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

Tuscan Truffled Pecorino from Pennsylvania Macaroni Company

The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in Pittsburgh makes a pecorino cheese with chunks of both black and white truffles inside. mhoffman loves this cheese–it’s less salty than many pecorinos, and every sliver fills your sinuses with musky goodness. Try it shaved over buttered noodles, in shards drizzled with honey on crusty bread, or straight up. At around $14 a pound, “it’s the best truffle experience for the money I’ve ever had,” says mhoffman. It’s not currently listed on their web site, so call (412-471-8330) to ask about availability.

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Bosco Tartufo Tuscan Truffled Pecorino

Lithuanian Bacon Buns

How irresistible does a warm globe of dough filled with bits of fried bacon, ham, and onion sound? Bacon buns are a deeply traditional Lithuanian goodie, but they’re easy to whip up for the average American. This recipe may read long, but litchick, swears it’s foolproof, even for an unsteady baker like her:

Dough:

1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 packages dry yeast, regular or rapid rise
2 eggs, well beaten
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour, sifted

Filling:

1 pound lean bacon, cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 pound lean ham, diced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Egg wash:

1 egg yolk mixed with 2-3 tablespoons milk

Pour scalded milk into a large bowl. Add butter, sugar, and salt. Let mixture cool to lukewarm, 110-115 degrees. Stir in yeast until dissolved. Add beaten eggs and then add flour gradually, mixing until dough is workable.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Put dough into a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

While dough is rising, make the filling: Fry bacon pieces in a heavy skillet until most of the fat is rendered, but the bacon is still soft (you don

Sweet and Savory and Wonderful: Apple Cranberry Chutney

This is apple-cranberry chutney is much more than the sum of it’s parts, says prunefeet. The combination of sweet and savory is really wonderful.

Apple-Cranberry Chutney

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
3 cups cranberries, picked over and coarsely chopped
2 large golden delicious apples (about 1 lb.), peeled, cored, and cut into 3/8-inch cubes
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat oil in medium non-reactive saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture releases moisture and is boiling, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender, 20-25 minutes. Cool to room temperature before serving. Can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and refrigerated in airtight container; bring to room temperature before serving. Makes about 4 cups.

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Apple Cranberry chutney–delish recipe

Next Up: A Robot That Powers Itself by Eating Kittens

Terrified by robots? If so, please don’t read Lore Sjöberg’s post on the Wired blog about robots identifying human flesh as delicious bacon.

Researchers at NEC System technologies and Mie University have designed a cute little ‘bot that can “eat” samples of cheeses, meats, or wines and then identify what it has been fed.

But when some smart aleck reporter placed his hand in the robot’s omnivorous clanking jaw, he was identified as bacon. A cameraman then tried and was identified as prosciutto. Absolutely horrifying.

Apparently, all we need to do is build several thousand copies of this ‘bot, pass around some hedge trimmers and a Skynet-like global hive mind, and we’ll all be living in a cross between The Matrix and Bad Taste.

Hooray for food science!

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Battle Foie Gras Is On

Take two food bloggers, give them each a free hunk of foie gras, and what do you get? An online cooking competition where they try to outdo each other in making the best Thomas Keller-style torchon.

That’s what happened this week when Meg of Megnut and Adam of The Amateur Gourmet received their freebie foie (yes, apparently being a blogger does have its benefits). The Torchon Tournament was on.

Adam, in his post 70 Steps to Foie Gras Torchon, records all the messy details in graphic photos, turning a few readers off the idea of foie gras forever. “I’ve always been interested in trying it” writes a reader. “Until today … it’s just way too obviously organ-y looking to me.”

Meg takes the high road in her post. She admits that deveining is a disgusting process, and writes, “I chose not to photograph this stage … because I want you, if you enjoy foie gras, to continue to enjoy foie gras.” Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

After the foie has been prepared, including four days of hanging in the refrigerator being compressed into a log, dinner was served. Each invited friends to share this carefully prepared delicacy (Meg’s guests even include a former vegan—from tempeh to torchon, that’s a long way to stray).

In the end, Adam conceded victory to Meg. With Thomas Keller presumably too busy to judge this particular cookoff, it got a wee bit messy until Michael Ruhlman stepped in to say that, while Adam’s foie was “very nice,” Meg’s version “appear[ed] to be exquisite.”

Here at CHOW we’ve devised a more thorough judging process:

In the categories of beautiful photos and lyrical prose, the honors must go to Meg.

In the categories of excellent documentation (of all the gory details) and cheeky humor, the honors go to Adam.

As for the foie itself, we cannot say; we weren’t there. But we would be happy to make ourselves available to judge any future cookoff these two may have. Just don’t show us the gory photos until after we’ve had our meal—OK, Adam?

