Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Chicago Chefs Roundtable

Chicago Magazine sat down to chat with six of Chicago's best chefs about the star system, food plagiarism, ethics of food, and more. It's a good read.

My favorite line is from Grant Achatz of Alinea. In response to the question "Grant, you do a lot of local food sourcing. It seems like no one ever talks about that part of your food" he says "Of course they don’t. I make it all in the laboratory, in test tubes and petri dishes." That is certainly the perception about his kind of cooking. Which is really too bad.

Here's what the assembly had to say about celebrity chefdom:

Q: The celebrity chef thing: does it annoy you?
Bayless: It doesn’t really have anything to do with me as a chef. We play a role in the culture, so I do what I have to do for that. But in the long run, I have a bigger mission that I’m trying to accomplish and it allows me to do that.
Trotter: I don’t think anyone at this table got into the business because they thought they’d become a celebrity. Along the way, things happen and opportunity comes your way. But, as Rick says, it doesn’t change what you do. You’re still devoted to a much higher good. I keep pushing forward to refine what I do. It’s dreadful when you’re interviewing a person and you ask why he wants to be in this business: “Well, I see myself having a TV show.”
Kahan: That’s happening more and more. It’s creepy.
Trotter: You should go into this business because you love touching food and caressing food and cooking food—and you love to serve people. And you better love to serve more than being served. But we’re blessed because we have opportunities. We’ve benefited from what Paul Bocuse started in the sixties, and it just keeps going. I can only imagine what the situation will be in 15 years.
Bayless: It also enhances the livelihood. You figure out how much you have to do and how much you don’t have to do.
Stegner: Sometimes you feel like you can make a difference so you say yes to charities that touch you. But it’s a time management thing. Since my child came along I’ve pulled back a little bit. You just have to make time for it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Booty from Canada

So, in a previous post I wrote an ode to the Canadian McChicken Sandwich, but that's not the only thing I miss from the old country. The chocolate bars (note: not "candy bars") are also generally superior to their American counterparts. The milk chocolate is similar to British milk chocolate, and doesn't have that waxy chalky Hershey's flavor. That's why the Reese peanut butter cups are pictured above - sure, you can get those here, but the Canadian ones taste completely different because of the superior chocolate. And I think the peanut butter filling is a little less sweet. Note that they are "Reese" not "Reese's" and that they come in a pack of 3 as their standard size.

Above the peanut butter cups is Coffee Crisp. My husband tells me that they have these in the vending machine at his office building, so perhaps they are available in the US now. (Just checked, and according to, Nestle began marketing them nationally in the US in July of 2006.) But for a long time they were the number one chocolate bar people requested for me to bring back from Canada. According to its Wikipedia page, Coffee Crisp is "a combination of coffee cream, cookie wafers and milk chocolate coating." I like them alright, but my husband is the real fan in the family. He especially likes eating them frozen.

I've saved my favorite for last. Crunchies. A Crunchie is sponge toffee covered in milk chocolate. The sponge toffee has a nice bitter edge that makes for a perfect counterpoint to the chocolate. The only downside is a tendency to stick to your teeth. But they are definitely one of my all time favorite chocolate bars. I understand that sponge toffee isn't very hard to make, so I may try my hand at making a homemade version.

(Not pictured: the Crispy Crunch I ate before I thought about this blog post. As described in the link, it's a lot like a Butterfinger - the same flaky crunchy kind of texture - but the flavor is different and much better. Butterfingers always taste really artificially flavored and nasty to me.)

Monday, November 27, 2006

My Dirty Little Secret

Every time I go to Canada, I have to stop at McDonald's and get a McChicken Sandwich. I almost never go to McDonald's in the US - preferring Burger King or Taco Bell when my only option is fast food - but as soon as I cross the border, the craving sets in.

