OckhamsFolly's Profile

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Budding cook; microplane or vacuum sealer?

Right guys, so I got myself a microplane about a week ago (I'm slow sometimes), and it is very very useful. I've only used it for zests so far, but I'm thinking about getting some nutmeg; a friend told me their perfect for grating the groats. Thanks for your input, everybody!

Feb 27, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Cookware

What were your last cookbook purchases? Holiday edition! [old]

I just started getting into cooking a couple months ago... so the last cookbook I bought myself was the '97 Joy of Cooking, courtesy of my local used bookstore. Was in stellar condition, too. I'm glad they had a copy in stock; been getting a lot of use out of it.

Feb 14, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner #128 [old]

Hah, I didn't really mean regular like that. I meant there are no expectations of me for a full sit down meal or anything. Obviously, it's pretty well rounded- you got a fresh starch, a veggie (lettuce, sure, but also plenty of olives), a fruit, dairy and a small bit of meat. It's got it all. Just more lunch-like than a full dinner.

Feb 14, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner #128 [old]

Well, I've only really been learning to cook seriously for a little while now, and today there were a couple things I've been wanting to try that I finally got around to. One was baking a loaf of bread; I baked a loaf of olive bread, pretty basic, just with finely chopped olives kneaded into the dough after it's first rising. The other was making my own blue cheese dressing. Being a guy who lives with roommates, I'm not obligated to make regular meals, so I just served the bread with an olive puree to top and served the dressing over iceberg wedges with chopped bacon, apples, and cashews. Very simple, but it was filling, fairly well balanced, and everybody liked it; it was even somehow, the first time one of my roommates had an iceberg wedge salad like that. So I consider it to have all been pretty successful.

Feb 13, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner? #127 [old]

Thanks! It turned out great. Roasted potatoes, garlic and carrots with it, and tomatoes seperately. Gravy from the juices. It was delicious; the skin was a little less crispy than I was looking for, but it tasted amazing, so I'm okay with it. Plenty of chicken left over, but I'm feeling lazy, so I'll probably make the salad tomorrow. The stock'll be easy, at least!

Feb 08, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner? #127 [old]

Roasting a chicken tonight. This will be my first time trying a brine. Fairly simple roast- pepper all over, butter and sage under the skin, onion, garlic and lemon in the cavity. Haven't decided on sides yet, will probably just roast potatoes and assorted veggies with the bird. No fuss and damn tasty. I'm also going to try making a stock from the carcass tonight, and hopefully there will be enough chicken left over to make my curry chicken salad.

Feb 08, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Home Cooking

Budding cook; microplane or vacuum sealer?

Thanks for all the help, folks. I'll let you all know how I like it after I get a chance to get my butt to the kitchen store.

Feb 07, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Cookware

Budding cook; microplane or vacuum sealer?

I know a couple people that have spoken favorably, and I figured it'd help cut costs with less thrown out left overs. Most people seem to not dig the foodsavers here, and absolutely rave about the microplanes, so it's an easy decision.

Feb 07, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Cookware

Budding cook; microplane or vacuum sealer?

Well, microplane seems to be the clear winner. Thanks, all!

Feb 03, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Cookware

Is There Any Commonplace Dish You've Never Eaten?

It's tricky to remember things I haven't had, and a lot of the things people are listing were things I had no idea were common. I don't think I have ever once even seen green bean casserole being served, much less eaten any. My mother hated casseroles because her mother made them often and poorly, so I've not had a lot of them. Beef Stroganoff? I can't remember ever eating it, but it just seems like I must have had it. Maybe not crab, because I know I hate lobster, but I can't remember if I don't like crab, so probably I wrote it off as similar to lobster. Tricky question, though.

Feb 03, 2012
OckhamsFolly in General Topics

Budding cook; microplane or vacuum sealer?

