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Highlights from the General Topics and Cookware boards. Food trends, food products, and burning questions.

A Pink, Snappy Kitchen Helper

LamsonSharp’s FoodLoop is a length of silicone that replaces kitchen twine for kitchen chores such as trussing birds, tying up roasts, or bundling vegetables. It works like a “zip-tie,” but is much easier to pull apart, withstands high oven heat and boiling water, and is dishwasher safe. None of the chowhounds who’ve used them would ever return to twine.

Sole problem: there’s only one color choice: hot pink!

Board Links: New (to me) Product: The Food Loop

Densest, Fudgiest Brownies Around

We’ve got answers for hounds who love super fudgy brownies, almost candy-like in the center.

Some preliminary advice: 1. Don’t use much flour (brownies with a high flour content have a cakey texture). 2. Don’t use leavening, which also results in cakiness. 3. Same for overbeating your batter. 4. Don’t overcook! Overcooking means drying out the fudgy interior you crave.

Here are some tried-and-true fave recipes for really dense, fudgy brownies.

IdaRed’s Chilled Out Brownies

The secret to the fudginess of IdaRed’s recipe, below, is the icy chill-down after baking. You don’t want to bake them a millisecond too long; when you first start to smell them, it’s time to check for doneness. And don’t don’t try reducing the sugar, or the recipe won’t work. If you must cut the sweetness, increase the amount of unsweetened chocolate, or add nuts.

1 cup unsalted butter
4 to 6 oz unsweetened chocolate
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler and set aside. Mix sugar into eggs, then add flour, vanilla, salt, and finally chocolate mixture. Pour into greased 9×13” pan and bake 20-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted is no longer gooey (use the smell test described above to guide you). Immediately place pan in ice bath or freezer to chill quickly and arrest cooking.

See’s Recipe (Adapted)

This recipe, adapted from See’s Candies of California, makes what Ruth Lafler calls very fudgy brownies: “dense, firm, moist but not too gooey, and intensely chocolaty.”

16 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (or good-quality semisweet chocolate, cut into chunks)
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 pound plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 pound (2 1/2 cups, packed) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and 2 tablespoons butter and melt over low heat. Melt the rest of the butter separately, and stir in the sugar. Add to chocolate mixture, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the remaining ingredients; you’ll have a very stiff, almost dough-like batter. Turn into a lightly buttered 9×13” pan and bake until set (about 30-35 minutes). Do not overbake.

Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies

Several hounds rave about Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies, which are fudgy and dense (the density results from pulling the pan from the oven partway through baking and whacking it on the counter to eliminate air bubbles!). They also freeze beautifully.

Board Links: How to Make the Densest, Fudgiest Brownies?

Coffee With…

Those who don’t drink their coffee black must keep some sort of “creamer” on hand. But when they run out, as they inevitably do, the artificial stuff fails to appeal. So here are some much better alternatives to use in a pinch:

Evaporated milk makes a good substitute for regular milk or cream. (Heat it up first, for a cafe au lait effect!).

Sweetened condensed milk (used in Vietnamese coffee) also provides sweetness.

Ice cream is, of course, always an option. Vanilla is an obvious choice, but coffee, chocolate, and chocolate ripple all work well. Pistachio lends a nice flavor, too, if you don’t mind chewing your coffee a bit. Cinnamon gelato is also worth a try.

Board Links: Desperately seeking whitener – coffee with yogurt

Potatoes in the Raw

Eating raw potatoes may not be popular in this country, but it’s common in China, where HLing says julienned raw potato is mixed with vinegar and sesame oil for a refreshing summer dish. It’s crispy and not at all starchy. Sichuan restaurants serve that dish here. There are also stir-fried potato dishes that leave the potatoes quite crispy.

Go ahead and try raw potato, but do use the freshest potatoes you can find. (supermarket spuds are just too old.) Peel, slice, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. See what you think!

Caveat: A couple of hounds have reported being allergic to raw potatoes.

Board Links: Eating Potatoes Raw

Whozu? Yuzu!

