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    Book of the Month: Goat Song by Brad Kessler - October 11, 2013 by admin

    Over the last few years I have found myself enjoying books written about food, but my favorites talk about the animals that produce food or who become the food we eat. Today I finished a book, Goat Song, my fabulous neighbor Alison lent me. It is a self acclaimed “short history of herding and the art of making cheese.” And true to its book flap, I learned how a New York couple uprooted their lives to raise goats in Vermont and become cheese makers.

    What I LOVED about this book was how it was written. Kessler entwined Jewish ancestry, Buddhism, Christianity, ancient history and his deep love of entomology into his treatise on goat rearing and cheese making. For example, he frequently pointed out similarities between cheese making and other things, such as the relation of the word for book (a tome) to a tomme, or wheel of cheese. He also chronicled a step by step comparison of the Passion of Christ with cheese making.

    I think what made this book so powerful were all the parallels drawn between working the earth, the art of cheese making and the stories of historical animal tending through the ages. I was drawn in to the history and richness described.

    In one chapter, Kessler is concerned about coyotes nearby and the impact they could have on his herd. I learned that female coyotes can decide how many cubs to bear when they mate and all can literally follow in each others tracks leaving only set of prints. Brilliant animals and they way he scared them away…inspired. He and his dog Lola would find fresh scat and both “mark” it. The coyotes took the hint and beat it.

    Not only will you learn about coyotes but quite a bit about goats. In fact, much more than you probably ever wanted to know…some of which will be burned into my brain forever. Suffice it to say that male goats are just absolutely disgusting.

    The book was full of sage sayings interwoven through, my favorite by Basho: “what is important is to keep mind high in the world of mere understanding, then, returning to daily experience, seek there in the true and beautiful”. Kessler’s thoughts on this which resonate with me still “we live in exile, not from Paradise but from the present. How often do we dwell here?”

    Meditative and full of introspection, it is Discovery Channel meets Eat, Pray, Love written in a Michael Pollen tone but with no judgment, simply a love of the land and the milk and cheese produced there. Unlike many sensationalistic or shocking books on food, Kesslar simply shares why he has chosen the life of a cheese maker and what it has taught him. I highly, highly recommend it.

    Brining the Turkey - October 11, 2013 by admin

    Tonight I picked up my birds from Whole Foods…yes, I said birds…and brought them home to soak in the simple tangyness of a salt/sugar/spice/water blend. I picked up two birds this year so I could try my hand at deep frying a turkey, something I have always wanted to do. And on the off chance it blows up…I will have my backup turkey in the oven slowly roasting.

    I am sitting in my kitchen staring at my freshly made gallon and a half of homemade chicken stock and smiling at the thought of my two little birds marinating away. Generally, a brine is used to help pull extra moisture out of meat and replace it with salt through osmosis. For a better description than I can hope to give, I refer you to the expert in all things food science, Harold McGee.So as not to confuse you, I should point out that this year, McGee is decidedly anti-brine. Whatever.

    For a two gallon brine, here is what I did:

    1. In a saucepan, dissolve 2 cups of salt in 2 quarts of water. Add 1 cup of brown sugar and most of the hard round spices you have such as peppercorns, juniper berries, cloves, etc. I threw in some poultry seasoning and bay leaves this year. And in one batch I added cidar instead of brown sugar.
    2. After the mixture is dissolved, pour into a container (I use a hunter orange Home Depot bucket when the weather is cold enough to store the turkey in the garage over night) and add ice and cold water until you have two gallons cold brine water.
    3. Rinse off turkey (always rinse meat before you use it as bacteria grows on the outside) and submerge in container. I use the vegetable drawer in my fridge when the weather is warm…as you can see in pics.

    Before making my brine tonight I surfed in the internet for new ideas. I didn’t find any that I liked, but I did stumble across someone’s technique for making sure you have enough salt in your water. They claim that you can tell you brine is salty enough if a raw egg (still in shell) floats in the water.

    I tried this in extremely salty water and my egg fell right to the bottom. For my second batch of brine, I tried floating the egg before diluting the water all the way and it still didn’t float. I was really hoping to have fun little trick to share with you…but alas, I don’t. Unless you wanted to know a trick that doesn’t work.

    My chickens aren’t fully submerged in my fridge drawers as that much water weight would surely do damage, so I will flip the birds occasionally Tomorrow night I rinse them off and leave them in the empty bins to air dry a bit…further evaporating more water and condensing that salt.

    For more tips on my turkey roasting and deep frying…check back with me.

