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Cocktail: The Aviation

September 04, 2009

Aviation blog 2  
Photo by Donna
Last spring, stopping by the best bar in the world, I tried a new cocktail, The Aviation, and was immediately enamored with the grappa-like cherry notes that a marachino liqueur brought to this gin based elixer.

And it couldn't be more easy: gin, fresh lemon juice and, to balance the acidity, the Luxardo.  Here's the bar's owner, Paulius, on this long neglected drink:

"There is an ongoing battle as to which version is the real deal.  The difference in the 2 variants of the Aviation is the addition, or lack of, Crème de Violette.  My take on it is this:  I think it is gilding the lily.  But that may change if the idiots that run Ohio liquor control in Columbus would allow it in. (Apparently, the state sees no use or market for it.) The addition of the Violette makes the cocktail softer, with an additional floral note. It also gives it a faint lavender hue that you may or may not see in bar lighting.  I suppose that is important if you use a cocktail as an accessory. Myself, I prefer the sharp crispness of the Aviation sans violette."

The Aviation:
2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liquer
1/4 oz. Creme de Violette, if you are of that school.  (aka crème de Yvette)


I personally think that equal measures of lemon and Luxardo result in too much sharpness and so add 50% more Luxardo.  This is not the same issue as how much vermouth should be in a martini, this is really about the sweet-sour balance, the Luxardo acting as both a simple syrup and a flavoring device.

As for the gin.  A year or more ago, some kind soul at Hendrick's sent me a bottle of their gin. I don't really review products here, but this gin superb, especially here and my choice for the beloved negroni as well.

I'm not the first to write about it by any means (here's a longer piece on all its parts), but I was thrilled to taste it for the first time.  When Friday evening's writer's block strikes, I'm thinking a cold Aviation will taste exactly right.

Recent Comments
09:32:26 AM by Judi Gentry: An earlier post is correct, Drink Up NY will ship free if your order is $100 or more and they have both the Luxardo Maraschino and Rothman Winter Cre...
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"Foodie," "Cook," and "Home Cook"

September 02, 2009

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Photo by Donna

So many people commented on the distinction between foodie and cook in my post responding to the Michael Pollan essay, I wished I'd used it for its own post.  Then I realized I could!  And then from out of the Twitosphere came a lament from someone who didn't like to be called a home cook, feeling, I think that the term was inherently condescending.  And another who thought my description of what defined a foodie to be condescending.  (Guilty.)

Judging from those who commented to me, people were evenly divided between those who were proud to be called home cooks and those who felt, I don't know, as if being a "home" cook were akin to being a pretend cook.  But I liked what Chef Pardus had to say—on my facebook page (I can't keep track of all this stuff, facebook, twitter, email, blog, the center can't hold!)—it was right on the money, and I'm glad I didn't miss it: he says that he writes and he skis but he doesn't call himself a writer or a skier.

I think that's really all the distinction there needs to be. I don't like the term home cook for the very reason the Tweeter seemed to indicate.  There's something precious about it, and it grates.  Unless you work in a restaurant, where where else are you going to cook?  Why do we even need to call ourselves cooks, home or not.  Pardus doesn't say he's a home writer.  A guy who makes Shaker boxes on the weekend doesn't call himself a home carpenter.  On the other hand, if we're asked whether we cook, we say, Yes.  Cook is a verb.  It's what some of us do.  Not what we are. Unless we are, in which case we can pay our rent with the result of our cooking. I'm for abolishing the term "home cook." Or at least not using it.

If you're not allowed to call yourself a cook, then how to distinguish between those who are foodies and those who love to cook?  That as I mentioned in the earlier post, is an important distinction. What is a foodie? I like the Miriam Webster definition: a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads.

Foodie has only a tangential relation to cook.  Foodie is not an act, like cook.  Foodie declares specific interests.  (Food enthusiast is a good attempt at making the idea palatable, but it's too cumbersome.) Who first used the word foodie?  Well, Paul Levy, an American born journalist working in England makes the claim that he coined the word.  Is this something to be proud of? You're almost forced to wince when you say it. 

