A scientific approach to flavour analysis

Kristen Rasmussen for The Nordic Food Lab – Calibrating Flavour:

The study included 29 different aromatic blends at the same time (imagine tasting 29 different wines at a wine tasting, without the alcohol of course), which, as we mentioned, is quite a large number of samples. Through a statistical tool called Principal Component Analysis, we were able to determine the variances between sample placements on the grid within the group as a whole. This method showed us that our subjects largely placed samples containing similar ingredients near each other, such as a pickling blend near juniper ant paste and BBQ chipotle near mole negro.

I wish I had the time available to do something like this. I’ve always wanted to set up and do taste testings at home when we have friends or family over. I never get around to it, due to the amount of pre-planning required. I need to step up my game.

Cantonese poached chicken with ginger scallion oil dip

1 whole chicken*
1/2 cup salt (approx.)**

  1. Coat the whole chicken, inside and out, in a heavy layer of salt – whatever will stick. Place the chicken in a pot/bowl in the refrigerator, and leave overnight, or up to 24 hours.
  2. Rinse off the excess salt, and place the chicken in a pot. Fill up the pot with water, to cover the chicken.
  3. Bring the pot of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. After 10 minutes, turn the heat off and leave the chicken in the pot on the stove for another 30 minutes, or up to an hour.
  4. Prepare a second pot large enough to hold the chicken with ice water, about half-way full. Place the hot chicken into the ice water, and fill with cold water to cover the chicken. Cover and place the pot in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour; several hours is better.
  5. When ready to serve, take the chicken out of the water, and debone or divide the meat up as you wish.

Notes:
* You can rinse the chicken off before you salt it if you wish, just make sure it’s drained well; you won’t need to dry it off completely. Also, if the neck is still attached, you can leave it on or cut it off, as you wish.
** I use kosher salt, but sea salt or table salt will work just fine.

  • I use two chopsticks stuck into the cavity of the chicken to lift it out of the hot water and into the cold. I try not to tear of the skin during this procedure.
  • Save the hot water as well as the cold, to make into stock/soup, to serve with the chicken. Mix both together, add in the bones from the cut up chicken, and boil for several hours. The stock will be salty (perhaps not salty enough, so feel free to add salt), and you can add any herbs to it as you wish for flavour.
  • You can also cook rice using the stock, along with the fat skimmed from the stock. This makes for a very chicken-y flavoured rice which goes really well with the chicken, as well as any other dish.
Ginger Scallion Oil

1/2 cup canola oil (or other neutral flavoured oil)
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 stalks green onion
1 tsp salt

  1. Heat the oil up in a pot/pan until it is shimmering, about 300°F.
  2. Mix together the grated ginger, green onion and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Carefully pour the hot oil over the mixture. The mixture will be boiled by the oil and some oil may spray out.

Notes:

  • This oil mixture can be drizzled on top of plain rice, for a quick snack.

2016 02 05 Cantonese Poached Chicken2

Cast Iron Seasoning

Greg Blonder – Cast Iron Seasoning:

Cast iron pots are heavy. They can rust. The dark black seasoning will not stand up to hours of simmering if the liquid is acidic, like tomato sauce or sauerkraut. And once the seasoning layer is broached, excess iron can leak out of the pot into your food, risking iron overload disease. Thermal conductivity is eight times lower than copper, which is why cast iron fry pans are notorious for hot spots. The surface is mildly non-stick, but requires a bit of oil or fat to reach its full potential. Cast iron can be cleaned, but not aggressively. And I never use my cast iron pots to cook caramel or make crepes or to scrape off a tasty “fond”.

Thus starts an in-depth analysis and recommended method of cast iron seasoning.

As for myself, I don’t bother with fancy oils and use plain old canola/rapeseed oil. It has worked well for the past several years.

A few months ago, I reseasoned my Lodge 10.25″ cast iron pan for the first time (and seasoned a new 12″ seasoned steel pan) in order to remove any potential allergens from our pre-allergen-free cooking days. We had gone on for over a year without using these pans due to our concern with lingering allergens in the pan, which was pretty painful. I didn’t do the piranha etching, but built a large fire in our Weber grill and placed the pan directly on top of the fire for about an hour. The vents were wide open on the grill, and the high heat burned off all of the old seasoning. After three sessions of wiping on a thin layer of canola oil and putting the pans in a 450°F oven for an hour, a suitable seasoning was achieved.

