The CHOW Blog rss

Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Congee

Congee or jook is an Asian preparation of rice boiled in water or broth until it cooks down to a porridge-like consistency. You can cook it to the consistency that you like. It’s a good way to treat leftover rice. It’s nice plain for breakfast, or as the first solid food when you’ve been sick.

Lots of good things can be added to it for a more substantial meal. It’s the perfect background for leftover roast meat, poultry, or dried or fresh seafood. A century egg is a popular addition. Fried won ton skins, cilantro, soy sauce, and whatever vegetables you have on hand can be stirred in. Try adding some gingko or pine nuts.

Garnish it with something crunchy on top, like cabbage or pickles.

Board Links

jook (congee), okayu, porridge, gruel

Kudzu Problem? Eat it!

Kudzu, the fast-growing plant that’s the scourge of the countryside, has been a popular source of food in Japan for thousands of years. In America, it started out as a remedy for erosion as a ground cover. Now it covers just about anything that holds still.

Do your part to save America from Kudzu, by eating as much of it as you possibly can.

The cookbook Kudzu Cuisine, with such offerings as: Chicken Soup with Kudzu Sprouts, Kudzu Flower Fritters, Crystallized Kudzu Blossoms, Kudzu Blossom Spread, Kudzu Blossom Ice Cream, Kudzu Blossom Syrup, Kudzu Blossom Vinegar, and Curried Carrots with Kudzu Blossoms.

Here’s a beautiful jelly, using the blossoms.

More, with pictures, on Wikipedia

Board Links

Culinary Kudzu–who knew?

It’s the Cheesiest

Packaged foods are sure taking a beating this week. First came Michael Pollan’s admonishment in The New York Times Magazine not to eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, like Go-Gurts. Now Anastacia Marx de Salcedo (writing in Salon) turns in a nice indictment of Annie’s Homegrown Macaroni and Cheese. No Go-Gurts or mac ‘n’ cheese? What the hell am I supposed to feed my kid?

But I digress. Marx de Salcedo hits Annie’s on several fronts, from its marketing (she hates the bunny) to its core customer base (“organo-hipster mamas and papas”) to its nutrition profile. Here’s where things really get tough for true believers in packaged health food. Except for some food coloring, the ingredients and nutrition in Annie’s mac ‘n’ cheese are basically indistinguishable from those in Kraft’s:

Annie’s has the same number of calories (Annie’s 270, Kraft 260), the same amount of sodium (Annie’s 550 mg, Kraft 580 mg), protein (Annie’s 10 g, Kraft 9 g) and fiber (Annie’s 1 g, Kraft 2 g), and a bit more fat (Annie’s 4.6 g, Kraft 2.5 g) and saturated fat (Annie’s 2.5 g, Kraft 1 g). But, you sputter, grasping at your last, best argument, ‘Annie’s is organic!’ Not so fast, my friend. Only packages labeled organic are organic. Annie’s are labeled ‘totally natural,’ which means, uh, which means … whatever you want it to mean, boys and girls!

Marx de Salcedo isn’t suggesting we abandon a perfectly good comfort food in the middle of winter: She merely suggests we make it from scratch, providing us a recipe for white sauce in case we can’t find our copy of Joy of Cooking under all the piles of Elmo pajamas and My Little Pony figurines.

When the Meth Just Doesn’t Work

Most of us don’t rely on white powder to help us do our job, but food blogger and restaurant owner Haddock did at a recent wine festival. Wonder what the street price is for methocel.

A (presumably nonnarcotic) white powder, the methocel was meant to help mold the warm lamb’s-neck terrine that Haddock had planned to serve at the recent Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco. Problem was, it didn’t work.

Don’t you just hate it when the drugs let you down?

The methocel, which is supposed to gel when warm (as opposed to most gelling agents, which become firm only when cold), failed to set the terrine, leaving Haddock with 800 portions of ungelled warm lamb broth.

What did he do? Check out his blog, Knife’s Edge, to see how a pro deals with a last-minute crisis on a grand scale.

Valentine’s Day: Love and Hate

Valentine’s Day: Love and Hate

One Valentine's Day menu for the lovers, one for the haters. READ MORE

Eggstasy

Now this is dead brilliant, what?

Check out these two ingenious devices for cooking perfect eggs. First we’ve got the British Egg Information Service (yes, that’s a real thing), with their “self-timing egg,” which is

... imbued with the powers of heat-sensitive invisible ink that turns black the minute that it is ready. All you need to do is decide whether you prefer your eggs soft, medium or hard-boiled, and buy accordingly.

Just think: No more agonizing over gray yolks! You’ll take first prize with your deviled eggs at the next office picnic!

OK, you can calm down now and take a dekko at the PerfEGG, which was designed by a 22-year-old industrial-design student at Brunel University. The PerfEGG “keeps the water temperature constant for 8.5 minutes without reaching boiling point. The aim is to let the egg white coagulate but keep the yolk runny.”

