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Thank you so much!

May 18, 2015
GTM in Manhattan


May 17, 2015
GTM in Manhattan

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

US cauliflower and deep fat frying are not a match made in heaven: soaks up oil, and turns limp and mushy. An oil-magnet! Other types of cauliflower, grown in other climes in yesteryears took to this deep-frying like a charm. Not any more. Long story.

Jan 22, 2015
GTM in Recipes

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Why dump a great dish already cooked? These casseroles, like lasagnas, keep! They can be repurposed, tweaked, and their basics are still good; noodles, cheese, sauce. You can add a bed of lightly cooked cauliflower, and chop in the cheese and mac and rebake it with a little more cheese, or add cooked chicken, or so many other things. Your imagination and what your family likes to eat will guide you. I come from a time and place where the word "dump" is the absolute taboo when it comes to food, but YMMV.

Jan 22, 2015
GTM in Recipes

USA heavy cream vs UK double cream

Dear MG,

Thankfully, US retailers charge extortionate prices for the most worthless brick teas, c.$29-33/lb, eagerly swept up by gullible folk. Brick tea, by nature, is the worst of pu-erh teas, made to be palmed off to the Tibetans who merely seek a powerfully strong black tea; therefore it contains twigs,mature leaves and who knows what else? Tibetans don't complain so long as they get a strong concoction merely by steeping in cold water and squeezing out the detritus, it is that strong!

So, it is not a matter of aromas, flavors or anything remotely like that as much as the powerful kick of assorted tannins and other polyphenols.

The RED LABELS, Brooke Bond or similar brands, are CTC teas, i.e Cut/torn/curled [for our other friends who may not be familiar with these abbreviations]. CTC Assams/Nilgiris does a fair job of pulling out the tannins and other icky stuff from black tea. Trust me, I am a dab hand at making pho cha, butter tea, although I gain weight far too easily. Lost 34 lbs just last year staying off the stuff and miss it dearly!

The Red Labels are $5.48/14 or 15 oz. So you can afford to go wild and spend some money on good Butter, maybe some Kerry Gold Unsalted on sale!!!!! Some cheap sea salt from the Korean grocery. Don't waste money on gourmet salt, because I have found that the Oriental store variety at $1.69/lb works great! Then you need some Light or Heavy Cream or Half and Half, depending on your Arterial health, or in spite of them. And an immersion blender.

Brew as strong a decoction of black tea as you want with the Red Label. You may wish to be fancy and mix in green and yellow labels. Boil the CTC teas, and the Green label leaves, and you will begin to smell an aroma soon enough. Shut off the flame and strain the liquor into another deep metal saucepan, like a 3-4 qt. Revereware [or Sitram if you are so fortunate]. On barest simmer, just enough to keep warm, or on aheat diffuser, add salt to your taste, and enough butter, zap with blender very briefly, add the cream, zap a bot more, taste if the tea is ok temperature-wise and smells nice and funky and buttery-creamy and strongly tea-ish at the same time, all to your taste. Leave on heat diffuser, and use a ladle to pour into wooden cups.

Phocha is an acquired taste, like beer, and well-worth acquiring if only to add horses to your cardiologist's stable. On a positive note, it is extremely beneficial for those who come to like it and are unable to eat much of other foods for some reason but need to gain a little weight fast.

Jan 12, 2015
GTM in General Topics

USA heavy cream vs UK double cream

Brucellosis/tuberculosis should not be an issue in US or EU dairy herds, if the farmers and operators remain reasonably ethical. I think our inspection systems catch these types of contaminations better than most other places in the world; at least I want to believe this!

I know some things about feeds and feeding that would be too tiresome to expand upon here, virulence factors, etc. And mastitis is kept under control when calves are allowed to suckle and drink one full teat of the mother's output. Calf health is also better, cow health, physical and mental also improves. However, we need to revise our entire philosophy of dairying and how we view an "animal" being. Much headway is already being made in the poultry industry, and recently in Argentina, an orangutan was deemed to possess certain inalienable rights. If corporations can claim to be person-like and be treated on par with humans, why not cows and large apes?

This will certainly alter the way we farm and the way certain products become available to us in the very near future, e.g. raw cream from small dairies, and from CSA raised cows, where each member buys into a cow, and can choose a cow breed that a CSA specializes in, Jersey, Dexter, even Dri [female yak, and its cattle/yak hybrids that produce exquisitely RICH DOUBLE cream, so much tastier than that from cattle. And Yoghurt to die for!! Great niche markets exist among master chefs, among Tibetophiles, and those seeking really exquisite lean meat.

Yaks are so much tamer than bison, and can laugh at the cold weather that our norther tier can throw at them. Our cattle in Montana, N. Dakota etc. merely burn fodder to stay warm, while the yaks roam happily along with the magnificent MUSK OXEN, detesting grain and relishing natural feed. Musk oxen should not be forgotten for their obvious utility, but they are yet untamed! Hey, I got my 2 cents in for yaks and musk oxen, but did not dare put in reindeer!! Not bovines!

Dec 26, 2014
GTM in General Topics

USA heavy cream vs UK double cream

There is a whole class of sweets from West Bengal, that heavily rely on clotted cream that is not cooked. Alas, this genre is becoming extinct, even as we speak. You can guess why. Shor-bhaja, shorpuria, and several more that employ the very thick cultured shor, that is etymologically the same as sar-ksheer of Farsi and Old Persian; sAra means the essence of something, and ksHiira means milk.

These CREAMS must be made with cow's milk, that has the essential kappa proteins that form the "skin like" textures that can be manipulated by various applications of heat, and other temperatures, each of which produces cream of a particular mouthfeel. Kaymak, malai/balai, are all examples of manipulating temperature and culturing conditions to create specific creams with these desired mouthfeels or organoleptic qualities.

