M is for Missing? (aka, where the hell did you go?)

So, I have been sick.  Throughout most of April, I had stupid allergy eye that made me both sleepy and also made it hard for me to focus on my computer screen for extended periods of time.  My eyes hurt like a bastard.

Then, as soon as that was going to clear up, I got a terrible sinus infection.  Now I can’t breathe (or taste anything, which is worse, imo) and have basically been lying around the house feeling sorry for myself.

I haven’t gone away or given up on the project; I’ve mostly just been wallowing in my own misery.  I am seeing a doctor to try to get this allergy and sinus stuff cleared up, though.

Speaking of cooking, it’s time to go steam my face in the hopes that I’ll either turn into a lobster or my sinuses will drain.  (Delicious!)  I did just want to check in and let everyone know I’m still here.

D is for . . .

Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life.” — Elsa Schiaparelli

Yeah, that’s right–I didn’t fall off the face of the earth.  Look, I’m gonna say now, I’m super bad at sticking to a schedule, like forever.  But! This is actually good.  Yes, good–because I will update fairly regularly, and if I’m not going at the post-a-week pace I ideally want to maintain, the project just lasts longer for you.  Cough.

That’s my angle, and I’m sticking to it.

I also still totally plan to do the croquembouche.  I really do.  Thing is, I’m totally kind of chicken to do it all by myself because of the sugar work . . . . . and also, this thing is going to be far too massive for me to consume myself.  So, I’m going to enlist my friends, Melanie, Bryant, and Tara (and possibly even Keith if he comes with Bryant!) to come over, make sure I don’t burn myself with molten lava sugar, and help me eat the thing while we probably consume copious amounts of alcohol.  I’m hanging back because I want a croquembouche party. Or else I will just gain like 5 pounds eating it all by myself.  None of us wants that to happen.

And, to be totally honest–the C’s kind of took a lot out of me.  That post on chocolate?  Hasn’t happened yet.  Post on cheese? Nope, not yet.  Five posts into the C’s and I needed a change of scenery.  (Oh, but they are still coming.  Bank on it.)  The D section? A refreshing thirteen pages after the 70-page monster that preceded it.

Away we go!

Interesingly . . .

Dandelion greens are sometimes used to make “root” coffee (which, I assume, is similar to chicory).

A dash of something can be quantified between 1/16 and a scant 1/8 teaspoon.  I’m told to see also, “pinch.”  But I’m not going to look.

The date has a history dating (haha) back over 5000 years, and is named for the Greek daktulos, meaning “finger.” (Ew.)

Deep-frying basics:

  • Oils with high smoke points (such as peanut, safflower, soybean, grapeseed, and canola) are better for deep-frying than more delicate oils, such as olive oil.  Butter is definitely not good, as delicious as it is.
  • Fry foods in small batches to avoid cooling down the oil.  Hot oil will form a crust quickly on deep-fried foods, reducing oil absorption and greasiness in the finished product.
  • To refresh used oil, you can fry a raw potato or a handful of parsley for five minutes before removing it to fry “real food.”
  • Used oil can be strained through a coffee filter or a double layer of cheese cloth to remove particulates and prolong the life of the oil.  Refrigerate strained oil until the next use–the book says “one more [use],” use your best judgment.
  • Smoking oil means that the oil is breaking down, which affects the flavor of food.  Try to avoid reaching the smoke point.

Delmonico's
Delmonico’s.

Delmonico potatoes, named for the first restaurant in the U.S. (Delmonico’s) are cooked and creamed potatoes, diced or mashed, baked with a topping of grated cheese and buttered breadcrumbs.  Do want.  (Think I’ll make these tomorrow for Sunday Steakhouse á la greengeekgirl.)

A Denver sandwich is comprised of scrambled eggs, ham, onions, and green peppers slapped between a couple of slices of bread  . . . and garnished with lettuce? (I don’t want lettuce on my egg sandwich, kthx.)  A Denver omelet is very similar, but has no bread and no lettuce.

Small and medium shrimp are only deveined for cosmetic purposes; large shrimp are the ones whose intestinal tracts are gritty.  Let’s be honest, though–you’d take off the intestinal tract of any animal you planned to eat, whether or not it was necessary.  Blech.

You can make a deviled version of just about any dish by adding hot sauce, hot mustard, or hot pepper–such as devils on horseback, which is just like angels on horseback, but with Tabasco.  (Although, in Britain, devils on horseback is completely different–this version is wine-poached prunes stuffed with almond and mango chutney, wrapped in bacon, and then broiled and served on toast points.  I hate oysters, so the other version isn’t palatable to me at all–and I’m not frankly sure if this one is much better.  Prunes?)

Dirty rice gets “dirty” from the addition of ground giblets.  (Hey, you asked . . . oh wait, no you didn’t.)

Divinity made with brown sugar is called seafoam. (Wondering what divinity is? Check out my post on candy.)

Stone fruits, such as peaches, are also called drupes.

Ever wonder what it means to have dry liquor or wine? The term “dry” refers to beverages which aren’t sweet.

Duchess potatoes are pureed potatoes blended with egg yolks and butter, then formed or piped into small shapes and baked until golden brown.  (Also used as a garnish, such as if you piped it onto a casserole for finishing.)

What The Duck

The Chinese are the first to be credited with raising ducks for food.  Today’s ducks are descendants of either mallards or Muscovy ducks.

Duck! (duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck)
This one is not for eating.

Bizarrely . . .

Nothing bizarre this week, food fans. :(

Foreign foods and cooking terms

The word daikon translates into “large root.”

In France, a small, cylindrical mold used to bake a pastry is called a dariole–which is also the name of the pastry, classically made of puff pastry and almond cream.

Pommes dauphine are croquettes made of potato puree and choux pastry, formed into balls and deep-fried.  (Not to be confused with pommes gratin dauphinois, potatoes baked in heavy cream.)

Dim sum is Cantonese for “heart’s delight;” standard fare in tea houses, it is comprised of a variety of small dishes, like fried dumplings, steamed buns, pot stickers, Chinese pastries, ohmygodwhydon’twehavedimsumhere?? (I guess we do have dim sum here, I just haven’t been out to find it yet.  I’m such a philistine.)

1/3/11 Dim Sum
WANT.

Cough.  Sorry–just got distracted for ten minutes looking for dim sum in Columbus.

Donburi is a Japanese dish consisting of boiled rice (as opposed to.. what, deep-fried rice?) with meat, fish, eggs, and/or vegetables or broth.  In Japan, it’s considered a “fast food” (and is probably a hell of a lot healthier than McDonald’s . . .).

The French word doux means sweet–such as doux champagne, which means the champagne is quite sweet, having over 5% sugar.  Not to be confused with deux, which means “two.”

