Many Doctorows died to bring us this information
Via BoingBoing, the Instructables website offers a home recipe for Pop Rocks.
Via BoingBoing, the Instructables website offers a home recipe for Pop Rocks.
The New York Times reviews Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, the 6-volume, 40-pound, $625 labor of love from the lab of Seattle local Nathan Myhrvold:
I will get this out of the way fast. The text, and there is a lot of it, is proficient and as compelling as my high school science textbooks. But artful prose is not the point… the goal was clarity and thoroughness, and the information is indeed clear, sound and, if anything, too thorough. Buried in the verbiage is a treasure of insights, some truly original, some familiar but described from new and compelling angles. Sometimes overly proud of itself, at other times it is recklessly (and admirably) opinionated…
Government suggestions for temperatures at which chicken and pork are safe to eat seem “to have been based not on science but on politics, tradition, and subjective judgment.” There is no single safe temperature that kills salmonella, for instance, but rather times that food must maintain specific temperatures to kill it. The authors provide the time-temperature tables.
Several pages are devoted to how to wash your hands and there is a brief foray into the Timurid dynasty of Central Asia; the book includes the equation required to calculate the radiant heat of a gas grill (which is not nearly as effective as a charcoal grill, it says, explaining why). Not sure how to balance your centrifuge? Look no further. On sous vide equipment, the Pacojet, ultrasonic baths, gelling agents, hydrocolloids and emulsifiers, the text is astonishingly thorough.
There’s also, apparently, a recipe for making your own Pringles. Sounds like the must-have food porn book of the year.
…served with hot, fresh-baked pita bread, it is, as the kids say, MADE OF AWESOME.
Quick question for the hive-mind: Does tahini need to be refrigerated once the can is opened?
For now, you’ll just have to make do with the recipe I used (adapted from Mark Bittman’s Fish):
1 cleaned, fresh or thawed octopus (1-2 lbs.)
3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup chopped black olives
1/2 cup red wine
1 (14 oz.) can of diced tomatoes
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning)
1. Put octopus, crushed garlic and bay leaf in a pot with water to cover (N.B., octopus corpses contract into a tight ball when heat is applied, so you may need more water than you think). Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until octopus is tender, about 1 hour. Octopus is done when a thin-bladed knife pierces the flesh easily.
2. Chop octopus into bite-sized chunks and reserve.
3. Put olive oil in skillet. Cook onions over medium heat until softened. Add capers, olives, wine, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Add garlic, parsley, and octopus chunks. Cook another minute or so. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve over pasta.
For those of you who saw last night’s South Park, it turns out that (of course) there is an online store that sells costumes for guinea pigs:
No, seriously. Or at least, if it’s a hoax, it’s a hoax being perpetrated on PETA’s own news release page:
This morning, PETA dispatched a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of ice cream icon Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., urging them to replace the cow’s milk in their products with human breast milk. PETA’s request comes in the wake of news reports that a Swiss restaurant owner will begin purchasing breast milk from nursing mothers and substituting breast milk for 75 percent of the cow’s milk in the food he serves. PETA points out to Cohen and Greenfield that such a move on their part would lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health at the same time.
The Swiss restaurant owner mentioned in the press release is Hans Locher of the Storchen restaurant in Winterthur, and it turns out Swiss health inspectors have already forbidden him to use human milk as a cooking ingredient. I’m going to take a wild guess that the American FDA would react similarly. [Hat tip to james_nicoll]
(Bonus chain of thought: The mention of non-traditional dairy products naturally puts me in mind of the old Green Acres episode in which Mr. Haney was selling beauty cream supposedly made from hamster milk, which got me wondering, at the tender age of six, what hamster-milk cheese would taste like. And a much more recent discussion of artisanal cheeses raised the question of why pig’s milk isn’t used in cheese-making. The Illinois Pork Producers Association has the answer to that one.)
Today’s New York Times has an article on “miracle fruit,” a West African berry that “temporarily rewires the taste buds, turning sour flavors sweet”:
The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids…
The berries, which cost upwards of $2 apiece (one berry is supposedly enough to “rewire” your taste buds for an hour), are used at foodie parties where guests sample the altered flavors of a wide variety of foodstuffs:
He ushered his guests to a table piled with citrus wedges, cheeses, Brussels sprouts, mustard, vinegars, pickles, dark beers, strawberries and cheap tequila, which Mr. Aliquo promised would now taste like top-shelf Patrón… Mr. Mozie listed his favorite miracle fruit pairings, which included green mangoes and raw aloe. “I like oysters with some lemon juice,” he said. “Usually you just swallow them, but I just chew like it was chewing gum.”
A large group of guests reached its own consensus: limes were candied, vinegar resembled apple juice, goat cheese tasted like cheesecake on the tongue and goat cheese on the throat. Bananas were just bananas.
Sounds intriguing, although if I were trying to stay under the FDA’s radar, I’d probably avoid the use of the phrase “flavor tripping party.”
