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

Savory Uses for Coffee

A bit of coffee enriches the flavor of chili and baked beans. You can deglaze your pan with coffee to make a nice sauce for any stewy red meat dishes, just as you would with wine, says piccola.

Davwud shares his method for a southern classic, red eye gravy: fry a ham steak until it starts to brown. Add coffee and a wedge of onion and simmer until the ham starts to come apart at the seams, where the muscles attach. It’s perfect over grits, and also goes well with home fries and scrambled eggs.

Board Links
What to do with too much coffee?

Baby Pineapples

Baby pineapples are kissing cousins to the common pineapple we see most often. They’re delightfully sweet, and a perfect size for two. They’re not cheap, but they also contain no core, so they’ve got more edible flesh than you might suspect.

The ones from Costa Rica are very nice, sweet and honey flavored, with a bit of tartness. Buy them when firm, and slightly fragrant. Lunchbox likes them about a day overly ripe.

The Queen Victoria variety from South Africa weighs only about a pound and a half, but it’s packed with deliciousness. JMF pronounces it the best pineapple he’s ever had.

They sure are cute!

Board Links
Baby pineapples–decoration or food?

The Fat of Your Choice

For cooking, there’s more to choose from than just butter or Crisco; there’s also duck fat, goose fat, bacon grease, and, of course, lard.

For many bakers, lard is the shortening of choice. Good lard makes a lovely biscuit or pie crust. There’s a difference in lard quality, you ask? Of course. The quality of lard depends on how the fat was rendered. The pure white supermarket lard is not great; it’s been processed and hydrogenated, says JMF. A Mexican grocer is a fine place to buy good lard; if you’re lucky, they’ll have made it themselves. It’ll be a tan color, and retain a bacony flavor. The best lard is called “leaf lard,” and comes from around the hog’s kidneys. It doesn’t have that porky flavor; it’s clean.

Karl S notes that some markets will carry fresh geese during the Jewish New Year and Chanukah. You can get about a quart of goose fat from cooking just one goose. It’s better than duck fat, he says.

Save your bacon and poultry fat for cooking. All of them will keep a long time in the fridge, and they also freeze well.

Board Links
Lard–to use or not to use? [moved from Home Cooking]

Foams: Not Dead Yet

Foams: Not Dead Yet

Uncool in restaurants, foams at home are fun. READ MORE

How to Dice an Onion

How to Dice an Onion

From round, layered object to small, neat dice in a few easy steps READ MORE

Won’t Work for Food

Won’t Work for Food

Horror stories of the country's largest member-owned cooperative grocery store. READ MORE

What Can You Learn from TV?

A little over a decade ago, environmental critic Bill McKibben sat down to watch 1,700 hours of television. Then he went camping for a day to see which experience taught him more. (Hint: camping). I was reminded of that McKibben’s experiment while reading Bill Buford’s look at the Food Network in this week’s New Yorker. He commits to watching the channel for 72 hours straight and ends up with such heightened perception that he over-dresses his salad just to watch the droplets of lemon juice.

Perhaps miffed that his friend and food mentor Mario Batali’s FN show was not renewed this season, Buford sets out to locate the state of the network. He hangs out with the cameramen, retells the always-enjoyable story of Julia Child’s early television days, lays out the history of the channel, and, maybe most important, tries to get a handle on why the heck Rachael Ray is so popular.

The two essential premises of 30 Minute Meals—no one knows how to cook and everyone is in a hurry—now inform most instructional cooking shows.

Clearly, he is not impressed.

Hamburger Toppings with a Twist

The Twisted Burger plays it straight with the meat, turning out a solid, classic hamburger, says Quetzal. The twists are in the thirty-plus toppings. Two popular choices are the Vermonter (Vermont cheddar and grilled apple) and the Blue Pig (bacon and blue cheese). Some others: the Honolulu (fried pineapple and white American cheese), Secretariat (horseradish, cheese, sauteed onion), and the Break Up (raw onion and Limburger). Chicken sandwiches come with the same toppings. Hot dogs are also unique and good, done in a hollowed-out roll that almost completely encases the frank and fixings (a shorter and more conventional lineup of cheeses, chili, bacon, etc.).

