Bets and the Beanstalk (Open Thread)

One feature of living in the sun-blasted hellscape of Florida, in addition to the giant, flying, indestructible cockroaches and invasive alien reptiles — one of whom has purchased the governorship — is the option to start spring gardening in February.

Our beanstalks are already 11 feet tall! Here’s today’s haul:

The best way to cook these beauties is to sauté them gently in olive oil, add a split garlic clove, then finish them with some lemon zest and pecorino cheese. Unbelievably good.

But tonight, we’re gonna fry some up in beer batter and dip them in homemade boom-boom sauce. What are you having for dinner?

Anyway, open thread!

Random Food Prön Open Thread

Hey y’all.  Some mid-morning entertainment here.

I’m home today with a pair of bum knees (bursitis flying out of control) and — as I’ve compensated for my bad wheels — spasms around a bulging disk around L4 or L5.  I feel like a water heater with a ten year guarantee staring glumly at my eleventh birthday.

But it’s hard to complain (actually, it’s not) when these are actually minor and remediable dings.  So I’m getting on with things.  First task to do was to get a standing desk going.  I’ve got one of these at my office and it works fine, but at home it’s just the kitchen counter, which isn’t quite high enough.  So here’s my solution:


For those straining to read my crap photo, that’s Vol. 2 of the Gourmet Cookbook from 1957.

My favorite recipe in this particular tome — and what I find to be something of a metaphor for this election? That would be his one:


“Turn the pressure wheel and force the sauch and blood through the press…”  Sounds about right.

And finally, for a little bit of sheer madness, here’s something from Alain Ducasse’s Flavors of France.  I picked this up years ago at a used cookbook sale for something like five bucks.  I’ve yet to make anything out of it; I chose it for the utter decadence of both recipes and photos.  True “don’t know how to define it but know it when I see it” food prön from soup to nuts.  To keep within the bounds of my fowl obsession, here’s Ducasse’s ingredient list for boiled chicken:

I mean, whut?

What’s the most insane recipe you ever attempted (and what happened)?

Oh — and open thread.

Excellent Read: “Farm to Fable”

When “we” go out to eat, we want freshly sourced, local, pesticide- and GMO-free food. We also want asparagus in September, oranges in New England, and a menu that reliably includes our favorites. And keep in mind that we’re using McDonalds — well, maybe Applebee’s — as a cost yardstick. (The economists’ Golden Triangle, reduced to a bumper sticker: Good, fast, cheap: pick any two!) In the back of our minds, we know these demands are, shall we say, difficult to balance. Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley is getting attention for her excellent reporting on how “At Tampa Bay farm-to-table restaurants, you’re being fed fiction”:

… This is a story we are all being fed. A story about overalls, rich soil and John Deere tractors scattering broods of busy chickens. A story about healthy animals living happy lives, heirloom tomatoes hanging heavy and earnest artisans rolling wheels of cheese into aging caves nearby.

More often than not, those things are fairy tales. A long list of Tampa Bay restaurants are willing to capitalize on our hunger for the story…

It’s a trust-based system. How do you know the Dover sole on your plate is Dover sole? Only that the restaurateur said so… Your purchases are unverifiable unless you drive to that farm or track back through a restaurant’s distributors and ask for invoices.

I did.

For several months, I sifted through menus from every restaurant I’ve reviewed since the farm-to-table trend started. Of 239 restaurants still in business, 54 were making claims about the provenance of their ingredients.

For fish claims that seemed suspicious, I kept zip-top baggies in my purse and tucked away samples. The Times had them DNA tested by scientists at the University of South Florida. I called producers and vendors. I visited farms.

My conclusion? Just about everyone tells tales. Sometimes they are whoppers, sometimes they are fibs borne of negligence or ignorance, and sometimes they are nearly harmless omissions or “greenwashing.”…

The menu reads: This menu is free of hormones, antibiotics, chemical additives, genetic modification, and virtually from scratch. We fry in organic coconut oil and source local distributors, farmers, brewers and family wineries … Our fish is fresh from Florida or sustainable/wild fisheries.
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Speaking of Chicken…

ETA:  Not sure I’ve ever big-footed anyone so thoroughly, but consider this a thread for everyone who doesn’t care about hockey, of whom I am one.

Hey all.  You may recall that roast chicken is an object of obsession in the Levenson household. It is the one true votive food, as far as I’m concerned, comfort and connoisseurship and all that.


Since that prior post (it’s only been ~4 years…), we’ve played around a lot with the Melissa Clark recipe that prompted it.  Our standard fast variation on that (given that ramps (a) aren’t that much of a favorite in our house and (b) are only available for about twenty minutes a year) is to replace the original vegetable medley with a couple of leeks and a mixture of mushrooms — usually shiitakes with creminis or oysters or whatever’s on hand — together with capers, garlic and lemon rind.

