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Cooking Extravagantly


itch22
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Salt - Sel Marin for boiling veggies and Fleur de Sel for finishing dishes and on the table.  I like trying different salts when possible (price determines how liberally I use it), but I avoid iodized at all costs.  I use a cheaper kosher salt if a large volume is needed (such as dishes wrapped in a salt crust).

Sorry to digress - but I hope you make sure that there's another and regular source of iodine in your diet (common table salt is iodized to prevent goiter - it used to be endemic in the US - but has basically disappeared). On the other hand - we all probably get a lot of iodized salt in the processed foods that we eat. Robyn

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I could imagine a particularly mineral rich water slightly altering the taste (but not necessarly in a good way) as in carrots vichy, but I doubt it would be very perceptible.

Carlovsky, you beat me to it! I was going to mention Carrots Vichy as an exaple of using bottled water in cooking. Granted, I've never tried it myself....

Jeffrey Steingarten, in his inimitable obsessive way (badgering water department officials and FDA scientists, etc.) studied bottled water and concluded that NYC tap-water is pretty damn good if the chlorine is filtered out. :smile:

His Vogue column "Water" was reprinted in The Man Who Ate Everything:

The one world-famous recipe that depends on the water you use is carrots Vichy. Vichy water is salty, sparkling, and brimming with sulfates, bicarbonates, chlorides, and calcium from springs in central France where Julius Caesar once built a spa. Its bitter, salty taste is thought to balance the sweetness of carrots. You barely cover thin rounds of young carrots with Vichy water, add big pinches of sugar and salt, and cook gently until al the Vichy water is absorbed. Then you dot the carrots with butter, sprinkle with parsley, and eat.

I have one of those filter-attachments on my kitchen faucet. I too find that filtering out the chlorine makes a difference (and my local water also tastes "pretty damn good" when filtered).

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A poor chart on iodine contained in common food.

I don't think iodine intake is much of an issue in wealthy countries.  I know I take in more than my share.

Another reason I'm sure most here don't need iodized salt.

Goiter caused by insufficient iodine was a problem in the US until the 1920's - which is when they started to iodize salt (and that's why salt was iodized). Iodine insufficiency is much more of a problem these days in undeveloped countries where people don't have access to iodized salt.

In our quest for exotic - extravagant and "natural" ingredients - we shouldn't forget that a lot of ordinary products have been supplemented in such a way that dietary problems which were once common have virtually disappeared.

As far as extravagances are concerned - I have my vices (like cheese fedexed overnight from France). When it comes to salt - it's not usually necessary to add it to most dishes that incorporate processed foods (which tend to have lots of salt). But - when I do add it - I use regular iodized table salt if the salt will be dissolved in a liquid I'm cooking. I'll use something with a bit more texture if the salt is sprinkled on top. Robyn

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i use REAL cheese, fancy cheese, instead of Cheese Spread or Processed Cheese,

is that extravagant?

I use fresh milk which costs twice that of UHT milk, am i wasteful?

I use Heinz Ketchup instead of some generic brand, maybe i'm fussy.

Do not expect INTJs to actually care about how you view them. They already know that they are arrogant bastards with a morbid sense of humor. Telling them the obvious accomplishes nothing.

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A cynic could read through this thread and suggest that a number of us are just using it to show off our discerning palates and dedication to quality through our compulsive acquisition of rare and expensive -- maybe even extravagent --ingredients. Not me, however. A man who has been know to stare into his cupboard and debate which of the five olive oils he has secreted therein would perfectly complement the evening's entree would never be so petty. :laugh:

I would suggest, however, that we are lacking something important: a definition of extravagence. "Excessive" and "unduly lavish," from Webster's seems too vague. So let me attempt the logically unsatisfying (formal logic, that is) but useful exercise of creating a negative definition. An igrediant is not extravagent if:

1) It makes a noticeable difference to a dish's flavor or other significant attribute (texture, presentation, etc.).

2) It is purchased in quantities such that it is likely to be used up before it goes bad.

3) It is purchased in quantities that accord with the buyer's other financial obligations.

4) The price relationship between the item in question and near substitutes is proportional to the taste/quality relationship between the item and near substitutes

5) The item is used to bring pleasure, or for some justifiable practical purpose (make mom happy, celebrate an anniversary or impress the boss, for example), rather than to show off or to demonstrate one's own superiority.

To be non-extravagent, an item must meet all these criteria. But extravagance is a sin with many levels, and one easily forgiven. The number of criteria an item fails to meet gives a rough idea of its point on the continuum between harmless indulgence and SIN.

For example: AzRaeL's shopping list meets all criteria. Not extravagent.

Robyn's fedexed cheese: dubious relationship between the additional cost of fedexing cheese from France and the quality difference between it and good cheese from Dean and DeLuca. Probably extravagent, but within the realm of harmless indulgence (Robyn: I hope to sneak some stuff into DC at the end of this month. You can come over when we turn the house into a fromage-orgie.)

Making pasta in bottled water seems to fail on three accounts -- doesn't make an appreciable taste difference, notably more expensive than tapwater, and it reeks of showing off. I have Ms. Ferigno is dangerously close to sinfully extravagent in this case, and needs to back off.

