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Cookbook of the day – Asian Grills

 

Asian Grills

by Alexandra Greeley

Publisher Doubleday; 1st edition (April 1, 1993)

ISBN 10: 0385422121

ISBN 13: 978-0385422123

The book is a sleeper. Unassuming at first glance, this cookbook actually covers virtually all of Asia, including Indonesia/Bali, Malaysia, Singapore, the Treasure islands, Laos, Myanmar and, of course Thailand, Japan, India, China, Hong Kong and Korea. She even visits Macau and the Philipines, both usually left out of the discussion of Asian foods.

Grilling has always been an essential part of all of these cuisines and author Greeley surveys each area with a nice mix of dishes, not all of which are necessarily grills. she offers a personal perspective and knowledge of each culture and her thumbnail sketch of each area is valuable to those of us who will never visit.

She has a well-rounded glossary and she draws distinctions between similar ingredients in different countries, warning when substituting one for the other will dramatically change the character of the dish. She distinguishes between Singaporean and Malaysian Laksa, for instance, although she only gives the recipe for the former. It would have  been nice to have both recipes. Her Thai green curry seems reasonable (I haven’t made it) and I would have liked to see a red curry recipe as well. She has a red curry dish, a grilled duck recipe, but it uses a commercial red curry paste. Of course, Thai curries are usually used more in “stews/soups” type of preparations, but it’s nice to see it used for grilled dishes as well.

I’m anxious to try the Grilled Balinese Duck, a banana leaf wrapped smoky/spicy duck cooked directly on low coals for 8 – 10 hours.

I highly recommend seeking this book out, It will expand your horizons greatly and any of these dishes can be cooked on a decent sized kettle grill. Well-written and well-researched, this is an enjoyable survey of the world of Asian grilling.

Balinese grilled duck. Photo by Jean Marc D at Yelp.

http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/l2CuOXGfLMzNQ-mSf8ylKA?select=0Cc-isET5wNucxwMTGxWaA

Cookbook of the day – Lemongrass and Sweet Basil

Lemongrass and Sweet Basil

Lemongrass And Sweet Basil: Traditional Thai Cuisine

by Khamtane Signavong

This slender volume would make a good companion piece to my previously recommended book, True Thai by Victor Sodsook. True Thai didn’t have any photographs of dishes and this volume has copious photographs that will give the chef a good idea of plating, presentation and composition.

It’s not as in-depth as the previous book and I don’t recommend it as ones only Thai cookbook, but it does cover a lot of ground and is ideal for the beginning chef.

There’s a pretty good cross-section of recipes and a concise bit of background information. As I said, for me, the main utility is the number of photographs of the various dishes.

The author says that fresh chili pastes can last in the refrigerator for “up to three months”. I find this quite optimistic. My experience has been that you have about two weeks max before the chili paste starts turning.

That quibble aside, I recommend this volume to anyone just getting interested in Thai cuisine, or anyone who has taken my recommendation and bought True Thai.

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Photograph of Waterfall Beef Salad courtesy of:

King and I Thai Cuisine

West Des Moines, Iowa

Cookbook of the day – Baking with Julia

Baking with Julia

Baking with Julia : Based on the PBS Series Hosted by Julia Child

by Dorrie Greenspan

  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks; 1 edition (November 4, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688146570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688146573
  • This is the baking-specific companion to Master Chefs, the PBS cooking program hosted by Julia Child. The book itself was written by famed author Dorie Greenspan, with an introduction by Ms. Child and the participation of 22 famed bakers and chefs.

    The first part of the book is devoted to definitions and techniques that one needs to be a successful baker. The rest of the book features clear step-by-step instructions and tips on specific baked products, from Middle Eastern flatbreads like matzoh and pita to French artisan breads, Finnish crisps, and various desserts. It even includes instructions on making your own three-tiered wedding cake.

    This book is especially useful in clarifying issues one finds in baking, as well as offering many tips, hints and shortcuts. Each baker brings his or her own expertise along with the recipes that they bring to the table.

    If you are even remotely interested in baking, whether it’s creating the perfect pie crust, or learning how to make homemade croissants, this is a very worthy volume.

    Plus, you can never go wrong with Julia Child.

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    Top Chef Episode 7 – Umami yomami

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    Image courtesy of http://www.umamithefifthtaste.com/

    OK, chefs – how bizarre is it that nobody seems to know the definition of umami. “Earthy”? C’mon, Eli (hey, that’s almost a song). “It’s not salty, it’s not spicy, it’s not sweet, it’s not sour – it’s…umami”. Bzzzzt! Sorry Mikey, almost doesn’t cut it. Our judges would have accepted “savory” or even just “yummy”, plus, it’s bitter, not spicy as one of the 5 basic tastes since you’re Greek, not Asian. You lose 500 points. But everyone seems to know that mushrooms are one of the classic umami producers (hence Eli’s apparent conflating earthy with savory – sometimes they happen to intersect if you use fuzzy logic, I suppose).

