Archive for October, 2006

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Top Chef Week One: Big hair, big flames, big breakdown

October 19, 2006

topchef_desktop_thumb1.jpgWife:

Top Chef is back! There’s no impressions like first impressions — and you gotta love how they edit to make you biased from the start. First, who are all these people? I couldn’t keep them all straight, which forces me to resort to handles like “weird-hair guy” (Marcel), “big-hair guy” (Otto), and “glasses guy” (Ilan). What weird names they have anyway… Marcel, Otto and Ilan? Are the other contestants Pinocchio, Fabio and Chuck? Is there a Chuck?

And why am I so focused on the guys? My main impressions of the women were of “the Mexican woman” (Elia), “tight-clothes woman” (Betty) and the “basket case woman” (Suyai). So 1/3 of the women I recognize have been kicked off. This is poor. Plus, my nicknames are offensive.

I’m eager for the field to be winnowed down so I can digest the contestants and stop succumbing to typical reality-show snarkiness. (Who am I kidding? Why else watch reality shows!)

Husband:

Seeing as how my wife has covered all the “important” things — hair, attire and nicknames — I’ll recap the, ahem, food happenings on the show. The first QuickFire challenge was flambe. I was highly impressed by the diversity and presentation of dishes — they ranged from savory to sweet, each of them seemingly restaurant quality and inviting. The elimination challenge was fascinating. Contestants were given a box of incongrous ingredients — things like artichokes, peanuts, escargot, potatoes and American cheese — that they had to use to make one dish. The offerings ran the gamut, from gourmet to unappetizing, to say the least. (I was intrigued, despite the fact that consuming peanuts or peanut butter — ingredients in both boxes — would kill me, since I’m allergic.)

My constant dissecting of the dishes, including musings about what I would cook with such ingredients, annoyed my wife. She, caught up in the more important aspects of the show (such as “how much product does Marcel use in his hair?”) impatiently paused the show to glower at me as I expounded. Ah, reality show viewing at its finest.

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Risotto. Sweet Potato Leek Risotto.

October 18, 2006

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Risotto. It’a a genius dish. Sometimes it’s a mere sideshow, sometimes it’s a solo act with its name in lights. Sometimes it features glamorous ingredients, such as exotic mushrooms and truffles (yes, please!); sometimes it’s a more humble mix of rice and cheese. Whether side dish or main dish, whether with white truffles or white cheese, risotto is always delicious.

Channeling famed Italian chef Roberto Donna (more on that below), my husband has concocted his own fabulous and unique Sweet Potato and Leek Risotto. While it has not yet surpassed the place in my heart held by his delicious mushroom risotto, it is still a deadly quiver in his culinary arsenal.

It might sound strange to combine sweet potatoes and leeks in a creamy rice brew — I admit that I thought so. But as usual, I was wrong. The sweet potatoes don’t war with the leeks, as I thought they would. Instead, they both contribute their mild, sweet flavors to the starch party and mingle generously with the rice and other spices. The result is a colorful, delicious and sweetly flavored risotto that was a perfect side dish to the salty, savory sirloin-steak star that night. Ah, risotto. You’ve done it again. Read on for hubby’s recipe and more on Roberto Donna.

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Strained: Healthy Fish? Grassy Beef? Well at least we have lighter fare too…

October 18, 2006

 

MHCStrainer.jpgTo Fish or Not to Fish or Fishy Politics and Science
The New York Times has an interesting story about two studies released this week regarding how much fish people should eat. A Harvard Public Health study argues there are great cardiovascular benefits to eating fish at least twice a week, while a National Institute of Health (NIH) study released on the same day believes there ‘may’ be benefits. This is fascinating as it delves into underlying methodology and debate. On a side note, it is just one more set of contradictory studies about food that leaves the consumer scratching their head.

Grass Fed Steers
This story comes from the longhorn state about, well, longhorns fed on grass. It’s a brief look at one family farm and their small heard of cattle eating just grass. I find it interesting because of the increasing effort to draw lines between similar types of food. Here in DC, Grass fed beef is showing up increasingly on menus, and it strikes me as this decade’s ‘free-range’ chicken. I found it interesting, though I think the writer doesn’t ask some of the big questions and enjoys the agrarian romanticism of this way of growing.

