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Ask A Chef Anything
#26
(03-31-2015, 08:04 PM)CPD Wrote: I have lots of deer bones. What can I do with those besides make bone broth?
What's the best way to get at the marrow?

There are lots of things you can do with bones besides broth.

Medieval cooks all over Europe loved bone marrow for its fatty richness; they usually preferred it sweet and would even include it in desserts, or else on would cook the bones down entirely for gelatin. It's a key ingredient in pemmican, which may honestly appeal to you given your vaguely survivalist tendencies. Chunks of marrow-filled bone can be added to curries (there is an Indian recipe for mutton and bone curry that could be adapted if you like?) or soups; one Hungarian recipe has large chunks of tibia included, before fishing the segments of bone out of the pot at the end of cooking time so that the cooked marrow could be spread on toast, and I'm sure I've heard of a German soup that uses marrow's high fat content to bind dumplings together. If you can think of nothing else to do with it, saw the bones into smaller pieces (cutting them lengthwise is easier), soak them overnight in a bowl of cold salted water to be sure you've managed to remove the majority of the blood, scrape the contents out with a spoon and use it as cooking fat the same way you would with anything else.

The Georgians and Victorians loved marrow so much that they even invented a special tool so they could extract every possible hint of marrow from a bone. You see how long and narrow this spoon is? And how you could use both ends to scrape more out?


[Image: bone-marrow-spoon.jpg]

Their way of cooking marrow is probably the simplest, so it would be a good choice for you. It works best for the long, strong bones of the legs that have a relatively high bone-to-marrow ratio. Beef bones would be slightly better than deer bones as they tend to be a little bigger, but I see no reason it shouldn't work.

 


Before you begin, arrange for your (clean, dry) bones to be cut into roughly three inch sections. Have your oven pre-heated to somewhere between 400-450F/200-230C as well.

Place the cut bones on a foil lined tray or in a shallow dish. If you've cut them crosswise into vertical plugs, sit them upright; if they've been cut lengthwise, the cut side should be facing up. Season them with salt and black pepper. The salt will keep the marrow from leaking out too much as it cooks.

Roast them until the marrow has puffed up and risen away from the bone slightly. This will take between 15 and 20 minutes, and you can use a skewer to test it; if you push a skewer into properly roasted marrow, there will be no resistance and it should be hot all the way through.

Serve with rye bread or a toasted baguette, something suitably crusty. Shallots, capers or parsley would help to cut through some of the richness if you have those to top the bread with, especially if you dress them with lemon juice and a little olive oil, but they are entirely optional. You may simply want to attack the bones with a spoon Big Grin
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#27
Sometimes I forget (and many people outside the trade don't have cause to know) how utterly ludicrous some very old fashioned recipes can be. It's absurd, and I will never, ever have cause to do anything like most of them (or at least, most of the truly extravagant ones are beyond me; I've cooked some more approachable everyday historical recipes, and can confirm that Imperial Roman honey-cakes are excellent)...but I confess I would pay to see what they looked like and how it was done.

This, for instance, is from an English cookbook of the mid-to-late 17th century, called The Accomplisht Cook; it was written by a man called Robert May, who began formally learning his trade in Paris at the age of ten before putting out this book some sixty years later. All typos and idiosyncratic English is his, not mine.

LIVE BIRDS IN A PIE


Make the likeness of a Ship in Paste board, with Flags and Streamers, the Guns belonging to it of Kickses, binde them about with packthred, and cover them with course paste proportionable to the fashion of a Cannon with Carriages. Lay them in places convenient, as you see them in Ships of War, with such holes and trains of powder that they may all take Fire.


Place your Ship firm in a great Charger; then make a salt round about it, and stick therein egg-shells full of sweet water; you may by a great Pin take out all the meat out of the Egg by blowing, and then fill it with the rose-water.


Then in another Charger have the proportion of a Stag made of course paste, with a broad arrow in the side of him and his body filled up with claret wine. In another Charger at the end of the Stag, have the proportion of a Castle with Battlements, Percullices, Gates and Draw-bridges made of Paste-board, the Guns of Kickses, and covered with course Paste as the former. Place it at a distance from the Ship to fire at each other, the Stag being plac’t betwixt them with egg-shells full of sweet water (as before) placed in salt.

At each side of the Charger wherein is the Stag, place a Pie made of course Paste, in one of which let there be some live Frogs, in the other live Birds; make these Pies of course Paste filled with bran, and yellowed over with Saffron or Yolks of Eggs; gild them over in spots, as also the Stag, the Ship, and Castle. Bake them and place them with gilt bay-leaves on the turrets and tunnels of the Castle and Pies; being baked, make a hole in the bottom of your pies, take out the bran, put in your Frogs and Birds, and close up the holes with the same course paste; then cut the lids neatly up, to be taken off by the Tunnels.

Being all placed in order upon the Table, before you fire the trains of powder, order it so that some of the Ladies may be perswaded to pluck the Arrow out of the Stag, then will the Claret wine follow as blood running out of a wound.

[i]This being done with admiration to the beholders, after some short pawse, fire the train of the Castle, that the pieces all of one side may go off, then fire the trains of one side of the Ship as in a battle. Next turn the Chargers and by degrees fire the trains of each other side as before.

This done, to sweeten the stink of the powder, let the Ladies take the egg shells full of sweet waters, and throw them at each other.

All dangers being seemingly over, by this time you may suppose they will desire to see what is in the Pies; where lifting first the lid off one pie, out skips some Frogs, which makes the Ladies to skip and shreek; next after the other Pie, whence comes out the Birds; who by a natural instinct flying at the light, will put out the Candles; so that what with the flying Birds, and skipping Frogs, the one above, the other beneath, will cause much delight and pleasure to the whole company: at length the Candles are lighted, and a banquet brought in, the musick sounds, and every one with much delight and content rehearses their actions in the former passages.


