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mizducky

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Everything posted by mizducky

  1. I have a love/hate relationship with celery. In cooking, I find it almost as indispensible as onion--as part of a mirepoix, in salads and sandwiches, in stirfries and soups, etc. I even still like it raw on its own, occasionally. But having been traumatized by a few too many attempts at dieting over the years, I can get into a headspace in which "raw celery sticks = diet trauma = AAAAEEIIIII!!!!" - which is not conducive to happy eating experiences.
  2. Heh. I had an old friend with a chronically late sister. Said sister actually had the nerve to say, one time: "You can take any situation, and add 20 minutes of lateness, and turn it into an event!" My friend immediately looked her sister in the eye and said "That does it. I'm never waiting for you again." I'd give a late member of my dinner party maybe 20 minutes grace (including taking myself off to a secluded spot to discreetly call their cell and see what's up with them). If I can't reach them or otherwise see no sign of them at that point, I'm taking the table myself and ordering. If I'm one of several punctual people waiting on one tardy person, I might not even wait that long. That puts all further consequences of their lateness squarely on the head of the late person. "Oh sorry, I guess we've finished dinner already. Too bad for you, sport." One of my current best friends is constitutionally incapable of being on time for anything, but this is a known problem he has, and he is totally okay with people starting without him. At least he does arrive eventually.
  3. I'm sorry, but I forget whether Toronto is the Canadian city known for its excellent Chinese food. If it is, then these trucks might be significant, because I haven't come across any other Chinese food trucks near campuses in my search. ← FWIW, one of the food trucks I mentioned in my previous post as adjacent the Harvard campus reportedly serves Chinese food. Boston does have a small but active Chinatown, but I'm aware of no great regional significance of the Chinese food truck. One of the other trucks, though, does serve subs and pizza and lasagna, which *possibly* could be an influence of Boston's North End/Italian population, I dunno ...
  4. Thank you! Just as drool-inspiring as I remembered! (Dang, now I'm jonesing for some Indian sweets... )
  5. You do what I did when I lived in Seattle--you get your Manhattan-based blood relatives to ship you care packages.
  6. Heh. And while we're inveighing against bagel abominations ... who started this business of embedding a poor defenseless bagel with raisins, blueberries, and other sweet items?!? Bagels are supposed to be savory or at least neutral, not a stand-in for a danish! Vhat, I'm going to put my lovely novy lox and onion slice on something that tastes like cinnamon toast? I mean, really. I figure it must be a plot by the same people who came up with the idea of putting pineapple on pizza (shudder).
  7. Cookbooks of most any size tend to drive me crazy--they won't lie flat, so the pages flip on me while I turn away to mess with the stove or whatever, losing my place. Or in my efforts to get them to lie flat with weights or whatnot, I wind up with a broken binding--especially aggravating in a fat perfect-bound paperback because then the pages start coming loose and threatening to get lost. And that's leaving aside the whole issue of huge cookbooks that weigh too much and take up way too much workspace. Wish more cookbook publishers would take a cue from the old Betty Crocker cookbooks that came in a three-ring binder. Or even the old Joy of Cooking, which came with two sewn-in ribbon bookmarks, and a sturdy enough binding that I've abused my copy for 25 years without cracking the spine. A friend of mine had a clear acrylic cookbook stand that looked something like this--worked pretty well at taming the more recalcitrant cookbooks, and also protected the pages from (most) spatters.
  8. Originally, the term "buttermilk" referred to the liquid left after whole milk was churned into butter. Nowadays the buttermilk available in US stores is commerically made, separate from butter-making, by fermenting milk with bacteria--a little like yogurt, but more fluid, and a different flavor (I'm guessing because it's a different bacterium than the ones used in yogurt-making). Side-effect of my chicken experiment: I have reminded myself of how much I like buttermilk. And I've got most of a container left over--time to make some home-made ranch dressing ...
  9. Thanks for the encouragement, Mr. Mayhaw (and everybody else). I was wondering about my thermometer's positioning too. I was definitely having some trouble keeping it properly submerged without touching the bottom of the pan--it got a little easier, of course, when the chicken was in the pan and raised the fat depth, but the tip was still at most an inch deep into the fat. Another reason to seek a different thermo, hopefully with a more accomodating design.
