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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Arroz Con Pollo Remade

Will Owen says he’s finally created an arroz con pollo recipe that’s part of his permanent comfort food repertoire. It’s a slight departure from the classic; he uses brown rice, chiles, and smoked Spanish paprika for his earthy and somewhat spicy variation:

4-lb. chicken, cut into serving pieces

1/2 cup olive oi
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 fresh Italian sausages, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 fresh pasilla peppers, seeded, deveined and chopped
1 cup brown rice
1 Tbsp. Spanish smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. saffron, ground fine
2 1/2 cups chicken broth

In a large bowl, whisk olive oil with a large pinch of salt and a good bit of pepper, and toss the chicken in the oil. Allow to sit at room temperature while you prepare the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Heat a Dutch oven and add the chicken and oil; brown the chicken on all sides and remove it to a plate (if the pot is too crowded, brown it in batches). Add the sausage to the pot; brown and remove it. Then put in the onions and pepper, reduce the heat a bit, and cook until they begin to soften. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains begin to look parched. Stir in the paprika until well blended, then add the saffron to the broth, whisk to blend, and pour into the pot. Lay the chicken pieces over the top, tuck the sausage into the gaps between them, put the lid on and place in the center of the oven. Bake for 1 hour.

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Arroz Con Pollo!

Serious Dairy

What’s the difference between heavy cream and whipping cream? The major difference, says C. Hamster, is the fat content. The USDA requires that “heavy cream” contain at least 36% milk fat, whereas the product called “light whipping cream” must have between 30% and 36% milk fat. Another difference, say many hounds, is that products labeled “whipping cream” are much more likely than plain old “heavy cream” to contain additives like carageenan. lunchbox says it’s fine to substitute heavy cream and whipping cream for each other at will–it’s unlikely that a small variation in fat content will make much of a difference in your finished product.

One final bit of advice on buying all kinds of cream: ultrapasteurization damages the flavor and consistency of cream, so non-ultrapasteurized cream is preferable, if you can find it. Organic brands are usually a better bet than mass-market dairy brands, says FlavoursGal.

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Heavy Cream vs Whipping Cream?

Storing Olive Oil

Storing olive oil so that it remains fresh, retains flavor, and doesn’t go rancid is important, especially with special and expensive oils that are used only occasionally. Everyday olive oil is used up fast enough that that it’s usually not a problem.

The question is whether to refrigerate or keep in a kitchen cabinet. Harold McGee, renowned food scientist, says in it makes no difference; olive oil spoils at the same rate in or out of the fridge.

See what he has to say about it: Harold McGee speaks.

Your experience may be different, if you live in a hot climate or your kitchen stays warm. Olive oil likes to be cool and in a dark place. The fridge will accomplish both. If the bottle hasn’t been opened to admit air, either choice could be OK. Olive oil should be brought to room temperature before using, however.

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storing olive oil, not in the fridge!

Refreshed Troops Wallow in French Fries

Outremont, L’Île-Perrot, and Montreal

This was a day of transition, as one group of overfed, exhausted, cranky chowhound friends headed home and was replaced by fresh, zippy, happy eaters.

The final nail was driven into Barry and Joel’s dietary coffin, I think, when we grabbed deli sandwiches for breakfast. I’ll recount that (and the rest of the day’s chowconnaissance) via photos. Everything’s as good as it looks, unless otherwise stated.

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Lester’s Deli (1057 Bernard Avenue West, Outremont, Quebec; 514-213-1313) is slightly out of town, in Outremont.

Montreal “smoked meat” is often described as somewhere between corned beef and pastrami, and the landmark venues stake out their position at one or the other end of that spectrum. Lester’s is more pickly corned beefy, less peppery/spicy pastramiesque.

Warm, wacky welcome.

Deli stalactites.

The smoked-meat sandwich.

The smoked-meat sandwich illuminated by God.

A “smokeburger” of grilled smoked meat.

Brisket sandwich.

Some insane sausage thing Joel ordered.

Barry (about the savviest chowhound I know) displays his winning form:

Fantastic poutine, steeped in tradition and gravy.

Excellent dry fries, too.

Spice along at home!

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I welcomed Jennifer, Jacquilynne, and Lucy in my customary manner—with horse-fat-fried french fries at Frite Alors (3497 Boulevard St. Laurent, Montreal; 514-840-9000), previously described in report 58. There were some items I still needed to try on their menu …

... like, for instance, lots more pommes frites.

Again, this place is all about the sauces.

Merguez sandwich (with fries!) on startlingly good bread.

Lucy makes fry scarfing look stylish …

... but attention rivets after her impressive first bite.

Only in Montreal could cheesecake in a french fry chain be delicious.