Being slightly more oriented on the soft-boiled process, the PerfEGG is impossibly, delightfully British. Except for the Anglophiles who stock egg cups along with tin toast racks and bottles of Pimm’s, most Americans don’t seem to have too much call for soft-boiling their eggs, perching them in the aforementioned egg cups, beating a staccato with their spoon, and dipping hot buttered toast strips in the golden pool within.

However, as I am one of those Anglophiles and also wish to take a blue ribbon for my deviled eggs, I have my fingers tightly crossed that both these eggzacting devices make it across the pond very soon.

Savory Cooking with Maple Syrup

Maple syrup and balsamic vinegar complement each other well in salad dressings, and a slug of maple syrup can liven up a store-bought balsamic vinaigrette.

It’s good on roasted winter squash, or pour a little into the squash’s cavity before roasting. Add to any roasted or pureed root vegetable (e.g., carrots, parsnips, turnips, etc.).

Pour a little over crookneck squash, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts sauteed in unsalted butter and let it caramelize, suggests Kitchen Queen.

momjamin makes Vermont baked beans using maple syrup instead of molasses.

FlavoursGal makes a glaze for salmon fillets by mixing maple syrup with a bit of Dijon mustard, some ancho chile powder, and salt and pepper. Brush it on the fish and roast at 450F for no longer than 15 minutes.

Maple syrup is good mixed with crushed pineapple, lemon juice, and a little soy sauce, then poured over chicken or game hens and baked, says blue room.

krissywats makes a pork dish with maple syrup she says is “crazy simple and really superb”: Season pork loin with salt and pepper and sear in olive oil; remove to a plate. Add 1/4-1/2 cup maple syrup and a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary to the pan and heat until the syrup bubbles. Return the pork loin and its juices to the pan, turn to coat with syrup and rosemary, and finish cooking in the oven.

Val offers this maple-based recipe for “five-ingredient chicken,” saying the unlikely sounding combo of spices tastes great, and the sauce is delicious on rice:

2/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup Dijon mustard, thinned with 2 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. rubbed sage or ground sage
2 tsp. curry powder
6-8 pieces of chicken, skin removed if desired

Preheat oven to 425F. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except chicken. Stir over medium heat until sage and curry are well incorporated. Season chicken pieces with a little salt and freshly ground pepper, and place in a casserole or baking dish so they fit closely. Pour mustard sauce over chicken and bake for approximately 45-50 minutes, basting every 10-15 minutes with sauce. If the sauce separates, skim off fat before serving.

Board Links

Need Ideas with Maple Syrup

Olive Oil Gelato Madness at Pizzaiolo

Pizzaiolo recently hired a new pastry chef, and hounds love her inventive, tasty, frequently changing desserts. Doodleboomer has tried several, and especially likes the rosemary-infused ice milk with blood orange granita, though olive oil gelato is also fantastic and worth a visit all on its own. JasmineG was also blown away by these stupendous gelati, and puts in a good word for the apple fritters. Cerise 37 likes the ice milk with tarragon. It is not only an interestingly savory taste, but a great palate cleanser.


Pizzaiolo [Temescal]
5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
510-652-4888
Map

Board Links

Desserts at Pizzaiolo

Jerusalem’s Organic Kitchen

bbulkow is a big fan of Jerusalem Organic–the food is fast, cheap, and well-spiced. lintygmom finds the food very fresh. Hounds are partial to the schwerma and the chicken, and even the salmon is excellent. Also delicious: the little dab of chutney-ish stuff they give you with your plate of food. “And the owner, Anny, is a real sweetie who looks uncannily like a young Alan Arkin playing the owner of a Middle Eastern restaurant,” says lintygmom.


Jerusalem Organic Kitchen [East Bay]
1897 Solano Avenue, Berkeley
510-525-7888

Locater

Board Links

Jerusalem Organic Cafe

Catch of the Day: Lobster Sashimi at Ushiwaka Maru

When it’s man vs. lobster at Ushiwaka Maru, bet on the man. Sushi chef Hideo-san is undefeated, having ripped apart countless live crustaceans with his bare hands. The prize: sweet, sumptuous and obviously fresh lobster sashimi. Scope out the tank; if there’s lobster in there, it’s on the menu.

Others recommend Bond Street or Blue Ribbon Sushi for lobster sashimi.


Ushiwaka Maru [Greenwich Village]
136 W. Houston St., between MacDougal and Sullivan, Manhattan
212-228-4181
Locater

Bond Street [East Village]
6 Bond St., between Broadway and Lafayette St., Manhattan
212-777-2500
Locater

Blue Ribbon Sushi [Soho]
119 Sullivan St., between Prince and Spring, Manhattan
212-343-0404
Locater

Board Links

Lobster Sashimi
Bond Street Question