ThanksVille's Profile

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Best/worst Thanksgiving ever...

Thanksgiving has always been a family/extended family event for decades and the venue changed with passing generations. When my aunt inherited it, at an uncle's insistence, she had never made a whole turkey before so consulted some misguided culinary source suggesting a large bird needed to start roasting the night before the holiday. We arrived to find local firefighters power venting her house so ended up eating all the stove top veggies and previously baked pies outside on the patio in winter coats. The next year she over compensated by lowering her oven temp and trying the brief sear approach which made no impact on a still frozen bird. I recall a day of pretzels and mixed nuts along with her pre-baked pies.

Oct 30, 2014
ThanksVille in Not About Food

Copper Sauciers - Falk vs. Matfer Bourgeat

Over the years we have accumulated a collection of Falk as well as a couple of the Bougeat pieces. Both sets are substantial, cook evenly and well detailed. For their heft, the cast iron handles on the Falk seem a bit narrow forcing me to grip tightly in order to prevent the pan from rotating in my hand. Whether that is caused by the linear profile of the handle I am not certain. In contrast, the Bougeat handles seem equally narrow but slightly more ergonomic in their profile. Frankly this rarely comes into play while cooking but more so in the act of moving them on or off the range. Their respective finishes each have merit with a great deal more 'polish' to the copper and ss lining on the Bougeat than on the Falk however the satin finish on the latter makes for easier care on the copper and provides a ss lining that allows for excellent fond production when searing foods. Some of our pieces are now 20 years old and remain as attractive and formidable as when they were new.

Aug 20, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Good Mexican Tacos near Piscataway or Somerville NJ?

Great fish tacos, I mean impeccably fresh, at Metropolitan Seafood on Rt 22 in Lebanon about 15 minutes west of Somerville. Other option is to visit Grub Hut on Main St. Manville with multiple options for the fillings. Several authentic venues in Bound Brook worth exploring

Jun 14, 2014
ThanksVille in New Jersey

What is this cut of pork?

My guess is 'steaks' cut from a bone in pork butt as described in Amy Thielen's Midwestern Table cookbook

Venting Microwave or Dedicated Vent Hood?

Our former home had a microwave vented thru the exterior wall and positioned above the gas range. It was a large Amana unit that required several service calls because the heat from the cooking range 'toasted' the control board in the microwave. It's exhaust capability was the equivalent of a glorified bathroom fan taking hours to vent out the odor from a stir fry or boiled cabbage.

The renovations we did to our current house kept the heat zone above the range clear with a proper hood and variable speed exhaust fan with large capture hood. There is no comparison between the two approaches. Poppycock about having to open windows for cross drafts as long as your furnace and water heater have sufficient combustion make up air there is no reason to do so.

Jun 01, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Toaster recommendation


May 24, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Brisket: to foil or not to foil

I foil my flats as the crutch to ensure moistness but have never needed to when egging my points. I have gone both ways with packer cuts and generally prefer no foil for the true bite of a bark but will take steamed BBQ brisket over the thrice killed ash my BIL makes. I do love brisket. Maple and hickory are my favorite woods, the mesquite I've tried just seemed too bitter. Salt, pepper always but admittedly like chipotle powder in moderation.

Toaster recommendation

We have the Dualit (low end version) which is about 3 years old and makes decent toast. 2 slices or 1, thin or thick, breads or bagels. Less than $100. Looks like a toaster, pull out crumb tray, excess cord wraps underneath.

May 23, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Need some help deciding on an ice cream maker

We sprung for the Musso Lussino perhaps 7 or 8 years ago as an upgrade to our Donvier manual with freezer canisters ice cream maker. Fortunately we have storage space to house the beast and more so that we actually splurged since it makes fabulous ice cream, gelato, sorbets etc. aside from not taking up freezer space on a constant basis (we had 2 of the Donvier cannisters) the Musso allows you to make batch after batch (well at least 4 in a row for us) and virtually hands free.. The only downsides are that it is noisy and the freezer bowl is built in and not removable so after spooning out all the ice cream you have to wash it out with a dishcloth and dry it with a towel to clean the polished SS. Otherwise flawless performer and proven durable.

