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  1. Welcome to the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off! Click here for the Cook-Off index. Tis the season for croquettes! Perhaps you never noticed that these breaded and fried bundles of minced or mashed food, bound with egg or thick sauce, were utterly cross-cultural. Though invented by the French, who lend transliterated variations of the term "croquette" to Dutch ("kroket") and Spanish ("croqeta"), they hail from a number of other countries/traditions, including Philipino, American Southern, and NY Jewish -- or so we surmise from this topic on salmon croquettes. They can be filled with anything from vegetables to ham to salmon, so dietary constraints aren't an issue. Finally, since we're hitting holidays (and the holiday party season), they make for great seasonal appetizers when the crowds arrive. As always, we're raising a pretty big tent here at the eG Cook-Off. As far as we're concerned, New England cod cakes and German "Meat Cakes" both qualify. Our quick snoop through the recipes suggest that two different binding agents -- a thick white sauce on the one hand, or potatoes on the other -- dominate, but we're eager to learn more. So what are you molding, breading, and frying?
  2. Welcome to the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off! Click here for the Cook-Off index. It's still warm in the hemisphere in which the vast majority of our members reside, and so we turn, again, to a cool dish from down south: ceviche, the marinated seafood dish from Peru. It may be a popular item these days, having made appearances on Top Chef and prompting a Food Traditions & Culture topic here, but I've gotta say that I've never found a solid home recipe. That's too bad, because when they're good -- and the octopus ceviche I had at Ken Oringer's Toro in Boston last weekend was very, very good -- they're transcendent, balancing acid (usually citrus, with some help from vinegar in certain recipes), capiscum heat, salt, allium, and seafood flesh. We've got a topic or two in eG Forums (click here, e.g.) on the subject, but we've a dearth of recipes and techniques. Traditionalists, how do you find the balance in this world of lame limes and flabby fish? Innovators, how do you honor that balance with your yuzu, szechuan peppercorns, and lemongrass? Let's see what you've got!
  3. Welcome to the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off! Click here for the Cook-Off index. This time, we're focusing on pickles. Pickling is a preservation method that uses vinegar or a brine and versions of pickled vegetables, fruit, fish and meat can be found throughout the world. Whether you've wanted to try your hand at tsukemono (Japanese pickles), kimchi (Korean), Moroccan preserved lemons, pickled watermelon, good old kosher dills, or any other pickle, now is the time to do it! There are no restrictions here - let's talk about refrigerator versus 'canning' in a hot water bath. Let's argue the merits of vinegar versus salt. Whatever we do, let's help me figure out how to make my grandmother's dill pickles! There are a few topics on pickles/pickling, including a topic about half and full sours, one on pickle terminology, this topic looked for perfect pickle preparations, and this one introduced a new, quick pickling technique, and most recently, we've had some pickle chat in the Cradle of Flavor cooking topic. If that's not enough inspiration for you, reading Fruit of the Brine, a Tangy Memoir may be just the trick. And don't forget to check the 13 recipes in RecipeGullet! One last thing. If, like me, you haven't pickled anything since you were five, I've asked for and received a few book recommendations: Quick Pickles by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby Ball Blue Book of Preserving The New Preserves : Pickles, Jams, and Jellies by Anne V. Nelson Pickled: Vegetables, Fruits, Roots, More--Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions by Lucy Norris and Elizabeth Watt Who's in?