Although it may look like any crispy chicken sandwich served at lots of fast food restaurant in the US, it is a different thing. I remember as a teen ordering a McChicken sandwich from McDonald's while on vacation in the States, and being horrified that it was not the same.

Unlike most chicken sandwiches, it is not all white meat, but a mix of white and dark in a fabricated patty shape. Mmm - doesn't that sound good already? The sauce is not mayonnaise, but McChicken sauce, which is somewhat closer to Miracle Whip. Same sesame seed bun as the rest of McDonald's products, and the same shredded iceburg lettuce (of which I would have appreciated a more generous handful on the pictured example). I don't know what the flavoring mix in the coating is, but there's something about it that I love, and the combination of it all is just inherently satisfying.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, it's not a tremendously popular item. Popular enough to keep on the menu, but not so much that they're being cooked fast enough to always be fresh. If you're lucky they'll cook yours to order - and there's nothing better than a McChicken sandwich than a McChicken sandwich that's piping hot from the fryer. Well worth the wait. But if you're there at the wrong time, you can end up with the one that's been sitting in the warming drawer for the full duration of its 20 minutes lifespan, and the quality does decline.

I should note that I worked at McDonald's for nearly 5 years as a teenager, so I suppose I imprinted on them at an impressionable age. But if you find yourself in Canada and need to grab a quick lunch, you could do much worse than a McChicken.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Saturday Morning Pancakes

Nearly every Saturday morning since my son was able to stand on a chair, he and I have made pancakes together. Or "cakies" as he called them until just recently. I measure, he dumps and stirs. We cook up the whole batch at once, and put the leftovers in the fridge. They reheat well in the microwave or toaster oven, and he'll eat one a day for breakfast all week long.

I figure by the time he's 3 or 4, he should be able to make them all by himself.
(adapted from the Joy of Cooking)
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/4 c milk
1 egg

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Stir together butter, milk, and egg. If your milk is cold from the fridge, add it slowly to the hot butter and mix constantly with a fork to prevent big chunks of butter from forming.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix to combine. Add extra milk if it's too thick.

Drop scant 1/4 c portions onto a hot, lightly oiled (or non-stick) griddle or frying pan. Cook until dry around the edges and bubbles appear in the center. Flip, and cook just until done, about 30 seconds to 1 minute, longer.

Makes about 10 4-inch pancakes.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Jambalaya for 24

This is a recipe I've made for my cohousing community several times. We have people in the community with shellfish allergies, so it's shrimp free, but you could certainly add shrimp at the end, and substitute some clam stock for the chicken stock. When I put this on the menu I was worried about getting all the rice cooked without burning it on the bottom, since most jambalaya recipes call for cooking everything together in one pot, and I just didn't see that working in bulk. To get around that, this recipe cooks the rice separately and combines it with the rest of the ingredients before serving. It makes for a really easy and nearly foolproof recipe, without sacrificing flavor or texture, IMO.

Cohousing Jambalaya (serves 24)
(recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
6 cups long grain white rice
9 cups chicken stock
4 onions (peeled, ends trimmed, and quartered)
4 ribs celery (cut crosswise into quarters)
2 red peppers (stemmed, seeded and quartered)
2 green peppers (stemmed, seeded and quartered)
1 head garlic (cloves separated and peeled)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 lbs andouille sausage (halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch pieces)
20 bone-in chicken thighs (skin removed [1])
2 lg (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh thyme
6 bay leaves
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne (optional - see [2])
1/2 c chopped parsley

Combine rice and chicken stock in a rice cooker and start cooking.

Chop the vegetables (onion through garlic) in a food processor. It will take about 6 1-second pulses - do not overprocess - you want finely chopped, not puree. It's okay if there are a few larger bits in the mix. Work in batches, with some of each ingredient in each batch. The number of batches will depend on the size of your food processor. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over high heat, then add the andouille and cook until it's browned all over. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the fat in the pot.

