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Cookbook of the Month March 2013 EVERY GRAIN OF RICE: Cold dishes, Tofu, Meat, Chicken and Eggs, Fish and Seafood

Hi Breadcrumbs,

I would second all that qlanning brought to the conversation.

I made the Red-Braised pork with boneless country-style pork ribs which were actually quite lean, probably a bit more so than pork butt. I've made it before with pork belly, so have that as a baseline. I let it go for 2 hours or so until it was quite tender but not totally falling-apart. It was tasty, but I thought that it definitely needed to be richer and more moist.

I agree with qlanning that twice-cooked/salt-fried pork would not work well without pork belly. What Emily suggests works very well for those recipes.

That gelatinous texture is such a Chinese thing: I, too, was freaked out by it at first, but have since grown to appreciate it. There was a great local Sichuan restaurant near me that had all sorts of goodies on the menu like homestyle tendon and ma la duck tongues. Focusing on the wonderful flavors really helped me get over my squeamishness. I can certainly understand!

Mar 06, 2013
ericurus in Home Cooking

Cookbook of the Month March 2013 EVERY GRAIN OF RICE: Soups, Rice, Noodles, Dumplings, Stocks, Preserves and Other Essentials

Sure! I have a 6-quart Fagor Duo, if it's any help.

Basically, I load the pressure cooker 1/2-2/3 full of meat/bones/vegetables, then add enough cold water to barely cover, being sure that the cooker is no more than 2/3 full. I think this is pretty universal with most pressure cookers (needing the extra space to pressurize properly I think), but check your manual if it needs to be less full.

Next, I bring the water to a simmer, skimming as I go along. When the scum release slows down, I add herbs/whatever else is needed then cover and bring to pressure on the high setting. I let it go at least an hour, then turn the heat off and let the pressure come down naturally. You could probably let it go longer than that, but I've had great results every time. The stock has always gelled, never completely solid like jello, but mostly there.

I learned a trick to facilitate the descumming process, which is to quickly blanch the ingredients, letting them release scum, then draining everything in a colander. The pot is then washed and the ingredients rinsed before proceeding to refill the pot and bring it up to pressure. Supposedly you lose very little flavor (if any) from this process, which makes sense considering that the pressure cooker extracts the heck out of everything. I actually tend to do this now because I hate standing over the pot and skimming it before bringing it up to pressure.

Let me know if you have any questions, and good luck if you try this!

Mar 03, 2013
ericurus in Home Cooking

Cookbook of the Month March 2013 EVERY GRAIN OF RICE: Soups, Rice, Noodles, Dumplings, Stocks, Preserves and Other Essentials

Hi Delys77,

I think it would probably be just fine because in most applications the flavors that it will be mixing with will overpower it anyway, and a little extra richness is always nice when you're having soup. I recently made a batch with a chicken carcass and didn't really notice a difference with the final product. If you're concerned, I would suggest including an equal proportion of pork bones to mix the flavor up, but my read of Fuschia Dunlop's everyday stock is that it's a casual thing, made from what's convenient and on hand.

Mar 03, 2013
ericurus in Home Cooking

Cookbook of the Month March 2013 EVERY GRAIN OF RICE: Soups, Rice, Noodles, Dumplings, Stocks, Preserves and Other Essentials

I try to have frozen homemade pressure-cooked everyday stock on hand as much as I possibly can. I do a bunch of Chinese cooking (mostly from Fuschia's books!) and find that the homemade stuff adds so much to the finished product: it's so much easier to control saltiness, and the richness you get makes it totally worth it. Mapo tofu with homemade stock and real pixian bean paste is out of this world good!!!

Mar 03, 2013
ericurus in Home Cooking

Cookbook of the Month March 2013 EVERY GRAIN OF RICE: Soups, Rice, Noodles, Dumplings, Stocks, Preserves and Other Essentials

Thank you, Gio. It looks like Beetlebug and I came to the same conclusion, which is nice to know. Good luck if you decide to make this!

Mar 02, 2013
ericurus in Home Cooking

Cookbook of the Month March 2013 EVERY GRAIN OF RICE: Soups, Rice, Noodles, Dumplings, Stocks, Preserves and Other Essentials

I made the "Classic Dan Dan Noodles" on page 280. This recipe was pretty good, resulting in a slightly soupy sauce, but I think I like her other Dan Dan Noodle recipes better. Added greens (I used baby bok choy separated into leaves) were a very nice touch.

My thoughts: Fuschia calls for 3/4 of a cup of stock or noodle cooking water to be added to the sauce right before tossing with the noodles. I used homemade Chinese everyday stock (pork and chicken bones), which added a nice richness, but kind of washed everything else out. Cooking water may have added a bit of thickness to the sauce from the starch, but it would probably lead to the same problem: perhaps more so. I'd be curious to hear from anybody else who did this. I would tend to think that boxed stuff, unless very low sodium, would not work well due to lacking richness and adding too much saltiness.

