Food for Thought – Forked River Gazette http://www.forkedrivergazette.com Forked River Gazette Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:51:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/cropped-Forked-River-Gazette-Logo-32x32.png Food for Thought – Forked River Gazette http://www.forkedrivergazette.com 32 32 Fava Beans:  The Good, the Bad & the Ugly http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/fava-beans-good-bad-ugly/ http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/fava-beans-good-bad-ugly/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 13:22:10 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=33919 Mark R. Vogel foodforthoughtonline.net Pythagoras (c. 580 BC–c. 500 BC), was a Greek philosopher and mathematician whose thinking influenced Plato and Aristotle.  He is eternally familiar to mathematicians for his Pythagorean Theorem, which states that in any given right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle), is equal to the … Continue reading Fava Beans:  The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

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Mark R. Vogel

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Pythagoras (c. 580 BC–c. 500 BC), was a Greek philosopher and mathematician whose thinking influenced Plato and Aristotle.  He is eternally familiar to mathematicians for his Pythagorean Theorem, which states that in any given right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle), is equal to the squares of the other two sides, i.e., a2 + b2 = c2.  Although credited to Pythagoras, it is possible the theorem was developed by his disciples.  The problem is Pythagoras left no written account of his works.  What we know of him is based on his followers’ disquisitions (and in all likelihood interpretations), of his teachings.  Even the exact circumstances of his death are open to speculation.  One interesting piece of folklore about his demise involves the fava bean.  Conflicts had arisen amongst various factions at the time, and Pythagoras had his detractors.  According to the legend, Pythagoras detested fava beans.  He hated them so much that, rather than escape through a bean field, he opted to be captured and disposed of by his enemies. 

If Pythagoras’s revulsion of fava beans has any merit, he may have been one of the rare individuals allergic to them.  Some people from the Ancient Near East (roughly the modern day Middle East), where favas probably originated, have a hereditary vulnerability to them.  Certain substances found in favas can cause susceptible individuals to develop anemia.   Technically this genetic disorder is known as Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, or more simply “favism.”  Fortunately, the overwhelimg majority of us can enjoy these wonderful beans, with no fears of blood disease or pursuing assailants.

Fava beans, also called faba, broad, horse, tic, bell, or field beans, have been consumed by man for thousands of years.  The people of the Ancient Near East began to cultivate them during their Bronze age (3300–1200 BC).  From there they spread ubiquitously, and can be found in the dietary portfolios of Europe, (where they became a staple), Ancient Egypt, China, India, Africa and even Latin America.  The US, true to its culinary-challenged nature, never really got on the bandwagon, and thus they remain somewhat obscure in our country.

Favas were also the original bean in the traditional 12th night cake.  Some branches of Christianity celebrate the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”  The 12th night marks the coming of the epiphany (the revelation of Jesus’s divinity to man), and conlcudes the Twelve Days of Christmas.  The fava’s inclusion in the 12th night cake bestowed it with an auspicious reputation, and hence they became a symbol of good luck.

And then, at the other extreme is Hanibal Lechter, the canabilistic serial killer of Silence of the Lambs, who chillingly announced his enjoyment of favas, Chianti, and his victim’s liver.  Apparently, favas can be savory or unsavory.

Favas look like big lima beans and come in large pods.  They are complicated to peel.  The pods must first be split open to release the beans.  This is the easy part.  Next, each individual bean must be peeled.  Unlike any other bean, each one is encased in its own jacket.  This outer hull is fibrous and basically inedible.  To remove it, a slit can be made in on end of the bean with a small knife or even a fingernail.  Then it can be peeled away.  Some chefs drop them in boiling water for one minute.  Then the outer layer can be more easily removed, simply by squeezing each bean between one’s fingers and popping them out.  It is because of their labor intensiveness that favas are uncommon in most restaurants.  When they are offered, expect the portion to be limited and/or the price to be high.  Interestingly, their rarity on American menus has imparted them with an air of cachet.  This is reinforced by the fact that restaurants that do feature them are usually upscale establishments.  Ironically though, their scarcity-based-prestige is ultimately rooted in simple laziness, or labor costs.

Fresh favas are available in the spring, but you’ll have to do some searching to find them.  Not all supermarkets carry them, and you may need to peruse farmers markets.  Look for large, plump pods, and squeeze them to ensure there are no vacancies.  Favas are also sold canned and dried, but there is no comparison with the fresh.

Like almost all beans, favas can be eaten on their own or mixed into any number of other concoctions.  Personally, I find them to be too special, and more importantly too delicious, to be diluted into a more complex recipe like a stew, casserole or soup.  Favas are best appreciated as the star of the show.  Simply sauté them in butter and add salt, pepper, and the herbs of your choice.  The classic herbal pairing is savory.  Savory is a potent herb that tastes like a marriage of thyme and mint.  You can also include some heavy cream as a finishing touch.

Another popular recipe is a fava bean puree.  It is hypothesized that purees of favas originated in Europe, when the beans were sometimes pressed through a sieve to release their outer skin.  To make a fava bean puree, start with three pounds of beans (prior to removing their pods and outer hulls).  Add the beans, one or two garlic cloves, the herbs of your choice, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice to a food processor.  Give the ingredients an initial whiz, and then with the food processor running, add a gentle stream of extra virgin olive oil until it emulsifies, and you reach your desired consistency.  Serve it on crostini, crackers, or crudités.

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Let’s Go Dutch http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/lets-go-dutch/ Wed, 01 Nov 2017 13:48:24 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=33630 Mark R. Vogel foodforthoughtonline.net Cookware is made from myriad materials, although some form of metal is the most common.  Different metals of course, have different properties, and thus each one has its own constellation of pros and cons. Cast iron is inexpensive, durable, becomes very hot and maintains its heat.  Nothing short of a grill … Continue reading Let’s Go Dutch

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Mark R. Vogel

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Cookware is made from myriad materials, although some form of metal is the most common.  Different metals of course, have different properties, and thus each one has its own constellation of pros and cons.

