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  1. Anything that takes skill and is not well suited to a restaurant kitchen is a luxury for me. A lot of these are things I *can* do and enjoy immensely... but they're fussy, fiddly and somewhat technical. Consomme, because a well done one is a delicious first course, and it means I'll have room for the rest of the meal. It takes a good bit of knowledgeable fussing to make it come out, so it's a real luxury to me. Very few restaurants will do it well, and doing it myself is a pain. One of my favorites in this vein was a "french onion soup" consomme built around a crystal clear beef broth with a toasted round of good bread with melted cheese. Supremes de voilaille en gougons because oh my *god* is it a pain in the ass to make... and I love it dearly. It sounds so simple... chicken breasts cut into longish bite sized *even* pieces, dredged in seasoned flour, then browned to a turn in oil. Lots of chopping, lots of finicky detail work. And serving it forth all by itself is delicious, but it *looks* terrible. So then you get more fiddly detail work to make it into a good looking plate. (yes, I know it sounds like the French version of chicken nuggets... done right, it's a lot livelier than a regular chicken nugget) A well chosen cheese and fruit combination for dessert isn't hard to do in theory. In practice, unless I do it myself, I don't get to have it. This makes me sad, since cheese can make a merely ok piece of fruit quite nice, and can take perfect fruit into the sublime. The *wrong* cheese is nowhere near as nice. This is something of a shopping exercise, but a lot of it is taste too. Really good bacon (and other cured meats) are hard to find. A flat out *pretty* composed salad that tastes good is also a luxury... usually I end up going the lazy route and making a tossed salad out of cooked vegetables. One I particularly like for this time of year is based around roasted new potatoes, blanched sugar snap peas, and a vinagarette built around Green Goddess style herbs... add other elements to taste. My version is never very pretty tho, and that makes me sad.
  2. I keep flour, rice, red lentils, white beans, black beans and a selection of pastas on hand as shelf stable staples. I also keep a selection of seasonings on hand that suit my style of cooking... fresh ginger and garlic, sesame oil, olive oil, butter, herbes de Provence, dried oregano, thyme, sage, a selection of chile powders and dried chiles, cumin, cocoa powder, star anise, Sichuan pepper... I don't keep a lot of other grains around besides rice. We don't like them as much, and don't eat them quickly enough. With beans, same kind of deal. It's not worth keeping shelf stable food around for years... it will keep, but it won't be as tasty. I shoot for an amount that we use up in 6 months or less. This also cuts down on bug infestations. From a cooking perspective, you can often lump produce into categories. Kale, chard, bok choy, cabbage, broccoli... they're all what I think of as "hard leafy greens". They all take well to being cooked by a wide variety of methods. Lettuce, arugula, mache, frisee... they're all "soft leafy greens". They can be cooked, but I tend to prefer them raw. Figure out what kind of vegetable you have, and odds are you know how to cook it. A stir fried dish built around bok choy works with chard or kale too. And a dressing that suits one kind of lettuce often works well with many others. The same holds true with the various other broad categories. (other categories I use are "hard root vegetables", "oniony things", "not dried seeds" and "fruits that aren't") If you run into a vegetable that you're convinced you hate, make a list of what dishes you've hated it in. My mom *adores* eggplant cooked in nothing but butter. For years, I thought I hated it. Turns out, no, I actually quite like it... in moussaka and Thai style stir fries. Don't be afraid to try new things with a vegetable.
  3. When I roast lamb, I usually aim for medium to medium rare on the doneness. I don't think I've done a lamb braise yet, but until I found the university's butcher shop, I didn't have a source for anything but boned leg of lamb. I make the call on technique based on quality - if I think the carcass would have graded as top choice or even prime, I'd rather roast it. If I know it must be select or worse, it *will* get braised. So if I were stuck with a low quality shoulder, I'd brown the outside on high heat til it was Very Rare. Then I'd cut the entire thing into bite size chunks. Then I'd turn it into some kind of stick to the ribs lamb stew. Maybe with red wine, or beer, or chiles and cocoa powder and browned flour... I'd almost say it's sinful to waste a higher quality piece of meat this way, but a good quality hunk of meat makes for a superlative stew. If you've got a nice piece for roasting tho, just keep it simple and keep the meat on the rare side. Getting red meat roasts to come out rare isn't very hard, and they taste very good that way. It's also a low effort way to cook for a crowd. If you can do a good beef roast, you can do a good lamb roast; it just takes practice.
