Monday, November 25, 2019

The Thanksgiving Issue

That was then
The Joy of Cooking: basically heat oven to 450, add stuffing if desired, baste frequently, cover the turkey with a butter soaked cloth.  Then cooking times given per pound.   That's pretty much it. A whole roast turkey. 

This is now

The Perfect Thanksgiving” requires six phases of instructions to achieve the current fad of “Spatchcocking” or cooking the thing in parts. 

First phase:
Place turkey breast side down, on work surface.  Using poultry shears and beginning at the tail end, cut along each side of the backbone, separating backbone from turkey, removing backbone and saving for stock or discard.
Can you just see Gramma doing that? Hah!  Then you flatten the thing (“Hiiiii –Yah!”) and further dismember it and multiple refrigeration’s later, it’s ready for the oven.
Oh, did I mention the bird should be dry brined? (Active time 45 minutes, Total 3 hours, 15 minutes plus 2(!) days refrigeration

The problem is, that the white meat is done much before the dark portions.  So between the “Gramma” technique and the rigamarole of the “Perfect" edition there have been numerous strategies for dealing with that.  Raise the temp; lower the temp; upside down, flipping, tenting, all sorts of gymnastics. And you know what? Do what you wish, when you’re done, your turkey tastes like (guess what?) A TURKEY!

Hence the extent of schemes to brine, rub, applying a plethora of spices: Bon Appétits “Expertly Spiced and Glazed Turkey”; not “amateur” spiced mind you, but Expertly spiced, which takes 10 count ‘em 10! Spices, plus Soy and Red wine vinegar. Requiring much dancing.  Chiles of varying species and heat appear to have a lot of fans.  Anything to "enhance" the inherently bland flavor of the bird.  Okay, I’ll get off that annual rant, and ask you to maybe think about a beef prime rib, a crown roast of veal or pork, maybe that deer you shot, something that has potential of flavor on its own.  (okay okay, I hear you: “Feeder! you just haven’t had a free range, hand fed, lovingly raised on squeaky clean food by caring farmers” on, and on, well, yes I have, and it tastes like, um, TURKEY.

Even the food editors of magazines are aware of the situation, hence put out their publications with tags like: “we asked our food editors to  improve the Thanksgiving classics, and …. Yadda yadda”; or “Turn back of the package recipes into something special with simple upgrades”; embellish, tweak, add exotic rubs, on and on..

One food editor laments: "Thanksgiving is your Groundhog Day.  Same holiday every year.  Gotta have turkey on the cover, and there better be mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing and cranberry sauce, and some sort of side that feels new, but not, you know too new"

ON the other hand, sides and veggies are where people go nuts.  In just three magazines alone, there are 32 different recipes. Brussels sprouts always rear their nubby little heads, consistetnly prepared with something to cover up the taste.   Potato after potato and so on.  One recipe for cornbread includes… wait for it….Corn Nuts!  Yup, those crunchy little things from bags.  

So, in the spirit of upgrades MFO has assembled some of the esoteric ingredients she’ll be needing

And of course we can’t move past the food without considering the wines to go with “the year’s biggest meal” –  as proclaimed on bon appétit's cover (above).  Long time readers with memories of previous issues of “The Thanksgiving Issue” might remember that I extol the DWTHYL (Drink Whatever the Hell You Like) theory.  With the plethora and diverse lineups of spices, preparations, that nothing goes with everything ( Oh NO! Aunt Betsy brought her special marshmallow fluff salad!).  SO, pick something you enjoy and enjoy.  The wine experts even agree with me.  Dave Mcintyre of the WAPO: “5 things you should know about the wine to go with your Thanksgiving meal

     1. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER – you have more important things to worry about

     2. Open one of everything – don’t limit yourself to a single wine, open a variety

     3. You can have fun with this – pick a theme (ptooie says the feeder on this one)

     4. Bubbles go with everything – a sip of bubbly will prime you for the next bite

     5. You got this – don’t sweat it

Another pundit breaks it down into “categories”
    ~  For the Proudly Unconventional – skin contact white wine (very trendy now)
    ~  For the In-Laws you Want to Wow – BURGUNDY pinot noir
    ~  For the Full Family Feast – Domaine Philippe Tessier Cheverny Rosé  (no watery Pinot Grigio or monster Cabs)
    ~  For the Friend of a Friend – a petillant – naturel (champagnes more casual cousin)
    ~  For the leftovers – Azienda Agricola Denny Bini Lambrusco Dell’Emilio (you’re on your own here)

And in another feature article: (KWW note) “Why cider deserves a spot on your Thanksgiving table next to all those wines” and recommends “Redbyrd Orchard Cider’s Vernal Cloudsplitter – a blend from New York’s Finger lakes of more than two dozen varieties, including old-time American apples, such as Roxbury Russet and Baldwin  over the top if you ask me..