Pastry ships and castles, each with functional tiny cannons? A very nearly life-sized pastry stag filled with red wine to make him "bleed" from an arrow wound? Live birds and frogs baked into pies and released at the table when the pastry is cut?

(I have heard of this being done with a human being as well; a dwarf jester who was cut out of a pie and expected to perform there still covered in crumbs)

It's all a little mad. Impressive, but mad!
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

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#28
Ok Wombie, hit me.

I am a glorious manchild who, as I explained in my previous PM, can't cook a steak for shit.

I'd like to cook them on my little 18" grill on the back deck, charcoal, so where do I start?

And yes, I know -what- a Roux is but I haven't actually made one myself yet. It's what I've been researching over the last two weeks in search of a good cheese sauce and something to use as a base for a sauce to put on chicken/rolls.
Just a dumb grunt.
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#29
(05-18-2015, 10:37 AM)Handicap Wrote: Ok Wombie, hit me.

I am a glorious manchild who, as I explained in my previous PM, can't cook a steak for shit.

I'd like to cook them on my little 18" grill on the back deck, charcoal, so where do I start?

And yes, I know -what- a Roux is but I haven't actually made one myself yet. It's what I've been researching over the last two weeks in search of a good cheese sauce and something to use as a base for a sauce to put on chicken/rolls.

Well, glorious manchild Handi, steak is simpler than you think. It DOES take practice to do it consistently well, so your first attempt may not be perfect, but the basics are not so hard Smile


Start with steak that suits what you want to do. Different parts of the cow provide meat that is different; filet mignon/eye fillet cut from the tenderloin is much more tender and delicately flavoured than a t-bone, and both differ from a skirt steak cut from around the diaphragm...but all three are steaks. Bearing this in mind, in the end the choice of which particular cut is up to you and really depends on your preferences. I have always loved skirt steak, which has incredible flavour but is sorely underappreciated because it can be tough. You may prefer something from the upper section of the cow's rear end (what you want would be sold in America as a "sirloin steak", and here in Australia as "rump steak") or a good rib-eye/scotch fillet from around the ribs. Both are very common, very popular cuts for what you have in mind.

If all else fails and you don't know which cut of meat to buy for an experiment, tap the butcher who sells you this meat on the shoulder and ask him. You can always ask him. It's his job to know, and he won't mind.

When you buy steak, there are some things to keep in mind. Freshly cut steak will be bright red, almost cherry red; the myoglobin in it will react when exposed to the air and create a very vivid colour. Look for that. Steak sold at the end of the day may be a little browner because the reaction between myoglobin and oxygen has been happening for hours by that point; meat that is slightly brown is still okay, but it should still have quite a deep colour with strong red undertones. You should also look for threads of fat dispersed evenly all the way through the meat – this is called "marbling", and that even fat distribution is part of what makes really good steak work. There should be no smell of ammonia or anything else unpleasant (if it smells unpleasant in any way, buy your meat elsewhere) and should not look or feel slimy.

Diet affects the colour, flavour and composition of steak in several ways, so there will be some variation. For example, the grass-fed beef I was raised on (and still prefer, I love grass-fed beef) tends to be darker and leaner with less consistent marbling, but when eaten often has a stronger "beefy" flavour. Grain-fed beef as is common in the US has a lot more fat in general (part of the reason beef producers turn to feedlots is because it's much, much faster to fatten the cattle on grain than on pasture, which in turn makes it faster, cheaper and easier to have the animals ready for slaughter on a tight deadline) and will usually have more obvious marbling as a result, but can also have unincorporated lumps of fat that haven't distributed so well. If grain-feeding is done really well, as in Kobe beef, then there will be no unincorporated or uneven lumps, and really high quality grain fed beef is outstanding, but most producers can't afford to make the effort Kobe beef producers do and they don't always manage the grain-feeding very well. Conversely, a really good grass-fed cow may have marbling comparable to that which grain-feeding routinely produces, and will usually be a healthier cow in better condition...but it takes longer to achieve the same level of development, and you the consumer will be paying for that extra time.

(True Kobe beef cattle only come from a handful of very specific breeds that marble particularly well; they are spoiled relentlessly and arguably live better lives than most people except for the part where they're eaten at the end! They're groomed and petted and massaged like domestic pets, they have natural light and room to move around freely, they're fed on beer and high-quality grain to make them gain weight [not the rough waste-corn fodder of most producers, the kind of corn and soy you would feed a person] quickly. They have absolutely no stress in their lives at all, and the incredible meat they produce is a reflection of that. It's a fascinating process to see how producers there do what they do.)

To recap, grain-fed meat is cheaper, has more fat and better marbling...but the cow it comes from is usually less healthy and more stressed, and the meat will have a less intense flavour and colour. I know which one I prefer, but that's very much a personal preference. I've known people who have profoundly disliked the intensity of the beefiness in grass-fed beef; they were used to corn-fed and found it too overpowering! Diet will also affect what any marbling looks like; grain-fed beef will have fat that looks very pale cream or white, where grass-fed may have a yellowish tinge to go with the darker meat. There should never be any brown spots or other discolouration on the fat, and if it IS yellow then the colour should be very slight.


Now you've chosen it, what to do with it?

You need three things. Only three.

- Good meat
- Salt. Pepper is optional, but you can never have too much salt
- A little oil. I know you like to use butter, so you can use that here instead if you prefer

1: Get your charcoal grill set up. You need it hot, almost white and crumbling, with direct heat to cook the steak over. The way I would do it would be to set up your charcoal in a sort of slope; the hottest part of the grill will be above the top of the slope, and you will be able to move things around to a cooler section of the grill (lower down the slope) if you need to avoid overcooking – this is good if you cook multiple things on the grill at the same time, or need to do steaks for multiple people who all prefer theirs done different ways. Thicker steaks usually do well over a lower heat than thin ones, as the less intense heat allows the inside to cook through without overcooking and toughening the outside.

