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good biscuit recipe with just butter?

Kattyeyes, the CI biscuits are among the best I've ever eaten. So good, in fact, that it's my standard biscuit recipe. This from a southerner whose grandmother made ethereal biscuits twice a day for who-knows-how-many-years. My mom (granny's daughter), sister, and other locals also love these (and ask for the recipe). I think butter, rather than shortening, is a key reason why these taste so darned good. As I recall from the magazine article, they were also trying to get good leavening without a strong baking powder taste, something I'd never really thought about until I tasted my first CI biscuit, and kinda got it.

The texture is also grand. Light. What I think of as a proper biscuit crumb. The on-line recipe, linked in a post below, omits a point made in the magazine article: it's important that the melted butter should still be warm when it's poured into the buttermilk, in order to get the curdy texture they're looking for. In their experiments they found this made a difference. (I've made them when I let the butter cool too much, didn't get the curdy texture, but the biscuits were still good.)

Mar 19, 2011
Old Spice in Home Cooking

how to make a smooth pureed lentil soup?

Try your recipe with red (or orange) lentils. The skins/hulls have been removed. I prefer them for a couple of lentil soup recipes where I want a very smooth puree. I've never tried to puree the brown ones; use them for soups/salads where I want more texture.

Mar 17, 2011
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Top Chef Las Vegas - Ep. 4 - 09/09/09 (spoilers)

LOL, the snails here go for the same stuff. And the petunias.

Sep 10, 2009
Old Spice in Food Media & News

Inspired by the movie Julia & Julie

I played this game with myself when I was reading Julie Powell's blog in real time.

And the answer then is the answer now: None. I'd have to live about ten life-times to cook selected recipes in all the books I have (and those I no doubt will acquire). And that's just "selected" recipes...ones that sound good. I don't have one book where every single recipe sounds like a dish I want to eat. So I don't see spending time or $$ to make food I'm not particularly excited about.

That said, the one cookbook that gave me pause before saying "no, I just couldn't do this," was "The Splendid Table" by Lynn Rosetto Kasper.

Aug 29, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Best Ratatouille recipe?

Yes, it is really good. I made Keller's recipe for the first time just this past weekend and was quite pleased with the dish. Really liked the contrast between the sauteed bottom layer of tomatoes/peppers/onions (essentially a chunky sauce) and the sliced eggplant/tomatoes/squashes on top, which retained some texture.

The only thing I'd do differently is cut back on the peppers. I love peppers, sweet and hot, but they tend to dominate ratatouille recipes, even Keller's. I cut back by 1/2 a pepper as it was, but found the flavor still more front-and-center than I wanted.

And while it didn't look like what was served to Ego in the movie, it still made for a very attractive dish to set on the table.

Aug 27, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking


Meatn3 says this is hotly contested issue. BBQ is hotly contested because there are 2 schools of thought. The vinegar/spices bbq of eastern NC and tomato-based bbq in western NC. It's not just about what cut/type of meat one makes (although I agree with those who say pulled pork is the way to go), but the very basics of how it's flavored. I'll go to my grave believing that eastern NC cue is the ONLY real cue. : D Meatn3, I gather that we're in the same camp, given your "vinegar sauce" comment.

More power to you if you can master great NC cue, but you really do need to know which side your friends are on.

Aug 23, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Mastering The Art Of French Cooking Is A Bestseller

"Oh my" is just the perfect response. : D

But I'm not buying the "horrified" to cook with pork fat riff. It seems to me that even a barely competent home cook, looking to substitute something for lardons would NOT come up with: one can of cream of mushroom soup and one can of French onion soup. He or she would just leave out the pork and proceed with the recipe.

I'm thinking she thought it made her Campbellfication of JC's boeuf bourguignon sound somehow reasonable. In fact, she didn't want to bother with preparing the mushrooms (thus, cream of mushroom soup) or the pearl onions (ergo, French onion soup).

And yes, it's great that MTA is enjoying a revival. Made me smile.

Aug 23, 2009
Old Spice in Food Media & News

savory sweet potato recipes?

Totally agree. Chipotles and sweet potatoes were made for each other.

Aug 21, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Something delicious with fresh black-eyed peas?

I'll second Uncle Bob's suggestion of pork-seasoned blackeyed peas and cornbread, with some fresh greens. Whether it's good luck all year round or just New Year's, it's good food any time.

Or make a blackeyed pea salad, using other seasonal vegetables: corn, diced tomato, a hit of sweet and/or hot peppers. Add some green onion if you like and mix with your favorite vinaigrette.

Aug 21, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Wanted: Low calorie and low fat Indian recipes

Check out "Curried Favors," by Maya Kaimal MacMillan. There's not a lot of added fat in her recipes to begin with, so any modifications you might want to make should not stray too far from the original. Good food.

FYI, this book received the Julia Child award for best first cookbook the year it was published.

