Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pressure-Cooker Revival

Pressure CookerHere is a #slatepitch I can get behind... Rob Mifsud at Slate advocating for a pressure-cooker revival:
Ironically, the one thing standing in the way of the pressure-cooker revival is the single quality that once served as its main selling point. Slow-cooked, braised meats are now the rage, and convenience, as such, reeks of what's unhealthy and unappetizing. In the new Joy of Cooking's 1,132 pages, the authors devote a mere dozen paragraphs to pressure cookers, which is apparently all they need to equate them with other culinary cop-outs: "We often wonder what is done with the moments saved by [convenience foods’] purchase and preparation," it begins, before pressing the attack. "Something, we assume, of major importance, to compensate for their secondhand flavor." Ouch! "For the cook who is in a hurry," concede the editors, "we offer the pressure cooker as a kind of consolation prize."

Pressure cooking is not a consolation prize. The key is knowing when to do it. People who cook beans or make stock should own one. Same goes for those who love risotto; they'll learn, after one bite, that pressure cooking carnaroli makes a flawless texture.

But even the most ardent pressure cooker fans ought to acknowledge that their favorite device is superior only under certain circumstances. “Pressure cookers should be avoided when precise temperature control is critical,” advises Myhrvold. Those inclined to give the appliance a shot should beware of true believers. Pressure cooker evangelists like Vickie Smith (more popularly known by her nom de cuisine, Miss Vickie) will use the technique for pretty much anything, from hard-boiled eggs to pasta. Miss Vickie describes pressure-cooking as "the perfect cooking method for today's hectic lifestyle," then advances a method for "two- and even three-course meals made all at once." Her website is a wonderful resource for novices, but pressure cooking pasta for seven minutes sounds like a recipe for glue, not convenience.
Anna and I were just talking about how we don't use it nearly as much as we should (so maybe we need a little mini-revival in our apartment)... and it's certainly the best way to make beans or a stew on a weeknight. I have some sympathy for the "slow food" approach, generally preferring making long simmered cooking projects on a weekend afternoon... but the ability to cook a full flavored stew in an hour is not something to be disparaged for its "convenience"... I mean those dudes on Iron Chef America make things in a pressure cooker all the freaking time and you don't see the judges complaining. The one thing I've never done with it is make stock... and I'm not really sure why. I guess because I like the overnight method Ruhlman suggests for when I make the occasional roast chicken... and I can't really motivate myself to a bunch of chicken wings and thighs to make stock no matter how many times people tell me homemade stock is the key to great cooking or whatever. I guess it's a personal failing, but I have yet to be convinced to give up store bought broth and bullion except when I'm making actual chicken soup.

One thing that Misfud points out is that it's really just "a pot with benefits" and we probably use ours most often as a regular pot with a glass lid... so it's not like it's useless when you're not making beans. However the thing he doesn't mention is that if you ever want to do pressure canning (for canning things with low acid that need 240 degree sterilization) then you'll need a pressure cooker... so if you have a garden you might want to think about one too.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bahn Meatloaf

Bahn Meatloaf

When you see the finished product it seems obviously delicious... but I was shocked at how much I loved this recipe (from Bon Appétit - though there they call it "Hoisin-Glazed Meatloaf Sandwiches"). I mean, I really really liked it. Meatloaf is one of those things I associate with childhood but at the same time never really liked. Why didn't I like it? Maybe it was overcooked and dry since basically everything was in "back in the day." But I honestly don't know... though calling a terrine a "loaf" seems like poor branding... my distaste for the dish seemed outsized and that always indicates that I need some sort of culinary self help intervention.

Looks Like a Terrine

Forcemeat. That's what meatolaf is, and I have no idea why some ancient French chef thought that would sound tasty (maybe it sounds better in French? Of course it does: forcément)... but it is! Every sausage or hot dog you've ever had is forcemeat.

So what's special about this recipe? There is nothing really innovative about the technique... it's your standard meatloaf but without veal (i.e just pork and beef) and spiked with scallions and a hoisin glaze. The flavors are really fantastic however... I particularly loved the quick pickled radish, carrot, and cucumber salad.

