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AskTP – Year End

December 29, 2014

2014 is almost done. It’s time to tie up loose ends. Tomorrow there will be the obligatory looking back post. The day after I’ll dedicate to looking forward. And then it’s 2015. I can’t believe it. Hopefully, you’ve already been to the liquor store and secured your bottles of Champagne and gin.

That means today is the last day to answer questions submitted over the past few weeks that have languished in the comments.

Fortunately, I have this fairly regular feature called Ask the Profussor (or AskTP for short) that does just that. At the very beginning of this project, I made a commitment to make sure every question received some kind of answer. It won’t always be from me. It may not always be right. But just so long as you use a question mark in your comment, it will find its way here.

And just to make these posts easy on the eyes, each question gets a one line introduction. If you click on any of these links, they will all bring you to the mystery link of the day. No without any further ado, onto the questions.

daviddoughan is shocked that I was lacking a critical piece of cookware for so long:
No pressure cooker? Wow. Sanghamitra and I have one from Hawkins. It works fine. I never cook beans without it.

Well, at least now that’s been corrected. I’m getting more comfortable with it every week. The first batch of beans I made did not come out great. The chicken stock I made was pretty freaking glorious. And just last night I made a lamb and yogurt curry in a shockingly short time. Plus, Jon in Albany gave me some tongue, and I’m looking forward to a lengua taco feast.

Doug is hitting me where it hurts:
We have the 8-qt Fagor and we love it. How about split pea soup in twenty minutes on a wintry day? Can’t beat it.

I do still have some of the best split pea soup in the known universe in my freezer. It came from a batch I made the old fashioned way at the start of winter. Naturally, I was using hocks from Rolf’s. Certainly, I’ll give this a try. However, I think my method may still require a bit more time. And I’m a little concerned about my carrots obliterating into mush. But these things require some degree of experimentation, especially in the early phases. That said, if you want to share your 20-minute prep, I’m all ears.

Burnt my Fingers may be very close to inking himself a deal:
Reading between the lines, I think you’re saying you want me to take the KitchenAid off your hands. No problem; we use ours so often I’m afraid it’s about to crap out. When do you want me to pick it up? (That was a question.)

Albany Jane has the KitchenAid now, and I think she may be looking to get it out of her life. I’d happily extend the indefinite loan in exchange for periodic deliveries of your homemade miche. I’ll even drive up to Saratoga Springs to pick them up. Whadayasay?

albanylandlord wants a bit more transparency from Cooks Illustrated:
Very interesting review of ATK / CI testing. Although I love ATK and depend on them often, their greatest shortcoming is the lack of available feedback / ratings of their stuff. Which of their recipes are the most loved ever? Who knows. Are some of their test flawed? Looks like this one was.

Maybe. But in my limited experience, the Fagor Duo is still a pretty killer pressure cooker. Consumer Reports is another organization that routinely tests consumer products, and as fastidiously as they test, they sometimes optimize for strange criteria. I still subscribe to their reviews, but despite their love of front loading washers, we walked away from their recommendations and found something better to suit our needs.

Chef Paul was excited by me taking another step closer to the finish line of life:
Ohhhh. You have an upcoming Birthday? Do tell.

Thank you. Generally, I try to make my birthday as low key an affair as possible. In one of my favorite movies, the main character Daniel says, “You were born alone, you should celebrate it – celebrate aloneness. That’s what birthdays are for.” It’s a pitiful theory. Still, I’d prefer to celebrate accomplishments, and not just the passage of time.

King of Beacon may not have appreciated my understated bio for Duff Goldberg:
”Apparently he is on cable tv in addition to owning a bakery in Baltimore.”

Okay, he also had a co-branded line of products with Blue Bunny ice cream? Or maybe it was Turkey Hill? I have no idea. The Ace of Cakes was a very nice guy. I like his style. I appreciate how thoughtful he is about his craft. I’ve seen some of his cakes on the Interwebs and they are architectural marvels. But in all honesty, I don’t really follow the cult of celebrity around bakers. I do try to stay on top of what happens with the chefs and other tastemakers where I live. However, that doesn’t leave too much time for worrying about what’s happening on cable.

