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.

How to Trim a Whole Beef Tenderloin for Roasting

Just as a note, if you've never done this before but have some experience with simple butchery tasks at home, definitely use a knife to cut away the membrane. With a lot of other cuts (I'm thinking especially of spare ribs) you can either carefully peal the membrane off with the finger tips, or more often grip it firmly and tear it away to get a smoother/cleaner piece of meat with less lose. Doesn't work very well here. The tenderloin is tender enough that the meat will tear if you try to pull the membrane rather than cutting it. I made some very ugly tenderloins trying to grip and rip once.

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Hams

@TomvanHalen Not typically for brined city hams. I've seen them, but they're kind on a specialty product and can be expensive. I've also seen butcher's (often British or Irish expat butchers) that make them at a reasonable price. But in general in the US if its a raw ham its the dry cured sort.

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Hams

@etuoo1 Compared to a city ham its much dryer, chewier, and incredibly salty with a funky fermented flavor to it. I don't think I can stress the salty bit enough. Country hams are typically aged longer and salted more than Prosciutto or Spanish hams. So raw I'd describe them as more leathery and the flavor is stronger and gamier. Last time I cooked one up we served it to a party of 14. 3 people (including myself) loved it and the rest seemed to consider it inedible. I would recommend picking up a small package of sliced country ham to try before you invest in a whole one. See if you like it first. Kenji isn't lying when he says they aren't for everyone.

Benton's out of Tennessee are broadly considered the best but they cost like they are the best. I typically get Broadbent hams from Kentucky which are very nice, or buy at the farmer's market where my Grandmother lives in North Carolina and smuggle back to NY. Most producers these days seem to make hams labeled "younger" or "milder". Seem to be hams aged only 6 months, less salty, less funky, less dry/chewy. Honestly even loving country ham I'll probably get one of those the next time I roast a whole one. Though I have yet to try any of them. Some of these younger hams actually cite Prosciutto as a comparison point so I'd assume they'd also work better as a raw ham (the traditional older ones are rock hard, difficult to slice and chew).

Link for the ham I usually buy:

Vitamix vs. BlendTec vs. Breville: Who Makes the Best High End Blender?

@Kenji as far as I can tell you've mostly worked at the more respectable end of fine dining? I bartended in one or two places like that. One place had a Vitamix and a Waring in the kitchen. Most of the other places I've worked have been either more casual, or just generally more scum baggy. And it was Waring at all of those places. From what I can gather the Warings are more generally available, parts are easier to find, and often work with aftermarket and "store brand" carafes that are significantly cheaper. Like I said most of my blender use has been as a bartender (last time a cooked was high school and it was a dinner, so 20 year old warring with dodgy wiring), and if you're sharing a blender with the kitchen or need to have multiple clean carafes on hand its a lot cheaper to use off brand ones. At the bar you also don't necessarily need the same level of finesse, so you can make do with the less expensive Warings that are less capable. If parts and carafes are interchangeable from bar to kitchen it just makes life simple. I'd assume that'd be why I see so many Warings around.

In that one kitchen with both the Vitamix only got used for specific things, like incredibly smooth soups. The sous chef told me they all like the Waring better, but the cheap carafes they had for it didn't work as well as the Vitamix with the proper carafe. That and the fact that you could get Waring parts on an hours notice if it went down meant it stuck around as the work horse. So I gather that depending on the model your using there really isn't much of a practical difference between the two.

I think its the bit about available parts that makes me interested in them. Knowing I can easily (and sometimes cheaply) fix the thing myself instead of mailing to the manufacturer is nice. But I don't really need a blender, so unless another $50 commercial grade one wanders my way I won't be too concerned about it.

Vitamix vs. BlendTec vs. Breville: Who Makes the Best High End Blender?

I've used quite a few high powered blenders in restaurant work, mostly for making frozen cocktails lately though. 90% of what I've run into have been commercial grade Warings. I've only every seen one die once, and many of the ones I've worked with have been 10 years old or more. That would tend to make me want to look toward Waring, and particularly the commercial grade stuff if I was going to buy a wildly expensive blender (and many of Warings are incredibly expensive). I had an opportunity to snap up a new high end Waring for like $50 last winter when the restaurant I was working at went under. I should have done so, but I let the nice guys from the local Taco Shop take it because I don't do a lot of blending at home.