To serve you heat a couple of teaspoons of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and brown a slice of meatloaf... then put on toast slathered with that hoisin glaze and top with the salad. Delicious.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lucky Peach

Lucky Peach No. 3 Arrives

We're three issues in and I gotta say I dig it. Yeah, a lot of the recipes are aspirational for the average home cook... this quarter's issue contains a recipe for canard au sang for example... but there are definitely doable ones and the food writing is top notch. In reality, it's not a magazine about recipes, but more of a showcase for today's best food writers... which is a nice change from the recipe driven concept of always having to have a lame hook like "Mac and Cheese Gets a Makeover!!" Doesn't it get a makeover every year? Yawn.

It's possible Lucky Peach is a little too precious, but I'm enjoying it so far, and it's the only food magazine I religiously read cover to cover.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New England-centric James Beard Nominations

Culled from Serious Eats:

Best New Restaurant
Petite Jacqueline, Portland, ME
Trade, Boston

Outstanding Bar Program
Cook & Brown Public House, Providence, RI
Drink, Boston

Outstanding Chef
Jody Adams, Rialto, Cambridge, MA
Melissa Kelly, Primo, Rockland, ME

Outstanding Pastry Chef
Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery + Cafe, Boston
Maura Kilpatrick, Sofra Bakery and Cafe, Cambridge, MA
Cheryl Maffai and Jonathan Stevens, Hungry Ghost Bread, Northampton, MA

Outstanding Restaurant
Fore Street, Portland, ME
Oleana, Cambridge, MA

Outstanding Service
L'Espalier, Boston

Outstanding Wine Program
No. 9 Park, Boston
Troquet, Boston

Rising Star Chef of the Year
Benjamin Sukle, The Dorrance, Providence, RI

Best Chef: Northeast
Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa, Boston
Jason Bond, Bondir, Cambridge, MA
Kara Brooks, Still River Café, Eastford, CT
Penelle, Megan, and Phoebe Chase and Ted LaFage, Chase's Daily, Belfast, ME
Tim Cushman, O Ya, Boston
Krista Kern Desjarlais, Bresca, Portland, ME
Brian Hill, Francine Bistro, Camden, ME
Liz Jackson, Libby's Bistro, Gorham, NH
Matt and Kate Jennings, La Laiterie, Providence, RI
Demos Regas, Emilitsa, Portland, ME
Bjorn Somlo, Nudel, Lenox, MA
Champe Speidel, Persimmon, Bristol, RI
Danai Sriprasert and Nattasak Wongsaichua, Boda, Portland, ME
Bill Taibe, LeFarm, Westport, CT
Sai Viswanath, DeWolf Tavern, Bristol, RI
Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood, Waterbury, VT

I guess I'm rooting for Jody Adams, Joanne Chang, and the folks at Chase's Daily... but more than anything I think this annual rite is about adding restaurants to the wish list.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Caramelized Onion and Savoy Cabbage Chowder with Comté Croutons

Caramelized Onion and Savoy Cabbage Chowder with Comte Croutons

Anna made this early in the week from a recipe in Vegetarian Times (croutons here). She used Comté instead Gruyère simply because we had it and needed to finish it... and truth be told your probably better off using a much less expensive Gruyère since they'll be soggy in the soup anyway, but man are those croutons good. Makes me think we should use them all the time, but I guess buying a freshly baked artisinal loaf and some Comté for the croutons on your everyday salad is a little insane even for me.

As for the soup, I'm not sure what exactly qualifies it as "chowder"... since it's not thickened in any way, let alone with milk or cream... but it was quite good, so who cares I guess? It is surprisingly hearty and a comforting meal on a (not that) cold winter night. While I didn't make it, it seemed like a nice weeknight meal as she was able to get it to the table... even with teaching an evening class... at a perfectly reasonable hour.

