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Oyster Stew: A Comforting Winter Soup in Just 20 Minutes

Most fish mongers will shuck you fresh oysters (or sell take out containers of shucked in house) for a small additional charge. Where I go I think its something like 50 cents or a dollar a dozen. I'm not a fan of the pop top oysters as they tend to be gulf oysters. And I'm not a fan of gulf oysters, particularly when I'm in a place where phenomenal local oysters are commonly available.

The Food Lab: Here's What I'm Eating on Thanksgiving

I'm gonna throw some slight pedantry at you. If there's no vermouth involved your father is not drinking a martini. He's drinking vodka straight up (probably with olives). No vermouth, no martini. I only mention is because as a bartender I actually have a lot of confusion with customers on this subject. You get people ordering a martini only to complain about the presence of vermouth after they receive it, or ordering a martini with a server and specifying no vermouth with that instruction not making it to me, or even servers who don't know the details telling a customer "so its a martini!" and sending the wrong info up the bar. People don't know the correct terminology so they have difficulty communicating what they want to the bartender. Unless I can ask a few questions, which isn't always possible when you're not right in front of me or we're busy. "Vodka, straight up, with olives" will get you what want a lot more clearly and with fewer chances of mistakes than either ordering a martini then wondering why there's vermouth in it or ordering a martini and specifying no vermouth. Its a bit like ordering a vodka cranberry with no cranberry.

For that matter I've had a recent plague of customers ordering scotch "straight up". It always brings me up short, and I get really confused looks when I ask "wait so you want it chilled and strained into a stem glass?". What they really mean is "neat" no additions no ice. "Straight"on its own can be used a synonym for that, though it doesn't necessarily dictate anything about ice (you could order something "straight, on the rocks" to indicate no additions on ice, but its a bit redundant and clumsy). But add "up" and your saying chilled on ice, then strained.

Ounces and Grams: Why Mass Is Not the Best Way to List Ingredients

I think there might be a bit more going on than just a clash with precision fetishists and readers from metric countries. There's a certain kind of cook out there that absolutely must follow a printed, step by step recipe in order to cook. And follow that recipe to the letter with absolutely no variation. Now some of those people are just sticklers who otherwise know what they're doing. But a fair lot of them are people who simple don't understand what they're doing from a mechanical or technique basis. For that sort of cook any amount of vagary in their printed list of instructions (whether its in the ingredients or the actual descriptions and instruction) is a frustrating disaster. Exactly how brown is browned? If is says "chop coarsely" precisely what size is that supposed to be? It says to stir with a wooden spoon, but I don't have a wooden spoon. Shit I can't stir it. OH MY GOD HOW DO I DEGLAZE! It doesn't tell me how to deglaze! (These are actual conversations I have had, multiple times with friends and family members.) Lacking any understanding of what they're actually doing these people rely on that printed list of instructions to make things "right" for them, they don't taste their food, and they won't make adjustments even when they know something is wrong. And as a result (in my experience) their food is uniformly awful, though they may not realize this.

A fair bit of what people like Keni, Alton Brown and others in the technique heavy science for food thing are trying to do is teach and impart that technical and mechanical knowledge of how cooking works. Its more about the why's than the hows. As such the recipe itself is almost besides the point, its all the other information that's really important. Not so much how much onion are you adding. But why you're doing this specific thing to that onion, what's happening to your onion, and what that onion is doing to your food. So I don't think it really makes sense to focus on rigid, nominally 100% precise, measurements. Nor does it make sense to list recipe steps in a way that covers all minutia in incredible detail second to second for every recipe. If you're looking for more than a list of simple steps for better burgers then you've already learned enough about the subject at hand to work with and around the inherent variance involved in cooking. Of your that sort of person who can't or wont do more than exactly what's printed on the page? You're gonna freak out a little about the alleged inaccuracies.

The 10 Dishes That Will Make You Fall in Love With Georgian Food

4 is a really paltry number of restaurants. Particularly in NY were it's pretty common to find dozens of restaurants serving whatever nations food you'd like. And there are plenty of areas of the US other than NY with eastern block ethnic communities. Do some searching you'll likely find something bearish you or somewhere your likely to be sometime soon. The Georgian friend I mentioned above used to go to Georgian restaurants either in Georgia, or rural Pennsylvania for example.

It's not a Particularly common thing in this country, even in NY. But there are apparently Georgian communities scattered all over, or mixed in with other eastern European neighborhoods.