  4. Welcome to the latest eGullet Cook-off, Chicken and Dumplings, Number 51 in our Cook-Off Series. You’ll find the complete Cook-off Index here. The eGullet Cook-off Series has covered such far-ranging and delicious topics as Cold Soups to Ossobuco and Enchiladas. Our last Cook-Off captivated us with the earthy aromas of a slow-braised Lamb Stew wafting through the kitchen, (and down the halls of an apartment building). As the cold, windy drafts of January blow us into a new decade, there are still plenty of winter days ahead and that's the perfect weather to savor a favorite comfort dish, Chicken and Dumplings. (For more discussion on this classic dish, you can read through our Chicken and Dumplings Topic here). While I consider myself somewhat of an accomplished cook when it comes to another classic comfort dish, Chicken Pie with Biscuits, I’m a novice Chicken and Dumplings cook. As I began to contemplate the task of cooking Chicken and Dumplings, I soon discovered that while both dishes share some common cooking techniques, they also have a number of subtle yet quite distinctive differences. I also uncovered a number of subtleties within the hundreds of recipes one finds in the Chicken and Dumplings library. The 1913 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fannie Merritt Farmer doesn’t include a specific recipe for Chicken and Dumplings. Like other cookbooks of the day, it does have a recipe for a “Chicken Fricassee,” described in part as “a fowl, cleaned and cut-up” and then sautéed in pork fat and stewed in either water or stock and served with a white or brown sauce. Dumplings were prepared separately from the chicken, then steamed and served with gravy on the side. According to the 1945 edition of the “American Women’s Cookbook,” (Consolidated Book Publishers of Chicago), the opening instructions called for “cleaning and singeing the feathers of the bird.” Most cooks were apparently still raising chickens in their backyards in the 1940’s, (or at least buying freshly killed birds at the market). The cook was instructed to simmer the bird “in plain water for a very long time-an old fowl will require at least 3 or 4 hours slow cooking.” Folks must have liked their food plain back then as the instructions continued with these gentle words-“if desired, an onion and a stalk of celery may be cooked with the chicken before the dumplings are added.” The chicken was removed from the pot and the stewing liquid was thickened into a gravy with flour and milk. The dumplings were cooked in the gravy, which was then spooned over the chicken before the platter was brought to the table. I typically use 4 ½ lb. roasting chickens to make chicken stock and for the base of stews. Should I be using large roasting hens or capons instead? I’ve used frozen capons in the past for braised chicken dishes, and while they are advertised as having “fuller” flavor, I’ve found them bland and the meat stringy. I assume that’s due in part to the freezer burn they acquire by sitting for years in the back cases of supermarket freezers. I’m wondering what others have experienced with larger chickens. I’ve always been under the impression that for stewed chicken dishes one uses the chicken to make a stock enriched with vegetables and aromatics and then the meat of the chicken is put back in the finished stock. Is a true Chicken and Dumpling dish made by poaching a chicken in plain water with no seasonings? Is the flavoring of the liquid a matter of regional or family heritage? Now following on that thought, can the “stew” for Chicken and Dumplings be thickened with a roux? Does it have to stay “nude” as it were? If we use a roux, can the roux be further thickened with cream or half and half? What about those dreaded little peas and carrots that go into a Chicken Pie? Are they banned in Chicken and Dumplings? What about pearl onions, sliced mushrooms, diced potatoes, or maybe some chopped celery added to our Chicken and Dumplings? And what about these little puffs of flour and shortening that we call Dumplings? Is it a pre-requisite that dumplings be made with all-purpose white flour? What about using whole wheat flour, or semolina, or cornmeal, or even blue cornmeal? Should we add some fresh herbs or some nice Oregon Rogue River Bleu cheese to our dumplings? Is it an afront to tradition to even suggest putting an artisanal cheese in your dumplings? And does the size of the dumpling matter? Should they be the size of the end of your thumb, or the size of a big softball? At this point I seem to have more questions than answers. I know I can adapt my Chicken and Biscuit recipe by substituting beautiful little Dumplings for the Biscuits and I know my rendition will be delicious. But will I be true in creating an authentic Chicken and Dumplings dish?
