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

Taming Out-of-Control Pepper

The secret to taming an over-peppered soup or sauce, says nelly k, is lemon juice. You may need to add a bit of sugar to counteract the lemon’s tartness. AngelaDay tried this tip out on too-peppery gravy and says it works. ChiliDude recommends adding a bit of canned corn, if the dish is appropriate, saying its sweetness contrasts with the pepper (works well with dishes with too much chile, too).

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Help!!!! Added too much pepper

Out-of-This-World Chewy Brownies

“My search for the perfect chewy brownie finally ended,” says wyf4lyf, when she made Nick Malgieri’s Supernatural Brownies. All agree the name is no exaggeration: wyf4lyf notes they’ve got the wonderful shiny, crinkly top that “makes a brownie a brownie,” and plenty rich. Val calls them dense and sinful, and says they fill the house with a delicious odor of chocolate. Non Cognomina thinks the brown sugar in the recipe might be the secret to their chewiness.

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The perfect chewy brownie

Chowhound Investigative Reporting

Check out this brilliant report on Noka Chocolate by Scott.

The short version: Scott checked out Noka Chocolates, a chocolatier selling chocolates at exorbitant prices. We’re talking $309 to $2080 a pound for simple molded chocolates. After some direct phone calls to Noka, Scott figured out that they don’t even make chocolate from the bean. They refused to tell him who they bought their chocolate from. When he contacted twenty other major chocolatiers, all divulged the source of their chocolate. Noka was the only holdout.

After some creative spreadsheeting, Scott figured out that the only exact match for Noka’s range of single origin chocolate was Bonnat. He followed this up with a blind taste test of Noka’s single origin chocolates against a group of other single origin chocolates–a clear match to Bonnat, for every origin.

And Bonnat’s chocolate is priced $33 a pound retail in the U.S.

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Noka Chocolate

Wine With Sushi?

Most sushi eaters are going to go with beer or sake. (The single best thing for sushi is Asahi Super Dry beer, says Steve K.) But if you want to pair with wine, go for something nice and clear. Go for light and non-oaked, says jcanncuk, and go for minerally whites over sweet ones. Ninety-nine percent of chardonnay is oaked and heavy, so avoid it. Try pinot grigio, dry or off-dry reisling, or sauvignon blanc. Some Alsacian whites, like pinot blanc, are nice, as are blends like Gentil Hugel and Alsace ONE.

The definitive approach isBruce Gutlove’s discussion. However, says carswell, the Gutlove aproach depends on pairing a wine to each type of fish, and if you’re having a whole spread of different types, as most of us do, then you’ll need four or five bottles at a time. Which probably won’t happen. The fall-back, one-size-fits-all approach: bubblies and high-acid white wines with a touch of residual sugar, like off-dry Vouvray, or German dry reisling.

Bill Hunt likes Groth Napa Sauvignon Blanc for sushi–it’s fruit-forward enough to stand up to wasabi and seems almost sweet when you’ve got some soy in your mouth.

tpapa2 goes for a nice Loire white, like Sancerre.

LisaC recommends Kerner, a grape from Alto Adige. It’s lemony, minerally, and tastes like a superior Riesling without the sugar. It’s perfect for sushi.

And the rebels go for Burgundy, especially a Cotes de Nuits. The acidity goes well with sushi rice, and it hits nicely against rich, fatty fish like tuna or salmon. And the minerality of a Burgandy goes nicely with sea flavors, says hreisig.

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wine with sushi?

Before and After Portsmouth, New Hampshire

I didn’t have a chance to eat in Portsmouth itself. All chowconnaissance was executed on my way in and out of town. I’ve merged both legs into this one gigunda report.

Riding Toward Portsmouth …

I passed the worst-looking Italian bakery ever, in a soulless, antiseptic shopping strip. The following photo was taken through the windshield while driving, but it gives a general sense of the vibe:

DeFusco & Son Italian Bakery (1211 Osgood St., North Andover, Massachusetts; 978-689-2055) was no more promising from the inside. This was exactly the blanded-out Italian bakery one would expect to find in the boonies near the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. But still, my chow-dar kept buzzing, so I ordered a cannoli. It turned out to be top-drawer:

I also ordered perhaps the wrongest thing one can possibly order in a suburban Italian bakery: a cup of soup. Corn chowder.

Listen to the details in this podcast—MP3—and a postscript podcast—MP3—about this stellar chowder.

As bad as the great Italian bakery looked from the outside, David’s Famous Chicken Pies (2 South Pleasant St., Bradford, Massachusetts; 978-521-7070), actually a merely-pretty-good place, looked fantastic. Appearances deceive!

Would you, could you resist a storefront like this?

I’ve damned via faint praise, which is unfair. Maybe this wasn’t the poultry-pie paradise I’d hoped for as I screeched my car to a halt in a hail of gravel on the shoulder in front of David’s Famous Chicken Pies, panting and sweating and sending flocks of birds scrambling into the air. But their pies are good … and honest.

