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Quasardrake's Profile

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Marcona Almonds - Inedible?

Actually, there is a variety of almonds actually called "bitter almonds". They are usually reserved for use in perfumery and in making almond extract. In the 19th century people used to use (quite literally) one or two individual bitter almonds mixed in with a large amount of the others(sweet ones) to "amp up" or intensify the flavor of whatever they were making. Now, I'm not sure it is legal to sell "bitter" almonds to the public.
They contain very high levels of prussic acid in them(cyanide) and can be dangerous if eaten in large amounts(more than a tablespoon or so IIRC). But trees that bear bitter almonds are usually not in the same orchards as those bearing so-called sweet almonds, and I'm not sure how any might get mixed in with the usual sweet(edible) almonds. Maybe a tree had some genetic quirk and budded out a few bitter almonds that got mixed in with the sweet ones?
OTH, I have found that rancid almonds can be quite bitter to my taste, as are almonds that still have the brown coating on them...
Not trying to make you paranoid about bitter tasting almonds, or anything....

Aug 21, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

I'm not on here often enough to have run into this kind of thing too often, but I agree somewhat. I bridled a lot at that "2 for $20 is too cheap" comment too. We get to go "out to eat" maybe once or if lucky twice six weeks or so, and for us, two meals plus one drink(to save money I usually drink only water and let my spouse order a drink), and tax, must come in under 33$ for us to truly afford to leave a decent(20%) tip.
A meal that costs, with tip too, sixty to seventy dollars, is maybe a twice or three times a year treat that we have to save up for. It is usually each birthday and our anniversary.
We love getting the chance to get a "two meals for twenty dollars" special; it allows us to enjoy an evening out with hopefully decent food, without having to scrimp and save for a couple of months to afford it. I know many people to whom a visit to a fast food restaurant IS a special treat, and a visit to a sit down restaurant is un-affordable without some sort of special price break.
These people would love to be ABLE to eat at a place that cooks with seasonal fresh ingredients of the highest quality, and that maintains superior standards of cleanliness in the kitchen and bathrooms, but cannot afford to go to places that charge $35-$50 a plate. In our current economy, the incredible mark up of meals at some restaurants is, IMO, just not justifiable, and neither IMO is PAYING those mark ups.
People should be able to purchase fresh, seasonal ingredients for home cooking, as well as occasionally be able to afford to pay someone else to fix the meal. When the average person is being priced out of being able to consistently afford quality food, something is wrong. They certainly don't deserve to have someone sneer at them, for patronizing restaurants that don't mark up their food to ridiculous levels.

Aug 21, 2015
Quasardrake in Features

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

The "bucket" method of serving KFC chicken you so deride, harks back to a franchisee out west (I think in Utah) sometime in the early days, when the REAL Colonel was still in charge. The franchisee got ahold of a large number of cardboard buckets from somewhere at a really good price(or maybe free, I don't remember). He found he could fit 10 pieces of chicken, a side of mashed potatoes and a container of gravy, and five or six rolls in the thing, and sell it as a "family meal" for one fixed price, that happened to be a price point that brought in a lot of customers. It was intended to feed FIVE people.
It cut down on packaging costs and gave him a memorable marketing/advertising gimmick, especially when he slapped the name and the Colonel's face on the side of the bucket. The Colonel himself liked the concept and it quickly expanded to all the franchises. This was WAY back, like in the late fifties or early sixties. It helped differentiate the chain from others, and bolstered the idea of it being a "family" restaurant. It actually worked out very well for them.
The "homey" aspect was that the meal for the entire family fit within it, which made it convenient especially for picnics or traveling. It was sort of a disposable picnic basket I guess. No one ever claimed it would stimulate the palate, dude. I know nothing of their attempts to sponsor West Indian or Australian sports, but I think you are attributing motives to them that are not real. Up until the late seventies the food was excellent. Once Pepsi(YUM Brands) bought them, they went downhill, slowly at first, while the Colonel was still alive; but once he passed, it really fell off the cliff. Sad honestly, and he would not recognise the company or the food now-a-days.

