Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Poll

It's been a roller coaster week thinking about the quality and source of my food. It's a clear personal choice. But when purchasing for a third party or the restaurant I work for the question comes up, "should my personal opinions impact my descisions about purchases for the restaurant?" These are my personal battles I'll have to think about. How important do the issues of sustainability, local, or organic relate to your everyday eating? That is the current poll

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Links of Interest

Michael Ruhlman’s take on Ruth Reichl’s remarks on the end of Gourmet Magazine

New York Time’s piece about the changing food television landscape with The Cooking Channel's birth May 31.

Here is the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s “Restaurant Issue.” Nothing groundbreaking, but decant synopsis of over 100 of the area’s most popular and successful restaurants.

Can’t figure out my grandma is the best cook you’ll ever know? Here is a blog dedicated to cooking real food the way your grandmother used to.

Chef Pete Joyce and the patio at Bistro on Lincoln Park are looking like a great combination. Also check out the Bistro’s Facebook page for frequent updates.


MMMMMM, Bacon!

Like this pic, check out this site.

The bacon cooking poll has closed with the pan and oven methods coming in neck and neck. I Bing searched ‘best way to cook bacon’ and this seems to be a common theme. Pepper in a few fans of the microwave and we are only left with wacky gadgets and grandma’s tips on how to cook up the best piece of bacon possible.

I can understand why the microwave method has its fans. With a cooking time of one minute per slice, there is no dispute this is the fastest way. I just don’t like cooking things in the microwave. Surely it’s my favorite way to heat something up, just not a tool to cook with in my opinion. I’ve had bacon cooked in the microwave, and the end product is more like warm pork jerky than a nice greasy crisp piece of bacon.

The pan method did get one more vote than the oven so it is the winner. I like bacon cooked in a pan, but it’s messy, and takes a lot of attention. I don’t have a pan big enough to cook more than 4-5 slices of bacon at a time, which is a great reason to cook bacon in the oven. The oven method is the cleanest of them all, especially if the bacon is set on a wire rack over a baking sheet, which also offers the benefit of more even cooking. All it takes is setting a timer so you don’t forget your bacon. I think the oven method is the most efficient, clean and easy way to cook up the best piece of bacon possible.

In the restaurant we always cook large batches of strip bacon in the oven. On the other hand for diced bacon we use a pot, and add bacon fat we saved from the last batch. This makes for evenly cooked bacon that doesn’t take a lot of attention to not burn. This method is a lot like deep-frying bacon, just in a pot of bacon fat instead of a fry-o-later filled with canola oil. And if you do have a fryer, and most restaurant kitchens do, as a bored cook you will eventually try to deep fry just about anything. Bacon is no exception to this rule. While I have assumed this discussion to be about strip bacon up until now, I will say that frying large pieces of bacon (or pork belly) in a fryer is a preferred method. As for the thick cut, beer battered, and deep fried bacon…..I tried it, and hot damn it was good!

When just cooking up a simple strip of bacon becomes boring don’t quit. It has come to light that bacon plays well with other ingredients like brown sugar, maple syrup, black pepper and chocolate per suggestions of other. I say, “Why stop there?” I’m ready to try a whole mess of other combinations. How about curry powder, apple butter, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, mustard, coco powder, roasted garlic, fresh herbs, you begin to see the possibilities.

Enjoy your bacon!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Times

I shucked my first English Peas of the season. Ten pounds down, countless more to go. I love English Peas.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Quinoa has come to light on a lot of menus across the nation lately. We’ve used it on specials over the past two years so I’d like to think we are riding the crest of this specific culinary wave. I have known only a few things about quinoa until deciding to write this post, and its correct spelling has often eluded me. Ok, it’s a grain……..wrong, and that’s where my knowledge stopped. Let me share with you what I’ve learned.

Quinoa is a seed of a plant that is closely related to beets and spinach. Quinoa greens are edible, but do to the overwhelming un-popularity of the hardy quinoa seed the greens are very very hard to find. Quinoa originated in the Andean region of South America and has been an important food crop for over 6,000 years. Unfortunately quinoa has a relatively long growing period and when grown in over fertilized soil it tends to accumulate high amounts of nitrates. Peru commands over half of the quinoa market to date at over 32,000 metric tons. Very little of it is grown in the U.S. although in the past quinoa was a hearty crop on the eastern seaboard before maize agriculture became popular.

Quinoa is about 15% protein thus a good source of such, especially for vegetarians, and is an unusually complete protein source containing a balanced set of amino acids, specifically lysine, which are almost non-existent in wheat or rice. Quinoa is also gluten free, yet can be ground into a flour consistency.

Let’s get cooking…. Quinoa can be cooked very much like rice. You can even cook it in a rice cooker if you like. It takes about 15 minutes at a simmer to be completely cooked. Using just water and salt gives you a nice nutty flavored end product that is light and fluffy. You know the quinoa is done when it ‘grows tails’ meaning when fully cooked the seeds open and look like a twisting tail has come out of the shell. It is not easy to overcook quinoa, unlike rice, so don’t fret.

Recipe for Quinoa with shallots, sweet corn and artichoke

Six shallots

One cup quinoa
Two cups water/vegetable stock/chicken stock

One cup corn kernels
One 8oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

Caramelize the sliced shallots in butter until golden brown. Add quinoa and liquid, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add corn and artichokes, salt and pepper, and taste.