Megnut

Various food psychology papers examining why we unknowingly overeat. It's a complicated mix of package size, package shapes, stockpiling, visibility, variety, convenience, and our moods.

Snack Size Deep FryDon't have room for a commercial deep fryer in your kitchen? Try this 5-cup oil capacity
Snack-Size Deep Fryer. I have no idea if it works well and if oil will get hot enough, but if it did, it could be handy. For only $39.99 and you can be making fried apples for your friends soon! Anybody ever used one of these things? [via Uncrate]

I always knew that San Francisco dining was different from other parts of the country...because food is such a part of our lives. A pretty dumb statement over at Michael Bauer's blog. What about the American South? New Orleans? The myriad other cities with thriving restaurant scenes and scores of farmer's markets? San Francisco doesn't have a lock on great food culture. What makes it different from other parts of the country is its irritating insistence that it does.

A genuine moustache has been proven to contribute to a significant Guinness wastage. Men, maximize your consumption by drinking with a clean shave.

When food borne illnesses typically associated with meat become regularly associated with fruits and vegetables, it's a failure of the produce industries AND the meat industries. Recent salmonella outbreak may be tied to tomatoes.

Ocean Spray has constructed a vast artificial cranberry bog near the entrance to 30 Rockefeller Center. Whoa! This makes me think of fall on Nantucket. I'll have to get over there and check it out, even if it's silly.

While we must conserve energy, we cut back where it makes the most sense; grape-shipping is not the place to start. An economist takes a look at Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. He raises some interesting points.

Why did that gargantuan USDA Prime strip loin I ate in Las Vegas last year had about as much flavor as a cup of tap water? A test ensues to determine the tastiest steak. Is it the aging? The breed? The marbling? The feed? Yes, but not exactly in ways you'd expect.

Easy poached egg using plastic wrap. I've always used the vinegar and water-swirling technique the commenters mention at the end for a nice poached egg.

Dear Readers,

The Amateur Gourmet has resorted to slanderous attacks following our foie gras battle. Please do not believe such reports. You've seen the real pictures here. You know the truth.

Yours,
Megnut

Battle Foie Gras

A few weeks ago, I received an email offering me a free lobe of foie gras from Mirepoix USA. Mirepoix is an ecommerce website launched by a husband and wife team with a passion for fine food. The site features some of their favorite products, including foie gras, charcuterie, and truffle mushrooms. I accepted their offer and received a Hudson Valley Grade A Foie Gras the other day. Battle Foie Gras, my competition with Adam to make the best torchon using Thomas Keller's recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook, was underway. Allez cuisine!

Trust me when I tell you that deveining a foie gras (especially to chef Keller's exacting standards) is a time-consuming and fairly disgusting process. I chose not to photograph this stage of my labors because I want you, if you enjoy foie gras, to continue to enjoy foie gras. Sometimes, as they say, you don't want to see the sausage getting made. Devein I did, then I seasoned it. I molded it into a log and I rolled it tightly in cheesecloth. Then I rolled it even tighter. Then I enlisted my husband to help me roll it even tighter. I poached it in water, removed it, rolled it again (even tighter!) in a dish towel. Then I hung it in my fridge. That took four days.

Last night, my husband and I invited two friends to join us for dinner. Both had experienced foie gras only once and found it "super oily." The table was set.

Table setting
The table awaits

Keller's recipe calls for using fresh sour cherries and pickling them quickly in vinegar. I'd planned to skip that step and substitute a sour cherry jam, but the market didn't have it. Luckily they did have a jar of sour cherries. So I mixed water, sugar, and vinegar with the cherries and brought it to a boil. Then I strained out the cherries and reduced the liquid by half until I had a lovely ruby-colored syrup. Mmm, this was nicer than a jam. It was time to begin. I unrolled the foie gras.

Unroll the foie
Unrolling the cheesecloth

The outside had turned brown, so I peeled off the discoloration, exposing the lovely pink interior.

Peeling
Peeling the outside

I sliced and plated the foie gras, accompanied by the sour cherries, some baby lettuce, freshly toasted brioche, and a small mound of fleur de sel.

Plate
Ready to eat

We drank a lovely 1999 Cru D'Arche-Pugneau sauternes that our friends brought.