I skimped on the oil a bit, adding only 1 TB at the beginning, and only 2 TB of chili oil: I think that this may have slightly detracted from the outcome, but with all that stock, I'm not sure it would have made that much of a difference.

Also, as opposed to Fuschia's other Dan Dan Noodle recipes, the ya cai is simply added to the sauce bowl, not sizzled in oil: doing this would have probably helped bring out its flavor quite a bit. Finally, this recipe uses no sichuan pepper, unlike her other ones that do.

What I liked about Fuschia's other recipes better is the fact that they have more character. To me, dan dan noodles are defined by a harmonization of the funkiness of ya cai, richness of meat and sesame paste (when present), and umami goodness from soy. "Xie Laoban's" and "Traditional" Dan Dan Noodles from Land of Plenty have all of these things going on; Xie's is a bit richer from sesame paste, Traditional a bit brighter from the addition of black vinegar. "Classic Dan Dan Noodles," even though possessing virtually the same ingredients as "Traditional" was somehow out of balance, probably from all that liquid added.

In sum, not bad, definitely lighter than the other recipes, but I'm not sure I want my dan dan noodles to be light (apart from added greens, which was nice). I would recommend not skimping on the oil, sizzling the ya cai, perhaps adding it to the meat mixture, and adding cooking water very gradually instead of stock, like one would do thickening a pasta sauce.

Mar 02, 2013
ericurus in Home Cooking

"Recession Spirits"

I'm glad to see the discussion growing! Here's my overall thinking on recession spirits: a fifth should be $15 and under if possible (close to $10 is better), and no more than $20 if there are no acceptable options in the sub $15 range. I do realize some spirits will probably be difficult to find in that price range. Although I really like Bombay Sapphire, I've recently discovered Gordon's gin, which I was quite impressed with in a Gin and Tonic, and I'm sure that it will be fine for this and other nice summery mixed drinks. At $12 for a fifth, it's a good bargain, and undoubtedly can be found for cheaper than that elsewhere (booze is not cheap here in CT) or at least in regards to unit price by buying in bulk. I'm not sure how it will be in a martini, but I could certainly post a report on it.

For irish whiskey, I've actually heard good things about Powers Gold Label, which is similar in price to Bushmills, which I enjoy, but both are over $20.

For rum, I only really use light rum, of which there aren't many options. Barardi is firewater, and expensive-for-what-it-is firewater at that being $15 a fifth here - I'd rather pay $18 for Cruzan's light version, which I have found to be pleasant so far. Appleton has a light rum too that I remember being a bit cheaper, which is probably better than Bacardi, but Scottie's rum didn't like it: http://scottesrum.com/category/all-ru... - he seemed to like Flor De Cana's white rum, which I haven't tried either, though he did say he really liked Cruzan.

Apr 30, 2009
ericurus in Spirits

Recession Vodka

I guess I probably should have made this clearer: I have only tried Smirnoff out of all of those that I thought of off the top of my head, and I although I certainly found it acceptable, at 15 dollars it's certainly on the higher end of "recession vodka." Certainly there has to be something between this and Senator's Club (which my college roommates used to make rather hideous jello shots!). Thanks for the responses so far - I'll have to look into Skyy, although it is on the top of the price range here.

Apr 28, 2009
ericurus in Spirits

Recession Vodka

Hello all,

I have recently been looking for good, cheap options for booze in an attempt to trim back my overall food and drink expenditures, and after looking through the chowhound boards, I am still not satisfied with the answers I have found in regards to budget vodkas. So how about it hounds, what do you recommend? Options that immediately come to mind are Gordon's, Svedka, Smirnoff, Burnett's, Sobieski (can't find it around here though) and Luksusowa, although at 18 dollars Luksusowa is getting close to what something like Ketel One would cost, especially in comparison to an 11 dollar bottle of Gordon's. I see that the Beverage Tasting Institute recommends Gordon's vodka: http://www.tastings.com/spirits/best_... , but I have not been able to find any good reviews of this particular spirit. As a final note, this would primarily be for mixing, although I occasionally do make penne a la vodka.

Apr 28, 2009
ericurus in Spirits

What's so special about Elements Bistro? (West Hartford)

Have you actually been there? You're making it sound like they are somehow getting by undeservedly. In fact, most of the comments here have been very shy on details. I find that Elements offers a very good formula: homemade food with some interesting twists (the house salad features a southwestern taste with poblano peppers and an ancho dressing with goat cheese fritters, for example), a nice but not stuffy atmosphere, and more importantly, reasonable prices (for West Hartford). You don't pay the same premium you do in West Hartford Center - few entrees at Elements are over twenty dollars, and most are between fifteen and seventeen dollars, with many options under ten (the sandwiches). I have found the food consistently good - the last thing I had was a pulled pork sandwich that was juicy with a very flavorful bbq sauce (homemade), accompanied by jicima slaw, which was very flavorful and interesting. I'm happy to see the place succeeding, and it seems well-deserved.