Well, I've finally got my kitchen set up with all the basic tools I need like a good set of pans, good knives, etc. I'm trying to figure out what new tools I'll get the most out of. Unfortunately, I'm on a bit of a budget; I can't justify spending more than $50. I've been looking at Microplane graters (mostly for zests), but I'm waffling between that and FoodSaver's FreshSaver handheld vacuum sealer. I think I'll get more use out of the vacuum sealer, but it seems designed mostly for veggies and cold cuts; I'm not sure if it'll perform as well for freezing meats and batches, which is a big reason I want one. Does anybody know it the handheld unit works fine for freezing stuff? Should I just go for the microplane? I like adding zests to dishes, but it's kind of a pain with the box grater, so I don't do it very often. Any input would be welcome; and, of course, if there's some other (uncommon) tool that you think is absolutely essential and will be used again and again, I'm open to suggestions. Thanks, everyone!

Feb 03, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Cookware

A failed experiment. What's yours?

Back when I first started cooking for myself, something I did a lot was pasta covered in a faux scampi sauce made with a stick of butter. One day, a friend suggested trying a bechemel. He was a bit nonplussed when I used a whole stick, but we decided to just mess with the proportions of flour and milk. It ended up with the exact consistency and taste of instant mashed potatoes, no joke. We laughed and I made my sauce the way I normally do. We ate a bit of the non-potato potatoes, but mostly we doled it out to our friends who came by to see if we could convince them it was mashed potatoes. We could.

Feb 03, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner? #126 (Super Bowl Edition) [old]

Tonight: pork schnitzel over a lemon and cheese risotto-esque dish with long grain rice (basically a lemon risotto with an extra helping of parmigian and ~1.5 tbsp of this tomato basil feta spread I have in place of some of the butter), served with sauerkraut sauteed with cooking wine, gin, cointreau, black pepper and a splash of lemon juice.

For the Superbowl, I'm going to put together a buffalo chili in my slow cooker and bring it down to work with me and have it go throughout the day. I work in a cigar shop, and we'll have the game on, so I figure it will be a crowd pleaser, although I'm sure I'll catch some flak because I insist on including beans. A little on the cheap, but it's still tasty. Recipe:

3 lbs. buffalo flank steak, 1/2 in 1/4 in. cubes, the rest in 1/2 in. cubes
1.5 large onions, chopped
6-7 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 bell peppers, chopped and seeded
4 jalapenos, chopped and seeded
3 habaneros, chopped and seeded
1/3-1/2 pineapple, diced
1 14.5 oz. can black beans, drained
1 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained
2 14.5 oz can diced tomato, drained
1.5 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp smoked sea salt flakes
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
~ 1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp jerk seasoning (mish mash of various salts & ground peppers)
1 tbsp oil

Brown the meat, saute the veggies momentarily to take a little liquid out of them, then pretty much toss everything in the crock, stir well, and leave on low 8 hours. I figure I'll just serve it over tortilla chips- keep it feeling like a snack so everyone can have some (thinking about making tortilla chips with some lime and pepper, too). Get some shredded cheddar & sour cream on the side for whosoever wants it, and I'll be set.

Feb 03, 2012
OckhamsFolly in Home Cooking

new to NH

No problem. I'm pretty much a homebody; if I'm not going out in Dover or Portsmouth, I usually decide it's easier to just cook myself, so I don't really know about Dante's. As far as the ethnic food goes, most of the restaurants in Dover aren't so much great examples of the cuisine as they are solid choices, especially if you like Thai, Indian, etc. I would not describe Taste of India, for example, as a great Indian place that you have to try, but it's good Indian and I like Indian food, and if you do too, you won't be disappointed. If you're going ethnic in Dover, I'd say the best of the bunch is the Oriental Delight.

At the Chop Shop, unfortunately the meals suffer when the head chef isn't in. I'll usually ask them if Koz is in the kitchen, and if they say he has the night off, I'll go with something safe. Almost all of my middling meals at the Chop were mostly my fault, though. I sometimes get wrapped up in what he has on special without really thinking about how the things I'm ordering will go together. The unhappiest I've ever been leaving there was when Koz informed me they wouldn't be able to keep the ostrich steak in stock anymore. I loved that entree.

