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Sauce-making technique (bechamel)

To clarify, Chef is back in France. The French cafes and bistros are using the powdered stuff. Remember, before you poo poo it to harshly that they brought us "boil in bag" meals. ;-)

Nov 23, 2009
sillyfoodies in Home Cooking

Sauce-making technique (bechamel)

scott123, do you really mean cold to hot / hot to cold or should it be cool to hot / hot to cool? I gave a call to my former Chef. He said it will all work as long as you don't have extreme temps and warned about cold to hot roux and violent spattering. I only asked about liquids and roux not specifically bechamel though.

Funnily enough, he says that most cafes and regular bistros are using a powdered bechamel for croque monsieur / madame, etc. He even said Knorr had the best "firmness and feeling". ( I am guessing stability and mouth feel?) Before you all jump on him. He doesn't use it. It "wouldn't do" for his kitchen. He was only surprised by the quality.

Now, I haven't tried cold to hot / hot to cold for bechamel because I have always wanted to infuse it with additional flavor. Are you saying that it is worth infusing and putting into fridge?

It also might be worth noting that I have only used bechamel as the preferred delivery system for cheese or lubricating the croques.

I am merely an accomplished cookbook cook and former resto principal, but can make the french staples blindfolded. However, I have never recalled a recipe that does not ask for warm milk - usually infused, nor do I recall the kitchens using cold milk. BUT I am going to try it this weekend!

Let me know any tips or tricks!

Nov 23, 2009
sillyfoodies in Home Cooking

Sauce-making technique (bechamel)

I was taught to add warm to hot. If I remember correctly, Chef said to avoid temperature extremes and never get the roux too hot.

However, since others have (incorrectly) cited Larousse Gastronomique: It says to boil the milk with the aromatics and set aside for 30 minutes.

The Professional Chef instructs adding cool roux to hot liquid or cool liquid to hot roux.

The only time I had a problem was using milk straight from the fridge.

Nov 20, 2009
sillyfoodies in Home Cooking

Sauce-making technique (bechamel)

"My old edition of Larousse Gastronomique, unlike your warning above, does specifically call for adding boiling milk to the hot white roux while stirring."

I am afraid your French needs a quick refresher. LG says says to boil the milk, cover and set aside for 30 minutes when making bechamel. In fact, I can find no reference for adding boiling milk to a roux in the entire book. I am using a 1988 french version and 2001 english.

Further, the Professional Chef offers the following guidance:
"Cool roux may be added to hot liquid or cool liquid may be added to hot roux."

For the record, you should probably say more about bechamel. ;-)

Nov 20, 2009
sillyfoodies in Home Cooking

Chef's Table at L'Espalier

The Chef's Table is absolutely in the kitchen and, in fact, is less than 3 feet to the fish station and *maybe* 6 feet to the meat. There is a huge! pain of glass that separates you from the kitchen. However, the glass only covers the table and is otherwise open. Naturally, it will be hot!

My tips to maximize the the enjoyment is to not take the chefs journey. It is simply too much food and too many dishes and ends up overwhelming the experience. However, chefs journey will last through the whole service and you will see and learn a lot.

DO get the wine paring. Dont balk at the price. If you like wine at all, if you find wine and food parings the least bit interesting, get the one wine, one dish paring. Also, they pour just shy of actual glasses for most wines.

Last, remember it will be a marathon not a sprint.

Gaslight report

i can go even one step further. The hybrid potato is patented.

Meyers+Chang? What's the Word?

To expand on Slims review a bit: M+C seemingly went to chinatown and selected the best dishes from Taiwan Cafe, Xihn Xihn, etc and brought them into a contempory/hip setting. That is not a criticism of the food per se, M+C is a concept diner i.e. solid, homestyle chinese and se asian.

The food is solid yet the dishes at their chinatown counterparts are better - even with 'better' cuts of beef (or other ingredients) at M+C. However, unlike diners and chinatown for that matter the price point is high. The ingredients are better in some cases, but I can't reconcile the multiples of comparable prices and volumes of food. $7 for a small amount of green papaya salad is egregious however well prepared. (It tastes exactly like my mother-in-laws.) The papaya salad is an outlier though. Other dishes are more reasonable yet still pricey given portion size.

Service was diner-like in a good way. Our friendly, efficient waitress was clearly in the weeds yet she was never clipped or made us feel like we were part of the problem as so often happens when waiters have too many turns at once.

I take issue with the Sake. It is expensive. You can cross the street to Oishii and get the same bottle for less money. However, they took GREAT care with the selection.

I think the best summary is that this is a great date place: hip, good food, solid service, high prices, small portions.

True Boston

I second that with one exception. The UOH has clam chowder that i really like.

Rocca last night

You have a valid point. Rocca is at its best when packed with people. It needs to be loud and lively. However, after summer, will people go? The things that make Rocca's atmosphere nice in the summer may make dreary in the winter.

The neighborhood is not that edgy to residents - even the Worcester and Union Square ones.

I also think that the B&G/Butchery customers will flock to Rocca . . . in the summer.

Rocca last night

I have been to Rocca several times now and found it excellent.

