Friday, October 30, 2009


The latest issue of Saveur has an article on the Korean obsession with kimchi... and "obsession" might not be a strong enough descriptor, being that they have a kimchi museum... but for an ignorant American, it was quite surprising how many varieties there are. We have an excellent Korean restaurant around the corner from us, so it's not that I'm unfamiliar with the cabbage kimchi pictured above... but I had never heard of "water kimchi" for example.

Another surprise is that traditional kimchi isn't vegetarian. So while I think I'm going to order a 6 quart glass jar and make a trip to Super 88 for ingredients... we'll have to omit the anchovy sauce and salted shrimp from the Saveur recipe. There is such a thing as vegetarian fish sauce, so maybe we'll substitute that for the anchovy sauce at least.

Hmmm... the list of things I'm planning to cook is getting long... I better do some actual cooking soon. Though I guess you could argue pickling isn't cooking... mostly just waiting around, which even I can handle (I hope).

photo by flickr user Nagyman used under a Creative Commons license

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stock and the home cook

So as I've mentioned, I'm reading Ratio by Michael Ruhlman... yes, I'm reading a cookbook... so what? Really, it's more a book about cooking than it is a cookbook, so it's more well suited to reading snippets on the train to and from work than you might expect. Yesterday I got to his section on stocks, where he makes the familiar case that canned broths are terrible and everyone should be making stock at home. He then goes on to argue that the process is not as bad as you think it is, and even has an "everyday" chicken stock recipe to make every time you roast a chicken. Now, Ratio isn't the first time I've seen Ruhlman come out so strongly in favor of homemade stock... he blogs about it often enough... and anyone who has read the first part of The Making of a Chef knows that the dude can wax poetic about his "nectar of the gods." Of course, he's not alone... even somebody like The Minimalist Mark Bittman... a guy dedicated to simplifying recipes to make them accessible to the masses... has come out in favor of throwing canned broths out of your pantry. I think every home chef has been lectured about store bought broths more than once... it's one of those things a "real" home cook isn't supposed to use... or at least, never admit to.

So what's the argument? Well basically it's that store bought broths suck... but let's let Ruhlman flesh it out a bit:
I cannot say this strongly or loudly enough: DO NOT use canned stock/broth. Use WATER instead. I repeat. You DO NOT NEED to buy that crappy can of Swanson’s low sodium chicken broth! It will HURT your food. Use water instead. When that recipe says 1 cup of fresh chicken stock (or good quality canned broth), please know that your food, 90 percent of the time, will taste better if you use tap water instead of that "good quality" canned broth. Water is a miracle.

Last time I was doing a recipe for a book with one of the most lauded chefs in the country—he said to the recipe developer/writer, yes, ok to use canned if you don’t have fresh. I said, “Really?” He said, “yes.” I said, “When was the last time you used canned stock?” When he didn’t respond, I said, “Have you tasted canned stock?” He said he hadn’t that he could recall.

I repeat: your food will taste better and fresher if you use that wonderful and inexpensive fluid at the end of your tap rather than anything that you can buy in a can or a box.
A lot of people (I have) argue that there are certain dishes or sauces that need homemade broth (chicken soup obviously) and others where you can "get by" with store bought broth since the other ingredients will mask any imperfections. I mean, if I throw a quart of Swanson's into a Chicken Bouillabaisse, it's hard to see how it's going make much impact one way or the other over the strong saffron and anise flavors. But, of course, if that's the case... why not just use water? Then at least you know you're not putting off flavors into your food. Uhm... I dunno? 'Cuz everybody always makes such a big deal about how awesome stock is, so I figure I've got to use something? Well, O.K. maybe it's a fair point: there is no reason to put bad ingredients in your food just because they get "masked." But what I've never gotten... and been somewhat incredulous about... is why, if it's so important, that nobody can make a decent stock to sell... stock is easy but time consuming... something that industrial food techniques and wholesale purchasing should be perfectly suited for. Well, this review ($$$) of store bought broths makes the case that at the ratio of bones, meat, and mirepoix that homemade stocks call for... there just isn't any margin for profit at $2-$3 a quart... so they skimp on the important stuff and throw in MSG and other "flavor enhancers" to make up the difference. Certainly plausible... I have only ever made chicken stock as a step on the way to chicken soup, but I use a whole 3-4lb chicken to do so... and the cost factor helps explain why you never see something like veal stock in stores, where it's several dollars a pound for bones (for those of us not best friends with butchers anyway).

The problem of course... with small kitchens and smaller refrigerators... is storage. I don't think my vegetarian girlfriend is going to be so keen on quarts and quarts of chicken and veal stock taking up the whole freezer. While Ruhlman makes a pretty good case for always making chicken stock when you roast a chicken... thus defusing the argument about time and preparation somewhat... I don't roast chickens all that often, being that it's just me that's going to eat it. That said, in writing this I've sort of convinced myself to make more of an effort in the stock department... as I'm still planning to make cassoulet before Thanksgiving, that means a trip to Savenor's is in my future... so I'll grab a couple of pounds of veal bones and give Ruhlman's favorite-thing-in-the-world a shot... and, of course, let you know how it goes.

photo by flickr user amatern used under a Creative Commons license

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Joe Lieberman reminds me why I stopped paying attention to the legislative sausage making...

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Tuesday that he’d back a GOP filibuster of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s health care reform bill.

Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats and is positioning himself as a fiscal hawk on the issue, said he opposes any health care bill that includes agovernment-run insurance program — even if it includes a provision allowing states to opt out of the program, as Reid has said the Senate bill will.
Who knows how much of this is just posturing for power... but as Jonathan Chait reminds us, he made a pretty good case a few weeks ago as to why Lieberman might be the real thorn in health care reform's side:
For months I've been predicting that the Democrats will pass health care reform because they're not going to cut their own throat. But Lieberman is an independent. A failed Democratic presidency wouldn't necessarily bring him down with it in 2012. It might even help. So I may have made a major error focusing on red state Democrats and overlooking Lieberman.

