Saturday, January 31, 2009

For Psychedelicized (and the nearly so) Foodies Only

A Homeric battle between the forces of ill and the miscreants in the diet proletariat. Courtesy of YouTube by way of the estimable Gary Allen.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Finally! GE loses to EPA in ruling on river dredging

Wow, we studied this case almost to ad nauseam when I was pursing a BS in Environmental Science between 1976-80.

General Electric was accused of dumping large amounts of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals into the food chain. It was alleged that one of the conglomerate's subsidiary businesses dumped an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls) into the Hudson River between 1947-77, consequentially ruining fisheries, countless lives many lives? When it became obvious that indeed, GE was responsible for poisoning the river and they were asked to clean it up, they dug in their heels, hid behind counsel, and waited until their accusers gave up. But they never did.

Now, after more than sixty years after they began dumping hazardous waste from a transformer plant in Hudson Falls into the Hudson River, a court in Washington ruled that they must clean it up.


GE loses to EPA in ruling on river dredging

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Be nice to cows & they will pay you back in milk

This is cool

"Higher heifer milk yields (≥ 200 liters) were found in herds where the stock manager thought it important to know every individual animal, although this was only a trend (p = 0.14). On farms where cows were called by name, milk yield was 258 liters higher than on farms where this was not the case (p < 0.001)."

IngentaConnect Exploring Stock Managers' Perceptions of the HumanAnimal Relation

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thanks for the votes!

From Hudson Valley
Bob del Grosso and Mike Pardus thank all of you who voted in the recent Best Food Blog by a Chef poll at Well Fed Network.
And special thanks to those of you who voted for us in what was clearly the most important election in recent history. We are not sure who won. But that doesn't matter because we emerge from the heat of this historic contest as bright and refreshed as faggots bundles of haricots vert in an ice bath. We are full of the hope that whoever it was who won, will bring about the changes we need to create a better, more perfect nation of food bloggers.

All kidding aside: Thanks!

Update: The winner in the category of Best Food Bog by a Chef was the fetchingly framed pastry blog Tartelette.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Biltong, This

From biltong

So we have added another form of carne seca (lit. dry meat) to our repertoire of air dried meat portfolio: South African Biltong.

My first experience with Biltong was during a trip to London in 2007. On our last night in town and fed up with being phelbotimized by the doubling effect of the dollar to pound exchange rate each time we dined in restaurants, we decided to take dinner in our rooms and fuel it, in part, with stuff we would pick up from shops around our hotel in Piccadilly. It was at Fortnum and Mason, just a few thousand feet from the hotel, that I discovered a fabulous charcuterie counter, and to my surprise (because I'd never heard of the stuff before and I'm supposed to know everything), a big case of biltong.

I'll let wikipedia tell you the origin and history of this Dutch to Boer form of cured and air dried beef and cut to the quick and how it differs from the more familiar forms of dried meat from Europe and tell you how we make it.

With the exception of jerky, most of the forms of air dried meat that are available in North American markets are cured and dried over a relatively long period of time (e.g. country hams and prosciutto which cure for weeks and hang for months) while the curing and drying time for biltong is very short. I have read biltong recipes where the cure time anywhere from a few hours to a day depending on how thick the recipe specifies the meat be cut. Drying times range from one to four days, again depending on how thick the meat is cut and the ambient temperature, humidity and rate of air exchange in the drying space.

The preparation of biltong also involves a step that I have never seen in other preparations of air dried meat. Prior to dry rubbing the meat with the curing ingredients and after the meat emerges from the curing step, meat for biltong is rinsed in vinegar. This treatment with vinegar a appears to have the effect of causing the muscle fibers to tighten (I assume by lowering their pH and reducing their ability to hold water) and become shiny when the meat emerges from the air drying step. Some recipes specify the addition of baking soda to the curing step to "soften" the meat and make it easier to chew.

This last procedure is familiar to me and I think I understand the science. Baking soda, sodium bicarbonate is alkaline ( i.e. it has a pH greater than 7). When you raise the pH of the muscle proteins the effect is the opposite of lowering it: affinity for water is increased. So the addition of baking soda should in effect "soften" the meat by reducing water loss during drying -and it does, but not directly.