Add chopped vegetables and cook until soft. Add cooked sausage, tomatoes, salt, thyme, bay leaves and cayenne (if using) to pot and bring to a boil. Add chicken thighs and cook until chicken is done, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove chicken from liquid and set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, stir the now-cooked rice into the liquid. Turn heat to very low or off entirely - the pot will keep its heat for a long time. When chicken is cool enough to handle, pull it off the bone into bite size pieces and stir it back into the rice mixture.

By this time the rice should have sucked up all the yummy liquid and it should be nicely integrated and ready to serve.
[1] Quick tip for removing chicken skin - loosen it with your fingers, then use a paper towel to grip the skin and pull - it will pull right off. Don't worry about getting off every last bit of fat - you want the flavor.
[2] The amount of cayenne you need will depend on the level of heat in the andouille you're using, and how spicy the crowd you're cooking for likes it. If your sausage is particularly mild, you might need to increase the amount beyond the range I list here. I have a mixed crowd with kids and adults and the sausage I use is quite spicy, so I omit the cayenne when I make it and put hot sauce out on the side for those that want to punch up the heat.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Eating California

I haven't been posting very much lately because I've been on the road a lot for work. And not necessarily in a way that gets me out to restaurants that inspire great foodie posts. For example, here's what the last couple of days have looked like:

Sunday afternoon on the plane, flying to LA - bottled water, 2 clementines

Sunday night
- Dinner with friends at Cozymel's, a Mexican chain restaurant. I was starving, so I ate way too many chips and salsa and couldn't eat much of my dinner, which was a really tasty slow-roasted pork with some lovely housemade flour tortillas.

Way too early Monday morning - leftovers from Cozymel's, eaten with my fingers

Slightly later
- orange juice in the hotel restaurant

- A chicken taco salad at Taco Bell. I wanted an In-N-Out burger (I've never had one, but know people who rave about them), but there weren't any on the restaurant row where we had to grab a quick bite to eat. I would have gone for Tommy's World Famous Burgers (also highly lauded as better than average fast food) instead, but I ceded control of the restaurant choice to the driver a minute too late, and she picked Taco Hell.

At the airport
- A four-cheese pizza from Wolfgang Puck Express. I wanted the spinach salad with gorgonzola and caramelized pecans and other yumminess, but this is California, so they're still not serving spinach.

I know there's way better food than this is in LA, and some day I hope to eat some of it. I'd briefly entertained the idea of going to Lucques for Sunday Supper, but opted to see friends instead. Oh well - there's always next time.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ugliest Vegetable Competition

A parsnip has won the accolade of 'ugliest veg'.

We are happy to announce that a parsnip grown in Bedfordshire, but resembling a creature from the abyss, is top of the crops in our Ugly Veg Competition to find the ugliest veg in England.

The overall winner, grown by Mrs Hilary Nellist in Bedford, stood out from the rest of the vegetables, its tangled shape giving it an uncanny similarity to a creature from the depths of the ocean.

I wish there were pictures of more of the runner-ups too, such as the "rhino-like tomato."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Zebra Milk

Top-flight London hotel manages to procure zebra milk for picky guest

And while we're talking about unusual milks, a classic thread from eGullet on why we don't have pig milk cheese.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No-knead bread

Just finished reading this very interesting article in the New York Times, and now I can't wait to get home to try making some bread!

Mr. Lahey’s method is striking on several levels. It requires no kneading. (Repeat: none.) It uses no special ingredients, equipment or techniques. It takes very little effort.

It accomplishes all of this by combining a number of unusual though not unheard of features. Most notable is that you’ll need about 24 hours to create a loaf; time does almost all the work. Mr. Lahey’s dough uses very little yeast, a quarter teaspoon (you almost never see a recipe with less than a teaspoon), and he compensates for this tiny amount by fermenting the dough very slowly. He mixes a very wet dough, about 42 percent water, which is at the extreme high end of the range that professional bakers use to create crisp crust and large, well-structured crumb, both of which are evident in this loaf.