  4. Sterling is fairly typical for an SF author. He's well informed on some subjects, and not at all educated on others. Ignore him. Many other SF authors are entertaining on the subject of food. Elizabeth Moon is one I find particularly good. She does animal husbandry (horses on her property, and an annual lamb and steer that live with herds on other farms) and is very good at explaining large domestic animals from the standpoint of a farmer. She'll sometimes talk about things like butchering as well. She's not very experienced but she has *done* a whole yearling sheep. It makes a nice antidote to the badly thought out vegans that infest bike shops.
  5. CA law requires that all food sold at a farmer's market be grown in CA, and they inspect. I remain very fond of that law as a consumer. As a small child, I remember how local consumers pressured the Broad Street Market greengrocers into labeling produce according to origin. PA is a big agricultural state and many shoppers wanted to support local foods. As I got older, it was much more common for supermarkets to do the same. And the local shops always wanted to be able to say that meats were grown and processed locally.
  6. Neither. Trader Joe's tends to have very good prices for a "regular" grocery store and tends to provide the right size of staples for a single person or couple. So if you're trying to be frugal, they're a good place to shop. And even a weekly stock up trip for a couple doesn't tend to need more than 2 grocery bags. In some areas, TJs is also a favorite store for larger families, and then you'll see carts just stuffed with food and many more bags.
  7. Would your wife be comfortable with an appropriate delay between a chicken dish (perhaps a coq au vin or something in the same vein) and a milk dish? I know kosher traditions vary a lot in terms of mixing milk and proteins...
  8. We had a pair of blade chops tonight for dinner, total weight of just over 1lb. Good marbling, so I treated them like a steak. I hit them with salt, pepper and an herbes de Provence mixture, then got a good sear on each side in a hot cast iron frying pan. Delicious, and very similar to a nice steak. A pair of nice steaks will run 2-3lbs tho, so the lamb portion is nice for when we're not having a giant feast. And at $5/lb for the lamb vs $6-11/lb for beef, there's a pretty substantial savings. A braise would have been overkill for these chops... the texture was a good match for a well marbled ribeye. It probably doesn't hurt that it's lamb season *g*.
  9. That's the problem. There is no one best. For *my* purposes, I tend to stick with raw cast iron and disk bottom stainless. I wouldn't mind some cast aluminum pieces, and I have some use for enameled cast iron. Copper would be utterly wasted since I'm stuck with an electric stove. Someone like slkinsey would have a different lineup than me, and I know he uses different pieces *g*. If your wife has a mixed up, oddball looking collection of pots and pans, chances are the idea of "matching" mystifies her as much as it does me. Your best bet is to ask her if there's a particular pan that's wearing out, or something that she's always wanted and couldn't afford. She's got a much better notion of what she likes and wants than we do .
  10. Since I don't have a car, it's easy to remember my bags. After you walk home once with plastic bags tearing into your hands, you've got a lot of incentive to remember to bring a *good* bag. I use a backpack, since it makes walking with a grocery load more comfortable. And having plastic bags dangling from my bike handlebars is scary enough to make me walk. Panniers or baskets to keep them out of my wheels are *much* better. Store staff *really* appreciate it if you're willing to load the bag yourself. It can be hard for them to figure out the ins and outs of all the bags that cross their path. A regular canvas bag is easy enough, but backpacks and panniers and duffels can have so many pockets and tricks for loading... I started doing this in 2005, so I have *no* idea how many bags I've saved since then. By now it's habit. Eliminating all plastic packaging isn't realistic, but I am doing much better than in 2004.
  11. How did pre-sliced apples not turn all brown and icky? ← Preservatives. I forget which one it is, but the method was developed in the last 3 years or so. It's a pretty neat trick, but I wouldn't want to eat them. I *think* so far my food scientist father has been kept from seeing them. The volcanic explosion when he does will be... interesting.
