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Everything posted by agray

  1. Budrichard: it was actually cut by the farmer who gave it to me - he has his own saw as he also butchers his lambs himself. And yes, he cut right through the bones. He gifted it to me because I was looking for venison and it's impossible to get from a butcher where I live (you're not allowed to sell wild venison, but can give it away). Though he did give me some older meat... I ended up using the BBC Good Food recipe I linked to above. It worked out very well as the steaks would have been quite tough otherwise. I cut the meat from the steaks into rough cubes and then prepared as the recipe suggests (rough cut onions, carrots, celery and turnip, sear meat, deglaze pan...). It was delicious, and the meat did benefit from a slow braise - it was nice and tender after a couple of hours in the oven. It wasn't gamy at all - in fact it ended up being very much like Boeuf Bourguignon.
  2. Thanks for the suggestions! I was wondering, since it was a shoulder, if it would require slower cooking like you would with pork shoulder. I'll dig around for some stew/braise ideas. We do have red wine and juniper berries kicking around... Don't have a meat grinder alas - those burgers look very tasty. This recipe looks interesting: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1935/succulent-braised-venison
  3. I've been given a couple of Venison shoulder steaks (hunted deer, not farmed), and I'd like to cook them up tomorrow night for dinner, but I don't have a clue how best to prepare them - I've never cooked venison before. Any suggestions? From my reading, I see that most venison cuts are best just grilled quickly, but that some need to be marinated/braised. Other than that, I'm an empty vessel...
  4. Jeffrey Steingarten does this at the start of The Man Who Ate Everything. He systematically set out to identify and overcome his main food phobias/dislikes. Cribbing from the Amazon review "he could allow himself no favourite foods nor irrational dislikes; consequently, the first piece in the book describes his heroic efforts to purge himself of all food phobias in preparation for his new post. The Six-Step Programme he devised was largely successful: as a result, kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage), anchovies, Greek food and clams ("I feel a mild horror about what goes on in the moist darkness between the shells of all bivalves...is the horror deeper than I know?) all assumed a place in his diet." It must be hard to do as Jeffrey did, but I think most people could probably do the same if they had the will. Though it's also true, as Chris mentions, that there are some aversions which are likely biochemical/genetic in nature, such as the ability to taste phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), which makes brussels sprouts taste bitter and sour to me, and fantastic to the rest of my family. Positive thinking isn't going to change that, though you can certainly develop an appreciation for some bitter and sour flavours.
  5. I've not suffered from your problem, so I'm a little reluctant to dispense medical advice. However, I think it's worth looking into the possibility that a low-fat diet may not actually help everyone reduce their 'bad cholesterol' levels as egale mentions above. This has been the received wisdom for some time in North America, but people have been getting less healthy the last couple of decades, while continually reducing consumption of animal fat in particular. Gary Taubes has been writing about this for a little while - this article in the NYT Magazine is one of his most well-known: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-been-a-big-fat-lie.html "If you work out the numbers, you come to the surreal conclusion that you can eat lard straight from the can and conceivably reduce your risk of heart disease." "...the major trends in American diets since the late 70's, according to the U.S.D.A. agricultural economist Judith Putnam, have been a decrease in the percentage of fat calories and a ''greatly increased consumption of carbohydrates.'' To be precise, annual grain consumption has increased almost 60 pounds per person, and caloric sweeteners (primarily high-fructose corn syrup) by 30 pounds. At the same time, we suddenly began consuming more total calories: now up to 400 more each day since the government started recommending low-fat diets." This book is also very interesting: "Fat An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes" by Jennifer McLagan - http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Appreciation-Misunderstood-Ingredient-Recipes/dp/1580089356/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267132131&sr=8-1 In my own household, we're phasing out margarine and increasing our use of butter, and I've just gone out and procured some pork fat from a local organic farmer, which I'm planning to render into lard for cooking. Fat from a well-raised animal has a very good composition - lots of Omega 3s and the like. I'm planning on doing more experimentation in this area, as it really looks like many fats have been given a bad, and potentially harmful, reputation.
