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Alcuin

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Everything posted by Alcuin

  1. I guess a thread like this will always end up at some point hitting on the notion that saying that people have lost some cooking skills and that facility in the kitchen, or knowledge about food, has declined has to mean at the same time that the person saying this has a low opinion of any cook who takes shortcuts and a high opinion of his/her extremely virtuous every thing from scratch point of view. I don't care to criticize what people like: it doesn't really matter. My take is that if you like it, it's good. One thing I like is cream cheese on toasted storebought mushy pumpernickel bread with generic green olives on it, or macaroni tossed with butter and cottage cheese. I ate these things as a kid and still have a soft spot for them. Judge it if you like, but it doesn't really matter. At the same time, I can say it's a shame that many people seem to think anything more than putting a bunch of stuff in a crockpot and turning it on is too much work to consider. I don't have to judge what people make or like or how they view food, just because I do think food is important. I can also say that I think less people know how to cut up a chicken, an easy and important skill, while also not caring that my friends don't know how to do it. I don't judge them for it, though I've let them know I think it's a good thing to know and that I'd show them (some of them have taken me up on the offer too). There may be a decline in cooking skills or not and of course nobody is in a position to know definitively. I think that for many people there has been, since simple sauces like tomato are used exclusively out of the jar by many and many cooking tasks are considered unthinkable, despite the availability of stuff like canned tomatoes, a little oil, and garlic which makes a sauce in about 15 minutes (a little longer than the pasta takes to boil). Many people don't cook as much because they don't have the skills to do it efficiently, and for other reasons which are surely very reasonable but which I'm not talking about, and this is despite the fact that kitchens are so advanced these days, with many people having access to refrigerators, microwaves, ranges and ovens, cheap and effective knives, economically priced stick blenders, etc. People will talk about making gigantic pots of very easy to make soup not because they don't have the time, but because it seems like such a monumental task to them. This is something that I and many many other people here, with our decent knife skills and solid knowledge of food which we learned from experience not mental osmosis, can make in an hour. It's too bad these skills weren't more widespread. Here's another thing: putting food in your body is a pretty crucial thing you do several times a day: as far as interactions with your environment go, eating is pretty invasive and we do it every day. That's why people get up in arms about a food culture that legislates that pizza is a vegetable in school lunches because of the tomato paste. There's something wrong when we've gotten to the point when the absurdity of that even needs to be pointed out, let alone become part of a program for feeding kids every day they are in school (a lot of the time of their lives). Canned soups or whatever else didn't singlehandedly take us here, but they didn't help (even if they did help people in other areas of their lives). I just don't think people who want to point out that something went wrong with our food culture are blaming and criticizing people, which seems to be an inevitable subtext whenever anybody starts a thread like this. edited for clarity
  2. Berkshire pork is great. I eat it quite often because it's available fresh in the store down the street from my house. The stuff I get comes from Willow Creek Farms and it is very good. I'm not sure I'd compare it to Kobe/wagyu beef though. At least in terms of marbling, what I get isn't absolutely insanely marbled. It's got great fat (and I'm very happy that I can order it direct in the form of pure back fat) but it is not marbled through and through like Kobe is. I cook it like normal pork, though I do tend to treat it simply to accentuate its natural deliciousness. But I like to do that with everything I cook. Is your meat going to be extremely marbled like Kobe? If so, that must be due to how the hogs were fed, more than the breed I think. As a sidenote, tonight I cut up some country rib meat to go into my pad see ew. I'm about to cook it right now: Should be good.
  3. Alcuin: What you mentioned... I posted a recipe a while back: Beef Shank Braised with Five Spice and Soy Sauce (五香牛腱) In that recipe, I used Lee Kum Kee's bottled "master sauce". You actually can forgo that. Just create your own master sauce using the ingredients and method listed in the opening post. Thanks again Ah Leung. I've used your pictorials a whole lot, but never dipped into the shank recipe. I'll give that a shot.
  4. I was just in the Chinese grocery store yesterday and considered picking up some bottled master sauce. I didn't because I remembered a thread here about making it yourself, so I mentally filed this in my to-do later list. Good timing: I'm bumping it up to the top of the list. Thanks for the recipe! So I'm going to make it and cook a chicken in it. Then maybe I'll braise some beef. You mention brisket, but I could do something like shank with this right? When I do that, do you just braise the beef, slice, and serve with some of the sauce? I've never had anything braised in master sauce, but I love the idea of it.
  5. There are some beautiful photos in Grace Young's Breath of a Wok. Some great pictures of woks (natch) and ingredients, but the pictures of people cooking, making a wok, showing off their wok/food, etc are even better. The pictures really show off one of the book's core ideas, the forging of connections between people through food and tradition.
  6. Alcuin

