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AskTP – Saucy

March 5, 2014

Every year around this time local media venues start trotting out their polls for The Best of the Capital Region. I’ve participated in these shenanigans for far too long. This year I want to try something new.

Did you see yesterday’s post on red sauce?

Let’s scrap the ballots. Let’s come together and really talk about our favorite foods and what exactly it is that makes them so good. As many incredible comments as the sauce post got yesterday, I know there are voices and opinions out there that are not yet represented. Please don’t be shy. And if you are still shy, may I humbly recommend you click on the link of the day.

Ah, the link of the day. That’s must mean today is yet another delinquent installment of Ask the Profussor. For those who may be here for the first time, this is the day for answering all the unanswered questions that have piled up in the comments section of the blog. If a comment contains a question mark and I don’t address it immediately, most likely it will end up here in this semi-regular feature. I’ve made a commitment to answer all questions, and for better or for worse I’m going to keep it.

Now, without any further ado, onto the questions.

Mr. Dave of all people stopped me from doing something very stupid:
Distilled vinegar is acetic acid and water. You would be left with acetic acid. Doesn’t this count as one of your dreaded “chemical additives” haha? Weren’t you just saying you preferred Applegate products because they used celery salt to cure instead of sodium nitrate/nitrite that had been “synthesized god knows where…”? What is the appellation d’origine of the acetic acid in your vinegar?

You’re going to laugh, but I’m keenly aware of the dreck from which my white vinegar is distilled. It’s why I use the stuff so sparingly. For what it’s worth, I’m not quite yet to the point of buying organic white vinegar, but I’m awfully close.

Mike asked a question about Taco Bell that may have a surprising answer:
Maybe that is where taco bell got the idea for their “grilled stuffed burrito”? (which I am somewhat ashamed to admit I have eaten)

Sometimes a product idea drives a technology. Other times a technology drives the product. The Grilled Stuft Burrito (not stuffed) was part of a massive equipment upgrade for Taco Bell. They needed those griddles to make it work. And those griddles enabled a host of other products, including the quesadilla. It’s quite unlikely that the T-Bell crew was trying to emulate the quesadilla suiza. I think if they were the GSB would be better for it.

irisira shared her probable plans for Valentines Day & their limited potential for romance:
This year, Finnegan is having his (second) knee surgery (sigh), so we are probably going to do Indian buffet or takeout with my mother, if anything (super romantic, right???).

I’ve never seen your mom eat Indian buffet, but I bet muddaddy could find a way to make it romantic. That fellow has a gift.

Randy K. had a good trick for making chocolate truffles:
have you tried melting the chocolate in a double boiler? that’s usually my trick to avoid the burning.

Absolutely. I do it all the time. The post was trying to keep things simple. When some people here double boiler, they shut down. “But I don’t have a double boiler!” It doesn’t matter if you then tell them to take a metal mixing bowl and just sit it atop a simmering pot of water. The jig is up.

It’s not like this recipe is for a lot of chocolate. It would be pretty hard to burn this small amount of chocolate in a small amount of cream over moderate heat, while stirring, before it melts. And that’s all you want in chocolate truffles. Chocolate melted into cream. Tools are fun, but for this they are unnecessary.

Elle Kay is looking for modestly priced proteins that are ethically sound:
So thoughts on real food-trustworthy enough for those of us who care about how animals are raised and food is produced (Asian Supermarket etc)? I was a vegetarian for a long time, but going back to that way of eating doesn’t work for me unfortunately. So trying to do what I can…

So I have a few ideas:
1) Move meat from the center of the plate to a flavoring agent in your meals.
2) Buy in bulk if you have the freezer space and get a quarter cow from a local farmer.
3) Buy wholesale from Adventure in Food Trading.
4) Buy lesser cuts like skirt steak and flap meat from the HWFC.
5) Look for beef from countries that raise on grass like Australia and Uruguay.
6) Lamb can be a better choice because I’m told they resist factory farming.
7) Consider small quantities of charcuterie from The Cheese Traveler (which isn’t cheap but has a low out of pocket).
8) Despite what Mr. Dave says, the Applegate hot dogs are fine. For me, they are a substrate for sauerkraut, mustard and onions anyhow. My kids douse them with ketchup or bury them in baked beans. Trader Joe’s has a good price on these wieners, and they are both grass-fed and organic.

DEBBIE did ask a question in the middle of her rant on carrageenan:
Why all the concern about the safety of using carrageenan in foods?