Aug 20, 2015
Quasardrake in Features

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

The place you are describing, the place where the hamburgers are made from fresh, never frozen, angus beef, there is a choice of hamburger buns, and a number of fresh toppings, your choice of condiments and cheeses, and the burger is grilled fresh when you order it, exists. It is called Smash Burger, and for me right now it is by FAR the best "chain" hamburger joint around. It is about 25-30% more expensive but worth every penny to me. Around here the "regular" size burger is $4.99, about half of the toppings are free, a few, like fresh avocado slices or fried egg, cost extra but are so worth it. It's not a cheap every day kind of place as a standard burger/fries/drink meal can run you $8-$10, but as a once or twice a month deal, I love it.

Aug 20, 2015
Quasardrake in Features

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

I just spit my coffee all over the damn screen! I had to unplug and wipe out my keyboard! My godchildren came running to see what was so funny and the oldest just spent several minutes LITERALLY ROTFLH(ER)AO. Not sure if I should be peeved at nearly destroying my keyboard, or just continue to giggle!
Thanks sooo much....
(Understand, their nonna is a chronic pain patient too.)

Aug 20, 2015
Quasardrake in Features

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

Come to the Dallas Fort Worth area. We have hundreds of "local", "mom-and-pop" Chinese restaurants. ALL of them make P.F. Chang's look like a 3 star Michelin place. It staggers me, the slop that people here praise as "really great" Chinese food. The best little hole in the wall type of them that I've found, still has all the "American Chinese" favorites like Chow Mien (WITHOUT NOODLES!)(YES), Chop Suey, Egg Fu Yung, and so forth on their menu. They make a decent mu shu pork and a passable hot and sour soup, but I won't touch the rest of it. And this is the best I've been able to find in ten years! I simply don't trust the Yelp reviews, when I've personally heard people here praise Pei Wei as "superb" and Panda as "some of the best Chinese I've ever had"(!).
To show you the level of food knowledge and discrimination here, I have also heard several people I passed in a parking lot a couple of years ago, describe a nearby Pancho's Buffet as "The best Mexican food I've ever had". Now, my parents took me and my sibs to the local Pancho's in New Orleans a number of times when I was younger (we're talking the late '60's-early '70's here), and we liked the food and loved the sopapillas with butter and honey(REAL butter and real honey). But even back then, when our Pancho's used very fresh ingredients and real cheese etc, no one in my family would have called it "real Mexican food", let alone the best we'd ever had! SMH
In my personal experience, unless you like burgers and steak, or are willing to pay through the NOSE for ANY other type of cuisine, Dallas is a food wasteland. Few if any decent meals to be had for less than forty dollars (or more) per person(and yea to me that is a LOT of money). Now if you can afford to drop $80-$100 for a couple, for one dinner, you probably can find some excellent food, but that is just beyond my means.

To be fair, I know there are good places to eat in Dallas. It's just that any restaurant, of any cuisine, that is really good to excellent, costs the proverbial arm-and-a-leg to eat at. The really quality places are geared towards the not inconsiderable population of quite wealthy people. If you want to dine out and be guaranteed(at a minimum) decent, to great food, be prepared to pay at least $25-$40 or more per plate. There may indeed be the occasional new or "undiscovered" place serving spectacular food for $15-$25 per, but once they DO come to the attention of the locals the prices go up and getting a table becomes nearly impossible almost overnight. It's sooo frustrating to be poor in a town where money is literally everything. Sigh.

