Yesterday I decided to experiment with an entirely unconventional method for roasting. As some will know, in older times roasts were done before a fire, in the open. Some think the move to roasting in a closed oven has diminished the classic roast to a baked joint, and having had the open-fire method many times, I'll admit there is perhaps some truth in that.
However, I reasoned that a reasonable emulation might be achieved, by turning the oven on to high, and when at full temperature (225 C), switching it from oven to broiler, opening the oven door, and only then popping in the roast.
For the experiment I was using a whole beef fillet, one of the easier targets for such an experiment because its thin profile means it should cook fairly quickly anyway. To further the experience I made Yorkshire pudding as well. I started the Yorkshire in the closed oven at 225 and gave it just enough time to start puffing (about 10 minutes). Then I positioned the joint directly above it but still at some distance from the broiler (we're not broiling here; it should be "before" the broiler element but not right up against it) and left the oven door open.
As expected, the Yorkshire immediately collapsed and the house filled with smoke (I did have all the windows open and the fan on, though, to mitigate the problem) After cooking the fillet for 20 minutes with the broiler on the whole time at maximum, I took it out, reverted to oven and left the Yorkshire in. It's notable that even with the door open, the temperature hadn't dropped below 225 during the roasting phase.
I then made the gravy. There were considerably more drippings in the pan than what I would have got with a conventional closed-door method, indeed so much more that I was worried the joint might be overdone above the desired rare. (See separate discussion on my own problems with gravy, not strictly relevant here)
During the gravy-making interval, meanwhile, the Yorkshires completely re-puffed. So nothing lost there, and in fact the result was slightly better, with a crisper top but moister, more custardy centre, not dry. However the difference is marginal.
But the roast itself was spectacularly better than the usual method. It exactly recaptured the flavour I remember from roasts over a fire on the beach that my father used to do. Terrific, heavily browned external "crust", strongly meaty interior, and it wasn't overdone in spite of my concerns.
So at least for small roasts, if smoking the kitchen isn't a concern, this seems to be a viable technique. I suspect you need a limitless power budget if you're going to do a large, thick roast like a fore rib but if it's a small one I would say it's worth trying. I would certainly say it's the closest you'll get to the older before-the-fire method.
Just FYI, the UK sirloin roast is the top part of the loin, above the backbone with the fillet underneath. As far as I've seen in the USA the name for this particular piece of meat is bafflingly vague and ill-defined, and generally regional (within the USA) - the most common name seems to be "New York Strip" but even that is hotly disputed. (Any ideas why no clear name has been settled on for one of the primest cuts of the animal?) It would be a real shame to slow-braise such a cut. Definitely dry-roast. In fact, it can be done at high temperature rather than low and slow without any difficulty. My usual technique would be to start it at very high (220 C or so), then turn down after 15-20 minutes or so to a gentler 175-180. A joint to serve rare - and in fact it isn't as tolerant of a greater degree of doneness as a fore rib because of the lower amount of fat. Indeed, it usually has a lot less fat than the chuck as well (but is definitely more tender and with less connective tissue) I personally prefer it for steak, actually, but it does make a splendid classic roast.
This is interesting. The key part I didn't know is clearly that the roux and stock have to be at opposing temperatures. That's almost certainly the main cause of problems. It doesn't explain the non-browning of the flour though, but a separate post suggesting equal parts flour and fat suggests that the problem for me there is too high flour to fat (I'm virtually certain it's not equal proportions! - much more flour than fat)
The one difficulty I see here is that, by pouring off all drippings from the pan, you're inevitably going to lose some. Is the goal of losing not a single drop of pan drippings while getting a lump-free gravy an impossible one? I have a perfectionistic streak and often try to achieve the infeasible.
One other potential problem I see is that the time to complete the process may be excessive in view of a roast cooling in the meanwhile on the side. I, by the way, like my beef and lamb roasts very rare indeed, which makes it that much more urgent to minimise gravy-making time (particularly, e.g. with a roast such as a beef fillet with a thin cylindrical shape that cools quickly). But I wouldn't want to "pre-make" the gravy from different meat than the roasting joint, because then you'd be getting gravy not precisely flavour matched to the meat it was being served with.
On the whole, it looks as if the method will work well for large roasting joints such as a whole fore rib or leg of lamb, but might need to be adapted for smaller joints, e.g. the aforementioned fillet or lamb loin.
I have an idea - can you tell me if this would work?
1: Strain off obviously excess fat - not too much but amounts that are disproportionate to the amount of drippings.
2: Boil the liquid in the roasting pan until bubbling and spitting stops (at that point any water should have been boiled off, leaving just fat)
3: Add flour to match amount of liquid fat, stirring to (hopefully) brown.
4: Remove pan from the hob to add cold stock, and stir vigorously.
5: Return from the hob and bring the whole to a boil. Cook until (hopefully) thick.
Any other thoughts?
The difference comes down mostly to grind vs. method.
Espresso as mentioned uses high pressure to extract the coffee flavour from grounds over which water flows relatively quickly. Extraction time is a matter of seconds (20-30 seconds or so, depending upon quantity and preference). Because the water is passing so quickly through the coffee, in order to get good flavour extraction, it has to be fine ground, so that lots of surface area comes in contact with the water. It also needs to be fine ground in order to build up a "head" of steam pressure above the portafilter. A good espresso machine with a vane pump will certainly develop high pressure by itself without any further intervention, but then passing it over coarse grounds would simply make the water flow too fast, hence even less extraction from an even smaller surface area.
A Chemex (drip-style process), by contrast has the water in contact with the coffee for a much longer time, and not under pressure. Under such circumstances, a fine ground will simply become over-extracted. You need a coarser grind so that the amount of flavour extraction is kept under moderation given the long exposure to the water.
The principles are different in part also because the expected volume of output is so different. In an espresso, you're looking for a tiny amount of liquid volume, something like 20-25 g or so. With a chemex, by contrast, the liquid volume is much greater, probably around 200-250 g. Obviously 200 g liquid volume at the concentration of an espresso would be overwhelming, just as 20 g at the concentration of a drip process would seem feeble.
