How to Cook Everything: The Basics: Corn Chowder with Cheddar

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By Meghan Gourley

Ubiquitous as it is, it’s easy to forget the subtle side of corn. Chowder—here with cheddar and scallions—reminds us that summer’s favorite crop is versatile. The key to this chowder is finding the freshest summer corn you can, and shaving it off the cob like a pro: spare nothing. Get as close to the cob with the blade of your knife as you can. Work slowly and carefully, and don’t waste anything—the meatiness of the kernels is what makes this soup so hearty. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.

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Posted in American, Recipes

Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy

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By Alaina Sullivan

There’s no better way to celebrate Mardi Gras than with a Po’ Boy (a beer-battered one at that.) Not only does beer give the shrimp great flavor, but it is scientifically proven to make superior batter. As soon as the beer-battered shrimp hit the pan, CO2 bubbles begin to dance and foam up around the shrimp. A panko dredging assists the process, and, as a result, the shrimp are left trapped in a flavorful and lacy-light crust. Pile them high on bread with mayo, lettuce, and tomato, and you’ll have a happy Fat Tuesday indeed. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy

Heat oil for frying. In a bowl, mix together one can of beer; one and one-half cups cornmeal (or panko) and pinches of salt, pepper; and paprika. Dip shrimp into batter and fry in batches until golden, about three minutes (flip once). Serve on split crusty Italian or French loaves with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise; lemon juice and hot sauce are also great here.

Posted in American, Seafood

The Rise and Fall of Twinkies

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By Daniel Meyer

The third-to-last of the nearly 40 ingredients that make up a Twinkie is listed on the package as “sorbic acid (to retain freshness).” It’s the only ingredient that comes with an explanation of its purpose, as if it’s essential for us to understand that this Twinkie is as good as it was when it was made.

While Twinkies themselves may not degrade much over time, their cultural weight certainly has. They’re no longer a lunchbox staple or an American icon, and as of last week (as Mark writes here) the Hostess company (maker of Twinkies) has filed for bankruptcy protection yet again.

 

James Dewar, a baker for the Continental Baking Company, invented Twinkies in 1930. He noticed that the machines and pans used to make the company’s cream-filled strawberry shortcake were only employed during strawberry season, so he conceived of a shortcake filled with banana cream that could be made and marketed year-round. So Twinkies were born out of the hard-and-fast limitations of seasonality.

Continental switched from banana cream — originally made with real bananas and real cream — to vanilla cream during World War II, when bananas were rationed. While the “original” version is occasionally reintroduced, vanilla “cream” Twinkies are the ones that charmed their way into the heart of American culture and diet.

In the ‘50s we watched Buffalo Bob Smith “make” Twinkies on “Howdy Doody,” clumsily combining the pasty white ingredients in a pan, and “alakazam presto” emerging with a pristine plastic package of “golden sponge cake with creamy filling.” In the ‘70s we let “Twinkie the Kid” lasso our children all the way to Twinkie Town, and in the ‘80s we learned that Twinkies were not only wholesome, but slightly sexy.

Read the rest of this piece here.

Posted in American, Food Politics

Twinkies, The Undead Snack

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The news that Hostess filed for bankruptcy last week was met with nostalgic dismay by millions of baby boomers who lamented what they thought was the imminent demise of the Twinkie. Hostess, which emerged from bankruptcy just three years ago, has maybe 100,000 creditors, mostly labor unions and pension funds (one of which is reportedly owed $944 million) that represent the company’s employees. Its debt approaches a billion dollars, a lot by most standards.

Predictably, Hostess says that its competition has fewer labor restrictions, and that to be competitive they must “restructure” their labor agreements. Not good news for the company’s 19,000 employees, of course, though supposedly no layoffs are planned.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in American, Food Politics

Pork and Apples

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It is a classic — really killer — combination, but one most people don’t play around with much. Once I started to think about it, though, the possibilities for pork and apples seemed myriad: obviously, you can cook chops and chunks in a cast-iron skillet, maybe with a little bacon and onions . . . an easy vision. Bacon-wrapped apples, skewered and roasted or broiled (or grilled, for you warm-climate people) is another. A B.C.A. — bacon, cheese (soft, mild, brie-ish cheese, especially) and apple — is a fine sandwich, especially when cooked as you would a grilled cheese.

