Wednesday, November 30, 2005 

Just Spuds?

Maine Is Busy Praising the Potatoes

But these are not ordinary potatoes, said Mr. Evans, who grew up near Boston and cooked at the French Laundry and the Inn at Little Washington before settling in Portland in 2000. "I've never worked with so many different kinds before, so many textures," he said. "The Carola has this creamy flavor, the Butte is light and silky. I never thought Maine produce could compete with California, and the ingredients are not as opulent, but all you have to do is pay attention."

To distinguish their potatoes, these farmers have embraced a raft of ideological labels: organic, local, sustainable, heirloom, slow, artisanal, gourmet and farm-to-table. Instead of growing an industrial potato suitable for long-term storage, transport or freezing, they say they grow a culinary potato.

"There are literally hundreds of potato breeds to choose from," said Jim Cook of Skylandia Farm, at the northern tip of the state. "We grow the 50 that do best on the plate."

Monday, November 28, 2005 

Turkey tales and other Thanksgiving mishaps

By Kathleen Purvis - Charlotte Observer


Pop-up timers that never popped -- because the turkey was upside down. Giblet gravy poured down the sink by a helpful guest.

Unsweetened pumpkin pies. Apple pie sprinkled with Italian herbs. A critter swimming in the whipped cream.

And our favorite: You mean you're supposed to bake the cornbread batter before you use it to stuff the turkey?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 

Houston and Arizona Thanksgiving Links

From the Houston Chronicle

Thanksgiving countdown
Thanksgiving is a holiday whose raison d'être is feasting. But chances are it has been a year since you last roasted a turkey or made stuffing. We offer this refresher course, complete with pounds per person, thawing and roasting times and cooking temperatures.

Savory turkey, trimmings tempt you to the table

Tasty sides move to the front of the table

Colonists' eating habits defined by times

Trail mix perfect snack on the way to grandma's

Dry-roasted nuts selected from around the world

From the Arizona Republic:

Turkey without the leftovers If you're not excited by the litany of leftovers, skip the whole turkey. Instead, try serving up a turkey breast. Far from a plain piece of white meat, the turkey breast can paired with a host of ingredients, and be the basis for a delicious main course that isn't too overwhelming.

2-hour turkey rates a 'Wow' The 2-hour turkey recipe - will it work?

Making gravy without the lumps Learn to make a roux-based turkey gravy.

Create healthful salad from leftovers Turn Thanksgiving meal into healthful leftovers.

Not a turkey among these winning wines This is the season for gift-giving and parties, and I think everyone needs a pile of wine to get through it.

Another link that should not be missed:

Slashfood Thanksgiving Roundup

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 

Chicago Sun-Times Thanksgiving

The Chicago Sun-Times split up their Thanksgiving articles between their regular food section last Wednesday and a special section on Monday. Here are some of the highlights from the windy city:

Turkey with a twist
For Maurice Bonhomme, Thanksgiving means a day away from the kitchen of Pane Caldo, where he reigns as executive chef. But it's not a day away from cooking, although he keeps his home menu easy and timed so he can enjoy two football games.

A trio of Thanksgivings
Growing up in Paris, Martial Noguier knew very little about the history of Thanksgiving, and even less about America's waistline-expanding Feast to End All Feasts Day. All that's changed.

Turkey, on the fly
When it comes to Thanksgiving, Kevin Hickey is exactly where he wants to be: in a lavish hotel overseeing the preparations and cooking of a traditional American feast, followed by an uncomplicated home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner with his family.

Ethnic groups mix native foods with turkey
Sit down for dinner on the fourth Thursday in November and you can be confident that, across the nation, people are eating the same thing you are. According to the Washington, D.C.-based National Turkey Federation, 97 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving.

Carving with confidence
A successful Thanksgiving or other holiday dinner might mean having the right tools at the right time -- when it's time to carve the turkey, for example.

Round out the meal
The pie is an English institution, which, planted on American soil, forthwith ran rampant and burst forth into an untold variety of genera and species," wrote Harriet Beecher Stowe in her 1869 novel Oldtown Folks, rhapsodizing over cranberry, pumpkin, green currant, huckleberry, plum and, of course, apple pie.