Everyone else, I absolve you, as long as you're enjoying your food and not spending rent money on extra virgin olive oil, or snearing at your friends when they don't.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Robyn's fedexed cheese: dubious relationship between the additional cost of fedexing cheese from France and the quality difference between it and good cheese from Dean and DeLuca.  Probably extravagent, but within the realm of harmless indulgence (Robyn: I hope to sneak some stuff into DC at the end of this month.  You can come over when we turn the house into a fromage-orgie.)

When you live in Jacksonville FL - it has to be fedexed from somewhere . So I'd just as soon have the cheese skip the layover in New York :laugh: . (And it's great fun watching my cheese as it works its way through the fedex tracking system.)

By the way - the web site I use - Fromages.com - has been pretty dependable in the past. And you can sign up for regular emails about things like the cheeses of the season, etc. Robyn

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By the way - the web site I use - Fromages.com - has been pretty dependable in the past. And you can sign up for regular emails about things like the cheeses of the season, etc. Robyn

What a great site! And they deliver to Canada, you wouldn't believe how rare that is for most .COMs!

-- Jason

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Salt - Sel Marin for boiling veggies and Fleur de Sel for finishing dishes and on the table.  I like trying different salts when possible (price determines how liberally I use it), but I avoid iodized at all costs.  I use a cheaper kosher salt if a large volume is needed (such as dishes wrapped in a salt crust).

Sorry to digress - but I hope you make sure that there's another and regular source of iodine in your diet (common table salt is iodized to prevent goiter - it used to be endemic in the US - but has basically disappeared). On the other hand - we all probably get a lot of iodized salt in the processed foods that we eat. Robyn

Lots of fish in my diet (originally born in Maine), including a lot of cod (fresh and salted), but I appreciate the concern.

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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However I think microscopic attention to detail sometimes makes a difference and sometimes does not e.g. using Italian mineral water - who will taste the difference if, say, there's a big plug of charcuterie and garlic floating around in the dish? Using the finest sea salt instead of table salt in a soup where the salt will dissolve in the broth (chemically they are virtually identical - its the shape of the crystals which makes the difference), cooking vegetables with the lid off to make them greener (simply not true)

I must disagree with the salt comment. There are definite differences between table salt and various types of sea salt other than their shape. If you put Sel Marin, for instance, in a pot of boiling water, it will dissolve and some greenish/grayish material will float to the service (similar to the algae you see floating in the ocean.) While the salt component itself may be chemical the same, there is more in the crystals that just salt, there is whatever else dried into the salt crystals while they were being formed. If you grind different sea salts (fleur de sel, sel marin, hawaiian sea salt, Maine sea salt) to similar consistency, you will find that they have distinctly different tastes. Of course, I am leaving iodized salt out of the discussion entirely, because iodine obviously has a particular taste.

That being said, there are cases where the type of salt will matter less, particularly if other flavors overpower the natural flavor of the salt (for instance, in a blackening spice).

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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Edible sea salt is, AFAIK, 99% pure NaCl, and taste tests have shown that it is very difficult (verging on impossible in some cases) to taste the difference between varieties of edible salt when dissolved in purified water. This would make it all but impossible to taste the difference between dissolved salts in the presence of other masking flavors.

--

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Robyn's fedexed cheese: dubious relationship between the additional cost of fedexing cheese from France and the quality difference between it and good cheese from Dean and DeLuca.  Probably extravagent, but within the realm of harmless indulgence (Robyn: I hope to sneak some stuff into DC at the end of this month.  You can come over when we turn the house into a fromage-orgie.)

When you live in Jacksonville FL - it has to be fedexed from somewhere . So I'd just as soon have the cheese skip the layover in New York :laugh: . (And it's great fun watching my cheese as it works its way through the fedex tracking system.)

By the way - the web site I use - Fromages.com - has been pretty dependable in the past. And you can sign up for regular emails about things like the cheeses of the season, etc. Robyn

Sorry. Somehow got the idea that you lived in the urban northeast. I guess your fedexed cheese is much more a necessity than an extravagance.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Never mind. I didn't read slkinsey's post closely enough.

However, why is it possible to taste differences before the salt is dissolved as opposed to when it is dissolved in water? Why do top chefs insist on fleur de sel for finishing, as opposed to other varieties of sea salt (like sel marin or generic atlantic sea salt) if there is no difference in taste?

Edited by mikeycook (log)

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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Sorry. Somehow got the idea that you lived in the urban northeast.  I guess your fedexed cheese is much more a necessity than an extravagance.

No problem. I was born and brought up in the northeast - but I have spent most of my adult life - over 30 years - in Florida. Robyn

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Why do top chefs insist on fleur de sel for finishing, as opposed to other varieties of sea salt (like sel marin or generic atlantic sea salt) if there is no difference in taste?

There's a difference in texture and appearance. The generic sea salts are much more dense and compact, like little rocks, and fleur de sel is a very light crusty salt that has strong visual impact but melts easily in your mouth without the crunch. :smile:

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I love quality cheese - any kind - mild, ripe, stinky, runny, hard. This is not an extravagance, but an essential part of eating. :biggrin:

I used to have a very sweet tooth and loved dessert. Now, I would rather have a lovely cheese tray to end a meal than something sweet.

In Vancouver we are blessed with Les Amis du Fromage. This is one of the best cheese shops I have seen ANYWHERE. The two women who run it are mother and daughter and are very knowledgable.

I have never had it shipped as I live locally, but the web site says they ship anywhere in Canada. http://www.buycheese.com/.

Life is short, eat dessert first

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