    Dinner! 2012

    That skin cracker looks awesome. It reminds me of this part in a Haruki Murakami story where somebody talks about loving salmon so much she wishes there could be a salmon that was all skin, just layers and layers of tasty skin. A weird image, but a delicious one.
  7. When people think about the past, they tend to idealize it. Everybody talks about Julia, Beard, Elizabeth David, Hazan reawakening us to good food. They didn't reawaken, they awakened. Because they had the luxury of time, ingredients, equipment, etc., they were able to codify and promote things like "Italian food" which was and still is an idea that was born of the moment in time (notice this is all post WWII) that enabled them to do this. I think the fact is that food was not that great, for the most part, in many places of the world around say 1900 unless we're talking restaurants for the spectacularly rich. I would not want to go back there because as jrshaul says it's really easy to cook now. It wouldn't have been so easy then. As a cook you wouldn't only be constrained by your garden, you'd be constrained by everything including your knowledge of foodways outside of your experience. While places like Italy had and still do have amazing repertoire's of skills and knowledge, access to ingredients would have been limited and people would have been making do. I'm sure there were amazing cooks back then, especially in a place like Italy with such a strong and rich food culture, but back in the day as now many people (more people actually) would have been making do. The "peasant" food we love today would have actually been peasant food, and just as today not everybody would be enthusiastic about spending hours cooking. This is not to say there was no good cooking; obviously that's not true. But it wasn't a golden age either. The golden age is now, for those of us who cook avidly.
  8. Boneless skinless chicken breasts. For many people, it seems that bones in their meat are a foreign substance and cutting up a chicken is a major task.
  9. There are even ravioli rollers that look like a terrible idea and are more expensive than the pasta sheet rollers! And about the extruders, I haven't used them either, but I've never heard a good thing about them. Plenty of bad, but nothing good.
  10. It's always worth grabbing some orange bitters. Citrus bitters are almost right up there next to aromatic bitters as an essential type of bitters. And like thirtyoneknots said if it feels right, it can't be wrong. The experimentation's the fun part. Campari's a natural match for gin and goes well with orange too. The only thing I'd worry about for myself in your formula is that you've only got 1oz of base spirit, with sugar, liqueur, and orange (which may be more or less sweet, and of course you could tweak with your sugar). With Campari's extra bit of sweetness, you might be pushing the envelope of my personal sweetness tolerance, that is unless your orange is highly acidic. But it depends on what you're going for: bracing or rich, powerful or subtle, bite-y or smooth, etc. What's the mood of the drink you're after is a question I often ask myself.
  11. I've had both, a very basic hand-cranked machine that got the job done and the Kitchenaid attachment. Hands down the Kitchenaid makes superior pasta. If you're worried about the quality of the machine itself, you don't have to because it has a lot of thickness settings. In fact, the thinnest setting can be too thin for many uses. Also, you don't have to clamp it to a table, which may be awkward and limits where you can make pasta. With the attachment you can make pasta anywhere (literally, if you have an extension cord that goes long enough...). Also, having two hands free means you can make ridiculously long sheets of pasta if you want to, you're not constrained by having one hand cranking. This also means you have two hands available to ensure that your sheets are feeding through without bunching up or sticking and ripping if there's a spot that's not adequately floured. Traditionalists may assume that something that is mechanized won't produce pasta that's as good, but having two hands free makes it easier so that improves your ability to make sure you're doing it right. Also, the construction is very solid, so while the attachment is expensive, there's nothing junky about it. It's worth the money for the quality.
  12. Alcuin

    Gimme an Herb ...