His reasoning is persuasive... Ben Nelson and other red state Democrats ultimately need reform to pass or they're gone in backlash elections... just like Obama. They need a bill to pass, but they really want to vote against it... threading the needle is getting one "close enough" that they vote for cloture (60 votes) but not the bill itself (50 votes). Lieberman doesn't have those same incentives (in fact Hartford is home to some big insurance companies)... and he seems to be filled with more than a little anger towards the liberals who saw him lose a primary challenge and the President who beat his friend.

Steve Benen notes that none of the big players are concerned about Lieberman's vote, but doesn't really get why they're so dismissive given Lieberman's recent track record and incentives. I would have to agree with Steve... given the incentives, I don't know why they're so confident... but I certainly hope they're right.

Health Care Reform Update

I'm not blogging about politics as much lately... for various reasons... but the fact that the bill being brought to the floor in the Senate (reconciled from the HELP and Finance committee bills) has an "opt out" public option, is big enough news to make note of. Jonathan Cohn has the best roundup of the politics at play here:
It is not a full public option. It will not use reimbursements pegged to Medicare. As Ezra Klein says, it is still a major compromise for liberals. And yet it's also a lot more than liberals seemed likely to get, as recently as a few weeks ago.

Indeed, it is hard to overstate what a turnaround this is--or how quickly it happened. By late summer, passing any reform at all looked like a fifty-fifty proposition at best. And even as the political environment shifted, the public option looked doomed. It was going to take sixty votes to get a public option through the Senate. The votes just weren't there.

To be clear, they still aren't there.

What's most encouraging to me in this is that they're willing to move forward without Olympia Snowe's support... as Cohn notes, even a couple of weeks ago that was unfathomable. The White House seems to have prefered a less risky legislative strategy that kept her on board... and thus one that gave us a much weaker public option... but appear to be willing to let Harry Reid run with this, and see whether he can find his 60 votes. The idea that Harry freakin' Reid is pushing the Senate bill to the Left is the most shocking part of this whole endeavor... apparently he had a spinal transplant over the recess or something. Who'd have guessed?

There's still no guarantee that a strong public option will be in the final bill... read Cohn's post for details regarding the hurdles... but it's still such a hugely positive development for progressives (especially after the terribleness that was August) that I think it's fine if you do a little dance. I won't tell.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ruhlman on Mushrooms

Simple advice is sometimes the best:
But for cultivated mushrooms, which is what most of us work with, everyday mushrooms, I always go with really high heat—a smoking hot pan, plenty of neutral oil. Most cultivated mushrooms—the ubiquitous white button, oyster mushrooms (above), shiitakes—don't have a big flavor on their own. It's up to the cook to elevate that flavor. You do this by browning the mushroom, and you can only accomplish this at a temperature that's so hot, the moisture in the fungus doesn't have time to start falling out. Once that happens, as soon as water gets into the pan, the temperature drops to 212 degrees and you can't get any more browning. All you get is lots more moisture. Another way to drop the temperature of your pan is to put too many mushrooms in it. The key to really tasty mushrooms is high heat and not crowding the pan.

I am a big fan of mushroom (and Gruyère!) omelets these days... a simple and quick dinner or breakfast, but my mushrooms are somewhat inconsistent as I've never been completely sure how I should cook them... I think I usually end up somewhere in the medium to medium high range, since it never really occurred to me that I should be searing them. Who needs to be told how to cook mushrooms? Well... me.

This is the type of thing you can miss if you're trying to learn to cook from recipes. I'm not sure someone who has no, or minimal, experience in the kitchen can just take ratios and advice like this and start making magnificent dishes... but it does help illuminate how recipes can be a barrier to understanding.

D.I.Y. Butchering Classes

You could see this one coming a mile away. Butchery is the new black in foodie circles, so we were bound to see articles like this:
With classmates looking on, Jake hunkered over a 120-pound castrated pig with a .22-caliber rifle pointed at its skull and, coaxed by Mr. King, pulled the trigger.

They severed the animal’s arteries, burned off hair, peeled back skin, and, elbows deep in entrails, carved through bones with a fine-tooth saw.

The experience did not whet the appetite. “When it first dies, you touch it and it’s warm,” recalled Christian, who said he lives in a largely meat-free home. “You hesitate.”

I sort of instinctively recoil from the idea of Williamsburg hipsters heading off to a pig butchering class to add an anecdote to go with their trucker hat and PBR... but it seems a worthy goal to get a true connection to the food you're eating. The truly hard core, it seems, take an eight-week apprentice program with master butchers at Fleisher’s for a mere 10K. Though I think the full-on slaughtering experience is not nearly as common as a class where you "merely" butcher a whole prepared animal (.i.e. no blood and guts - but, still, you're slicing up a animal with a face).

Much like urban chicken farming, I'm not sure how much staying power this has... and whether it's ever going to be more than a yuppie fad... but that people are even thinking about it seems like a huge improvement in our food culture. If you're a vegan or vegetarian you might take heart from the fact that the people who actually engaged in the slaughtering seem... well.. scarred by it. None of the people quoted appear to be backing down from meat eating, but you have to think that people who say "the faint smell reminded me of being covered all over my arms in this animal’s death"... might think twice before ordering the pork chops. Maybe not, but I suppose it's certainly admirable that they're not pushing off the "morally difficult and really gross" parts on anybody else.

I'll say right now: I don't think I could do it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fried Green Beans!?

Huh... Sam Sifton brings the fancy to bar food in The New York Times Magazine. I can't say the potato skins excite me all that much... but tempura fried green beans sound pretty awesome.

A couple of miles south in Chelsea, behind the wide plate glass of his restaurant, the Red Cat, the chef Jimmy Bradley achieves a similar trick, frying green beans in a tempura batter, then serving them — hot, crunchy, with plenty of salt — aside a sweet-and-spicy mustard sauce. You’ll find them on the bar, eaten as meals in themselves, and at most tables running back through the room as appetizers or side dishes. They are Buffalo chicken wings for people with good art on the wall and a capacity for avoiding, as Liebling wrote, the fatal trap of abstinence. You simply can’t eat just one.