The 10 Dishes That Will Make You Fall in Love With Georgian Food

I have a very good friend from Tbilisi so I've tried a fair few of these. The thing that keeps surprising me about Georgian food is that the pallet is never what you may expect. Assuming its eastern block and slavic you would expect something like Russian food. Heavyness, sour cream, dill. But all the dishes are shockingly light, cold salads are the norm, and tarragon is the default herb. Looking at that khinkali you think asian, soup dumpling, soy, ginger etc. But even though its clearly has the same origin is significantly different. The skin is thick enough to make the top knot (refered to as the belly button apparently) inedible. There is far less broth involved, and the major flavoring is black pepper. But even that's weirdly at odds with your expectations for black pepper. Its this intense floral black pepper flavor, with little or none of the heat you expect. I don't think I've had a single Georgian dish that didn't significantly surprise me in some way.

Final word of warning. The first time I ate an entirely Georgian meal: My friend who had brought us casually mentioned as we were heading home on the subway that the first couple times she ate in Georgia after many years away she had some serious... digestive issues, but that you get used to it after awhile.. We all responded with a sort of joking "oh yeah now you tell us". Until about 15 minutes later. Every last one of us (save the Georgian in question) suddenly had a problem. Apparently this is fairly common. I can't really be sure what causes it, but there's typically an awful lot of tarragon in a Georgian meal. And I've since read some things about large volumes of that herb causing digestive problems of various sorts. And you do indeed get used to it pretty rapidly.

Clams Casino Has Every Reason to Be a Great Dish. Now It Is.

"absolutely must purge them before cooking them"

I don't necessarily think its absolutely necessary. Most decent distributors and fishmongers will purge the clams, either deliberately or as a side effect of holding them for market, before they get sold. And honestly even freshly dug clams often don't need it. I pretty much never purge my clams and, outside of occasional batches of clams I've dug myself from sandy beds, I haven't run into sandy clams in years. That said I don't necessarily trust the average non-coastal supermarket fish counter to be selling quality product. I wouldn't expect any of them to know to purge their clams, and whatever distributors they're working with may or may not be holding the clams in water tanks before delivery. So if you don't know the clams from wherever you're buying them are sand free then its probably a good idea. You also might want to be more specific on the purging. Storing clams in fresh (rather than salt) water can kill them, as can it not being salty enough, or too salty. We tend to just use bay water, something most people don't have access too. I'm also not sure a couple of 30 minute soaks is enough to really clear the gut of a really sandy clam. Most of the sand you're encountering is on the exterior of the shells, and can be removed with a good rinse. There may some some sand on the interior of the clam (but not in its gut) but that can be gotten rid of by straining or decanting the liquor. If the clams gut is actually full of sand 30 minutes to a couple hours may not be enough to clear them out. I was taught to do a purge over night (clams need to be raised above the bottom of the container, so they don't just re-consume the sand).

I also don't like cooking a whole clam twice they can get dry and chewy. It shouldn't be an issue here since you're really just warming and crisping them. Everything involved here is already cooked. But if you want to avoid over cooking the clams you can still follow this recipe. Just shuck the clams, strain and reserve the juices. Then you just add the clam juice to the pan where you'd be adding the whole clams, cook for a bit and move on.

At $65, The Misen Chef's Knife is the Holy Grail of Knives

@MahaaFoodie as a just home cook I can tell you that a knife that gives you a callus under heavy, frequent use is a knife that gives you painful blisters under moderate to infrequent use.

In terms of the steel? I've got 1 vg10 knife. Loved it at first, 5 years in I hate it. Its far too brittle, like I have serious concerns about its potential for longevity brittle. No matter how careful I am it always seems to get damaged. Supposedly a not insignificant portion of that is down to problems on the maker's part (over hardening, flaws in certain batches of the steel used for that particular product line). But the experience has had me looking for something softer and more forgiving, so I'm willing to give this a show. Its one of the reasons I opted not to pick up a Tojiro a few months back.

At $65, The Misen Chef's Knife is the Holy Grail of Knives

@daniel hertlein I kind of like the blue. But it does seem odd that black would be the stretch goal and not the blue and grey. I'm going to assume it's a branding decision. Especially given how the blue features in all their product photos. Let you know from across the room it's a misen. But from what little I know about plastics certain colors can effect cost and durability.