In fact, and Levy notes this, the first person to use the word foodie, according to Barry Popnick, a guy who studies origins, was none other than Gael Greene in New York mag in 1980.

True, Gael? (If so, it's still not as cool as being able to tell people you slept with Elvis.)

All this writing so early in the morning has made me hungry.  Think I'll go cook....

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09:01:43 AM by jamie: I know the discussion seems mainly to be between the name cook or home cook but I myself take issue with the foodie definition provided. I would argu...
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BLT Challenge Update

August 31, 2009

BLT:Tomato:Mayo
Photo by Donna
The first real chill is here in Ohio, forecasting fall, the best time for cooking outside and curing and smoking meat.  And there's no better season for making bacon.

I've received many BLT From Scratch entries and I'm returning from vacation today to encourage more to take it up.  There's still time.  And there's Time: Hilary Hylton writes about the BLT challenge (and America's increasing pork hunger) for Time magazine!  Thank you Hilary!

I made the first BLT from scratch last week and it was surprising in its juiciness—a three-napkin BLT. But Donna didn't like her photo, so we've got to do it again. (Oh, all right, if we must.)  I'm all out of bacon so I've asked two young farmers not to forget to bring fresh belly to the market on Saturday (there are now two farms growing pork for the market, a happy sign of the times). I'm making the official BLT deadline, Sunday, September 20.  Plenty of time to get some belly on the cure.

And when mine is ready I may smoke it or I may not but regardless, I'll cook it again as I did last time: I cut slabs about 3/8ths-inch thick, wrapped them in foil with a sprinkle of water for moisture (connective tissue needs moisture to break down) and put them in a low low oven for a few hours till they were very tender.  I then finished them on the grill over very hot coals till the outside was crisp and the inside hot and juicy, my new favorite way for cooking bacon.  

I dream one day of doing a whole book on having fun with pork belly.  There is no finer cut of meat on earth.

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08:59:37 AM by Sara: Great post, this is one of my favourite topics and close to my heart.LOL. I love keeping up to date on everything new so ill definitely be bookmarking...
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Hamburger Technique

August 13, 2009

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Photos by Donna

Summertime barbecues, hamburgers and chips and corn on the cob—I'm always always happy to be eating this.  Yes, I still buy ground beef occasionally but when I want to make a really good burger, I always grind the meat myself.  Why go to the trouble?  For a half a dozen reasons, all of them important.

First and foremost: taste and texture.  When you grind your own, you can regulate the amount of fat you include; your hamburger should contain 20 to 30 percent fat for a juicy succulent burger.  I can season the diced meat before grinding it so that the burger is seasoned uniformly throughout.  And I can use the large die so that it's got real bite to it.Beef Ground once blog

Importantly to me, when I grind my own, I know it hasn't been contaminated by any of the bad bugs that can get into ground meat these days at big processing facilities, or even through carelessness in the meat department of my grocery store.  Provided I give the whole muscle a thorough rinse and pat it dry, I can eat the ground meat as tartare or serve it to my kids as rare as they want it.

Big question: Is the cut critical to the final burger?  Not as critical as the ratio of beef to fat.  Beef is beef and, unlike pork, beef tastes like beef no matter where it comes from on the animal. I know people will disagree.  I'm a co-author on two cookbooks coming out this fall, Ad Hoc At Home and Michael Symon's Live to Cook, and both include hamburger recipes that recommend specific cuts. The chefs involved have tasted various blends and insist there are marked differences.  I believe the only critical ratio is the meat to fat, so I buy a nice fatty relatively inexpensive chuck steak, and that gives me a great burger every time.  Short ribs will give you a great burger as well. So will sirloin and brisket if you've got the right amount of fat.  

Hamburger Patties Raw blog The large die is critical to good texture and bite.  I want to be able to chew my burger, not have it fall apart in my mouth or be too dense.  I send the meat through the grinder twice. Why? To make it sticky. The second grind develops the myosin protein which helps the meat stick together without your having to overwork the meat.  I want a light burger, not a heavy one that's been kneaded and squeezed to death. 

