Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Dinner Revisited

This is the pride and glory of the meal. We have a boneless capon wrapped around duck breast and ground pork. The Activa worked even better than I expected. There was no change in texture where the two different proteins meet, and the bond was sturdy, all the way thru to cutting it with a fork and knife. I found the whole thing to be disappointingly bland. The outside of the roll in the picture has herbs coating it, and I found I really missed the sear, and carmalization of a roasted turkey. Fortuanatly these are things that can be fixed....mushroom gravy saved the day.

This is an arial view of our spread, quite a feast. It was at this point I exclaimed, "things aren't getting any warmer" and they didn't. I let myself down with some absolutly cold squash. They will definatly be better as a reheat the next day.

The pay off!!! Sound asleep while someone else cleans up.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas dinner is set!!

My sister and I went to the grocery to shop for our final list of items. It was late Sunday, after the Browns loss, we made a list, but forgot it, at least we had some money, and time to wander. There wasn't much to buy, but I was especially touched by a couple who seemed quite intrigued with a fennel bulb. I silently listened to them discuss it, then to someone at the store who was helpfully clueless. I couldn't help but step in.....for the sake of fennel! I love the stuff, and if I can help someone with it, surely I will. We discussed a short list of cooking techniques, then parted ways. I really hope the fennel works out for them, they looked like they where sincere about cooking something of quality.

So, Tuesdays dinner, and not too late it's been stressed:

Capon, duck, and pork Ballentine
with Mushroom gravy

Roasted Veggie Valley Squash; butternut,
red bannana, and spaghetti with St. Igny butter,
and brown sugar

Chedder-Brocolli potato gratin

Green beans with New Zealand Smoked Salt

Wine, beer, and booze to be determined, but plentyfull!!

Happy Holidays

My First Christmas with Activa

I got this sample almost a year ago but have just recently been inspired to use it. I inquired at the company web site for more info, a sales rep called me the same day offering to send samples to my house!

I was inspired by the team at Ideas in Food blog when they posted a string of pics where they so something very similar with a large turkey. Here, I mashed the idea of a turduken, with the turkey ballantine. As you can see in the picture, ground pork in the top middle, then from 11 pm on clockwise, capon skin, capon legs, leg bones, and carcuse which i made stock from for stuffing, then on the bottom of the pic, a boneless thigh, breast, breas, and thigh, lastly 4 boneless skineless duck breast.

Since my favorite cook in a long time walked out on me 2 nights ago, the pounding of all this meat was very relieving. Needless to say, the meat is thin!

Here is my liberal application of Activa. I couldn't find any concrete recipie or ratio for small applications of Active, but a ratio of 1 oz per 3 pounds was relative the the only other ratio I found, but on the hundreds of pounds scale.
I applied the Active on all the meat laid out, then took this pic, and alot of the powder seemed to absorb quickly so in a very feverish, desperate line cook kind of way I sprinkled a little more on the whole thing at this point.

The final product looked like this. I did only one with skin so it was completly covered, the other one I coated with herbs. I further wrapped these in foil and plan to cook them for about 2 hours at 300 degrees. At least that is my guess, the meat thermomoter will tell me when is when. We will have to wait till Tuesday to see how things turn out for sure.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Poll Results

An Appetizer is only smaller when compared to the Entrée.

There are a lot of reasons people need to feel good these days. It seems that science has determined that everything is on a crash course to either save us, kill us, or vaguely switch between the two. Food and the size of our portions are not immune to such scrutiny. We all eat too much of everything, everyday, at every meal, on every plate. It’s true. There is no way our bodies could evolve fast enough to handle the deluge of calories that your average American can consume on even the lightest of eating days. It was only three or four generations ago that refrigeration didn’t exist, and the restaurant wasn’t even invented yet. Coupled with the sun up to sun down workday of manual labor, aka, exercise that no Microsoft gym/spa can recreate. So that Appetizer, is it a healthy choice, maybe, is it a call for variety, maybe?

Working in a small plates restaurant I’m confronted with the possibility that someone, or group of people order a plethora of dishes based on their desire to have a variety of taste experiences at a single restaurant seating. This is not always the case, a lot; ok the majority of customers are ordering something green or lighter, then something meaty or heavier. Why? The plates are small, and if they count calories and compare to their last 3 course restaurant meal they have plenty of room for another plate. We don’t offer something larger, were a customer can convince themselves, “at least I didn’t splurge and get that entrée.”
There are plenty of examples where people are persuaded to make discussions based on comparisons, I will give two. One food studies showed that people who could see their basket of chicken wing bones fill up where likely to eat far less than peoples whose basket of bones was empties periodically. Second, upon reading a marketing suggestion that if giving away something from a list of items, create a prize that would be considered the ‘worst’ prize, but don’t give that to anyone this way everyone, “at least I didn’t get the worst prize”

I think these examples apply to this discussion because the appetizer of which people feel so comfortable with is only smaller when compared to an entrée, just like the pile of bones. Likewise, the entrée is the most calorie rich, gluttonous, bank busting item on the menu, and a few appetizers reaffirm the customers, “at least I didn’t splurge on that gut busting entrée.”

Why is the appetizer our favorite course, because it makes us feel good about ourselves, and we really need that?

