The CHOW Blog rss

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

All About Pounding

What is the point of pounding meat? Mostly, it's tenderizing. "Beating meat quite simply begins the process of digestion," explains FoodFuser. "Muscle fibers are bundles of strongly wrapped cables, a feature that engineers of suspension bridges have long adopted. The more I can break those cables down, the more comfortable my chewing." This is especially helpful with tougher cuts of meat, which are often at once cheaper and more flavorful than more naturally tender cuts. "Just butterflying the chicken breast (or using a scaloppine of veal or pork) will never get you one as tender as one that has been lovingly pounded," says ttoommyy.

"You can actually feel the tenderizing process of the meat as you pound," says jfood. But beware—it's messy! Use plastic wrap, or Alkapal offers this tip: "Pound the meat inside the heavy plastic sleeve left over from a box of breakfast cereal. I save mine for this very purpose."

Discuss: Question About Pounding

Sichuan Gourmet or Garden?

Brookline's Sichuan Gourmet and Sichuan Garden. Both in the same town. Both serving Sichuan. Both beloved. Dear God, which one do you choose? Depends on what you're in the mood to order. Here's what's best at each:

Sichuan Gourmet:
• Dan dan noodles
• Ma pa tofu
• Cold Sichuan noodles with chile-peanut sauce
• Any of the cumin dishes: cumin beef, cumin lamb, etc.

Sichuan Garden:
• Soups, particularly beef soup with noodles
• Rabbit in chile
• Chongqing chicken, dry-fried chicken with chile, found on the specials menu. Avoid the Chengdu chicken on the regular menu.
• Cauldron of spicy fish

And stick to the Sichuan dishes at both places. The Americanized Chinese food is terrible.

Sichuan Garden [South Shore]
295 Washington Street, Brookline
617-734-1870

Sichuan Gourmet [South Shore]
1004 Beacon Street, Brookline
617-277-4226

Discuss: Sichuan in Brookline: Garden or Gourmet?

Real Cajun Boudin Sausage, Fresh from the Source

Cajun boudin is a type of sausage traditionally made from a mixture of pork, rice, and seasonings, and it's "one of my all-time favorite comfort foods," says degustateur. "Cajun boudin is not readily found outside of Louisiana, its home state. Red boudin"—that is, boudin made with fresh pork blood—"is all but nonexistent, save for a very few sources."

That said, degustateur has had great success in getting Cajun boudin shipped fresh from Louisiana. In fact, the UPS store in Fayetteville, Louisiana, "will go to the source(s) and procure your boudin for you," says degustateur. Degustateur's favorite boudin—both red and white varieties—has come from Babineaux’s Slaughter House & Meat Market in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. "Babineaux’s boudin recipe follows age-old traditions and uses the various parts of the hog, including the head (temple, jowl), belly and liver, not just the butt or shoulder as many other current-day makers' recipes do," says degustateur. "This results in a very complex, deep, richly flavored umami unfamiliar to many people. Theirs is real, old-school boudin as it was meant to be."

Discuss: Cajun Boudin—What, Where, How

Tiki Cuisine

In most cuisines, authenticity is a watchword. Are the traditions of the cuisine being observed? However, in "tiki" cuisine, popular in the United States from the 1940s until the 1970s, the authentic was dispensed with in favor of the exotic.

"My experience—it was generally about the drinks," says applehome. The food—pupu platters over Sterno flames, cream-heavy oyster soup, and finger foods like coconut shrimp—was merely an accompaniment to the colorful, fruity cocktails. (See CHOW's recipes for tiki cocktails.) "In tiki restaurants, dinner itself played second fiddle to the drinks and pupu platter," says JK Grence the Cosmic Jester. "In general, food in tiki restaurants was a cross between Cantonese and American dishes. The dishes would be given a different name to make them sound more exotic."

"Bali Hai in San Diego has its Chicken of the Gods, Trader Vic's has Prawns San Francisco, Indonesian Rack of Lamb (which was enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth II at her first American restaurant luncheon in the mid-1980s), and Calcutta Curry ... but really, Vic's is known for mai tais, Don the Beachcomber for zombies, the Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale for the Mystery Drink," says JK Grence the Cosmic Jester.

