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Chris Amirault

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Chris Amirault

  1. Chris Amirault

    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. Chris Amirault

    The Greatest Fork in the World

    It used to be that the any given fork in my silverware drawer consisted of four lengthy, slim tines attached to a firm, sizable shaft and handle. But then hell broke loose, in the form of smaller, fatter tines and shorter, slimmer handles. I was dejected. And then I found this Gibson fork -- not one, but two of them: That's it at the bottom. This 8 1/4" piece of genius is perfect for flaking chicken, beating an egg, shaping gnocchi, and doing about a thousand other things. Perhaps you don't have one of these perfect forks and wish you had this one, in which case I'm sorry for you. Perhaps, like me, you do have a perfect fork, and you can share in its glory here.
  3. Chris Amirault

    Ratatouille--Cook-Off 42

    Welcome to the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off! Click here for the Cook-Off index. There was this rat, and he wanted to be a cook. When he finally made it into the kitchen of a Parisian restaurant, he needed some help coming up with a signature dish to impress the critics. So he sent his producer to stage a few days at the French Laundry, a little-known, out-of-the-way joint run by a guy named Thomas Keller. Keller had come up with a dish he called "byaldi," and with a bit of tweaking, handed over a recipe for Thomas Keller's "confit byaldi." Rat made it, critic was thrilled, everyone's happy. A little while later, this eGullet Society member, KarenM, prints out the recipe and makes this thing of beauty: Fortunately, there were many dozen grateful Heartlanders eager to devour the dish, which some of them called by its ancestral name: ratatouille. Ratatouille is the perfect late summer Cook-Off. Shockingly, we have only one topic dedicated to it, but it's a beaut. You'll find disagreements about whether ratatouille should be a jammy, stewy ratatouille or a discretely sautéed and layered dish. Advocates of Provencal authenticity face off against the fresh, clean, and bright brigade who know no region. And then there's that picky olive oil question. I'll admit that I've always hated ratatouille, which has been throughout my life the potluck dish I should avoid at all costs, so I'm game to figure out how to make something that doesn't suck. I also have no fear of the mandoline, if it comes to that. So where do you stand? Jammy goodness or definitive elements? Are you a Provencal stickler or a "what's ready in my garden" free spirit?
  4. Chris Amirault

    Ossobuco -- eG Cook-Off 44

    Welcome to eGullet Cook-Off XLIV! Click here for the Cook-Off index. We've just devoted a Cook-Off to braised brisket, and we're turning again to moist, well-cooked proteins for our next adventure: ossobuco. You will see it spelled a number of different ways out there, but Marcella Hazan refers to it as one word in her definitive Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, so I'm going with that spelling. No reason to argue with Marcella, after all. Ossobuco is braised veal shank, named after the "bone with a hole" that used to be attached to the hind shank of a calf. (Let's all agree to stick to veal, and not have, say, halibut ossobuco. ) The classic Milanese version includes vegetables, tomatoes, wine, and broth, and is served with risotto alla milanese, perfumed with saffron, and with gremolada. Some of the versions out there are a bit wacky. In particular, The Silver Spoon Cookbook simmers the 2" thick shanks for 30 minutes atop the stove. Given that Hazan has 1 1/2" shanks in a 350F oven for two hours, I'm pretty sure the SSC is a waste of good veal. Indeed, I'd think that a much lower oven for longer would work wonders. There are more things to talk about here than just braising temps and times! For example, many other versions of ossobuco depart from the Milanese approach. In her out-of-print More Classic Italian Cooking, Hazan provides the recipe for Ossobuchi in Bianco, the white referring to a sauce lacking tomato. In The Fine Art of Italian Cooking, Giuliano Bugialli offers ossobuco Florentine style, with peas and pancetta, and Lynne Rossetto Kasper's Italian Country Table offers a home-style version with mushrooms, favas or snap peas, and more intense flavors such as anchovy, sage, and rosemary. We have one short discussion of ossobuco here, and an even shorter one on wine pairings here. Indeed, as is often the case with Italian food, the best discussion is the one shepherded by Kevin72, the Cooking and Cuisine of Lombardia, which muses on on the dish's origins and execution throughout. I'm wondering a few things myself. Some folks say that braised veal cannot be reheated, unlike other dishes that benefit from a night in the fridge. I'm also wondering what other sorts of sides -- polenta, say, or the Italian mashed potatoes that Hazan suggests for the ossobuchi in bianco -- would work and/or are traditional. So who wants to welcome the new year with some bones with holes?
  5. Chris Amirault