The truth is, most of the restaurants around Dover are good, some are great, but that's always through the filter of "for Dover, NH." The Chop, for instance, would probably be a mid-range steakhouse in most real urban areas with the menu he currently has, although maybe a little higher now that he's started dry-aging his own steaks. However, the Dover restaurant scene is better than pretty much any other city I've been to with 30k people and no real reason to go to it (Dover doesn't get nearly the tourist traffic Portsmouth does, for instance). You're probably not going to find your new favorite restaurant ever, but you will find some places that you'll keep going back to.

new to NH

Portsmouth has some great restaurants, but Dover just north of it has some good places too (and it's closer!).

I'd highly recommend the Orchard Street Chop Shop if you're looking for a steakhouse. Top notch food, with some tasty specials, like wild boar and duck confit. There's also Christopher's Third Street Grille, but the only time I've been there was during Dover's Oktoberfest, when they were featuring bratwurst with sauerkraut. I know, it's nothing special, but the bratwurst was tasty and the sauerkraut in particular was divine.

The Oriental Delight offers an excellent selection of Szechuan Chinese and Japanese cuisine, and makes some fine sushi, with a large selection. They do chinese hot pot too; sadly, no dim sum. The China Yan is pretty standard chinese takeout, unless you really know your chinese food; if you do, they will make it, and it will be very good. There's a Thai place simply called Thai Cuisine. It's good, but nothing standout as far as Thai goes. There's also an Indian place called Taste of India, which is good, but in my opinion slightly overpriced. It's not nearly enough to stop me from going there (you're looking at ~ $15 a plate), but I don't get Indian as often as I'd like.

Cartelli's offers traditional Italian, as well as sushi for some reason; I'm told it's good, but I could never bring myself to order sushi at an Italian place. I do have to confess, though, I haven't been there since their general manager left to open up her own place, so I'm not sure if it's suffered. Her new restaurant, Patty B's, is rustic Italian- pasta bolognese, veal parmigiana, and so forth. I've only been there once, but I was very happy with my food. La Festa offers great brick oven pizzas; their New York Style is decent (the specialties they offer are all quite tasty), but unfortunately I don't care for the crust.

Dover has some great pub food options as well. The Brickhouse offers a wide selection of American cuisine that's decent; it's only really a deal on Wednesdays, when they run 40% offf everything if you pay with cash. Then it's a steal. The Farm is focused a bit more on burgers and barbecue, but still covers all the bases; I've only had one dinner there, though, so I can't really give a thorough review. I particularly like Fury's Publick House, which sports a less fleshed out menu, but almost all very good. It's one of the few places around to get a good scotch egg, and they have an array of specialty sauces that are excellent. Another bonus is they have the latest kitchen hours in Dover; it runs until midnight every day except Sunday, when it closes at 10.

That should be enough to get you started; there's a fair number of little places I'd recommend if you're looking for a quick bite, but I wouldn't really recommend specially making the trip to Dover for them. Something to keep an eye out for is the Restaurant Weeks both Dover and Portsmouth feature. They feature 3-course prix fixe meals (all are 16.95 for lunch, and 29.95 for dinner) at most of the better restaurants, and the Portsmouth event includes some places from the greater seacoast area, including the Chop Shop. Portsmouth's event has also been bi-annual in recent years, so you have two shots. The next week they're doing it is March 22-31; it'll be a great chance to get out there and see what some of these restaurants can do.

Hope this was helpful, and I apologize if it's a bit too long. There's a lot of good places kicking around the Seacoast, though. With the exception of Thai Cuisine and China Yan, all the restaurants listed here have their regular menu available somewhere online, so you can take a look and decide which place sounds the best to you. Welcome to the area!

Gin testing?