A English/Scottish steamed or boiled pudding with fruit, spices, flour, and eggs is called a duff. Duff is also that awesome guy on Ace of Cakes, as well as being Homer’s favorite brand of beer.  Lay on, MacDuff.

Duxelles–or a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms, shallot, and herbs–is cooked slowly in butter until it forms a thick paste, and then is used as a garnish or for flavoring for soups and sauces.  Another addition to my Steakhouse Sunday?  I think so.

Duxelle & Lardo Crostini
Duxelles and lardo?? Holy freakin’ crap.  I need this in my body. (Do I see bacon? BACON??!!?!)

I think I need a cigarette after just looking at that picture.

Exotic ingredients

One of my favorite fruits, dragon fruit, is a cactus native to Central and South America.  The outside looks a bit like a leathery, soft avocado, only they’re rarely just green–many times, they’re yellow (meaning they have white flesh), or pink (meaning they have bright freaking magenta flesh).  They also have little tiny seeds, like kiwi.  I think the pink dragon fruit would make excellent sorbet; the color is just unreal.  And it stains your fingers purple.

Dulse is a red seaweed native to the British Isles.  Primarily used in soups and condiments, this weed can also be dried and chewed like tobacco (generally, I am reading, by “some stalwart Irish [people].”)

A durian is a huge, spiny fruit that apparently smells terrible (so much that many airlines actually outlaw the carriage of them), but has a rich, custardy flavor.

durian and dream date
I totally picked this for relevance and not because of the scantily clad Asian girl.

Oh, fine, here’s a real picture:

Durian  - King of Fruits
Not as pretty, is it?

Unfortunate wording, coincidences, hilarious descriptions, and funny terms

Removing the hairlike strands from mussel shells is called debearding. I’m not going to make any jokes about debearding the clam.

A dollop is a “small glob of soft food.”  That sounds so appetizing, and not at all like something you’d find on the menu of a nursing home.

The term duck press tells me to “see Kitchen Tools.”  That’s disappointing–I was hoping it was a poultry-based publication.  (Seriously, though, I can’t imagine what a duck press might be used for.  Hang on, I’m actually going to have to go look this up.)

[A few minutes later]

Apparently, it is used to “extract the juices from a cooked duck carcass. This step is necessary for some gourmet duck recipes, specifically [wait for it--wait for it--] pressed duck.” Well, that cleared everything up.

Dukka, on the other hand, is apparently a spice and probably isn’t related to duck.  But I’ve already been back to one glossary, I’m not looking this one up, too!

Well, I had to look this one up.  A dumpster diver is also known as a freegan, a mix of the words “free” and “vegan,” a nod to the fact that “many of freeganism’s early proponents hailed from the vegetarian community.”  A freegan traditionally is someone who collects discarded food (i.e., garbage), but has been expanded to include those who collect and consume any kind of wasted food.

Okay, for crying out loud–I can understand that Americans live a very wasteful lifestyle, and that sucks, but looking through the garbage for food that is expired or half-eaten by God knows who, or going ’round to restaurants asking for table scraps, is totally disgusting unless that’s the only way you can get food.  Leave it for people who need it, guys–it’s not that helpful.  Plus, you’re gonna put your favorite farmers’ markets out of business if you don’t go shop there, you hippies.

Manson Girls Dumpster Diving
Aww, look at these pretty girls dumpster-diving. You know who this is? The Manson girls. As in Charles Manson. Yeah. Think about it.

I’m going to take the high road and not make a joke about dutch ovens.

So, that’s about it for D’s.  A little depressing, eh?  For the D’s, I plan on two smaller projects–those potatoes I mentioned (and possibly the duxelles!) and, if I can swing it, a lovely dim sum adventure, because I now need dim sum more than anything else forever. I also still have yet to make divinity, so I may scoot that on over into the D’s.

The E’s is seriously fewer than ten pages, so I may go ahead and do that this week to catch up (although, who knows–probably if I say “this week” I’ll remember to do it in like May).  (No, it’ll be before May.  Probably.)  Until then, goodbye friends, and thanks for reading!

B is for Brussels Sprouts

I’ve been waiting to publish this until I got my paper back, just in case my teacher Googled it and failed me for cheating because he thought I stole it off the internets (Chef, I totally wrote this paper if you ever run across it–me, I am the author of this paper, for srs–when you handed it back, it had a written thank-you note for submitting a well-organized and well-written paper).  I had to write a paper on a vegetable or fruit or something, and I initially wanted to do saffron, but I thought that wouldn’t be appropriate (probably could have done it, but whatever), so I chose the Brussels sprout instead because 1) I love Brussels sprouts, and 2) I figured nobody else would have picked it by the day I decided to change my topic because most people do not love Brussels sprouts.

I do have to warn you, though–well, I need to reiterate, this is a paper I wrote for school.  That means it’s, uh, not as light-hearted as I usually make my posts–there’s no swearing and there’s also probably some bullshitting I had to do to make sure the paper was long enough.  There is a minor reference to Dr. Strangelove, but that’s about it.  I’m only posting it because we’re not too far out of the B’s and  . . . well, who knows, maybe someone needs to know about Brussels sprouts, I dunno.  If you want actual information about Brussels sprouts and not witty(ish) commentary, you will find it here.  There’s even a works cited page, because that’s just the kind of gal I am.

Enjoy a taste of my serious(er) side.  Me, I’m going to go cook up some Brussels sprouts and bacon.

Continue reading

C is for Cocktails

Day 45 - Cocktail

‘I think this calls for a drink’ has long been one of our national slogans.”

–James Thurber

*Edit: TheSecretAtheist tipped me off to this video, and it’s sweet, so I’m posting it here.  It has the origin of the word “cocktail” and how to make a Sazerac.

A cocktail is a mixed beverage containing alcohol and mixers.  Sounds so dull when you phrase it that way–especially compared to the beauty that is a well-crafted cocktail.  The cocktail is my preferred delivery of alcohol into my bloodstream, as they’re smaller and more potent than beer or wine but also don’t taste like crap (okay, I admit, I like a lot of beers, and even a couple of wines).  There’s a cocktail for everybody; every palate can find a cocktail to suit its fancy–unless you don’t drink alcohol, in which case, what are you doing on a blog post about cocktails?  There are whole books containing nothing but cocktail recipes.  They’re stylish.  They’re timeless.  And they get you crunked (apparently you’re supposed to stop before you get totally blitzed).

Your basic cocktail-mixing equipment includes a shaker, a strainer, a jigger, a stirring device if you prefer stirred cocktails.  You’ll need garnish prepped (lemon twists, lime slices, olives) and glasses pre-chilled to ensure that your cocktails stay to temperature longer.  You’ll need ice and mixers.  And, of course, you need liquor–rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, liqueurs, and even beer and wine go into cocktails.  If it will get you tipsy, you can find it in a cocktail.  Here lately, your repertoire of cocktail-making equipment may have expanded to include a blender; although cocktails are not traditionally blended, the gaily-colored frozen concoctions seem to be getting more and more popular–probably because they are tasty and easy to suck down.  Unless you get brain freeze.  Which can suck when you’re drunk.

cocktail hour

The decline of the apértif may well be one of the most depressing phenomena of our time.”

