So, you can take the national editor out of the food section, but you cannot take the food section out of the national editor. Former lead NYT restaurant critic Sam Sifton is still finding the time to drop the odd cooking piece in the magazine. They tend to be slightly involved, but rewarding -- see, for instance the oxtail or mushroom lasagna -- in other words, good candidates for nice Saturday dinner at home.This week's ribeye and grilled Caesar* was no exception.
I will acknowledge some Wedcheffing, in that ribeyes of a thickness specified by the receipt are not to be had in the 864. The rub is certainly much more interventionist than I usually get with a steak, but there are few things that salt and sugar do not improve. I would, next time, dial back on the celery seeds, which took the flavor in a direction that was maybe too BBQish, but the crust was solid -- I suspect that the key is putting the rub on ahead of time, so that it can almalgamate into the meat.
The grilled salad is perhaps a bit baroque, and I'd be interested to have it prepared by its originator, but the principle is sound, if counterintuitive. The second time around (more in a minute) I found that 1/2 heads of romaine hold together better than 1/4 heads. If you like cebollitas, you will like this salad.
So, no pix of the first iteration, but there was some leftover steak, and leftover sauce, so for a quick Sunday dinner, grilled another 1/2 head, split and laid on baguette w/ leftover steak. Definitely worth trying.
So, holiday weekend, living like Arafat, less said about Saturday the better + back to school at the end of the semester at the day job + November Rain? Sounds like a Guiteau Monday to me. But! Thanks to the exhortations of the cinetrix, spent last afternoon/evening putting together the mushroom lasagna that Sifton dropped in the Times mag.
Like most of the actual cooking things that Sifton writes up, this one is compelling in the presentation, a little involved, but not daunting (see also ox tails and Korean sloppy Joes). It is, as one might imagine, a bit rich, but looks like it will travel well. Ironically, it's Garfield's own favorite food that's the silver lining in this Guiteau Monday.
So, the conversation about artisanal and fautisanal rolls along, this time with some actual good news. Through the good offices of specialty-foods kingpin Rick "Rick's Picks" Field, the Cod got hooked up with some newcomers in the condiment world. If you wear Dockers, drive a minivan, or listen to Coldplay, these are not for you. Stick with your comfortable suburban life-in-death, and keep slathering your burgers with Heinz, and keep that bottle of what you probably call "rooster sauce" you got that one time you attempted to escape from the beige hell of your life with Thai cooking classes at the local community college in the door of your fridge. I think there's a new episode of Family Guy for you to watch.
But! If you prefer a zesty life, and have not tired of food made from ingredients, rather than in factories, consider these alternatives:
1) Sir Kensington's Scooping Ketchup. It takes some getting used to, but what you realize you are getting used to is a ketchup that does not taste like Heinz, and is neither Hunt's nor store brand. It tastes like a smooth tomato chutney, because that's what ketchup is if you make it the right way. Rather than the orchestrated homogeny of the flavor notes in Heinz -- HFCS, mostly -- you taste ingredients. There is regular and spiced, and the spiced splits the difference between BBQ sauce and ketchup, minus the cloying sweetness of either. Looking forward to a full scale burger road test for the spiced. The regular Kensington's upgrades a burger, but I suspect the spiced would transform it.
2) Jojo's. Way more underground than Sir Kensington's, which, after all you can get at Dean & DeLuca, which means even people from Fairfield can get their hands on it. Jojo's does not even have a website, just a FB page. If you saw all the bands at CMJ last summer on a roof in Brooklyn, you will like JoJo'. The packaging is a squiggle from a Sharpie on the lid of a tiny jar. (If Marcel the Shell were to get in the speciality food racket, it would look like this.) More even than the Sir Kensington's one is aware of a food made out of what it is made out of -- it takes some adjustment to get used to "local, organic chili peppers, organic vinegar, organic evaporated palm sugar, organic garlic, sea salt, love" Jojo is still tinkering with the pepper mix, but the versions The Cod sampled were full of flavor and heat, without fratastic excesses liable to blister you from your guggle to your zatch. Any knucklehead can make a hot sauce. It takes finesse to make a spicy condiment. Kensington and Jojo get it -- they will spoil you for the pedestrian world of Heinz, Huy Fong, and quiet desperation.
So, the Cod was at the afterparty for a presentation he made for the day job's Women's Studies Research Forum (the argument: Ladies did not actually give birth to monsters, back in the day. I know.) when this urgent message came in:
When Holly Anderson tells you to excoriate something, well, you exoriate it. The Swanson Flavor Boost is imminently excoriable. When you concentrate stock, its virtues and limitations are duly magnified. If you have crappy stock, like Swanson's, concentrating a watery, bland stock witll give you a saltier, less watery bland stock.
