"What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." J. Danforth Quayle

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Love When My Daughters Cook

I love when my daughters cook. Their is a sense of wonderment and joy when my daughters and I cook together. When I first taught them how to "push dough" the end result seemed to taste better. When they first started to take interest in making sauces, and dressings, and pizza topping and pies it has been consistently lovely.

I still cherish Ellie's First Recipe written years ago:

Radshe Olabey   

1 cup radshe
1/2 cup cheese
1 teaspoon Spice pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chile pepper
1/2 cup bell pepper
1 cup time
Put the radshes in a boll. Then grate some cheese. Then put the cheese in the boll. Put some pepper in the boll. Sprinkle salt in the boll. Cut both peppers and put them in the boll. Pick the leaves off the time, Cook for 2 minutes. If it's not hot enough when 2 is up put it in again for four minutes. When done and hot leave to cool somewhere. Enjoy!

Elanor Harris

Heh! Never we did get around to trying it.

As much as I love cooking with my children there is a very special thrill when they cook for me. Last Sunday, Ellie decided that she was going to make dinner for all of us. She found the concept and recipes she wanted online. She made just about everything from scratch. She made stuffed mushrooms which had a delightful flavor of both garlic and Parmesan cheese. 

She made her own meatballs. This was the only area in which we intervened.  Ellie's recipe called for ground sirloin, but we thought that ground chuck was a better choice. The meatballs were made and cooked off in a pan as directed, despite a different option presented (I am on Ellie's side).

When it came to the sauce Ellie chose canned whole tomatoes. She crushed them in her hands as necessary to achieve the consistency she desired. She seasoned them and even chose to modify the seasonings by introducing fresh herbs from our garden. 

She also made choux paste, and turned that into eclairs and cream puffs.

The result was delicious.

Probably would have been more so if I wasn't tasting them as leftovers. An event that I was attending ran way long, and it was past time to eat when I got home. 

I am still horribly proud of her!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Life's Too Short To Eat Bad Pizza

There's a pizza place near where I live that sells only slices. In the back, you can see a guy tossing a triangle in the air. - Steven Wright
Restaurant reviews are not my purview, but one area that I wish received more attention is the subject of take-out food - specifically takeout pizza. We ordered one last night for dinner, in part to celebrate the end of the Passover, in part because Nickle City Chef was that afternoon. Sometimes i like to watch other people cook. The result was unforgettable, which is not good because I wish I could forget it.

I have issues with the way restaurant reviews are handled by some. I have personal reasons that I don't do them myself. Therefore, I have no reason to share with you that the crust was bland, the tomato flavor nonexistent, the basil niggardly in its application, and the wings with that spongiform texture only developed by an extra long stay in the freezer.

But none of those problems alone would've kept me from giving this restaurant/pizzeria at least one more try. What did was the fact that I had to turn on the oven before even trying the pizza.

I know that takeout pizza is never going to be as good as pizza eaten in a restaurant. What may be a shatteringly crisp crust is sure to suffer from being transported. However it seems to me that the combination of oven temperature and holding temperature should be sufficient to transport it home without the necessity of immediate reheating.

It is no surprise that the pie from our current nearby favorite is always warm when we bring it home - it's less than three miles from here. Sometimes we miss the pies from the previous occupant of that premises and bring it in from another location just over ten miles away. It's still warm. Our favorite pie is over six miles away. Warm. The fact that this particular pizzeria could not maintain the pie at a temperature sufficient for it to stay warm after a mere four and a half miles is simply unacceptable.

Better than Pizza from a vending machine, I'd guess, but more disappointing.

Oh, for those who need ratings I'll give it two dingleberries.

ETA: Just opened the mail - there was a coupon for them.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Dyng

One side-effect of the abnormally warm spring is that the pussy willows have already come and gone. This puts a giant crimp in the plans of those who look forward to celebrating Dyngus Day, an obscure holiday of Eastern European (pagan) origins. Virtually unknown in most of the civilized world, it has grabbed a foothold right here in Western New York. In a manner similar to other holidays celebrated locally - St. Patrick's Day, Columbus Day, Tuesday - it is often used as an excuse to drink copious amounts of Labatt's Blue.

It seemingly involves dousing an unsuspecting female victim with water, and striking them with pussy willows (And virgins. Virgins are always somehow involved in such antics). With the pussy willows fuzzing so early local Dyngus Masters, or Dyngies, urged participants to gather their hirsute wands early, lest they be forced into the use of a prosthetic Dyngus.

So, let the word go out that Buffalo isn't just about losing Super Bowls and Buffalo Style (insert your substance here). We can also talk proud of our saturnalia of waterboarding, ritual flagellation, and virgins. Lots of virgins.

Pass the Blue . . .

4/9 - Edited for timlinesss

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stock vs. Broth: The Final Answer

Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle.

A single question has long occupied center stage in the culinary world: what is the difference between a stock and a broth and a bouillon?

Does it have bones or just meat. Strained or clarified or nothing at all. The liquid leftover as a result of cooking. A pristine fluid resulting from the painstaking simmering of expensive ingredients or the odds and ends that are the residue of cookery.

What does Escoffier say? Or McGee. Can it come from a can or box. What about pastes or cubes.

I, Scott D. Harris, have undertaken to find a definitive answer by a painstaking analysis of the reference material available in my library. The graphic below really is a link to the data resulting from that meticulous research, together with citations to the source material.

Now, as a result of my punctilious analysis, let me, Scott D. Harris, at last put this debate to rest at once and for all in simple, yet authoritative terms:

Shut the FRAK up and cook!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Why I Don't Do WNY Restaurant Week

What a great idea. A celebration our wonderful local restaurant community. A chance to taste offerings from some of our finest local cooks. A fixed price based on the year - how cute. This seems such a perfect way to introduce people to parts of the local food scene they might not otherwise sample.

I do not partake.

I do my best to support an promote all aspects of the local culinary milieu. Good friends, good cooks, man the stoves at local restaurants. I was once a restaurant cook.  This does not work for me.

I don't like crowds or crowded situations.  The one and only time I attended Allentown,I freaked so bad that a dear friend hustled me to the privacy of a bar - The Cathode Ray. (Luckily he was there to protect my virtue. Don't even think of coming into my kitchen while at work*. I have been know to walk away from crowded eatery.

Thus I tend to schedule my visits to restaurants at off peek hours. During LRW there is no such thing.

A corollary is that I want the kitchen to be on its game when I am there. I want the wait staff, bartenders and bus boy at their best. A true test of any restaurant is how they handle getting slammed, but this is an artificial "slam" and the dividing line between "rock n' roll" and  "in the weeds" is razor thin.

The price is also an issue. $20.12 prix fixe sounds like a good deal, but for four with simple beverage and gratuity costs you are talking $120 for a family of four. And the menu is usually limited.

Underneath all of this is a foreboding feeling that this exercise is counterproductive . I hear annually of people who had a great time, often despite the heavy traffic. I wonder how many more went and were disappointed. The restaurant not only loses their custom, but that of those they may speak to.

So I celebrate LRW as I have in the past - shopping at local merchants, food and otherwise, and continuing to stand on the sidelines cheering for our restaurants.

*A restaurant kitchen is different, the cooks dancing a delicate ballet, talking to each other and knowing what they will do.