Aug 20, 2015
Quasardrake in Features
1

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

Stuckey's? Has there BEEN an open functioning Stuckey's anytime in the last, oh, thirty years or so? I drove from New Orleans to College Station Texas (just north of Houston) in the mid 1980's for my grandfather's funeral. I will never forget the procession of closed, abandoned Stuckey's near about every fourth or fifth exit in Texas, sitting there mouldering in the heat. I must have passed seven or eight of them. They had been out of business for long enough even then, that many of those empty buildings no longer had glass in their windows, and at several, the overhead carport over the (missing) gas pumps, or the island where they had been, was collapsed. Has anyone seen an open Stuckey's since the late 1980's? I have not. Are some of them still open up north or something?

Aug 20, 2015
Quasardrake in Features

Quest to find the instant noodles.

I realize the original post was many years ago but I absolutely LOVE the Indomie brand of mie goreng noodles, especially the satay flavor(package with brown accents)(peanut flavor) and MOST especially the rendang flavor(package with purple accents), which tries to capture some of the flavor of the famous dish beef rendang. The packets have four or five included tiny packets of different possible additions which include a powdered seasoning base, dark thick sweet soy, sambal or red pepper flakes, sometimes fried onions, and sometimes (as in rendang) a seasoned oil, which contains essential and delicious flavoring.
In the US, the rendang has that word on the main packet, but also is labeled as "spicy" beef; but it is not spicy hot, just uses many different spices for flavor. It is my personal vote for the best instant noodle out there anywhere. It is a "sauced" noodle, it makes its own sauce from the moisture retained on the noodles, but does NOT have a soup or broth, as the noodles are supposed to be drained before the flavorings are mixed in. Add a few steamed Asian vegetables and an egg and it's a complete and very delicious meal. And it's dirt cheap, usually only fifty cents a packet!
The Korean instant noodles, by multiple manufacturers like Nongshim, Samyand, Ottogi, Paldo, etc., are usually very good, especially the noodles themselves, but they are universally soooo spicy that often I cannot eat them. Nongshim makes some "savory" bowl noodles that are often available here in US supermarkets, that are not as spicy hot, and they are very good. But if one can tolerate the heat, Shin Black, by the same company, is fantastic. The problem is that it is their premier product, and costs about $2.50 or more per packet/serving; I think this is why many people go for the regular Shin noodles instead. Those are very good too but very very spicy.
There are some excellent Japanese brands of instant noodles too. I am fond of the ones that come with tempura or dried tofu discs or the ones that come with the little mayonnaise packets. Most of these cater to the overall Japanese preference for fairly simple, straightforward flavors, and they tend to have astronomical amounts of sodium in them, which I cannot have, at least not to often.
MaMa brand makes a number of Thai and Vietnamese flavors that are very good. My favorites are the creamy shrimp tom yum, which comes with a packet of coconut milk powder, and their pad Thai, which is made with rice noodles. The pad Thai makes a VERY small serving, but is usually rather cheap(30-40 cents), so I make two at a time with vegetables, and this is plenty.
There are a wealth of quite good instant noodles out there from a number of different companies. I would avoid any made in India by Maggi though, as those have been found to be contaminated by chemicals and heavy metals recently. If you are willing to spend up to $.75 to $1.50 per packet, instead of just 20 cents, you can make a meal by adding an egg and a small amount of fresh vegetables, and eat well for under $1.60/serving. A room mate of mine and I, found that making up two packets of Indomie mie goreng with vegetables and two eggs, we had enough to adequately serve three people for lunch or light dinner, for under $2 for the whole amount! You would have a hard time beating that. And if you cannot afford to buy a number of Asian sauces to amp up very plain noodles, Indomie mie goreng noodles come with multiple packets that allow one to customize the flavor to one's taste, and usually for 40-50 cents a packet. Best value out there IMO!
I hope this helps anyone looking for information on "instant noodles" beyond just Nissen and Maruchan brands.

Aug 20, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who finds Chipotle to be inedibly vile. I've eaten at a couple of different locations, usually because it's where someone else wanted to go, and always found the available choices of ingredients to range from stale/wilted to outright spoiled. Just gross.

