Megnut

Archive for October 2005

A bounty of autumnal flavors

Fall has always been my favorite season, food-wise, and now that the leaves are really changing and the temperature's dropped a bit, I've been cooking up a storm! Squash soup, mushroom soup, salads with apples and walnuts, salads with roasted mushrooms, salad dressings with walnut oil and cider vinegar, etc.

Last night, I made a maple roast chicken with yummy maple roasted vegetables. Instead of basting my roast in melted butter, as I usually do, I added maple syrup to the butter and basted with the combo. I filled the bottom of my roasting pan with small white potatoes, chopped sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips, and whole little white onions. I poured some butter/maple over the top of the veggies, and then as the chicken roasted, the basting liquid and juices pooled to coat the veggies further. The result? Sweet maply goodness! Accompanied by a baby arugula and watercress salad with walnuts and McIntosh apple slices, dressed in the aforementioned walnut oil and cider vinegar (with a splash of maple syrup) vinaigrette, it was a bounty of fall on the plate.

And of course there are my breakfasts of oatmeal with cinnamon, apples, and craisins, which I didn't even mention! Oh fall, how I love you so, with your cool crisp days and your yummy yummy foods!

UPDATE: I posted the recipe for maple roast chicken.

A roundtable discussion on eGullet

Recently there was a discussion over on eGullet about The Future of Dining: An eG Roundtable, Clark Wolf, Michael Ruhlman, Steven Shaw. There's a bunch of follow-up discussion topics derived from the roundtable as well that look interesting. I really need to spend more time over at eGullet, I think I could be learning a lot!

The reading of a(nother) chef book

The Seasoning of a Chef: My Journey from Diner to Ducasse and Beyond Ever a fan of the "real world" cooking tale or memoir, I picked up The Seasoning of a Chef: My Journey from Diner to Ducasse and Beyond by Doug Psaltis and (his brother) Michael Psaltis. Boy did I not realize what I was getting into! The book itself explores Chef Psaltis' impressive journey from his grandfather's diner to working at some of the most expensive and elegant restaurants in the United States and France, without ever attending culinary school. Having no formal culinary training myself, I was eager to hear how he had done it.

The book has some wonderful moments. I found the early chapter about working at the diner especially moving and vivid. As the book continued though, I was disappointed in the writing. Moments and stories that could have been exciting seemed a bit dull, as if the personality of the kitchen had been stripped out. Professional kitchens are energized places, filled with commotion and passion and strange characters, but not a lot of that is revealed in Cheg Psaltis' book. He comes off as a driven and rather severe person, and the writing suffers somewhat from those same qualities. I wished the passion he claims for cooking were more evident in the way he told his story.

The one real issue I had with the book was the chapter entitled, "Cooking by the Book." He and another chef "Alex" are selected to "run the kitchen of Peter's restaurant." For some reason at this point, Chef Psaltis stops naming names. Throughout the entire book, he reveals the names of restaurants he works at and the names of the chefs he works with. I was familiar with many of those names, and for those with which I wasn't, I assumed the chef was using real names. And then this chapter: "Peter" is not the chef/owner's name. And the restaurant's name is never mentioned. I found this troubling, as he was very critical of "Peter" and the restaurant. It seemed disingenuous to use a pseudonym in only one instance, and raised questions about the validity of other sections of the book. Why openly criticize Thomas Keller at the end but hide behind "Peter" in the middle of the book? Who was "Peter" anyway?

After finishing, I set about to do a little research, curious about "Peter" and public reaction to the book. Hours later, bleary-eyed from reading too much online, I discovered how controversial this little biography seems to be. Chefs that had blurbed the book have recanted (Jacques Pépin and Mario Batali!), there were allusions that Chef Psaltis did something or something happened at the French Laundry, for which he may have been fired, then an admittance by the chef the he slapped someone while working at the Laundry, etc. etc. etc. It turns out the "Peter" is Dan Barber, and the restaurant that Chef Psaltis helped open was Blue Hill, one of my favorites in New York City.(Again maybe not, "Alex" who is really an Alex, Alex Ureña, said recently in a phone conversation with the New York Times that Chef Psaltis was hired two weeks after the restaurant opened!) So much controversy! What to do? Who to believe?

Do I recommend the book? Yeah, if you like cooking and are curious about what it's like to work at some of the best places, and work really hard to pursue your passion. And if you're really into the industry and want all the gossip and back story speculation, you can check out this New York Times article from October 5, 2005 by Gina Bellafante Kitchen Ruckus: A Chef's Memoir and this very long (13 pages!) eGullet thread Doug Psaltis, The Seasoning of a Chef. The eGullet thread has comments from Michael Ruhlman, Anthony Bourdain, and even Doug Psaltis himself. And of course, all this sets the stage for what may inspire the most critical reviews yet: Country. Chef Psaltis is on the verge of launching Country with Geoffrey Zakarian. Serving modern European-American fare, the 120-room cafe is supposed to open this week, and a formal dining room will follow later this fall. More at New York magazine's Food Openings & Buzz - Week of Oct. 10, 2005 And they say there's no such thing as bad publicity, I guess we'll find out soon enough!

The falliest yummiest sandwich

Because I am an insanely obsessive person, when I find some kind of food item or dish that I love, I eat it nearly non-stop until I am sick of it. For evidence, one need only look back to the summer of 2003: I ate bread salad for nearly every meal. I am currently addicted to grilled cheese and apple sandwiches. I got the idea from Martha Stewart Living (September? October?) and have implemented it to perfection, if I may say so.