  12. Torrilin

    Fat-Free Roux

    I use browned flour in some dishes (black bean soups!), because I like the flavor it imparts. The granular texture seems to happen when you undercook the flour. Once you get the flour to a state where it's in between peanut butter and natural cocoa in color, the texture issues seem to level off. It's pretty rare for me to use browned flour at the light stage shown early in the thread... it misbehaves horribly. At my normal dark color, the thickening power is reduced. You get a bit of thickening and a flavor that goes well with dark beers, savory cocoa, and many other bitter flavoring agents. I don't think it would be wise to try and brown flour to my usual color in the oven. Fire hazard. On the stove, I tend to keep a shade reference around. If there are pockets of lighter color, it's not ready yet. Those light colored pockets can continue for a long time. A regular brown roux doesn't give quite the same effect as browned flour. I like them both, and use them both. For me it's not really a fat/fat free issue but a flavor issue. I keep meaning to experiment with very light shades of browned flour. There are some *very* early stages that seem like they'd make for interesting variations on veloutes and other white sauces.
  13. It's unlikely that it's a ewe's milk cheese. It's Wisconsin . Note that I'm comparing it to Parmigiano Reggiano, not Pecorino Romano... the taste and texture of the cheese is much closer to the cow's milk grana than the sheep's milk cheese it's supposed to be imitating. The feel (to me) is that they're using the name of a familiar Italian cheese so the customers have an idea of what to expect. Think US wine producers in 1960 or 1970. This is not a useful practice, but it probably goes along with the immature state of the cheese industry here. Plus, they're less likely to have people screaming that the "romano" is not Pecorrino Romano than they are to have people screaming that "parmesan" is not Parmigiano Reggiano. The key is that they're teaching the students about a variety of cheeses, and they're choosing ones that will net good results in the time available. This means the students have a baseline of skill that they can develop out of school, and apply to other styles of cheese. A college education is not going to produce a great cheesemaker by itself. And most college students aren't getting a degree in "cheesemaking". They'll be getting degrees in (worst case) food science with a specialization in dairy products or a science degree with a food science minor (best case). Then they'll spend a good 3-5 years getting established and learning more on the job. If they end up in cheesemaking, I'd expect them to be getting *good* 15 years out from graduation. As with most physical skills, the more you learn and practice, the better you get. You're probably a more skilled musician now than you were at 22. Same goes for chocolate makers and chefs, so I see no reason why it would differ for a cheesemaker. I should be finding out more about how they manage the creamery program soon. I'm not much of a food scientist (just enough to catch screaming errors, mostly in terms of the care and feeding of taste panels), but I'll have an experienced one visiting, and he's looking forward to picking their brains.
  14. Do you have a reliable source for beans? I find that it's very easy to get stuck with a batch of beans that are old old old and won't cook up properly. This would be a serious problem for larger scale production. I like onion soup, and most prefab onion soup is oversalted, under-oniony, and just not very tasty. There's still quality control issues (moldy onions! soggy onions! onions that like to go bad in just one layer!), but it could be an easy one to scale up.
  15. Illegal and raw milk gets *complicated*. It's usually not flat out illegal to sell raw milk in a state. It's more the inspections and compliance rules are set up so that it's inconvenient enough that it might as well be illegal. This is not good for encouraging compliance with the law, since raw milk really is better for some purposes (like cheese!). This is not a particularly good thing for adults in search of tasty cheese. On the other hand, it's a good thing for babies and children, since they're pretty vulnerable to a wide range of milk borne pathogens. On the gripping hand, the restrictions are a patchwork of laws (different in each state), and getting them changed to something saner is hard work. Oh, and not every "cow share", "milk share" or "cheese share" is for raw milk products. It's not odd for a dairy farm to have pasturizing equipment. I'm in Wisconsin, and local CSA packages often offer cheese, butter, milk, and/or cream. Pasturized of course. I've had raw milk before, and while it's deliriously good, it's not flat out better (in my 5 year old's memory) than pasturized. My 5 year old self was of the firm opinion that it didn't matter if the milk was pasturized or not, what mattered is that it had been kept *cold* after. And my adult self knows that milk stored in a tinted container is just plain better than milk stored in clear glass. I don't like the way UV breakdown products taste in my milk.
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