The Secret to Great Coq au Vin? Lose the Coq

@Daniel I dunno that it would effect this recipe (or anything you guys really post). But I would figure volume would have a big effect on that. I've made really, really, big batches of stock, dog food, and soups (we're talking 4+ gallons) and ended up with a warm drippy fridge for enough time to be dangerous.

That said I haven't ended up with any dead relatives as a result, so practically speaking I don't think it matters much. But in a covering your butts, paranoid, better safe than sorry sort of way I can see why many places/people recommend keeping hot stuff out of the fridge. For my part I use ice or frigid weather to chill things fast before I toss them in fridgitator, but only if I end up with enough to make me nervous.

The Secret to Great Coq au Vin? Lose the Coq

I've actually been curious how Capon would work in this. Its slightly more similar to old roosters than a roasting hen. And they are at least sometimes available at supermarkets, particularly in areas with large Jewish populations. Though the only time I ever cooked a capon it was the most inedible gamey thing I've ever put in my mouth, I suspect I may have gotten a shit Capon though. It was also crazy tough, why I've been thinking ever since a braise would have been better than roasting.

Should You Really Only Cook With Wine You'd Drink? The Truth About Cooking With Wine

In terms of cooking with spoiled wine I've often found that it doesn't matter in which way the wine is off, and there are few applications where cooking with it doesn't work. Working as a bartender it was fairly common to send any spoiled or flawed wine to the kitchen. Sometimes the dishwashers would end up drinking it, but for the most part it stood in for the kitchen's cooking wine (usually boxed or otherwise low cost). I'm sure the cooks back there had figured out if there was any degree of spoilage or cooking method that was a no go in those terms. I haven't had any really rancid wine at home, so I've never had much of an issue with slightly old or corked wine in any cooking application I've tried.

Virginia Willis on the Greatest Cookbooks and What People Get Wrong About Southern Food

I would disagree with her on what makes a good cook book. I could, ultimately care less if the recipes "work" provided a book gives me good, clear, and useful info on technique. If a book, website, show, whatever can teach me the technique that underpins a dish then I don't need the recipe. And I can apply those methods to a far broader number of ingredients, situations, and dishes than if I just follow a list of instructions.

I will back her up on the Junior League and other community cookbooks. Those things are wacky and interesting. They're often full of forgotten dishes and approaches, highly regional info and other great stuff. If you read through a lot of history based food writing you start to get an idea of how important those things are. I don't think I've ever read any sort of examinations of the origins of a dish that didn't touch on at least a few self published family cookbooks, or cook books from social clubs or something. I've got a great one printed a local Hibernian society in the 70's.

How to Make Foolproof Cheese Fondue

@katzimmer. It should work. That stuff has a bunch of stabilizers in it. Same idea with putting a bit of Velveeta in with less smooth melting cheeses for stuff like this.

Why You Shouldn't Dine Out on Valentine's Day

@MtDave Do you know many people in the service industry? Cause this is pretty much the stock advice we give ANYONE when asked about how to have the best experience. Regardless of date. And its all doubly true for holidays or big weekends. When service suffers sales (and tips) suffer. Both I and the restaurant will make more money giving a really good experience to fewer people than a crappy experience to a larger crowd. And when I'm talking to friends or family members I'm going to give the most practical advice on having a nice time. And this is pretty much it.

I've never had a particular problem with Valentines day, but then I bartend. It can get kind of swamped in terms of service bar, but its one of the holidays where people really want a table.

