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Blair P. Houghton

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  1. On the imperviousness of aluminum oxide, well, it's not. Acids typically act as reducing agents, stripping away the oxide (that's why a batch of tomato sauce cleans up your steel pans so nicely). But, once it's dry, the aluminum will react with the air to replace the oxide layer. And aluminum's food-chemistry tricks aren't limited to ordinary acids. Just for fun, boil up a batch of hotdogs in an aluminum pan, then leave the hotdog water (minus the dogs) in the pan overnight. The schmutz you'll find floating around in the water the next morning is aluminum nitrate, precipitated by the reaction of nitrates (hot dog preservatives) with the aluminum in the pan. The aluminum oxide layer didn't stop it. As most have noted, the reactivity of aluminum isn't noticeable in most cooking, but it's there. The point of anodizing aluminum is to take the oxidation process one step further, creating an oxidized surface that really is impervious to food chemistry, and most mechanical attacks. Anionic detergents like dish soap won't hurt it, but the cationic detergents in your automatic dishwasher can erode it over time, and you can actually buy products designed to strip anodizing from aluminum.
  2. Steak is ambiguous. Rare is too. Steaks come in all kinds of cuts and thicknesses, with and without bones, and with varying degrees of internal fat (marbling). All of these affect how the steak will turn out given the same heat and the same time. For example, leaner meat will cook-through faster than well-marbled meat. Meat near the bone will cook slower, which will be noted sharply by those who do not like any rare meat. Rare is a wide range of results. It goes from cold-centered with visible veins of congealed fat (yummy with tender USDA Prime beef, unappetizing with lesser meat) to a sort of bloody pink. But this is a good thing, because it means you have a broad tolerance for temperature and time that will still produce the red, raw center you like. And for any doneness in the center, there will be a gradient of doneness between there and the surface. The question is how narrow can you make the band that you don't want. When not taking it to Pittsburgh (nearly charred outside, almost totally rare inside), I personally shoot for a seared exterior, a quarter inch of pink, and the rest lukewarm red. That's 2.5 minutes per side on my grill, but grills are of course another ambiguity in the system. I can't do Pittsburgh on my grill, for instance. I have to pay the big bucks at a place that has Prime meat and a serious supply of BTUs. You're right to go by internal temperature for the first one. After that, you'll have positive reinforcement, and will figure out your gong-fu soon enough.
  3. That's pretty much how it works. Check out the Usenet groups for AA, alcoholism, and recovery, too. And don't forget the wetware resources.
  4. Nice read, even if the denouement had the flavor of a writer taking off in a hurry to get a drink... Brings up a couple of points: 1. I'm on the trail of the Sazerac myself, and coincidentally sidetracked into Manhattans while I wait for the ingredients to become available. As I'm thinking of using real Absinthe (the authentic choice), I won't have to worry about Herbsaint, but the Peychaud's bitters are a bear. I can either wait until the sole local liquor store that stocks it gets theirs, or I can go to the Sazerac Company website and order a bottle. I have no doubt I'm only trading time for money, as I have no doubt that's precisely where the store buys it, though they might get a wholesale discount to go with the volume savings on shipping. That's where the Herbsaint comes from, too, btw. The anise liquor is reportedly not in the original cocktail, so if you're trying to hit for the historical cycle, you need to try one without it, and then one with Absinthe, and then one with real Absinthe, if it can be found anywhere on Earth any more. 2. Rye. I could go on for days, and somewhere around this website I may have, about Rye. Suffice to say, many groceries will stock Jim Beam Rye, which comes in a bright yellow label. Wild Turkey makes a Rye in 80 and 101-proof models, which is available in at least one grocery near me, and several liquor stores. Old Overholt is the third-most-popular brand, and I have yet to try it, though I have seen it on the shelf, once. Rye makes the Sazerac and the best Manhattans. It's due for a comeback. 3. Nigglings of alcoholism. I've had my own doubts about myself, but, well, it turns out I'm a savant, not an addict. I'll get just as obsessed about root beer, orange soda, then plain water, then rye, then diet coke, beer, red and white wine, and so on. Alcohol is a flavor and I have a non-debilitating epicurean OCD. Knock wood (and check the specific gravity of the hooch that's aging within). But I didn't know this until I presumed I was an alcoholic and falsified that hypothesis. There's a whole universe of resources on the web to help you gauge your caste within the addict world. It can never hurt to check them out, call some experts, maybe go to a meeting or two, just to see; and it can help, a lot, to the point of adding decades to your life while saving you fortunes and relationships when your obsession turns towards detective work about your own personality. A real alcoholic is in denial, so his own research is suspect, and the objectivity of others is valuable.
  5. Where is your room? A room in France will be warmer than a room in Scotland, for instance. And it sounds like the "almost-seized ganache" was light on liquid, and was almost seized. Though butter brings a little water, so maybe it's intended to un-seize it. What's the recipe? And where was it developed?
  6. I totally concur. I don't even like sitting three seats away from people who are ordering the things. But then, I'm often working over a Black&Tan at the time, so I have my own hypocrisy and guilt to help me decide to keep drinking...
  7. Once you aged it, it wouldn't be "vodka" in my book. A vodka that was distilled from grain and then aged in wood would thereafter be "grain whiskey," one distilled from grapes and aged in wood would be "brandy" and so on. Not sure there is any precedent for an aged distillate of potatoes, so I don't know what that would be called. I should point out that all these wood-aged formerly-vodkas would be very uninteresting compared to regular aged spirits, because they would have had all the character distilled/rectified out of them when they were made into vodka. ← Whisky recipes specify an upper limit on the alcohol content before aging. Vodka is distilled until the alcohol and water are azeotropic (i.e., their proportions are such that the boiling mixture releases water and alcohol vapor in the same proportions as are in the liquid, so it never gets stronger), at about 190 proof; then it's diluted with water. So aging that would be slightly different from aging whisky. In exactly the way you point out. They'd be very slightly about the spirit, and mostly about the wood. Balsamic Vodka, perhaps?
  8. Blair P. Houghton