Hear my brief pie-chomping analysis in this podcast: MP3.

Azzi’s Bakery (87 Newbury St., Lawrence, Massachusetts; 978- 686-9043), as you can see in the photo below, advertises “Exquisite Lebanese Food.” Who wouldn’t want exquisite Lebanese food? Well, I’m writing this a couple of days later, and can’t remember a thing about the place or anything I may have eaten there. Either they were closed … or they ain’t all that exquisite.

Riding Out of Portsmouth …

First, we need to talk for a minute about the eerie New Hampshire State liquor stores. Listen to this podcast: MP3.

Here’s their price list (prices are uniform in all NH liquor stores). They do carry some interesting items at bargain prices, if you’re willing to brave the creepiness!

But after the booze comes breakfast. I liked the looks of Betty’s
Kitchen (164 Lafayette Road, Route 1, North Hampton, New Hampshire; 603-964-9870).

I didn’t catch the official name of this extravagant French toast dish:

... but it amounts to strawberry shortfrenchtoastcake. It may be French toast, but it is made with a strawberry shortcake mindset. The egginess of the bread is what strawberry shortcake always needed— though the resultant richness nearly left me giddy. Oh, and adding on all those wild blueberries and bananas just … Words fail.

These are real good peels on greasy, chunky home fries from waxy Maine potatoes. Click the photo and just stare at the large view for hours. I know I just did.

I’m not sure life gets much better than these two dishes. Sole downside (which I luckily managed to avoid via careful questioning of the staff): Though the breakfast menu makes frequent reference to hash in various contexts, it’s not homemade hash.

OK, time for some failure!

I can’t say that Li Yuen Chinese Cooking School and Carry Out (112C Lafayette Road, North Hampton, New Hampshire; 603-964-8181) looked good, exactly. But who could resist checking it out?

This flier explains their deal:

It’s a clever concept that has gotten them plenty of press coverage:

I ordered Szechuan twice-cooked pork, prepared by a young fellow who looked like a recent graduate of the school. He needs to go back for extra tutoring.

Each ingredient was painstakingly cut into precisely even trapezoids, and the result was unarguably colorful. But it was weirdly sweet, and the pork was neither twice-fried nor Szechuan—just some pork tossed around in a wok.

I loved this sign just down the street:

Copywriting gets less thoughtful as one approaches the Maine border.

Bob’s Clam Hut (315 US Route 1, Kittery, Maine; 207-439-4919) is famous, but my clams were totally soggy and greasy. A disaster. The clams themselves were of good quality.

Look at this awesome “pizza bread” from Garofoli’s Fine Foods (180 Lafayette Road, North Hampton, 603-964-7500):

After driving a few miles happily munching pizza bread slightly more addictive than crack cocaine, I happened to flip it over and noticed the wonderfully burnty crispy troughs and bumps. I pulled over to capture its geography for your vicarious enjoyment:

They also make dynamite chocolate chip cookies, which disappeared too quickly to be photographed.

Lucia’s Kitchen (1151 US Route 1, York, Maine; 207-363-5557) is one of those clichéd gourmet/catering stores, which are invariably overpriced and underwhelming. Their motto, “What’s life without food?” doesn’t offer much reassurance, and the $4.65 price tag was no bargain for this smidge of food—called something silly like “chicken mole pastitsio.”

But I must admit, this place makes pretty good healthy foodie/precious Mexican-tinged stuff. The mole sauce was quite good, albeit with spicing tamed way down. Their chocolate chip cookies are nice. And they sell Madhouse Munchies potato chips and corn chips.

But $4.95/pound for cooked white rice?? In Maine???

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Where’s the Beef?

Do you love your beef? Really, really love your meaty meat? Then the Cattlemen’s Beef Board might just have $50K with your name on it.

Thanks to Nicole over at Slashfood, we’re going to start chatting up our local beef purveyors to see what ideas they’ve got for the 27th National Beef Cook-Off, open to all amateur cooks. And it’s not all meatballs and BBQ; this year’s categories include Nuevo Latino, Dynamic New Dishes, Grilled Small Plates, and Kids in the Kitchen (which kids can enter with their parents).

The emphasis is on foods for a healthy, active family, so nix the beef Wellington—most entries have to be prepared and cooked in 60 minutes or less. Professional chefs, food writers, and other food-industry types can’t enter—but all you bloggers (unless you’re actually getting paid to post about your meaty adventures), go wild! We’d love to see someone out there get a high-profile win using naturally raised, grass-fed beef. Mr. Biggles, your thoughts?

A Colossal Ode to New York Eating

Writing in New York magazine, restaurant critic Adam Platt takes on the jaw-droppingly broad mandate of “select[ing] the best meals for every taste”—in New York City, no less. Including the boroughs (unless you happen to count Staten Island, the Bronx, or Queens—but hey, who other than the 4 million people who live in them really do?)

