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Alcuin

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Everything posted by Alcuin

  1. It's also good sauteed then eaten on a crusty roll with sausage and sharp cheese (provelone or shaved pecorino romano). It is excellent with roast/braised pork too. Also if you put that on a roll as above but replacing the sausage you're heading to the hallowed ground of the Pork Italiano. It's good on crostini too.
  2. As a resident of Madison, WI I know a bit about the store and the distillery. As for the labels, someone in the store told me that their bottling practice is a result of regulation. They can't just fill whatever container you like and label it however they want because they have to follow strict guidelines (no surprise there). As for Yahara Bay, their products are ok but not really worth buying. In my experience, there are better examples of pretty much every product they make. Their white rum is especially not-too-good. Their apple brandy is decent, if boring. Their aged rum doesn't have much going on. You see the pattern. I'm actually pretty surprised Yahara Bay (named for a tiny tiny river down the street from me) is getting this kind of distribution. It's a very small operation.
  3. Like this quote implies, I think this word's crawling into the grave and pulling the dirt in on itself as we speak. It's a relic of a time when imitating French food culture was the only thing to do--we're so way beyond that now that, like you say Chris, the irony's not even there. Not to get too far off the "gourmet" bashing topic, but I wonder when and why the same thing will happen to "foodie"? I suspect it too is a word of its time.
  4. I'm not trying to suggest that this diet is no good--if it works for you, it works. On the other hand, the premise behind this seems to be that we were "designed" to eat the kinds of foods listed above. The problem I have with this is that whatever lifestyle our "ancient ancestors" were designed for, we're no longer living. We're no longer living the kinds of lifestyle(s) people lived a hundred years ago, and we're not eating the kinds of food they ate then either. I tend to think about diets in terms of matching the foods we eat to the lifestyles we live. Eating mainly lean meat is a good thing to do for lots of reasons, but not because our ancestors ate it.
  5. I was reading _La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy_ by The Italian Academy of Cuisine, a compendium of simple and many seemingly very old school dishes and I came upon something similar to this technique. It was for, I think, a simple sauteed mushrooms dish and called for boiling the mushrooms for five minutes before sauteeing them in oil and garlic. When I first read that, I thought it was crazy since it goes against everything I thought about mushrooms but now in light of this thread I'm re-evaluating it. Marcella Hazan talks about cooking things like eggplant and maybe mushrooms until they disgorge the oil they've soaked up and their spongy structure having collapsed. I guess the same thing's going on with boiling the mushrooms for five minutes. I'll have to give this a shot, though I'll probably do it in one pan. I do wonder though what effect this has on different mushrooms. Would more delicate mushrooms (like chanterelles) work as well, or would they turn to mush with so much cooking?
  6. Blessed with truffle oil--I love it. I can already see tomorrow night's dinner: sauteed chicken thighs consecrated with pan sauce, brussels sprouts baptized in water then anointed with butter, roasted potatoes blessed with duck fat.
  7. Reading this thread, I'm surprised no one's mentioned false menu writing. I remember a dinner my girlfriend and I had a couple of years ago. She ordered a scallop starter that advertised truffles of some sort and another dish that supposedly had "sweet potato confit." I knew there'd be no way they were going to use fresh truffles but expected at least some truffle flavor in the dish (she'd never had truffles before and was very excited by my description). There was no truffle flavor at all, not even a noticeable dollop of artificial truffle flavored oil. As for the "confit," it was not sweet potato cooked in it's own fat (ha!) or submerged in some other fat, it was a lame puree. We were not happy about this (not to mention the food itself) and have never returned to the restaurant. Whenever I see words like "truffled" or other suspicious and intentionally vague terminology, I usually just completely avoid the restaurant. To me, it spells an attention to superficiality or maybe even an attempt at hoodwinking a less knowledgeable clientèle (I do not live in a good restaurant city--bad restaurants flourish due to what I guess is people not knowing any better).
  8. I was just about to mention my love of tater tots, and always with ketchup which I like with lots of things like burgers, fries, homefries, scrambled eggs, kielbasa, ham, etc (I guess to some this would be shameful too?). Tots are so versatile too: microwave, mash up, fry, and you've got some mean hashbrowns. Plus, tater tots are so easy to make (especially important after a night of drinking). Anyway, when it comes what what you like, my motto is have no shame.
