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What is "real food"?

I'm all for that!

Sep 09, 2014
Father Kitchen in General Topics
1

What is "real food"?

We see the term "real food" often, but cookbooks that contain it in their titles often disappoint. Nigel Slater's book of that title is closer to what I would have in mind, and so would just about anything by Peterson or Oliver. This is not an academic question: as one of the metabolically impaired majority in the U.S., I have become very nutrition conscious, and I know that eating well does not have to mean elaborate cooking or expensive ingredients. For me, real food is food without additives, minimally processed (except fermentation that adds nutritional value), prepared with good hygiene and cooking techniques, and eaten as an expression of sharing life with others. What is "real food" for you?

Where Does a Newbie Start?

These replies are good. But more important than books is the experience of doing something and then extending that skill. My cooking began with scrambled eggs when I was a kid. Be aware with all your senses so that you let the food teach you more than a book. That said, besides Joy of Cooking and other books mentioned below, there are several good books that I think really help you get beyond a recipe-driven approach. The first is Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which imparts some basic skills through some interesting good recipes. (I love his approach to roasts.) The second is Alice Water's Simple Cooking. (I haven't seen the sequel to it yet.) The third, is the "Tante Marie's Cooking School" cookbook, by Marie Risley, probably available only used on the net. A great cook I know learned to cook from her. Many of the chapters end up with a "how to cook without a recipe." It takes all the fear out of messing around in the kitchen. Of course, YouTube is a gold mine, though not all that glitters is gold. But lots of things that sound complicated in print turn out to be amazingly easy if you see it being done: for example egg pasta and bread. Finally, expect to make mistakes. Our seasoned cook today burnt a cherry pie to cinders. She forgot it was in the oven and went to do some cleaning in the pantry. We all had a laugh. Nobody gets it perfect. Not even Julia Child.

Confessions of a stuffing junkie

This is a wonderful discussion. I love the traditional dressings/stuffings, but also some unusual ones. Like an apricot-brown rice version I got (I think) from Joy of Cooking about 40 years ago or a wild rice and dried cherries one I found on the net the other day that I will use next Sunday. (We're having our Thanksgiving at another monastery, so I'll cook a bird Sunday, mainly for turkey soup and sandwiches afterwards.) All of this reminded me of a chapter in Teresa Lust's wonderful book of essays and recipes, "Pass the Polenta." It centered on the conflicting family traditions of Thanksgiving dinners from her mother's family and her father's--based mainly on the stuffing, as I recall. I found it on Amazon used-like new and ordered it for $.01plus shipping.

Nov 27, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What do you wish you could do that you've never been able to master?

Debone a chicken but leave the skin intact for that Spanish/Filipino stuffed chicken dish.

Nov 27, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

DO NOT DISCARD THE TURKEY CARCASS(ES)

I get irked when some zealous friar tosses our turkey carcass at Thanksgiving. This year we have dinner at another monastery, so Sunday (hopefully after turkey sales), I will roast a bird, but mainly for turkey sandwiches and the carcass for soup.

DO NOT DISCARD THE TURKEY CARCASS(ES)

Auguri di Santo Svegeno. (See today's Italian Notebook blog.)

Nov 27, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Then, of course, there is the "Banana Slug Cookbook" sold in the Seattle area. This large creature (though not really quite banana-size) is found in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and down at least as far as Napa Valley. The book contains all kinds of tasty-looking recipes. But there is a disclaimer you'd better not miss, "Not for Human Consumption." Pity. They look like a good source of protein.

Nov 27, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

The side-car thread to the absolute worst cookbook you own -- What is your most obscure, weird or oddball cookbook.

I never owned it, but in the Pacific Northwest you often see a cookbook in the airports with recipes for cooking the Banana Slug. (Inside there is a disclaimer: Not for human consumption.)

Oct 31, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Roasting a Chicken - am I doing too much?

You are so right about the vegetables only good for the gravy.
By the way, I'd be more active if I had time. I get to it in fits and starts when things let up a bit.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

The side-car thread to the absolute worst cookbook you own -- What is your most obscure, weird or oddball cookbook.

European And American Professional Sourdough Cooking And Recipes by George Leonard & Berthe E. Herter (1975)

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Sourdough starter lacking, advice?

Refresh the starter a couple of times before baking with it if you haven't just used it. You want it "young and vigorous" as the French experts say. I don't go much for a strong sour flavor in bread. I like a balanced flavor--like the balance of a good Chardonnay wine. However, if you want to spike the acid, the best bet is to do your bulk fermentation at room temperature. (Theoretically 81 F. is idea for equal growth of the yeast and bacteria.) Then do the final proofing of the loaves in a somewhat warmer environment. Keep in mind, however, that gluten is weakened by acid, so pushing for too much tang may adversely affect the crumb.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Counteract too much butter taste?

I am not sure what "too much of a butter taste" means. I suspect that what you are dealing with is slightly rancid butter. It is a good idea to use unsalted butter. If it is slightly off, you will notice it immediately. For that reason, unsalted butter in the shops is usually fresher than the salted butter, which has a longer shelf life.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Do it at your peril! It doesn't taste like Ham. It tastes like Spam.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Jamming, canning and preserving 2013

I did forget to squeeze the bag. The bubbles were getting bigger. I must have been just a hair from the gel point. GFS (Gordon Food Service) Market sells five-pound bags of different unsweetened frozen fruit. I especially like the cherries and the blackberries, but the peach and raspberries aren't bad either.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Guam is even crazier for Spam and that's where I learned to like it. It is comfort food. Spam fried with brown sugar and clove, macaroni and cheese, and canned spinach. It may sound vile, but even the canned spinach back in the late forties tasted better than the last package of frozen chopped spinach I opened in a pinch.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Yeah, but I scanned this thread in vein for a reference to a Spam cookbook. I love the stuff. My confreres hate it. Can anyone help me convert them?