Thanks for the suggestions, boozemonkey, though I'm afraid that I took a look at the liquor stores' stock online and they claim that they don't have a single bottle of maraschino liqueur in stock in the state, so tracking down a bottle here won't be terribly easy, especially since I use public transportation. The Negroni is a possibility though... I'll have to give it a shot. Although I've always been told that a Gimlet just doesn't taste the same without Rose's, I guess I'll give that a shot too.

Monch- read that article a little while ago, and it does seem that the consensus of everyone who I've talked to that Plymouth makes the best martinis. Good read though. I know I'd like to have a twenty martini lunch, as long as I didn't have to do something right after.

May 30, 2008
OckhamsFolly in Spirits

Gin testing?

Thanks for the tip- I'll give the Bronx a shot.

And, well, I can get fairly obsessive about things I'm interested in, and I have fun doing that. Of course, I simply enjoy drinking gin and cocktails, and I highly doubt that I'll actually not enjoy any of the cocktails I mix up. Plus, I find the experimenting itself to be fun- I'm a bit of a nerd, I guess. It just isn't fun when you already know the answer.

Also, I'm surprised that you call Plymouth a "cheaper" gin... while certainly not terribly expensive, only three gins that are commonly available here (NH) are actually more expensive: Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks, and Bulldog. But then, since all our liquor stores are state run, the list doesn't include a whole lot of boutique gins, which I'll have to order for shipping (I'm putting that off for a while... more expensive gins+shipping and handling=more money than I can afford atm).

Keep those ideas coming!

May 28, 2008
OckhamsFolly in Spirits

Drinks TV - Great site!

To be frank, not really my cup of tea. The drink recipes I took a look at were mostly unappealing sickly sweet concoctions (although their Plymouth Perfect Martini recipe is actually a sweet Martini that I'd try- they swirl and dump the dry vermouth, but keep the sweet. I'd still tweak the proportions a bit for more vermouth- I think they said 6:1 proportions for gin:sweet vermouth. But I digress), and there is a video for Glenlivet on the rocks, which I find a bit silly. Additionally, their technique wouldn't exactly impress me in a bar. And there is a definite fair amount of product pushing. And frankly, I don't gain anything from the video other than the recipe, and I can read a recipe. Not for me.

However, if you haven't seen it, I do recommend The Cocktail Spirit, done by Robert Hess AKA Drink Boy. Each episode has a recipe for a drink, and he makes it on the show, but it also covers thing like the history of the drink, proper technique in making it, how certain flavors mix with each other to make a perfect cocktail, the role of a specific ingredient in cocktails that include it, and other stuff like that (and the episodes on molecular mixology are just cool). I really learn stuff when I watch them.

Of course, there's a downside... I have complete bar envy whenever I watch the episodes. While I don't really feel the need for an actual fancy bar, I'd love to be able to find some of the tools he has... that juicer is absolutely fantastic. Why isn't somebody making juicers like that today? Or are they? I've looked around, locally and online, but I just can't find one.

Anyway, if you're interested, check it out at www.smallscreennetwork.com and enjoy.

May 28, 2008
OckhamsFolly in Spirits

Gin testing?

Hello everyone, I recently turned 21 (well, beginning of the year) and decided it's time to sit down, build up a liquor cabinet, and learn my cocktails. Of course, being a college student, I'm not terribly overburdened with money, so right now I'm mostly researching and experimenting occasionally with recipes, although frankly I think that doing my homework first is a good way to get started. I've spent a fair chunk of time the last couple of days lurking around on here, and there seems to be a lot of people who really know their stuff. It always helps to talk to people who know more than you do, right?

Mostly, right now, I'm working on gin, and I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good variety of gin-based cocktails that I can try each gin in; I want to have a diverse selection so that I can discover how each gin affects the flavor profile of many different drinks, and therefore which gin I like best for each kind of drink. The list doesn't have to be all inclusive or anything, just one that touches on a lot of bases.