Many espresso blends are also roasted somewhat darker than comparable drip blends, again, to emphasise strength and power over subtlety. But a dark roast in a drip generally just tastes obviously burnt, where by the same token a very light roast in an espresso tastes too "bright" and acidic. (There is a dependence there on origin, in addition)
So as you're seeing, coffee is not just coffee - you've got to match type to process or the results are usually undrinkable.
This is one of those things that continues to elude me, and that I'd like to learn good technique for doing.
What I usually try is:
Once the meat (be it beef, lamb, pork, venison, etc.) is cooked, remove the roast from the oven. Take it out of the roasting pan. Skim off clear fat but leave any that has any colour or cloudiness to it, as well as a thin amount of the clear fat as well. Put the pan on the hob at a medium-high heat. Then, add (white, usually low-protein) flour. Use enough to absorb the remaining drippings, and form a smooth paste. Spread over the surface of the roasting pan and (attempt to) cook. At a certain point, add (hot) stock gradually, stirring all the time, and continue cooking so that you get something slightly thick. When finished pour into the gravy boat.
What goes wrong:
1) I never seem to be able to get a good dark gravy. My expectation is that it should be a VERY dark, burnt-umber brown with perhaps a tinge of reddish. Instead, the colour is usually at best dark tan.
2) The gravy always lumps, and the lumps can't be got rid of. It doesn't matter how much stock is added at any one time. If I add a lot, I get lumping from the paste. If I try to add a very small amount, it just boils away before the gravy can be formed and I end up with a paste again, albeit flavoured with a reduced stock in addition.
I'm told on the one hand that it should be possible to brown the roux. I've never noticed this. No matter how high the heat, or how long I stir, it doesn't brown; it merely seems to dry and become powdery while remaining pale.
I'm also told that using hot stock should prevent lumping. This is definitely not my experience. Hot, cold, lukewarm, it seems to make no difference. I get lumps every time. I've also tried various different types of flour, with various protein contents and milling finenesses, all to no better effect.
Interestingly, poultry gravy seems to present few problems for me, but perhaps that's because a paler, thicker gravy is usually desirable in that case.
Can anyone diagnose from what I've given as the symptoms what I might be doing wrong? I'd also like to say, please, I'm not particularly interested in "short cuts" or "tricks" such as the use of "secret" ingredients, special equipment or tools, very unusual technique given without explanation as "it works every time...", or enhancers used to improve gravy. I really do want to learn good fundamental technique here. In principle it sounds as though it should be simple but it seems clear I'm doing something very wrong (maybe in fact my entire approach is faulty, for that matter).
This will require some experimentation no doubt because a fairly complex recipe like this has been finely tuned, in all probability. Actually, what it looks like they may have done, based on the ingredients list, is started out with a fairly basic chocolate cake recipe and then experimented with various "tweaks" to see whether they could come out with a better recipe. In general, though, my thoughts are these.
1) Yes, you could certainly substitute milk chocolate for dark, although it will have a small effect on the outcome; the cake will be a bit more tender, less dense. Also when melting milk chocolates you need lower temperatures.
2) Discard the coffee altogether. That simply yields a darker, roastier flavour. In fact, even for the dark version I'd be tempted to discard it anyway; if the intent is to create a *mocha* flavoured cake then coffee is a good addition but for a *chocolate* cake it alters the flavour. Coffee is often used in an attempt to disguise poor chocolate - for that scenario the better choice is, self-evidently, to use better chocolate.
3. However, I also notice that they use buttermilk, presumably for the acid. My actual guess is that their basic recipe may have been something like a devil's food cake that relies on acid/alkali reaction without baking powder (hence the non-Dutch cocoa recommendation) to provide rise; this would also explain the use of baking soda as well. In that scenario, coffee would add additional acidity. Finally, with chocolates and cocoas particularly of West African origin (by far the most common), a high acid content helps to prevent what is often a tannic, astringent quality resulting from the basic bean variety used. Again this second problem is solved with better-quality chocolate. If you want a high-acidity chocolate the best origin is Madagascar and the obvious choice of chocolate would be Michel Cluizel Mangaro Lait 50%. However, I'm not sure acidity is what you want in a milk chocolate cake anyway; it's more commonly used for dark chocolate flavours. Assuming that's the case, I would use whole milk instead of buttermilk. Lower acid, which means you will have to substitute baking powder for the baking soda.
4) As for the cocoa, yes, no doubt that's contributing to the dark-chocolate flavour. However by inverting their choice, and going for a Dutch-processed cocoa, you'll end up with a milder, more milk-chocolate-style flavour. Possibly Valrhona cocoa powder, one of the better Dutch-processed varieties. It will yield a darker colour, but don't associate that with stronger flavour.
5) I see the recipe uses oil, possibly to compensate for the drying effect of all that cocoa powder (cocoa powder is very good at removing moisture). However, for a milk chocolate like effect, it might be worth experimenting with butter or clarified butter. The result will almost certainly be crumblier, less silky; whether or not you find this acceptable will depend a lot on personal preference.
6) Don't underestimate how much using a milk chocolate ganache for the icing will make the resulting cake seem in a "milk chocolate style" regardless of how the cake bit turns out. If you look at the relative amounts of chocolate in each it's clear in any case most of the chocolate is actually in the icing. Milk chocolate ganache is hard to make. You need to monitor the temperature very carefully, not overstir, not let it get too hot. Don't boil the cream, bring it to hot but not boiling. Whisking isn't the best technique, while the mixture is hot; at most, stir very gently and slowly with a smooth folding motion. If the intent is to create a fairly light, air-bulked frosting in American style, then whisk as the mixture starts to cool and stiffen. You can start when it stiffens noticeably. On the other hand, if the intent is to create a denser, thicker icing in French style, then don't whisk at all; merely gently fold and then pour. The recipe they have would create a quite stiff ganache, though, so it's likely they want at least some aeration, unless the intent is a hard icing in English style. I would consider both corn syrup and sugar entirely optional for a milk chocolate ganache too; it's just adding sweetness and a bit of additional stability. The additional sweetness may be too much of a price to pay for a small increase in stability.
Let me emphasise here that you should take my suggestions as ideas for experimentation rather than exacting directions for how to adapt a recipe. Adapting cake recipes is quite difficult to do "by eyeball"; you almost always have to try it and see how it turns out; certainly I have no particular confidence that my suggestions will lead to any specific outcome.
Yes, I know Chocosphere very well.
