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Everything posted by Restorer

  1. Restorer

    Hot weather cooking

    The biggest problem for me isn't so much the heat of cooking, it's the heat in my car when I venture out to buy ingredients. With my schedule, the only easy time to go shopping is in the middle of the day, and without AC in my car, it's very strenuous to go shopping. Last night was a grilling night. I made pork tenderloins rubbed with lime, cumin, coriander, chile, and garlic; grilled white corn; and a head of roasted garlic.
  2. Last week I used up the last pound of my river prawns in a garlic saute. I halved the prawns lengthwise like shown above, but without so much extra cutting - just two knife cuts, like you would cut a lobster in half. It wasn't completely ideal; sometimes the head shell would crush instead of slice, and I'd lose the good stuff inside. Once they were cut in half, I heated some olive oil, sliced garlic, and red pepper flakes in a cast iron skillet, then added the (salted, peppered) prawn halves and fried for a couple minutes. Then I added some lobster base, let it boil off, and ate the prawns barbarically with my fingers.
  3. Restorer

    Whole Shrimp

    I picked up a box of these guys, marked 8/12 size from Thailand. The first few I grilled whole on skewers (to keep the tails straight) and ate barbarically with my hands. The next three I cut up for a stir-fry with snow peas. I have 8 to 10 left in the freezer, waiting for me to think of something to do with them. I was going to simply boil them and eat as a cocktail, but now that I read above that they don't take well to boiling, I'm thinking of garlic prawns or something along those lines.
  4. Restorer

    The Rolling Boil

    I've been under the impression that the difference between a simmer, a slow boil, and a rolling boil is the temperature gradient in the water. In order for a bubble of water vapor to form at sea level, it must be at or above 100C. Liquid water at sea level must be at or below 100C. Water at 100C can be in either phase, and there's a discrete amount of energy to convert between the two. Since the heat source is only at the bottom of the pot, what happens is that the water at the bottom obtains the energy to change states, becomes vapor, and begins to bubble upward. As it does so, it's no longer being heated by contact with the pan bottom, and all the liquid surrounding it is no hotter, so it starts to lose heat energy. As it does so, the vapor turns back into liquid. At any temperature that causes the water to bubble, the water at the bottom of the pot is going to be at 100C. The lower the output power of the heating element (flame, coil, or surface), the greater the gradient of temperature between the bottom and the top, since water is evaporating from the surface, cooling the liquid. I think the effective difference is in the average temperature of the water. At a rolling boil, you can be sure that the top of the water is as close to the boiling point as it will get. At a low simmer, the surface of the water is just hot enough to assure that the bubbles of steam make it to the top - this could be as low as 85C.
  5. Supposedly it's the casein in milk that helps with the burn. I don't know if it helps release the capsaicin from the receptors, or if it breaks up the capsaicin, or what, but it's supposed to do more than just dissolve it. That means that the higher the casein content, the greater the effect, so thick yogurt will work well.
  6. Restorer

