Profile

okupin

Associate professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno. Learned to cook by watching PBS in the mid-1990's (Jacques Pepin, Martin Yan, Martha Stewart, Jeff Smith...). Good cook, bad baker.

  • Location: Reno, NV
  • Favorite foods: olives, peaches, cherries, fish and shellfish, any combination of butter, sugar, and nuts, preferably caramelized, croissants. Also pizza.
  • Last bite on earth: baklava

Dipping Into Queso, a Texas Potluck Classic

I second @Scott569's vote--love these contributions to SE! We've got queso in NM, too, of course, but my mom's version was equal parts cheddar and American, half-and-half for consistency, then fresh green chiles, fresh tomatoes, and garlic powder for flavor; we always thought of the Ro-Tel/Velveeta version as the TX way to make it. Wonder what the genealogy of our version was--if it came from San Antonio or independently, from queso fundido, across the Mex/NM border....

Dipping Into Queso, a Texas Potluck Classic

@thesteveroller 1. To my ear, a line like "And from there developed a separate and syncretic cuisine, which to call purely Mexican (probably according to any Mexican) is to stretch the term" sounds just as undergrad-y as the line you singled out for criticism from the article. 2. So, you feel at liberty to speak for "any Mexican," but she's not allowed to refer to what developed in San Antonio as "Mexican food" from the Anglo point of view.... 3. What do your personal objections to the author's writing style have to do with chile con queso, again?

Play nice, OK? It's hard for the rest of us to hear and learn from each other if you've got the flamethrower turned up to 11.

How to Make Foolproof Cheese Fondue

OK after reading McGee and my mom's soup recipe, I'm both less and more bewildered. My mom's recipe had no beer in it, turns out. So, the baking soda was probably to lower the acidity of the *cheddar* so it would play nicely with the milk. That makes sense. So now I'm perplexed as to why 1 tsp of soda re-emulsified my fondue the other night when it was starting to break. Any chemists out there?

How to Make Foolproof Cheese Fondue

So, in the past when I've had fondue break on me, I've added a little bit of baking soda to recover it, and it works. Learned the trick from my mom, who was a bench chemist and told me that adding a basic (alkaline) compound to her beer-cheese soup lowered the acidity of the beer and kept the casein from clumping. This seems the direct opposite of what you're recommending with the lemon juice, so now I'm confused. Is it that the casein will contract if the liquid is either too acidic or too basic, and we're adding acid/base to find the sweet spot for the casein?

Taste Test: The Best Fancy Drinking Chocolate

Picked this stuff up at Atwater Market in Montreal recently and it was seriously good. They suggest serving "espresso style," which I have no idea what that means, but I did like 1 TB chocolate to 1/2 C whole milk (or sometimes to 1/3 C 2% milk + 2 TB heavy cream), and it was the best hot chocolate I'd had since Angelina: http://www.chocolatsgg.com/produit/chocolat-chaud-200g-2652/4046

Take it With You: The Best Culinary Souvenirs

Great article--I'm partial to the utensils and textiles myself when I travel. Word of caution on the ceramics: The glazes occasionally contain toxic lead levels, especially white glazes. I know b/c my mom was a bench chemist for our state lab and routinely found poisonous lead levels in samples of import ware. When you can, choose unglazed or non-white wares, look for signs/stickers announcing that glazes are "non-toxic" or "lead free," or, when all else fails, ask the vendor. If s/he can't provide a guarantee that the glazes don't contain lead, don't buy.

A Song of Spice and Fire: The Real Deal With Hunan Cuisine

Great article; love it when SE publishes this kind of content.

How to Make the Best Deep-Fried Jalapeño Poppers

@bsd--good idea except I'm not sure the roasting would stop the blow-outs; that's a property of the cheese more than of the pepper. I roast chiles for chiles rellenos (with cheese, New Mexican style), and a couple always blow out, even though they contain far less cheese by proportion than poppers and they're coated in a thick egg batter....

Hey Chef, How Can I Use up Extra Jam?

The Best Way to Mince Garlic

Thanks, @Daniel, this is a super-helpful article. Though you did forget to compare your beautifully uniform knife-mince to my crappy irregular one, which resembles one of those boulder fields discovered by the Mars Rover and probably has a similar taste profile....

Why You Should Own a Pair of Good Kitchen Shears

Thanks a lot, @RobC, now I'm constitutionally incapable of resisting a Kill La Kill ref: "Scissor Blade! Full Decapitation Mode!"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMaTtUV8FO8

Equipment: Why a Y-Peeler is the Best Vegetable Peeler

@Daniel--Hmm, some good points there. Maybe it's worth giving a Y-peeler another try....

Equipment: Why a Y-Peeler is the Best Vegetable Peeler

I could buy the argument that a Y-peeler works better for spherical fruits & vegetables, but for carrots, parsnips, etc., no freakin' way. Here's why:
1. It saves a lot of time and energy to peel these over the trash/compost bin, which is important when you have a pound of veg to get through before dinner can get on the stove, but...
3. To work with a Y-peeler over the compost bin, you have to turn your wrist and the vegetable back toward your body, or at least sideways, neither of which configuration is as stable as holding the vegetable pointing away from you and starting the stroke up by your hand, as you do with the straight-swivel peeler. So using the Y-peeler results in less force at the beginning of the stroke, when it counts most, as the blade cuts through the dry, fibrous surface of the root veg; thus...
4. Your progress is slower and less efficient peeling with the Y-peeler, plus...
5. The away-from-you momentum of the straight peeler carries each strip of peel neatly off the vegetable and into the bin where it belongs instead of leaving it on the veg (where it blocks your next stroke) or your hand (yuck).
Q.E.D. ;)

The Best Spiced Nuts From Trader Joe's

Honey sesame cashews for the win!