I start with Klinger's Bread Company Sliced VT Maple Oat Walnut bread. I butter both sides with unsalted butter and place one slice, butter side down, in a skillet over medium-low heat. Then I layer on 1/8" slices of Shelburne Farms two-year farmhouse cheddar cheese until the bread is covered. I place thin slices of Champlain Orchards Macoun apples† over the cheese, and top with the second slice of bread. Once the bread is browned and crispy, I flip* it and cook until the other side is browned and crispy too, and the cheese is melted. Plate, slice and enjoy!

† At first I was using Macintosh apples, but these tend to soften too much -- and lose some flavor -- while cooking. I prefer the nice crunch and sweetness of the Macoun in the sandwich.

* Careful when you flip, the apples try to slide out, so I place my hand on top and hold the sandwich together while I slide the spatula underneath, and gently turn the it over.

Maple Roast Chicken

3 - 3 1/2 lb. free-range chicken*
3/4 c. real maple syrup†
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Kosher or coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper

OPTIONAL ROASTED VEGETABLE ACCOMPANIMENT
6 small white boiling onions, peeled
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
8 small white potatoes, scrubbed but left whole with skins on

* I think free-range is really the only way to go because the birds have more flavor. And as my acupuncturist once told me, they have better "energy" because they lived happy lives, hanging around outdoors as chickens should, not all cooped up, unable to move. That gives them bad energy, and you don't want to eat meat with bad energy, do you?

† I am partial to Vermont maple syrup, but as long as you get the authentic stuff, and non of that phony corn syrup with maple flavoring, I'll be happy.

Yummy diners from the Sterns

Jane and Michael Stern, who write a monthly column for Gourmet about road food have a list of America's Top Ten Diners at Epicurious.com. Sadly, there is nothing in New York City (if only the Jones Diner hadn't been torn down!). They do recommend Wasp's Snack Bar in Woodstock, VT, which I happened to drive by just the either day! I noticed it (it was closed) and thought, "Huh, that place looks pretty cool." I will have to go back for sure.

A traditional New England dessert

I'm a big fan of traditional New England food and the other night while out to dinner with my parents in Boston, we shared Indian Pudding for dessert. I'd forgotten how delicious it was! So I poked around and found this Indian Pudding recipe on Epicurious from James Beard. While I hate to question Mr. Beard's judgment, I have to report that after making this recipe, I found it too molassesy (as did some others as reported on the site). If you want to make an old-fashioned New England classic, I recommend this recipe, but reduce the amount of molasses. I plan to use 1/3 cup (rather than 1/2) and 1/2 teaspoon of ginger the next time I make this. The next time will be very soon, because even with the molassesyness, it's still delicious, just a bit too sweet for my taste.

On using email to create an account

To Whom It May Concern (most likely being application developers):

If you're going to design a site or application online, and you want to validate the email address a new user has entered, by all means go ahead and send a "validation email." Only for God's sake, send it immediately!

On Saturday (please note: Saturday was three days ago, which is like twelve dog days or five hundred internet days!) I tried to sign up for a Bloglines account because I decided to bite the bullet and start using an RSS reader again. Well, in the time it took for my "validation email" to arrive (which was, as you may have surmised, three days!) I created a Google Reader account, populated it with my various feeds, and started using it. In fact, in the three days I've waited for the Bloglines validation email, I've already tired of Google Reader and pretty much given up using an RSS reader again! By the time the email arrived in my inbox late this afternoon, I thought, "Gah, I can't be bothered. I'm done using RSS."

To all the application designers out there: if you're going to send the email, send it right away. This goes for all you password-recovery people too. I don't care if I get my password for XYZ app five days from now. When I can't recall my password, I most likely would like to "recall" it as soon as possible, so I can do whatever it is I'm trying to do (log onto my bank account to pay a bill, save a recipe, post in a discussion, etc.). Sending it hours, or worse, days later doesn't do me much good. Time is of the essence! Don't we all know this by now?

Frustratedly yours,
-megnut

Snowy snow snow snow!

I opened my eyes this morning and looked out the window. Snow! It was snowing outside and the tall evergreens outside my windows were covered in white frosting! I leaped out of bed and ran to the window, waking Jason in the process with my spazzy movements and excited exclamations, "It's snowing outside! And it's sticking!!" Then I threw on some clothes, grabbed my camera, ran outside, and took some photos.

First snow Snowy detail #1 Snowy detail #2

There's something about the first snow that's still as magical as when I was a kid.

The sad story of the toothfish

There's a great article from the Sunday New York Times Magazine by Paul Greenberg, The Catch, about Chilean Sea Bass (aka Patagonian toothfish) and the over fishing of our oceans. It's an interesting, and rather depressing, examination of attempts to protect and restore fish stocks in the face of increasing consumer demand and illegal fishing activity. It's long, but well worth reading, though it may make you feel bad about eating fish after you're through.

Why you shouldn't print your own photos

From the New York Times: Why Do-It-Yourself Photo Printing Doesn't Add Up.

Despite the ceaseless efforts of manufacturers to convince consumers that printing at home is fast, convenient and a whole lot of fun, the evidence shows that many people are tuning out the marketing.

Looks like it's cheaper to get your photos printed elsewhere than to do it yourself. And probably a lot less hassle. My printer has been a problem ever since it decided to recalibrate itself. It won't line up all the colors properly. Professionally printed prints for half the price sounds like an easier solution to me.

Looking for cheese and leaves

Good stuff in In a Land of Leaves, Seeking Cheese about tasting artisanal cheeses while viewing the foliage in Vermont. I'd been hoping to visit a nearby farm that makes an amazing goat cheese here in NH. Now I think I may add a VT farm or two and do some serious cheese exploration.