All of these games with milk were viable when there was a large landed leisure class to support the cooks and confectioners with lavish celebrations, weddings, and a year-long cycle of events and rituals where every type of these creams were highlighted for their sacred associations with Holy mythological figures like Lord Krishna. When these princes and landowners faded from the scene, sans their patronage, the foolish parvenu lacked the taste and capacity to continue their support to the many arts and crafts that had found an assured market. The native dairy breeds and the painstaking sweetmaking traditions saw a steep decline. This is not the stuff that tourists readily take to or which can be exported via large hotels. In fact the master artisans jealously guard their lore as a result of which there are no competent propagation of the subjects beyond the immediate regions where these sweets first evolved. This is the case all over India. Many copies exist to be sure, but they are worthless imitations of the real thing. Exceptional Sauternes are produced in only a couple of vineyards, and cannot be duplicated to the same standards elsewhere, or so we are led to believe. Something like that here. But the end result is the extinction of some extraordinary crafts.

Dec 12, 2014
GTM in General Topics

Best website to buy tea?

You should ask Anupa for her frank appraisal of each lot, and she will give you one. First Flush etc. mean nothing per se, and like vintage years, each year and lot will mean a different cup. So will the dates of packing and shipping, and WHEN the chest was opened. That briskness you mentioned declines with the opening of the chest and the delays in shipping!! Well, some of it does.

She is pretty forthright about her wares, and is happy so many at Chow are now familiar with Makaibari. I am happy that you are buying tea from West Bengal. It gratifies that I am able to do something. In reality, a particular trading class, not the Banerjees, have simply taken over the plantations so carefully developed by the British.

These people are predatory to the max and just devour; never create, never invest anything for growth, just take and destroy. This is what has been happening to Darjeeling, to the forest resources in the Andamans. They take, devour and move on. It would be impolitic to mention such trading/mercantile groups by name and it is not commonly understood in the West that MK Gandhi came from such stock and solidly supported and was supported by these folks in his dealings.

So, Makaibari is a rare exception among the sharks surrounding it. It is not hyperbole to describe them thus. The turmoil attending tea cultivation in this area is very severe. Therefore, Makaibari may be among the few [or only??] Fair Trade teas that I know of, starting this system of social justice its own well before such a idea was formally evolved in the world.

I have never tasted a single Makaibari beyond the Autumn Flush, which is the only level I can afford. Therefore, I can freely advocate their wares with a clean conscience!

Nov 29, 2014
GTM in General Topics

Easy home cooking?

As Querencia mentioned downthread,chicken leg quarters here are 79-89 cents/lb, in a 10lb bag. Here is one way of looking at things:

1. 1 bag leg quarters, washed or not, placed in 2-3 large baking dishes.

2. If 3, stow 2 dishes in the fridge temporarily.

3. Dish #1 is for today. You can just sprinkle salt and pepper, or some seasonings on top, and add potatoes halved, like Yukon Golds under the chicken, along with some thick cut onions anyway you please, and some garlic clove if you like: crushed, peeled, unpeeled. Also carrots. You can place the chicken on a bed of vegetables like potato, carrot, leek, garlic, onion chopped coarsely into chunks.

4.Stick this into a preheated oven, or not, 400F,for 1hour 20 minutes, sometimes more.Your chicken skin will rise up over themeat and become crisp and golden, and the vegetables will be beautifully cooked and delicious, not al dente. I like Russet potatoes, because of how they feel and taste. The chicken juices and fat will make everything taste excellent. Note the high temperatures, 400-450F, and at least 1 1/2 hours or even more. Don't be fooled by people who talk about 40 mins. Ain't gonna happen. You couldbake some Mrs. Schubert's dinner rolls or heat frozen good quality country bread when you go to check the chicken after the ONE HOUR MARK. No basting needed.Skin will become dry and crisp.

5. It is usually best to leave the oven unobstructed while cooking your dinner, to allow the heat and airflow do their thing. As you are about to sit down, you can slip the 2 other baking dishes into the hot oven, upper and lower racks, no need for any seasoning. Lower temp to 350F. Eat in peace, without worries.

6. You will have 2 big pans of roast chicken for various things.

a) Make chicken sandwiches for work/school/
b) Big composed salad : buy 5lbshredded lettuce from resto supply store, big bags of scallions [cheaper that way, save the rest], add sliced pears, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, cucumbers, whatever, grapefruit, buy bags of shredded carrots,shredded cabbage,mix those in

c) Chicken salad

d) Pierre Marco White Fruity curry: he uses turkey,you can use chicken chunks and forget about mashing. You can use Japanese Curry blocks too,and add potato and carrots for a nice meal. Over spaghetti or macaroni, no need to cook rice, or baked baguette slices.

e) Chicken and sausage gravy over rice: Food, very fast and quick if you have some kielbasa on hand or any sausage like Italian.

f) Chicken enchiladas with canned sauce, or mole with jarred sauce, or any number of Indian mild jarred sauces like korma. Eat with 100% whole wheat tortilla roasted over naked flames until they puff.Please trust me, I am an Indian, do it this way once, and see if you like the taste. Not white flour, but only 100% whole wheat,like MexAmerican.

Goya Pink beans in a can,quickly cook some onions and garlic in a nice pan, add Goya Pink beans, and some Turkey gravy from a bottle. You add scallions to finish and some hot sauce to your taste, and vinegar or lime juice. A healthy and easy side dish with spaghetti or tortillas or rice, and can be rolled up with the chicken. You can add a can of the Goya Nonfat Refried beans to this mess of beans to make it thicker and messier, great stuff. Use frozen or bottled turkey/chicken gravy to make life fun!

Goya lentil soup in cans is another great thing if you get a sale. Mix it with something else, like another canned soup, or with turkey gravy [frozen], or chopped ham, and some cooked frozen vegetables, like broccoli,and you have a decent soup. Add chopped parsley and lemon juice and grated rind to stuff at the very end and watch flavors perk up.

There are toothpaste tubes of herbs like basil etc.that you can keep in your fridge without spoiling. They are pretty OK, and useful to a busy mom like you. Add a little to canned soups and change them! Mix different canned soups together, create your own.