What makes Mr. Lahey’s process revolutionary is the resulting combination of great crumb, lightness, incredible flavor — long fermentation gives you that — and an enviable, crackling crust, the feature of bread that most frequently separates the amateurs from the pros.
Edited to add: Here's a link to a really detailed discussion of the recipe on eGullet with precise weight measurements and lots of tips for improving the results.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And now for something completely different

How to read a pet food label

Really interesting commentary on shopping for dog food, with detailed label analysis of several brands.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Where food comes from

This past Friday, my usually separate worlds of work and foodblogging overlapped, when I went for a site visit to a meatpacking facility in Colorado. We are doing a study of manufacturing employers who are partnering with community colleges to help Hispanic immigrant employees pursue higher education, and we found a really wonderful example of such a partnership in rural Colorado.

Part of our site visit included a tour of the facility. Going in, I will admit to being a little concerned. I'm an avowed meat eater - would seeing cows become meat turn me off of beef forever?

Judging from the roast beef sandwich I ate in the company cafeteria shortly after the tour was over, the answer would seem to be a definitive no. But it did give me a whole new level of understanding about how our meat gets to supermarket shelves, and a whole new level of respect for the people who do the sometimes brutal and always hard work of getting it there.

Note: the following includes explicit descriptions of meat processing. I don't think there's anything too icky, but I figured a warning was in order.

The first thing you notice upon getting out of the car in the parking lot is the smell. It was earthy and organic, but also unpleasant and pervasive. Fortunately, most of the plant doesn't smell that way. The smell comes from the rendering building, where meat by-products such as bones and blood and tissue are turned into things that can be sold. Thankfully, we did not tour the rendering building, because I expect the smell inside must have been truly oppressive.

We also did not see the part of the facility where the cows are slaughtered. But we did see bits and pieces of nearly everything after that. We started at the end, where boxes of meat are on shelves 10 or 20 stories high, and a robotic system pulls them off the shelves as needed to fill palletes and load them onto trucks. Then on to the boxers, packing various cuts of meat into boxes, and the packagers, loading meat into plastic bags and onto conveyer belts that lead to cryovac machines. Eventually we moved on to the meat cutting floor, where workers cut the larger cuts into smaller pieces. They used meat hooks and sharp knives (proper knife sharpening is one of the most important skills new employees need to learn) and wear chainmail gloves and a tunic to prevent injury.

It was interesting to see the larger pieces being pulled apart into muscle groups for processing. The plant has been paying attention to ergonomics, and there were various tools to reduce the physical labor required - machines that inject air into the meat to reduce the physical effort required to pull apart the muscle groups, for instance. But make no mistake - this is hard, hard work. Our guide said that there are no easy jobs in the company - just ones that are hard and a little less hard.

The further we moved into the plant, the larger the cuts got. We walked through an entire room of sides of cattle, hanging and waiting for their turn to be cut into steaks and roasts. We got to see the USDA graders and inspectors assessing each side of beef and giving it a grade of Prime, Choice or Select (based on the amount of marbeling) and a number from 1 to 5 based on the thickness of the exterior fat. The graders work side by side with a computerized camera that is capable of doing the same grading task, but which is not yet approved for exclusive use by the US government.

Our guide talked about the techniques that they use to track individual cows through the plant, so that they can track them down in case of a recall or other issue. The plant was an interesting mix of old and new technology - there was one spot where we could see all of the conveyor belts going over and under one another across the whole floor, and it was pretty amazing to see. But at the same time, they use really sophisticated computer tracking equipment to track each piece of meat.

Eventually we entered the "kill floor." This is the name for the entire section before the cows become sides of beef, not just the part where they are slaughtered (which we did not see). But it was the part of the plant where the connection of cow to meat is indisputable. And as difficult as it must be to spend your entire work day cutting meat, I can't imagine being the person whose job it is to stand on a moving conveyor belt, gut the cow, and pull out its internal organs, with stomach and small intestines and other organs all piling up around your feet. And then do another one. That's an image that's going to stay with me for a long time.

