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The best (store bought) hot dog buns

Bakery hot dog buns blow away those in the bread aisle, in my opinion. But among ones in the bread aisle, I like Pepperidge Farm.

Aug 18, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics
1

Just ate lobster for the first time

You're a frequent poster on these boards, RealMenJulienne, and you have a lively interest in food. Why in the world have you not tasted lobster before now? It just seems so unusual for a Chowhound.

I'm from the Chicago area originally, so I can understand the off-putting high price and the fact that Chicago is something like 700 miles inland. Still, it just flabbergasts (love that word) me.

I agree with the posters that you had an overcooked soft shell lobster. Since I was transplanted to Florida, I've had soft shell lobsters and they are not nearly as good as cold water ones.

Please try again and take some care. Have the lobster at an expensive seafood restaurant and make sure it is from cold water, preferably Canada, Maine, or Massachusetts. You are really missing out on something here.

Aug 18, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics

Where are Florida's best fish tacos?

California Tacos to Go at 1450 Skipper Road (near the intersection of Bearss East and Skipper Road) in Tampa has good fish tacos. This appears to be their specialty. You can miss them easily because they are on a curve of Bearss Road and set back from the road quite a bit. It's take-out and then you can eat on a wooden bench under some big trees, if you want.

I thought that they were quite good--for fish tacos--but I must admit that I don't "get" fish tacos. Fish tacos are so mildly flavored . . .

Aug 18, 2014
gfr1111 in Florida

Mayonnaise safety: A question about salmonella on the shell of the egg (from a skeptic)

I ditto what VTB said. Thanks! It is always fascinating to listen to someone who knows what they are talking about. You obviously do.

Aug 17, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics

Mayonnaise safety: A question about salmonella on the shell of the egg (from a skeptic)

Actually, I am not worried about it. I was being a bit sarcastic about the salmonella. The "crawling with unclean death" quotation is from a poem in science fiction writer Robert Heinlein's novel, "The Green Hills of Earth":

"We rot in the moulds of Venus,
We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death."

I meant to suggest that our concern about salmonella in eggs is a bit overwrought, in my opinion. Still, the questions I asked are questions to which I would like to get the answers.

Aug 15, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics

Mayonnaise safety: A question about salmonella on the shell of the egg (from a skeptic)

I was recently looking at a recipe for "Japanese" mayo (which, incidentally, seems pretty much like "European" mayo to me), and came across a curious warning in a footnote that I should wash the eggs with water before cracking the eggs because they could be covered with salmonella. Would water be effective? Wouldn't something stronger be needed?

Now, I have read on these boards that the outside of eggs from commercial providers are treated with something (soap? alcohol?) to kill off or wash off any bacteria or viruses. Is this true or not?

I have also read that the "dangerous" salmonella which accompanies an egg is on the INSIDE of the egg and arrived there through the chicken's internal egg-making organs, as the egg was being created, and is not found on the outside of the egg. Is this true or not?

I have also read that the FDA, or other authoritative sources, estimates that the number of salmonella infected eggs is one in 10,000/20,000/30,000/40,000, depending on where you get your information.

So, are these correct statistics? Can everybody stop worrying about eggs "crawling with unclean death"? This skeptic would like to know.

Aug 15, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics

Looking for Mom's Bread Pudding Recipe

Fiona,

I think that Rainey's suggestion is a good one. Although I have never tried it, I suspect that you could slice the French bread in the recipe I posted much thicker and, as long as the bread was thoroughly soaked in the custard before baking, you would get the sort of bread pudding with a matrix of custard that you are thinking of. There would be almost no "free" custard, but there would be plenty of it in the bread.

Alternatively, you could slice the French bread slices fairly thinly, as called for in the recipe, but load the custard up with them, so that they don't just float on top. The pudding would have a bread component from top to bottom.

Aug 14, 2014
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

Have you ever made Boston Cream Pie?