–Luis Buñuel

If you’re new to the realm of drinking, ordering cocktails might be intimidating.  After all, it’s bloody difficult to imagine how any of that stuff tastes when you see it on the menu–and every bartender makes cocktails a little differently.  I recently(ish, it’s been like two months) went to a bar where I ordered a martini–I’ve had martinis before, mind you–and got a rather overly potent concoction that I had a hard time consuming gracefully.  (But I did, because I never want to admit that I can’t handle a drink.)  It’s quite possible to be completely and utterly surprised when you receive a cocktail because it didn’t sound like that on the menu.

I confess–I would like to order more classic cocktails.  I, however, grew up in the frozen mango margarita generation; I never even had a real margarita (on the rocks–that means “over ice,” not frozen) until I went to San Quintín, Mexico.  I was twenty-five before I knew the wonder of a true margarita.  And even when I’m out, I’m still not totally sure what is what, or what drinks are called, or what I should expect from them.  So, this post will be a learning experience for me, as well.

[Note:  As I'm going through here, I'm finding that many of these cocktails are the same damn drink with a slightly different ingredient list.  This might be a little tedious.  You've been warned.]

Your most basic cocktails aren’t even really mixes, and they’re only really cocktails by virtue of the fact that they’re not consumed in shot form.  You can order your favorite alcohol on the rocks and simply sip it; you can also order them straight (or neat) meaning that they won’t be served with ice or water (but you still sip–these aren’t shots, you heathens).  You can order liquor with water, which dilutes the flavor a bit to make them more sip-able, or with club soda, which isn’t sweet but adds a little bit of a fizz while diluting your liquor just a bit.  These aren’t really my kinds of cocktails anymore than the frozen mango margaritas are.  Once in a great while, I’ll find a liquor that I would drink just slightly diluted–such as OYO vodka from Middle West Spirits, which is produced here in Columbus–but I generally like a little bit of sweetness to counter my firewater.

There are a few generic cocktail mixes that you can order at any time and mix up with just about any liquor.  You can order just about any kind of liquor with sours (although whiskey and the liqueur amaretto are among the most popular); whiskey and rum are often mixed with cola, and lighter spirits like vodka–especially flavored vodkas–mixed with citrus soda, like Sprite, or with tonic.  Ordering a Collins, you can get your liquor of choice with lemon juice, sugar, and soda water, garnished with lemon and served in a “Collins” glass–the most famous of these is the Tom Collins, which is made with gin and purportedly named for its creator.  Most cocktails, though, have a very specific identity–if you change the ingredients, you have invented a wholly different cocktail.  I’m going to break it down by liquor, because that’s as good a way to categorize cocktails as any.

Vodka

Vodka is a neutral, unaged liquor that is clear and very nearly flavorless (the OYO is a welcome exception).  The term vodka comes from the Russian for “water of life,” and that’s an apt name, as vodka does resemble water in almost every way–the difference being, of course, that I can drink a pint of water all at once and not die.

Vodkas are versatile, because they don’t have a particular flavor and they can mix with damn near anything.  I would wager that the most famous vodka cocktail, though, is the James Bond gin and vodka martini as described in the book Casino Royale:  “Three measures of Gordon’s [gin], one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.”  (Kina Lillet, apparently, is a wine-based spirit, not vermouth, which you would often find in a martini.)  Although that’s quite a specific combination that most bartenders probably couldn’t come up with if you just asked for the Bond martini, his predilection for the cocktail–and his preferences for stirring over shaking–is widely known.  (This is, by the way, also commonly called a Vesper martini, after the dame in Casino Royale.)

Vesper

The screwdriver may be the most common vodka cocktail consumed, despite the fame and glamor of the Bond martini.  A screwdriver consists of vodka and orange juice served over ice.  The origins of the mix are unknown, but The Book spins a popular tale about American workers stationed at oil rigs in the Middle East during the 1950′s; apparently, this mix came in cans (???) that they popped open and stirred with their nasty, oily screwdrivers.  How it ever caught on with that kind of ringing endorsement, I’ll never know; but, I’m glad they did, since they’re quite good.  A Harvey Wallbanger is a screwdriver with a float of Galliano, which, The Book doesn’t say what Galliano is, so I guess your guess is as good as mine.  If I come across it, I’ll let you know.

(I know, I could just Google it, but I don’t feel like it right now.)

Long island iced teas also feature vodka, although I can’t figure out for the life of me why, since they also feature three other liquors and a liqueur.  A “Long island” contains vodka, gin, light rum, tequila, Triple Sec, sours, and cola–all of that, and it’s garnished with a lemon.  It’s a veritable cornucopia of alcoholism, and I order them quite frequently.  Be warned, though–despite the high alcohol content, they don’t taste like liquor, and they will knock you on your ass if you aren’t vigilant.  (I have direct experience with this.  Trust me.)  Also, they’re a bit more expensive as a general rule, again, because of the high alcohol content.

More cocktails with vodka include the cosmopolitan, recently having regained popularity because of some television show about women having sex, which is vodka with cranberry juice and Cointreau.  If you want to be cool, order a “cosmo”–don’t say the full name, you’ll just sound like a poseur.  Gimlets, a cocktail made with sugar syrup and lime juice, are sometimes made with vodka (that’s a hard G on “gimlet”, like “ghim”).  A black Russian, or a white Russian if you add cream, contains vodka and coffee liqueur.  The bloody Mary is a concoction comprised of vodka and a tomato juice mixture that often contains Worcestershire sauce, tobasco, and other flavorings (many bars have their own “house” mix).  If you want to be really esoteric, order a Moscow mule, which contains vodka, lime, and ginger beer, all in a copper mug; this cocktail was developed as a promotional cocktail by Smirnoff in the 40′s, and according to the book, “has been popular ever since.”  (I have never seen anybody ordering this, and I imagine if you did, they wouldn’t have the mug.)  [Update:  I just Googled Moscow Mule, and one of the first pages returned was from Oprah's website--the site says it's a perfect cocktail for camping. I kid you not.]

Gin

Gin is another clear spirit, but gin has a more distinct flavor than vodka.  Gin is produced by distilling a grain mixture down to the desired alcohol level, and then re-distilling it with juniper berries and other ingredients–which include, but are not limited to, anise, cardamom, citrus peel, coriander seed, or ginger.  Dutch gin is a little sweeter, and dry gin not sweet at all.

Gin & Tonic

(This person has the right idea.)

