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Gas Versus Charcoal: Summer's Most Important Decision

> The gas flame has water vapor in it - it steams rather than sears

All hydrocarbon combustion produces water vapor as a byproduct.

CnHn + O2 -> CO2 + H2O (+ CO, +Cn, +NOx in reality)

The cellulose in wood is not significantly different from methane or propane in this respect, and for many people the largest fraction of heat transfer occurs at the hot, dry interface of the grill grates.

The 'gas steams' argument is a tired canard. An insulated, wood-fired refractory oven is far more useful than either a gas grill or a charcoal grill, albeit a good deal less portable in most cases.

Jun 04, 2009
ttriche in Features

Bringing Amarone Back

> Amarone is a uniquely made wine.

Not really. See also 'Sforzato'.

Dec 10, 2008
ttriche in Features

10 Homemade Pizzas

A stupid-simple way to have pizza when you want it: advance preparation of the dough and retarded fermentation in the fridge.

1 tbsp yeast
1 tbsp salt
1 1/3 pounds flour (I use King Arthur white and part white wheat)
2+ cups 100 degree water (use more water for high gluten flours)
You can also substitute up to 1/4 cup olive oil for water.

Let rise and collapse; keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, loosely covered (I use a Cambro 6qt food service container for it).

When you want to bake a pizza, flour a board and your hands, saw off a clump of dough, stretch it to about 1/4 inch thickness, put it on a peel dusted with #1 semolina flour (doesn't burn as easily as cornmeal) and quickly spread your toppings on. At our house, we use our BBQ grill pre-heated to 600 degrees or so, with a saltillo tile ($2) to bake on for 5 minutes. It's important that the dough be just the right thickness, and the toppings not be too wet, but other than those caveats, it Just Works for us... I would guess that we have pizza for dinner about once a week.

The same dough (and the same stone, heat, etc.) works great for making pita bread; making actual loaves of ciabatta-style bread is more challenging but not too awful. (I have also made a proper biga and a proper ciabatta dough before, it made scant difference)
The dough recipe came from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, with minor modifications along the way. Useful book, if a bit repetitive in places... the central idea is solid, though.

I am considering spot-welding a frame into the hood of my grill to hold a bunch more saltillo tiles and thus better approximate a brick oven's walls (radiant heat). Using a stone and high heat (at least 500 degrees, but the hotter the better, up to 700 degrees) are definitely quite important, I would not want to bother making pizza without them. But it's not an expensive or impossible proposition to make good pizzas at home. Since we started making them on the BBQ grill, in fact, the only cleanup is wiping up the flour from forming the dough.

Sep 16, 2008
ttriche in Features

Copper Windsor Pan?

Here is one seller of de Buyer Inocuivre, a mark for which I can vouch.

de Buyer makes some damn fine stuff. I paid $35 for a 3.3 quart Inocuivre saucepan on eBay (this is a ridiculously cheap price for a 2.5mm copper/stainless pan of the size -- the pan I bought apparently was the same bimetal as older Cuprinox), thinking I'd just polish it up and resell it for a tidy profit. Tragically, I grew attached to that warhorse and we use it all the time. Likewise, World Cuisine (which appears to have been purchased by Paderno) sometimes sells the exact same pot or pan as Mauviel for much less money -- about 50% less in some cases. Brand names (think All-Clad for stainless-clad aluminum) always command a premium, so it makes more sense to avoid those labels if equivalents exist.

Good heavy copper is expensive and it's not getting any cheaper, so it is more or less mandatory to shop around and know what you're getting.

Regarding the choice of a curved sauteuse evasee or a slope-sided evasee, I would have to agree that the curved design is easier to address with a balloon whisk. In the 3 quart (24cm) size, it would also do double duty for risotto, seared-and-roasted dishes, etc. in addition to sauces.

Sep 05, 2008
ttriche in Cookware

$10 and under wines

TJ's is a great place to buy groceries, but as far as wine goes, many of their offerings are mediocre to poor. For example -- the Concho y Toro Carmenere is OK, but for $1 less, the Cono Sur bottling is much better. Their generic Barbera is pretty awful -- I've had much better bottles for about the same price. Their Nero d'Avola is OK-ish, but for $1-3 more, very nice bottles can be had elsewhere (Terre di Nero, Don Gia, etc.). I've had fairly poor luck with their Italian offerings, which is unfortunate since that's the kind of wine I like to drink (cheap sturdy red food wines).

