Wednesday news bites for April 30, 2008

Fry holder for your car:
I'd like to point out that Wendy's fries packages require no extra equipment. They fit in standard cup holders just fine.

Shopping solutions: Strategies for stretching your food dollar
A wrap-up of recent news and online articles with practical advice about eating on the cheap

Peak Water: Aquifers and Rivers Are Running Dry. How Three Regions Are Coping
Like oil, we have a finite amount of water. The thing is, oil can be replaced. Water, not so much.

Environmental Cost of Shipping Groceries Around the World
Cod caught off Norway is shipped to China to be turned into filets, then shipped back to Norway for sale. That pretty much says it all.

Recession Diet Just One Way to Tighten Belt
Changing your food habits is one way to save money in this shrinking economy

Bombs, Bullets and Our Daily Bread and Militia, bandits, one meal a day
Feeding (or choosing not to feed) refugees.


2006 Rare Bird pinot noir


Color: Like many a pinot noir, the Rare Bird pinot is a lustrous, translucent ruby fading to salmon at the edges
Nose: Very fresh smelling with hints of cranberry, earth, greenery and slight flowery overtones
Palate: Wonderful, light mouth feel with good but not strong tannins. Excellent flavors of fruit with no overpowering alcohol heat
Finish: Sweeping and clean with few lingering flavors

This is a marvelous little wine that's versatile enough to be paired with many different meals from soups and pastas to sandwiches, roasted chicken, and some grilled steaks.. It probably wouldn't stand up to heavier meals, like bbq or steak au poive, but as an everyday wine to have with most meals, this is a delicious, affordable wine that many will enjoy.

From Culinate: Rules for the home kitchen

An excellent article and 8-item list (though I tend to hate n-item blog lists) from Eric Gower. Of note? Number 5:

5. Be fearless. Courage is crucial to cooking well. As in many areas of life, fear of doing things incorrectly induces paralysis; this is devastating in the kitchen, because we wind up being too hungry to deal and just go out, order in, or pull out the TJ’s quasimeal.

But how is fearlessness learned? By not caring. It sounds paradoxical, but think about it: What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen by taking risks with your cooking? That it ruins the dish? Well, yes, but you will have learned something valuable in the process. And if you’re anything like me, you abhor wasting food, and will do everything in your power to bring it back from the brink.

Too salty? Add some sliced potatoes, which will absorb the extra salt. Too bitter? Consider adding a sweetener like jam or maple syrup. Learn to “repair” mistakes you make. So much about cooking is about salvaging things that go wrong. Along the way, you learn. But you have to be bold and take some risks. It’s just food, after all. [ more... ]

Fearlessness is one thing I've tried to incorporate into my own cooking. There's nothing wrong with messing up. In fact, messing up should be expected and even welcomed. Those mistakes can be the greatest learning opportunities. Remember my potato cakes? Though it took over 12 hours of thinking about it, I was able to solve the problem and came up with a delicious snack I could be proud of. I was also ridiculously proud of myself and tromped around the kitchen clapping like someone enfeebled. So go on. Take risks. Put fennel in your lentils (actually, don't). Just stop being afraid of the kitchen and get to it.


Wednesday news bites for April 23, 2008

A Drought in Australia, a Global Shortage of Rice
Six years of drought have reduced Australia’s rice crop by 98 percent. "The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months — increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen."

One less burger, one safer planet
Seems like good news and bad news: "Scientists are concluding that along with more fuel-efficient cars and curbing industrial pollution, the simple act of eating less meat could help slow global warming."

Just in time: how to peel ginger

From the fine folks at Chow.com.


Spicy ginger shrimp and grits

Ginger shrimp and grits

Shrimp and grits has long been a staple meal in the American south, marrying West Africa cooking methods with ingredients introduced by the American Indians. From the port town of Charleston it spread down the coast and rimmed the Gulf of Mexico. And if you’re not familiar with grits, you’re missing out.

This recipe turns the traditional meal on its head, opting for a tempura-like ginger shrimp, based on Michael Symon’s fried calamari recipe, coupled with a little heat in the form of cayenne pepper. The final result is a dish that is at once familiar but definitely leans towards the exotic.