"Belgian" chocolate is almost always Callebaut, occasionally Belcolade. Also Cacao Barry is part of Barry Callebaut, although they have separate branding (for the moment).
Good to hear the brownies turned out well. Indeed, that's my own recipe. I've never tried them warm, though - I leave to cool completely and then allow them to mature for 3 days (yes, the brownies actually improve with a certain amount of time to sit). I'd think the centre would be a bit fluid while still warm. What was it like?
I would just simmer some mushrooms in a pot for a while, then reduce just as you would for a meat reduction. You can do multiple simmerings, with a new lot of mushrooms added, to concentrate the flavour. Like meats, mushroom stocks can be simmered for a very long time indeed - it's feasible to do for 24 hours. When you're finished the colour will be very dark brown indeed.
As mentioned by some posters, the very best are ceps (porcini). Dried ones lend a stronger flavour than fresh (perhaps surprisingly). But even ordinary brown mushrooms do a splendid job.
340 g unsweetened chocolate
Thoroughly grease a 23cm/9" square baking pan. Preheat the oven to 175C/350 F.
Melt the chocolate over a double-boiler. Using a wooden spoon, mix the sugar, butter, salt and the scraped insides of the vanilla bean until fully blended, minimising air incorporation (do not cream). Mix in the melted chocolate. Add the eggs one at a time, blending fully to incorporate each one before adding the next. Mix in the flour, using vigorous motions to develop the gluten to the degree possible (the mixture should become very stiff). Spread into the prepared pan; you will probably have to squash it down with a palette knife to get it uniformly spread. Bake for about 25-30 minutes; the point to take them out is when the aroma becomes densely chocolatey; be sure not to overbake or they will scorch and dry. Allow to cool and then cut into squares.
A note on the brown sugar. I use Billington's Molasses Sugar. Billington's generally, I think, makes the very best sugars; their molasses sugar is the darkest. (its colour is basically the same as a good dark chocolate). Light-brown sugar; anything with a tan colour, would probably be OK but it won't have the same dense richness.
Curious about the brand of the chocolate "chips". If you say large that actually usually means baking drops, e.g. Callebaut "callets", Valrhona pastilles, Felchlin pastilles, Guittard baking drops, etc. etc. Do you have a label on the bag? Some unsweetened chocolates are better than others...
Soda bread doesn't really require any particular "trick" but there are some points worth noting.
The very best soda bread is made with sour milk, not with buttermilk (although buttermilk is perfectly honourable). Getting genuinely sour milk is difficult in modern times; it's achievable if you buy "pasteurised" rather than "ultra-pasteurised" or "UHT" milk, but the window is short; a day or so. It goes from sweet to borderline but still drinkable to sour in about 48 hours. From that point you have about 24 hours to use it before it curdles, separates, and goes completely bad.
White pastry flour is best; something low-protein (9-10%). Ordinary plain white flour is OK but can turn out heavy. Strong bread flour works badly. Don't use self-rising flour because it's got baking powder, which sort of defeats the objective. It will be said, though, that baking powder doesn't do any irrevocable damage.
Adding a bit of butter will also improve the texture; rub it into the flour before adding the milk. When mixing and shaping the dough, work quickly and with a light touch; like making scones, the critical point here is not to overmix but just get it to hold together. Don't use any strong kneading either.
A HOT oven is critical. At last 225C/435F and even better at 250C/480F to start. After about 15 minutes you can reduce the temperature to 200C/400F to prevent the bottom from burning. The dough should go into the oven literally the second you've finished shaping it.
If I were to guess from what you've said what's going on in your case, my conjecture would be that you're working too slowly and carefully. It's literally one of those things that you have to "throw" together.
Thanks for the suggestion. The real problem is that I want actual smooth hazelnut and almond butter, not coarse-ground, which as I understand it is about as well as food processors can do. Also, I prefer almond butter raw - not for any health-related reasons; I just prefer the flavour. Roasted almond butter seems to me a bit "generic", too much like other nut butters; the flavour of the roast predominates. Likewise I'd like raw hazelnut butter.
Not as interested, really, in cashewnut butter; or for that matter most of the very oily, soft nuts that easily grind into butters; the nuts I'd prefer (in order of preference, first to last) are hazelnut, almond, pistachio. I've *never* seen raw hazelnut butter. Raw almond butter is available, pre-ground, without too much difficulty - the issue here is one of freshness. I've also never seen pistachio butter at all.
*Really* effective general-purpose grinders are very difficult to find; I've been offered suggestions (some on CH) for this several times but all have turned out not really to be what I'm looking for - usually because the milling fineness isn't good enough, and often because they're not designed to handle certain types of foods. Oily ones in particular are difficult.
I've made chocolate myself before; a difficult process requiring similar equipment; I did manage to bodge together some DIY machinery but it was very temporary and not something I'd really care to repeat.
There is a BIG problem with this policy, and it doesn't affect just Chowhound but many other sites. The justification "for privacy reasons we won't discuss..." or similar wording indicating the site will absolutely NOT offer any concrete explanation of why a given post was deleted to a person, even in private, whose post is deleted, is in essence unethical. It pronounces a summary judgement while giving the "deletee" no ablity to explain or elaborate their own reasons for doing what they did, and no appeal of the decision, while at the same time offering no specific rationale for the decision to delete. Any reasonable ethical standard recognises the need for accused parties to be able on the one hand to understand the specific accusations being brought against them and on the other to defend their actions. Systems that do not are tyrannical and prejudicial.
(As a side issue this also indicates that ethically there are necessary limits to the right to privacy, it should be noted.)
Without access to the specific reasons why specific posts were deleted (this access need not be made public but does need to be provided on demand to those whose posts have been deleted), the comment "rest assured that before any action is taken we do a careful and thorough analysis" is not credible. For similar reasons any claims CH might make that they are not accusing anyone of anything are equally invalid. Deletion of a post without explanation is a de facto accusation. The people involved have no way of verifying this allegation and therefore capricious deletion of the posts must be seen as an equally possible and plausible explanation. Such a policy certainly provides a convenient shield for arbitrary decisions made by anyone within the organisation, even if arbitrary removal is not "official" policy.