  6. I've been baking more from this book recently and I thought I'd add a few thoughts to this thread, based on my experience so far. I've heard this book described elsewhere as 'Reinhart Lite', and I don't think that's quite fair. Though I suppose if it means that this is a slim book, or a good introduction to his baking techniques, then it is a bit more accurate. As someone who owns several of Peter's other books I definitely think this one's worth buying. He hasn't just simplified the recipes in the way someone might 'dumb down' a book for beginners: he's improved them, often removing some unnecessary steps where possible, but also adding techniques that were less common when he wrote the earlier versions, such as using stretch and fold to noticeably increase the oven spring and structure of the bread (I really noticed this with the Pain A L'Ancienne baguettes) and extending the use of the refrigerator for slow fermentation. I think it would be an ideal book for someone just getting into home artisan baking. Bread Baker's Apprentice has much more about the science of baking as well as having more recipes, and would be a great step up from this one. As with all his books, you can tell the recipes have been exhaustively tested, and I haven't found any errors or confusing instructions at all. So far, I've re-made many of my favourites from previous books, and found them all to have been improved. The baguettes have higher spring, and are easier to bake (though take a little more time the night before). The whole wheat is also simpler, and tastes better. The pizza dough rises higher than his previous recipe (stretch and fold, I presume). Next I'm going to try my hand at sourdough again (I had some issues with it before with Bread Baker's Apprentice) as well as some of his sweet breads, and finally, croissants.
  7. While we're resurrecting, I want to put in a vote for Thomas Keller's chocolate chip cookies from Ad Hoc At Home. I discuss them and post a photo on page 2: They're quite good indeed. The recipe is online here: http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/cookbooks/thomas-keller-ad-hoc-at-home-c/
  8. TimS - you may want to check your salt if it's not Diamond Crystal; I had a similar issue with Keller's recipes until I realized the brand of Kosher salt I was using was about 40% more per volume as the lighter Diamond Crystal that he uses. So now I cut back the salt I put in his recipes by about 40% and the salting seems about right. Also, as someone mentioned earlier in this thread, his recipes are often a bit heavy on the salt, which is not uncommon for restaurant cooking. Just made his Soup Crackers last night. They were pretty good, though for once, following his directions to the letter didn't quite work for me - I ended up rolling them thinner than the 1/8th inch he suggested and cooking them a few minutes longer. I also found that adding extra salt to them (sprinkling with fleur de sel) before baking made them a bit too salty for my taste. As soup crackers they're a little bit basic (as they're supposed to be, I think) - I'm going to try adding some herbs or parmesan cheese next time I make them.
  9. Plus ca change... Costco hasn't changed much in 6 years. It's still a great deal on some staple items, it still pays to keep an eye on what you pay in the grocery store, as not everything is cheapest there. In fact, it's a useful way to see how much your grocery store is gouging you. Costco won't (apparently) mark anything up more than 14% over cost - they make money on volume (and membership fees). So, if something is a similar price there as to your grocery store, your grocery store is taking a smaller profit on it. If it's vastly cheaper at Costco, you know the grocery store is marking it up a lot. For example, we buy Martinelli's sparkling apple every so often. Our local Save-on-Foods has it for something like $5 per bottle. At Costco we can get 3 bottles for $7 or $8. Therefore the local store is marking it up by about 50%. Living somewhere like Peterborough you may find that some things won't show up in your local Costco that might show up in Toronto. I live in a similar-sized city to Peterborough (Nanaimo), and I've noticed that some things they get in Vancouver don't sell over here - like a nice roasted-vegetable whole-wheat lasagna that we used to buy. I figure it has something to do with buying patterns in each community, and Nanaimo has a lot less people buying vegetarian/organic sorts of things than Vancouver. We don't buy meat at Costco (we only buy organic and local, and I've never seen organic meat there), and try to avoid the ranks of frozen processed foods. What we find are good deals though are basics: bananas, Parmigiano Reggiano and other cheeses, milk, unsalted butter (still a good buy at about $3.50 per lb vs $5 per lb in the grocery store), bread, canned tomatoes, apple juice, rice, flour (1/2 the price of the grocery store). I got my Kitchenaid Mixer for $300 there, $100 cheaper than anywhere else. Another thing about Costco worth considering - they pay their employees fairly well, and give them reasonable benefits, unlike Superstore or WalMart. Yes, they benefit from retail psychology - they bring people in to buy cheap produce and entice them with a wall of TVs - but as big box stores go they seem more ethical than some. I still wish they'd stock more organic foods - a box of salad from California doesn't really count.
