ingredients (or none) and cooked until done (whatever that means). As we know from the sandwich thread above, many meatloaf acolytes enjoy a slab of their terrine between two slices of bread -- practically a burger, when you think of it. Of course, one of these versions of ground meat is clearly better than the other, and you must surely be in possession of a string of rigorously logical criteria that demonstrates the superiority of your own opinion. So make your case, not only in words but in pictures, through which you can show us all why burgers are best -- or, conversely, why meatloaf is most excellent! As always, we can thank our eGulleteer forebears, who have been struggling with this existential dilemma for some time. For burgers, there's the The Perfect Burger thread, a slew of threads in the regional forums on burger hunts, the Turkey Burger thread, and the How to Cook a Burger at Home thread. For meatloaf expertise, we have one meatloaf thread, another meatloaf thread, a Meat Loaf Sandwich thread, the best of the several Terrine threads, and the aforementioned "Don't Make Fun!" thread, in which both burgers and meat loaf are discussed.
  6. I just got Society member David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert out from the library. I know that he's a big favorite here in the P&B forum, especially for his Perfect Scoop book (topic here). However, there's no topic for this 2010 book, a new edition of many of the recipes from his first two, out-of-print books, Room for Dessert and Ripe for Dessert. I'm eager to see what people have done with it, as it looks fantastic. Has anyone tried any of recipes in the book? If you have a favorite from Room or Ripe, what is it?
  7. Lasagna -- eG Cook-Off 52

    We were wondering what a good next cook-off would be when Restaurants and Institutions posted this list of the Top 10 Most Googled Recipes of 2009. We compared it to our eG Cook-Off Index and realized that we'd hit most of those main dishes save one. So: Welcome to the latest eG Cook-Off 52, lasagna! We've had a few discussions on the dish (click here and here) but long ago. Given the poke from Restaurants and Institutions, it seemed an update was in order. I've often made both the bolognese & bechamel version as well as the Italian-American red sauce & ricotta, mozzarella, and parmiggiano version, and I love 'em both. I'm also a convert to using as many fresh ingredients as possible, most especially the pasta itself. With kids in the house, it's a fun dish to assemble, and they wolf it down. So is anyone up for some lasagna al forno?
  8. As far as I can tell -- and, believe me, I've been working hard to disprove what I'm about to say -- this is the very last bottle of Inner Beauty Real Hot Sauce on the planet: I became a fan of Inner Beauty two decades ago, when Chris Schlesinger brought his grillin' and BBQin' to Cambridge MA at East Coast Grill. After a while, this legendary hot sauce (mustard-based, with fruit, spices, and habaneros) started appearing in grocery stores throughout NE and became a big hit on the burgeoning hot sauce circuit. It was my go-to hot sauce, and I probably went through a bottle every couple of months during the heyday. But then, for reasons that I've never understood (nor, honestly, been told), Schlesinger stopped making the stuff. It started disappearing from market shelves, so in the early oughts I bought all I could find and hoarded it. Well, until I ate it all, too quickly. See, I was confident that I'd find little caches here and there if I looked hard enough, but for two years I came up empty. I also tried making it based on some recipes floating around, but, well, it's not the same. I gave up hope. Two years ago, while on a trip to visit family in -- of all places -- Bisbee, Arizona, we ambled into a gift store to get a few cold Cokes on a blistering July afternoon. Lurking on the shelves of that tiny store, next to gew-gaws and bric-a-brac, were the last two bottles of Inner Beauty in the world. It took me nearly two years to make my way through the first bottle, and I'm now into the second, and last. I don't know how to think about it. How do you eat the very last of something in the world, something you've treasured for most of your adult life? Do you have little dribs and drabs, spread out over years? Or do you consume it with verve and pleasure, the way it was meant to be enjoyed? The whole concept puts me in an existential dilemma that I have faced, largely, with confusion. Has anyone had a dilemma like this themselves -- or are you in one now? What did -- do -- you do?
  9. Chili – Cook-Off 15

    Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index. For our fifteenth Cook-Off, we're making chili. I'll admit that most cook-off dishes are inspired by compelling tales from eGulleteers, or particularly memorable dishes, or somesuch. This time around, it was the What is wrong with this chili thread that did it. In that thread lurks a recipe so utterly defiling that it forced me to do a cook-off to erase the Frankenchili from memory. Click, ye who dare. But chili seems a good cook-off dish for a lot of reasons. There's lots of secret tricks (peanut butter, cinnamon, baby arugula and fig jam ) to share; cuts of meat must be discussed; the great bean debate can be commenced, as can those devoted to rice, cheese, onions, sour cream, chocolate chips (I'm not kidding), and other toppings. Who knows: someone might actually post a vegetarian chili and risk ridicule from a Lone Star Stater! Finally and as always, the eGullet Society is boiling over with experts ready to share ideas and recipes for this dish. Start by clicking here,here,here,and here.We've also got RecipeGullet recipes here,here,here,here (purists beware),here (ditto),and here (double ditto). You got a beef about how chili must be made? Let's hear it! Get out the dutch ovens and crock pots, people! And if anyone wants to take a crack at the Frankenchili, we're all dying to know!
  10. Nukazuke Pickling