“The 2007 Platt List” sprawls over roughly 16 pages. In the margins, it rounds up everything from “Trends we’ve seen enough of …,” “The five best egg dishes in New York,” and “The best place for …” to “Best up-and-coming chefs.” And in the body of the pages, it scoots through just about every restaurant trend and style imaginable, popping out famous restaurant names (Aquavit! Masa! Del Posto!) in sexy boldface ink.

New Yorkers are almost guaranteed to stumble upon some sassily provocative red meat in here, but no matter where you’re from, there’s a lot to enjoy in this quilt-sized snapshot of a massive, lordly metropolitan area’s thriving restaurant industry. More than a mere capsule-based recap, Platt’s piece reads like a State of the Union address for New York gourmands.

Kentucky-Fried Intervention

The highly public Rosie O’Donnell versus Donald Trump celebrity death match has reached new and decidedly bizarre proportions.

The whole thing began when Rosie initially spoke out against Trump’s giving Miss USA 2006 a second chance, despite the rumors of her drug use and heavy underage drinking.

Names were called, fur and combovers flew, and now KFC has offered up a fried wing of peace. According to Access Hollywood, the fried chicken chain that seems to change its name more often than Prince “has extended an invitation to Donald and Rosie to bury the hatchet over a bucket of chicken.”

Seems like an odd sort of peace offering until you consider that Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006 herself, is from Kentucky.

‘In honor of Ms. Connor’s [sic] roots and in keeping with our tradition of Southern Hospitality, I’m writing to invite you both to a KFC location of your choice as a neutral meeting ground to sort out your differences. To help, we’ll provide a special 10-piece meal for you to share. Consider it our “10 Peace Offering,”’ said the letter from Gregg Dedrick, KFC President and Chief Concept Officer. ‘Why point fingers when you can lick ‘em?’

Sure, when you explain it that way, it all makes sense. Or something.

Thank God there was a food angle to this topic, because I was dying for an excuse to point the way to the new Rosie-Trump online video game.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

operagirl came in search of a sweet and sour Russian cabbage soup with tomatoes and beef she loves but doesn’t know how to make. Diane in Bexley’s Hungarian family recipe, not so strangely, fits the bill. If you like, add chopped carrots along with the onions.

3-4 lbs. beef short ribs
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 large cabbage, cut in quarters, cored, and finely sliced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
2 Tbsp. beef base
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
4 quarts cold water

In an 8-quart soup pot, cook short ribs in olive oil until well browned. Remove to a plate. In the same pot, cook onions until lightly caramelized (15-20 minutes). Return meat to pot, and add cabbage and cook until cabbage starts to turn translucent. Add tomatoes, beef base, sugar, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste when finished and adjust seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, sugar, or vinegar as necessary. Allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight. Remove any fat that’s solidified on the surface, then remove short ribs and shred or dice meat in small pieces. Return meat to pot and reheat to serve.

This soup improves with age; it can be kept a week in the fridge in storage containers (not in original cooking pot), or frozen for several months.

Diane notes that, if you add beef meatballs made with rice and egg, you get “mock stuffed cabbage”!

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Russian Cabbage Soup

The Taste of Taiwan in Freshly Made Bao

Diho focuses on one thing: fresh, tasty Taiwanese pastries (steamed buns, dumplings, and cakes), says Chubbypanda. No boba or meal sets at this mom-and-pop Taiwanese bakery in Orange County.

The bao are the real standout. They’re made fresh each morning, and they’re at their very best right out of the steamer. That’s why large crowds gather at the bakery on weekend mornings. The selection of bao is massive.

Their top seller is the pork and vegetable steamed bun (cai rou bao), with ground pork, leeks, ginger, and rice noodles. The pork is juicy without being greasy, the seasonings are well balanced and bold, and the noodles…well, they’re nice to chew on.

Cha shu bao is an unusually good version of this old standby, the BBQ pork bun–not too sweet, juicy instead of dry. Good bun-to-pork ratio, too.

Mushroom bao (xiang gu bao) hold a flavorful mixture of sauteed shiitake mushrooms, ground beef, and onions.

Su cai bao, or vegetable steamed bun, is like a bao version of the best egg roll you’ve ever had. Stuffed with stir-fried shiitakes, cabbage, carrot, garlic, and seasonings, it even tastes healthy without sacrificing any flavor.

As for the breads, the pickled mustard green bun pretty much captures some quintessential flavors: pickled mustard greens and sauteed ground beef. This savory mixture comes enveloped in a light, soft, brioche-like dough.

Raisin bread is mildly sweet and studded with plump, juicy raisins. With a soft crust and thick, fluffy, chewy crumb, it’s like a cross between brioche and pain de mie.

If you really want to try a variety, get a four-in-one bun–four mini buns that are risen next to one another so they meld into one (easily separated) bun when baked. Diho’s has green onion and shredded pork, cha shao (char siu, or BBQ pork), custard, and sweet red bean fillings.

Diho Bakery [South OC]
14130 Culver Dr. # J, at Scottsdale, Irvine

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Awesome Taiwanese bakery