One last point: Just as with sausage, it's very important to keep the meat very cold all the way through shaping, which helps to ensure juiciness and a good texture.

After that, the only thing left to do is cook it right.  I think they're best over very hot coals, a few minutes per side, then removed to the cool side of the grill and covered for a couple minutes more, then rested for about five minutes. Serve with with fresh tomatoes and lettuce, with melted onions, with a fried egg on top.  Put some homemade potato chips beside it and a freshly grilled burger you ground yourself is a fantastic, simple, satisfying meal.

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09:43:44 AM by cjride: I live in Northern Virginia just outside of Washington DC. There seems to be some competition on the best burger with Rays Hell Burgers, Good Stuff a...
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Chicago

August 12, 2009

Chicago_2 Pocket cemera photos by Donna unless noted

With both kids overlapping at camp for one all-too-brief week, Donna and I took a quick trip to Chicago and were immediately rapt by its fantastic architecture, open vistas and clean river.  What a gorgeous, friendly city.  First thing we did was take an architectural river tour which set the whole tone of the trip.  Highly recommend these.

Paul Kahan and Avec chef Koren Grieveson had just been in Cleveland the weekend before doing an SOS dinner at Lola and we'd seen them and so were inspired to visit Paul's new restaurant Publican, and then, of course, have a second meal at Avec immediately after.  Why are Paul's restaurants so successful? P1060617_2 Yes, it's that he serves crispy pig skin and an awesome duck heart and liver open-faced sandwich, but also he's there working these restaurants.  When we arrived he was fussing with a sprinkler out front and would soon be in the kitchen shucking oysters.  He's a cook's cook.  He has no interest in writing a book or doing a show.  He makes restaurants, serves the food that he personally loves, and as he pointed out, he gets simpler and simpler with each new place.  Blackbird is fine dining, Avec goes more casual, Publican has an awesome beer list and serves very rustic fare, and his next spot will be a tacqueria.

Martin09_0292 We met Martin and Lara Kastner here (that's him at left, photo by Lara).  Lara shot the photos for the Alinea cookbook.  Martin designed the entire thing, and the two went to China to oversee the printing. Martin's seems to me, well, not unsung but not sung enough in the success of this award-winning and innovative restaurant, having conceived, designed, and made many of the serviceware pieces that are integral to what have become signatures of the Alinea, where Donna and I concluded our trip. Items such as the squid, the antenna, the antibowl, and the paraffin bowl in which the hot potato cold potato soup is served.

I was delighted that Grant has rethought his no-old-dishes mandate and fits some of his signature dishes into his tasting menu, for us the aforementioned soup and the black truffle explosion.

Our meal was excellent, service more accomplished than ever, but what stood out for me besides the remarkable wines was the lack of pyrotechnics.  Grant Achatz has been a leader in progressive cuisine, pushing the envelope in terms of unusual ingredients, unconvential serving devices.  While there was some of this, the food and its flavors and textures were the focus.

Dessert blog Though one of the final courses, a dessert course, was one I hadn't seen before and I found fascinating and fun and, yes, delicious.  A dessert course in which the the table is cleared, a silicon table cloth is laid down, and one or two of the chefs appear and throw down your dessert.  This really is doing a Jackson Pollack, sans cigarette.  It would all be for nothing, of course, if it weren't such a tasty mix of chocolate and sauces. (Grant discusses it here, in one of his many excellent pieces for The Atlantic online.)

What a fun, beautiful, beautifully designed city Chicago is. Our biggest regret was how many great restaurants we were unable to see.  Next time, more time.

Recent Comments
12:10:15 PM by Libby: I was at that Lola benefit (even blogged about it), and Hubby and are STILL raving about Paul Kahans suckling pig and blood sausage dish. Mmmmmmmm.......
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Green Tomatoes!
BLT Challenge Update

August 10, 2009

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Photo by donna
Such is the state of my tomatoes due to this cool summer.  I don't know if they'll be ready by end of August.  Yes, I could do a fried green tomato BLT and maybe I will, but I also want to do a regular BLT with a big ripe fatty warm from the vine.