The Food Lab: How to Make the Best Carne Asada

Some of the best carne asada I've ever had was cooked by a Finish American sous chef who was raised in Seatle of all people. He worked with 5 Mexican line cooks, all of whom insisted he make asada if it was going to be tacos for shift meal. They'd all contribute, making tortillas and their mother's or father's recipes for various things like beans and salsa. But the sous had to handle the meat. I don't remember exactly how he made it. But I remember it being based in lime juice, salt, pepper, lots of garlic, and olive oil blended to high hell and marinaded for about an hour or so. And then basically whatever he felt like playing with. Tequila, sugar, chilis. He'd park it in our wood burning oven for a bit to give it some smoke, then slap it on a screaming hot flat top till it was crispy. Then chop it rather than slicing it and toss it with the exuded juices and a bit of extra lime (this step was apparently down to the buffet style shift meal). Shift meal with those guys was always great, especially Sunday brunch. It was a smaller crew on those shifts, and we had more time to make a big production with the meal. The guys would make (or buy sometimes) menudo for everyone. And our Sous chef would make amazing waffles (he actually brought in his own waffle iron for the purpose) or banana pancakes and shit tons of bacon. The whole staff would sit down at one big, set for the purpose, table together and wash down their pancakes with tripe soup and top quality bacon. It took 10 years for me to end up working with a cook who cared that much about taking care of his staff again.

Carne asada has been my go too taco filling when I make them at home since then. So I'll definitely find an excuse to make this before it gets too cold to cook outside.

How to Buy and Prepare Anchovies

@Daniel Gritzer & chorkpop

Do fresh uncured achovies have many cooked applications? I know I've seen them in larger sizes analogous to fresh sardines. In that case the same techniques could be used as any small oily fish. Fresh sardines seem to be getting more common. Both of the better fish markets near me seem to have had them consistently the last two summers. And I've been using locally caught butterfish in the same dishes for a few years. Its usually considered fish bait/trash fish, but the little bastards are tasty. That sort of info, rather than curing info, would probably be pretty useful.

How to Season and Maintain a Wooden Cutting Board

An easy way to find food safe mineral oil on the cheap is to look in your local drug store for mineral oil labeled as a laxative. Its safe for human consumption (as your supposed to consume it), and no different than other "food safe" grade mineral oils. I think I pay less than 2 bucks for it, its actually the only mineral oil my local hardware stocks.

And if anyone is worried about the "laxative" part bear in mind that any other mineral oil you might use is just as much a laxative it just isn't labeled and sold as one.

Charcoal Versus Gas Grills: The Definitive Guide

@roumain from what I understand you want to use lump in a komado. The small charcoal area, and tight vents are the issue here. Apparently all the extra ash from the brickettes wont just bring the heat down, it can physically clog the bottom vent. Basically putting your fire out completely. The excess ash is apparently a factor of the binder used to make brickettes. There are brickettes with low or no binders, but they aren't too common to run into and it can be difficult to tell whats up. The only ones I tend to run into are the Kingsford Competition Brickettes. They burn hotter with less ash than regular brickettes, but I imagine they'd still be an issue in most komados.

As for the rest of it. This has always been the answer. How much money do you want to spend? If it's "not much" go charcoal. Inside of $150 you can get yourself a top shelf cooker. If you're willing to spend more? Then the answer is both. If you're can spend ~$500 you can get a decent quality propane grill, and then toss some extra money out and get that same excellent charcoal grill you'd be getting if money was short. You'd probably be spending more on bullshit accessories and feature upgrades you'll never use (I've used a side burner TWICE).

I don't care how much you love charcoal, how much of a partisan you are. If you pick yourself up a propane grill, you WILL use it more often than the charcoal. Its not just convenience, its ease of control and consistency. Its just nicer to use for casual use. And more importantly its not just that is more convenient than your charcoal grill. Weather dependent its more convenient than your stove.

The Delicious Secret Behind Your Favorite Whiskey: The Best Spirits from MGP

@ Truff

So I guess you would never drink Irish Whiskey? Up until a few years ago there were only three distilleries producing all of the Irish whiskey in the world. Even now there are only 5 or six. Or blended whiskey? Many if not most blended whiskies (particularly in Scotland) don't actually distill any whiskey themselves. They purchase various whiskies from multiple distilleries, blend and bottle. In fact there are distilleries in Scotland where you will never see their whisky bottled under their own name, they purely produce for sale to blenders. The exception being rare bottlings, where a blending house purchases barrels from these distilleries ages them a long time and then bottles them as a rarity at very high cost. Fact of the matter is that this is standard practice in the whiskey business. And has been for a very long time. And is very, very seldom called out in labeling. The only problem here is the deceptive marketing that certain brands like Templeton. When you get right down to the reason why you see it so often with rye is because rye is a difficult grain to work with in terms of fermentation. Expertise in distilling was limited for a long time in the US to those large scale distillers, and as rye had nearly died out as a salable whiskey style expertise in making it was even more limited to just a handful of distillers that still bothered. Many of these brands are going with MGP because they frankly don't know how, or can't make the product. And MGP are the acknowledged experts in this area. They also aren't the only large distillery that provides these sorts of products and services for American boubon and rye brands. So its quite likely that some of the "small batch" products your supporting are no more small batch than the MGP stuff you're decrying. They just come from one of their competitors.