    Butter producers

    The specific gravity of butter is 865, meaning it weighs 86.5/100 that of an equal volume of water. If your butter has a higher or lower water content it would alter the volume. SB (who, however, is NOT a chemist or physicist, NOR did he stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night) ← That would make a pound of butter have greater volume than a pound of water - 37 tablespoons instead of 32 in a pound.
  7. I think the problem of comparing different cooks is much more complex than a simple scale of levels. At the very least, there should be separate scales for different styles of cooking, or types of skills. To follow the colored belt analogy, being a third-degree black belt in karate doesn't mean you know anything about jiujitsu. Also, I can provide an example that doesn't quite fit into the scale. My grandmother doesn't cook, but can follow some simple directions to make, say, TV dinners. She can make drip coffee from whole beans without directions, but has so far refused to switch to the burr grinder/french press system she was given. Her ability to follow directions is limited, though, as anyone who has had her Christmas dinner knows - a precooked supermarket finish-in-the-oven dinner. Despite the clear instructions all over the package, she proceeds to turn the turkey to jerky, burn the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and stuffing, and create rock hard rolls. The gravy and cranberry jelly were fortunately edible. I don't know if she falls under about a 1.5 or a 0.75, depending on how you quantify "very simple". Also, I think there's a huge jump between levels 4 and 5, and I think 7 should go between them. It takes a skilled and experienced cook to make any recipe. Just look at the fried chicken cook-off thread and see how much trouble we go through to manage oil temperature for pan-fried chicken. There have been threads on how to judge professional chefs that I think could provide some ideas for how to judge amateur cooks.
  8. There's a minute button right next to the hour button... did that not work? (Maybe that's why it was only $3.)
  9. Wikipedia has a list of uses for methylcellulose, ranging from your initial use to uses in virology to artificial... body fluids.
  10. I have a small wimpy propane grill, 12,000 BTU/hr over 280 square inches. Any ideas on what I can do to maximize the amount of heat in it to properly grill skirt steak?
  11. I can forsee a couple problems you might have to finagle around. The total waste will be everything you trim off before cooking, plus the bones and any meat scraps left on them after eating. The problem is that the ribs lose moisture weight and gain sauce/rub weight when you cook them. If you weigh the untrimmed ribs, trim them, cook, eat, and weigh the leftover bones, you might get an overestimate of the edible yield. On the other hand you can weigh the cooked product, eat, then weigh the cooked bones and get a measure of the cooked yield. But then there's the problem of the weight of what you've trimmed from the spare ribs. You'd have to cook it as well in some fashion similar to how the ribs are cooked, and factor it into the leftover weight at the end. Then again, as long as you're consistent in your method, you'll still get an answer as to which has better yield, but you might not get an accurate enough answer to determine if the yield is worth it for the difference in price.
  12. Restorer

    Dinner! 2007

    Tonight I used my last pork chop in a slightly more involved dinner than last night. Boneless pork loin chop over spinach with a mustard-cream pan sauce (my first use of vermouth!) and roasted potatoes with garlic.
  13. I haven't cut an onion since this thread was started. Tonight I finally had occasion to chop a shallot - one tiny little shallot. I tried ChefCrash's method and, wow, that's really nice. I think I'm a convert too. Not that I have the accuracy to do it as quickly as he does, but it's faster than the frontwards way I learned originally.
  14. Restorer

    Dinner! 2007

    I'm slowly getting my energy back, so tonight I was able to cook a full dinner again. Inspired by other posts in this thread, I rubbed my pork chop with salt, cumin, and black pepper, seared it on both sides, then stuck it in the oven for 10 minutes. To go with it I made garlicky red potatoes and cucumber slices doused in cider vinegar. All of my pictures are hosted on my own server, and my connection has been terrible recently, so you have about a 16% chance of having trouble loading this picture; but if you wait long enough it should come up.
  15. Restorer

