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

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.

How to Make Menemen, the Turkish-Style Scrambled Eggs That Haunt My Dreams

I totally sang that same song in Istanbul. If you're ever back there and on the Asian side, try Meşhur Menenci in the Kadıköy Market.

Should You Refrigerate Tomatoes? Further Testing Says...

@ Max I don't have an "emotional connection" to tomatoes, and I do understand the conditions you guys are publishing under. I totally get it if you don't have time to do or want help doing stats. For that reason, I think SE is better off using qualitative testing paradigms.

@Daniel FWIW, I don't need numbers from SE. I take and trust your expert opinion--and then I try your recommendations for myself to see how I like them. You're absolutely right that cooking and taste are subjective. My takeaway from this series was that instead of trusting received rumor/wisdom, cooks should try a range of techniques for themselves and see what they like best. I think that's the true spirit of SE--expanding rather than reducing ways to eat well and be happy.

Should You Refrigerate Tomatoes? Further Testing Says...

@findingmykid the column dot plot is a beautiful suggestion
@estepcha I don't agree that you can't test significance in this experimental paradigm, but that's not really the point. You missed the actual concern I was raising--which was with giving opinion the veneer of science to give it more weight. Look, I had no issue with Kenji's qualitative preference test. But I do get concerned about quantitative tests that don't actually define or measure significance but use the word anyway to persuade people to trust the results.

American Chop Suey: The Cheesy, Beefy, Misnamed Stovetop Casserole That Deserves a Comeback

Growing up, our version of "chop suey" was nothing like this and much more like the Chinese-American version you locate in the earlier half of the century. The way my mom (from rural MI) made it, it was cubes of pork with celery, bean sprouts, and soy sauce served over rice. Not delicious...but maybe that's b/c my mom left out any allium of any kind. Oh yeah, and she sprinkled those fried noodles on top that came in little pop-top cans from the grocery store--those, I liked. I think they were called "chow mein," but my memory may be failing me there.

Should You Refrigerate Tomatoes? Further Testing Says...

@Max, @Daniel: I run t-tests on a regular basis as part of my job on similar scales and with similar Ns to what you guys are doing here. In my experience, you can have statistical significance even with the differences you're calling "very little." I have found that visible differences in averages are often misleading in either direction, big or small.

If you want to send me your scores in an excel spreadsheet (raters in columns, criteria in rows, one sheet for refrig and one for non), I can run t-tests for you in R and see if you've got anything: okupin@gmail.com

Concluding anything off averages is dubious. You could have a bimodal distribution here--you know, like on Yelp when a restaurant gets half 5-star ratings and half 1-star ratings; the average is still a 3, but I doubt you'd want to roll the dice and eat there.... Same thing here--if half your testers absolutely loved the counter tomatoes and half absolutely hated them, would you really want to say that refrigeration had no significant effect? You probably wouldn't want to say anything at all about the test b/c the reactions were so polarized.... T-tests (and related stats like ANOVAs) help weed those problems with averages out.

If you're going to do quantitative taste testing, I think you should do the stats, too--especially if you have someone volunteering to do them for you ;) Otherwise, I think your only fair conclusion can be "We have no idea." Your visible results in the first test show a preference for counter-held tomaotes in every case except the yellow tomatoes. Thus, it "looks" like refrigeration may generally hurt tomatoes. If you don't do the math on the significance, yet you put the message out there that "we've each had significant enough results that no one should at this point continue to believe that the no-refrigeration rule is always true"--aren't you engaging in the same careless use of science that you don't like in the ag industry?

Please don't read me wrong: I love SE and am trying to help here. I study the public communication of science for a living and am just as concerned as you are about times when science is used to try to end public debate rather than spark it....

And a PS if you do this again: If you had held the tomatoes for two days like Kenji did, I think you would have seen a more robust effect. Given how many hours it took for those tomatoes to come down from external temp to frig temp all the way through, there was barely any time for the refrig temps to work any chemical changes, so I wouldn't expect significant differences. But only the math will tell....

Should You Refrigerate Tomatoes? Further Testing Says...

Hi Daniel--if you don't mind me asking, what tests of significance were you using to underpin the claim in the first taste test that "none of the averaged scores diverged significantly"? Or to distinguish differences in the average scores for your criteria between the refrig and non-refrig conditions? T-tests? With such a small N, that would be my first pick. If t-tests, can we see p values? Thx.

Pawpaws: America's Best Secret Fruit

I have a recipe for passionfruit souffle, and it sounds like paw paw might sub in for the passionfruit puree--do you think it would work?

The Food Lab's Emergency Cooking Kit: How to Fit All the Tools You Need in One Small Box

I just relocated for sabbatical. Kitchen was allegedly furnished, so I cut a few corners on the ol' emergency box...and immediately regretted it, as "furnished" apparently meant "furnished like a crappy summer cabin in the Yukon." I'm sorry, dull knives are not knives. At any rate, here are the things I didn't think were essential but turned out to be, at least for me (asterisks on the ones not already on someone's list above):
*kitchen scissors (herbs, chickens, lobsters, you name it)
*knife sharpener/kitchen steel (lets me cope with the "knives" in the kitchen without springing for new ones)
*slotted spoon for frying, draining, etc.
*fine-mesh strainer (don't get me started on the "colander" that came with the kitchen. It does not coland.)
whisk
*chopsticks (easy to pack and endlessly useful for stirring, flipping, poking, bracing...)
single-serve tea/coffee mesh basket
a sharp veggie peeler

The Real Reason Sugar Has No Place in Cornbread

@Kenji--regarding your flavor about tweaking the sugar content to replace losses due to modern milling: Do you think there's a detectable difference in the flavor of cane sugar (sucrose) v. corn sugar (fructose)?

How to Make the Best Tomato Sauce From Fresh Tomatoes

We've used a Roma Deluxe Foodstrainer for several years for both applesauce and tomato sauce--sturdy, easy to clean, large hopper, and it's like $65 http://www.amazon.com/Roma-Strainer-Deluxe-Sauce-Maker/dp/B000I6JUMA/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1408576825&sr=8-4&keywords=roma+strainer

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.