I have a neat little trick for pan-roasting garlic. . .
June 14 2003 at 5:52 AM
. . .which I've been enjoying for the last couple of weeks on everything from steak to burgers to my morning bowl of rice and black beans with warm red salsa.
For a small steak: Pan-sear the steak, turn down heat, allow to cook until slightly less than desired done-ness. Remove steak to plate and allow juices to return to meat. In the five minutes this takes, add one tsp. of butter or olive oil to the pan, deglaze with your favorite tannic red, and then while the juices simmer add 3 cloves of garlic intheirskins . Cover closely with the heat almost off- the same flame you'd use for a pot of rice. Let it simmer for five or six minutes. You will be able to smell garlic in the air when it is ready. Remove the garlic to a cutting board, pour the now garlic infused and reduced deglaze over your nice steak.
The garlic in addition to infusing the deglaze has also steamed inside its' own papery integument. Carefully pinch it at the stem end and the softened garlic will pop out the other. Chop and distribute over steak.
Very nice flavor. And it beats the trouble of peeling and mincing cloves to add to a saute. For someone like me who likes strong clear flavors and is also fundamentally rather lazy in the kitchen (especially after a stint in the restaurant business, which left me with a strong dislike of fussy cooking) not having to chop the garlic, and getting the better flavor of roasted garlic in the bargain, is very nice.
A stint in the restaurant biz? That's a tough life; late hours, no holidays off, you can't take sick days, cut or burn yourself and you wrap it and carry on. All the more reason to admire those who do it really well. All the best, R
It really is a dreadfully hard business. My first restaurant job was in the kitchen of an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet restaurant in Rhode Island that catered to busloads of tourists. Busloads . It had three levels and seated four hundred. I was in my senior year of high school and living by myself in a small motel room up the highway a mile or so. This place had two walk-in refrigerators; one for all the lobster, and the other for all the other food. I was the lobster cook. This entailed spending seven hours a night hoisting hundred pound crates of lobster onto the lip of an 80 gallon floor kettle with a boathook, dumping them in, and then pulling them out with a huge net on the end of a metal pole, setting them head to tail in buffet pans, and giving them to the runners to take down to the buffet. Sometimes for a break I'd do prep or line work, but my favorite job was working the grill downstairs next to the buffet. Strip steaks, swordfish steaks, and roast beef. You could have twenty or thirty steaks going on the grill at once, if it was busy. I got so I could tell how done a steak was by telepathy.
The place was owned by a guy who was supposedly a "family" guy, if you catch my drift, and it was mostly run by his daughter, a hard-bitten young lady in her early twenties who drove a white Camaro and dressed in painted-on jeans and gold lame high heeled sandals. She carried a little .25 cal. Berretta Jetfire in her jeans (though how she had room for anything in there is beyond me, they were so tight), and the guy who ran the shrimp shucking machine was supposed to have a job as a condition of his parole, but he drove a BMW R-1000 motorcycle, was missing two fingers, and supposedly worked as a bagman for some gentlemen who among other things ran betting on the jai alai games in Providence.
One hot August night we were all at the bar after closing (I was sixteen, but nobody cared, violating liquor laws was the least of what went on in that place) and two guys in ski masks with sawed-off shotguns came in and shot up the bar. Place was like the Wild Wild West.
Years later, when I was working the cold line in a French restaurant in midtown Manhattan, making little quenelles of ice cream and dribbling rasberry coulis around them, I used to think back on that place and wonder what happened to all those folks. It's a crazy business- I saw more champagne and cocaine working in high end restaurants in New York in the early eighties than in the movie Scarface . I don't know if the business makes you crazy or if you have to be crazy to be in it, but it's pretty colorful. I'm glad to be out of it though- I just don't have the stamina for that kind of life anymore.
I've never had the pleasure, although I have a pretty lifelong love of the unusual.
The only thing I've ever eaten that really put me off was a dish of seafood lo mein I shared with my dear departed mother about ten years ago. There was some gelatinous sea creature in it, cut up into quivering oblongs, with what looked like blue eyespots along the edges.