Meanwhile if the problem is that threat of potential lawsuits is so great in CH's eyes that they feel it necessary to try to give themselves every possible legal advantage while systematically denying it to others then they need to evaluate their own fears. But if those fears are actually genuine, and the likelihood is near 100% that CH would go out of business without these policies, then they need to reevaluate their business model because it is untenable. And if a thorough business assessment indicates that NO business model could be successful, that the threat of lawsuits is sovereign against all businesses unwilling to adopt unethical tactics in the name of self-defence, then the legal structure of liability in Western society needs to be completely reformed from the ground up, because were this situation to be the case, then society would have completely lost one of its necessary properties: general trust between parties operating in good faith.
With other posters, I would also advise the oxtails. Very rich flavour indeed. Also consider getting enough additional meat with some good gelatinous bones for a stock. DON'T make the stock with the tails you intend to eat; make it with other meat which will be discarded after the stock has been made by simmering for 12 or perhaps 24 hours). Only then, after skimming, use it with the oxtails. Stewing oxtails in a rich beef stock will futher intensify both the flavour and the richness. Some sort of stew, generally, will be the best choice - start with a base of well-caramelised onions and also sear the oxtails themselves in the pot you'll use for the stewing. Other than that, what else you add is completely a matter of what final flavours you want to achieve.
You could also consider stewing the oxtails until tender, allowing to cool, and then baking in a pie (after de-boning) - particularly warming for winter.
I see one poster has commented on low ratio of meat to bone. That sounds like they've only ever seen the tip bones. You want the big ones close to the base of the tail that are heavy and very meaty; they should each be about the size of a large apple. Don't neglect the smaller ones; they are also very nice, but most of the meat is in the bigger ones.
As you already know, I think, Taza is something of an acquired taste; certainly the coarse texture is different from what most people would expect.
Bean-to-bar manufacturers are almost always more interesting that couverture remoulders, if only because if you want the couverture it's usually easy enough to get it from the original manufacturer at a fraction of the price.
That said, very new B2B manufacturers have a tendency to be "experimental" without yet having fully mastered their craft, and quality can be uneven to say the least. You want people who have at least enough process maturity to understand what fine chocolate is like and what you need to do to get it.
I would therefore go for Rogue Chocolatier, who have an established reputation and good chocolate. Balao is very nice. I have not tried the Jamaica or Porcelana yet so can't comment but there's no reason to expect they won't be good. Beware, though, that Jamaica as an origin can be uneven due to indifferent post-harvest processing (ferment, drying, storage). Also "Porcelana" is used (one might say abused, in some circumstances) to cover a bewildering variety of possibly-white-bean cacaos, without any necessary genetic link to the "true" Porcelana of the Maracaibo region in Venezuela (and also grown to great success at Hacienda San Jose on the other side of the country). So like anything precious you have to approach things with some caution or at least awareness of the market situation.
Brioches (because of the labour involved; not intimidated by the technical challenges. But on the other hand, I've made croissants successfully)
Phyllo (I understand this really does require practice, and a large work surface)
Nut butters - especially hazelnut and almond (requires special milling equipment that can grind these nuts very fine and can handle oils - not easy to acquire or even find. Would love it if someone has some sources for them)
Hazelnut and almond praliné (combination of technique and equipment required)
Macaroons (The trouble here is that Pierre Hermé is just too available relative to the number of times I really want one)
Doughnuts (Same situation as brioches, with the additional complications and risks associated with deep frying)
Nuts go from slightly brown to completely burnt in a flash. Literally, seconds count. The smaller they are, the more the problem is exacerbated. Unfortunately, your rebellion is probably doomed unless you can develop a sixth sense for the timing.
High-quality, non-sourdough white bread. Hard to find almost everywhere. You usually have to make a determined search. Usually at modern quality bakers the choices are between sourdough whites and various forms of variety breads (non-white). Even guidebooks tend to be of little help thanks to a quirk in the English language that mean that almost all "bakeries" listed in such books turn out to be pastry bakeries much more than bread bakeries.
High-quality, plain chocolate layer cakes. NOT some fussy French-style gâteau, although don't be mistaken, these can be lovely, just not what I seek. Just chocolate sponge with chocolate icing. Dismal versions of these abound, as do excellent French-style pastries. But not good plain chocolate cakes.
Blueberries. For some reason, they've never been particularly popular. I can't understand why. They're one of my favourite fruits, less tart than the other summer berries and with a denser, "heavier" flavour. Incidentally, for those interested, I've found that consistently the "Star" varietal is markedly superior to all others (other than wild bilberries, of course). Get them if you can.
Barley. Obvious reason here: most of it is ingested in liquid form. But as a grain, it's easily my favourite.
Porridge. A stodgy reputation does no favours for it. But it's unrivalled in winter as a warming breakfast. And it's astonishingly versatile too: in addition to plain porridge, you can add all variety of things to it.
Beef fore rib roasting joints. Sadly, even here in England, most of the fore rib is disappearing into steaks. The classic roast is almost disappearing into the past.
Chuck joints. This is now disappearing into mince. Good braises, pot roasts, steak and kidney puddings, and all sorts of other wintry things are becoming harder and harder to make.
Chocolate hazelnut spreads that aren't Nutella. In Germany this is almost a national obsession. Why can't we have the same thing here? The world of chocolate spreads is so much more (and so much better) than Nutella.
Gianduja. Along similar lines to the above. Like the above, a national obsession - in Italy this time. Why not here?
The "barrier" I see in this discussion is conceptual:
Making statements about cuisines you do and do not like in no sense necessarily means any sort of implied value judgement about the cuisine, much less the culture and people, of a region or country.
And for the same reasons, making suggestions to someone about cuisines or dishes they ought to try in no sense necessarily means any sort of implied value judgement about the person to whom suggestions are being made.
A conversation that must limit itself to flat statements of "I like X" or "I don't like Y" without explanation, further discussion, or debate is sterile and will degenerate into banality.
Taste is one of the most strongly hard-wired of the senses when it comes to our reaction, and it is unrealistic to imagine that most people don't have strong preferences, or that you can arbitrarily put aside or change your strong preferences.
But by the same token taste isn't entirely subjective; there is an element of basic quality (or lack thereof), and of shared preferences, that cuts across personal and even cultural divides. You can't avoid noticing good food when it's put in front of you.
