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January, 2011:

2010 Photographed

As part of the always excellent series of 86′d Mondays at the Drake, Ivy Knight has organised a photo contest for next Monday.  Photographers, amateur and professional, were invited to enter their photos in five categories (Food, Places, Things, Drinks, and People) to be judged by an esteemed panel.  The deadline for submissions has passed but I understand the event on the 17th will feature the winners and delicious popcorn from Toronto chefs so all are encouraged to attend.

Some fellow bloggers were cagey enough to ask for crowd-sourced help to pick their submissions.  I went the more traditional route and threw darts–a process I can’t recommend less where a computer screen is involved.  I don’t take nearly enough pictures of people so I didn’t enter that category.  I’m going to play coy with you and only share the off-cuts that I didn’t enter.

Let’s all revel in my ability to choose corny or painfully obvious photo titles.

Drinks:

Barrel Cellar

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Amazon Store Updates

As some readers will know I have an Amazon Store through which I’m able to suggest some of my favourite books about food and wine and then get paid a small commission on the purchases that you make.  You can find my store by clicking on the “Store” tab at the top of the page, the banner near the bottom of every page’s right column, or right here.  I have just added an Amazon.ca search box (in the right column beside the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher badge) that will allow readers to search their entire catalog of products and have also just added some books to the store that I’d like to bring to your attention.

I’m shamefully late in getting on the Momofuku cookbook bandwagon.  It’s heavy on the how-the-empire-came-to-be story and the last time I got a cookbook with as many pictures of the chef-author it was Tony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook but it’s one of my favourites.  From bacon dashi to the steamed buns that I couldn’t even wait to get the cookbook before making there are also a lot of really good recipes under the lucky peach.  It’s not Asian cuisine in a strict or traditional sense but many of the ingredients and most of the inspirations are Korean, Japanese, or Chinese so I’ve put it into the Asian category with David Thompson’s classic Thai Street Food.

The other book about which I’m really excited–my copy just arrived today–is Ideas in Food from Aki Kamozawa and Alexander Talbot.  There is a strong echo of Harold McGee in their writing that is both curious and scientific.  Ideas, techniques, and recipes sing in harmony for three hundred picture-free pages that I’m sure I’ll have to read in the next forty-eight hours or so. (more…)

Sorta Sous Vide Steak

I finally tried the sous vide hack method of steak called Beer Cooler Steak that was introduced in the Foodlab column written by Kenji Lopez-Alt.  Basically, you fill a beer cooler with water that is just slightly hotter than your steak should be when it is cooked to the correct doneness, seal the steak in a Ziploc bag, lower it into the water, and close the lid and let it cook for between 1 and 12 hours until you’re almost ready to serve.  Then the steaks come out of the bags and are quickly seared in a very hot pan.

The advantages are that you know your steak will be exactly as done as you want it to be and because it can be held in the cooler the serving time is much more flexible.  Follow the link to read the original column that includes some more information and a comparison to the type of expensive sous vide option that some chefs use.

David Chang has a similar recipe he calls “ghetto sous vide” marinated hanger steak in the Momofuku cookbook.  He uses a pot in the sink refreshed with hot tap water and then holds the steak (after 45 minutes in the pot and shocking it in an ice bath) in refrigerator until it’s time to sear and serve it.

Before going any further I’ll note that this is an unconventional approach to cooking that holds meat in the “danger zone” of microbial growth for an extended period of time.  If you want to follow this process please do your own research on health and safety and know that you are on your own.

Four pounds of rib steak from the butcher at the Richmond Hill Farmers' Market

I sealed 4 pounds or 1,814 grams of rib steak in high quality Ziploc bags.  Two of the steaks were about 1 3/4 inches think while the third was closer to 1 1/4.  The cooler was filled to between 1/2 and 2/3 full with about 22 litres of water that was at approximately 128°F fell to my ideal doneness temperature of 124°F once the steaks went in at 3 PM.  With the lid of the cooler closed the temperature was still 119°F at 8 PM when the steaks came out.  I seared the steaks for just under 1 1/2 minutes per side in a 12-inch cast iron pan heated to between 475°F and 525°F.  My goal was a steak that was cooked to 123°F throughout with a distinct, golden-brown crust.

To wrap my mind around this concept and to perhaps contribute a page to the chapter of common knowledge on the technique I wanted to approach my first experience with Beer Cooler Steak in a thoughtful manner.  I asked (and tried to answer) the following questions: (more…)

Most Popular Posts of 2010

I try to stay away from the self-indulgent posts and too many year-end round-ups but like last year I’ve created a list of the most popular Food With Legs posts from the past year.  I found it interesting and I hope you do too.  Oh and despite captivating photos like the one above none of the wood oven posts made the list.

Going in I had it in my mind that I would divide the list between those posts which went up in 2009 and those that were new in 2010.  On one hand the older ones have the advantage of a whole year’s worth of Google searches, on the other the new post’s got the initial promotion I give stuff that has just gone up.  Conveniently and to my slight surprise, the list of the ten most popular posts in 2010 divides evenly between the two categories.

Here they are with my comments.

Posted in 2010

1. Great popcorn experiment: I compared two methods for making popcorn on the stove top.  This post’s popularity was driven by a tweet from Michael Ruhlman and a link from the great site for thinking cooks called Ideas in Food. (more…)

Christmas Goose

In Monday’s post I wrote about the decision to cook geese for Christmas this year and how I went about sourcing a pair.  In today’s post I’m going to through the sort of sub-recipes that made up the meal.

Goose liver pate with seasonally-appropriate reindeer knife

First up was a  spontaneous choice.  As with farm-sourced turkeys these geese came with their neck, liver, and other giblets stuffed into the cavity.  It’s easy to put together and tastes delicious so I decided to make the goose liver into a mousse pate using the recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I.  Especially when you use the cook-first method I liked in a comparison post liver mousse is a surprisingly quick and easy preparation.  I added a unique twist to mine by substituting brandy from my rumtopf for the called-for cognac.

There are a limited number of guides for cooking goose.  It’s a traditional British Christmas dish so I thought the best place to turn would be Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his series of cookbooks and tv shows.  In The River Cottage Cookbook he doesn’t offer much advice and in The River Cottage Meat Book there isn’t much more than a summary and recipe variation on roast duck.  Luckily, there is significantly more information for a whole beast goose menu in the Christmas episode of the original Escape to River Cottage (can be streamed here from FactualTV).  I read that these recipes are also available in The River Cottage Year but this book seems to be close to unavailable from Canadian online sources at the moment. (more…)