Parisian Fromagerie

April 30, 2011

A stroke of fortune has placed me next door to an amazing Fromagerie (cheese shop); located on Rue Cler in Paris. The close proximity has allowed me to try a different cheese each and every day. So far, my favorite is an Unpasteurized Goat Cheese. (pictured towards bottom of this post)

A small fraction (about 1/10th) of the available cheeses

Above are pictured mostly main-stream cows cheese. Pictured below are mostly goats cheese, and mostly from smaller producers. (well the back row is obviously bleu cheese). France sells both pasteurized and unpasteurized (cru) cheeses. After trying both, I see that it makes a huge difference. Unpasteurized has much more flavor.

Another 1/10th of the available cheeses. Amazing!

Now here is the secret: we Americans are being short-changed in our cheeses. Ironically, the saboteur was not necessary the FDA (which only mandates a 60 day aging process), but rather it is the Frenchman Louis Pasteur. Yes, I know, we all learned in school how pasteurization has made out food supply much safer. But the heating of the milk to 161-degrees not only kills most bacteria, but sadly kills off some of the milks natural flavors. Those flavors are supposed to get concentrated in cheese, so the effect of pasteurization is magnified in cheese.

But in terms of cheese (which is a different situation than milk), these bad bacteria will naturally die off after 60 days. So the bottom line; Pasteurization allows our cheeses to be sold too young and with too little flavor.

A different cheese shop 1 block away. Cows cheese.

Hard cheese at the farther Fromagerie

An interesting cows cheese. I'm not sure of it's name.

Rocamadour. Made from unpasturized goats milk. 1.50 euros for a tiny 35 gram piece.
Coeur de Lion, Camembert from Pasturized cows milk. 2 euros
Crottin Chavignol. Made from unpasturized goats milk. 3.20 euros.
My most unusual was an unpasturized sheeps cheese.

Unpastuerized Goats Cheese

Cheese made from unpasturized sheeps milk


Stuck for a week in Paris, France.

April 26, 2011

Yes, I know; it could be worse. My parents who were traveling in France, both ended up in the hospital for different reasons. So I am here for a week taking care of them. The only caveat is that I cannot leave “Rue Clar” for more than an hour at a time. So mostly I am enjoying the French restaurants and buying some delicious treats for the local shops. I have tried a few places for morning croissants, and also am envious of Parisians who can buy a delicious baguette for just 1 euro.

Enjoying the sights and foods of Paris

After some initial technical problems, I will try to post photos of the foods of Paris as often as I can.  Check back over the next few days.

Lunch in a random cafe in Paris. My parents are standing.

Below is a gallery of some of the sights I was able to see (click on image to enlarge).

Au revoir for now


Easy-Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

February 4, 2016

Today, I gave a hungry co-worker a hard-boiled egg; mentioning that I made it using a new recipe. “Hard-boiled eggs don’t have a recipe,” they laughed. While 5-years ago I would have agreed; I have marveled at the perfectness of each hard-boiled eggs that I have cooked for the past 5-years (following this recipe). Look closely at the photo below; how often do your eggs look like that? Before I began following that recipe, my answer was never.

Perfectly cooked and a notable difference in peeling

Perfectly cooked and a notable difference in peeling

While extremely simple to make, hard-boiled eggs have two perennial problems. First, there is the green coating surround the yolk, which comes from overcooking. While green eggs are perfectly harmless to eat; it smells a bit like sulfur and usually turns slimy after a day or two in the refrigerator. Why is it so easy to overcook your eggs? Because adding eggs to boiling water requires a different time depending upon how many eggs you cook. Each additional egg delays the moment when the water comes back up to a boil. Getting the timing right is key; an issue that Chis Kimball solved 5 years ago. (and continues to solve using today’s recipe).