  10. Fried chicken experiment #1: Well, that was an, erm, interesting learning experience. I should have known I was in for trouble when I hit the Von's last night and found no whole fryers whatsoever. Some whole (6-lb) roasters, but no fryers. I had wanted to just do thighs anyway, but the only packages of thighs I could find, as others here have encountered, must have come from giant mutant bionic birds. Still, I was dead-set on frying, so I said "hell with it" and bought the humongous thighs anyway, blythely assuming I'd make them work somehow. This was probably my first mistake. Second mistake was inevitable: trusting that the elderly, wimpy, and capricious electric range top in the equally capricious rental house I share with Fearless Housemate was up to this task. I could not keep the goddamn temperature regulated on that burner to save myself. Yes, there was the expected temp drop when pieces first went in the pan. But even when I got that stabilized, the thermostat on the burner would cycle or something, sending the temp caroming up or down a good 50 degrees with little warning and no easy way to compensate quickly enough. Plus I grew to suspect that the candy/fry thermometer with which I was attempting to ride herd on this procedure was off. My Crisco was already beginning to let off wisps of smoke while the thermo read barely 340 deg. F. (It shouldn't be smoking until 360, right?) But it was too late--or, perhaps more accurately, I was feeling too stubborn--to turn back now. The chicken fryer was ready for action, or as ready as it was going to get: My chicken had already come out of its buttermilk soak: ... and was sitting there all floured and ready to go: And so I proceeded. Immediately, I realized that I was having a problem with the coating turning way too black, way too fast: And nomatter how I struggled with keeping the temp at what my thermo insisted was 350 deg. F, the chicken kept on getting way too black. The finished burnt offerings: The chicken meat inside is actually pretty much done--maybe a hair underdone by some people's standards. But that coating! Sigh. My theory about the over-blackening was that it was equal parts overly-hot/poorly regulated fat temp, and too much heat zapping directly from the laboring electric coil through the pan bottom to the chicken pieces--exacerbated by the fact that the chicken pieces, being overly heavy, were not just lightly resting on the bottom but just lying there splat pressed right up on it. So, I've retired from the field to lick my wounds--and those pieces of chicken not so dark that even I wouldn't face them--and to contemplate things to try the next time I pull this experiment: 1. Yes, the gargantua-thighs Do Not Work Right. Next time when confronted with bionic chicken parts, maybe I should go for a packet of wings--bet they'd have been the size of normal chicken thighs. Or maybe I need to invest in a good Chinese-style cleaver to whack each thigh in half through the bone, the way I used to see my grad-school acquaintances from China do it. 2. Get a better thermometer. 'Nuff said. 3. Either get a cast-iron frying implement with a much thicker bottom, or consider getting some kind of flame-tamer to put between the electric burner and the pan bottom, to avoid premature chicken-scorch. 4. Get a whole new gas range top (this, alas, is destined not to happen anytime in the next, oh, gazillion years...) Conclusion: Bummer! But hey, at least y'all can learn from my mistakes, as I offer myself as "a source of innocent merriment," as they sing in the Mikado. P.S. You may also derive amusement from the Late 20th Century Ghetto styling of my kitchen and its appointments, as displayed in all its glory even in the tightly-cropped photos above. But please don't guffaw too loud, okay? At least the rent's not totally ridiculous by San Diego standards...