And time and energy makes me/us wait or not worry about dessert, Southern Living has devoted a whole issue to “The Best  (feeder's favorite wordPIES and SIDES – new classics!” like Dulce de Leche-Cheesecake Pecan Pie”: Yikes!  Stick in the mud MFO is doing a Granny Smith Apple, and a Libby’s Pumpkin Pie.  Good enough for me.

And of course all ranting and raving aside, the REAL reason to celebrate Thanksgiving is to be with friends and family, whether present, far away, or only in cherished memories.  For instance, I’ll never forget the year at my Grandmother (Harriet) Moody’s house in Grand Rapids (MI) when she dumped her whole plate of food into her lap…


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A virtual library!!

Seeing the wonderful cookbook by John Shields got me to thinking that maybe based on his vast experience, the Feeder could create one: “The Feeder Fumbles through the Kitchen”?;  “Bottom Feeder Famous Botches”?  Well….. maybe not.  To paraphrase the famous saying: “those who can, cook.  Those who can’t read”.  Which in turn got me to looking at the accumulation of food related books and memorabilia the feeder has amassed in his gastronomic adventures.  For instance, how many of you have this beauty in your collection?

Or maybe a 2010 Wine Spectator with my hero and a Sunset guide to Wine Country (1989 do they still publish Sunset guides?)  

you sort of get these things one at a time, from different sources and travels, and pretty soon on almost any shelf we have racks of books

Which contain a few oddities here and there

How many of you have all three volumes of Earl Peyroux’s “Cooking by..” series?  He was a (now deceased) chef from Pensacola who produced many cooking shows for PBS. 

Besides shelves there are boxes of books of varying heritages (note “Southern Food” by John Edgerton Hmmm… nom de plume for John T. Edge???)

Book cases have little pockets of good things

Like the first publication of Hugh Johnson’s “the world atlas of wine”, now grown into a much weightier tome, (which I have somewhere), or Robert Parker’s Fourth Edition Wine Buying Guide (1995)
Some books and novels about food (Finishing Ruth’s latest book now)

An attempt (thanks FOJTE) at organizing the print food publications that seem to keep showing up

And in the kitchen, both sides of a book truck

Including a complete set of Martha Stewarts series of little “Everyday Food” a handy little quick look up (if you have the overall guide, which we do);  the wonderful book “Sauces” and McGee’s “on Food and Cooking” a scientific look at cooking – very technical.  On the other side we have

some classic reference books any chef/cook should have: (Larousse; The new Professional Chef; Pepin’s La Technique; Beards Iconic book) and of course the bibles which may have started it all:

And nearer to my “new station”

Including newly acquired Shield’s Books; The Lee Brothers Southern Cooking (a treasure trove of southern cuisine); Michael Twitty’s book on the Southern Cooking history of the old South; John T. Edge (head of the Southern Food Alliance) and the “Save Me…” by Ruth Reichl which (sadly) I have almost finished with.  But wait, there’s more!

Below my feet in the basement are tubs and tubs
of old Gourmets and one of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate back to God knows when, plus some historical Food & Wines & Saveurs, etc.
sharing the basement space with a few "dusties" in bottles

And finally… a summary!
Why? you may (legitimately) ask.  I dunno, just gives me comfort to know they are there.  Am I a hoarder?  If I were to let them go, a large piece of me would go with them, and I’m not ready for that.  Am I a better cook for it?  Well, maybe at least I have a good idea of what should be, which of course leads to frustration. 

