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In Praise of a Turkey-Free Thanksgiving

@CatrionaShadowleaf I think the price of duck is gonna vary by where you are, and it should be fairly stable year round. Its farmed/slaughtered year round and typically sold frozen. But technically speaking it is "in season" in fall at the same time as Turkey (particularly wild duck) so if its more less expensive at different times of the year I'd assume its now. In my experience price has more to do with where you're getting it. Its seems most expensive where its least popular, and fairly affordable where duck is common or raised. Like where I am on Long Island, a place that probably eats more duck than any other part of the US, a few miles from several active duck farms, etc it can be pretty cheap from time to time. The frozen supermarket ducks tend to be cheapest (goes on sale here for like http://www.yelp.com/biz/miloskis-poultry-farm-calverton) its typically cheaper than the turkeys the guy sells.

I would caution against doing it for Thanksgiving the first time you ever cook it though. It takes a bit of practice to get the fat properly rendered and the skin properly crisped.

In Praise of a Turkey-Free Thanksgiving

I wish, I've never been fond of Turkey. And occasionally floated the idea of doing duck and a ton of seafood instead (actually more traditional for our area once upon a time). But the family threatens murder.

Try This Thanksgiving-Inspired Chicken Liver Pâté With Bourbon and Cranberry

We make a liver pate from the turkey's liver (and really any roasted bird that comes with giblets) every year. Apparently its an old family recipe from my mom's (French) side. There's a french name for the style of pate I can't ever remember, but its very similar to Jewish chopped liver. Typically we roast the livers along side the bird (which almost always makes for over cooked liver, but Mom won't let me change it), then it gets roughly mashed with a fork along with some Mayo, diced onion, yolk from a hard boiled egg, salt and pepper.

I definitely suggest anyone who's curious to try Daniel's recipe, pate goes great as an appetizer on Thanksgiving. I however have to cook with my insane mother who shouts loudly that the TV is WRONG every-time she sees some one making tourtiere and not using her grandmother's exact recipe. Even when they are 1. actually in Franco-phone Canada and 2. using THEIR grandmother's recipe. Because apparently they are some how lying or faking.

How Thanksgiving, the 'Yankee Abolitionist Holiday,' Won Over the South

@Ocean nothing wrong with a stuffed chicken. And Turkey with dressing/stuffing could not have been the handed down celebration food for the religious celebration as it came over from Europe because the religious celebration pre-dates the common use/availability of turkey in Europe. The Thanksgiving foods we think of are basically the common foods of the early North East (including New England and Eastern Canada) European community (though many had presidents in Native American cuisines). Which is the whole point of the article. The foods have no religious connotation because they weren't particularly associated with the holiday in the place where its modern American version arose. They were part of the general diet in the area and came to be associated with special meals regardless of if they were "Thanksgiving" or not. And in many places still carry heavy associations with Christmas as well (due to seasonality). Hell many of the very early Thanksgivings didn't have these associations at all. On the menu you had stuff like eel, duck and venison. Whatever was available/plentiful seasonally.

So sure the origins of the holiday are in a very particular period of English religious practice. But if we're talking about the traditional foods of the modern American holiday you're talking about a handful of dishes/foods from Jersey north through Canada getting spread nation wide.

How Thanksgiving, the 'Yankee Abolitionist Holiday,' Won Over the South

@Ocean While the idea of days of "thanksgiving" is certainly rooted in English protestant traditions, this article is about food. And the foods that are traditional to the American holiday called Thanksgiving are from New England. Turkeys, cranberries, pumpkins, etc are new world foods. They didn't exist in Europe during the time frame you mention. And they wouldn't see broad acceptance over there until well AFTER they were already established as standard New England holiday fair. You should also be aware that the holiday never caught on in Catholic countries over there, and died out in England a long time ago.

Hell even now cranberries are pretty much not a thing in Europe and whole turkey is hard to come by or over priced outside of Christmas. My cousins in Dublin who do an "American Thanksgiving" every year use a chicken.

The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away

@Recipephany That IS really strange. Aside from sealing the counter tops in some way I wouldn't know what to do there. But that likely wouldn't be good for the wood.

The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away

@Recipephany That's quite odd. We cook in almost nothing but cast iron, and never get markings of any kind on our (completely unsealed or finished) maple counter, or anywhere else for that matter. As with any pan (especially over gas) they get a fair bit of carbon buildup on the underside. And this will leave black marks wherever it touches, hand towels, counters etc. if you don't clean it off. We're you regularly oiling and season the exterior of the pan? Did you wipe it down till any black/carbon residue was gone? Generally speaking you don't need to regularly oil or season the exterior beyond the point that prevents rust. The only time I've gotten black marks on counters and cutting boards from pans was when I didn't regularly wash/de-carbonize the exterior. And it was with any pot or pan, not unique to cast iron.