    Flaming Woks

    In the steak episode, Alton gives his pan a "head start" in the 500 degree oven, then turns it into a "branding iron" on top of the stove for searing the steak. In the duck episode, Alton does all the cooking in the oven at 475. His goal is to crisp up the skin and render out a bit of the duck fat. I don't think he's aiming to get his pan "NASA hot", it's just an unfortunate thing he said.
  16. When I make stock I do it without salt. When I start tasting the stock to judge if it's done, I ladle some into a bowl and add an appropriate amount of salt to the tasting portion.
  17. I went to B & B Ristorante last weekend. My write-up with photos is here.
  18. I did end up going to B & B Ristorante at the Venetian when I went to Las Vegas last weekend. Walking around the Grand Canals, I saw that Enoteca San Marco (Mario's other restaurant there) appeared to be in business. I don't know if it's a soft opening or what; I hadn't heard that it has opened yet. B & B Ristorante is a bit hard to find, as it's not on any map we found, but armed with information from a job listing that it was "at the end of Restaurant Row, across from Delmonico's," we found it. It's a relatively small restaurant, up against the Blue Man Theater. B & B is meant to be the Las Vegas version of Babbo. The menu is nearly identical, though perhaps with less offal. We arrived armed with expectations and a good idea of the menu. To my surprise my mother had even done some research and had strong opinions on what should be ordered, based on what has been said about the dishes at Babbo. As we sat down and were handed menus, we got the first antipasto for the table, some chickpea bruschetta. It tasted like chickpeas and olive oil, and not much else - which wasn't a bad thing. Our plan was to each order an antipasto and distribute pieces around the table so we could all enjoy each. My mother and brother didn't feel like they could handle three full courses plus dessert, so my brother ordered a pasta and my mother ordered a main dish, while I ordered both. We shared three antipasti: the grilled octopus, the lamb's tongue salad, and the calamari and seppie fritti. I only got a picture of the octopus, but all were good. The octopus was ridiculously well-prepared. The meat was perfectly tender, the outside was well-charred and lent a succulent but bitter flavor, and the vinegar sauce perfectly counterbalanced the bitterness of the char. I only had a small taste of my mother's lamb tongue. In the dim light it was difficult to distinguish the mushrooms from the slices of tongue, and the flavors were similar - but the tongue didn't have the springy texture of the mushrooms. My brother's calamari fritti was very nice. It was a light tempura-like batter, and there was a sauce with capers and perhaps lemon. For the pasta course, I ordered the beef cheek ravioli with back truffles and crushed squab liver; my brother ordered the goat cheese tortelloni with dried orange and wild fennel pollen. Both were excellent. The beef cheek ravioli was rich and meaty. The meat inside the ravioli was ground to the same texture as coffee grounds, and the liver-truffle sauce on top was wonderful. The goat cheese tortelloni were incredibly good. The goat cheese stood out in a bright citrusy sauce, with the strong hits of orange and fennel. It was so good I caught myself daydreaming about it one day before lunch. My mother ordered the whole grilled branzino (sea bass). It was presented whole and fileted tableside. There was a flub as they were fileting, however: their working area to filet the fish was the edge of a table in the center of the room that held olive oil, cheese, and so forth. While the fish was being fileted on the very edge of the table, something became unbalanced and the plate began to fall off the table. The server caught the plate in time, but the fish continued on to meet the floor. They quickly apologized, and had another fish out in a couple minutes. This time another person fileted it, and did so without incident. The fish was split between my mother and my brother, and served with an intense lemon relish of some kind. I couldn't resist ordering the sweetbreads. I'd never had them before, and was curious, and of course had heard that this preparation was great. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed. I had just finished my rich beef cheek ravioli, and the fried taste of the sweetbreads just wasn't what I needed then. The texture wasn't exactly fluffy like I've heard them described - it was like phlegmy chicken nuggets. My family declined to taste one. The duck bacon wasn't much like bacon in taste or texture. It was more like dried meat. The "sweet and sour" sauce over the top layer (the membrillo vinegar maybe? It had the consistency of thinned puree) overpowered any other flavors. Next came the dessert menus. I have heard that the crostata is something to go for, but the crostata available at that time was a blueberry crostata, and I'm not a big fan of blueberries. So I had the panna cotta, flavored with honey and star anise, and served with tiny biscotti. My brother had the same. My mother asked about the one item we couldn't interpret on the menu, a "tortina di ricotta e robiola [something]," which had us smacking our foreheads when told it was a cheesecake. It was topped with some sort of fruit - cherries and some type of berry, which were hard to identify because they were marinated in some type of alcohol - and it was quite a strong cheesecake. You could really taste the underlying robiola cheese in it. All in all, it was a very enjoyable dining experience. Oh, as far as copying Babbo, the music came along too. We got to enjoy CCR for the first 45 minutes, then it went on to an artist I recognized, but couldn't think of his name (I've probably heard him in the past on British radio).
  19. Restorer