How to Make Steamed Mussels With a Thai Curry-Coconut Broth

Do you think a red curry would be good in this as well? Or is the flavor too dark and strong for the mussels?

Kathleen Weber's Favorite Cookbooks

We stumbled on Della Fattoria on the way back through Petaluma from Tomales Bay and were blown away.

How to Crack Eggs Like a Badass

@Kenji--OK good to know, thanks.

How to Crack Eggs Like a Badass

Awesome, Daniel! On the more "pristine" side--I asked Kenji a while ago about a comment that Sara Moulton made on ATK. She claimed cracking an egg on a flat surface such as a countertop produced a cleaner break with fewer fragments than cracking it over the edge of a bowl. Kenji hinted there could be a little turbo Food Lab experiment on it. Any chance you'll take up the gauntlet?

Country Captain is the Southern Icon You May Have Never Tasted

This series is so great, Robert; keep up the good work.

Microwave Rocky Road Sponge Cakes

Not that wild about sponge cakes in general and rocky road in particular; nevertheless, microwave-toasting nuts and melting chocolate in a food processor are great pro tips--thanks!

Gateway Ciders for Beer, Wine, and Cocktail Lovers

Love the poiré granit--best perry in the world. I just found Farnum Hill's Dooryard Cider; don't know how widely distributed it is beyond NH, but it's worth seeking out.

Cheese 101: The Unified Theory of Pairing Cured Meat and Cheese

Very helpful article--thanks!

What Cookbook Would You Buy For a First-Time Cook?

I'm with @secondtimearound on the Joy of Cooking. I have the controversial 97 Joy (+sushi, -possum), but it taught me how to cook. The technique and glossary sections are solid.
I'm also a big fan of Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris. Bombproof, and if the aspiring cook wants to do the French classics, it's perfect for that.

How Bad Wine Led Me to Great Shrimp Scampi

Made this tonight. Didn't have any vermouth so subbed some dry cider I had on hand (Farnum Hill Dooryard) thinking, how bad could it be and...it was weirdly great. Honestly the best shrimp scampi I've made, which I admit may say more about my shrimp scampi abilities than the cider. But the funky apple notes settled right in between the sea-bottom-y-ness of the shrimp (there's one for @Ocean :) and the sunny-ness of the lemon. I wouldn't do it with a sweet cider, but would definitely go the dry cider route again.

Slow-Cooker Puerto Rican Pernil With Pique Criollo

Just made this, and it came out great. I halved everything and so it only took 9 hours to finish. I would describe the heat on the pique criollo as medium. I don't think you'd want to actually blend in the peppers, though--it'd get inedibly hot.

Birthday cookies for shipping--help!

I need to make cookies for a friend's grandma's 100th birthday party. (I know!) I will be delivering them to said friend a day or two before the party, and she will be carrying them on the plane. So, I need a recipe that a) is festive b) is relatively traditional (Grandma is 100% style, 0% fad) c) is travel-worthy and d) won't go stale right away. Making cookies Thurs. a.m.... Thanks in advance for the help, SEaters!

Calling all food nerds! Technique question about carbonation

I have a seltzer maker, and the company says to carbonate chilled water. I was thinking warmer (like tap temperature) water might accommodate more CO2, resulting in bubblier water, but then when it chills in the frig, would the CO2 be forced out of solution, making it flatter? For that reason, am I better off carbonating already-chilled water because the carbonation will be more stable? Or does it not matter either way because water at X temperature will hold Y amount of gas, end of story? I should have paid better attention in high school chemistry....

Help: curry leaves substitution

Hi all--I'm making Potato Salad with Yoghurt for dinner from Neelam Batra's 1,000 Indian Recipes, and I don't have any curry leaves. I have lemon basil and thai basil: would either be an acceptable substitute? I know I'm going to have to break down and mail-order some curry leaves, but since they won't get here by dinner time...any suggestions appreciated. Thanks!

A brief history of the one-word restaurant name

Anyone know when/where/why the trend of single-word restaurant names started? I don't mean names necessarily, but food or food-related words--you know, like Porchetta, Jar, Crush, Tilth, Toast, Lark, Dovetail, Pear, Crave, Pastis, Picholine, Aquavit, Chestnut, Alchemy, Applewood, Meze, Olea. I'd especially like to hear your theories as to *why*--what food philosophy or cultural movement or advertising scheme is this trend capitalizing on?
Bonus question: Same thing for two-word compounds such as Sitka & Spruce, Flour & Water....

The definitive beignet: Pate a choux or yeast dough?

Happy Sunday, all. In your opinion, what's the definitive beignet dough/batter--a risen yeast dough or a pate a choux? I just made the pate a choux version out of the 1997 Joy of Cooking, and I thought they were too light and eggy compared to my memories of eating them in New Orleans at Cafe Du Monde (those seemed more rich and cakey to me). But the Internet was no help: I found both kinds of recipes in equal representation. A little help from any NOLA folks out there would be much appreciated.