    Tyler Florence is approaching Florentine proportions – hey dude, time to lay off the butter sauces.

    Poor Jen is under the weather. Slamming doors, looking baleful, puttin’ on the ole game face in the QF.

    Slot machine! Didn’t see that one coming.

    Mike Isabella proceeds to list off every type of cuisine that he’s cooked, which is most of the famous cooking styles, adding “I’ve never really cooked Asian food before”. Dude, how do you not have cooked Asian food before? Really? Icelandic I can see. Asian? Not so much. And Kevin, same thing. How does a modern chef not have any experience with Asian?

    Ashley used sumac for her Middle Eastern dish! You go girlfriend! Sumac is one of my favorite little-known spices (at least little known by many Americans). Glad to see someone make a culinary connection on the fly.

    So Mike, even though he can’t define it, does a good job with his umami, while Eli killed the umami…but let’s not confused that with “He killed”. He didn’t. And Kevin pulls through cooking something that he’s not familiar with (so he says, at least).

    So we get the Macy’s Desert Day Parade of Chefs. The chefs, all loving that they got a free trip to Vegas, are holding bags of ingredients for a family style pot luck dinner under the desert sky.

    And it turns out that Isabella is even more of a dickwad than he’s previously indicated. Not only does he take charge of a cuisine that he knows nothing about, he sulks and pouts and is just generally creepy. No way is this guy going to go all the way. And the elves are cutting it so that it looks like he and Robin will be on the chopping block (I’m typing this in real time with the help of DVR pause). there are two ways that this could go – Robin could go home because she didn’t stand up to him, or Mike could go home for being a prick. The former is more likely, but equally likely is that he accidentally lets her help enough to save his and his team’s butt. Hell, he didn’t have a clue about any of the ingredients (a bag that would have made me jump up and down for joy – it’s umami heaven!

    Enter Tom. “Prawns over gnocchi”? I had the same quizzical expression on my face that he had. Just what I want, take a prawn and scoop some gnocchi with it. Huh?

    Oh Mike, did you just hang yourself with Tom? I think he’s got your number. That won’t save Robin if she wilts under his “I can cook and I’ll pull it out” attitude. Of course, the fact that it ‘smells good” is an encouraging sign. Wouldn’t it be choice if they happened to be on top and he chose Robin as the winner because of something that she did? Hee.

    “Ever prepped over a glass table before”? I was hoping that Ash would say, “Well, I’ve chopped some coke on one before”. Sadly, that doesn’t happen.

    Cooking, cooking, bitching, real estate grabbing, fuses blowing (literally and figuratively), chopping, kvetching.

    Turns out that Mike and Robin pulled out the one scenario that I didn’t outline. Middle of the pack.

    The winners were obvious, the losers were too. Jennifer wins by some sick cooking (literally). Some nice attributions from fellow cheftestants.

    Brother gets testy when discussing his brother’s predicament. Testy is as testy does.

    Ash takes the high road, which wins him some style points. Ashley also takes the high road, which doesn’t win her anything at all.

    In fact, Ashley gets the axe.

    Ashley, take your Mr. Ripley good looks and go.

    Ashley

     

    Gourmet Magazine murdered by sociopathic economy

    torontostar

    68 year old magazine Gourmet has been killed by a mortibund economy, Toronto Star newspaper reports:

    Condé Nast shuts down Gourmet magazine

    Oct 05, 2009 05:37 PM

    Amy Pataki
     
    “Gourmet, the culinary compass of adventurous North American home cooks for almost 70 years, is folding.

    Condé Nast Publications announced Monday it is closing down Gourmet along with three other money-losing titles, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and parenting magazine Cookie. Declining ad revenue is to blame.

    Gourmet has a million or so subscribers. The November issue will be its last”.

    Read the rest of the article here:

     

    http://www.thestar.com/living/food/article/705660

    gourmet

    Gourmet, we hardly even knew ye.

    And speaking of ketchup

    viet world kitchen

    Andrea Nguyen has borrowed a spicy, Asian-styled ketchup recipe and shared it with us.

    September 03, 2009

    Spicy Umami Ketchup Recipe

    I’ve been on a condiment jag lately, if you haven’t noticed. With Labor Day weekend coming up, I’ve been dreaming of the summer’s last official barbecue – hamburgers. I love hamburgers and when we were kids, my mom would sometimes fry up burgers in a cast iron skillet and we’d gobble them up on Sunday mornings after church. To me, homemade burgers were nearly as good as homemade beef pho noodle soup. It’s no coincidence that both are ‘have it your way’ kinds of foods.