The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away

@Dorek That's exactly what we do (or did pot is well broken in now). I was talking about the sort of seasoning a pan will pick up from regular use. Because of how deep the pot is the normal "heat it on a burner and oil it" method of slowly building season, or regular use on a burner is really only going to season the bottom portion of the pot. Basically just the cooking surface and a few inches up the wall. Like wise the lid really isn't going to pick up a season at all. So you need to be a little more careful about rust than you might be with a skillet, and give it more frequent regular seasons in the oven (or grill) as you describe. The lid also has this weird tendency to pick up thick carbon scale on the interior, so you need to clean that off if you want to keep moisture away and want to build up any level of season on the lid.

The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away

@The Petite Gourmet

My mother has the same dutch oven. Its a bit difficult to season because its so deep, the sides do not consistently get hot the way the bottom does or a skillet would during normal use. Also the lid doesn't really season from use, as its not on the burner. The "season" flaking off the top isn't season, its carbon build up scrape it off.

Just keep using it frequently. Oil the interior after each use. What I like to do is stick the wet pan on a burner after washing. Heat it up till the water boils off, then rub it down with whatever fat is handy. Let it cool and store it. Don't worry about the lid, it doesn't need to be seasoned the same way the pan does. If its rusty clean it off, oil it, or give it a quick season in the oven. Don't store or dry the pan with the lid on, it traps moisture in there and you'll get rust. It took quite a bit longer to get my mom's dutch oven in fighting shape than it does with skillets. Part of that is how big the damn thing is, part of it is that we live near the beach and all things rust out here at a phenomenal rate, and part of that is she likes to use it to cook tomato sauce. The tomato sauce is fine now, but it kind screwed up the pan when it wasn't fully seasoned. So maybe avoid acidic dishes until you've broken it in.

The Food Lab: How to Make Pull-Apart Stuffing-Flavored Rolls

@Kenji that's exactly the sage sausage I was referring to as well. But the more fat, more sage, better flavor was what I was getting at with "higher quality". They taste roughly the same, but the fat "sage sausage" is often just better. I've suspected for a long time that they're exactly the same sausage. Made with roughly the same stuff, in roughly the same way, from roughly the same tradition. The sage labeled stuff seems to be freshly made in house or regionally as opposed to a mass market packaged product. I'd be curious to find out if there is actually much difference. Like one is cured with nitrates (I think the smoked country sausage sometimes is) and the other isn't.

BUT anyway I've been making my own for stuffing and biscuits and gravy the last few years. Its pretty stupid simple if you want something better than Jimmy Dean.

The Food Lab: How to Make Pull-Apart Stuffing-Flavored Rolls

What exactly is the difference between sage sausage and standard US breakfast sausage? I know country sausage, or southern type breakfast sausage are often smoked. But I've never noticed much difference from the regular pork breakfast sausage we have up North, or the big national brands. Though the fresh cased sage sausage I used to get in Brooklyn supermarkets were noticeably higher quality.

The Definitive Guide to Buying, Prepping, Cooking, and Carving Your Thanksgiving Turkey

I've said it before and I'll say it again. It absolutely shocks me that so many food writers that hate on stuffing needed to "discover" that the stuffing needs to be pre-cooked and delivered to the bird while still hot for good/safe results. Almost every family I know that grew up physically stuffing the bird, the stuffing traditionally gets pre-cooked in a skillet and promptly crammed in uncomfortable places. Its just the way its done. Though I will cop to having to talk my mother out of making the stuffing ahead and adding it cold, that's a very recent thing on her part in an attempt to save time and labor the day of. I'd also imagine there are tons of people out there who weren't raised cooking, or stuffing birds, who just don't know. I get the feeling a lot of food professionals fall into the later category. Or maybe professional food training beats it out of them. Either way it seems really odd to me that I very seldom saw it mentioned or advocated until it was a 'new' solution from advocates of un-stuffed birds. I really would have expected some one to say "no man, my grandma always said to cook that shit first.

How to Clean and Debeard Mussels

@dongale if the mussel can still hold the shell shut its OK to eat, cracked or otherwise. I tend to toss out the smashed or heavily cracked ones because they're unappetizing or because its difficult to tell if its still alive.