Yuzu juice has just become something of a mysterious holy grail for chowhounds. liu tried some at Sushi Zo in Los Angeles (where it seems to only come with omakase meals), and raved mightily, and we’ve been trying to figure out exactly what she had…and where we can all find more!

Whatever it was, this juice is heavenly, with a great balance of sweet and tart. Liu may have sampled a pure juice, or, we suspect, a blend with pressed juice from the rind (where most of the flavor is).

You may be able to find yuzu fruit at Japanese markets, in the refrigerator case, though you’ll pay dearly (we’ve seen prices as high as $3-5 for just one fruit). You may also be able to find little 3.5-oz bottles of the juice for $12-$20. The bottled juice is really for cooking (it lends a broader, deeper flavor in any situation calling for lemon) rather than for drinking, though.

We await more details and sightings.

Board Links:Does anyone know about YUZU JUICE?

Daim Cake at Ikea

The Swedes love Daim cake. It’s made from an almondy biscuit batter that yields a thin cake. The cake is covered with chopped pieces of Daim candy (similar to Heath bars) and milk chocolate. It’s very sweet and rich.

The cakes are found in Ikea’s frozen food department; some stores sell it by the slice in the Cafe, too. JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester) likes the milk chocolate one best.

See a photo of Daim cake.

Board Links: Ikea–any worthy treats I should purchase?

Italian Meal Courses

The traditional ordering of courses for a classic Italian meal, says Robert Lauriston, is as follows:

Antipasto (‘pasto’ means meal, so antipasto means before the meal, i.e., appetizer)

Primo (first course, usually pasta or soup)

Secondo (entree), with contorni (vegetables on the side)

Dolce (dessert, often fresh seasonal fruit)

Cafe (coffee)

A salad course may be slipped in between entree and dessert, or a more substantial salad, such as Caprese (tomato and mozarella), can be served as a first course.

Board Links: Antipasto/Antapasti

Asian Potato Salad

Don’t be surprised to see mayo-based potato salad as an accompaniment to Japanese food or served as a “panchan” with a Korean meal. In Shanghai, many home cooks make this salad. Asians have had potatoes for hundreds of years, and mayonnaise has become surprisingly popular there, as well, especially in Japan (“the Japanese apparently put it on everything,” notes Ellen).

Board Links: Korean panchan —Origin of potato salad?

Licorice, Anyone?

Licorice comes in black, red, salty, or sugarless varieties. Here are some of the Chowhounds’ favorite online sources:

Economy Candy in NYC’s Lower East Side is a legendary shop that that stocks a large selection of black licorice,including Kookaburra brand, which some folks view with awe! Not many people seem to know these guys sell online.

Licorice International, out of Lincoln, Nebraska, has many types of imported licorice. Their Dutch and German selections are particularly worth a try; each has its own distinctive flavor. They sell salty licorice, too, which is very much an acquired taste. If you like red licorice, they offer a very nice sampler.

For a good selection of sugar free, try Dutch Sweets.

Board Links: best black licorice? by mail-order, pls

China Chalet: True Sichuan Flavors in Florham Park, NJ

China Chalet, despite a name that might summon scary visions of ma po fondue, actually serves authentically fiery and complex Sichuan chow made by a chef from Chengdu, reports A.West. Favorites include such regional standards as ox tongue and tripe in roasted chile-peanut vinaigrette, pork dumplings in red oil, chilled noodles with spicy sesame vinaigrette, diced chicken sauteed with three types of pepper, and braised beef or tilapia with Chinese cabbage in chile oil–and the good Sichuan stuff is on the regular menu.

Turns out A.West and his Sichuanese wife have been tracking this chef since he cooked at Springfield’s Cathay 22 a few years back. “He now knows us well enough that we’ve been letting him select most of our dishes for us. My suggestion for people who can eat spicy food is to tell the waiter you want to pretend you’re having dinner in Chengdu.”

China Chalet [Morris County]
184 Columbia Tpke., between James and Park Sts.,Florham Park, NJ

Board Links: Any Good Chinese Open Mondays in Westfield?