That's why like/no-like conversations can be interesting: you learn something more about the person you are talking with, and maybe you learn something more about foods you're talking about. I make a plea to all not to reduce conversation either to a duel of ad hominem attacks or to empty banalities by becoming too concerned about value judgements where none may exist.
And also, before going out on a major shopping expedition (particularly for a festive occasion such as Christmas), check your stock to see what you have and don't have for what you plan on making. Could save an embarrassing gap in the table.
An interesting aspect of this question I think is that 3 favourite *to prepare* may not necessarily be the same as 3 favourite, because of things like ingredient and equipment availabilities, recipe repertoire, and specific cooking skills required. There are also some cuisines where at least the well-known dishes are elaborate and time-consuming, making them something you might do more rarely simply because of the practicalities.
For me, Indian, Thai. Which is a far cry from saying either wouldn't be well-received if offered or have nothing I don't greatly like, but is to say that, asked to choose, they'd probably be my last choice. Generally, South Asian cuisines tend to be my least favourite. And it's definitely not from lack of exposure or low quality. The flavour combinations to me tend to have a quality that would be the gustatory equivalent of dissonance.
Late reply, but to your question on my opinions, what I'm saying is close to your point:
"4) Also want to note that even places studiously presenting solely the products of traditional local hand labor — right down the handwritten daily chalkboard— is meant to appeal to the luxury/elite in 2014. To be poor is to have little option but to consume what is mass produced."
The first part of my post was saying that essentially this is the dynamic that prevails. Price and quality don't necessarily have a "reliably discernible relationship" in the sense of some sort of deterministic linear curve. Certainly I'm not saying there aren't cheap places where the food is good, nor expensive and elite places where the food is disappointing. There is a broad, noisy correlation between price and quality, so that *statistically* you're likely to find better quality at higher price, but this relation applies statistically rather than on a case-by-case basis.
But if you want the *ultimate possible* version of a given dish, where no compromise whatsoever is made on ingredients, preparation, or anything else, that's not going to come for free. So "elite" restaurants with higher budgets can in principle probably prepare a better version of most things. That's not to say that they actually will but they have the budget to try harder if they want to. When in comes to guides, meanwhile, they have to distinguish between the very good and the ultimate possible. That makes it virtually certain that the places selected at the very top - representing "ultimate possible" are going to be "elite" restaurants. You can disagree with their particular choice of restaurant but the pattern would be likely to hold.
The second part of my post acknowledges the existence of "an entire class of restaurants and restaurant clientele that is really only aiming to please a very small group of diners whose passion is experimental food" and like you doesn't see anything wrong with that as a category, but on the other hand I *do* lament the relative paucity of "elite" restaurants with no particular aspirations to experimental cuisine and a strong grounding in local tradition - because of market forces.
I have to agree with you on
"5) In Italy today, the percentage of restaurant-goers dearly hoping to be the only non-local in a restaurant is getting pretty huge."
As you imply this is unrealistic, and I have to wonder, why should that really be a criterion anyway? It doesn't correlate particularly well to quality.
Cod and haddock are, of course, (as Harters says) the common options - the ones every chippy will have.
Personal preference, when they have it, though, for me is plaice. White side if they can (the top side has grey skin, the bottom side white) Along with sole, it's in the "next tier" of common but not universal. However it's (plaice) ubiquitous in Conwy and Llandudno. Neither fish, incidentally, is more than trivially more expensive than either cod or haddock. Not many have "expensive" options. Every now and then you see John Dory.
Echoing other posters, why do you think the kids wouldn't enjoy it? I think most kids would love it - Beef Wellington is packed with flavours that are well-received by almost everyone; nothing intimidating (or even particularly strongly-flavoured) in it. Make them a little smaller than you would for the adults but otherwise identically and they should be very happy.
Just came back from a conference in Kuching, Malaysia. Not necessarily a city where, I suspect, the crowds are going (not the foodie crowds, at least) but some places very much worth visiting.
First, on the way there, taking advantage of an almost full-day layover in Singapore, I stopped there for lunch. Considerations of logistical practicality made me consider central options that didn't involve impossible bookings or "event" restaurants which led to an obvious choice of the Blue Ginger. This well-known Peranakan place ticked all the right boxes for me. Smaller than I expected, I'll say (it can't have been more than about 10 tables (or maybe I didn't see an entire additional section) but clearly popular, and with the locals. Location makes it a spot where a lot of people seem to "drop in". Relaxed, informal cafe-like atmosphere, the kind of place that's unintimidating for anyone. Service was effective but unremarkable.
So I had:
Ngo Heong (fried pork/prawn rolls)
The Ngo Heong are awe-inspiring. Perfectly crisp outside, succulent and flavourful filling. I could gobble these all day. Desperately addictive. Udang Nonya was OK but then again, I've had prawn dishes like this all over Southeast Asia (and elsewhere) and so it felt a little generic. But the execution was perfect, as good as you'll get for what's on offer. The Ayam Buah Keluak, though, is a life-changer. I've not had those nuts before. It cannot be imagined how rich these are, almost chocolatey. I can see why they offer additional ones for extra charge (and how difficult it would be to resist piling them on) The chicken, meanwhile, was among the most flavourful I've had, and braised properly, not overdone. I'm not going to say the Blue Ginger, on the whole, is a restaurant that will transform your life, but it proved ideal for a good lunch for me. I'd unhesitatingly stop again if going to Singapore. Excellent value all things considered.
On the value front, Kuching will be hard to beat. VERY reasonable prices everywhere for everything, almost a steal. They like their cake there. Those who have been will know Kek Lapis; you can't miss it really. 2 shops on Jalan Bishopsgate compete for the best, I think; in another league from the numerous sellers along Main Bazaar. These 2 are Maria Kek Lapis and Liza Kek Lapis. It must be understood that these cakes are impossibly rich, so much so that they literally ooze with butter (and yes, literally means *literally*!) Of the 2 Maria Kek Lapis is marginally the more butter-overloaded, Liza the one with the more interesting and perhaps more balanced flavours. However, the fluorescent-green pandan Kek Lapis from Maria is a thing of beauty. No need to stop with one: try both shops; they are literally across the street from each other.