  5. Lamb Stew -- Cook-Off 50 eGullet Recipe Cook-Off Series Welcome to eG Cook-Off 50. Click here for the Cook-Off index. Lamb stew can be called by so many different names, in so many different languages. It can be a navarin, ragout or even a daube. It might be called mishmishiya in Egypt, where the name comes from the Arabic word for apricot, or mishmish; apricots make up a large part of the recipe. It's a tagine in Morocco, certainly. And a calderete de cordero in parts of Spain. In Peru you might eat seco de cordero, lamb stew with vegetables, while lamb curries are popular in Africa, India, Indonesia and Malaysia, amongst other locales. But whatever you call it, in whatever language you'd like, lamb stew is a great dish. Wanna use the neck or shoulder? Go right ahead. How about the breast? Be my guest. Is it a leg you prefer? Well, jump right in. That's what makes lamb stew so good (besides the taste) - you can use practically any part of the animal (though you wouldn't really want to use the loin) and be assured of a tasty, tender dish that will wow your friends and family alike. As a matter of fact, this month's issue of Saveur, # 123, has a great cover and stories about lamb, and inside the mag is a pictorial guide to all the cuts of lamb - almost everything you need to know. Me - I like the shoulder. The other day I popped over to my butcher shop, where I was able to procure basically a whole front part of a lamb - both shoulders and the neck, actually. I took both shoulders, which were kindly boned out for me; the bones, of course, were used to make 2 quarts of delicious lamb stock...perfect to add another layer of flavor to my stew. Here's the butcher at work, while some beautiful shoulder and bones await their fate. Now, I don't know exactly what type of stew I'm going to cook tomorrow, but the apartment is going to smell great and the neighbors down the hall are going to ask me what's for dinner. So let's see amd hear all about your favorite way of preparing lamb stew, recipes and all. I'm getting hungry.
  6. Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index. For our third Cook-Off, we've chosen Indian lamb curry. Yes, it's true: that's a huge category for a cook-off, and saying "Indian" is about as stupidly broad as saying "American." However, like gumbo, there are some basic elements to most of the many, many permutations of this dish, and several cook-off participants wanted to start cooking Indian at home with several options. So, instead of choosing a specific lamb curry, I thought that having a conversation about those different permutations (like the gumbo okra/roux discussion, say) would be interesting and fun. I also wanted to avoid too particular ingredients that some of our cook-off pals can't get in certain places. A few things that we can discuss, photograph, and share include: -- the spice mixture: If you've never toasted your own spices, then you have a world of aromatic wonder ahead. I'm sure many people can share their ingredients, ratios, and toasting tips for curry powders that will blow away the garbage in your grocery's "spice" aisle. We can also have the ground vs. whole debate, if there are takers! -- the paste: many curry dishes involve frying a blended paste of onion, garlic, and/or ginger, along with the spices, in oil or ghee (clarified butter). I found that learning how to cook that paste -- which requires the same sort of patience demanded by roux -- was the key to making a deep, rich curry. -- accompaniments: rice dishes or bread (I have a pretty good naan recipe that I'd be glad to try out again). Here are a couple of related eGullet threads: lamb kangari a lamb and goat thread If anyone finds more, post 'em! So: find yourself a leg of lamb to bone, sharpen your knives, and get ready to update your spice drawer!
  7. Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index. For our seventh Cook-Off, due to an overwhelming campaign by a lurking group of Greek cuisine fans, we're going to be making mousssaka. And listen up: y'all have some work to do! When it comes to moussaka, it's all Greek to me! I cannot find a single solid lead on an eGullet thread concerning moussaka. In addition, I cannot find a recipe for moussaka in RecipeGullet. Finally, I've never had nor cooked this dish, and the only cookbook I have that includes it (our own Paula Wolfert's great book on The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean) is explicitly non-traditional. So, as in any decent democracy in the wake of a power-shift, the reigns must now be handed over to you, my moussaka-loving friends, to guide us through the pleasures of this fine dish. Tell us, what exactly is it? What produced your eager advocacy? How does it address the cook-off criteria? What are its classic forms? What links might guide us? What recipes do you use? What techniques can we learn? Info! Photos! Opinions! Sing, Goddesses!!