Mar 04, 2009
ericurus in All New England Archive

Elements Bistro West Hartford CT

My wife and I just had a mid-evening snack at Elements, and we were both pleasantly surprised. She had a salad, which was the elemental salad (basically a house salad). All the ingredients were nice and fresh, there was a nice variety of textures/vegetables, as well as an interesting garnish of fried goat cheese (yum!). We split the smoked wings, which we found to be delicious, and as others have commented, a nice departure from your typical fried wings. They came with a barbecue style sauce and a cayenne buffalo-style sauce, of which the former was the yummiest, although the other wasn't bad. They were juicy, succulent, and nicely flavored. For dessert, we split an apple crisp and a hot buttered rum. The apple crisp was one of the best we have had out at a restaurant, with a flavorful pastry base, and a nicely spiced apple mixture on top. The rum was a treat: a rare find on a menu, made with Flea's secret recipe. We were very happy with it, finding it to be something that Clarence of It's a Wonderful Life fame would approve of - light on the cinnamon, heavy on the cloves!!! The bartender was a nice, helpful guy. Overall, we were very pleased, and being right in our neighborhood we can see ourselves definitely going back. We'll have to see about the entrees - I'll have to try the pasta rose!

Nov 10, 2008
ericurus in Southern New England

Wusthof vs. Henckels ??

In trying out knives for our wedding registry, my wife and I tried many different types, including Global, Wusthof, Shun, and Henckels. We liked the feel, balance, and handles of the Henckels four-star II best. I tend to read that the Japanese knives have better steel than the German, but overall I have not found our knives to be lacking at all. They stayed sharp for close to a year with regular use and steeling, when we sent them away for re-sharpening. They probably could have gone longer than that, but we like our knives to be very sharp. I second or third the advice to try what feels best in your hand. Although Japanese knives might have better steel (can't say personally, having not used both over the long-term), if a knife isn't comfortable to use then the quality of the metal probably won't make any difference to you. One picky thing you might consider is that Henckels doesn't have any bolsterless knives I know of apart from the expensive but very good Twin Cermax line. Although I think many like the security of a thick bolster on their cook's knife, others don't, and I think that having no bolster makes a knife easier to sharpen (especially in the long run).

Aug 12, 2008
ericurus in Cookware

Cooking Texmati rice in a Zojirushi rice cooker

I agree with the above posters - what also could be happening is that you are digging in after too much time on the "keep warm" setting - I find that this often keeps the rice more than warm and almost cooks the rice some more. Apart from this, my wife and this love our Zoji, a 3-cup fuzzy.

Jul 03, 2008
ericurus in Cookware

Stockpots -- I'm Confused

I would tend to think that the cladding would be unnecessary, making the pot both more expensive and heavy than you could get with a regular pot. When lifting the 2 gallons of liquid you'll probably be making at a time (plus the solids), the extra weight will not help you. As long as the bottom isn't paper-thin, with perhaps a clad disc bottom, you'll be fine simmering stock. Full-cladding does even out heat distribution and helps when sautéing and performing other functions where consistent even heat is important (I noticed a huge difference when my wife and I bought all-clad stainless vs our previous chefmate cookware from target, especially with the frying pans), but stock making is not one of those things that needs this. As for price, All-Clad's 12-quart fully-clad stockpot is nearly 350 dollars on amazon, although you could probably do better if you really wanted a fully clad pot.

Jun 30, 2008
ericurus in Cookware

Good/Favorite Summer Cocktails?

In addition to G&T's, I really enjoy a good Tom Collins: nice and summery and refreshing. Gin Fizzes are also good, and fairly similar. Rum cocktails are also nice: Mojitos, Daiquiris, Mai Tais, Hurricanes, Cuba Libres, and other "Tiki" drinks. Cosmos are also nice and refreshing. And let's not forget Margaritas! But Margaritas and Daiquiris should be made with lime juice, not sour mix, and I personally prefer them to be served straight up, not blenderized. No offense to those who enjoy slushy drinks - it's just not for me, except perhaps poolside.

