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What Is American Cheese, Anyway?

@wingbatwu That's self evident. Wood pulp = cheap. Cheese = expensive. Which is why its treated as routine food contamination and fraud. And remember that's not all grated cheese. Its the little tubs of pre-grated Parm and Romano (etc) you find in the cheese case near the deli counter. The stuff that's supposedly more respectable than the shelf stable cheese dust in the green can.

What Is American Cheese, Anyway?


Sodium Citrate is apparently the sodium salt form of citric acid. So I'm gonna go with no. Those sodium atoms are gonna cause some sort of difference in how the stuff works.

And to slightly correct Kenji, from what I understand about Rennet. While calf rennet is still the gold standard its in short supply due to the dropping popularity of Veal. The vast majority of cheeses in the world are now made with rennet produced by GMO bacteria. Vegetable rennet/enzymes are increasing in use, but aren't preferred because they lead to a stiff, plastic like texture. This has been a major issue in the GMO labeling debate. As MOST cheeses will subsequently end up labeled as a GMO product despite not containing any actual modified genes. Giving the false impression that there are genetically modified cows running around.

Muffin Myth-Busting: Don't Waste Your Time Tossing Berries in Flour

By all means lets keep dickering about on the subject of gravity. Technically gravity doesn't make anything sink, it pull things towards a center of mass. In our case the center of mass for the earth. Buoyancy is an opposing force where by the liquid something is suspended in pushes against the gravitational pull effected on that same object. Things can have buoyancy and still sink, the buoyancy will just effect the rate of sinking. They can have neutral buoyancy and stay suspended in position. Or they can have enough buoyancy to over come gravity and float. Whether they do or not is factor of the viscosity, density and other features of the fluid they sit in. As well as the objects own density, position, and most importantly SURFACE AREA. An all steal boat is awfully dense, especially if you discount the unenclosed air space of its interior. Still floats. Because all that weight and density is spread out over a large surface. Stick that same boat pointed bow down. And it'll sink. Like a rock.

Point being unless you can decrease the density of the berries a whole lot. Vastly increase their surface area by changing their shape. Or some how alter the way gravity acts on the. (Tossing in flour does none of this). You aren't going to much effect their tendency to sink or float much. And totally FLOATING berries are just as bad as sinking, they'll just pile up at the other end of the muffin. What you need are neutrally buoyant berries. Berries that sit just where you put them. There aren't a lot of berry side factors you can control. But on the batter side you can manipulate how thick things are. Which means increasing or decreasing its viscosity and density.

Hence thick batter. Berries that sink slower (slow enough to get locked in position when the batter sets) or stay neutrally buoyant.

Equipment: The Best Manual Citrus Juicers and Reamers


The issue is that the plastic of the handles fatigues, wears and becomes brittle over time. Every time you use it the plastic of the handle flexes just a bit, that wears out the plastic just where it joins the cups. Eventually that handle will snap with very little pressure. I've even had a handle on a plastic model (though not the Chef'n) snap off when I picked the damn thing up. How long that takes to happen is going to come down to how heavily you use it, and how you clean it (dishwasher vs hand wash). In an environment where I might be juicing dozens of pieces of citrus in a given night, and the things may take more than a few spins through a commercial dishwasher. Every night. Forever. That comes down to a few weeks at most. Sometimes plastic juicers even go in a single shift. But it will happen under house hold use. At home I've gotten around 6 months to a year out of plastic squeezers.

The enameled ones have their issues (collect citrus oil and can chip as you've said), and they will eventually fatigue and snap in the same way as the plastic ones. But it takes much much longer. Up to several years in a working environment, and practically forever at home. Though that's entirely contingent on buying a decent brand. Its some what disingenuous to discount the metal options based on lower quality examples, in favor of a name brand of the plastic. As I mentioned you can find plastic squeezer that will break on first use. You can also find aluminium squeezers that will break on first use.

That's why I prefer to go with a quality, commercial grade stainless steel model. Which can be had for around the same price as the Chef'n.

The Best (and Worst) of Times for Japanese Wagyu Beef in the US


"These chefs and restaurant owners are not stupid when it comes to sourcing and procurement."