Cast iron is inexpensive, durable, becomes very hot and maintains its heat.  Nothing short of a grill will sear your meat like cast iron.  That’s the good news.  On the flip side cast iron is reactive.  That means it can chemically interact with acidic ingredients.  It can also rust, and food tends to stick to it.  For these reasons cast iron pans must be “seasoned.”  This involves coating the entire pan, inside and out with oil or shortening and baking it to seal the fat into the pan.  This inhibits rusting and provides a non-stick surface but naturally this layer eventually breaks down and the process must be repeated.  Some cast iron pans are coated with enamel.  This is an attempt to ameliorate the dilemmas of cast iron while maintaining its strengths, particularly the exceptional heat conduction.

A Dutch oven is a cast iron pot (usually of large size), with a snug fitting lid.  There are a number of theories as to how the Dutch oven got its name.  The first comes from the fact that during the 1600s the Dutch had the most advanced method of forging cast iron into cookware.  The English later patented a process based on the Dutch design, and popularized it in Britain and the American colonies.  Another theory ascribes the pot’s name to the Dutch merchants who sold them.  Finally, some posit that the Dutch reference emanates from the Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania who used the pots regularly.  Indeed, any or all of these sources could have combined to form the final namesake.

In America, the Dutch oven took on iconic status.  Legs were added to it so it could rest above a fire or smoldering coals.  A special flanged lid (who some credit to Paul Revere), was also devised so that hot coals could be placed on top of it without embers dropping into the food.  Surrounding the pot with a heat source truly turned it into an “oven.”  Dutch ovens were indispensable for frontiersmen, pioneers, and explorers such as Lewis & Clark.  Utah was particularly enamored with the Dutch oven, so much so that the state’s legislature named it Utah’s official state cooking pot in 1997.

Modern Dutch ovens are designed to be used on a stovetop (or inside an actual oven), have a smooth, legless bottom, a heavy lid, and handles on either side of the pot.  A modern version is the aforementioned enameled cast iron.  As stated, the enamel eradicates the negatives of cast iron, namely rusting and reactivity.  However, while you can deep fry in cast iron, such high temperatures are not recommended for enamel.  Le Creuset is the quintessential example of the modern, enameled Dutch oven and certainly one of the best on the market.

Dutch ovens are the cooking vessel of choice for soups, stews, braises casseroles, and any other slow, long, simmered dishes.  Pot roast, Bolognese sauce, baked beans, chili con carne, and cassoulet, are all ideal for a Dutch oven.

Nowadays the term Dutch oven has been bandied to the point that cookware manufacturers use it to describe any large part, regardless of the composite material.  Purists would argue that only a cast iron vessel, enameled or not, can be considered a Dutch oven.  If you must stray into some other element, such as stainless steel, ensure that it is a heavy gauge steel with a proportionately heavy and tight-fitting lid.  Thicker steel will sear food without burning it, as well as distribute and maintain heat better.  It will be devoid of “hot spots” since the thermal energy is uniformly dispersed.  Heavier steel will also not warp over time.  Finally, a heavy, snug lid will seal in the heat more thoroughly, and reduce moisture loss during cooking.

CHICKEN & SAUSAGE STEW

3 red bell peppers, roasted, skins and seeds removed

1 lb. boneless chicken thighs or breasts

½ lb. sweet Italian sausage

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil, as needed

1 medium-large onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 cups chicken broth

2 batches of baby spinach

Chopped parsley to taste

Roast the peppers by placing them in a pre-heated broiler, or on top of a gas stove burner until they are charred.  Place them in a covered container to steep and cool.  Remove the skins and seeds, cut them into strips and set aside.

Cut the chicken and sausage into bite size pieces and season with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven until it just starts to smoke.  Add the chicken and sausage and remove as soon as they are browned.  Add the onion and more oil if necessary and cook.  Add more salt and pepper.  When the onion has started to soften add the roasted peppers and then the garlic.  Cook for a few minutes more.  Deglaze the pot with the chicken stock, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom.  Return the chicken and sausage to the pot, bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for a few minutes.  Begin adding the spinach, in batches if necessary, until it wilts and is completely incorporated.  Taste and adjust seasoning, finish with fresh parsley and serve.  Don’t forget some bread for dipping.

 

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Dining on Death Row   http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/dining-death-row/ Thu, 05 Oct 2017 12:29:44 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=33183 Mark R. Vogel foodforthouhgtonline.net If you were on death row, what would be your last meal?  Think about it.  It’s not as simple a question as it appears.  Your first instinct might be to pick your favorite food.  But maybe you might select your most meaningful food, such as the first meal your wife made … Continue reading Dining on Death Row  

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Mark R. Vogel

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If you were on death row, what would be your last meal?  Think about it.  It’s not as simple a question as it appears.  Your first instinct might be to pick your favorite food.  But maybe you might select your most meaningful food, such as the first meal your wife made you, or one of your mom’s memory-laden classics.  Or maybe your desolation and bitterness would leave you so resigned that you would forgo a final feast.

As morbid as it seems, there exists great fascination about the last meals of condemned prisoners, especially the famous ones.  Man has always been beguiled by the macabre.  Just look at the historical popularity of horror stories and movies, murder mysteries, forensic TV shows, and the countless traffic jams created by the curious queue of commuters, anxious for a glimpse of the adjacent accident.

The state of Texas used to keep a list of its inmates’ last meals on its website.  One of their convicts who participated in preparing last meals compiled them into a cookbook entitled Meals to Die For.  A similar book is entitled Last Suppers:  Famous Final Meals From Death Row.  However, despite all the interest, there are detractors as well.  Texas eventually eliminated the last meal list from its website due to complaints that it was in poor (do not pardon the pun), taste.

The tradition of providing a condemned person a final meal hails back to the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans, who all practiced this custom.  Ages ago in Europe the provision of a last meal had superstitious underpinnings.  It was believed that if a condemned person received a last meal, he tacitly accepted his fate and forgave those responsible for his demise, such as the judge or executioner.  Thus, his acquiescence and absolution would prevent his spirit from vengefully haunting those who had played a role in his prosecution.

