Tuesday, May 30, 2006 

Tips for Southern Cooking

The Sun Herald in South Mississippi has a look at the new book Deep South Staples by Robert St John, and provides this list of 10 tips from the book as a sample of the handy ideas and hints that you will receive from this publication which promises to show you "How to Survive in a Southern Kitchen Without a Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup."

Here's the ten tips from the article:

Deviled eggs: In order to avoid deviled eggs that are too large for the mouth, use the smallest eggs possible, then after boiling, cut a nickel-size slice from each end to stabilize them. Halve the eggs crosswise, not lengthwise, to make them small enough to eat gracefully.

Vidalia onions: Because of the high sugar content, Vidalia onions spoil easily; always store them so that they are not touching each other.

Exfoliate: Use rough textured bathing or exfoliating gloves to quickly and easily clean root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and beets.

Baking powder: In order to test the potency of baking powder, mix 2 teaspoons into a cup of water. If it fizzes or foams immediately, it is OK. If the reaction is at all delayed, buy a fresh can.

Fried chicken: Putting several pieces of celery with leaves into the oil when frying chicken produces beautifully colored and better tasting fried chicken.

Boiling water more quickly: Speed up the process of boiling large quantities of water by boiling water in two pots, fore example, a half-full stock pot and a second pot with the balance of the water needed. Both will boil more quickly and continue to boil when the second is poured into the stock pot.

Freezing ground beef: When freezing ground beef, place about 1 pound of fresh ground beef in a zipper-lock bag and flatten with a rolling pin. This way, when you are ready to use it, the thinner meat is easier to break off if you don't have to thaw the whole thing. (And the flat beef thaws more quickly if you do.)

Stuffed peppers: Two ways to keep stuffed peppers upright during baking are to put them in a tube pan to ensure a snug fit, or in a muffin tin to prevent sliding.

Keeping a cookbook flat: Put a clear glass Pyrex dish on top of open cookbooks to keep them flat, readable and clean while cooking.

Separating fat from drippings: To separate fat from pan drippings, pour all the liquid from the roasting pan into a glass measuring cup. Carefully slip a transparent bulb baster beneath the layer of fat and pull out the juices into the baster.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006 

Heading Down Under

This blog is going to be on a bit of a Hiatus for the next few weeks. I'm getting married this weekend and we're spending our honeymoon in Australia.

I'll be photographing and writing about the experience, as we'll be getting paid for writing a few articles about our various adventures and scenic trips while going around the country. We'll be spending a few days in Cairns, then heading to the middle of the country to see Ayers Rock (Uluru). No, there's not a McDonald's on top of the rock, that's a bit of an in-joke, I guess. Near Ayers Rock, we'll having dinner under the stars, which should be a great experience. We'll also be going to Sydney and going out to the Hunter Valley Wine country for a day as well.

If I find some internet access, I'll post some photos of the various dining experiences we have.

Monday, May 01, 2006 

Dilemma: What wine to pair with Doritos?

Sometimes you want to settle in with a snack and some wine, but don't happen to have any artisan cheese, foie gras and chilled caviar on hand. Bill Daley says this isn't a problem.

He asks a number of Chicago-area wine experts for their favorite wine pairings with ordinary, everyday snack foods that might actually have on hand in your house.

Here's a few examples:

Doritos with a "big, sloppy" zinfandel works for Tracy Lewis Liang, wine director of Treasure Island foods.

Snyder's of Hanover pumpernickel and onion-pretzel sticks with a Carneros pinot noir makes for a happy Robert Owings of Arlington Height's Vintages.

Garrett's buttered and cheese popcorn (heated in the oven and drizzled with truffle oil) with any sort of sparkling wine pleases Brian Duncan, wine director of Bin 36 restaurant.

And, for me, (Daley) lightly salted goldfish crackers swim winningly with everything from New Zealand sauvignon blanc to California syrah to Spanish Rioja.

The article goes on to mention that Champagne actually goes very well with pizza, chips and many other everyday snacks. At the end of the article, Daley gives the best pairings:

THE SNACK: Popcorn

THE WINE: Perrier Jouet Champagne Grand Brut

The buttery sweetness of the popcorn flattered the bubbly, matching the Champagne's sweeter, more aromatic notes. $36

THE SNACK: Potato chips

THE WINE: 2005 Girard Sauvignon Blanc

The salty but light crispness of the potato chips were a perfect foil to the lush, grapefruit-like flavor of this California white. $18

THE SNACK: Peanuts

THE WINE: 2004 French Rabbit Chardonnay

The funky depth provided by the peanuts helped fatten up this French white's thin, herbal character. $11 (1 liter tetra-pak)

THE SNACK: Peanuts

THE WINE: 2004 Georges DuBoeuf Chenas

This Beaujolais was a light sipper with plenty of summer cherry flavor. Again, the richness of the peanuts helped boster the wine. $14

THE SNACK: Popcorn and potato chips

THE WINE: 2003 Wild Horse Zinfandel Paso Robles

Everyone's favorite on its own, this peppery, smoky zin needed little help from the snacks. Some thought the popcorn provided a mellow match while others thought the potato chips worked best. $15