I have already received fine entries.  But, a number of people who are accepting the BLT Challenge have asked me to extend the deadline due to behind-schedule fruit.  This challenge is not a race.  Indeed, this challenge is about making the best food possible.  And sometimes making the best food possible involves waiting. Therefore, the challenge is hereby extended to September 15. (See above link for details.)

Should you get antsy though for tomatoes in any form, I highly recommend frying them.

How to prepare fried green tomatoes:
There are all kinds of ways you can fry green tomatoes but I believe the best way is using "standard breading procedure" (as we called it in culinary school), aka flour-eggwash-breadcrumbs.

Cut tomatoes into half-inch slices.  Beat a couple of eggs until they're uniformly mixed.  Set up a pan with flour, a bowl with the eggs, and a pan of Panko bread crumbs.  Dip the tomato into flour.  This gives them a dry surface that the eggwash will adhere to.  Dip them into the eggwash, then into the bread crumbs. Panko is the best bread crumb for frying, results in the best dry crunch.

Pan fry or deep fry until golden brown.  Serve with some mayonnaise you've whipped up yourself and made very spicy with cayenne or smoked paprika.  Add bacon, lettuce and bread if you wish!

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12:49:15 PM by milo: Just what I predicted back in June. Im finally starting to see some red now but its taking so long I have to wonder if they will hang in there until ...
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Bread Baking Basics

August 06, 2009

Bread Sourdough loaf blog_2

Photo by Donna

Have been on a sourdough binge since the purple cabbage post (waffles last Sunday, bread, pictured above, by dinnertime) and loving Carri's ratio of 1 part starter : 1 part water : 2 parts flour with 1% salt by weight, though I back off by about 20% on the water because it's been so humid.  I usually make a dough that's between 30 and 40 ounces total weight.


I've noticed various differences in the loaves and because I've put up the BLT From Scratch Challenge, I thought I should go over the 5 key steps of making bread, whether you're using sourdough or commercial yeast.

Mixing/Kneading:Mix or knead the dough to the point that it can be stretched to translucency. This ensures that it will adequately trap the gas being released.  Not mixing enough will fail to develop the gluten that makes it elastic; overmixing can break up the gluten network.  Mixing flour, water, salt and yeast is the first pleasure of making bread--I like my hands in the dough and always finish the kneading by hand (I'm not a fan of the no-knead bread—it diminishes both fun and flavor; but then again, I have a mixer to do most of the labor).

The First Rise:Sometimes called fermentation, allowing the yeast to create gas and flavor, and good elasticity in the dough, but not so much that it becomes slack from over rising.  It should roughly double in size, and it should not spring back when you poke it with your finger.

Shaping:After it's risen, knead it again to force out as much gas as possible and redistribute the yeast. Let it relax a little so the gluten doesn't work against you, then shape it as you wish, into a baguette, into a boule. Make it as tight as possible.

The Second Rise:The second rise allows the yeast to get back into action, aerating the dough into the shape and interior structure.  It should take about an hour at room temperature.  In my opinion this is the most important step.  You can also refrigerate it for up to 24 hours to develop more flavor.  If you do, let it warm up a bit at room temperature for an hour or so.

Baking:Start it in a very hot oven.  You can turn the oven down if you think it's making the crust too dark. I cook my bread till the interior is about 200 degrees.

That's really all there is too it.  There is of course more in Ratio, but these are the basics.  

One last thing though.  Jim Lahey, via Mark Bittman, introduced baking a boule in a Dutch oven.  This is a fantastic idea.  Moisture released while it bakes remains trapped in the the pot, resulting in a fantastic crust.  Highly recommend this if you're making a bread for your BLT.  Highly recommend anytime you're making bread.

Great bread at home is not a mystery or a science, it's simple a matter of recognizing the key steps above and paying attention to them. 

