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.
There are more than a few improvements McDonald’s could make to better the treatment of its customers and workers, of the animals that provide the meat it sells and of the environment. On Monday, after years of internal and external pressure, the company announced a laudable course of action regarding the sows (female pigs) in their supply chain: McDonald’s is requiring, by May, that its suppliers of pork provide plans for phasing out gestation crates. Once those plans are delivered, says Bob Langert, the company’s vice president of sustainability, McDonald’s will create a timetable to end the use of gestation crates in its supply chain. “Considering that 90 percent [of the pregnant sows] in the United States are in gestation stalls, this is a huge issue,” he says, and he’s right.
This is important for the animals and for the entire meat-selling industry. Let’s start with the sows: a gestation crate is an individual metal stall so small that the sow cannot turn around; most sows spend not only their pregnancies in crates, but most of their lives. For humans, this would qualify as “cruel and unusual punishment,” and even if you believe that pigs are somehow “inferior,” it’s hard to rationalize gestation crates once you see what they look like. (For the record, defenders of the system suggest that crates prevent sows from fighting in group pens. There’s no space to argue that here, but it’s nonsense.)
Read the rest of this column here.
By Meghan Gourley
Occasionally, we test a recipe that doesn’t make it to print. Here’s one that we loved and thought people should see: chicken breast with cumin and honey. We understand the fear of undercooking chicken, but if you learn how to gauge doneness correctly you will end up with perfectly juicy, moist chicken breast every time.
About four to six minutes per side is all it takes, depending on the quirks of your oven or grill. You’ll know it’s done when you cut the breast with a knife and clear juices run out. (Or if a meat thermometer registers 155 dgF.) It’s easy to get distracted by the sizzle of honey and olive oil and the tang of cumin wafting through the air but try to resist. The last thing you want to do is overcook the chicken.
North-African Spiced Chicken Breast
4 chicken breast halves (or 2 whole chicken breasts)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat a broiler or grill to medium heat and put the rack 4 inches from the heat source. If you’re broiling, put the chicken in the pan in which you’ll cook it. Combine the olive oil, honey, dry sherry, cumin, garlic, and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Spoon the mixture over both sides of the chicken. Grill or broil chicken breast halves for 4 to 6 minutes per side (a tad longer if you’re cooking two whole breasts), until browned and just cooked through. Sprinkle with lemon juice and garnish with fresh parsley and lemon wedge. Optional: serve with a dollop of yogurt.
Here are 9 more ways to sauté, poach and roast chicken breasts.
By Daniel Meyer
Read enough articles about the inequities of the American food system and you are likely to come across something like this: “Lacking sufficient access to real, healthy foods, low- and middle-income Americans rely on inexpensive fast food to feed their families.” (My paraphrase.) It’s a common conjecture that’s neither entirely true nor entirely false, but a survey released yesterday by the anti-childhood hunger organization Share Our Strength gives us reason to believe that low- and middle-income Americans are cooking more than many of us thought.
The survey, commissioned by Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program, and conducted by APCO Insight, is called “It’s Dinnertime: A Report on Low-Income Families’ Efforts to Plan, Shop for and Cook Healthy Meals.” It polled 1,500 low- and middle-income families from across the United States (low-income was defined as less than 185 percent of the poverty line, or less than $42,000 combined income a year based on family size, and middle-income was defined as between 185 and 250 percent of the poverty line, less than $60,000). Thirty-one percent of the respondent families received SNAP benefits, and a high rate of food insecurity was reported among those surveyed.
The survey clearly wasn’t focused on the poorest Americans, and families at or below the poverty line are likely to follow different patterns, but that doesn’t make the results less encouraging:
Read the rest of this post here.
By Alaina Sullivan
Carrot and cumin is a flavor pairing worth tattooing into your brain. Here, dressed simply in olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper, the carrots are roasted at high heat until they become tender, caramelized, and smoky. You can eat them straight from the baking sheet, or turn them into soup as I did (see below.) Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
Roasted Carrots with Cumin*
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 35 minutes
1 to 1 ½ pounds baby carrots, green tops tripped, or full-sized carrots, cut into sticks
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (you can also use ground cumin)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil; sprinkle with the cumin and salt and pepper. Roast until the carrots are tender and browning, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
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.
By Alaina Sullivan
When it comes to preparing scallops, less is often more: Salt, pepper and a quick butter sear is all it takes. Allow each side to caramelize for just a few minutes in a hot skillet – any longer and you run the risk of the scallops turning rubbery. Simple garnishes — a kiss of lemon juice and fresh parsley — add the perfect amount of brightness without overpowering the mild flavor of the scallops. Greens make a reliable companion, too. Here, the fresh crunch of romaine brings balance to the scallops’ soft flesh. Grilling the romaine adds even more character to the dish – its smoky flavor is an excellent foil to the sweet, buttery scallops. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.
Seared Scallops with Romaine*
Season scallops with salt and pepper; then sear the scallops for a few minutes in butter, turning once, until just browned on both sides. Drizzle a bunch of romaine lettuce with some olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the scallops with a bit more freshly squeezed lemon juice (some zest is nice here too) and some chopped parsley, and serve over the dressed lettuce with the pan juices.
*For grilled romaine: Cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise, leaving the core intact,brush with the olive oil and some minced garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill cut-side down until the lettuce begins to brown and get some grill marks, but remains crisp – 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, let it cool, and dress with the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
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.
By Daniel Meyer
Yesterday, in my capacity as occasional co-tester of Mark’s recipes, I wound up with a duck. My responsiblities to this bird were fairly light: scribble down the easiest way to cut it up, roast the carcass with some vegetables, and make stock. Easy enough.
After stashing the legs and a breast in the freezer, straining the stock, and nibbling on the vegetables (soft and slick with duck fat) for lunch, I was left with a single boneless breast and a roasted/simmered carcass. I picked the meat from the carcass, scored and salted the breast, and put it in the fridge (right next to the container of day-old white rice.) Fate sealed. Duck fried rice for dinner.
I started with the breast, skin-side down, in a cold skillet over medium-low heat (the modest and gradual heat gently renders out the fat without burning it.) It took about eight minutes to crisp the skin, then three or four on the other side to cook the meat to a rosy pink.
With the breast resting under foil on the cutting board, I added some of the meat pulled from the carcass and cooked it in the rendered fat until chewy and crisp (essentially duck carnitas, a dish worthy in its own right.) After the crisping it all went very quickly: I added sliced carrots and celery and cooked them until just pliant, then the rice until barely browned, minced garlic and ginger until fragrant, and finally a beaten egg until scrambled (salting everything to taste along the way.) I sliced the duck breast over the top of the rice and that was it.
All in all, this was one of the more indulgent and satisfying dishes I’ve made in a while. There are probably a million things to do with duck that’s now in the freezer, but my best guess is that I’ll just wind up making this again.
By Alaina Sullivan
While udon noodles typically swim in water or broth, here they’re coooked in green tea. The herbal broth is fortified by the noodles as they simmer, and brightened with a touch of sweet mirin. This dish is easy as can be (if you can brew tea and boil noodles you’re good to go,) and a perfect canvas for endless variations. I made mine with yellow beans (added to the broth when the noodles were nearly finished cooking,) sliced leftover pork (decidedly not vegetarian,) crunchy lentil sprouts, chopped scallions and a final drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.