October 15, 2003

Fiddling while lamb burns

I'm fiddling around with a lamb recipe right now. By fiddling I mean that I've pretty much figured it out and there's no real reason to keep making it other than the fact that I've got lamb and am hungry.

The basic lamb part is a frenched rack of lamb, seasoned with thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper and then smoked-grilled over cherry wood. The wood has a nice flavor to it, and has the added bonus of turning the exposed bones a really cool looking red-ish wood color. It's pretty much just 20-25 minutes on a medium fire, so more or less "set and forget."

Last night I made a varient in which I used an Indian flavored rub, and served the lamb with basmati rice, and a tikka masala style sauce.

Posted by dowdy at 06:08 AM

October 11, 2003

Jumped the Shark?

I'm reading through the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated. and I'm starting to wonder if maybe they haven't Jumped the Shark.

I've been a big fan of them over the years and especially have a fondness for their investigation of various cooking methods. After all, I certainly don't want to cook 500 pounds of roasts in an effort to find the best method. A few things about them have started to bothered me, however.

Chief among them is what I often find to be an almost hypocritical approach to time management and recipe complexity. Within the same article they will discuss using canned chicken stock (because real stock is "too time consuming") and then proceed with multi-step processing of the other ingredients. Often they call for exact timing of various cooking processes, which while it may reduce the overall time a dish takes, is more of a workload for a home cook. So are they for easy or not? It's sometimes difficult to tell.

But this month's recipe for "A different holiday roast" just takes the cake. After dismissing Rib Eye Roasts as "too complex" and expensive, they proceed to make a "strip loin" roast with instructions about how "exact timing matters or you go from rare to gray in a matter of minutes." The meat they are cooking is basically an entire strip of New York steaks -- not exactly the the least spendy of meats! The process of searing the meat first prior to roasting is referred to as "novel." It is an absolute low-point in terms of useful information, interesting experimentation, and self-promotion.

Derrick points out (in his review of Perfect Vegetables) that they are "masters of repackaging." That's putting it mildly. I'd venture to guess that for any one given recipe there are at minimum four different ways to obtain it in book form, and two electronically. Hey, I'm all for pimping out after hard work has been done -- but I think they really are starting to get a bit overboard here.

I'm still a subscriber, but I'm less of an enthusiastic one. I still can strongly recommend their earlier works both in original form (as year-worth books collected together) or in their various recipe collections. I'm just hoping this most recent issue is more of an anomaly than anything else.

Posted by dowdy at 06:13 AM

October 10, 2003

You're mocking me

Saucier pans are probably one of my favorite cooking tools. I've been using a two-quart size for all kinds of things for over a year now.

What I like about then mostly is the fact that they serve as both a sauce pan (in which role the curved sides allow for easy whisking and faster reduction) and a sautee pan (in which role these same sides allow for the "flipping" of the contents). The pans work equally as well for boiling vegetables, cooking rice, making pasta, and other tasks where you need a depth of liquid as part of the prep.

Just about the only thing I don't use my Saucier for are dishes that one starts on the top of the stove and finishes in the oven, such as my beloved rack of lamb. For those I continue to use more traditional sautee pans.

I'm partial to All Clad because of the thickness of the metal and the fact that it remains the same thickness up the sides of the pan. All Clad's handles also seem to stay cooler to me, and have a better feel to my hands. I buy whichever All Clad model is on sale or the cheapest. They have lines with black outer cladding, shiny metal, matte metal, and copper. I think they all function pretty much the same.

But, with the birthday party starting to approach, I knew I needed something that could hold a larger amount. So I broke down and got a shiny new Three Quart Saucier Pan.

But, of course, I'm currently too busy to make use of it, because that's the way the world works. And so after taking it out of the box and placing it on the stove, there it sits each night. Mocking me.

Posted by dowdy at 05:58 AM

October 06, 2003

Recipe Development - part 2

Well, I found the correct spelling, which is "Gulab Jamun" (boy it sure is hard to search for words with Google if you don't know how to tell them!)...and a pot of recipes as a result. This basic one seems to be representative.

Almost all of the online recipes mention that a high proportion of the dough should be dry milk powder, and that it is easier to make if you use more flour -- but that the result isn't as good. All recipes also seem to specify a low temperature fry that takes 15 minutes in order to cook the insides, but all fail to mention a temperature other than "medium low."

I figure that some or all of the flour can be swapped out with cocoa powder. Usually one can turn a recipe into a chocolate one by using about 1/4 cocoa powder in place of the flour.

Posted by dowdy at 08:44 AM

October 05, 2003

Recipe Development - part 1

As summer turns to fall, I find myself starting to think of ideas for my December party. I always like to have at least a few dishes that are unexpected or (as a sushi menu would say) are "challanging." I'll try to document the development of one that I hope ends up on the final menu.

Carol made a request for a dessert that combined chocolate and rosemary -- the later being her favorite herb with a loving love. Rosemary is a good herb to try to meld into sweet things, and a dark-heavy chocolate is close to a savory flavor, so this is actually a good combination to try to do something more "wacky" for the guests.

My initial thought is for a "galoob jamon" (I don't even know yet how to spell it), which is a traditional Indian fritter which is soaked in a sugar syrup. My theory is to try to make a cocoa flavored fritter and then use a rosemary syrup to soak it in. Initial web searches show that "gloob jamon" are pretty basic, so I should be able to modify them to have a chocolate component.

Posted by dowdy at 06:37 PM