Today, most governments provide a last meal to those who are sentenced to death.  In the United States, the actual parameters of the last meal vary from state to state. Naturally there are limitations on the requests.  You will not find any convicts chowing down on foie gras and Russian caviar before meeting their maker.  Texas limits the meals to food that can be made within the prison.  At one time, Florida imposed a twenty dollar price limit.  Some states will allow takeout from pizza parlors, or other popular restaurants.  Maryland conversely, does not offer its inmates a special last meal.  Alcohol is universally forbidden and a final smoke depends on whether the prison is smoke-free or not.

So what is so fascinating about the meal choices of those on the precipice of daeth?  Undoubtedly it emanates from the aforementioned allure humans have with the lurid side of life.  More specifically, the last meal gives us a glimpse into the darkest recesses of the human mind.  What does a soulless serial killer want to consume on his last day on earth?  Why does he choose that?  And more frighteningly, what does it mean if I might choose the same?  Does the fact that I’d also pick fried chicken mean that something sinister is lurking within me?  Or is it just an eerie coincidence?

So what are some famous last meals?  Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer and necrophiliac, dined on steak, eggs, hash browns and coffee.  Don’t see anything crazy there.  And before you anti-red-meat crusaders attempt to link carnivorousness with savagery, consider the last meal of Oklahoma inmate Michael Pennington:  a vegetarian pizza, salad, and dessert.  John Wayne Gacy, another depraved serial murderer, chose fried chicken, fried shrimp, French fries and strawberries.  Velma Barfield, the famous female arsenic killer asked for a bag of Cheez Doodles and a Coke.  Aileen Wuornos, another infamous female killer who took the lives of seven men, declined a last meal.  Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City bomber), received ice cream.  Victor Feguer, who kidnapped a doctor and killed him, asked for a single olive.  Adolf Eichman, the notorious Nazi, in what could only be considered sadistic and twisted, requested an Israeli wine.  California murderer Robert Alton Harris desired Kentucky Fried Chicken and Domino’s pizza.  Joan of Arc asked for Holy Communion.

As to what these specific choices mean, if anything, about the individuals is really anybody’s guess (with the exception of Joan of Arc; she suffered from religious delusions).  What’s more revealing is the larger picture, namely, the role that food plays in life.  Food is so much more than the sustenance needed to biologically survive.  Food is woven into virtually every meaningful event in our lives, be it the joyful or morose.

The last meal is a symbol of our empathy.  Even though we may be putting to death the most despicable person on the planet, those of us who are not despicable, still feel some consternation, and sometimes even sympathy.  It’s our attempt to ease the individual’s suffering and somehow make their final journey, (this time pardon the pun), more palatable.

 

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Fancy That http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/fancy-that/ Thu, 07 Sep 2017 12:16:32 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=32624 Mark R. Vogel foodforthoughtonline.net FOOD FOR THOUGHT People customarily use the word “fancy” to describe an upscale restaurant.  “Where are you going for your birthday?”  “Oh, my husband is taking me to a fancy restaurant.”  What exactly is a “fancy” restaurant?  What are the exact criteria that differentiate a fancy restaurant from a regular restaurant?  … Continue reading Fancy That

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

People customarily use the word “fancy” to describe an upscale restaurant.  “Where are you going for your birthday?”  “Oh, my husband is taking me to a fancy restaurant.”  What exactly is a “fancy” restaurant?  What are the exact criteria that differentiate a fancy restaurant from a regular restaurant?  I polled about fifty of my friends and culinary colleagues and asked them that specific question.  Here’s what they said.

Price.  When queried about the hallmarks of a fancy restaurant almost everyone mentioned the cost.  Fancy restaurants are expensive.  As one of my readers put it: “The amount of money that one spends at a fancy restaurant would feed six families in Bangladesh for three months.”  But exactly what dollar amount is the boundary between a regular and a fancy restaurant?  If the cost will feed those six Bangladesh families for only one month is it still fancy?  Your personal background, income, restaurant experiences, and level of culinary expertise, among other things, can all influence your monetary dividing line.  Suffice it to say that one Ben Franklin will not cover a basic three course meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert), plus non-alcoholic beverages, tax and tip, for two people at a fancy restaurant. 

Quality.  Not only the food, but the culinary dexterity.  For those prices, the food and preparation techniques better be top notch.  The freshest, highest quality ingredients prepared flawlessly and no less.  There is a point however where the incremental gains in quality are disproportionately less than the increase in price.  For example, if we were to compare a one hundred dollar Bordeaux and a three hundred dollar one, would the three hundred dollar Bordeaux be thrice as good?  Doubtful.  If you know your wines, the pricier one might be better, but not by the numerical equivalent.  Thus, on the restaurant price-to-quality ratio continuum, prices expand at a greater rate than quality.  This is partly because at fancy restaurants you’re not only paying for primo ingredients and culinary expertise, you’re also paying for:

Service.  Rarely will you have to track down your server in a fine dining establishment.  You won’t be scanning the dining room searching for the bubble-gum-chewing college student, who thinks Burgundy is something that comes out of a gallon jug.  Rather, there will be a cadre of wait staff, in formal attire, who will anticipate your needs.  You won’t need to ask for more water, a lobster fork, fresh cracked pepper, or any other accoutrement or appareil that would normally accompany your dish.  Your food will arrive hot, your utensils will be changed between each course, your napkin will be folded in your absence, and with the exception of a few haughty establishments, you will be afforded impeccable respect and courtesy.

Moreover, the staff will be professionals.  Yes, professional waiters.  Not between-audition actors.  They will have been trained in the art of table service, and be knowledgeable, not only about food and wine in general, but their chef’s menu in particular.  In good restaurants, one of the chefs will meet with the servers prior to the dinner service and educate them about that evening’s menu.  Your waiter will know how the rabbit loin is cooked, whether there’s tarragon in the lobster demi glace, and what kind of nuts are in the chocolate torte.  In sum, service will be prompt, efficient, mannerly, attentive, and flow as smooth as a Mozart serenade.  You should leave feeling like a king.