So to add to the advice given: 1. Choose a lower key kind of place, save your big splurgey special meal for another time where its more likely to go in your favor. 2. Lower your expectations. Holidays and 3 day weekends in many restaurants are kind of a mess. If you go in expecting an experience that's looser, perhaps a bit more fun, and all round less formal you'll enjoy yourself more. And get on with the staff better, which means probably means better service. AND 3. Consider eating at the bar. I know everyone wants a romantic quiet 2 top. But that might not be an option, and it may work out poorly in an over stressed dining room. The most I ever recall getting at a restaurant bar on days like this was a few chill regular couples, and maybe small groups of bitter singles. Or a blind date or something. If it looks clear try it. Bar service is a lot more low key in general, so in a swamped restaurant the experience can be more amenable if not snappier. On rowdier holidays though (the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, St. Pats, the day before Thanksgiving etc) avoid the bar at all costs. Also avoid bars that are mostly bars, they got a different thing going on.

Around the World in Booze: 8 Favorites to Seek Out

As it was explained to me (by people who make such things quietly while noone's looking) Pálinka, Rakia, Cha Cha, slivovitz and all the other related hooches from across Central and Eastern Europe aren't really properly classified as brandy. They're a lot more similar to pomace brandies (like Grappa), and share a lot of similarities in terms of alcohol content and a certain base flavor. Essentially they aren't made from the the juice extracted from whatever fruit their made of as with brandy. The fruits are either fermented whole (stone fruits get seeds removed because cyanide) or pulped and fermented as is. That whole mess of broken down fruit and juice is distilled together. Some varieties (like Cha Cha from Georgia) are even traditionally made from wine pomace.

In terms of Poitín, its kind of hard to make descriptive statements about it as you do. Its Poitín by virtue of being illicit, not by virtue of what its made from. Though these days potatoes, and sometimes mixed potatoes and grain, are the most common substrate; that wasn't always (and isn't always the case). Before the advent of potatoes it would have been made from wheat, or barley, or a mix of the two, or any grain available. It can be made of sugar alone (sugar hooch is awful), cabbages, pretty much anything that will ferment. People near when my family lives over there seem to think a mixture of potatoes and wheat makes for the best hooch.

But that brings up a problem with these two entries. While there are nice bottled/legal products under both labels those are basically just marketing gimmicks. Both the Eastern/Central European hooches and Poitín are fundamentally home distilled, often illicit products. So much so that the terms as used often simple mean/refer to home distilled or illegally produced booze. Aside from rough guidelines, or particular production methods neither is particularly well defined in terms of what they're made from or what they should taste like (allthough the Eastern block stuff tends to have a specific variety name for each fruit base, then a catchall of some sort for more general use). Commercially produced Poitín, for example, is usually nothing more than high proof, low cost potato vodka. Or more often the Irish regional equivalent of Everclear. Nearly pure ethanol.

I don't think there's anything wrong with recommending specific, quality brands that choose to label themselves this way. Its probably unwise to recommend them as categories to look out for in liquor store. And random bottle of Poitín you pick up is likely to be horrible. And the Pálinka I've picked up on a whim has been nearly as bad most of the time. Beyond that you aren't really experiencing, trying, or exploring either one by picking up a refined version in a legit shop. The Pálinka that most of Hungary drinks regularly is made by some one's uncle, and doesn't closely resemble what you can buy outside the country. Same with Poitín or any regional rot gut. The Poitín you reccomend sounds nothing like what my grandfather snuck through customs in holy water bottles, and nipped at under the table at weddings from Tullamore Dew crocks.

@thesteveroll +1 for water bottles. The good stuff is always in water bottles. I have a friend from Budapest who's father makes it. I know he didn't use the plums, but I can't remember specifically. Maybe Mulberries? Some of the best rot gut I've ever had. I was taught to drink it very, very cold. Provided we weren't on a train, or a bus, or hiding it in the back of a bar, or in the park. Which was seldom.

The Best Pizza by the Slice in San Francisco

AAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNDDDD I just made one of your tortilla pizzas. With meatloaf on it.