I don't know if Anna will be down with the egg whites, but the recipe certainly seems worth trying.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Innumerable Barriers of Growing Up a Picky Eater, or My Hatred of the Reuben

I was an extraordinarily picky eater as a child... absolutely reviling most vegetables, and not eating much beyond chicken or pasta for most of my meals. And honestly, my so-limited-it's-kind-of-offensive-to-even-use-scare-quotes "palate" lasted well past college. I mean, yeah, going to school in Boston with more cosmopolitan people than myself led to the quick embrace of sushi, Thai, and Vietnamese... but there was still a whole host of foods I had no desire to even contemplate, which still included the vast majority of vegetables. It probably wasn't until I was around 23 or so that I was convinced to try a mushroom... portabello... and realized they were really really good, and that my prior years of avoidance were probably fed more by the texture of slimy canned mushrooms on terrible pizzas than by any objective taste criteria. So for about 10 years... though most heavily concentrated in the last 3 to 4... I've been trying to work through foods I have always absolutely hated, to see if it was more a weird texture or a bad preparation, coupled with adolescent stubbornness, that has led to my habitual avoidance... or whether we're talking about flavors that I just don't dig. But things like my recent experimentations in homemade mayos, come directly from my desire to get over these age-old food fears of mine... something most probably accomplish at 5, but whatever.

Now, as I've mentioned recently... I've never cared for traditional deli meats like pastrami or corned beef... and I wasn't sure why, since they don't really seem offensive... and, most damning of all, I can't even remember when the last time I tried them was. But it when Ezra Klein linked to Michael Ruhlman's "Homemade Short Rib Pastrami", I realized what the problem was, and why these deli meats have been on my black list for so long... The Reuben... "made with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian or sometimes Thousand Island dressing, on grilled or toasted rye bread." Two of those things are food items I don't care for (sauerkraut and Russian/Thousand Island dressing), but might fall into the unjustified food dislike category. Sauerkraut in particular, being essentially pickled cabbage, seems like something I should revisit... but I don't know if I'm quite ready for "wild fermentation"... we'll have to see about that one... perhaps a bridge too far.

But the real barrier here is... rye bread... oh how I despise it (or more accurately, the caraway seeds ubiquitous in American rye bread - I have nothing against the grain itself). Sadly, this is no childish food fear... but genuine loathing of how people can sully wonderful bread with such a vile seed... a seed that often lies hidden in wait, eager to attack the unsuspecting diner.

I can handle anise flavoring in small doses and in certain dishes... I think the fennel and Pernod in the chicken bouillabaisse I made recently worked very well, and star anise in many Asian dishes is always subtle enough for me to enjoy. Black licorice and American rye, on the other hand... make want to wash my mouth out with bleach.

So if I'm to try the cured deli meats, it will have to be outside the bounds of the traditional Reuben/Rachael methinks... but since Boston is fairly infamous for its lack of delis, it may be a moot point.

In Ruhlman's pastrami adventure, he made what he calls Neo-Reubens: "Pastrami, sauerkraut, gruyere, with a mayo spiked with sriracha sauce, sandwiched between English muffin halves and cooked in a skillet." That could work... especially since I am intrigued by the English muffin recipe in BBA.

I just don't think I can stomach possibly ruining a bunch of short ribs though... so unless I get lucky and find some pastrami/corned beef that doesn't involve rye bread in restaurant somewhere... this might be a food fear that just doesn't get confronted.

photo by flickr user ImipolexG used under a Creative Commons license

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Logical Limits of Contrarianism

Via Matt Yglesias I see that Slate is extending its brand beyond the bounds of physics by making the case that Creed is underrated:
If your impulse on hearing that it has reunited is to groan, stifle it long enough to locate a copy of Creed's 2004 Greatest Hits collection. It's a fantastic baker's dozen of first-rate schlock-rock, courtesy of one of the most underrated and unfairly maligned groups in pop history.
His brand of fist-pumping, hair-tossing, pelvis-swiveling rocksmanship was hardly without precedent; it just seemed obnoxiously anachronistic. An audacious throwback to the preening hair-metal era (and, even further, to Robert Plant's roosterish sashay), Stapp audaciously reinflated rock's hot-air balloon less than a decade after Kurt Cobain was thought to have punctured it for good.

Personally I can't muster enough energy to hate Creed... all those late 90's hard rock bands kind of blend together into a big pool of mediocrity... but I don't find the case that they were a "schlock-rock" throwback to 80's hair bands to be particularly strong. I mean, I grew up in the "preening hair-metal era"... and I can't recall anything redeeming coming out of that side of the musical spectrum... O.K. Guns and Roses, I guess... but that's pretty much it, right? So how am I supposed to conclude that a band derivative of that era is somehow "underrated" 20 years late?

I will say that this does provide a good oppurtunity to embed some old skool Daily Show Creed bashing (via Yglesias's commenters):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Creed Isn't Good
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Fresh Hop Beers?

I'm not a home brewer, though in my recent visit back to Baltimore I found out that I have two friends who are really into the practice... but, nonetheless, I found this NYT article about brewing fresh hop beer really fascinating:
Hops give beer its distinctive bitterness and lend it other lively notes that range from citrus to flowers. But brewers usually use dried processed pellets of hops. The fall hops harvest is their brief window of opportunity to brew with the fresh green cones to make beers with a subtle range of hops flavor.
Timing is crucial for these brews. Once the hops are harvested in late August or early September, they must be added to the beer within 24 hours of being picked. Brewers must use five to seven times more fresh hops than dried because drying concentrates flavors.
Fresh hops must be harvested within a few hours’ drive of where they will be used in a brew, as they’re delicate and don’t freeze or ship well.
Once the brewing ends, the beer ferments for two to four weeks, which makes October the prime time for drinking them. Fresh-hop beer should be consumed within three months, and the sooner the better; the essence of fresh hops fades more quickly than that of dried hops.