Wine.  Now we’re talking my kind of criteria.  Fancy restaurants will have a wine list.  Not just a few California cabs and chardonnays listed without their vintage, but a real wine list:  an extensive selection of reds, whites, dessert wines, champagnes, ports, and brandies from all over the globe.  The list will also have vertical depth, i.e., noteworthy wines will be represented by multiple years.  You will find renowned names from all of the major wine regions and yes, they’ll be expensive.  There will be no “house wines.”  Even the wines by the glass will carry a modicum of cachet.

Preeminent restaurants will have a sommelier (saw-muh-LYAY), the resident wine expert.  It is their job to assist you with your wine and food pairing.  Sommeliers are not only skilled in wine, but customer service. A good sommelier will never intimidate you but make every effort to match you with the right wine based on your needs.

Ambience.  Fancy restaurants are beautifully, sometimes lavishly decorated.  Combined with the low lighting they are very often romantic.  Expect fresh flowers, tasteful artwork, candlelight, classical music (if any), and linen tablecloths and napkins.  Likewise, you will contribute to the ambience via the dress code a fancy restaurant will enforce.  Men are expected to at least wear jackets if not ties.  Don’t even think of showing up in jeans, sneakers, shorts, or any other attire that would allow you to blend in at McDonalds.

Fancy restaurants, particularly the French ones, are more likely to have a tasting menu, i.e., a meal comprised of multiple courses (typically three to eight), featuring a variety of foods, albeit conservative portions.  Complimentary hors d’oeuvres, (a.k.a. amuse-bouche or amuse-gueules), are a mainstay of upscale eateries.  As a fellow chef stated when describing fancy restaurants:  “Amuse-gueules will appear from nowhere and the martini is perfect!”

And finally, the number one discriminator between a fancy and a regular restaurant, one that is nearly perfect in differentiating the two:  no kids!   You will almost never see children in a fancy restaurant for two very simple reasons.  First, there is no kids menu, and second, no one in their right mind is going to pay seventy-five dollars for a three course dinner for a child.  Nor will anybody waste an opulent dining experience by spending it picking peas out of water glasses, wiping sauce off blouses, playing referee, escorting multiple bathroom breaks, and reconsidering birth control options.

Are fancy restaurants worth the cost for all the luxury and amenities?  Only you can decide that.  For gourmets, they are a sublime escape into sumptuous indulgence.  Others are more than satisfied with an average, but decent meal at a fair price, minus the fanfare.  When it comes to whatever strikes your fancy, no reservations are required.

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Any Port in the Storm http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/any-port-in-the-storm/ Thu, 03 Aug 2017 12:01:17 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=32282 Mark R. Vogel foodforthoughtonline.net  Port is one of the world’s most acclaimed fortified wines, and to fully appreciate it (meaning cerebrally as well as gastronomically), one must first understand what a fortified wine is.  Fortified wines are wines to which alcohol has been added during fermentation, which is the process by which the natural sugar … Continue reading Any Port in the Storm

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Mark R. Vogel

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 Port is one of the world’s most acclaimed fortified wines, and to fully appreciate it (meaning cerebrally as well as gastronomically), one must first understand what a fortified wine is.  Fortified wines are wines to which alcohol has been added during fermentation, which is the process by which the natural sugar in the wine is converted to alcohol by the enzymatic action of the yeast.  Augmenting the wine with additional alcohol while fermentation is occurring effectuates two ends:  it raises the wine’s alcohol level, and makes it sweeter.  Boosting the alcohol content prompts the yeast to prematurely terminate its sugar-to-alcohol assembly line.  Thus, the wine retains a greater degree of residual sugar than what normally remains in a standard dry wine after fermentation.  Because ports are sweeter, they are often considered dessert wines and are traditionally served after a meal.  However, they can be employed as an aperitif as well.

OK ladies and gentlemen, for my next point I will need some props; mainly my soap box.  REAL port comes from the Douro Valley of Portugal and is made from specific grapes, (for red ports: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tempranillo, Tinto Cao, Tinta Barroca, and others).  Moreover, it must be produced according to specific laws established in the region.  Real port will not say port on the label.  It will tout the word porto, eponymously named after the Portuguese city of Oporto where the wines are shipped from.  “Ports” made anywhere else in the world are port-like wines but not true ports.  In the purest form of the definition, port does not refer to all port wines but to the specific potable that arises from the Douro Valley’s microclimate, grapes, and procedures.  No matter how good another wine is, no matter how accurately the procedures are mimicked, any other port will still not be the exact same product.

There are many different types of ports and deciphering all of them effectively could be a thesis in and of itself.  My goal is to introduce you to port, not torture you with it.  To that end, let’s peruse the most common subtypes of port.

In ascending order of quality are ruby, tawny, and the crème de la crème, vintage port.  Ruby ports are made from lower quality grapes.  They are the least expensive, youngest, lightest, and fruitiest of the ports.  They are aged for two to three years before being released.  A decent ruby port will set you back about twenty dollars.  Ruby ports labeled reserve are aged longer and will cost a little more.  Vintage character ports are ruby ports made from higher quality wine.  Although the first rung of the port ladder, ruby ports are pleasant tasting, and a good place to start if you’re a neophyte.

Tawny ports, so named for their color, are made from blends of wines from different years.  They are less fruity and more complex than ruby ports.  They are aged in wood for up to forty years.  The label will indicate the specific age such as ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years.  Naturally, the longer it is aged the better the quality.  Thirty and forty-year-old tawnies can cost around one hundred dollars and more.  You can find a good ten-year-old tawny in the forty-dollar range and a twenty-year-old for around fifty dollars.  Of course, there are very basic tawnies with no age designation on their label.  They are aged less than ten years and are usually of lower quality.  A few are outright plonk so you have to know the producer.  I like Graham’s basic tawny port which is about the same price as a ruby.

Finally, we arrive at the pinnacle of the port hierarchy:  vintage port.   Vintage port is similar to vintage champagne.  When a bottle of port or champagne has a year denoted on the label, it means that year was declared a “vintage year.”  A vintage year is an above average year, inevitably because of the weather conditions that season.  The grapes will be superior and subsequently, so will the wine.  All of the wine for a vintage port is made from grapes harvested that year.  Vintage year grapes are more concentrated and produce more robust wines capable of noteworthy aging.  Vintage ports need at least twenty years of aging to be approachable, and really good ones can age seventy years or more.  Plan on parting with more than a Ben Franklin to purchase top of the line vintage port.  For that degree of investment, you’d be wise to stick to the top producers.  Some of the best names are Graham, Taylor-Fladgate, Fonseca Quinta do Noval and Dow.