  8. Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index. For our sixth Cook-Off, we're going to be making pad thai. You've surely eaten this Thai restaurant staple dozens of times, marvelling at the sweet, sour, hot, and salty marriage on your plate. There are lots of variations of pad thai floating around the internet, including one by mamster at the eGCI Thai Cooking course. While there is one ingredient -- rice noodles -- that may be hard for some to find, most ingredients or substitutes are available at your local grocer. And, if you're new to Thai cooking, isn't now a good time to get your first bottle of fish sauce or block of tamarind? In addition to the course, here are a few threads to get us started: The excellent Thai cooking at home thread discusses pad thai in several spots. A brief thread on making pad thai, and one on vegetarian pad thai. For the adventurous, here is a thread on making fresh rice noodles. Finally, a few folks mention pad thai in the "Culinary Nemesis" thread. Fifi, snowangel, and Susan in FL all mention in the fried chicken thread that pad thai is also a culinary nemesis of theirs. So, in true cook-off style, hopefully we can all share some tips, insights, recipes, and photos of the results! I'll start by asking: does anyone know any good mail-order purveyors for folks who can't purchase rice noodles at their local Asian food store?
  9. Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index. For our fifth Cook-Off, we're moving away from gumbos, curries, and other stews (sorry, Jason, mole poblano is on the way, as is tagine, Smithy!) and, thanks to a substantial campaign, we'll be firing up the stove for fried chicken. Like gumbo, fried chicken inspires some heated debates, so we'll likely have quite a few different approaches. Bring 'em on! I'll start with a confession. Though I have figured out a fool-proof fried chicken recipe that I'll post soon, that recipe was borne not only out of convenience and family preference but also out of shame and failure. Yes, my recipe is for deep-fried chunks of skinless, boneless breast meat chicken (don't you dare call them nuggets!). I fry chicken in this manner both because we like it that way and because I have yet to figure out how to cook whole pieces of chicken to crunchy, juicy perfection. However, if I could bring one food to a desert island, it may well be fried chicken skin from a breast or thigh that's just been pulled out of the oil (I guess I'd need a Fry Baby, too, huh?). So I'm ready to come clean about my fried chicken problem and begin my reeducation pronto. Incredibly important matters to consider include: -- skillet or deep frying: Check out the debate on this thread. There are also some tips on pan frying here. -- coatings: Do you soak? Dredge? Batter? Nothin'? -- fat: What works? What doesn't? Do you have any consideration whatsoever for your arterial health, or are you a bacon fat and crisco kind of gal or guy? -- seasonings: Salt 'n' pepper purist? Lots of cayenne? A secret blend of herbs and spices, Colonel? -- regional affiliation: Where's your receipt from, exactly? -- accompaniments: Here's a consideration of "healthy" sides. (Stop sniggering.) And, last but certainly not least, Jinmyo's "perfect" fried chicken: the debate. So get our your cast iron skillets or deep fryers, digital cameras, grease splatter screens, a bird or two, flour, buttermilk, and way, way more fat, grease, and/or oil than you should consume in a month -- and start fryin'!
  10. Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index. For our third Cook-Off, we've chosen gumbo (or gumbo ya-ya), the roux-based cajun stew. Unlike char siu bao, at which I'm still a novice, I've been making gumbo since I first taught myself to cook in college, starting with Paul Prudhomme's recipe in his first book (which I was fortunate to watch the kitchen cook on a trip to K-Paul's in 1986), and working through virtually every recipe I've found. Gumbo is an astonishingly varied dish, much like cassoulet, about which there are great arguments concerning what must or must not go into the pot: gumbo file powder (ground sassafras), crawfish, andouille sausage, okra, fish, chicken, pork, hocks.... The agreed-upon basics involve a dark roux (flour and oil paste), to which diced onions, bell peppers, and celery are added, to which a hot stock is incrementally added, to which seasonings are added, absolutely including a good batch of ground chili pepper. From there, the sky's the limit. As it turns out, I made a massive batch of gumbo last night (with sides of collards, corn bread, and rice), most of which is being frozen for the arrival of Bebe, our daughter, due March 27 or thereabouts. I was able to use some wonderful fresh Maine shrimp and excellent monkfish tails, but: in my haste I didn't fry up the okra dipped in cornmeal to sprinkle on the top, the quality of the chicken turned out to be mediocre, and the "andouille" was chicken sausage from Whole Foods (please don't revoke my eGullet membership because of this -- ). But, like sex, even when homemade gumbo isn't good, it's GOOD, so I'm game for another batch real soon! So get out your digital cameras and stew pots!