You would be surprised. First and foremost most restaurants are not run by hipsters who know the defference between and ramp and a scallion. Second that's a poor comparison ramps and scallions are easily distinguishable. The issue is being able to distinguish between two nearly identical products. A scallion and spring onion. Or a scallion from New Jersey and a scallion from Asia. Or two distinct varietals of scallion. When the producer or purveyor is labeling the scallion as a green onion (or vice versa), or a very specific sort of scallion from a very specific place. Even when its not. It can be difficult or impossible to distinguish unless you have direct experience and knowledge of that special scallion.

If I offer you two boxes of Kobe steaks. Bother are labeled as Kobe, both are labeled with information about Japan, and the process used to raise Kobe. Both are from Wagyu breed cattle. Both are marbeled well above prime. And both sit at an appropriate price point. But one is from cattle raised in the US, but packaged in Japan to get a product of Japan label. And the other is actual Japanese beef. How well are you going to be able to distinguish between the two? On a deadline?

Now that's pretty high level stuff, but its the sort of thing that's endemic to our food supply. The producer/distributor end of it is trying everything it can to obscure where a huge portion of what its sell has come from, and what exactly it is. Down the chain (and price scale) you've got products that are out and out fraudulently labeled as Kobe, trade marks with Kobe inserted into them to them more legitimately (its not really a protected term "Uncle Bobs Premium Utah Kobe TM" with all but Kobe in tiny text). Things pitched by the sales force as "pretty much Kobe", "better than Kobe" etc. Customers who won't pay for Wagyu or Matsuzaka beef (because they have no clue what it is), but will for Kobe. Low end products labeled accurately in a technical sense (ie Kobe that doesn't pass muster shifted off to markets that don't know the difference). And on and on.

Not all of this happens for each individual desirable product. But you can multiply this by nearly any product available to a restraunt. Shit I've had a sales creature pitching me DOC and DOCG Italian wine for months. I've tried the product. Its all colliers blends, imported from Europe and packaged locally. Sometimes those can be a great value. All the info and paperwork that I've seen looks kosher on this stuff. Pretty clearly cooking wine that's been repackaged, and I wouldn't be surprised if it all had a bunch of low end Cali wine blended in to stretch it. My owner (who doesn't know a lick about wine), and the rest of the staff (who know only marginally more) would have bought it. It looks entirely worthwhile on paper, at a price that's hard to beat. And even tasting it most of them thought it was drinkable (it damn well isn't). And to top it all off it comes from the local super high end farm to table purveyor. Who package it themselves. Everything else they sell is carefully and clearly sourced, and they can even bring the farmer who raised it by to say hello. If you don't happen to have expertise in that particular subject (Italian wines), and a decent palate with concerns and experience as to wine quality. You could be easily fooled into carrying that stuff.

I once worked in a seafood restaurant (not a particularly great but very popular one in our area). The chef, a guy who has cooked 90% seafood for his entire career, was an avid recreational fisherman. This guy knew fish. Among our customers were multiple commercial fishermen. And a local marine biologist.

The chef started serving something (from Sysco, so many of these problems are Syco related) called "Hawaiian White Tuna". A common trade name used for Escolar (along with several other variations of white tuna, and hawaiian butter fish). A fish that can make you ill by its very nature. One that has been occasionally banned or restricted from the market (and at the time was "reccomended" not to be imported into the US) because of the health effects from its consumption. I had a really interesting afternoon trying to explain to the chef, several fishermen, and that marine biologist why we probably shouldn't be serving it unless we could prove it wasn't Escolar. Not one of those people believed me, it said "Tuna" right on the box! And not one of them was aware of the issue with eating or serving Escolar. None of them had even heard of Escolar. The sales rep was unwilling or unable to confirm what species the was. But did insist it was tuna. As far as I know noone got the shits. And a better restaurant would have taken it off the menu anyway. But if I hand't have happened to be there on the day that shipment came in. No one would have been the wiser. Even those actual experts of fish were unable to catch the potential mislabeling.