Beyond that for the most part I don't find that the MGP whiskeys cost like small batch despite not being small batch. When I think of small batch as a price bracket I tend to see things like younger, rougher whiskies that are priced like older more refined spirit. Which is fine, economies of scale and what not. But I don't see any of these brands charging $75 for a 350ml bottle of their standard always available 4 year old bourbon, like a certain craft brand in my area. Basically a lot of them cost more than I would expect them too given the quality or type of release. With a lot of these brands that are blended and bottled from back end distillers I instead find that they're priced commiserate with products of the same quality, regardless of who was making them. The ones with overwrought bottles and lifestyle brand marketing cost like other over priced marketing focused dreck, the ones with older whiskies cost like older whiskey etc. Certain brands excepted of course. Rye is always going to cost more, because its harder to make. Older whiskey will always cost more because its a longer, bigger investment for whoever's making it. Limited bottlings will always cost more because they're limited. Special aging circumstances, extreme grain bills, short production runs.

Everything You Need to Know to Buy Better Shrimp

@Kenji that is how we found out. G-mas barber sheers "graduate" to lobster duty when they get a bit worn. Sometimes when we're short on lobster tools the good ones pull double duty.

Everything You Need to Know to Buy Better Shrimp

Those shrimp deveiner tools are tricky to use, and most you'll run into will be out an out crap. At home I usually use a pair of scissors. All metal barber's scissors are great as a seafood tool. You just stick the lower blade in the opening for the digestive tract, snip along the back, and then wipe away the shrimp poops on a paper towel. Its an extra step technically but its a lot less finicky. And instead of a bulky single use tool cluttering up a drawer, you've got an additional pair of kitchen scissors for finesse work. And their great when shelling lobsters.

The Food Lab: How to Sear Scallops

@RICHOPP Well that's an established problem. But its got little bearing on the specific claim that you can punch a circular die through {x} fish and produce something that passes for scallops. Its about simple mislabeling. Now in my experience a lot of this happens at the distributor level. Like Escolar (which is dangerous to eat) being sold as "white tuna" or "hawaiian butter fish" to obscure what it is. Or those Chinese scallops masquerading as American product I mentioned early. Other times its just misinformed staff. Even in seafood restaurants you'd be surprised how little people actually know. I remember getting in an argument with a chef about Yellowtail. He swore up and down it was a tuna and insisted that the staff announce it as yellow tail tuna. Its not a tuna. Its an Amberjack, which are IIRC are more closely related to mackerel. I told him if he wanted it to sound fancier he should just call it Hamachi. It went on the menu as "Yellow Tuna". And of course "mislabeled fish" would include the long standing practice of labeling what is frozen fresh, and what is imported local.

Beyond Jell-O: Everything You Can Do With a Packet of Gelatin

Kosher gelatin is not, generally speaking, vegetarian. Most of the Kosher gelatin I've run into is just made from Kosher beef. Unless its specifically labeled as containing one (or more) of the other substitute substances you mention its not vegetarian.

The Food Lab: How to Sear Scallops

@gaffer I don't need to travel for that sort of thing. I can find all that stuff right near my house if I want to take the time. Although this summer there's some brown and red tide problems so it takes a little more thought that most summers. I don't actually see much of seafood being a luxury. I mean I certainly see places inland charging through the teeth for oysters and lobster. But there's cheap fish nearly everywhere you look. I think the difference in the seafood places is down to changes in whats fashionable. And maybe a bit more that your good local seafood doesn't stay local. The vast majority of our local catch gets shipped up to the big market in the Bronx where its promptly purchased at inflated prices by the Japanese. So your seafood place in a fishing town has the same limited mass market options as every other restaurant in that chunk of the country. You can work around it, and I know some places that do. But you're gonna be working with a dozen different purveyors or fishermen, and end up serving really seasonal food and/or having consistency problems. Its very time consuming. OR you can work with the purveyors from a higher price tier who'll do that shit for you and charge more.

