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The Food Almanac: Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Food Almanac: Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Today's Flavor
Today is National Squab Day. Of all the birds we commonly eat in this part of the world, squab is the most delectable. A squab is a baby pigeon. It's a farm-raised bird, so you need not be concerned that it came from underneath a bridge. It hasn't flown yet, but it was about to undertake that exercise when it was harvested. A prime squab is bigger than an adult pigeon, because its parents feed it constantly, and it does very little other than eat. It gets fat, and that's why it tastes so good.

The meat of squab is red, and when cooked medium-rare (the perfect temperature) it can fool the eater into thinking he's eating some kind of light beef or veal. The birds are bigger than quails but smaller than Cornish hens, with a higher percentage of breast meat than in most others.

At one time, quite a few restaurants around town served squab. Antoine's had a classic dish called pigeonneau sauce Paradis that had a sweet-savory sauce with grapes. It's still there, but they make it with chicken. Mosca's used to roast squabs with rosemary and garlic. The last restaurant to offer it regularly was Peristyle. If you see it anywhere, order it. It's not particularly expensive, and it's a delicacy among poultry.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Crawdad Cove, Nevada is an arm of Lake Mead, the reservoir formed behind the Hoover Dam. Looking at satellite maps, it's hard to imagine that many crawdads (crawfish) live there. Las Vegas is nearby, but you don't have to drive all the way there to find something to eat. Bistro Zinc in Henderson catches our eye. It's seven miles away by copter. You might want to go that way, because Crawdad Cove Road is a long dirt drag.

Food On Broadway
A play called The Squab Farm opened on this date in 1918, at the Bijou Theater in New York. It is most celebrated as the debut of Tallulah Bankhead, but it was a failure, closing after only a month. Also in it was Julia Bruns, who was reputed to be the most beautiful girl in the world. I can't find any information on the plot of the play, but it was written by Fanny and Frederic Hatton. Frederic "Fritz" Hatton is the long-time auctioneer at the fabulous Napa Wine Auction every year, but he's too young to be the same guy. Isn't this the most boring piece you've ever read in this department?

Edible Dictionary
satay, n.--The kebabs of Southeast Asia, satays are among the most common dishes in Indonesia and Malaysia. They're made two ways. Chicken, beef, or pork is cut into long strips, marinated, and then threaded in a zig-zag way on a skewer. Or it can be made into a finely-ground meatball and packed around the skewer. (Shrimp satays are very often made in this latter style.) Either way, the skewers are then grilled and served with (most often) a peanut sauce. Satays usually turn up as appetizers in all kinds of Asian restaurants in this country, particularly Thai places.

Deft Dining Rule #441:
To avoid looking stupid, make sure the bird you're ordering has white meat before you ask why there's no white meat in your portion. Duck, squab, and quail do not.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Most bone-in birds take twice as long to cook as those that have had the bones removed. (This is because deboned birds have more exposed surface area.)

Beverages Through History
Today in 1764 was the birthday of Charles, the second Earl of Grey. He is the man for whom Earl Grey tea is named. That's a blend of black teas flavored with the citrus-like bergamot.

Annals Of American Restaurants
Lorenzo Delmonico was born today in 1813. He took over the management of the restaurant his uncles opened in New York, and turned it in the first restaurant phenomenon in America. Delmonico here in New Orleans was named for the New York restaurant, although there was no direct connection. "Delmonico" was synonymous with "restaurant," a new concept in those days.

Food In International Trade
On this day in 1989, all fruit imported into the United States from Chile was recalled, because one shipment of grapes was believed to have been poisoned with cyanide. That blew over quickly, however, and these days a tremendous amount of off-season (for us) fruit comes from Chile--notably blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and asparagus. A tremendous amount of this entered the country through the port of Gulfport, Mississippi, which may explain why so much of it wound up in New Orleans.

Preprandial Entertainments
What did Orleanians do for fun before they had restaurants? They went to the theatre. The St. Charles Theater burned down on this date in 1842. New Orleans was the third-biggest city in America, and the St. Charles was the among the grandest theaters of its day. It boasted four thousand seats, forty-seven boxes, and a stage that was ninety feet wide and deep. It was on St. Charles between Gravier and Poydras, roughly where the Hotel Inter-Continental is now. The fire began in an adjacent coffin factory.

The Saints
This is the feast day of St. Gerald of Mayo, an Irish abbot who lived in the 700s.

Food Namesakes
Lianne Tooth, an Olympic hockey player from Australian in 1996, got his first slap today in 1962. Pro golfer Andy Bean teed up his life today in 1952. Actor Fred Berry stepped onto life's stage today in 1951. . John "Home Run" Baker, a member of the Hall of Fame, took his first swing (at his mom) today in 1886. Television actress Gigi Rice came out steaming today in 1965. R&B singer Candi Staton was unwrapped today in 1940.

Words To Eat By
"She has never come any closer to life than the dinner table."--Janet Flanner, long-time New Yorker Magazine France correspondent, writing about Elsa Maxwell. Today is Flanner's birthday, in 1892.


