Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ctrl-Alt-Del Cooking Techniques

Today begins a news series of posts on what I am calling Ctrl-Alt-Del(ete) Cooking Techniques. For Mac users like my PC challenged colleague Michael Ruhlman, for instance, who are unfamiliar with the term, pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del is what you do in Windows when you want to terminate an open but wonky application. So from hereon a Ctrl-Alt-Del cooking technique is one that for one reason or another should be terminated.

Whether it is dangerous, inefficient, too costly to justify the expense or just plain stupid just hit Ctrl-Alt-Del and stop it before it ties up so much RAM space that our great culinary operating system crashes.

What got me thinking about this is a section in Cooks Illustrated magazine where cooking tips from readers are posted. Some of the offerings are pretty good, but some are, Ahem, kind of silly. Consider this one for example:

"When my mom fries fish, she uses a
blow-dryer to remove moisture from the skin."

Why, was she so inspired by her fried hair that she wanted to try the technique on fish or was she making a clever fugu metaphor? If you want to dry off the fish wouldn't isn't it more practical to use a towel?

How about this tip for pit free lemon juice?

"Cut the lemon in quarters and put the quantity you need in a plastic bag. Squeeze the lemon quarters in the bag."...then use scissors to cut a hole that is smaller than the seeds.

Uhm...ever hear of a strainer?

One of my personal favorites was something my boss (a six foot four inch red headed coke freak and self-proclaimed chef) did when I was working at his parent's shop in 1981. After days of being reminded about the case of chickens that was sitting in the walk-in, he finally yanks them out and finds that they now smell like a supermarket loading dock. "No problem" he says "Get me a bottle of bleach" and proceeds to dump the case of chicken into the pot sink and fill it with water. Then he pours in 2 quarts of bleach and says "Just let it sit for an hour and we'll put it in the terryaki sauce. Noboby will know the difference.

If you know of a technique that should be or should have been terminated, please add it in a comment or email it to me at bobdelgrosso@gmail.com and I'll feedback.


Don Luis said...

Emeril (and many others): cook your past in salted water with olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together. I have never done this. Doesn't the olive oil keep the sauce from sticking to the pasta?

By the way, I have a PC, and I haven't used Ctl-Alt-Del since I replaced Windows with Linux nearly a year ago.

Sorcha said...

Didn't the Food Lion chain get in trouble back in the early 90s for doing something similar to that chicken thing? Regardless, ew.

Sorcha said...

Also, I'm now picturing you and Ruhlman in those "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" commercials. This is hampered only a little by the fact that I have no idea what you look like.

Don Luis said...

Well, according to Ruhlman (The Making of a Chef, page 13), in 1997 or slightly earlier, Bob was "a slender forty-one-year-old with a narrow face and dark features harkening back to his family's roots in Italy".

Now at least you have some idea.

Anonymous said...

How's this for "technique"? As a teenager I used to work at a large national chain that shall remain nameless, and we made a lot of chili. Twenty gallons at a time, summer and winter, in a pot so big a person could fit in it. Anyway, after cooling in flat lexans with the lids slightly askew it was placed in the walk-in, where it would invariably sprout a nice mat of green fuzz on top after a day or two. We just scraped the fuzz off and put the rest in a steamer tray, and served. "Management" approved this procedure, btw.

Needless to say, I only ate foods from there I had personally prepared from fresh ingredients.

Tyrone B. said...

Yes, Food Lion did get in trouble for practices like that...also regrinding ground meat to make it look fresh again.(i think the special was aired on TV by 20/20 or 60 minutes, including several other tricks, and food 'places')

I also believe there is a food podcast called Ctl-Alt-Del, or was it Ctl-Alt-Del Chicken?

Sorcha said...

Yeah, I thought so. We were still living in Virginia at the time and I remember my husband being amused because I swore off shopping at Food Lion.

Of course, he was in the Navy at the time and used to being fed all sorts of unidentifiable crap, so the meat thing just rolled right off his back. Also, he has very little concern for food safety. I, OTOH, have internalized all the stuff I've had to learn to get my food handlers' cards throughout the years, and am much more anal about the whole thing.