Well, since you asked. Carrageenan shouldn’t take it personally. I think consumers are experiencing a certain level of distrust about big food in general. Mostly it’s been driven by the actions of manufacturers to push products through the market, staff regulating bodies with their own officers, and continue to sell foods to the American market which have been banned abroad. People are waking up to the needless additives in our food that are used to make foodstuffs cheaper to produce, provide longer shelf life, or improve their durability in transit. We, the consumers, need a little more convincing that the food producers have our best interests in mind. Because right now it seems like lots of executives are getting super-rich selling food of diminishing quality at ever-rising prices.

Burnt My Fingers had a great idea followed by a terrible idea:
How about Challah croutons? crisp-fry them in a mixture of butter and a neutral tasting oil, then drizzle on some maple syrup to caramelize a la walnuts. Serve in a salad with a raspberry vinaigrette, poppy seed or other slightly sweet dressing.

Oh yeah. But sweet on sweet on sweet isn’t for me. Sometimes I forget you are from The South. Still, I think they would be a remarkably decadent crouton for a salad Lyonnaise.

Doug wants me to name names:
And that brand of plastic wrap would be … ?

Stretch Tite. Mrs. Fussy loves it. And thanks to your prompting I just sent an email to the company to see where I can find it locally. Thank you for shaking me from my complacency.

Chef Paul isn’t lazy, but I wonder how much time he’s spent with his head in a cereal box:
I usually make the mistake of bypassing breakfast for a coffee on the go with my crazy schedule. Not really an excuse though. I do know better. Perhaps my personal contribution to the decline of cereal sales is laziness? There is nothing more amazing then a morning smell of eggs, bacon cooking in unison with coffee brewing. The aromas coming together are a true culinary masterpiece. Cereal? Just doesn’t do that for me :)

Cereal isn’t just for breakfast. Sometimes I snack on handfuls of it late at night when I’m writing, or other times during the day when I’m feeling peckish. Now while cereal can’t compete with bacon, eggs and coffee on the aroma front, a box of cereal smells pretty damn good. That is assuming it isn’t made from dreck and you’re smelling some honest toasty grains. Grain is awesome stuff. It’s the stuff beer is made from. And bread. I have great respect for grain and think it’s truly delicious.

omaxwell (aka Burnt My Fingers) took note of the pic in the top right corner of the FLB:
I’m kvelling at that photo in the sidebar. Who doesn’t love a pancake face? (That is a question.) Recommend you use it as your gravatar throughout the internets.

I’m a bit of a purist. Sure, I sometimes let myself go. But I don’t need or want my breakfast to be infantilized. I’m pretty pleased that neither Young Master Fussy or Little Miss Fussy ask for faces to be made on their pancakes either. Or maybe it’s just that in their heart of hearts they know what would happen if they asked… I’d eat their pancakes.

addiesdad seems to have made the mistake that my protest was a promotion:
I’m curious to know how much coordination Adam did with his staff regarding this protest? I love Empire and their staff, but trying to find these six bottles resulted in six different trips to the computer to find them. Now, I love a good a wine scavenger hunt as much as the next person, but at 5pm on a Friday, I just wanted to get up the Northway home. I guess I was expecting the protest wines to be collected in one of the displays, but maybe that was asking too much? At minimum, I thought the staff would be more aware of this “promotion”. Anyway, of the six wines one was out of stock and another had a different vintage available. We haven’t tried any,yet, but maybe we’ll get to one of them tonight?

Oh, did you think this was a promotion? I’m sorry. No. As a result, there was zero coordination with staff. If this had been a promotion, then yes, I could understand your frustration. I’m kind of curious why you didn’t just click on the links and have the bottles you wanted waiting for you at the register. That would have seemed to be the path of least resistance. That said, I’m THRILLED you picked up some of these and look forward to hearing your reactions to the juice in the bottle.

For the future, if something is a promotion, I will try to make that explicit. From my end, at least on paper, Adam made some really good picks. So it’s possible the FLB could do something with Empire again later this summer. We’ll just have to wait and see.

albanylandlord may be standing on shaky ground as he defends inferior food:
While some of us might argue that less salt is better or “right”, others might like their food much saltier, and why should the restaurant not accommodate that diner’s preferences?

