On Offal

On Offal

TL;DR – This supplementary post gives a basic overview of offal. We hope that it’s not awful. What is offal anyway? According to Wikipedia, “Offal, also called variety meats or organ meats, refers to the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal.” While this might in no way sound delicious to the average eater, I salivate at the thought of brain, liver, tongue, and intestines. Offal is delicious. Offal is also woefully underrated in American cuisine. Offal flies entirely under-the-radar for most people, but those in the know chase after it, flocking to the restaurant with the latest offal offering. It is only with the rising popularity of restaurants such as Quality Meats in New York (order the bone marrow), and The Purple Pig in Chicago (go for the pig ears) that we are finally seeing these delicious animal tid-bits on the menu. But our Bicoastal readers are not the average eater, in fact, you probably love offal already. In case you have not been introduced to our offal favorites, here they are. Types of Offal: There are many, many types of offal. Just think about how many body parts an animal has! This list is by no means comprehensive, just my personal favorites.  Brain – Delicious and buttery without the dairy taste, brains are a delicacy in many parts of the world. Taste/Texture: Soft, creamy, custard-like, white when cooked How to eat: Cut and pan-sear; or smear on crusty bread. Can treat it like foie gras Heart – The heart is a  strong muscle filled with blood, surprisingly tasty but can be hard to chew. Don’t overcook it or it will be very...
On Alcohol

On Alcohol

TL;DR The basics of booze, explained. The great Amy Stewart says in her book The Drunken Botanist:”Every great drink starts with a plant.” As a self-professed botanist myself, I completely agree. Plants serve as one of the two major components needed to create alcohol. And what might those be? Keep reading to find out. What is alcohol?  In chemistry, combinations of the letters C, H, and OH create different types of alcohol, ranging from Butyl to Methanol. But there is only one type of alcohol fit for human consumption – ethanol. Or, C2H5OH. Ethanol is made through fermentation. Simply put, sugar + enzymes = ethanol and carbon dioxide. The sugar comes from plant sources such as corn, barley, wheat, apples, grapes, rice, agave…the list goes on. Yeast or other enzyme are then added. The mixture is placed at the appropriate temperature, wait some time…and BOOM, alcohol. Major Types of Alcohol: Wine – Sugar Source: Grapes (Vitis Vinifera to be specific) Taste: fruits, earth, dessert Red wine and white wine can be made from the same grapes. In white wine, grapes are pressed, then the juice fermented. The grape skins has minimal contact with the juice. In red wine, grapes are crushed, fermented, then pressed, allowing for color and tannins to transfer from the skins to the juice/wine. The wine universe is divided two: The Old World (mainly Europe) and The New World (US, South America, Australia, New Zealand, etc) The Old World is known for earthier, low alcohol wines. (Read: Smells like soil and mushrooms) The New World is known for fruit-driven, high alcohol wines. (Read: Smells like in-your-face fruit) Popular Varieties: Red – Pinot...
On French Cuisine: A Cuisine of Technique

On French Cuisine: A Cuisine of Technique

TL;DR We attempt to cover (lightly) the Big Daddy, Head Honcho cuisine, French–the most influential cuisine around the world. I am just going to say this upfront, there is no way we could possibly cover this cuisine in totality, but it is one of the most document cuisines and the reference material out there is amazing. My favorite is Julia Childe. French Cuisine is a cuisine of technique and there is a lot to learn. We try to discuss some of the most important techniques, ingredients, and dishes. Please watch this before continuing. (Baguette, hugh hugh hugh.) A good introduction to today’s topic. Background  Early French cuisine was influenced by Italian until 17th century chefs started to focus on differentiating the cuisine from influences Was codified in the 20th century by Escoffier to become a modern “haute” cuisine which helped to formalize the cuisine; but however left out regional varieties Julie Childe was one of the first big “celebrity” chefs helping to spread this cuisine French cuisine is now one of the most influential cuisines, laying the groundwork for Western cuisine and culinary education Meal Structure – usually involves three courses: Hors d’œuvre – introductory course or soup Plat principal – the main course Pâtisserie or Fromage or Dessert – pastry, cheese course, or dessert Important Techniques Knife Skills – the grip, chopping, slicing, julienne, dicing, chiffonade The stock – perfecting the mirepoix (which is the base for your sauces; you start with chopped vegetables such as carrots, celery and onions, cook in a butter sauce) and then simmering bones for an extended amount of time to get your stock Creating...
On Indian Cuisine: A Cuisine of Spices