The second problem with eggs are their sticky shells. Nearly six years ago I did a comparison of different methods for peeling hard-cooked eggs. The winning method is best, but still is perhaps 90% (at best). I usually found myself peeling eggs while they were still warm and storing them in a tightly sealed container. Chris Kimball has claimed to have solved the problem; “There’s no need to peel the eggs right away. They can be stored in their shells and peeled when needed.”

Issues:

  1. The timing is for large eggs that are cold from the refrigerator.
  2. The recipe uses a steamer basket. But if you don’t have one, Chris Kimball says that you can place the eggs directly into the 1″ of water; using a spoon or tongs.  The smaller amount of water will come back to a boil more quickly that a fuller pot; which will work on 6 or few eggs without altering the timing.
  3. If you are using a steamer basket, this recipe will work on any number of eggs that will fit into a single layer.
  4. The prior cooking technique I had been using for the past 5 years is given by Cook’s Country is here.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: 60-cents.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low.
Start time 6:00 AM. Ready at 6:30 AM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

6 large eggs

  1. Add 1″ water to a medium-saucepan. Set over high burner and bring to a rolling boil; about 5 minutes.
  2. Carefully set eggs in steamer basket and move into saucepan with boiling water. Cover and reduce burner to medium-low; maintaining a boil; and cooking for 15 minutes.
  3. When eggs are almost done; combine 2-cups of ice cubes with 2-cups of told tap water into a medium bowl.
  4. When eggs are ready use tongs or slotted spoon to move eggs into the ice bath; allowing to stand for 10 minutes before peeling.

Happy New Year

January 15, 2016

I know that I am a little late with my annual summary of favorite recipes; but I was traveling in Colombia and I was not able to really write much of anything while I was away. I hope to publish my travel posts, and additionally, I have about 5 new recipes that I need to publish. Hopefully I will be able to catch-up this week.

Best meal of the 2015.

Best meal of the 2015.

 

My top 5 recipes for 2015 were:

  1. Pot-Au-Feu. This was an amazing meal. The first time I have cooked with bone marrow; wow, I never knew bone marrow added so much. This recipe is an absolute must.
  2. Semi-Boneless Grilled Leg Quarters with Lime Dressing. This recipe was based upon Chris Kimball’s recipe, but I de-boned the thigh and trussed it back up (as in Julia Child’s turkey recipe). By combining these two recipes, it made a delicious 5-star recipe even better. I made the recipe many times over the summer, and had the biggest impact on my daily menu of any other recipe this year.
  3. Ultimate Charcoal-Grilled Steaks. Wow, perfectly evenly cooked steaks from edge-to-edge. The results are better than any other steak that I’ve ever cooked. It’s almost impossible to otherwise obtain such professional results at home.
  4. Authentic Baguettes at Home.  I know that I am not alone in my love of Paris, both for the food and for the sights. I made these Authentic Parisian-style baguettes that took two or three days to make; which required a few special tools and a lot of patience. I’m not sure that I will make them again; but it was definitely the best bread I made all year.
  5. Shrimp Scampi. While this recipe is for a non-Chris Kimball shrimp scampi; he recently came out with an updated recipe(which I have made, but not yet posted). His previous recipe was quite old, and lacked both punch and sufficient sauce.

Of course, the biggest (and saddest) news of 2015 was that Chris Kimball will be leaving the Cook’s Illustrated/ATK organization that he created. I hope to continue to follow him whatever his future endeavors may include.


Strasbourg, France

August 11, 2015

My uncommon last name has always been difficult for people to pronounce. It’s hard to understand its origin in order to apply the proper linguistic rules. It comes from this region that switches back and forth between France and Germany, depending upon who won the last war. Finally after hundreds of years, my family name returns; if only for two days. Old town Strasbourg is charming and decidedly German.

However, the slightly newer areas have a feel and ambiance of Paris. It wasn’t until later in the day that we realized that we dressed as the French flag.

Of the sights to see, Strasbourg has an amazing cathedral. It is in the top 10 worldwide list of tallest cathedrals. It was so immense that it was not possible to take a complete photo, and my lens was zoomed out so far (to 18mm) that the curvature prevented me from making a collage.