So a fresh hop doesn't impart that stereotypical bitterness that many beer drinkers so adore... interesting. Unfortunately, while the article lists some New York establishments that serve fresh hop beer, it's not exactly clear what the rest of us are supposed to do. They do mention the Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale by Rogue and Chico Estate Harvest Ale and Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale by Sierra Nevada... though their hops are dried a week before brewing, so not exatly the same, but possibly more likely to be in my local liquor store. Ithaca Beer Company, Harpoon Brewery and Victory Brewing apparently also have (had?) some fresh hop beer at their breweries, but it doesn't sound like they put it out for mass consumption.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crisp Roasted Potatoes

Gave this recipe from Cook's Illustrated (subscription required) a go again last night, and was more satisfied with the results since I didn't crowd the cookie sheet, but I'm still not sure about the following "innovation":
A rougher surface offers more escape routes for moisture than the flat surface of a raw potato, and the damaged exterior cells surrender their moisture more readily than intact cells. So why not rough up the surface even more? We tossed the potatoes vigorously with olive oil and salt, forming a thick layer resembling mashed potatoes on the exterior. Once roasted, the spuds were crisper than ever—and nicely seasoned, to boot.

Maybe I'm just too timid with the vigorous tossing, but I really didn't notice any effect with the starchy coating... it just seems to evaporate in the oven.

The recipe does result in a creamy interior and crisp exterior... but it still takes about an hour to make them, and you've got to keep an eye on a dutch oven full of water and 1/2" potato slices so they don't overcook... which takes a fair amount of time to come to a boil in the parcooking phase... so it's not as hands off as the classic recipe. The author of this recipe claimed not to like the texture from steaming quite as much... I don't agree, as I think they're fairly similar... but YMMV.

The recipe is basically this: slice about 2.5 pounds of Yukon Golds into 1/2" rounds, making sure they'll fit into a single layer on a cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 450 with the cookie sheet on lowest rack. Put the potatoes in a dutch oven and cover with cold water and add in a tablespoon of salt. Bring 'em to a boil and then simmer until they're almost cooked through (still resistance in the middle) - about 5 minutes. Toss them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt... then add 2 more tablespoons and another 1/2 teaspoon of salt and toss for 1 to 2 minutes. This is where you build up the starchy coating... so get closer to 2 minutes, I guess, if you buy their crispiness argument. Then it's onto the preheated cookie sheet (ends skin side down) 15-25 minutes to brown first side... flip... then 10-20 minutes to brown the second. If your oven has problems browning evenly, you can obviously rotate the pan one or two times in there... but I didn't find it necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Eat.

I think what would make this a significantly better recipe is to cut it down to skillet size and to figure the timing to get it done all on the stove top... it makes good roasted potatoes, but I'm not really sure they're enough of an improvement to justify the extra steps and increased number of dirty dishes from they way I roast potatoes currently.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Giving a restaurant a bad review because of large reasonably priced entrées?

A little bit preachier than I like my reviews:
The most remarkable thing about Minetta Tavern was that it appeared to be a response to the bad economy. If your aim in dining was maximizing value for dollar, then Minetta is a find. I don't know the precise figure, but the cost per calorie was very low. The portions were large, very large. The tartare was three golf ball mounds. The small rounds of toast were warm and very tasty. The chicken was a good pound and a half of meat. I came home with the chicken breast in a doggy bag. At the next table, the steak was falling off the plate.

And the prices were reasonable--even low, by New York City standards. The chicken was $28, the tavern steak $21, and the burger a measly $16. But maybe the proprietors--and the customers for that matter--need an education on obesity. This was a textbook case of what we--individually and collectively--shouldn't want and don't need: huge portions at low prices. Maybe people think they are getting a bargain. At one level they are, but the consequent expanding waistline is no bargain at all.

To be fair, he also says the food wasn't impressive either... but it still strikes me as odd to take off points because the portions are too large and cost too little.

On the brighter side, it got me to look at the menu for Hamersley's Bistro in the South End, which I've never eaten at and has a vegetarian prix fixe option for Anna... and I notice cassoulet is on their fall menu. Hmmmm.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Homemade Condiments: Worcestershire Sauce

I don't think homemade Worcestershire sauce would have occurred to me any more often than making my own ketchup would... but Amanda Hesser at the New York Times describes the history of Worcestershire sauce while providing a modern reinterpretation for the home cook (by Boston chef Barbara Lynch):
One group of cooks blended Scotch and Cynar (an Italian artichoke liqueur) as the foundation of a condiment; another made a condiment of roasted garlic, shallots, juniper, allspice, mustard, soy and sherry vinegar that was big on texture but not quite right.

The winner was a sauce that combined elements of Lynch’s modern tomato syrup — vinegar and chili powder — with elements of old-school Worcestershire: fish sauce and umami. You caramelize shallots in some oil before adding the tomatoes, fish sauce, vinegar, chili powder and spices, then you let the mixture sit — until it cools, not a few years — before swirling in some honey. In the sauce, which Lynch calls Worcestershire, you get sweetness, heat, acidity and a whopping double dose of umami. I think she should bottle it.

What's kind of fun is that they have both the original 1876 recipe as well as Lynch's new one for comparison purposes. I don't think I'll be making my own Worcestershire sauce anytime soon, but I still think it's a pretty cool idea.

Rouille (i.e. The Most Expensive Mayonnaise in the World)

I made the chicken bouillabaisse recipe out of the most recent Cook's Illustrated ($$$) last night... and while I may yet blog about that experience (and I may not, as it was a fairly mediocre cooking event: neither great enough to rave about nor aggravating enough to rant about)... I wanted to focus on making the rouille, since I've been on a bit of a homemade mayonnaise kick lately. Definitely one of my weirder obsessions since I don't even really like mayonnaise... but I've enjoyed making them (I think) because it just feels like something real chefs do... you know, just whip up some rouille on a whim to put on... toast... or whatever you put a spicy saffron mayo on... bouillabaisse obviously, but I'm not a Frenchman so you can't really expect me to be an expert on these things. I'm sure it would make for a killer BLT. But anyway, being able to make a mayonnaise from scratch seems like something I should be able to do... and the fancier and French-ier that mayo is, the better.

Enter rouille... which according to Wikipedia "consists of olive oil with breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and chili peppers" with an egg yolk as the emulsifier. Saffron is the spice makes rouille a somewhat pricey endeavor, but also what imparts much of its distinctive flavor.