A HAND HELD MIXER, that blends soups inside the pan, is a great help.Get a good one for Christmas.

I make a cheap soup that I like, anyway. I call it a soup for idiots like me. Not for snobs. Frozen mixed vegetables, frozen spinach,frozen corn, peas and frozen broccoli has a million uses and they are only $1/lb where I live. No washing, No waste.

Buy good stock base like MINORS,that stays in the fridge, whose first ingredient is Chicken MEAT!I also like a seafood base,my weakness.

So, boil your mixed vegetables. Toss in healthy stuff like cabbage or spinach [frozen] or not. Add soup base. Add dried onion flakes, garlic powder or granules if you wish, any herbs you fancy. Toss in old stale bread you have lying around, the bits of ends, that cannot be toasted. No waste of any food. Now use your hand blender and grind coarsely, or to your taste. ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES in the kitchen. Thin the soup. Add a bit of vinegar and hot sauce if you like. Keep the salt on the low side.You have a very filling and cheap soup for 2-3 dollars for at least 5 people. Good stuff too. People thrived on it before expense accounts arrived. $100-150/person/month should feed you all extremely well,fruits,fish and treats included. Not steaks, though. That is extra.

Nov 27, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

Re:Long John Silver's, Geneva, NY, 1990 November and before that date,they had a recipe called the "old or original style" which was crumbed and a second that was batter-dipped. Subsequently, they have changed over to all batter-dipped and fish species used for the crumbed type is also no longer used. The first type was by far my favorite, at least from that franchise.

I should like to understand more about the details of this particular recipe, what fish they used, why they changed, what their formula was [since they now have abandoned it, it is no longer commercially useful to them] etc.

Nov 27, 2014
GTM in Features

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

Popeye's certainly has tasty Red Beans and Rice. When I lived in New Haven that was an occasional treat until one day I took home a Large size are refrigerated it. Next day, I could see the amount of fat that made those excellent red beans so tasty!!!!! Never again! Fortunately, one cannot "see" the fat in the popcorn chicken and other yummy stuff! Everything is good for an occasional treat, even those horrible things called Peeps!

Nov 27, 2014
GTM in Features

Best website to buy tea?

You are right about Assam teas. But Darjeeling tea IS Chinese tea in origin, a high-altitude tea of wonderful fragrance. Assam: heavy, full body, not much "fragrance" as such, all gone when steeped, boiled in hot water. Not a sipping tea, not for me! These get converted into the CTC teas of India, and give people their caffeine rush, their chais and what-not.

I would appreciate conventional teas to declare pesticide levels in their products. Am I being too irrational? I am happy to be criticized. I have no problems with Integrated Pest Management, but I fear that too many Indian and Chinese concerns act with impunity. We are hearing of Chinese meat companies owned by Illinois majors selling meat products that are beyond their stipulated time, pigs fed melamine, dairy contaminated. Indian teas are no less vitiated by sharp practice. Some level of accountability can be brought if Western consumers insist on a minimum degree of labelling, just as we have managed to do with farmed shrimp.

Ms.Mueller should definitely have some of the Silver Tips! She has named her outlet after them!!

Nov 25, 2014
GTM in General Topics

Best website to buy tea?

Thank you. I am glad it worked out for you. The Makaibari silver tips allegedly used to be purchased by the Shah of Iran for something close to $1444/kg, more than the price of saffron at the time!

But the Autumn Flush is a good compromise for everyday drinking, since 1/8-1/6 teaspoon makes a light brew in a good porcelain cup. This is a refreshing, fragrant sipping tea, a bit on the ephemeral side.

The Chinese have a habit of re-steeping a cup several times, eking out the very last traces of fragrance and color, and I find this frugality very appealing. It also helps one to drink more hot water during the colder days of winter!!

I hope you will be able to chat personally with Ms. Anupa Mueller, who is the sister-in-law of Mr. Rajah Banerjee, the planter, i.e. owner, grower, and producer of the Makaibari estate. This is very well-known in West Bengal, India, and Rajah is a well-liked eccentric on many levels. You should visit it some day, perhaps in deep winter! Very bracing climate. Visit Sikkim, and also the Nilgiri tea regions, Assam too.

So, this is a family operation, very hands-on, and the people who are here are very closely connected to the success of the whole.

I have been visiting tea gardens in the Kurseong-Darjeeling area since I was six. Although I know nothing at all about tea, an uncle was a professional tea taster; I remember all of his sage counsel, understanding nothing at that age, or since! But the excitement of being surrounded by the fragrance of dried tea, the noise of tea machinery, and chests of tea! This is something that I cannot describe, it enters your blood, something like love!

Nov 24, 2014
GTM in General Topics

Best website to buy tea?

Hi jpr,

How was your experience with the Darjeeling teas? Would love to hear the critique, the good with the bad.

One disturbing note is that many teas, including good Chinese teas, are now grown with pesticides in significant amounts. Even when denied, there are semi-looper caterpillars and other pests and pathogens that almost force small and large producers to use strong chemicals that have NO REGULATORY OVERSIGHT. This is not a condemnation, just an alert. Resistance develops, and the plant pathology of tes is not well-researched in spite of a plethora of empirical data.

Although the tannins themselves are anti-herbivory compounds. Sadly, their concentrations are at their lowest in the youngest apical leaves and terminal buds, highest in the mature leaves.

I know the Makaibari estate and its interesting and eccentric planter, who hs interesting ideas that he feels free to experiment with. One of these is organic and somewhat "biodynamic" culture of tea. I am a plant cell biologist, which means someone deeply involved with plant physiology, roots, and also plant pathology [leaves] Leaves and roots do many things in concert when challenged by pathogens, like bacteria. if you were curious.

Nearby estates producing very high quality Darjeeling teas cannot make any such claim. No other Darjeeling estate can, and I wonder why there is not more information published on the pesticide content and contaminants present in TEAS in general. Why does the FDA not set some GUIDELINES, rather than regulations? We now have seafood imports being banned because of the presence of noxious chemicals. Is it not time to turn our attention to teas?