Gift Guide Spotlight: Gifts for the Geek Cook

@dtremit, mine has an attachment for such canisters, or use with Mason Jars. I think the bigger issue is that the clamp-type home sealers supposedly can't pull much of a vacuum. They only press the plastic down firmly against the meat, so I wonder how much a vacuum they can really pull on the jars. The proper vacuum is supposedly the way in which vacuum sealing accelerates marinading. Though I suppose it might be down to greater surface contact (which would require a bag). You can always freeze your marinade before bagging and sealing it though that kills the time savings.

I'm not sure how true any of that is, always a lot of poorly backed up claims in cooking. But I do have a pastry chef friend who uses his chamber sealer to aerate batters and chocolate in mason jars. Apparently it doesn't work at all with a clamp-style, jar attachment or no.

Gift Guide Spotlight: Gifts for the Geek Cook

I'm actually getting curious about that iwatani torch. I understand that in absolute terms butane can burn as hot if not hotter than propane. But as I understand it most butane torches (including supposedly the iwatani) actually don't put out nearly as much heat as a typical hardware store torch. But I keep seeing the damn thing recommended everywhere over the easier to find propane dealies. I probably wont switch any time soon. There's nowhere even remotely near me where I can find the butane cans for it, and my propane canisters come in handy for a bunch of other things (grills, camping stoves and lanterns, actual pluming work etc). But I have become extremely curious. What's the deal with that thing anyway? Is it just cheaper and smaller?

12 Festive Game and Lamb Recipes for Your Holiday Table

You guys kind of cheated here. Cornish Game Hens aren't game animals. They're nothing more than small/young domestic chickens of a particular breed. You can't now, not could you ever, head out and hunt for game hen. That's pretty much a defining feature of game as a class of foods.

The Best Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia

@hotdoglover I remember chicks being pretty decent, and my friend's father swore by it. But in that area of South Jersey I go with Gaetano's (might be spelling it wrong, tends to be pronounce "gitano's"). They've got a number of locations, but the one I always went to was just over the Ben Franklin somewhere. Still remains my favorite standby steak. Most of the steak joints that I was familiar with that I liked better either closed down or dropped in quality over the years. So when I'm in the area and I don't have time to seek out a place I haven't been I just look for Gaetano's.

The Best Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia

@Doctor Memory as I understand it "whiz wit" is a pastiche of the South Philly Italian American accent, tacked onto the abbreviated lingo used by the guys actually cooking them. That seems to be the area that still embraced it most (when I was in Philly ~7 years ago), but its general popularity seems tied to marketing efforts by cheese steak joints in the area. Especially Pat's and Geno's. I actually got yelled at for pronouncing it "with" by a staffer at Geno's once.

I'm also confused (or perturbed?) by the number of commenters going on about how inauthentic/bad whiz is, and provolone is the only acceptable option. Its kind if an old hat argument. But if I'm remembering right the original steak sandwich had no cheese (though it supposedly had onions). American cheese was supposedly the first cheese invited to the party. Provolone popped up later due to it being South Philly and all this provolone is right here anyway. Then they invented whiz, and it was a better way to inject processed cheese goodness than sliced American. So ifin' that's true then the most authentic, classic version of the sandwich is no cheese or American cheese. I also know plenty of Philly natives who always go for whiz. And its the top selling cheese by a huge margin, and frankly Philly doesn't have nearly enough tourists for them to be solely responsible for that. In fact I was heartily mocked by most of my Philly native friends for NOT going with whiz, I was all about provolone. Apparently it was a terribly pretentious "New York" thing to do, then something about the Mets, and why doesn't New York stop shitting on Philly all the time, and so forth. Bear in mind these were male college students. I caved, tried the whiz, usually go for it these days (especially on sub par steaks), still like just about any cheese in there. You're "I grew up with it so its the only acceptable option" is not the other guys "I grew up with it so its the only acceptable option". So do what I did, take the other guy for a steak. Each order one the way you like it. Then go halfsies on them and talk about something else.

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