  • 12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 medium ginger lobes
  • Equal parts all purpose flour and panko bread crumbs (1.5 cups, total)
  • 1 egg
  • 16 oz. high-quality ginger ale
  • Canola or peanut oil
  • 1 cup grits (traditional stone ground, if you can find them. Here, I used quick grits. Instant grits are totally unacceptable)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • Srirache (sp) sauce (in a pinch, a good buffalo sauce will do nicely)


  • Maple sugar
  • Additional ginger ale

Peel and devein the shrimp, and peel and slice the ginger. (When peeling ginger, it's best to use a spoon, scraping the peel from the flesh. It works very well and enables you to get into the roots' nooks and crannies.) Place the shrimp in a non-reactive container, pour in enough ginger ale to cover the shrimp and add the sliced ginger. Let this sit for at least six hours.

Before you begin, you’ll want to make sure you have everything set for frying the shrimp. Beat the egg and leave in a bowl large enough to fit most of the shrimp. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and panko and add a dash of salt. Pour about two inches of oil into the bottom of a sturdy pot.

Remove the shrimp from the ginger ale and pat dry.

Make the grits as per the directions on the package, though shy away from butter and cream for this recipe. For quick grits, whisk 1 cup (dry) grits into 3 cups of rapidly boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer for five to seven minutes, then mix in the cayenne pepper.

Note: To add a little sweetness to your grits, you might want to try adding a touch of maple syrup. Or, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you could use the ginger ale instead of a water portion—one-third cup, for example. I haven’t tried either of these variations yet, so you’re on your own. If you do try them, however, I’d love to hear about the results.

As the grist finish cooking, heat the oil you poured earlier to 350F. Toss the shrimp in the egg mixture to coat them, then dredge in the flour and panko mixture. When the grits have finished cooking, remove them from the heat. Then, begin frying the shrimp. Work in batches and drain on paper towels or a wire cooling rack. They fry up very quickly--about a minute per batch, so you’ll want to stay on top of things. To plate, spoon a dollop of grits onto the center of a plate, place several shrimp on top of the grits and hit the whole thing with a couple squirts of the srirache. The mixture of sweetness from the ginger ale and spice from the hot sauce is wonderful, complex, and just the thing for a breezy spring evening on the patio.


World food shortage has Haitians eating mud to stave off hunger

From the New York Times:

Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”

That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis is not only being felt among the poor but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments.


Real solutions will take years. Haiti, its agriculture industry in shambles, needs to better feed itself. Outside investment is the key, although that requires stability, not the sort of widespread looting and violence that the Haitian food riots have fostered.

Meanwhile, most of the poorest of the poor suffer silently, too weak for activism or too busy raising the next generation of hungry. In the sprawling slum of Haiti’s Cité Soleil, Placide Simone, 29, offered one of her five offspring to a stranger. “Take one,” she said, cradling a listless baby and motioning toward four rail-thin toddlers, none of whom had eaten that day. “You pick. Just feed them.” more...

It has never been more evident that food is what brings people together. It is what keeps them content. Without it, the world literally comes apart at the seams. I have no ideas about what can be done to help alleviate the crisis, but I do know this: next time you think of complaining because you can't decide what to have dinner, be glad you have dinner at all.


Wednesday News bites for April 16, 2008

Is high-fructose corn syrup natural?
According to the FDA, obviously caving to lobby pressure, it just might be.

BILL MOYERS JOURNAL teams up with the PBS series EXPOSÉ: AMERICA'S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS to follow the trail of Washington Post reporters who uncovered more than $15 billion in "wasteful, unnecessary, or redundant expenditures" that have flowed from Washington to America's farmers.

Can People Have Meat and a Planet, Too?
A startling tale of ethics, environment and engineered meat. How about this: how about we stop going the direction of Frankenstein and move to less consumption, more humane ranching practices, and more balanced eating?