While you set this arrangement up to your complete satisfaction, leave your steak sitting out on the counter for a few minutes. Steak "relaxes" a little at room temperature, and will be more tender if you let it rest first rather that cooking it straight out of the fridge. This should be no more than fifteen or twenty minutes, as there IS a risk of contamination when you leave meat out, but a few minutes in a clean and not overly hot kitchen should do no harm.


2: Pat the steak dry with a paper towel. You will be oiling it lightly in a minute, so it won't be entirely dry for long, but you should alway begin dry. Rub salt (and pepper, if you're using it) thoroughly into the meat, all over. Thicker steaks need more, but even a thin steak that your girls would eat should have it, as it adds flavour and a beautiful brown-gold crust to the cooked meat. Brush a little oil or melted butter over the steak to keep it from sticking, and you may if you wish rub that in too.


3: The meat goes onto the grill now. Exactly how long to cook them for is variable (everyone likes their steak cooked slightly differently, and it depends in part on what cut you use and how thick the steak is) so you will need to practice this to develop your eye...but there is a way to check, because you can use your hand as a guide. Touch your thumb and forefinger together and press on the fleshy part of your thumb, where it joins your hand? The way that feels is the way a rare steak feels to touch. Thumb and middle will show you medium-rare to medium. Pressing your thumb and ring finger together and touching the flesh of your thumb is a medium to medium-well. Your thumb and your little finger will give you well done.

There is some debate over how often to turn the meat. Turning it frequently avoids overcooking on one side but moves the juices around and disturbs the development of the crust, and there are a lot of arguments over which way produces the best results. I prefer a middle ground approach; if you cook your steaks to medium-rare or less (as I do) or are cooking a thin steak, turn only once; the meat is there for such a short time in that case that the loss of the whole crust is not worth it, since you're hardly going to overcook meat in three minutes. If, on the other hand, you cook thicker steaks or prefer medium to well-done, you have a little more leeway and may be able to turn it more frequently without harm. Try not to fiddle with it more than necessary, please. If it helps, give the tongs to someone else so you don't have them!


4: You may want to rest the steaks before serving them, for about half as long as it took to cook them. Thicker cuts meant to share will respond to this more.


I have a wooden board that I use to cut steak on, which has essentially been SOAKED in red wine, olive oil and the herbs that go into chimichurri. The cut meat absorbs the flavours from there, can be used to sop up scraps of oil and herbs from the surface of the board and needs nothing else. The steak is the centrepiece. Let it talk, che? Smile




I can talk about sauces in another post. This one is quite long enough as it is and I need to stop talking God damn it Juli shut up, but before I do...I'll let you in on a secret.

There are only five basic sauces that a cook of the classical western tradition (the French tradition, essentially) needs to master. These five, between them, unlock every other sauce you could wish for. They're delicious cheat codes, and with them you can do anything.

Yes? No?
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#30
(05-18-2015, 10:37 AM)Handicap Wrote: Ok Wombie, hit me.

...

And yes, I know -what- a Roux is but I haven't actually made one myself yet. It's what I've been researching over the last two weeks in search of a good cheese sauce and something to use as a base for a sauce to put on chicken/rolls.

Lesson two, my heart. The sauces. Smile

Sauces often daunt amateur cooks, because it seems like there are so many to learn. For example, you're looking for a cheese sauce, and for something else to use on chicken/rolls. I would bet, as you've been doing your research, you've been treating these as though they were two separate things and looking for two recipes?

Meanwhile, young professionals who learn the western classical canon (as most chefs do, and as I did...a huge amount of the trade worldwide draws from the traditions of France) are only really, truly expected to have five sauces perfect.

- the bechamel or white sauce, made with flour, butter (these two combined into a roux) milk and the herbs and spices of your choice; white pepper, mace, nutmeg, whatever you like.
- the veloute or velvet sauce, which is essentially the same as a white sauce except for the part where it replaces milk with a light, "white" stock like chicken, fish or veal.
- the espagnole or brown sauce. A roux (cooked for slightly longer, so it's a brown roux instead of a blond one) combined with mirepoix (finely diced onion, carrots and celery, this is used a lot as an aromatic thing in French cooking) and a heavier "brown" stock made with roasted bones.
- the hollandaise or emulsion sauce. Liquid butter (or oil, but traditionally butter, and for the TRULY traditional clarified butter) whisked well with egg yolks, lemon juice and pepper.
- the tomato based sauce. Tomatoes, mirepoix, stock or water, herbs and spices of your choice. This may contain salt pork or a ham bone (the classic recipe always does) and often has sugar to help balance it.

These five are called the "mother sauces", and they are the cheat codes of the kitchen because they are the base recipes for any other sauce you care to imagine. Everything else in the canon begins with one of those five as its birth. Let me show you.

If you make just a bechamel sauce alone it would normally go in lasagne between the layers, yes? You've had bechamel before. If you make a basic bechamel sauce and start adding things to it...

Add cream to make it heavier. Add different cheeses for variants of cheese sauce (a classic mornay sauce would usually add half parmesan and half gruyere; a punchier sauce for the mac and cheese your girls like might use a good mature cheddar or colby). Add onions sweated in more butter for a soubise. Add a spoonful of mustard for a mustard sauce that works beautifully with chicken. Add whole black peppercorns to go with corned beef or silverside. Adding white wine (or any other alcohol you feel like...do you drink scotch?) and cooking it down a little more is a classic, especially if you've already added cream for more richness. Diced bacon? Fresh herbs? Mushrooms? What do you have that you need to use?

If you use what is called "compound butter" (butter with herbs or other ingredients like lemon juice or anchovies added) you open even more options. The garlic butter you like so much would work well. There is a sauce (the Nantua sauce, a very good choice for seafood) that is made by using a bechamel base, cream for some heft and crayfish or shrimp butter...how would you feel about trying that?

If you have the five mother sauces as a western cook, you can essentially play with your food forever. Big Grin
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

Poor thing.
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#31
How often are vent hoods cleaned at restaurants?

As a chef, what do you like to steal from work?
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#32
(05-19-2015, 07:46 PM)CPD Wrote: How often are vent hoods cleaned at restaurants?

