Have You Ever Dry Brined a Turkey?

Hmm maybe a little late in the game, but I'm interested in dry brining this year. However, I just picked up the bird this morning from the farmer (he's only at the market here on Wednesdays..) and I'm wondering if it is too late to just do a dry brine? I was thinking of salting it (1TBS/5lbs as indicated) and then leaving it to dry immeadiately. Would this work?

Favorite take on hummus?

I use the cook's illustrated recipe too as my jumping off point, soak my chick peas overnight and cook in my pressure cooker. Usually end up adding a bit more lemon, tahini, garlic and salt if I'm making it just for me because I looooove those flavors.

Got some good ideas from this post - thanks for posting it ell.victor! I've been interested in sprouted hummous but seems like a LOT of steps.. is it worth it?

Serious Salads: Asian Chicken Noodle Salad with Ginger-Peanut Dressing

Yum! Looks great, thanks for the recipe!

Annoying Lunch Habits of Coworkers

When I was teaching, I worked at a school where half the faculty were crazy diet ladies. Pretty annoying when they are alternating between clucking about their diets, fiercely eyeballing my plate, or analysing the fat content/calories of what everyone else is eating. Once the weather was nice, I started taking a walk on my lunch break and eating my lunch in a nearby park.

Labels and Logos

This post made me think of the 2010 animated short film winner of the oscars Logorama. If you haven't yet seen it, I highly recommend it! Really well done and amusing almost to recognize all the logos and branding that surrounds us day-to-day..

Bad Restaurant Reviews

Its easy to like something, but when a restuarant (or anything with a negative review) is bad, I wanna know the details.

Is It Worth It? (Part 2)

Yeah, I agree with the general consensus - worth it only if you live womewhere where bagels suck or are very hard to find (true in both cases here in France...) However, I've gotta stick up for the midwest and say that there are some pretty good bagels there or at least, in Cincinnati and Columbus where I grew up.

The Pits

Just heard about steeping cherry pits in balsamic vinegar on the Splendid Table podcast to imbue the vinegar with a woody-cherry flavor.. Sounded like a delicious idea.

Are You a Food Blog Addict?

Addicted, though less so than a couple months ago. And google reader only enables the addiction!

Snapshots from Jura, France: Cows, Comte Cheese, Charcuterie, and More

@philamb totally agree with you about Ninkasi!

What's the Best Picnic You've Ever Had?

Oooh Kenji, you lucky man! Love all these picnic stories too! I really think picnicking is one of the best things to do when you come to France, or Europe or anywhere!

My frenchman here teases me for my adoration of picnics. Can't decide between two picnics though - one high up in the Pyrénées, fruit, tomatoes, cured meats, camembert and pain de compagne (the staples!) and some cherry brandy (just a few nips) after a long high-altitude hike up to the peak and a icy cold swim in a tiny lake of melted snow. For dessert? As many mountain blueberries as you could find and eat on the way down!

The other, last summer, after a long bike ride along the Canal du Midi with two of my best friends, settled into the perfect spot beside the canal and nibbled all sorts of cheese, rillets d'oie, cornichons, radis, perfect peaches and polished of a couple bottles of rosé in the 3-4 hours we lingered there. The bike ride home was a lot of fun ;)

Snapshots from Dijon: Torsade Flammande from Boulangerie Paul

I gotta say that I too was a bit shocked about Kenji raving about PAUL. I lived in Dijon for several months and the best bakery in town (locally, independantly owned) is less than a minutes walk away and a hell of a lot more charming. But I know that SE doesn't hate on the chains/fast food. Their bread is decent, but if you've been here a while you quickly find its faults. For me the trahison is that this Paul place is nudging local, independant operations out of business and factors into a much larger phenomenon of this sort of thing happening in France. My beef with Paul is that you are never going to find lovely local recipes there for local pastries or anything else that seems original. They specialize in the big classics (yes, I too bought many a baguette au pavot in my day...) and fast lunch options, but your options at Paul in Dijon are no different than those in Toulouse. To the French people I know here that are up in arms about places like Paul taking over, its a question of the art of breadmaking falling by the wayside and good real estate being bought up by big chains and rendering it impossible for small businesses to come in after them.

That said, GOOD boulangeries are indeed very tricky to find here - even for the French. Many mom 'n pop joints are now selling "chain" breads that are sub par and in some cities, the best baked breads can be found in the supermarket. You can't take anything at surface value; you have to try around.

But initially, all Americans (north or south) find ANY bread here amaaazing and its not because the bread here is good, its because France has higher standards, and thus even their junky food seems better to us at first. I've only been living here for four years, but my expectations about food quality have vastly changed - and I was considered a snobby eater at home before any of this. Now, going home to see my folks, I never cease to be amazed at how bland and poor quality American food has become.

Oof, my apologies for the rant, but bread really is important here and I've been sucked in!