Because the baking soda is added to the recipe during the dry-rub step and after it has been rinsed in vinegar. The baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) reacts with the vinegar (acetic acid and water) to form carbon dioxide (you can see the bubbles on the surface of the meat) AND sodium acetate, a weak base that has a pH of 8.9
So it is not the baking soda that is softening the meat it's one of the products (sodium acetate) of the reaction between the baking soda and the vinegar that's doing the work. (A HA! It must be similarly alkaline chemicals that are responsible for the enhanced browning seen in some baked goods that are leavened with baking soda, as high pH enhances browning reactions. Cool).

Okay so how are we making biltong at Hendricks Farms and Dairy? First of all, we are writing our own recipes, but the process (which is incompletely illustrated in the slideshow) proceeds like this
  1. Very, very lean, grass fed beef is cut into 10-12 inch lon 2.5 inch squared off strips(see photo above)
  2. The meat is either soaked in vinegar for an hour or so or put into a flavored brine that contains vinegar and baking soda for a 3 to four hours
  3. The meat is dry rubbed or brined with salt, pepper and various flavoring agents and cured 12 or more hours
  4. The meat is rinsed in vinegar and hung in the drying room equipped with a fan that runs until the surface of the meat is dry and shiny (about 24 hours)
  5. Meat hangs for about 4 days total
The following slide shows the final stages (Steps 4&5) of the production of a batch of biltong that was cured with soy, scallions, ginger, chili pepper, and liquid smoke. The photos were taken on Thursday by your's truly; by Saturday the biltong was not quite dry enough to sell, but tasting amazing. Serious umami with a bouquet of dried mushrooms...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Unfortunate Marketing Language

Don't like our Game Burgers? You can always feed them to your dog.
(I promise you that I have not purposely altered a single word.)
Game Burgers have little fat in them but produce a moist, tender and flavourful taste that provide a healthy alternative to the traditional beef. Always cook ground product till juices run clear, but because of the lack of fat you need to stay with your burger, so you dont over cook. PS makes great pet food.

VOTE: Best Food Blog - Chef

We've been nominated for a Best Food Blog by a Chef award by whom, we don't know. But we thank whoever put us up and hope that others like us as well. Thanks!

VOTE Here: Best Food Blog - Chef

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Poor Fool Eats Himself Sick

And he claims to be proud of the results of his proclivity to gluttony. (I don't believe him, being sick is nothing less than bull dung.)

Perhaps one of you will be able to explain why someone who breathes the same air as we do  would eat so much, so often,  that he contracts gout. In the interim, I'll just be sad.

Disease: Food Blogger Proudly Contracts Gout

Deep Thought: Artisan Bread?

ar·ti·san (ärtə zən, -sən)
a worker in a skilled trade; craftsman
Etymology: Fr < It artigiano; ult. < L ars,

It may be only children and pedants who believe that once a word is codified coded into a more than one dictionary its meaning becomes fixed and immutable. But nothing could be further from the truth. Consider the word fuck (Click the link, you'll split a gut. I promise!) which can mean virtually anything depending upon the context in which it occurs.
The word artisan, which in its nominative form indicates a person who is skilled in a trade and works largely with his hands and hand tools, can actually refer to someone with only enough skill to operate a dough mixer or cut and slash a loaf of bread in exactly the same way ten thousand times a day. Although, as some sources indicate, there is an assumption of variability in expression or uniqueness associated with each product made by an artisan, this notion while charming, appears not to be true of some of the products available to contemporary consumers of artisanal products.

For example, this loaf of artisan bread purchased at the local supermarket, looked just like all the other loaves of the same type ("French"). It was the same color, and shaped and slashed in precisely the same way. In fact, if the label did not indicate that it was hand made by an artisan, one would swear that it was the product of some form of automated baking process.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Latest Invention: The Dorsavent Chef's Jacket (Satire)

I am proud to announce that I have invented a product that promises to revolutionize the way chefs look and SAVE MONEY by cutting laundry and wardrobe costs by 50%!  

The Dorsavent ( from dorsal  and ventral) is the  first reversible chefs coat that is designed so that the back is a mirror image of the front. Now when the front of  the jacket gets dirty, the chef does not have to change to a new jacket!  He/she merely takes the jacket off, turns the back to the front and voila! The chef looks clean again.