The Food Lab: How to Sear Scallops

@gaffer I really doubt it was even a past practice. The meat doesn't even look anything like a scallop

Once cooked, even likely, it flakes apart really easily too. It'd never hold shape. And on anything smaller than a pretty big ray its too thin to pass as even a bay scallop. If you take a whole cross section of the wing (as the claim indicates) most of the thickness there is going to be very hard cartilage. Trying to eat it, even on small fish is a bit like chewing plastic. And the skin on those things is thick and tough enough that they use it to make some pretty rad leather. It would make even less sense 50 years ago (60's if my math is right) as scallops were way way more available and far cheaper at that point. The differences in cost an availability even further back would have been far more extreme. I've seen photos of the fishing villages near my home town from the 20's. Piles of scallops 20-30 feet high outside the now long gone canneries and fish docks.

@Kenji I wouldn't necessarily be that confused if was just a claim that some scallops were fake. I could see something like those processed Asian fish cakes passing for a really low grade, over cooked scallop. I do know that at a certain point in the 70's Chinese shellfish farms were marketing their scallops as Peconic Bay Scallops to increase their market price when that particular fisher collapsed. But the specifics don't wash at all with every experience I've ever had with sea critters.

The Food Lab: How to Sear Scallops

I've been reasonably sure for years that the fake scallop thing is a myth. I've never seen them, no fishmonger,fisherman or cookbI've ever met has encountered them.

And it doesn't really make sense if you think about. Rays and skate are the most common cited subsitutes. But structurally it makes no sense skate and Ray meat is visibly striated. And when cooked its very flaky with a slight colegen stickyness similar to braised meat. If you just punched rounds out of the wings you'd mostly be getting inedible cartilage. It would never pass as a scallop. The other claimed culprit is Pollack, which is also incredibly flakey. Even processed Pollack like crab with a k wouldn't pass texturally.

Now I've heard plenty of fish described as tasting like scallops (don't know myself can't eat scallops). But none of those would visually or texturally pass muster. Monk fish for example. I'm sure you could process fish into something similar, but that's at odds with the myth and look how well that works out for krab.

I've begun to suspect it's just an urban legend the uninformed use to explain over cooked and wetpack scollaps.

Traditional or Not, There's Technique at the Heart of Teriyaki Burgers

IIRC both the association between pineapple and teriyaki and the Americanism sauces with garlic and crap in em, come to us from Hawaii. Where there both pineapples and a heavy Japanese influence on the food.

The Secrets to Making the Best Shrimp Cocktail

@bdcbbq That's not the point of cocktail sauce at all. Its not chili heat. Its horseradish, same compound that gives mustard its oompf. I really wouldn't want my cocktail sauce to have capsaicin heat too it.

My approach is to treat it like a Bloody Mary. Horseradish, Worcestershire, old bay, lemon and black pepper.

Oh and the shrimp gets sous vide in bacon fat.

How to Make Homemade Preserved Horseradish

I dunno if you guys published this at the right time of year. Horseradish is weirdly seasonal. In the warmer months the roots won't be spicy, and can often get pretty woody. And if you harvest before the greens have sprouted (meaning spring basically), the plant might not necessarily survive being harvested. It takes 2+ years to get a decent, usable root out of a horseradish plant, so when you harvest you want to just take one of the roots, or part of the root, and replant to rest. The rule of thumb around these parts is one week before or one week after mother's day. You really won't even see roots in the markets at other times of year.

But basically with the late season the North East got our horseradish plants didn't even sprout till late June to early July. But by now its a bit too warm out to get roots with any sort of spice too them. You can harvest in the fall as well, when it cools off again. But from what I understand your plants have less chance of surviving till next season if you do.

The Food Lab: How to Make a Burger King-Style Whopper Fit for The King

While I normally scoff at Vlasic pickles, your totally right here. Out of all the decent quality, national brand pickles they actually taste the most like the pickles you get on a fast food burger. We keep some of their "chips" on hand for burgers and certain sandwiches. Otherwise we stick to multi-gallon jars of B&G, other deli-grade brands, or any of the many fantastic NY area "artisinal" brands for our pickle needs.

The Food Lab: Chicken-Fried Chicken Is Country Cooking at Its Most Comforting


I've noticed these recipes all seem to go with a deep fry. I've been told by numerous angry southerners that the best/most traditional approach for chicken or country fried anything is to pan fry in shallow oil (1/2 to 2/3 coverage) with the meat in direct contact with the pan (always cast iron).

I've found fried chicken burns where it contacts the pan by the time the center is cooked and the rest of the coating browns. But it always worked damn good for things cuts like country fried steak.

What's your stance?