Archive for September, 2009

Food And…

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

I’ve often said that there’s a connection between food and any other subject out there.  On occasion, I’ll get a taker who challenges me with subjects they think are unrelated, but so far, there’s always been a connection.  Here are a few examples; and if you don’t buy it after that, throw a couple of topics out there.  Bet you there’s a link.

Food and…

…Sports:

  • Concession stands at all levels of competition, from pee wee to the pros
  • Nutritionists working with some pros to help them achieve weight and maintain physical fitness
  • Sports stars (among other highly paid individuals) hiring private chefs to cook for them.

…Fashion:

  • Beets, tea, and coffee as fabric dyes
  • The costume of a chef: double-breasted jacket and toque
  • Food companies using t-shirts as advertising spaces

…Astronomy:

  • Planting by the lunar calendar
  • Feeding the astronauts in a weightless environment

…Paleontology:

  • Paleoscatology
  • Whether dinosaurs were carnivores or herbivores impacts how their fossilized remains are interpreted.  Within the past several years, many dinosaur postures have been re-interpreted to reflect this understanding, producing, for example, a much fiercer-looking Tyranosaurus Rex that uses its tail for balance in an obviously predatory stance than used to be imagined, standing erect and seemingly lumbering and slow.

…Climate:

  • Different regions are able to grow different crops.  You’re not going to find, for instance, grapes, chocolate, and citrus all growing in the same region.

…Automotive Engineering:

  • Is responsible for creating the many trucks that ship foods across climate zones so you can find products from around the world in your local store.

…Sex:

  • C’mon, use your imagination!

…Music:

  • Metaphorically, the different notes that compose a dish work like chords or notes.  Some are pleasing when combined; others clash dischordantly.
  • The music played by an eating establishment can do wonders to establish its tone and attract/ repel various clientele (grandma and grandpa are not likely to be found in the punk rock bar; whereas Johnny Rotten would likely steer quite clear of the Sunday morning smooth jazz brunch).

…Crime:

  • Legitimate food shipments can be used to provide cover for contraband shipped across international borders.

…Logging:

  • Of tropical hardwoods threatens the future of certain nuts (eg Brazil Nuts) and spices (eg nutmeg, mace).
  • Certain food trees are also logged for their woods (walnut, maple, cherry, etc.)

…Anything else? Name it–I bet you there’s a connection.

Bacon Extravaganza

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

There was a good crowd yesterday at Harris Grill for the Pittsburgh edition of the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour. The bacon-themed event, organized by local bacon blogger Mr. Bacon Pants (AKA Jason Mosley), featured more variations on bacon than I had considered possible.

My favorite of the evening was probably the Chicken-Fried Bacon, basically bacon that had been breaded and fried. It excelled through its simplicity.   The same is true of the bacon wings: buffalo wings that were tossed with bacon-laced salt.  The bacon sushi (not pictured) was also a hit; the flavors of bacon, rice, and salmon are a natural match.

The “Pittsburgh Penetrator,” a pork loin that had been stuffed with a mishmash of kielbasa and bacon, then wrapped in bacon and roasted, was a bit much for my tastes. A contributing factor may have been my general aversion to kielbasa, but all in all, I thought that there was just a bit too much happening to be contained by one dish.

The highlight of the afternoon was quite possibly the bacon eating contest.  I participated, but did not compete.  I don’t know how the winner managed to do so, but he polished off a full three pounds (pre-cooked weight) of bacon within the three minute time frame.  To put that in perspective, I doubt I even took care of one third of my allotment.  After time had been called, I passed the remainder around to the spectators at my end of the bar.  When I left the stage, even with audience participation, there was still bacon left in the tray.  Suffice to say, the victor probably doesn’t put much stock in the teachings of Horace Fletcher.

One guest at the Blue Ribbon Bacon tour was Heather Lauer, author of Bacon: A Love Story, a full book dedicated to the history and lore of bacon.  I purchased a copy of the book and will plan on reviewing it sometime in the next several weeks (once I’ve had a chance to read it).  Though I’m impressed by the fact that Ms. Lauer had the dedication and interest to study bacon in so much detail as to write the book, I don’t think I would be able to stomach the research. Just one day of such a bacon-intensive diet was enough to put me to bed early with a fat-induced bellyache.

