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Freezer Scraps

May 16, 2018

Cooking. I love to do it. The idea of taking raw ingredients and transforming them into something entirely different is almost like a kind of magic.

I can’t remember when I last made a pot roast. It must have been some time this winter. But you start off with a large raw piece of beef. Mine probably was some form of chuck roast. On it’s own, the cut is tough, and super fatty. That’s one reason why it’s good ground up into hamburger.

But you can also sear it to develop flavor, deglaze the pan with onions, deglaze those browned onions with stock, wine, tomatoes, or all three, and throw in some other aromatics for good measure. After hours of very slow simmering, you’re left with something so meltingly tender, rich, and delicious, the idea of turning it into hamburger feels like a crime.

Ant that’s coming from someone who love hamburgers.

So, when I cook, I make things in quantity. The chuck roast I started with was sizeable. It fed my family for several days, in many forms. But I guess we didn’t finish it all. Because last night, in a fit of panic trying to put together a quick dinner, I found a small chunk of it buried in the back of the freezer.

It felt almost like striking gold.

How can a rock-hard six-ounce piece of frozen braised chuck roast feed a family of four in thirty minutes or less? I’m glad you asked. Part of the secret is keeping a whole bunch of reserved fats on hand. The other is pantry staples.

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Nominations for Tour de Wing: Pine Hills

May 15, 2018

Spring chicken.

It’s spring. And if memory serves correctly, the FLB tries to organize a quarterly food tour. Sure, this past winter’s tour was on the outside edge of the season, but that didn’t stop us from going around Schenectady in search of the best NY Style Pizza Slice.

Perhaps the biggest learning from that tour was that NY Style Pizza might be held in too high regard, at the expense of other, more delicious forms of the dish. I’m not entirely sure I agree, but let’s table that discussion for now.

Because it’s spring, and that means chicken. It used to be that spring was time for our tours of frozen treats. We’ve done soft serve, gelato, homemade hard, and frozen yogurt. But then the summer tour was left for something savory. After the Tour de Italian Deli, I decided never again would we eat spicy meaty treats during the hottest months of the year.

That’s when we made the switch to the spring savory tours. So if you had your heart set on something sweet and cold, you’re just going to have to wait a couple more months.

Today is the day to not only announce the date of the next tour, but also to open the floor up to nominations. So put those thinking caps on, grab your calendar and a pencil, and let’s get geared up for the Tour de Wing: Pine HIlls Edition.

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Soft Serve the Size of Your Head

May 14, 2018

Spring. It’s here. The snow tires are off the car. My yard has had its first mow. Tulip Fest is behind us. For that matter, so is the chill of winter. Sure, I may have seen someone at Tulip Fest on Saturday rocking a pair of gloves, but I blame it on the rain.

If you define spring based on the time our seasonal soft serve stands open for the season, it’s been here for over a month. During that unseasonably warm heat wave, I took Little Miss Fussy to Jumpin’ Jacks in Scotia. But we were just there for dinner. No soft serve for us.

Actually, I’m trying to teach my kids that soft serve isn’t ice cream. It’s an ice-cream-like product that can can easily be mistaken for the real thing, much like Country Time can be mistaken for lemonade.

Here’s one way to tell the difference. Real ice cream comes in servings that might approximate the size of your first. Soft serve comes in servings more like the size of your head. Or if you ask Jack from Two Buttons Deep, a small cone should be the size of his fairly large hand.

Apparently, according to Jack, it also shouldn’t melt.

Still, the appeal of soft serve isn’t lost on me, I recognize it’s part of our local culture. So let’s hear from someone who isn’t quite so jaded. Our new friend Emily L. submitted another guest post all about her love of local soft serve. But once she’s done, I’ll share one parting thought on the matter.

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In Your Room

May 11, 2018

Well, The Bangles week concludes with what is probably the most inappropriate song to ring in Mother’s Day weekend ever. Let’s try to forget that it’s all about hanky panky, and focus on the thing that really matters: breakfast.

Sure, there are some families who go out for Mother’s Day Brunch. I’m not entirely sure what to make of those people. It’s like going out for Valentine’s Day Dinner, but with your entire family. Actually, Mother’s Day Brunch might be worse, because they are generally all-you-can-eat buffets.

Ugh. My stomach starts to ache just thinking it.

I’ve been to some pretty opulent Mother’s Day Brunches in my time. The one at the Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami really made an impression on me as a young kid. Just rooms and rooms of food. Now, I find it more than a little bit sickening.

But for those who do not go out to brunch, Mother’s Day can mean breakfast in bed. Because apparently someone at some point thought that getting to eat in your room was a special kind of treat.

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Hazy Shade of Winter

May 10, 2018

It wouldn’t be wrong to call Hazy Shade of Winter a Simon & Garfunkel song. I mean, Paul Simon wrote it, and the duo sung it first. But The Bangles took it further on the charts, and it was one of the band’s biggest hits.

The FLB is celebrating The Bangles this week, because why not.

This little tune metaphorically covers the passing from fall to winter. For me, winter is all about cooking beans. And now that the weather is heating up, the idea of simmering steaming pots of beans in the kitchen is unthinkable.

Where is this going? Well on Friday, I’m off to another potluck. And while I’ve seen ramps and fiddleheads in local markets, early spring in the Capital Region really means one thing to me. That’s clearing out the last of the winter storage crops.

My plan is to do it in a springy way, that also involves beans. Any guesses?

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The Bangles Week: Eternal Flame

May 9, 2018

Dammit. It’s my blog. If I declare it’s The Bangles Week, it’s The Bangles Week. In our heart of heart’s we know the post about Vic, Two Buttons Deep, and the Utica pizza joint is totally perfect for “Manic Monday”.

Maybe the lyrics of “Eternal Flame” are entirely vapid. But the song is all about a deep longing. It’s a longing I have, and I suspect that many share. Sure, the song isn’t technically about a longing for international cuisines, cooked by hands with a deep knowledge of the food and culture, and served to eager consumers who want as true a taste of place as possible in a foreign land.

But it could be. Do you feel the same? Or am I only dreaming?

Here’s the thing. Yesterday -R took issue with calling Bon Appetit Cafe an Egyptian restaurant. And his reasoning is certainly valid. The presence of one signature dish does not define a restaurant’s identity. However, there is a larger issue at play.

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Eat Like an Egyptian

May 8, 2018

This could have been The Bangles week if yesterday I had the forethought to entitle the post, “Manic Monday”. I think that could have worked. “In Your Room” seems like a perfect title for a post about Mother’s Day breakfast in bed. And I’m sure I could work out something with “Hazy Shade of Winter” and “Eternal Flame”.

Do you know what I know about Egyptian food? Just about nothing. My old friend Bill once went to Egypt and he came back thirty pounds lighter. He ate some bad fish, and for a moment thought he might die in an Egyptian hotel.

It may have been unpleasant at the time, but when Bill came home, he looked great.

If the two of us were still talking these days, I might be able to ask him about the food he ate before he got sick. But so it goes.

For whatever the reason, Egyptian food hasn’t quite captured the hearts of Americans like Ethiopian food has. There is a great clamoring for Ethiopian cuisine in the Capital Region. But I’ve never heard anyone ask about Egyptian.

Lo and behold, there has actually been an Egyptian place hiding in plain sight.

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