Dear Orangina: Please Bring These Flavors To Me.

So glad you've shared that ad, I always love passing it along to my friends. The new ad series has really taken it a step up though! You should check those out too!

But I highly doubt Orangina will bring their spinoff flavors to the states where it has stayed in a niche market of foodies and europhiles. It's too "classic" in the US. Here its just another junk food and has to keep up with the competition to appeal to youthful consumers.

Personally, I find that the longer I drink Orangina here in France, the more I notice a very artificial, chemical taste to it and less of the fresh orangey taste I originally loved it for. If I have to drink a soft drink here, I'm a fan of the Schwepps Agrums or Citron. (At least there is no masquerade there as far as natural vs. chemical tastes go.) Also Schwepps is trying to go risqué with their ads too, but its just not their thing!

French in a Flash: Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

Looove beet salad, but I have to disagree you on one little thing! The raw garlic adds a lovely zing if in moderation and finely minced.

Why did I even bother asking?

+1 for bring the veggies, do a nice dip. Next time, if I were you, I'd pose the question like this "Can I bring anything? I'd love to share this recipe with you guys..." I'm with CatBoy, you can be gently assertive in this situation I think.

creative salads

A salad I ripped off from a sweet little empanada place : about a cup cubed roasted beets nested on top of some mesclun, topped with lots of toasted sesame seeds, and a vinaigrette of soy sauce, sesame oil, champagne vinegar and a tiny bit of olive oil. Pretty easy to throw together and super tasty.

Cooking with Kohlrabi - any suggestions?!

I love it just raw as a crudité - maybe give it a shot in its most simple state before doing anything fancy with it if you've never tried it before.

Capers- Yes or No?

Mmm.. Another yes vote! Capers are lovely.

Huitlacoche, aka corn smut

I've never cooked with it personally, but my favorite mexican place here does an awesome stuffed chicken breast with lots of cheese and huitlacoche and peppers. It's amazing. I believe it is considered a delicacy in Mexican cuisine but the flavor is not truffle like - just very earthy/mushroomy as everyone else has been saying.

Cook the Book: Arepas de Queso

Any chance that fine ground cornmeal could replace the masarepa? That ingredient will be impossible to procure here in Toulouse...

Pickapeppa Sauce, How do you use it?

pickapeppa mixed in with the yolk of fried eggs = childhood breakfast favorite

Suggestions for vegetarian weeknight dinners?

We eat mostly meat free all the time. My favorites to whip up regularly: dals, risottos, frittate, polenta+sautéed greens and an egg, savory bread puddings, savory soufflés.

Kitchen Scale for baking -- really a necessity?

@agoodcooker, haha my boyfriend does that somestimes too if its just sitting out still. "EQUALITY!!"

its easy to get geeky with a scale. but i bet thats a great tool to use with battling siblings... :)

Kitchen Scale for baking -- really a necessity?

I never used a scale when I lived in the US and baked all my bread (can't stand bad bread!) and never had any problems either.

Nevertheless, I got a scale after living in France a couple years - I swtich back and forth between american and international recipes, so it has be come very helpful when baking.

And though it makes me feel like a silly dieter, I do tend to use it to measure our portions of pasta and other things... So no, not necessary, but I really like it.

What to do with an embarrassment of parsley?

Persillade with lots of garlic and butter. I like a little lemon zest/juice in there too. Frozen in the ice cube tray. Perfect to serve on grilled fish/meats/vegetables this summer.

Your favorite vinegars?

Somehow, my stock of various vinegars has been exhausted all at about the same time - balsamic vinegar, a really nice banyuls red wine vinegar (a gift) and rice vinegar.

As I stood in the oil and vinegar aisle at the supermarket today, I was wondering if there are any new standbys I should adopt.

So, I'm turning to you SE friends, what are your standard bottles? I'm thinking of trying champagne and/or sherry vinegar. Would I need bottles of both? Your thoughts please!

I've got a whole lotta guajillos

A friend of mine voyaged back to the states for the holidays and I'd asked her to bring me a few Mexican ingredients from her home-state of Texas, as certain ones are hard to find here in France. Boy did she follow through, Texas style!

Part of my goodie bag is a GIANT sack of dried guajillos. I'm talking 50-60 chiles here. So what are your favorite ways to use them? :)

Cranberry relish in the land of no cranberries

So, another question about Thanksgiving. I'm trying to figure out how to do a sort of cranberry sauce/relish/ANYTHING for my Thanksgiving potluck in France. I have scouted out the city - there are no fresh berries to be found. My two options are buying the ocean spray canned sauced or jelly from a specialty shop at 4.99€/can or buying dried cranberries that are actually quite plump and moist at 18€/kilo. I love the ocean spray jellied stuff and grew up eating it. But paying 5€ for it (I could eat the entire can myself!) sort of irks me.

