Honeycrisps are back!

Mon, Aug 16 • 0

honeycrisppageThe best apple in the whole world is back for the season… the HONEYCRISP. I spotted it at the Alexandria Farmer’s Market this past Saturday sold by a West Virginian farmer. I’ve already eaten all the ones I bought for myself, so I’m hoping that I can score some more at the Whole Foods. It used to be this apple was scarce and only around for a short while, but last year, I was able to find them from early fall all the way into late winter. If you’ve not tried it, look for it. It’s the best eating apple I’ve ever had.

Full Disclosure

Wed, Oct 14 • 0

According the the US Federal Trade Commission, effective Dec. 2009, all bloggers have to disclose any connection they might have to producers of products that they review. I just wanted to reiterate my policy, which is up on the About page…

Cooking Monster’s Code of Ethics
Here at Cooking Monster, we’re not averse to accepting food or products from people in the business, but we promise that if we ever do, we’ll disclose the fact in anything we write about. We do believe in using associate links to places like Amazon, in an effort to recoup some of the money we’ve invested in this project. Dollars to donuts, if there’s a link to a product on Amazon, there will also be our referral information. All of the opinions expressed on these pages will be our own, and we promise not to shill for any sponsor without completely disclosing that fact.

Since I started doing this blog, I have received some items from producers. So far, it’s been in the form of meat, from two mail order butchers. (And, technically, one was the result of a contest I won on another blog.) Both were written up on the blog, and both blog entries included notes about the fact that I received the product for free. I’ve also published countless links to Amazon, and I receive a small kickback every time one of you makes a purchase from them after you click the link. I’m also a member of Amazon’s Vine program. So far as I remember, none of the items I’ve reviewed have appeared on these pages, but if they ever do, I will post that fact.


Sat, Oct 10 • 0

Due to a problem with my old webserver, I had to do a little shuffling, and in the end, lost a couple weeks worth of posts as well as about a dozen comments. Sorry about that.  Things should be otherwise back to normal.

Boycott Whole Foods?

Sun, Aug 23 • 1

boycottSo, I’m feeling a little torn.

Recently, the CEO and co-founder  of Whole Foods, John Mackey, wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that criticized President Obama’s health-care initiatives. In it, he insists that Americans don’t have an intrinsic right to health care, and in a bit of self-service, he suggested that if we all just ate wholesome, organically grown food, we could keep the costs of health care down without involving the government. Progressive action groups and bloggers were pretty much up-in-arms over the piece, which the Whole Foods company quickly disavowed as being purely the opinion of one man, who happens to be their CEO, and not representative of the organization.

Nevertheless, the leftwing bloggers will not be dissuaded. They’ve called for a boycott of the store, to let Mackey know that it’s not very smart to intentionally alienate a large percentage of your target audience.

As I said, I’m on the fence. While I personally tend to identify with those who want health care reforms, I’m not really willing to boycott the store, mostly because I feel that the guy is entitled to his opinion, but also I’m not too keen on the idea of possibly depriving the people who work for the store of their livelihood just because their boss might be a total butt-head.

As it is, it’s debatable whether or not the boycott is really working. Despite protesters picketing outside branches of the store in Washington DC, Maryland, New York and Austin, Texas last week, this past Friday, August 21st, Whole Food posted a record high stock price for the year. (Confidentially, I think that people might be inclined to boycott, but they just can’t bear to buy their rice cakes anywhere else.)

What do you think?

Eleven Herbs and Spices Revealed?

Mon, Jul 27 • 1

Ron Douglas, author of America’s Most Wanted Recipes, claims he has discovered the secret recipe after lots of chicken, and years of testing. According to an article in The Guardian, the secret ingredients are :

1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Accent (MSG)

Unfortunately, it’s still pretty difficult to duplicate the fast food chain’s cooking methods, since they use pressure cookers to fry their chicken. However, the home cook does have the advantage of being better able to drain the excess grease from the fried chicken, since we’re not cooking dozens of chickens at once. Also, home cooks have the option of buying better quality, organic, free-range chicken if they choose to. The Guardian even claimed to have come up with what they call a superior mix of herbs and spices, that doesn’t include MSG. This is their recipe and recommended process, the best I can interpret it from the article, as they only roughly describe the process, but they do give a detailed listing of their choice of herbs and spices. The recommend poaching the chicken in milk to insure the chicken is cooked completely to the bone, but that’s a step I’ve never seen in any fried chicken recipe.

“It’s worth noting that chicken marinaded and poached in milk has an unbelievably suave flavour and texture, and that the poaching liquid thickens to create the most soothing cream of chicken soup I’ve ever achieved,” says the article.

1 half gallon whole milk
1 whole chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp sage
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried onion flakes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
peanut oil
for frying

Cut the chickens into 8 parts, splitting the breast in half to allow for even cooking, and saving the backs, necks and wing tips for stock. Marinate overnight in the milk. The next day, lightly poach the chicken in the milk bath for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and drain. Use enough peanut oil to make a depth of 1 inch in a frying pan. Bring up to 350º heat. While the oil is coming to temperature, mix the spices with the flour. Coat each piece of chicken with the flour mixture, and let set for a couple of minutes, then re-coat each piece. Fry the chicken in the oil, 6 minutes on each side, or until the coating is golden brown. Remove the chicken to a rack and allow excess oil to drip off.

The results were ok. Nothing fantastic. Each piece of chicken was fully cooked, but I didn’t really detect the suave flavor and texture described. In fact, some of the skin was a little chewy and flabby. And frankly, the coating did not come near the flavor of KFC, or any other chain-store fried chicken place I’ve tried. In fact, I’d say it was comparable to cheap grocery store fried chicken.