As a chef, what do you like to steal from work?

Every few weeks, anything from twice a month to once in every three. The bare minimum is every six, but a good boss will do it much more frequently because it's foul after that long. It's a fire risk not to do it, but in the end it really depends on how busy the kitchen is, the kind of cooking being done (some methods create more grease than others, and thus need more frequent cleaning) and how conscientious the owner is, as it's something that most restaurants would hire an outside contractor to do for them so they can have the dated receipts to show when inspected. The head chef can make a request for a cleaner if it's not being done frequently enough (the kitchen is his, he is God there, everything in it is his to command) but he DOES need the owner's input to get it in the budget.

And it's not stealing. It's perks. Tongue

Actually STEALING is, in general, discouraged (budgets are extremely tight, and the head chef has to account for everything) and you will get your ass fired incredibly quickly if they catch you taking advantage. On the other hand, there can be a little leeway that is (within reason) not considered theft.

We are usually allowed to eat and drink a certain amount as we work, and someone who is very, very good at it can put away an astounding amount that way; a lot of chefs verge on alcoholism, and they WILL see it as their right to dip into the wine list! Once they swallow it, how can it be proven? Owners are very suspicious of heavy drinkers who will REALLY make a dent in the stocks, but in moderation they will usually overlook some.

We eat the food scraps that get sent back to the kitchen on your plate; we drink half-finished bottles of wine that were sent back or have been opened to cook with and not fully used; we use stale bread, vegetable peelings and trimmed fat from the meat we gave you in our own staff meal. Staff meals are supposed to be cheap (they do not get to show up on the budget, you're essentially supposed to feed everyone on air and wishes while making it look like you have no actual employees!) and they usually are...but there can sometimes be occasions when someone will use more expensive food that's meant for you the consumer and give it directly to us the lowly kitchen scum instead. We're supposed to get your scraps, but we don't always.

We may also be allowed to take leftovers home, and I do this a lot. Cooked food is generally more acceptable to take than raw food, as it's assumed that if you take cooked food you're not taking more than you yourself, individually, could eat - if you take cooked food, your predations on it are covered in the same category as "we cooked it for a customer and it wasn't finished, it was wasted food", which all restaurants leave room for in their overheads. If you're taking raw food, on the other hand...you could taking food enough to feed ten, and that's much harder to make sense of in the budget. A sack of potatoes or five kilos of raw steak is much more of a problem to cover than a meal because food that's already cooked has been accounted for, and it either goes with the staff or goes in the rubbish bin.

If I'm taking leftovers I always take the patissier's work (the cakes, the desserts, etc) because I'm rubbish at those!

Different sections of the house (or two places very close to each other) may come to mutually beneficial arrangements. It's frowned on, but it happens. The bar next door asks for free food for their staff, and offers to pay with free drinks? Everyone's happy except the two owners who can't figure out where all this extra outlay is going! The head waiter's usual dealer wants his friends fed regularly, and will see to it that the kitchen as a whole doesn't come down from their collective high for weeks? That's frowned on even more given its illegality, but it's not unknown given how much drug abuse goes on.
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#33
The Secret of Vanilla Extract

Taz, I hope that this helps you. It's a fairly simple method, and it can be used for other flavour extracts as well.


Vanilla extract, TRUE vanilla extract, is usually made by steeping vanilla beans in alcohol (usually something between 70-80 proof) and adding a simple sugar syrup for a sweet aftertaste. You can do this yourself if you're patient. You need.

- Vanilla bean pods, preferably "extract" grade rather than top quality. Beans from different sources will taste different (just as wine or coffee from different sources will taste different) so you can experiment; Madagascan vanilla is the classic flavour everyone would think of and is much more robust and rounded than Tahitian vanilla (very light and floral), where Mexican is often a little more "bite-y" than either. I personally like vanilla beans from New Guinea very much. You can choose to use just one source for a single-origin extract, or blend them as you like. You need between 3 and 5 beans for every 250ml of liquid.
- Alcohol. Something with no true strong flavour of its own would be the usual choice, like vodka. However, you can experiment with other alcohol if you like.
- A sterilised glass jar or bottle with an airtight seal. A small mason jar would be a good choice. If you can get something specifically with dark or coloured glass, that's ideal - like good olive oil, extracts are affected by exposure to light, and will last much longer in a darkened container.


Split and scrape the pods with a knife, as you would to use them any other way, and put them into your jar. They can be cut into smaller sections if necessary if the whole pods won't fit.

Cover them completely with alcohol. Seal the jar. If you WANT to add a sugar syrup (I'm sure you know how to do this?) now would be the time, but it's not strictly speaking essential. Some prefer a pure vanilla extract, unsweetened.

Leave the jar for at least a month in a dark place. Shake it occasionally, but otherwise leave it alone. The longer you leave it, the stronger the flavour will be. Six weeks, two months...how long can you wait?

You have two choices from this point. You can strain the pods out and keep only the liquid (in which case it's a finite amount) or you can leave them in and periodically top up the jar as you use it. If you leave the beans in, you can gradually add fresh ones or the leftover sections of pods you've used in other recipes to freshen the flavour.
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

Poor thing.
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#34
Thanks Womlady!

After splitting the pods open, do I scrape the seeds out?

There's a co-op health food store in Wilmington. I'm going to check and see if they have vanilla beans, and where they come from. Is that a good place to start? I noticed you could buy vanilla beans on Amazon. haha
revengeofintelweeny:this girl is full of epicness +1. why can't there be more like minded people like her out there, geez ChaplainKM:I approve of the tazzie PV. Sh-tStirrer:Taz, I love you. zx6rdr:taz, erryone lik your pie
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#35
(06-01-2015, 06:20 PM)Taz Wrote: Thanks Womlady!

After splitting the pods open, do I scrape the seeds out?