Trishuntrapped,

Thanks so much for the recipe. I love it when Chowhounders actually provide recipes on these boards. So useful! It takes a lot of work and I appreciate it.

Aug 14, 2014
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

Is there anything better than Boars Head cold cuts?

I like Boar's Head products. But Usinger's is great. After I moved to Florida, I could rarely get Usinger's.

Aug 11, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics

If I add other flavorings, how much salt do I eliminate in a marinade?

I was watching America's Test Kitchen (ATK) the other day and Christopher Kimball advised that ATK had concluded that you only need two strengths of marinade: a half a cup of table salt to one gallon of water and one cup of table salt to one gallon of water. The lower concentration was good for turkey because of the six to twenty-four hour immersion time and the higher concentration was good for everything else, which required less immersion time.

However, the recipe that they were doing called for a fifty/fifty solution of table salt and granulated sugar. They were creating much less than a gallon of marinade (for boneless, skinless, flavorless chicken breasts) and the ratio of salt/sugar was inconsistent with what Mr. Kimball had espoused, although close.

So my question is this: If you want to brine something and add in some other flavors, should you reduce the amount of salt? For example, it appears that (more or less), in the above recipe, sugar was substituted for the salt on a 1:1 basis. But I thought that the experts said that salt was the only compound that had the ability to permeate deep into the fowl, meat, or fish--something to do with osmosis. All other flavorings merely "hitch a ride" on the salt molecules.

So, if I start out with a salt to water ratio of 1:16 (one cup salt to 16 cups of water), and I want to flavor the meat with sugar, allspice, cloves, tarragon, pepper, vinegar, and ground unicorn horn, how much salt do I eliminate? Or am I looking at it wrong? Do I have to have the same 1:16 ratio of salt to get all the other flavors into the meat? If so, I do not eliminate ANY salt, just add in other flavors. So what should I do?

Aug 11, 2014
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

Are there brandies/cognacs/armagnacs as good as French ones made elsewhere?

Wow! Zin1953, I bow to a master on the topic. Yes, I am requesting more information and suggestions, please. Thanks for all the insight. I will certainly try your suggestions above and more would definitely be appreciated.

You mentioned Remy-Martin as one of the "big four" which I had left out. I knew there was one I had forgotten and spotted it at Walgreen's. (This was before your suggestion to avoid the Big Four.) As penance, I bought a bottle ($24.99 on sale, down from about $30.00 normally). But from now on, I will embark on a program of trying all those brandies which you and the other posters on this page have recommended.

Thanks.

Aug 09, 2014
gfr1111 in Spirits

The Great Bay Leaf Hoax

I'll have to try Penzey's. Somehow, I never thought of buying bay leaves from them. I had become so conditioned to McCormick's and others' being flavorless that I never thought of them, although I have bought many other spices from Penzey's. Thanks for the observation, monavano.

Aug 09, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics

How good is your flavor imagination?

I think that I have a pretty good flavor imagination, much better than I used to have. But it is certainly not perfect because every once in a while, I imagine a dish will taste one way and it is either a very muted version of what I imagined (then subject to further tinkering) or just bad. On rare occasions, the dish is much better than I imagined. This happened once when I took my Greek salad recipe and added large quantities of fresh chopped herbs to it.

But an awful lot of the time, I just wing it in the kitchen when it's an everyday kind of meal--not when guests are coming over. The results are usually pretty good, but I usually have in mind a sort of base recipe that I have made in the past and am working off of that. Therefore, it is not entirely imagined flavor.

Aug 07, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics

Call it something else, but please don't call it a margarita.

Absolutely!

Aug 07, 2014
gfr1111 in Spirits

Are there brandies/cognacs/armagnacs as good as French ones made elsewhere?

Thanks, Kagemusha. I appreciate your taking the time to list some alternatives.

I've had Asbach Uralt (in fact, went on vacation last year to where it is produced--Rudesheim, Germany) and I thought it was too sweet.

