A burger joint for Keller

According to a little blurb in April's Food & Wine, my fav Thomas Keller (of French Laundry and Per Se fame) is doing a burger place:

"Rumor has it that Keller, who is a huge devotee of the West Coast chain In-N-Out Burger, will also be launching a burger joint of his own in the Napa area."

This is in addition to the butcherie he plans to open this summer across from Bouchon (his bistro) in Yountville, CA, where he'll sell, "his favorite cuts of meat." Imagine living in Yountville: you could eat TK's food nearly every day, and on the days you didn't, you could be cooking his favorite cuts of meat in your very own kitchen. It's enough to make me want to pack my bags this minute!

Vacuum packing for the home cook

I was reading about culinary trends of 2005 over at starchefs.com when a little bit of information ragarding sous vide cooking struck my eye, Slow and Low: Sous Vide Goes Mainstream. Sous vide is French for "under vacuum" and refers to a process by which chefs vacuum-seal a product and then simmer the product in its pouch in a water bath at a low temperature. While the results have been yummy, the process seemed overly complicated for a home cook, and I anticipated a prohibitive cost. Then this quote from the above-referenced article:

The term sous vide was actually coined more than 30 years ago in France, to describe a technique widely used in the commercial food industry — mostly to package frozen food products. But in 2005 the technique went mainstream, as chefs across the country realized that they didn't need to invest in expensive commercial-grade Cryovac machines. A simple countertop FoodSaver machine is really all you need.

Really?! Quick, to Amazon! Where, voila, a FoodSaver Premier Series V1205 Vacuum Sealing Kit can be yours for $129.99, and there's free shipping! Now not only can you buy a bunch of meats and things at Costco and stock up, filling your freezer with vacuum-packed cuts of whatever, when you thaw them, you can cook them like a pro! If in 2005 sous vide when mainstream in restaurant kitchens, then perhaps 2006 will be the year sous vide hits it even bigger in home kitchens!

Sustainable cooking in the home kitchen

Starchef.com talks to San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino about sustainable eating in, Head to Tail.

'Sustainable eating,' according to Chef Cosentino's eco-friendly culinary sensibility towards food and its preparation, encompasses the use of sustainably grown produce, humane animal husbandry, and an overall obsession with care and respect for the planet and the environment. 'Head to tail' cooking can be traced back to just about every cultural cuisine in the world, such as the Native American community who wasted no part of the buffalo.

I am a believer in sustainable eating as well, and have been trying to eat locally for a long time. More recently I've been adding the "whole animal" approach to my dining, both at home and while out. And I'll admit, it's a bit of a challenge. The other night I was having some friends over for dinner, so I decided I'd make this chicken liver mousse recipe from Gourmet (Mar 06). It was my first real experience with chicken livers. Previously my interaction with them involved removing them from the chicken, prior to roasting, and throwing them in the trash. Once I put them in a baggie and froze them.

I bought approximately a pound of fresh organic chicken livers at Whole Foods. I "cleaned" them, which I had no idea really how to do and ended up with a rather bloody mess on my cutting board as I removed some veins and fat. Honestly, it turned my stomach, but I forced myself to do it if I wanted to be a real "chef". Once that was done, it was pretty much smooth sailing, except that I put all the ingredients in a shallow bowl, and when I put my hand blender in and turned it on, some bloody liver bits went flinging out and stuck themselves to various appliances (toaster, stand mixer) and kitchen items (tea kettle, tiles) and clothing (my green sweater, should have worn a white coat!).

Aside from the horror filmness of it all, the mousse turned out lovely and was a delicious opening to a delightful dinner. I plan to make it again, and to experiment with other animal parts, and to continue to eat them when I'm out to dinner as well. That is, at least, until something goes horribly wrong and I eat something so gross that I revert to vegetarianism forever.