It's not that TJ's is *bad*, it's more a matter of there being superior QPR offerings elsewhere, to the point that I hesitate to try any new Italian bottles from TJs (for example). Their French and domestic selections are more reliable (their Vouvray offering was a good deal for $6, and there is usually a decent Muscadet hiding somewhere in any TJ's store). I haven't had good experiences with TJ's house brands, it seems like there is a lot of bottle variation (if I wanted 2 Buck Chuck I would buy that).

Bias having been disclosed, here are some cheap bottles I liked:

Reds: most of my favorite cheap, good reds have been Italian, Spanish, or Chilean. The 'Hecula' Yecla Monastrell ($9) is worth a try if you come across it. Anything made from Nerello Mascalese or Nero D'avola is usually worth a sip, although some of them are not worth much more than that. I have had good luck with bottles from Don Gia ($5), Terre di Nero ($8), and Cosumano ($10?). (More expensive but more reliable is the Sicilian DOCG Cerasuolo di Vittoria -- a blend of Nero d'Avola and Frappato) The basic Cono Sur Carmenere (the $7 bottle) has been reliably kind to my wife and me, a very nice meat-and-potatoes wine. (There's nothing wrong with the Carmenere at TJ's, it's just not as good and it costs a dollar more than that Cono Sur offering, so I never buy it) The Stefano Farina Barbera d'Asti is pretty decent for $9; it seems that good, cheap Barberas are becoming harder to find, which is a drag. My wife and I enjoyed a Pierre Chermette Beaujolais for $9 -- and it didn't taste like candied cherries, either. Not a Beaujolais Villages, not a Moulin-a-Vent, just a regular old Beaujolais that tasted good and came highly recommended despite 4 years in bottle. (Don't knock it until you've tried it -- we've had $60 bottles from generous vendors that couldn't measure up to this humble Gamay!)

Whites: the Burgans Albarino used to be a great $9 bottle, but now it is a great $12 bottle, so I have moved along to Verdejo and blends: the Basa and Con Class bottlings are all right around the $10 mark and all of them have been (in my opinion) marvelously sappy, snappy whites. If you like a good Sauvignon Blanc, you would do well to explore Rueda. There is a good cheap SB at Costco -- St. Clair? St. Clare? -- and it seems like it was about $10 a bottle. Very New Zealand. I liked that too.

Just off the top of my head, the above are bottles that stood out as remarkable values. We probably drink a bottle or two a week with dinner, and I like high-acid wines which aren't overpoweringly fruity. YMMV.

I don't think it's any coincidence that some of my favorite bottles come from the Chronicle Wine Cellar in Pasadena. If you live anywhere nearby, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. ( )

Aug 21, 2008
ttriche in Wine

Great Value Reds... ($10 - $20 range)

If you enjoyed that, you might also enjoy the Chateau Pesquie 'Quintessence'. Bears a similar relationship to a good CDR as demi-glace bears to stock...

Aug 18, 2008
ttriche in Wine

My 2004 Joly's Coulée de Serrant came with an instructions sheet!

Fernand Point (allegedly) once said that the three great white vineyards in France were Montrachet, Yquem, and Coulee de Serrant. If Joly ever decides to make a vin liquoreaux from that site, it will likely be worth the princely sum it would command... and the 25 years or so that the received wisdom says would be required for it to reach its peak.

Not too long ago I had a 2004 and 1994 dry Savennieres in rapid succession (a few nights or maybe a week apart). The difference in minerality, acidity, and heft was unmistakable. The 'English vice' notwithstanding, I must now firmly side with those who favor aging Chenin Blanc. The 1994 with halibut and a little lobster... such a perfect match, to my palate, it would be hard to improve upon it.

Aug 18, 2008
ttriche in Wine

A Wood-Fired Oven to Call Your Own

Why go to so much trouble when a $2 saltillo tile in a BBQ grill gives fantastic results?

Aug 17, 2008
ttriche in Features

Great Value Reds... ($10 - $20 range)

There are a number of terrific Chinon, Bourgueil, and St. Nicolas de Bourgueil AOC offerings right now that are terrific values ($10-$15) if a person likes Cab Franc. The importer of the 'Les Rouilleres' you mentioned has been a consistently good source, and Joel Taluau offerings have also been delicious whenever I have tried one.

Aug 14, 2008
ttriche in Wine

Great Value Reds... ($10 - $20 range)

> Ruche (I'll figure out if that is its full name)

Ruche is a DOC... perhaps you are thinking of the Da Capo Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato 'Majoli'? I went looking through my tasting notes from last year's "try all the weird grapes" phase and this was a good one, albeit very different. Lots of cedar and tree bark, a bit alcoholic, spicy, medium-bodied. Memorably different.