David enjoys it
A former vegan savors his bite

My friend Adriana, a Princeton PhD candidate, translator, and foie gras novice had this to say after the meal:

I really didn't know what to expect when I took my first bite of the torchon. The texture was the first thing that hit me--it's so light, buttery and almost sweet. But then, as it slides down your throat, you're hit with the full, incomparable flavor and aroma of the foie gras. I preferred to prepare each bite individually; doing so encouraged me to eat slowly. I varied the brioche, cherry, salt and foie gras proportions and finally settled into my "bite": brioche with a small piece of cherry, a dab of salt, and a substantial slice of foie gras.

We ate and ate, with hardly a vein in sight. We toasted fresh brioche, we drizzled sour cherry reduction, we sprinkled fleur de sel. The wine and conversation flowed. Every morsel was consumed.

The remains
The remains of the foie

As I raised a bite to my mouth, I paused and realized something. The bite I was about to consume looked just like I remembered from The French Laundry. And it tasted that good.

The final bite
A perfect bite

It was a magical meal with wonderful friends. As for the competition, well you can judge by the photos. I think it's clear: my cuisine reigns supreme!

Cartoon recipe for creamy corn chowder. Yum! It's always neat to see alternative representations of recipes.

Battle bloody sleeve

Bloody sleeveYesterday I had the opportunity to spend a little time in the kitchen of Daniel Boulud's eponymous New York restaurant, Daniel. I got to make chicken wings with the man himself for a video a friend is producing. Stupidly, I chose not to wear whites, and thought street clothes would make the bit more "authentic" for the home cook. So I was standing there in a gray cashmere sweater and jeans (I did wear my clogs at least) with an apron tied around my waist. Daniel was demonstrating how to prep the wings, which involved sectioning the wing into three parts. WHACK! He came down hard with his chef's knife on the joint, and blood went flying. Flying right onto the sleeve of my sweater! Daniel was very gracious and tried to wipe it off with a dish towel, but that only smeared it around. We had a good laugh about it and my sweater is now at the cleaners. But I've learned my lesson (a lesson, incidentally, I'd already learned but chose to ignore) and next time, I'll be wearing whites. And standing clear of Daniel Boulud when he's wielding his knife and whacking at wings.

Gourmet's editors are now blogging about things like vegemite and onions. I like the idea of using a mix of people. But so far, with only one post a day, it's been hard to get a sense of the site's personality. Still, I'll be checking in. I'm always happy to have more food blogs to read.

Making apple butter

I made Erin's apple butter before I went to Maine, but only had a chance to test my work the other night. (Inspired by a dish at Boston's Locke-Ober restaurant, I roasted and mashed a winter squash, then mixed it with some apple butter. They also add Calvados.) Mmm, this apple butter is delicious! I followed Erin's recipe closely, except when she called for a "fine mesh strainer." At first I tried my chinois, but that was actually too fine, and only the faintest apple juice emerged. I resorted to my less fine mesh strainer and that did the trick. I used a blend of locally-grown Jonamac and Empire apples, and I like to think that added depth to my butter. I can't wait try some of this on a sandwich. Great recipe, thanks Erin!

There's something that I call 'chicken guilt,' which is something that has chefs in restaurants making the chicken dish one of the best dishes on the menu because they feel guilty selling a chicken for $28. I've never heard of 'chicken guilt' before, but I love it! Of course, I never order chicken when I'm out because I think, "How good can that chicken be, even if it's $28?"

70 Steps To Foie Gras Torchon. Adam over at the Amateur Gourmet and I are in a bit of a foie gras "contest" to see who makes the best torchon of foie gras (from Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook). I'm still at step 23. But somehow I know I'll win!

Four microphones, a table, and 90 minutes of dead air I’m in charge of filling. Michael Ruhlman reports on his sold-out talk (that I missed because of sickness) last week at the 92nd St Y.

Brussels sprouts have arrived at my local farmer's market, which means it's time to start making my favorite Brown Buttered Brussels Sprouts. Between now and spring, I will eat these as much as possible. Brussels sprouts are totally in my top five favorite veggies list, maybe even number one!

crawly cakes for halloween
Amazing crawly cakes for Halloween over at Not Martha. They're made from Sno Balls, Ding Dongs, and Little Debbie cakes. Awesome!

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