Martinis with gin and vermouth are very common gin cocktails, as are the aforementioned Tom Collins and a simple gin and tonic.  Gimlets, when they are not made with vodka, are made with gin, and the gin fizz contains only gin, lemon juice, sugar, and club soda; many people who drink gin enjoy the flavors that are infused into the liquor, and complement it often with ingredients that will enhance the flavor rather than mask it.

This isn’t to say that gin doesn’t have its fair share of complicated cocktails, though.  The Singapore sling, a famous variation on the sling cocktail, contains gin, cherry brandy, lemon juice, and soda water.  A pink lady, and yes, it’s a girly cocktail, contains gin, lemon or lime juice, grenadine, egg white, and cream.  The Negroni cocktail, created in 1919 when Italian Count Camillo Negroni supposedly asked a bartender in Florence to add gin to his Americano, consists of gin, Campari, and vermouth (sweet or dry), finished with a splash of soda and a lemon twist.  Gin fizzes can be tarted up in all manner of ways, as well–The Book mentions a Silver Fizz, which has an egg white added (ick), a Golden Fizz, which has egg yolk added (double yuck), and a Royal Gin Fizz that adds the whole damn egg (blech).  These people certainly know how to ruin good gin.

Singapore Sling

Look how damn fancy that is.

Rum

Rum is one of my personal favorites (and what isn’t?).  There are a lot of rum-centric cocktails that are clean, refreshing, and magical.  Rums have different levels of aging that change the flavor and body; light rums are aged 6 to 12 months in uncharred barrels, to retain their light color and clean flavor; medium, añejo, and dark rums are aged longer, and have more complex flavors.  Spiced rum has been distilled with aromatics and “other tropical flavorings.”  (My favorite cheap rum, Lady Bligh–don’t judge–has really nice hints of vanilla.)  Rum is distilled from fermented sugarcane juice–clarified molasses–and has sweet characteristics.

My all-time number one favorite cocktail is the mojito. Mojitos (moh-heeee-toes) contain lime, sugar, rum, and usually soda–this is common for rum cocktails, but mojitos also contain fresh mint that has been muddled or crushed slightly, and it is phenomenal.  Word of caution, though–if you ever plan to order one, make sure they use fresh mint and not a mix.  Mojito mixes are nasty.

mojito master

(Yes, please, many mojitos.)

Rum is often used with other tropical ingredients, which makes sense, given that it’s largely produced in the Caribbean.  A Cuba libre contains rum, lime juice, and cola; a daiquiri is traditionally made with rum, lime juice and sugar (although you will find many Technicolor fruity slushies that also call themselves daiquiris).  A Caipirissima is a rum-based take-off of the Brazilian beverage Caipirinha, which traditionally uses a Brazilian sugar-cane brandy that isn’t really that common in the states; the drink also contains muddled lime wedges and sugar.

The mai tai features both light and dark rums mixed with orgeat syrup (made from almonds, sugar, and rose or orange water–I had to look that one up), Curacao, orange and lime juice, and basically whatever the hell else the bartender wants to throw at you; the drink is served with what is practically a fruit salad.  This is a famous cocktail, not only because it was mentioned in Office Space (it was), but because–well, I really don’t know why it’s famous, to be honest.  But it is.  A related cocktail is the scorpion, which has a more badass name, and contains light rum, brandy, orange juice, lemon juice, and that weird-ass orgeat syrup.  I would totally order a scorpion.

[Looking for a decent picture of a mai tai, I realized that there are a lot of snooty people who think that x place makes a "better mai tai" than the original, which was invented at Trader Vic's--their "mai tais" are not reddish and orange like the original, but light, with big sprigs of mint . . .

. . . I'm thinking, their bartender doesn't know the difference between a mojito and a mai tai.]

Another badass rum drink I would order?  A zombie. Yeah, a zombie.  A zombie has two types of rum, at least, and two types of liqueur (it’s sketchy on what kind), plus two or three fruit juices (okay, really, does a zombie even have a recipe?) such as pineapple, orange, and lime.  It’s usually served in “a large goblet” over crushed ice with another fruit salad and a maraschino cherry.  Okay, maybe I wouldn’t order a zombie after all–I’d have to ask the bartender what the hell is in it first.  (Looking for a picture of a zombie cocktail is just freaking fruitless.  It’s just pictures of people dressed up like zombies.)

Tequila

Margarita

Tequila is made from the nectar of the agave plant–a plant which, as we learned in the A’s, is quite poisonous if not handled properly.  Mexican law demands that tequila (which is made in and around the town called Tequila) be at least 51% blue agave; tequilas that are 100% blue agave are generally considered superior.  Tequila can be bottled just after distillation (blanco, or white, or joven abocado, also called gold–the latter has coloring and flavoring added, but is still tequila blanco), aged for a short time (reposado) or aged for at least a year (añejo). The more the tequila is aged, the more mellow the flavor becomes.

Tequila isn’t often the cocktail’s liquor of choice; tequila has a very distinct flavor that doesn’t always play well with other flavors, and tequila aficionados like to consume their tequila straight.  (Not to mention, tequila has made more than one person black out or, in the case of yours truly, spend an at least an hour slumped over the toilet at Skully’s wishing that I would die because I can’t stop puking after my “best friend” fed me alternating rounds of beers and shots of cheap-ass well tequila until I completely lost count.  Sometimes, people don’t want to re-live those tequila experiences.  I still love tequila, though.)  Tequila sunrises, which aren’t even in the book, and Long Island iced teas are two cocktails that utilize tequila.  The heavy hitter of the tequila cocktail, though, is the margarita. A lot of Tex-Mex restaurants in America serve those slushy fruity things and call them margaritas; don’t be fooled, though.  A real margarita is served straight up or on the rocks; it consists of tequila, orange liqueur, and a splash of lime juice.  That’s it.  And it’s awesome.  One night, while we were in San Quintín, we bellied up to the hotel bar; Cruz, our bartender, made the most amazing margaritas I’ve ever had using tequila reposado, Cointreau, and freshly-squeezed limes.  They were so good, in fact, that we got totally hammered before we even knew what was going on.  One of us, and I’m not saying any names (not me) was completely hungover on the drive back north.

Margarita Yuka

Livin’ the dream.

I also enjoy a good bloody María, which is a lot like a bloody Mary, except with–you guessed it–tequila.  I’ve also seen additions of lime juice, extra spicy tomato mix, and picked jalapeños in bloody Marías, all of which are welcome as far as I’m concerned.

Whiskey

Yeah, I love whiskey, too.  I’m from Kentucky, it’s like, a law that you have to love bourbon there.