Now, you almost got yourself a sobbing "I can't make mayonnaise!!" post here, because I forgot to add the lemon juice at first... and I was dribbling in the last 1/2 cup of oil, feeling like the emulsion wasn't quite happy incorporating, when Anna asked me what I was making and what was in it... jogging my memory, and causing me to realize I had forgotten the acid. Whew! I think I was fairly close to having a broken rouille... but at the time I was mainly worried that I had screwed up something critical by not adding the acid at the right time. Luckily, I'm reading Michael Ruhlman's Ratio (impressions forthcoming - so far, thumbs up), which has a handy chapter on fat based sauces with a section on mayonnaise in particular... and Ruhlman makes clear that acid isn't a key part of the emulsion itself... what is key is the proportion of liquid to oil, which the lemon juice is certainly a part of.

But it turned out fine... or at least I think it did... it didn't break at any rate... so no sobbing for you. Not to brag, but that makes me 2 for 2 in the homemade mayonnaise department. Think that makes me ready to open up my own restaurant? No? Meh.

  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 4 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 small cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  1. Microwave water and saffron in medium microwave-safe bowl on high power until water is steaming, 10 to 20 seconds. Allow to sit 5 minutes.
  2. Stir bread pieces and lemon juice into saffron-infused water; soak 5 minutes.
  3. Using whisk, mash soaked bread mixture until uniform paste forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in mustard, egg yolk, cayenne, and garlic until smooth, about 15 seconds.
  4. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in vegetable oil in steady stream until smooth mayonnaise-like consistency is reached, scraping down bowl as necessary.
  5. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil in steady stream until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hand Carving Deli Meats

This Atlantic article about the death of a tradition in delis, falls squarely into the "controversies I was unaware of that don't really effect me regardless" category of food articles, but I found it interesting nonetheless. I mean, it has three linked YouTube videos of old deli dudes hand carving meat... so clearly it's something that inspires serious passion in some.

Delis that cut by machine steam their meat for less time, then compensate by cutting it paper-thin, so your teeth won't have a problem chewing. My father, who grew up in Montreal but now lives in Toronto, used to ask the delis in Toronto to hand cut his meats. He would then complain that it was too tough. The problem wasn't that the counterman didn't cut it right, it was that their meats were steamed for the machine, and were going to be tougher if cut thicker. Sadly, hand-cutting is relegated to a select few delis spread across the continent, such as Kenny and Zuke's in Portland, Caplansky's in Toronto, and Jake's in Milwaukee. Katz's is the only deli left that hand-cuts pastrami in New York, and Langer's is the only one in Los Angeles. It is widespread in both Montreal and London but nowhere else. It is an art that requires skill, patience, and learning. It can be taught, but not easily, and not quickly. The masters grow old. The skill is lost.
Personally, I don't really have much love for delis... which is a bit odd since sandwiches might be my favorite type of food... it's just that I'm not really all that down with pastrami and corned beef, so the traditional Jewish deli doesn't do much for me (instead I get my sandwiches at trendy frou-frou shops like this one... so sue me). But David Sax makes such a strong case for the awesomeness of hand carving, that I may just have to give the delis of Montreal a try next time I'm up there.

I guess it's also comforting for home cooks to know that hand cut meat is really the ideal, so you don't have to covet one of those machines if you're making a lot of brisket or roast beef or whatever for weekly lunches... though most of us aren't going to be good enough with a knife to get near as thin as the experts in the videos do, but whatever. One of my longstanding goals since I started learning to cook has been to get my act together enough to cook a hunk of meat on Sunday and bake some sandwich bread to get myself off of terrible cafeteria lunches... but I've yet to get near it. The logistics of accomplishing that have proven too tough for me to this point... but now that I'm nearly semi-competent at bread baking, maybe I need to revisit that plan.

Speaking of potatoes...

I did make the Crisp Roast Potatoes ($$$) out of Cook's Illustrated when I was back home in Baltimore, as I said I would. However, I didn't take any pictures and I kind of screwed it up... of course, you might reasonably ask how one can screw up a recipe with two ingredients and three steps, but I take it as a further demonstration of my mad cooking skillz. In truth, they turned out fine, but I had too many potato slices for the cookie sheet, and instead of using a second cookie sheet or whatever... which would have been the sensible thing, and thus obviously not for me... I just tried to squeeze them onto one sheet, resulting in some double layered potatoes which just didn't brown at all. So I ended up plucking off potatoes as they finished, sending the rest back in as space opened up on the sheet... less than ideal if I was trying to make them as a side dish on a schedule, but since I was just making them to try out the recipe, it worked well from a snacking perspective.

I'm going to try them again soon... maybe this weekend... but this time I'll place the potatoes on the cookie sheet as I cut them, to ensure I don't end up with too many. Further, I didn't really notice the "damaged exterior cells" thing creating extra crispness, so I'll try mixing a little more vigorously.

I'm also considering doing the first few steps (parboiling and vigorous mixing with oil and salt), but finishing on the stove top in a skillet... since I'd really really like some good roasted potatoes that don't take an hour to make. Maybe I'll try that with the "Pommes de Terre Boulangère" recipe from the Times.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Potatoes in the News

Once again, where Chimpanzee Tea Party leads, The New York Times inevitably follows:
In 1904 New York State grew 435,000 acres of potatoes. This year there are about 17,000 acres, most of them planted with starchy varieties by large growers in western New York who mainly supply potato chip makers.

But potatoes are gaining popularity at farmers’ markets and farm stands in eastern New York, Mr. Mishanec’s territory. Many are varieties Cornell has released in the last 15 years. In addition to Keukas, they include another firm yellow potato, the Lehigh; Adirondack Reds and Blues; and two white varieties, Salem and Eva.

These varieties are moister and waxier, have more sugar and brown more than russets. While many cooks like russets and their starchy fluffiness for mashing, creamy Evas and Salems are just as good. All the varieties are great for roasting, boiling and casseroles.

Mr. Mishanec started proselytizing in 2005 by giving 200 pounds each of eight varieties to the Schenectady County Community College’s culinary arts program to evaluate. Armed with their results and a marketing grant, he then gave potatoes to more than 60 restaurants from Plattsburgh, N.Y., to the lower Hudson Valley, hoping to spark demand.

I'm actually not entirely sure what specific varieties my pretty potatoes were, as I didn't ask... I called the purple ones "Purple Majesty" simply because that's the name that popped up when I Googled "purple potatoes"... but it's certainly possible that Chase's potatoes were "Adirondack Blues" or whatever.