Further on in the kill floor section, we saw our first significant amount of blood, as cows that have recently been killed hung head down, with blood still dripping as they are washed and then stripped of their hides, heads and hooves. Our group made it through this section (the last thing we saw) without incident, but our guide reported that in a previous tour of cattle ranchers, one of the ranchers nearly fainted.

This is a very large scale processing plant. They process over 4,000 cows every day. These cows show up as some of the best known brands of meat in your supermarket. I rarely buy supermarket meat, preferring to go to a local butcher who gets meat that has been naturally and sustainably raised. I'll continue to do that, but my confidence in the safety (if not taste or quality) of mass market beef was definitely bolstered by my trip to the processing plant. There are numerous safeguards in place All the cows have their teeth inspected, and those over 18 months are pulled out for special processing (cows under 18 months are not susceptible to mad cow disease). USDA inspectors examine the glands of each cow, checking for any abnormality. After being stripped of their hides, the cows are put through a very high-tech piece of equipment where cameras and computers detect the presence of any "vegetable" (aka fecal) matter on the cow, and those that have it are pulled out for additional cleaning.

As I've said already, the work is difficult, even brutal. I can't imagine holding any of these jobs, which pay between $11 and $16 an hour. But nearly every person we saw on the line took the time to turn to look at us and smile. The company does everything they can to make these jobs more tolerable and to support their employees, including offering the really exciting workplace education program we were there to investigate. Many of the employees we'd talked to had been working at the plant for 10 years or more, and they were all really enthusiastic about the opportunity the job presented for them - not only to make a living wage for their families, but also to learn English (85% of the employees are Hispanic), get their GEDs, or go to college.

All in all, it was a really fascinating experience, and I'm really pleased to have had the opportunity.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wine Club - Cotes du Rhone

Wine Club this week was Cotes du Rhone. We didn't have as good a food pairing as we should have had for this one (I should have saved some of my cassoulet from the week before), so I expect the "with food" scores would have been higher with another pairing. All scores are averages across the group (the scores with the "/" indicate the range across the group). Notes are a compilation of the entire group's comments. Personally, I was at the high end, giving most of these wines a score of 4. The exception for me was the Les Queyrades, which I found absolutely vile. But other people in the group really liked it, so I don't think it was a flawed wine.

2003 Chateau Suzeau Cotes du Rhone FR
Light garnet, fading to brown on the edge. Pleasant cherry fruit nose. This light bodied wine opens with early fruit which fades quickly to an empty midpoint, but comes back with a strong and long mineral finish. Lots of slate, like "licking rocks." 3.1 food, 2.9 alone. 2/5 food, 1/5
alone. $14.99

2004 Domaine du Vieux Chene "Cuvee Beatrice" Cotes du Rhone Villages FR
Deep ruby, with a big nose. A little stinky, but in a good way, like camembert. Rich blackberry fruit in a full rich wine with pronounced tannins and a mineral finish. 3.2 alone, 3.3 food. 2/4 alone, 2/4 food. $18.99

2003 Les Queyrades Lirac AOC FR
Red with a hint of orange. Complex nose - pomegranate and green notes along with plenty of dark, earthy, fermented notes. Minimal fruit, peppery and mineraly, with high acidity and heavy tannins. 2.1 alone, 2.6 food. 1/4 alone, 1/4 food. $17.99

2004 Domaine Mireille & Vincent Cotes du Rhone
Red with a hint of orange. Lots of sweet red fruit (strawberry candy) on the nose plus fresh mown grass, and a little bit of barnyard. Light bodied, with unexpected citrusy flavors, some minerals, and a long finish. 3.4 alone, 3.7 food. 2/5 alone, 2/5 food. $11.99

