Sunday, May 31, 2009

Summery Meal

This right here is the food that I really like to eat. It's healthy, it's local, it's fresh. Eating like this gives me a lot of personal satisfaction, and I feel great afterwards.

It's grilled asparagus from a nearby farm, incredible, extra sharp-chevre from another nearby farm specializing in goat's milk products, basil and chives from my backyard, walnuts, and a few squeezes of lemon juice.
And it really needs nothing else.

Friday, May 22, 2009

fast food

Generally, I don't like fast food much, though I do admire the concept of food that is fast, convenient and generally tasty. I admire, not the way their business principles are executed, but the fundamental principles themselves. Fast food undoubtedly destroys small business, is unsustainable, inhumane, not to mention unhealthy, and its pioneers can be compared to the robber barons of the industrial revolution. However this is what it has become, and indeed, all those adjectives I just listed have become synonymous with fast food. Why not dissipate these assumptions? Who's to say that food can't be sustainable and relatively healthy, while still being convenient and tasty?

The big problem with this idea is money. It is simply impossible to charge the same price for humanely raised, grass-fed beef as McDonald's charges for their beef, yet using basic fast food principles, I think that prices could be lower than one would expect. The fast food giants control about 85% of the market for beef (Fast Food Nation), and they buy from a few large suppliers. These large suppliers, namely ConAgra, have done their best to eliminate competition. Smaller ranchers have no one to sell to. Why not source meat from dozens, if not hundreds of smaller ranchers, therefore supporting smaller farmers and putting healthy competition back in the marketplace, therefore supporting smaller ranchers (and in turn increasing quality) and creating some healthy competition to keep prices low.

The meat or course, isn't the only thing that costs money. Because fast food is really more industry than food, everything gets done more efficiently. The whole system is a production line itself. To lower prices while maintaining quality, we must find ground where industry meets quality. A trick is oversimplifying the labor to the extent that almost anyone can do it. This is where sous vide comes in handy. Anyone can vacuum pack a chicken breast then drop the pouch in a water bath. All anyone would really need to do cooking-wise is sear it off on a flaming hot flat-top to order. The food is all pre-cooked sous vide, all that's necessary is a few minutes of heating. This food is definitely fast, requires cheap labor, is convenient, and could potentially be very tasty.

And finally the menu. The theme is sandwiches.

Meats: Chicken Confit. Chicken Breast. Pulled Pork. Pork Belly. Brisket. Burgers.
All the meats would be sous vide before being seared to order, or in the case of brisket or pulled pork, held warm.

Toppings: Avocado, caramelized onions, Balsalmic reduction, garlic aioli, red pepper aioli, bleu cheese, sharp cheddar, aged gouda, bacon, apple, roasted broccoli, broccoli rabe, fried egg.

Breads: Whole wheat sourdough. Whole wheat brioche (yes I just said that). Whole Wheat hoagie roll. Whole wheat croissant.
All of these are 100% whole wheat, though I would probably end up serving white bread too because there might not be a big enough market in the whole wheat field, but who knows.

Do I really like this blueprint that I have right now? Yes. But do I really know any specifics regarding the business aspect? No, definitely not. So don't quote me.