On the slightly more complex side, I turned to the stuffed pork loin. This recipe has been a symbol of winter to me ever since I saw its photo (the stuffing was apricots) in one of the Time-Life “Foods of the World” cookbooks. (These were important works of the ’60s and ’70s, at least to those of us who were cooking.)

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here.

Posted in American, Recipes

Lima Bean Stew with Arugula

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By Alaina Sullivan

Lima beans are notoriously unloved, but they’re starchy, buttery, and delicious. In this stew, half of the beans are pureed into a luxuriously creamy base, while the other half (left whole) are suspended in the thick broth. For some freshness, arugula is stirred in at the end, wilting as it folds into the broth. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Lima Bean Stew with Arugula

Cook a package of frozen lima beans in a cup of water with some salt, butter, and minced garlic. When the beans are tender, puree half of them with most of the cooking liquid in a food processor until smooth; add some cream, half-and-half, or broth to thin. Return the pureed bean mixture to the pan with the whole beans and season with salt and pepper.* Add a bunch of tender greens and continue cooking until the greens are wilted. Add more liquid if necessary and serve, with a drizzle of good-quality olive oil and crusty bread.

 *Alternatively, I presoaked 1 lb of dried lima beans and added half of them to a pot of chopped yellow onion and minced garlic (sautéing in olive oil). For the liquid I added 1 cup of water and 2 cups vegetable stock, seasoning the soup with 2 Tbsp fresh thyme and 2 sprigs rosemary. When the beans were tender I pureed the entire mixture with a hand blender and then folded in the reserved whole beans; adding splashes of stock as needed.

Posted in American, Recipes

Holiday Spreads: Easy As A B C

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Posted in American

The Minimalist: Baked Broccoli Rabe with Parmesan

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Broccoli rabe usually doesn’t make it past a sauté pan with garlic and olive oil, nor does it need to. But the extra step of baking it in the oven with a shower of grated Parmesan on top – which was suggested to me by the chef John Schenk, now at the Strip House, and which I wrote about in a 1997 Minimalist column — is one you should try.

Blanch the broccoli rabe until it’s bright green and nearly tender, then cook it in a pan with golden toasted garlic. From there, put it in a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, and bake until it the cheese melts, which Parmesan does unevenly — but in a good way. This is a recipe that you can easily start cooking, stop, and pick back up later if you need to, either after the blanching or after the sautéing. You can also serve it at room temp, so despite the three-step cooking process, it’s pretty flexible.

You can use almost anything green and leafy in place of the broccoli rabe, too — spinach, escarole, kale, broccoli and so on — and you can certainly play around with other cheeses in place of the Parmesan. But there’s something about the bitterness of the broccoli rabe combined with the spicy-sweet garlic and rich, salty Parmesan that’s just right.

Click here for the video and recipe

Posted in American, Produce

The Minimalist: Apple “Pizza” (or Tart)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not wild about apple pie. If that makes me a bad American, so be it.

Of all the ways you can combine cooked apples, butter, flour and so on, pie is not nearly the best. I prefer either a nice crispy crumble topping made with oats, or this free-form apple tart. It is essentially an apple pizza, but uses a short dough, meaning it contains plenty of butter. It comes together very easily in the food processor.

Once you roll the dough out — into a thin circle or whatever other shape you choose (or your rolling pin chooses for you) — you have to address this question: how precious do you want this thing to be? If you have much more patience than I do you might start an elegant spiral of apple slices in the middle of the crust and loop it gracefully around until it reaches the edges. If you’re like me, you’ll randomly scatter the apples until you don’t see dough anymore. Call it rustic — I actually think it ends up looking just as nice, but maybe that’s equally un-American.

The last straw? Cut it with a pizza wheel.

Get the recipe here.

Posted in American, Baking

Corn and Avocado Salad

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Here you have three choices for preparing the corn: If it’s truly fresh and really good, leave it raw; just shave the kernels from the ears and toss them with the rest of the ingredients.

That’s not usually the case, though, and almost as good is to roast the kernels from good corn in a skillet with a little oil. Or use the kernels from already steamed corn, which—if the corn was good in the first place—is an excellent way to take care of the leftovers.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in American, Produce