My father swore by three star and seven star Greek Metaxa. I thought the drink was great, but it is more like an after dinner liqueur than a brandy--way too sweet.

I think I had Fundador when I lived in Mexico forty years ago, but maybe not. I'll try it and see how it is. Thanks for the suggestion.

Aug 07, 2014
gfr1111 in Spirits

Are there brandies/cognacs/armagnacs as good as French ones made elsewhere?

JPC,

I didn't say that France had a monopoly on the production of drinkable brandy. Where did you get that from my post? I said that France seemed to produce more good brandy (smoother, less sweet, more aromatic) at a lower cost than I could find elsewhere. The goal of the posting was to find other equally good brandies at a comparable or lower cost.

"There are plenty of fine brandies from America, Spain, Eastern Europe and South America," you wrote. I'm looking for them. What are they called?

Aug 07, 2014
gfr1111 in Spirits

Are there brandies/cognacs/armagnacs as good as French ones made elsewhere?

Ever since I was in my twenties, my hard liquor of choice has been French brandy. By "brandy," I mean cognac, armagnac, and any other "nacs" made in France. The good ones, like Courvoisier, Hennessy, and Martell, all seem superior to me to brandies made elsewhere. (There are many other French ones, as well, but these are the least expensive brands sold in the U.S. which seem absoutely great to me.) Whenever I try Mexican, Spanish, or American brandy, it seems too sweet, as if too much carmel "coloring/flavoring" had been added. And it is not as aromatic or smooth.

Is there anywhere outside of France where they make brandies competitive in flavor--dry, smooth, and aromatic--to the ones which I have named? I realize that if I spend a $100 or more on a bottle of brandy, I can probably find something similar somewhere, but for the price, say U.S. $40 per bottle, or less, is there anything made in (say) Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Portugal, Germany, Mexico, the United States, Brazil, Argentina which comes close to the quality of French brandy? And if not, why not?

Aug 06, 2014
gfr1111 in Spirits
1

Good eats & local cuisine in Holiday/ Tampa area ??

Seafood: Oystercatchers in the Hyatt on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, and Park Shore Grill at 300 Beach Drive N.E., in downtown St. Petersburg both are excellent. But this is high end dining. For less expensive seafood, try Frenchy's Original, or French's Rockaway Grill, both on Clearwater Beach, or Salt Rock Grill on Indian Rocks Beach (also owned by the Frenchy's people). They have great grouper sandwiches, a Florida specialty. Their other seafood is excellent, too. Mystic Fish Seafood in Palm Harbor, a little north of Tampa, gets good reviews, as does Shells in Tampa with two locations on Dale Mabrey and one on Fowler Avenue. (The shrimp pasta is their signature dish. You'll probably be eating at a wooden picnic bench but it is air-conditioned and inside.)

An aside: I can't disagree with the recommendation from Seminolegrl06 for Ted Peters' either. Nor do I think that you should miss Berne's Steak House, perhaps the best steakhouse in Florida and in New York food critic Jeffrey Steingarten's opinion, one of the best in the United States.

Greek cuisine: Go to Tarpon Springs and try the Greek salad or the same salad sans lettuce (called the "Greek Village Salad" or something similar and reputedly more authentic), grilled any kind of fish, or the charcoal grilled calamari (definitely chargrilled at Mykonos, but I think at the other restaurants which I recommend, as well, but I can't swear by it) at the Mykonos, Hellas, Costas, or Plaka restaurants. The charcoal makes all the difference. Mykonos is my favorite but it is low on ambience. Costas is extremely busy and crowded (at least on weekends), with a terrific attached bakery, but has better ambience. Hellas is usually quieter and has some dishes the other restaurants don't. Plaka is an up-and-comer.