A sub category of vintage port is late bottled vintage port.  Late bottled vintage port, like regular vintage port, is derived from wine whose grapes came all from one year.  However, that year is not a superior one and thus not designated a vintage year.  Late bottled vintage ports are aged four to six years and are full bodied, but not as stout as a vintage port.

Port is a wonderful wine for blissfully sipping in a relaxed manner after a good meal.  If you are a cigar smoker, it makes a perfect accompaniment.  Or pair it with walnuts, chocolate, or strong cheeses like cheddar, or even better, bleu cheeses like Stilton or Gorgonzola.

Port is excellent for making sauces.  It’s rich and sweet flavor can add a wonderful dimension to many foods.  I like it best with duck, beef, pork, or foie gras.  Utilize the port as you would any other wine.  After searing the meat and/or aromatics, deglaze the pan with the port and reduce it to about half.  Caramelized onions intermingle very nicely with port.  Port can also be used for poaching pears and is incorporated into a variety of dessert dishes.

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Corned Beef’s Finest Hour http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/corned-beefs-finest-hour/ Thu, 06 Jul 2017 12:17:24 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=31628 FOOD FOR THOUGHT Mark R. Vogel foodforthoughtonline.net  Arnold Reuben (1883-1970), opened a deli in New York City in 1908.  After a few relocations it settled into its final home at Madison and 58th or 59th Street (depending on the source), where it stayed for the next three decades.  As the story goes, in 1914 an … Continue reading Corned Beef’s Finest Hour

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Mark R. Vogel

foodforthoughtonline.net

 Arnold Reuben (1883-1970), opened a deli in New York City in 1908.  After a few relocations it settled into its final home at Madison and 58th or 59th Street (depending on the source), where it stayed for the next three decades.  As the story goes, in 1914 an actress by the name of Annette Seelos, who was working on a Charlie Chaplin film at the time, stopped into Reuben’s.  Allegedly she stated:  “I’m so hungry I could eat a brick.”  Reuben took some rye bread and added Virginia ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing.  Seelos was so pleased with his concoction that she requested it be named after her.  Reuben, taking his due credit and rebuffing her narcissism stated:  “The hell I will.  I’ll call it a Reuben’s Special!” 

The next scenario takes place somewhere between 1920 and 1935, or in the year 1955, again, depending on whom you ask.  Supposedly a grocer by the name of Reuben Kay created a sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on rye bread, during a weekly poker game in Omaha, Nebraska

In yet another twist in the ontological saga of the Reuben, other Nebraskans claim the sandwich was invented by a grocer named Reuben Kulakofsky, in Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel in either 1922 or 1925 for the players of a poker game.  It was a big hit so the hotel owner placed it on the menu and named it a “Reuben” in Kulakofsky’s honor.

And if that’s not confusing enough, a final yarn is that a waitress of the Blackstone Inn, whose employer’s father played poker with Reuben Kay, entered the sandwich in a sandwich contest and won.  Supposedly her boss, a trained chef, tweaked Kay’s recipe by adding Russian dressing, replacing the rye bread with pumpernickel, and then buttering and grilling the bread.

Whatever its origins the Reuben is a classic sandwich and an American favorite.  The current recipe includes corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut (although some still use cole slaw), and Russian dressing on rye bread, with the option of buttering and toasting/grilling the bread.

Corned beef usually comes from the brisket.  The brisket is a cut taken from the breast section.  It is rather tough and requires long, slow cooking.  It is best when braised.  Corned beef is made by curing the meat in a seasoned brine.  Curing refers to various procedures primarily employed to preserve foods, but also to add flavor.  Foods can be cured with smoke, salt, or a brine.  A basic brine is a mixture of water and salt but customarily, as in corned beef, the mixture will also include seasonings to enhance flavor.  The term “corned” has nothing to do with corn (as in on the cob).  “Corn” is an English word for any small particle.  Hence, it is derived from the “corns” of salt used to preserve meats.

Russian dressing is so named because it originally contained caviar.  Putting real Russian caviar in salad dressing is like mixing a bottle of top-notch Bordeaux into a punch bowl.  Be that as it may, Russian dressing has more recipes than the Reuben has stories of its origin.  Russian dressing will always contain mayonnaise, ketchup or chili sauce, and grated onion and/or chives.  From there the sky’s the limit.  Other possible ingredients include sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, pimentos, capers, sour cream, horseradish, paprika, parsley, dill, etc.  Here’s my recipe for Russian dressing but feel free to augment it to your taste.

3 oz. mayonnaise

1 oz. ketchup

1 oz. minced onions or chives

1 teaspoon horseradish

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Half teaspoon paprika

Chopped parsley or dill to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

OK, let’s make a Reuben.  Once again, like almost everything else in the culinary world, there are a number of possibilities.  First you must decide whether you want the bread toasted and/or the cheese melted.  If not, it’s pretty straightforward:  Simply pile whatever amount of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on your rye bread and dig in.  If you want just the bread toasted but nothing else heated, place it in a toaster, the oven, or on a grill.  The latter two options give you the choice of buttering it first.  Or, if you’d like the cheese melted, place the buttered bread, topped with the cheese into an oven and toast the bread and melt the cheese concurrently, then add the remaining ingredients.  If you want the entire sandwich heated take two slices of bread, build each half, and then place them into an oven.  Another option is to compile the entire sandwich first and place it on a griddle.  Press it down with a sandwich press or a heavy skillet and flip it when the first side is browned.  Or, the ultimate method would be to use a panini press.  A panini is basically a toasted sandwich.  A panini press is two grills connected by a hinge.  Place the sandwich on the bottom grill and close the upper grill on top of it.  This allows both sides to be grilled simultaneously.  Any way you slice it, you’ll have a great sandwich.