There's a co-op health food store in Wilmington. I'm going to check and see if they have vanilla beans, and where they come from. Is that a good place to start? I noticed you could buy vanilla beans on Amazon. haha

You can scrape them out if you like. I do it that way out of habit, but I've also seen vanilla extract made without this step and with the beans just cut into sections, so I don't think it's particularly vital.

The store in Wilmington would be a great place to start. Where you get your beans from doesn't REALLY matter, and I mention the difference in flavours only because some people find they have a preference for a bigger, louder flavour (Madagascar/Bourbon vanilla usually shows this off best, it's very rich) or for something a little less full on with a slight spicy edge (Mexico). Some like the delicacy of Tahitian, and will deliberately seek it out. It's like the person who likes single-flower honeys (compare a red clover honey to a leatherwood, they are different) or coffee from certain places or particular wines...nothing is inherently "better" than anything else, but people have their preferences, and it's always interesting to discover what they are for the first time with new things. You may find you have a preference too.

I'm always going to encourage those experiments.

Use what you can find (even Amazon) and it will be fine Smile
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

Poor thing.
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#36
In a recent conversation with 29PalmsGrunt elsewhere, he asked for an explanation of mise en place, and I was for a moment completely stunned to think that I hadn't commented on this here before. The habits of a good mise en place are simple but having them will make you a better cook, always. If there is ONE skill that is absolutely essential, one skill universal to every working kitchen in the world, this is it.

Like many, many cooking terms, mise en place is a French phrase; it means something like "put in place, setting in place", and it's a method of making sure that you have everything you could possibly need (every tool, every ingredient, every single item you will need in the course of an entire three to five hour dinner service) at your fingertips in a split second, to the point where you don't even need to look at it but can pivot on one foot like a basketball player and immediately have what you need in your hand.

When you cook at home, or when you visit your family and watch one of them cook, it probably looks a little like this:

You're using a recipe, and you have one thing happening (browning chicken pieces, perhaps?) but you're not watching it because you're trying to chop vegetables so they'll be ready to add to the pan when the meat is browned, and you're looking for the half-finished bottle of wine in the fridge, and WHERE is the oregano, you need oregano from the garden and you've realised that you can't find the lemons either, you don't think you even have any in the house, so you call someone next door or driving to get to your house and you ask if they can find you some fresh lemons and your hands are slippery, where is a clean towel and tongs, somewhere in the drawer there are tongs...

Does this sound familiar at all? When you're cooking for Thanksgiving, or for some other big group? When you're trying to track lots of things at once because you're working from a complex recipe?

You are home cooks. You can walk away for a moment to find something you forgot, you can make phone calls to someone outside or go next door to borrow something, you can search in the drawer for a tool you need or for a clean towel, you can get yourself a glass of water when you're overheating...you have a little leeway. You have some, but even there sometimes your cooking suffers because you were disorganised; you left the meat on too high a heat for slightly too long while you were searching for something and it's overdone; the timing was slightly off because you took twenty seconds too long to find and slice the lemons; looking for the spoon that you'd put down somewhere a moment before and have now misplaced means you took your eyes off the food.


In a working kitchen, we don't have the leeway you have. As little as you have, we have less. Joe the Line Cook cannot leave the station to fetch something he forgot, because while he's picking sprigs of parsley for a garnish a thousand other things are happening wherever he is not. He cannot misplace his tools, because while he is searching he is not cooking and something is bound to go wrong. If everything is not finished at the same time, the food gets cold, it gets soggy, it gets less appetizing waiting for whatever was lagging behind for that order to catch up...and while that order is deteriorating fast we have fifty other orders to do, none of which will wait or can be left alone. To quote the Disney movie (which was, in truth, quite accurate in a lot of ways!):


You think this is a cute job, like Mommy in the kitchen? Mommy never had to face the dinner rush when the orders come flooding in and every dish is different and none are simple and all have the different cooking times but must arrive at the customer's table at exactly the same time hot and perfect! Every second counts and you CANNOT BE MOMMY!



I laugh every time I see that scene. It's entirely accurate to life...and a good mise en place is the best tool we have for making certain that the dinner rush works as it's meant to. We spend more time on getting the mise to be right than we do on actually cooking for people; every time you have ever set foot in a restaurant, I promise you someone in that kitchen spent at least six hours doing prep-work (individually working through a six-litre bucket of peas with a bird's-beak knife, finely dicing ten to fifteen kilos of shallots and the same again of scallions, parboiling 175-200 pounds of potatoes to reduce their cooking time later, deveining crate after crate of whole prawns...look at the menu of the next restaurant you enter and remember that everything you see on that list has to be done by someone's hands) and making his own personal arrangements before they ever let a customer inside.

For you at home, it would be very much smaller, but using your mise as a way to keep your proverbial shit together is helpful for all cooks. Learn it and love it.

The exact components of a given mise will vary widely depending on station (a pastry chef has very different needs to the resident butcher, and the butcher has something equally far removed from the entremetier with his vegetables) and personal inclination, but the key to any good mise is organisation. Look at what you will be cooking and count every ingredient, every tool. Collect them all before you begin and arrange accordingly, so that what you need first/most often is at your fingertips. Your knives, your spoons and spatulas, the lid for the pan should all be in places that are instinctive to reach for and that you can always find when you need them. Clean towels for messes and to wipe your hands and to pick up hot things, at least two of them (one "side towel" at your hip over the apron string so you can keep it with you easily without needing to give up one of your hands to hold it, one hanging on the oven door to stay dry; you can swap them over and over again when the one currently at your hip is too wet, as using a damp towel will often mean you get hurt)...these are often overlooked by home cooks, but professionals hoard clean linens, and will scavenge as many as they can to be sure they never do without. Wine, butter, salt, pepper, garlic, anchovy fillets for that rich-salt-sweet umami bite (these add depth to everything), parsley, thyme, mustard, all the seasonings and flavours you could want laid out where you can reach them at a moment's notice. All your base ingredients, prepped ahead of cooking time as far as you can do it; if you cook a stir fry (a good example, because of how the ingredients are staggered through a very short cooking time) and know in advance that everything will need to be in small pieces, take the time to make it so and have them waiting for you in bowls before you start heating the wok so you can grab them by handfuls to combine them without needing to pause when the wok is hot and the clock is ticking.