That said, concentrated stock that you make yourself is a kitchen standby. And even just homemade stock in general. Do this:
Buy two of the most righteous chickens you can find. Take the breasts off and use for something different. Slash the drumsticks, pull out any loose fat, and roast until somewhat brownish in a 400 oven. Then put in pot, cover with water, simmer w/ carrots, celery, a whole garlic cut in half, and an onion (no need to peel. Throw in a handful of peppercorns, and a fingertipful of salt. You could add a bay leaf or some thyme if you wanted Bring to boil, skim, and simmer for four hours or so. Drain off the stock. If you have a dog, they can help you with any bits of meat that you help them to, but watch for bones. You will get about four quarts of stock. Put in Mason jars (fill 80% full) freeze most, and keep one in the fridge. Alternately, resimmer some or all of the stock until it is reduced by half, and you have your own reduced stock.
Having real stock makes you a better cook, just like having Sammy Watkins makes you a better offensive coordinator. A simple hitch screen of a meal, like cook some bacon, sweat some carrots and onions in the bacon, add some lightly cooked field peas, simmer w/ stock until most stock is absorbed, (hit it with some Dijon, if you're nasty) is grim with canned stock, exciting with real stock.
Concentrated stock is a secret weapon for pan sauces. Add a spoonfull (it's gelatinous at fridge temps) when you deglaze a pan, and your grilled chicken breasts are a treat, and not a pennance.
All you need are a pot, and a few hours where you will be around the house. Make your own damn flavor booster.
Here IRL in the 864, it's Bo Ssam Tacos -- Dave Chang's receipt chopped and screwed for tailgate viability. (Mostly, you disassemble the butt at home, hustle to campus,mput it in the Crock Pot, then plug in the Crock-Pot outside the dean's office, which is not sketchy looking AT ALL.) And we try to avoid the poison cupcake.
But for the primetime, games -- the Red River Shootout is trying to kill you, and we will not discuss further. Auburn at Arkansas sounds like the college football version of The Road, so there's that. But after what happened last week in Madison, I'm surprised they will let people watch what Nebraska, fueled by Coach Pellini's rageahol, will do to an utterly discombobulated Ohio State squad. My guess is that the Huskers will pound the Buckeyes into schnitzel. Pellini may omit the soigne detail of panko, but you should not.
Rick of Rick's Picks came by with some Hotties, allowing us to debut the Rick-fil-a sandwich. There's one right up there. Basically, it's a Chick-fil-a sandwich, but home-made, and spiked with Hotties, a siriracha infused pickle chip. And, you can have one on a Sunday, if you like. Not hard to make:
1) Split Hotties so they are half their thickness.
2) Cut boneless skinless chicken breasts diagonally into three slices. Pound to uniform thickness.
3) Dredge in flour, then egg, then panko. Fry in about 3/8" canola oil. Moderate heat so they are golden brown outside, and cooked through on the inside. (If your filets are skinny, this should be no problem.)
4) Toast buns (don't overthink this) -- Sunbeam buns, lightly toasted, will work fine.
5) Hit the buns with a slap of Duke's mayonaise. Place fried cutlet and Hotties in bun and eat. Like this:
This cat they're talking about, I wonder who it could be. It's Rick of Rick's Picks dropping some mignonette science. It's a promising approach to oysters, but Rick's math seems a little bit off:
"I got 18 oysters (enough for 5 folks to enjoy)."
18 oysters are enough for 5 folks to enjoy if one person has a flashbang grenade they can toss to distract the other 4 while they eat the 18 oysters. But if you are wondering why on their face they wear a silly smirk, here's the answer:
Getting to the end of softshell season. But, if you can, give this a try:
Pickle some carrot and daikon. (The receipt in the Momofuku book is good, but basically skinny matchsticks, brine with some rice vinegar, water, salt, sugar.)
Toast a crab'slength of split baguette.
Toss 1 crab/person* w/ some flour, salt, and pepper in a paper bag.
Fry crabs in pan w/ butter.
Spread split baguette w/ sriracha and mayo.
Put crab on one side, carrot and daikon on other, garnish w/ cilantro.
*You could double up, but one of the upsides of this receipt is that it makes a decent, if light, meal, out of one crab/person. A banh mi usually has more than one filling, but you do get some contrast of flavors and textures within a single crab.