The Food Lab: How to Cook Mussels (The Easiest Choose-Your-Own-Adventure One Pot Meal Around)

@Old Man of the Mountain PEI mussels are pretty much everywhere theses days. From what I've heard from fishmongers and chefs its down to consistency of supply. Its relatively trivial to line up regular, reliable supply of consistent Mussels if you stick with PEI (or to a lesser extent Maine). Whereas more local products (at least here on Long Island) can either be inconsistent in character or source, or available in limited supply or only at certain times. I assume that's why I've almost never seen anything but Maine or PEI available in supermarkets here. Local suppliers can't fill the massive orders consistently enough. I'd start checking out some more fish markets. Many of the better places near me carry local whenever its available and then carry the standard/consistent import to cover the gaps. So for example my favorite local market typically has wild Chesapeake Bay (or sometimes Jersey) oysters every day. But on Fridays they get in wild caught locals from the Peconic Bay and carry them till they sell out.

How to Clean and Debeard Mussels

@sekkyo I can see them having an even worse version of the problems I've had with mesh bags. How do you smell them? How do you tell if they're open/dead before buying them?

The Food Lab: How to Cook Mussels (The Easiest Choose-Your-Own-Adventure One Pot Meal Around)

@Tinab81 unless your bivalves have been purged (or lived in mud rather than sand) washing the exterior isn't going to solve the grit problem. They're filter feeders and take can take in a fair bit of sand while they go about their business. So there's grit inside the shells. Especially with clams you can get some grit from the shells knocking against each other as well.

The Food Lab: How to Cook Mussels (The Easiest Choose-Your-Own-Adventure One Pot Meal Around)

@Old Man of the Mountain. Magtured has it right. A lot of East Coast shellfish have been introduced for aquaculture on the west coast. Including mussels, Virginica oysters, and even steamer clams (though I think those are considered invasive and commercially un-important). There's also a species of edible blue mussel native to the North Pacific. So its actually pretty likely that the mussels your getting are Pacific, unless labeled otherwise. I'd assume its the same for a lot of other bivalves you'd associate with New England.

How to Clean and Debeard Mussels

@gumbercules we shell the mussels and store them in the fridge in any left over broth. Usually use them to make pasta later, or add them to soups. They freeze decently in this state as well, but as with most shellfish the shelf life isn't great. I'd use them in a couple of days, or couple of weeks if frozen.

How to Clean and Debeard Mussels

The "black mussels" are actually called blue mussels, though they're actually (mostly) black in color. I doubt you'd see them listed as anything other than "mussels" at retail though. Its also worth noting that a decent fish market will clean their wild mussels pretty well before selling them at retail (not necessarily whole sale). The places I tend to buy my mussels the wild are just as clean as the farmed. So unless your pulling them out of the water yourself its unlikely you'll have to do a ton of cleaning. If you are pulling them out of the water a pressure washer can do most of the nasty work for you, though you need to careful not to pulverize the shells.

@Fwilger The harvest date should be when they were pulled out of the water, either by the farm or the fisherman. But as Kenji notes they are often held in salt water tanks at the distributor/coop level for quite some time. This is fine as mussel is still living breathing and filtering as it normally would. That's why your seeing 2-3 weeks since harvest bags, they were pulled from the sea that long ago. And lived in tanks for the meantime. The x factor is how long they're out in the open air, which is difficult to establish, but a decent fishmonger should be able to let you know. But in general mussels don't last too long out in the open air. Even pulling them from the water myself I've only gotten them to go 5 days at most (with significant losses along the way and very careful storage). You're always going to get at least a few dead ones in any batch of mussels though. No matter how fresh they are. So having a few dead ones is not a reliable way to judge freshness.

In general you should look for what Kenji mentions. You want moist, well iced mussels that are mostly closed. If there are a lot of opened shells, and/or they won't close, stay away. Also smell them, they shouldn't really smell like anything at all. Except maybe that general, light, ocean/seawater smell. In general I do not like the pre-bagged shellfish you find in supermarkets. I can't inspect them properly, and if they are bagged tightly the mesh can keep dead mussels from opening. Often they also seem to be insufficiently iced, and too dry. Which makes sense because these bags are about convenience for shoppers, and display. When I've bought these in the past (both clams and mussels) there have almost always been far more dead ones than when I buy loose. At the very least because the loose ones can be sorted BEFORE they are sold to you. I've also known a lot more people who've gotten sick off the bagged stuff than the loose stuff, but I live in an area with incredible access to fresh seafood. I generally avoid supermarket seafood like the plague. You can get frozen mussels as well if your that worried about it. I can't speak to any particular brand, but I have heard decent things about frozen in shell mussels and clams from more land locked acquaintances and it seems like more fish markets are starting to package shellfish this way in house. You're looking for the whole shell on guys that are vacuum packed, and I'd try to stick to North American products. A lot of frozen imported Asian seafood is sketchy.