  10. I've made the chocolate chip cookies twice now, and I have to say they give my previous favourite (the New York Times famous recipe) a run for their money. I did them as written in the book, hacking chunks of chocolate off a block of dark and light Callebaut while my 4-year-old hovered like a puppy waiting for scraps. They bake quite thin, and stay remarkably chewy after they cool down. The chocolate doesn't stay in chunks but spreads in layers inside and outside the cookie. You need a silpat or parchment because of this leakage, or you'll get quite a mess on your baking tray. My first taste of them I thought they were very good. After a day, they seemed to get even better and I ranked them up there near the top of their class. They were still good three days later, and none made it longer than that, so I don't know how they'd store long-term. A visiting friend thought they were the best she'd had.
  11. Dakki: Interesting to know. But I was thinking more about a cookbook as an app than an ePub file. Obviously an ePub file with nice photos would replicate the paper version fairly well, but to make it truly interactive would require an actual app which would then run like a program rather than an ebook. Though maybe this would be fairly rare for publishers considering they'd have to pay someone to program such an app. It's much easier to translate your InDesign files or whatever into the ePub format.
  12. Dakki: I believe that nothing in the iPad's design precludes embedded videos in cookbooks or other books - it's just that it won't play flash embedded on a website. But there are other ways to do it (and other ways to embed video in websites now; people are experimenting with HTML5 and .h264 video, to get geeky on you). The interesting thing is that a cookbook could not just be published on the iPad but repurposed as an App which could incorporate how-to videos, better picture galleries, updates from the author, corrections pushed to it by the publisher, even reviews and comments by users. I could see a built in calculator function, so if you wanted to do a half or double a recipe it would recalculate amounts for you - gosh, we could even have weights and volumes... I tried out a Kindle for a while, and downloaded a sample cookbook (Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day), and was unimpressed. The Kindle was fine for a novel or nonfiction book, but a cookbook cries out for illustrations and photos. But yes, I agree that paper books are not going to vanish; they'll become specialty items and probably (if not cheap, on-demand versions) get higher in quality to distinguish them from more disposable electronic content.
  13. Yes - that's something I've definitely appreciated. Instead of the standard staged photo of the finished product and maybe one of a step along the way, many of the recipes have multiple shots of each step, clearly showing what it looks like when you follow the recipe properly.
  14. I've just made the 100% whole wheat hearth bread. I was already a fan of the recipe from his Whole Grain Breads book - this one is a definite improvement. Not only is it less work (you don't have to do the soaker and pre-ferment), but the result is better. I used some locally ground Red Fife wheat, which makes quite a dense loaf using the previous recipe. This one has a noticeably better crumb - lighter in texture, less crumbly and tastes delicious. I'm still not getting much in the way of oven spring (I didn't with the recipe in the previous book either), but I don't mind; it's a very nice bread. Looking forward to trying the Challa and the biscuits. And his directions for croissants are so clear that I'm considering tackling those too.
  15. This is indeed timely, especially the comments about possible issues with polyunsaturated oils and reuse, as I've been starting to research cooking with animal fat instead of vegetable oil. It's still early days (I'll be rendering lard next week), but here's what I read recently in Jennifer McLagan's "Fat": Now this is lard she's referring to - I wouldn't likely refrigerate peanut oil etc, but from what I've been reading it seems that it might not be a great idea to keep vegetable oil around through many fryings due to the oxidation resulting from frying.
  16. Thanks for the article link - that pretty much answers the question, actually. The feed difference seems relatively minor, since pasture is not heavily treated with pesticides etc, and the antibiotics are the only other difference. Since hormones like BST are prohibited in Canada, looks like there's not a huge difference.
  17. Does anybody know if there's a significant difference between organic and 'regular' milk here in BC (Vancouver Island especially)? We're trying to get more local organic produce, buy well-raised organic meat, etc, but milk seems to be a difficult one. The only local choices are Island Farms and Dairyland (both owned by mega-giant Saputo, I believe), or else getting Avalon milk from Vancouver through someone like Spud.ca. So it travels quite a way. And organic milk costs a whole lot more. 4L of Island farms is about $4.35 while their organic is twice as much. Avalon / Valley Pride organic is three times as much, almost, at about $12 for 4L. I can tell the difference between an organic, pastured chicken and a factory-farmed one just by taste alone - I also don't want to support factory farming. But unlike in the US, I know that dairy farming here is different - the supply is managed, and most farms are still family farms with 50 or 60 cows. And I presume most of them get to graze. So, unless I'm incorrect about dairy farming, it seems a bit less cut and dried. Would the main difference just be the feed given to the cows (use of pesticides in the fodder, etc?)?