On Indian Cuisine: A Cuisine of Spices

TL;DR Here is a installment of research on Indian Cuisine, focusing on the spices, flavors, and dishes of the culture. If you are here seeking Chicken Tikka Masala and Curry Powder, you might be disappointed, but keep reading and your palate may also be opened up to a very varied cuisine. Background Being part one of the oldest cultures, Indian cuisine has been around for a long time. Ancient recipes were invigorated in the north during the time of the Mughal conquest, while the south developed a very different cuisine. But saying North and South would not be enough to cover Indian cuisine. Indian food is heavily regionalized among the different sub-sects of the population (which makes sense given the amount of time it has had to evolve): Punjab, Gujarat, Kerala, Calcutta and so on. Ahead of me there is a big task to try and cover this cuisine, but attempting to do so in a manner not to overwhelm you. Meals usually involve a mixture of dishes, rices, breads, sides, and accompaniments all shared among the group eating. It’s a cuisine that’s very lonely to eat alone. The Spices Spice has many purposes in food and in particular to India, spices became ingrained for their cooling, medicinal (especially turmeric), and preservative properties. However, all spices weren’t native to india; Chili pepper actually came from the Portuguese. Here are the basics: Chili Pepper (Laal Mirch) – can be fresh peppers or in the powdered form. Indian pepper is usually very fiery and should be used with caution. You can remove the heat by taking the seeds out, the finer you chop,...
On Southeast Asian Cuisine: A Cuisine of Contrast

On Southeast Asian Cuisine: A Cuisine of Contrast

TL;DR This is a research post on the basics of Southeast Asian Cuisine. Sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and umami – your taste buds are in for quite a ride! Background Stewing from a hodge-podge of native (Chinese, Indian) and colonial influences (French, British), the cuisine of Southeast Asia is a cornucopia of variety and flavor, yet tied together by strong common threads. In this post, we dive into the cuisine of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Thailand – As the only Southeast Asian country never colonized by the West, Thai cuisine is devoid of the baguettes, coffees, pate and such Western influences food items. Nevertheless, the cuisine of Thai does absorb heavily from its neighbors, China and India, adding its own spin on traditional dishes such as noodles and curries. Northern Thailand – Due to its mountainous geography, Northern Thai food uses more meats (pork, chicken) than its Southern counterpart. The cuisine is spicy, sour, savory, and rarely sweet Southern Thailand – Even spicier than its Northern cousin (which means soooper spicy), Southern Thai food brings in the additional element of sweetness from an abundance of coconut milk. For protein, Southern Thai food leans on seafood. Curries are also popular. Cambodia – Cambodian cuisine is heavily influenced by its neighbors on both sides, to the point where people venture to say Cambodian cuisine is a blend of Thai and Vietnamese. While that’s true to a certain degree, Cambodian cuisine does stand out in its use of a few key ingredients such as Prahok, a gray fermented fish paste reminiscent of stinky cheese. Sweet and spicy flavors are also downplayed in Cambodian cuisines when compared to...
On Italian Cuisine: A Cuisine of Freshness

On Italian Cuisine: A Cuisine of Freshness

TL;DR This is a research post on getting a base for Italian Cuisine. Background Italian cuisine is one of the oldest cuisines tying to origins around the 4th century BCE. Due to Italy’s historical prominence, this cuisine not only had an opportunity to flourish, but to develop through the cultures Italy either captured or interacted/traded with. As we turn to modern times, cook books tended to focus on regionalism rather than French cuisine. Cookbooks weren’t attributed to chefs, but rather housewives. Home cooking and house hold recipes were integral to Italian cuisine. Meal Structure Italian Meals consist of courses with everyday meals consisting of 1-2 courses plus a side and coffee and extended/weekend meals will have 3-4 courses. Food serves as a cornerstone of festive events often leading to feats. Food is also seen as a time to spend time with family/friends. Some highlights: Apertivo: an alcoholic appetizer at the beginning of the meal (Campari, Vermouth) Antipasto: hot or cold appetizers before the “meal” starts Primo: a first course usually heavier with hot, starchy dishes such as pasta or risotto Secondo: the second course, usually fish or meat Contorno: a side dish like salad or cooked vegetables Formaggio e frutta: cheeses and fruits, usually local Dolce: a sweet desert Caffè: coffee, and integral part of the meal Digestivo: a “digestive” liqueur such as grappa or sambuca, sometimes referred to “coffee killer” Ingredients Grains Pasta – Pasta is one of the most commonly associated ingredients when people think of Italian food. Grains have been integral to this region and have evolved over time to so many varieties: Penne Spaghetti Linguini Fusilli...