Note: Someone mentioned that fast food really is actually very good for small business, because of franchises. They said that the franchise provides a somewhat low-risk ticket in to business, that would be impossible without the help of the fast food restaurant. I see the point, but I strongly disagree with this. It is true that fast food companies make it much easier for small business owners to start up, however many fast food companies employ ruthless tactics to keep franchisees under their strict control. To quote Fast Food Nation "In recent years conflicts between franchisees and franchisors have become much more common... It is perfectly legal under federal law for a fast food chain to take kickbacks from its suppliers, to open a new restaurant next door to an existing franchisee, and to evict a franchisee without giving cause or paying any compensation" (Schlosser 99). -And fast food companies take advantage of this. To site an example, a Jack in the Box exec "once terminated the contracts of 642 Jack in the Box franchisees, giving them just thirty days to move out" (Schlosser 99). Fast food companies do their best to keep franchises away from "small business." They regulate suppliers, and pretty much everything else about the franchise. Technically a McDonald's, or a Burger King, or a Subway, or a Wendy's franchise could be called a small business, but walk inside and it is merely an expansion of a major corporation. Moreover, even if fast food didn't do all this, what's the good of a "small business" fast food restaurant. Sure it provides oppurtunity for business owners, but it provides none of the benefits we look to in a small business. And finally, fast food has undoubtedly destroyed more than it has created. Though it is not entirely the fault of the ff industry, the U.S. has shifted towards anything corporate, which in itself, makes life more difficult for small-business owners. It's much harder now to own a mom and pop pizzeria with a pizza hut or sbarro's on every corner. The people who raise the food are likewise hurt. Smaller ranchers have trouble finding business, as do potato farmers, and farmers with chickens. I could go on. Anyway, I don't know why I spent so much time on that, but once I start, it's hard to stop.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Posting has been slacking lately. I'm having trouble balancing homework, studying for the chemistry SAT 2's, preparing for finals, going to Lacroix each week, working at Rita's water ice a few days a week, and writing on my blog. The good news is that summer is just around the corner and in a few weeks I will have more than enough time to devote to posting. So what have I been up to?

In return for my friend's duck eggs, I cook him something. There is a Great Harvest Bread company near us, and we often walk to their store and try a sample slice of bread, usually the S'more bread. The bread is a white bread studded with chocolate chips and marshmallows and covered in a buttery, crumb crust. The bread is delicious, but really, the crust is the only good part. This bread is a good concept that can definitely be improved upon. Ideally, the bread would have a really high surface area to volume ratio, but for my next shipment of duck eggs, I decided I would switch it up a bit.

As opposed to the white bread that Great Harvest uses, I made a very rich brioche dough then rolled it out thin. I covered this with a layer of nutella, and then a layer of marshmallows. I rolled this up, then baked it most of the way before adding a graham cracker topping (cause that's really what s'mores are, graham crackers, chocolate, and mallows) and finishing the bread. The graham cracker topping idea needs improvement. It didn't adhere to the crust particularly well, and it just wasn't what I had envisioned. As a whole though, I absolutely loved this bread. It's rich and chocolaty, and sweet, and really overindulgent. I made one loaf for my friend and one for myself, and I devoured mine.
(This loaf sunk because I removed it from the pan before it could set)

I recently experimented with brownies. I love the combination of mint and chocolate, so I cooked the butter I would later use with mint for 12 hours at 140 degrees, before mixing it with the other ingredients. I can't say that I loved the end result. The chocolate was overpowering, and the mint was muted in the background. The slight mint flavor that I could taste wasn't even extremely pleasant, it was kind of weird to be honest. Overall however the brownies were delicious. I used a very high amount of chocolate and fat compared to flour, coupled with a very large amount of brown sugar, to make these brownies almost like eating fudge. These were thick, and rich, barely held together by the egg and almost oozing chocolate.

I've been eating quinoa for lunch everyday. I cook a big plain batch at the beginning of the week, then make an individual serving with mix-ins each day. So far I'm hooked on eating it with feta, red onion, and pesto. I'm excited to try quinoa with avocado, hard-boiled duck eggs, and wilted collards, which is my lunch for tomorrow.

Lastly, I'm very excited because my family has started to get shipments of fruits and vegetables from a few Lancaster farms, each week. I'm hoping to expand my culinary horizons by cooking with vegetables I've never used before. This continues into the fall.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Ask For Help, don't ask for fogiveness"

- Jason Cichonski (chef de cuisine at Lacroix) addressing his cooks as they began to prepare for what would be, perhaps, Lacroix's busiest weekend of the year.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sous Vide Chicken Breasts

As I mentioned early, I just sous vide two chicken breasts at 145 for a little over an hour. I cooked them with just salt, pepper and rosemary, but I could've added a hunk of butter, which is what a lot of chefs do.