The Best Pizza by the Slice in San Francisco

@Kenji My yard stick is having grown up on Long Island at precisely the time the style was being created/spread. Its kind of everywhere out here, and its become my default pizza since it started getting big in the 90's. I really haven't seen too many places using fresh moz out here. And even then its seems to be a really recent development, and labeled by a different name. Usually Margarita, Grandpa pie has no mozzarella, there are a few other variations including one with sliced fresh tomato and basil. The sauce shouldn't be a cooked sauce. But straight crushed canned tomatoes. Preferably canned whole tomatoes that have been literally crushed. And the crust is usually fairly comparable to the crust on regular round pies in terms of thickness/structure. From what my local pizza guy tells me its the same type and volume of dough, its just shape and cooking method that change. As for the Parmesan a lot (but not all) places seem to put a pretty heavy dusting off the stuff over the top of the pie. Usually just after it comes out of the oven.

I don't know that I've ever had a grandma in NYC that bore more than a passing resemblance to what we have on the Island. Whether when I was living there, or since moving back East. I've had some good pizza by that name in the 5 boroughs, but its not the same kind of pizza. But then I kind of stopped looking, its not like I had to fly across the country to find the real thing.

The Best Pizza by the Slice in San Francisco

If you'll allow me to be a pedant for a minute that grandma slice from The Presidio Pizza Company doesn't sound anything like an actual grandma slice. Don't get me wrong it looks and sounds good, but that's just not a grandma pie. "Focaccia-like" crust? Fresh Moz? Tomatoes layered (apparently both over and under) the cheese? Pesto? All of these things are resolutely not features of Long Island grandma pie. An it lacks the fairly standard assloads of grated Parmesan. Sounds like the only things they got right was the crispy fried bottom and the use of smashed tomatoes over sauce.

How to Make the Best French Onion Soup

@SundayCooking I've not had a problem with it. With lower temps (mostly set to 'warm') over night I've tended to get soft, sticky, blonde colored caramelized onions like my grandmother makes to top steak. I get darker more traditional onions cooking at higher heat settings, but at the 'high' mark it tends to require a bit of watching to avoid burning. Typically I'll run on 'warm' over night then run it hotter with the lid off to cook off moisture and darken.

How old is your slow cooker? The older ones apparently run at much lower temps than the new ones. Which is great for most things you do with a slow cooker, but might throw things off here. And supposedly manufacturers changed to line up with food safety requirements. I've not tried it with my mom's 30 year old slow cooker, but it worked fine in both newer models I've used. One was 5-6 years old, and the other basically brand new.

The Bird That Bites Back: How Nashville Hot Chicken is Made

@sundancekidd85 I don't think your necessarily taking it far enough. Buffalo wings should never, ever be breaded. Your not entirely off base on heat level, but if your Buffalo wings aren't hot at all I suggest you find better wings. They should be spicy, noticeably spicy. BUT a really good wing isn't hot enough that you feel it the minute you bite into the first wing. The whole point of the things is to eat a lot of them. So you want a manageable, balanced heat that builds over time. So you've got a nice lingering burn going after 6-12 wings, but it shouldn't ever get unpleasant. And yeah tangy vinegar flavor from the hot sauce is very much the key flavor.

Hot chicken from what I understand is intended to be about the flavor and the heat of the spice all at once and up front. So its hot, and you know its hot. Buffalo wings on the other hand, should sneak up on you.

The Non-Judgmental Guide to Getting Seriously Into Tea

@Amandarama The only negative thing I've heard about french presses with tea is that if you squeeze the tea excessively when you push the plunger down you can cause some off flavors and bitterness. Apparently you can just avoid pushing it down all the way and solve the problem. I have a Boddam Assam tea pot that sequesters the leaves into a little pocket a the bottom of the pot without squeezing them too much. Works quite well, but I can't drink a whole pot myself, and there usually aren't any other tea drinkers around.

Why Diners Are More Important Than Ever

@StephanieL that sounds moderately shiny. Not the sort of place particularly worth avoiding, but likely (if you didn't already know better) to be less good than a place with a brown exterior and subdued sign. But the shiny diner rule is to be disregarded when you get a specific recommendation.