Food and the creation of same is still my (hate the word) passion, and I have deep admiration for those who “Do” like Thomas Keller, Jacques Pepin, or more locally Michael Kelley, Russel Nelson, Rob Plant, Ben Reynolds (retired from Dry Dock).   Hence this reverence for food, leading to the DFD plea.

who doesn't love this
DFD and eliminate MJ's

Monday, November 11, 2019

A special day, and Matthew 7:1

Before anything else, it is a day to remember and honor all those who are, or have served our country in faraway places, assuring the freedom for kooks like me to publish things about food and cooking.  I was declared exempt for military service because at the time of the Viet Nam war draft because I was working in the defense industry.  My father was not, he even lied about his age to get in the Army, went through training in the Field Artillery, and was ultimately shipped to France where he was wounded in the grusome battle of Chateaux Thierry, and eventually was sent home for a long recovery.  He never did regain full usage of his right arm.  He never talked about his experiences and I never quizzed him about it.  In retrospect, I think it was a dark period of his life which he didn't want to revisit.  Archivist MFO organized all his papers and letters from his training and while he was convalescing and we gave them to his home town historical society in Holland, Michigan.  Thank you dad and Vets who are still here and those that live in memories…

Seems kind of anticlimactical to talk about food and such, but it’s what I do.

The Bible??? 
Hey Matthew you are quoted in the bible in verse 7:1 as reminding us: “Judge not lest ye be judged”
Well, while that may be a good life precept in general, it doesn’t apply well in the Food Judges department.   This year we had an exceptionally qualified panel of judges evaluating the nine finalist dishes. I want to talk more about one of them, but a brief bio on each follows. 

Gwyn Novak:  Back for her second year as a National Oyster Cook-Off judge, Gwyn Novak is the chef and founder of No Thyme to Cook, Southern Maryland’s premier cooking studio teaching students of all ages the love of food.

Sandra Martin:  Another returning judge She is editor of the Bay Weekly publication and considered an expert on Southern Maryland cuisine. Though born in the center of the country, St. Louis, Missouri, Sandra Olivetti Martin grew up eating native Chesapeake Bay oysters.  

Amy Langrehr, Her first time as a judge this year is the force behind Baltimore's enormously popular Charm City Cook, a Baltimore dining and cooking Instagram and blog.

Jason Yaskoir, another new addition to the judging team is Editor-in-Chief of "DCFüd" and a food writer and editor. He is originally from the most culturally diverse county in the U.S. (Queens County, NYC), where he grew up eating a variety of cuisines and learned how to cook at his Mom's side as a kid.

And finally
John Shields, another returning judge, is a Chef, author, and television personality is the owner of the
celebrated Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art.  John is often called “The Culinary Ambassador of the Chesapeake Bay,” and he has written three popular cookbooks on the cuisine of the region.

After the competition, John set up a booth to sell his cookbooks, this the latest, the 25th anniversary edition.

 I bought a copy (can't have too many cookbooks!)

With all due respects to John, I expected just another compendium of crab cake and oyster stew recipes, until I cracked the cover.  What an amazing collection of not only recipes with provenance, and many historical pictures of the Chesapeake Bay region.  For instance: “Gertie’s Crab Cakes” recipe starts out by telling us that “Gertie Cleary hailed from Baltimore’s Greenmount Avenue and her cooking was legendary throughout St. Ann’s Parish and northeast Baltimore“.  He may be a bit biased, since Gertie was his grandmother.  Or Polish Marinated Herring:  When Polish John’s not operating his crane at the Dundalk Marine terminal, you’re likely to find him at his East Baltimore home eating or preparing this delicious snack from this homeland”.  He talks about his hometown of Baltimore, or “Charm City”.. the hairdo capital of the world, screen paintings (heard of those?) crab houses, and beehive coifs”

I found myself just leafing through the book not only for the recipes but the knowledge that accompanied them.  In emails to John, I learned he spend over a year in the region gathering the (authentic) recipes and the stories that went with them.

But what bowled me over was when I turned the page to 175 and found this:
 in the old days, a trip to Southern Maryland would not be complete without a visit and meal with William Taylor”, 

and then recounts his legendary dinners.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to a few of the “Dinner Designer’s” meals in his home that could have been an annex to the Smithsonian, full of playbills, and even costumes from the silent film era.  Anybody who knew Bill Taylor earns my respect.  John is not just some hack cookbook author. 

Quick culinary note and a small rant for the Christmas Season:

Alert readers may remember that occasionally MFO and I get food “From a Bag” if we’re out and about.  Well, we stopped for such a lunch the other day at a McDonalds, and I am so tired of quarter pounders with cheese or a cheese burger meal, that I decided to get a crispy buttermilk chicken sandwich.  It was without a doubt the worst excuse for food I’ve had in a long time.  Under the gooey coating was a hunk of chicken(?) that was nearly inedible consisting of loosely held together little packets of gristle with strings that got in your teeth.  I finally gave up. Awful and disgusting.