This jacket will be especially attractive to chefs who work double shifts and restaurateurs whose budgets are being squeezed by the drop off in business that has crept in behind the freeze-up of the global credit market.

And for chefs who feel like schmucks  walking around with buttons and food smears on their back, there is an optional cape (available in black and white). I'm a fraking marketing genius. Get used to it. 

Food Science Out of The Box:

If you see marbling in pork you are less likely to buy it

Data from Experiment 1 indicate that an increase in IMF [Intra Muscular Fat or marbling] level is associated with an increase in visual perception of fat and a corresponding decrease in the willingness to eat and purchase the meat, when expressed before tasting.
However, if you eat the marbled pork you are more likely to like it

The latter effect disappeared after the consumers had tasted the meat, probably due to a positive effect of increase IMF, up to 3.5%, on the perception of texture and taste.
How cool is that?

ScienceDirect: Influence of intramuscular fat content on the quality of pig meat — 2. Consumer acceptability of m. longissimus lumborum

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tourists acting like tourists

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bread Starter

When in September we began building our still incomplete masonry oven, Trent bought a grain mill. Suffice it to indicate that it has not seen much use since then. However, on Saturday I dragged the thing out to grind some wheat berries to mill in order to make bread starter (aka "poolish" and "biga").

I have little patience for hearth breads that are conventionally leavened with pure cultures of yeast over short periods of time (less than 24 hours). Sure, a bread that is made from good flour and is allowed to rise a couple of times over the course of a day before being baked can be very good. But to produce bread that has real character and deep flavor you need to ferment at least a portion of it for a very long time.

I like to start hearth breads three to four days before baking by fermenting a portion of the flour that will be used in the final loaf (or loaves). The basal reason for this is to produce a vigorous and diverse microflora that will breakdown the starches and proteins in the grain and leave behind a bunch of flavorful by-products. If I'm lucky, the starter ends up with enough live yeast to leaven the bread but I don't count on it, neither do I care if it doesn't work out that way. If the starter looks like it does not enough yeast to raise the bread, I just toss in come SAF yeast and move on.

Here is a slide show of a starter that I began yesterday morning (Sunday 1.18). The only yeast etc that is in there was what was present on the ingredients when they were combined and whatever rained in from the atmosphere of my kitchen.

Some photos of Trent's mill in action on Saturday (1.17)

Cocina Luis: Where Pork Comes From

 This link will lead to to the blog of Don Luis where you can watch some videos of some of his relatives butchering a hog.

Cocina Luis: Where Pork Comes From

Deep Thought: Mise en place

I think that if there is any one thing that distinguishes a happy cook from one who is constantly frazzled (of course there is no one thing) it is in manner in which we approach the act of cooking. A contented cook makes sure that everything is put into place before any real cooking occurs. All of the ingredients are cut, apportioned and arranged in the order in which they will be cooked so that once the cooking commences, everything falls into place at the appropriate moment. It is out of the frisson of order that the joy of cooking occurs. There is no way to find contentment in cooking if its prelude is not orderly.
The photo shows the partial mise en place (total mise en place would include pots, pans etc.) for a meal that I cooked for my family on 1.12.09. The apple is incongruous and was not used in this meal.
Posted by Picasa

Spatchcock This

A dressed and split chicken for roasting or broiling on a spit.

tr.v., -cocked, -cock·ing, -cocks.
  1. To prepare (a dressed chicken) for grilling by splitting open.
  2. To introduce or interpose, especially in a labored or unsuitable manner: "Dick Cheney' was spatchcocked into George W Bush s presidency and enjoyed misunderestimated authority over his titular leader " (BdG)

[Perhaps alteration of spitchcock, a way of cooking an eel.]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Junk Journalism

Cheese — it's grosser than you thought - LiveScience

Click the hyperlink and you will be led to a piece of writing that, if it does not make your blood boil, will certainly cause you to question the intellectual credentials of the author or, in all fairness, her editors. At first blush it appears to be an "ew gross" treatment of the subject of "how cheese is made" that is aimed at kids and none-too-worldly-adult adults. Consider the opening sentence

"Cheese makes some foodies jump up and down like little kids, but behind that heavenly taste and texture lie bacteria, mammal stomach lining, pesticides and pure fat."

