Salt of the earth. Worth his salt. Take it with a grain of salt...
It doesn't take much digging into English idioms to recognize a pattern here: salt is valuable. As an essential mineral? Sure. As a time-honored method of food preservation? Yep. But most importantly? It makes your food tasty. I quote Michael Ruhlman in The Elements of Cooking, distilling a conversation with award-winning chef Thomas Keller: "It is true not just for cooks in professional kitchens, but for all cooks in all kitchens, everywhere: learning to salt food properly is the most important skill you can possess." It doesn't get any more definitive than that.
The pursuit of properly seasoned food calls for action beyond just salting at the table. See, in my home, salt shakers are mostly for 1) decoration and 2) the occasional ear of corn in July. The reason is that my wife and I salt our food while cooking it. We caution guests to taste their food before they reach for the shaker because if they try to season it at the table, it'll taste oversalted.
In fact, when we're cooking, we actually dispense with a shaker entirely... and by the way, forget about the 1/4 teaspoon measure. We use an even simpler set of fundamental tools:
In the last few decades, lard has gotten a bad wrap in the U.S. From playground name-calling to the low-fat (and high chemical) diet of the 90s, we became scared of pig fat. We imagined it as a heart attack in a tub, a spoonful of which will immediately clog every artery in your body and you might as well just give up right then and there.
But here's the thing - first off, fresh, naturally rendered pork fat is a completely different product than the whipped, hydrogenated stuff you find in the supermarket. And lard actually contains about half the cholesterol and one-third of the saturated fat of butter. Really.
So, cooking with it once in while will not kill you. What it will do is make all your food taste a lot, a lot better. And
Sure, you could go for burgers and dogs this holiday weekend, grilling to order like many a man on Memorial Day before you.
Or you could eat one of these.
During grilling season, it seems that a lot of coverage illuminates a high/low dichotomy: humble foods like chicken breasts, tough-to-eat ribs, even hearty vegetables, get elevated to something else entirely through the application of open flame, rendering them somehow newly desirable. Or, investment foods like fresh fish or the ubiquitous steak demand a seasoned griller, so as to not reduce their luxury.
When you think about it, a great bahn mi sandwich and a perfect taco are pretty similar: a small amount of super flavorful meat topped with crunchy veg, something spicy, and plenty of aromatic cilantro and lime, all wrapped up in a tender, toothsome baked starch thing that brings it all together.
All this week, ManMade is excited to be teaming up with America's Test Kitchen to share lots of cool, DIY food crafts and ideas, any which would make an excellent weekend project or a great handmade holiday gift for your family and friends.
Homemade charcuterie - the craft of curing, aging, and preserving meat - is a centuries old tradition experiencing a renaissance by the "hands on" artisan set, who are eager to move beyond canning and infusing and get down to some hardcore butchery.
For years, at least in the U.S., pork belly was simply understood as proto-bacon, that sumptuous, boneless cut from a pig's stomach that was destined to be cured, smoked, and sliced up for breakfast. And everything else.
But, we've finally caught up to the rest of the world, who've been taking advantage of this unique, tasty cut
So, my girl got me the best Christmas gift of all time this year: a PID temperature controller, vacuum sealer, and a copy of Thomas Keller's Under Pressure. Which meeeaans.... I can now cook sous vide!
Sous vide [French for "under vacuum"] involves cooking food in airtight bags in temperature controlled water for long periods of time...essentially slow-poaching everything at an exact temperature. Since the food never rises over the desired doneness, it can never get overcooked! Neat, huh?
Of course, I played around in the week between Christmas and New Year's, but since it involves so much gear, I put it away with the decorations. But in the last few weeks, with all the crazy snow and ice, I've been staying inside, and really learning how to do it well.