Sunday, October 31, 2010

Candy Corn Poll Results

Turn that frown upside down Mr. Candy Corn cause we love you!

I’m not sure what there is not to like about candy corn. Especially compared to some other Halloween related candies, for instance wax lips. Three quarters of the poll results showed love toward those little candy kernels. So soft, chewy and sweet with the wonderful fall hues!

It was in the 1880’s that George Renninger created candy corn while working for the Wunderlee Candy Company. The kernels are made from a secret mixture of sugar, corn syrup, stabalizers, and artificial coloring. It is estimated that over 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold annually. Brach’s is currently the top peddler of candy corn boasting that they sell enough kernels each year that if laid end to end would circle the Earth…over four times!

For those who love candy corn, but have spent their whole life wishing it was acceptable in social circles to eat year round. You are lucky! Candy companies are currently launching kernels with a variety of color variations intended to suit other holidays like Christmas and Easter.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thai Seafood Stew

With the help of Blogger these photos got uploaded backwards. So we are going to breakdown the Thai Fish Stew I prepard In reverse order of how it was actually made.

This is the final product...Thai seafood stew with meifun rice noodles, squid, crab, sea bass, marlin, swordfish and mussels in a Thai vegetable broth.

Her we have iced portions of the seafood that goes in the stew.

The broth cooking with easily extraced yet smashed lemongrass.

The flavorings.

Everything nicely diced, choped and microplane'd.

All the raw ingrediants.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I love my veggies....

This might give all my vegan friends nighmares...Oh wait, do I have any? Click here to check it out.

Fresh French Innards

In today’s issue of the New York Times Maia de La Baume wrote a great piece about ‘A Feast of Innards Nourishes French Nostalgia.’ There is great insight into the who and why of La Frairie des Petits Ventures or the brotherhood of small bellies. It’s a festival in Limoges, France that celebrates the old world culinary traditions that center on, well, sheep testicles cooked in garlic, parsley and port. If for no other reason and I greatly suggest you read the whole article as it is worth the time, there is a wonderful picture that looks almost medieval…and who gave those kids swords?

I would love to try some of the sautéed sheep testicles. I have not enjoyed testicles in my culinary adventures. I saw some bull’s testicles at the West Side Market, but I didn’t have the ‘balls’ to buy them and cook them for myself. It’s a lot like how I feel about tongue. Its great meat that I’ve enjoyed a few times, but if I am the one who has to peel that thick gross skin off it…yuck!

Blood sausage is another major item at this French festival. I’ve had Black Pudding in the setting of an Irish restaurant, and if I scoop enough egg yolk over it I’ll manage to get it down. By no means am I going to order a side of it though, and I said that before I even knew what it was I had eaten.

Tripe is another item that I’ve managed to avoid. It is featured in the hot counter of every Asian Market in town, but I just have not had the ‘stomach’ to order it. I am not offended by it. Nor am I avoiding it, the right time just has not come up. I’ve never asked, “instead of the General Tao’s chicken do you have a tripe dish.” I will have to think about that next time.

As for other innards…I love foie gras, sweetbreads, cheeks and tails. I’ve made pork head cheese and it’s great, but I’m not sure what that stuff is at the deli counter? Crackling, pig ears, braised snout, and even baby duck egg have all been agreeable to me. Chicken liver I’ll take ‘em or leave ‘em as they are great deep fried with a crunchy crust, but then again what isn’t? Other livers taste like eating a penny to me….yet I’ve not had them deep fried with a crunchy crust. Ha!

Rabbit hearts and livers skewered on a rosemary stem were very pleasing as they got sent to the grill on a whim one day. Pig’s feet I’ve used in stock, but there doesn’t seem to be enough there worth eating as a standalone item. Chicken feet are right next to the tripe at the Asian Market, but I’ve not ‘stepped’ up to the plate on that item either. They look crispy and good though.

We don’t eat much fish innards do we? Monk fish liver is something I’ve seen on TV. Shad roe was just downright nasty, and I was so excited to try it. Sturgeon caviars are just not worth it to me considering the environmental strain, even though farmed product is available these days. Tabiko is ok, it’s like fishy pop rocks, but unlike sheep testicles you wouldn’t dare to center a whole dish around it, let alone a whole festival.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Street Art Meets Foodie

I found my way onto this pretty amazing collection of street art (graffiti) that centers around food. I once displayed some public art, but that was a long time ago. Check out graffEATinyc for a good show.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Imaginary Poll Results

What an interesting poll. I surely thought it would have caught some more attention that the whole un-impressive 5 votes. But what the hell, let’s talk about it.

I constructed the idea that we might be invited to a hypothetical dinner party thrown by some of the most popular cartoon families of the past 50 years. Since it’s my imagination let me explain what might be expected.

One vote went to the mumbling Peanuts parents. Since I think of only three things when it comes to Peanuts and they are Snoopy, The Great Pumpkin, and the needless Christmas tree I am going to say the PP (Peanuts Parents) are going to stick with the regular holiday foods. Think roast turkey, stuffing, mashers, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce…ect. I also figure they would have a NA punch bowl seeing there are a bunch of neighborhood kids around and they are already mumbling. The PP would do a great party, but only for that 5 week period of the year when such foods are acceptable.