I feel safe purchasing Makaibari, for their organic growing practices, and also because they practice fair labor ethics in a cesspool of wickedness in that particular area. My two cents.

Nov 23, 2014
GTM in General Topics

toronto trip, what delicacies should i bring back?

I am sorry, but maple syrup comes from more than one species of maple. There are high-test Silver Maples, beside Rock Maple, Acer sacchrum. I grow, and disseminate several improved clones. Other maples also yield sugary sap of varied degrees brix, which is not equivalent to sugar or sucrose content. The soil or rocky substrate on which the trees grow, the local climate, the climate fluctuations year to year and in longer cycles, all distinctly affect sap flow, quality and dissolved solids. Most importantly, collection methods and sap evaporation strongly influence syrup taste and quality. To say syrup is syrup would be the equivalent of saying, all California wine taste alike or all Finger Lakes wine do, growing as they in an even smaller area! If apples growing in just one semi-dwarf tree taste distinctly different, what can be said about syrup from Ohio, Vermont, Connecticut, NY State, and the many regions of Canada?

I live in the heart of maple sugar country in NY and am continually surprised by how different honeys and maple syrups, all bearing labels like " organic raw clover honey", " organic raw wildflower honey" or "grade A/ grade B/ pure maple syrup", taste from producer to producer!!!!!!!!

Trip to Niagara Falls/Buffalo N.Y. what grocery items would you bring back?

The video is not available any more :(

Nov 16, 2014
GTM in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Be Honest, You Love These 8 Americanized Asian Foods

This site is hugely entertaining, humorous, whacky, and the absolutely best, most expert site I have come across teaching all of the "American-Chinese" takeout favorites. Hope you will find it as fun as I do!!

BTW, I have cooked professionally in a Lao-Thai restaurant and take-out, and honestly can say have never tasted Crab Rangoon, Cream Cheese Wonton or Orange Chicken. I have lived in the USA since 1978, in New Haven [8 years], with frequent visits to Manhattan, where I knew Canal, Pell, Bayard and Elizabeth streets like my home; in Utah [8 years] and in upstate New York. Not a laggard where the "Asian" food scene is concerned, since I still advise in Lao menu development and management, for my previous bosses.

Nov 16, 2014
GTM in Features

Basic Roasted Acorn Squash

So Jeanne,

Many people have bottles of pumpkin pie spice sitting and getting older and older. If you have one of those or can get a hand-me-down one [no need to waste those expensive little McCormick containers sitting in other folks' cupboards, please donate and reuse!!], what would you think of an experiment that sprinkles some pumpkin spice into the maple sugar/brown sugar and butter?

And/or adds a barest hint of P.Spice to creme fraiche or sour cream to accompany the baked squash?

That P. Spice is actually a useful garam masala on chicken, used with or without curry powder, and can be used in biryani with a little tinkering and in quite a few dishes: it has nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, and dried ginger. An excellent combination for certain kormas, if you added some cardamom, some black pepper, some butter, some lamb or chicken, etc. If interested, just ask.

Nov 16, 2014
GTM in Recipes

Lamb Seekh Kabab


If you have access to ROASTED WHOLE INDIAN CHICKPEAS, or to SATTU, use those. Rub the whole roasted chickpeas between your palms just hard enough to rub off the thin skins and gently blow them off. You will be left with shiny golden orbs that are easily pulverized by a dedicated coffee grinder or a rolling pin. This is a very good binder in kababs of any sort.

Tur dal is used by your Mumbai teacher because that is the legume preferred there. It is harder and grainier. The kababs of UP and the Ganga plain emphasize texture and play with the texture of meats in so many ways that it is not possible to describe here, since neither the meats are available, nor the specialist butchers.

You will discover, as you move east along the Ganga plain, that kabab nomenclature plays hob with your mind! From Bihar, or rather Darbhanga, Dvarabanga [Door, dvara, to Banga, Bengal] what the rest of the world calls sikh kabab, Sanskrit ShikhA, spike, sword, or tongue of flame [Turks were not the only guys on the block! Indo-Aryans were vicious fighters, eating horse meat and more, fighting and doing very naughty stuff all over Eurasia long before ethnic Turks discovered this particular URL! The more things change...]

sikh kabab as understood in Kolkata!! Maybe similar to Bihari kabab in Dhaka!

Thin strips of meat that are cut in a particular way

chili powder,
ginger-garlic paste,raw papaya tenderizer [no need in US lamb or boer goat, or use very sparingly, Indians like the slightly mushy texture, the galawati texture, just like the French puree and sieve every darn thing in sight, no teeth!], well massaged in;

roasted chickpea flour [sattu] described above
poppy seed paste [boil in water, easier to blend
]garam masala powder, all these go in next, do not overwhelm meat

bereshta paste [ onions fried lovely golden, paste]
raw onions, paste [ both now added, be circumspect, drain raw onions if too watery]

SOUR yoghurt [leave plain, full fat natural culture yoghurt or greek yoghurt outside for 2 days!] also use with restraint, but massage well with hands, use hands and massage the muscles of the meat.

Mustard oil, last! massage again! Not really necessary. You can find extremely hot mustard oil named KAEJA in Korean stores. Use just a few drops!

marinade for a few hours

Now listen to me. From Middle Eastern supply houses you will find 2 types of sword skewers. One is the broader blade width for Iranian chelo-kebab. The second is the narrower blade width for JUJEH kabab. For this Calcutta kabab, use the narrow width, or the square or hexagonal Indian type 'saaria" if you are able to get these which you can in New Jersey and tandoori supply shops, through mail order. Don't spend a fortune on postage, though.

Similar skewers, but much thinner in diameter are available in the USA. Use whatever feels comfortable, since I have indicated what suits me best.

You can even be smart and use a Korean BBQ rectangular basket with handles and grill over a thai charcoal bucket stove. I have one! These are honest folk, good to work with, excellent service!!