  9. I found both of these to be pretty ridiculous, like two people standing on the opposite sides of a river yelling insults at one another. The yelling just gets louder. This Atlantic article is preposterous in so many ways its impossible to address them all; its brand of conservatism may be comforting but is extremely limiting. There are lots of things to teach and ways to do it, but receding into what we've always done is no way to deal with a problem as serious as this--it fosters thoughtlessness and inactivity when fresh ideas are perhaps desperately needed. Besides, having kids work in a garden or a kitchen for 1 1/2 hours a week is forced labor and a grave waste of time? Give me a break. On the other hand, there's a lot to learn from writing about Shakespeare that, no, you can't learn in a garden. That's why people continue to teach Shakespeare--its pedagogically very useful and, in the right hands, you can accomplish a lot by teaching it. The idea that you can leave the realm of "book-learning" and replace it with real practical learning is attractive, but reductive. It's important to have both, which is an argument for getting kids some hands on learning (like I did in Tech Ed class and Home Ec--I wish I could have had a garden class).
  10. I remember reading something that Marcella Hazan said about salting fresh pasta to the effect that there's really no point since if you season the pasta water properly it will season the pasta just fine plus the sauce/condiment will be plenty seasoned so it doesn't make a difference whether the pasta's got salt in it at the beginning or not (because it will in th end). I don't think seasoning the pasta itself would really improve things from a seasoning standpoint and besides, I think its easier for the cook to control (if they want it to be perfectly seasoned, or as Chris suggests, they want it bland). From the industrial pasta maker's point of view its probably cheaper for them if their product doesn't have salt so they don't have to pay for it.
  11. Is bottling and shipping water from Europe really that much worse for the enviorment than bottling and shipping wine fromm Europe? If you look at Chez Panisse's winelist, most of their wines come from Europe even though CP is located so close to the Napa Valley. What could be more local than Napa Valley wine? I don't think we can really equate water with wine. If there are differences between potable water in California and say France or Italy, I'd guess those differences would be negligible when compared to the difference between wines in Cali and France or Italy. I'm sure I don't need to point this out, but wine's a lot more complex than water as are the cultural differences/preferences that go into making it. A well-made burgundy is one of a kind and some people just want a well made burgundy. I don't think the same goes for water. Of course they could just pour wines from Napa, but they don't want to. I'm not going to blast them for this, because even though I try to eat as locally as possible, there are many things even in the summer when produce is abundant to me that I still get imported or from who knows where, like turkish bay leaves, salt, citrus fruit, liqueurs, pepper corns, fermented black beans, etc. I'm not going to go without these things and that's a fact of life that I think Chez Panisse probably understands. It's not local or nothing, even for CP.
  12. I think the trick is to cook the tomatoes down quite a bit without burning them of course--you just want to concentrate them by cooking the water out. Usually if I want a quick sauce, I give myself two options garlic and oil or onion and butter. I take whole canned tomatoes and separate them from their juice (I usually just drink this), then crush them (usually roughly with a stick blender, but you can use your hands of course). Don't use already crushed tomatoes--crushing the whole tomatoes allows you to control the amount of water in your tomatoes--I think this is crucial. I then either cook some garlic slivers in oil with a bit of crushed pepper then add the slightly thick, slightly chunky puree I've made or do it Hazan style and put it in a cold pan with half an onion and some butter (2 T for 14oz and I scale up from there). Then I cook the water out of the sauce until it's very thick (I cook the oil/garlic one pretty fast, the onion/butter pretty slow), season, and toss. Depending on the heat and amount of sauce I'm making I can do the oil/garlic in about 15 minutes and the butter/onion in about 35-45.
  13. When I'm making risotto that's going to be served on its own plate with nothing else (this is almost always how I like to eat it), I stir and I call it risotto. Sometimes I make one pot rice dishes that are like risotto (I learned this from the Lidia's Italy show). For example: you take a heavy pot, cook some mirepoix, add some thyme, add some chunks of boneless chicken thigh, add rice, add stock, cover, check absorption after 10 or so minutes (add frozen peas around this time), return 18 minutes later, add butter and cheese and it's ready. This takes me around 45 minutes to do with prep. Fast, easy, and risotto-like but I don't call it risotto because I reserve that name for a dish that I take the utmost care to make as perfect as possible each time. I might not be able to tell in a blind taste test whether risotto's been stirred or not, but to me risotto's about technique and I think that the kind of attention that stirring requires is a part of what I call risotto. This kind of attention to detail can become ridiculous (as we've seen earlier lampooned in this thread) or it can become part of a dogmatic program that takes the fun out of cooking, but I think its value really is that when you're stirring you're paying attention to the tertium quid that makes dishes like risotto beyond good. That's just me though--do what works for you, but I'd try it both ways before you decide what's best.
  14. Alcuin