  11. Heh. Nor am I expecting the *menu* to list every single ingredient. I agree with the sentiment that a lot of more high-endish menus are starting to read a little too much like grocery lists; not that it's a such a big deal to me either way, but yeah, stylistically it can get a little odd-looking. It's the quote in the original article in which the one fellow indicated he'd lie about an ingredient's presence, apparently even in response to a point-blank question about it, that's given me pause. That, I feel, is kinda tempting fate for both customer and restaurant. Edited to add the quote in question--re-reading the article, he doesn't say in so many words that it's his response to a point-blank question, but I don't know how else to read the implications of his choice of wording:
  12. I happen to suffer from gout. While it's pretty well controlled by meds, it can still act up if I eat too much high-purine food. Anchovies are one such high-purine food; they're on the no-go list of almost every anti-gout diet I've ever seen. So, while I don't specifically have an anchovy *allergy*, I do have a medical condition that can be aggravated by them. Now I love anchovies, as well as a whole bunch of other high-purine foods, so I'm always doing a balancing act re how much of these foods I can consume without getting that telltale throb in my big toe. But I can't do that balancing act correctly if I'm not getting full disclosure on the ingredients in my food. Certainly one or two anchovies in a dish isn't enough, usually, to throw me off. But still. This non-disclosure bit does give me pause. (In any anyone wonders--yep, I do know about the tiny bit of anchovy that's supposed to be in Worchestershire sauce. Usually doesn't do a thing to me. But if I'm in the middle of an acute gout attack--which hurts like you wouldn't believe--I go on high alert foodwise and avoid **everything** with even a hint of purines till my system calms down, and that would include the W-sauce. Pain is an amazing motivator. )
  13. Yeah, well, if you really want to go all the way back, there's always that teaching that we were all originally present at Sinai ... I've heard of the seltzer trick, but I've not yet tried it. I've also heard of the baking soda trick, but felt like that was, well, cheating somehow. Well, maybe it isn't really--at least when it's not Pesach, of course--but stubborn me still wants to see if I can make 'em puff without it. I *have* done the bit with letting the dough/batter rest in the fridge for a good hour or two till well-hydrated and well-chilled. And my batters are definitely well on the sticky/gooey side. I use schmaltz, and roll the balls a little under golf-ball size (more like the size of those big shooter-marbles). That has given me my best effort yet--matzoh-balls about halfway between clouds and cannon balls. Which were definitely quite nice, actually. But I still want to reach for the clouds, so to speak. Time to hit the seltzer, I guess. That whole thread on matzoh balls was a helluva lotta fun--thanks for pointing that out!
  14. I'm due to fry tomorrow (while Fearless Housemate is out of town so I don't smoke him out of the house ), and was also contemplating what to cook to accompany the chicken. I know it's not particularly Southern, but I was thinking of taking advantage of that panful of hot fat to maybe do some breaded-and-fried eggplant slices. I have zero experience with cooking okra, but maybe if I find some good-looking okra in the market I'll give that a go too. I've just Googled some sorta-likely-looking okra recipes, but pointers to others are appreciated. (Ummm, maybe PM them to me so we don't send this thread too far off-course? Still a little fuzzy on the egullet etiquette around that...)
  15. I'm a relative newbie here on egullet, but I couldn't help noticing that, even in the short period of time I've been posting here, I've already made at least three different references to food-related stories my mother used to tell me about her childhood in New York City's Lower East Side in the 1930s--plus numerous other references to my family's Jewish-American food foibles. I already knew my cultural culinary heritage meant a whole lot to me, but I'm kind of amused at how obviously it was showing up in my e-presence. My grandparents, when they all came over from Eastern Europe before World War I, pretty much dumped their religious practices immediately, but maintained a deep devotion to Yiddishkeit/the cultural aspect of their heritage. My parents moved out of the city into the suburbs in the 1950s, doing some considerable assimilation along the way, but still carried with them, and instilled in me, a love of the culture and the food. However, while my mother was an excellent cook, she did not cook the old Jewish classics very often herself. Her mother was a fabulous cook--I remember at age eight watching with fascination as she made kreplach and blintzes from scratch--but alas her visits were extremely rare. We saw my father's parents a lot more frequently, but while my paternal grandmother was a lovely woman in many ways, she was that amazing rarity, a Jewish (grand)mother who was a fabulously ***lousy*** cook. (Oy, could I tell you some stories...) Anyway--so while I have major love of Ashkenazic Jewish cuisine, I had scant chance as a child to actually learn how to cook more than a few basics. For example, I became well-versed in making chicken soup the way my mother and her mother did it--but for some reason, my mother *never* made matzoh balls, and while I have labored to teach myself how as an adult, I still have a distressing tendency to produce cannonballs rather than clouds. This was part of a larger mission in my twenties to get a more personal handle on my heritage. Another part involved joining a havurah, which helped in two ways: filling in the whole aspect of religious observance, including all the many food practices and rituals; and since this havurah basically ran on potlucks, I got some immediate in-the-trenches hands-on cooking experience. I moved on from that havurah after several years, but the deep cultural (not to mention spiritual) immersion in that community still influences me to this day. Don't know where else to take this post, except to say: yep, knowing and learning about Jewish cuisines is a biggie for me too. There is still so much for me to learn. I still feel woefully backward in my knowledge of Sephardic cultures and cuisines, for instance. And I still gotta do something about those dangfool matzoh balls. Although I often console myself by thinking about the matzoh-ball story from that classic little book Love and Knishes (and I gotta get myself a new copy of that, too).