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Bacon and peanut butter with brown sugar are to be found in Joy of Cooking for a broiled open-face sandwich.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

A dear friend in Washington State married into a Norwegian family there. They gathered for some family fest. As yet unfamiliar with lutefisk, she looked for a place to change her newborn's dirty diaper. There was a handy tub of what looked like diapers soaking in it. So she added the baby's to the tub, only to learn later that the tub was salt dry cod soaking in lye. She was afraid to fess up, but they said that the lutefisk that year was the best they had ever tasted. I hated the equivalent in Rome: stockfish.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

What is the absolute worst cookbook you own. And why do you keep it?

Last week, stuck for hours between medical appointments, I went to a nearby B&N store with certificates in hand. I bought "The Kinfolk Table." From the viewpoint of printing and layout, it is one of the most beautiful books I have seen in a while, but nothing adds up. It is easily the worst cookbook I have ever owned. Why do I keep it? Maybe I won't, but for the moment it appeals to me as a perverse example of what happens to a good book concept when there is no strong editorial direction. The photos don't relate to the theme. The scanty recipes don't relate to the theme. The essays really don't either. No focus and no direction.
Felicia C. Sullivan's review of it on the Amazon page is spot on. I wish I had read it before buying the book.

Oct 30, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Roasting a Chicken - am I doing too much?

This is a wonderful discussion you've started. Roasting chicken should be easy. I've tried several simple approaches and all of them are winners: Marie Risley's, Marcella Hazan's (Chicken with two lemons), Alice Waters', Jamie Oliver's, Mark Bittman's, and the Cook's Illustrated poultry book approach. All are good. I'm not sure I have a favorite except to say I enjoy roasting the bird on a bed of vegetables ("vegetable trivet") for what it does for the gravy.

Oct 28, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Jamming, canning and preserving 2013

This weekend I made cherry jam without pectin. I macerated the fruit overnight then drained the juice and reduced it by half. Into the boiling syrup I had put a cheesecloth bag containing the seeds and membranes from the lemons I had squeezed. That should have boosted pectin content. I then added back in the fruit. Thinking I could use my new nifty laser thermometer, I hadn't put spoons or plates in the freezer. The laser thermometer seemed to tell me the temperature of the pan well but not the cooking fruit. I pulled it when I thought I had it at the gel point, based on putting a thermometer in the cooking fruit. The trouble is, the contents of the pan were so shallow that even tipping the pan to get some depth to measure, the thermometer was picking up heat from the pan itself. The resulting "jam" didn't quite gel. I am considering recooking it with the addition of some finely chopped, stewed quince. However, the flavor is excellent. We are getting there. I just have to learn to judge the gel point better.

Oct 28, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Your Most Nontraditional Thanksgiving Dish or Dessert

For dessert, I'd probably hope to find flan. I'd also suggest that wonderful (and achingly sweet) Jewish cake made with a boiled orange, almond flour, and confectioners sugar. I don't remember the name of it, but served with a Middle Eastern coffee, it would be a good way to round out a rich meal.

Oct 26, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Should home ec classes return to schools?

Part of the problem isn't that people don't learn how to cook. Even more basic is the fact that they don't learn how to eat. In France, teaching kids about food and socializing at meals is part of school curriculum--they learn it from the meals served at school, at least that's what I gather from "French Kids Eat Everything." IF you don't know what food is, you aren't likely to get involved creatively with it.

How to innovate this classic pasta dish?

Push it in an Asian direction. Make a sauce with galanga or fresh ginger, lemon grass, and coconut milk as the main flavor contributors. And of course, Thai basil wilted into it at the last minute. I'd have to experiment to figure out what else might go into it.

Your Most Nontraditional Thanksgiving Dish or Dessert

I didn't cook it but wish I had: Halibut Wellington with dressing where the spine and ribs were taken out.

Oct 26, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Rao's maranara sauce @ $10 - What gives?

Knowing Coll's cooking, anything she would put in the jar would be better than Rao's.

Oct 26, 2013
Father Kitchen in General Topics

Cherry Jam: How much sugar is enough?

I'm fairly new to jam making. This past summer, busy parish duties prevented me from making apricot jam when the fruit was in season. (I love Susan Loomis Miche's apricot jam.) When I found frozen unsweetened tart cherries at Gordon Food Service, I decided to make cherry jam. I've been amazed at the range of sugar called for in cherry jam recipes. Kevin West calls for about 3 parts fruit to one of sugar by weight, which is like Loomis' apricot jam. You macerate the fruit with sugar and lemon juice and then cook it. The resulting jam has concentrated taste and a predictably low yield. 4 jars half-pint jars for 3 lbs of fruit. I went through 15 different recipe books. On the conservative end, the recipes call for 3 parts fruit by weight to one of sugar, more or less. On the other end, several writers call for considerably more sugar than fruit by weight and some also add water or other liquid. I like the concentrated flavor of the Loomis/West/Bullwinkel approach. It is especially good with mixed berries and cherries. How much sugar do others think is enough?

Oct 26, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Jamming, canning and preserving 2013

About the opposition to pectin. A cook friend said she thought commercial pectin altered the flavor and suggested I try my next jam with and without it. Stay tuned for the results. I'll do without the commercial pectin this week and, hopefully, with ball liquid pectin the following week.

Oct 25, 2013
Father Kitchen in Home Cooking

Rao's maranara sauce @ $10 - What gives?

Given the fact that making a classic marinara sauce is so easy, I would never buy it--at least as long as the ingredients are available. Fortunately, we have a very food store two blocks away.

Oct 23, 2013
Father Kitchen in General Topics