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Everything posted by alwang

  1. By the way, further evidence of their schizophrenic marketing: I've got menus from the restaurant that say Szechuan Garden, but apparently they're now calling themselves Szechuan House. http://www.szechuanhouse.us/ No wonder nothing came up in Google. I'll change the topic title accordingly.
  2. I think it's better than Szechuan Tasty House and Chung King Garden, which I'd say are the two best Szechuan places in Philly. Tasty House is indeed tasty, but I think they tend to be a little greasy. Chung King Garden has that crazy offal selection, but I taste very little Sichuan peppercorn in dishes were I should, like their ma po tofu.
  3. I'm surprised this place doesn't get more buzz from foodies, but Szechuan Garden in Hamilton off of Route 33 is one of the more authentic Sichuan restaurants I've found in the PA/NJ/NY area. In particular, when I do a dish-by-dish comparison to Chengdu 1 in Cedar Grove, I find Szechuan Garden generally superior. That's saying quite a bit, as most would consider Chengdu 1 the preeminent Sichuan restaurant in NJ. Dishes I've had at both include dan dan noodles, chongqing spicy chicken (la zi ji ding), spicy beef tendon, and cumin lamb. One thing the owners of this restaurant are not very good at is marketing: The restaurant doesn't even come up in a Google local search. However, if you're in the central NJ area, this food is worth seeking out. There are a number of americanized menu items, but authentic Sichuan dishes are available if you're willing to seek them out. Szechuan Garden 2022 Nottingham Way,Trenton,NJ 08619
  4. Thanks, Joe; I kind of suspected as much.
  5. Anyone have any experience using the Auber/SousVideMagic controller with a portable induction hob? Does it work well? Is it safe for long cooks? Thanks, -Al
  6. Interesting; thanks to both replies! Off to think about what other food I can booze up...
  7. Anyone with more details on how the scotch was incorporated into this dish? Is it added after cooking? Or do they cook off the alcohol, as you might do with wine? Or something more esoteric- strikes me as a good use for one of those rotary evaporators that are showing up in "molecular" kitchens (actually, it wouldn't surprise me this were the truth, if they're extracting their own pine oil at Ko) Would love it if anyone having dinner there in the near future can sneak a couple of questions in to the chefs.
  8. Yeah, ping-pong balls are another similar solution that I used for a while. I've settled though on just covering my bath with a largish plastic cutting board. Seems to work well enough.
  9. I had an outstanding meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns last night, possibly the best meal I've had in the New York area. My dining companion and I both had the Farmer's Feast, but it's truly inspiring to see how different our dishes were compared to tupac's meal from just a few weeks earlier. I thought the service was exemplary: relaxed, elegant, but passionate and knowledgeable about the food. We let our main server Stephen know that we were willing to try anything, and perhaps that started us off on the right foot. I have to admit that even by our usual nosy standards, we were asking a lot of questions on just about every course concerning ingredients and preparation, but they were all answered graciously and thoroughly. The sommelier was also excellent: we had the full wine pairing, which at 65 dollars is quite a deal: generally I'd expect pairings to be more like 2/3 of the food cost, while this was a bout half. We ended up with seven pairings, and the pours were quite generous. I thought as a general rule that the wines were not that remarkable on their own, but that the pairings were dead on. As others have mentioned, the battery of amuses is a little overwhelming, but in a good way. Our first course was a variation of the raw bluefish/pig's ear/caviar dish, but now that tomato season has left us, it was paired with thin slices of seckel pair: an unexpectedly harmonious combination. Since we had mentioned we were adventurous eaters, I think Chef Barber took some pleasure in working offal into our menu: there was an amazing preparation of beef hearts, served perfectly rare, as well as a seriously rich lamb duo featuring brains and loin. The desserts were good, but not quite as well balanced as the savories (in general, I found them overly tart). My favorite was a concord grape sorbet set on an elderflower gelee. We received both fruit and mignardises at the end. All in all, highly recommended.