Pizza Hack: Is Copper Better Than the Baking Steel?

If the goal was to test something with better conductivity but lower heat capacity than steel to see whats going on wouldn't aluminium have been the cheaper bet? Not sure the numbers I spent 30 seconds looking up are accurate but its seems aluminium has about 1/2 the capacity and 2x the conductivity of steel.

Though looking this up has convinced me that clad copper would actually be much better than the tri-ply steel and aluminium pans I've got. Copper's massively more conductive than aluminium, but its capacity is much closer to that of steel.

The Hollywood Effect: How Fried Green Tomatoes Became a Southern 'Classic'

I remember my grandmother being pissed after the movie came out. She grew up eating fried green tomatoes in Maine, served them to her own kids in NY, and her Mother grew up eating them in Prince Edward Island. She considered them to be 'French' food (meaning French-Canadian/Acadian), and she was angry at southerners for co-opting her shit. I don't think it ever occurred to her (or anyone who claims they ARE uniquely Southern) that frying a green tomato is just something you do when you have green tomatoes. Its one of a handful of ways to render them palatable. And not a particularly good one. I hated them as a kid, could take or leave them now, and on the whole would much rather have my green tomatoes pickled.

Which might end up happening. I've got a whole mess of tomatoes not ripening in the yard right now.

Breakfast of Champions: Why New Jersey is Crazy for Pork Roll

As MD Guy points out I think this article is downplaying how available Pork Roll is outside of NJ. As I recall the "pork roll belt" as I've heard it called runs from Jersey, straight through the Philly area (and increasingly other areas of PA), through Delaware, and into Maryland (particularly around Baltimore). Though its area of highest ubiquity in my experience runs South from Trenton to Delaware. It even encroaches into NY and the DC metro in parts. Its not typically served in deli's here on Long Island but you find it irregularly at the supermarkets, and I've certainly had it in the areas of upstate that boarder Jersey or PA.

My favorite way to eat it, picked up in Philly from my college room mate, is the basic pork roll sandwich. Just fried pork roll and cheese on a kaiser. Maybe some ketchup or hot sauce if your feeling sassy.

The Clammiest Chowder: How to Make Rhode Island-Style Dairy-Free Clam Chowder

@Ocean This is a clam:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_clam

This is a mussel:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mussel

Aside from the obvious differences, mussels tend to be softer and sweeter than clams. And though clams are typically "stronger" in flavor, the mussels can tend more toward the fishy end of things than clams do. They also seem more prone to the chalky, bitter taste that bivalves get during the spawning season. We generally make chowder from clams because calms, particularly the largest ones (called chowders), are a lot tougher. Even when raw. Chopping and stewing very large clams is one of a handful of methods for dealing with them. Slower, longer cooking of the clams will actually help tenderize them. Particularly if you open them before cooking. I suspect with long cooking mussels would just fall apart. That said there are also potato, corn, and fish chowders in the world among others. So there's no reason not to use mussels if you're not going to be cooking the chowder all day.

How to Make Traditional Cassoulet (And Why You Should Put Chicken in It!)

@Big Sugi Unless I'm remembering wrong salt pork's got nitrates too. You can still make it yourself you just need some salt peter or insta-cure. Or puree some celery apparently, but I've not tried that. Its basically fattier un-smoked bacon.

That said its not all that hard to find. Even living in whitebread farm country on Long Island most of the pretty much crap supermarkets have it. I think people might not know what/where to look. You usually only see pre-packaged cubes of Hormel salt pork in most places. It lives either with the bacon, in the section of the butcher counter with the smoked pork and turkey, or for some odd reason with the cheeses. If I can consistently find in a place where finding things like brisket, pork belly, anything resembling an ethnic ingredient, and frequently enough rib eye steaks are a chore to track down I'm thinking its more available than most people realize.

How to Make Traditional Cassoulet (And Why You Should Put Chicken in It!)

@fluffywarthog1029

I don't think any smoked product (salt or turkey) is gonna help much you since Kenji says the smoke flavor clashes with the traditional dish. Ans smoked turkey is usually pretty aggressively smoked. You'd really be looking for something fatty, cured with nitrates to get that cured flavor but un-smoked. Maybe duck prosciutto or beef bacon? Or you could go back to duck legs and cure them for a few days with salt and insta-cure.

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