While the pretty colors makes them seem to be simply a novelty, apparently they are specially bred to survive in a harsher climate than your typical Yukon Gold... and they have unique characteristics that makes them better or worse for certain preparations.

As an aside, the "Pommes de Terre Boulangère" looks solid and worth trying/adapting.

The Means are the End

Via Ezra Klein, I see that Chris Kimball, editor and publisher of Cook's Illustrated, is in a bit of a huff over the demise of Gourmet. He wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last week, that blamed said magazine's death on the Power of Teh Internetz. Is there anything cat pictures and pr0n can't do? It's completely understandable that Kimball would be shaken by the death of a food publication, since I imagine his financial model is feeling the squeeze of the recession as acutely as anybody... but c'mon... blaming the internet? That's so five years ago.

If you break down Kimball's op-ed (and his subsequent clarification) it's fairly clear that his number one concern is that people will stop paying for his magazine and website in favor of recipes from the internet. Indeed, he seems most concerned that more and more people just put "Chicken Kiev" into the Google search bar and cook whatever looks good, with no regard as to whether it was some internet nobody posting grandma's hazy recollections or whether seventy five chickens were butchered perfecting a recipe based on solid culinary fundamentals.

If so, it's Kimball's own damn fault... after all, he's the one who decided to put his group's recipes behind a pay firewall. If internet foodies don't Respek His AUTHORITAAH, it's because he so clearly wants nothing to do with them. This disdain, I think, stems from the dual ideas that 1) the internet is a den of pirates and thieves aiming to broadcast intellectual property to the four corners, and that 2) the "product" of a cooking magazine is the recipes. While I'll grant that it's often not too hard to find a Cook's Illustrated recipe reprinted somewhere for free on the internet, I'd argue that the recipe itself is the least important service that Cook's provides. It's that butchering of the seventy five chickens for a single recipe that makes Cook's Illustrated special... not necessarily the precise proportions of ingredients that result. It's the narrative that draws.

Sadly, it seems that the peeps in Brookline don't realize this... since their writing has become so formulaic as to parody itself. They tend not to be particularly honest in their sources, yelling "Eureka!" when adopting techniques that have been common for years, if not decades. Thus Cook's incessant need to justify their latest recipe with the inclusion of an "innovative" technique obscures more than it clarifies... instead of saying: some people do a) and some people do b), but our testing showed b) to be better... they tend to go: everybody does a) but brilliant inspiration led us to try novel method b), which proved to be awesome because we're so smart. I guess that's fine, but it seems to be a epically missed opportunity to truly teach people how to cook and, more importantly, how to think about cooking, in an effort to treat choosing braising over boiling as divinely inspired genius.

What's ironic is that the mistakes and revelations that surround cooking a new dish, by either a newb or an expert, is exactly what I like reading on food blogs... and what I try to convey in my food writing here. Cook's Illustrated pioneered that style years ago, and thus is uniquely positioned to provide this kind of "informed cooking anecdote", but buttressed by both scientific rigor and expertise that your average blogger just can't compete with... however, it appears that Chis Kimball's fear of the internet will never allow that to happen... or, at least, never let it outside the subscription net. While I'm no financial expert, I have a hard time believing that can be successful over the long term. I'm a loyal Cook's Illustrated patron, but have to say that Kimball is right to be afraid... something is going to have to give, and personally I hope it's the business model and not the methodology.

photo by flickr user absentmindedprof used under a Creative Commons license

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Home Cooked Nihilism

Matt Yglesias had a rather cranky post this weekend regarding the pointlessness of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's advocacy for home cooked meals, saying:
Compared to people in 1959, people in 2009 have more money, less time, and less ability to call on socially sanctioned unpaid domestic labor. So obviously they’re going to cook less. Or to look at it another way, there are lots of things you can do in 2009 that you couldn’t do in 1959—read a blog, download an MP3, get a movie from Netflix on Demand. There are also a lot of things you can do in 2009 that were prohibitively expensively in 1959—fly cross-country, make a long-distance phone call to your sister. But there’s no more time in the day. Which implies that people need to spend less time doing the things that you could do in 1959. Sometimes we can get out of this box by finding technological innovations that let us do things more quickly, but you can’t really speed up cooking from scratch.

He appears to mean that since we can't put the genie back into the bottle, it's no more realistic to expect American households to go back to the 1959 level of home cooking than it is to expect us to return to a hunter-gatherer existence... convenience food is here to stay, so stop your damn nagging! Or something to that effect. Yglesias then argues that there is no inherent reason why home cooked meals have to be healthier than fast food... and that people like Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan should be using their bully pulpits to improve the quality of said convenience food, instead of trying to turn back the clock to a vision of America that can never exist again.

To this I can only say that Yglesias doesn't appear to understand the argument being made by people like Pollan and Bittman. As Ezra Klein notes... it's not the nature of our meals, but the number (i.e. snacking) that's changed over the years. I happen to think, based on Richard Wrangham's book, that processed food is terrible for us for more reasons than simply the fact that it's "easy"... but if we start from the premise that said easy calories are the problem, the point of a focus on home cooking is pretty clear. The more costly calories are to obtain, in time and/or money, the less we will consume... and while we all have different amounts of money, nobody gets more than 24 hours in a day. Advocating spending more time cooking is probably not very effective public policy... I don't imagine that putting up billboards or producing television commercials to that effect would effectively reduce our country's obesity rate... but at least on a personal level, trying to eschew prepackaged and processed food for home cooked meals seems a solid way to make your diet healthier... and by the bye, eating meals with your family probably has benefits beyond calories.

It seems to me that, while a "soda tax" or some such might be more effective in a public health sense... trying to get people to cook more is both a less controversial and more appropriate endeavor for a celebrity chef.

photo by flickr user sunface13 used under a Creative Commons license

Thursday, October 8, 2009

B-More Bound

Anna and I are driving down to Baltimore tonight for a four day weekend... she's got to do some continuing education thing to maintain her pilates certification, and there's a fitness expo happening in Baltimore where she can do so... so it's a good excuse to take some time and see some family.

So blogging is likely to be light to non-existent until Tuesday.