Not Krispy Kreme Christianity

Church picnics. Can’t you just taste the fried chicken, potato salad, homemade cakes, and big glasses of sweet, sweet iced tea? (I can, but maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading a lot of southern novelists these days.)

A study that came out this summer, however, found that traditions like these may be taking a toll on congregations. The study tracked the religious practices of more than 2,500 people from 1986 to 1994, and then correlated that data with the body mass index of each subjects. The result? Those of certain denominations—particularly Baptists and fundamentalist Protestants—are more likely to be obese. The study’s author, Ken Ferraro, decried what he calls “Krispy Kreme Christianity.”

An article in today’s San Mateo County Times outlines an innovative program in Santa Clara County, California, that is helping congregants get healthy. Five years ago, shocked by high rates of obesity, diabetes, and cancer in the African-American community, county health officials approached church leaders and asked them to help save their parishioners’ bodies as well as their souls.

Now those efforts seem to be paying off:

At Sureway Ministries in Palo Alto, congregants work out together at the gym. Newly slim members of True Vine Baptist Church in San Jose are taking daily walks and serving fruit—not cake—at church meetings. And after each Golden Altar Sunday service, members get their blood pressure and glucose levels checked.

Since support is a key predictor of success in any health-improvement undertaking, this kind of counseling seems to be a great idea. There’s even an umbrella organization to support the supporters!

Rise and Shine

Who knew readers of The New York Times were such passionate home bread bakers? Scoring the coveted “most e-mailed” slot on the paper’s website on Wednesday wasn’t the election returns, but rather Mark Bittman’s article about Sullivan Street Bakery owner Jim Lahey’s magical new no-knead bread-making method. In the accompanying video, Lahey claims a 4-year-old can make this bread; Bittman hedges and places his bet on an ambitious 8-year-old.

But the instructions and ingredients couldn’t be simpler: just flour, salt, a smidgen of yeast, and water, mixed together and left to rise for 18 hours. The gooey dough is poured into a preheated, covered pot to bake, so that trapped steam from the dough will produce a crackling crust and airy crumb just like one pulled from a $5,000 steam-injection professional oven, or so Bittman and Lahey claim. The pictures certainly showed a gorgeous loaf—caramel-crusted with a satiny, chewy-looking crumb pocked with holes, a loaf seemingly pulled fresh from the shelves of a great European bakery. And naturally, Harold McGee supplied some food-geek cred as to how the long rise gets the gluten molecules into proper alignment.

Eager bakers immediately started two threads on Chowhound, mostly to report how they were running out the door that instant to score bread flour and yeast. But is Lahey’s method really so revolutionary? Hardly, shrugs Fortune at Bread Coffee Chocolate Yoga. Baking bread in a pot, she claims, goes back at least to the ancient Greeks, and was most recently repopularized by Elizabeth David’s encyclopedic compendium, English Bread and Yeast Cookery, in 1977. Fortune also points out that Los Angeles baker Suzanne Dunaway wrote a whole book on this “slack dough” method, called No Need to Knead.

But would Lahey’s loaf really be the best thing since sliced bread, as Bittman claimed? This reporter started a loaf in her home kitchen to find out. Some 24 hours later, after scattering cornmeal and flour all over the kitchen, the bread was baked, cooled, and ready to taste. The verdict? A nice open crumb, very moist, and a decent crust, if not as hard and crackle-ready as Bittman’s. Worth the hype? Well, it was certainly easy, and anyone with a fear of kneading could do it, especially with a little less water and a little more salt. But better than the fabulous bread for sale at Lahey’s bakery? Not yet.

Lutefisk, Meatballs and Lefse, Oh My!

The annual Sons of Norway Lutefisk and Meatball Dinner is taking place Nov. 10 and 11, starting at 4 p.m. In addition to the lutefisk (fish soaked in lye, but don’t be afraid) with melted butter, there are the meatballs with gravy, potatoes, peas, lefse (flatbread) and dessert.

The way things work is that you enter the building, tell them how many people are in your party (no reservations) and pay. (Last year it was about $18.) They give you a ticket and you wait for a table–this can last more than an hour. In the meantime, there’s a sale behind the lodge where you can buy lefse and lefse makers, and other Scandinavian products. There’s also a bar serving aquavit and bad wine.

Parking is crazy in the residential neighborhood–you can park at the nearby Central Lutheran Church, at the northwest corner of Victory and Tyrone.

Also, the SVEA Christmas pageant is coming up Dec. 3. You can get meatballs, gravy and lingonberries as well as Scandinavian holiday decorations, gifts, and books, and there’s a classic Lucia procession.

Norrona Lodge Hall [East San Fernando Valley]
a.k.a. Sons of Norway
14312 Friar St., Van Nuys
818-780-4778
Locater

The Hollywood Palladium [Hollywood]
6215 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
323-962-7600
Locater

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Lutefisk, Meatballs & Lefse, OH MY!!