Friday Update: Where In The Blogosphere is PhillyFoodie85 (or When The Chips Are Down)?

It’s been sixteen days since my last post, which, yes, goes against my promise for more frequent posts, but I don’t like to rush my work.

It’s been a pretty interesting week for me. After being put off for a week, I started my city’s COOK Master’s program (http://audreyclairecook.com/cook-masters-program), which is now catering to food writers looking for work along with chefs and cooks doing the same. I met more food bloggers looking to hit the big time than actual cooks, so, for the first time since my creative writing class in high school, I felt at ease at where I was.

The food writing lesson was good, in that it inspired me to always look for new ways to approach my food essays so it doesn’t feel like I’m in a grind (and not a good one, like for coffee and pepper) and to always edit, revise, build vocabulary, never stop learning, and even go out on a limb and make the news as well as report it (meaning that, if I stage at a restaurant or work at a farmer’s market, then I can report on it here). The speakers (Rick Nichols and Drew Lazor of Foobooz) didn’t exactly touch on where I can submit my work, but, hey, that’s why the Internet was made.

Tuesday the 21st’s Health and Nutrition class was canceled and rescheduled for February 25th after a heavy snowstorm plowed through the East Coast, a lesson learned when I arrived in Center City and was buffeted with snow for at least an hour until the program managers told me that there was no need for me to be here since the class was canceled. And it’s not like I was notified earlier about it and went blindly into the winter white. The program managers don’t get in until 11:15 am and, despite claims that they called me to inform me of this on my cell phone number, I didn’t get the message (it did, however, go to my home number). It was all a case of crossed wires and I can’t really blame anyone (except for myself, who should have taken the hint that there would be no class when the snow started to get heavy). This coming Monday and Tuesday, I have Butchery and Wine 101, and the weather isn’t going to be too bad, so I’m pumped and studying all I can.

The rest of the week was pretty much drafting and devising new ideas for this blog, as well as aimless Internet surfing, which brought me to this contest:

https://www.dousaflavor.com/#!/

Lays Potato Chips started this two years ago, where lucky contestants get to enter in what new potato chip flavor they want to see. The finalists last time were Sriracha (a spicy, Asian, ketchup-like sauce that seems to be all the rage with hipsters, geeks, and white kids who want to be Asian. I didn’t taste this nor did I see it at any of the markets where I live), Chicken and Waffles (I did see this, and taste it. The combination of maple syrup and potatoes made up for the fact that I couldn’t taste the chicken), and Cheesy Garlic Bread (I saw this one too and tasted it. I was disappointed that I couldn’t identify the garlic nor the cheese taste. And this one won, which was more disappointing, given how good the chicken and waffles chips were and the potential of sriracha-flavored chips).

Now, you’re probably wondering, “PhillyFoodie [or Canais], why didn’t you enter the contest? You must have a lot of flavor ideas and combos whirling in your head from your two years as a Job Corps culinary student and your time in California, where you pretty much ate from organic gardens, professional kitchens, community kitchens, and farmers’ markets, and one could net you $1 million and some minor fame.” I did think about entering when the contest was fresh and new, but I was too busy. Now that I’m not, I’ve been pouring through The Flavor Bible and devising ideas.

My best ones so far include: Caprese (Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella), Philly Cheesesteak, Chili Cheese Fries, Parmesan and Walnut, Apple Cheddar (with and without bacon), Mac and Cheese (as a promise to my sister), and, my original idea, General Tso’s Chicken. I’m sure I have more, but I forgot.

Next time, I’ll touch on how to reinvent your kitchen into something more professional.

Good night, and happy eating!

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Avenue BBQ, part two: Crock(Pot) and Roll

Last time on Take Back the Kitchen, we looked at the history of barbecue and some regional differences. Today, we’re going to look at how you can have a barbecue in your own house if you don’t have a barbecue grill, if the weather is too damp or cold to cook outdoors, or if you’d rather not like your meat burnt from charcoal or gas flames.