Whiskey is another one of those liquors that people tend to like to enhance rather than mask.  Whiskey and coke is one of the most basic whiskey cocktails one can order; whiskey sour is another.  A classic whiskey cocktail is the Manhattan, which traditionally includes whiskey or bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters, all garnished with a maraschino cherry.  (Although, BAR l’etranger in Columbus makes a killer “Manhattan” with OYO vodka and ginger liqueur.  I’m not even sure why they call it a Manhattan since it is missing the key ingredient and has another totally off-the-wall ingredient, but it is damn tasty.)  Subtract vermouth and add a minute amount of water and an orange slice for garnish (that’s along with the cherry), and you have yourself an old-fashioned–that’s an old-fashioned cocktail, not what you train for using the Shake Weight.  (South Park? Anybody?)  A rickey is very similar to a whiskey collins, only there’s no soda water added; a rickey can also be made with gin.

One of my favorite whiskey cocktails–can you guess it?  I’m from Kentucky, I love mint  . . . oh, yeah, you know it–a mint julep.  The simplest form of the mint julep is crushed mint, bourbon and ice, although sugar can be added so you can muddle the mint.  It’s a classic Kentucky Derby beverage–the most exciting, and probably the drunkest, two minutes in sports.  (Quite frankly, the Derby is my kind of sport–it only lasts a short time and you get real drinks, not that watery ballpark beer nonsense.  Plus, come on, the hats.)  Apparently, you can make juleps with just about any kind of liquor, but why would you?

Derby Hat 2007

You know she’s getting her julep on.

Scotch whiskey can also be blended into cocktails–although, again, this is generally a sippin’ liquor.  A Rob Roy is a Manhattan made with scotch, and a rusty nail is made with equal parts scotch and Drambuie, a scotch-based liqueur, served over ice.   In New Orleans, the Sazerac, which originated at the Sazerac (big shocker there), is a popular cocktail containing whiskey, bitters, simple syrup, and Pernod, a yellowish, absinthe-y liqueur from France. (Okay, I don’t actually know how popular the Sazerac is in New Orleans.  I’ve heard of it, so I assume it’s popular, but I have no idea.)

Ha! I found Galliano–it’s a saffron-colored Italian liqueur that is floral and spicy.

Brandy, cognac, beer, wine, and miscellany

Most of your girly drinks are going to fall under “miscellaneous,” and a lot of them don’t have any hard liquor in them at all–or they have brandy, which is a fruit-based liquor.  Not all of your miscellaneous drinks are girly, though–the classic sidecar is a brandy-based cocktail that has orange liqueur and lemon juice, shaken and strained into a cocktail glass.  A boilermaker consists of a shot of liquor (often whiskey) dropped into a beer, which, I suppose, is technically a cocktail.  An Irish twist on the boilermaker, the Irish car bomb, (no, I’m not making that up) is a Guinness with a shot of Bailey’s and Jameson (or any Irish stout, Irish cream, and/or Irish whiskey you have on-hand); I’m told that the secret to successfully drinking an Irish car bomb is to chug it before it has a chance to curdle, because that wouldn’t make me throw up at all.

Crème-liqueur-based cocktails often contain brandy or mixes of other liqueurs.  A white lady is crème de menthe, Cointreau, and lemon juice, while a stinger is white crème de menthe and brandy.  A grasshopper is crème de menthe (boy, people sure do like crème de menthe), crème de cacao, and actual cream–it’s the trifecta of crèmy cocktails.  (Yeah, I just coined the word crèmy; don’t hate.)

Possibly my very favorite cocktail name in this whole list is the velvet hammer: Cointreau or Triple Sec, Tía María, heavy cream, and, if you’re feelin’ it, brandy.  This is a close second to my favorite all-time cocktail name, multiple orgasms–so-called because it tasted so damn good, you’d think you were having multiple orgasms.  (Okay, it may not have been quite that good, but it was pretty good–coffee liqueur, chocolate liqueur, vanilla vodka, cream… probably some other stuff, I don’t know, I was always drunk when I was ordering them.)  More liqueur-based cocktails: golden Cadillac, with Galliano, white crème de cacao, and heavy cream; fuzzy navel, made with OJ and peach schnapps; and, I thought there were more in this list, but it turns out, that’s really about it for The Book, although there are as many liqueur cocktails as there are crazy names for them.

 

Turns out, if you search velvet hammer on Flickr, you get a bunch of dudes doing air guitar.

For those who don’t want liquor or liqueur, there are wine cocktails to be had–and not even those crappy bottled Strawberry Daiquiri wine coolers, either.  A mimosa is a lovely cocktail common to brunch that consists of champagne and orange juice; any excuse to start drinking before noon is a win for me.  A favorite of one of my lovely friends is the French 75, which–oh, I guess it does have gin or brandy in it, but it’s also based on champagne, which just makes it doubly alcoholic and therefore also a win.  A bishop dates back to the 18th century and consisted traditionally of red wine simmered with orange and cloves; today, it can also be a cocktail that contains red wine, orange juice, lemon juice . . . cloves and powdered sugar? Yick.

(Why would you add powdered sugar to a drink? Don’t they know it has cornstarch in it? Bleh.)

So, that’s every damn cocktail (save two stupid ones that aren’t even really relevant anymore) in The Book.  I didn’t intend to write out every cocktail for you, but combining my love of drinking with my division of cocktails based on what their primary liquor was, and, well, I ended up doing the whole damn thing, plus a few.  That’s how dedicated I am to this blog.

My friend has gone to Maine to attend to some important familial stuffs, so I’ll be making the croquembouche as soon as I feel like dirtying up my entire kitchen and then eating myself into a creme puff coma.  Also upcoming are the D’s, which I should be able to catch up on this week, seeing as how I have two glorious weeks off of school before a new quarter starts.  (SPRING BREAK PARTAYYYY . . . ahem.)  I am also working on a new design for my other blog, and after that, there’s a distinct possibility that I will make one for this blog, provided coding the other one isn’t too much of a pain in my ass.

Signing off for now, my fellow food-loving fiends.  I hope I’ve inspired you to go get wasted drink responsibly.

C is for . . . (deux)

Give me hashed browns off a griddle and flapjacks browned beside them that are not made from a mix.  What has happened to the crisp waffle with warm maple syrup? On comfort days in sloppy clothes, I don’t want macadamia waffles with exotic grains.

–Barbara Kafka on comfort food

Friends, neighbors, countrymen–I know you’ve all been long-awaiting (salivating?) over my return to this blog.  Yes, I’ve left you hanging for a couple of weeks, and I profusely apologize–in my favor, though, I did do like three posts right in a row before I left.  I’m sure you needed three weeks to process it!

Cough.

Nobody has expressed any opinion either way as to which style of post they like better, so I’m going to keep doing it in the new style until I get bored and want to change it again.  Fair enough?

And away we go!

Interestingly . . .

Citric acid is sometimes mixed with salt to create “sour salt,” a kosher product often used to flavor dishes like borscht.

Egg whites are often used to clarify stocks by helping to remove sediment and particles.  A common type of clarified broth is consommé, or, if you’re really extreme, a double consommé, which has twice the flavor because it has been reduced by half.