The wok is smoking; I need this, this, this, this and this, go!"

You want a clean and organised space for a clean and organised mind. Everything should have a clear and logical place where it leaves from and returns to at need, and an equally clear reason for being there. Your mise is your cooking brain laid out in front of you, and if you've put the time in to getting it right it will do all of your thinking for you.
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

Poor thing.
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#37
Thank you for these posts. I will cut and paste and print a number of these, the four basic sauces, and mise en place, to start.
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#38
(06-18-2015, 12:24 PM)Scout706 Wrote: Thank you for these posts.  I will cut and paste and print a number of these, the four basic sauces, and mise en place, to start.

Five sauces Tongue There are five. They all branch off into sprawling families of sub-sauces and sub-sub-sauces; you could if you wanted to cook a slightly different sauce every day for months without repeating yourself. There ARE sauces that do not fit neatly into this model (sweet sauces for desserts don't always work so well, and most of the sauces derived from China or Southeast Asia would be only vaguely categorised in these terms) but it's still a very good framework  that allows for a lot of flexibility among the Western canon , and I've always found that the return to basics makes it very much simpler to think about.

In truth, I enjoy these questions. They give me an excuse to go over some of the things I know but would rarely use (like making vanilla extract; it has SOME savoury uses [it pairs well with the slight sweetness of lobster, prawns or scallops, and Ferran Adria has a pasta dish with vanilla and parmesan which is beautiful in its simplicity] but would primarily be a patissier's tool for sweet desserts, which is something I have never done very much of unless I had to) and encourage me to look for more information about the things I DON'T know (many and varied, over a decade on I still get excited when I see something I have never done). You have your questions answered, I exercise my mind...we all win, no? Smile
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

Poor thing.
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#39
I've been thinking of starting a small garden. Have you had any experience with home grown produce and spices (like mint, basil, cilantro, etc)? Do you think home-grown foods are better and worth the time and effort?
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#40
(06-23-2015, 07:18 AM)austinjking Wrote: I've been thinking of starting a small garden. Have you had any experience with home grown produce and spices (like mint, basil, cilantro, etc)? Do you think home-grown foods are better and worth the time and effort?

Are you joking? My garden is ENORMOUS, and most of it is edible! The first thing I do, when we have a new house to adjust to, is to find out exactly what I am and am not allowed to grow there!

I do think growing your own produce is worth the effort, if you have the time and inclination and if your climate allows you to do it. A basic herb garden is certainly worth cultivating; with rare exceptions fresh herbs are usually much more bright and cleanly-flavoured than dry ones, and for soft, tender things having access to fresh is almost essential because they lose so much of their vibrancy when dried. Woody things like rosemary and thyme dry much more consistently and can be used either way as they don't seem to lose anything by it, but the soft ones like basil, parsley and chives...always fresh, unless you have no choice. Dried parsley is a muddy, confused mess for your mouth. It's horrible.

Even if all you can do is have a box on the windowsill or a chilli plant in a pot on your kitchen table (and I've been reduced to that at times!) it would be worth doing. Even if you do nothing else, grow some damn parsley!

Most herbs grow well in pots, as do vegetables like beans (usually climbers), radishes, carrots, eggplant/aubergine and essentially any kind of salad green ever discovered. Potatoes grow surprisingly well under these conditions if you're prepared to do a little work for them first. If you choose well, and you're clever in your use of what space you do have, you can grow a LOT of food.

Certain fruits would grow happily enough like that as well - strawberries grow well in containers, tomatoes, chillies, any of the dwarf citrus trees if you have a sunny place to put them...

You can grow fresh mushrooms from a cardboard box in your closet; I'm CERTAIN I spoke about how to arrange this in another thread somewhere, or if you want to take the easy path google "mushroom boxes" and buy one already set up and ready to grow. My children are very protective of our mushroom box. I have no idea why, but they baby the mushrooms and want to check on them constantly. The idea that a box of brainless fungus might be unhappy somehow (how, exactly? They're mushrooms, they feel nothing!) is unbearable to my sons' minds!

Growing your own produce also allows you to get into edible flowers, which can be fascinating to play with. Lavender has a very firm place in Provencal (southern French) cooking; rose petals and rosehips allow for a beautiful delicate sweetness that you've undoubtedly tasted if you've ever in your life eaten Turkish delight; violets can be used in sweets or as a mild addition to a salad; marigold can be used as the poor man's replacement for saffron (true saffron is more expensive by weight than gold) and will keep pests away from many other things.

What would you like to grow? What you can grow will be limited by where you are and how much space you have, but I'm sure we can figure something out. Smile
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

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#41
http://imgur.com/gallery/UDLCe
So why haven't you made a better one yet?
Is yours inverted?
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#42
(06-30-2015, 12:39 PM)Yossarian Wrote: http://imgur.com/gallery/UDLCe
So why haven't you made a better one yet?
Is yours inverted?

Hm...it's a clever idea, and definitely it has visual appeal, but for me it has a few drawbacks.

- It's not big enough. I can see several things missing. There's only one variety of salt, only one kind of peppercorn (the four peppercorn blend does not count, you should be able to use them separately if you wish - white peppercorns are used separately much of the time, both for aesthetic reasons and because they do taste and smell different to black ones) only one species marked as "basil" (no holy basil and no lemon basil), only flaked chillies (which can be quite different to both the fresh ones AND the whole dried ones...the three are not interchangeable, and should not be treated as though they are). There's no saffron (which would be obscenely expensive to buy in the kind of quantities everything else on that table is in!), no fenugreek, no mustardseed, no lavender, no tarragon, no mint, no chervil. There should be za'atar among the spice blends, and ras el hanout, and dukkah, but I see none of those. They have bouquet garni there, but no fines herbes...and since they lack tarragon and chervil, they can't make fines herbes up at need either.