Aug 17, 2015
Quasardrake in Features
1

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

There are, IMO, a number of better sauces available in most standard groceries - Yoshida's, Kang's, J-San, Simply Thai, even Kikkoman makes a number of sauces besides soy sauce, and so forth. I'd buy any of those before Panda's. If you live anywhere that has any kind of "Asian" grocery, you can get both pre-made sauces, and the ingredients to make your own sauces dirt cheap.

I live in Dallas and I've had to learn some Asian cooking because, bizarrely, there doesn't seem to be a decent Chinese or Thai restaurant in the area. There are TONS of mediocre to terrible ones, and a few great Vietnamese and Korean ones, but not a single really good Chinese restaurant in the whole Dallas/Ft. Worth area. When Pei Wei represents some of the best in the area, you know the situation is poor. When Panda gets rave reviews, it is truly dire.
Panda is right next to Subway and Cici's as, IMO, one of the worst chain restaurants around. But I've spoken to a number of local residents who "just love" Panda. SMH, I don't get that. I guess it's just the general love of greasy, salty food.

Aug 17, 2015
Quasardrake in Features

What Is America's Worst Restaurant Chain?

I&O would have to have salt and pepper AVAILABLE in the restaurant to do that, and the one I ate at did NOT. I had to beg for a packet of mayo. In fact, It is just slightly possible that the packet I used was actually one I happened to have in my purse, from a Sam's snack bar hot dog a couple of days previously...(Our Sams actually uses Nathan's all beef hot dogs and they are pretty tasty). My purse is roughly the size and shape (and holds the contents of) a survivalist's bug out bag. Usually I would have had salt & pepper packets in it too but for some reason didn't that day.

As I said, it was like the Twilight Zone. My DH usually tolerates very plain food well but he agreed with me something was just WRONG with those burgers. They were the single most flavor free alleged food product I have ever eaten. It was truly scarily strange.

Aug 17, 2015
Quasardrake in Features

Top 10 Signs of a Bad Cook

Indeed. My mother would have had a fit if any of her kids did anything except shut up and eat. She was raised in the later part of the Great Depression and had frugality, especially with food, imprinted on her soul. If you were invited to eat somewhere, and decided to accept, you went and ate what was put in front of you and thanked the host/ess profusely. You offered to help with the dishes (and DID if the offer was accepted), declined a take home doggy bag unless it was pressed on you, and never EVER snooped in the pantry, cupboards, or fridge. Let alone checked the sharpness of the knives.
My mother never owned a Shun or Global knife, but managed to turn out some mighty spectacular meals with her cheap carbon steel "Old Hickory" knives, some of which she'd had so long they had developed a curve to the edge due to being repeatedly sharpened on her '50s's electric knife sharpener.

Aug 08, 2015
Quasardrake in Features

Top 10 Signs of a Bad Cook

It would be worse if it reeked of pretentiousness. But then again, maybe wreaking pretentiousness is just as bad.....

Aug 08, 2015
Quasardrake in Features

Pet Peeve: "Bisque"

This is a LONG reply and a personal reminiscence, bear with me.

I know that a number of bisque recipes I came across when I was younger, involved cooking a small amount of rice in shellfish stock for like, 30-40 minutes; then pureeing the strained rice in about two cups of the stock, keeping it aside, to be added back after the mirepoix was caramelized, and the roux(if used) made, along with all the rest of the strained stock.

I suppose that at some point I should mention that my mom and I both strongly favored creole, as opposed to cajun, cuisine and techniques. Her crawfish bisque was similar to many New Orleans cooks' versions, in that she used roux, instead of rice, to thicken it, but different in that she made her own shellfish stock and used the "fat" to flavor and color it. Many "cajun" cooks we knew, used tomato to provide a reddish color (or tomato paste), and these days use a generic fish stock too. As well, most of those we knew, who leaned towards the "cajun" style, thought it mandatory to either stuff the heads or create crawfish balls, and often used most of the meat from the shellfish for that purpose. They also often did not use any cream at all.

