The CHOW Blog rss

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

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"I had housemates who would cook the chicken at high heat with no seasoning and it turned out great; I never knew how much flavor the fat from inside the skin could impart while cooking. I've done it with and without salt and have gotten the same results. The [45 minutes at 450 degrees F] rule works great for whole birds and slightly less time for chicken parts. I've put it in the oven wet and dry, I've used supermarket brands, fancy free range, and other name brands, I own a pathetic 30-year-old oven and I have found no matter what I do that high heat is my friend." – free sample addict aka Tracy L, on roast chicken with crispy skin

"We had a finger food night of Japanese pub food (izakaya) at home the other night and decided to tempura the chive blossoms from our garden. They were fantastic. Crispy, oniony, and peppery. Best thing I've ever had with tempura." – tearingmonkey

"It's great as a finishing oil and in vinaigrettes—it has a rich, buttery quality that pairs particularly well with seafood and vegetables." – goodhealthgourmet, on avocado oil

Coffee’s Broken Fix

Here's the bad news all you coffee addicts—hell, let's be transparent here, all us coffee addicts—have been dreading. If you drink coffee all the time, it doesn't perk you up. At all. It does prevent you from falling into a coffee-deprived stupor, but that's about it.

Like an addict who can't get a buzz without blowing through a $500 pile of powder, frequent caffeine users are victims of their own familiarity with their fix of choice.

READ MORE

That’s So Salty! It’s Not Salty Enough.

Several years ago, I wrote a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that called for kosher salt. Soon after the recipe was published, I received an email from an upset mom who said the cookies were so salty she couldn't serve them. I had tested those cookies 20 times (really!). I was determined to prove her wrong. I reached for my kosher salt (I always use Diamond Crystal, a habit I picked up in restaurant kitchens), and then realized I hadn't tested them with Morton's kosher salt. So I made them again with Morton's. It was like eating a salt lick.

That was the day I learned that salts are not created equal.

READ MORE

Richman to Bourdain: I Believe in Old-School Honor!

The vicious fight between GQ restaurant critic Alan Richman and Tony Bourdain has now entered round four, thanks to a snarktastic interview with Richman in the Village Voice yesterday.

The Voice’s Rebecca Marx asked Richman why he had written the infamous bad 2008 GQ review of Bourdain’s former restaurant, Les Halles. You know, the one that inspired Bourdain to devote an entire chapter to Richman in his new book, Medium Raw, entitled “Alan Richman Is a Douchebag.”

READ MORE

Beach Picnic Season

For your summer beach picnics, think finger foods and things that don't need to be kept ice cold, won't get too sandy, and are refreshing, says Flaxen_Vixen. She recommends sliced watermelon and tea sandwiches, "made with watercress blended with some cream cheese with thin slices of radish between pumpernickel bread with the crusts cut off." On the side, perhaps a picnic-safe coleslaw, made with "red cabbage and carrots shredded with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds."

LNG212 recommends frozen grapes for beach bites, and alkapal likes frozen bananas, as well as gazpacho made with ripe, local tomatoes, and "tortellini salad marinated in an oregano vinaigrette overnight, with olives, mozz cubes, red bell pepper chunks, and pepperoni chunks." Enjoy your picnics! "Everything always tastes a little better with some sand liberally sprinkled by the wind," says roxlet.

Discuss: Picnic at the beach

Fish and Chips Wrapped in Newspaper

In a purportedly Irish pub in New Hampshire, greygarious was served fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. The fish and chips "were put onto a piece of white parchment-like sandwich-wrapping paper such as delicatessens use, then completely wrapped in newspaper which was folded over to seal it up," says greygarious. "It was awkward to open and slide the sandwich sheet onto the plate without losing anything, not to mention that fried foods don't take well to being 'steamed' this way, however briefly."

Originally, explains bushwickgirl, fish and chips were served in newspaper without any greaseproof wrapping. That was added when concerns arose about toxic ink in the 1970s. In the old style, what they did was this: "Take approximately 3 pages of newspaper and lay it out in front of you. Dump a scoopful of chips in the centre. Top the mound with a crisply battered piece of haddock (or soggy battered piece of cod, as is more usual)," says Harters. "As you walk home, you unwrap ... balancing a large portion of F & C in one hand, with newspaper billowing about, whilst eating with your other hand (occasionally managing to reach into your jeans pocket for the bottle of beer you bought before going to the chippy). Ah, the joys of Friday nights."

There are also different aesthetics at work here. "I may be wrong about this, but I'm not sure if the crispiness of the fried fish is really the most important aspect of fish and chips to the Brits," says bushwickgirl. "The chips sort of steam and get soggier, which is just how we like ’em—fat hand-cut chips made of real potatoes," says smartie. "The fish isn't really supposed to be crispy either."

Discuss: Tradition of wrapping fish & chips in newspaper

Cheesecake-Filled Pancakes

Play Video

This week's mission: IHOP does the KFC Double Down thing. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Introduction to Frying

If you have not fried much before, ipsedixit offers beginner's advice: First, find an oil with a high smoke point. Peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil are all good choices. rworange likes Crisco best for frying, because of its neutral flavor. "A significant number of people find canola to be fishy-tasting, especially for high heat uses, due to its composition," says Karl S. And things fried in lard are, reportedly, very tasty. "But the lard needs to be rendered the old-fashioned way (I render my own), not the hydrogenated white bricks on U.S. supermarket shelves," says Karl S. earthygoat agrees: "Home-rendered lard is best!"

Next, "get a thermometer and aim to heat your oil—and maintain it—at 350 to 375 degrees F," says ipsedixit. "If you don't have a thermometer, the oil is ready when you stick the end of a wooden spoon into the oil and it bubbles." Finally, don't overcrowd your pan. Crowding will reduce the heat and make for less-than-ideal frying conditions. Finally, "just remember that like any other ability, you'll get better at frying the more often you do it—just make sure to drain well all the stuff you fry," says epabella.

Discuss: Frying Novice

Bubble Travel

Those same guys you remember from the Diet Coke and Mentos fountain have made another amusing object, the Coke Zero and Mentos rocket car. Love those crash helmets.

Overheard on the General Topics Board

"Ever since I heard of it, I have been in love with the concept of thermal cooking (also known as haybox cooking, among other things). Not only because of how energy efficient and environmentally friendly it is, but also because of its portability and convenience. Great for road trips, camping, and potlucks!" – ursy_ten

"Yes, I've read here that many Americans seem to keep things like these in the fridge. I keep very few jarred condiments there, as with all the sugar and vinegar that they usually contain, they never spoil in the cupboard (I do keep low-sugar jams fridged, although not conventionally made ones)." – Harters, on refrigerating ketchup and Worcestershire sauce

"Fourth for Kosciusko. The only mustard I am tempted to eat straight." – Steve