Recent Comments
10:59:12 AM by nintendo dsi r4: This is the time that we have to eat fresh food.For that we have to make breads at home and eat it at the time of breakfast.For eating fresh bread we ...
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Julie & Julia, Foodie & Cook

August 03, 2009

02cover-395 Julia Child is back in the news as Nora Ephron’s new movie Julie & Julia is spread over more column inches than any movie I can remember.  Hundreds of news stories and even coverage on Sunday’s NYTimes Op-Ed page.  Enough already!  Great movie, but stop reading about it—wait to see the thing!  What’s the reason for this astonishing coverage of a story about two women cooking?

I think it's because we miss Julia, a force of nature who told us something new and valuable, qualities that are hard to come by in the sea of dump-and-stirs that fill our screens today.

Michael Pollan opens his long essay in the NYTimes magazine about the end of home cooking and what it means, with his memories of watching Julia and the positive impact she had on his dinner table thanks to a mom who liked to cook after watching Julia.  It’s a thoughtful piece sparked by the question “How is it that we are so eager to watch other people browning beef cubes on screen but so much less eager to brown them ourselves?”  Much of the material will be familiar, the trajectory of food television from Julia to Giada and Iron Chef (Buford wrote a long story on the rise of food television in the New Yorker nearly three years ago).  Not till last quarter of Pollan's story does his real and salient point become clear.

The dire news that even as food television grows in popularity, researchers continue to find that fewer people cook at home than ever and what time they do spend preparing food at home, is more likely to be heating stuff that some other company cooked and packaged for them (the frozen PB & J sandwich is one of the more hilarious-if-it-weren’t-so-pathetic examples).  Pollan spends a lot of time describing his dispiriting conversation with “veteran food-marketing researcher, Harry Balzer,” who basically argues that the way we’re eating now—microwaving pizzas and Lean Cuisines, buying canned stock and boxed cake mix—will only, and inevitably, grow more entrenched.

Isn’t there any way we can bring America back to the days of Julia and the pleasures of cooking, Pollan asks?  Balzer says, “Not going to happen.  Why?  Because we’re cheap and lazy.  And besides, the skills are already lost.  Who’s going to teach the next generation to cook?  I don’t see it.

What he does see is who the next American cook will be: The Supermarket.  That’s who will be cooking our food.

Balzer is wrong, of course.  Many, many people are cooking.  Most of the people reading this, for instance, are committed cooks.  As are the gazillions of readers clicking on Simply Recipes and 101Cookbooks looking for honest home cooking.

I must here make a distinction that surely will be debated.  Since we are unlikely ever to get rid of the unfortunate term “foodie,” I would be grateful if we could separate people who like to cook from foodies.  I have nothing against foodies, I hope it's clear.  But we should recognize that they are a distinct species, and some people are both foodie and cook.  Foodies are the first to hit the newest restaurant, or to plan a trip based on restaurant destinations; they’re are the first to order the coolest new ingredient and make sure you know it.  Foodies love to talk about food and cooking. Foodies watch food television with their pants around their ankles and buy The French Laundry Cookbook for the pictures.  Foodie is a social distinction, not a judgement.  Cooks, on the other hand, cook; they like to cook, they enjoy the work and like feeding others and take pride in various successes in the kitchen, whether it’s their first mayonnaise or a Rachael Ray recipe, and they are not daunted by failure.  (There is a third species, someone who does not like to cook, but loves to eat.  This is called being human.)

More people are cooking now than in decades.  But Balzer says Pollan should get over it and accept it as progress, that what people call cooking is actually reheating.  “Do you miss sewing and darning socks?” he asks Pollan.

He has a  point.  I'm glad I don't have to make my own clothes.  Getting food used to be very hard.  I’d be bummed if every Monday night I had to catch, kill, de-feather and eviscerate the chicken I wanted to roast.

Happily, buying food in this bountiful country is very easy, so no one should be complaining about how hard it is to cook.  And that is all Julia was telling us, that it’s not that hard and the rewards are vast.  Ironically, because food is so plentiful, we’ve forgotten what a joy cooking can be.