    Smoked Salmon

    It's good with softly scrambled eggs and toast.
  15. One problem is that writing to that level of precision isn't easy either - nor is the kitchen the domain of intellectuals in the first place. I believe computer science has similar problems, with a different root - pure, academic computer science is precise and intellectual, but the application of computers in commerce is the field of every duffer and his dog, who're in it for the money, not the beautiful high country of the mind. In the second place, food is inescapably regional and local. Trying to follow an exact formula laid down by anyone who lives other than in the same town, will leave you thrashing about just to source ingredients. You only *ever* learn to cook by doing it, no matter how much you read or how many videos or live demonstrations you watch. With respect, if you're frustrated with an inability to progress, trying to make minced beef with that number of ingredients is more likely to make it worse than better, IMO. I can make a killer minced beef & pan sauce using only mince, onions, water & salt. (I feel that if you can pitch the salting right, you've mastered 50% of the art of making tasty food). I don't think it's possible to articulate every last thing in minute detail to the point of covering every thing you need to know to make most recipes--you could write ad infinitum about every detail and eventuality of sauteeing a protein and making a pan sauce. If you want to learn to bake bread, there's no way a formula can account for the humidity of your kitchen or how your yeast is reacting to its environment so you have to learn by trial and error to some extent. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for recipes coming with precise weight, not volume, measurements. But there's just no way that a recipe can be written that describes exactly everything--you have to use your judgment and developing a keener and keener sense of judgment is what defines progress. It's true that garlic cloves are like snowflakes; there aren't two alike. The same goes for your tastebuds,though, so why not add as much garlic to your dressing as you like? If you're unsure how much that is, add a little bit at a time and just keep on tasting until you're satisfied. Next time, you'll know how much to add and the process won't be as slow. A little bit more or even less garlic than the recipe says won't hurt the dish that much, as long as you're in the ballpark. Recipes are like laws: they're abstractions that have to be applied judiciously to specific cases. We'll never stop rewriting recipes (every time we make them) and we'll never stop rewriting laws. For some people, even making simple syrup sounds difficult because they're more focused on what might go wrong and what they don't know. I've told tons of people how to make stuff and a lot of them suddenly turn extremely timid and anxious because they're in foreign territory and they think something's going to go horribly wrong. I don't think its just values (different equations of convenience, money, taste, etc) but also in some cases this anxiety that keeps people buying crappy or ridiculous products like bottled pasta sauce or simple syrup.
  16. I think that point is only relevant to people who know Thomas Keller in an "off-duty" capacity -- which is to say, of course I think his personal friends call him Thomas. I read the OP as referring to people who don't actually know him at all, and are just referring to him in his capacity as a head of restaurant kitchens. In that context I think he's still "Chef". I see how my post was misleading. I don't think calling people by their first name in writing is appropriate or makes much sense, unless you're speaking personally about or to the person. I'll call him Thomas Keller the first time I mention him and Keller each time after. If I really wanted to be formal, I'd call him Mr. Keller, but that's a bit much for an internet forum.
  17. I think the point is that when an a police officer is off duty, you don't typically call them officer (I imagine most cops would find that strange and maybe a bit amusing). It just seems like a bit of an affectation to address people as chef when you're not in their kitchen, just as it would be to do that with a cop. I respect cooks/chefs a lot (my mom was one almost all my life) but I'm not going to take every opportunity to address them formally. That's just me though--to each his own.
