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Monthly Archives: October 2011

I know I did the cardinal sin of blogging — a string of days without a post. My bad, but things got real at work last week and it was all I could do to find time to sleep and eat. Until you convince enough of your family and friends to start visiting here so I can generate ad revenue, my paying job is going to come first. There are some really cool things coming this week. A few posts about my intrepid neighbor and great friend brewing his first batch of Old Man Thomason’s Red Ale. Pictures of old kitchen literature. Talk about the frustrations of turning over a garden by hand and a few other things.

For now, a quick story about pumpkin cornbread. I made pumpkin cornbread. I used a recipe from the New York Times that was supposed to be healthy. It didn’t use lard. The cornbread suffered because of that. But it was good dunked in chili, the saving grace of any cornbread.

The smell of coffee is intoxicating in the same way garlic cooking in olive oil is. It’s just as pungent too. Whether the stuff you’re smelling tastes any good is a whole different matter.

Coffee geeks all have the perfect way to make and drink coffee. They’re worse than wine snobs because generally wine snobs are like comic book geeks, they’re collectors who like having rarities. They’re not making the stuff.

With coffee geeks they’ll not only prescribe to you the best beans to use, but how to grind them (you have to use whole beans, otherwise you might as well be drinking motor oil), what device to use to brew them, even specially insulated cups to drink the coffee from so as not to let its temperature drop too much.

Some of these tenants are good, but I enjoy a microwaved cup of coffee that was brewed a few hours ago just as much as I enjoy an espresso from the coffee shop, just in different ways.

That’s not to say I haven’t, on occasion, bought into the geekthink. I bought a french press.

It makes great coffee. It’s richer and more complex than what you get from the best standard brewers. A lot of what I’ve read says that because you don’t use a paper filter, some of the coffee oils that you wouldn’t normally get make their way into your drink.

(Another tip on those paper filters: rinse them with water before you use them. This is supposed to take away lingering particles and other nasties that can ruin your coffee’s flavor)

The newest gadget to join our kitchen is something called a vac pot and it is magical. Its magic isn’t so much in the flavor of the coffee, but in how it makes it. Just watch.

Pretty amazing. It’s my “show” coffee piece. In fact, after watching the thing work with just water, then showing it to my wife, I rushed to get our neighbor yesterday to show him too.

 

 

Mark Bittman shows us how to carve up a bird, once it’s dead obviously. I’ve read a lot of stuff that says this is what you do if you want to save some cash and have some fun playing with your food. Bittman adds in at the end that you usually get better cuts by doing this because they chop up the so-so birds and sell them as parts, just like you would a junked car.

I was born, raised and still live in farm country. Roads that cut the land into square of corn and soybeans is a nostalgia trigger for me. Some of my great friends were in the FFA (just like KFC, FFA supposedly doesn’t stand for anything now, it’s just what it is on its face. Dumb.) and I worked at a John Deere dealer cleaning combines and working on tractors.

Despite being in the heart of farm country, I had no idea what the “farm bill” was. It turns out farmers are getting money from the federal government for every acre of row crops (corn, soybeans and a few others) they grow because growing these crops in the past has barely generated a profit. These are the same crops that are in nearly everything we eat. High Fructose Corn Syrup, animal feed the wax on the fruit you by a the store, it all comes from these fields.

The lawmakers in D.C. are working on hashing out a new farm bill. These things are set up for about a five-year basis and the current one is set to expire in 2012. Lawmakers talking about cutting the “direct subsidies” to farmers. A lot of foodies and the like are cheering that effort. They say it’s the money from the government that is propping up a system that makes us unhealthy.

Nope.

At least according to a new study by Food and Water Watch. Those folks say the over saturation of just a few crops is the result of capitalism. Actually, they say a commodities market, but it’s the same thing.

When you’re in a system that rewards larger productions, you have an over saturated market, and the food producers just find new ways to use the crop byproducts to shave costs and increase their profits, the report argues.

It wants us to move back to the system we had previously where the government paid farmers to not grow crops, and had a strategic grain reserve to buy up crops when the market was flush and release them when there was a bad season.

One of the more interesting quotes from the report.

The main beneficiaries of the shift away from federal policies such as supply management — which kept commodity prices stable and production under control — are not consumers or farmers, but the food industry. These interests were the main advocates behind the elimination of these policies and in favor of deregulation of the farm system.

Just some food for thought.

The salmon had been sitting in our dish cabinet for 48 hours before my wife and I decided to dig in. The room temperature fish was delicious, it was unlike anything we’d ever tasted. And considering neither one of us spent the night hugging the toilet, the recipe we followed apparently worked. Ah, there’s a recipe, you say, so you must have baked the stuff or grilled it our used fire in some fashion at some point. Nope. We curried cured the nearly 2 pounds of pink flesh.

The recipe came from my recently purchased cookbook “Home Made.” It calls from two sides of salmon (we only used a half a side) lots of sugar and salt, dill, and some Absinth, yes the mystical booze the lost generation got plastered on in Paris, kind of. The Absinth we get in the states is just grain alcohol distilled with a ton of botanicals. There is no mind-altering wormwood in the stuff. Even so, watching the clear liquor turn to a cloudy green when you add just enough water is mesmerizing.

But at 136 proof, the stuff is potent to say the least. Anyway.

Jamey and I spent Monday evening rubbing the sugar and salt mixture on two giant fillets. We put one skin side down in a Pyrex dish, covered it with fresh dill, then lying the other fillet on top of it. A generous portion of the Absinth was poured before the whole thing wrapped in plastic wrap. (A note if you are following this as a recipe for whatever reason, the plastic wrap goes into the dish before anything else happens.) Then we put a plate on top of the plastic and two cans on top of the plate to squeeze the fish together.

Two days later we had delicious, almost candied treat. We put it on a plate, covered it with spicy greens, and plopped a dab of horseradish next to it for dipping dug in.

As I said before, it was delicious, it was also one of the most expensive fish dishes we’ve ever cooked, mainly thanks to the cost of the medium bottle of Absinth. But we didn’t use all the booze, so maybe we’ll do the whole dish again.

This Cajun chump over at the Food Network has a similar recipe, but he refrigerates it. I’m guessing the lawyers make them add that. I doubt keeping it in the fridge makes it lose any flavor, and if you are one of those people who won’t eat raw sushi or a steak with any dark pink in it because of fear if food poisoning, then go ahead, take up valuable refrigerator real estate.