I tried vegetarianism around the same time- partially for health and partially for ethical reasons, as I'm always a little worried about eating meat, but I don't do very well without a little red meat at least once or twice a week, and we're eating an awful lot of it right now, because my mother in law keeps sending us packages from Omaha Steaks. Not that I'm complaining!
I remember when my wife and I were in Scotland seven years ago, I noticed that there were sheep on every hillside. The Scotts are, as most people who practice extensive animal husbandry, quite unsentimental about using their animals. After a quite delicious rack of lamb at one of the hotel restaurants, I observed to our driver/tour guide, who was an Englishwoman who'd been living in Edinburgh for twenty years, that I felt a bit sorry for the lamb. She raised an eyebrow, drank her last swallow of Burgundy, and said, "Well, yes my dear, but you know, they grow up to be such stupid sheep."
PS Incidentally, the food in Scotland was pretty terrific. Especially the seafood on the Atlantic coast. I had some sauteed diver scallops with the roe still attached that I can taste in my dreams. Loved Scotland. Would move there in a minute if I won the lottery.
I do have a rather helpless love of exotic/unusual foods. . .
June 18 2003, 7:10 PM
. . .though I must say I draw the line at insects and also at certain textures, which the sea-cucumber represents- although I have had jellyfish in sesame sauce and found it rather nice, at a wedding here in New York. Perhaps the quantity of rice wine I'd had beforehand helped ease its' passage, but for some reason it didn't bother me nearly as much as the sea cucumber.
Fugu I've had, and found rather anticlimactic- I suspect there was not enough of a residue of the famous tetrodotoxin in the fish to give me the storied fugu buzz. . .
I remember something M. F. K. Fisher once wrote:
"Unless I change very much, I shall never be able to eat a slug. . .slugs are slimy, slugs are creepy, slugs are something from the edge of nightmare."
"But I like snails. Most people like snails."
(from "An Alphabet for Gourmets" I think- the quote's from memory, but that's the gist of it. Indeed, why not a slug? We eat other molluscs with impunity. . .is there any reason why a garden slug should make one's stomach heave in rebellion? God knows, oysters are unsightly things.)
Lord Arran, it is nice to know that behind the eminent horologist, man of the world, and bon vivant beats the heart of someone who would dip little girl's pigtails in inkwells, if girls still wore pigtails and there were inkwells to dip them in. .
I could spin you some bloodcurdling tales of items used medicinally in traditional Chinese herbology, including the faeces of the rare cave dwelling Tibetan flying squirrel who practices repeated coprophagia during long winters. For those of you who don't have Lord Arran's facility with Latin, I invite you to look up the word "coprophagia" and then marvel at nature's rich tapestry of animal behavior.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled discussion of things that people in their right minds would actually want to eat.
Poor Tibetan flying squirrels, especially if there's nothing to eat in winter. Consitutents of the 'recycled' material are about 60-70% fiber, two or three percent protein, one percent bacteria, and the remainder is water. Fine if you can deal with the bacteria...
(Source of information: A rather interesting book called 'Merce' by Dr. Ralph Lewin, who holds a PhD in coprology or something similar )
I wonder if it's something to do with cleanliness?
June 20 2003, 12:54 AM
As far as I know, snails for consumption are starved for a few weeks before cooking to clean out their intestines of any possible bacteria that they might have picked up. I'm not sure how we could do that with slugs though, they'll probably just dry out...for certain I'm not going to try eating a slug raw any time soon like an oyster...
Jellyfish tends to be largely okay as it's slightly crunchy when cooked in most guises - something which sea cucumber is not. The rice wine can't have done any harm either
I think if they left any more of the fugu toxin in you might not be around to sue the restaraunt. It's a fine line between death and exctasy...I read somewhere (National Geographic, I think) that a single fugu contains enough poision to kill about two hundred men - the thrill is probably in the risk of eating and surviving rather than any actual chemical in the food. Probably best expressed by an 18th century Japanese epithet:
"Last night he and I ate fugu;
Today I help carry his coffin."
Fortunately licensing and quality control standards have improved sufficiently today that you're only likely to die eating fugu if you prepare it yourself at home