I love to barbecue. There, I said it. For those of us who aren’t chefs, barbecuing is a perfectly acceptable cooking method, and one that is preferred for some things (no matter what the real chefs say). Like steak for instance. Oh, I can make a mean steak in my kitchen with my trusty cast-iron pan, but grilling outside on a charcoal or gas grill just…feels right. But which will it be? When I was young and poor I didn’t have a choice. It was a tiny kettle and cut-rate briquettes. Then, as my pay check grew, so did the size of my grill. And the next logical leap was into hardwood charcoal or, and this was the really fun part, hardwood itself. Then I moved to the suburbs and left behind many things, not least among them was good bars and restaurants just around the corner, but that is a different post. But I also left my trusty Weber kettle, and moved on to a neat, and expensive, Weber gas grill. Continue reading “A Barbecuer’s Dilemma: Charcoal Or Gas?”
When I was just a lad, cooking for myself and, more importantly, paying for the food that I ate; I was a model of frugality (not like today, when I think nothing of using Petrus as cooking wine). I used to shop for meat at my local Safeway, which was in a great neighborhood (Rockridge, if anyone knows the East Bay), but not too far from a few less savory and elegant places. So they had porterhouses alongside chuck steaks, and that is where I used to head when I had an urge for steak, which was fairly often. I would buy a thick chuck steak, at least two inches, and then let it age for a few days in the bottom of my refrigerator. At 69¢/lb. I could get a pretty hefty steak for not much money. Continue reading “Steak Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive”
You can easily spend $200 on a skillet. And a set of pots and pans made from some weird copper alloy sandwiched between stainless steel with a hi-tech coating will set you back the price of a used car. Before you shoot me horrible e-mails and comments about how I don’t appreciate the technological advances that have made cooking accessible for lots of people (ignoring the fact that most people can’t afford this stuff) and how I am a Luddite, I like fancy pots and pans just as much as the next guy.
I am a better cook than my sister. I have better technique, a surer sense of the chemistry of food, a much better grasp of ingredients, and I am a man, and everyone knows that men make better cooks. Did I mention that I am a better cook than my sister? So how could she take one of my recipes and improve it, both in taste and simplicity? And the worst part is that she is holding out on the details. I discussed this kind of repellent behavior a while ago, but I never expected it from my own sister.
I have always been puzzled by the huge differences in the quality of ingredients that, at first glance, seem to be similar. Tomatoes are an obvious example. Who hasn’t been fooled by spectacular looking tomatoes that are utterly tasteless, horribly textured, and devoid of aroma? Even stuff like potatoes and carrots can vary. But most people are more aware of things like beef, mostly because it’s comparatively expensive. If I buy a bag of potatoes that are a bit below par I can survive the blow to my bank account. And doctoring a potato to make it palatable is a simple affair. But making a tough, tasteless porterhouse taste great is an undertaking that, at least in my experience, is akin to Don Quixote tilting at windmills. It may be a good idea, but it probably won’t work.
So choosing ingredients is best done very, very carefully. But there is one Continue reading “Ingredients: Good, Bad and indifferent”
An eight-pound lobster, boiled for 18 minutes, and then iced for about an hour. I had to use my old framing hammer to crack the claws. The legs were enough for a thirteen-year-old’s dinner! No butter, no mayonnaise, just a little fresh cocktail sauce for one of our guests. The meat was incredibly sweet and tender, no doubt because of the cooking time. Check some cookbooks and you will discover that most people overcook lobster by a factor of two or three.
We served this beast with some oven roasted potatoes and Caesar Salad.
P.S. I posted about cooking lobsters awhile ago, but I wanted to show off this nice big one, and prove that I can actually insert a photo without massive help-desk intervention.
Years ago the only chefs on TV were people like Julia Child, James Beard, and a few other professional chefs. Nowadays of course, there are what seem to be hundreds of people, cooking sometimes nasty looking stuff, on dozens of networks. There is even a network devoted entirely to food. But the problem is that many of them aren’t real chefs. When Jacques Pepin says something about cooking, you can take it to the bank. But when some moron spouts off about food on her own cooking show, when her last gig was as an extra on a sitcom, and her only claim to fame is a lovely body, you can safely ignore it.*
Maybe I am being harsh, but cooking shows without the benefit of professionals are just silly. Here is an article in SmartMoney magazine I found through the website of a local media company’s food blog (they used to be called newspapers): 10 Things Celebrity Chefs Won’t Tell You. There is nothing shocking in the piece, but it skewers most of the shows, and that is just fine with me.
*In the interest of full disclosure, if some “media company” offers me a cooking show or a book deal, I will smile, say “thank you very much,” and run all the way to the bank to cash the check before they realize what fools they are.