If a patron comes in and says they have health problems and need a lower salt preparation, a four star kitchen should be able to customize a meal and produce something remarkably delicious that’s not on the regular menu. If another patron is a salt fiend and they want to drown their perfectly good food in table salt, that’s their choice. But if they really want to sully all the work that it took to put that plate together, I think it’s fair to ask the patron to jump through one small hoop.

Ask for the salt, and it shall be delivered. There’s always a hope that in that lull the patron will take a bite and discover something delicious (especially if they are convinced the dish may already be a bit on the salty side).

addiesdad probably isn’t intentionally trying to cause me an aneurism:
What make you of this article at Eater on Manhattan variations? To me many of these are there own cocktails, and, technically, isn’t a Manhattan a bourbon martini?

Believe it or not, but I’m fine on Manhattan variations. I don’t have much of a leg to stand on since I typically make my Manhattans with bourbon instead of rye. But you are right, most of these variations are entirely different cocktails. Luckily, I believe they were all given their due in the Eater article.

Just don’t call a Manhattan a bourbon martini. It hurts my head when you say it.

Burnt My Fingers sounds like he’s just discovering I have a crazy streak:
Micromanaging your portions of veggies, on the other hand… that’s crazy talk. What are you going to do next time the FDA changes the Food Pyramid?

I’m going to stick with the old pyramid because most likely the new one was infiltrated by the interests of big food. Again.

Josh K. had some not so good experiences at The City Beer Hall when Demitrios was gone:
I am scared to order food from there again especially during restaurant week (and you don’t need my take on restaurant week again, right?)

Well, that’s disappointing to hear. I’m getting to be a much bigger proponent of sending food back. It’s not always convenient, and you shouldn’t do it if it will ruin a meal. But if a dish isn’t up to its previous standard, it should go back. As far as your opinions on restaurant week go, I can re-share that on your behalf. For those who don’t remember, this is what Josh K. has to say about this locally misguided promotion.

Burnt My Fingers probably wasn’t trying to pick a fight either when he asked:
I presume it was the word “seasonally” that threw you into a funk? (That was a question.) Because the rest of the review of The Grocery is completely positive. And the truth is that what’s seasonal now is root vegetables from the cellar and tomatoes and rhubarb that were put up last season; I think it’s making too fine a point to say that arugula or microgreens grown hydroponically or in a greenhouse are an example of local terroir and worth paying 5x what you’d pay for organic greens from California if you happen to desperately crave such an item.

Yes, it was the world seasonally. And yes, what’s seasonal now is root vegetables. But dammit, you can do a lot with root vegetables, grains, legumes and pulses. You can do even more if you add meats and cheeses into the mix. None of which, mind you, is reliant on the overpriced hydroponics of winter. Grrr.

-R must not know the limits of my consumption:
Seriously, how many times can you have Chicken Parmesan before you simply tire of it?

Oh. I actually really love a good chicken parm. And since I didn’t eat it much growing up, I feel like I’m making up for lost time. So, I think I could probably eat it at least once a week for the rest of my life. The problem is most of the chicken is unappealing. And a lot of the cheese is a flavorless factory produced version of something that used to be delicious.

I think a lot of cooks have simply lost their passion for this dish and it shows.

Thankfully, people haven’t lost their passion for a good tomato sauce. Hopefully by now, your shyness about commenting has waned. If you haven’t yet gone on record about your favorite sauce and what makes it so good, there is no time like the present. Click here and join the conversation.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Dave permalink
    March 5, 2014 12:07 pm

    Due to your continued support for the inferior Applegate frankfurters I am going to have to ask that you turn in your “fussy” credentials.

  2. March 6, 2014 12:32 am

    We like Applegate…

    Anyway, Daniel, I somehow missed the links to order the wine for pick-up. I am ALL about convenience on a hectic Friday and had I dug a little deeper I am sure I would’ve realized Empire offers this nifty little service. AddiesMom was VERY skeptical of the South African white (I DON’T like minerally wine!), but loved it. We’ve also enjoyed the Rioja and the Shebang!, but sadly haven’t gotten to others, yet.

    Oh, and you carry much weight in Addie’s household. Your seal of approval gets me a free pass on trying/bringing home much food/wine/booze randomness. Maybe you need to make decals?

  3. Doug permalink
    March 6, 2014 12:23 pm

    Stretch-Tite is without doubt the best plastic wrap available to consumers. In the years before Amazon, it was hard to find in the Northeast. If we were on the road in the South, we’d snag all we could from a Winn-Dixie.

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