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Ask the Profussor – The First 300

April 25, 2010

Welcome, my friends, to the official 300th post on the FUSSYlittleBLOG.  It feels like a big milestone, but even bigger will be the one year anniversary of this thing on the first of May.  I never anticipated that I would actually have this much to say in one year.

I also never anticipated that after saying so much, that there would be so much left to say.

And for some reason or another, I have been so delinquent in responding to reader questions that I’m looking at fifteen pages of comments to bring myself current.  Luckily the wiser Mrs. Fussy suggested breaking down this task into two Ask the Profussor posts, since nobody would make it through a 3,000-word response.

Fair enough.  Now let’s begin.

Sarah called me out on what she felt was an inconsistent choice:
‘If you give me a choice of a local restaurant or a chain of identical quality and value, I’ll pick the local restaurant almost every time. I’d sing Bombers’ praises in a heartbeat if they could make a comparable product to Chipotle.’
Isn’t Chipotle a chain? Why not go to Bros Tacos?

BK has reminded me that it has been too long since my last visit to Bros Tacos and I have promised him that I would return and try it again.  But my previous visits weren’t terribly satisfying.  And it has nothing to do with the speed of service that turns so many people away.

But the keys to my original statement are “identical quality and value” and “almost every time.”

I appreciated the authenticity of some of the tacos served at Bros.  I am amazed at how difficult it is to find a traditional taco on a soft corn tortilla with a scoop of meat, a dash of hot sauce, and a scattering of chopped raw onion and cilantro.  The problem was that neither the tortilla nor the meat at Bros was all that good (with the exception of the carne asada).

And despite Chipotle being a chain, it uses better quality ingredients than most of the finer restaurants in the region, and in my book, that goes a long way.

On the subject of cheap beer in cans, Matt asked:
Have you gone through the utica club?

No sir, I have not.  But thanks to you and other commenters this regional brew is now on my radar, and I can’t wait to give it a whirl.

Mirdreams wanted to know some more details about making steel cut oats in the slow cooker:
How much does this make and how big a crockpot do you use?

This makes about four cups of oatmeal.  The oats suck up the liquid, and there is no significant evaporation in the covered pot.  My slow cooker is way too large to be making something so small.  I don’t have the precise measurements, but four cups of liquid and one cup of oats really looks like a puny amount of food in the device.

I know there are some recipes where the size of the slow cooker is critical, but I can’t imagine this being one of those.

People differ on their experiences at Mahar’s.  So, Kerosena asked:
If a person was to go there as an admitted novice, and ask for recommendations, how do you suppose they’d be treated?

I know that Ewan wrote of being treated well as a novice, so I suppose it is possible.  And I liked Mirdreams more practical advice, “if you come in and give Bill a reasonable idea of what you like (i.e. I like dark, malty beers, or I like IPAs) and then ask him for a recommendation (when he’s not slammed with other orders) you will get a good recommendation and very pleasant service.”

But the problems are that many novices may not have a reasonable idea of what they like, and given the joint’s popularity, you will likely be there when it’s busy.  I recommend doing your homework before going.

When I asked the difference between Corsendonk and Corsendonk Christmas, both which were available on draft, I didn’t quite get an eye-roll, but more of an exasperated response without much enthusiasm for either.  It was as if only an idiot would ask the question, and I think the answer was, “It’s the same thing, but with some spices in it.”  I think that could give the novice an impression that neither beer is very special, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

None of which should keep you from going.  Just be prepared.

Speaking of this amazing establishment for beer lovers, Ellen Whitby was curious:
How many beers do you have on your list at Mahar’s?

Not nearly enough.

Beck wanted to know:
Have you seen the ads, sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association, that states that, ‘like sugar, HFCS is fine in moderation’? I hate the smug tone of them, and the blatantly dishonest message they’re sending.

Not only have I seen them, I think I used to work for the advertising agency that makes them.  Which begs the question, “How do you sleep at night?”  And the perfect answer, “On a bed full of money.”

In talking about HFCS the conversation drifted to BPAs. Peonys wondered:
Would frozen food be any more safe? Or do those plastic bags have BPAs as well?

There has been BPA found in some frozen food bags.  But my understanding is that frozen foods should have lower levels of BPA than foods packaged in cans where BPA is an ingredient in the lining.

But I do want to make something clear.  We should not start getting hysterical about food.  No good will come of it.  Rather I think it is important to know what is going on in food production.  I find much of it to be unappealing, and will vote with my wallet to make other choices.

I don’t eat for safety, I eat for pleasure.  Otherwise I would have to say goodbye to rare meat, unpasteurized cheeses, runny yolks and raw oysters.  If you start banging the drum of food safety loud enough, the safety police may start taking away some of the things I love most.