    There's a recipe for nukazuke pickles in the new Modernist Cuisine book, and I'm very curious about giving it a go. Snooping around on the internet, I can't get a bead on necessary other ingredients besides rice bran, salt, and kombu; cabbage, bread, and a lot of other options seem possible. Strangely, Tsuji's Simple Art has no reference -- so I turn to you! Surely there are nukazuke experts out there. Tips? Warnings? How long can your pickle bed last?
  11. Calling all potable Fernet Branca recipes. A quick google produced little, and save for FB and ginger ale -- or the variations of hangover cures -- I couldn't find too much here at eG. Let's hear 'em!
  12. I worked in a couple of restaurant kitchens as a young adult, and no one ever kept the aluminum stuff out of the dishwasher. I never used to hold my own aluminum popcorn pot out of the dishwasher until I read, somewhere, that Calphalon recommended keeping their anodized stuff out. Now I'm vexed. Fat Guy tells me that he ignores the recommendations and has been putting his aluminum stuff into the dishwasher every day for years. I'm particularly interested because the KitchenAid grinder components have aluminum on them and need, for obvious reasons, very sanitary cleaning. So what's the scoop? What exactly happens to aluminum in the dishwasher? What do you do?
  13. Meat Slicers: The Topic

    On Friday, April 28, at 9:32 am, Chris Amirault welcomed into his loving home this magnificent vintage Hobart Meat Slicer, weighing in at well over fifty pounds. Hobart was adopted thanks to the fine folks at craigslist for $100, and he's in good working order. Here's a few photos of the little bugger: That's the turkey breast I brined and roasted, sliced nice and thin. This beast is fantastic. I took it apart -- it's all screws and grease and metal, so I could figure it out more or less -- cleaned it, sharpened the blade, and it's working like a charm. Plus it's absolutely beautiful, don't cha think? So... what to do with it? I'm planning on curing ham, bresaola, and who knows what, smoking turkey, roasting beef, the usual and I'll slice 'em up with this baby. I'm also thinking about carpaccio at home, something I've craved but never managed to pull off for obvious reasons. What else is there to try? And does anyone know of any things I should be doing to keep it in good shape other than keeping it clean and sharp? Finally, I'd love to hear about other people's slicers. What do you do with them? Where do you store them? What do you use them for?
  14. Shrubs

    I want to learn about shrubs. I am drinking a lovely beverage made from the following: 2 oz Appleton V/X 1 oz pineapple shrub* 1 oz lime Shake; strain over fresh rocks in a highball glass while adding a bit (2 oz?) of soda. It's tart, refreshing, and I want to make many, many more of them. The pineapple shrub consists of a combination of piloncillo and banana vinegar from Rancho Gordo, some crushed pineapple and pineapple juice, and the leftovers from a session making noodles from a pineapple core. I had to adjust it so I don't have an exact recipe yet, but this is a very promising addition to the bar: tart, complex because of the very ripe pineapple, vinegar, and piloncillo, and with a splash of this and a bit of bubbles, a very easy item to use. Makes me realize that there's a world of interesting shrubbery (insert Monty Python joke here) I need to learn. Where to start?
  15. Culinary Classifieds

    Welcome to the Culinary Classifieds topic, in which food industry professionals can post job announcements or post about positions they are seeking. All posts must be reviewed by an appropriate host or manager: please contact support@egullet.org if you have a submission. All submissions must include: detailed job description job location (business, address) contact information (PM, email, phone, fax) links to relevant other material All correspondence concerning jobs must take place off eG Forums. Only one post per listing is allowed.
  16. It's better than my homemade version, which truth be told I haven't made for a while.....
  17. Japanese Whisk(e)y

    I've been a fan of Suntory Yamazaki 12 for a while now; bought my dad a bottle a few years ago and squirreled away a tasty bottle for myself in the process. Now in Tokyo, I've been pretty happy with the cheap supermarket-available Kirin 100 proof whisky (~$10 for 600 ml) for splashing over these killer Japanese rocks with some water, mizuwari-style. However, this Nikka Yoichi whisky (~$12 for 500 ml at, yes, the supermarket) is killer: funky, rich, and aromatic, I'd stock it at home instead of Dewar's White Label, Famous Grouse, or even Asyla as a quality base "scotch." Butterscotch toffee, seaweed, blue cheese: what's not to love? These dips of the toe into Japanese whisk(e)y suggest that something's afoot concerning distilling, quality, and price points around here. I'm thinking of bringing back a few liters of this Yoichi stuff for friends and family. Surely there are other great options out there, yes?
  18. My memory is not as good as yours, I fear, but it seems to be based on the IBRHS. It's very good, to be sure! I went through one bottle quickly but am saving the next. When I crack it open I'll report back.
  19. Well how about this! I gave up hope for sating my Inner Beauty jones long ago... until this morning!!
  20. Techniques for Roasting Potatoes