 

 

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The World is Your Oyster http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/the-world-is-your-oyster/ Thu, 01 Jun 2017 11:36:14 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=31058 FOOD FOR THOUGHT Mark R. Vogel foodforthoughtonline.net In the 1988 movie Shoot to Kill, FBI agent Warren Stantin (played by Sidney Poitier), and mountain man Jonathan Knox (played by Tom Berenger), are deep in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, searching for a killer who’s holding Knox’s girlfriend hostage.  Late one night they’re sitting in … Continue reading The World is Your Oyster

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Mark R. Vogel

foodforthoughtonline.net

In the 1988 movie Shoot to Kill, FBI agent Warren Stantin (played by Sidney Poitier), and mountain man Jonathan Knox (played by Tom Berenger), are deep in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, searching for a killer who’s holding Knox’s girlfriend hostage.  Late one night they’re sitting in front of a fire eating what Stantin thinks is a rabbit.  Stantin, a city boy, is espousing the benefits of urban life, amongst which are the variety of foods available. He mentions oysters in particular.  Knox subsequently informs Stantin that he is not eating rabbit, but marmot, a large rodent.  Stanton is horrified and begins spewing expletives.  Knox calmly replies:  “That’s OK; I think oysters taste like snot.”      

Berenger’s character is certainly not the first to make mucoid references about oysters.  And while they may not look appetizing, and texturally are somewhat squiggly, I must sharply disagree with his taste analogy.  Fresh oysters have a briny and sometimes, depending on the variety, a sweet flavor.

Oysters are mollusks, one of the two main classifications of shellfish (the other being crustaceans).  Mollusks are invertebrates (animals without a backbone), with soft bodies covered by a shell.  To further classify, they are bivalves, which means they have two shells hinged together by a muscle.

Oysters are found all over the world.  There are three main species.  The Pacific or Japanese oyster, the Eastern or Atlantic, and the Olympia, found in Washington’s Puget Sound.  Within the Pacific and Atlantic species are many sub varieties differentiated by their place of origin.  Due to environmental variation from one locale to another, even identical species can vary in taste. Much like the same grape grown in Napa and Bordeaux will taste differently.

Pacific oysters include Hog Island, Sweetwaters, and Westcott Bay.  Atlantic oysters include Wellfleet, Chincoteague, Kent Island, Malpeque, Cape Cod, Indian River, and the coveted Bluepoint, considered the best for eating raw.  Bluepoints were originally named for Blue Point, Long Island, but now the term is generally applied to any Atlantic oyster two to four inches long.

Oysters are available year round.  There’s an old wives’ tale that states you can’t eat them during any month that doesn’t have an “R’ in its name, namely May, June and July.  This is blatantly not true, but raw oysters do taste better in the fall and winter since summer is when they spawn.  The smaller the oyster, the tenderer it is.  Due to prohibitive shipping costs, and the fact that oysters are highly perishable, you generally find Atlantic and Pacific oysters only at their respective coasts.

It is absolutely imperative that your oysters be fresh, especially if you plan to consume them raw.  As with clams, avoid ones that are cracked, or are open and won’t close when tapped.  Toss any that fail to open during cooking.  They say that you can keep them in a refrigerator covered by a damp towel for up to three days but I strongly recommend you use them within a day.  Personally, I always buy oysters and all shellfish for that matter the same day I plan to use them.  Oysters are good sources of protein, calcium, niacin, and iron.

Oysters are amenable to a number of cooking methods including steaming, sautéing, grilling, frying and baking.  However, I am a purist and ardently prefer them raw on the half shell with cocktail sauce, a little Tabasco, and plenty of lemon juice.  And, if you really want to feel like you died and went to heaven, chase those little buggers with some champagne.  Champagne and oysters is a classic pairing but a crisp Chablis would work as well.  Despite my preference for raw oysters, fried oysters are wonderful too.  Here’s my recipe for pan-fried oysters.

 

PAN-FRIED OYSTERS

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice from about 4 oysters

1 dozen oysters

Seasoned bread crumbs, as needed

Olive oil as needed

First make the sauce by combining the mayonnaise, mustard, onion powder, Old Bay, salt and pepper.  Then begin opening the oysters, adding the juice from about four of them into the sauce.  The goal is to incorporate as much juice as possible without producing a watery sauce.  Shuck the oysters and coat with bread crumbs that you’ve seasoned with salt and pepper.    Pour enough olive oil into a skillet to come halfway up the sides of the oysters.  Heat the olive oil until it just starts to smoke and fry the oysters for about a minute on each side.  Drain and serve.  If you like, you could also deep fry them by dropping them into a pot of hot oil.

 

 

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Up Against the Wall http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/up-against-the-wall/ Thu, 04 May 2017 12:03:22 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=30387 FOOD FOR THOUGHT Mark R. Vogel foodforthoughtonline.net In 1929, Alphonse Gabby May Capone, a.k.a. “Scarface,” a.k.a. “Big Al,” or just simply, Al Capone, was vying for control of Chicago’s criminal enterprises with rival gangster George “Bugs” Moran.  A plan was hatched to rub out Moran and most of his outfit.  On the morning of February … Continue reading Up Against the Wall

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Mark R. Vogel

foodforthoughtonline.net

In 1929, Alphonse Gabby May Capone, a.k.a. “Scarface,” a.k.a. “Big Al,” or just simply, Al Capone, was vying for control of Chicago’s criminal enterprises with rival gangster George “Bugs” Moran.  A plan was hatched to rub out Moran and most of his outfit.  On the morning of February 14, five members of Capone’s gang lured seven of Moran’s cronies into a garage under the pretense of purchasing hijacked, bootleg whisky.  As part of the ruse, two of Capone’s thugs were dressed as police.  But the subterfuge worked too well.  Moran, who arrived late, saw the “police,” and dodged the meeting.  How thin the line is between life and death—for inside the garage, Moran’s men were lined up along the back wall and riddled with machine gun fire.  The infamous bloodbath went down in history as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” 

Capone won domination of Chicago but it was an ironic and short-lived victory.  The very slaying which eliminated his competition exposed him to the public spotlight and subsequently the federal authorities.  In two years he would be convicted of income tax evasion, imprisoned the year after, and dead of syphilitic brain disease fifteen years after that.  Capone was sojourning at his home in Palm Beach during the massacre to avoid suspicion.  Upon his return it is reported that his family welcomed him with a feast that included one of his favorite dishes:  cold pasta with walnut sauce.  And that brings us to another nut that was difficult to crack.