Weenie Girl wants a ruling on the comparative deliciousness of cooking techniques:
I remember past birthday (and other occasion) burgers at Swifty’s. I’m glad you’re still enjoying them. Tell me, would it have been as delicious if cooked rare but by sous vide? I’m learning about that technique…would love to have your opinion.

For everyone playing at home, the Swifty’s burger is battered and deep fried. What makes it super delicious is that hot oil crisped crust. More fat brings more flavor. More brown bits bring more flavor. Sous vide is very good at delivering a delicate texture and perfect temperature all the way through. Sous vide can cook something long enough to break down its fibers, tenderize it, and flavor it deeply without overcooking it. And those are great characteristics to have in a grassfed steak or maybe a poached chicken breast. Sous vide egg yolks are pretty decadent too.

The important part about sous vide cooking is to remember to blast whatever you cooked with a blowtorch at the end to get those all important brown bits.

Wendy was thinking about special things from the Capital Region:
Fudge Fancies (not their name anymore, though): The Cookie Factory makes them (now called Fudge Fantasies?) but they used to be made by the Vanilla Bean Bakery. My friend from DC (another expat) always buys a bunch to take back when she visits the 518.

They are indeed Fudge Fantasies at The Cookie Factory. I’m pretty sure Bella Napoli calls them Fudge Fancies.

gorgeousgoodness probably knew what she was stepping into when she asked:
Any input on Trader Joes Stevia? Thats what I use, a lot. (I can probably look this up for myself but people here seem pretty smart)

Just don’t. I know it’s a leaf. But I just don’t believe in sugar substitutes. I also hate the way they taste. I do believe in reducing overall sugar consumption. However, I also endorse the strategy of simply avoiding sweet things, or reducing how much sugar you add to your food. Iced tea requires no sugar if you make it well. The same even goes for coffee. It’s true.

Want to skip refined sugar? Sure thing. Maple syrup is great. Don’t like the strong maple flavor of Grade B (or whatever they are calling it these days)? Then get the higher grade lighter syrup. It’s marvelous with greek yogurt and berries.

“But there’s sugar in my breakfast cereal.” It’s time to start making steel cut oats overnight in the slow cooker. There’s no sugar in there. “But there’s sugar in my bread.” You’ve got the wrong bread. Heidelberg’s 100% whole wheat has only four ingredients, and sugar isn’t one (nor is honey, molasses, or any other kind of sweetener).

Mister Dave, the man who makes Mountain Brew floats, thinks I’m silly:
What is your issue with guar gum? It is actually supposed to be sort of good for you… What is your issue with sorbic acid? It is a completely safe way to kick up the PH of a food to prevent spoilage. I get your schtick about food, but “no additives in anything” is hogwash. It is odious culinary luddite-ism. You expect an airplane to have a purpose built cheese fridge to maintain the conditions for your parm-reg, eh? Because that makes sense….There are plenty of perfectly sound and safe chemicals (all food is chemicals) that are beneficial as additives. Do you object to quick pickles made with acetic acid (vinegar)? You have to draw a line with this “no added stuff in any stuff” thing or it becomes silly.

Mostly, I don’t want guar gum in my cheese. Cheese should pretty much be spoiled milk. And I don’t want it in my ice cream or heavy cream pretending to be butterfat. When food companies add it into places where one doesn’t expect it, then the food is a lie.

Food should also eventually spoil. It’s good to keep food producers, distributors, and retailers on their toes. When food spoils and waste risks their profit margins, they may think twice about stocking their shelves with 1,000 different kinds of yogurt. Okay, that number isn’t right. But it’s an unholy number of products.

No, I don’t expect an airplane to have a cheese fridge. I did however see a cool little single serve packet of parm-reg at the Princeton Whole Foods before I left. It looked like a mini cheese stick. And I’m sure it would be tough enough to handle the rigors of interstate flight.

For what it’s worth, I find quick pickles to be unobjectionable. However, I could see how they would be troubling to someone who cared deeply about the craft of fermentation. We all have our issues. I’m not asking that you respect mine, but I will happily explain and defend them as reasonably as I can.

Dave S. is another fellow who has fond memories of Freihofer’s:
Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies: Those little soft cookies were new to me and my family in Utica (in the 60’s?), and, like most of their stuff, was better in the past. Applejack = Laird’s

I have no doubt the cookies were better in the past. As far as applejack goes, the stuff from Laird’s is apple in name only. My understanding is that it’s cut with grain neutral spirits. I want 100% apple dammit, so I’ll find craft distillers making it in small batches wherever I can.