Sandwich the strips between the two sides of the coppery wire mesh grill, lock the handles, be done with the hassle of skewering. Make like 2, 3, or 4, of these baskets, and you are all set for entertaining guests. Much cheaper and cleanup is not a huge deal. You can make different flavors, Italian, Korean,etc. and cater to different tastes, baskets for everyone.

Nov 08, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

Basic Roasted Acorn Squash

Hi Debby,

The beauty of the dish is serving the squash in their natural shells. They remain intact and the light yellow flesh is very firm and cooks up beautifully. It saves you from creating individual serving plates and looks very elegant, set against creamy fish dishes like the easy broiled/baked flounder I described above. VERY easy and elegant company meal, and no fuss at all. Sour cream, onion soup mix, some good fish, bake/broil, and you already had the oven going for the squash. A simple salad, and you have a really fantastic lunch or dinner, with some rolls warmed in the same oven. Actually, you don't really need a dessert with such a sweet side. Maybe some excellent cheese, like a soft cheese and a great cheddar plus some wonderful apples? And a tiny, tiny glass of vin santo or a ginger cordial to end the meal? This is not an alcoholic drink as such, but a "cordial" in the true sense of the word!

If you want a more vegetarian meal, small golden beets that will not stain your hands or tablecloths or guests' clothes an be baked along with the squash, or earlier, some good goat cheese, cubed or crumbled, to add feistiness and tang, and a fruity vinegar like a good sherry or raspberry vinegar for a simple vinaigrette, a few roasted honey pecans from a good brand for a crunch, some steamed beans or whatever greens you fancy, and there is a lovely salad for you! Some great bread, an entree or not, the squash, some roasted pumpkin seed oil [gently warmed], and you have a great and easy meal.

Oct 31, 2014
GTM in Recipes

Basic Roasted Acorn Squash

This was first taught to me by a wonderful lady, the wife of Rabbi Bloch. She would add a tiny grating of nutmeg! Please do so, and say a prayer for two lovely and loving souls! And another of Mrs. Bloch's easy-peasy dishes that goes so well with this dish: you can of course get the traditional kosher NYC onion soup mix, or just the Lipton or Knorr dry onion soup mix!! Stir it into a lot of great sour cream, and slather it on flounder fillets of excellent quality. Bake or broil until just cooked.

Oct 31, 2014
GTM in Recipes

America's Test Kitchen Roast Chicken

Hi Erin,

Don't know if you are still interested. I am not ATK, but you can try something that has always worked well for MY tastes.

You can use either leg quarters or a whole chicken cut down the backbone, i.e. a crudely spatchcocked bird. Place all in a roasting pan, no racks needed. Scatter peeled garlic cloves or whole cloves, according to your taste. Add some roughly chunked onions if you like around the chickens. If you don't like alliums, you can add just some fresh squeezed lemon, some dry oregano and some olive oil on the chicken. Salt and pepper as per your taste.

Preheat oven to 400-450F. Place the chicken/roasting pan in the middle. Let it stay in the oven, oven ON, for at least an hour, possibly more, 1 hr 20 minutes. Maybe MORE TIME will be necessary!! YES!! This is for 4-6lbs of chicken. You are free to add whole potatoes around the chicken from the beginning, even carrots. They will cook up very, VERY nicely in the FAT. Other herbs like thyme are great, too. ON the chicken.

Check after an hour. The skin will have puffed up, and be turning golden. No need to baste, do nothing. That way the skin will baste the meat underneath, and the collected juices will turn the meat quite tender.

The skin will turn CRISP, GOLDEN, and rise up off the meat. Leg quarters are cheap and work really well for this experiment. No fuss, no muss. Just stick in leg quarters, turn on the oven at 450F, and sit back. No need even to season. Try it and report if it does not work. Don't play around, don't get fancy, don't peek, this is for conventional ovens, and they will take at least 70-90 minutes. My oven is old and even more cranky than I am. YMMV, so keep your attention sharp!

Actually, you can season after the skin has crisped up. NO need to wait for juices to equalize etc., meat to rest. Go straight from oven to table. Delicious crispy skin chicken, delicious fond, delicious juices. I have been doing this for >37 years, and am puzzled by Heston Blumenthal and all his amazing bag of tricks.

Hey, I may be the stupidest clown on earth, but I can still taste chicken. Plus, I have been cooking for folk with much keener and refined sensibilities than I can ever hope to have! I have watched Gordon Ramsay make his pan sauces with roast chicken, etc. but please try this simple method. See what works for you, what does not work. Our broiler chickens come pre-brined being thrown into ice water as soon as they are slaughtered. Their warm bodies soak up water, adding 10-15% by weight, excellent profit for the processors. USDA asks that the body temperatures be cooled down immediately after slaughter. Previously, meat animals would be subjected to blasts of chilled air, until a brilliant mind discovered that ice water killed 2 birds with one ice cube!! Additional Profits and USDA compliance in a soup of gore and chicken internal mess!! But hey, it helps with crisper skin, sans Blumenthal's exaggerated gyrations!

Oct 31, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

Shan Masala Tips

You realize that the common profit-making manna from heaven is SALT, as taught to us poor desis by our ustads in the Western food processing sector, who learned these secrets many decades ago!!

In the early 60s,anything "foreign" was mysterious and treasured in India, which suffered from a self-imposed Iron Curtain in consumer goods. Once, some relatives brought some Knorr chicken bouillon cubes as a small present. You have to understand the context, the dullness, the absence of packaging,of any novelty at all, to visualize the excitement a simple soup cube could incite within a budding 4 year old foodie! Imagine also the horror of that same child, utterly unschooled inthe ways of the West,biting down on this mysterious "chicken bouillon" and almost throwing up! It reminded him of a story told by an Afghan moneylender,then a common sight in Calcutta, and a figure of local myth and fascination. Well,this particular Kabuliwala, as these folks were called, regardless of their provenance,had once been taken as a child to visit Kabul. His dad had purchased some lovely colorful sweets that had lingered in his memory, but the exact details had turned hazy.