A wonderful change up on that has been to use this recipe for curried cauliflour instead of leeks and mushrooms, whilst still following Clark’s basic method. (We add these to the cauliflour dressing: 3 papadew peppers, sliced; ten coarsly chopped garlic cloves; and 1 tsp baharat spice mix (or any kind of random flavorful spice mix lying around).We start the splayed chicken breast side down for ten minutes, and then add the dressed cauliflour at the turn.  For a 3.5 lb chicken, allow for roughly 40 minutes total — and when you’re done you get this lovely curry – esque roast chicken.  Not the crispest of skin, but very tasty.

But all that’s prologue to two new-to-me roast chicken recipes I made this week, both of which rocked my world.  Given that I’m really trying to spend a whole weekend without writing about politics*, I’m offering these up as both a gesture of peace to both the Bernistas and  Hillarions that may visit this site — and as a displacement activity to ensure I don’t start talking the relative benefits of Glass-Steagall vs. rigorous capital requirements and so on.

First up — this lovely recipe from an old NY Times column on what chefs like to eat when they seek a meal they didn’t cook.  It’s dead simple, and very quick:  a 3.5 lb chicken** roasts in just over half an hour.  The only even mildly tricky bit is the removal of both the back and breastbones:  two different good knives help (a big chef’s knife and a robust boning knife).  Other than that, it’s just a matter of basting the thing a lot and making the green sauce.  My only change-up on first trying it was to add some sherry vinegar to the salsa verde; the capers alone didn’t give it enough bite.  But allowing ten minutes for prep, the whole meal takes about three quarters of an hour and the result is a simple, clean chicken with a lovely spring-summer sauce for counterpoint.

And second, from a chef who’s work has really shifted the palette in our house, this not-quite-roast chicken turned out beautifully this Wednesday.  It’s Yoram Ottolenghi’s Chicken Sofrito, slightly modified to avoid the occasional pitfall of Jewish cookery, the felt need to make sure the damn thing is really, really done.

Our amendments:  no potatoes.  Only about four or five good sized garlic cloves, roughly chopped, instead of his twenty five (sic!).  I butterflied a 3 lb. chicken (I like the smaller birds), rather than quartering it.  Having seared it as the recipe calls for, I pulled it and sauteed on large white onion, sliced, and then added sliced up yellow and red sweet pepper — a half a pepper of each — then the garlic.  Cooked those down for a few minutes before returning the chicken to the pan.  Most important — I substituted pimenton — Spanish smoked paprika — for the sweet paprika Ottolenghi specifies.  Takes it to a whole different place.  And I squeezed just a little lemon in, because I always do.

This is another quick-cooking dish. The chicken was above refrigerated temperature (I pulled it from the icebox about an hour before cooking), small, spatchcocked, and seared pretty good.  Cooking time after reassembling the chicken and vegetables was around a half an hour.

The result was simply fabulous.  Where the first recipe was the essence of simple, clean, chickeny-ness, this had a lovely sense of secret knowledge and the romance of the East and all that.  Both dead easy; both fast enough for mid week.

I know, I know — I’m babbling.  But while I’m no evangelist in most domains, roast chicken in almost any variation, done right, is as near as I get to heaven in this vale of tears.  So I hope y’all won’t take it amiss if I spread my poultry gospel.

And even if you do, take solace in finding in this post something to kvetch about that doesn’t involve orange scalp ferrets or the proper way to consume pizza.

Now — over to you.  Talk about the essential foods for your tables or anything else you damn well please.

*I’m not sure if spending manic hours gutting David Brooks most recent two risible attempts at rise-above-it-all civic moralizing/thumbsucking would count, but my nearest and dearest are.  Let me thus say here only my now-standard reaction to BoBo:  intercourse yourself ninety-degrees-off-bilateral-symmetry-axis with an oxidized farm implement.

Image:  Osias Beert and workshop,**  Still life of a Roast Chicken, a Ham and Olives on Pewter Plates with a Bread Roll, an Orange, Wineglasses and a Rose on a Wooden Tablebefore 1623

**better known for artistic craftsmanship than originality of titling.

Late Night Oddities Open Thread: Rainbow Bagel and the End of Days

Via commentor NotMax; once he’d violated my eyeballs with the Washington Post link, I had to try and dilute the horror by sharing it with you all. Per Roberto A. Ferdman, “The most controversial bagel in Brooklyn”;

It’s mid-afternoon, but the line still spills out the front door, snaking around the block, eating up the better part of the sidewalk, as it has since early that morning. There are young couples, clinging to each other in the cold. Mothers, standing patiently next to their anxious children. There are teenage girls, chatting in packs. And there are SLR cameras — so many SLR cameras.