I thought then, and am even more of the belief today, that in Southern Louisiana, the confusion between bisque and etouffee is so great, that the two dishes are melding into one. It seems to me, that the interwebs are actually speeding up that process of fusing the two dishes together.

I never used rice; initially the thickness in mine was the pureed veggies until I added about a pint of cream (!). (Yes this was a rare indulgence, I only made it maybe 8-9 times in my life as it was expensive and very time consuming, but mmmm,YUM!)

Maria, Thanks for doing all that research! Very informative and interesting - I didn't know anything about veloute' soups. I am a bit fanatical myself about the term bisque. When I was young, we fairly often encountered people saying bisque when they meant etouffee(or worse, when they meant gumbo), thus marking themselves as newbies to the cajun/creole cuisines. My mom was amusingly scornful of anyone with pretensions who made that mistake...she would be astonished at the evolution of cajun and creole cuisines, and likely a little sad for what has been lost, too. Ah, well, life does move on....

Sorry for the novella length response! The evolution of both language AND cuisine fascinates me; I have a number of books that trace the development of "western" (ie European and American) cuisines, and the descent of dishes through the ages, from Roman antiquity onward. I thoroughly enjoy the subject.

If you read this whole response, Thanks! for enduring my verbosity.

Pet Peeve: "Bisque"

Yeah, I forgot to mention that in my previous post. My mom used a medium-light roux, and DID add heavy cream at the end, blended with some of the bright reddish-orange tinted broth made from the heads of shellfish (NO saffron involved).
I don't know where, or from whom, she got her recipe. She told me that originally she did not use a roux, but once she moved to New Orleans, discovered that most cooks there did, and seldom used cream (she did tell me she thought it was because in the (at that time(1950's - 60's) largely un-air-conditioned) hot kitchens, cream was liable to spoil or sour, whereas a roux based version was not likely to be "off"). She also never went to the trouble of stuffing crawfish heads to put in it either; her bisque was just made with LOTS of crawfish meat. She would puree the broth but then add whole crawfish tails that had been cooked in the bisque before the cream was added.
I, on the other hand, when I was still up to making it, used only cream and omitted the roux, as for me it made it too thick and heavy. Maybe that's why I always thought of it as more like a sauce than a soup. My cream based version was fantastic cooked with fresh pasta. I only ever made crawfish bisque, but have had shrimp bisque, or a version of it made with either shrimp or crawfish, mixed with lump crab. I always wanted to have lobster bisque. These days it might be cheaper to make than a crawfish bisque!

Aug 05, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics

Pet Peeve: "Bisque"

As someone born and raised in New Orleans, to me the word bisque, in a culinary sense, has always and will always refer to a creamy sauce generally of a pink/red color, that contains shellfish, and was made from a basic broth created from mirepoix and shellfish "trimmings'(shells and heads, and claws, usually), the color of which is supposed to be from the stuff(actually composed largely of cholesterol, IIRC) inside the heads of the shellfish. (Much as the reddish coloring of Pad Thai traditionally comes from this substance.)
Sometimes it is adulterated with a little tomato, especially if it is made with a broth based off of fish instead of shellfish (as when the cook is using already peeled shrimp or crawfish). It is usually called a "soup", but I have always thought of it as more like a sauce or "gravy" for the shellfish. When I was younger and made this at home occasionally, I loved to cut FRESH pasta(usually linguine) into thirds and cook it in the bisque which made my mother shudder in horror, and ask me what the heck did I think I was eating, etouffee? (My mom was a purist regarding bisque and felt serving it with rice in the center or off to the side should be a criminal offense, never mind pasta!)
I was downright offended the first time I saw cream of tomato soup referred to as a "bisque", but now the term seems to generally refer to any vaguely reddish/pinkish/orangy colored cream soup. Not to me, ever.