I love Frite Alors. Charming ambiance … kind service … great food … stylish everything. I keep describing just about every Montreal place in those terms, but that’s the beauty of Montreal!

Oh, one thing. The “Aie! Aie! Aie! Burger Piquant” would seem to yelp spiciness and verve, but it was a strangely compacted and funky-tasting affair. I later found out these guys are famous for their disturbingly weak hamburgers. Insiders know not to order them.

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Rotisserie Serrano (161 St-Viateur West, Montreal; 514-271-3728) is Peruvian, but the chicken has more of a Jewish aesthetic (indeed, it’s a Jewish nabe), which even comes through in the photo. Good potatoes, not too greasy.

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Across street from Serrano is Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois (162 St-Viateur West, Montreal; 514-394-1000), which sells fancy chocolates in flavors like balsamic and
fleur de sel. Good if you like that sort of thing. Me? For some reason, I’m left cold by the fanciest high-end coffee and chocolate.

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Bilboquet (1311 Bernard Avenue West, Outremont; 514-276-0414) is a world-class landmark for one particular thing: their grotesque, preposterous, irresistible “coupe à la tire dérable,” an enormous, sprawling maple concoction that’s a dessert buffet unto itself, with maple ice cream, maple-y cotton candy, a delicate crisp buttery cookie, and maple “snow.”

It amounts to no less than the Ultraman Triathlon of sugar, and I was somewhat relieved to learn it’s not offered til springtime. Fortunately, everything else is terrific, from ice cream to baked goods. Fun place, great for kids. Have a look:

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Another branch of Première Moisson (1271 Bernard Avenue West, Outremont; 514-270-2559), down the block from Bilboquet, gave me an opportunity to sample the few items I didn’t try yesterday.

You’ve got to love the Halloween hobgoblins!

At center are the exquisite napoleons you’ll be hearing more about below.

These Sablé Breton butter cookies were incredible.

Very serious meringue.

I’m a sucker for any crunchy cheesy products.

The napoleon in broad daylight.

Alternative napoleon view.

That napoleon was surprisingly unsweet except for the slight sugary topping, which releases its flavor, with Grucci fireworks precision, at exactly the right stage. This pastry was devastatingly great. In fact, a single bite took out one of our group. Check out this short but quintessential movie: Movie file.

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Whereas most delis are super-ethnic affairs (see Lester’s, at the top of this report), Pete’s Meats (283 First Avenue, L’Île-Perrot, Quebec; 514-425-6068) goes the opposite extreme. It’s a rollicking suburban roadhouse with live blues bands.

Good, soulful smoked meat, albeit oddly cut. Potato pancakes were a mistake on my part.

Perfunctory poutine.

This is not your father’s deli crowd …

The band.

The Tang of Victory

What is Pinkberry? If you don’t know, you probably don’t live in or frequent L.A. or NYC, where the Korean-owned Pinkberry shops serving nonfat and barely sweetened frozen yogurts have created a cultural phenomenon. Searching “Pinkberry” on our sister site Chowhound’s L.A. board yields 96 results.

EastWest magazine just posted an article, titled “The Yogurt Heard Round the World,” that examines several aspects of the Pinkberry cult, from its purported health benefits (can the live cultures in yogurt survive the freezing process? A nutritionist says “yes”) to the astronomical prices (a large three-topping green tea flavor Pinkberry can set you back $9.95). EastWest also delves into the juicy details of the fierce competition between Pinkberry, relative newcomer Kiwiberri, and Korean dessert company Red Mango:

Rumors circulate in the Korean community of jilted CEO lovers, attempts to block trademarks, and a Pinkberry owner who paid a threatening visit to Kiwiberri.

Will Pinkberry fanaticism burn itself out, or will Korean-style frozen-yogurt stands blossom like Starbucks across the nation? I’m getting an ice cream headache just thinking about the fact that if I want to try it now, I’ll have to fly at least 1,000 miles to procure a cup.

From Baked to Burned

Newsweek recently reported toy giant Hasbro’s recall of all Easy-Bake Ovens produced after May 2006. What trouble could a light bulb in a box possibly cause, you ask? Seems the recall is a result of the product’s redesign last year, which replaced the old 100-watt light bulbs with a new low-heat cooking technology that warmed up the oven faster.

Good news if you’re a cake; bad news if you’re one of the nearly 30 kids who reported injuries as a result of using the new oven. The biggest problem? Very young children (most in the 3- to 5-year-old range, significantly younger than the 8-years-and-up that Hasbro recommends) can pop their tiny hands into the oven’s tempting maw, catching them in the cake slot and getting burned if the oven is turned on at the time.