  11. [This is the first cook-off; click here for the Cook-Off index. -- CA] In Culinary Bear's great thread on confit, Al_Dente mentions that he's thinking about trying Bourdain's cassoulet recipe in January. Turns out I had had the exact same dish in mind (and I finally just ordered Les Halles Cookbook from Amazon, with the eGullet link of course, to be able to use his recipe), and it made me wonder: Every couple of weeks, might it be possible for us to select some recipe, either from eGullet or a well-known cookbook, and all make it, eat it, snap photos of it, and compare notes and pix? I'm thinking of more involved dishes (like cassoulet). Like the Wine of the Week gang, different people could get tagged to facilitate, nag, and so on. I suggest this because I'm usually the only person in my non-virtual life who would be compelled to discuss the absurdly picayune points of cooking, but I can imagine a large number of similar obsessives around eGullet. If enough people are game, I think it would be a blast! So, what do you think? Any takers?
  12. Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index. For our second Cook-Off, we've chosen char siu bao, or steamed bbq/roast pork buns. You've probably had this dim sum staple many times, often a tough dough encasing a gummy, cloying clump of pork -- . But if you had a good one, you know how ethereal the dough and amazing the double-cooked pork can be. And that's what we're going to be making, pillows of porky perfection! In my two previous home attempts to make char siu bao, the three distinct steps (marinating and cooking the pork; making the dough; constructing and steaming the filled buns) were fun and compelling but rife with screw-up possibilities. Questions I know I'll have include: How does one make perfect dough? What ingredients are crucial? What sorts of tips are also crucial? (For example, I've been told by a dim sum chef that bamboo steam racks are crucial to bao, and that metal steam racks don't work well at all.) What cut of pork, marinated in what concotion (including, essentially, shaoxing wine, aka Chinese sherry), cooked in what manner and for whom long, should we use? Some links to get us started: Here is an eG thread on char siu, broadly defined. Here's a thread on evaluating roast pork buns, with a discussion of NYC restaurants. Here's one on Wow! Bao! that expands rapidly into the tao of bao. I'm not at home, so I don't have any reference recipes to use, but I know I'll be checking Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's Chinese Banquet Cookbook and The Chinese Kitchen (both of which were iffy, if I remember correctly), and Barbara Tropp's Modern Art of Chinese Cooking. Saveur also had a recipe in the back of the issue sometime in 2002 or 03 (anyone remember that?). What other recipes will people be using? So let's go bao!
  13. Every now and then since December 2004, a good number of us have been getting together at the eGullet Recipe Cook-Off. Click here for the Cook-Off index. For our eighth Cook-Off, due to an on-going campaign for same, we're going to be making pizza. Boy, talk about the perfect cook-off item: lots of folks eat pizza outside their home or toss a frozen pie into the oven, but few make it at home. By putting our heads and hands together, we can learn and share lots of good techniques here, particularly involving the dough. As always, there's a goldmine of information already on eGullet to check out, including threads devoted to pizza stones, pizza stones, and pizza stone thickness, Patsy's pizza and dough, doughs sticking to peels, unusual toppings, pies at home, dough tips, yet more dough tips, and several dozen more. So get our your peels and stones, find some good cheese and gravy, and let's get going!
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