Friday, May 30, 2008
Washington D.C. may be our nation's capital, but I can safely say that it's not a food capital. Not even close. That's all I have to say about that.
Regardless, SE 8th Ave is really cute and has lots of promising restaurants (though most end with the word "pub," indicative of at least two kinds of chili cheese fries on the menu) and Trattoria Alberto was pretty decent.
Our server told us the specials, and I immediately ordered the seafood linguine (I was already sad that there wasn't a seafood linguine on the menu, so I jumped at it as soon as the words died on her lips). It was a beautiful plate, I must admit - linguine in white wine sauce piled high with calamari rings (no doubt frozen), butterflied scampi, mussels (mmm...), a few overcooked scallops (retch), and the crowning jewel - half of a lobster.
Which brings me to my news article. Over 60,000 pounds of lobsters died today. That makes me doubly sad most of all because I have a very soft spot in my heart for the crustacean (following a tragic episode in my youth - but that's another blogpost), and also because that's SO many people in the United States who would have been eating the succulent little creature, but now won't be able to afford it. Since the loss, there's no doubt that the Market Price per pound is going to sky rocket.
So here's the article. If you want to feast on a hard-shelled crustacean, try blue crab instead. They're in season.
The Great Boston Lobster Fire
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The idea of a roast conjures images of Sunday evenings when a hunk of fragrant meat emerges from the oven in a transparent Pyrex dish, surrounded by potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery, then placed on the countertop to both rest the meat to retain the juices and to permeate the air with the smell of home, calling all to the table to feast. Once rested and sliced across the grain, the juices infuse the meat with rich and unique flavor.
Likewise, a one-pot meal in a Dutch oven cooked slowly over low to medium heat recalls images of the French paysanne (peasant) style of cooking, like the uber-traditional dishes coq au vin (rooster marinated in red wine with vegetables and served over egg noodles) or boeuf bourgignon (chunks of beef marinated in red wine and served with vegetables), both of which Alton Brown affectionately refers to as “big bowls of France.”. Every culture has its own one-dish braised meals,
These are two methods of tenderizing otherwise tough and/or gristly cuts of meat: the dry roast and the braise. Both have their merits, and both work in similar ways.
Dry roasting involves a large hunk of meat – a London broil, a large turkey/chicken, a rump roast of pork, or my favorite, a leg of lamb. The meat may be rubbed with spices or herbs before being subjected to the oven. Dried herbs usually work best because the delicate fresh herbs like basil, chervil, or parsley, when put in the oven, tend to burn easily and turn bitter. The exception to this is rosemary, which is stiffer and holds up better under the heat. The meat is then roasted without liquid for a generally long period of time, over an hour in most cases. The best recipes for this? Pork or brisket (see Mealtime in Melbourne for the address of Burrito Beach, where to find the best brisket burrito in the world), leg of lamb rubbed with garlic and rosemary, and Boston butt roast, studded with cloves and rubbed a paste of cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cumin, and coriander mixed with a little olive oil and S&P. The great thing about the dry roast is its versatility – not only can something be roasted in the oven, but a grill is also a great place for roasting, especially over smoke or charcoal to impart that woodsy, earthy, smoky flavor. The oven or grill is at a low temperature, breaking down the striated proteins in the meat and encouraging tenderization.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
A few things have sparked my interest in cheaper cuts of meat and the best ways to get bang for your few measly bucks.
1. My aunt and I had a discussion about skirt steak today. She regaled me with an anecdote about how she wanted to make authentic fajitas for Cinco De Mayo, which feature skirt steak as the meat component. The steak, she lamented, was “as tough as nails.” Understood. Skirt steak comes from a highly-exercised part of the cow, part of the underside, or “skirt” of the cow. Because of this, the muscle in skirt steak is lean and tight, making for a characteristically tough cut of beef (for a really cool diagram showing where each kind of steak comes from, check out the Beef Map from Alton Brown).
I had to agree with her. I usually won’t order skirt steak on a restaurant menu because it’s just so easy to end up with something so difficult to chew that you’d rather throw it in the blender and have a steak smoothie. However, recently my boyfriend and I ate at a relatively new and wonderful restaurant in
2. According to the December issue of Gourmet magazine, third-world countries will pay 90 percent more for food this year than last year. That, to me, is unfathomable. That would mean, in this country, that, if last year, a loaf of bread cost $2.39, this year we would pay $4.58. I can’t say that I don’t see that happening, with the impending wheat shortages coupled with the fact that the price of eggs has jumped 70% since this time last year. Everyone is trying to get more for their money, so it’s no wonder that Americans are going to be drawn to cheaper cuts of beef. Usually, however, this beef comes from the hindquarters or the shoulder section of the cow, which are generally the toughest pieces of meat. However, if you know how to prepare these cheaper cuts in the right way, they can yield a lot more than a 6-ounce filet mignon could ever promise.
Over the next four posts, I’ll talk about the four laws of tenderizing meat. Four things to be used either on their own or in combination to ensure that when working with chuck, round, brisket, skirt or flank steaks, the end result will be juicy, flavorful, and fork-tender.
Marinate: Like the skirt steak at Citrus, if you want to both tenderize and add mountains of flavor: marinate. I’m not just talking a ten-minute dip in the pool either. Hours, and hours of submersion in a slightly acidic liquid can unravel those muscle proteins and make for a tender steak. Try marinating flank and skirt steaks, though thinner (1-2 inch) slices of chuck or round will work as well.
Use this marinade for a little Asian kick:
1-2 cups low-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup sake
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sweet chili paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
Juice of two limes
Marinate a minimum of 6 hours, but preferably overnight to achieve the best tenderization and flavor absorption. Oh, and with this kind of marinade – for the love of all that’s holy – it’s summer: GRILL.