Cracker cuisine: Try Wimauma Restaurant in Tampa at 4205 Macdill Avenue South. I mention the address because the restaurant is a bit off the beaten path. Some of their offerings are fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried Florida oysters, shrimp and grits, braised collard greens, hush puppies, cafe con leche mashed potatoes, lemon olive oil pound cake, banana ice cream, etc.

Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food at 642 S. 22nd St. South in St. Petersburg is another good choice. (But you are a New Yorker, so maybe you know about Sylvia's already.) You need to cross the bay from Tampa to St. Pete on 275. Then let your GPS do the thinking. It is not far from 275, but there is a confusing maze of streets to navigate. They are open for breakfast (as well as lunch and dinner). Some of their offerings are fried green tomatoes, chicken livers with brown gravy, chicken and waffles, salmon croquets, beef ribs with "secret" sauce, and fried chicken.

Both places offer barbequed ribs and barbequed "a lot of other stuff."

I hope that this helps.

Aug 04, 2014
gfr1111 in Florida

PCB dinner with a view ?

Where?

Aug 04, 2014
gfr1111 in Florida

When Restaurants Refuse Substitutions

I agree with Lagne. It is a question of degree. The description of another commenter below is that the commenter knows of a person who wants to substitute three or four ingredients and sauces for what the dish originally came with. That, to me is unreasonable. This person is asking the chef to make an entirely new dish.

On the the other hand, substituting one ingredient or sauce, or omitting an ingredient, doesn't seem too disruptive to me. My girlfriend, who has a near paranoid aversion to fat (fat=poison in her mind), often asks that a red tomato sauce/arrabiata/diablo sauce be substituted for a cream and cheese sauce (Alfredo, essentially) on her pasta. This seems reasonable to me, just as leaving off the goat cheese on a sandwich seems reasonable. It is all a question of how much disruption it will cause the restaurant.

But hey, the chef is in charge. If he says, "No," then you have the option of going to a different restaurant where they will accommodate you.

Aug 04, 2014
gfr1111 in Features

You guys have thoughts on this take on the GMO issue?

Well, I tend to agree with Mr. Tyson that GMO foods are not a cause for concern. On the the other hand, I am infuriated that GMO food purveyors feel that they HAVE THE RIGHT NOT TO TELL US WHETHER A FOOD HAS BEEN GENETICALLY MODIFIED. GMO foods don't bother me, but they bother a lot of people. And those people should have the right to avoid buying them in the marketplace.

I think that it is telling that GMO food sellers feel that they have to hide the fact of the nature of the food from us. And why do they do this?--For their own profit. They know, or suspect, that they could not make a go of it economically, if they let people decide for themselves.

Mr. Tyson's analogy between GMO foods and selective breeding also is weak. Selective breeding or hybridization takes two roughly compatible plants or animals and breeds them for the desired characteristics. This is a far cry from inserting genes from (say) a rat into a cow because the rat has some characteristic than would be useful in the cow. Or, for example, the GMO advocates taking a gene that produces a natural pesticide in some inedible plant and inserting it in corn to make the corn produce its own pesticide.

While I don't get upset about GMO products, I keep in mind that the judgment that these combinations are perfectly safe comes from the same people (scientists, broadly) who blithely told us in the 1970s that hydrogenated vegetable oil (margarine) was better for our hearts than the animal fat in butter. I dutifully started substituting margarine for butter in all of my cooking, only to be told in 2000 or so, "Oh, we were wrong. Actually, hydrogenated vegetable oil is really MUCH WORSE for you than the saturated fat that you would find in butter. Sorry about your clogged arteries!"

People who fear any advance in science have been burning books (and scientists) for years. With the world's expanding population, I wonder if we can produce enough food without the use of GMOs. (Malthus depressed me.) But scientists/agribusiness should give us the choice of determining what we put in our bodies. They shouldn't keep the content of food a deep, dark secret, even if they think it is a harmless secret. After all, isn't openness and honesty one of the hallmarks of good science?