    Like Vietnamese pho and banh mi sandwiches, I like to personalize my hamburgers, dressing it with carefully layered accoutrements before taking my first bite. On the bottom half of the bun, lots of rich mayonnaise touching both sides of the sliced tomato. On the top half of the bun, the tomato ketchup should flavor the meat, onion and cheese with its tangy, salty, heady edge. Ketchup punctuates a hamburger with brightness.

    I’ve tackled homemade mayonnaise, Vietnamese chile garlic sauce, and Thai-style Sriracha sauce but I didn’t think of making ketchup myself until I noticed Saveur magazine’s umami ketchup recipe in the September 2009 issue.  The fanciful ketchup recipe comes from the popular Umami Burger restaurant in Los Angeles. What made it umami? For one, ripe tomatoes are extremely umami laden, and the restaurant includes oyster sauce, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovies for extra savory depth.  The use of salty, briny ingredients in the recipe reminded me of traditional Vietnamese tomato sauces employed to nap fried whole fish, tofu and the like. In fact, in Rick Stein’s travel show on Vietnam, he makes that kind of sauce, seasoning it with fish sauce for savoriness. Stein uses fish sauce just like a Vietnamese cook would. Ketchup’s East-West connection got me to thinking and researching.

    Read the rest of the post here:

    http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2009/09/spicy-umami-ketchup-recipe.html

    Umami ketchup

    Image courtesy of http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/ and Andrea Nguyen

    Thailand on this weeks “No Reservations”

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    Regular readers of this blog know how enamored I am with the cuisine of Thailand. So I am happy to point out that the newest episode of Anthony Bourdain’s great show, No Reservations, takes place in Thailand.

    I can’t wait to experience Tony’s descriptions of the distinct flavor and texture profiles of this great and noble cuisine. And I’m sure there are going to be some passing references to debauchery and decadence as well.

    I suggest that just before you watch the show, that you dust off a copy of Alex Chilton’s song Bangkok and listen to it at maximum volume.

    This makes me very happy indeed.

    The show airs on The Travel Channel at 9pm CDT Monday night.

    Be there. Aloha.

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    http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Anthony_Bourdain

    http://anthony-bourdain-blog.travelchannel.com/

    Cookbook of the day – The Great Curries of India

    Great curries of India

    Great Curries of India

    by Camellia Panjabi

    Publisher  Simon & Schuster
     ISBN 10: 0684803836

    ISBN 13: 978-0684803838

    This book reminds us that Indian cooking is as regional as our own American cuisine is. Sometimes we forget that India is a subcontinent, as large as Western Europe with twice the number of people.  There is no common language and while the climate of India is considered tropical, it also has deserts and mountainous regions. The varied climate and topography of India influences the various regional variations of Indian cuisine and this book takes pains to underscore that point.

    Ms. Panjabi spends a lot of time on the various ingredients that you need to create authentic Indian flavors and this lavishly illustrated volume picks 50 well-chosen dishes, some obvious and some not-so-obvious.

    You’ll learn a bit about the culture and history of India as you learn to build the flavor profiles important to Indian cooking. She starts you off with the simplest curry and then branches off into more exotic and complex dishes. That’s a good approach – I wish that more cookbooks employed this tactic.

    I highly recommend this book.

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    Lamb cooked in milk.

    My foolproof way of cooking basmati rice

    When I watch Top Chef, I’m amazed how many times rice is the downfall of a cheftestant.

    I rarely have to cook mass quantities of rice, so it’s possible that it’s more difficult to cook rice for 10 or more people. But if you have to cook rice for less than 10 people, rice isn’t all that difficult, especially with basmati, my favorite rice (jasmine rice, a close cousin, is a close second).

    First of all, for basmati, it’s very important to rinse well. You need to get rid of a little of the starch that’s on the outside, plus, occasionally you’ll find small grit and tiny stones that have to be eliminated. You need to rinse 4 or 5 times, or until the rinse water is clear and not cloudy.

    I usually don’t measure, but most people think that a cup of cooked rice per person works pretty well. That’s about a half cup of raw rice.

    The traditional ratio of rice to water is 2 parts water to 1 part rice. But I don’t worry about measuring. Here’s my trick, as taught to me by an accomplished Indian cook – add the rinsed rice to a pot and add enough water to be one inch above the rice.

    I add some salt and ghee (although you can certainly use butter or vegetable oil – for an even more exotic flavor, you can add a dash of light colored sesame oil as well, but only a couple of dashes, because it’s quite strong in flavor). You put it on high heat and bring to a roiling boil. As soon as it hits the roiling boil, immediately turn down the heat to a simmer and cover.