Walnut trees are found throughout the world and include over fifteen varieties.  The most common walnut is the English or Persian walnut followed by the black walnut.  The English/Persian walnut originated somewhere between southeastern Europe and northern India.  Archeological evidence from modern Iraq reveals that man was consuming walnuts as far back as 50,000 BC.   Walnuts first started being domesticated about 12,000 years ago.  They were popular with the Greeks and Romans, the latter spreading them throughout Europe.  The Spanish introduced them to California in the eighteenth century.  Today, China is the leading producer of walnuts followed by the US.

Walnuts are available year round.  Choose specimens devoid of any cracks or holes in their shells.  Walnuts in their shells can last up to three months in a cool dry place.  As the walnut ages its kernel changes from white to gray.  Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids which are purported to lower serum cholesterol.  Normally found in fish, walnuts are one of the few plants to contain omega-3.  Walnuts are also a good source of fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins, and a number of minerals.

Walnuts have a wide range of culinary applications.  They are used in myriad pastries, meat, chicken and fish dishes, forcemeats, salads, and stuffings.  You can use them to coat meat or fish before cooking, employ them as a topping on baked dishes, or grind them into a flour.  Walnut oil, an expensive but luxurious oil, is usually reserved for salad dressings.

AL CAPONE’S COLD PASTA WITH WALNUT SAUCE

This recipe comes from Phil Lempert of the supermarketguru.com.

2 lbs. of rigatoni or ziti

1 pint olive oil

1 lb. walnuts, chopped

Half cup raisins

1 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese plus extra for serving

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 handful of dried oregano

Boil the pasta until al dente, drain, and then place in a large bowl.  Mix the remaining ingredients and toss with the pasta.  Refrigerate overnight, tossing occasionally.  Serve with some extra cheese sprinkled on top.  You can also make the sauce a few days in advance and refrigerate.  The extra time will allow the flavors to meld even more.

ASPARGUS SALAD WITH CHAMPAGNE WALNUT OIL VINAIGRETTE

This recipe comes from chef Faith Alahverdian

1 bunch of thin asparagus, ends trimmed

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon chopped chives

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons walnut oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water and then submerge in ice water.  In a bowl mix the vinegar, lemon juice, chives, salt and pepper.  Slowly whisk in both oils until emulsified.  Arrange the asparagus and tomatoes on a plate and drizzle with the dressing.

IMAGE FROM NUTRITIOUS-FOOD.COM

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Sichuan http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/sichuan/ Thu, 06 Apr 2017 12:23:46 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=29778 FOOD FOR THOUGHT Mark R. Vogel foodforthoughtonline.net  Sichuan, (also spelled Szechwan), is the second largest province of China, and is located in the south-western part of the country.  One of the more densely populated regions of China, its populace is ethnically diversified.  Surrounded by mountains and interlaced by the Yangtze River and its tributaries, Sichuan … Continue reading Sichuan

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Mark R. Vogel

foodforthoughtonline.net

 Sichuan, (also spelled Szechwan), is the second largest province of China, and is located in the south-western part of the country.  One of the more densely populated regions of China, its populace is ethnically diversified.  Surrounded by mountains and interlaced by the Yangtze River and its tributaries, Sichuan is one of China’s most fertile areas.  A significant amount of the province is dedicated to farming.  Sichuan leads China in rice production, but also produces numerous other agricultural products such as corn, sweet potatoes, wheat, barley, and soybeans.  Sichuan’s bamboo forests are home to the beloved panda. 

Sichuan cuisine is a medley of influences including Indian, Thai, and believe it or not, American.  Sichuan embraces numerous vegetable dishes.  For millennia Buddhist customs dictated a meatless diet, a practice that made its mark on Sichuan’s culinary landscape.  However, the use of beef is also prevalent, inevitably due to the widespread use of oxen in the region.  Sichuan cuisine is distinguished from China’s other culinary regions by its spiciness, from chile peppers, and its nutty flavors, due to Sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds and sesame oil.  Other common ingredients include fish, fermented and pickled vegetables, hot bean sauces, and greater use of ginger and garlic than other areas of China.

The reliance on chile peppers is probably the primary hallmark of Sichuan cooking.  The chile pepper was introduced to China from the Americas soon after the European powers began to colonize the New World.  Sichuan is a landlocked province with hot, humid summers and chilly, foggy winters.  It is believed that spicy food opens the pores and cools the body in summer, yet warms the blood in winter.  Gong Bao chicken, with its ample dose of chile peppers, is a proud example of Sichuan’s hot and spicy heritage.

Gong Bao Chicken (also spelled Kung Pao), is a popular dish in China which in all likelihood originated in Sichuan.  There is some disagreement over how the dish received its moniker.  One version asserts that it is named after a general who lived during the Qing dynasty (1636 – 1912).  In another variation, its namesake is a crown prince.  Supposedly, the prince discovered the dish while traveling abroad and then brought the recipe back to the Imperial Court.  In yet another twist, it may have been named after the person assigned to protect the heir to the throne since “Kung” means castle and “Pao” means protect.  And in a final version, it is said to be named after a late Qing Dynasty governor of Sichuan called Ding Baozhen, who particularly relished the dish.  Gong Bao was Baozhen’s official title.  It is rumored that Ding Baozhen had bad teeth and thus, his chef invented the dish using diced chicken to make it easier for him to chew.

Whatever the origin, Gong Bao chicken was deemed politically incorrect during the Cultural Revolution because it was associated with an imperial bureaucrat.  The Cultural Revolution was a period of political rehabilitation launched by Chairman Mao Zedong in 1966 in an effort to secure Maoism (Zedong’s brand of Marxist/Leninist communism), as the state’s dominant ideology.  But enough politics.