    Oops didn't mean to gum up the works: my mind said rosemary and my fingers said sage. Fixed.
  13. It's a nice book; I don't think that you will regret your purchase. Some recipes use esoteric ingredients but there are a lot of cocktails that are accessible too. I like esoteric ingredients, but what I'm not as keen on is having to make a syrup or an infusion that only works for a very limited number of drinks. I assumed there would be a prohibitive number of those going on in this book, but from what you've posted it seems like there are plenty of drinks I could peruse the cabinet and citrus holdings and make right away. I'll make the occasional infusion (I love the Riviera) or a small batch of syrup I won't use for much else, but I generally like drinks I don't have to start days or hours ahead. Thanks for showing me that this books got more solid straightforward drinks than I thought. I'm not sure why I thought it wouldn't, but I've never been to PDT so I surely have a skewed view of what the place has to offer.
  14. Alcuin

    Gimme an Herb ...

    Sage was my first thought too, and I agree with andiesenji that thyme would be better than rosemary. The only other herb I can think of that would work well is some really fruity marjoram. But I may be saying that only because I'm in love with marjoram.
  15. Alcuin

    Poached Eggs Redux

    Ah I see I thought we were talking about the heated water turn off the flame method. My thinking about using a heavier pan was merely that a pan with a stainless clad aluminum core would retain more heat and lead to overcooking the bottom of the egg and somehow also cause the albumin problem Anna's having. My pans, being less heat retentive, can be brought down from a hard boil to a bare simmer in a few seconds which would make the OP's method easier perhaps. I guess if we're talking the cold water method what must have happened is that the albumin spread itself flat against the bottom of the pan and cooked there into a thin, hard sheet.
  16. Alcuin

    Poached Eggs Redux

    I've done this several times since this thread started, using about a dozen and a half eggs and haven't had any problems. I've done two eggs at a time in a 1.5qt stainless saucepan with aluminum disc base and four in a 3.5qt of the same brand and model (Cuisinart classic). The only thing to clean is dumping out the water and wisps of egg. What did you have to clean up? Did the eggs stick at all? Bottom of pan was caked with albumen though the eggs themselves did not stick. Put pan back on heat with some dishwasher detergent and it is pretty much cleaned up now. It is an excellent stainless steel pan and I use induction as my heat source. JAZ mentions some problems with overcooking the bottom of the eggs maybe because of her use of a better pan than I used and I wonder if that's what gave you problems too. The pan I used is fine but not excellent: maybe that's the key?
  17. Alcuin

    Poached Eggs Redux

    I've done this several times since this thread started, using about a dozen and a half eggs and haven't had any problems. I've done two eggs at a time in a 1.5qt stainless saucepan with aluminum disc base and four in a 3.5qt of the same brand and model (Cuisinart classic). The only thing to clean is dumping out the water and wisps of egg. What did you have to clean up? Did the eggs stick at all?
  18. Alcuin