  10. I recently had a truly outstanding dinner at Alinea; I'll try to comment more on the food later, but I have to say I was not impressed by the bread. The bread-food pairings were thoughtful in terms of flavors, but almost every piece of bread had the same dense, uniform crumb: not my sort of thing. Again, I mention this as a minor stumble in an otherwise virtuoso meal.
  11. alwang


    A couple of months back, I visited Kanoyama and Ushi in short succession, and my conclusion was that Kanoyama was not in Ushi's league. The quality of fish is comparable, but Ushi's selection is broader and more interesting, and the items which required curing/marinating/prep (saba, ikura) were distinctly better. Kanoyama is still pretty good though, and I'd go back.
  12. I've heard two old adages about making pesto, which seem at odds with each other. The first is that one should chop pesto with a sharp knife, to prevent the basil from darkening. The second is that one should make pesto by grinding in a mortar and pestle. Any opinions on which method is superior, hand-chop vs. grinding? And why does that mortar/pestle method not seem to darken the basil?
  13. You could also try the Red Hook ballfields for some Central/South American street food. Not much else in terms of sightseeing in that area though.
  14. If we're talking lunch, you could also add Yasuda to that list.
  15. Hanger is excellent prepared sous vide, and 53C is what I have done in the past. Hanger can be somewhat chewy, so you may want to consider cooking longer than 1 hour. I will routinely go for 4-8 hours, depending on the quality of the meat (the better the quality, the shorter the cook time). One interesting thing about cooking hanger CSV is that it's the only preparation where you could get away with not cutting out the center membrane: I tried that this weekend because I was lazy. At 8 hours, the connective tissue is essentially broken down, and is not unpleasant to chew through. That said, if you have the time, you might as well cut it out for appearances sake.
  16. The other reason commonly given for the ice water shock is to set the color of the vegetables. This seems scientifically plausible, as this is a surface reaction: ice water may effectively prevent chlorophyll on the surface from denaturing. So ice-water shocking blanched veggies may not be a complete waste of time.
  17. We should also control temperature in this experiment, as there are some temperature-dependent processes at play. I believe pectins begin to break down at 85C. I generally cook most vegetables sous vide at 82C.
  18. In my experience, time at temperature definitely has an effect on vegetables CSV, though it's a slow process. Carrots cooked for 2 hours vs 1 hour are uniformly more tender, through to the core. For most vegetables though, I don't think the time spent resting out of the bath making much additional difference. Not sure about asparagus.
  19. Yes there is a reason - you chill the food quicker. Chefs are typically taught that you "shock" the food to "stop the cooking". This is wrong - the degree of cooking is generally determined by the peak temperature and that is basically unaffected by a cold water shock. However, the food does chill faster in cold water. If you are doing cook-chill sous vide where you want to store the food cold then this helps with food safety. You want to chill as fast as you can in that case. Right, that's why I was wondering if there was any value in chilling if you're cooking vegetables, where food safety is not a big issue?
  20. So, taking this back to practical application: is there *any* reason to cool vegetables in an ice bath after cooking sous vide at target temperature? I think many of us do so because we're accustomed to a blanch/shock treatment in traditional vegetable cooking, but it sounds here like if you're cooking at your target temp, it's accomplishing very little.
  21. I know for certain that the packaged Capogiro you can buy at Whole Foods bears little resemblance to in-house stuff. It's not bad, but it's not superior to any of the other high-end packaged gelatos.
  22. My experience is that the texture of fish deteriorates even with smaller increases of hot holding time, at least at 50C (which is my default temperature for fish). Once you get past 60 minutes, the structure of the fish starts falling apart, and there is a cottony texture, for lack of a better descriptor. I've never tried scallops at these longer cooking times.
  23. I'm loving the suggestions. I found myself at work yesterday wistfully longing for my ham. Is that weird? I think my slicing technique is improving. I've found that it's actually a little easier for me to cut slices from right to left (I'm right-handed), pulling the knife towards the foot end. This is not what I was originally doing. I am finding that the meat is drier and less oily than at first: I may brush the cut surface with a little olive oil in addition to covering it with fat slices. I'm hoping the other side of the bone, the wider maza, will still be well oiled.
