ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

Back to Wisconsin, my cheesehead friends


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Mufaletta: We ain’t f*cking around… in Sandwich Form

2014-06-22 18.15.05When I want a sandwich, I don’t want a little turkey on bread. I either want chicken salad on a toasted croissant or I want muffaletta. Chicken salad is tempting fate with botulism and celery seeds. Muffaletta is pure NoLa goodness.

A little history, the Central Market in New Orleans supposedly invented the muffaletta sandwich, which is typically mortadella, salami, ham, provolone or swiss cheese on a 8″-12″ round loaf of bread. The real showstopper is the “olive salad” added to the top, which is chopped olives with giardiniera, garlic, herbs and oil. The sandwich is named after the bread – a soft italian loaf with sesame seeds baked into the top, however, it seems silly today to actually just buy the bread… The sandwich is so much better. According to the daughter of the original owner of the Central Market, her father served bread, meat and cheeses to Italian immigrant farmers coming to the market to sell vegetables. Necessity being the mother of invention and all, the sandwich was more portable and easier to eat, rather than balancing the ingredients on one’s lap.

I learned to make a Muffaletta sandwich when I worked as a teenager at the now-defunct Opera House cajun restaurant in Pecatonica, IL. I remember the chef weighting the sandwiches down with gallon-sized metal cans of tomato sauce. I never remember seeing any of the tomato sauce get used in the restaurant – I think the cans were there because they were the right size and weight to make a great muffaletta.

Ingredients: 1/2 lb mortadella, 1/2 lb salami, 1/4 lb hot capricola, 1/2 lb provolone cheese. All sliced thin, but not paper thin. (Not shown: olive tepenade and a large round loaf of crusty bread.)

Ingredients: 1/2 lb mortadella, 1/2 lb salami, 1/4 lb hot capricola, 1/2 lb provolone cheese. All sliced thin, but not paper thin. (Not shown: olive salad and a large round loaf of crusty bread.)

 

Step 1: Make olive tapenade. In a food processor, combine 3 cloves garlic, 12 oz pimento stuffed olives (drained), parsley, and olive oil. Process until chunky. Cut bread in half and hollow out the top to make more room for sandwich. Spread 2/3 tapenade onto top and bottom of bread.

Step 1: Make olive salad. In a food processor, combine 3 cloves garlic, 12 oz pimento stuffed olives (drained), fresh parsley, and olive oil. Process until chunky. Cut bread in half and hollow out the top to make more room for sandwich. Spread 2/3 tapenade onto top and bottom of bread.

 

Layer meats and cheeses, and remaining 1/3 of tapenade. Weight sandwich and press for 30 minutes. I'm using the Holy Trinity: McGee, Bittman and Child.

Layer meats and cheeses, and remaining 1/3 of tapenade. Weight sandwich and press for 30 minutes. I’m using the Holy Trinity: McGee, Bittman and Child. Slice into wedges and serve. Wrap leftovers (ha!) and it gets a lot better after a day in the fridge and a trip to the office in your bag.


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Christmas Cookbooks: from Cooks Illustrated…

An illustration of pig anatomy and pork primals from the Science of Good Cooking from Cooks Illustrated Press, 2012.

An illustration of pig anatomy and pork primals from the Science of Good Cooking from Cooks Illustrated Press, 2012.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I got a lot of cookbooks for Christmas. Today, I’m going to review the three cookbooks that I got from Cooks Illustrated. Two books are hardbound annuals, and the other is a new cookbook based on techniques.

The hard bound annual editions are like the hard bound journals in academic libraries… Take all of the paper monthly journals for the year and slap them between two hard covers. I have been amassing these annual editions since I became a Cooks Illustrated subscriber in 2005. This year, Sam gave me the 2001 and 2009 editions. 2001 was working back in the timeline, and for some reason, I never got the 2009 edition.

Illustration of moisture expelled from roasts after variable minutes of resting.

Illustration of moisture expelled from roasts after variable minutes of resting.

The cookbook The Science of Good Cooking is a collection of recipes and techniques arranged around a common scientific/cooking/chemistry concept. Each section describes the science behind the concept, illustrates how the concept works in cooking using laboratory-like experiments, and then presents recipes that utilize the concept. For example, concept #3 is “Resting Meat Maximizes Juiciness.” In this chapter, the concept is presented as resting meat reabsorbs expelled water back into muscle fibers. Then they test the concept by resting equal-weight roasts for different amounts of time (0 to 40 minutes) then measuring the amount of liquid expelled after slicing. Then they include a table summarizing the amount of time to rest meats, based on similar tests. Then there are recipes using the resting technique to increase moistness: grilled flank steak and pork roast.