Annie got a little too excited by the challah french toast pancake:
Brilliant! The next cronut. Now you just need a name. Schmancake?

Schmancake makes it seem like I’m being dismissive of other pancakes. That’s terrible. The only shorthand I can think of is C.F.T. Pancake. But sometimes longer names can be a desirable thing. Think about Frozen Hot Chocolate. That’s only one syllable shy of Challah French Toast Pancake.

Mister Dave thinks a Michelin starred restaurant would fail in Downtown Albany:
A caveat. The Spotted Pig would not do well in the City of Albany. Why? No parking lots. Do not underestimate the power of car culture around these parts. No one is leaving the suburbs if they believe they will have even a slight problem finding parking.

I know this to be true, but it still vexes me. One reason I know it to be true is because of my own habits. I find myself not popping into Stacks for an espresso because the walk to and from the car will double the time it takes to get my quick (but excellent) shot of coffee. But by the same token, parking will never stop me from a night out at Taste or The City Beer Hall. Because dammit, I’m going to give Taste another shot even though I got burned that last time.

EPT might appreciate this story from my travels last year:
Spotted Pig might make it here, forget Eleven Madison Park. Capital District is not a market for very high end food, have you seen the lines at McDonalds? We do have our fair share of very good restaurants, so enjoy what you do have.

You should have seen the lines for McDonalds in Paris. It made me weep for humanity. It was just down the street from an absolutely amazing sandwich shop where you could get sandwiches to stay or to go. I wish I could have had those sandwiches every day of my trip.

caravan70 was making an educated guess about my Christmas plans:
Ala Shanghai, I’m assuming? In any event, hope you and your family are having a wonderful holiday season, Daniel.

Good guess. That was the first plan, but then my daughter wanted to go to Ala Shanghai for her birthday this week. So we went to Taiwan Noodle instead (which was also excellent as always). The killer is that now Little Miss Fussy has changed her mind about what she wants to eat on her birthday, and that means no Ala Shanghai for me. Gah.

DEN has one question about the Crisan change:
Will they still make gelato?

I hope so, and I suspect they will. That is a product they’ve been doing wholesale and they still have the equipment for it. Maybe you will be able to order it by the pint when you place your cake order? We can only dream.

caravan70 has me alarmed:
And may I add that I’m going to miss Caffe Vero as well?

I’m more than happy with Stacks stepping up to fill the void at Vero. For a second you had me thinking that Stacks was going away too. But thankfully I see no such news on their Twitter feed. That would be tragedy on top of tragedy.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2014 10:36 am

    You’re on, profusser, with reservations. The old KA is still chugging along, so while AJ is using it productively it should stay with her. There will be some miche with your name on it early in the new year (though not before 1/21, as I will be on the west coast eating my heart out).

  2. December 29, 2014 10:43 am

    The Mountain Brew Ice Cream Float is to be considered a work of high art and not at all indicative of my general patterns of consumption.

  3. December 29, 2014 11:25 am

    If memory serves, the Modernist Cuisine burger is cooked sous vide and then deep fried to get a crust. I imagine a quick dip in batter before frying would work well. I haven’t tried cooking a sous vide burger yet, but it’s on the to do list.

  4. December 29, 2014 1:08 pm

    I had greek yogurt with maple syrup (real, from the CoOp bulk) instead of Stevia yesterday. Its like I anticipated your answer.

  5. Doug permalink
    December 29, 2014 3:22 pm

    I didn’t count prep time in the 20-minute pea soup. Cook time is about 5 to come up to pressure, 10 at pressure, and 5 minutes for cooldown. Lorna Sass, who was referenced in another comment to your post, suggests wrapping the carrots in foil and floating them during the cooking to preserve their integrity. One could also do a partial cook, cool the pot and then add the carrots for the rest of the cooking, but that would take longer. We don’t bother.

  6. Dave S permalink
    January 3, 2015 7:14 pm

    I will check out Cornelius Applejack. The price doesn’t seem excessive, from what I’ve seen online, if it’s a quality product.

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