‘Tis the season.  Every year at this time the so called “luxury” cars trot out the same old ads’.   Lexus is one of the primary sources of such extravagances.   Showing the perfect American family, Mom, Dad, sis and buddy, in their flannel PJ’s and probably fido with his red bandanna out in front of their spacious home in the equally spacious patio in front of the multi car garage with a Lexus and a big red bow on top with the kids bouncing up and down with glee.  And the snobby heavily (British) accented haughty announcing lady telling us to make it a “Decembahhh to remembahhhh – at yo Lexusss delahhhh”.. and here I thought the auto was made in Japan

And finally (thank goodness you say) while most/some auto makers boast about fuel economy and their environmental efforts, apparently the Dodge company doesn’t buy into that crap.  Commercials of Santa driving out of his bag in a Challenger? With screaming, smoking tires shouting “and to all, get OUTTA MY WAY”, or another with the obligatory chartreuse (good ol’ boy) Charger(?) racing around city streets, weaving in and out, boasting about the amount of horsepower they have (which probably produces massive amounts of hydrocarbons).  Only in America!

Okay, I’m done. 

If you have a friend (or yourself!) who enjoys cooking and learning about regional food, I would highly recommend considering John Shield’s “Chesapeake Bay Cooking”

And if you see or think of a Veteran, say “Thanks for your Service to our Country”


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Perry Como??

It's impossible, tell the sun to leave the sky, it's just impossible
It's impossible, ask a baby not to cry, it's just impossible
Can you make a plant based burger taste and looks like a beef burger, is THAT Possible??

Well, there is now a product on the market which attempts to do just that … called “the Impossible Burger”.  One can hardly escape the marketing of the Burger, sold principally at the Burger King (NOT fast food, mind you, "quick service") outlets .   Article after article appears in various food publications and magazine articles about the invasion of plant based products into the animal protein field.   While there are other attempts out there, Impossible Burger seems to lead the field both in “taste tests” and said marketing.  

So, slightly behind the tidal wave, I waded in.  Some nights when either of us has meetings or fatigue, we sink to “eat out of a bag”.  MFO prefers the fries at Burger King to Mickey Dee’s, although I am of opposite opinion.  So, on those nights when she has a late meeting we have an objective discussion as to the menu, and then she does whatever the hell she wants. So this was a good time to weigh in on the fray

When unwrapped revealed

Indistinguishable from a “normal” whopper so far
Under the bun there was no noticeable difference either

Which leaves “taste” on the docket.   To be honest, with all the crap on it, it could be cardboard or shoe leather.  all you get is the fixings..(which always tend to escape onto your shirt)

So, I deconstructed it and compared it to MFO’s beefy version flipping them upside down doing a side by side (a tried and true technique of food reviewing as the "underbelly" can reveal a lot)

No obvious visual or textural differences, so I nibbled a (naked) hunk from each product, and I think I would have to say in terms of texture and taste they were indistinguishable again meaning the IB DID have some flavor.

One thing that is NOT indistinguishable is the price.  It’s kind of hard to come with a direct comparison, they like to cloak it within “meals” but as far as I can determine a single (beef) whopper is $4.19, and impossibly is $5.59 a “whopping” 30% more.  Other interesting comparisons:

Big Mac/McVegan: $3.99/$5.80 (45%)
White Castle Original Slider/Impossible Slider: $0.72/$1.99 (273%!!!)
Del Taco/Beyond Taco:  $1.49/$2.49 (67%)

Quite a load for ditching the non-vegan variety.   WELL, you say, it’s much more healthy eating plant based “proteins”!

One source:
At Burger King, the meatless Impossible Whopper is 630 calories, compared to the regular Whopper which is 660. (The Impossible burger is made with soy protein, potato protein, coconut oil, sunflower oil and heme, a molecule that makes it look and bleed like real meat).

Both have around the same amount of fat (34 grams of fat, and 11 grams of saturated fat for the Impossible Whopper; and 40 grams of fat, and 12 grams of saturated fat for the Whopper). The meatless version has a whopping 1,240 milligrams of sodium verses 980 for the meaty one.”