Aug 05, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics

Odd Ground Beef

Horse meat as beef?!! Ewwww!!! I suppose that could have been part of the problem too! Yuck.
If you go to most U.S. supermarkets, not only is the beef now mostly select grade (now one must pay more at supermarkets for what used to be universally choice grade meat)(am I the ONLY one who remembers that Winn Dixie used to advertise on TV the fact that all their meat was choice?), but if you read the packages carefully, in much of the beef and nearly ALL of the pork, you will find somewhere on the pkg a statement that the product has been "enhanced with up to 15% of a flavoring solution". That's fifteen (or more) percent by weight. While it is legal to do this if the package is labeled with that info, the statement is usually in TINY print and can be hard to find. Chicken naturally absorbs some of the water used to keep it chilled during processing(I've seen labels indicating 3%), but it is also frequently "enhanced" with up to 12 or more percent too. The solutions add TONS of sodium that people may not realize they are consuming. They can also contain tenderizers on occasion, and I am allergic to papaya, so I stopped buying this kind of "meat" totally and look hard at every package of any meat I buy.
I consider this "enhancing solution" to be a form of FRAUD and I don't care that it is "legal". I want my meat unadulterated by ANY "seasoning" except that which I choose to put on/in it!

Aug 05, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics

Odd Ground Beef

Horse meat as beef?!! Ewwww!!! I suppose that could have been part of the problem too! Yuck.
If you go to most U.S. supermarkets, not only is the beef now mostly select grade, where it used to be choice grade(now one must pay more at supermarkets for choice grade meat)(am I the ONLY one who remembers that Winn Dixie used to advertise on TV the fact that all their meat was choice?), but if you read the packages carefully, in much of the beef and nearly ALL of the pork, you will find somewhere on the pkg a statement that the product has been "enhanced with up to 15% of a flavoring solution". That's fifteen (or more) percent by weight. While it is legal to do this if the package is labeled with that info, the statement is usually in TINY print and can be hard to find. Chicken naturally absorbs some of the water used to keep it chilled during processing(I've seen labels indicating 3%), but it is also frequently "enhanced" with up to 12 or more percent too.
I think markets started doing this when they stopped carrying mostly choice meat, as select meat is lower quality, tougher, and less flavorful. I think it was a deliberate attempt to confuse or mislead consumers about the actual grade of meat they were buying. Water and salt are cheaper than quality meat. (The price to the consumer certainly did not go down with the change back to select grade!)The solutions add TONS of sodium that people may not realize they are consuming. They can also contain tenderizers on occasion, and I am allergic to papaya, so I stopped buying this kind of "meat" totally and look hard at every package of any meat I buy.
I consider this "enhancing solution" to be a form of FRAUD and I don't care that it is "legal". I want my meat unadulterated by ANY "seasoning" except that which I choose to put on/in it!

Aug 05, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics

Odd Ground Beef

Yeah, it sounds like the company that packed it for TJ's added extra water/"flavoring solution" at least to that batch, which was the stuff that came out while you were cooking it. I NEVER buy any kind of meat that is not packed at the store I buy it at, like "chubs" of ground meat etc., for that very reason. I buy nearly all my meat now from Sprouts and have been very happy with it. Most of their meat has none of those "solution to enhance flavor", that at some super markets can be 15-18% of the total weight.

Aug 05, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics

Current restaurant pet peeve

Been thinking about you a lot this past week, trying to send you some positive waves. I'm glad to hear that your son and his S.O. are there for you. It's important that they nurture you with their presence. It can't replace but can help. I'll continue to keep you in my mind and in my prayers. When I read your post on the other thread where I first saw this news, I was so saddened by your loss (and so inspired by your generosity in donating to others).
I wish you blessings and peace dear.

Please do not feel obliged to answer - it is not my intent to put you in such a position. I know you don't need that right now. Just take care of yourself, and rest. Bless you.