Right now, I mostly stick to Gordon's, because it's a fairly good gin with an unbeatable price. Otherwise, I'm afraid my gin experience is mostly confined to Beefeater's and Bombay Sapphire. Beefeater's is another gin that I feel is very flexible, like Gordon's, and a bit better- I'm more likely to use this for a martini than Gordon's if I have both, but also more expensive. I am not a terribly huge fan of sapphire- I've had it on the rocks, in gin and tonics, and martinis, and I find that, unlike Gordon's and Beefeater's, I prefer it on the rocks over mixing it with anything.

This is what I currently have in my lineup of drink tests:

Rocks glass, chilled, with about a 1/2 oz of straight gin, no ice or water mixed, for a straight taste.

Rocks glass, chilled, 1.5 oz with ice, for gin/water taste

Gin and Tonic, schweppes tonic water, don't have an actual highball glass, but I have 8 oz. glasses I use (For the taste, I'm thinking of sticking to a 2 oz standard for the gin- usually I free pour my G&T's, though) for the tonic taste- a must for me, since I make G&T's pretty much whenever.

Martini- Don't have martini glasses, so I drink these in a rocks glass- usually on the rocks too, but probably not for the tasting. Right now, I make my martinis 3:1 gin-vermouth (Noilly Pratt) 1.5:.5, with a dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist. Stirred. I'm considering trying 4:1 ratios for tasting, just to get more of the gin in there. Thoughts?

Dirty Martini- I love olives, so it broke my heart when I discovered that a good martini with bitters tastes slightly off when you actually garnish with an olive. So when I feel like an olive with my martini, I make a dirty martini, substituting a tsp.of olive brine for the bitters and two olives for the twist. Otherwise, same recipe as above.

Pink gin- Rocks glass, stirred. 1.5 oz gin, 3 dashes angostura bitters.orange bitters, depending on the mood, but I'll probably stick with angostura for the testing, since that's what the recipe actually calls for and what I'm likely to get if I order out. Also, in my opinion, bitters are more important with gin than any other liquor, and since I have orange bitters in my martini, I'm thinking using the angostura here will get me a better all-around understanding.

That's what I have so far on my list to try, and it uses up about half a 750 ml. bottle. I will not be testing more than two of these a night, and probably only one a night from each test bottle. I'd love more suggestions on what other cocktails would be keystones for giving me a complete understanding of the flavor profile. I think I need something with a major citrus element to it, but I don't want to go with a gimlet because I feel that the Rose's isn't indicative of citrus gin cocktails as a whole. I'm intrigued by the Pegu Club- I haven't had one before, though, and I'd need to pick up some orange curacao before I started experimenting. Do you guys think it's the way to go for an indicative citrus drink?

Any other recommendations, of any kind, are more than welcome, though don't feel offended if I opt not to pick yours- while I don't mind going through an entire bottle just testing it (the knowledge gained means better use of my bottles in the future, right? I like to think of it as a longterm investment), I'd like to save a couple drinks worth so that I can have some of my friends try a few cocktails with me and get their input as well.

Additionally, is it a good idea to have a standard to go by before each individual test? I'm thinking each night I test a new gin in a cocktail, I'd also have the same cocktail made with Gordon's (Gordon's because, well, a 1.75 L bottle costs less than most other gins' 750 ml bottle). I think this is a good idea since it will give me a consistent frame of reference fresh in my mind, but I can't decide if it would be better to have the "control" Gordon's drink first to establish the standard in my mind and mouth, or to have the "test" first to avoid preconceptions. I'm leaning towards test first, but what do you all think?

Finally, I just have a general question: seriously, am I like the only person my age who liked gin the first time they had it? From personal experience, I am, and looking around on the net, it seems like that's par for the course. What's up with that? Is this part of the vodka fascination of my generation? I smoke decent cigars ("premium," I suppose, but that really just means "it's not made by a machine or spray painted with artificial flavors")- could that maybe have jump-started my palette? I just want to know why gin is so unloved... it's my spirit of choice, and while I'm making converts one person at a time, I think it deserves more attention.

Sorry for the massive first post.

May 28, 2008
OckhamsFolly in Spirits