Two New Books from DC area chefs

The Washington Post has a neat piece about two new cookbooks from DC chefs. One is from renowned French chef, Michel Richard. Owner/Chef of Georgetown’s Citronelle, Richard is an institution and his restaurant routinely shows up on “Best” lists locally and nationally. The second is from a rising Italian star, Fabio Trabocchi. Maestro, his restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton at Tyson’s Corner, is considered another great eat. It’s a nice story, but don’t miss the links to their recipes and  Q&A with both chefs.

Top Chef in News:
We are excited about tonight’s premier of Top Chef, and so are the Boston Globe and Washington Post. Here is a pair of articles from them:

Washington Post—Focuses on the series new host, Padma Lakshmi, and what they consider a vibrant screen presence.

Boston Globe
–A nice little promo for tonight’s show and provides brief bios of the contestant. It’s a good cheat sheet to get you started.

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Blogging about Top Chef…

October 17, 2006

Top Chef LogoWednesdays are always a good day to be a food lover in the US — the food section comes out, the week is half over so that genius kitchen creation or that dinner reservation seem all the closer — and you know that soon you will be eating with family and friends. However, it’s even better this week for pop culture and food types such as my wife and me.

Starting tomorrow night at 11 PM, Bravo is bringing back its hit show Top Chef for a second installment. For those of you not familiar with the show, it’s Project Runway, American (or your own region’s version) Idol, and Survivor with a culinary point of view  —in essence, a cooking reality show with eliminations.

While I try to play the “too cool for a reality show” card, I was hooked last season and watched every episode. I loved it. While I did enjoy the guilty pleasure of the snarky, edited-for-TV battles between the contestants, I most enjoyed it because of the food and to see people’s take on the food.

Because of this love, I’ve been excitedly waiting for its return since it was first announced. As a result, my wife and I have decided to hold our own little Top Chef discussion on My Husband Cooks. We will be watching the show each week and putting up a little comment the morning after the show. Feel free to join in. We know many of you have razor sharp wits and can’t wait to hear your takes.

What to watch:
Top Chef
Wednesdays @ 11 PM ET
On Bravo

See you Thursday AM!

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Reminder for FBG #1: Southern Style

October 16, 2006

MHCCompass_2.jpgThis coming weekend is My Husband Cooks first food blogging event. Break out your cameras and your best “Southern” style cooking. We have a very liberal interpretation of the South. We can’t wait to see what everyone creates. You can find the original post here, and look forward to this weekend. We’ll present a roundup of all the entries on Oct. 22!

Rules:
1. Only one submission per person, please.

2. It must be a recipe whose roots are geographically “South”…. We encourage all interpretations of that.

3. Send an email to myhusbandcooks@gmail.com that includes your name, your blog’s name, a link to the relevant photo, and to the post in which it appears.

4. The deadline is Oct. 20, 2006 at midnight.

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Two strained from the NYT magazine

October 15, 2006

The NYT Magazine on Joy’s revision…
These are good times for cookbook lovers. In August, Bon Appetit published its long-anticipated cookbook. On Halloween, Joy of Cooking will release its 75th anniversary edition. Both have served as staples for many home cooks. This article recalls Joy of Cooking’s roots and how it has continued and changed. It also provides a  look into how one cook uses  the new copy.
Complexity of food, science and politics
Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History in Four Meals, writes an interesting article that addresses some of the complex issues raised by the recent E. coli outbreaks. There is a great deal here, from the practice of irradiating to the influence of political interest groups.

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Eat this: Char sui bao

October 13, 2006

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I love Char Sui Bao. My wife has already made fun of me recently for my love of bread pudding, and I think she is just waiting to pounce on my obsession with A Southern Season’s Praline Pecans . Char Sui Bao also falls into that same category of “food I can eat even when stuffed.” Thankfully, because we are having a family bonzana fun time with both sets of parents and a good number of siblings here in DC this weekend, I got to put up this post without her lovely intro.

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Bread + pudding = Dessert bliss

October 11, 2006

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It’s puddin’ time.