The stuff of tradition: 'Slider' stuffing
OK, I'll admit it, I've been a little curious ever since we got a few responses to a request for "slider" stuffing.

A Thanksgiving meal like you've never had
If the thought of washing down next week's turkey dinner with a swig of turkey-flavored soda sounds too gross to be true, think again.

Cooking help on phone lines and off-line
Toll-free telephone services and Web sites offer a variety of specialist answers to cooking and food-safety questions during holiday preparation times.

Monday, November 21, 2005 

Boston Globe Thanksgiving Section

The Boston Globe published their Thanksgiving section today, with the following articles among the highlights:

Buyers face a bounty of options when buying a turkey
Thanksgiving wouldn't be a feast without a big, bronzed bird as the centerpiece. However, these days the range of turkeys available now can be daunting.

Pilgrims' progress
Turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie weren't always the stars of our Thanksgiving tables, but even the earliest settlers enjoyed a good, long feast.

Fried turkey is stuff of barbecue legend
Deep-frying turkey in hot oil produces a crisp skin and moist meat.

This will pan out
Ditch that flimsy foil pan and get yourself a real roaster that can handle a big bird.

A guide to making a Thanksgiving pie
The Thanksgiving feast promises a multitude of pie options, from pumpkin and apple, to virtually any combination of fruits, nuts, and custards.

Squash the routine with savory sides

Great wine for the holiday
Thanksgiving seems a natural time to savor the bottled bounty of our own hemisphere.

A homemade chutney delivers sweet rewards
Tart and sweet with a dazzling scarlet hue, cranberries add a touch of sugar to savory dishes and a pleasant tang to sweet ones.

Her pumpkin soup is roundly satisfying

Friday, November 18, 2005 

San Francisco Chronicle Thanksgiving Section

Today's Thanksgiving section is from the Bay Area of California. Plenty of diversity and suggestions in this section, which provides plenty of tips on the bird, last minute help and alternative Thanksgiving meals.

Best Way Brined Turkey
After cooking nearly 40 turkeys in The Chronicle's test kitchen, we found a brined turkey to be the best.

Taking Care Of The BirdTips on buying, storing and stuffing turkey, plus poultry labeling terms.

A Smaller Feast
If a 12-pound is too much, try a Wine-Braised Turkey Breast instead.

Down-To-The-Wire Thanksgiving
Recipes that can be done without too much sweating and toiling.

A Procrastinator's Guide
Recipes that can be done without too much sweating and toiling.

What Your Mother Never Told You
Answers for your last-minute dilemmas.

Wines For The Holiday
The Chronicle's W. Blake Gray offers his tips for what to pair with your Thanksgiving meal.

A Napa Valley Thanksgiving
Some of Northern California's finest winemakers and chefs come together to create a feast to end all feasts.

Thanksgiving With An Asian Touch
Merging cultures makes for a truly American holiday meal.

Low-Carb Thanksgiving
Dinner doesn't have to be boring if you're doing Atkins.

For Vegetarians
Bay Area chefs create tradition -- without the turkey -- for an all-American feast.

Thursday, November 17, 2005 

The LA Times Thanksgiving

Today's food section is the Los Angeles Times, and I believe they have put together an extremely strong group of articles to help you out with making your feast next week.

Fit for a Pilgrim
Rich and pure in flavor, heritage birds are taking a place at the table.

The Stuffing: It's an Invitation to Tinker
MOST of our Thanksgiving menus are so bound by family ritual they could be carved in stone. That's why cooks are so thankful for stuffing, the one dish we can really play around with.

Choosing sides? Why not have both?
APPARENTLY there are people on the planet who actually think you can serve turkey without potatoes. These are the same traitors who would trot out a cheesecake instead of a pumpkin pie. Traditions are traditions, and potatoes are not just an essential ingredient. You have to have them twice in the same meal.

The ultimate relish: fresh, fast, flavorful
For real cranberry zing, nothing beats this irresistibly easy and delicious recipe

And the rest is...
THERE are few foods on the holiday table that carry the mystique of gravy. At its most basic level, it's nothing more than a paste of flour and fat thinned with turkey stock, yet it somehow has the capacity to strike fear in otherwise brave-hearted cooks.