On the whole the hawker centres are fairly ordinary; most of them won't really give you anything beyond basic eating (albeit at preposterously cheap prices); it's definitely a case of you-get-what-you-pay-for. There is one exception, which is so well known by all in the city that at night there is a constant stream of people into it, almost like crowds gathering for a concert: Top Spot. Fish is what's on offer here, all gloriously fresh, and vegetables too, same thing: it's the freshness that stands out. You can basically assemble your own meal and tell them what you want done. I opted for steamed pomfret with a simple dish of carrots, mushrooms and mange-touts. Again freshness was the key; they didn't overdo the preparation and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Particularly brilliant fish. It's not the cheapest option in Kuching, but undoubtedly it's one of the best
But the star visit, and really the reason for this report, is the one place in Kuching that is a destination unto itself, reason to visit the city in its own right: The Dyak. Clearly this is a restaurant with ambitions on an entirely higher order from the rest of Kuching. Much more formal, fine-dining ambience, but beautiful and relaxed, elegant, not stiff and snobbish. Lovely service; the waitresses there exemplify what good service should be about. Attentive and efficient, friendly, yet they don't get in the way either. Most of the dishes here have names and ingredient combinations you probably won't be familiar with (or remember in their entirety, if you're me) if you're not a local. I was so impressed overall I went there twice. Trying to decode the hand-written items what I got was (Day 1) Pusu Guring; Manuk Lulun; Palus. (Day 2) Daun Ubi, Changkuk Labu. Spellings may be wrong or entirely off.
However, the flavours are ones I will never forget. Day 1 included by far the best chicken soup I've ever had, terrific, tiny crispy anchovies, and ferns stir-fried with anchovies, crisp and spicy. Everything just explodes with flavour and has a brightness, a freshness, a lack of heaviness, that will redefine your concept of the possible. Everything is served with interesting brown rice.
Day 2 included addictive, basil-like sweet potato leaves in garlic, and surprisingly satisfying pumpkin stew with another exotic leaf. Vegetarians should note that the Dyak will be your delight; they have a LOT of vegetarian options, NONE of them anything like the "typical" offerings elsewhere. And vegetables are a particular specialty here.
There aren't many restaurants in the world that I would consider true "destination restaurants"; this is one. Not only are the flavours very different and delightful from what you'll get elsewhere, but they are prepared with consummate technical skill into something that is surely a global reference for the cuisine. I can't possibly evaluate in any sense how "authentic" it is, but with food this good, does it really matter? It's felicitous that someone is being the exponent of an unusual, unfamiliar local cuisine rather than producing yet another "internationalised" style. Let us hope the chef here doesn't succumb to temptation and decamp for the brighter lights and higher revenues of Kuala Lumpur or Singapore! We have here one of the world's great talents in what is a local treasure, something to savour hopefully for a very long time.
Never. Might be a trans-Atlantic or regional expression.
...However if I specifically heard anyone say "Starbucks is life" I'd question their sanity - or at least wonder if they weren't a marketing agent for them :-D
Oreos don't actually have carbon black in them. At least not in all countries, though I can't speak for some; if it did it would have to include it in the ingredient label (possibly using an obscure e-number)
It will be said that pure carbon black is perfectly safe because it's just - carbon. (As it turns out pure carbon in amorphous form is among the blackest substances available)
But Oreos use a very particular type of cocoa specifically formulated for dark colour - "black cocoa". It's not just Dutched, although that does improve the darkness of any cocoa, it's very specifically strongly alkalised and uses particular cocoa varieties to get that very black colour.
So about a year ago I posted a set of questions on restaurants in Amsterdam (which because of the way it was worded generated something of a running-debate response)
In the event a raging cold when I went that time more or less nullified any report I could have given. We come around to the same time, a year later, and this time I went without any awful diseases.
First of all, it must be said that I mentioned last year that atmosphere wasn't particularly important, but it was obvious from seeing the restaurant scene "on the ground", as it were, that atmosphere is in fact a central element, if not *the* central element, of what is thought of as mattering in Amsterdam. That goes a long way towards explaining the direction of the subsequent replies.
With a highly constrained schedule this time I focussed on central locations. This generates some no doubt predictable choices; notwithstanding some of them are worth mentioning.
3 breakfasts. The first was a simple baguette at De Bakkerswinkel. Words cannot convey the utter superiority of this loaf, one of the greatest baguettes I've had anywhere. It puts even most of the bakeries in France to shame. World-class. Based on that experience I visited again, this time going for a more comprehensive French toast, (chocolate) cake, and croissant. I can't say they were as accomplished as the bread. Serviceable, definitely. Exceptional, well, not really. It's the bread that is what I'll go for again. And again. Now a must-stop every time I'm in the city.
The other was at Gartine. Fantastic service. I can only hope they will forgive me for a rather small tip as at the end of the meal I found myself curiously short of small change. I had the raspberry/pistachio pancakes. Pancakes are a Dutch specialty of course but here they really were worth it; not a basic disc of something vaguely starchy but light yet substantial items, with plenty of flavour, and an interesting topping as well that diverged from the norm. Worth going to again although not with the same urgency as De Bakkerswinkel.
2 lunches. Interestingly I made no particular plans with respect to either; just stumbled across both. It's nice that Amsterdam has a configuration that encourages random wandering and where it's genuinely easy to simply stumble across somewhere without having to know where it is already. The first was t'Kuyltje. Finally, somewhere that can do a sandwich properly, with proper meat AND proper bread. Usually either one or the other is sort of an afterthought. Not here. I had a smoked rib-eye and a ham sandwich, both on the square white rolls. Splendid rolls, crisp outside, chewy inside, lots of flavour. The meat is even better. It's very impressive to see someone serving a "premium" cut like rib-eye as a sliced cold meat. I would say both sandwiches defined what I'd expect. One of the most obvious and best places to stop.
Second was Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs. One that definitely falls into the "it's all about the atmosphere" places. I shared a table with a fellow "stumbler-upon". Pancakes there - I had 2, one with bacon and one with strawberries and chocolate - are satisfying but I wouldn't say exceptional. It will be said though that the bacon one has an addictive quality to it. I wouldn't make any particular effort to return but then again if I were in the area at about lunchtime I wouldn't mind at all going back: in terms of time taken for reasonable food received they offer an attractive ratio of value-for-minutes. Which was a relief to me at the time because I didn't really want to take time on a long lingering lunch.
