Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kitchen Tool?

or medieval torture device?

Bob del Grosso was kind enough to send me an email today asking me if I had any idea what this was...

The concept of which drove me nuts all day, as well as some chefs here. I was walking around campus all day with a picture of this "device" asking every chef, instructor, and stewarding personnel I could find if they had any idea what it was.

So far a general consensus of folks has been its one of three things:

A) A device used to open shellfish and mollusks

B) A device used in Ice Carving

C) A medieval torture device (You'd be surprised at how many times I head that throughout the day)

The one thing that leaves a lot of questioning is the clasp looking piece at the head of the handle.

Thanks to Tyrone B for finding this oddity in his kitchen aboard Mercy Ships and driving us land lovin cooks bonkers with it. Why suffer insanity alone when you can share huh Tyrone?

Heres a few more shots of the "Mystery Tool"..

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Best Mistakes

are the ones that net you newfound knowledge. Such is the case in finding Lisa Hamilton.

If you remember last week I posted a bit about Chris Cosentino Astor Center "Head to Tail" offal tasting dinner, and I snagged a picture from Michael Ruhlmans website that I thought was done by Michael Harlan Turkell. Turns out I was wrong.

Chris Cosentino was kind enough to email me quickly in reference to a correction, and sent me a link to her page.

I haven't had a chance to look at it in detail until this evening, and I suggest you give it a few moments of your time. Lisa Hamilton is not just a great photographer of things culinary, but also an author. She has written a few books, one of which I am very interested to get my hands on; "Farming to Create Heaven on Earth," explores the Japanese spiritual farming and food movement called Natural Agriculture."

You can tell that there is love and respect for food there, so go check it out!... besides she's got a great shot of tripe and pigs heads! who doesn't love that?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Like Ice Cream?

Better buy a beehive then.

In THIS article from CNN.com Haagen-Daz claims that the disappearing bee colony problem in America (Named the colony collapse disorder  or CCD) will have a direct and substantial effect on the products companies like them can produce.

This isn't a new subject, debate and study on why Bee colonies have been shrinking rapidly has been in the news for over a year now, but I think this is the first time were seeing a public company react directly to this issue.

Like dairy prices, Honey prices have also risen slightly over the last year as a result of issue. I've read articles claiming the source of the problem stems from everything from Global Warming and Air Pollution to Cell phone signals interfering with bees natural radar. Whatever the cause, hopefully we find out soon... cause I dont know about you but I cant live without my Chunky Monkey.

Friday, February 15, 2008

So What's Good...

So what's good about working in the food service industry on Valentines Day?

..Leftover Champagne. And not just any Champagne, Taittinger.

During the Winter, Spring, and Fall the Culinary Institute of America hosts numerous dining events (Called "Dining Series") and yesterday just happened to be a Champagne Tasting and Dinner.

Here's a brief copy of the menu:

Champagne Taittinger

2 1/2 Centuries of Tradition

Escoffier Restaurant

Thursday, February 14, 2008

~First Course~

Venison, Cherry Sausage, Lentil

and Pinot Noir Chocolate Sauce

NV Brut Prestige Rose

~Second Course~

Kobacha Squash Soup with Oyster

1998 Comtes de Chapagne Blanc de Blancs (En Magnum)

~Main Course~

Roast Duck Breast & Leg Confit and Port Wine Reduction,

Braised Cabbage with Cranberries, Morbier

2003 Comtes de Champagne Rose


Praline and Caramel Gateau

NV Nocturne Sec

After service was over we had a chance to taste all the Champagnes. I'm a big "Bubble Head" so I was excited to try them.

The Brut Prestige was mild with a bit of acidity that I could imagine would go very well with the fat of the sausage.

The Blanc de Blancs was very very good, have a mild acidity and very strong flavors.

The Comtes de Champagne Rose was the favorite of the majority of the guests, One gentleman I was serving said "It was almost neck and neck by itself with the Brut Prestige, until I tasted it with the Confit. The pairing put it over the top."

Now, being that I am a "Bubble Head" and having a sweet tooth I was excited to try the desert Champagne. Surprisingly, even as a Sec, the wine was not at all sweet, but more acidic. I remember hearing a lot of guests claim that the pairing with the Gateau was superb so I snuck a spoonful from a leftover plate and tried them together. The acidity of the wine helped cut the sweetness of the desert and even brought out the sweetness in the wine.