After hearing about my unearthed Chowhound Passport, Mr. Sunshine pleaded:
Please please post it online so we can all use it!

Sorry.  I have this thing about intellectual property.  But I am also a very good sharer.  If you ever want to borrow the Chowhound Passport, just drop me a line, and I would be happy to join you for any meal anywhere in the region.  And I’ll bring the Passport with me.

Capital Q delivered my Passover dinner and Linda aka llcwine wanted some more info:
Dan, can you give us a rough estimate of what the total cost for the brisket?

Two pounds of the best smoked brisket in the region set me back about $26.  It came with a container of sauce on the side, a smaller container of pickled onions, and four of the best house-made spicy pickle spears in the area.  I almost forgot what a good job Sean does with pickles.

Kate was intrigued by this holiday delivery and had a few questions of her own:
Didn’t you invite him in for Passover? aren’t you supposed to leave an open seat for an unexpected guest? He would have made a great dinner guest.

Dammit.  No, I didn’t invite him in.  Yes, according to my faith I should have.  If we had confession, that would make the list.  So now I’ll have to save it for Yom Kippur.

Truth be told, this is the second time I’ve had somebody unexpected show up at my door on Passover that I did not invite in for dinner.  So please feel free to blame me for the lack of world peace.  I deserve it.  Crap.

Next time, I’m warning my family, and totally inviting whoever shows up at my door on the day of Passover.  I’ll make the same mistake twice, but a third time would be completely inexcusable.

Maltnsmoke had a good point regarding integrity and the use of cooking terms:
Imagine ordering a dish that was placed on a cookie sheet and popped into an oven and yet being told that it had not been baked. Also, although it was not cooked in its own fat, it was declared to be a fried in the oven (?) confit. (I know the modern definition of confit has been broadened, but I don’t like that any more than the trend of any thinly sliced edible being passed off as a carpaccio). Would the detached reflection that followed gastronomic bliss give rise to charges of minor deception and/or gimmickry?

I completely agree that cooking terms should be respected.  And not just cooking terms but cocktail terms as well.

The thing is that oven baked fries are still fried.  They are coated in oil, and it’s the heat of the oil, not the dry heat of baking in the oven, that cooks them and crisps their exterior.  In this case they are not cooked in their own fat.

But in the case of the cookies, when heated in the oven, they absolutely cook in a pool of their own fat.  It is amazing to watch, and delicious to consume.  But like the potato wedges, it is not the dry heat of baking in the oven that produces their unique texture and golden color.

Calling either of these items baked suggests a level of healthfulness that neither contains.

Kerosena retold the story of her Honeybaked ham:
When I called my mother, she was absolutetly *scandalized* at the idea of eating ham that wasn’t HOT. This was dinner, after all, and was I really going to invite people to my house and not serve them a hot meal??? So in the case of Mom v. Fussy, Mom won.

But, you promised!!!!  I just pray to God that your mother never comes into possession of a jamon iberico de bellota.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellen Whitby permalink
    April 25, 2010 3:48 pm

    Regarding Maltnsmokes comments about the use of cooking terms…I don’t remember which book it was where the author talked about how the definition of cooking has changed over the years. A long time ago, if someone wanted to eat chicken, “cooking” would involve slaughtering the chicken, flaying, defeathering, and all what needed to happen before putting the meat into the pot and then onto the plate. In today’s world eating chicken often involves peeling the foil off the tray and popping it into the microwave oven. I don’t even know if there’s anything to peel since I don’t usually make that kind of food.

    I do think that people should be accurate with the terms they are using, however, and roasting is a very specific thing, as are baking, poaching, frying, sauteeing, etc. I like knowing the distinctions between these but I’ve encountered many people don’t and who don’t care. That’s probably one of the reasons I like FussyLittleBlog.

  2. April 25, 2010 6:41 pm

    I’m putting the first night of Passover on my calender. What time do you want me to ring the doorbell?

  3. Raf permalink
    April 26, 2010 4:01 am

    Baked / Roasted means dry heat and dry in, even if the ingredients contain fat (you can roast foie gras, and that’s almost all fat). Fried means the heat is conducted by the fat, not hot air.

  4. Kerosena permalink
    April 29, 2010 8:24 pm

    I know, I broke my promise. But you don’t know my mom. She was once tossed out of the marketplace in Tijuana for her relentless ‘negotiation’ skillz. Fortunately, she would never come into possession of a jambon iberico unless she could negotiate a deal for 70% off AND buy one, get one free.

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