B is for . . .

Sorry I’m a little late on this one, y’all.  Also, there are a hell of a lot of B terms, so bear with me *g*.

I’ve just noticed today that my chapters all have quotes in the back.  For B, a quote from Rosa Lewis, who was the chef owner of the Cavendish Hotel in London and known as the “Queen of Cooks”:

Some people’s food always tastes better than others, even if they are cooking the same dish at the same dinner . . . because one person has more life in them–more fire, more vitality, more guts–than others.  A person without these things can never make food taste right, no matter what materials you give them . . . they have nothing in themselves to give.  You have got to throw feeling into cooking.

Without further ado–the B’s.

The familiar

When blind baking, many people use beans or pie weights.  The French sometimes use clean pebbles for blind baking.  To get a brown crust, remove the weights and parchment or foil a few minutes before baking is over.

Baking powder and baking soda are leaveners used to create bubbles in baked goods, causing them to rise.  To test baking powder, mix a teaspoon with 1/3 cup of hot water to see if it bubbles; for baking soda, combine 1/4 teaspoon with 2 teaspoons of vinegar.  If there is no reaction, it’s time to replace!  (Baking soda also makes a great cleaner and deodorizer, if you’re into cleaning, which I’m really not so much.  Also, it makes a great volcano.)


Bananas actually improve in flavor if left to ripen off the bush.  You can slow banana ripening by storing them in the refrigerator.  America’s favorite variety of banana is the Cavendish, but many varieties are grown throughout the world.  (And maybe in space?  I can’t rule that out.)

When beating with a whisk, such as to make whipped cream, 100 strokes by hand is a minute by mixer.  This is why I own a mixer.

Beef didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the Civil War, even though cattle have been here since the mid-1500′s.  (I say thank goodness for shortages; otherwise, I may never have known the wonder that is beef.)  People who know these sort of things believe that beef tartare originated in Russia’s Baltic provinces because the Tartares would shred red meat and eat it raw in the Middle Ages.

Biscotti translates into “twice cooked.”

Blanching is a technique often used to parboil foods or to loosen skins for peeling, which conjures up way too many uncomfortable images from Silence of the Lambs for me.  (This does explain why I like my tomatoes “roomy.”)

Boston baked beans is referred to as a “melange of navy beans or pea beans, salt pork, molasses and brown sugar, baked in a casserole for hours until tender.”  I enjoy the hell out of their usage of the word “melange” for Boston baked beans.

Bread has been a staple since prehistoric times.  Unfortunately, Wonderbread had not yet been invented in prehistory.

The name for broccoli comes from the Italian for “cabbage sprout;” broccoli is, indeed, related to cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower–you know, those vegetables that kids can’t get enough of.  Its peak season is October.

Speaking of Brussels sprouts, these lovely vegetables (and in fact, I am not being tongue-in-cheek here–I truly do love Brussels sprouts, condemn me if you must) grow in rows attached to a huge stalk, sort of like those sticks that have all of the bells on that you shake.  People in the know believe these were cultivated in 16th-century Belgium.

Brussels Sprouts

Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 80′s.  Everything really is made in Taiwan.  The tapioca pearls in bubble tea aren’t regular tapioca, which is made from cassava root, but a tapioca variant made from a sweet potato base and colored with caramel.

Unsalted butter is more perishable than the salted version, because salt is a preservative.  By law, butter must be at least 80% milkfat.

The partially familiar

Back of the house refers to the workings of a restaurant that we laypeople don’t get to see.  If we are quite lucky, this includes thorough cleaning and employees who wash their hands frequently.

A bain-marie is the use of a water bath (such as when cooking custards in the oven) or cooking on the stove over a double-boiler.  A bain-marie can also be used for keeping food warm; the heat from water is gentler than direct cooking heat.  Sort of like being swathed in a warm blanket rather than being blasted by a heater.

Barbacoa, an incredibly tasty Mexican barbecue style, traditionally involves meat wrapped in leaves and cooked in a hole in the ground.

Beurre monté is a water and butter emulsion used to poach meats, shellfish, vegetables, and fish.  It translates to “mounted butter,” wink wink, nudge nudge.  (I’m told to see “to mount” by way of explanation, so I’m guessing that is an actual cooking term and not a dirty joke.  But “mount” starts with M, so I have several letters to go through before I have to concede my immature joke.)

Barry and Susan Wine made the beggar’s purse, an appetizer comprised of a mini crepe, caviar, and crème fraiche, popular at their restaurant the Quilted Giraffe.  I can’t decide if that’s a badass restaurant name or a weird one; it makes me think of nursery decorations.

At each of Japan’s 5000 train stations, one can purchase a unique bento lunch that represents the region’s cooking.  The Japanese scarf down over twelve million of these meals daily.

bentou 11

Bird’s nest soup is made from honest-to-goodness birds’ nests.  The nests come from a particular bird that is, apparently, highly prized for the quality of the spit used to hold the sticks together for the nest.

Bleu not only refers to a type of cheese, but also to the first stage of cooking a steak–barely warmed through and mostly raw, which is how I prefer to eat my steak, E.coli be damned.