I found the food to be an accurate interpretation of Liguria. Often people are turned off by simply prepared foods, but I enjoy dishes of four ingredients that are honestly prepared and presented. It is true that a home cook can relatively easily prepare most of the dishes on the menu to a fairly high degree. Caveat emptor!

As for the being a destination restaurant, that is not an issue. It is a place that South Ender's want. It is lively with a somewhat clubby but open atmosphere, great cocktails, approachable wines and prices, and small plates.

The bar has large windows that are perfect as the summer sun warms the adjacent buildings bathing the patio and bar at twilight.

The buildings surrounding the patio are a mix of commercial and residential. Also, the recent planting will mature to create a nice little area.

I am indifferent about the bartenders. They asked what I wanted. I told them. They brought it to me. However, the hosts and hostesses were amazingly upbeat every time we have gone. It really sets a nice tone.

Our waiters and waitresses (3 different on 5 visits) were all capable, competent and managed to deliver acceptable to solid service despite being slammed every time we have gone.

The food is destination worthy if you live in the South End (oxymoron?). The space is great for Summer, but I worry about the winter. Service, in my estimation, is fine. The food is honest. Don't go there to watch the game. In fact, why do they even have a tv?!?

True Boston

I never tried that one! Thought it looked too lonely there. Thanks for the heads up.

True Boston

BBG, Great rec's top to bottom - especially Neptune. (Just go there.) On balance, they are significantly less gritty than Bukowski's.

On the"more bukowski's" tip:

El Pelon Taqueria in Fenway on Peterborough - closest I have had to Baja style mexican in beantown.

The Delux Cafe on Chandler St in South End - divey, divey, divey - but one of the best menus given kitchen size in Boston.

Taiwan Cafe in Chinatown - Beyond the incomperable Basil & Braised Eggplant be adventurous as you can but be careful. It is as authentic as it can be, so some things don't translate well to american plates. Seriously though, the Basil and Eggplant is one of the best dishes I ever eat.

Audubon Circle on Beacon near the Boston Brookline border (almost) cool chic neighborhood pub with excellent potstickers, burger, and ribeyes.

Dok Bua on Harvard just outside of Coolidge Corner in Brookline (toward Alston) has the best Thai/SE Asian in Boston. Try the larb and tell them you want it spicy.

Pizzeria Regina in the North End and the North End only. No other PR pies live up to the pies at the North End location. Wait for a table too. It is worth it. As an aside,try the torrone at Modern Pastry and skip Mike's. Mike's relies too much on reputation nowadays.

and my favorite

River Gods on River Street between, well, the river and Central Square. It incorporates the best aspects of all of the above - especially the atmosphere and food.

Now, if you want truly amazing dining experience and have a bit of coin to spare, go to Oishii for transcendent Sushi and Japanese food. Every time they produced a meal that was surprising. Tough to do when you know what to expect, right?

I dream of the Fried Chicken at the Agawam Diner in Rowley

Sounds like I should try Cathy's!

I dream of the Fried Chicken at the Agawam Diner in Rowley

Diners? Victorias in Roxbury has better food hands down. If you want a list of other places, I'll be happy to oblige.

How many times I post to this board has no bearing on my experiences there. I went back again and again in an attempt to see what the Saveur article author and others saw in the Agawam.

By your own admission, you go other places for better breakfast. So you must agree that the hash at best average. You disagree with most of my observations, but why? How? Without substance your post is simply an ad hominem attack.

Further, if I was trash talking why would I bring up the excellent service, the great chicken fried steak, and amazng desserts? As for the blueberry pie, you are right. I made an unfair assumption. However, the filling tastes *exactly* like Sysco Classic Blueberry Pie Filling.

Call 'em like I see em: The author of the Saveur article is in love with the diner and the Agawam experience.

I dream of the Fried Chicken at the Agawam Diner in Rowley

The article in Saveur romanticised the Agawam.

I dream of the Fried Chicken at the Agawam Diner in Rowley

I frequented the Agawam several times over the past few months based on the Saveur article. I cannot express how disappointed I am in the diner and the magazine. The hash was average at best. I ordered eggs overmedium and got one hard yolk and one with runny whites. The fried chicken was dry and chewy with a crisp but flavorless crust. The mac and cheese was flavorless goop. The chicken pie was likewise flavorless, but salted as if to preserve it for a nuclear winter. The mashed was pasty. Coffee was water dressed as brown. The fries were neither crisp, nor salted.

That was the bad. The good is the service - every potential waiter in northeast should shadow the ladies at the Agawam. Coleslaw is an individual thing and I found Agawam's a little sweet, but creamy and a bit tart/sour. It was very fresh too. Another individual dish is chicken fried steak - theirs is crisp well seasoned and with a decent gravy. The dinner rolls were airy but needed a pinch more salt. As for the pies, skip the vaunted and overrated Coconut and go for the blueberry. Their pie crusts were excellent, but their peers' pie crusts set the bar low. Also, the eclairs are excellent with real pastry cream.

I seriously doubt their claim that everything is homemade. The good blueberry filling seems like doctored canned food. The eclair pastry cream was legit though. I'll bet a large sum of money that the fries come in double-wall browm paper.

Lastly, there is literally nothing romantic about the setting.