    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?
  6. Chris Amirault

    eG Cook-Off 55: Shrimp & Grits

    Welcome to the eGullet Cook-off 55: Shrimp & Grits. Click here for the Cook-off index. Let's just start with a shameful fact: until this moment, eG Forums has had no topic dedicated to making this classic southern dish. True, there's this rambly topic on the origins and particulars of shrimp & grits, and this one on a shrimp & cauliflower "grits" project by Chappie, and a couple dozen on grits basics. But nothing focused on preparing shrimp & grits. Perhaps this is because many think of it as a dish without need for specificity or even care. I mentioned to someone recently that I had to do some prep for a shrimp & grits dinner; he retorted, "How much prep is there?" I suppose you could toss some grits into boiling water, toss some shrimp into a skillet, dump B onto A and call it done. But that seems unfair, doesn't it? The grits below can be a simple foil for dolled-up shrimp, or they can be the luxurious star, creamy, cheese-y, and more. Additional ingredients, garnishes, and accompaniments vary widely, too. If you've had a top-notch version of the dish, you know it isn't just, well, shrimp & grits. Even this Yankee knows that it's good for what ail's you, late winter blues included. So let's see what your basic recipe is, and then you can show us what you do to kick things up a notch. So to speak.
  7. 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!
  8. Chris Amirault

    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?
  9. Chris Amirault

    Fresh Beef Tongue: Buying, Preparing

    Today's NYTimes food section includes an article on tongue by Society member Joan Nathan, who points out that the demographics of tongue consumption are changing in the US: This corresponds to my experience -- and prompts questions. I can buy tongue any day of the week at my local Portuguese butcher, he who provides me with pork belly, local rabbit, and many other things Whole Foods scorns. But I've never bought or prepared it, and don't have a keen sense of where to start with either decision. The Times includes one recipe for fresh tongue with capers and cornichons, but there are no consumer tips that I can find. How does one shop for fresh tongue? What are some of your favorite ways to prepare it?
  10. Chris Amirault

    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?
  11. Chris Amirault

    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.
  12. 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?
  13. 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?
  14. Chris Amirault

    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!
  15. Chris Amirault

    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?
  16. 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!
  17. 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?
  18. Chris Amirault

    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?
  19. Chris Amirault

    Types of Mint Used in Cocktails

    There's been a lot of talk around here devoted to mint muddling styles that address the differences between dry vs. wet, pressure, and the like (you can start in media res here or scroll to the top), but I've not found any discussions of types of mint. We have two massive pots devoted to peppermint and spearmint here, and I tend to pull a few sprigs from both when making juleps, French Pearls, Gingered Gentlemen, and so on. However, I've probably not paid sufficient attention to which type of mint would be better in different drinks. For example, I'm wondering if peppermint is a good choice for French Pearls, whereas the bite from ginger might make spearmint better for the GGs. Who's already done the research on this one? And whatcha got?
  20. Chris Amirault

    Scotch Cocktails

    Inspired by Erik's excursion in the Savoy Affinity Cocktail (click), when I saw a bottle of the Compass Box Asyla scotch, I snapped it up. I made a few Affinity Cocktails and haven't been swept away. However, today I snooped around www.cocktaildb.com and found The Bairn, a fine simple cocktail with scotch, Cointreau, and orange bitters. The first, which was lovely, was with Regan's bitters; the second just now, which was utterly transcendent, was with Fee Brothers -- particularly with an orange twist that's a bit fatter than it ought to be. It got me to thinking that there are probably some fine scotch cocktails out there that get short shrift because of the overwhelming tendency to drink scotch neat. Others?
  21. Chris Amirault


    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?
  22. Thanks to Mud Puddle Books and Adam at the Boston Shaker, I now have a copy of David Embury's incredible Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. It's a decisive, encyclopedic book, filled with compelling discussions -- or, perhaps, more accurately, pronouncements -- of virtually every aspect of the cocktail experience. (It's also dated, not only in regards to available ingredients but also to gender mores and the like; keeping its historical moment in mind, however, even the lengthy diatribes are entertaining.) Embury is unapologetic about most things, and, to this reader, his self-embrace is most heartening. Indeed, writing in the sad, watery wake of Prohibition's repeal, Embury suggests that it is the obsessive home mixologist, and not the carefree bartender, who must carry forth the spirit of the cocktail. As an obsessive home mixologist, I find this ennobling. As has been noted in a few places (including the reviews at the Amazon link above), the current edition of the book contains a shocking number of typographical errors. One of the reasons I started the topic was to be able to track any corrections to recipes that we find. But this book should prompt more discussion posts than errata finger-points. Who's got it? What do you think of it? What have you made from it?
  23. Chris Amirault

    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.
  24. Chris Amirault

    Uses of Gum Arabic

    Just got a pound of gum Arabic from Frontier Coop. There are dozens of mentions of gum Arabic in the Spirits & Cocktails forum, but I'm having a hard time figuring out specifics for applications in orgeat, grenadine, gum syrup (in non-massive amounts), etc. So what do people use it for? In what proportions? Feel free to suggest experiment; I'm game for anything.
  25. Chris Amirault

    Irish Whiskey Cocktails

    There's Cameron's Kick and The Tipperary. What else? Andy, you say you love you some Irish whiskey cocktails: what are they?