Being an expert in something is great but it does not make you an expert or authority in all things. Our fisherman and seafood cooks here deal with fish from the North East Atlantic. And the Marine Biologist specialized in inshore estuaries. Not one of these was "expert" in a tropical to subtropical, deep water fish, usually caught in the Pacific and seldom marketed.

Equipment: The Best Manual Citrus Juicers and Reamers

I'll agree on the Chef'n. Having used one behind the bar they aren't generally long lived. Any squeezer with plastic handles is going to have those handles snap after enough use. In a professional environment they're gone in a matter of weeks. We stick to Norpro all metal models from the restraint supply house. They work pretty damn well and more importantly don't break. The most common ones are enameled aluminum, which will wear out and snap a handle eventual. Preferred are the stainless steel models.

Counter to the advice above about the larger orange squeezers being a better all use tool, you really want to stick with the lemon sized ones. And use an the orange only for orange and smaller grapefruits. The medium sized lemon squeezer work fine for lemon and limes (and in fact better for limes than small lime squeezers), and can do a decent job on larger fruits if you simply cut them smaller (or buy smaller fruit). But the orange juicers are problematic for anything but prefectly sized orange. They trap excess juice in the now concave top of the fruit, spilling it all over. And don't extract juice particularly well from lemons and limes (they slide around avoiding the point of highest pressure). And due to sizing and leverage issues they're much more likely to snap a handle.

The Best (and Worst) of Times for Japanese Wagyu Beef in the US


Probably American or Australian raised Wagyu or Wagyu Hybrid beef. LOTS of that in the US. By reputation its good, not nearly as rich as Japanese Wagyu. But that means you can eat more of it.

The Best (and Worst) of Times for Japanese Wagyu Beef in the US

@illone & andsowouldi

In the vast majority of cases the restaurateurs and their staff aren't even going to be aware that misrepresentation is happening. Most of this mislabeling happens at the producer/packer/distributor level. You talk to your purveyor about carrying a product. In this case kobe or wagyu, and you go though the list of available products. It says "Kobe" on the label, its listed as Kobe in their materials and databases, the producer will confused ass line about special breeds and beer massages, and even the salesman probably isn't aware that its not technically Kobe. The same thing happens with a whole host of products in restaurants. A personal pet peeve of mine is Blue Point Oysters. There really aren't any Blue Point Oysters on the market. Huge chunks of the Great South Bay, including most of those immediately around Blue Point are closed to commercial and residential shellfishing. And even if they were open, over harvesting decades ago have left those beds pretty tapped out, and the pollution means you probably wouldn't want to eat them anyway. And yet its nearly impossible to find anyplace serving oysters that DON'T have supposed Blue Points. From what I understand the vast majority of "Blue Points" out there are wild oysters from Virginia, though there are some farmed oysters from the sound (quite far from Blue Point, on a completely different body of water) billed as such. And Blue Water oysters from off Fire Island that loosely market themselves as "real Blue Points" by virtue of being closer to Blue Point than anyone else.

New England's Greatest Contribution to the Hot Dog

"They say that you become a real New Yorker after 10 years in the city".

The most commonly cited number I hear, even from born and bred New Yorkers (often even Manhattanites, the least like New Yorkers to accept transplants as New Yorkers) is 3 years. Though mostly predicated as "if your not a New Yorker in 3 years you'll never be a New Yorker". The idea being you adapt to New York quickly or not at all (or New York mutates and warps you quickly, or chases you off).

"gray kraut that real New Yorkers know to ask for"

No. There is nothing inherently NY about kraut on a dog. You find it nearly everywhere you find hot dogs, especially if there is (or was) a German population of an sort. The real NY shit, the thing New Yorkers know to ask for and noone else does is Onions in Sauce. That is the definitive, NY metro area only, hot dog topping.