Aug 19, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Just got back from seeing Julie & Julia

I spent over 30 years cooking in tiny little NYC kitchens. The first was the smallest: tiny stove, half fridge, about 4 square inches of counter space, and a sink the same size as the one in the bathroom. Clearly a set-up best suited for minimalist dishes. But I wanted to get serious about cooking, and in the mid-70s, to me, that meant Julia Child.

In following Julie Powell's blog in real-time, I could forgive her occasional whines. I could well remember making Julia's boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin in that first kitchen. Or, in that first apartment would be more accurate. It involved commandeering parts of the living/bedroom for work surfaces, and washing up all those pots, pans, and dishes in the bathtub (a notion that still grosses my sister out all these years after the fact, and I'm still alive to tell the tale). While I enjoyed the finished dishes, you can bet there was a good deal of whining and cursing during the prep and cleanup.

Julia earned many accolades, but has anyone credited her with being a driving force behind the development of the improvisation skills required to pull off complex dishes in small NYC kitchens?

Aug 17, 2009
Old Spice in Food Media & News

songs referencing food: your playlist

"Red Wine at Noon," Joy Of Cooking

Aug 16, 2009
Old Spice in Food Media & News

Mad Men

Whatever you decide to make, I think hotoynoodle has got the "tone" right for a Mad Men menu (Mad Menu?). The dishes are the kinds that the wife of a successful and well-compensated ad guy (aka Betty Draper or Monica Sterling) would have served at a dinner party. (Or even a Peggy type, looking to reflect the sophistication she's picked up.) Dishes that the norms of the day would consider "impressive," or "elegant."

Don't know what tone you're looking for, but I wouldn't look toward the kitschy end of '60s food if i were doing a Mad Men dinner party.

Actually, the food would be the least of my worries. I'd be totally stressed out about finding the perfect full-skirted hostess dress! Did my mom save any of those "party aprons" she wore, back in the day?! And what about my hair? Could my hairdresser squeeze me in for a set and dry?

Oh, and Old Fashioneds and Vodka Gimlets are definitely in order.

Aug 16, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Top Chef Masters Semi-Final 3rd Round (spoilers)

IIRC, Keller made that exact point (importance of sense of sight) last night, before the taste challenge.

Aug 13, 2009
Old Spice in Food Media & News

Top Chef Masters Semi-Final 3rd Round (spoilers)

I was a little surprised that a couple of the sous chefs seemed insulted that Chiarello asked them to find and dice carrots to various specifications as part of the "interview." It made total sense to me that he'd want to be sure his team had the line cook skills to execute properly and quickly in a timed competition. With, as you state, his butt on the line.

The importance of that became clear a few minutes later, when Anita Lo complained about how slowly Jamie was shucking the oysters.

Aug 12, 2009
Old Spice in Food Media & News

Slider recipes

Jfood, are you the brother I didn't know I had? 'Cause it sure sounds like we have the same mother. "A spoon full of salt makes the medicine go down." LOL (Although I think she probably believes that the spoon full of salt IS the medicine.)

Aug 11, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

What Julia ACTUALLY THOUGHT about Julie's Blog

Agreed. It makes sense, from Jones's perspective and position. The irony is that rather than cheapen the Julia brand, Julie Powell's brash little blog begot a book deal which begot Nora Ephron's movie, and we have a renewed interest in/celebration of Julia Child. Her "brand" intact, untarnished, and, I hope, even burnished anew for a younger cohort of cooking enthusiasts who may have ignored her as old school.

Aug 11, 2009
Old Spice in Food Media & News

Recipes for Purslane

That sounds really good. And you got my mind going on other add-ins to succotash. Thanks.

Aug 10, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Southwestern Cooking - Help Me out please!

Ditto. I get a lot of mileage from a can of chipotles in adobo. I do love that stuff.

Aug 09, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Your tried and true Cook's illustrated Best recipes.

Agree on the Chicken Piccata. It became one of my "most requested" dishes among my friends. Funny thing is, CP was never a particular favorite of mine; I'd taste it if someone else ordered it in a restaurant, but that was about it. For whatever reason, I tried the CI recipe for my dinner one night and, somewhat to my surprise, it was a very happy meal indeed.

Aug 08, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Julie and Julia Review-NYT

"Stewing hen flick!" That's a good one. Thanks for the chuckle. : D

Aug 07, 2009
Old Spice in Food Media & News

Moules, frites, Freud

Did you mean to say "pick out any that are NOT tightly closed"

Aug 05, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Your best cheesecakes, please. (No savory ones!)

Diana's Favorite Lemon Mousse Cheesecake, linked below, is very good. I'm not sure that "mousse" is the right word. It's definitely lighter than a lot of cheesecakes, but not really very mousse-like. It's extra lemony, with the addition of the lemon curd spread on top. And, if you like, you can top the curd with almost any seasonal berry.

I think you could also substitute the graham cracker crust with a gingersnap crust, as discussed above, if you're so inclined.