Bibliography

The Editors at America’s Test Kitchen and Crosby, G. The Science of Good Cooking. 1st ed. Brookline, MA: America’s Test Kitchen; 2012. ISBN: 978-1-933615-98-1. Details at CooksIllustrated.com.

The Editors of Cooks Illustrated. Cooks Illustrated. 2001 Bound Annual Ed. Brookline, MA: Boston Common Press LLP; 2001. ISBN: 0-936184-56-6. Details at CooksIllustrated.com.

The Editors of Cooks Illustrated. Cooks Illustrated. 2009 Bound Annual Ed. Brookline, MA: America’s Test Kitchen Press; 2009. ISBN: 1-933615-49-4. Details at CooksIllustrated.com.


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Christmas Cookbooks: How to Cook Everything (The Red Book)

Four cookbooks. Cooks Illustrated Bound Annuals from 2001 and 2009. The Science of Good Cooking from Cooks Illustrated, 2012. How to Cook Everything (The Red Book) by Mark Bittman, 2008.

Four cookbooks. Cooks Illustrated Bound Annuals from 2001 and 2009. The Science of Good Cooking from Cooks Illustrated, 2012. How to Cook Everything (The Red Book) by Mark Bittman, 2008.

I made out like a bandit this Christmas for Cookbooks. Thanks to my husband, Sam and to my Mom for these most excellent reference books. I want to describe these books a little bit and give you a flavor of how I expect them to be useful in the future.

How to butterfly a chicken. Illustrations from How to Cook Everything (the Red Book) by Mark Bittman, 2008. Illustrations by Alan Witschonke.

How to butterfly a chicken. From How to Cook Everything (the Red Book) by Mark Bittman, 2008. Illustrations by Alan Witschonke.

Bittman’s book, How to Cook Everything – I call it the Red Book – is the modern version of the original Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School cookbook or the Betty Crocker cookbook. It’s the one book that a cook needs in order to make most every basic recipe. Bittman incorporates the international cooking style that has come to be known as “American” cooking – a little French, a little Italian, a little Asian, a little Middle-eastern, and a lot of reliance on equipment and seasonings. Bittman also gives ample space to specific techniques – Illustrated by Alan Witschonke in pen and ink. There’s none of the “food porn” photography. Not too many “weird” parts of animals. Not too many pointless variants on the same recipe. He avoids specialty ingredients like black garlic, san marzano tomatoes, etc, that clutter up recipes from famous Restaurant chefs. Want to make waffles? There’s a recipe. Want to cook black beans? There’s a recipe. Want to know how done to cook a chicken thigh? There’s a table. Want to know the correct ratio of fat to flour in a pie dough? Look it up. (although Barahm’s The Science of Cooking and Ruhlman’s Ratio to a better job). Just like Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, this cookbook will be a “sticky note” cookbook – meaning there are specific recipes that I frequently turn to as staples of my cookery.

Screen shot from the How to Cook Everything (The Red Book) for iPhone.

Screen shot from the How to Cook Everything (The Red Book) for iPhone.

I originally found the Red Book by necessity. On my shelf I have one “generic” cookbook – Fanny Farmer’s Boston School Cookbook – and I find myself turning there (and to general internet searches) to find recipes for making “basic” stuff that I can’t just make up without a recipe. For example, I can bake an apple crumble without a recipe, just as long as I can remember the ratio of butter::nuts::oats::flour::sugar that goes into the topping. I don’t have any intuitive sense for how much water to use when cooking beans or grains, so I have to look it up each time. To me, it doesn’t matter what type of nuts or what type of sugar, what type of bean, or how much water… I just need a sense of how much to put together. Fanny Farmer is good for older types of cooking, like pie dough and sweet and sour cabbage, but is very lacking in newer American food trends. I had no idea how to make hummus… Fanny Farmer didn’t tell me much of anything and the internet was saturated with bad, unreliable and untested recipes. (I hate 99% of internet recipes… but that’s another tale… )I needed a cookbook that had recipes for basic but more modern foodstuffs.

I had been introduced to the Red Book a few years ago when learning how to poach an egg. Bittman gives plenty of time for technique on this basic “recipe” – add vinegar to the simmering water, crack the egg onto a plate to ease transition into the water, swirl the water to create a vortex for the egg, spoon water over the yolk to set it, trim off the threads. Does it count as a recipe when the ingredients are an egg, a splash of vinegar and water? Here the Red Book shines with excellent technique.

So, to sum up the Red Book: It’s a basic cookbook with good techniques and basic recipes for standard dishes. Everything is very practical. The recipes are well-tested and are reliable.

Bibliography

Bittman M. How to Cook Everything: 2,000 simple recipes for great food. Tenth Anniv. Ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc; 2008. ISBN: 978-0-7645-7865-6.