As a young man, he set off to seek his fortune and all roads lay through Kabul! His first task was to find those sweets.He was yet a callow young man, and those were still innocent times! He saw what hethought were those very things and bought some and eagerly chowed down. To his horror, they were bitter,horrible! He ran to thenearest public fountain towash out his mouth and found his mouth foaming and bubbling!He had purchased a cake of lye soap, not knowing better. Being a doughty mountain man, he sat next to the tap, and grimly began to eat the rest of the remaining cake, drawing a crowd of jeering Kabulis, who enjoyed this hick and his discomfiture.What are you doing, Agha, they mocked, Agha, being the honorific for a reputable merchant! Theman kept his peace, muttering under his breath, I am eating my ruppis, i.e rupees! I guess the good man had not considered the possibility of a thorough bath!!! You can wonder why the ISAF had such difficult time and why John Kerry should read this true story!!

Oct 30, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

Recipe for "wet masala"?

Hi Kevin,

You are aware that flavor palettes vary dramatically from south to north, west to east. I suppose that you are looking for a meat marinade. Chicken is too soft, here, and will "melt", disintegrate, unless you are using aged fowl or have access to range raised chicken that are are several months old, e.g. 8-10 months. This will assure that their muscle fibers are tougher and have the requisite amounts of collagen and connective tissue. The wet masala marinades are specifically designed to impart flavor and enymatically break down drier,tougher meat that USED to be the norm in India. Ginger paste,for example,is a potent protein digester,as are figs, the cucurbit named "kachri", dried figs, etc.

I shall urge you to NEVER cook INDIAN meat without bones, with boneless chunks.The flavor changes dramatically with the latter,always for the worse.

Never buy generic Australian frozen chunked goat meat that comes in 2lb packs. They are absolute garbage being s old in US supermarkets,as far as cooking quality Indian dishes are concerned. Bony, fatty, trash. Get quality meat from local goat producers or at halal markets. If the latter are Pakistani or Indian butchers they will understand terms like PUTT, seena, dast,etc. Tell them what you are cooking and they will explain everything to you!!

When you speak of WET MASALA,the seekh kabab of West Bengal comes in finely butchered ribbons of meat with a specific marinade, bihari kebab of Dhaka with its own wet marinade, various kebabs also with specific wet marinades. A whole special field with special butchery and wet marinades. Talk to these butchers, watch how they work, you will be spellbound,and they will be happy to teach.

If using lamb,buy shanks,have them cut into chunks. Neck bones are good too. Eat with your hands and to enjoy FAT. French cooking CAN use a LOT OF FAT, hiding it in their sauces!

An alternative is to appreciate the textures of various muscle groups, various types of fat groups on the animal, the different types of cartilages, collagens, sinews, bones, marrows, connetive tissue, chewiness, textures, and the whole experience of enjoying meat eating slowly,relaxing, and one that can only happen if you do it by hand, in a sem-reclining position, with an array of flat breads, and lots of friends and a hedonistic disposition.Remember the Romans? They used much the same spices as we do, sans some!That'stheway to enjoy Indian food. NOT the Calvinist "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" Mode!

NO trimming fat. God CREATED fat, on the poor lamb and us, both, with blessed impartiality and joy. May healthy peeps live long and happy lives. Perhaps it merely seems longer when you are only eating quinoa and sitting upright all the while on a pointy mountain top with nothing between the pointy place and you?

There is nothing called chicken breast or lamb leg cubes! These turn dry and powdery when touched by boiling water. North Indian meat cookery =seethed in own juices and cooked in fat,as far as possible.

Here are a couple of easy-peasy ones to get your juices flowing. When you try them out and hate them or like them, we can move on to other examples. The point here is to help you to get your toes into the swimming pool.Try what appeals to your tastes. Tell us what you did not like. Change proportions to your liking. Let marinaded meat sit in covered glass tupperware in refrigerator for some hours, bring to room temps for an hour. If you have an unglazed Romertopf,or glazed SANDY POT, these are great to cook with. Forget the Indian obsession with pressure cookers, which destroy some flavors and impart steamy notes. Sandy pots are great with a parchment paper to seal.Dutch ovens,ceramic lined, inside an oven, slowly cooking away, are great too. Place Romertops on a roasting tray, water as in a bain marie, follow directions. Ask without hesitation for any clarifications.

Bay leaves = cassia, cinnamon =cassia.

Happy cooking.
Saraswat Brahman meat masala

Oct 30, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

Shan Masala Tips


I respect your concerns. However, as a biochemist I am bemused byt he number of people who make a beeline for Braggs Aminios which is NOTHING BUT MSG at a vastly extortionate pricing. I am NOT suggesting people consume MSG, and not at the quantities used in some Southeast Asian communities [tablespoons!].

But please, try to become rational and informed at what the GLUTAMATE part of MSG means, what GLUTAMINE AND GLUTAMATE mean.We have become so science-phobic that it is not even funny!

What does silicon dioxide mean? Sand! Glass is also silicon dixide. It makes things FLOW, that would clump together. Everything has meaning and function when used with sense and proportion. Things become dangerous, as with the use of dyes in food, that have no real place or reason. That is an important problem and concern in MANY PAKISTANI food products AND RECIPES. The non-relevant use of food color, and the EXCESSIVE USE of FOOD COLOR.

Peshawari style of chicken tandoori has NO colors added and should be emulated.

Other than saffron, no yellow or red colors should be used. People should reserve their concerns for the areas where there are SERIOUS issues.

The amounts of MSG in NAtional brand masala mixes is small. If you notice, I suggest using NATIONAL BRAND AS A ADDITION TO YOUR OWN COOKING, as a bit of pep. The amount of ethanol and ethaldehyde most people inflict on their livers would worry me far more than the trivial quantitites of MSG. How many times a MONTH are you cooking with National Brand? I am an Indian, and I cook with this stuff, say, once a year? I never consume alcohol other than mirin in Japanese long-simmered dishes, which might be a couple of ml a month, if that. I don't consume feedlot beef or any beef, pork etc, So I am quite happy with the levels of toxins I am adding to my system.

