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Everything posted by Torrilin

  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.
  16. Well, that's why I brought up the UW cheese. It ain't Parmigiano Reggiano. Doesn't taste the same. The flavor isn't better or worse, it's different. It blends well with tomatoes (required to meet my desired uses). I haven't tested the behavior with fresh sage and garlic, but I don't anticipate the flavor profile not working there. It works better (IMO) with fruit than parm. If I buy Parmigiano Reggiano, I want it to be the real thing, and of good quality. Getting that even in *this* cheese happy town is kind of a trick. So I buy the grana cheese that gets biked 2 miles from the creamery to my apartment . It's not like American cheesemakers can't learn the techniques. The UW program is clearly teaching them. So the question becomes, what do the products of a good cheesemaking education make after the semester schedule stops limiting their ripening times? So far all the cheeses I've tried from the creamery have been young. That and college student labor is the reason for the low prices. I don't think the UW program is likely to be the only one in the US that teaches cheesemaking either. So it would be well worth looking around for local cheese if you're in a dairy (or beef) state. You might be surprised at what sorts of tasty things you can get locally.
  17. Try going to the butcher for pot roast. Seriously. If you don't know the cut you want, tell them what you have in mind. How many people, what kind of cooking method, how long you'd like to cook it... Ask for suggestions. They may not have The Right Thing in stock now, but they'll order it. For a cheap cut, you'll pay cheap cut prices, even if the meat is off a prime or top end choice carcass. And your butcher will probably insist on making sure the meat is tied so it will slice nicely. It'll be trimmed the way you want it. Same deal with ground beef. It'll be ground on site (at some shops, while you wait). It will be tasty. And the price will be about the same as the supermarket, with much less worry about contamination. They don't hide the meat grinder in the back. Most butchers I've patronized have been at most 5-10 cents a pound more than the supermarket, across the board. It's just not worth it to quibble over an extra dollar a week for my meat. If the budget is that tight, I'll buy a cheaper cut. Course, this means most weeks I'm buying pork shoulder or a roaster or the like, but carnitas, char siu, pot roast and a roast chicken are not dire hardships. Really, nor is a good hamburger.
  18. The tomatoes in the chicken soup thing really happened. I was sick, the family made chicken soup, and my brother put tomatoes in. I had a hissy fit and everyone was mad at me for a week. I *like* tomatoes, but too much umami when I'm nauseous is a Bad Thing... Being a brat about being nauseous is *also* a Bad Thing. When I'm not a nauseous control freak, we negotiate . We do the stir fry one way on Monday, a different way on Tuesday and a third way on Wednesday. Same deal with other easily varied dishes. Usually, they're all tasty. Ok, the salmon fritatta with broccoli, onions and cheddar was *so* not tasty... but over a life of 30 years of mostly experimental cooking, I've just not run into many things that were just plain awful. Casseroles btw can be very tasty and very useful. Feed the freezer! Most of them were originally made with bechamel or other cream sauces. Getting back to the tradition of butter, flour, cream and full fat milk, with a crispy bread crumb topping and you have something very tasty. No, it won't work so well if you're lactose intolerant, but lactose intolerance can happen to the nicest people. If your partner can't deal with something like that, he's not such a great choice. Casseroles also don't have to be bland. There's a huge Italian-American tradition built around lasagne and other layered or stuffed noodle dishes. They've still got the soft/crunchy texture going on. They still make great freezer food. And they're very comforting. I hate being exhausted and needing to cook *now*.
  19. Huh, in my experience, baking projects are pretty easy to hand off. The main thing is you don't hand one off to someone who is convinced they can't bake, and you don't hand it off in an undefined state. "I've got chocolate chip cookie dough in the fridge, can you bake the cookies while I'm at work?" is good. Handing someone a bowl of pale yellow stuff and wandering off is not.
  20. If you're looking for a product identical to parmesan made elsewhere, you're outta luck. If you're looking for a flavorful hard grating cheese, there are some available. I've switched from parmesan to Babcock Hall (aka University of Wisconsin at Madison's creamery) Romano, since it's tasty, local, and cheap. It is *not* parmesan. But it makes for a good cheese risotto, and it exhibits some of the same melting and dissolving properties that parm has in pasta sauces. It's far superior most other Romano cheeses I've had in terms of flavor, melting behavior, and texture when raw. What it doesn't have is the crystalline bits of intense umami flavor that real Parm has. It doesn't melt as perfectly into a sauce... if I add cheese in large quantities, the Romano tends to get slightly grainy. If I do the same with Parm, it just melts into a glassy smooth sauce. I suspect a great deal of the difference may be in how the two cheeses are aged. I'm sure other producers here make good hard grating cheeses. I haven't tracked them down yet tho.