After cooking I chilled the chicken breasts in an ice bath then refrigerated them. When I wanted a quick and delicious lunch, I just pulled a bag out, opened it, and cooked it over high heat for a few minutes to warm the chicken through and crisp the skin.

The chicken was extremely delicious. The crisp skin gave way to extreme moistness and tenderness, clearly due to the sous vide cooking. What's more, it was extremely convenient. I just left the bag in the fridge until I wanted some chicken then crisped it up for a few minutes. That my kind of fast food. Speaking of fast food....... TBC!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day

My mother's day present to my mom, was, well, the best present I can give, food. Not just any food however. I wasn't just gonna grill off a steak and call that my present. I made her chicken confit, oooooo, ahhhhhh.

(Mmmm Bacon Fat)

A few days before, I cured the legs with truffle-salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic overnight, then cooked them sous vide in bacon fat (that I had accumulated slowly after cooking much bacon) for eight hours at 176 degrees.

I really believe there is just nothing like confit. These legs were so much more succulent and flavorful than those of a roast chicken. The salting, and then slow cooking adds unmatched depth of flavor to otherwise ordinary legs. This chicken was extremely tender, almost too much so. Next time I will cook it at 180. I saved a leg for myself, and devoured it immediately, promising my belly that I would make it more often- and I really don't know why I don't. If I buy a whole chicken, I have two breasts for lunches, two legs for confit, and two wings and a body for stock.
I served the confit with a smooth potato puree and a kind of chunky avocado puree (saying mashed potatoes or guacamole just doesn't sound right in the context of the dish) because I really loved how the textures worked together. There are times for textural contrast, and there are times for textural uniformity. In this case, the uniformity really allowed the dish to meld. It was smooth and fluid to eat, and most importantly, Mom was happy.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I will post about the yogurt after I perform one more test.

Chicken, Pizza

I went to bed really happy and satisfied with myself last night. I had bought a whole free range chicken from whole foods, broken it down, and saved the body for stock. I sous vide the breasts at 145 for an hour, and I salted the legs which I would confit in bacon fat the next day. I also had pizza dough proofing overnight in the fridge. I frikin love cooking.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My First Try at Fried Chicken

Using Alton Brown's Buttermilk-soaked fried chicken recipe, with quite awful results. It was my fault though, not Alton's. The chicken was extremely bland due to underseasonig, though it was crispy.

Homemade Yogurt

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hot Sexy Food Porn!

Did that get your attention? Good. There's no food porn in this post, but just sit here for five minutes and read this if you will.

No matter how much you like this blog or how often you read it, I need it more than you do. I really didn't see it this way when I started, but it has become so much more than me typing some words on a website. I need this blog for myself. I connect with myself and let out my feelings with this blog. It's my therapist, and whatever I wanna say, it listens.

I recently talked to someone about the posts I like to write. I really find that my posting about something like salmon that I made, or a steak that I grilled, with lots of pictures involved, are pointless. I don't enjoy writing them. I do those to kind of "appease the crowd," because those are the posts that more people tend to like (ya know the ones with simple writing and plenty of eye candy).

The other day, the head chef at Lacroix came up to me, and asked me if I would be upset if Per Se closed (he had read this post about how I didn't approve of the new a la carte menu at per se). I responded "of course." He then went on to tell me how he's sure that Thomas Keller was strongly opposed to the idea, but in trying to put butts in seats he obliged.

Thankfully, I'm not financially invested in this blog, but if just wrote my wordy, longer posts, this blog would probably "close," so I spruce it up with the shorter ones. I love you readers, but I'm quite happy that I can write what I want, when I want. This blog has become as much for me as it is for you- maybe even more for me- and I hope you can accept that. Of course I will throw in some filler here in there, with oodles of pictures and the like, but give my longer, wordier posts a chance. When I wrote my "25 Random Things About Me" I said, "You don't get all of me with this blog. You only get 25%." If you read my wordy posts, that number's more like 50.