Aug 14, 2008
ttriche in Wine

Great Value Reds... ($10 - $20 range)

The Chinon and St. Nicolas de Borgeuil that Gus picked up recently is also very nice. And the old standby Cono Sur Carmenere is hard to beat for QPR ar $6.95. (The Cono Sur Viognier is good, but so are the 3 Verdejos and the 3 Albarinos that Chronicle currently carries, and I feel like they go with more types of food)

For Italian wines I feel compelled to periodically place an order with K&L, their Italian buyer (Greg St. Clair) works at the Hollywood store and he direct-imports some bottles that nobody else will. (I would not have discovered how much I love red wines from the Valtellina if it were not for his importing Nino Negri and Rainoldi bottles around $20, which for me counts as 'special occasion' pricing)

Aug 13, 2008
ttriche in Wine

A Real Summer Red

The other downside to 'Riserva'-styled Lagrein is that they are stupidly expensive. The lighter more rustic style is great!

I remember picking up a bottle and asking "What's this taste like?" The answer was along the lines of "open a bottle and you'll find out... if you like fruit bombs you probably won't dig it". I don't, and I did...

Jul 09, 2008
ttriche in Features

Stockpots -- I'm Confused

If all you are doing is boiling water, it does not matter.

If you're making chili or something where the sides of the pot need to be about the same temperature as the bottom (to avoid scorching) then it might matter. But then you would probably use a dutch oven anyways, right?

For most people the answer is no, it simply does not matter.

Jun 29, 2008
ttriche in Cookware

Roasted Rhubarb Compote

This is great. Pucker up for this one (maybe I just skimped a bit on the sugar, but I loved the results).

May 03, 2008
ttriche in Recipes

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day - Review

the crust crackles a little better (pulls back with a shiny gloss) if the surface temperature is kept high during the initial expansion. Personally I feel that putting a steel mixing bowl over the stone, or using something like the $10 La Cloche I bought on eBay, is easier and works as well as their broiler-pan method. Trapping the steam close to the loaf and thereby speeding the conduction of heat to the surface starches, while keeping the surface moist enough to expand, is all that one is trying to accomplish during this phase of the baking. So anything that keeps it steamy and hot around the loaf produces results in keeping with their broiler pan method (often better). I've tried pretty much all of them and I end up using the Cloche most of the time, or else my improvised SuperPeel on a previously-moistened stone (evaporated since) in our little Cuisinart oven. The broiler pan method is not the only way to accomplish a crackling crust.

Which is a good thing since I don't have a broiler pan (self-clean FTW!).

Apr 26, 2008
ttriche in Home Cooking

Unknown but flavorful wine varietals – Timorasso, Nosiola, Pigato. Others?

The WCC is awesome. Without it I would not have tried Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Taurasi, Inferno Superiore, or Falanghina (as part of an IGT), all now among my favorites. I am currently at about 120 different varieties tasted and look forward to many more -- I have barely touched the Greek and Slavic varietals, for example.

In Italy alone there are at least 3000 historical cultivars known, though given the Italian penchant for rigor and objectivity, who knows what is really going on there. Creativity first, order a distant second :-)

I have a Pineau d'Aunis sitting in my cellar which I keep meaning to try, but the notion of drinking a "big bloody rare pepper steak" bothers me for some reason (quoting from another person's tasting notes). Then again, when I uncorked the Inferno Superiore that contained Pignolo, I found myself drinking one of the greatest things I have ever tasted. So I guess it pays not to be shy -- worst case, we can open another bottle :-)

A genius idea, and one for which the DeLongs deserve great applause.

Apr 23, 2008
ttriche in Wine

Unknown but flavorful wine varietals – Timorasso, Nosiola, Pigato. Others?

Czersegi Fuszeres (a cross between, IIRC, Irsay Oliver and Gewurz) likewise produces a nice, aromatic white that smells like Gewurz and tastes like a bone-dry Sauv Blanc. I think the combination is pretty neat. However, it seems to suffer more than most whites from age -- 1 year is optimal in my experience, after that it goes downhill fast, especially the nose. Trader Joe's sells the "Woodsman's White" for $2; I'd suggest looking for 2006 or 2007 (when they come in) bottles for maximum enjoyment. And don't expect anything subtle :-)

Apr 23, 2008
ttriche in Wine

Famous wine and food pairings?

