Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thought for the Day

Some mornings it's just not worth gnawing through the leather straps.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Quote of the Day

"People are more violently opposed to fur than to leather because it's easier to harass rich women than it is motorcycle gangs."

- Bumper Sticker

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Come Back

Shane Bobgrrl, Come Back!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Musical Geography Question of the Day

If your car's got an overdrive that just won't stall, what mountain pass are you crossing?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bullet the Blue Sky

No, not the U2 song.

If you like Bourbon & Coke, I highly recommend this combination instead: Bulleit Bourbon and Blue Sky Natural Cola. Mmmmmmmm...........

Friday, February 16, 2007

Learning Curve

There's a new Barbecue joint in town, it's called the Howling Coyote. That brings to 5 the places I know of in Eugene that make real pit smoked barbecue -- three sit-downs (Howling Coyote, Hole in the Wall, and Papa's Soul Food Kitchen) and two walk-ups (Tony's and this place I saw in passing this week but didn't catch the name of). We've tried three of them: Hole in the Wall is ok, but it's way overpriced and it's a bit on the dry side. Tony's kicks serious smoky ass. H.C. is good food, but the service is lacklustre (I'm surprised to realize that, while I'm committed to being the best chef I can be some day, when I'm a customer, I'm more critical of poor service than of disappointing food), and the meat portions are small for what you pay. Papa's Soul Food Kitchen has an awesome reputation, but so far it's always been closed or SRO when TFR and I have wanted to go. Crowds and a 2-year-old do no mix well. The last place is a mystery.
We ate at H.C. tonight -- TFR had been there, I had not. The food was good -- the Brisket was moist and tender, though the smoke ring was a might thin for my taste, and given that I paid $9.00 for a platter that was served on plastic, I expected a little more than the 4 oz. or so of it I got. TFR's ribs were good -- I'd argue that my Brisket beats theirs, but their ribs beat mine, especially if you like dry style.
But here was the part I found amusing, and revealing regarding the learning curve here in Eugene rtegarding good barbecue. When we got there, they had run out of pulled pork, and before our food arrived the chicken disappeared too. By the time we had finished eating, the ribs and brisket were gone, and they were closing down -- twenty minutes ahead of time. As we were paying the check, a young man walked in, and got huffy when told they were closing. As we walked out the door, we saw a couple getting out of their car. We let them know that they were closed because they were out of meat. It took them a minute to get it... "Didn't they just open for business recently?"
Folks, this is BARBECUE. They smoke this meat for 12-14 hours. As I'm typing this, they're loading in the Boston butts and briskets that will be eaten tomorrow afternoon. They're making estimates NOW about how much business they'll get TOMORROW. It's not like a regular restaurant where they fire the food when you order it. It's being fired now, and tomorrow, when it's gone, it's gone. Just like happened tonight.
I've heard of places in Texas where people will stand in line for an hour or more, and even then be taking their chances -- often they'll get to the front of the line only to be informed that the food is gone. Are you serious about barbecue? Then you get there EARLY. That's the way it's done.
A few people get it -- this is, after all, the destination location of the Great Migration, people have over the generations moved here from all over, and are still arriving, and those people bring with them the cultural knowledge of their place of origin. But Eugene has a lot to learn about Barbecue.
An empty stomach is a small price to pay for knowledge.

Pondering Life's Deeper Mysteries

What ever happened to Love Potions Numbers 1-8?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Musical Geography Question of the Day

From where was a brave young Indian you should remember well?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Musical Geography Question of the Day

Where is there a shadow on the door?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Boy Howdy

A Tip of the Toque to Professor Chaos for this idea. I'm going to try getting back into the swing of blogging by starting a new feature: Sous What?, a semi-regular post in which I will answer some culinary question posed by a reader. Bearing in mind that I'm still a culinary student and not a culinarian yet, let alone an actual chef, some questions will require I do some research before answering. But this weeks question, posed by the aforementioned Professor Chaos, I can answer now:

What's the difference between a marinade with a base of water vs. having a base of oil?

The main differese is that water-based marinades, and their close relatives brines, will dry food, especially red meat, out more than oil-based marinades. This is largely due to the salinity of the marinades (hence the term brine). Fat, which is what oil is, just vegetable fat, preserves moistness. It seems counter-intuitive, but that's how it works, especially with grilling, frying and sauteeing. Add some acid to cut the fat -- red wine, citrus juice, and vinegar being the top three options.

That's not to say that fatless marinades don't have their place. If you plan to use a moist heat cooking method, such as braising or stewing, dryness isn't going to be an issue.

And there are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Slow cooked food is the exception in this case. Alton Brown recommends brining turkey to make it moister. Smoked fish is brined then dried, creating a layer called a pellicle that retains moinsture in the meat. And when I barbecue brisket, I marinate it in a fatless marinade, but one that's fairly low in salt, and it's further mitigated by the way the meat is cooked -- fat cap up, so all that yummy fat melts into the meat. But for leaner cuts of meat, and cooking on a grill or stovetop, I'd go with an oil-based marinade.


My Chef Instructor has made it clear to me that brine-based marinades and brines CAN be used on thinner cust od meat, but the amount of time they're used is decreased -- any longer and drying will occur. The general rule of thumb is 1 lb. of salt per gallon of water, which results in a brine of about 20% salinity. This salinity is optimized for penetrating 1/2" of meat per side per hour. That means an inch-thich steak is being penetrated from both sides and needs on 1 hour in the marinade.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Musical Geography Question of the Day

If She's workin' four to twelve at Trucker's World tonight, where are you?

Scotland The Brave

A la the Dropkick Murphys.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Something to Blog About

You were all right. All it took was something to talk about.

The culinary and food service industry has one of the highest, perhaps the highest, rates of charitable giving, volunteerism, and community activism of any industry in the country. One of the things I appreciate about the culinary program at LCC is that while they're teaching us the basic skills to become cooks, they're also instilling in us the mindset of chefs. Today was a prime example. We didn't have regular classes, but rather spent the morning and afternoon at a charitable event called Project Homeless Connect, sonsored by Food for Lane County, providing the bulk of the food service. I was assigned to the grill, and with the help of another first year, grilled 800 burgers in 2 1/2 hours. I've learned a few things recently, from both today and from school in general:

1. Radiant Heat CAN cause burns.
2. Some grease doesn't come out no matter how much bleach or hydrogen peroxide you use.
3. When you're the one doing the cooking, it doesn't matter how low on the totem pole you are, if your runners don't keep up, YOU ARE WITHIN YOUR RIGHTS TO KICK THEIR ASSES.
4. For an industry that involves a lot of fast-paced hard work, when things go wrong, you can end up working even harder and faster, or you can end up doing a lot of waiting... isially the latter, then the former.