You really can't go wrong
There are great wines for every Thanksgiving dinner, potlucks included. Match the mood, and guests will forgive the driest of turkeys.

It all starts with the dessert
It's the day serious cooks have been waiting for all year. What better way to begin it than with the aromas of apple and pumpkin pie?

The tool: enamel roaster

The tool: fat separator

The tool: masher

The tool: rolling pin

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 

NY Times Does Thanksgiving

This week, many newspaper food and dining sections will focus on Thanksgiving meals. Over the next few days we'll puruse them one at a time and bring you links to the stories in each section.

First up, the New York Times:

What to Make First? A Plan
The best way to avoid spending Thanksgiving locked away in the kitchen is by preparing a week before..

The Pilgrims Didn't Brine
When preparing a Thanksgiving turkey, sometimes less is much more.

Countdown to the Main Event
If you want a heritage, organic or fresh turkey and have not ordered one, do so today.

Taking a Side? Have It Ready at 'Hello'
You've got to figure that at least three-quarters of us travel to the homes of others for Thanksgiving. So why does turkey get so much attention when it's only the hosts who have to prepare it?

The Turkey That Stopped in Haiti on Its Way to Dinner
Rafael Mateo is a man of many flavors. By day he is a teacher, with a flock of seventh and eighth graders in East Harlem

Serving Essence of Pumpkin, Instead of the Annual Pie
A custard topped with traditional spices plays the pumpkin role with more grace, and apple triangles..

And, if you don't want to cook at all:

Cook in Zero Minutes: Make a Reservation
In New York City, several restaurants that closed for the holiday in past years plan to serve Thanks..

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 

Stepping to Stew

Step-by-step stew: It's satisfying, gratifying and oh-so-easy
by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

This article breaks down the steps to making a great stew. Essentially it comes down to:
  • Cut ingredients
  • Brown meat and deglaze pan
  • Sauté vegetables
  • Stir in flour and dried herbs or spices
  • Add broth and flavorings
  • Apply slow heat
  • Add any vegetables or grains
  • Is it stew yet?
The article outlines in more detail what is involved in each step along the way.

Monday, November 14, 2005 

A New Era of Boxed Wine?

Boxed Wine in the Round, with a Spigot
By Dana Bowen

There's no question about it, boxed wines have a certain stigma attached to them. For some they are symbolic of the 1980's, for others it is the belief that you simply trashy and you cannot have good wine that is not in a bottle.

DTour is out to change all that. Aiming to overcome the stigma, they are putting their wine in bags placed within cardboard cylinders. Vacuum-sealed, it allows you to take one glass at a time, and keep the last glass tasting as good as the first.

Indeed, it's an easy fit in most refrigerators, where the tube can stand upright or rest on its side, its swiveling spigot hanging over the shelf.

Each tube holds the equivalent of four bottles, but it's far lighter and easier to tote to a party or a picnic. The cardboard acts as an insulator; after the tube is chilled, it stays cool for four hours at room temperature.

The 2004 chardonnay is getting a limited run in New York, New Jersey and Maryland this week. (2400 cylinders) A red should be available next summer.

Friday, November 11, 2005 

Stuffing pork chops in no time

By James P. DeWan, Special to the Chicago Tribune.

DeWan is an instructor at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago

The basic steps in preparing a pork chop for stuffing:

1. Set the chop on your board with the bone away from you and steady it with your guide hand. Hold a paring knife or small boning knife horizontally with the spine toward the bone and the tip pointing into the meat. Make sure the blade is equidistant from the top and bottom of the chop. An even thickness on both sides promotes even cooking.

2. Before you begin, lay the blade on top of the chop to map out your plan. You'll puncture the meat and insert the blade with the spine against or close to the bone. Go straight in as far as you can without emerging from the other side. Don't let the tip tear a hole in the meat. (When you do make that mistake, don't worry. Use slightly less stuffing to prevent leakage, and then put the chop on the plate with the torn side down.)

3. With the blade inside the chop and the spine facing the bone, pivot the knife from the entry hole and cut through the center of the chop to the opposite side. Keep your guide hand on the meat to feel the motion and location of the knife underneath. Try not to enlarge the entry hole, and don't let the knife tip poke through the meat.