Finally, we ate a traditional French dinner of. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture before we ate. Another highlight was the amazing French cheese we bought. While not as elaborate as a Parisian Fromagerie, it greatly surpasses even the finest cheese shop back home in New York. Just a common unpasteurized goats cheese is better than the finest cheese I have every bought in the US.


Authentic Baguettes at Home

January 4, 2015

People travel for different reasons. I usually travels with two main goals. (1) Appreciate the local culture by trying to meet and interact with regular people (i.e. those outside the main-stream tourist industry). And (2), eat as much of the local food as possible. While my first goal is nearly impossible in well-trodden Paris, my second goal is always the Parisian-equivilent of a home run. Paris is perhaps the worlds great culinary city (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Crusty, open texture

Crusty, open texture

I am not alone when I say that one of my favorite simple pleasures about Paris are the deliciously ubiquitous baguettes. Always warm and fresh; a Parisian treasure for just €1. Here in the US the baguettes are usually lacking in flavor or crusty texture, but if you are lucky they can sometimes be found. When this recipe first came out, I balked at the length, complexity and additional kitchen gadgets the recipe required (couche, flipping board, diastatic malt powder, and special lame). In the end, I didn’t buy any of the gadgets, but made the delicious baguettes over two-to-three days. They turned out amazing. 5-stars for flavor and texture.

On a side note: the second great city for bread is my home town of San Francisco, which has the best sour dough bread in the world. As is the case for many things in life, it wasn’t until I moved away that I came to appreciate San Francisco’s uniqueness in the world of bread (for a few details see harvesting wild yeast for sourdough). A few years ago, I bought a loaf of Sour Dough from Panera in New Jersey, but the loaf was soundly rejected by my boys.

Comments:

  1. The recipe calls for a flipping board, but Chris Kimball explains that you can just table a double layer of cardboard.
  2. The first 5 minutes of baking call for two inverted disposable pans. Because I didn’t have one long enough to cover the loaves, I cut the ends off both pans which allowed it to slide like an accordion.
  3. The optional diastatic malt powder called for in this recipe allows the crust to brown and become crispier.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $2.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start: At least 2 days before baking. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour (1-1/3 ounces)
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)
1-1/2 cups water (12 ounces)
2 disposable aluminum roasting pans (16″x12″)

Day 1: Mix the dough, allow to rise and refrigerate. (2h15m)

  1. Add whole wheat flour to a fine-mesh strainer and sift into the bowl of a standing mixer; discarding the bran. Add the all-purpose flour, salt, instant yeast and malt powder too. With the standing mixer on low-speed, use the dough hook, add the water and mix for 5 to 7 minutes until dough forms. Empty dough into a large bowl that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Fold the dough over onto itself; pick up the edge of the dough with your fingertips and gently lift it towards the center of the bowl; turn bowl 45 degrees and fold again; repeating a total of 8 folds. Again, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  3. Repeat folding and rising 3 more times. Immediately after the fourth set of folds, cover the dough and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours, but up to 72 hours.

Day 2: Shape and Bake the loaves in two batches ( per batch)