Okay, none of us want to ingest pesticides (more likely fungicides if you read the article carefully) but why should anyone be worried about bacteria and "mammal stomach lining" (rennet) and pure fat? Whoever wrote this is either a covert vegan or an over eager wannabe writer who is unwittingly playing into the hands of the same people who want to stop people from using animals for anything other than visual distraction and who refer to milk as "pus" and "the excretion of bovine mammary glands" in order to gross out potential recruits.

Monday, January 12, 2009

[Blank] Rebrands Fish as 'Sea Kittens'

Following the series of setbacks to various animal rights groups to destroy the business of my friends at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, I've been staying away from posting on animal rights topics because frankly, I got tired of giving free publicity to those meddlesome twits. But this story about a certain animal rights group attempt to rebrand fish as "sea kitten" is too funny to pass up.

Look, I know that they are trying to make fish sound cute so that people will become squemish about eating them. But how dumb is it to try to dissuade people from eating fish by morphing them into the form of a carnivore that preys on fish? On balance, I suppose this campaign will get some traction with kids and adults who lack the ability to think ironic thoughts or those who would starve themselves before they would eat a house pet.

I've left the name of the group out of the header and link in an attempt to avoid helping to raise their profile. I'm also not linking directly to the group's page to deny them a direct back-link. If you want to see what this group has put together you can click the link to their site on the Ad Age site

Now That's a Whopper: [Blank] Rebrands Fish as 'Sea Kittens' - Adages - Advertising Age

Sunday, January 11, 2009

On Cooking

Regular readers of my blog might be surprised to know that I also write a column for a local newspaper. Although I've been writing my "On Cooking" column for almost two years (predating the creation of A Hunger Artist) I've never mentioned it here and, until now, never posted any of it content on this site. My reasons for this are complicated but mostly have to do with my perception of the nature and interests of the two audiences and the need to change my voice to the tastes and mores of each. My voice in The Daily Local, which is distributed throughout Chester County, Pa, is more staid and less prone to glibness and gallows humor, while A Hunger Artist I think has more of the flavor of my natural speaking voice.

Anyway...I'm not going to make a habit of cross-posting content from my newspaper column on this site. However, I decided to post my most recent column because I thought it might interest those of you who have given positive feedback on some on my more philosophical treatments on this thing we call cooking.

Resolving to learn about
cooking [Source]

I learned decades ago that New Year's resolutions about things that had to be achieved within the new year are doomed to fail. I thought long and hard about why I failed to live up to most of the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the new year, and came to the conclusion that the reason lay in my core belief that goals that have a definite beginning and end point are dumb.

I recognized that the platonic idea that life is a process of "becoming" or striving towards an ideal Utopian state is correct and that my life is about moving in the direction of a desired state of being. There is no arrival because there is no end point (utopia literally means "no-place" in Greek). So it's foolish to make resolutions that are meant to be achieved within a specific amount of time. Now when I make New Year's resolutions (or any resolutions) I don't put a termination date on them.

Now I understand that I am not in a position to tell anyone what to do. But if there are any of you out there who have made resolutions to learn to cook or improve your cooking, you might consider taking a platonic approach to getting ( "not-getting" is more accurate, I suppose) to where you would like to be.

First of all, consider that cooking is not an activity that has a specific beginning or a definite end. Does the cooking begin when you turn on the stove and put on your apron or at the moment when you decided that you wanted to make chicken for dinner and began to think about how you will prepare it? I can't answer that question and I doubt anyone can (to my satisfaction anyway).

Cooking is nothing more or less than an activity that involves the conception, acquisition, preparation and serving of food. And if you cook and think about cooking every day, what you soon discover is that it becomes a lot like breathing, when you are active you breath faster than when you are relaxed but you are always breathing. In other words cooking becomes a type of life process.

So if you want to begin to cook or improve your cooking focus on learning and refining the process. Never mind about trying to make the perfect omelet. (There is no objective way to describe and identify such a thing anyway, so why bother?) Rather, resolve to focus on learning about what eggs are and how they cook and how to mix them, how hot to get the pan and so on.