    When it's roasting season, I often find myself at the store grabbing a whole chicken, some green vegetables (asparagus and broccoli rabe today), and a few nice looking potatoes to roast (baby yukon golds). As these are one of the most celebrated items in my toolkit, I thought I'd share my technique -- and see if others have any additional tips. Those in the UK have their own take on the matter of roasted potatoes. Our own maggiethecat explores the complexities of this tradition in her McArthur's Law and Roast Potatoes, and you can read Heston Blumenthal's method by clicking here. However, I've got a method that avoids the parboiling entirely and turns out great spuds. I roast at a high temperature (450-500F), and I place the pan (usually a large Le Creuset frying pan) into the oven during preheating so that it gets very hot. If I have whole potatoes, I cut them into equivalent ~2" chunks; if I have small ones, I don't cut them, as contact between the crispy skin and the hot pan is a critical part of the result. However, having learned the hard way, I poke each one a few times with a wooden skewer. The next step is key: I put the potatoes into a bowl and cover them with way more olive oil than you think I should use. I also season them very liberally with salt and pepper. I toss everything to coat and wait for the oven to warm up. I've been extremely flexible regarding the fat: I regularly use olive oil but have used duck fat, schmaltz, lard, and ghee as well. Why the very hot oven -- way over the smoke point -- doesn't produce smoke is beyond me, but it doesn't; opinions on that science are welcome. You can also see if you want to add other seasonings like garlic cloves, rosemary, curry powder, smoked paprika, whole shallots, and so on. You also need to determine when you'll add those items: rosemary, garlic, and shallots can withstand the intense heat for the full 40-60 minutes, whereas other ingredients may well burn and should be added halfway through the cooking. When you're ready to go, quickly dump the potatoes into the pan and scrape everything from that bowl into it. It will crackle and sputter intensely -- be careful. Then shake the pan vigorously to distribute the ingredients, and get it back in the oven. Set your timer to go off every 5-10 minutes and shake shake shake when it does; start testing them with a pinch (if you have asbestos fingers) or a fork. I've learned that it's pretty hard to overcook these guys if you're checking regularly, and the range of cooking varies for different potatoes based on variety, age, size, and so on. When they're done, dump everything into a bowl (again, scrape that oil out) and you can hold it for a while as you finish other items, they stay searingly hot for a long time. Does anyone else use this method? What other potato roasting methods are out there? What are the additional components you like to add?
  21. Mastika/Mastiha

    Does anyone have any information about mastika/matiha, the Greek liqueur made from mastic?
  22. All About Bitters (Part 2)

    No Angostura at Proof in DC. Who's out where? [Moderator note: The original All About Bitters topic became too large for our servers to handle efficiently, so we've divided it up; the preceding part of this discussion is here: All About Bitters (Part 1)]
  23. Gumbo -- Cook-Off 3

    Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index. For our third Cook-Off, we've chosen gumbo (or gumbo ya-ya), the roux-based cajun stew. Unlike char siu bao, at which I'm still a novice, I've been making gumbo since I first taught myself to cook in college, starting with Paul Prudhomme's recipe in his first book (which I was fortunate to watch the kitchen cook on a trip to K-Paul's in 1986), and working through virtually every recipe I've found. Gumbo is an astonishingly varied dish, much like cassoulet, about which there are great arguments concerning what must or must not go into the pot: gumbo file powder (ground sassafras), crawfish, andouille sausage, okra, fish, chicken, pork, hocks.... The agreed-upon basics involve a dark roux (flour and oil paste), to which diced onions, bell peppers, and celery are added, to which a hot stock is incrementally added, to which seasonings are added, absolutely including a good batch of ground chili pepper. From there, the sky's the limit. As it turns out, I made a massive batch of gumbo last night (with sides of collards, corn bread, and rice), most of which is being frozen for the arrival of Bebe, our daughter, due March 27 or thereabouts. I was able to use some wonderful fresh Maine shrimp and excellent monkfish tails, but: in my haste I didn't fry up the okra dipped in cornmeal to sprinkle on the top, the quality of the chicken turned out to be mediocre, and the "andouille" was chicken sausage from Whole Foods (please don't revoke my eGullet membership because of this -- ). But, like sex, even when homemade gumbo isn't good, it's GOOD, so I'm game for another batch real soon! So get out your digital cameras and stew pots!
  24. Best Ways to Cook Bacon

    So Hennes is over here cooking bacon at 225F for 5 hours. That got me wondering about ideal bacon cooking techniques. Me, I think I'm going to make bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches for the fam tomorrow night. I'm thinking about 200F during the 8h work day, perhaps between two Silpats and pressed with a sheet pan. You?
  25. Pasta Extruders: 2011-

    Society members Alex and Aki (twodogs) over at Ideas in Food have been displaying some remarkable pasta made with their Arcobaleno extruder. I need another kitchen gadget like I need a whole in my head, particularly one that has no price listed on the website but instead offers a "Financing" tab. But that doesn't prevent me from living vicariously from y'all. So who's got a good extruder out there these days? Even the hand-cranked ones are in the $400 range, it seems. Any budget options for those of us who just must make bucatini at home somehow?