I'm dreaming of a relish recipe that could rely on oranges more and have a hearty amount of the dried berries incorporated in... Or do any of you have any nice ideas for dressing up the canned cranberry sauce?

Innovative ideas are welcome! Thanks!

Ana Sortun's book, Spice - has any one here cooked from it?

Two dear friends who know I love to cook just gave me Ana Sortun's book Spice. I've been flipping through it and all the recipes look amazing. However - I've been a bit daunted by all the specialty ingredients (pomegranate molasses, dried mulberries, seems like there are a lot of websites listed in the ingredients for these recipes...) and some of the laborious steps to make certain recipes. To me, its restaurant cooking in the true sense of the term - you get working on preparing a meal in the morning to serve it in the evening, you're kitchen is stocked with professional equipment and you have the bankroll to keep specific ingredients on hand all the time. I'm a home-cook with a modestly stocked kitchen. I'm cooking for two. I have a hard enough time going through my essential spices before they go stale... It kind of makes me just wish I could go to her restaurant. (Alas, Toulouse to Cambridge is a long journey.)

That said, I don't want to give up on this book before even testing anything out. I was just curious if anyone here had cooked from this book and could tell me their ideas, experiences, etc. Is it worth the money spent on a cabinet full of exotic spices?


Roasting turkey: converting whole bird recipes to pieces

Hoping that you all can help me formulate a plan here as I start researching my thanksgiving dinner party. I'm in France, hosting a pot luck dinner for Thanksgiving among my foodie friends (about 12 people total). As the hostess, I'm providing the bird, gravy and dressing. The tricky thing is that cooking a whole bird is not possible in my French mini-four, an oven the size of a large toaster oven.

My present idea is to roast the bird in parts, probably in two phases to do it all. I've found plenty of mouth-watering recipes online that I'd love to do but they are all for roasting the turkey whole. My question is: do you all have any advice for adapting a whole bird recipe for piece-roasting? (Shortening the cooking time is obvious, but I'm looking for more details...)

I'm planning on doing a test run (probably on just a thigh and breast to keep cost down) but I'd really appreciate your pointers, ideas, and experience.

Thanks so much!

Spinach and weird mouthfeel

So I thought I'd just share this tidbit of information I learned last night...

I made this recipe: White Lasagne with Parmigiano Besciamella and added fresh, steamed spinach from the market to my layers. The recipe is great and my man and I scarfed down own plates Garfield style.

However, we both noticed a strange filmy mouthfeel after each spinachy bite. And we'd experienced the same feeling after eating sautéed spinach on polenta a few weeks ago. But not encountered it when the spinach is mixed into soups. Sort of a every once in a while experience.

After a bit of googling last night, we discovered that this filmy feeling left in our mouths can be attributed to the high levels of oxalate found in spinach, a substance which also blocks the body's absorbtion of much of spinach's iron.

Weird, huh? Just wondering if others had experienced this or know anything else about it. Interested in hearing your feedback!

food podcasts

In the kitchen I mix it up between silence, music and podcasts. I'm always looking for new podcasts to listen to and was just wondering which ones you all subscribe to? Specifically I'm interested in good food(ie) ones, but other ideas are welcome. I already listen to Radiolab, TAL, some expat podcasts, France Culture's nouveaux chemins and the BBC history of the world podcast (dooooorrrk!)

So what are you listening to?

Halving a recipe that calls for one egg...

Just curious how everyone else approaches this: when I'm baking for two, often I halve the recipe because one whole cake/tarte is just way too much for the two of us to eat before said baked good's time is up.* Most of time this is no big deal. But yesterday I was baking the peach shortbread from smittenkitchen and the whole recipe makes a whole lotta yummy cookies, but only calls for one egg. My idea was to crack the egg into a bowl , whip it up a lil bit and mix in half of the egg, but in the end I just made the whole recipe... and now we've got peach shortbread to eat at every meal!

So how would you approach this baking situation? Also do you know of any good baking for two/few recipe resources? We could talk about it over peach shortbread and tea at my place! ;)

*I live in France, where the freezers are tiny and thus freezing leftovers is not an option for me.