Why Diners Are More Important Than Ever

@StephanieL Well as I noted it doesn't always hold true. There are scattered shiny diners that are damned good, and its fairly common to find shiny diners with decent food. But if your in an area with say 5 diners, or driving along the high way and want to decide which diner to stop at the vast majority of the time the drab diner has the best food.

Also from your description its hard to tell if The Somerset Diner would qualify as truly shiny. It mostly just sounds well lit. For the shiny diner rule we're talking stuff like chrome exterior (and lots of it), neon lights, colored panels, excess signage, lots of sparkles and (horror of horrors) themed chotchkies on the walls or servers in costume. The more it looks like some idealized, parody or theme "diner" the more you should beware.

Why Diners Are More Important Than Ever

Straight from Jersey "land of diners" I present you with The Shiny Diner rule:

The shinier the diner, the worse the food.

It doesn't always hold but its surprisingly accurate, and nice rule of thumb for finding the better diners in an area you aren't familiar with. It seems like a lot of the really old school, pre-fab, stainless steel and neon diners are just rolling with nostalgia. Little care given to food, an almost Johnny Rockets level of THIS IS A 50's DINER theme non-sense.

Hey Chef, How Can I Use up Extra Jam?

Just use it in cocktails. Its a nice, shelf stable, concentrated source of fruit flavor. I tend to use it for fairly basic high balls. Add a spoon or two of jam to a complimentary liquor. Maybe some bitters or herbs for some complexity. Shake, strain onto fresh ice, top with seltzer.

The Food Lab: Rethinking Beef Stroganoff

@dorek its totally worth it just for the meat. Outside of that its kind of meh. The one by me as a surprisingly decent seafood counter though.

In Defense of St. Louis-Style Pizza

@thesteveroller You probably got that answer because St. Louis has never *really* been a major BBQ town. Apparently the confusion comes from St. Louis cut ribs. Which refer to a way of butchering ribs, and don't have any specific relation to St. Louis or any BBQ tradition there in. I've even heard it claimed the only reason there's any BBQ places in St. Louis at all is because so many outsiders kept asking where the good/famous ribs are (which has to be an exaggeration). I find the whole thing very weird. Its Missouri for christ sake. I find it hard to believe there isn't at least one good bbq place in or near the entire city. Even if it isn't old, or there isn't something special and unique about the city's BBQ.

The Food Lab: Rethinking Beef Stroganoff

@padutchboy have you tried dealcoholised wine for cooking? Personally I've never used it but its supposedly fine for cooking, and often recommended for those who can't have booze around the house.

@Dorek that seems odd, I see hanger steaks regularly at supermarkets, though less consistently since I moved from NYC. And whole untrimmed hanger primal seem pretty common at wholesale clubs. Its often labeled "hanging tender" rather than hanger. There is "only one" on the cow, but that one actually represents 2 full sized steaks. And depending on the size that can be 4 portions.

Digging Into Chicken Fried Steak, A Texas Icon

@Jersey Mike no need to leave the city, there was that big trend for southern food in NYC a few years back. Any of the existing southern food places should serve it. And in Brooklyn and some of the more hipster friendly areas of the city country fried steak and biscuits and gravy have become something of brunch staples. Just Google around, you'll likely find more than a few discussions of "the best" in the city, and not just where to find it as if it were a rarity. I can't think of specifics off the top of my head though. It was kind of everywhere for a while.

Which brings up another thing. While I know Texas has the best claim to the origins of CFS its hardly uniquely Texan. Its ubiquitous in most of the south, and fairly common in the rest of the country. I can remember ordering country fried steak at local divey spots in the north east as a kid in the 80's. And those were mostly Italian and fried seafood focused. I ordered it pretty frequently. And most of your better north east diners seem to serve it at least occasionally. I'd argue its at least as much of an "icon" of generally southern food as it is for Texan food. And its probably one of the better known, and more widely available, southern classics nation wide.