Yes, it was only a matter of time until my husband concocted the perfect homemade recipe for bread pudding. He loves bread pudding. Even if he’s filled to the brim with food at a restaurant and groaning in his chair, if bread pudding is on the dessert menu he manages to find still more room in his hollow leg. Yes, I’ve no doubt that the extra consumption of puddin’ is probably equally parts pleasure and discomfort. “Ah, bread pudding, eating you is such exquisite torture.”

Me? I like bread pudding very much. But I’m an equal opportunity dessert eater. The fabulous thing about making bread pudding at home, though, is:

1) You use up all that stale bread in a manner other than french toast. (Yet another breakfast favorite of hubby’s.)

2) It takes about an hour to cook, giving you time to loosen your belt after dinner and actually enjoy dessert.

Plus, as I always do, I must praise my husband’s excellent and tasty bread pudding. Delicious creamy custard baked into every nook and cranny of now cake-like bread. And let’s not forget the all-important golden brown texture of the top, perfect for ramming your spoon through. This, of course, will send out a puff of steam — that signature of all truly magnificent desserts: It’s hot and fresh, and just for you. Read on for the recipe, puddin’ lovers.

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We found food science and nostalgia

October 11, 2006

MHCStrainer.jpgPolitics and molecular food-ology
The New York Times has a fascinating article about the use of nanotechnology in the design of food. It also brings up the underlying political questions. As someone who is ready to embrace science in the advancement of food, I’m rooting for true molecular gastronomy.

Psychology of food and marketing
I love marketing. Its one of those places that art and science come together and create havoc. Some people say it dooms us all to be dullards and buy things we don’t want, need or should have. I think it’s fascinating, and speaks more to our internal design. If nothing else, this article is revealing of how food is sometimes less significant than the conditions in which it is offered.

Cast iron and manly cooking
I enjoy stories about men cooking. I mean it’s our shtick here at My Husband Cooks. This article is interesting because it’s about men cooking in a way that most of us don’t—with Dutch ovens over fire. As an American, this rustic form of cooking speaks to our history and its large open lands and westward expansion. It’s a nice bit of food nostalgia to compliment our innovative science stories.

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Strained to find the strange: 247 jalapeños, a mutant pumpkin and space yogurt

October 10, 2006

MHCStrainer.jpgWhile ‘The Colander’ has brought you serious food news, we here at My Husband Cooks are not beyond embracing the comically odd. Given the tough times for lettuce and spinach, this morning’s edition is designed to lighten the mood and to cause a few spit takes over morning coffee.

We admit that we’re geographically biased. But not so much so that we don’t want you  Aussies and Asians doing a spit take with your beers, or want you Europeans to give the screen a good bathing in your afternoon beverage of choice. Regardless of your time zone, we hope you enjoy our effort to bring a smile to your face.

Some like it hot, some like it so hot that you wonder about them.
We love chiles. We eat them regularly in all sorts of shapes, conditions, and spots on the Scoville scale. We even wrote a short piece on how to handle chiles. However, my wife sent me this story and I did a double take. According to a wire report, Richard Lefevre ate 247 chiles at the Texas State Fair to win the world jalapeño eating title. After reading the story, I’m convinced that aside from suffering from serious chemical burns, the 62-year-old Lefevre must have a steel-lined GI track.

Dear Linus, the Great Pumpkin will be in Rhode Island this year.

I love the fall because every year news outlets run the obligatory mutant pumpkin story. They get the farmer who planted his radioactive seeds, which were enriched by genetically spliced spider bites and kryptonite, and then the farmer explains about the gallons of water a day his not-so-humble gourd consumed while it grew. What makes this special is that Ron Wallace of Rhode Island appears to have grown the largest pumkin ever. The science and the sheer mass of these titanic terrors from the pumpkin patch just amaze me.

Are those extraterrestrial cultures in your yogurt?
Finally, both my wife and I are avid couch-potato science geeks. We love science. Both of us come from families filled with science types. Unfortunately, we aren’t. Despite our lack of intimacy with the scientific method, this next story gives us hope about  the brave new world that Disney’s imaginers have been promising since I was a kid — and that world begins with “Space Yogurt”! Bacterial strains that were in space are being used to make yogurt that is now commercially available in Japan. So now, you can have yummy space yogurt.

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