So, first it toasts your little sister’s fingers, then it make you gay. And even though baking in the oven is generally limited to rubbery little cakes made from the company’s mixes (and now brand-stamped with every kiddie character from Dora the Explorer to SpongeBob SquarePants), the adult-writtten Easy-Bake Gourmet Cookbook encourages the tots to fire up all kinds of made-from-scratch craziness, like kumquat-date sticky toffee pudding and queso fundido with roasted poblano vinaigrette.

But if those Easy-Bake mixes are a gateway drug, just wait til the kids start jerry-rigging the thing to make Jeff Varsano’s pizza or Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread.

The Fallout of No-Knead Bread

The no-knead bread recipe has taken the food world by storm, but it’s taking a toll on the cookware. People are stealing knobs off display-model Dutch ovens to replace those that have been damaged.

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread recipe (registration required) from The New York Times requires baking in a Dutch oven at high temperatures in order to get the crisp crust everyone is raving about. But woe the Le Creuset that may not be able to handle the heat: Their standard Phenolic knobs are safe only to 375°F.

As reported in Apartment Therapy: The Kitchen, stores like Bed Bath & Beyond may be noticing that their display models are missing handles these days as people snitch a freebie replacement.

Apparently, the handles can be replaced free by ordering them from Le Creuset—or, for $7.95, no-knead aficionados can order a stainless steel knob that will withstand the high temperatures.

Of course, this does bring into question the morals of those willing to take bread shortcuts in the first place. As one reader commented on the Apartment Therapy post, “As if this no-knead business wasn’t bad enough to begin with, now it’s turning people into petty thieves? For shame!” Another is calling for a wholesale repenting: “Abandon your fancy no-knead, no-fun nonsense and go get your hands dirty! Well, flour-y …”

At least the flour-y hands should cut down on the sticky fingers phenomenon …

Food for Beauty

Why do we eat—health, nutrition, taste? In the wake of Michael Pollan’s New York Times essay on diet (registration required), the Amateur Gourmet has his own ideas. Forget nutrition or flavor—we eat for beauty.

In an insightful essay posted to Serious Eats, Adam Roberts (a.k.a. the Amateur Gourmet) gives his thoughts on the topic.

When it comes to making these choices, what worries us has nothing to do with health or longevity and everything to do with a subject that’s much more complex and much more powerful, a subject that makes even the most stable people neurotic (and neurotic people stable once they make peace with it) and that’s the subject of beauty.

Roberts believe that appearance motivates our food choices far more than health or nutrition ever could—and behind it all is the fear of becoming overweight and unattractive. “Fat people are fair game in America, and this affects how we eat much more than any study about which nutrient is most beneficial,” he writes.

Though the topic is serious, there are some great lines that show off the typical Amateur Gourmet flair and humor.

Health is our church and hotness is our hereafter. We castigate ourselves for cheating on a diet the way Catholics castigate themselves for lust, sloth, and all the other deadly sins. And that’s precisely why so many hedonists (and I include myself in their number) rally against the madness of modern day nutritionism. A world without fat and carbs is a world without sex and drinking.

Eat carbs—save us from a world without sex and drinking (‘cause at that point, there’s not all that much left to live for anyway)!

That’s Right, Fisherman’s Wharf

rworange thinks that the best creme brulee in San Francisco is at Alioto’s in Fisherman’s Wharf. Yes, that’s right. Fisherman’s Wharf.

It’s classic crème brulee–no trendy flavors, just the richest custard and crackliest sugar crust around. It pairs beautifully with the excellent espresso. Sit at the end of the bar, stare out at the Bay, Alcatraz, and the tourist scene passing silently beneath the window, and listen to the chat as actual locals stop by the bar. And enjoy the creme brulee.

Alioto’s [Fisherman’s Wharf]
8 Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

Board Links

List of good creme brulee places in the city

White Castle ready to enchant, nauseate your V-Day sweetie

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that if you want to make your Twin Cities V-Day really special this year, you’ll take your loved one to one of the area’s 15 White Castle restaurants for a romantic bag of those atrocious little greasebombs known as Slyders.

Farce? Satire? Fact. The restaurants are annually transformed into fine dining venues featuring:

... candlelight, tablecloths and wait staff in the decorated dining room. For the first time this year, all 15 Twin Cities White Castles are participating, and it’s one of the hardest tables in town to get, with suburban locations filling up fastest.

People love it. They pull up in limos and rented Rolls-Royces. They blindfold their husbands and wives to lure them into the trap. They hire harpists.

It’s an “aw, shucks” feature story that the papers around here have been jumping on for years like trained newts. The tragedy of it all is that there’s a fast-food restaurant in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area that actually makes pretty damned good hamburgers from fresh ground chuck … but it’s not White Castle. It’s Culver’s.