In Hell’s Kitchen, restaurant and caterer Mitchel London has pared its cafe menu down to just two items, hence the new name: Burgers and Cupcakes. Cheeseburgers are spectacular, says Felixnot (they come with American, cheddar, Swiss, blue, pepper jack, or goat), but fries are even better–fresh cut, nicely salted, very crispy.

On the Upper West Side, Nice Matin remains a dependable spot for the satisfyingly messy bistro-style creation dubbed the Five Napkin Burger: 10 ounces of beef with sauteed onion, aioli, and compte cheese, says JoanN. Great fries, too.

The Twisted Burger [East Village]
430 E. 14th St., between 1st Ave. and Ave. A, Manhattan
877-989-4783
Locater

Burgers and Cupcakes [Clinton]
formerly Mitchel London Foods
458 9th Ave., between W. 35th and 36th Sts., Manhattan
212-643-1200
Locater

Nice Matin [Upper West Side]
201 W. 79th St., at Amsterdam Ave., Manhattan
212-873-6423
Locater

Board Links
Best UWS Burger?
Burgers and Cupcakes —Mitchel London’s new place
Best fries around?
Twisted Burger–Anyone tried it?

The Dumpling Manifesto

Writer Tim Wu furiously attacked lousy dumplings in Slate yesterday—and good on him for doing so.

In his amply researched and incredibly passionate essay, Wu singles out the qualities of both good and heretical specimens of the dumpling species. He also relates a story of how his borderline-psychotic dedication to high-quality dumplings almost got him arrested at a pan-Asian place that had the temerity to disrespect the ideal form of the food.

Flipping out on the management is not good form, but there’s something misguidedly admirable about a foodie serious enough to raise Cain. And like all good critics, Wu doesn’t just sling mud; he also sings praises. Here’s his description of the lowly dumpling’s majestic potential:

The most decadent dumplings come, unsurprisingly, from Hong Kong. Recently, I sampled the ‘yellow-river crab supreme dumpling,’ the equivalent of Manhattan’s $32 hamburger. Available only in May and June, the dumpling is made in front of you from female crabs whose eggs have been mixed with meat. When consumed, they create a flavor explosion comparable to good foie gras.


In a word: damn.

Sizzlingly Great Steak Sandwiches

Musso & Frank has a killer open-faced steak sandwich on its menu with an equally killer price of $27.

For a more modest $11, Nook Bistro’s ancho-rubbed flat iron steak sandwich with grilled onions sizzles.

Pete’s Cafe’s fantastic steak sandwich is made with marinated rib eye steak, baby arugula, caramelized onions, and tomatoes with horseradish aioli on a toasted baguette.

The Shore House Cafe’s has an excellent open-faced rib eye steak sandwich, says obscuro2006; it’s about $13, including french fries and veggies.

Houston’s prime rib sandwich is wicked good, russkar raves.

Musso & Frank Grill [Hollywood]
6667 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
323-467-7788
Locater

Nook Bistro [Beaches]
11628 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-207-5160
Locater

Pete’s Cafe & Bar [Downtown]
400 S. Main St., Los Angeles
213-617-1000
Locater

Shore House Cafe [South Bay]
5271 E. 2nd St., Long Beach
562-433-2266
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Century City]
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-557-1285
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Beaches]
202 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
310-576-7558
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Beaches]
1550 Rosecrans Ave. # A, Manhattan Beach
310-643-7211
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Pasadena-ish]
320 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena
626-577-6001
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [South OC]
2991 Michelson Dr., Irvine
949-833-0977
Locater

Board Links
Steak sandwich?