I had a great time at the Bacon Tour, though, and hope it becomes an annual event.  Just don’t count on seeing me enter a bacon-eating contest ever again–especially not the day before running a 5k race.

Video Blog–Dicing Carrots

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

One more video blog on dicing carrots. Plan is from here to use these as references when I post other recipes, sort of like a video guidebook to some of the basic skills that go into so many different results.

All of these videos were done courtesy of my brother’s video camera—but I think I may get one in the near future; so if you have any suggestions, questions, or requests for videos you’d perhaps like to see down the line, please be certain to let me know!

Corn-y Sunday

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

On Sunday, I got together with some friends to watch the football game. We all contributed snacks to munch on, potluck style. Turned out, everything was made of corn: Doritos, tortilla chips, cheesy puffs, etc. My contribution: corn on the cob.

I grilled the corn at half time, and when I peeled back the husk, the bright yellow color of the unprocessed corn kernels was quite appealing. I proudly brought my contribution into the living room. I grabbed an ear, anticipating the sweet flavor.

Instead, I bit into flavorless, chewy mush. Turns out the farmer I bought the corn from accidentally sold me feed corn. It must’ve been an accident—I can’t imagine anyone selling something so bland and toothsome on purpose!

But, then again, all of the processed corn crap that we gorge ourselves on on a regular basis: the chips and the flakes and the puffs and the curls: all of that is made from feed corn.

I think if we realized what it is we eat when we eat we would be a bit more discerning. But once it’s been spiced and seasoned, processed and disguised; it turns out, we’re all at the feedlot too: eating the same blah, chewy mush as the bovines do.

Moo.

Corduroy Orange on TV

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

This Saturday, September 19, I will be demonstrating knife skills and cooking techniques on two segments of QED Cooks on WQED (broadcast channel 13). I’ll be giving tips on preparing roasted root vegetables and pilaf with either rice or couscous.

So, please tune in for the whole cooking marathon if you can–or my two segments if you’ve got other stuff going on that will pull you away from your screen. Assuming everything goes according to schedule, I should start my first segment at 11:10 and my 2nd at 12:19.

So, check me out in the comfort of your living room, and then let me (and WQED) know what you think. And, if you’re not already a member of Pittsburgh’s fine public television station, please call in on Saturday and pledge your support–the number will be at the bottom of your screen.

Video Blog—Peeling and Slicing Garlic

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Another great knife skill that should come in handy as you cook: the easiest way I know to peel garlic. From there, slicing should be a breeze assuming you’ve been practicing your claw grip.

Video Blog—Cutting Peppers

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Another installment of knife skills in action, this time with tips on slicing and dicing peppers of any shape.  Please let me know what you think.

Video Blog–Dicing Onions

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

If you haven’t already viewed the videos of how to hold your knife and how to dice (potatoes), I definitely recommend checking them out, as having a grasp on those two skills should be preliminary to cutting onions.  I hope these videos are useful.  If you have any questions about the techniques, please let me know!

Improving Cutting Skills

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Dear Sir:
  I am a beginner cook. When I go for a job, they want me to have good knife skills. On a recent interview where I showed my doing julienne, my julienne of ginger was poor. It was slightly larger than fine julienne because I cut a slightly larger section of the small piece of ginger. Even though I thought the interviewer was jerking me off by giving me such a small piece of ginger, I would like to know how I can improve my knife skills to a level of professionalism that won’t impede me from being hired. I bought 1 book by Norman Weinstein. I will try practicing some cuts he does in book. Is there anything else I can do?

—Leonard

Leonard—

I wasn’t there, so i can’t comment on the size of the sous chef’s ginger—though once you’re comfortable with a knife, you ought to be able to cut things of any size into smaller, regularly sized pieces. 

If your knife isn’t extremely sharp, get it sharpened.  From there, practice is the most important thing.   I have found that seeing the knife in motion can be very instructional, so here are a couple of video posts to get you started: how to hold the knife properly and how to dice (potatoes)

I’ll have more videos up within the next several days.  In the meantime, check out some of my text-and-picture instructions, and see if they might be helpful for you as well.

Video Blog: Dicing (Potatoes)

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Potatoes are a great vehicle for practicing knife skills with: they are cheap, easy to cut, and once diced, you can use them to make many different foods. Once you’re comfortable cutting potatoes, that skill will transfer to all of your cooking.