  24. Recently for my birthday, my girlfriend bought me a whole, 20-lb, bone-in jamon serrano: this, by the way, is one of the awesomest gifts you can get for a foodie. I thought about posting this in the Spain Cooking forum, but this is really more about how an American amateur cook can get the most out of this experience: I imagine it’s pretty commonplace for someone living in Spain. Below are an assortment of thoughts, suggestions, and questions around my relationship with this ham over the next few weeks. - The ham was purchased from Despana in New York, and it arrived promptly, boxed and cryovac'd. The size and heft is truly awe-inspiring, though I was a little disappointed that they chose to remove the hoof. - After posing and mugging for photo opportunities with the jamon for several days, we got around this weekend to slicing into it. There are several quite excellent tutorials on the web for how to go about carving a jamon. Here are a couple: http://www.ibergour.co.uk/en/jamon/consumo/ http://www.iberianfoods.co.uk/carving_serrano_ham_03.htm - Obviously, I don’t have a jamonera, the ham holding apparatus that you will see quality jamon purveyors use. I briefly considered purchasing one, but I couldn’t justify the cost or the space it would take up in my cramped kitchen. I just held up the foot end of the ham with my left hand, and carved with my right. This is very doable, and for a beginner, it gets you up close to the ham for more careful slicing. (The aromas hitting your nose from this up-close-and-personal carving are also intensely pleasurable.) Even though it's considerably more work, I definitely recommend going with a bone-in jamon: you get a very instructive appreciation of the anatomy and bone structure. After a couple of carving sessions though, I can certainly see the value of a jamonera: my left hand started to cramp up after a few minutes, and the stand would also be the ideal way to store the ham, as it's generally recommended not to let it rest flat. Any recommendations for a makeshift homemade jamonera? - Obviously as well, I don't have a jamonero, or a dedicated ham carving knife. Shapewise, you need something that's long, thin, and a little flexible, in order to be able to travel along the contours of the ham and cut uniformly thin slices. It also needs to be extremely sharp, and you'll find yourself constantly resteeling the knife as you work through the ham. I've had reasonable success with a filleting knife. Skill and experience is also a huge factor- the two chunks of meat you're trying to carve, the wide, fatty maza and the narrower contramaza, both sit in the concavity of the bone, so the surfaces you're trying to carve are not flat. I end up with a few nice pieces, a couple of pieces which are overly thick, and a lot of tasty little splinters of meat. - I was surprised at how much oil had exuded from the ham as I removed it from the packaging. Everything I've read says that the ham should be fine at room temperature, but this being the summer, sometimes room temp creeps up on the warm side. I wonder if that's causing a little more of the fat to soften than usual? - I've heard varying reports on how long a jamon stays good after you've started carving it: anywhere from 2-3 weeks to 2-3 months. I'd be curious if anyone else had any opinions. Being that it is summer, I'm going to do my best to finish the jamon in a month, but it's going to be a serious undertaking. Four people barely made dent in this thing over two days so far. I'd appreciate any advice on the best way to store the ham: I just have it sitting on my dining table: the cut surface is covered with strips of fat/rind, and then the entire ham is wrapped in plastic wrap. As I mentioned, it's generally recommended that the ham is stored on a stand or hanging, but neither of those options seems easy to achieve. - Most important, of course, is how should the ham be eaten? I've just been filching slices as I cut them, and jamon serrano that's freshly sliced really needs no accompaniment. It is significantly better than serrano that you might bring home freshly sliced from a store, as even that 30-60 minutes it spends in transit will begin to dry the meat. We also paired the ham with figs, a couple of cheeses (one blue, one aged Dutch cow's milk cheese), and a cranberry/walnut preserve. All were delicious, and I'm open to any other recommendations. I haven't tried cooking with the ham yet, but I'd be curious about any recommendations in that direction as well. Finally, at some point, I'll be left with the bone and a couple of large chunks of meat along the bone that aren't suitable for slicing: any recommendations for those items, other than a fantastic jamon stock? Again, this is something that everyone should buy at least once: it really give you a fresh appreciation for this amazing product. I'll post any other thoughts I have (and perhaps some pictures) as I continue to work through it over the upcoming weeks.
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