  21. IIRC coca leaves are what cocaine is derived from. It's likely illegal to import the leaves or plant, since in this case "derived from" means "chew the leaves" or "make a tea from the leaves". I can't recall if kola nuts contain any controlled substances, so those might be obtainable.
  22. I measure if it's something strange and unfamiliar. Brownies, I have a 1/2 c measure I use to get ingredients into the right ballpark. Stuff that doesn't need some sort of scoop gets eyeballed, usually off the knife I'll use to stir them up. Same for biscuits, and my standard bread, and scones... I make these sorts of baked goods all the time, so I know what "right" looks like. I don't have crepes *down* yet, so they get measured. Pancakes, I mostly don't measure. *I* measure on chestnut dressing. My partner (who learnt the recipe from his mother who learnt it from *her* mother) does not. 20 years from now, I won't be measuring on that one .
  23. My partner and I cook pretty well together. We both come from Families That Cook Together, so the early socialization helps. Here are some of the ways we got socialized to cook with other people: 1) Talk. If you have something specific in mind, say so. If there is a recipe you're trying out (or you're doing an old family recipe off the top of your head), show him. Your fellow cooks cannot read your mind. Talking is a wonderful invention, and is very useful when you taste the chicken soup and notice there's no salt. Yell "Did anyone put salt in the soup?" and then you know if it's a case of whoever started it really did forget, or the veggies are glomming the salt. 2) If you're delegating, *delegate*. If I ask my partner to make dinner, he's in charge. If he asks for hands, sure. If he asks for advice, sure, but it's his decision. 3) Your kitchen is a tool. You do not guard your tools from anyone who comes near. If someone needs a specific tool, you share. Same deal in the kitchen. It's just it's a Really Big tool. 4) If everybody is cooking dinner (for whatever value of everybody is available), don't get hung up on one person's vision. It'll come out ok, even if someone puts tomatoes in the chicken soup, or forgets the garlic in the mashed potatoes. 5) Didja know you don't *have* to skim stock? If you cook it gently and carefully, the stuff you would skim falls to the bottom. Chill the stock overnight, and you can scrape the cold fat off the top. Ladle the stock out carefully to freeze it, and leave behind the icky stuff on the bottom. Lots of other things in cooking are the same way. Gentle, slow and careful gets good results. Same with people. The trick in group cooking is to put down the ego. Other people can and do have good ideas, good techniques, and clever plans. When you work together as a team, the first run is rarely perfect. This is ok, because the next time, it will be better. Someone will have a better idea for seasoning, and someone else will have picked up a new technique faster than everyone else. A third person might come up with a better side dish, and so on. You'll all remember that last time, that tiny seeming amount of fresh ginger was far too hot, and you should stick with the even tinier amount the recipe calls for.
  24. The only beef I've had that was graded prime was brisket. Worth every penny of the $5.49/lb I paid for it. I'm not bad at eyeballing grade after years of drill, and I've had ungraded meat in other cuts that might well have been prime. Madison farmers don't seem to get the average carcass for the Wednesday or Saturday markets graded, but I've gotten some fine steaks from them. If I'm not buying direct from the farmer, I just won't spring for beef that's ungraded. My regular butchers won't *stock* ungraded meat y'see. (yes, I still count the butcher I had growing up and the butcher I had in LA as my regular butchers) If you're working with a butcher, ask about the meat. Do special orders. Try unusual cuts. Don't just ask for "2 steaks". You'll get much better service when your butcher knows you care about your meat. My LA butcher flat out refused to sell me bacon a few times, because it wasn't up to snuff and they were returning it to the supplier. He knew I'm picky about bacon. And steak. And roasts. And chicken. Okay, I'm picky about anything going into my mouth... I don't want to waste my grocery money on food that doesn't taste good. Wouldn't have come up with the butcher where I grew up. Her shop (not a typo, women can be excellent butchers) smokes their own bacon, ham and turkeys. They can (and do) handle cows on the hoof. Chicken and rabbit are also local product. If you come in and there's frozen soup stock for sale, it's because someone on staff made it. Mostly tho, I buy local because it's less *work*. After the butcher or farmer knows that you know what you're doing when it comes to a hunk of meat, they make sure you get stuff up to standard. At as supermarket meat counter, you have to scrutinize every piece of meat, every time.
  25. "fresh" has a specific legal meaning in the US (different for each meat iirc). I don't recall the exact temperature details, but it should be pretty easy to look up the government standards. I seem to recall that for some meats it's legal to store it below the freezing point and provided the proper legal hoops get jumped through, it's still "fresh". "never been frozen" also has a specific legal meaning, and is mercifully literal. The rules in other countries will vary of course.
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