Speaking of which, Shop and eat locally: Wired HOWto wiki


Visions of past futures: Kitchen, 1999

My favorite futures are the ones already imagined:


Cheap-ass Wine: 2005 Bulletin Place Shiraz

2005 Bulletin Place Shiraz

It's tax season. If you played your cards right (or are crooked), then it's smooth sailing and Stag's Leap for you. If not--well, there's always some cheap-ass wine:

Color: Deep, blood red fading to purple at the edges.
Nose: Berries! A little rhubarb, a little cranberry and a little greenery or vegetation. Just a hint of smoky leather.
Palate: This is a big wine with rich berry favors--cherry, blueberry. Large body and good tannic structure.
Finish: Lingering fruit and a fair amount of alcohol heat.
Pairings: This seems like a fairly versatile wine. It paired excellently with mojo-roasted chicken (mojo is a Latin American sauce made with coriander seeds, black peppercorns, salt and other ingredients) and polenta. It would also work well with roasted pork, and many Italian dishes. It's lithe mouth feel might fall against heavy steaks or lamb.

You know, cheap-ass wine doesn't mean the wine is categorically bad. And bad wine doesn't even mean it's categorically bad. Someone's drinking the stuff, or it wouldn't get bottled and sold. But I think there is a difference between wines you can get at your local supermarket and wines you can get at your local wine merchant. Given a choice always go for the wine merchant.

In Gainesville, we have a great resource in Dorn's Liquors. The staff there are knowledgable and the buyers maintain an exhaustive tasting schedule, brining the store excellent values and some damn fine wines. I bought he Bulletin Place Shiraz and the Three Thieves Syrah at Dorn's and wasn't disappointed with either. The Bulletin Place Shiraz, in fact, was a really good, fun wine. Perfect for a party or spring bbq.

I've bought cheap-ass wine at the grocery store. One time I came away with a Little Penguin white shiraz that was sweet to the point of cloying and absolutely bereft of backbone. It was a high-schoolers' wine, clearly, and left me feeling like I'd had a handful of Jolly Ranchers muddled in maple syrup. Never again. So next time you're going for wine, seek out your local wine merchant. Hopefully, they'll steer you in the right direction, cheap-ass or otherwise.


Earthy, Crunchy Granola Bars

Earthy Crunchy Granola

This is a reprint of my food column as it appeared in the April issue of Satellite Magazine

Note: I have modified this recipe slightly. In my recipe tweak, I call for a different honey-to-sugar ratio. I've also updated the quantities here

Have you been outside lately? Spring is in full swing--great blue bowl of a sky, wonderful weather, and everywhere flowers are in full bloom.

This is many people's favorite time of year in Gainesville, a time when North Florida really shines. It's finally dry enough and warm enough (through not too hot) to enjoy much of the natural beauty North Florida has to offer. From springs to beaches, from hiking trails to biking trails to spring-fed rivers, it's time to get out-of-doors and shrug off the last of your winter doldrums. But what to take with you? A full picnic lunch? It's a possibility. But for on-the-go body fuel, it's tough to beat delicious, carb-packed granola bars.

Hikers, bikers and general health-food types have long been proponents of granola. It's a solid energy snack, filled with protein and the necessary carbohydrates you need when climing that last stair set at Devil's Millhopper or biking those last few miles at San Felasco. However, "healthy granola bar" could be a misnomer. Often, they're packed with additives, preservatives, and the singular ingredient I wish could be wiped from earth: high fructose corn syrup. In addition, they're just plain expensive. But with a just a little time you can make granola bars that provide an excellent energy boost without a lot or preservatives. And while they're not low carb or particularly low sugar, they're very low cost.


  • 1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oat meal (quick cooking is fine, but NOT instant)
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (for a rustic spin, you can use roasted, salted sun flower seeds still in their shells--I did it once, and it made for a delightful eating experience)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced almonds (you can also use cashews, macadamia nuts or even pistachios--any high-oil nut or seed will do)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ (optional--but it does provide good nutrition)
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup1/3 cup packed brown sugar (you can remove 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and add an additional tablespoon of honey--sometimes more--to create chewier, softer granola bars)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (You'll also need some to grease the pan)
  • 1/2 cup mixed dried fruits (berries and raisins work best, but you could certainly use apricots, apples, or even banana chips. You'll just have to slice them into little bits)

Note: You'll also need a cookie sheet, a 9*9 glass baking dish, a gigantic bowl (preferably glass), and a sauce pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it's heating, grease the glass baking dish, and in your large bowl, mix together the oatmeal, sunflower seeds, and almonds. The wheat germ is optional here. If you toast it, it brings an almost cinnamony flavor to the granola bars. If you save it for later, its flavor doesn't come through and your bars will be fruitier. Once mixed, spread the ingredients out on the cookie sheet and bake them in the 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Every five minutes, use a spoon or other tool to stir the ingredients slightly to achieve even roasting.