Other than that I'll just say that Massachusetts dogs are, frankly, not all that good. Your right about the spit top bun being generally better. Though it is the SAME bread as regular buns, and the same ammount, its just shifted around differently. The spit top bun is too thick at the bottom, but nice and thin toward the size. Side spit buns are too thick everywhere BUT the bottom. But the Mass dogs themselves are seldom what I'd call a quality dog. For my money they are a pale imitation of the often much better dogs from Maine. Best known for the red hot dogs (they also come without the dye, or in orange, pink or green). Unfortunately most of Maine's regional brands have been bought by national concerns and shut down, or acquired by regional brands from Mass and replaced with inferior Massachusetts dogs. The last producer of real, quality, traditional Maine hot dogs in Maine that I'm aware of is W. A. Bean and Sons in Bangor. They produce both their own recipe, and the recipe from one of the handful of major brands that's now Gone. Rice's. We order a case of the Rice's from time to time. Just like I remember from childhood visits with family up there. That's not to say there aren't quality dogs in Mass, they're just harder to find that in NY. Time was in Maine ALL the dogs were absolutely classy, now it takes some looking. And I blame Massachusetts for that.


Greys, Papaya King, Nathans and the handful of others (including a number of old school delis) still doing it that way are NOT cart style dogs. The traditional NY style cart dog is poached in water. Hence the name Dirty Water Dog. Grey's and their competition are the older tradition of NY hotdog stands. They griddle the dogs, usually on tin foil. Different style, different drink. Both are supposed to be natural casing dogs, but its getting harder and harder to find dog carts that use natural casings. Even the carts with actual Sabretts (all have the umbrellas, fewer and fewer actually sell them) are typically using skinless now. I've had most luck finding natural casing dirty water dogs in Jewish neighborhoods and looking for carts advertised as kosher.

I'm also skeptical of the bun being the be all end all. But she's right that generally the buns on NY dogs kind of suck. But the NE style isn't inherently superior. They're typically from the same manufacturers, made from the same cheap bread. But the split top bun is easily toasted, which is nice. Where as NY buns are typically steamed to render them warm and soft. That's your culprit right there. Because it also makes them cottony and bland, and sometimes soggy or even rock hard in parts. Its not a great practice and it should probably end. But frankly in terms of base sausage quality, NY dogs. Especially those from Sabrett (both Papaya King and Greys are made by Sabrett), our dogs are just higher quality more often. And like I said the real shit, best dogs in New England, just as quality as good NY stuff hot dogs were from Maine. And they're harder to find as they've been largely replaced by inferior brands from points south.

Eating America: A Coast-to-Coast Culinary Road Trip With Jane and Michael Stern

Yeah a coast to coast culinary road trip that completely omits the entirety of the mid-Atlantic is a little weird. Especially when you start in NY then jump directly to the South.

How to Make Oven-Baked Pork Ribs That Taste Like Smoky Barbecue

@jgold16 I'd assume it'd take longer. Almost all beef cuts seem to take longer than their pork equivalent with BBQ. And depending on your specific cut of beef ribs the best technique might be a lot different than for any pork cut. I've heard you should do short ribs in the same way you would do brisket. But I'm only now about to look into smoking that cut so I wouldn't take that as gospel.

How to Make Oven-Baked Pork Ribs That Taste Like Smoky Barbecue

@CaramelizedOnion & bdcbbq

While pressure cooked, braised or boiled ribs might be surprisingly standard advice for "fast" indoor bbq, and they are often faster. The end results taste like what they are. Boiled, steamed, braised. The meat flavor is washed out and covered up by rubs or sauce. And the texture is often wet, and far too soft. I've never liked that sort of fake bbq.

What Daniel is doing here is essentially the same in terms of practical cooking method. The sort of hot smoking used for BBQ is essentially just slow roasting in the presence of smoke. If you want the same sorts of textures and flavors you can do the same without the smoke, indoors or out. And I've always wondered how they hell "boil and brown" or braising became the default way of mimicking a cooking method that a regular home oven can replicate pretty damn well.

So props to Daniel for being the guy to FINALLY advocate and develop the recipe for doing something so obvious. I've been doing this for over a decade, and while the foil wrap is a nice touch (and its good to hear it doesn't give you that braised texture), I've really just gone and followed actual BBQ recipes and tutorials before now. It really does translate that easily.

Olive Brine + Mezcal = Your New Favorite Martini


I think you mistake my argument. I was laying out a list of how those drinks were related based on their ingredients and their structure. Not history.