3 dinners. First was van Kerkwijk. Here is a place in an obviously Dutch idiom without making any self-conscious effort to be so or to be some sort of museum piece. Impressive job by a tiny staff (it appears: 1 waiter, one barmaid, one chef, one dishwasher) to keep pace with a heaving restaurant. Long wait (1 hour) but it was a Friday night and the place is convivial. I had steamed mussels followed by a salmon in soy sauce with bok choy and then apple pie. The mussels were the star of the evening, lovely and fresh, with just the right amount of garlic and salt; I'd had my eye on them for the entire hour while I waited. The salmon was an unexpectedly good match for the soy sauce, and in fact I tried dipping the (rather ordinary) bread in the sauce but that didn't really work. Bok choy was OK if uneventful. Apple pie was interesting, something of a cake-cum-pie take on the crust which actually worked rather well; they give you a huge slice, almost disproportionate when you consider the size of the other dishes. Excellent balance of apples and cinnamon; I think they had a few raisins in there as well. All in all a place worth waiting the hour for though don't expect eye-opening revelations.
Second was d'Vijff Vlieghen. Here is a restaurant clearly of an entirely different order in terms of ambition and refinement compared to everywhere else I went. And - if atmosphere matters in Amsterdam, this is carried over into the atmosphere which really is unforgettable and charming. Service is extraordinary, almost psychic. I admit I booked here so they could have looked me up on-line, but if they did so that shows another level of attention to customers. This is what I'd think of as being a true high-end Dutch: the menu features items that are clearly recognisable as drawing from local traditions but at the same time making an effort to rise above the usual standard. I started with a mushroom and veal stew in puff pastry shells, proceeded to cod with mashed potatoes, and finished with a warm chocolate torte with cinnamon ice cream. Relative to expectations, I would be hiding the truth if I didn't mention a slight disappointment with the starter; the stew was nice enough, but the puff pastry didn't have a really dense butteriness and the whole was served tepid; probably this is what was intended but I was expecting something hotter. All, though, was forgiven when the cod arrived. This was the precise definition of what I expect of a great restaurant: something that does conclusively better than what I can manage myself at home on a simple dish where substance matters over concept. The fish was *perfectly* cooked, with crisp skin, supple flesh, and a suffusive flavour of the freshest possible cod. And if anything the mash was better, bursting with potato flavour and properly mashed, not whipped or pureed. A dish I'll remember forever, marvellous in simplicity, impeccable in execution. After that spectacular main the dessert somehow managed to seem pedestrian in relative terms, although the ice cream was very good indeed; in any other context though it would itself be a winner. Another place I'll return to again and again.
Third was Haesje Claes. This was a simple choice that (obviously) I found on the way to d'Vijff Vlieghen. High tourist quotient here. But it seems like a place for very typical Dutch cooking. (So, indeed, do I understand, looking subsequently at reviews). Not with any a priori intent to do so, it will be said, I ordered an almost clichéd series of choices, pea soup, followed by stamppot with carrots, sausage, meatball, and bacon, then followed by semolina pudding. Glorious stodginess all round. Some people would find this leaden but I liked it: the pea soup was a textbook rendition. The stamppot was VERY satisfying (something for the depths of winter) although very much basic cooking without any aspirations to greatness. Same, really for the semolina pudding. Service is a bright spot, very attentive, friendly, no trace of a cynical mind-set which in this sort of establishment I imagine would be very easy. Not necessarily a place I'll run to return to, but on a cold winter's night it would make for a very agreeable option.
Overall, I found nothing to suggest that the reputation of Amsterdam as something of a food desert when it comes to quality is deserved. I don't feel I had a genuinely substandard meal there, although yes, you do have to get used to rather stodgy presentations (exception for van Kerkwijk). On the other hand, I do get the feeling I stayed with, for the moment, obvious choices: with more time and opportunity to venture further afield I wonder what I might discover? Time, perhaps, for a wander...
You may not need to refrigerate but with the oil in the tahini it will take a while to set (possibly several days) if you don't fridge it, and if you've not taken care with blending to create a smooth emulsion, the mixture will separate. Fridging it gets the mass through the transition point quickly and stabilises it before it would fall out of emulsion.
Also depends on the temperature of your room. In reasonably cool conditions you will probably have better luck than at higher (>20 °C) conditions)
And it will also depend on the composition of your milk chocolate. Very fatty milk chocolates (e.g. Bonnat) will be more difficult to work with than lower-fat versions (e.g. Domori) although the final result should be equally good if perfectly done. The fattier the milk chocolate the faster it will set once tempered and mixed, because there's more solid cocoa butter to speed the setting process.
Tempering the milk chocolate might make a difference but it's likely to be slight. However if your milk chocolate is high-fat the difference will be more pronounced and I would recommend tempering first. Think of making a cream ganache - or for that matter chocolate hazelnut paste. Usually you can just melt the things together and as long as your stirring isn't too vigorous (notice how they caution against this in the recipe!) then it just comes together as an emulsion. As they recommend, make sure the tahini is *thoroughly* mixed first, and also make sure it's a fine-ground type (coarser types will give poor, strangely fudgy results)
It seems I was in Genoa at the same time as another unfortunate CH'er. Those who were there cannot possibly forget the rain, coming down at the intensity of the most freakish cloudburst for hour upon hour. Utterly horrific. My sympathies to the people of Genoa at this time.
However you still have to eat, and some brave restaurants and businesses stayed open during the deluge. During what was surely a period of short staffing, I admire the courage of those who stayed open, as much as I sympathise with those who were forced to shut. I ended up visiting:
I went to Trattoria Rosmarino at the height of the downpour on Thursday evening. We actually arrived just before the rain really started coming down, but once inside, it just started sheeting. At the time nobody paid it much heed; we all assumed it would pass. Trattoria Rosmarino could hardly be more central, in a small lane immediately off Piazza de Ferrari. The restaurant, on 2 levels, is atmospheric and cosy, vaguely formal with its linen tablecloths and fine cutlery; I'd say it was closer to a ristorante in feel in that regard. However menus are on blackboards. I give them a lot of credit for staying aggressively seasonal with a constantly changing menu.