While the dry ingredients are roasting, mix the butter, honey, and vanilla extract together in the sauce pan and bring the heat up to medium high. Cook the ingredients together until the brown sugar has completely dissolved. Then lower the heat to simmer.

After the dry ingredients have finished roasting, lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Combine the dry and wet ingredients in the large bowl and stir them together. You'll probably want to use a silicone spatular or plastic spoon as they'll stick less. If you use a wooden spoon, however, you get to eat whatever becomes trapped there. Cook's prerogative!

When the ingredients are well mixed, scoop the mixture into the greased baking dish and pat them down so they are even. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. When it's done, allow the granola mix to cool completely before cutting it into squares.

That's it! When you're done, you'll have a delicious, preservative-free snack that travels well and will keep up to a week on the kitchen counter. Now you have no more excuses. Get outside, and know you now have the on-the-go fuel you need to enjoy all the outdoors North Florida has to offer.


Wednesday news bites for April 9, 2008

Grains Gone Wild - Paul Krugman (NYT) on the policies and practices that sent food prices through the roof.

U.S. food shoppers hit the highway to save a buck - Reuters on what some are doing about it. Sadly, buying local isn't among the implemented strategies.

Monsanto's Harvest of Fear - Monsanto makes even the smallest farmers pay a heavy price for disobedience.

New food safety label introduced to certify your meat is safe - We'll just have to assume the labelers aren't lying

Study: Food additives impact hyperactivity - Totally unsurprising. Can we have a study like this conducted in the United States? Please? Like, yesterday?


Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Roasted cauliflower soup

March brought some significant things to Gainesville. Namely, perfect weather: blue skies and warm sun. The days hovered just under 80 degrees with light breezes and skies dotted with white, puffy clouds. But recently something's happened. Our gorgeous spring weather was replaced by dim, gray skies and a constant, spitting rain. Nothing to do but stay indoors, curl up with a good book and eat comforting, roasted cauliflower soup.


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 qt chicken stock (can be made with vegetable stock)
  • 3/4 cups parmesan cheese (separated, 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium shallot (you can substitute an onion, but the flavor will be stronger)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Begin by heating the oven to 400 degrees F. While the oven heats, remove the cauliflower leaves and core and break the cauliflower into small florets. Spread the cauliflower florets in a single layer on a baking sheet or baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Place the cauliflower in the heated oven and roast for 15-20 minutes. The cauliflower's ready when you can easily pierce it with a fork.

While the cauliflower roasts, you'll want to get a large soup pot. Heat a tablespoon of oil in the bottom over medium heat. As the oil's heating, mince the garlic and cut the shallot to a fine dice. Add them to the pot and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes). When they become translucent, add the stock.

Once the cauliflower has finished roasting, increase the stovetop heat to high and bring the stock mixture to a boil. Add the cauliflower and remove the soup pot from the heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the cauliflower until the soup reaches a consistency you like.

Note: you can puree the soup in a regular blender. Just make sure to work in small batches and vent the lid from time to time, to avoid a cauliflower soup explosion.

After the cauliflower soup is smooth, add the remaining parmesan cheese and stir to combine, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with some additional cheese and chives, oregano or chopped parsley. A couple pieces of good, crusty bread never hurt a soup, either.

I know huge swaths of the world are still dealing with wintry weather. Stop bemoaning the snow and sleet. Cuddle up. Hunker down. Do whatever it is you do when the weather outside is frightful. This time, though, add some homemade cauliflower soup. It's really quite good.