“What are you all waiting for?” a passerby who lives in the neighborhood asks as she plucks an earphone out from one of her ears. She is looking at the crowd with amazement. “I see this line every day. It isn’t just for bagels, is it?”

“It’s the line for rainbow bagels!” a little girl yells…

The rainbow bagel, the brainchild of self-proclaimed “world premier bagel artist” Scott Rossillo, who has been making the brightly hued treat for almost two decades, is having a moment that many people in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, could do without.

For years, Williamsburg was the epicenter of cool for a specific kind of person. A thriving artist population, a liberal bend and a general disdain for popular culture birthed a haven for counterculturalism, a capital of hipsterdom that was defined, at least in part, by a high concentration of yoga studios, organic markets, vintage stores and artisanal coffee shops.

But time has transformed the neighborhood from the sort of place coveted by a select few to a destination for just about anyone visiting New York City. And that popularity hasn’t always jibed with local values. The tourism triggered a commercial flood: First came the Dunkin’ Donuts, then the Starbucks. A Whole Foods will be opening this year.

In many ways, the rise of the rainbow bagel perfectly encapsulates this tension, an unlikely but apt example of a proud neighborhood confronting the inevitable: change. The dye-infused treat, whose dough resembles Play-Doh more than it does something edible, is the antithesis of the organic-eating culture that courses through the veins of so many who live in the area.

It’s evidence of a uniquely modern form of gentrification…

It’s a good article, honestly (you should read the whole thing!) but I think it’s “uniquely modern” only insofar as it’s easier to fly in on a jet and snap a selfie than to travel by sail or animal-back to bring long stories home to your less cosmopolitan neighbors. The nuns in our high school taught us that a certain Mary from Magdala was a key figure in the New Testament because Magdala was the period equivalent of Las Vegas, an exciting resort destination for Roman bigwigs stranded in the Middle Eastern backwaters. A woman from Magdala would be used seeing the best entertainers and conjurers, the contemporary equivalent of Siegfried and Roy or David Copperfield; the support of someone so sophisticated was proof that Jesus wasn’t just another street preacher with a gift for sleight-of-hand. A few hundred years from now — assuming our species survives — no doubt there will be tourists at every aquatic gambling hall on Jupiter, sending sensograms back to their neighbors at home on the mundane rocks of the asteroid belt…

Open Thread: There’s Always A Market for Food Faddism

When the ancient appetite for hummingbird-tongue pie and pearls dissolved in vinegar filters through childhood memories of Captain Picard demanding “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”… From the NYTimes article:

Is it a juice-ordering app? Is it just another kitchen-counter contraption? Or is it a 111,000-square-foot food processing factory, staffed by dozens of hourly workers, washing and slicing up fruits and vegetables in Los Angeles?

It is all of these things. “It’s the most complicated business that I’ve ever funded,” said David Krane, a partner at GV, formerly Google Ventures. “It’s software. It’s consumer electronics. It’s produce and packaging.”

Many of the tycoons who inhabit Silicon Valley are obsessed with health and longevity while harboring the conviction that technology can improve anything, even one of nature’s most elementary foodstuffs — in this case, juice. And they believe that niche trends, if properly disrupted, can become billion-dollar markets. Juicero is the latest expression of these techno-utopian impulses…

The machine itself is a white plastic slab roughly the size of a food processor. To get some juice, you insert a pouch that resembles an IV bag and press a button. A couple of minutes later, a thin stream of vividly colored liquid squirts into a glass.

For health nuts willing to pay a premium, Juicero promises the platonic ideal of juice. Plus, the machine never needs to be cleaned.

But getting from farm to glass involves a daunting mix of hardware, code and food processing. The arrangement relies on a smartphone app, always-on Wi-Fi, QR codes, high-tech packaging and an army of workers slicing fruits and vegetables in very particular ways…

How long after it hits the market will it take for some tv comedian to bait C-list celebrities with a fake Juicero dispensing doses of V8?

For that matter, how long before Ronco comes out with a $19.95 ‘Youceroo’ that sits on your kitchen counter and dispenses V8, Welsh grape juice, or Motts from ‘convenient storage paks’?

Sort of Maybe a Bit Like Friday Recipe Exchange on Monday: Do NOT Try This at Home Edition!!!!!

Alton Brown has been tinkering again. He’s invented a way to make ice cream in under 10 seconds. The video is below. Whatever you do, do not try this at home!

Bon appetit! And open thread.