I started out with a Ligurian classic: Brandacujun. Near-perfectly executed, the puck-shaped mass was light and balanced in flavour, not overly fishy yet with enough flavour to identify what was involved. Easily on a level of technical execution worthy of more ambitious restaurants, it set a good tone for the rest of the meal
My primo was a seafood paccheri with some bits of ham and tomatoes. I wouldn't say it was as delightful as the antipasto; merely satisfying and straightforward. The pasta was perhaps the barest shade overdone, but not to excess by any means. Gratifyingly they had removed all the shells so one was not stuck with a plateful of shells; although some may quibble that one has no certainty of freshness here it was clearly not a problem in this case.
As a secondo I took tuna done 2 ways. One was crusted and fried, the other grilled (I think; memory a bit poor here). Either way they were done to perfection. The waitress made sure I didn't have any problem with rare tuna - a thoughtful touch - so that when it arrived it really was properly rare. The crisp outside of the crusted version was particularly splendid; a very different way of presenting tuna and one that I'll remember for a while.
Only the dessert - a coffee creme brulee, was a bit of a disappointment. They have an enviable selection of dolci; I think I just happened to select the wrong one in this case. It seemed overcooked and slightly broken, and the coffee flavour wasn't as pronounced as I would have expected. I emphasise however that this is an aberration; I think generally speaking you shouldn't hesitate to order pudding here.
What I've not said, saving for last, is that what really stood out here was the service, some of the best, most welcoming, most generous I've ever seen in any restaurant. This is a standard that all restaurants in Italy ought to aspire to - capturing the essence of both personable welcome and professional care in a way that seemed so effortless, so natural as to be almost instinctive. As a result I can't recommend the Trattoria Rosmarino highly enough; a delightful place to go while in Genoa.
Second night we had a recommendation from a local to visit Eataly (normally somewhere I'd avoid), but in the event it was shut anyway; thus we ended up at Gaia. This is probably the sort of place that everyone imagines in their head when they think of Italian restaurants: in a narrow lane, with vaulted ceilings, straightforward regional menus, essentially no English spoken.
Here we started to come up against the short-staffing issue. I think there were really only 3 people to do everything: a chef, a waitress, and a waiter-cum-front-of-house man. They really showed spirit in trying to keep up things, in spite of the trying circumstances. As a result service was predictably slow, but in fairness, no slower really than a busy trattoria in Rome on a Saturday night. My Italian is improving so I can reasonably negotiate a meal without any problem but if you really aren't up to it you may find communication difficult.
After some negotiations involving dietary restrictions about what would be possible off the (gratifyingly large) menu I took a green pasta with clams and cod with mushrooms and potatoes. The pasta was serviceable; nothing really to get excited about but competently executed. A bit oily but that does seem to be the way in Genoa. However the cod was marvellous. There are times when something simply prepared, using seasonal ingredients, just comes together and so it was here. A simply steamed cod lay atop a pile of potatoes and (porcini) mushrooms stewed in the mushroom stock. Hearty and very satisfying, it had a spectacular earthiness which was exactly what I was looking for after having been soaked several times over the last 2 days (although I was dry at the time).
I opted to finish with a chocolate hazelnut cake. No pretense here; this was something like you'd get in a traditional home, not a poshed-up torta in fine pasticceria style, simple ingredients tasting of themselves. Again I wouldn't say it was spectacular or world-changing but as an end to a meal it was quite pleasant; which seems to sum up Gaia. You're not going to come here for culinary innovation or displays of technical prowess; you're coming for simple food done basically but competently. It's the ideal place for an evening where you just need to eat, don't need to be swept away, but also don't want to go somewhere dismal.
Speaking of the poshed-up torte - for that you go to Douce. Unabashedly French in style, but with a Milanese slant to the decor, in one sense it captures Genoa's position near both. It's located in the ideal tourist-trap location, next to the Palazzo Ducale, and no doubt functions in that capacity, but in this case in a way that you wouldn't mind being trapped. (It was also about the only open place to go for breakfast on the Saturday as well as for coffee on Friday evening). Coffee is excellent, well above Italian norm, so if all you're there for is to sip a coffee and take in the atmosphere it's a great choice. However as a breakfast venue it also makes the grade. I took a brioche con crema (croissant with pastry cream), a pane al cioccolato (pain au chocolat, naturally), and a chocolate mousse torta. The puff pastry in the 2 pastries was supremely flaky, almost rivalling Cristalli di Zucchero, although admittedly with less of the densely buttery flavour. (It may also have suffered by comparison to Pierre Herme in Paris, who I'd been to the day before). The pastry cream in the brioche was decent although not at Cristalli's standard, far less that of the unbelievable version on offer at Luca Mannori in Prato. Still, the breakfast pastries were, I felt, about as good as one has any reason to expect of anywhere. The chocolate mousse cake was a technical tour de force, with a delightfully crisp bottom, a light mousse, and a well-executed chocolate glaze. The quality of the chocolate could use some improvement though; it felt like bulk Callebaut or some other commodity chocolate. Be that as it may, the combination of position, excellent coffee, and obvious willingness to make an effort in a tourist-trap location where it would be so easy to fall into cynical exploitation makes Douce another destination worth visiting.
Finally I ended up eating a lot of focaccia from Patrone, again by virtue of the fact that they were open in a central location. Quality seems a bit uneven; on one visit I got the most tremendous puffy top and crisp bottom with beautiful flavour; on another a bland, soft mass that didn't have the same texture or flavour contrast. People rave about Patrone; I feel like they're just another typical Italian bakery in a usefully central location (and handily close to a metro stop) - which is to say, not bad, but certainly not setting any sort of reference point for bread in Genoa, much less Italy. However the service is friendly, in contrast to many other Italian bakeries which can have a perfunctory character, so maybe they're winning people over on that.
One point I'll also relate, for the previous poster's reference, if too late for their actual visit, and maybe it'll help others. I was fortunate and was booked into a hotel by our local Genoese hosts. They booked us into the Best Western Porto Antico. I can't really think of a better possible hotel. Absolutely central, in small street of the Old Town just east of the Darsena metro stop, next to the port and within instant walking distance to everywhere, the rooms are comfortable and immaculate, the service exceptionally personal and helpful, the atmosphere tranquil in spite of the central positioning. Definitely book if you're planning to visit.