  18. I often see instructions along the line of "if served cold, this should be seasoned more strongly" or "this is served cold, so season assertively". I notice this especially with turkey or chicken, where the cut I ate the night before (hot) didn't get any added salt at the table, but now requires a good solid dash. However, if it is heated, I find it still doesn't need the extra salt, so I think it is more to do with cold food then with age, so it wouldn't explain processed foods which are heated. That's true, but if cold meat needs more salt to compensate for its more muted flavor, on analogy wouldn't hot processed foods like a can of soup or something that has muted, dull flavors that are one-note also compensate for that with more salt? I think it's true that you can use somewhat (though I'm not sure how much) less salt when there are a diversity of well defined (because well crafted) flavors and textures in the mix. My claim is that a stew with tender but not mushy meat, a rich sauce, and properly cooked vegetables might need less salt than a canned version, no matter how hot. edited for grammar
  19. I can't say whether it's true or not, but I've had this sense especially with things like quickly cooked tomato sauces. I don't usually feel the need to add more salt to, say, braised beef (after I've seasoned the sauce and reheated the next day) so I wonder if it's because the flavors I expect to find are dulled since the tomato sauce depends on brightness and freshness so I add more salt to compensate. Salting to compensate for lacking a depth of flavor seems to be what's going on here. Cold food like left over cold roast or steak needs lots of salt, even if I've eaten it the night before with less salt because when it's hot and in the context of a full meal with a diversity of flavors and textures it doesn't need as much. The dullness or just the monolithic flavor of most canned and packaged food needs that salt to compensate for a lack of freshness or complexity. I do wonder how much sodium I use when I make potato chips or beef stew compared to their packaged or canned equivalents--perhaps a controlled comparison might be in order...
  20. I don't buy your premise. A quick Google search reveals 6000 hits for "Thomas Keller" vs 600 hits for "Chef Keller 9000 hits for "Grant Achatz" vs 1200 hits for "Chef Achatz What exactly are you proving with this? While saying that everybody on these forums refers to all chefs as "chef [insert name here]" is an overstatement, that doesn't mean its not a real phenomenon. You're arguing from rhetoric, not the topic at hand.
  21. I never thought of trying it on the rocks--I'll have to give it a shot. I'd say 4 out of 5 times I skip the olive, but sometimes it hits the spot for me. Then again, I also don't keep olives around the house unless I'm cooking with them (I don't like them at all in my Martini) so its rare I've even got one to use.
  22. I'm a big fan of the 1:1, but with the new NP I'm liking 2:1 better with most gins. The Bamboo is a great aperitif drink--it's not too high powered and oh so dry: 1 1/2oz dry vermouth 1 1/2 sherry (I use a Fino) 2 dashes orange bitters (I like Regan's for this one) 2 drops Angostura stir, strain, up lemon twist (or twist lemon, discard and add a good olive)
  23. I think the reason to do this is because it ensures as little agitation as possible so you get a stock that's clearer and perhaps with cleaner flavors. I don't know where this idea started but I do it but not in the oven. As long as the pot is too hot to keep your hands on it but not simmering much (maybe a lazy bubble here and there) you should get a fine stock.
  24. Alcuin

    Fennel

    If its the kind with the fat bulb (the skinny one's aren't as good for this), one of the best ways to eat it is to braise it with orange juice. Quarter, brown the cut sides, add enough oj to come 1/4 of the way up the quarters, and cook covered until very tender and the juice has reduced enough to just coat the pieces. Finish with parsley.
  25. Alcuin

    Roasted Cauliflower

    I like the textural contrast between crunchy florets and soft stems but if you want a bit of moisture on the florets you could try judicious sprinkling of sauce. Brown butter and capers would work or something like a bagna cauda type of oil sauce with anchovies and garlic (and maybe some chopped dried tomato) with parsley--the possibilities are endless with roasted cauliflower.
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