Clotted cream, much like clabbered milk, is cream made by heating raw milk until the thickened, clotted cream forms on the surface.  The English, particularly in Devonshire, are fond of eating this on top of bread, scones, or fruit.

cobb salad

The cobb salad came about when the Brown Derby’s restaurant manager, Bob Cobb, invented it in the 20′s as a way to use up leftovers.

Coconut oil is one of the very few non-animal saturated fats.  Unripened coconuts have flesh with a jelly-like consistency that can be spooned out of the husk, unlike the firm meat in ripened coconuts.  Coconut milk and cream are not natural by-products of dismantling the coconut; rather, they are made by cooking water with coconut meat and then straining well.

Egg coddlers are special containers made for the process of making a coddled egg–an egg that is placed in an individual container, then set into a pan of simmering water, or by lowering eggs into water that has come to a boil and has been removed from heat.  Don’t get the wrong idea, though–coddled eggs aren’t spoiled, they’ve just received a lot of nurturing.  (See what I did there?)

The cola nut is the basis for our–guess–no, guess–our cola, which many Americans consume on a regular basis.  Caffeine and theobromine are derived from the cola nut; this is, purportedly, where the slightly bitter flavors of cola come from.  If you can taste the bitter under all that sugar.

Cola nuts in the street market in Kumasi

A complete protein contains “adequate” amounts of the nine essential amino acids.  Most animal foods are considered naturally complete, but vegetarian sources often need to be paired to get enough amino acids.

A continental breakfast was not named that because it sounds fancy on hotel menus.  It was created as a light counterpoint to the heavy English breakfast.  Those damn redcoats.

While cooking spray is an excellent lubricant for health-conscious people, if you spray it near an open flame, it will explode and melt your face off like Charlie Sheen.

(Just an aside — there are so many terms in these chapters that try to make me go to other chapters and glossaries, and then, when I get there, they re-direct me somewhere else.  It’s like they managed to build bureaucracy right into a book.)

The dish country captain is a supposed “American classic,” named for a British army officer who brought the dish back from India.  I’ve never heard of this dish. (Apparently, it’s chicken, the holy trinity, tomato, parsley, currants, and curry slow cooked together and served over rice with toasted almonds.  That sounds like a real American classic to me.)

Coush-coush, a Cajun breakfast dish consisting of cornmeal cooked into a thick porridge-like consistency in a hot pan that promotes browning at the bottom, shouldn’t be confused with couscous, which is granulated semolina that is often cooked as an accompaniment like pasta or . . . well, huh, how bout that–it’s also cooked into a porridge.  Moving on, then.

Crab Louis (or “crab Louie”) has a very controversial origin.  The dish itself is fairly straightforward–lump crab, mayo, chili sauce, cream, scallions, green pepper, and a splash of lemon juice and other seasonings.  Credit has been attributed to at least three different chefs, however–the chef at Seattle’s Olympic Club, the chef at Solari’s in San Francisco, or the chef at the St. Francis Hotel, also in San Francisco.  Will we ever know who truly created this mysterious dish?!

(image from South Park at southparkstudios.com)

Crème fraîche, which was featured in the capper of season 14 of South Park (watch it) is naturally thickened in France by bacteria that exist in the unpasteurized milk; in America, buttermilk or sour cream must be added to create this product, which is extremely expensive to buy at the grocery, but very easy to make at home–if you’re not squeamish about letting your dairy sit out overnight.

To crush food means to grind it down into its finest form–crumbs, powder, or a paste.  Also refers to the complete obliteration of one’s enemies.

The cucumber has been cultivated for thousands of years.  The wax that often coats the outside of cucumbers is edible, but might taste gross–you may or may not need to remove it.

Bizarrely . . .

Clabbered milk, or milk that has been curdled and thickened, is often “enjoyed” as an “icy-cold” drink in the south.  Excuse me, I’m going to go “enjoy” hugging my toilet while I vomit.  (Hey, southerners–you know, the English make a very similar product, but they don’t enjoy it as a refreshing beverage  . . . )

The colostrum, also known as “beestings,” is the foremilk produced by cows during the first five post-birth milkings.  The colostrum is extremely nutritious, full of antibodies and vitamins, so it is touted as a remedy and used for healing benefits.  Because, you know, that newborn doesn’t need it or anything.

(I could make this whole section dairy-based–people do some weird things with dairy.)

A fungus that feeds on corn and makes the kernels swell up to 10 times their normal size, cuitlacoche (also called corn smut and maize mushroom) is considered a delicacy by gourmands and a plague by farmers.  I got hopeful when I saw “corn smut,” but it turns out it’s not farming porn.

corn smut

(So, I go to flickr and put in “corn smut.” A bunch of really gross pictures came up–not porn, but actual corn smut. So you get this instead.  You’re welcome.)

Foreign customs, terms, and foods

A dish à la Clamart refers to a dish that is garnished with peas–or potato balls.  Dishes à la Crécy, on the other hand, have been cooked or garnished with carrots.

Concassé is a mixture that has been coarsely chopped or ground.  Traditionally, this is made of seeded and peeled tomatoes, which, I can tell you from personal experience, is a total pain in the ass, especially when you’re sharing two pots of boiling water among thirty students.

Confit, a specialty of Gascony, France, has its roots in an ancient cooking technique where meat is preserved by salting it and cooking it slowly in its own fat.

In Puerto Rico, they serve coquito at Christmas, which is a coconut-flavored egg nog.  Much like a mojito, you can (and, in my opinion, should) prepare coquito with rum.

coquito

On second thought, this doesn’t look very appetizing. I prefer the picture I found of Señor Coquito:

Señor Coquito

Yeah, that’s way better.

In France, gherkin pickles are called cornichon.

Coulibiac is the French version of the Russian kulebiaka, and consists of a “creamy melange” of salmon, rice, hard-cooked eggs, shallots, mushrooms, and dill in a brioche pastry.  Usually, the dishes they describe in here sound kind of iffy and I would never actually make them–but I think my husband would dig this, and I may give it a go.  I’ll let you know if I do.

If you order crêpes suzette, what you should get is a dessert of crepes in orange-butter sauce which are doused in an orange liqueur and then “ignited to flaming glory.”  If your crêpes suzette doesn’t come with flaming glory, you should demand your money back.

In France, a croque madame is a battered and toasted ham and cheese sandwich (which is a croque monsieur) with the addition of an egg.  In America and Britain, a croque madame has neither ham, nor egg, but does have chicken–so I guess that’s something? (Personally, I think America and Britain need to seriously re-think their appropriation of the term “croque madame” for a chicken and cheese sandwich.)