    Flaming Woks

    I agree. Carbon steel is not a particularly great conductor of heat in the first place, and carbon steel woks tend to be thin - the thinner the metal, the less heat conducting capacity across the cooking area. The fundamental difference between electric stoves and gas is that an electric stove will bring the coil up to a very high temperature and rely on the conductivity of the cookware to pull the heat away and distribute it to the food. If you turn an electric stove coil to high, let it begin glowing, then put some aluminum foil on it, it will meat the aluminum. Gas is less about temperature and more about power. Gas burns at a constant temperature - the flame is the same temperature whether you have it on low or high - the only difference is the amount of flame. So, you're transferring heat energy from the extra-hot gas into the cookware at the point of impact. The still-very-hot air "rolls" up the sides of the pan, progressively heating the metal all the way up, producing a much larger area of heating. If you have a very heavy, conductive pan, the differences will be minimal. But the less conductivity-per-area your wok has, the more the differences will be apparent. That's why carbon steel woks just don't work the way they're supposed to on an electric range, and heating a pan on an electric coil on high heat is generally a bad idea.
  20. That's only if the "distress" is caused by lactose intolerance. There are other ways to have problems with cow's milk cheese, some of which increase as the cheese ages. I think (don't take my word for it, though) that goat casein is different enough from cow casein that some people who are allergic or intolerant to one can withstand the other.
  21. ChefCrash, what temperature did you fry at? Added later: Oh, I just noticed you deep fried. I'm not sure that data would apply to my formula (see below). I've been reviewing this thread to find all the successful combinations of temperature and coating. What I'd like to do is determine a proper temperature range beforehand that will brown and crisp the coating in precisely the right amount of time to cook the chicken through. That will practically eliminate the variable of time - they'll be done when they look done. I'm an engineer. I like to do this scientifically. So when I look at this, I see a possible formula. There will be a minimum frying temperature, below which the coating will turn out greasy. There is a maximum temperature, above which the coating will be unacceptably dark before the meat is cooked through. As far as I can surmise, the lower limit depends primarily on the moisture level of the coating. The upper limit depends on the size of the chicken pieces (how quickly they cook through) and the composition of the coating (how much sugar and protein are in it to encourage faster Maillard reactions). The best examples of buttermilk-soaked, fried in Crisco chicken I've found here have brought the oil up to 350 to start, then let it drop with the addition of the chicken and maintained the frying temperature at 325. Brooks's chicken consistently comes out lighter in color than the buttermilk recipes, and he even fries it at a higher temperature (375 to start, maintained at 350) - obviously the buttermilk-based coatings have a higher tendency towards Maillard reactions, which makes sense with the sugar and protein from the buttermilk. I think I'll try to keep my frying temperature just above 325, as my chicken pieces are nice and small. Also, last night I got worried that I may have oversalted my buttermilk. So what did I do? I tasted the buttermilk mixture, after the chicken had been sitting in it for hours. Once I had my determination, though (yes, it was too salty - diluted with more buttermilk), I rinsed my mouth out with vodka and no ill effects yet.
  22. Pure Crisco (the zero-trans-fat kind), unless I find some bacon grease buried in the freezer.
  23. Preparations are underway for fried chicken in my kitchen! I just cut up a 2.6 pound bird, so I have two thighs, two drumsticks, two wings, four half-breasts, and a back to fry up. All the pieces are marinating in buttermilk with a very liberal amount of sriracha in the fridge. Frying will take place in my new 12" cast iron skillet tomorrow.
  24. I'm enjoying reading this thread, and I might end up making some contributions of my own. My plans have changed, and now I'm to move out in less than two months, so I need to start using up all my pantry items (specifically freezer items).
  25. Touche. I really should reread menus before I post. For some reason I remembered a lot more offal. I stand corrected. The B&B menu does lack several offal dishes that Babbo serves, however. You won't find the warm head cheese, pig's feet, or goose liver ravioli at B&B. I still believe that the menu is not designed for picky eaters or for those who are unfamiliar with 'food culture.' I know personally that I would have no idea what to order if I looked at this menu 10 years ago. Good thing you're familiar with the menu and can offer some guidance. ← I'm sure I'll only be needed for guidance on what each dish actually is. While my mother may not know what sweetbreads are, and may not fully appreciate the culture of foodieism (is that a word?), she does enjoy good food, and knows what she likes as long as she understands the terms involved. My brother's the same way, but more adventurous - at his first upscale dining experience (Nobhill at the MGM), he ordered the foie gras, and he wasn't even a teenager yet.
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