Aug 02, 2014
gfr1111 in Food Media & News

You may laugh at me, but please stop long enough to answer my question

I don't worry too much about this. Life is full of risks. However, while I was flipping hamburgers on a grill the other day, it occurred to me that when you slide the raw hamburger patty onto the grill with your spatula, you have now contaminated the spatula. Then you slide the contaminated spatula under the cooked side of the hamburger and contaminate the cooked side of the hamburger, while flipping the burger over. Then you take it off the grill with the same contaminated spatula and nicely contaminate the second side of the burger.

This sort of stuff can drive you batty. I have been cooking burgers for years, happily contaminating them as I go, with no problems. But it does make you wonder . . .

Aug 02, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics

favorite bottled salad dressings?!?

I like the Caesar Cardini brand Caesar's dressing. It is much more flavorful than most bottled caesar dressings.

Aug 02, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics

Reheating hamburgers

I agree with Phurstluv's recommendation. Wrap in foil, put in a moderate over for ten minutes or so. Microwaving sounds ideal, but my experience is that everything gets tough.

Aug 02, 2014
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

Looking for Mom's Bread Pudding Recipe

Fiona,

Hi! I don't know what you mean by a "custard matrix." All bread puddings have custard in them, so I am a little confused. Please clarify.

The bread pudding recipe that I swear by follows:

Place the following in a ceramic or glass two or three quart casserole dish, greased with butter, after following the directions below:

1/2 cup mixed candied fruit (pieces of dried fruit cut up into 1/8 inch cubes will work, as well, but they will be more chewy, so mixed candied fruit is better)

1/4 cup kirsch (or any after dinner liqueur with a cherry flavor will work, as well--Seagram's, Bols', or Cherry Kijafa, for example)

1/2 cup dried raisins

1/4" inch slices of day old French bread in a sufficient quantity to cover the top of the casserole dish without overlapping. (You want there to only be one layer, floating on top of the custard which will be created.)

Butter in an amount sufficient to heavily butter the slices of French bread

1 cup of heavy cream. (This recipe is very forgiving and will work fine with light cream, or probably half and half, but heavy cream is best.)

1 quart whole milk

1 and 1/4 cup granulated white sugar

6 eggs

5 egg yolks

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Confectioners' sugar to sprinkle over the entire dish

1. Pour boiling water into a small bowl sufficient to cover the raisins.

2. Pour kirsch (or the other alternative liqueurs) into a second small bowl sufficient to cover the candied fruit or dried fruit. You will just be using this to hydrate the candied fruit and then will discard the unabsorbed liqueuer, so use a very small bowl just big enough to cover the fruit. Otherwise, you can waste a lot of kirsch.

3. Slice the French bread pieces 1/4" thick and butter them very heavily. (They are going to brown and the more butter which you use, the better they brown--and taste delicious.)

4. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Combine the milk and cream. Bring this mixture just to a boil in a separate sauce pan. Then take it off the heat immediately.

6. Dissolve the sugar in the hot milk/cream combination, stirring.

7. Beat the egg yolks and whole eggs lightly with a beater or whisk.

8. "Temper" the egg mixture by pouring a small amount of the milk mixture (maybe a quarter of a cup) into the eggs and beating it rapidly. Repeat three times. Then add the rest of the milk mixture to the egg mixture. Beat some more for a minute or so. This procedure prevents the eggs from scrambling.

9. Add the vanilla extract to the milk and eggs mixture.

10. Drain the raisins and the candied fruits and place them in the bottom of a two or three quart casserole dish.

11. Plac the heavily buttered French bread slices on top of the candied fruit.

12. Pour the milk and eggs mixture slowly over the bread, soaking it as much as possible. The partly soaked bread will float on the milk and eggs mixture. (My original recipe called for straining the milk and eggs mixture before pouring it over the bread, but I have never found this necessary.)