Exotic ingredients

In the Oaxaca region in Mexico, clayudas are made from large corn torillas which are baked until crisp and filled with such ingredients as aciento (“a grainy pork fat”, mmmmmm), refritos, cheese, vegetables, or salsa.  So, you know, basically just about any kind of food.

The roe of a crustacean (such as lobsters or scallops) is called coral, because of the color it turns when cooked.

Although it’s often found wild growing in American corn fields, corn salad is considered a gourmet green, and can be served in salads or steamed as a vegetable.  (It is not, however, part of the corn plant.)

Crosnes, also called “Chinese artichokes” or “Japanese artichokes,” are tubers that look like caterpillars and taste like sunchokes.  They are native to China, but are thusly named for the French city where they were cultivated in the late 19th century.

(Gotta keep going . . . *breathes and does some stretching exercises* I’m in the Cr’s now! Almost there!)

Unfortunate wording, coincidences, hilarious descriptions, and funny terms

A citrus stripper is the item used to cut long strands of citrus zest.  I wish I had known that before I paid that girl $20 to dance with some grapefruit.

Zombie Strippers

Even better than citrus strippers.

From the people who invented haggis:  cock-a-leekie is a Scottish soup made with, you guessed it, chicken and leeks, and sometimes oatmeal and cream.  Not only does it have the kind of name that a toddler might bestow upon it, it also sounds thoroughly gross.  (Sorry, Scottish people who may be reading this, but the idea of chicken, cream, leeks, and oatmeal together? Blech.)

Apparently, comfort food “should make you shut your eyes, rub your tummy, and say ahhhhh.” The Book also describes them as “a culinary hug.”  Aww.

Congee is described as a “gruel” of boiled rice and water.  Yum.

The coppa in coppa ham is Italian for “cup.”  Does that mean … no, that’s too easy… aw, screw it: so how much do you need, a coppa ham? Yuk, yuk, yuk.

[I am told by a Twitter friend that coppa as cup is a secondary translation.  Then he said some stuff that is way beyond my knowledge of ham and other delicious cured porkmeats: "Re: Coppa, you'll note that the "cup" translation is a second definition; the salume is named for the Italian term for 'nape.'  "Capocollo" (Italian for "head" and "neck") is another term for the salume."  Capocollo kind of sounds like capicola . . . which is super tasty . . . and that's about all I can contribute to that after having been up all night!

My pun still stands, though.  I like that pun.]

A cowberry is a relative of the cranberry, and it grows in northern Europe, Canada, and Maine.  I mention this only because we live near a street called Mooberry, which I think is a badass street name, and I want to live on Mooberry Street so I can tell people I live there.

The definition of cup, in The Book, The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion: “A punch made as an individual drink, or for several servings, poured from a pitcher into wineglasses or punch cups.”  I don’t even know what to say to that.  No mention of it being eight fluid ounces at all, not even a note to see the appendix of weights and measures–just punch. (And, I’m confused–isn’t all punch made to be consumed individually, in cups? I’ve never been to a party where it was A-OK to drink straight from the punchbowl.  Not that I’ve tried that, or anything.  Ahem.)

On the heels of cup, I have an issue with the entry for curry. From the word “kari,” which means sauce in southern India–okay, we all know about curries.  I love curry.  But The Book says that “curry powder is an integral ingredient in all curries.”  Shame on you, book–”curry powder” is rarely used in any curry.  Every cook has his or her own spice blends that they frequently use.  Only American chumps use curry powder.  (Okay, I have curry powder in my spice rack–but I never use it! I swear!)

I’m not going to follow up on this–especially since chapter D is coming up next–but this is a short and curious entry:  croaker, see “drum”.  Your guess is as good as mine–in fact, why don’t you put your guesses below as to what it means?

Holy crap, I’m done! (Well, I still have to do cheese.  And cocktails.  And chocolate.  But I’m through the chapter in general! And it only took me a total of like five hours to blog my way through the chapter!) [Aside: I was so jubilant about being through the chapter that I almost forgot to look for pictures!]

I have picked up the ingredients for croquembouche; it’s only vaguely on hold because I am trying to enlist my dear friend to come help with both the preparing and the eating of this thing.  (I’m making two different flavors of cream puffs . . . . that’s right, I’m going all fancy and shizz.)    Am I freaked out about the prospect of making spun sugar, and potentially getting second-degree burns on my fingers if I miss-dip and get molten hot caramel on them?  You betcha–I do this for you, dear readers, for you.

Don’t forget to put in your guess as to what “croaker” means–or, in a culinary context, “drum” for that matter.  If you already know, don’t go spoiling it with your knowing things and smartness.  Until we meet again!

C is for Chicken

Roast Chicken

I had not intended to write another special C post until I got to cheese; however, as I was preparing dinner this evening–roasted chicken–I thought, “Hey, C is for Chicken!” Yes, clearly, this blog is beginning to take over my life, one letter at a time.

Chicken is such a beloved food in America–we roast it, grill it, braise it, fry it, sauté it, stuff it, bake it, poach it, stew it.  It has a mild flavor that is perfectly delightful on its own, or that can be camouflaged to go with any flavor combination we might be able to come up with.  Between 1975 and 1999, poultry consumption in the U.S. doubled–partially because it is delicious, but I’m willing to bet that no small part of that was the information that skinned chicken breast is quite lean and low in saturated fat compared to some other kinds of meats.  According to The Book, three ounces (which is what a serving of meat is supposed to be, I guess–like I’m just going to eat three ounces of meat) of boneless, skinless breast has 147 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 72 mg of cholesterol.  Dark meat has twice the fat and 27 more calories.

Until after WWII, chicken was too dear for most people to eat, even for a once-a-week dinner.  Modern production of chickens (which is extremely controversial among those concerned about our food supply) made it possible for chicken to become the relatively inexpensive meat that it is today.  The Book delves into many different kinds of chickens that one may find on the market, but in today’s market, you’ll generally only find one kind of chicken; the days of older chickens being sold as “stewing chickens” have mostly passed, and most of your grocery-store non-specialty chickens that you’ll find today are the same young chickens that one would use for roasting.  Free-range chicken is becoming more readily available in stores, as well–but, just like the buzzword “natural,” free-range doesn’t necessarily mean that it got to roam around in the yard happily plucking away at grain.  Free-range chickens, according to The Book (and regulations may have changed since its publication in 2009), are given twice as much room as regular production chickens when they’re indoors–2 square feet instead of 1 square foot–and are “allowed” outside to roam.  The regulation for allowing chickens to roam outside is sketchy, though; some producers of “free-range” chickens skirt this by merely keeping a door open, but not allowing chickens true access to the outdoors.  The Book goes on to say that free-range chickens are fed a special vegetarian diet that is free of animal by-products, antibiotics, hormones, and growth enhancers.  This makes free-range chickens more pricey; if you really want to be certain that you’re getting the most sustainably-raised chickens, and therefore getting your money’s worth, make sure you research the company that produces your fowl.