Current restaurant pet peeve

Well, if you are working a job where you are getting paid 2.50/hr, and the IRS assumes you will make it up to minimum wage with tips, missing one or two shifts might mean you don't get to eat the last week of the month, if you want to pay the rent or electric. If you have kids that's even worse because they MUST be fed and you still need to pay the rent.
I don't like to see people go to work anywhere when they are contagious, certainly, but I try to remember I was lucky to get sick time when I was working. Even if I was out of accrued days, I could afford, as a nurse, to miss a shift or two. When people have bills to pay that are for shelter or food, especially where kids are involved, they may genuinely believe that going in to work sick IS being responsible...
I try to have empathy for people working in low-paying jobs, even when I am thinking "man I don't want your cold!". Sometimes there aren't any really good options in life.

Current restaurant pet peeve

(this reply recounts a personal experience and is slightly o/t.)

Do they make sandwiches like that at home? They very well might.
My roommate "adopted" a young man, about two years ago, whose parents were both deceased(long involved story concerning what happened with family afterwards is omitted). His mom passed when he was about nine and he cared for his father(!) at home, till he passed when the kid was fifteen. He's a nice, bright & helpful kid with an interest in cooking and cuisine generally.
One day I asked him to make me a plain ham & cheese with mayo & mustard (dijon). When it arrived the two pieces of bread (from a typical store loaf) were not aligned in the same direction(you know, you grab the next two slices from a loaf and pull them out of the wrapper and open them like a book, right? Or, at least, everyone in all branches of my family did...), in fact one slice had been flipped so the top crust was on the bottom, leaving me with no way to determine which way the sandwich should be held to be upright.
The condiments had been deposited with a spoon in the very middle of the slices and NOT spread, and he had used M.Whip instead of mayo because he honestly thought they were the same thing!
When I gently pointed out these deficiencies, he flushed, and said something to the effect that his dad never ate sandwiches, and his mom passed before she could teach him anything about cooking. I felt like total heel, and politely (at his request) showed him how to construct a generic sandwich, spread the condiments, and had him taste M.Whip and my Duke's mayo so he'd know the difference. That was about twenty months ago.
Watching him blossom as he has learned more about cooking and different cuisines from me, has been a real pleasure, and he recently thanked me profusely for "mentoring" (HIS term) him in learning his way around a kitchen. My spouse's palate is extremely limited, so teaching this young man the kinds of things a mother should have, and introducing him to new tastes, flavors and techniques, has been extremely rewarding to me, also. And I learned that no, not every twenty year old knows how to make a simple sandwich!

Current restaurant pet peeve

My opinion EXACTLY! I know they did it because their "baristas" were developing repetitive motion injuries handling/tightening the portafilter, but the quality of the espresso took a HUGE nosedive immediately. Man, I miss my cafe Cubano....

Aug 04, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics

Interesting thickening agents

File is powdered sassafras and it does indeed have a noticeable flavor. It is NEVER supposed to be used in gumbo that has okra in it, but that doesn't stop some people. To the best of my memory, when I was growing up in New Orleans, Seafood gumbo was thickened with file and other types (chicken and sausage, turkey, andouille) were thickened with okra. That's how my mom did it, and I do it, anyway.

Also, as per my mom's (and my) standard practice, giblet gravy is thickened with a nice dark roux. The liver is briefly cooked and added, chopped, just before serving.

Ground cashews are commonly used in Indian cooking as a thickener, and candlenuts used similarly in Malaysia, Indonesia etc. Lotus nuts/seeds occasionally also turn up doing that too, as do ginko nuts. European "sweet" chestnuts(the kind used to make "marrons glaces") have a very high percentage of starch, and were once so abundant, that they were used by the poor instead of cereal grains at times, ground into flour and used to make a kind of bread, starchy soups, etc.. But since blight destroyed some 4 billion trees in the early 20th century, they are now too rare and expensive to be used that way.