Simultaneous processing: another reason you should learn to cook

This is the second post in an irregular series of blog entries about the value cooking can bring to our lives. The first is about clutter and how it can affect our thinking.

I hope to convince more people to cook. I've learned a lot by cooking: about food, the environment, and myself.

Since I began to cook seriously, I've started looking at time in a different manner. I tend to think of processes as simultaneous. I know what I can get done while the shrimp sautés, the pasta water boils, or the ribs braise (Hint: You can do a lot while the ribs braise). Anyway, I began thinking about cooking in relation to the current productivity groundswell among geeks, knowledge workers and creatives and firmly believe that all of us should learn to cook (even thought leaders).

What's in it for me?
First, knowing how to cook makes people want to have sex with you. It's true. Ask around. People dig people who know how to cook. After all, if the zombies attack and the world goes to shit, your fave sushi place isn't going to be delivering. It's a survivability issue. Knowing how to cook well also is one of those party tricks you can pull to amaze your friends. I love when someone says they have no food in the house, but I can find butter and flour and milk. Pasta, mushrooms, salt, pepper and olives and can whip up a simple, rustic, Italian-style dish that's worthy of a pretty good wine. They're stunned at what can be done with a few leftovers and solid cooking fundamentals. And lighting your farts on fire or burping the alphabet can only carry you so far.

The real value of cooking, however, lies in consistency, preparation and time management. Take a burger and fries, for example. For this seemingly simple meal, you have to get the grill hot, prep the ground beef, cook the burgers, toast the buns, slice the vegetables, cut the potatoes (peel them first, if you want to go that way), fry the fries, fry them again (the secret to crispy fries is double frying), allow time for them to drain, and bring it all together on the plate at the same time. That's a lot to do and a lot to keep straight.

So How's it done? Think ubiquitous capture, and instead of next actions, think simultaneous processing.

Mise en place
The phrase "mise en place" is a French term meaning "establishment." We're not talking about The Man here, or something against which you should rail. No, we're talking about ubiquitous capture--about gathering information--collecting your requisite ingredients--and making sure you have things prepped so you can do what you need to do. For a presentation, this might mean your notes, some key bullet points and a selection of images. Or at least membership in a good, online photo library. For an article it might mean research notes, additional contacts, your laptop, pencils and the requisite Moleskine. For our burger and fries example, you'll also need some things:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
    • (the recipe works for other normal potatoes. I like yukon gold for their high starch content)
  • buns
  • romaine lettuce
  • A large fresh tomato (if the tomatoes aren't fresh, do without)
  • Mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, and any other condiments you might want

You'll want to have waiting in the wings:
A heavy pot, enough oil to give you a couple inches worth in the bottom of said pot, a serving bowl for fries, and plates for the burgers.

Let's also up the complexity and say you want to serve milkshakes. We'll keep it simple--vanilla--but you'll still need to have the drink prepped and ready to go when it's time to sit at the table. For that you'll need milk and ice cream (preferably whole milk and premium ice cream). And in the wings? Your blender.

All in all it seems pretty simple, right? You get everything out of the fridge and start making your burgers. But wait! Beef should be allowed to come up to temperature to enable more even cooking. You don't want your lettuce to wilt at the edges while it languishes for a plate. Now what do you do?

Contextual cooking and simultaneous processes
You have to think of each piece in relation to all others, and you have to think about what you can accomplish while other processes are running their course. You have no other choice. If it's time to plate and you don't have the tomatoes sliced, the burgers are going to ruin the buns with grease. There are stop-gap measures, sure. You can coat each bun with a thin layer of mayo to create a water barrier (which you should probably do anyway), but even that won't hold forever. So begin to ask yourself, What's going to take the longest amount of time and require the lowest level of maintenance?

The Grill
Let's assume you're doing the right thing and use real hardwood charcoal. You're looking at maybe 40 minutes for the grill to fully heat, and we want the burgers to be ready to hit the grill when the grill's ready for them. If the grill cools, we're screwed.