    Taddy Porter

    I just tucked into one and it had none of that. Creamy to start, yummy to finish.
  9. Does it have to be all at once? ← And does it imply a causal relationship?
  10. Blair P. Houghton

    Beer Glassware

    Mexico is very much a "tied house" country. The bar and/or beer store will either carry Groupo Modelo products or FEMSA** products, because, usually, that's who owns the place. (It's illegal for brewers and distillers to own bars in America. Guinness built a pub in Tempe, Arizona, then found out and had to change the name and ownership, but of course its being an Irish bar means they're still covering several of the taps. They're just not making a profit on the boxty.) So you have to plan your cerveza crawl carefully if you have a preference. * - Corona, Modelo, Pacifico, et al ** - Tecate, Dos Equis, Carta Blanca, et al (interestingly, they also brew Coors Light for the Mexican market)
  11. I "discovered" Shiner Bock in a tub of ice at Sonny Bryan's in Dallas in the summer of 2000, and fell in love. It took a few months before it was available in bottles in Phoenix, and it turns out it doesn't travel well. It develops an edge. Not quite a skunkiness, but the smoothness is roughed up a bit. Then a couple of years later the distros made a push and it started popping up in bars around town -- and on tap! But again, it had that "export" tinge to it. And then it waned. I can always find it at the grocery store, and most bbq joints, but most of the bars have rotated other things into their precious keg-room real estate. This morning, a good friend left to move to central Texas. I'm looking forward to contriving a late-summer trip to visit her, or maybe during Bocktoberfest. We want to do the Shiner nursery tour and then I can taste the brew in its creamy infant state.
  12. Watching a ballgame, digesting a chili burger, swilling a Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter. Don't get no better, bra.
  13. And would anyone with experience sampling Callebaut products like to make a comparison?
  14. I hope it's totally out of season. The only local supermarket that stocks them loose in the produce section had them at $49.99/lb last week... if that's the in-season price... hoo... It's a good thing I'm not a fanatic. --Blair
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