Apr 26, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Southern Food in Birmingham, AL

Saw's Juke Joint is very credible and includes a variety of BBQ items should they wish to go that direction but the standards like loaded potatoes, Mac and cheese, shrimp and grits, collard greens etc are all very well conceived and executed.

Apr 12, 2014
ThanksVille in Central South

Going to be in Baltimore for two days.

Thames Street Oyster House is more than just a cold bar, but does offer impeccably fresh, reasonably priced seafood.

brine & temp for smoked turkey breast

Try John Ash's turkey brine.....old standby allows for longer brine period due to lower salt concentration. Readily accessed on line. Smoking at 275 and pulling off at 155 followed by a 20 minute rest results in a memorable TB.

brine & temp for smoked turkey breast

John Ash's brine recipe is our go to standard for whole turkeys and turkey breasts. Best results are to assemble the brine at least 24 hours in advance and brine for a full 12 hours for a whole breast or 24 hours for a whole turkey. Salt ratio is lower than Ruhlman's which allows you to go longer without salt overkill. Before smoking I rub the bird with a cut lemon and very light coat of olive oil

We smoke the whole breast on a large BGE at 275 to 300 using just a couple apple or cherry wood chunks, bird is inserted with a wired thermometer and target its removal at 155 degrees followed by a 20+ minutes rest while partially tented.

One night for dinner in Birmingham

Sorry you missed the opportunity for some exceptional dining at H+H and Highlands as well as some outstanding BBQ and lowlands cuisine at Saw's venues. Nikki's is a meat plus 3 cafeteria at best by comparison.

Apr 11, 2014
ThanksVille in Central South

Proper grilling technique for steaks

In lieu of individual steaks I prefer a large 2" thick prime grade porterhouse that will feed 4adults and after spending a small fortune follow the reverse sear approach on our large BGE to respect the integrity of that beef.

Typically preseason generously with Montreal Steak seasoning about an hour before cooking with a light coat of EVOO.

Fire up the lump charcoal, set up for indirect cook with place setter deflector and throttle the dampers to a controlled 250 degrees burn. Toss on one or two chunks of dry smoking wood like hickory, oak or maple and place the porterhouse into the egg, close the lid and let it low roast with light smoke until the internal temp is just 120.....usually 40 to 50 minutes. BTW I turn and flip around half way. Also use a wired probe thermometer to ensure I don't miss that mark.

At 120 IT remove the beef while opening the dampers, remove the deflector and set up for direct grilling bringing the temperature to 650.....usually takes 5 minutes to build up the heat

With dome open the porterhouse goes on to sear and lightly char at 2 to 3 minutes per side as well as a minute standing upright to finish the ends. Rest the beef for 5 to 10 minutes uncovered, carve off the bone and slice. Results in a perfectly uniform 130 red-pink across the entire thickness with the seared/char outer surface.

Big Green Egg? Is it worth it?

IMHO absolutely but that is for our use 52 weeks out of the year as a grill, awesome smoker and great pizza oven. Lots of prior posts discussing / debating this topic. We upgraded from a variety of grilles and metal smokers that in hindsight were a waste in comparison to the BGE

Homemade gnocchi…egg or no egg?

Used to make gnocchi for a family restaurant, hundreds of them every week. Best results were getting the potatoes as dry as possible, baked not boiled. Handling them while hot to extract the flesh and rice them, allow them to cool slightly spread out on a baking sheet to release more steam and then to incorporate the flour using 2 egg yolks for richness along with a matching volume of good Parmesan grated to the fineness of the flour. Minimal quick handling and there was never a trace of sodden weight or toughness. BTW drier potatoes work best and require less flour.

Mar 06, 2014
ThanksVille in Home Cooking

Hill Country - Brooklyn

Just had a lunch at the Manhattan Hill Country BBQ and agree with your assessment that the moist brisket is something very special. Also did enjoy their jalapeño cheddar sausage which was equally moist and moderately smoked. Watching a neighboring customer he seemed to struggle with his ribs that were not quite yielding to his bite. We found the corn pudding side the best of the ones we sampled.