Turns out this nesting in vents thing is a common problem. My favorite of the proposed solutions comes from Calvin W. Schwabe:
* * *
STARLINGS IN CRUST (Etourneaux en croûte à l’ardennaise) / FRANCE
Remove the backbones from some prepared starlings. Rub them with a mixture of salt, white pepper, and mixed spices. Stuff with a bread stuffing containing the birds’ livers, some mashed juniper berries, and, if available, some liver pâté and truffles. Wrap each bird in a piece of pig’s omentum. Pack tightly in a shallow baking dish on a bed of the backbones, chopped onions, and chopped carrots, all browned in butter. Paint the birds with a lot of melted butter and braise in a hot oven for about 10 minutes. Unwrap the birds and place them in a large bread croustade that has been buttered, “melba-ed” in the oven, and sealed with a paste made by blending in an electric blender some fried chicken livers, mushrooms, and egg yolks. Bake in a moderate oven for a few minutes and at the last minute pour in a sauce made by reducing a cup of sherry added to the braising pan, straining, and adding a cup of demiglace or other rich brown sauce. Garnish with some pieces of truffles lightly sauteed in butter.
STARLING STEW WITH OLIVES (Karatavuk yahnisi) / TURKEY
Fry some chopped turnips and carrots. Add a little stock and a glass of red wine. Place some starlings or other small birds in the pan. Add a thin purée of boiled potatoes mashed with beaten egg, dry mustard, and some stock and a little beer. Cover with stock and cook for about 30 minutes, adding some ripe olives near the end.
* * *
…in the end, though, we decided to just ask the landlord to nail some wire mesh over the vent opening. Maybe next time.
Tried out a recipe from the Seattle P-I last night. It’s very good, especially with mashed potatoes:
1-1/4 lb. pork tenderloin
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1. Place the pork in a baking dish just large enough to fit it. Combine the other ingredients and pour over the pork. Cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake pork, uncovered, until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees (about 30-40 minutes).
3. Remove pork from oven and allow to rest five minutes before slicing into medallions. Scoop up the sauce from the bottom of the baking dish and put it in a gravy boat to pour over the pork slices. Be aware that this “gravy” is sweet and very intensely flavored, so that a little of it goes a long way.
In related news, Masaharu Morimoto has just published his first cookbook.
I’ve seen an advance copy of next Sunday’s New York Times review of Bad Monkeys, and it’s awesome—much better than I’d hoped for.
More about that later. For now, let’s talk soft pretzels. The good news about the review gave me a pretext to bake something for the gang at Queen Anne Books, and I’ve been wanting to try making my own pretzels for a long time. What’s stopped me, up to now, is fear of disfigurement. Traditional soft pretzels get their distinctive crust from being dipped in a solution of lye and boiling water. Lye doesn’t come from the supermarket, it comes from the hardware store, and it’s caustic enough to burn unprotected skin—the first time I ever heard of the stuff was back when I was a kid and the New York Post ran a story about a cop who’d had a mixture of lye and jelly thrown in his face.
Fortunately there are less dangerous alternatives. The recipe I went with, which is from Baking Illustrated, uses a baking soda solution. The water’s still hot, so you have to be careful, but scalding is a risk I’m used to dealing with. And the finished pretzels are amazing. Not as amazing as being compared to J.D. Salinger and Tom Pynchon in the Times, but close:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse or kosher salt for sprinkling
1. Combine the yeast, honey, salt, flour, and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead for 5-7 minutes, until the dough forms a smooth, elastic ball.
2. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about one and a half hours). Punch down dough and allow to rise a second time, for about 30 to 40 more minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a “rope” about 20 inches long (the original recipe suggests doing this on a floured surface, but the dough’s not that sticky, and I found a plastic cutting board offered better friction for rolling). Form each rope into a pretzel shape and press down to get the ends of the dough to stick.
4. Put the baking soda and 6 cups of water into a 12-inch skillet and bring to a boil. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with oil. Using a flat metal strainer or a slotted spoon, lower the pretzels into the boiling water (you should be able to fit 3 or 4 at a time) and boil for 30 seconds. Flip them using tongs and boil for another 30 seconds. Then, place them on the cookie sheet. (A couple tricks I figured out: first, the reason you use the strainer to put the pretzels into the water is not just to avoid splashing, although that’s part of it. If you just drop them in by hand, they’ll sink to the bottom of the skillet and stick, which is bad; sliding them in slowly gives them a chance to become buoyant and slippery. Also, because you only want to flip them once, you should lower them in “face down”; that way they’ll be right-side-up when you move them to the cookie sheet.) The pretzels won’t expand much in the oven, so you can crowd them pretty close together. They should all fit on one sheet.
5. Sprinkle pretzels with salt. Put in oven, and bake for 12-16 minutes, or until pretzels are well-browned. Transfer pretzels to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm.
Baking Illustrated mentions two variants, which I haven’t tried yet: in one, you sprinkle the pretzels with cheese instead of salt; in the other, you bake them “plain,” and then, while they’re still warm, brush them with melted butter and dip them into a mixture of 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.