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Ask the Profussor – Spring Showers

May 23, 2012

Having a farm share means being happy when it rains. Because water makes the crops grow. And the crops at Roxbury Farm have been growing so well, they are going to start this season’s delivery a week earlier than scheduled. Bonus greens.

Too bad I’m going to be away, but I’m hopeful my mother-in-law will take advantage of these great greens.

Spring is also the time for new things. So I’ve got new shoes, a new computer, a new grill, a new book about gin, and a renewed commitment for staying on top of reader questions. At least insofar as that means catching up on them every two weeks instead of letting them slip even further into the abyss. Remember that I am committed to making sure every question receives an answer, provided it is asked with proper punctuation.

Now without any further ado, let’s get on to your questions.

Maybe next time Burnt My Fingers will be more specific:
I have been working in a “novice cook” scenario the last couple days and am ready to go to the mat with you on this, Profusser. Are YOU ready? (that’s a question.)

Yes. I am ready. (That’s an answer.)

It’s almost as if Jenh718 could see into the future:
How do you know that was creativity run amok? Did you taste it? Maybe it was fabulous. Maybe that cook is simply more creative and maybe she made a great dish. You don’t know.

You know what else felt like creativity run amok? The Whole Hog. That was the unlikely winner of the AOA Burger Lab event. I say unlikely because on paper it read like a mess. As you said, it wasn’t until I tasted it that I realized just how good it was. Still, more often than not my sense of these things is keen. Like I predicted the flaw of the lamb burger would be its pickles.

Still, I think most truly great dishes–and the dishes from confident cooks–are notable in their simplicity and elegance. That salad turned soup raises a lot of red flags.

frangrit will either be overjoyed or terribly disappointed with this answer:
I want to know where you got your hands on epazote. Fresh, I hope? (I live in the Berkshires, but heck if I won’t drive to get some good food.)

No, it was not fresh, but it was easy to come by. Penzeys has it in their stores or you can order it from their catalog. It added a great flavor to the carrot salad even in its dried form. I just made sure to use a whole lot less than the recipe called for, as one needs to do when substituting dried herbs for fresh ones.

fat freddy may have forgotten how long I’ve lived in the Capital Region:
remember the Gregory House in Averill Park?

No. In fact, I’ve still yet to step foot in Averill Park. Although, I would like to do so.

Christine’s creative process reminds me of something:
I seldom use a recipe to make anything. What I do is look at several recipes for an unfamiliar dish to see the steps, the mechanics of how to make it…do I need to thicken or do anything imparitive to come out with a great final product? Then, I make the dish with ingredients I like or happen to have on hand. Or, I look at a recipe to just brainstorm and then make the dish using a combination of two or more recipes, using the parts of each recipe I happen to think make sense. And, things turn out pretty good. Am I using a recipe? Maybe, but I never follow one to complete a dish.

Back in the day before I had kids and could make more elaborate dishes, I too used to take this kind of considered approach to cooking. Consulting multiple sources, and trying to really figure out a recipe before diving into my own. The only difference is that while you are synthesizing recipes, I would say that you are still using a recipe. It just so happens you are following multiple recipes to complete a dish.

Burnt My Fingers has another fun question of semantics:
Some chefs agree with Chef Tanner that a broth will have meat vs just carcasses. But does that mean one cannot have a vegetable broth?

To answer this, I turn to The Food Geek as he answered this question with the help of Harold McGee:

Stock, as a word, implies a kind of building block. Stocks are never served on their own, they are used to build other things. “Stock your pantry,” is an example of that word used in a different way. Same thing. Broth is an older word, and it essentially means something that is boiled.

So, to summarize, vegetable broth and vegetable stock are the same thing. If the focus of the end preparation is mostly the liquid in question, call it broth. If the focus of the end preparation is something significantly more complicated, like a sauce or a more involved soup, then call it stock. Not that it really matters in the kitchen, but if you write a cookbook or similar, it would probably be nice to differentiate.

With meat-based stocks and broths, I would suggest going with the bones vs meat naming scheme, as proper naming can give you a better understanding of how the final dish will turn out.

Eric Scheirer Stott may not know beans about beans:
How different are these from lima beans?

Well, these are fava beans and these are lima beans. I would say they are quite different.

Uncle Laurie might as well ask, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?”
Where is your Mother?

Right now? I think she’s in Providence. But she’s hard to nail down. She could be in Manhattan or Miami or East Hampton. Sometimes I’ll find her somewhere in Massachusetts or Connecticut. But I haven’t talked to her in a couple of days. At the time when you asked, I think she was on a plane.

Angelos is befuddled by supermarket prices:
But Chobani is up to $6 for 32oz now? Was $5 not too long ago. I didn’t realize inflation was at 20%.

I was at Price Chopper and I was floored by the price of Land O Lakes butter. It’s not as if I buy conventional butter, but still it was evident how much prices have risen. $4.79 per pound. The only way I noticed this is because it was sitting right next to the store brand’s organic butter which was being offered for $4.69 per pound.

Yep. The organic was actually less expensive. Which is crazy. But just a year ago I could get organic butter for $3.99 per pound.

jenh718 admits to peeking into your grocery cart:
The discounts are not on things that I buy. It’s just feeding into the vicious cycle we are in in which people are rewarded for buying things that are killing them. (Dramatic? Perhaps, but when I look at my cart and compare it to the carts of other shoppers and see how unhealthy those shoppers seem, it’s clear to me that we’re doing it all wrong.)

It reminds me of when my kid was encouraged to buy SunnyD by his teacher so the school could get free books. People are being rewarded and encouraged to make poor food decisions. But I think there is a lot more than low prices, sales and coupons that push people into these purchases. Not that these aren’t contributing factors, but I believe the root causes to be quite complex.

Deanna wonders if I may be engaged in some notorious business:
Fame? Or notoriety? :)

I’ve really been seeing my hate mail go down a lot lately. So I’m going to stick with fame. Yes, being publicly critical of small businesses seems to rub certain people the wrong way. But I’m also complementary to those who are truly deserving of praise. Here are 33 things to eat in the Capital Region that I think are pretty darn special. And lest you think that I only gush on other websites, here is a wrap up of some of my favorites from last year.

Wendy Voelker really did only have one question this period:
I really just have one question:
“So naturally I put the pheasant sausage on a garlicky white bean puree and topped the whole thing with a fried pheasant egg”
Are you doing this just to get under my skin?

If I were trying to get under your skin, I would have a whole week on runny egg posts. Ooooh. Now that could be fun. Thanks for the idea. I’m going to file that away for later. Poached egg and hot bacon fat salad. Fried eggs on top of Korean dishes. Eggs baked in spicy tomato sauce. Soft boiled eggs and toast soldiers. Shirred eggs in a bowl with butter and cream. Oh man. That sounds delicious.

Kim made me smile:
Can I get an ‘amen’ for Brother Dan?

See? Kim doesn’t think I’m notorious.

todd had a strong reaction to two different orchards statements on pesticides: 
I wonder what the other local orchards do?
Sounds like its time to rank the local orchards before apple season starts…

Maybe. But I’m also intrigued by what Collin said in regards to the different orchards simply fielding the question differently. It would be interesting to learn how to quantify pesticide loads at some of the local orchards. Clearly this issue needs more thought and further analysis.

-R. has somehow mistaken me for a delicate flower:
Damn. How the hell can you be so picky about so many things, yet drink that nasty brown, jitter-inducing pre-ground swill from a tin can? Honestly, I find this unconscionable – I am a coffee maven, and one cup of that shit has me climbing the walls; what caffeine super concentrate do they add to that ‘coffee’? The amount of effort and time required to grind a decent quality bean on a daily basis, and stick it in a french press (or a decent drip coffeemaker) is trivial, and if you buy in bulk (5lbs at a time), the cost is little more than Chock-Full-o’-8-o’ Clock Nuts. In the world of roasted coffee beans, mail order is your friend.

I need something to open my eyes in the morning. It’s not what I drink for pleasure. It’s like my medicine. It’s hot, and it’s ready, and it’s usually waiting for me on my nightstand. When I’m trying to get two kids out the door in the morning, I don’t have any time for grinding and brewing. Even later in the day it can be problematic.