    Poached Eggs Redux

    Having tried a lot of poaching methods when I was working on an article on poached eggs, I'm guessing that the purpose of the plate is to keep the egg from overcooking on the bottom before the top cooks. That's the main problem I had with poaching at lower temperatures -- the egg sits on the bottom of the pan and cooks unevenly. Many chefs and authors (including, as I recall, James Peterson) use the method Maggie espouses. It worked okay for me, but I found that my poaching pan retained so much heat that the water continued to boil after I turned the heat off, and the lid intensified the effect. There was enough turbulence in the water that the whites tended to shred. I do prefer a temperature just under the boil and I had pretty good results at that temp with or without vinegar and salt in the water. The method I settled on (described here in my article) was to add a small amount of vinegar and salt to the poaching water, which makes the eggs bob up to the surface of the water as they cook. That seems to guarantee that the eggs cook evenly -- since they don't sit on the bottom of the pan, the bottom side doesn't overcook. Since it's not much vinegar or salt, I didn't notice any difference in taste from eggs cooked in plain water. The other element of my method -- draining the thin white off before cooking -- is primarily for aesthetic reasons. You end up with nice compact ovals without having to trim off any stray whites. While we did pick from about 10 poached eggs for the photos in the article to get the nicest looking ones, we didn't have to trim any of them -- that's how they came out of the water. Great article. I'll be making that duck hash some time soon. It inspired me to take some left over pot roast and make pot roast hash topped with a poached egg. Next up is duck!
  19. Ok I'm getting this book. This looks like it will really refresh my stagnant cocktail regimen (Old Fashioned/Improved cocktail, rinse, repeat...).
  20. Envious. All thanks to my husband who found a bottle of Stagg in a random liquor store in suburban Wisconsin, and carefully got it back home without the TSA confiscating it from his checked luggage. The Staggerac is truly monumental. Haven't had one in a while: thanks for the reminder; it's now on the top of my to-do list. I'm thinking I might have to pony up for this book too...
  21. If you don't want to fry, why not just roast the leaves. Layer them in a sheet pan as big as you have, and roast them. I've done this with kale, and it works well. You're left with evenly crunchy pieces of kale. I think you could easily do this with brussels sprouts leaves too, just make sure there's only one layer as much as you can otherwise the leaves might steam first which could cause problems since they're not as hardy as something like kale. I'm sure it can be done though. I had brussels sprouts leaves as a garnish on potato puree with parsnip coins and a chunk of hangar steak on top in a restaurant once. It was good.
  22. Alcuin

    Dinner! 2012

    That looks great. Were those anchovies fresh or cured in salt? Once in a blue moon fresh anchovies show up in my fish market and the only thing I know to do with them is preserve them in salt. I'd love to have another way to use them because I love them and deep frying seems like it would be great. Edited to add: one thing I like to do is if I'm using a lot of preserved anchovies at once, I like to fry the spines and eat them. Fried anchovy spines are great, and seems to be along the lines of what you're doing here.
  23. They probably won't brown well before they're cooked through. Have you thought about pan roasting them? You can cut them in half, cook them cut side down in a covered pan, then transfer them to the oven to finish if you have to. I usually just leave them cooking on the stove covered at medium heat and they are nicely browned and cooked after about 15-20 minutes, but this is assuming you don't need the burner for something else.
  24. The smoke is just a signal that it's time to put the food in to saute. You want the fat just this side of the smoke point because that tells you it's as hot as can be. You want it this hot because when you add the food, the temperature of the pan will decrease and you want it to return to temp as fast as possible. This is good because it does help keep the food from sticking plus it will ensure that you are actually sauteing the food, not steaming it which is what would be happening over lower heat (like when you sweat onions in fat over lower heat, which is not sauteing and which you don't want to be doing when you should be sauteing).
  25. I suppose telling the bartender that's what you want instead of just being able to ask for a cock-tail and get exactly what you have in mind wouldn't be considered cool? Hahaha no that would be cool too, but it would be even cooler if you didn't have to. Why should I have to tell somebody how to dissolve sugar in a glass (most places don't have syrup), dash in bitters (most bartenders hardly know what bitters are), add nothing but a couple ounces of booze, and garnish it with a nice twist (hard to get at most bars). I'm not talking about going into a "modern cocktail bar," I'm talking about ANY bar. Just like any Italian resto should be able to give me a tomato sauce with anchovies, capers, olives, chili, and garlic when I ask for a puttanesca, because they'll have the ingredients and should know this basic sauce without me explaining what that is, I'd like to be able to go into a bar and order a "Cock-tail" without having to train somebody first how to make one. Lucky for me though, I like good beer and that's in abundance around these parts.
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