  1. Lightly flour a counter and empty dough without deflating. Carefully pat into 8″-square, and cut in half. Refrigerate the other half of the dough which can be shaped and baked anytime within the 72-hour time frame.
  2. Cut dough in half again, leaving you with two 2″x2″ squares. Move to a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet and loosely cover with plastic wrap; allowing to rise for 45 minutes.
  3. Roll out each of the two pieces of dough into a 3″x4″-long cylinder. Return to the floured baking sheet, cover again with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  4. On a second baking sheet, lightly spray with water the underside of a couche or piece of parchment. Dust the top with flour.
  5. Return the dough to a lightly floured counter and gently press one of the pieces into a 6″x4″ rectangle. Fold 1-inch over to form a 6″x3″ rectangle, then fold the other 1-inch edge over to form a 6″x2″ rectangle, and gently stretch into an 8″x2″ rectangle.
  6. Fold dough in half again, lengthwise, and use your thumb to form a crease along the center of the dough, as you work your way folding over the length of the loaf, using the heel of your hand to reinforce the seal (without pressing down on the loaf).
  7. Cup your hands gently over the center of the dough and roll it gently to tighten the dough (t should form a doggy-bone shape, i.e. wider at the ends).  Continue to gently work the dough, beginning in the center, rolling and stretching, and working towards the ends, until the dough measures 15″ long and about 1-1/2″ wide. Roll the ends between the palms of your hands to form sharp points.
  8. Move loaf with the seam-side upwards onto the couche or parchment prepared in Step 4. Pleat the couche on both sides of the loaf which will gently help the loaf maintain its shape. Loosely cover with large, unscented plastic garbage bag.
  9. Repeat Steps 5 though 8 with the second piece of dough, then move the loaves inside the large trash bag and fold top over onto itself to close. Allow to rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until it has doubled in size. You should be able to gently poke and the dough will slightly spring back.
  10. Meanwhile, set a rack to the middle of your oven, put a baking stone or overturned sheet pan, and begin pre-heating to 500-degrees. Also line a pizza peel with 16″x12″ piece of parchment paper, so that the long edge is perpendicular to handle.
  11. Remove and dough from bag and pull the ends of the couche to flatten (ie, removing the pleats). Use a flipping board to roll so that it is seem side down, and tilt/flip the loaf on top of the flipping board. Move to parchment lines pizza peal with the seem-side down; about 2″ from the edge of parchment. You can use the flipping board to straighten the loaf. Repeat with the second loaf, leaving at least 3″ between the two loaves.
  12. Use the lame to make a series of three 4″-long, 1/2″-deep slashed at a 30-degree angle across the length of the loaf. The slashes should slightly overlap. Repeat the slashing on the second loaf.
  13. Use Pizza peel to move loaves and parchment onto baking stone. Use the inverted disposable pans to cover loaves and bake for 5 minutes. Then carefully remove the plans a continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes longer; rotating the loaves/parchment half way through baking. The loaves will be done when they are evenly browned.
  14. Allow to cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes, but be sure to consume within 4 hours. I was able to extend their freshness by a few hours by putting them in a plastic bag after 2 hours of cooling.

Coq au Vin

January 19, 2014

There are only a handful of recipes that make up part of who I am as an individual. Coq au Vin is one of them. I first had the dish is Paris in 1992, but was unable to replicate its rich sauce upon my return home to San Francisco. It took me 20 years of trial and error (and the invention of the internet) for me to even come close. Coq au Vin taught me the important lessons of patience and perseverance in my 20’s. My life would have been different had I chosen a different item for that 1992 Parisian menu. Last night, I made my best Coq au Vin yet. 4-1/2 stars. A few minor tweaks will easily bring this up to a full 5-stars. Delicious and worth the 3+ hours.

Your 3 hours will be richly rewarded

Your 3 hours will be richly rewarded

The secret to delicious Coq au Vin is patience. It takes over 3 hours, and even after removing the fully-cooked chicken, it still requires reducing the sauce as much as 50 minutes. In Step 10, take the time to measure out the sauce to ensure you’ve reduced it far enough. After 35 minutes, I still had nearly 4 cups of sauce (see photo at bottom of post), though I was expecting only 2 cups.