- I could accept that several of those things may have been excluded because they're best to use fresh, but if that's the case then several of the things that are already on it should not be there either. Who the hell would choose dried chives or parsley over fresh?

- Several of the things on the table would last longer if they weren't on it. Prolonged exposure to heat, humidity and light can affect flavour and aroma, shortening the lifespan of many dried spices - you may have seen this with coffee or tea as well? A spice collection usually does much better somewhere cool, dry and dark. If they must be out in the open, either dark-tinted or fully opaque jars with labels on them would be better protection than the clear-topped ones used here; I know it robs the table of some of its visual impact to have completely opaque jars, but given a choice I'd take flavour over looking pretty, and even opaque jars won't protect very well against heat or humidity.  Smaller containers would also be better for most of this list, to be sure that you don't have old cardamom, sticking together in clumps and with all the flavour leached out of it but yet to be finished because the jar is enormous and holds more than you use in a year. You can always refill a small jar that you empty, but a big jar that you're slow to empty will only sit there degenerating until it's finally gone. You waste a lot of spices that way.

Visually, I love it. Practically, it has a few issues that make it not work so well for me.
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

Poor thing.
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#43




I'm getting a million of these for breakfast tomorrow, right?
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a lot of bitching.<br /><br />- The Tao of Wombat
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#44
(07-18-2015, 07:17 AM)CombatWombat Wrote:



I'm getting a million of these for breakfast tomorrow, right?

You're entirely capable of making your own pikelets, my heart.
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

Poor thing.
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#45
Phantomgrift, you were asking about the Latin-style flan?

Flan does take a little care to do well, but the base concept is very simple. As I would do it, you need

1 cup caster sugar/superfine sugar. You can use other sugars, but a white one will be easiest to see changing.
Water
Lemon juice or tartaric acid. A little mild acidity helps to avoid crystallisation when you're making the caramel
2 cups milk
1 cup light pouring cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped. You can use a few drops of extract if you don't have access to beans, but I much prefer the beans.
Pinch of cardamom
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
Small ramekins to cook the flan in. It can be done in a larger dish, but a larger flan is going to be much harder to get out of the dish in one piece without making a mess. Small individual flans cooked in ramekins come away much more predictably.


To make the caramel, you need about a third of the sugar put aside. This should be put in a small saucepan with a few tablespoons of water and about a teaspoon of lemon juice, cooked over a low heat to help you control the process. Brush the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush (to prevent crystallisation) and wait for the sugar to dissolve. Once it has dissolved and the colour starts to rise you can increase the heat, and as you watch it should turn golden and begin to foam a little. Stirring or tilting the pot to keep the caramelisation even is permissible...but do it rarely and gently if you do it at all, and don't try to hurry it or overwork it. Be very careful making caramel, and watch it carefully; caramel can spit, and sugar burns are horrendous things. I've long since lost count of my burns in general, but sugar burns are the worst.

When it's brown and foaming, remove it from the heat. Wait for the bubbles to subside, then pour it into the ramekins. Move the ramekins around to ensure an even coat. Place them in a nice deep roasting pan for later.

Preheat the oven to 200C/390-395F. You'll need this later. While the oven heats, you need the milk, the cream, the remaining sugar, the cardamom and the vanilla combined in a saucepan and brought to a gentle boil. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks together. Add the milk based mixture to the egg mixture, whisk it all together and return it to the saucepan. Do NOT boil or overheat this combined egg-milk mixture; low heat only, and continual stirring for five minutes with a wooden spoon to make the custard.

The next step is something called a water-bath. Strain the custard into the ramekins, on top of the now-cooled caramel layer, and fill the roasting pan underneath with enough boiling water to reach 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the ramekins' sides. This method allows a fairly gentle, gradual transfer of heat to cook through the custard without curdling, and the humidity rising from the water will prevent the surface layer from drying out before the inside is fully cooked. Put the water bath arranged like this into the oven and cook for between 40-50 minutes, until the custard is set but still a little wobbly.

Remove the ramekins from the bath (carefully!) and let them cool fully. You can refrigerate them overnight (I do) or invert them to serve immediately afterwards. When serving, run a knife around the edge of each ramekin to loosen the contents, put a plate over the top and gently invert. Serve with extravagant quantities of dulce de leche.
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

Poor thing.
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#46
Is Ratatouille the greatest chef movie ever made?  

Rather, is it the only one?
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#47
I have questions about preparation of wild game. Basically from the moment the animal is field dressed to when the meat hits the plate. I am pretty much clueless, and the results show it.
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#48
(08-14-2015, 04:10 PM)First Strike Deadly Wrote: Is Ratatouille the greatest chef movie ever made?  

Rather, is it the only one?

It's one of the good ones, surprisingly. Apart from wanting to scream at Colette to "cover your hair!" (I understand why they did that from a design perspective, Colette's hair is something that makes her design work on a visual level, but for Christ's sake where is your Goddamn toque! OUT!) and vaguely hating Linguini for what will inevitably happen to his restaurant and everyone who works in it (ESPECIALLY Colette, she's damned forever because of her relationship with Linguini...everyone would assume that she got her position only because she was fucking him, and then when Remy dies in eight months and the restaurant suddenly runs off the edge of a cliff because Linguini himself can't cook worth a damn, her professional reputation is gone) I quite enjoy it. In a simplified, child-friendly way, it gets a lot of things right. I laugh every single time I see this scene, because everything in it has really happened!





(As a side note, my younger son is heartbroken that he has never met "my" Remy. This movie singlehandedly convinced him that when I go to work, I team up with a rat! I can't convince him otherwise!)

There are lots of films that I would recommend that AREN'T Ratatouille, if you're interested?

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary about possibly the greatest sushi chef on earth. I find sushi incredibly soothing as a concept (it's so simple in theory, but in practice takes immense skill) so I watch this a lot. Kings of Pastry is another good documentary, following contestants through one of the most prestigious patisserie competitions in the world; I watch this one in the full knowledge that I was always really terrible with pastry!