As you slice through the interior of the chop, bring the knife tip to within about a half-inch of the edge of the chop. Remember, the goal is to create a large, sturdy pocket with a small opening.

4. When you think you've got a nice pocket, remove the knife. Take one finger and insert it into the pocket to check your handiwork.

5. To stuff, give the chop a gentle squeeze around its waist to open the hole a bit. Use your fingers to push the stuffing inside
More tips, including a great stuffing recipe can be found at the full article.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 

Fall's golden globes

Don't let the name fool you. Winter squash are here now -- and they are demanding star treatment.

By Russ Parsons, LA Times

If you've been to the produce section of your local grocery store in the last few weeks, you've seen winter squash all over the place. I've seen them, and haven't been quite sure if they're all good for eating, or if they are more for a fall decoration to have around to be "in the season".

Parsons goes through the varities of winter squash and how to select them, and of course, how to cook them.

There are four main varieties:

Acorn. This is probably the most familiar winter squash after the pumpkin and almost certainly the most familiar one that is edible. Its skin is dark green with occasional blushes of saturated orange. Its flesh is pale to medium orange. The texture is semi-smooth and rich, and flavor is moderately sweet and moderately squashy. The acorn is a middle-of-the-road squash. The Table Queen is an especially good type of acorn.

Butternut. If I had to choose a single readily available winter squash variety, this would be it. The butternut is shaped like a long cylinder with a slight bulb on one end. The skin is fairly thin and a kind of golden tan in color. The flesh is dark orange and semi-fibrous. The flavor is very sweet and nutty with just a hint of green squashiness.

Carnival. This looks like a harlequin acorn squash, with beautiful patchwork dark green and bright orange skin. The flesh is dark orange and slightly fibrous. The flavor is complex, rich and sweet with an intriguing earthy note.

Kabocha. Though it became available only in the last decade or so, the kabocha seems to be everywhere today. It is round and slightly flattened at the top and bottom. The skin is dark green with delicate gray-blue tracing (there are also all-green and dark-orange versions). The flesh is pale to medium orange and extremely dense and smooth. The flavor is very sweet but with a nice green squashy edge that gives some backbone.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005 

Was It Something I Ate?

What to do if you think a restaurant meal has made you sick

By Janet Fletcher, Chronicle Staff Writer

You slurped the oysters, devoured the pork chop and ate every crumb of the apple pie -- yet another fine dinner at a favorite restaurant. But at 3 a.m., you awake in a sweat, your insides churning and one thought on your mind: "That [expletive] restaurant made me sick."

Not so fast. You're sick all right. But was it the oysters? Or that succulent pork chop? Can you even be sure the culprit was part of your meal?

"It's like someone telling you they got a cold from riding the 22 Fillmore," says Carlo Middione, chef-owner of Vivande in San Francisco. Most diners in gastric distress instinctively blame the last place they ate, but it's not necessarily that simple.

Read on for more...

Monday, November 07, 2005 

Apples just might be nature's perfect food

By Suzanne Havala Hobbs, Charlotte Observer.

We need more reminders about how great apples really are.

High in fiber. A medium apple contains about 4 grams of fiber -- a good-sized dose, part soluble and part insoluble. Soluble fiber, such as the pectin in apples, helps lower blood cholesterol levels and control blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber is the roughage you need to help prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.

Low in cholesterol and saturated fat. In fact, apples contain none. That's important for all of us, particularly for anyone at high risk for coronary disease.

Low in sodium. Again, nada. Apples are an ideal snack for those who need to watch their sodium and salt intakes.

A good fluid source. Apples are like nature's own juice box. One medium apple contains a half cup of water.

Apples are also a source of potassium and health-supporting phytochemicals that may help protect against heart disease and some forms of cancer.

She does have one word of caution, however:
If I've got you interested in eating apples now, great. I'd be remiss, though, if I didn't point out one important caveat: Apples are among the six most pesticide-prone fruits and vegetables, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
Her advice? Buy Organic.