Comments:

  1. I recommend using salt pork. I modified the recipe below so I will use it next time. Last night I used thick-cut bacon, but the smokey flavor of the bacon doesn’t integrate completely into this recipe.
  2. This recipe is more typically usually accompanied only by parsley potatoes. I served them with mashed potatoes today.
  3. Chris Kimball says to use 24 frozen pearl onions, and to thaw, drained, and pat them dry with a paper towel. In the past I have been unable to find frozen pearl onion, except sold in a disgusting pre-made cream sauce. I did try the cream sauced variety (from Birds-Eye) once, but will never use them again. Today, I did see that Birds-Eye also sells a larger bag of un-sauced, frozen pearl onions. I used my fresh boiler onions.
  4. Chris Kimball recipe doesn’t call for any brandy, but I added some based upon Julia Child’s recipe. She adds and flames the Cognac just after browning the chicken, but I did it after softening the mushrooms, because of the 1/2 cup of chicken fat that I removed in Step 5.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $18.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 3:00 PM. Dinner time: 6:20 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe was in his 10th Anniversary America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

6-oz Salt Pork
4-lbs Bone-in chicken thighs
8-oz Pearl Onions (Labelled boiler onions in my supermarket)
10-oz white mushrooms
1/4 cup brandy
2 medium cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bottle medium-bodied red wine
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaf
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 pounds russet potatoes (for mashed potatoes) or small new potatoes (for parsley potatoes).

  1. Remove the rind and cut the salt pork into lardons; 1/4″ x 1″ match sticks. Cook the salt pork in a dutch oven for 10 minutes over medium heat until browned, using a spatter screen if you have one (which you will also use for the chicken). Remove salt pork to paper towels and pat to remove any excess grease. Set aside until ready to serve. If your chicken is not yet prepared as part of Step 2, then remove pot from heat.
  2. Meanwhile while the bacon is cooking, prepare your chicken by trimming away any excess fat. Dry the chicken using paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. If you have less than 2 tablespoons of pork fat, add vegetable oil. Cook the chicken in two batches over medium-high heat, cooking for 8 minutes per side (a total of 32 minutes). Again, use a splatter screen if you have one, because the spattering chicken makes a big mess. After each batch is complete remove to a plate and set aside.
  4. While the chicken cooks prepare pearl onions and quarter mushrooms. If using fresh pearl onions, roll the onions between your hands to remove as much of the papery exterior as possible, then slice off root ends. Add the onions to boiling water for 1 minute, empty to a strainer then shock in an ice water bath. This will help you remove any remaining outer skin.
  5. Remove all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan (I removed 1/2 cup of extra fat), and cook the quartered mushrooms and pearl onions over medium burner for 10 minutes. Pour brandy into pot and light it on fire with a long match or BBQ lighter. Swirl the pan and let the flames go for about a minute until they start to burn out naturally.
  6. Press garlic cloves directly into pot and add 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Cook for 30 seconds, then add flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
  7. Add wine, chicken broth and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add thyme, bay leaves add 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  8. Return the chicken to the pot, nestling the pieces so that they are submerged. Cover pot and cook chicken over medium-low burner for 45 minutes, maintaining a slight simmer; until chicken reaches correct internal temperature; 175 for dark meat. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken when done, placing in a large bowl and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  9. While the chicken cooks, put a large pot of salted water on the stove-top and begin heating for your mashed potatoes.
  10. Reduce sauce, uncovered, for between 35 and 50 minutes until the sauce has reduce to about 2 cups and is thick. Replace the chicken in the pot for last 5 minutes to reheat.
  11. Remove pot from heat and put chicken on serving platter. Fish out the 2 bay leaves, whisk in the butter and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Pour sauce over chicken and spring with pork and parsley.
After 35 minutes I still had nearly 4 cups

After 35 minutes I still had nearly 4 cups; keep reducing!


Japanese Crisp Breaded Pork Cutlets

January 3, 2014

Tonkatsu is often served on a plate with shredded cabbage, but I made these today as sandwiches. Chris Kimball’s recipe using a familiar assembly-line technique of 3 pie plates, but he uses cornstarch instead of typical flour. While my two sons loved the recipe, rating it 4-1/2 stars, it seems to me that Cook’s Illustrated specifically designed this recipe to make the biggest possible mess in my kitchen in the shortest amount of time. While good, I didn’t think it was sufficiently special to justify the huge mess. So I only rate it 3-stars.