So I definitely recommend this one... and you can easily veganize it by omitting the cheese on the croutons and subbing oil for the butter in the soup.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sausage Gravy and Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Never had sausage gravy before... from what I understand this is more of a Southern thing... but I had a spare 8 ounces of bulk sausage from the last dish I made and was intrigued by recent Gilt Taste posts on said gravy and Per Se biscuits. Seemed like a pretty easy breakfast to make on a Saturday morning, and I think it came out quite well if I do say so myself.


The biscuits require a little extra preparation than normal... about an hour... since you need a cold bowl and cold fat (butter in my case), but I suppose you could cut up the butter and chill the bowl overnight. I used my hands to try to incorporate the fat, but I wish I had used our pastry blender... but since baking is more Anna's thing than mine I didn't know where it was. Oh well... the biscuits still tasted great but I didn't feel like I had much control over the final size of butter crumbs. Used a glass to cut the biscuits which seemed to work fine, but maybe the biscuits would have risen a little more if I had a cutter.

Sausge Gravy

The gravy was about as straightforward as the biscuits. I performed all the "optional" steps, including frying the sage leaves and adding some water and reducing it for 15 minutes. It ended up a little too thick for me... either from reducing too much or using too much flour... but it's an easy enough thing to thin it out to the proper consistency, so that really helps with any guesswork. I had some available chicken stock so I used that instead of water and thought it came out great.

Definitely recommended.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Easy Polenta

Russ Parsons with the secret:
But now I serve polenta any time I feel like it. And these days I'm feeling like it a lot. Here's how easy preparing polenta can be: Pour water into a wide, deep pot; stir in polenta; bake; stir; bake; stir; done.
As he notes, he didn't invent it... nor does it seem anybody can really lay claim to it (as in most things cooking)... but it sounds like a great technique that I would do well not to forget.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kitchen Spy

I've never been to either of his restaurants... we don't get down to the South End as much as we should (It's sooooo far away... I mean it's the other side of the city!)... but I thought this new(and hopefully regular) Boston magazine feature about the kitchen and fridge of chef Jamie Bissonnette was pretty interesting in a voyeur-ey kind of way.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kale, White Beans, and Sausage

Kale, White Beans, and Sausage
I guess it's fairly obvious by the sparse posting that I haven't been cooking a whole lot the last couple weeks... what can I say? Sometimes none of the recipes I see in my RSS feed, or cookbooks I page through, really inspire me... and it's not like I can post consecutive days of takeout or ramen hacks (well I guess I could). So when I saw the Simply Recipes post Kale with White Beans and Sausage and thought "Hmmm that looks pretty good" I knew I needed to grab the ingredients on the way home and make it immediately.

It's a straightforward dish... brown your sausage and onions, deglaze with a little broth, steam your kale a bit, and then add in the beans. I was supper lazy on this one... buying the bagged kale that is already cut up. Still took me 45 minutes from start to table, but I rate that pretty good... most "quick and easy" recipes probably take me closer to an hour. The only change I think I'd make to this is using hot Italian sausage instead of sweet... red pepper and greens are a perfect marriage in my view, and that small change might elevate it to a staple dish. As it is I just threw some red pepper flakes on there and called it a day.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bourbon Barrel Aged Soy

Kind of neat.
Based in Louisville, Kentucky, the city known as the gateway to bourbon country, Matt Jamie has found a new way to repurpose barrels that have been used to age the region's signature spirit. Bourbon Barrel Foods makes micro-brewed and barrel-aged soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, marinades and sorghum salad dressing, as well as barrel-smoked salt, sugar pepper and paprika once the whiskey has been drained.
Allagash's Curieux has always been my favorite use of not-used-to-make-Scotch bourbon barrels, but maybe that could change? Looks like they also have a vegetarian Worcestershire sauce that sounds intriguing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Got Nothin'

This weekend's cooking project didn't really come out in an interesting enough fashion to seem worth posting about... in that it wasn't really a spectacular failure or success, and just made me feel kind of meh. So unless I come across interesting food news the blog looks to be especially quiet this week.