Discuss: In Search of Tiki Dishes

Post-Spill, Nola’s Chefs Take Stock

So, let's hypothetically say that you, a food-loving American, are insufficiently depressed about the massive BP oil spill that's devastating the Gulf of Mexico. Great news for you, then: an exquisitely detailed Times-Picayune story about how chefs in New Orleans are preparing for the possible extinction of their way of life. READ MORE

Overheard on the General Topics Board

"It is mostly made from milk, condensed milk, coconut, nuts, seeds, fruit ... and sugar, sugar, sugar. I don’t think I’ve seen any chocolate candy. Ironically, in this sugar-crazed country hot chocolate is served unsweetened." – rworange, on Guatemalan candy

"I picked up a jar of Larich's Bombili Dry Chilli Fish from Sri Lanka at India Sweets and Spices in Atwater. This stuff smells like feet and tastes absolutely delicious right out of the bottle." – brixton77

"Cook it up like polenta on your stovetop, taking caution to not make it very loose. Then, allow it to cool a bit in your serving bowl, and top it off with evoo, tomato sauce, or grated cheese of your choice. Be liberal with your salt if you can also ... you'll need it." – Cheese Boy, on what to do with fava-garbanzo flour

KitchenAid’s Broken! Life Is Over!

KitchenAid mixers can do so many things: Make pasta! Knead bread! But if they're not working, they're a 25-pound paperweight. Where can you get them fixed once they've done broke? So many places, you would think, but really there's just one: Fixmaster Inc., in Salem.

It's a long drive from Boston and word is he's expensive, but as Mayflour says, "You are not going to do any better than Salem. He's it." KitchenAid authorizes repair shops and reportedly spaces them out.

That being said, the enterprising T.Clark says that you can fix most KitchenAids yourself: "Even if you are not handy, anyone you know who can loosen a few screws can repair most KA mixer problems." Advice follows. Your mileage may vary.

Fixmaster Inc. [North Shore]
190 North Street, Salem
978-745-0004

Discuss: Service for Kitchen Aid Mixer

Overheard on the Boston Board

"Highlights from the last visit were a delicious, melt-in-your mouth haleem, fantastic dal (with black-eyed peas), and biriyani, and just plain delicious naan." – erwocky on Mehak

"Kind of deluxe, but extraordinary: the baked giant sea clam casino at Locke-Ober; like a Rhode Island stuffed quahog that went to finishing school." – Mc Slim JB on the "stuffies" at Locke-Ober

"The taco salad at Rattlesnake is delicious. Make sure you ask for it with the pulled chicken (which they serve with the nachos) as opposed to the grilled chicken." – SaraASR

What the *&@#%!$ Should I Do with Carrot Greens?

You've signed up for a CSA, you're loving the fresh food and its adorable box, you're cooking every night and feeling healthy doing it, maybe you're even playing a little "Eye of the Tiger" in the kitchen as time whips by in an energized, excited frenzy of cooking local ingredients, and then screeeeeeeeech. You open up your fridge and are confronted with an abundance of carrot greens. The carrots they were once attached to have been dispatched successfully, but the greens remain. READ MORE

The First Filipino Food Truck!

The Manila Machine is the first Filipino food truck that we’ve heard of, and it turns out that it’s pretty great. Dommy’s favorite item: sausage pan de sal sliders. The sausages are a bit dry, but utterly delicious, and they’re perfectly matched with arugula and condiments, all stacked inside a wonderfully soft pan de sal bun.

The beef tapa slider is almost as good, says Jase, with nicely seasoned beef. "With about half as much mayo, it’d be perfect," he says. But Jase’s absolute favorite was a dessert: turon. It was well-fried and ungreasy, with a drizzle of caramel.

Their leche flan is spot on, with plenty of caramel and good texture, says Dommy. Their pork adobo is a bit dull, though.

The Manila Machine
Locations available through their website.

Discuss: Filipino food truck!