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Bucatini all'Amatriciana

I hate to be the pedant in the room, but a true All'Amatriciana should use guanciale (smoked pig's jowl bacon), not Pancetta, which is an altogether flavor and texture. Guanciale can be found at many Italian delis and specialty stores. Also, animal fat is recommended over olive oil, which is considered a substitute. Lard is traditional, although duck fat would also work splendidly, probably better than olive oil.

Jul 28, 2010
aeranis in Recipes

Slow Cooking, Barbecue, and the Danger Zone

So I have always been told mixed things about the safety of slow cooking meat. I've heard food experts say that as long as meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature, it is safe to eat. Fair enough. But last Thanksgiving had the inclination to pursue the most perfectly tender turkey ever-- perhaps, I thought, by slow cooking it at 200 degrees overnight. After consulting the FDA guidelines and various forums online, I learned that the "safest temperature to cook a turkey is 325 degrees." Supposedly, if the bird lingers in the "danger zone", around 140 degrees internally, it will become a breeding ground for bacteria that will produce a cocktail of deadly toxins. These guidelines claim that no amount of cooking will be able to remove these toxins after they have already been produced, and as such, they will surely kill me. What?

Now, I want to make something clear: I am an avid slow-smoked barbecue enthusiast. Barbecuers, and even barbecue restaurants beholden to health code, will do things like smoke a brisket at 200 degrees for 18 hours. I once carefully eyed pitmaster Tootsie's thermometers at Snow's in Lexington, Texas, and she went no higher than 210 in any of her smokers, which had all been going since 3AM the previous morning. Given such a low cooking temperature, one would imagine that virtually every meat would linger in the "danger zone" for hours on end, producing enough toxins to kill me several times over. Then, I thought, maybe these health specialists are only referring to poultry due to the salmonella risk. But the SAME FDA that cautioned me against slow-roasting turkey suggested that I am allowed to smoke my chicken at 250 degrees for many hours.

So finally, I thought to myself, maybe the smoke retards the growth of bacteria to an extent that it is somewhat cured during the process, akin to smoking salmon. Then I remembered all of the traditional Old World and Americans recipes I have encountered in my life that have called for slow-roasting birds for outrageous amounts of time without any smoke at all. Then there's the crockpot. I'm sure many of you are familiar with, and have probably made crockpot recipes that ask you to skirt with the danger zone for many hours. All orders of slow-cooking have been practiced across cultures for centuries, long before modern-medicine. Maybe I'm naive, but I think that were it so dangerous, people would have gotten ill, died, or otherwise decided that it was a bad idea.

Does anyone have the final scientific lowdown on all this? I'm not going to stop slow-cooking meat, but I'd still like to know.

Jan 27, 2010
aeranis in Home Cooking

Shortcut BBQ Brisket

Personally, I've never understood how anyone cooks a brisket WITHOUT covering. The best barbecue in Texas for my money is Snow's in Lexington (Texas Monthly did a profile on them a while back). That is hands down the most succulent, buttery brisket I've ever had. One critic compared it with cookie dough. Either way, I watched the pitmasters carefully and everything came out in foil-- ribs, brisket, everything.

The reason competition pitmasters cover is so they can create a small pool of cider or apple juice or mop which slowly steams the meat. For a tough cut like brisket, this is integral, and it's where most restaurants go wrong. Brisket, when barbecued properly, should fall apart as you lift it to your mouth. No joke. It should be just about impossible to cut into slices without it just falling apart. I've personally smoked brisket using the last 4-5 hours covered method, and it has worked extremely well (assuming you're smoking for around 10-11 hours.)

Jan 07, 2010
aeranis in Recipes

Stovetop braising

Yeah, I've given stuff 2 hours on low and it's still turned out tougher than it should be.

Dec 24, 2009
aeranis in Home Cooking

Ribs,sauerkraut and spaetzle recipe

Well, to my knowledge, the Irish don't use anything like Spätzle. They use buttered noodles occasionally, but I am fairly certain it's not traditional. Either way, ribs, sauerkraut and Spätzle is a dish that definitely occurs in German cuisine.

Here is a German rib recipe that you can definitely serve with Spätzle, Rippchen mit Sauerkraut (Pork ribs with Sauerkraut):
http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.chefkoch.de%2Frezepte%2F405861129973415%2FGekochte-Rippchen-mit-Sauerkraut.html&sl=de&tl=en

You'll have to adjust the amounts, since they're in metric (sorry about that). As for the Spätzle, check out the video on this website for how to make it: http://www.chow.com/assets/2006/10/mf...

Dec 24, 2009
aeranis in Home Cooking

Stovetop braising

Well, I'm just about out of ideas. I've pretty much mastered getting meat tender in the oven or smoker, from turkey to brisket to pork loins. But when it comes to stovetop braising, I somehow manage to always mess it up. Whether it's a stew, like a bourguignonne, or meat braised in its own broth, I can never achieve the level of tenderness as in the oven. I'm always sure to tightly cover my pan, and rarely open it to check on it. Also, I have electric burners which are in good condition.

Do any of you have experience with this? What am I doing wrong? Is it simply the nature of stovetop braising, or am I using the wrong gear?

Dec 24, 2009
aeranis in Home Cooking

Spaghettini with San Marzano Red Clam Sauce (Spaghettini con Vongole in Sugo Rosso)

Per me brings up a good point. Most Neapolitan and Campanian clam sauce recipes I've seen avoid sweetness or unnecessary complexity in general. Red pepper flakes or black pepper are fairly common, but basil and sugar is going a bit overboard, and I think the sweetness would detract from the dish. Clam is a relatively delicate flavor, so you typically want it to stand on its own. The traditional logic is that mussels are better made for red sauces because they have a stronger flavor, so considering that the clams are already being subdued by the powerful San Marzano, I'd definitely forgo the basil and sugar. If you want some more acidity and complexity, I'd toss a bit of the wine in there.

Dec 09, 2009
aeranis in Recipes

Traditional Michigan Thanksgiving

I'm thinking of spicing up this Thanksgiving with some local flavor. Venison, Michigan maple syrup, whitefish... you get the idea. Maybe some Native-inspired stuff as well (anyone know any Potawatomi/Ojibwe recipes?) Anyone from up North have any family recipes that scream Michigan?

Nov 21, 2009
aeranis in Great Lakes

LongHorn Steakhouse coming to North Haven, CT- Worth getting excited about?

As a bit of a barbecue/Southern foods aficionado, I'd say bluntly that this place is pretty much a joke. Passing off sub-par, grilled, tough cuts as "Texas food" gets my proverbial goat, especially considering how unbelievable the food is in the longhorn state. Judging by other chains, though, it might not be truly awful. Personally, if you're into this sort of thing, I'd recommend Googling "barbecue smoking"- buy yourself a smoker and you may find yourself lost in a world of great American food you never even knew existed.

Nov 21, 2009
aeranis in Chains

Roast Turkey with Creamy Herbed Gravy

Wine, with Thanksgiving? Sacrilege! Why not a cold Weissbier or golden ale? Them pilgrims didn't drink no wine.

Nov 21, 2009
aeranis in Recipes