If you concentrate on learning as much as you can about the ingredients and work on learning and refining the techniques that are used to transform them into the dish you want to prepare, as long as you have a good idea of how you want the final dish to look, you'll be fine. Plus, since cooking techniques are almost never specific to one dish (for example, thousands of recipes require that something be sauteed) each time you concentrate on refining a given technique for one dish you are working to perfect it for every other dish that requires that technique.

Now for some really good news to kick off 2009.

Once you acquire a comprehensive understanding of ingredients and all the techniques of cooking, as long as you know how you want something to look and taste, you won't need recipes for anything other than the most complicated dishes. So you can sell or give away most of your cookbooks, stop reading recipes (Is there anything more boring to read than a recipe?) and just cook.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Guess What This Is

If you can guess what this is you are way ahead of me. When Trent brought this into the kitchen a few weeks back, I had only fragments of visual memory to compare to what I was seeing. I knew it was some kind of organ, the fur looked familiar, but I could not put a name for it together until the smell of the fur gave up the identity of the animal.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Groovy Kitchen Tool

During my travels over the holiday season I noticed that many of my friends and relatives have installed flat panel TVs in their kitchens. While the idea of having a TV in the kitchen to distract me from thinking while I cook has always been slightly appealing to me, there is no way I'm going to spend money on something that is going to distract me from cooking. I mean, I'm an f--king cook right? Why would I want to pay to forget about an activity that contributes so much to my sense of who I am? Do priests swallow handfuls of valium before they give a sermon? Do sumo wrestlers listen to iPods during a contest? I don't think so.

Still, seeing those TVs reminded me that it would not be a bad idea to include something in my batterie de cuisine not to distract me, but to serve as mild soporific for those moments when I get frazzled by some of the more mundane aspects of cooking (e.g. cutting the stems off of green beans: BORING!). So imagine my delight when my daughter discovered this lava lamp as she was cleaning out her room in order for me to paint it (Ain't I lucky?).

This lava lamp does a better job of calming me down than a bank of flat panel TVs all tuned to Mr. Rodger's neighborhood. It's cool light and silent presentation of an ideal world where a rising big blob of oil gives birth to little blobs that fall and merge into another big blob is just what the doctor ordered for this cook's overactive imagination.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Fanatic's Proposition

I'm kicking off the New Year by laying down a set of propositions that could be a platonic ideal for those of us who strive to loose ourselves from the soul drubbing machine (aka here as The Black Box) of mass-produced and mass-marketed food , quack medical and diet cons and the suppuration of self-serving half-truths that drip from the minds of lifestyle experts and real and self-imagined celebrity chefs et al.

I'll anticipate the finger wagging of those who will accuse me of lording it over others by telling them how to live, by emphasizing that the following list is NOT a command, it's a proposal and the elucidation of a potential ideal. It's also highly irrational in the sense that it is impossible to practice. But I'm cool with that. Billions measure their lives and behavior against abstract ideals that they know they can never reach. I don't see why I need to be any different.

At the core of the list is the supra-proposition that suggests that the only way to begin to take control of your nutrition away from the control of people who don't give a rat's hair about your well-being, is to do it all yourself: take control of the whole process from gametes-to-table-to-gullet. If you screw it up, you've only yourself to blame and if you succeed you can own that too.

Here goes.
  1. Do not buy food.
  2. Raise or catch your food yourself or with family and friends.
  3. If you can't raise or catch your food, then only buy food that is not processed.
  4. Prepare your food with your own hands (and with the hands of family and friends).
  5. Use cooking methods that extend the cooking process and reject short cuts.
  6. Pay careful attention to aesthetics and strive for simplicity in the appearance and composition of each dish.
  7. Eat slowly and linger long at the table.
  8. Pay attention to what the scientific community says about nutrition but do not be credulous. Remain skeptical while giving serious consideration to empirical evidence only.
  9. As a matter of principle and practice reject diets, dieting or any way of eating that is not consistent with what you already know is the right way to eat and that is not based on rigorously obtained empirical evidence.
  10. As a matter of principle and practice reject all advice about how to eat from "experts"who do not qualify their recommendations by letting you know that they are not absolutely sure that their advice is true.
  11. Never fully trust anyone who is unwilling to admit doubt about what they believe.
  12. You are the only one who knows what is right for you and your loved ones: cook and eat to that. Not even Dr. Phil knows you better than you do. :-)

Have a Great 2009!