The best crockpots are the ones for today’s busy idiot (no disrespect to anyone who’s busy or an idiot. It’s just that, in this quick-fix world we live in now, that’s the only way I can describe people who are slaves to wanting things done easy rather than putting a little effort behind a task, and that kind of mentality knows no skin color, ethnic group, religious preference, sexual orientation, body size, gender, or physical/mental disability) — the kind where you can set your ingredients in there and let it cook low and slow until tender (usually anywhere from 3 to 8 hours, depending on how tough your cut of meat is and what you’re cooking). Crockpots are what pressure cookers were back when they were first in vogue (I’m going to assume the 1950s. While pressure cookers are still around, they’re not as popular as they used to be…unless you’re a terrorist or have an old pressure cooker your grandmother or mom used to use and you want to keep up tradition): a big pot people can use to make thick,stews (especially beef stews), boiled dinners, and pot roasts and not have to worry about getting actively involved with what’s being cooked. Basically, it has the same emotional arc as a drama about a parent who abandoned his or her kid(s) in the past and is trying to get back in the child(ren’s)’s life (lives): starts out cold, but warms up very slowly, and you can expect a lot of boiling and steam.

Much like Kleenex, Chapstick, and Kool-Aid, “Crockpot” (actually spelled “Crock-Pot”) is actually a brand name that has come to generically describe the product. Crock-Pot’s claim is that it’s the original and everything else is a pale imitation, and I applaud them for taking pride in their work, but for those who don’t have the money for an authentic crockpot go for brands like Hamilton Beach (which is said to have a lot of good products that won’t put a hole in your wallet).

But let’s save the kitchen appliance chatter for a later day. We’re here to talk about crockpot barbecueing.

Crockpot-barbecuing meat is no different than braising (in fact, it’s a close relative of it). Both cooking techniques involve tough or large cuts of meat being cooked in a liquid (in this case, a thin, Carolina-style barbecue sauce, but you can use a less thick, Kansas City-style barbecue sauce if you’re making pulled pork for a pulled pork sandwich) after being browned for color and flavor, either in a brazier (a specialty pot used specifically for braising), a saucepot, a Dutch oven pot (if you’re not serving large groups of people), or a crockpot. The main difference between crockpot barbecueing and grilling is that there’s no fear of your meat coming out dry and burnt, since you’re utilizing a moist-cooking technique.

Slow cooking — be it with crockpot, brazier, or Dutch oven — touches on that want for warm, filling meals, especially in the winter months when no onereally cares about their waistline expanding. While others will tell you you can use a crockpot any time of the year (say, if you want to make chili for a summer barbecue), it’s the winter months in which slow cooking shines. Does beef stew appeal to you more when its ten below or 75 degrees and balmy?

With that, I’d like to introduce you to my family’s beef stew recipe:

Young Family Beef Stew

Ingredients

2 pounds beef stew meat (cut into bite-sized pieces)
½ cup stewed tomatoes or 1 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, sliced
2 cups baby carrots
4-5 small potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup water
Whisper of cayenne
Pinch of garlic powder (or ¼ minced garlic)

Optional ingedients for this include peas, beans, bacon, mushrooms (white button), and frozen mixed vegetables (my mom uses canned and frozen vegetables because they cook faster and she doesn’t like to futz around with fresh vegetables, e. For a barbecued beef stew, we use either a bottled barbecue sauce or make a quick version using ½ cup tomato paste (or ketchup), ¼ cup brown sugar, few squirts of Louisiana hot sauce, some cayenne, and molasses to taste.

Always remember that the times listed are just suggestions, depending on what you use for slow-cooking. You may need more time; you may need less. I’m going by how my family makes this.

Instructions

  1. Combine beef, celery, carrots, onion, potatoes, salt,  pepper, and stewed tomatoes in a crock pot (my family uses a six quart, since that’s enough to feed the four of us and have leftovers for the next few days).
  2. Cook on low for  6-7 hours, eight at the most.
  3. About 30 minutes before serving, add water and seasonings. For a thicker stew, add ¼ cup of flour and enough vegetable oil to make a roux out of it. The roux is ready if it tastes more oily than floury.
  4. Mix until well-combined and let simmer for another 30 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately.

I also find that this tastes great when put in a hoagie roll and eaten as a bastardized version of a roast beef au jus sandwich. You really should try it this way.

Happy holidays and happy eating.