  16. I don't recall any kind of food trucks on/around campus when I was at Harvard (1975-1979), but according to this link, they've apparently infiltrated since then.
  17. Another one of my mother's culinary tales from when she was a girl growing up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City's Lower East Side in the 1930s: buying paper cones of chickpeas from street vendors. When I was a child, she and I would often share a snack of chickpeas--alas, from a can in the kitchen, not from a paper cone bought on a street corner--simply seasoned with ground pepper. A lot of legumes I can take or leave, but chickpeas are one of the few I adore (the others are lentils and split peas). Most often, I have them as a snack the way my mother taught me, but I also love hummus (with the tahini, and *lots* of garlic), and felafel. Heck, I like 'em in just about anything--curries, soups, whatever, bring 'em on. I will use the canned ones for expediency, but I really like dried chickpeas cooked by pressure-cooker--somehow it intensifies their innate sweetness.
  18. Heh. As a former resident of Seattle, I always feel like I have to offer karma-preserving apologies to the universe for the unleashing of the Starbucks blight upon the world. In fact, on one of my past jaunts up to Vancouver from Seattle, I was shocked and slightly mortified to see two *$'s on opposite corners of the same intersection. Even in Seattle itself, they're not quite that out of control (although IIRC, there are at least a couple of downtown Seattle outlets within two or three blocks of each other). Definitely enjoying your blog. I recall, on another Vancouver visit, discovering a whole neighborhood of Indian/Sikh stores, restaurants, etc.--am I remembering that right? Would you by any chance be taking a visit to that area? There were whole bunches of Indian sweets on display that I didn't get a chance to sample, and want to torture myself by experiencing vicariously ...
  19. And if you can't wait for the re-run, or just want the text transcript to refer to, you can find that here. For what it's worth: Using Brown's method was my previous and only foray into fried chicken-making, a few years back. Somehow my crust got overly dark, but I think that had more to do with "operator error" than the method (trouble maintaining temperature on an especially balky electric range). Yeah, his finished-chicken internal temp does seem a bit high, though he does have a rationale for that decision which he explains (along with all his other usual copious explanations) in the transcript.
  20. I have a dear friend, who also happens to be a vegetarian, and also, to be perfectly frank, not a very good cook, but who really wanted to cook a birthday dinner for me, her most decidedly carnivorous and food-geeky best friend. I don't know how I wound up suggesting she try making me beef stroganoff--some random craving I had at that moment? Some misplaced idea that stroganoff was hard to screw up? Well, never did I dream that someone--namely my friend--would endeavor to make beef stroganoff with el random cut of tough stewing meat, "sauted" just long enough to turn gray (!), and then simmered *very* thoroughly in a container's-worth of store-bought alfredo sauce. Can you say "pieces of vaguely beef-flavored rubber-band in chalky cheese sauce"? I knew you could. Touched by her devotion, if not her culinary prowess, I managed to get a respectable serving of it down. In subsequent years I suggested that we go to a nice restaurant that carried both vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings, ostensibly so that she could also dine on something she enjoyed. Thankfully, she has never divined the true reason behind that suggestion.