While over time the seasonings have taken a beating, I’m not going to bother with reseasoning since it is still reasonably non-stick, and anything that does stick will scrape off easily after burning it off and scraping with a spatula.

Lodge cast iron skillet
Lodge cast iron skillet
Lodge seasoned steel pan
Lodge seasoned steel pan

 

On picky eaters

Dilla Narduzzi for Macleans back in December 2015: A Naturally Picky Eater? There’s No Such Thing

This profusion of taste buds can make kids more sensitive, or even resistant, to strong flavours, but being exposed to those foods over time can make them more receptive. Unfortunately, many parents don’t realize this is a stage, and never offer the offending item again.

The way we introduce new foods to our child is to ask them to try the food at least once per meal. (i.e., stick out your tongue and taste it, and maybe chew it a little.) We offer the food every time, whenever we happen to cook it, and model eating it. Beyond that, we don’t force them to eat it. We also try to have at least one dish during the meal that we know they like and will eat, which ensures they won’t leave the table hungry (at least, not too hungry).

Measuring the carbon footprint of eating

Chris Ying for MAD: The Carbon Footprint of Eating Out

Eating, it turns out, is the most significant interaction most of us have with the environment. Even if we remain cloistered in air-conditioned rooms in front of keyboards and monitors for most of the day, at some point we must eat—and whether it’s a carrot stick or a Big Mac, with our first bite we implicate ourselves in the food system, and the food system is responsible for 30 percent of worldwide carbon emissions. That is to say, almost a third of greenhouse gases are a result of growing, shipping, cooking, and disposing of food.

A good effort in trying to assess the costs of eating out versus eating in. One of the main conclusions is that meats, especially beef, has a very large environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Eating less meat will lead to better human health, as well as reduce our overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Also see this article at The Guardian.

 

On ‘healthy’ food

No food is healthy. Not even kale.

Michael Ruhlman for the Washington Post:

We will be healthy if we eat nutritious food. Our food is either nutritious or not. We are healthy or we are not. If we eat nutritious food, we may enhance what health we possess.

Because, and this is the judgment call, fat isn’t bad; stupid is bad. And until we have better information and clearer shared language defining our food, smart choices will be ever harder to make.

Besides the rant on  word usage errors, the article seems to rally against two main points – the government dietary guidelines and popular ‘healthy’ food fads.

The dietary guidelines have shifted through the years based on the available science; however, I would submit that following our best research into food and nutrition and human health is the best reasonable course we can take. I do understand that industry, politics and other factors influence the shape of the guidelines but the main ideas in those guidelines are pretty sound. It’s not enough of a reason to throw them out the window.

As for fads, in one sense, they can certainly help reduce the costs for people who absolutely have to follow those diets (i.e. gluten free foods are so much more available now and much cheaper) but they also muddy the waters for others. My recommendation is to look at the fads with eyes wide open and healthy skepticism. And eat foods in moderation.

How to cut up a whole chicken

I find that knowledge of how to prep from basic ingredients (as basic as you can get, anyways) invaluable. It opens up a wider variety of recipe possibilities and can help in saving some money over buying prepared ingredients. One of those things is learning how to cut up a whole chicken.

I like buying whole chickens because we can get a few things from it; namely the meat, the bones and the skin/fat. The meat can then be prepared in whichever way you like. The bones are great for making stock (roasted or not, with veggies or not), and the fat is rendered from the skin. A favourite is also the leftover fried skin bits which can be salted after frying, kept in the fridge for 1-2 weeks and used as soup toppings much like bacon bits. (I sometimes just take a pinch of them to eat straight up, to get the taste of fried chicken.)

Jacques Pépin’s videos have been an invaluable resource for information on how to cook. Here’s his video on how to cut up a whole chicken.

Bonus – complete deboning of a whole chicken: