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AskTP – Once More Around the Sun

December 4, 2013

I’m getting older. Can’t say anything about wiser. But older, definitely. Friday is the birthday, and like Thanksgiving, I’m making it up as I go along. For dessert of the birthday dinner, there will be custard. On Saturday, I may end up treating myself to a day at the pinball museum on the Jersey shore.

Please, please tell me that it hasn’t been corrupted by any of those reality TV show personalities. I can’t imagine Snooki plays the silver ball, but maybe The Situation is all over it. What the hell do I know?

I do know that I would like to go into the next year of my life without a lot of reader questions hanging over my head. So like I’ve done periodically in the past, I am fulfilling my commitment to answer all questions asked (with proper punctuation) in the comments section. Yes, most of these answers are a little late. But I never promised the answers would be timely.

For those unfamiliar with this semi-regular feature on the FLB, do not be alarmed that the links preceding each question all go to the same spot. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. And I like to call it the mystery link of the day.

Now without any further ado, onto the questions.

Lorres noticed that I had a blogroll and that one of the links wasn’t functioning:
Could you fix your Table Hopping link over there in the Regional Food Blogs list? It’s busted.

Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Periodically the webmasters at the Times Union change a small detail in the URL. The bummer is that now any past link in a post to the Table Hopping blog will also probably be dysfunctional. Oh well. The good news is that I think I figured out a solution to fix this once and for all.

albanylandlord obviously didn’t see what all the fuss was about in regards to “Lettucegate”:
We should all contact Brian en-masse to get him to print a retraction about what condiment was on his Taco??? Are you kidding me? Wow.

Well, I thought I would at least put it out there. I’ve had dedicated readers do a whole lot of crazy things in service of this blog. And frankly, given I’m the guy who complains about the fro-yo spoons, advertisements from local coffee shops, and for a while acted as the regional salmon police, I was surprised that folks thought this whole escapade was out of character. For the record, none of these were put-ons. I guess sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes…well, he eats you.

Vicki Berry is a disgruntled restaurant owner who had a bad run in with Yelp:
They told us we should contact the customer; did they even read our complaint where we told them how we had apologized?

Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. I have the feeling that Yelp is understaffed which is why they rely on the public to write reviews and algorithms to filter them. All the same I still find it to be a useful if not infallible tool.

For example, in NYC it’s awful. There are far too many restaurants to sort through. But even there, I’ve found that Yelp can give you the confidence to try an otherwise sketchy looking place which could turn out to be a diamond in the rough. And here in New Jersey ratings for good places are quite low because the locals are keen to punish establishments for small infractions. But it took me only a couple of months to recognize this fact, and I have enough faith in other users that they can figure it out too.

But the bigger problem is that business owners tend to freak out over a bad review. It’s the wrong call. The best advice is to publicly respond to it, and then ignore it. Focus on driving new positive experiences rather than expunging the old and nasty ones. I know it’s easier said than done.

Chef Paul brings up one side of cost differentials, so I want to talk about its inverse:
I once paid a few dollars for Cracker Barrel cheese at the supermarket. I now have respect for and enjoy exploring cheeses from around the world at The Cheese Traveler and other places. The cost difference? About $30/lb for cheese. But I would rather pay $36/lb for a very small piece of great cheese that I will savor . . then $6/lb for plastic waxy cheese that belongs on a Ritz.

Some people ask why good food is so expensive. I think it’s high time to start asking why supermarket food is so cheap.

Since you brought up Cracker Barrel, I did a little digging. These are the ingredients in their Extra Sharp cheese: Cheddar cheese (Pasteurized nonfat milk and milkfat, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto [color]), Natamycin (a natural mold inhibitor).

Oddly it’s not the mold inhibitor that galls me. It’s the combination of nonfat milk with milkfat. That seems wrong. And when things seem wrong there are usually shenanigans at play. Maybe someone who has made cheese before can help me understand what’s going on there.

Jon E has a clear sense on what Thanksgiving should be and what it should never be:
Everything else should be “what do you LIKE to eat?” No sense in making the same old crap just because it’s tradition. Make your own traditions.

But I love eating the same old crap just because it’s tradition. Well, at least once a year. I even go so far as to put a can of jellied cranberry sauce out on the table that almost nobody ever eats.

Mr. Dave tries to make sense of North Jersey’s Italian hotdog:
There is a sausage w/potato that is a specialty in Grosetto (Tuscany) that I have been looking to make. Len Poli has a recipe on his site. There are also several Scandinavian meat/potato sausage recipes. Perhaps this is where the idea got its inspiration. Alternately, sausage/ potatoes/ onions/ bread is a classic American breakfast combo, so why not throw it all on a roll?

Yes, I know hotdogs are technically sausages. But by and large their flavor and texture are so different from their other tubular cousins that it seems imprudent to think that swapping places would make good sense. Didn’t Eddie Murphy make a movie about this once?

Mr. Dave isn’t just all hotdogs, he’s also a vocal stuffing critic:
Are you pushing that abomination of a stuffing recipe on people again this year? Why don’t you just shove a loaf of bread and a can of fruit salad up your turkey’s arse? I am joking. Sort of.

I’d hardly say I was pushing it, since to get to the recipe, one would have to click through a whole bunch of links. But it still remains my favorite stuffing to date.

Now, you also raise a very good point. Too few people rejoice in using stuffing to actually stuff their bird. My Aunt N continued to engage in this delicious practice longer than most, but ultimately succumbed to the fearmongers. Now, there is no stuffing on the table that actually sat inside the bird. While I might omit the can of fruit salad, I’d gladly take the turkey fat soaked bread.

Burnt My Fingers joins in the chorus of those who have made Aunt N’s sh*t list:
It takes 4 clicks (3 pageviews for you, 1 for The Aperitif) to get to the stuffing recipe which, I agree, is an abomination. 3 sticks of butter? 1 cup of liquor? All for 1 1/2 lb of bread crumbs? It’s hard to believe this could produce anything but a soupy disaster and certainly not the standard crispy stuffing shown on the page. Isn’t it time to let us in on the joke?

Yes. Yes. Yes. But I assure you that it is not an abomination. Well, maybe if you were a butterphobe, a member of a temperance movement, a militant local foodie, or perhaps a vegetarian you might consider it an abomination. But the only joke is that it totally outshines the turkey and everything else on the plate.

Burnt My Fingers clearly is struggling to wrap his head around this stuffing:
I just re-read your 2009 post which said you were about to make the stuffing, but did you ever report on your results? Or were you sensibly persuaded to switch to the classic recipe I recommended to you on my comment back then?

The results from making the stuffing at home were fantastic. I didn’t have amaretto, so I substituted Drambuie which I have to say I preferred slightly. Roasting your own chestnuts is a pain in the ass. While you can buy cooked and peeled chestnuts, don’t simply leave them out. They add a great dimension here.

It’s fantastic stuffing, but it is a lot of work. In subsequent years, I’ve opted for making a more simple stuffing at home and saving the fancy one for my visit to Aunt N. But I’m just lazy like that.

albanylandlord had a great idea for a different holiday:
For thanksgiving, how about a goose? Much smaller than a turkey. I am cooking dinner for two and I saw Price Chopper had frozen gooses. Sold. Can you imagine how good that stuffing is going to be with Goose fat/juices? OMG. Plus leftover fat for future endeavors. I have made it before and although everyone shakes their head at my strange food choices, One and all liked it. Even kids. Its just good, not weird.

Blame Dickens, but goose always feels more appropriate for Christmas than Thanksgiving. I still remember the one year that Raf made a Christmas goose. It was magnificent, as was all of its fat and juices.

Burnt My Fingers has thrown his hat into the City Dining Card giveaway and is impatient:
What do you think I will get?

A few cards. Most likely I will do two single deck shuffles so that there is no chance of any one person getting two cards from the same place. Perhaps if each participant will receive an even number of cards, I will take each deck and break it into an A list, and a B list. Then those would be shuffled independently and distributed evenly across the SASE I receive before the deadline.

addiesdad joins the club of those concerned about my physical well being:
You gained 5 lbs in a (long) weekend? I’m no doctor, but that doesn’t sound right or healthy. Did you move at all?…Do you lose weight that fast, too?

I wish I were exaggerating. But I went from just under 185 to pushing 190. With all the guests, car travel, cooking and eating, there wasn’t a lot of time for movement. Not only did I eat an unholy amount of cheese, but this also fell during Chanukah, so there was a bunch of fried food included over that weekend too. The good news, as you suspected, is that I do lose weight pretty quickly too.

Burnt My Fingers is fixated on this stuffing, but I’m okay with that:
Most of the pounds probably came from that stuffing. It packs a payload equivalent to a deep fried turducken. Three whole sticks of butter? Oh, dear.

Most definitely. And I didn’t go light on that stuffing either. Or the four pies (plus one chocolate cake). Or the whipped cream. Or the sour cream on pumpkin pie leftovers when there was no whipped cream.

And one cannot forget the calories that come from the wine consumed before, during and after these meals. I’m not getting sloppy when hanging out with my family, but there were a lot of bottles emptied over the weekend.

I regret none of it. The weight will most likely come off just in time for the Christmas party, which is pretty much perfect.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2013 11:46 am

    The skeptics are missing out – I’ve made that stuffing recipe for the last two years and it’s absolutely incredible. 3 sticks of butter also looks a little less shocking when you realize how massive the recipe’s output actually is – I always half it and there’s still more than we can eat.

    Also, it would take a massively concerted effort to put on 5 lbs in the course of a weekend – even a long one. By contrast it’s not hard at all to soak up a few pounds of water weight. Watch your sodium and carbs, make sure you’re getting your 64 oz of water daily, and you’ll see the scale go back down.

  2. -R. permalink
    December 4, 2013 12:23 pm

    “The good news is that I think I figured out a solution to fix this once and for all.”

    Excellent solution. Tit for tat as they say…

    • December 4, 2013 12:45 pm

      Thank you. I’m more of a tit for two tats kind of guy, myself. After all, that produces the best outcome to the prisoner’s dilemma. Regardless, it was time. And I do like the elegance of simple solutions to complex problems.

  3. Susan L permalink
    December 4, 2013 6:11 pm

    Is your title an intentional Montessori reference?

  4. December 5, 2013 1:33 am

    Big cheese makers often “standardize” their milk. They are looking for a specific fat percentage depending on the type of cheese. It might just be easier to start from the ground up with non-fat milk when you are buying mass amounts of milk from different dairies. The amount of fat in whole milk is not fixed and it will differ between dairies depending on a bunch of factors. So I would hazard that the major cheese makers start with non-fat and dial up the fat to a fixed percentage for consistencies sake.

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