"A Martini" is in fact a specific thing (though less specific and more varied than most people suspect). But "martini" as a type of drink and approach to making drinks is less specific. The utility in thinking of these things this way comes in the opposite direction from the way you're looking at it. If a customer walks up to me and says "I want X" and I do not know what X is I can ask a few basic questions. Recognize that it is essentially a martini, and then I know how to make it. And some what more importantly I know how best to tweak the broad variation in martini technique to make it well. This is especially useful when X is not the name of an established cocktail but a vague description of what the person is craving. Referring back to its similarity to or basis in "martini" as a technique for making drinks is also useful for me in relaying to you, a customer, or other bartenders how the drink will be made and what to expect from it. And as noted in developing or tweaking cocktail recipes for something novel.

Olive Brine + Mezcal = Your New Favorite Martini

@BostonAdam I'm not talking about historical time line, or actual evolution from one drink to another. I'm talking about categorizing things as they exist now based on ingredient ratios and the techniques involved in making them. Sort of an after the fact organizational tool. Its how we (bartenders) can make thousands of different drinks without memorizing exact recipes for each one. Mayonnaise and Buffalo Wing sauce probably have exactly no historical connection. But they are both emulsified sauces. The same base techniques and mechanics are used to create them, and the ratios of ingredients have a relationship to one another. Know how to make one emulsified sauce and you can probably figure out another one. And for cocktails none of this is clean, many of the categories are nested in one another and an individual drink can qualify for more than one. Both cosmos and margaritas have very similar ingredients and both could actually be categorized as sours due to the presence of tart juice (especially citrus). As can a daiquiri, but daiquiris have their historical roots, and technical relation ships to old school minimal rum punches as well. So a daiquiri can be bother a sour, and a punch. And it can still be a category all its own. Drop the sweetener (or sub it for a sweet liqueur) and add an additional fruit juice and its still a daiquiri, still a sour, but ratio dependent it can also qualify as a cosmos or margarita. Except rum based.

This is how cocktail development often works. Start with a base cocktail, a chosen spirit. And work your way out. Altering ratios, cribbing from or combining from different categories to suit and manipulate flavors. Often using the places where similarities and cross overs happen as a guide.

Olive Brine + Mezcal = Your New Favorite Martini

@bkhuna it fits in loosely with the Marinitis as a class of beverage. But looking at the recipe, based on ratios and the inclusion of both lime and an orange liqueur its effectively a variation on the Cosmo. Basically a Mezcal Cosmo, but but with olive brine and bitters substituted for the cranberry juice.

In bartending everything is effectively variations or expansions on categories of cocktails. Ratios tweaked, ingredients substituted or added. Martinis as a category are largely defined as a single base liquor. Flavored with a fortified wine. And mixed via stirring or shaking to dilute. With a flavorful garnish and occasional addition of bitters (or olive brine when talking dirty). Martinis, manhattans, gibsons, and about a thousand other things live in there. This drink is not that but the roots are there. A gimlet is a martini with the vermouth subbed out with lime juice. A kamikaze is a gimlet with orange liqueur added. And a Cosmopolitan is a Kamikaze with a splash of cranberry. So while Cosmos are their own class of beverage (most of your fruity neon "martinis" are really just cosmos), there's a connection and relation to the Martini group. This drink is effectively a cosmo, but its a cosmo that draws much more from the Martini category (olive brine and bitters as key flavors) than it does from the cosmo category (which again tend to be sweet and fruit based).

In effect its a martini flavored cosmo with mezcal as the base spirit.

The Story of Carolina Gold, the Best Rice You've Never Tasted

A couple years ago my mom started to get some ridiculous organic hippie gardening magazine as some sort of promo (they sent 5 issues each swamped with subscription offers). The very first issue featured an article about Carolina Gold Rice. According to that article some couple that had retired in their mid 30's from high powered jobs in a wealthy city. To buy a multi-million dollar "farm" in the Carolinas were solely responsible for bringing this stuff back. Their "farm stand" was open infrequently. And you had to be accepted to a wait-list or some trash to get the rice, at crazy prices. It was either $26 or $76/lb (can't remember, hoping the former). With strict limits on amount. I remember googling the subject because it seems so ridiculous. Only to find most of this same info, and that Anson Mills was working on a less absurd supply line. It didn't seem like they were selling it at the time, but its good to see they've gotten there. Just the whole idea of that article. That heirloom varieties others were working on for decades were being "saved" by wealthy backyard gardeners selling minuscule quantities to their wealthy neighbors at inflated prices chaffed pretty bad.