I am planning on doing some cooking for my momz... a simple hearty vegetable soup that Anna and I are fond of... and then I'm going to try those roast potatoes from Cook's Illustrated. I'll report back on how they are received.

photo by flickr user stevehdc used under a Creative Commons license


We are pleased to inform you that your manuscript has been accepted for publication in Stroke.

Well, that's a relief. "Sympathetic Control of the Cerebral Vasculature in Humans" represents a large portion of my life over the last couple years, so it will be nice to see it in print... it just doesn't feel real until you see the galley proofs. I'll update once it's available online.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

They get a Pickle Day!?

In my second consecutive post that could be filed under "New York City Envy"... I have to say that I really wish I knew there was such a thing as International Pickle Day... celebrated for the 9th time in the Lower East Side this past Sunday. While I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a pickle fiend, I do really enjoy me some pickles... I'm also vaguely aware that there is some New Pickling Hotness trend happening... but haven't moved beyond making pickled sugar snap peas once this summer, so I was a little surprised that there was a festival happening in NYC:
Horman's Best Pickles were back for another year serving pickles on a stick, while children had half sours painted on their faces and roaming costumed kosher dills entertained the lines of attendees. The usual chocolate-covered pickles were present, and Peanut Butter & Co. served peanut butter and pickle sandwiches to eager and hungry pickle enthusiasts. The homemade pickle ice cream of last year, however, was conspicuously absent. So, too, was the musical quartet that blows pickle brine bubbles.

Nevertheless, with its bike valet sponsored by Transportation Alternatives, a plethora of free samples, plus hip and ironic t-shirts and buttons, Pickle Day was, if anything, a celebration of the youthfulness and recent novelty of home preservation in a street fair well suited to the Millenial Generation.

"There's some sort of deep connection going on with pickles now," said Katy Tackett, known in the blogosphere as Pickle Freak. "It's a result of the dovetailing of the economic recession and the make-it-yourself movement coming out of Brooklyn," added Jen Catto, another pickle blogger known as Pickle Girl. Or as Liz Alpern, pickle lover and Jewish food enthusiast, put it, "there's an upsurge of food production from people my own age and I f--ing love it."

As an aside, it warms my heart to see that there is such a thing as pickle bloggers.

Maybe I'll take the train down for it next year, and then I can hit up Fatty Crab for some of that fried chicken the same weekend. Alternatively, there does appear to be a pickle festival in Winchester New Hampshire (with local pickle-themed floats!!!!), which is about a two hour drive away... but I don't know anything about their fried chicken.

photo by flickr user mlcastle used under a Creative Commons license

Fatty Crab Fried Chicken

An interesting article in the New York Times dining section about the alternatives to Southern fried chicken in NYC, offers up this nugget:
At the two Fatty Crab restaurants, Corwin Kave’s fried chicken with Thai chilies, an occasional special, is a thin-crusted, spice-rubbed project that takes five days, begins in a steam oven and ends in a wok, and is flavored with turmeric, fennel seed, ginger, fish sauce and smoked simple syrup.
Wait... did you say 5 days!? You can't just throw something like that out there and leave me hanging. Must. Learn. More.

Google-fu reveals this post at The Feedbag:
First the birds are brined for 24 hours in a mixture of salt, sugar, white wine, shallot, garlic, ginger, and coriander. Then the chicken is quartered. The quarters are then cooked over low heat (leg portion for 6 hours at 150 and breasts for 14 hours at 130) over a bed of herb stems, to wit: Vietnamese mint, lemon basil, Thai basil, cinnamon basil, and cilantro root. Next the pieces are cut in half and fried until crispy. Lastly they’re tossed in a hot wok with a smoked palm sugar glaze, garlic, young ginger, and Thai chilies. “I love sticky Korean fried chicken,” Kave told me. “And everyone loves Fatty chicken.”
Intriguing... not sure that adds up to 5 days, but it sure sounds awesome.

photo by flickr user ZagatBuzz used under a Creative Commons license

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gourmet Gone

The big news in the food world yesterday was that Condé Nast in closing down Gourmet... the premier food magazine of the last 70 years... the ur-foodie publication if you will... because it was losing money. Bon Appétit, on the other hand, will continue... and the overlap between the two publications is to what Jack Shafer attributes Gourmet's demise.
In theory, it makes a lot of sense for a business to encourage internal competition between divisions. But it can easily backfire. At General Motors, executives originally cultivated distinct personalities for its Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac divisions. But those divisions began to blur into one in the 1970s. In the 1990s, General Motors bleached from Saturn (a GM startup) and Saab (an acquisition) their distinctive, desirable qualities.

At GM, the least successful divisions have often found it easier—at least politically—to compete against their corporate brothers instead of the real competition (Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, et al.). If Chevy had a successful SUV, Buick wanted an SUV. If Chevy had a successful two-seater sports car, Pontiac wanted one, and so did Saturn. If Buick succeeded in selling luxury, the other divisions demanded luxury vehicles. By indulging its divisions, General Motors encouraged them to steal market share from one another rather than to go after the other car companies' markets.

Possibly, but I continue to believe it was rank discrimination against magazine titles lacking an accent aigu. In all honesty, I don't and didn't read Gourmet... I get my food pr0n from Saveur and otherwise prefer my cooking magazines utilitarian... but everybody says this article about lobsters by David Foster Wallace is the best example of what Gourmet brought to the table, so I guess we should all read it and mourn.

The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society

Since the name of this blog was inspired by one of Frans de Waals books, I feel a certain responsibility to note that he has a new one out... haven't read it yet, but Slate has what appears to be pretty good brief of de Waal's latest:
Philosophy and religion, as well as science, have long suggested that caring and kindness do not come from our biology but instead are ways in which we overcome our biology: Niceness is a refinement. Contrast the ease with which aggression, domination, and violence are attributed to our DNA. In the era of the "selfish gene," any animal altruism gets recast as self-interest in disguise. The columnist David Brooks has summarized the findings like this: "From the content of our genes, the nature of our neurons and the lessons of evolution, it has become clear that nature is filled with competition and conflicts of interest."