To eat, we had a really nice English farmhouse cheese. The Lincolnshire Poacher is an aged cheese similar to a cheddar. It was a good accompaniment to the wines, as it had quite a bit of the "barnyard" stench that shows up in Rhone wines. It was certainly strong enough to stand up to the earthy elements in some of the wines. It had lots of "flavor crystals" - little amino acid crystals that are a sign of a long-aged hard cheese (you see them in the best parmesan as well) and I always love those in a cheese. Nice crumbly texture. Cotes du Rhones are considered classic food wines, so I had hoped to have some more "dinner" like food to show them with, but my food shopper hit some snags, so we just ended up with the cheese.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A dinner at Keyah Grande

I've written here before about Ideas in Food, one of the most exciting and cutting edge food blogs out there. The authors, Chefs Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, cook at a resort/lodge kind of place in the middle of nowhere Colorado. It's so off the beaten track that reviews of the food are almost nonexistent - even the diehardest of culinary tourists haven't made it there. If you've ever checked out the blog, you know that the food looks awesome (their photographic skills are incredible), but you can't help but wonder how it all tastes. Clear buttermilk. Foie gras cotton candy. Black radish chow fun. Some of it sounds good, some of it sounds just plain odd.

Well, finally our curiousity can be satisfied. Dedicated foodie Eliot Wexler took one for the team and made the trek. His extensive write up, with lots of great pictures, is posted on eGullet. In short, the answer is - yes, the food is as good as it looks. Maybe even better.

I doubt I'll ever get to Keyah Grande, but Aki and Alex have been pretty open about their plan to eventually set up shop on one or another coast, and that will be a much liklier prospect for me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wish List: Fine Chocolates, Great Experience

The more I learn about chocolate making, the more I realize how little I know. I started this truffle making thing on a whim, and now I'm pretty much hooked. At this point I'm making hand dipped truffles, mostly with ganache centers. I added a caramel to the mix this last batch, spreading my wings a little bit. But there's a whole world of chocolate to explore out there, and from what I've heard, this book is the tour guide to take with me.

In addition to over 100 recipes, Jean-Pierre Wybauw's book features detailed scientific information on things like crystallization and shelf life, which will be particularly important as I start to think about broader distribution of my creations. Candymaking is a very precise art, and getting a deeper understanding of the whys and and wherefores will help me to figure out why something did or didn't work.

But at the price (even heavily discounted at Amazon it's $59.85) it's not something I can just pick up on a whim. So onto the wish list it goes.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The importance of tasting

I named this blog Tammy's Tastings for a couple of reasons. One, I like alliteration. And two, and perhaps more importantly, because I think that consciously tasting is the best way to learn about food.

I've run and attended tastings of a huge variety of foods - olive oil, vinegar, bacon, maple syrup, to name but a few. When my husband bought me a four pack of single origin chocolate bars for Valentines Day, the first thing I did was invite friends over for a side by side compare and contrast.

Blind tasting in particular is important. Every month I learn something new from the blind tastings we use in my wine club. Whenever we eat or drink something, we bring to it a lifetime's worth of experience and emotion and knowledge. I "know" that I like French wines better than domestic. So hand me a glass of California Chardonnay and a glass of White Burgundy, and I'm going to look for things I like in the Burgundy, and things I don't like in the California Chard. It's human nature. Hiding all the identifying features of a wine, or a food, or whatever it is, really lets you taste it on its own terms.

I was inspired to write this post by a recent experience with apples. I grew up eating Macintosh apples. That's what my family bought, and I barely knew that other kinds of apples existed! (Okay, I knew about Red Delicious, but even then I recognized that they were a triumph of appearance over flavor.) When I grew older and more worldly, I started eating other kinds of apples. Jonagolds, Empire, Pink Lady, Granny Smith. I found a couple that I particularly liked - Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp - but for the most part I wasn't an apple fan. But I never bought Macintosh. Those were the "average" apples. The "regular" apples. I was a gourmet. I was too sophisticated for the simple Mac.