That magazine was the worst. One of the articles was about how the only acceptable way to manage pests was to pick them off. One at a time. With Tweezers. And carefully euthanize them in a jar. Multiple times a day. Every day. WITH TWEEZERS.

Charcuterie 101: Essential French Cured Meats and More

@scalfin I've had that impression for a while. There seem to be a lot more pates, terrines, cooked sausages, and potted/confited products in France than dry cured. Italy seems to have the inverse situation.

9 Ways You Might Be Ruining Your Knives


Perhaps Kenji knows more detail. But from what I understand they can be bad. Depending on what and how much glue is involved.

Hello, Tamago Kake Gohan, Your Time Has Come

@drewrichards Assuming you're in the US, you're looking for Accent. That's the brand in most American supermarkets, and I've yet to see one that doesn't carry it. Should be by the spices, often on the same shelf as the meat tenderizer. Which has lead to some arguments with my mom over whether its MSG or meat tenderizer. But just look at the label.

Beyond Oatmeal: Everything You Can Do With Oats

It's not breakfast but it's very easy to make rissotto from steal cut oats. And like most savory porridges it's pretty damn tasty.

The Foolproof Steps to Making a Perfect French Omelette at Home

@Carter B & Edflanders

You hear similar concerns about cooking crepes in cast iron. But I was raised doing that, at least weekly. They work fine for both. The added heat retention makes temperature adjustments slower, but also makes it easier to stay in the sweet spot. Less chance of over or under heating your pan. The bigger concern is that cast iron is real heavy compared to non-stick or carbon steel. A lot people find it uncomfortable to lift, flip, tilt, and swirl a bit CI skillet. My Grandmother and sister use two hands, I have little trouble doing with one but I wouldn't call it comfortable when doing large batches. I'm using pretty old cast iron most of the time though. The slightly rougher surface of the new stuff isn't much trouble for crepes, I don't know how it would effect French omelets. The difference between well seasoned new and vintage cast iron is noticeable but not particularly extreme. But it takes while to build enough of a season to start evening out the rougher surface with the new stuff.

If I were buying a pan specifically for omelets, and didn't want non-stick, I'd probably go for carbon steel though. It seems like there's considerably more lifting and movement of the pan here. Cast iron, even a smaller sloped sided skillet will get tiring quick. Although the batches of crepes I make are significantly larger (dozens) than anyone's really going to make of omelets at home. So maybe its a wash.

Hello, Tamago Kake Gohan, Your Time Has Come

@monopod furikake is awesome on pizza. As is Mexican "fruit seasoning", which is a mix of salt, chili and dried lime juice intended to be sprinkled on fresh fruit.

How to Make Zhug, the Yemenite Hot Sauce You'll Want to Put on Everything


Like I said most of the carts, and the sauce most people are looking to replicate is mayo thinned with vinegar. I've questioned more than a few of the cooks in these carts. I use about 2:1 mayo to red wine or cider vinegar. Really just enough to leave it runny. Then you season to taste and add the herb of your choice. Dill and oregano seem common, usually dried.

What I don't know is what that's a cheaper sub for. Some of the carts make a yogurt based sauce that I see cited as more authentic. As do some of the more formal kebab places around. When asked they just call it white sauce or tzatziki, and it ain't tzatziki.

How to Make Zhug, the Yemenite Hot Sauce You'll Want to Put on Everything

So that's the green sauce. Now tell us about the white sauce red sauce from the halal truck magic.

Mostly kidding. I know the most loved versions of the two are cholula and a mix of mayo with vinegar and herbs. But I have no clue what those are subsitutes for.