Mar 04, 2014
ThanksVille in Outer Boroughs

Best BBQ in NYC

GREAT moist brisket at Hill Country BBQ in Manhattan. While we've only been to Virgil's, Blue Smoke and Dinosaur for comparison, the HC product stands out as the exceptionally prepared, well cooked, tender but not disintegrating, moist, beef flavor with smoke balance product. Expensive for what it is but close to a transcendental experience. We visited at off peak hour so no lines at their " market counters" and tolerable noise level, plenty of aisle space, overall an excellent experience. Corn pudding was the side of the day.

Mar 02, 2014
ThanksVille in Manhattan

Do I HAVE to can my homemade BBQ sauce?

Why not just refrigerate it like you would any opened jar of a commercial BBQ sauce?

potluck ettiquette

Potluck should be allowed to mean just that.

My wife lived below the poverty level when she was a VISTA volunteer in an impoverished urban center. Food stamps, public receptions, open houses and church one pot dinners were her year's life and social connections. She could afford to make, over and over again, potatoe salad, macaroni salad and flavored rices. That fit her means and in the process really perfected a killer potato salad but she was very self conscious that she couldn't afford proteins or more variety. Potluck implies not just casual but within one's own means.

James Beard Semi-Finalists 2014 - Outstanding Restaurant

Having dined recently at Fore Street in Portland and Highlands Bar/Grille in. Birmingham, with multiple return trips to each over the past half decade I can readily understand why both warrant continued recognition. Superb regional foods, perfectly executed and flawlessly served. Are they the best in the universe? Not sure that is relevant while they continue to create such memorable cuisine.

Feb 25, 2014
ThanksVille in Food Media & News

The Melting Pot

Desperately overpriced, too precious other than as novelty dinner theater and much too slow to be enjoyable. Did I mention severely overpriced.

Feb 23, 2014
ThanksVille in Chains

Cleaning gas range grates

We inherited a well used restaurant range that was covered with years of cooked on grease. Before we moved it into the house we applied multiplel applications of a heavy duty degreaser (Johnson Brand I think). Coupled with nylon scrubbing pads and hours of rubbing we got the stainless steel portions back to something that shined again. The cast iron grates took three or four times as long with even more applications of the degreaser using metal scrubby pads (not fine Brillo pads but much much coarser ones). Wear HD gloves and goggles as the degreaser can dissolve away skin. In the end it was worth a weekend for an 8 burner with 2 ovens that looked well seasoned but clean.

Jan 21, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

decanting? (wine newbie)

Decanting can serve a couple purposes. First is the ability to separate out physical sediment from the wine itself. If you are a fan of vintage ports, you know how much sediment can be encountered which would detract from enjoyment of that wine. In general bigger style reds have the ability to generate sediment as they age.

Second benefits involve the 'breathing' aspect where the aromatic qualities bloom with exposure to air. This benefit seems most apparent in larger style reds and whites simply by allowing aromatic compounds to be released into the air.....this can happen both by decanting and pouring/swirling into a glass.

A third benefit of decanting affects the flavors of a wine to 'open' and become more pronounced. This may prove the most difficult to discern since the flavors of a wine from the point of opening to drinking does not always change noticeably.

Some bottles, perhaps younger ones, seem to have a set of fresh flavors that are consistent for a couple hours before they begin to degrade.

Other wines, often with grape blends, benefit from aeration by enhancing a bloom of flavor components allowing different nuances (real and imagined) to be discerned.

Finally there are wines that when first opened are simply 'dumb' or 'closed' upon opening and which benefit from aeration (and often a bit of time) to 'open' and reveal its aromatics and flavors. Rarely would this transition be apparent in thin or simple wines but I've experienced it numerous times with big complex wines like a Chateauneuf or Barolo when the evolution flavor intensity at opening/decanting to what it is a few hours later is a night and day contrast. One memory was opening an 89 Chave Hermitage that started out so close to flavorless that it was scary (hoping to serve for a special dinner) but tasting it hourly revealed a wine that substantially benefited from a lot of air and time to reveal itself.