    On Food in Spain…Pineapple Carpaccio and Galatian Octopus - October 11, 2013 by admin

    Those of you who know me, know that I am married to a man who wanders the globe. When Joel is gone we do our best to stay in touch via phone messages, text messaging, email, online chatting and of course…photo sharing. If he is traveling within the US we will even watch a show on Hulu together.
    One of my favorite things about his travels are all of the food pictures he sends me. As he is in Spain this week, they have been particularly fun. And of course, I wanted to share a few with you. The first is a pineapple carpaccio. Joel said the pineapple was raw and served with ice cream and a special sweet sauce.

    The second just cracks me up as it came with directions:
    Galatian Octopus
    Bake in oven
    Boil coper coin in water
    Take octopus out of oven and dip in boiling water 3 times

    Culinary Questions Answered - October 11, 2013 by admin

    Thank you for all the excellent food questions and emails over the past few weeks. It is always fun to trouble shoot with you. OK, my two favorite questions.

    #1 “Is My Chicken Safe to Eat?”

    I received a call during dinner time from a distraught cook. He was roasting chicken and pulled it out of the oven when the bird’s internal temperature rose to 160. Upon cutting the chicken open, the meat inside looked transparent and bloody. After exploring the issue from many different angles, we both realized that his meat thermometer wasn’t calibrated to begin with! Such an easy mistake to make.

    There are several ways to make sure your thermometer is calibrated (providing you didn’t spring for a digital read thermometer). Place the probe in ice water for a reading of 32 degrees F, or boiling water for 212 degrees F. Neither of these is extremely practical, however, and I usually simply gauge the temperature of the room and adjust from there.

    When using a thermometer, make sure the meat covers the dimple of the probe. This is usually about a third of the way up and is the best way to get an accurate read.

    #2 Spring onions, shallots, green onions, leeks, shallots!!
    At a recent event, a food savvy gentleman from Louisiana confessed to me his complete confusion with onion varietals. I promised that I would post an entry on the differences, and while I am a few weeks late in doing so, hope this will ease the confusion.


    Spring Onion = Green Onion= Salad Onion = Scallion

    Shallots form in cloves similar to a garlic head, but taste more like a mild onion. They are often used in fine dining or French cuisine.

    Sweet Onions are less pungent in flavor and come in several varieties (Walla Walla and Vidalia are two). More water and less sulfur make these onions taste sweeter. Pictured on the left are sweet onions with their stalks.

    Leeks are one of my favorite onions varieties. They are milder than a yellow or white onion, and are delicious roasted or caramelized.

    When eating a leek, only consume the white and very light green portions of the stalk. After chopping, rinse the leek pieces in a bowl of cold water to wash off the dirt. Baby leeks (not pictured) are called ramps and are often pickled.

    Cookbook of the Year: Alinea - October 11, 2013 by admin

    Looking for the perfect holiday gift for your fellow foodie friend? I recommend Aliena by Grant Atchatz (who won the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef award this year). I find myself at a loss to explain how impressively awesome this book is. The restaurant Alinea, located in Chicago and known for serving 25 course/$225 molecular gastronomic creations, is perhaps the best in our country. If you aren’t familiar with this style of cuisine, I recommend a trip to their website. The pictures here are from their gallery. The first is peanuts, then bacon and lastly heart of palm.

     

    The 416- page, 6 pound cookbook was published in-house and the first hundred pages read like an ode to food with famous culinary authors sharing their thoughts on eating, creativity in the kitchen and how to use the masterpiece you are reading. The book is intended to provide the home cook with practical ways in which to make the elaborate recipes within. Though I myself am a bit daunted, perhaps I would make the lavender tofu (made from homemade soy milk of course) but not as a tiny garnish on an elaborate dish.

     

    What I love are the beautiful pictures and unique ways of serving foods I commonly eat. For example, one garnish is grated frozen gravlox, which I would never have thought of. The book contains links to videos so you can watch the chefs perform cooking techniques described in the book as well as information on purchasing the beautiful plates their food is served (or sometimes perched) on.

     

    In a recent Wall Street Journal article published on the 13th of this month, the journalist described several courses he was served: “[F]ish in an environment of tobacco, radish and cedar. This follows a pear enhanced with olive oil, black pepper and eucalyptus. And it precedes a tiny pork-belly symphony with Japanese overtones.”

    Whether you think it would enhance your coffee table or provide you with hours of drooling-while-reading, I recommend it as a gift to yourself or someone you truly love.