    Don’t peek until you get to the 12 minute mark. If you have a small amount of rice (say for 2 or 4 people), the rice will just about be finished. You’ll probably need to cook for another couple of minutes. How do you tell if it’s done? There will be steam holes on the top when it’s close. Take a chopstick and carefully open up the middle of the rice and expose the bottom. If there’s still a little water in the bottom, you’ll need to cover and continue to cook for at least 2 more minutes. Never stir the rice. This will make it gummy. Check again after 2 minutes. If all of the water has evaporated, you’re done! If not, cover and check every minute.

    If you are cooking larger amounts, you’ll probably have to cook a little longer. You still want to check at the 12 minute mark just to see how close you are. You’ll basically be judging by the amount of water left in the bottom. After you cook a few batches, you’ll get a feel for how long it will take to evaporate the remaining water.

    I like to leave just a tiny amount of water in the bottom, cover and remove from the heat. The rice will continue to cook off the remaining water even when it’s off of the heat if you keep it covered. If you do this, you won’t risk scorching the bottom of the rice.

    When serving, take a large spoon and scoop it out, trying not to disturb it too much. It should be light and fluffy without having to “fluff it up” with a fork as is sometimes suggested.

    If you follow these instructions, you’ll never have a problem with basmati rice.

    Cookbook of the day – Dr. BBQ’s Big Time Barbecue Cookbook

    Dr. BBQ

    Dr. BBQ’sBig-Time Barbecue Cookbook: A Real Barbecue ChamQpion Brings the Tasty Recipes and Juicy Stories of the Barbecue Circuit to Your Backyard

    by Ray Lampe

    Publisher St. Martin’s Griffin (April 14, 2005)  

    ISBN 10: 0312339798

    ISBN 13: 978-0312339791

    If the hyperbole and chest thumping of Paul Kirk (The Baron of BBQ) turns you off, but you’d still like some “inside information” about barbecue competitions, as well as some great rubs, marinades and smoking procedures, this is the book for you.

    Modestly priced, this book offers a lot of practical advice and information about the different regional and local varieties. there are name checks on famous BBQ “joints” and plenty of pics of barbecue culture that inform the novice.

    I do disagree with him about cooking pork butts and shoulders though. Now, keep in mind that I don’t cook for competition but for flavor and goodness. First of all, I have found that there’s little difference between cooking a big shoulder or butt at 350° for the first 4 hours and keeping the temperature at the BBQ approved 225º – 250º. You see, it’s still going to take at least 1 1/2 – 2 hours per pound for most butts and, because I use a rub with a lot of sugar content, my bark (the crunchy outside “skin”) is going to be black, whether I cook it totally “low and slow” or if I let the temperature go higher for the first part. This is due to the extreme muscle mass of the cut. This mass keeps you from “overcooking” it and making it tough. Keep in mind that it’s going to take you 8 – 14 hours to cook it. As long as you limit the really high temps to the first 4 hours or so, you’ll be fine, as long as you don’t mind a black bark. To me, the black bark adds to the flavor. Also, Lampe removes the fat cap before “pulling” the pork (pulling by shredding it, not pulling it from the smoker). To me, incorporating the fat cap into the pulled pork only adds to the flavor. If you’ve cooked it to 195° or higher, the fat cap will become gelatinous and will actually “melt” into the final product. It keeps it very moist and tasty.

    If cooking it at an initial higher temperature doesn’t speed up the process all that much, why do it? Well, I do my smoking in a 22″ Weber kettle. It takes a lot of fiddling to get the temp down to 225°, and you waste a lot of fuel. What I do is get a good honkin’ fire going and put the rubbed butt or shoulder on directly out of the fridge. I can then ignore it for at least 3 hours, because the temperature will stay at at 350° for an hour and a half and will start to drop to about 200° for the next hour and a half. At that point, I’ll get the fire blazing again and start all over again. By the four and a half hour mark, the temp will have dropped again down to about 250°. At this point, I’ll let it go to 225° and keep it pretty close to that. for those who have bigger rigs or smokers with sideboxes where you can add wood without opening the cover, it’s easier for them to maintain a constant temperature. But with a kettle, you have to remove the lid, which makes the temperature instantly drop. Having done some “scientific” experiments taking temperatures of both the air and the meat, charting the results, I’ve come to the conclusion that the higher temps don’t hurt the pork one bit as long as you take the pork directly from the fridge and you limit the higher temps to the first 4 or 5 hours.. My pork is every bit as savory as pork cooked at a constant 225° – 250°.

    Other than those quibbles (and admittedly they might not apply if you’re trying to win a BBQ competition), I highly recommend this book.

    Here are a few photos of my own “Memphis-style” pulled pork:

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    BBQ1

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    And the fat cap in all of its mostly rendered glory:

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