Lois Griffin also got one vote. There are plenty of scenes in Family Guy where the family sits around the dinner table, but more times than not it’s not about the food. Food just isn’t that funny. Plus they don’t have a proper dining room with the table dropped right in the middle of the kitchen. Based solely on this clip I am guessing Lois would replicate that meatloaf.

Lastly, and sole winners of more than one vote Ms. Flintstone and Ms Rubble would undoutably put for the best dinner party. I envision a full bar of gin martinis, imported champagne, huge wooden mugs of fermented barley and hops and clean water filtered through the wing of a bird that giggles and says something witty like, “I’m all wet” when you pour water on him. Bam Bam would hit Dino over the head, steal his dinosaur treat and share it with the little Flintstone girl. Fred would attempt to grill out, but after leaving Barney to man the grill while he chased a little green fairy Martian Barney would let everything burn because he is a big wimp and the grill was hot. So the final straw is the baked dinasor shank casserole, but everyone would be so full of gin they pass out and in a few hours when Bam Bam needs a diaper change he would bang on the ground shaking the whole house until everyone wakes up.

Those with no votes are Marge Simpson who I don’t recall cooking much so that dinner party would center on Duff beer. Frylock, Meatwad, and Master Shake are all food stuffs themselves so that is just kind of weird to think about. Granddad Freeman and Riley would fully enjoy a picnic of fried chicken and watermelon while Uncle and Huey would chastise them for such stereotypical choices most likely opting for some type of Italian dish.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Comfort Food ???

I saw this piece about comfort food at and it got me thinking about what ‘comfort food’ means. Well, after some thought I’ve decided that comfort food has a few different personalities. One is nice, sweet and sincere, another is unhealthy yet therapeutic, and yet another is out to get your money (aka get me a pay check). Let me share what I’ve found.

The pairing of the words comfort and food first appeared in Webster’s Dictionary in 1977 and refers to food that improve one’s emotional state, sense of well-being, or comfort…go figure. It is a rather current development that American chef’s in an effort to define ‘American cuisine’ invented a fine dining model of comfort food that includes expert cooking, quality ingredients, but also higher prices compared to the Mom & Pop places costumers previously went for comfort food. What it comes down to from my viewpoint is that in the past comfort food at a restaurant might have consisted of instant mashed potatoes topped with a goopy brown graves and beef meatloaf topped with ketchup, costing you about $7. Today, and in the same fashion we have been tricked with horribly effective marketing that we will be comforted spending $34 on Yukon gold whipped potatoes topped with Veal demi-glace and truffled veal meatloaf under a heirloom tomato compote…Oh, and it will be even better paired with a silky smooth bottle of Siler Oak wine. I agree and I’m sure most readers agree that the second option sounds just divine, but why? Whicked nasty marketing, the boys down in R&D got the mission accomplished.

How could something that is supposed to make you feel emotionally good be physically unhealthy? Well it is all about where we look for comfort. What isn’t comforting to anyone…and I mean anyone? Let’s start with some rice wafers with fake cheese flavoring, some raw carrots, yogurt, and alfalfa sprouts. Does that sound like it would make you feel better? No, it sounds like a colon cleanse. What does sound good and consequently make us feel good unfortunately does not turn out to be very healthy. It doesn’t take much explaining really. Just think chocolate, ice cream, chips, Big Mac, even ‘Happy Hour’ are things we all take comfort in but turn on us after consumption. According to good ole’ Wikipedia somewhere around 33% of college age women make healthy eating choices when looking to improve their mental well being.

So what is that nice, sweet and sincere part that was mentioned? It all looks like cloaks and mirrors of unhealthy eating and overspending all of a sudden. Do not distress. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. What brings me comfort in the culinary world? Surely it isn’t the duck confit, grilled pizza, or vegetable pie as Epicurious might have you think. What brings me comfort is what I grew up on. Whatever it is that my mom pieced together after work that we shared as a family all sitting at one table. Sure at the time I would rather have played football in the street with by buddies or kicking my sister under the table or done anything else than eat what my mom made while not understand why dad was so grumpy (I understand now, The Grind). So what really brings me comfort in food and for most readers who fall into the same generation/economic class? I’ll start with city chicken, that shit is good. Taco night and we are talking straight Ortega out of the box powdered taco blend! The f’ing shells always broke, but a scoopable mixture of meat, cheese and sour cream was fine. Lastly is Beef Stew, which is very basic yet executed to a tee even under a chef’s scrutiny? Plus I learned from my father, to the chagrin of my mother that mashing up the vegetables and meat made something of a homogenous porridge that tasted even better than eating all the pieces parts separately.