  21. Nope, but I'd love to! Actually, I'd love to try everything mentioned in this topic so far. As a person of Eastern European Jewish heritage, I have a long-standing fondness for smoked, pickled, preserved, and/or stinky fish of every description--some of my fondest childhood food memories are of smoked whitefish, sable, and, yes, sturgeon. Wonderful stuff. And--okay, this isn't stinky fish, but it is a fish-head story: my mom used to regale me with tales of how her mom used to make gefilte fish from scratch--which involved, among other things, buying a live carp and keeping it in the tenement flat's washtub for several days until it purged the mud out of its system, whereupon my Bubbe would kill and disassemble it, using the head as well as the skeleton and other trimmings for the broth in which she'd simmer the fish balls she made from its flesh. But I've never experienced Chinese salt fish--and now I want to! So ... if I should go cluelessly stumbling into the local Asian market looking for salt fish to try and make some of the wonderful-sounding dishes described upstream here (so to speak), what should I be looking for? Um, I did mention I was clueless about this, right?
  22. mizducky

    French cooking

    Au Bon Pain? Yuck! Au mauvais pain! Pain au raisin with raisins with sulfur dioxide! ← Heh. That's exactly why I'm saying I never thought I'd hear myself saying that I missed it.
  23. Uh, yeah, it would have been helpful if I'd posted exact amounts, huh? For a whole chicken cut into 9 or 10 pieces, Anderson winds up recommending a soak of 1.5 cups buttermilk seasoned with 1 tblsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. She says to soak the chicken, refrigerated, for a minimum of two hours and as long as 24--and if you're planning to soak it longer than 8 hours, to reduce the salt to 2 tsp. She also puts 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper into 2 cups AP flour to coat the chicken. (Doesn't say anything specific about how long to rest the coated chicken, by the way, just to put them on a wire rack "until you are ready to fry".) About the salt aspect of her experiments, she says: "I started off with smaller amounts of salt but discovered that the soaking liquid, much like boiling water for pasta, must be seasoned generously for the chicken to absorb the salt. And because only a portion of seasoned flour clings to the chicken parts, it's just as important that it's heavily seasoned as well."
  24. mizducky

    French cooking

    On my one-and-only-ever, so far, trip to France, I really got into the pan bagnats sold by venders on the beaches around Nice. My two cents on the question chefzadi posed: I think some--not all, by any means, but some of it has to do with current food fashions in the US. Whereas some combo of Julia Child's TV presence and the Kennedys' interest in French cuisine caused a surge of interest in French cooking in the States in the 1960s, nowadays the current vogues seem to be around Pacific Rim cuisines, American regional comfort foods, and Italian regional cuisines. Oh, and let's not forget super-spicy cuisines from all over. The US has gone totally bonkers for anything and everything chile, which at least in my admittedly limited experience is not a place French food usually goes. (I offer no value judgements either way on any of these trends, by the way, I'm just making the observations here.) And yeah, I think the relative scarcity of cheap/takeout French in the States compared to other cuisines does have something to do with it too (never thought I'd hear myself say I'm missing the Harvard Square Au Bon Pain, but there you go...) But hey, now that we've identified the issue, we can fix it, right? Okay, maybe not the scarcity-of-French-takeout issue (unless someone here is ready to jump in with a business plan ), but certainly the lack-of-cooking-discussions issue. Maybe someone could start one or more topics here in this forum, just to throw out one suggestion, on quick-and-easy ways for people to slip French accents (so to speak) into their everyday cooking, for those of us who need some more help in that area (like myself, for one).
  25. Thanks, folks. I need all the reassurance I can get. Somewhere else in this thread, people were also talking about how suprisingly hard it was to find fried chicken recipes in their cookbooks. I was running into this problem too--I would have bet cash money that my old 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking would have had one, but nope, for perhaps the first time the Rombauer ladies totally failed me. This lovely big Kwanzaa cookbook I own, my go-to book for lots of African American culinary classics, surprised me also by containing no old-fashioned fried chicken recipe. But--hurrah! I just laid my hands on my copy of Pam Anderson's "The Perfect Recipe," and it does tackle fried chicken, with typical Cook's Illustrated-style thoroughness. Anderson opts for shallow frying in shortening; soaking the chicken from 2 to 24 hours in buttermilk seasoned with just a bit of salt and pepper; a light dredge of all-purpose flour, again seasoned just with a little salt and pepper; and loosely covering the skillet for the first half of the frying period. She says she uses a cookie sheet as a lid, so I guess I'm good to go with using my cheapo universal lid on my fryer.
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