It's only going to take about five minutes to crush and slice the garlic, add the worcestershire sauce and mix the ground beef, so we've got 35 minutes to do nothing, right? Not so much. You'll want to mix the burger ingredients and mold your burger patties while the meat is cold, so it's easier to handle. But then you want the burger patties to come close to room temperature before you grill them, so you can ensure even cooking. So figure five minutes prep time, another five minutes making the patties--we're looking for 6 to 8. You'll want to form palm-sized balls and then flatten to approximately 1/2 inches thick. Make sure, too, to make a small depression in the middle of each patty as they tend to bulge during cooking. We're at 10 minutes. Then we want the patties to sit for about 20 minutes--for a total of 30 minutes prep time for the burgers. So why not take the first 10 minutes to peel and cut the potatoes into fry sized pieces? Now we've got a solid 40 minutes with nary a moment wasted.

Check it out:

  1. Light grill
  2. Peel and cut potatoes (10 min)
  3. Mix burger ingredients in a large bowl and form patties (10 minutes)
  4. Let the burgers come to room temperature (20 minutes)
  5. Grill is now hot and ready (40 minutes)

What to do during the 20 minutes of cool-down time? Clean. Seriously. The last thing you want to do is face a mountain of dirty dishes after you've gorged on burgers and fries. We all know the shakes won't last long, and you'll end up moving to beer. And then there's television, and pretty soon the night's over and you're standing in the yard with your pants around your ankles swearing to god you can point out the Pleiades. No one's going to do dishes after that fiasco.

Begin heating the oil over medium-high heat. Then spend 10 minutes washing up the bowl you used to mix the ground beef and the next 5 minutes getting together the things you're going to need to make French fries: large deep pan, vegetable or canola oil, salt. Regulate your heat and take a deep breath.

The roller coaster crest
Now things get a little tricky. You know that moment when the roller coaster crests the first hill--all slow clicking up to that point, a moment of silence, and then all hell breaks loose and everyone's arms-in-the-air and whooping and hollering as the coaster rushes through corners and loops? Things get kind of like that now. Think of it as your deadline.

The burgers are going to cook for about four minutes on each side--maybe less, depending on thickness. You can't be running in and out this whole time. What you'll want to do is put the burgers on the grill. While they cook on side one, go back inside and get a plate and sheets of tin foil. Since nearly all meat dishes need to rest before you serve them, the burgers get to sit a bit, which will give you time to complete the fries and milk shake. Now go back outside and flip those burgers.

Once you've flipped the burgers to side two, go back inside and get your drain pan for the fries--a cookie sheet lined with paper towels and topped with a cooling rack, and bust out the blender. Set the ice cream and milk next to the blender. Now head back outside and get the burgers off the grill. You should put them on a plate and cover them with foil.

The process for fries is simple. You drop them in hot oil (approx 350F), get them out, increase the oil's heat, and drop them in again. The cooking time is about four minutes total (2*2), but with the fetching and dropping and draining, the whole process can take 10 minutes, which is perfect. Now all you have to do is keep up with yourself!

  1. Drop the fries in the oil, start the timer
  2. Turn on your oven's broiler
  3. Measure milk and ice cream into the blender--two scoops for each half-glass of milk
  4. Take the fries out of the oil and set them on the cooling rack
  5. Pulse the shake mixture, set the blender's carafe in the fridge
  6. Drop the fries back into the oil
  7. Slice the tomato and rip the lettuce
  8. Get the fries out of the oil, onto the cooling rack
  9. Place the buns in the oven under the broiler
  10. Lberally slat the fries and move them to a bowl lined with wax paper or paper towels
  11. Pull the buns from the oven
  12. Plate and take the burgers to the table
  13. Use the bowl of fries as a center piece, family style
  14. And pour those delicious shakes

Dinner is served and wonderful.

Ok. Now I can make a burger and fries. So what?
Recipes rarely talk about serving more than a single item. If they do, it's often some small accountrement, like parmesan crisps to go with your cauliflower soup (delicious, by the way). And it's because cooking a meal and making sure everything is done at the same time is tough. Broken out into its component parts and the time required for each takes a lot of words. The skill and temperament necessary to handle it is valuable, though, and will provide you a sense of calm under pressure and enable you think differently and more productively about time, no matter the task at hand.