So for the Sodium alert Feeder, I get 50% with impossible and “only” 41% of my daily recommended suggestion of sodium for regular (which might include the expendable bun; they somehow are usually sodium rich) 

BTW, the CD café on the Solomons retains the IB on the menu for $14 compared to the Bistro or Turkey Burger at $12, only 17% more.  At one point the Ruddy Duck Brewery (Lusby) I THINK had the IB on the menu, which no longer appears, however for a slight increase you can get Gluten free rolls..

So, bottom line (in the feeder’s personal opinion):  IF you feel strongly about what goes into your body, and it makes you feel good to avoid meat protein and you’re willing to pay around 50% more for something quite like the “beefy” product, go for it.  And FWIW, the stodgy and traditional feeder will stick with his carnivore and pescatorian habits.


Editor’s note (as usual) He was going to include a piece on the Judges for the Cook-Off, but they deserve more space than being tucked between the IB and an update on

SweetBay-a peek behind the curtain (figuratively speaking)
One of the principals involved put some images in Facebook of progress on SweetBay in Leonardtown (which i freely borrowed).  From the looks it appears they (hopefully!!) are going all out to create a unique space… hope so!
My assumption:  main dining spaces with booths (?) (not the feeder’s fav)

What looks like a lovely bar and back bar (good for them!)

Love the ceiling if that’s final, good noise reduction construction
And to warm the feeder’s heart, they've added what looks like a spacious wine cellar! (double good for them)

A few weeks to go, but early returns look very good!  And a word to the managers, if you put a Mason Jar in front of me, I may launch it!


Monday, November 4, 2019

Thus Spake the Walrus

I am the walrus
Goo goo g'joob

Nope, not that one, more like the Lewis Carroll Variety:

     The time has come, the Walrus said,
       To talk of many things:
       Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings — [and Oyster Festivals!]
    And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'

     O Oysters, come and walk with us!'
      The Walrus did beseech.

Well, they did somehow and didn’t turn out so well for the Oysters

O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
      You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
      But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
      They'd eaten every one."

I have never quite understood Mr. Carroll’s 18 verse poem, I suppose literature majors would get the deeper meaning and metaphor, but to a slug engineer it just talks about a Walrus, a Carpenter, and some apparently gullible (legless?) bivalves strolling along a beach eventually ending up the belly of said Walrus (how did he open them?) and his Carpenter friend.

Not so at the 53rd US National Oyster Festival and Cook-Off, where many, many luckless oysters were consumed “any way you like ‘em”.  Saturday was a banner day, with thousands of visitors, but the rains of Sunday saw brought out less than two hundred stalwarts that came through the gates!  Why we buy rain insurance.

Friday night before the competition was our annual “welcome reception for cookers and shuckers”,  Presided over by the annual "host: David Taylor

With assistance from Viet and guidance from Jane Sypher

There was a special appearance of King Oyster

But mostly people just enjoyed themselves

The next day, Saturday, I oversaw the actual 40th annual US National Oyster Cook-Off which pitts the top three chefs and their recipes for Hors d’Oeuvres, Soups and Stews, and Main dishes.  All of course had to feature the humble bivalve. 
Our able Emcee was again Ron Buckhalt

And while there were some familiar competitors from past competitions such as (the indefatigable) Tom Faglon (in his traditional shirt)

And the tireless Ronna Farley

There were also some “first timers” such as Will Milton

And Kristin-Page Kirby

Overall, we had some wonderful final recipes such as “Crispy Buffalo Oysters on Blue Cheese Grits”, created by returning two-time champion Marty Hyson of Millersville, Maryland. 

During lulls in action I always like to chat with the cookers to learn more about them, so in one small break, I talked with newbie Will .. 

“Will, what do you do in Charleston?” .. 
I work in a restaurant
“Oh, what one?” 
A place called FIG!

I should not have to remind the alert readership that FIG is one of the highest rated restaurants in one of the premier Foodie Meccas of America.

Anyway, after dishes are prepared for the Judging, there is the obligatory interview with the chef offering details about their dish and it's preparation, while the "paparazzi" look on

Then the dishes are whisked off to the judging area, and samples are passed out to the throngs (free food always brings them in)

Our next volume will talk about those judges, and what you find out about them that is very interesting

DFD and go can something with the MJ

Editor's note: you may have noticed the lapse between the festival and the reporting same.  This was due to a nightmare situation with Lightroom..