The Food Almanac: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - Recipes

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This book includes my most treasured recipes that I use all the time. I’ve shared many of them through the years on my blog, but to have them all together in one handy book? This is so helpful! These are the recipes that help me feed my family healthy food without breaking my neck in the kitchen. These are the recipes that keep my freezer stocked with ready-to-grab meals and snacks. These are the recipes my family loves. (Even the family members who are picky!)

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Limoncello Tiramisu

We have been doing a lot of entertaining recently, and when it comes to desserts, I get bored making the same thing too often. My personal favorite desserts are Panna Cotta and Tiramisu, and I make both of these Italian specialties when we have guests because they can be prepared ahead of time, and they are both delicious!. Since I do tend to get bored easily, I am always playing around with the ingredients to come up with new versions of these traditional treats. I recently created a Strawberry Tiramisu that was a big hit with our guests, and since that one went over so well, I decided to create a lemon flavored version. I wanted to add Limoncello to my list of ingredients as it has a tart, very intense lemon flavor that is delicious, and it brought a perfect fresh lemon flavor to this dessert. Since this is not a traditional Tiramisu, I made the decision to leave eggs out as many folks are concerned about consuming raw eggs. Though it changes the texture somewhat, it is delicious and full of flavor.

Limoncello is a lemon liqueur that originated from the Almafi coast area although it is now available worldwide and can be found in most stores that sell alcohol. If you cannot find it, you can always make it at home by using my recipe for Limoncello. To insure my tiramisu had enough of a lemon flavor, I also added some lemon curd into my mascarpone cream. Do not worry about the alcohol in the Limoncello, as it will evaporate when cooked. This dessert is great for entertaining, as it actually is better if prepared the day before and allowed to rest in the refrigerator overnight. This recipes makes a large 13 x 9 inch pan, that will serve 10 unless you have very hungry guests! If you really do not want to include the Limoncello, you could simply increase the ingredients for the lemon syrup and use that to dip the cookies instead.


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Rachel Laudan has written a hymn to the plate lunch, a rhapsody on the theme of two scoop rice.

The presses are running hot with glossy books about Pacific Rim cuisine. Laudan says she has nothing against it, but she is interested in local food. The recipes that conclude each of the essays in this book include such fare as Okinawan pig's foot soup. You will not find anything with lilikoi-Maui onion-ginger salsa on top. (Lilikoi is the local term for passion fruit.)

For someone who had been in the islands only eight years (as a teacher of history of science at the University of Hawaii), she really knows her local grinds (but grinds, surprisingly, is not used anywhere in this book).

For Laudan, food is not just a way of keeping the body fueled. The way people east, their tendency to avoid strange foods, their willingness to make great efforts to maintain culinary traditions in new settings tell a big story.

In Hawaii, they tell a story of a creation of a successful multiethnic, multicultural society. She doesn't go as far as the historian Gavan Daws, who says, correctly, that Hawaii is the most successful multiethnic society on Earth, but she does note that in the islands, half of marriages are across ethnic or cultural boundaries.

Crossing food boundaries is just as significant, in her view. Local food is a meaningful development, the offspring of "a culinary Babel."

"There are few places in the world," writes Laudan, "where the creation of a cuisine is so transparently visible."

Well, yes, if you look, and this is where "The Food of Paradise" excels. I have at least a couple hundred Hawaiian cookbooks (only a fraction of the published total), but all of them together don't provide as much food for thought as Laudan's one volume.

While admirably thorough, she does stop short of of the extremes of local food -- neither milk guts nor finger Jell-O is mentioned.

One thing she has done is to compare different editions of local cookbooks. The changes in the recipes are revealing.

Take poke. (Pronounced po-kay, from a Hawaiian word, usually taken to be the word for slice, although this is controversial.) It is so common that surely it has been around forever, but Laudan says not. It seems to have been created around 1970, a typical (for Hawaii) melding of themes from several sources -- the main ones Hawaiian and Japanese, with minor notes from America and other parts of Asia. The result is pure local Hawaiian. (Poke is simply cubed raw fish, preferably ahi tuna, with minimal flavoring of onion or scallion or seaweed and possibly salt or shoyu but since this book was published it has become a contest to devise the most unexpected combinations. There have also long been versions of cooked seafood, notably baby octopus.)

Local food, as an identifiable cuisine, "began to appear in the 1920s and 1930s," writes Laudan. She has done her homework, interviewing food preparers and vendors at what she calls Open Markets.

This is very much a Honolulu book. Despite being the most cosmopolitan place in the islands (if not in the entire Pacific), Honolulu also has preserved many more local food traditions than Maui has.

At the Aloha Farmer's Market, Laudan found fresh pig's blood, fresh chitterlings, dried fish poke and lomi oio. (You could occasionally find any or all of these on Maui, but not at the same time at the same place. If you ever encounter lomi oio, bonefish flesh scraped off with a spoon (an ancestor of poke), you are definitely out of the tourist zone.)

There are a few oddities here that reveal that Laudan is malihini, though a very simpatico one. She says shave ice is sometimes called ice shave on the Neighbor Islands. She talks about the days of "sleeper jets" (they weren't jets). She starts pineapple plantations much too early.

But Laudan does bring a verve, an extensive background as a world traveler and the skills of a professional reseacher to her book, which is easily the solidest work on local food there is.


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