The most important point of Pollan’s article comes from Richard Wrangham’s compelling book Catching Fire, which argues that we became who we are by cooking our food.  (I mentioned the book here, in a post about the “soulcraft” of cooking, also very much related to what Pollan is getting at.) 

It was the cooking of food that allowed our bodies to absorb more nutrients and our brains to get big.  It allowed culture to form and even social arrangements such as dinnertime where we all ate what one of us spent time cooking; it probably even resulted in marriage (a kind of primitive protection racket, in Wrangham’s words). We’re really the only animal that does it, that cooks.  That alone says a lot.

Pollan makes the humorous point that the way we eat today, on the go, in the car, walking between appointments, missing meals or simply eating alone, was exactly how our hunter ancestors ate before they figured out how to cook.  Progress, eh?

Interestingly, Balzer told Pollan that the only kind of cooking that’s on the rise is grilling.  So, we’re sort of starting over, charring animal flesh over fire.  I kept hearing in my head while writing Wooden Boats words from Dave Matthews that apply to planks-on-frames and cooking both: “Progress takes away what forever took to find.”

Finally, 6,000 words into his 7,000 word story, we get to Pollan’s real premise and real issue: “If cooking is central to human identity and culture as Wegman [and I and Pollan] believes, it stands to reason that the decline of cooking in our time would have a profound effect on modern life.

Indeed.  One of those effects is a society that is increasingly overweight and unhealthy.  “The more time a nation devotes to food preparation at home, the lower its rate of obesity,” Pollan writes.

But in addition to the health crisis our food has  there is the spiritual identity crisis we feel because we’ve stopped cooking, a disconnection to the things that matter most.

This is probably why foodies emerged.  One of the effects among a certain segment of the population who recognized that we were losing something essential to our nature became foodies, those who turn food, chefs, food-entertainers, and cooking equipment into fetishes—that is, they accord them some kind of magical power.  Another segment of our culture who also recognized that we were losing something essential to our humanity learned to cook, out of books, from their moms or grandmothers, from other cooks.  And more and more are learning every day.

Was it an accident of history that Julia Child appeared on the scene just as our food processing giants exploded onto the scene?   No: she was exactly what we needed and enough people recognized this to make her a meaningful star.

Julia was the person who told this latchkey 9-year-old that he could make a pie. I turned off the TV that afternoon, and made that pie and have been cooking since.  And she continues that work, not in the form of the dump-and-stir programs on the Food Network and PBS but in the multitude of food bloggers out there, who are actually cooking and sharing their stories and photographs and their recipes and most of all their passion.  We are not seeing the end of home cooking.  I believe we have just begun to cook, and not a moment too soon.

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Strongly Recommend: Food, Inc.

July 30, 2009

I wasn't intending to post on this.  Robert Kenner's documentary Food Inc. has been widely and well reviewed (NYTimes review here).  And frankly, there's almost nothing in this movie that I, like most people who follow these issues, haven't known for years. (For a contrarian view, here's this slightly wordy but helpfully skeptical response from a blogger, Grumpy Glutton.)

But there was one thing I did not expect and am writing now to try to understand it.  As the plaintive voice of Bruce Springsteen sounded and the credits rolled, I wept.  Not just misty-eyed.  Rolling tears and a wet face.  Why on earth? What could account for this emotional response to information I already knew?

I repeat, there is virtually nothing here that I didn't know, save for the extent that veggie libel laws are now working against the consumer (you and me).  So what happened?

First, the film is beautifully photographed, a real professional job.  The two main tour guides, Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser are filmed and recorded with appealing clarity; and they've been touting these ideas so regularly that they've got their words down pat, words I was more than happy to listen to again.

There is the emotionally wrenching story of the mom who lost her 2-year-old Kevin to E. coli (healthy happy thriving boy one day, dead 12 days later) presumably from a tainted fast food burger.  She continues to fight to give the USDA more power to halt unsafe food production.  Today the NYTimes advocates for the House to pass a bill this week giving more such power to the FDA.