Continue reading

C is for Cakes, Cookies, and Candy

sweet and salty cake

It’s practically the crack of dawn; I had a job interview this morning to become a baker at a chain restaurant, and the interview was at six. Thirty. In the morning.  That is bloody early.  However!  It works out well for me, because I get a chance to get caught up on some of this blogging that I’m way far behind on.  (I was going to go back to bed, but I already took a bath and put on makeup and everything.)

Today is a day for sweets.  Partially because I skipped over cakes and candy already doing Ca-Ch, and partially because I spent most of yesterday cleaning my messy house and I think sweets would be way more fun to cover than, say, cheese or something.  As much as I love cheese, it’s just not as exciting overall as the wonderful world of desserts.

Cakes

Of the categories covered in this post, I think cakes probably qualify as my favorite sweets.  The combination of moist cake and gooey icing (not “oohey-gooey,” never ever on this blog shall those words be uttered after this point–seriously, if you say “oohey-gooey,” which is probably the dumbest fake word in the English language, your comment will get edited in some creative and not-very-nice way) is always satisfying.  Ice cream, which I love above all of the C desserts, pairs perfectly with cake–especially warm cake.  The Book describes cake as “a sweet, baked confection usually containing flour, sugar, flavoring ingredients and eggs or other leavener such as baking powder or baking soda.”  That is such an incredibly bland description for something as magical as cake.

Some of the defining characteristics of cake are the fine crumb of the finish product; unlike bread or even muffins, cake has an even disbursement of extremely small bubbles running throughout.  Cakes are generally moist; although I’m sure there may be a few exceptions, usually if your cake is not moist, you baked it wrong.  (Angel food cake comes to mind as an exception–while not dry, it’s not an extremely moist cake.)  Many, but not all, cakes are frosted or iced in some way.  Cakes are sometimes consumed for no special reason, especially if you’re at a bakery or a restaurant with a nice dessert menu, but quite often, cakes mark a special occasion–a birthday, a wedding, an anniversary, Tuesday.

 

Continue reading

C is for . . . (part the first)

Ah, the long-awaited (okay, maybe not long-awaited, but certainly long-procrastinated) first post for C! As I said before, C is a monster of a chapter.  Cookies, cakes, coffee, chocolate, candy, cheese–THERE ARE SO MANY.  I can’t fit them all into one post, so I’m breaking this up:  Ca-Ch in this post, Ci-Cz in the next post.  (Hey, there could be something Czech.)

I’m also going to play around with some new categories.  Let me know which you prefer.

Interestingly . . .

Caesar salad was invented in 1924 by Caesar Cardini, an Italian chef who owned a restaurant in Tijuana.

Caffeine

Caffeine does more than give you quick (if jittery) energy; a natural drug found in tea, coffee, cola nuts, and chocolate, caffeine stimulates the nervous system, the kidneys, and the heart.  It also dilates blood vessels and causes your body to release insulin.

Only four types of consumables have calories: alcohol, at 7 calories/gram; protein, at 4 calories/gram; carbohydrates at 4 calories/gram; and fats, which contain a whopping 9 calories per gram.  I reiterate–drinking those rum and diets are not going to help keep you slim, ladies.  Don’t believe the advertisements.

The cantaloupe is a European fruit named for an Italian castle; cantaloupes are not exported to the U.S.  Our “cantaloupes” are actually muskmelons.  (Also totally gross, imho.)

A carpetbag steak is a steak that has been surgically altered with a pocket that contains fresh oysters and breadcrumbs.  After being stuffed, the steak is skewered and then grilled.

Storing carrots near apples can give carrots a bitter flavor; this is caused by ethylene, which is released by apples.

The term casserole refers both to the dish in which the cooking occurs and also the finished product of the cooking.  A cassoulet, which seems like it should be similar, is a French dish containing white beans and meats which have been slow-cooked.  So, really, it’s not similar at all.

Celery

Celery was used exclusively as medicine before the 16th century.  It took the Renaissance to figure out that celery is damn tasty.  (Eat the heart/inner leaves–they are delightful.)

Ever wonder why Celsius is called Celsius?  Turns out, it was named for Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius.

Cereal is named for the mythological goddess Ceres, who was a patroness of harvest and agriculture.  If you make a lame joke about being a “cereal killer,” you’re talking about deicide, buddy.

Chicken, which descended from wild fowl that “roamed the dense jungles of primeval Asia,” was a pricey meal only for the affluent until after World War II.

In Texas, chile con carne is commonly referred to as a “bowl of red.”  I’m told that if you try to add beans to chile con carne in Texas, your body may never be found.

Continue reading

C is for Corrections

unsheathed

I don’t have any corrections to make yet. But I have noticed here and there that things in The Book are not 100% accurate.  If I know it’s not accurate, I won’t put it in; some things, however, I don’t know.  So, if you notice something that’s wrong, please tell me so I can source it, verify it, and fix it. Thanks a million!

B is for Beer

Beer

So, there’s no way I can let the B’s go without doing a post about beer.

(If you’re a beer expert, please keep in mind that I’m blogging through a book; very likely, you’ll probably know pretty much everything I have to offer here.  If you’re novice-to-intermediate when it comes to your beer knowledge, though, you may find some interesting information here.  I definitely found things that I didn’t know.)

Oddly enough, with the three-and-a-half pages devoted to beer in The Book, the history of beer isn’t even glanced upon.  (The history of Brussels sprouts, yeah, but not the history of beer.  So weird.)  The Book defines beer as a “generic term for low-alcohol beverages brewed from a mash of malted barley and other cereals, flavored with hops and fermented with yeast.”  As generic as that term is, it’s pretty specific as to what goes into beer–its primary ingredients are water, malt, hops, and yeast.  And yet, when it comes to beer, you can have a different beer every night for months and never need to have the same one twice.  Drinking beer is one of our great national pastimes, and there are whole aisles in the grocery store devoted solely to beer.  (Also usually one for chips and soda.  We have our priorities in order.)

Beer

“Beer,” though, is only supposed to refer to beers that are bottom-fermented, or beers in which the yeast sinks to the bottom of the tank; these beers are brewed at colder temperatures over longer periods of time, which results in a lighter, crisper flavor profile.  Bock beer, malt liquor, lager, Pilsner, and Vienna beers are true beers; Eisbock, or “ice beer,” is lagered at such a cold temperature that ice crystals form and are later strained out, which raises the alcohol content as high as 13%.  Porters, stouts, and wheat beers (the good stuff, as far as I’m concerned) are top-fermented and are classified as ale–along with, obviously, all kinds of ales.  Some state regulations restrict the words beer, lager, and ale according to alcohol content rather than where the yeast like to hang out, which just adds to the general pandemonium when it comes to figuring out what kind of beer is what.

Continue reading