Jun 10, 2008
ericurus in Spirits

I'm Vegetarian but I Eat Bacon

I know that the original point of the conversation was about discussing how to make things easier on dinner guests, but since, it has evolved into a discussion of the nature of defining one's eating habits. To those who are insisting that eating only vegetables is the only way to define vegetarianism, let us compare this topic to one that was provided in the teaser for this article: sexuality. We have strict definitions for this in our culture, with many insisting on a rigid definition of heterosexuality vs homosexuality. The reason this is so is because those subscribing to this definition are trying to uphold a moral standard. Society dictates that certain types of behaviors define what one is, but many others view that this type of definition is ultimately oppressive. Historically, sexuality was not so rigidly defined: historian George Chauncy has argued in his book "Gay New York" that for instance that among many groups of working class men, those who thought of themselves as "straight" could engage in certain types of sexual behavior with men and not be declared "gay" by their peers. Such is not the case today; before I get off on a tangent, my point is that such things are socially constructed. Ultimately, those who are trying to define vegetarianism are attempting to reify their definition for the same reason that people maintain strict boundaries in regards to sexual behavior: to maintain a moral standard. I smell a hint of oppression here - I think people should be able to define themselves as they wish. At the same time I don't think people should deceive others about the true nature of themselves, unless they think that that they are going to be oppressed for being who they are. Ideally, A person should be able to define his/herself as "bi" without being pigeonholed into being "straight" or "gay," not to mention not have to suffer the stigma and shame that goes along with it in our society. Same thing goes with bacon-eating vegetarians. As a final note, I am using the discussion of sexuality for illustrative purposes, not to start an argument about that topic, which is outside of the realm of germaneness. If I have gone too far in this direction, I apologize in advance.

Mar 09, 2008
ericurus in Features

Best wine you've had under $15

My house wines:

Guigal Cotes du Rhone
Beringer Third Century Pinot Noir
Chateau St. Michelle Dry Riesling
Toasted Head Chardonnay

I was very pleasantly surprised by the Beringer because in my search for cheap pinots I had come across many very unbalanced wines. Ultimately the Beringer turned out nice and earthy, with a decent complexity for the price (13). The Guigal is my favorite cotes du rhone at that price point, and I have tried a number of them (but there must be many more I have not). The may not be chateauneuf du pape, but they are a good everyday wine. The Chateau St. Michelle is absolutely crisp and delicious, and a wonderful wine to pair with food. The toasted head is a favorite of my wife - I dig it, being a hefty but decently smooth chardonnay for the price, and not overly oaked. One can probably do better, but it's decently cheap and available. And it has a bear on the front, which obviously matters immensely!

Jan 24, 2008
ericurus in Wine

Help with Chicken Marengo

Hello all,

I recently discovered the yummy goodness that is Chicken Marengo. The first time I made it, I followed the Joy of Cooking's recipe, and ultimately was left confused about a couple of things. For those not familiar with the recipe, it takes browned chicken and braises (stew? I guess stew because there is more liquid) it in wine, tomatoes, and herbs. At the end, it asks you to strain the sauce before adding mushrooms and whatever else you want to add to it (pearl onions and olives are what they have, but I don't like those additions). My question is, what does this accomplish? Last time, I pureed my tomatoes, strained it, and the sauce was way too thin. The way the recipe reads, it looks like you discard the tomatoes/herbs left over - don't you want these to thicken the sauce?

I hope that's not too incoherent - I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

Dec 18, 2007
ericurus in Home Cooking

That's One Big Test Kitchen

My wife and I LOVE this cookbook - we learned to cook using the Joy of Cooking (the edition before the current one, which many criticize), but once we got this one we found that the recipes were more flavorful and consistent, as well as full of insightful little tricks to take your cooking over the edge. Gimicks perhaps? I don't think so - most techniques can be applied to numerous applications. I would think of it as a good step to take after learning the basics, because some of the stuff might be a bit daunting for a neophyte cook.

Aug 22, 2007
ericurus in Features

Is there ANYTHING good near UConn?

As a UConn grad student myself, I find Chang's Garden to be quite good Chinese food - plus, they have a secret menu if you ask for it with more authentic items - you can even order a jellyish dish! That is on 195 towards the south end of campus, in the same plaza as Starbucks. Also, Oriental Cafe II has decent sushi - it's in the same plaza as Friendly's a bit farther down 195. I'll second Sara's pockets. I'm not a big fan of Willington Pizza - I like going to Randy's in Manchester for pizza. Speaking of that, to get to Manchester just hop on 44 west from 195 going north from campus - you'll find a much better selection consisting mostly of chains (your standard Friday's Outback, Chili's, Texas Roadhouse and others), although it is 20 minutes away. That will take you on 384W, where you go to 84E, and before you get on 84 you can take the Buckland Hills exit, where most of the chains are. I hope that helps.

Aug 19, 2007
ericurus in Southern New England

The Next Food Network Star

One of the ironic things about the episode was that I'm pretty sure the "San Marzano" tomatoes were NOT the real thing - it may say "San Marzano" on the label, but when you examine that type of tomato a bit closer it clearly indicates they were grown domestically. Even Alton missed this. I believe they were these babies: http://www.amazon.com/San-Marzano-Tom.... You can find them lurking at Whole Foods and Williams Sonoma.

Jul 12, 2007
ericurus in Food Media & News