Big mess not worth the average meal

Big mess not worth the average meal

Comments:

  1. My supermarket was only selling boneless, center-cut, pork loin chops in 8-packs for $14. Instead, I bought the bone-in variety for $6, and de-boned the chops myself, which only took a few minutes. My bone-in chops included both the loin and tenderloin muscles, but because Chris Kimball had a variation of this recipe using the tenderloin I used the meat from both muscles. Whereas I pounded the loin muscle to 3/8″, I left the tenderloin at 1/2″ thickness.
  2. I bought the bone-in chops based upon cost, so wanted to give you a breakdown for a cost comparison. The weight of the bone-in chops breaks down as follows: 50% boneless loin, 20% tenderloin, 30% bones/other waste. The boneless chops were $4.29/lb, where the bone-in were $1.99/lb. If I were to have only used the loin, my meat would have been $4.06/lb. Using both loin and tenderloin my meat cost me $2.98/lb.
  3. The original recipe calls for 3 cups of Panko, but I reduced the recipe below for two reasons. Firstly, 3-cups of bread crumbs do not fit in a pie plate, so the bread crumbs spilled onto my counter-top as I tried to cover the chops in step 5. Secondly, didn’t use anything close to 3-cups of panko.
  4. The original sauce recipe was double that which I’ve shown below. The reduced amount that I give should more closely correspond to how much you will actually use today.
  5. The $10 price tag includes hamburger buns. Actually, I bough some beautiful, super-size buns (24-ounces per 8-pack instead of the typical 12-ounces). Without the buns, the recipe would cost $8.50.

Rating: 3-stars.
Cost: $10
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  High.
Start time 5:15 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here, and the original recipe for the sauce is here. The descriptions of how I prepared everything today are given below:

Pork Cutlet Ingredients:
2-cups panko breadcrumbs
1/3-cup cornstarch
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup vegetable oil
6 boneless, center-cut pork loin chops.
Hamburger Buns (optional)

  1. Set a rack to the lower/middle of your oven and pre-heat oven to 200-degrees. Set a large heat-proof plate (such as Pyrex casserole dish) in your oven.
  2. Prepare 3 pie plates as follows: (Plate 1) 1/3-cup cornstarch, (Plate 2) 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, mixed together. (Plate 3) 2-cups panko breadcrumbs.
  3. Trim away and discard the silver skin and fat from your pork. Use a meat pounder until your pork an even 3/8″-inch thickness (but leave any tenderloin at 1/2″ thickness. Pat your pork dry using paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Working with one chop at a time, dredge in cornstarch and shake off any excess. Use tongs to dip both sides in egg mixture, and allow any excess to drip away. Cover both sides of chops in panko, using your fingers to press and ensuring an even coating. Set breaded chops onto a wire rack set over a rimmed backing sheet, and allow coating to dry for 5 minutes.
  5. Add 1/2-cup vegetable oil to a 12″ non-stick skillet and set over medium-high burner. Pre-heat for 2-1/2 minutes until oil is shimmering (but not yet smoking). Fry 3 chops for 2-1/2 minutes per side until nicely browned, using a wide metal spatula to press down ensuring even browning. Use a splatter screen if you have one to avoid a big mess on your stovetop. Use tongs to flip to the chop and fry the second side of another 2-1/2 minutes per side until nicely browned. Line the plate in the oven with paper towels, and put the chops in the 200-degree oven while preparing the second batch.
  6. While the chops cook, prepare your sauce as described below.
  7. Discard the oil in the skillet and use a wad of paper towels to wipe skillet. Repeat step 5 with the remaining pork, but only pre-heat the oil for 2 minutes.
  8. Slice into 3/4″ wide strips and drizzle with Tonkatsu sauce.