Blood should never be boiled, or it will clot.  Watch that anger, folks.

Bloom is a deceptively cheerful word for the white filmy blotches on chocolate; the cocoa butter crystallizes in temperatures that are too warm, causing this phenomenon.  Also refers to what I am told is a completely harmless film on fruits, like grapes, which helps the fruit waterproof itself; a natural, invisible coating on eggshells (how do they know it’s there?); and the process by which one moistens gelatin in water before fully dissolving in liquid.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow disease,” doesn’t incubate in animals under 30 months, so lovers of calf brains can rejoice.

Meat from buffalo is quite lean and has more iron than beef.  Buffalo wings are not actually buffalo.

The Book says that butter substitutes are created by extracting the fat and water from butter, and have “an embarrassingly counterfeit flavor.”

The unfamiliar

Another delicious-sounding fruit I will probably never experience, the babáco, from Ecuador, has a flavor that is a less-sweet cross between a banana and a pineapple.  These suckers are huge, 8 to 12 inches long and 4 inches in diameter.  This fruit is best enjoyed ripe, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one (and if you do, share?).

Ballotine refers to meat, fish, or poultry which has been boned, stuffed, rolled, tied into a bundle shape, and braised or roasted.  Puts me in the mood for turducken.

A cloth-lined basket used in France to store bread as it is rising is known as banneton.

Cestos, banastillos, bannetons, Gärkörbe

In Hungary, an eau de vie made from apricots is called–wait for it–barack. Could this be our new national drink?

To bard is to tie fat around lean meats and poultry to keep them moist during cooking.  Could also refer to writing in verse for a living.

Bastard saffron is a colorful name for safflower, of oil fame.  I kind of want to start calling a lot of other foods bastard, just for fun.

The items that stock a well-equipped kitchen are known as batterie de cuisine in French.

That pink pickled ginger that you get with sushi is called beni shoga. Sounds classy, still looks weird.

A dish named for the cooking sound associated with it, blaff is a dish from the French West Indies made of whole red snapper marinated in lime juice and spices and poached in water.  (“Blaff” is, apparently, the sound the fish makes when it’s dropped into the water.  I guess I can see that?  Then again, French roosters say “cocorico,” so this noise translation may be suspect.)

Bombay duck is dried, salted fish.  Surprise!  It’s not duck!

You know that style of cooking that people call rustic, homey, simple?  The proper term for that is à la bonne femme, translated as “good wife.” Yep, let that one sink in a bit.

Bottled-in-Bond is a phrase that sometimes can be found on whiskey bottles, referring to the Bottled in Bond Act of 1894.  Under this act, producers can bottle and store whiskey in warehouses bonded by the Treasury Department and postpone paying taxes on the bottles until they are shipped to the retailers.  The whiskey has to be 100 proof, aged at least four years, and produced at one location during a single distilling season.  (Unfortunately, all of these regulations doesn’t mean the whiskey is worth a damn.)

A British dish called bubble and squeak, comprised of equal parts mashed potatoes and cooked cabbage, is said to be named either for the sound made when cooking the dish or the sound your stomach makes after eating it.

Bulgogi, a barbecue dish, is Korean for “fire meat.”

Dol Sot Bi Bim Bop

!!! I found a possible mistake!  “Brunoise: A mixture of vegetables that have been finely diced or shredded, then cooked slowly in butter.  The brunoise is then used to flavor soups and sauces.” But this is the dictionary definition of brunoise, the one I learned in my class:  “food that is finely diced into approx. 1/8-inch cubes; any food garnished with vegetables cut this way.”  Their definition of brunoise sounds more like mire poix.  Damn–this calls my entire project into question.  How do I know any of this stuff is fully accurate?

Oh well, pushing on.

For this week’s project, I plan to make something that’s close to my heart but that has never graced my kitchen, except from a take-out container.  I’m talkin’ bout burgoo, also known as Kentucky burgoo. Owensboro, where I’m originally from, is especially known for its burgoo, such as from Moonlite BBQ.  If you’ve never had it, it’s a slow-cooked stew full of meat and vegetables–I’ve seen it described as “basically whatever’s left over from the barbecue.”  I’ve seen other descriptors browsing recipes–tips like, if you can still distinguish anything as a separate entity or recognize an ingredient, you haven’t cooked it enough.  And everyone seems to have their own burgoo recipe, so I’m going off the grid for this one and not using a single recipe, just ideas from other recipes and my own memory of burgoo.  I picked up some pork rib meat and chuck roast (it was on sale) and I will toss in whatever veg I have leftover at the end of the week.  I’m contemplating hitting up Ray Ray’s Hog Pit (yes, that is really the name, and it is my favorite barbecue place in the history of ever) for some smoked meat to give it a smoky flavor.  It’s a hearty stew, so it will be perfect for this snowy, disgusting weather we have been having.

The neon sign above Moonlite Bar-B-Q in Owensboro, Kentucky...Sigh–a landmark of home.

Bon nuit, friends.  Since I was late on this post, you’ll get extra posts this week! (Look for one soon about beer–you know I didn’t forget it!)

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