Chef with Jon Favreau does a decent job of the industry from the inside. Tony Bourdain loved it, which is not at all surprising because you can see the stamp of his own books and work all over it.

Big Night may be enjoyable for you. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover would also be worth investigating.

Eat Drink Man Woman is less about "chefs" than about "food", but as a love letter to food it's brilliant. Like Water For Chocolate also falls into this category (if you want to see how much power food has, watch that film), as does Chocolat, Tempopo or Babette's Feast. These are the films we have to watch for love of the food itself. They make it beautiful.

There is one more category...crass, disgusting, epic and hilarious. Delicatessen is one such, but the standout film there is La Grande Bouffe, which can be summed up fairly simply as "four people lock themselves away for the express purpose of eating themselves to death". I've never seen anything else quite like it. It's completely revolting, but also oddly impressive, and funny in the worst/best way.

I did genuinely enjoy Julie & Julia, but I liked it much more when I saw an edited cut with no Julie. Why there is no film that's exclusively 100% Julia Child being amazing, I will never know.

(08-14-2015, 04:54 PM)Coal Dragger Wrote: I have questions about preparation of wild game. Basically from the moment the animal is field dressed to when the meat hits the plate. I am pretty much clueless, and the results show it.

What are you hunting? Duck? Deer? Pig?
A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

Poor thing.
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#49
(08-14-2015, 06:06 PM)Wombitch Wrote:
(08-14-2015, 04:10 PM)First Strike Deadly Wrote: Is Ratatouille the greatest chef movie ever made?  

Rather, is it the only one?

It's one of the good ones, surprisingly. Apart from wanting to scream at Colette to "cover your hair!" (I understand why they did that from a design perspective, Colette's hair is something that makes her design work on a visual level, but for Christ's sake where is your Goddamn toque! OUT!) and vaguely hating Linguini for what will inevitably happen to his restaurant and everyone who works in it (ESPECIALLY Colette, she's damned forever because of her relationship with Linguini...everyone would assume that she got her position only because she was fucking him, and then when Remy dies in eight months and the restaurant suddenly runs off the edge of a cliff because Linguini himself can't cook worth a damn, her professional reputation is gone) I quite enjoy it. In a simplified, child-friendly way, it gets a lot of things right. I laugh every single time I see this scene, because everything in it has really happened!





(As a side note, my younger son is heartbroken that he has never met "my" Remy. This movie singlehandedly convinced him that when I go to work, I team up with a rat! I can't convince him otherwise!)

There are lots of films that I would recommend that AREN'T Ratatouille, if you're interested?

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary about possibly the greatest sushi chef on earth. I find sushi incredibly soothing as a concept (it's so simple in theory, but in practice takes immense skill) so I watch this a lot. Kings of Pastry is another good documentary, following contestants through one of the most prestigious patisserie competitions in the world; I watch this one in the full knowledge that I was always really terrible with pastry!

Chef with Jon Favreau does a decent job of the industry from the inside. Tony Bourdain loved it, which is not at all surprising because you can see the stamp of his own books and work all over it.

Big Night may be enjoyable for you. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover would also be worth investigating.

Eat Drink Man Woman is less about "chefs" than about "food", but as a love letter to food it's brilliant. Like Water For Chocolate also falls into this category (if you want to see how much power food has, watch that film), as does Chocolat, Tempopo or Babette's Feast. These are the films we have to watch for love of the food itself. They make it beautiful.

There is one more category...crass, disgusting, epic and hilarious. Delicatessen is one such, but the standout film there is La Grande Bouffe, which can be summed up fairly simply as "four people lock themselves away for the express purpose of eating themselves to death". I've never seen anything else quite like it. It's completely revolting, but also oddly impressive, and funny in the worst/best way.

I did genuinely enjoy Julie & Julia, but I liked it much more when I saw an edited cut with no Julie. Why there is no film that's exclusively 100% Julia Child being amazing, I will never know.

(08-14-2015, 04:54 PM)Coal Dragger Wrote: I have questions about preparation of wild game. Basically from the moment the animal is field dressed to when the meat hits the plate. I am pretty much clueless, and the results show it.

What are you hunting? Duck? Deer? Pig?
Opinions on "The Ramen Girl"?

Also, thanks for the list, proud to say that I've seen 1/3rd of it already.
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(05-06-2016, 02:33 PM)NSFgirl Wrote: You're a terrible person, wongtastic.
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#50
(08-14-2015, 06:06 PM)Wombitch Wrote: and then when Remy dies in eight months and the restaurant suddenly runs off the edge of a cliff because Linguini himself can't cook worth a damn, her professional reputation is gone) I quite enjoy it.

But this is magical Disney world, so he will live to be 50, right? =/
Btw, that's a very analytical way to look at a cartoon.  I'm impressed.  And *I* always get poked at amongst my friends for being analytical as hell.  Look how often I get trolled here.

Quote:In a simplified, child-friendly way, it gets a lot of things right. I laugh every single time I see this scene, because everything in it has really happened!

Wait, so you guys have seriously shelled peas by hand?  That's way too much time, and thus overhead being wasted.  I'm sure there's very fresh shelled peas readily available, right?  I laughed at that scene, because I honestly believed it was possible that top-rated restaurants would actually do that.

Quote:I did genuinely enjoy Julie & Julia, but I liked it much more when I saw an edited cut with no Julie. Why there is no film that's exclusively 100% Julia Child being amazing, I will never know.

So the world (and dare I say, the French) actively enjoy an American chef like the "French Chef" Julia Childs?  Wink I know she lived in France, and received a lot of training there and all that.

Honestly, I thought she was French born back in the day.  Btw, i know it's just "Child", but people from my region of the U.S. tend to pluralize the hell out of everything.  Fords, Meijers, etc.  I did that on accident, then just left it in.
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