Tonkatsu Sauce Ingredients:
1/4 teaspoon dry powdered mustard
1/2 teaspoon water
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoons soy sauce

  1. In a small bowl, mix mustard powder and water.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.

Updated Dutch Oven Buying Guide

November 30, 2013

The week before I started this blog, I bought a $40 Tramontina Dutch Oven as a Christmas Gift to myself. Over the years, the stained and blackened pot has become my “go to” pot for everything from deep-frying to slow-cooked stews. So after 4 years of use, I wanted to find a replacement. But unfortunately, the original Tramonita Dutch Oven was discontinued a few years ago.

New model us taller, but narrower.

New model us taller, but narrower.

In the wake of the Tramontina retirement, Cook’s Illustrated is now recommending the $50 Lodge Quart Dutch Oven. I held off buying it because of the slightly smaller size; 6-quarts compared to the Tramontina’s 6.5-quarts. Because I love making stews, I didn’t want to end up needing more batches to brown the meat without crowding the pan.  So I was excited when Cook’s Illustrated updated their Website in April 2013 to reflect that Tramonita was planning to release an updated version. A few weeks ago I found the new version was finally available, but with a $60 price tag (which has since been reduced to $40). Both the $50 Lodge and new Tramontina are available from Walmart.com; with free shipping. I bought the new Tramontina because of its slightly higher capacity, but unfortunately, the extra 1/2-quart capacity of the new Tramontina didn’t offer any extra surface area.  Both it and the Lodge have the same 10-3/4″ diameter.

The complete comparison on the Cook’s Illustrated website is here. The overall winner is the $300, 7-1/4 quart Le Crueset.

OLD Tramontina 6.5-Qt. Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Capacity: 6.5 qt.
Diameter: 11.06 inches
Price $40

NEW Tramontina 6.5-Qt. Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Capacity: 6.5 qt.
Diameter: 10-3/4 inches
Price $40

Lodge Color Enamel 6-Quart Dutch Oven
Capacity:  6 qt.
Diameter: 10-3/4 inches
Price $50

7-1/4 quart Le Crueset Dutch Oven
Capacity:  7-1/4 qt.
Diameter: 9-3/4 inches (Amazon says 11-3/5 inches).
Price $300

I believe that the weights listed on the Cook’s Illustrated website are incorrect, that they are a mixture of shipping weights and actual weights. It says that the Tramontina weights 19-lbs (which represents the shipping weight rather than the actual weight), whereas I believe that the 13.7-lbs of the 7-1/4 quart Le Crueset represents the actual weight of the pot.

After buying the new Tramontina, I noticed a week later that Walmart reduced the price from $60 to $40. Because I have a Walmart so close to where I live, I ordered the $40 pot, and returned the $60 pot in-store.

In the end, I plan to use the old stained pot to deep fry; chicken, french fries, donuts, etc.; and use the new pot to make stews and other more delicate dishes. Certainly worth another $40 if I can get another 4 years of happiness out of the pot.


San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

August 23, 2013

I first heard of San Miguel de Allende more than 20 years ago, but its legend goes back to the 1930’s as an artist colony and literary haven, like Hemingway’s and Fitzgerald’s Paris of the same era.  Luckily San Miguel has remained a loosely-kept secret, partially protected by its relative remoteness. It took me over 16 hours to get here, broken up into 6 distinct segments. Each segment becoming less and less comfortable; more and more rustic.

DSC_0009

But setting aside its gallery-filled, Bohemian roots, simply from a restful, touristic perspective, San Miguel continues to be one of Mexico’s greatest treasures. Its cobblestone streets, picturesque Cathedrals, colonial-ruins-turned-boutique-hotels, perfect 72-degree weather, and peaceful plazas filled with roving mariachis; make this the perfect first stop on my swing through the Mexican colonial highlands.

DSC_0022

The food has been amazing, although so far we’ve mostly eaten tacos; beef, pork, shrimp. My eldest son Matt loved the Churros we bought near one of the plazas, and after a bit of searching I found a nice panedaria with a huge variety of beautiful bread, about a 10 minute walk from the plaza principal. I still have not found Mexican Street Corn, though I saw a Mexican couple eating some. It can’t be too far.


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