The Food Lab: How to Make Potato Leek Soup the Easy and Easier way

My Irish great grandmother used to make an purportedly traditional oxtail stew by making a fairly basic potato soup and then dropping some oxtails in and letting it simmer on the back of the stove. I've made it a few times, working from my grandfather and aunt's recollections of how it was done. Its pretty damned good, and I might have to make some tonight with these short ribs I've got hanging around.

6 New Year's Food Resolutions Worth Keeping

@erin brenner I tend to ditch books that focus of specific recipes over broad technique over time. My books get used as reference as apposed to lists of steps. Once you've got a handle on the base technique and ratios of a dish you can largely wing it and cook at minimum dozens of dishes based on the same method. So long catalogs of recipes become unnecessary. But then I don't bake much, that there is a different world.

In that same mode Bourdain's Les Halle Cookbook is an excellent rec. It covers a lot of classic and interesting French recipes in a clear, and technique driven style. But far more importantly its largely structured as a primer on how the professional kitchen is run. There's at least as much info on how to plan, prep, and execute meal in your kitchen in the most efficient way as there is info on individual dishes. The recipes all nest inside each other, so you learn to do things 100% from scratch or can focus on a single dish using existing ingredients. Nothing is dumbed down, and the most complex recipes are broken down into distinct chunks so they can be accomplished over days rather than in a scramble. I read it cover to cover, and I never do that with cook books. It takes a lot of info from professional text books, and a lot of experiential stuff that never gets written down, and presents it to the popular audience. For that reason I think its, frankly, the best cook book I own (even over The Professional Chef, some Julia stuff, and other classics). I lend it out incessantly. It currently lives with my Aunt who's 13 year old daughter developed a sudden interest in French food.

The Real Deal With White Chocolate, Dessert's Delicious Underdog

@sak14saj If you want to float by US government standards they I guess you don't consider any whiskey that isn't aged in brand new, charred, oak barrels (excepting clear corn whiskey) to be whiskey. So nothing made in Canada, Japan, Ireland, or Scotland is technically whiskey.

How to Trim a Whole Beef Tenderloin for Roasting

@andreustalyn I'm not sure how it would effect sous vide. Maybe a higher chance of spoilage with very long cooks (which you wouldn't want to do for tenderloin anyway)?

But whole primals from Costco tend to cryopaked packages straight from the slaughter house just like everywhere else (and that many butchers start off with). Same brands too (swift, ibp a few others). So provided you're getting the whole primal, in its original vacuum bag I don't see how Costco could have blade tenderized it, unless it was done by the packer. Anyway it seems like Costco labels what's been tenderized so it should be easy to avoid.

Roasting a Pig

My brother an I will be doing a hog this coming Saturday 40-50lb range. We've done this 3 times before, and he's done several pigs and a few lambs on his own. We'll be butterflying the pig and cooking it on what's basically a catering style grill. Shallow fire tray with adjustable grill height and a massive barrel style cover, with an off set fire and some water pans it does pretty well for this sort of thing.

We've got a nice handle on how we're going about it. ~225F, skin down protected by foil initially, basting with apple juice/vinger and lard on the meat side. Depending when we pick up the hog we'll either inject or let it take a long sit with a heavy rub. No sugar outside the juice. Expecting 6-8 hours not including rest but planning for longer. Maintaining a consistent temp can be tough in this grill. Using charcoal and a bit of hardwood for smoke.

Anyone have additional tips or advice?

Thanksgiving: What's Your Stuffing Approach?

It can be a very personal question. Do you use a boxed mix? Stovetop? Semi-homemade? Totally from scratch? Dry out the bread overnight first? And where do you fall in the dressing vs. stuffing debate? To clarify, "stuffing" is when it actually cooks in the bird's cavity while "dressing" bakes in a separate pan. Please discuss. More