Cook the Book: Thai Beef Salad 

I've got to hand it to Wells—her Thai Beef Salad beats the pants off of any Thai takeout version I've encountered. With a base of juicy rare roast beef slices marinated in a lime-fish sauce dressing, the salad is composed of thinly sliced cucumbers and red onion, chiles, and sweet cherry tomatoes tossed in that same fantastic dressing. On top of the veggies go a shower of bright herbs—cilantro, mint, basil, and kaffir lime leaves if you can find them—as well as a handful of salty roasted peanuts. Crunchy, salty, sour, sweet, spicy, and remarkably fresh, this salad can be made with chicken, shrimp, or even thinly sliced tofu. More

Bread Baking: Cinnamon Rolls

What's even better than buying cinnamon rolls is making them. Because the smell of cinnamon and sweet yeasty bread baking is almost as good as eating the rolls. (Almost.) These are great fresh from the oven, when they're just a little bit warm. Leftovers are great for French toast or bread pudding. If you have leftovers. More

Dinner Tonight: Lentil Salad with Grilled Zucchini and Prosciutto

I love the time of year, when zucchini just starts to pop up at the farmers' market, and this recipe from Stonesoup is the perfect way to show off the vegetable. A simple lentil salad gets spruced up here with the addition of grilled ribbons of zucchini and a few slices of salty prosciutto. The lightly blackened vegetable lends a smokey essence to each bite, while the prosciutto helps make this a relatively filling main course salad. More

Pork Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce wraps are quick to prepare and fun to eat, besides being delicious. The rich flavor of the meat against cool, crisp lettuce is a fantastic combination. In this recipe, the preparation is kind of a cross between a sauté and a stir fry, made up of browned onions, ginger, pork, carrots, peppers, potatoes, water chesnuts, and plenty of garlic. More

Cook the Book: Barbecued Lentils

Serving these Barbecued Lentils at a recent dinner brought back memories of college vegetarian days when both cooking skills and bank accounts were limited to say the least. After a few spoonfuls of these remarkably flavorful and really meaty lentils, I wished I had this recipe back then. By mixing French lentils with what are essentially barbecue sauce ingredients, these lentils are transformed into something hearty and super satisfying. More

Serious Sweets: Thai Coffee Bread Pudding

I've made bread pudding with everything from sliced white to croissants, but much prefer challah; it absorbs the custard nicely while retaining its shape so the pudding isn't a mushy mess. In this recipe, the custard is made with sweetened condensed milk and a generous amount of espresso powder, accentuated with floral cardamom, spicy cinnamon, and the perfume of almond extract. More

Cook the Book: Fojol Bros. Butter Chicken

The Fojol Bros' everyday roster includes two vegetarian and two meat-based dishes, such as this Butter Chicken adapted for Heather Shouse's Food Trucks. As wild as the Fojol Bros' concept is, their take on butter chicken is pretty traditional, with chunks of chicken rubbed with a chile-lemon butter, marinated in a spiced yogurt mix, and grilled, kabob-style. The skewers are finished by simmering in a creamy tomato based gravy laced with all sorts of warming spices, including cardamom, ginger, and cloves. More

Cook the Book: Yucatan-Style Slow-Roasted Pork

Once your pork is roasted, it can be portioned out and incorporated into all sorts of easy weeknight meals. It makes a killer pulled pork sandwich (even better when topped with some slaw), incredible tacos (especially with some quickly pickled onions), or on its own with rice and beans. You could even make a "faux-lognese" sauce, by cooking it down with carrots, celery, shallots, white wine, and crushed tomatoes. More

The Food Lab: How to Make Scallion Pancakes

When I first learned how scallion pancakes are made, I was floored. Whoah, ancient Chinese secret! was what ran through my head. It took me several years to realize that conceptually, the method is almost identical to that of making puff pastry, croissants, or any number of laminated pastries, which makes scallion pancakes a perfect subject for exploring in this week's Food Lab. More

Dinner Tonight: Fish with Saffron-Tomato Cous Cous

Usually, my go-to technique when cooking fish is to crank up the heat for a smoking hot sear. The theory goes that fish, especially white-fleshed varieties, are pretty mild in flavor, so the more caramelization and flavor that can be built into the cooking process, the better. Of course, that all falls apart when you taste a recipe like this, with the fish resting in a broth so intensely flavored you don't need much else. More

Chicken Roasted with Spiced Yogurt

It was kind of a revelation when I discovered the magical marinating powers of yogurt. When it comes to quick dinners, it's good for your arsenal—yogurt-based dishes tend to work their magic especially quickly, rendering meat flavorful and succulent and infusing it with the accompanying flavors and spices. More

How to Make Bagels at Home

I don't use the word magical lightly, but there really is something wondrous about making bagels at home. Maybe it's the shape. I think most everyone understands a loaf of bread, but the round shape with a hole ... well, it seems like a whole lot more work than simply plopping some dough in a loaf pan. But it's not. Really. Try making just one batch of these, and I'm sure you'll have the process down pat. Put on your sorcerer's robe and follow along! More

Cook the Book: Quick Kimchi

No Korean meal is complete without a bit of kimchi, the love-or-hate-it fermented vegetable preparation, usually made of cabbage or radish. Kimchi's flavor varies widely depending on how it's made. It can anywhere from bright red and spicy with plenty of Korean chile powder to over-the-top-brush-your-teeth-immediately garlicky. Personally, I love them all and eat plenty of kimchi straight out of the jar, standing in front of an open fridge. More