Gong Bao chicken is traditionally served over white rice.  Traditional Asian rice is a short grain rice which has higher amounts of certain carbohydrates than long grain rices.  This imparts the rice with its characteristic stickiness as opposed to long grain rices that are fluffier and better suited for rice pilaf.  Although some supermarkets may carry it, it’s worth a trip to an Asian market to procure genuine Asian rice.  While you’re there you can pick up the spice mix for the chicken.  Gong Bao chicken spice mix can usually be found in packets or jars in Asian markets.  Of course in China, it is customarily made from scratch.  The recipe varies from cook to cook but common ingredients include garlic, ginger, hot pepper, salt, vinegar, and sundry other spices.

GONG BAO CHICKEN

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons rice wine

1 lb. chicken breast meat diced into half inch cubes

Salt, as needed

Vegetable oil, as needed

6 dried chile peppers (more or less to taste)

1 packet Gong Bao seasoning mix

¼ cup chopped peanuts (optional)

Cooked white Asian rice as needed

Whisk the cornstarch and rice wine in a bowl.  Mixing a starch with a liquid is called a slurry.  This facilitates the dissolving of the cornstarch and will inhibit clumping.  Next, season the chicken with some salt.  Mix the chicken and the slurry and allow it to marinate for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, heat up the vegetable oil in a skillet and add the chiles.  Sauté for a few minutes until the chiles become fragrant.  Add the chicken and sauté until almost done.  Add the seasoning packet and the peanuts.  Cook for a minute or two more.  Taste and add additional salt if necessary.  Pour over a portion of white rice and serve.

 Photo courtesy of www.Travelbylocation.com

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Roux the Day http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/roux-the-day/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 12:33:40 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=29515 FOOD FOR THOUGHT Mark R. Vogel foodforthoughtonline.net  A roux is a cooked mixture of flour and fat that is used to thicken sauces, soups, and other preparations.  Although any fat can be used, butter is the most common.  Down in New Orleans, you’re likely to find unctuous roux made from lard.  A standard roux is … Continue reading Roux the Day

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Mark R. Vogel

foodforthoughtonline.net

 A roux is a cooked mixture of flour and fat that is used to thicken sauces, soups, and other preparations.  Although any fat can be used, butter is the most common.  Down in New Orleans, you’re likely to find unctuous roux made from lard.  A standard roux is comprised of equal amounts of flour and fat by weight.  Sometimes you’ll encounter recipes that deviate from this basic formula due to the type of flour or fat relied upon, but generally speaking, you really can’t go wrong with a simple one-to-one ratio. 

Making roux is pretty straightforward.  First melt the butter over medium or medium-low heat.  Add the flour all at once and stir until the target color is achieved.  Roux can be white, blond, brown and dark brown a.k.a. black.  As you continue to cook it three things happen:  the color becomes increasingly darker, the aroma becomes nuttier and stronger, and it’s thickening ability decreases.  As always, the nature of the raw ingredients, the type of cookware employed, and the heat level can all influence cooking time.

White roux takes eight minutes or less and may still have a floury taste.  Usually roux is cooked to at least the blond stage which takes about ten minutes.  Brown roux requires fifteen to twenty minutes, and dark brown roux even longer, but you should cook it by sight, and not a clock.  Which type of roux to employ will be determined by the recipe it is intended for.  A light colored sauce like the below recipe for béchamel necessitates a white roux while some deep and rich gumbos rely on brown or dark brown roux.

In order to combine roux with its terminal concoction, it is vitally important that the roux, and whatever it is going into, be at different temperatures.  This prevents lumping.  Thus, add hot liquid to cold roux or vice versa.  The temperature difference does not need to be extreme but it should be notable.  Add the one to the other gradually and constantly whisk to further prevent lumping.  Return the roux-thickened dish to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook as needed.

Beurre manié, French for “kneaded butter,” or colloquially known as “uncooked roux,” is exactly that:  an equal mixture of flour and butter that is not cooked.  Simply knead the flour and butter together with a fork.  It is a last minute thickener that is whisked in at the end and not cooked for any appreciable length of time.  One to two tablespoons of beurre manié can thicken a cup of liquid.

A classic utilization of roux is exemplified by béchamel sauce.  Named after the French aristocrat Louis de Bechamel, the sauce was first published in 1651 by the esteemed chef François Pierre La Varenne.  Debate exists over whether Bechameil actually invented the sauce, or was merely its namesake.  Bechamel is one of the “mother sauces” i.e., a primary sauce from which many derivative sauces are made.  In addition to serving as a base for other sauces, bechamel can be slathered over vegetables, fish or poultry.  In Italy it is traditionally combined with tomato sauce and poured over baked pastas.

BECHAMEL SAUCE

2 oz. salted butter

4 oz. chopped onion

Salt and white pepper to taste

2 oz. all purpose flour

1 quart cold milk

6 cloves

Pinch of nutmeg

Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a saucepan or ideally, a saucier (a sauce pan with sloping sides which prevents food from getting trapped and burning in the corners).  Add the onion and some salt and pepper.  Sweat, do not saute the onion until soft.  Add the flour and stir constantly for no more than two minutes.  Gradually add the cold milk while constantly whisking.  When all of the milk has been incorporated add the cloves and a little more salt and pepper.  Simmer the sauce on low heat for thirty minutes, frequently whisking and assessing for extra seasoning as the sauce thickens.  Strain the sauce through a chinois or fine sieve and finish with the nutmeg.

There are multiple issues to consider with bechamel:

  • The onions and cloves are optional. Some chefs prefer a very straightforward sauce of roux, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Vegetable oil is sometimes substituted for the butter to produce an ever whiter colored sauce. Butter of course, offers more flavor.
  • The thickness of béchamel can be altered by adjusting the amount of roux. The above recipe will produce a béchamel of medium viscosity.  For a light béchamel use three oz. of roux per quart of milk, and for a heavier sauce employ five.
  • Many chefs scald the milk and add it to cold or room temperature roux as opposed to adding cold milk to hot roux. What’s most vital is that the roux and milk be at different temperatures.
  • It is crucial to use your highest quality, heaviest bottomed pan and watch the heat. Béchamel can burn easily and thin pans are notorious for scorching food.

 

 

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