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John Hammond

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  1. Soon fresh rhubarb will be available. Dip in salt - take a bite - dip again and bite - repeat ... If you have just cooked something in a non-stick skillet, wipe pan clean with a paper towel, return to heat and sprinkle a little shredded full fat cheddar cheese into pan and sprinkle on a little kosher salt. As soon as the cheese begins to bubble and toast, turn off the heat and go enjoy the dinner you just cooked. Later, lift the cheese lace from the pan and break into pieced to munch for an evening snack.
  2. I like to roast the backs, bones and legs and then make soup. Beats chicken soup any day.
  3. Keep in mind that salt makes some of the meat proteins soluble which results in the binding when the sausage is cooked. Mix just enough to get uniformity after salt addition. Mix too much and you will end up with a hot dog or bologna texture but without the cured color or taste.
  4. At yard sales, estate sales and auctions, I always look for buckets or boxes of old kitchen junk. I have assembled a great collection of old kitchen, butcher and chefs knives with carbon steel blades that I greatly prefer to my newer stainless versions. Most people don't like the old dark colored blades of these vintage knives and their propensity to rust, but to me they are like silver and gold.
  5. What I find most interesting about MC is that most of the techniques have been well known to food chemists for years. In the early 1960s one major food company even had a large decompression chamber/pressure vessel fitted with a stove and could evaluate the properties and practices of cooking food at reduced or increased atmospheric pressure with the chemist actually working in the chamber. The little beads that are so interesting were the subject of a long expired patent. This does not detract from MC, rather, I am glad to see the techniques emerging from the food technology lab and into the kitchen.
  6. I have a couple of secret ingredients. In addition to MSG, I like sodium inosinate and sodium guanilate for umami but I have never seen them sold at retail, only for food industry use. (Use 1 part of a blend of the two to 10 parts MSG) Another trick for soups and stews is to add a little Tianjin Preserved Vegetable at the beginning. This fermented vegetable product adds a unique complexity to foods. For Dried Mushroom Powder, I always have on hand a gallon container filled with dried Shitaki from a Chinese grocery store and I just throw a couple in the spice grinder or even a blender. Most Chinese recipes call for soaking the mushrooms and then slicing them and using the slices in the food. I like to slice them dry with a very sharp 10" or 12" chef's knife and then throw the result in the pot. The slices aren't as pretty and there is a lot of crumbling, but you get all the flavor. For pasta in a mushroom cream sauce, I grind a few dried mushrooms in the blender and throw the powder in the pasta cook water with a few whole dried shrooms and heat the water. When the whole mushrooms are softened through, I remove them and add the pasta. While the pasta cooks, I slice the whole dried mushrooms and add to butter sauteed sliced buttons and make the mushroom cream sauce. (A handful of fresh mushrooms bureed by being run through the blender or a processor and then sauteed before being added to the sauteed slices makes an even more strongly favored sauce) Using the powdered dried mushrooms in the cook water gives an earthy mushroom taste permeating the cooked pasta.
  7. Stanly's greengrocer, just West of the Cicago river on North Ave in Chicago has good bulk oil and good fruit.
  8. A dilute Sodium Bisulfite solution works wonders on odors because it releases a little Sulfur Dioxide gas which oxidizes odor molecules. (Like burning a match to get rid of odors). Be sure to wear rubber gloves and goggles and don't breathe a lot of the vapor if you try this. It is no more toxic than bleach which also works by oxidizing the odor molecules.
  9. I'm in my late 60s and still use my mother's old Joy and Fanny Farmer as the GO TO references for general purpose but half a dozen times a year I find myself pulling out "Pacifica Blueplates" from my collection of several hundred cookbooks.
  10. I first saw this in 1989 in a long gone restaurant in Camden, Maine (Mamma and Leenie's) where it was called "egg in a frame". They used thick sliced "texas toast" bread and cooked it in bacon fat easy over with the cut out round grilled alongside and served on top of the egg. The family that ran the place was from California.
  11. John Hammond

    The Egg Sandwich

    A good way to do an egg and bacon on an English Muffin at home is to cut up a piece of raw bacon and put it in a glass custard cup and microwave it for about 30 to 45 seconds. Add an egg (don't pour off the bacon fat unless you really must) and break the yolk while giving a gentle stir to distribute the bacon. Nuke another 0.5 to 1.5 minutes (depending on power of oven) till egg is just firm. Run knife around sides and plop on a buttered, toasted Thomases English Muffin with a little salt and pepper and enjoy. I learned to always break the yolk while cooking in a diner many many years ago. No one wants yellow goo dripping down onto his necktie from his sandwich. (Then, most of the customers wore ties.)
  12. Take the 3/4 cup cranberries as above but before cooking, run them through the coarse plate on a food grinder or pulse a couple of times in a food processor to get a coarse grind. Throw in a handful of whole berries and add 1 1/8 cup water and boil 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and boil additional 3 to 5 minutes and pour into cans. This gives a chunky version that my family likes.
  13. John Hammond

    Beef Cheeks

    I had Braised Beef Cheeks for the first time for lunch in a small cafe in Sabadell Spain. This cafe which is in the Industrial Park area caters to the locals only. A delicious experience. I tried them a week later at the cafe at the Hotel Urpi in Sabadell where the lunch special for 9 euros includes a bottle of house wine. Also excellent. Now I have to find them at a butcher here in Chicago to make my own.
  14. While good food is often expensive, id can also be had at reasonable cost if you are int he right place at the right time. Fresh Maine Shrimp are available for most of the winter from trucks along the road in the Midcoast region for very reasonable cost and the same dealers often sell fresh crabmeat. Further north, farmstands sell potatoes by the 100 pound bag for a few dollars. These are some of the benefits of living in Maine "Life in the Slow Lane"
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