All in all, it was a good night to be a CIA Student.




The New Way to Fish...

..and its not that smart if you ask me.

In remote Jamaican valley, a grim redefinition of 'fishing'

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Offally Good

You have to give great credit to a chef like Chris Cosentino who has become famous for his work with Offal (Parts of animals usually discarded after slaughter IE Sweetbreads, Brains, ETC).

Turns out he's considered something of a guru on the stuff these days. So much so that he's hosting an Offal Tasting and Q&A session at the Astor Center in NYC.

At 250 dollars a pop the dinner doesn't come cheap, but the chance to get there and see this stuff used by talented hands is something one just cant say "Nah don't think I can make it" to.

If your in the NYC area and bored on the first Tuesday of March, I invite you to book it and enjoy it (Or squirm in your seat, either way its gonna be great.)

Chris Cosentino photo by Lisa Hamilton

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Hope These Guys Dont Work For You

I get some strange emails sometimes, but one with just a link to this:

Had to be shared.

Slow day in the kitchen fellas?

The Root of It All

I was visiting a fellow classmates room yesterday, catching up and making idle chat on an otherwise boring day when I spied a copy of Shel Silversteins' "Where the Sidewalk Ends" on her bookshelf.

Aghast that she actually had a copy (Mine I left with my son) I picked it up and began thumbing through it.

I have always loved his work but never paid much attention to the topics of which he so amusingly wrote. I began to notice the amount of food related poems in the book and in my head began to remember that many of his other books did have a number of food related poems or short stories as well.

I used to read "Where the Sidewalk Ends" cover to cover, over and over as a child and cant help but wonder if I somehow subconsciously convinced myself of my love of food.

I have adopted his Poem "Recipe: How to Make a Hippopotamus Sandwich" as my header as both a tribute to his work and to make the connection between my love for food and his fun works.

And now I will leave you with another of his pieces that had me smiling as I left my classmates room:

"Thanksgiving dinner's sad and thankless
Christmas dinner's dark and blue
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey's point of view.

Sunday dinner isn't sunny
Easter feasts are just bad luck
When you see it from the viewpoint
Of a chicken or a duck.

Oh how I once loved tuna salad
Pork and lobsters, lamb chops too
'Til I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner's point of view."

-- Shel Silverstein

Funny Video

What if we were made of chocolate?

Sugar Refinery Update

Sadly 6 employees of the Sugar Refinery that exploded yesterday were confirmed killed by the explosion. 2 are still missing and scores of others are badly injured.

They (investigators) suspect the explosion was set off by two factors:
-The sugar dust in the silos became to dry
-There was some kind of electrical charge (Possibly Static)

I've tried to do a little more reading on the subject today, and as Gary Allen was so kind to point out in response to the original post:

"Sugar is a fuel (remember that it contains 4 calories per gram... calories are a measure of stored energy). Any fuel, when mixed with the right amount of oxygen, can explode. Dust explosions, especially in flour mills, are an ever-present danger.

Conversely, if the oxygen/fuel ratio is not right, the fuel will just burn without exploding. That's why you can set liquid gasoline on fire -- but if there are gas fumes, lighting a match gets everyone's attention in a flash."

Im thumbing through that Sugar Refinery Manual I posted before just to try to get more info on the subject.

My heart goes out to the families effected by the tragedy.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Interesting News Story

Interesting news story came across the wire to me just now, thought Id share it.

A Sugar Factory in Georgia this evening was rocked by an explosion.

One of the most interesting quotes from the article:

"As far as we know, it was a sugar dust explosion," Imperial Sugar CEO John Sheptor said.

Wait a second, Sugar dust is explosive?!

Strangely enough it didn't take much digging to find this:

"Generally speaking for a sugar dust explosion to occur four conditions must be fulfilled simultaneously; (1) Significant oxygen must be present to support combustion (2) concentration of sugar dust must be within explosive limits (3) the ignition source must be hot enough to ignite the sugar dust cloud (4) The ignition source must release enough energy to ignite the sugar dust cloud."

Even more fascinating to me then that info is this little nugget of knowledge:

"..the values of ignition source temperature may vary between 350 and 850 (degrees Celsius)..."

That's 662 to 1562 Degrees Fahrenheit!!! That my friends is insanity.

I tried searching for what the exact explosive element is in sugar dust but have yet to find it.