Aug 05, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

What to Do with Sweet--Maybe Too Sweet--Fresh Corn

Sounds like you got supersweet. I'm with's too sweet to me. Much prefer the cornier tasting "sweet corn" my dad and other relatives and friends grew. But supersweet seems to be the norm now. Two things I do with it that seems to cut the sweetness.

1. As someone else mentioned, grill it. To my tastebuds, it's less sweet than an ear from the same batch boiled in water. THEN, I season it differently, inspired by the Mexican street corn served summers in the Red Hook Ballfields in Brooklyn, but not with all the stuff they add. (Search "Outer Boroughs" for discussion of the Ballfields.) Spritz with some fresh lime juice. Sprinkle with a bit dried chiles (New Mexican or Ancho, as they're readily available). Sometimes I'll use a little butter; mostly not.

2. Inspired by Ina Garten. Cut the corn off the cob. Saute briefly in a little butter. Most often I'll season the butter with the aforementioned ground chiles. I've done it with chives. It's also delicious when sauteed with some finely diced jalapeno. Or chopped sweet peppers, if you're not into heat. If you like the lime bit, give the finished dish a squirt. Not being a food scientist, I can't explain what happens chemically. But it seems to concentrate the corn part of the flavor, while diminishing the sweetness.

Aug 01, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

too hot to cook

Some favorite hot (as in grossly hot and humid) weather food requiring no, or minimal, cooking.

1. Vichysoisse. Not like you're simmering soup for hours, heating up the kitchen. Make enough for more than one meal.

2. Gazpacho

3. Sliced avocado, spritzed with fresh lime juice and some black pepper.

4. BLTs, with fresh local tomatoes. BLTs are only great for a few weeks out of the year. Now's the time to over-indulge.

5. What I had for dinner tonight. Fresh local peaches and fresh local blueberries, "dressed" with chopped fresh mint from my herb garden. Yogurt on the side, because these Georgia Belle peaches are just too good on their own to coat with yogurt, or anything.

6. Grilled anything or everything. Meats, fish, vegetables. (I think grilled corn-on-the-cob beats the cook-in-water standard hands down.) It's cooking, but quick and you're keeping that heat outside.

7. Pasta, with a "sauce" of fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and olive oil. Pepper flakes, if you like a bit of heat. The only thing you cook is the pasta.

8. Homemade pimento cheese sandwiches.

9. Hummus and pita or pita chips.

I'll do other things, but these are my long-time hot weather "Go Tos" that never disappoint.

Jul 30, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Most Dangerous Chocolate Cake?

Good take, nofunlatte. Until reading your response, I was thinking that the only thing "dangerous" about chocolate was all the over-the-top recipes it seems to engender. Typed while savoring my nightly bedtime fix of Lindt Excellence dark chocolate with chili. (Only one square, please. I'm about to go to sleep.)

Jul 29, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking


My mom still makes it like this. A couple of times a week lately, as fresh, local okra's in season. Delicious, and lighter than batter-coated.

Okra's great in fresh vegetable soup too. It naturally thickens the soup a bit (like it does in gumbo), plus I just love the taste of it.

I also like okra fritters.

Jul 28, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

What to do with chocolate mint?

I bought chocolate mint plants for the first time this year. Also had regular old peppermint. Like coll, the chocolate is now my standard mint. It just tastes better, and mintier, to me. And when used in food and teas, the "chocolate" is not as pronounced as when I just pick a leaf and chew, or bruise and smell the fragrance. Use it in anything where you like to add mint, sweet or savory.

Jul 26, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

Dessert for a crowd

I was faced with a similar situation a couple of years ago. 50+ people, wanted to use local seasonal fruit, and definitely wanted a make-ahead dessert. I couldn't see all those shortcakes, even if they would have held up in the freezer. Too much last-minute assembly. Browsing through my local Barnes & Noble, I was rescued by Ina Garten and her Strawberry Country Cake.

The recipe makes two layers. As the final Country Cake only uses one layer, split in two, each recipe yields two desserts for serving. I made three recipes, for a total of six Country Cakes for the party. In advance and they "froze beautifully," as the expression goes. Sliced and macerated the local berries the night before (thankfully remembering to move the cakes from freezer to fridge), so there were only six layers to split and assemble the day of the party. By using stabilized whipped cream, we were able to put it all together a few hours before serving, and avoided any last-minute rush. Plus, as one would expect from a caterer, it's a lovely presentation as well.

The cake has a bit of sponge-like character, though is not a sponge cake. (I assume due to the cornstarch in the batter, but I'm no food chemist.) The advantage over a regular yellow cake is that it holds up to the moisture from the fruit and cream very well, important when assembling early, I think. Indeed, I've made it many times since and it's still great after a couple of days in the fridge.

It's in the cookbook, "Barefoot Contessa Parties." If you're interested, and don't have access to the book, I'll be glad to paraphrase the recipe for you.

Jul 26, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking

How do you prepare Pork Butt (other than pulled)?


Jul 22, 2009
Old Spice in Home Cooking