One day, amid the chaos of everyday life, I did manage to get some good fresh beans ground and brewed for a four o’clock cup. And I was determined to drink one sip in peace. So I sat both kids down on the floor, and I took a thirty-second time out, to actually enjoy my coffee. Honestly, it was great.

But if I’m going to go through the trouble of getting good beans, I’m going to grind them moments before brewing them. There is NO WAY I could convince Mrs. Fussy to go along with that plan.

PensiveEngineer surprised me by also being a fan of this odd chain-restaurant burger:
I remember that Chili’s bacon blue burger. To me it stood out amongst other bacon blue burgers because of the dressing. Straight blue cheese is too dry by itself and I certainly wouldn’t add ketchup or mayo to that. Wonder why other chefs of bacon blue burgers haven’t figured that out?

What was funny for me was that the Chili’s version was my introduction to blue cheese and bacon burgers. After falling in love with this flavor combination, I would go around to other restaurants and be sorely disappointed when I had melted crumbles of blue cheese. Not only weren’t they as creamy, but their flavor was much too concentrated and intense for the burger. But I think most chefs shy away from it, because blue cheese dressing feels like cheaping out. It’s adulterated blue cheese, and I can both understand and respect the decision to use the real thing. Still, when it comes down to taste and the balance of flavors and textures, blue cheese dressing is surprisingly hard to beat.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2012 11:00 am

    I’m still ready to go to the mat with you, Profussor, but it’s evident that neither of us remembers what the fight is about. Can you provide a link to the specific post that was so irksome?

    Also thanks to the Food Geek for hopelessly confusing the taxonomy of stock vs broth. Maybe he/she can be our referee.

  2. May 23, 2012 11:10 am

    To Angelos:
    Go to Wallmart and buy Plugra butter $2.24 for a half pound but you NEVER had better tasting butter believe me.

    • derryX permalink
      May 23, 2012 1:55 pm

      Ed – I saw this recently and wasn’t sure what exactly it was. Have you tried KerryGold? Does Plugra compare with that?

      • May 23, 2012 2:40 pm

        Yes, tried Kerrygold but I don’t think it compares to Plugra. Even the salted Plugra has that special taste of sweet butter. Plus the price at WM is great, Fresh Market charges I believe $3.48 or maybe closer to $4.

    • May 24, 2012 1:12 pm

      Have you ever tried making your own butter? It’s crazy easy and might change your opinion of what tastes best. Meadowbrook dairy will deliver a 1/2 gal of grass fed, fresh heavy cream to your door that you can churn, wash and salt in your home mixer in under 30 minutes. We pay $8 per 1/2 gal and get almost 2 1/2 lbs of butter per…and it’s the bomb. That’s $3.20 per pound.

      • May 24, 2012 1:34 pm

        Britin,
        I like to do a lot of things myself, make sausage, bread and rolls, ice cream etc. But making butter is a bit much when a great product is out there. I certainly respect you for doing it, it must be great. The next thing I’d really like to try is dry curing meats like sopressata or capicola. Dry aged beef is also on the radar.

  3. May 23, 2012 12:02 pm

    The funny thing is that I now find myself rephrasing my comments to avoid using question marks… :)

    • -R. permalink
      May 23, 2012 3:14 pm

      Oh no, I purposefully try to use question marks…gotta keep the Profussor on his toes!

  4. Elyse permalink
    May 23, 2012 4:42 pm

    Hey I work out in Averill Park. If you ever want to meet up for lunch at the Town Tavern (only place worth eating there) let me know!

  5. AddiesDad permalink
    May 25, 2012 2:20 pm

    For a future “ATP”: Profussor, did you know that Putnam Market in Saratoga Springs is building their own cheese cave to age/mature the “finest cheeses on earth”? AND that you can personally select cheeses from said cave that they will custom cut for you? Wasn’t this one of your chief complaints about the Capital District, a lack of good cheese counters/options?

    • May 26, 2012 9:52 am

      Soon The Cheese Traveler will be opening at 540 Delaware! Small batch artisanal and farmhouse cheeses, cut to order.

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