Friday, April 30, 2010

The Rolling Stones Made from Chocolate

The next time you get a craving for chocolate, think about this.


The Rolling Stones Made from Chocolate | Oddity Central - Collecting Oddities

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ruhlman speaks at IACP

And oh boy, does he speak! That boy can really work himself up into a lather when he knows he is right. Of course he makes a gross generalization when he -speaking here at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Portland Oregon- says that we, the American public, are not too busy to cook. Of course, there are some of us who can't get to stove on a regular basis.

However, I don't doubt for a millisecond that there are millions who don't cook more than once or twice a week who could find more time to prepare a meal for themselves if they would, as Michael so eloquently states here, stop "dicking around on the internet." So what are you waiting for? Get cooking!



Monday, April 26, 2010

Asian Carp Fix: Just Eat It

I wish Chef Foss the best of luck during his attempt to put a dent in the pestilential Asian carp population although I suspect that it's going to take more than luck and cooking talent to do more than shine a light on what is clearly a serious problem.

Asian Carp Fix: Just Eat It - WSJ.com

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Some recent work

A quick post before I dash off to work...
Check out the new 30# sausage stuffer!


Monday, April 19, 2010

ReCORK It!

Since 1982 I have been collecting corks from bottles of wine that I have consumed in my home (s).  I decided to save corks only from bottles consumed in my home and not from restaurant and catering jobs in part because I knew that if I saved every cork that crossed my path I'd be swimming in stoppers before I'd have a chance to rethink why I was saving them. 


Now why I initially decided to save corks is not an easy thing to explain to anyone but myself. I've always saved things that I thought might be useful and I'd long used old corks for everything from plug covers for bolt heads in carpentry projects to knife blade guards. And I seem to recall thinking that I might use them to build a floor in one of my homes. 


But the primary reason for saving corks was a slightly drunken notion that by doing so I could use them as a record of my domestic life,  an aide-mémoire as it were. The almost immediate recognition that it would be impossible to recall anything about what was happening in my home by looking at unannotated wine corks dumped into a cardboard box did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for cork collecting  until last year when, after doing a bit of cleaning in my basement, I looked at the old Excersaucer box that house my cork collection and thought WTF having I been doing saving corks for 27 years? 


Unable to find an answer that could justify warehousing thousands of musty corks I decided that I was done with saving corks.  Unfortunately, even though I have stopped saving corks, my wife has not been able to break the habit that she graciously took up to support what I now realize was an absurd hobby. So, the corks continue to accumulate even though I've kicked cork keeping and am about to unload my once prized collection on the good people at ReCork. 


ReCORK Home

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Million Dollar Junk Food Prize


Good for Sue, she won the Pillsbury Bake-Off. But is "cookie cups with ice cream" worth a million bucks? Ahem. Is it worth more than the cost of the ingredients? 


Which Veggie Burgers Were Made With a Neurotoxin? | Mother Jones

The presence of a neurotoxin in vegetarian food may go a long way to explaining the peculiar and occasionally highly idiosyncratic behavior of some vegetarians. Then again, maybe not :-)

Which Veggie Burgers Were Made With a Neurotoxin? | Mother Jones

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Acidic Marination

Michael Ruhlman's recent post on marinades and why those containing some form of acid are largely undesirable,  got me thinking about why I don't like acidic marinades and why over the last couple of decades I have used them for experimental and didactic purposes only. 

One of the reasons I don't like to soak meat in acidic liquid is that over the years my taste in food has become very narrowly focused on flavor profiles from the north of Italy and France, and what is probably best described as traditional foods from the East Coast and Southern (from Louisiana eastward) Untied States. And the flavor profile of meat soaked in lemon juice or vinegar really does not play much of a role in the cuisines of any of these areas. Of course, saying that I don't like meat soaked in acidic liquids because it does not conform to what I have grown to like is about as revealing as saying that I don't like it because   because I don't like it. But not to worry. I'm not going to cop out on this. There are scientifically verifiable reasons why I chose not to use acidic marinades. 

With the exception of marinades that contain protein digesting enzymes, acidic marinades are not usually strong enough to tenderize meat. In fact, they usually have the opposite effect and directly and indirectly cause the meat to toughen. Here's how.

  • Whenever you lower the pH of muscle (make it acidic) it lessens its ability to hold water and interfere with the bonding of the protein molecules that make up the muscle fibers. So an acidic marinade will tend to dry out the outer layers of the meat making it tough and stringy as the muscle fibers lose water and fall apart.

  • Lowering the pH of protein retards Maillard browning. So meat that has been marinated in an acidic marinade takes longer to brown thus causing the meat to take longer to look "cooked" Because it takes longer to look cooked (browned) it cooks too long, dries out and becomes tough.
In my investigations of how marinades behave, I have dropped the pH of meat so low that it turns to "leather" before it browns. 

If there is sugar and or salt in an acidic marinade, these two substances will tend to ameliorate the negative effects of low pH because
  1. sugar promotes browning 
  2. sugar and salt both enhance water retention
However, unless there is a lot of sugar and salt, they are not usually sufficient to compensate for the damage done by lowering the  pH. 

Now, I am very much aware that my dislike of acidic marinades is a direct result of my preference for the kinds of foods that come out of the cultures that exist in the geographic regions that I mentioned above. As a matter of experience,  I know that there are cultures that love cooked meat that has been soaked in acidic liquids. I used to work with Haitian cooks who, when they were cooking for themselves, soaked thin cuts of meat in lime juice before dousing it with Tabasco (also acidic) and cooking it until it curled up like the east witch's feet.  So I do not believe that it is "wrong" to use acidic marinades unless you are trying to cook like I do.