But lately scientists, from biologists to psychologists—with de Waal at the forefront—have begun suggesting that nature is filled with compassion, too. This isn't a mere pendulum swing to warmth and cuddliness. Research on social animals—like elephants, dolphins, baboons, chimpanzees (deWaal's specialty), and even hyenas—has complicated what has for too long been a reductive picture. These animals participate in dynamic societies made up of individuals, and their lives are replete with feelings, decisions, and intentions, rooted in biology yet elaborated in cooperative—and competitive—interaction. By comparing their worlds, with each other and with our own, de Waal explains, we can learn about the true anatomy of the social psyche. The result should deliver a jolt: Nature isn't so red in tooth and claw, and civilization may not be so neatly edifying. In fact, if we have a destructive impulse to watch out for, it may be our readiness to embrace the "civilized" view that deep down we're horrible.

I would like to think that there aren't many people who need to be informed of the innumerable fallacies and failings of Social Darwinism and "greed is good" philosophies... but I suppose it can't hurt to point out that, beyond the immorality, the underlying analogy isn't even accurate.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It doesn't happen like that in the movies

Brutal ending to the Ravens brief reign as "best team in the NFL". It felt like a playoff game, but if it is indeed a preview of the AFC championship game, hopefully the Ravens won't have to play against both the Pats and the refs again. Some terrible officiating. For all the grief Mark Clayton and the offense is getting, what concerns me is the defense's inability to stop anybody all of a sudden.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cassoulet Blogging

The weather is turning crisp here in New England, and Cook's Illustrated put out a new cassoulet recipe to tempt me... so I think it's time to plan to make me some French comfort food. And yes, it does require planning, being that even "quick" versions that include duck confit take two days... and I am considering a supremely hardcore version that takes three... and the more exotic ingredients aren't available at most neighborhood supermarkets. Last winter, I made a Saveur version of cassoulet that was more traditional than any I had made to that point. It was a good recipe, and I liked it a lot, but I'm still feel like I need to try some more variations until I can settle on my preferred version. I going to make it again when it's really cold, in January or February... so I don't have to make the uber traditional recipe of "absolutely no compromises" linked above. The major issue with the Food & Wine version, besides time investment, is cost. Since I have to get my duck legs, ham hocks, salt pork, and pancetta from the most expensive butcher in town it's going to be at least $50 for the meats and maybe more. In addition, that recipe provides an enormous amount of food... much more than I could consume in a week unless I dedicate my existence to eating cassoulet. So if I'm going to do that I really need to invite over some meat eaters and send them home with leftovers... something I want to do at some point... but perhaps not in the next couple weeks. I may save that for the winter and make the Cook's Illustrated version instead... since the only "specialty" ingredients it calls for are the duck legs, salt pork, and Toulouse style garlic pork sausages... which won't break the bank heading into the holidays.

So, I guess I've decided... Cook's Illustrated it is... a little more chill and reasonably priced, but undoubtedly still delicious.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Roast Potato Challenge?

I've been getting sort of down on Cook's Illustrated lately... either the dishes haven't been that interesting, or they are ones where their "improvements" to justify a redo of a classic have been... at best trivial... or at worst detrimental. However, I gotta say... in browsing recipes last night, I noticed that the fall issue is out (online for $$$ - all the links hereafter to Cook's Illustrated's website are behind a subscription gate unfortunately), and it's got some pretty interesting dishes... two of which are revisions of classic "Best" recipes that I've used successfully in the past, but where I'm actually intrigued by their modifications for a change. They've got a cassoulet that seems worth exploring more in depth in a later post (at least the version with duck confit, as I'm too hardcore infatuated with the dish to mess with facsimiles), a chicken "bouillabaisse" I might give a shot (a chance to make rouille at least), and last... but certainly not least... a roasted potatoes recipe.

I believe I've made my (very strong) opinions regarding how potatoes should to be roasted pretty clear: 1) you can only do them in the oven, and 2) there needs to be a parcooking phase. I've been more than satisfied with the version from The New Best Recipe, which accomplishes its parcooking by covering the roasting pan with foil for the first half of cooking so that the potatoes steam in their own moisture. Besides producing perfect potatoes, this recipe has the advantage of being very simple and using only one pan.

The new Cook's Illustrated recipe gets the (allegedly) moist creamy interior action going by parboiling on the stove top... dirtying an extra pan... but you are much more in control, so it seems like it might produce more consistent results. They also "roughly toss" the potatoes with the oil and salt, which is supposed to build up some coating that turns super crispy or something... intriguing indeed... we'll just have to see.

I can't honestly say I expect this to be a really big improvement on The New Best Recipe, as I suspect it may be complicating a recipe for no real gain, but it's at least interesting... and if I find the parboiling works really well (and it should) and the rough tossing does wonders (it could), I might try to use those techniques to make skillet roasted potatoes that don't suck. So I should get something tasty as well as some new ideas out of it no matter what... which is all you can really hope for in a new recipe.

Neapolitan Pizzas - Take Two

After the semi-disaster last week trying to make pizzas with Peter Reinhart's dough, I did make some changes in how I approached the pizza shaping and baking. Since there is just no way I'm going to shape a pizza by bouncing it on my knuckles and throwing it into the air, I did it all on the counter with my fingertips... I don't get circular pizzas, but whatever... though a word of caution: after two hours resting on the floured counter, there won't be much flour under the dough, so you'll want to move the dough and re-flour so that it doesn't stick. I also put the pizza stone on a oven rack moved to the lowest possible position (as opposed to the floor of the oven), so I could pull it out a little bit before trying to slide the pizza on there... in the hopes of minimizing any placement mishaps by my n00b self.

Overall it went well... made the Gruyere (2 oz), Asiago (1 oz), and Gorgonzola (1 oz) pizza again, but since last time I went overboard with cheese, this time I went under, as you can see up top... fairly predictable. I just pulled it out and put the rest of the cheese on and sent it back in to melt. For the spinach and ricotta pizza, the spinach wilted much more than I expected... what looked like a solid layer before, didn't really amount to much in the end.

So we've got two more of the dough balls in the freezer for next week, and I kind of like the idea of always having some pizza dough available. I think next time I might divide the dough into four pieces instead of six to get a little more dough to work with... as I like my pizzas a little bit thicker than this... but otherwise I'm quite satisfied.