In the end, my wife and I just didn’t think it came close to competing with my personal favorite recipe for fried chicken, which I think is better than anything you can buy. What I may do, though, is use most of my technique from that recipe, but try to spice it up with the different herbs and spices from these new recipes. Look for that in the coming weeks.

“You Don’t Win Friends With Salad.”

Tue, Jul 21 • 0

So says Homer Simpson. Nevertheless, Mark Bittman, writing for the New York Times has come up with 101 ways to make a meal out of salad, ranging from vegan, to vegetarian, to omnivorous.

Holy Crap.

Sat, May 9 • 2

For her third anniversary of blogging, Pioneer Woman gave  away five 14-cup food processors last week. She asked people to post what they were making for dinner last Wednesday.

The contest rules specifically insisted on only one entry per person. Still, she got 18,710 entries!

Southern Restaurants

Mon, May 4 • 0

On a recent trip down south, my (other) brother, his son, and I managed to hit a couple of fine and famous eateries on a road trip to Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, ending up in Huntsville, Alabama. Although we only went to each place once, we tried to go for variety in what we ordered.

We all agreed that the Loveless Cafe in Nashville was, hands down, the best meal we had. Down-home-style food, friendly waiter, and an endless supply of homemade buscuits. I had the country ham plate, with a side of collards and carrots. My brother, Tom, had their pit-smoked turkey breast with cranberry barbecue sauce. My nephew, TJ had the fried chicken. (TJ, 16, born in Richmond, but raised on Cape Cod, claimed it was the best fried chicken and the best biscuits he’d ever eaten in his life.) I have a feeling, if I were a local, I’d be a fixture at this place. So, so very good, and definitely worth revisiting. (Open 7 AM – 9 PM, 7 days a week. 8400 Hwy 100, Nashville, Tenn. 615-646-9700.)  Review @ Roadfood.com / Loveless Cafe Menu

I’d intended to make this trip all about southern barbeque, but neglected to confirm this with my traveling companions, who only had a very limited appetite for the delicacy. Internet searches claimed that the best bbq in Nashville was in the touristy part of town. Called Jack’s, the ribs were pretty smokey, almost too smokey for my taste, and they were served dry, though there were several options of sauce to choose from. Tom had a pulled pork sandwich, and my nephew had the pulled chicken. They both thought it was pretty good.

The other bbq restaurant we tried was called Interstate, in Memphis, the city of bbq. I’d gotten several recommendations about this being the best place in the best city for bbq. I ordered the combination platter, so I could try everything they had to offer. It came with a couple beef and pork ribs, some pulled pork, and pulled beef, and some smoked sausage. It was all covered in a thin bbq sauce, so the plate looked bloody. The spicy sausage was the best, I think, while the pork ribs and the pulled beef were close runners up. It also came with a side order of bbq’d spaghetti, which I was told to specifically look out for. I wasn’t too impressed, unfortunately. Regular spaghetti coated in more of the sauce and bits of pulled pork, I think. I guess I was hoping for a transcendental experience, being in the best of the best bbq restaurants, so maybe I was expecting too much. I almost think I’ve had better bbq here in Virginia than the stuff I got that day. I’ve since read that some locals think the place has gone downhill in recent years.

I really should have sampled more places while I had the chance. The other places we ate were unmentionable — chosen for convenience rather than quality food — a necessity on a road trip. I do hope to get back to the Loveless Cafe again, though.

Free Cast Iron from Cooking Monster!

Fri, Mar 20 • 14

One lucky Cooking Monster commenter will win a 10¼” Pre-seasoned Lodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet, which just might be the most useful pan you can have in your kitchen.  Just leave a comment below describing your guilty-pleasure about food — something you can’t resist eating, even if you know you shouldn’t. Only one entry per email address will be accepted, so don’t bother entering more than once with the same address. Please read the site’s privacy notice and our rules about contests and giveaways before entering.

This contest has ended. Please check the site frequently as we will have more give-aways soon!

What’s Your Cooking Personality?

Tue, Mar 17 • 1

The New York Times had an interesting article discussing how people are cooking more at home now that the economy is ailing, and that while home cooking is generally more healthy than eating out, it’s not necessarily healthier. It all depends on what kind of cook you are. They break it down into 5 different categories :

Giving” cooks are enthusiastic about cooking and specialize in comfort food, particularly home-baked goodies.

Methodical” cooks rely heavily on recipes, so their cooking is strongly influenced by the cookbook they use.

Competitive” cooks think less about health and more on making the most impressive dish possible.

Healthy” cooks often serve fish and use fresh ingredients, but taste isn’t the primary goal.

Innovative” cooks like to experiment with different ingredients, cooking methods and cuisines, a process that tends to lead to more healthful cooking.

Can you guess what category you fall under? If you’re having trouble, they provide a short quiz to help you figure it out.

I end up falling into the last one — Innovative.  “An innovative cook likes to experiment with different ingredients, cooking methods and cuisines, a process that tends to lead to more healthful cooking. Innovative cooks have the best eye for freshness, yet there is still a big emphasis on taste. If you like great food and still want to eat reasonably healthy, the innovative cook is the person to hook up with.”

It’s not all wine and roses though, cooking this way. Ask my wife. I rarely cook the same thing the same way, ever. And if she really liked how I made it last time, she doesn’t appreciate the tinkering I do the next time, or that I usually can’t even replicate what I’ve done.

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