Sunday, October 28, 2007

Musings, culinary and otherwise

Just cleaned up the kitchen, again, after dinner (Sisyphus and that rock have nothing on me - nothing more inevitable and repetitive than washing dishes) and am contemplating the success of the last meal. Win some, lose some.

First off, although you can get some great recipes from America's Test Kitchen (ATK) on PBS, don't be seduced by that public television imprimatur into thinking that all their recipes are going to be healthy. We're talking butter and cream in serious rotation here. I don't know if they're worried about their cholesterol levels, but brother, they should be.

The recipes looked promising. Scalloped potatoes, how can you mess that up? Four pounds of russets, heavy cream, onions, garlic, cheese. What's not to love? Well, the onions and the garlic were NOT GOOD IDEAS. They hijacked the dish and carried it to a place were the potatoes didn't have a chance. And all that cream? Not enough Tums in the western hemisphere tonight for the way I feel.

I got seduced by a new recipe's charms again. Nothing wrong with the way I make scalloped potatoes. Been making them that way for 40 years. They're good. But I read cookbooks like other people read novels, and sometimes I fall for their siren's song. Christopher Kimball sure looked like he enjoyed them on the ATK video. But, it's like my Mom says, every time they take a bite on these cooking shows it's like they never had food before. I'm still not convinced that ATK isn't getting a kickback from the garlic grower's association. They put the darned stuff in everything.

Now for the success: They have a mean recipe for pie crust and I just had a piece of absolutely grand apple pie. The crust has, believe me, sour cream in it. It also has 16 tablespoons of butter, cold, cut into cubes. That's TWO STICKS, people! Good grief, why wouldn't it be good? I hope Vermont has adequate ambulance service; Kimball is going to need it if he keeps cooking this way. Anyway, with half Granny Smith apples for texture and half Gala for sweetness (didn't have Golden Delicious in the house) precooked to soften them and immerse them in cinnamon and sugar, that was some good eats.

Then, back to the kitchen to clean up..................

I have to tell you, that smooth-top electric range irritates the crap out of me sometimes. Cleaning that thing is half my after-supper work. You can't just wash the darned thing, oh no, you have to buy special ceramic range top cleaner, and you'd better buy it, because for some reason almost nothing else (except maybe a sharp paring knife, scraping gently -- but I didn't say that) is going to get boiled-over pasta or splattered and burned-on tomato sauce off the ceramic surface. And the paper towels -- I go to Sam's Club and buy the nine roll packages now because I run through them like water. I didn't buy three rolls of paper towels a year before this range came into my kitchen. The only way to use that ceramic cleaner is to dump a glob of it on the range top and start scrubbing with the paper towels, changing them frequently. You don't need to buy the expensive ones, the cheaper and more abrasive the better. Burned on potato starch does not give up easily.

Of course, the only other option here would have been to buy the old-fashioned coil eye ranges. This benighted place doesn't have natural gas service. I would give something critical to get a gas stove. I learned to cook on them and electric ranges make me crazy. You can't just set the burner to a temperature. You sort of choose a temperature continuum. Suppose you adjust the knob to about 350 degrees. The heating coil is going to cycle, don't you know, so it's actually more like 350-370-360-340-320-310-330-350-370-340 and so on. On/off/on/off/on/off/on. This gets especially critical when you want to get a pot of soup barely simmering. The temperature fluctuates so much it becomes almost impossible.

My idea of internet porn is the Thermador website. If you cook any at all, tell me you haven't just stared slack-jawed at those gorgeous appliances. Pity that their ranges cost as much as my entire kitchen remodel did. So I'm stuck with Whirlpool. But I have lusted in my heart for those stainless steel beauties.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Loved the ATK pie talk. I just sent my brother, our resident pie maker, their pie crust recipe with vodka.
He sent me his pie picture today. It is at 2knitwits.blogspot if you want a peek.
I look at their recipes but haven't made any yet.
Great blog