The issue here is how much total assault your body can withstand. I should happily eat silicon dioxide by the handsful rather than any food cooked in restaurants, deli meats, salads prepared in supermarkets, mixed drinks, and so much else that is treasured in modern gourmet diets. That is just me. There is no interpersonal comparison of utility.

I should happily feed my family National and Laziza brand masala mixes in moderation. I am an Indian and find certain Pakistani products of very high quality and would purchase these in preference to the Indian counterparts. Shaan is a very well-marketed brand, very professional, clean, crisp, accessible, and deserves kudos on all fronts. Sadly, I have never been able to cotton on to their flavor profiles; it is just my taste not matching theirs.

In this context, there is a Pakistani online grocery,, which has excellent prices and service, plus products, including Spanish saffron by the ounce and bulk shelled pistachios. As you know by my very acerbic nature, I am never a shill!

I would be very wary of ANY products originating from Bangladesh, including frozen fin fish and palm gur, although it pains me greatly to say this. Contamination levels are beyond shocking and even good products are tainted by the worry caused by those who export contaminated stuff. We have no means to distinguish lots, do we?

Oct 30, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking


So much depends on your cooking style, quantities, philosophy, equipment! For example, your conventional electric cooking elements can come in coils or the French type: "solid". Each of these will have different behaviors, even on side-by-side catering double electric burners.

This is my personal preferred style that fits the way I like to cook. On these French type burners, I like to place a well-used pair of heat diffusers. On top of those, I have a favorite rondeaux brazier, a 28 quart stainless steel with 6 inch sides, that I use for all sorts of cooking, or a very large 40 qt. Lincoln strapped aluminum roaster top and bottom that I use for side by side burners, or for back to front burners. These braziers and roasters make exceptional Chinese stir fry utensils, as do simple 6qt. Mirro aluminum pressure cooker bottoms [if the cook is well-trained in their use].

The roaster top/bottom and/or brazier are also exceptional deep fryers, with a remote IR gun. It is generally more useful to have space and a larger volume of oil in this country where fats are cheap, than to economize on either when cooking for company. Less splattering, fewer problems all around. Even for browning/sauteeing 3-4 lbs chicken, use the large brazier; you will get beautiful, true browning, without breaking a sweat and without splattering the kitchen!

With both burners on, it is a cinch to turn then on, off, high, or low, with the diffusers and the heavy metal of the professional cookware keeping you completely in charge and your sanity intact for decades longer than otherwise! The compliments do not hurt, either. South Indian cooking like eggplant pulusu, etc. become a cinch. You can stuff entire Chinese eggplants, fry them us, cook them whole in these large vessels, and not worry about small eggplants etc.

With induction hobs of the right power and with the right cookware, one can indeed control power transfer to the metal instantly. That does not mean that heat transfer into the food follows the conversion of power into heat with equal felicity. Cookware has an effect as does cooking methods.

Oct 25, 2014
GTM in Cookware


Dear Learning,

COOKTEK is offers DROP IN units of various types, 1800-3500 Watts. I suggest the commercial, countertop model with an analog switch, NOT digital.

Cooktek is not cheap, but I have NO connection with them. They come in 2 formats, a flat top, and a concave wok-shape to fit a wok of 14 inches supplied separately.

These models are countertop or drop-ins. Take a look, cook with them, and see what you like or dislike about these types of induction tops. Every family has different needs, different styles of cooking, and may live in climates or conditions or architectural styles that may suits one design or something totally different.

Hope something is of use.

Oct 24, 2014
GTM in Cookware

Appliances for Indian cooking

Hi makf,

Glad to know you got a Preethi. Some thoughts and hope your critiques will be forthcoming so we can learn more about your experiences with this machine and with YOUR entry into the world of "Indian" cooking [European cooking anyone?].

a) Sanjay Thumma, Vahchef, is a fantastic person, deserving thanks for 10 million reasons and more. FOr generosity and for making everything so accessible to so many. He is someone I admire with passion, not words I use for the many who have scalped the US/Western public and made fortunes with simpering, ignorant nonsense. Well, let that be. Sanjay has one great problem, besides his natural exuberance and his great hurry to get too many things completed within a very short frame of time. That can be a strength and a weakness. The weakness shows in the hotel training, where the fine technique and careful cooking has never been taught and slapdash hotel methods have been inculcated which teach more-or-less OK methods. FINESSE IS ALWAYS LACKING, ALWAYS! Sorry, Sanjay, and this comes from your fervent fan and well-wisher.

When you grind spices in a coffee grinder, several problems arise. I really don't care who else below claim how many decades they have been cooking "Indian" or whether cinnamon grinds or does not, because I do the same every day, and find no problems! But the execution with coffee-grinder powders is not worthy of high quality cooking. The textures are annoying, and flavors are unsound. Probably not to many, but to those who have grown up with stone-ground spices, they are! This is where your stone-grinder MAY or MAY not be able to help you out. I don't know, ask Preethi users.

In a proper Bangali kitchen for example, a Rarh kitchen, some basic spices will be always available in a wet paste.

Dry red chilies, de-seeded, and you can use Korean Kochukaru for their Cleanliness, freshness and flavor, combined with red coloradito and Indian red chilies, soaked in water. Grind them up, and keep them in a ball, frozen if need be.

Turmeric rhizomes, dry, soaked and ground. This is the most difficult one, and you may wish to substitute fresh turmeric, with some trepidation. Turmeric powder is a somewhat of an abomination, with the exception of McCormicks, whose extortionate prices are an abomination.