Friday, November 04, 2005 

Mexicano auténtico

A Charlotte teacher learns to make traditional mole sauce in the state of Oaxaca -- and she's sharing her secrets

By Catherine Fortin
Special to the Charlotte Observer

Forty fresh ingredients faced us down in chef Iliana de la Vega's El Naranjo restaurant kitchen.

Fat emerald green chiles, voluptuous tomatoes and snow-white onions stood in pyramids in green-glazed dishes. Garnet-colored dried ancho chiles and green chiles poblanos filled pottery bowls.

Then there were lime-green tomatillos, pecans, sesame seeds and blocks of Oaxacan cheese, fat cinnamon sticks and umpteen fresh herbs.

All of these would be combined to form a Mexican staple: Mole sauce.
Mole (say "MOE-lay") is a culinary hybrid that combines ancient Mexican ingredients such as chile, chocolate and pecans with the tomatoes, garlic and spices that the Spaniards brought to Mexico.
We get the process and even a recipe for the sauce which is often "principal dish of a meal, while the meat serves a supporting role."

Thursday, November 03, 2005 

Renewed Spirits

Ever had Laird's Applejack? I have a bottle sitting with the rest of my liquor, but haven't had any of it for probably a couple of years now. As I recall, it's pretty potent stuff. After a couple of shots of it, it actually starts tasting like strong apple cider.

I didn't realize the history of this liquor. It's been around since 1780. That's 225 years since Robert Laird established America's first commercial distillery.

This article in the Washington Post by Walter Nicholls explores the efforts by Lisa Laird Dunn to introduce the product to a whole new generation of young drinkers. Apparently the market for this product includes a lot of older males, and that is a dwindling market.

As part of her efforts, the packaging is being updated and all sorts of new drinks which use AppleJack in them are being developed and introduced. I hope the efforts are successful, because this liquor has a colorful history.
"We have records that show that George Washington was so impressed, he asked for the applejack recipe," says Dunn (the company complied but hasn't provided the recipe to anyone since, she says). She also has documents showing that before becoming president, Abraham Lincoln served applejack at his Springfield, Ill., tavern for 12 cents a half-pint. Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed the occasional applejack martini, she says, and Lyndon Johnson gave a case of applejack to Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin at a summit meeting in 1967.
Applejack was also produced through Prohibition, as they were granted a federal license to distill apple bandy for medicinal use. Thus they had plenty of aged brandy in their warehouses when the act was lifted.

I might just break out that bottle tonight and have a bit, looking at it in a whole new light.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005 

Rent-A-Grandma Teaches New Orleans Cooking

The San Francisco Chronicle has been running a Rent-A-Grandma series to connect people in the Bay Area. The latest entry is from today and contains the tale of a woman who lost her Grandmother this past year, and then lost her Grandmother's home city of New Orleans. She wanted to find someone to help her rediscover the cooking of her Grandmother.

Four generations help a Bay Area woman rediscover her New Orleans roots
By Olivia Wu

So on a recent October day that unfolded in waves of heat and recollections of New Orleans, Muffelletto found herself over the stove at the Vallejo home of Gary Gentry, Maudice and Bill's son, to apprentice at the side of three teachers. Gary would teach gumbo; Bill, baked goods; and Maudice, her incomparable fried chicken.

The menu stretched from gumbo and fried chicken to collard greens, crowder peas (a variety of shelled beans), smothered steak, cornbread, sweet potato pie and pound cake, because when you start a menu with fried chicken, you don't stop until all of Grandma's best dishes are put on the table. The eaters, who began straggling in by late afternoon, ranged from sisters and brothers-in-law to grandchildren to great-grandchildren to first and second cousins. When you cook like this, it's for family.

The full recipes of all the dishes is in the article as well, including that great-looking fried chicken.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005 

Everyday Epicures

By Karen Fernau
Arizona Republic
We're quickly becoming a nation of gourmets, drizzling white balsamic vinegar over roasted vegetables and stuffing Maytag blue cheese into organic-beef burgers.

We have gourmet sandwiches at Jack in the Box and celebrity-chef spaghetti sauce at Wal-Mart.

Never before have so many of us paid $9 for one fresh vanilla bean or $11 for a pound of truffle salt.
It's true. We see it more and more these days. Food Network, Internet sites, and the plethora of cooking and food magazines out there are really changing the way we're viewing food.