And on that note, though it may not be for everyone, I rather liked the Valtellina Superiore Inferno that I served with a recent prime rib roast (the grocery store had it for $3.59/lb and I could not resist); it required a lot of diligent trimming and tying, along with the usual swatting of peppercorns with a frying pan, but oh my, was that ever a fine match. The porcini that I threw into the jus probably did not hurt, either.

More on the ur-Nebbiolo, Chiavennasca:

Interestingly, the producers in the Valtellina Superiore have a practice of harvesting some of the grapes for apassimento, producing Sforzato (Sfursat) -- a cross between Amarone and Barolo. If that sounds appealing to you, go for it; I can never seem to get my hands on a second bottle of any Valtellina that I like, because they always seem to sell out the miniscule stocks that are imported.

Apr 16, 2008
ttriche in Wine

ISO good ice wine at trader joes

Sounds like the Kerner eiswein. I'll have to give it a spin, thanks for the heads up.

Apr 03, 2008
ttriche in Wine


I picked one up from Amazon when they were on sale for $49.99 w/free shipping. I showed it to my mom, who has a number of Le Creuset pieces that are pushing 30 years, and a new piece that is only a few months old. She was impressed by the finish and I certainly couldn't see anything wrong with it. I did, however, replace the knob before anything untoward happened. I use the DO for baking bread sometimes and I usually start it at 550F; for $5 it seemed like a stupid risk to leave the stock knob on. I bought a chrome steel knob from the hardware store with the same diameter on its base as the stock knob, screwed it on reasonably tight, and it has been just great since then.

If you really really want to use the stock knob, throw it in the oven at whatever temperature you're intending to cook at, and see if it starts to smoke. When it does, get a steel one ;-)

Oh, also, a little bleach (4:1) cleans the inside enamel right up. Just FYI.

Mar 25, 2008
ttriche in Cookware

Le Creuset Stainless Steel Knob

Bed bath and beyond can order them for you.

Or you can go to a hardware store and get a perfectly good one for half the price.

Mar 11, 2008
ttriche in Cookware

Buying a new set of cookware... what are your favs?

> Any suggestions on a more frugal replacement?

Lodge Colors enameled cast iron. Very difficult for most people to tell one apart from a Le Creuset of the same color; it's the same shape, weight, and finish, and thus far my 6qt has held up very well. It was $50 at Amazon. Highly recommended for value.

Mar 10, 2008
ttriche in Cookware

Buying a new set of cookware... what are your favs?

> you should also budget for a stock pot, at least 12 gallons.

More like 12 quarts... a 12 gallon stock pot is 48 quarts, which is huge.

Cast iron is always a good value, and teaches patience ;-)

Mar 08, 2008
ttriche in Cookware

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day - Review

You need to tune the recipe a little bit, in order to get the crust and crumb exactly the way you want, but with a little twiddling, it is quite trivial to dial it in.

Example: I have experimented with using a sponge, adding 1 1/2 tbsp vinegar, resting the shaped loaf for 2 hours, baking covered at 500 degrees, baking uncovered at 450... I bought a stoneware baker from some guy on eBay for $10 and have found that to give me the most open crumb and the crackliest crust. Using 1/3 KA White Whole Wheat flour in place of the all purpose flour, and/or using starter, will also help improve the flavor. I find that a hydration level of about 83-85% works best as a balance between big holes and difficult handling, and I use a scale for everything because I don't like thinking too much.

Good luck... there's really no need to be a slave to either recipe.

Feb 19, 2008
ttriche in Home Cooking

The New Kitchen Staples

Cotto d'Uvo is available (and about a half to the third the price of ''saba'') from most of the Italian specialty stores where I live. Particularly in a 1:1 mix with balsamico, I find it more versatile than either alone.

Feb 17, 2008
ttriche in Features

Sur La Table gift certificate

10" SLT-branded copper French skillet, $50 in the clearance section, if they have any. Stainless handle, stainless lining, 1.6mm? 2mm? who knows what thickness those batty Italians rolled the bimetal out to... point is it works like a dream in that size.

Best bargain that chain has ever had on anything. Incredibly useful pan shape. We use ours almost every night.

Feb 13, 2008
ttriche in Cookware

Cooking on electric, need copper/core skillet recommendations

The simple physical fact regarding copper vs. aluminum is that copper conducts heat about twice as fast as aluminum. Cast iron handles are marginally heavier than stainless, to be sure, but cast stainless handles are quite expensive; on an already-expensive pan they push the total price into the realm of the ridiculous. Consider that the Cuprinox 2mm pan with a stainless handle costs more than the professional grade 2.5mm pan with an iron handle, yet has 25% less thermal mass. If you're going to be flipping a full 30cm pan one-handed, neither will do you any favors.