Washed, unroasted, INDIAN, not Moroccan, coriander seed, ground to a paste in the stone grinder. How do you tell? One is round, the other is oval. Ask if they are the produce of India. Coriander seed grinds poorly in the coffee grinder, leaving gritty bits of fibrous coat and cotyledons that entirely destroy the emaning of Indian gravies. Certain classical qormas use coriander paste and ginger paste to thicken, and this does not happen with coffee grinder and oster blender spices. As Lucky Fatimaji knows, I cook only a few genres with painful exactitude, and really do not care who claims what about their personal fame & expertise. I have cooked these for more than 46 years, under so many different conditions, and have come to know their cookery rather too well. I shall defer to the traditional ustads and their trained shagirds. None else. Period.

Cumin, washed, untoasted, stone-ground. Even the roasted cumin, I grind in the coffee grinder, but it is not good enough for serious banquet cooking, OK for personal meals. You will notice immediately that the plastic cover of the coffee grinder is always coated with a superfine layer of dust of whatever you are grinding. The bowl contain the ground mixture in at least 3 fractions. The finest at the bottom, the medium-fine at the center, and the coarsest somewhere either at the top or at the bottom, depending on the species of seeds. This is fine for black peppercorns, where you can shake up the bowl and decant the the grinds, using the different coarsenesses to your advantage. With things like cumin and coriander, this does not work well, and most certainly NOT with dry mustard!!!!!

Black peppercorn, the important last leg of the Bangali "dhone-jeerey-morich": this is NOT Bangladeshi, but Rarhi brahman cooking, that eschews all garlic and onion, and depends solely on these 3 spices for almost all its cookery, adding and subtracting ginger, and whole cardamom, cassia and clove, cassia leaf etc. and other whole seeds.

Mustard, black [large] and white, washed, soaked, always, always, ground with a thai green chili and some sea salt, always.

Along with the seed pastes, GINGER is ground with scant water, and GARLIC never allowed to touch any grinding stone. You will also find not using GROUND garlic paste a relief from the onerous burden of the "fry ginger garlic paste". It makes food heavy, and taste the same. Try chopped garlic instead and be pleasantly surprised at how much lighter your food tastes. If you don't like it, go back to the blunderbuss regime of "ginger and garlic paste" and tons of tomato drowning out all flavor. Remember, garam masala and these types of cooking were invented by circumstances I do not care to describe. In normal home cooking, ONE cardamom, ONE clove, a tiny piece of cassia etc. is used!!!!!! They are expensive, and in many circles, NO garam masala is allowed to be eaten. Just helping you understand the context of real Indian food eaten by real Indian people, i.e. 1.1 billion out of the 1.2 billion!!!! You can challenge my words and take it to the court of the Indian public, not the cookbook writers!!

I have had a small coffee grinder in which I grind small quantities of coriander, cumin, cassia, cinnamon [true], black and green cardamom, pepper, and all Indian spices, every week. I cook Indian for the most part, 90% of the time. I have not damaged my machine, God forbid, but I am very careful with all my equipment, knives, spatula, etc. and they seem to reciprocate the care and tenderness in spades! Longevity proves nothing, one way or the other.

Please choose a particular regional cuisine you like and cook it often. Find some good native practitioners and learn directly from them if possible. There are so many Indians floating around, it will be entirely probable you will be able to find one nearby. For example, my friend from North Carolina brought me some chapatis prepared by a lady who runs a catering business in Raleigh. We sampled the wares of several such home-based caterers and decided that one lady's chapattis were absolutely superb. Chapattis are merely whole wheat and water, perhaps a little salt. Most North Indian types lack even the oil preferred in Gujarat. This lady had the special touch, and was wonderful. She would be the person I should unhesitatingly recommend as a teacher in her genre of cooking. She probably could not write a smarmy, nonsense cookbook, but she surely can cook better than most I have seen. Serious cooks should make a beeline for her and study vegetarian cooking techniques, the basics. Not the rubbish Indian Chinese and weird biryanis and stuff she serves on clients' demands. Learn the latter from some amazing Pakistani/Bangladeshi and Indian Muslims who are really trained and talented. They hide their glory under deep bushel baskets, and the language/cultural barrier ensures that it might forever remain so.

My beef is with the poseurs on TV shows and simpering fools who have captured the Western imagination [and purses]!. Their name is "legion"! What a disappointment these are, with the exception of Julie Sahni and a few truly regional ones. Zero, Zero, ZERO technique, whereas Indian cooking is ALL ABOUT the technical details.

This chapatti was a genius in terms of technique and perfect execution. The same applies with dosa and idlis, e.g.

Please perfect technique.

Oct 24, 2014
GTM in Cookware

Steamship of Pork...a.k.a, Fresh Ham - - Slow Roasted @ 210* for 12 hours, with Pictures.

We had a Chinese gentleman atempt experiments on eGullet, I believe. AFAIK, using vodka or 40%ethanol, NO baking soda, little or no salt, allows the skin to puff up and rise away from the fat layer. Try it with pork belly to see if it really works. A smaller and less expensive piece of meat to experiment with: scald, dry in fridge, vodka rubbed into scalded, razor-ripped rind, dry in fridge, roast.

Somewhere along the way, cannot remember where,apple cider, of the sweet fresh kind, was another liquid found useful when introduced into the roasting pan with the fresh ham.

White wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, black peppercorns and raw garlic cloves, ground in a blender for a basic "sauce": the fresh ham cooked to very pink, sliced and tossed on a hot pan with drippings and a judicious quantity of this blender sauce. Not so useful for presentation as a whole ham but useful when you want slices for sandwiches or wraps.

Oct 17, 2014
GTM in Home Cooking

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

And you still remain good friends, eh? Dine on said chicken and all that? Maybe even invite Gordon Ramsay over for this truly innovative chicken, just to watch his face and hear what he has to say? Pat, you are a true saint!!!

On the series "Food Wishes" on Youtube, there is a recipe for "Million Dollar Chicken" which involves baking a chicken over some toasted bread and pouring heavy cream on it to prepare the final sauce. Very interesting. Without being facetious, the WC sliders seriously can be used in this method of cooking to add an extra something? Ask your friend and perhaps both of you will have created the Two Million Dollar Chicken and won a prize from Food Wishes which now is owned by FoodNetwork!

Oct 17, 2014
GTM in Features