Comfort food is quite diverse. Does Epicurious hit the nail on the head? Not a chance, but I still like Epicurious. Can dumfoundedly mixed results be expected from our comfort food habits? Yes! Yet Mom is most likely still the best cook we know.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Respecting Apple Butter

How time flies! It seems like not all that long ago we were sweating away long hours, now I’m looking for a sweater! The copious amounts of water and Gatorade have given way to warming cups of coffee and sore throat soothing teas. Oh, and the food, what a rollercoaster. First the ramps, fiddleheads and soft shell crabs, then we got slammed with a ton (literally) of tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant. Now I’m staring at a butternut squash the size of my leg! I wonder to myself “Did we give all the food its proper respect? Did we cherish our short time with each?”

Apples are something we tend not to cherish or respect as much as a proper apple deserves respect. By a ‘proper’ apple I’m talking about one without wax, without a sticker on it, one that hasn’t been on an airplane, cargo ship, or big rig truck. Luckily this is the best time of year for just such a thing. While taking a bite out of a big sweet rosey red apple is awesome I prefer to stretch out my apple expedience by making apple butter. On a whim I tossed in a bunch of butternut squash in my apple butter pot and was very excited about what turned out.

Apple-butternut squash butter

Five large local Macintosh apples
Equal amount of butternut squash
Half cup liquid (apple juice, cider, hard cider, whiskey, bourbon, applejack….water)
One teaspoon each ground cinnamon & coriander
Two cloves
One quarter to three quarters of a cup brown sugar
One pinch salt

The key to making successful apple butter is understanding that this will take some time on the stove and if you try to hurry things up at any point there is a good chance that it will burn! Also a stick blender is perfect for this recipe because you keep it a one pot dish, and a stick blender is a very inexpensive and useful piece of kitchen equipment.

Start with a large heavy bottom pot and add diced apples, squash and liquid. Leave the peel on the apples because this is where the natural pectin is and this will help the butter firm up upon chilling. As for your choice of liquid it just depends on what flavors you want to add to the game. Water works just fine for the purpose of breaking down the apple and getting those juices flowing without burning anything.

Over medium heat cover this pot and cook for ten minutes giving a stir every so often until the apples give up their liquid and everything starts to break down. Now comes the patience. Turn the heat to low, keep off the lid, and wait. It doesn’t do any harm to give the pot a stir every so often. It is tempting to turn up the heat at this point, but I guarantee you it will burn if you do. I’m guessing this will cook for about 45 minutes and at this point blend the mixture smooth and add the spices.

When is it done? I test the doneness by taking a teaspoon from the pot, let it cool off for a few seconds and putting it out onto a plate. If liquid separates from the mound of pulp it’s got to cook some more. Once enough liquid reduces out of the butter this will not happen. When this happens add the sugar and cook another five minutes making sure to keep the heat low and stir. Adding the sugar earlier, and/or not keeping a stir on the pot at this point and I guarantee it will burn. Why can I make such bold promises of burnt butter, because I’ve made those critical mistakes before.

Now it’s apple butter.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Textures of Fall

Butternut squash edged out root vegetables as a favorite fall cooking item. I have to agree that the versatility of butternut squash and in turn other fall root vegetables is very agreeable. For a long time I thought of butternut squash along with acorn squash, Cinderella, spaghetti and the many other varieties as nothing more than a puree-able pulp to be made into soup. I’ve learned the past few years that spaghetti squash is great when you cut it into rings and oh yes, it does in fact resemble spaghetti. Also butternut and acorn take well to being diced and sautéed. The key is not to overcook them, thus controlling their texture. The easy out is to cook the hell out of it and puree it into a soup like I’ve done so many times before, instead leaving a bite to it and getting a good sear will give you a great fall vegetable item.

While thinking about texture you can use parsnips, celery root, rutabaga and turnips the same way as squash. It is easy to cook them to death and puree them, but if you enjoy that flavor you will ultimately enjoy the caramelized and firm textured version as well. I’m really excited about the fall flavors this year and hope to share a few more ideas with you, but for now, here are two non-pureed ideas that I’ve found success with in the past.

Vegan Curry Butternut Squash Stew

One large onion diced
Just enough oil or roasted garlic oil

One tablespoon ginger
One teaspoon garlic if you don’t have roasted garlic oil

Two quarts medium diced butternut squash
Two tablespoons curry powder
Fresh crack black pepper

One quart diced tomatoes

Two quarts vegetable stock

Deeply caramelize the onions in oil. Add ginger, squash and curry powder to onion mix and cook a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and let its juices run, then add the stock and bring to a boil. This should take about ten minutes and at this point the squash should be tender but not mushy…perfect.

Butternut squash risotto

This is less of a recipe. What I like about it is the procedure so we will skip all the measurements and such. We all know how to make risotto. I like to take a large squash and make a perfect medium dice, but reserve all the scraps and chop them up in the food processor. I sauté this processed squash with an onion then proceed with making risotto. After the second third of liquid to the risotto I add the diced squash and continue on my way. This way I get a nice orange risotto with a resounding flavor of butternut squash, but also have the diced pieces of squash kind of like ‘flavor crystals’ in your gum. This is especially good with maple syrup!