A couple weeks ago, someone put some apples out for dessert. The package just said "apples." I took one, and it was the best apple I'd tasted in years. And - as I'm sure you've guessed - it turned out to be a Mac.

Tasting is important.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Things to do with duck fat, part two in a series

The duck fat roasted pumpkin seeds were a success, but I still had most of a container of duck fat sitting in my fridge. When I needed a quick and easy dinner on Friday, I decided to make breakfast for dinner. Scrambled eggs, sauteed mushrooms, some home-cured maple bacon from my friend in Chicago, and potatoes pan fried in duck fat.

Duck Fat Potatoes
1 lb potatoes
3 tbsp duck fat
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the potatoes into smallish pieces - maybe 3/4 inch? You can peel them if you like - I was using some new red potatoes, so I just left the skins on. Melt the duck fat in a pan, add the potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Put a loosely fitting lid on the pan and let cook 10 minutes over medium to medium-high heat before stirring - you want the potatoes to get nice and crusty. Stir, and continue to cook loosely covered for about 15-20 minutes, stirring very occasionally, until the potatoes are browned and crispy on the outside and cooked through. Serve hot.
There are a couple things about duck fat that make it superior to oil or other fats for this application. One is flavor - the duck fat has a lot of flavor compared to something like canola oil, and a more savory flavor profile than olive oil. So it imparts a lot of flavor to the potatoes. The day I cooked these, I was suffering from a recurring sodium sensitivity that I have. Salt-less potatoes are usually less interesting than library paste, but these were actually pretty good (although the ones my husband sprinkled salt on were even better).

The second thing is crispiness. I'm not sure the mechanism behind it (smoke point? saturated vs. non-saturated?) but I found that - as compared to oil fried potatoes - these potatoes got crispier and browner without getting greasy.

I still have about half the container in the fridge, so stay tuned for part three.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Now *that's* style

Alain Ducasse's publicist contacted the Amateur Gourmet, asking him to plug their $320 white truffle tasting menu. Sure, said the Amateur Gourmet, buy me dinner, and I'd love to. Never hurts to ask, right?

Especially not when the answer is yes. Read all about it in this restaurant review a la web comic.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wish List: Thermapen

I keep coming across culinary-related items that I covet, and thought I would start sharing the list here. Not because I'm looking for readers to buy me anything (although I certainly wouldn't complain), but I figure that if I think something is cool, the rest of you might too.

I've been coveting this Thermapen digital thermometer ever since I first saw it on America's Test Kitchen. It's got an ultra-thin probe, which allows it to give ultra-fast temperature readings. Most inexpensive digital thermometers take 20 seconds or longer to give an accurate temperature reading. The Super-Fast version of the Thermapen takes just 4 seconds (the "standard" with a slightly thicker and sturdier tip, takes 8-10 seconds).

At $85, it's not cheap. But it's right at the top of my wish list anyway!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"Guilt-Free Gluttony"

It has long been suspected that drinking red wine confers some health benefits, but researchers have recently pinpointed a molecule found in red grapes or wine that might be responsible. This BBC report entitled "Wine Allows Guilt-Free Gluttony," describes the role that resveratrol was found to play in the health of mice eating a high fat diet.

To investigate the effects of the molecule on mammals, the researchers looked at middle-aged mice fed on a high-calorie diet, with 60% of the calories coming from fat.

These mice shared many of the problems of humans on an equivalent diet, including obesity, insulin resistance and heart disease.

They discovered the mice given resveratrol alongside their food did not lose weight but they showed decreased glucose levels, healthier hearts and liver tissue, and better motor function compared with the mice on the same diet but without the supplement.
So, the article seems to be saying, perhaps we can have our cake and eat it too. As long as we eat it with a big glass of red wine.