Wednesday news bites

As Jobs Vanish and Prices Rise, Food Stamp Use Nears Record
High prices for food staples mean record numbers are turning to government assistance programs so they can eat.

Food Prices Rise, Farmers Respond
US Farmers contemplate a switch from corn to soybeans to help alleviate the global food shortage.

Michael Ruhlman on chefs who blog
Chefs engaging in the conversation. Blogs can help accelerate the public's understanding of what chefs do and who they are, beyond the empty celebrity. Now if we can just get snarky 'critics' to stop posting anonymously...

Eating Healthy on the Road?
Lifehacker seeks readers' advice for healthy road eating.


A recipe's evolution: braised pork ribs with sweet potato polenta

Braised pork ribs with sweet potato polenta

I love pork. I don't think that's any kind of secret. Bacon, sausage, ribs--I even like pork chops, though I think people often overcook them, and they end up a little dry (the pork chops, not the people). Since last year I've been trying to modify the slightly Asian-influenced braised beef ribs and think I've finally got a solid recipe that works well for pork. I like to imagine this is how real cooks evolve recipes, but really what matters is that it tastes fantastic and is an amazing value--just make sure you've got an afternoon set aside, because it's not the quickest way to get food on the table.


Braised Pork Ribs

  • 1 slab of pork ribs (the real deal, not baby back ribs)
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • approx. 32 ounces of dark ale (I use Newcastle Brown Ale and haven't been disappointed)
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (any neutral-flavor cooking oil will do here)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 cup bbq sauce (check your ingredients!)
  • 1/2 an apple, cut into wedges (optional--you can use more if you want to, but you'll want to modify the amount of fluids you're working with)
  • ground pepper, to taste

Sweet Potato Polenta

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 cup coarse corn meal
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • Half-and-half (you can make vegetarian polenta by substituting additional water or vegetable stock for the half-and-half. It will still taste great, but the texture won't be quite as creamy)
  • ground pepper, to taste

Trim the fat and silverskin from the pork ribs and separate them into individual rib pieces. Crush a clove of garlic, rub the meat and then sprinkle each rib liberally with salt. Crush the remaining garlic cloves and add the cloves and oil to a pan. Turn the pan up to medium-high. When the garlic begins to sizzle, begin adding the ribs in batches, and brown each one on each side (two - three minutes per side). You want to achieve a good sear, with all the requisite caramelization. And if it burns a little, that's ok. The long-term braising will soften them up just fine. As the ribs finish browning, transfer them to a good stock pot.

When you're done searing the ribs, use about 1/2 cup of the ale to deglaze the skillet, and pour the resulting liquid into the stock pot. Add enough ale to cover the ribs, and then add the vinegar, molasses and sugar. Stir together well. Bring the pot up to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and let it cook for an hour.

Note: while the ribs cook, go ahead and boil, bake, or microwave the sweet potato. Cut the skin and scoop the insides into a bowl. It should yield about 1 cup.

As the ribs finish simmering, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. 177C). When the ribs have cooked for an hour, add the bbq sauce and apple chunks (optional). Put the pot into the oven to heat for another 30 minutes. When the ribs finish cooking, remove them from the stock pot and place the stock pot back on the stovetop. Bring to a boil and then let simmer while you make the polenta. This will reduce the sauce and concentrate its flavors.

Add three cups of water to a large sauce pan. Add two teaspoons of salt and bring the water to a boil. Slowly whisk in the corn meal, stirring constantly. When the corn meal has been incorporated, reduce the heat to low, cover the sauce pan, and let the corn meal cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While it's cooking, mash the sweet potato with a fork, and when the cornmeal is done cooking, add the sweet potato to the cornmeal, whisking constantly. Note: the cornmeal should take on an orange, pumpkin-like color and thicken significantly. Once you've fully incorporated the sweet potato, begin adding the half-and-half, whisking constantly, until the polenta achieves the consistency you like most.

To serve, spread the polenta on a plate and dip one or two ribs into the still-simmering sauce and rest the ribs on the polenta. The wonderful combination of the sweet potato and tangy bbq sauce is just out of this world.