Christmas Dinner

With the Christmas holiday fast approaching the topic of our family’s holiday meal has arrived with the usual clash of likes and dislikes, restaurant vs. home cooking, and exactly who is going to do what. In the past I’ve prepared some nice meals, a traditional cassoulette, explosively huge paella, a stunning purple sweet potato pie, but I’ve taken some still sore hits as well like the mashed sweet potatoes. That dish caused a minor quake in the universes existence. This is what I have to avoid.

I want to make galantine with a whole turkey, duck breast, and chicken sausage; we will call it a turducken just to keep it simple. I want to experiment with some transglutimase that I got as a sample. It seems rather straight forward, debone, pound, dust, roll, cook nice and slow. As long as everything holds together long enough for me to cut it on a platter I’ll be happy, if we can rough house it off the platter onto everyone’s plates, I’ll be very surprised and give praise to the transglutimase in all its glory.

As for side dishes I figure simple is best…. Roasted butternut squash with brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon, caramelized Brussels sprouts and/or green beans. Then comes the potato dish, I want to either get really good butter and make simple mashed potatoes with st. Igny butter and fleur de sel, or make a chunky mash with pancetta, bacon, or grated pepperoni? We will see.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bye-Bye Entree

The New York Times ran this piece in the past weeks Dining & Wine section. Kim Severson examined a great variety of New York restaurant to come to her conclusion, which is the entree is in fact headed for extinction:

Since I do currently work in a small plates environment, I say, "down with the entree!" But even before this current position I found it much more fun to order a variety of smaller appetizer, even a salad, or try a soup. Before this style of eating out had a name, we as both chef’s and customers relished the opportunity to present dinners with small tastes with explosive, exotic and or unique flavors that they would never commit to as an entree, especially with an entree sized price tag. In the past wine tasting dinners, and a rare sit down benefit dinner where our only chance to explore the small plate option. This shift in what customers expect is a breath of relief for chef’s and customers alike

Monday, December 03, 2007

Poll Results are in.... Conclusion

This Poll has garnered much more attention than any others. Perhaps general readership has increased, or this is just a hot topic. The topic seems closer to me than most since I’ve spent more time in my life thinking I would be cloning animals instead of cooking them. For this reason I hope I can bring what I know to the table with my foodie friends and chef friends and help them feel comfortable with new bio-technologies. As the mechanics of cooking, and the chemistry behind it become more important to how a chef works, there are correlated advances in the production of the basic building blocks a chef has to work with, namely vegetables, fruits, and animal protein. While chefs across the globe are warming up to the molecular gastronomy, those of us with a solid, basic understanding of genetics, cloning, and GMO have a mission to help educate those around us with the truth.

It seems perfectly reasonable that while introducing something new like cloned food products people will have their reservations about them. I think it is important to let people chose what they want with regard to the quality of the food they purchase. I am in complete agreement with the majority of the pollsters that cloned food products should be labeled as such. For example there are plenty of people who want to know if their food is ‘organic’ or not, and it should be a producers duty to label his product as ‘organic’. Should that producer be made to label his product as organic by law, I think so. As mass producers continue to make a farce out of the idea of ‘organic’ and hide behind minuscule gaps in the legislature it is important for consumers to know, one way or the other, this piece of lettuce is ‘organic’ or it isn’t, and if it isn’t mandatory to label ‘organic’ as ‘organic’ then how will we know?

The above reasoning might seem a bit extreme, but the legislature in the state of Pennsylvania has recently restricted the dairy industry in describing on their labels whether or not they are users of specific growth hormones with specific and studied effects on humans when ingested. So you have to assume that the users of this dangerous technology had just enough lobbying dollars to make the use, or un-use of this product as vague as possible. This is wrong. This is what across the board mandatory labeling of hot issues would solve. This is something that can’t happen with cloned food products.

I think that cloned food products are safe to eat. It seems clear that GMO are a very different topic, and there must be a clear distinction here. Cloned animals, used as farmers intend to use them presently, which is in breeding seems completely reasonable. From what I can assume leaves actual clones one generation behind the production line. For this reason cloned food products should appear on supermarket shelves as soon as possible with a proper labels including the fact the product is from a cloned animal as well as the lack of hormones and or antibiotics.

The animal farmers in the country have a lot of cleaning up to do. The factory farm is inhumane and cruel to the animals involved. We could shut them all down for the animals sake, but the price of meat would skyrocket, and the majority of the people revolt, eat veggie burgers, or die of starvation. $1.99 a pound ground beef doesn’t roam the wild range and get wrestled by a cowboy before being petted and laid to rest, and if you have this vision of where you food comes from you have a lot to learn. Cloning brings to the table a higher rate of infant deaths, failed pregnancies, and premature aging, all these things we can live with if the resulting adults are as expected, which is the strongest animals available.

In conclusion, 9 of the 20 respondents where willing to try cloned food products already which seems to imply there is a market for these products forming. On the other hand the second highest conclusion was a complete ban of cloned food products, which means with enough money and persuasion this side of the debate can implement it’s plan of banning these products trumping the majority who where willing to give it a try at least. Sound like a presidential election here!? With the information put forth, I wonder if any of the pollsters would change their opinion???