Thankfully no one was killed (that's been reported) and there were a few injures.

For more info on sugar dust and its refinements check this out;

Handbook of Sugar Refining: The Manual for the Design and Operation of Sugar Refining Facilities

Monday, February 4, 2008

Neat Little Video

Pure insanity, In food form.

http://view.break.com/326501 - Watch more free videos

These guys are pounding out Mochi.

Thanks to Cha Xiu Boa for this one, man I love this guys taste.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Product Knowledge

When you work with food there are often times you come across foods you don't recognize, or in this case, foods you recognize but come to realize its not what you thought.

During prep for Family Meal the other day I came across a package that I thought contained Couscous but a closer look at the item itself and the package had me confused.

I decided not to use it that day, unsure of its true nature and tore off the label and placed it into my pocket.

Upon returning home I jumped on the Internet and did some searching. The label stated the product was really "Fregula Sarda" and what little I know about speaking foreign languages I realized Sarda had to be a descriptive. So away I went with searching Fregula

It didn't take long to find some information on the product. Turns out I wasn't too far off thinking it was Couscous. Fregula is actually considered "a tastier cousin to Couscous". After further searching I found the term Sarda refers to Sardinia, the second largest island off Italy.

Sardinia has a torrid love affair with the history of the Mediterranean. Home generations of sailors its no big surprise the island had been occupied by numerous Empires, Peoples, and Cultures. Its here we find where Fregula and Couscous have their connection. Its rumored that Couscous made its way from the Maghreb, The northern most tip of Africa containing such countries as Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Egypt.

The Mediterranean has been heavily influenced in its culture and foods from the spread of the Ottoman Empire. Spain, Italy, and even France have to submit that some of their culture comes from the spread of the enormous and influential Islamic Empire.

When Fregula arrived in Sardinia they faced the same problem that most products face when spreading across the world. Limited resource of the material used to make the original forces adaptation of the recipe to suit the region. Its then that Couscous became Fregula.

Still using Duram Flour like Couscous, Fregula uses Semolina flour. Semolina is the processed and ground Duram Wheat grain. Easier for them to obtain in Sardinia, Semolina is used in the process of making dried pastas.

These days Fregula is used in numerous applications, often a substitute for Couscous. Most famously used cooked in a Fumet , fish stock, with clams, muscles, and fish and served as a soup.

Treat Fregula almost the same way you would Couscous. The most basic preparation is done by dropping the pasta into boiling water or stock for 7-10 minutes.

For class we boiled it in stock for 10 minutes, removed it and spread it on a sheet tray and toasted it slightly in the oven to dry it out and add texture. We then prepared an assortment of beans, carrots, and fresh herbs. After the Fregula was dried out slightly, we heated butter in a saute pan, added the veg/herb mix then the Fregula. Sauteing it slightly to add color and flavor we presented it much like a pasta salad.

Take notice if you use Fregula you will need lots of salt. The pasta tends to soak up a lot of salt and pepper.

Friday, February 1, 2008

In-Humane Video

Many of you have probably already heard about or seen this but...

I just watched the video and have to say, its just plain cruel.

Normally I get on the defensive against all these "Humane" video's (IE all the Foie vids) but this one deserves its time in the sun.

So follow this link to the video.

Be forewarned it is very tough to watch, and very graphic.

But some items need to be taken note of:
-The company commiting these acts apparently supplies the meat to schools in some states, including Maryland.
-The company also supplies meat to elderly and needy programs
-They are using "Downed Cattle" for meat. These animals are either to sick, old, or weak to move.

Immediately after the release of the video Westland Meat Company posted this on their website.

What can you do to help?

-Go to the Humane Society of America web site and follow their links.
-Write to the USDA and ask them to focus on monitoring cattle yards more closely.
-Write to your elected officials in State and Federal Government and ask them to put pressure on the USDA to step up inspections and to investigate more thoroughly the companies that are signed contracts to feed our children.
-And most importantly be aware of where and who you are getting your meat from. The shorter the distance between the farm to your plate the better life will be. It’s harder for folks in more populated areas (IE New York City) to do so, so if this is the case buy from trustworthy vendors.

Things like this should never happen, but sadly it’s a reality the lax controls do cause occurrences such as this to happen. Step up, demand action be taken, and remember for all the BS anti-meat propaganda out there, there are some cases that need to be paid attention to.