Water chestnuts(yes, those oval somewhat crispy slices in stir-frys), which are actually a type of tuber, are dried and ground into a flour/starch in China, and are considered a very delicate thickener for stir-fry sauces. The same applies to dried lotus root starch. I have used both, and indeed they do not contribute as gummy a texture as cornstarch can to the thickened liquid. I prefer water chestnut starch/"flour" to cornstarch for that reason. However, this "flour" can be hard to work with at first, as it comes in small firm/hard crumbly bits (do not confuse this substance with sweet chestnut flour). I guess it is not finely milled, once the starch is settled out of the pounded flesh and dried. At home, you should put it in a mortar and grind it into as fine a powder as you can, and then carefully dissolve it in cool liquid (give it a couple of minutes), before adding it to a hot wok.
Lucia, using water chestnut starch may be a way to get that "shiny" appearance to your demi-glace as it has a reputation for giving a sauce a nice, shiny appearance. Worth the effort IMO, but others may disagree.

There are many other thickeners from around the world with unique flavors and textures. I like to use tapioca starch myself a lot, along with water chestnut. I've used cashew butter in place of grinding a tablespoon of cashews myself with decent results in Indian recipes. I also recently enjoyed making a thickened savory yogurt soup that used besan(chickpea flour). I really enjoy experimenting with different thickeners. Last year I discovered using corn masa to make chocolate atole, a Mexican hot beverage that was yummy!

I've always been fond of starchy hot cereals like farina and gruel and congee, and thickened hot beverages. I encourage others to experiment in these comfort foods - you might be surprised how much fun you can have. Thanks Lucia for bringing up this topic!

Aug 04, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics
1

Chicken stock + vegetable soup =/= "vegetarian"?

She DID make sure she was not generalizing - she said "this is how I *personally* feel" as well as "I know not everyone feels the same". I don't see how she could have made it more clear she was not generalizing.
Though I have personally met a number of people who have told me they feel the exact same way about the idea of eating meat.... I can only truly grasp it by mentally referring to my own reaction to the idea of escargot - "not edible, and not something I would ever put in my mouth", even though I know others (including my dad) who do!

Aug 03, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics
1

I am a terrible cook!

Can I come along too the next time they visit? ;)

Aug 03, 2015
Quasardrake in Home Cooking

I am a terrible cook!

Yes, I responded to one of the first posts on this thread and said virtually the same thing; the little vignettes she writes to introduce the recipes really make you WANT to try them, and make it easier to brave the 'unfamiliar' spicing / techniques. It is my ALL TIME favorite cookbook even though I'm no longer a vegetarian, and I still make the potato/eggplant dish that was the first thing I tried from that book. It's sooo delicious and sometimes I crave it, I guess it became a comfort food for me.

Aug 03, 2015
Quasardrake in Home Cooking

I am a terrible cook!

Yes, indeed it has been mentioned, :) but its worth a reminder. It is a fabulous and very helpful site. One of my favorites!

Aug 03, 2015
Quasardrake in Home Cooking

I am a terrible cook!

What an excellent and helpful post for anyone in the OP's situation! Thoughtful and full of useful examples. I congratulate you!
I also second the ref to the Smittenkitchen.com ; it is one of my favorite websites and has many fantastic recipes.

I just love seeing replies like this that directly address an OP's specific information and question, while offering help.

Aug 03, 2015
Quasardrake in Home Cooking

Question from a sushi noob.

The first pic looked like slices cut from a piece of fish that had been very briefly seared on the outside. The appearance and transparency of the flesh reminded a little of fresh mackerel, but I can't be sure from the pictures. Mackerel also usually has the skin on and a strip of pinkish-red flesh just under the skin, but I have (rarely) seen it without that.
I'd also recommend just asking the sushi chef - they are usually happy to tell you.

Aug 02, 2015
Quasardrake in General Topics