What got me was her final plea: All I wanted, she says, was for the company to say "We're sorry, and here's what we're going to do to make sure it never happens anyone else."  No dice.  That wasn't coming.  Her name is Barbara Kowalcyk.  Her boy would have been ten now, the same age as the boy watching the movie beside me, my son James.  I can't imagine.

This part scared him.  "Dad, will you be OK if they catch it early enough?" he whispered.  We'd have a lot to talk about on the way home.

Indeed his response will mirror that of most other people who see this movie. Upon leaving the theater, James said,  "That was a really good movie, Dad. (pause)  Kind of makes you want to be a vegetarian. (pause) Kind of makes you not want to eat."

Kind of makes you not want to eat.  How sad is that?  And it's not just the gruesome footage of the kill floor of a beef packer or the disgusting way we raise chickens, it's the increasingly clear dangers of our demanding ever-cheaper food, it's the appalling greed and ruthlessness of Monsanto, aggressively bankrupting the people growing our food.

What are we doing, what are we thinking?  We need to wake up. One of the last great affordable luxuries available to us, and we are throwing it away by not caring, by demanding to pay less and less for it.  Food, this gift that nourishes our body and soul, that brings us together in celebration and in grief, we are putting it in the hands of people who don't give a shit about anything except profit. I cried for my son and his future.  And I cried too for the great souls who do know the way, such as the farmer Joel Salatin, who simply wants to produce the best food possible and make it available to as many people as possible without diminishing its quality.

If you haven't read these books, they're well worth your time. Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, both delightful reads.  There's also the more recent The End of Food, by Paul Roberts, who's done a heroic job of reporting, but the world he reports on is so vast his book bogs down in statistics and facts; nevertheless, if you're serious about understanding this world, it's worth the heavy lifting.

Food Inc. makes two points very well that are worth repeating and then I'll shut up.  One: wherever and whenever, try to know or find out the source of your food.  And two: every time you buy food, it's a vote for more of that food; if it's excellent, you're asking for more; if it's shitty food, you're asking for more.

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The Best Quiche

July 27, 2009

Quiche 2
Photos by donna
On Wednesday I flew to Washington to make a quiche at the restaurant Proof for a segment on "All Things Considered" with one of the show's new hosts, Guy Raz.  Guy said he read the Slate review of the book, which called my book Ratio "fascinating and pompous," and was intrigued.  So he and his producer, Phil Harrel, requested a dish that combined two ratios.  Quiche immediately came to mind, using both the 3-2-1 pie dough ratio (I've lost track of the number of people who have written to thank me for getting them over their fear of pie dough) and the custard ratio (2 parts liquid, 1 part egg).

I'm using the NPR story (listen, read, comment here), as an excuse again to talk about the world sexiest pie.  But, it's only sexy if it's the right depth, which gives you the opportunity to create a texture that is...yes...voluptuous.  You can put anything in it—sauteed mushrooms, confited pork belly!, sauteed spinach, chorizo and roasted peppers—but the custard is the diva.

You need a 9-inch ring mold that's 2 inches high (photo of quiche being poured below; recipe on the npr site).  This has always bothered me because how many home cooks have a big ring mold? For some reason, the band from a springform pan will not work, don't know why.  But I'm thinking that if you have a nine-inch cake pan and line it with parchment paper, that would work.  It's still critical to make sure you patch any holes that may appear when you blind bake the crust.  But if you don't have a ring mold, that's what I'd use.

As I've said before, America lost a great dish when someone convinced us we could make a proper quiche in a pie mold or worse, a store-bought pie crust. As I learned when writing the Bouchon cookbook, there are few dishes that can match this one for texture, richness and sheer pleasure both of cooking and of eating.

Quiche B&W

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09:08:12 AM by Michael McCullen: Made the quiche from the Bouchon cookbook last night, chilled it overnight, and served it this morning with fresh hashbrowns and good coffee. Best qu...
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  • Michael Ruhlman headshot

    I write about many subjects in magazines and newspapers, but mostly in books and mostly about food, chefs, and cooking—issues also covered in this blog.
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