13. Place the casserole dish in a larger casserole dish or metal container and pour boiling water into the larger dish, thus creating a "baine Marie" in which the egg mixture will cook slowly and evenly. (To be clear, the hot water is NOT poured into the dish with the egg mixture, but rather, surrounds it in the second container. As Sir Thomas More said in "A Man for All Seasons", "I trust I make myself obscure.")

14. Bake about 40 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (on a middle rack) or just until set. Remove the casserole from the oven and let it cool. The bread will be golden and look like individual pieces of bread. But just below the surface, the bread will be custardy and soft. Below that, there will be a pure custard layer, and the fruit and raisins will remain on the bottom.

15. You can run the whole shebang under a broiler, if you want, to increase the golden bread color, but I do not because it has plenty already, and I am one of those people who frequently burns that which he puts under the broiler.

16. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar, if you wish. I usually don't.

17. Let this cool for several hours. Otherwise, the custard is too thin and runs. This dish is cook served warm or cold (but not hot). After the first time I serve it, I usually serve it cold.

Aug 02, 2014
gfr1111 in Home Cooking

What would you do to fix the Food Network

Could you link to the article or state where I can find it? I would like to read it. The last thing I read was that the Food Network's ratings had risen substantially after they turned the network into a game show haven.

I'd like to see the Food Network return to its roots and present "dump and stir" (as these shows have snidely been named by some network executives) cooking shows.

Also, eliminate the totally unqualified cooking show hosts, who claim no expertise in cooking, but are on the air because they are famous in other fields, such as acting, being a model, or being an Olympic star. (I would make an except for Debi Mazar who actually seems to know how to cook, probably based on her long relationship and marriage to Chef Gabriele Corcos.)

Caterers are okay. Most of them seem as knowledgeable as the professional chefs--possibly because what they are teaching us is not on the professional chef level. Personal chefs are okay. People who used to work in a deli are okay. But the person on the program should have some level of culinary training.

Jul 27, 2014
gfr1111 in Food Media & News

POLL: Specific NEW Features That Bug You

Where is the "enormous announcement thread"?

Jul 27, 2014
gfr1111 in Site Talk

Do you like or dislike the new format ?

I dislike it. To quote that old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Since they changed the site, underneath the text of each entry in black is a pale blue set of three or four words at the beginning of each post. I haven't been able to ascertain what these words are because the black superimposition prevents me from reading them. But I see that they do change in length from post to post.

Also, it is not doing it now, but usually, when I try to type something, there is a delay between what I type and when it appears on the screen--very disconcerting.

Apparently, there are other changes, as well, but it is hard to determine what they are because there is not general announcement of these changes.

Jul 27, 2014
gfr1111 in Site Talk
2

At the end of my rope -- please help

Have you considered going to a cooking school? I mean something modest where you do not enroll in a program, just take a single course. Here, in Florida, the Publix grocery chain offers single individual classes or up to six classes on the same topic. There are also three or four competitors in addition to the Publix classes in places such as cookware shops, local community colleges, restaurants, etc. Surely, whereever you live, there must be something like the classes which I have described.

I am thinking of hands-on classes, where you actually make the item in the course description. "Demo" classes are of less value because you do not get any feedback as to what you are doing wrong.

Jul 27, 2014
gfr1111 in Home Cooking
2

Why Don't the Chinese Eat Outside?

I've lived in Singapore, too, though not for nearly as long as you have, L.M. Ashton. I can attest that eating outside is the rule for most Singaporeans and Malaysians looking for an inexpensive meal. Most Singaporeans are Chinese and about half the Malaysians are.

The interesting thing is that Singapore is one degree north of the equator and an island nation (therefore, hovering constantly around 90% or higher humidity). People usually eat under awnings or umbrellas, but it is still incredibly hot and humid.

The OP is right. American Chinese, or Chinese living in America, rarely eat outside. I have no reason why, although getting a permit to run an outside cafe is probably tougher in the U.S. than in Singapore because it is so customary in Singapore.

Jul 21, 2014
gfr1111 in General Topics