Not all wines benefit noticeably from decanting and aeration and some wines, particularly very aged ones, may suffer by allowing their reduced aromatics to dissipate in a matter of minutes and shorten your enjoyment of the wine. Decanting and aeration is not a 'one size fits all' process and its timing is also a variable that warrants consideration, particularly with cellared wines.

Jan 16, 2014
ThanksVille in Wine

Cool stock before covering ... why?

I too have read references to potential "souring" of stock due to covering (and slowing down the cooling process) and wondered if it was a literal flavor transition or a reference to undesirable microbes and accelerated contamination.

Having suffered once from a violent bout of food poisoning due to sloppy stock into soup handling I aggressively cool stocks, soups, stews in a deep sink ice bath dropping their temperature from 200 down to 45 degrees in less than 20 minutes. From that point, covered, refrigerated or freezer free from triggering a microbe laden soup.

Jan 09, 2014
ThanksVille in Home Cooking

what to serve with chicken cacciatore?

Yes, yes, yes. Soft creamy polenta, never instant, mixed with grated pecorino, marscapone and butter along side barely sautéed spinach with a few slivers of garlic. This was a favorite family dinner on Sunday afternoons.

Jan 09, 2014
ThanksVille in Home Cooking

Lefty needs a knife!

At the risk of treading way outside my personal experiences Asa right-ie there is a wide range of options for someone looking for a 'flat' blade profile knife; however, they might be more readily described as santuko or natiri type blades rather than a traditional Chef's knife only because most examples of the latter tend to have a curved blade profile, sometimes with a pronounced belly and other times with a curve up to the tip that enables 'rocking' cut movements. Flat blades enable precise push/pull cutting or chopping motions. It seems cutlery designed with 50/50 symmetrical blade profiles and symmetrical handles should prove usable for righties and lefties. When you begin to consider asymmetrical that favor a right hand or a lefty hand, then it's likely the handle may favor the specific orientation as well. Most asymmetrical blades beyond 5" likely exceed your $100 target. Shun may provide a dedicated leftie handle with their symmetrical blade line

Jan 04, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

Lefty needs a knife!

Southpaw daughter has been working her way up the culinary ladder and over Christmas holidays we visited Korin in lower Manhattan to look at some serious steel that is designed for a enormous range of hand tasks much of which is either fabricated for OR can be converted for lefties. Impressive collections that range from the affordable ($100 or less) to the insane $11 k knives that belong in the hands of Jiro and his descendants. Website is almost as helpful but no substitute for their sales reps or their in store sharpening craftsmen working in full view.

Jan 04, 2014
ThanksVille in Cookware

What is the worst wedding reception dinner you've ever had?

Attended a summer wedding and picnic reception of my GF's coworker....did not know the groom or either family but was happy to attend what promised to be a relaxed pig roast at a local county park. Not surprisingly family members responsible for the fire pit underestimated size and time to roast a 200 lb pig so by the time hungry guests arrived, we heard the roast had just reached 100 degrees and needed another 3 to 6 hours. Fortunately they had overestimated their need for kegs of beer, well iced and it flowed for the first couple hours. At some point the best man decided he could speed up the pig roast by grabbing a couple cans of Kingsford's best lighter fluid and proceeded to spray not just the burning coals but the entire pig itself which lit up and charred big time leading to the pit crew throwing pitchers of beer into the fire A few of the bystanders including the groom and his family took great offense at that and fueled by the 2 hours of nonstop drinking an argument developed which escalated to the groom opening the hood off his best man's car, doused the engine compartment with more lighter fluid and lit it up.

As fantastic as this spectacle was, GF and I decided to leave as the police and fire trucks arrived figuring the pig was tainted and that the reception was for the most part over. I think we stopped for some hot dogs at a Stewarts on the way home. Later learned the Groom was arrested and honeymoon plans aborted.