Demeyere seems to change their story on a yearly basis; Sur La Table has carried their Atlantis line for some time and, if you look on the retailer's website, they claim that the frypan contains a copper base. Demeyere's website disagrees. The only way to be certain would involve a hacksaw :-)

The saute vs. sear/fry comment was simply in regards to cooking style. If you mostly agitate the contents after getting a good sear, primarily in the flat part of the pan, then a fully clad design where the thickness and conduction are uniform all the way to the edge is both more expensive and heavier, to no significant advantage. With that style of cooking, a thick aluminum base would be just as good as fully clad construction, and a lot cheaper, too.

If on the other hand you use every square inch of your pan's surface area, then something like a clad copper or thick aluminum is preferable.

I do not know if you've come across the following link before, but in case you haven't, here is slkinsey's ''course'' on materials and shapes in pans used for stovetop cooking:

If you've not seen it before, it might help resolve some of your questions. There are certain physical truths that no amount of marketing flimflam can overcome; once you have matched the necessary physical characteristics to your style of cooking and your heat source, the rest boils down to how you like the handle ;-


Hope this helps, and let me know if you take a hacksaw to any Demeyere -- now I'm curious what's inside the damn things!

Feb 10, 2008
ttriche in Cookware

Cooking on electric, need copper/core skillet recommendations

Demeyere's Atlantis fry pans are an encapsulated-base design with a 2mm copper plate, or so they claim, and when I looked at one in a store, they felt heavy enough that I wouldn't dismiss the claim offhand. I found it a little distressing (given the price) that the pan was not fully clad, but it was far beyond my budget regardless of such caveats.

$284 for the Mauviel 2mm pan is absurd. You can get a stainless-lined 2.5mm copper pan for much less if you don't mind a cast iron handle. Neither will be lightweight (which is the fundamental problem with thermal mass). Either one will distribute heat as evenly as is practical for a pan.

Copper is heavy and expensive; with the dollar weakening and the world supply of copper in heavy demand from developing nations (China, India, etc), it's not getting any cheaper. If you mostly use your frying pan(s) to saute rather than using every square inch to sear, you might well be better served by ThreeGigs' suggestion to get a thich disk-bottomed saute pan and be done with it. Otherwise you will need to evaluate the handling and (if possible) the heat distribution of the pans you are considering and find a balance that works for you.

Good luck...

Feb 10, 2008
ttriche in Cookware

Cooking on electric, need copper/core skillet recommendations

Don't buy heavy copper if you dislike cleaning by hand. (and by "heavy copper" I mean Falk, Mauviel, Bourgeat, etc.) You will irreversibly oxidize the surface if you toss them in the dishwasher. And they're very heavy in the thickness that you would want.

You should reconsider the Demeyere if you can afford it. It's no lightweight either, but there are no rivets and among the interior layers are allegedly copper and silver (the only metal practical for cooking that conducts heat better than copper). If you want maximum conduction, responsiveness, and thermal mass, you are looking at heavy copper. But the associated hassles and weight sound like a deal breaker.

Given your indicated preferences, I would suggest that you look at Sitram Catering and also reconsider Demeyere (if price is no object). But seeing as to how Sitram Catering is half the price, I'd look at that first, if I were you.

Feb 09, 2008
ttriche in Cookware

Best countertop surfaces

Geez, it's been a while since I looked around here. Yes, we're still happy with it, although that might be partly due to the fact that we oil it when it starts to look spotty. It's held up well so far, and no staining or damage, despite all sorts of ill-advised efforts.

If you don't like to maintain things you won't like soapstone, simple as that. If you don't mind maintenance (oiling) I think it's great. My wife could go either way between granite or soapstone; you have to choose the slab you want either way. Her parents got a bit shafted when they remodeled with someone who chose the slab ''for'' them.

Stone fabrication and resale is a Wild West kind of business. Know your source and don't be afraid to walk away from any deal that smells funny. In return you will know what you are getting. A scrupulous dealer will give you a sample of the material to play with for a few weeks -- do it. Get familiar with the physical properties of the stone -- dump hot oil on it, pour vinegar on it, etc. Don't hesitate to ask for alternatives.

We like our kitchen and our counters, they serve their purpose well.

Feb 08, 2008
ttriche in Cookware