Thu, Dec 27 • 0

This is what 23 pounds of beef short ribs looks like, or about $60 worth of meat from the warehouse store.

short ribs, 12/27/07Whenever my extended family gets together, my two brothers and I engage in a little — ok, quite a bit — of friendly competition. We each agree to make the main meal for one of the nights we’re together, like we’re doing over this weekend. I agreed to make dinner for the first night. What we decide to make is all very hush-hush, top secret. At the end of the get-together, all the kids decide which was the best meal. (Unfortunately, I think the one they last ate always seems to win out, regardless of who made it or what it was.) Anyway, this time, I chose a recipe that I figured I could start here at home, and then pack up in a cooler and finish it off with minimal effort at the place where we’re gathering. Unfortunately, the recipe I was working from was designed to feed 4 people. I need to feed 18. So I quintupled the quantities. I’m hoping that since I’m starting off with a slow braise of these short ribs in a relatively cool oven, upping the volume won’t play havoc with the cooking time. I may add an hour to the braise time, just in case. I’ll let you know how it all works out in a couple of days.

What’s the Aversion to Kneading?

Thu, Dec 27 • 0

bread image (pd. corbis)Well, I tried the modified “no-knead” bread recipe in the most recent Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), and I guess it was ok. It’s not completely no-knead, but it’s pretty close. It calls for just 15 seconds of kneading the dough in on itself, just to distribute the long protein chains, or some such. The kneading is required because, unlike the infamous no-knead recipe that Mark Bittman wrote about in the New York Times last summer, this one calls for much less liquid, so the dough isn’t a sticky, gloopy mess, but since there isn’t as much liquid, the proteins can’t form quite the way they do in the original recipe, hence the 15 second knead.

But what I don’t get is why everyone is so averse to kneading dough? I mean, it seems to run right in the face of the whole “slow food” ethos, doesn’t it? Making bread is all about the kneading. It’s all about getting in there, with the yeasty smells, and giving it a little elbow grease. Granted, the no-knead recipe isn’t fast — it takes upwards of 16 hours to make, but I sort of think this follows the letter of the law of “slow food,” while not really obeying the spirit of it. I mean, no-knead bread dough is like playing baseball without a bat. It’s like dancing without moving your feet. It’s like swimming without the water, for pete’s sake. Sure, kneading dough is a little messy. Sure, you need a little clean counter space, and Lord knows how tricky that is to manage…

Next, they’ll be pushing the next food craze: food that doesn’t require chewing.

I mean, I guess the idea is appealing. Heck, I did try the recipe, after all. But I’m thinking that if you’re the type of person who will only make bread that you don’t have to knead, it’s probably better than nothing. Still, just go out and buy a loaf at Whole Foods instead.

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