  18. It was officially declared a health hazard here in Canada last April and has been banned in baby bottles. However, it's still found in tin cans, though it's not in plastic containers any longer. We've been trying to move away from cans since last year, and are making all our beans from dried. We've still not managed to stop using canned tomatoes yet, though are looking around for alternatives. Unfortunately tomatoes, being acidic, apparently leach more BPA from the can liners. Eden Foods canned beans are BPA free, though - as far as I know the only company to declare their canned food BPA free. Their tomatoes are not, however, as the liner substitute can't deal with the acidity.
  19. agray

    Caramelized onions

    I think the balsamic vinegar is more for the colouring and a little sweetness than for any affect on alkalinity - I've used it in some recipes and it does make them look brown quite quickly, but it's not quite the same as the browning from a long cooking.
  20. Oh, and pancakes. I know several people who assume the only way to make pancakes is from a box or bag of mix. I actually had to explain to one friend that there's no magic extra ingredient in a box of Aunt Jemima - you just need flour, baking powder, salt, milk, egg... And I'll see your mirepoix and raise you plastic cartons of pre-chopped onions, mushrooms and peppers, all for a significant extra cost.
  21. Yes, maybe 'crazy' was a loaded word for the title! It would have been better to say - what can/do you make yourself which is fairly simple and much more satisfying/rewarding/healthy than getting the grocery store/mass produced equivalent. Although I'd love to try duck confit and sausage making sometime, if only for the learning of it, there are several artisan producers on Vancouver Island who make wonderful, locally sourced versions of both, and I doubt I'd want to replace their wares with my own. There are also some good artisan bakers, and I do buy from them sometimes, especially when I can get French pastries. Professionals should be encouraged and supported! That said, if you've only had grocery store bread, cookies, hummus, mayo, canned beans etc, and you're the sort of person who hangs around at eGullet, then it seems only fair to strongly encourage you to give them a shot yourself. There was a time, not long ago, when almost every household had these skills. By giving them up in the name of convenience, we do lose something.
  22. Of course! I completely forgot to add pies, cookies, muffins and cakes. Yes indeed, homemade is best, and you know exactly what went into them too...
  23. My wife and I were just discussing this as she mixed up some dressing for tonight's salad. There are certain things in the home that you should just make yourself - they're cheaper and better than store-bought and often easier than people think to make - once you know how to do them, of course. We came up with a few off the top of our heads: Salad dressing. (how hard is it to mix oil and vinegar?) Yogurt. Bread - especially with the various no-knead and slow-rise techniques from people like Reinhart and Lehay. Pizza - the pizza we make (Neo-Neapolitain from Reinhart's "American Pie") is so much better than any delivery I've had. Pasta sauce - banish those jars. Beans - banish those cans and use dried. I plan to start making ice cream this year also... What would people add to this list?
  24. Frightening stuff indeed. There was a similar article in October about a 22 year old woman who became paralyzed after eating ground beef contaminated with E. coli: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/health/04meat.html. The single scariest part of this article is the description of where the hamburger she ate came from: "confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria." This enables them to cut the price by 25%. Essentially, cheap food is killing us. Seems like the only way to really be sure is do it yourself or work to establish relationships with farmers, a good butcher, restaurants. Which is not a bad idea anyway. It takes a commitment, and costs more, but I think we'd all be better for it (this is my New Year's Resolution). I just picked up half a side of pork from a local farmer and listened to her talk about the pigs, how they'd lived on her small farm and how she had cried when she had dropped her four pigs off to be slaughtered and butchered just before Christmas. I actually know the name of the animal in my freezer now (Daisy). I'm going to try hard to know as much as possible where our food comes from. We don't have a Whole Foods where I live, though there are a couple of small organic markets I'm going to go to more often. From the grocery store, I will avoid the deli and meat areas completely, as well as the frozen/processed food, and just get fruit and vegetables.
  25. A lovely 12 cup KitchenAid food processor to replace the sad, dying and small one I've used for the last decade. Also "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" and "My Bread" to add to my cookbook hoard.
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