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Beyond Eating

Beyond Eating


Food is central to most of our lives. Whether we have it or not. If we don't have it, we want it and if we do have it, we, or I, typically want more of it. Food has been fairly central to my life as I've worked in one capacity or another at various restaurants, both back in Chicago and here in St Louis. One of the greatest venture that I've been able to be a part of is called Entre. Working with John and all the people of Entre has always been a joy. This video of an Entre event I helped out with, shot by Tangent Mind for The Other Journal, tells why.

Of Salt and Light from The Other Journal on Vimeo.


Cooking Basics :: Stock

So if you're like me, you aspire to to use as much of your food stuff as you possibly can.  That's why you have a turkey carcass frozen in your freezer right now and why it's been there since November, or last November.  (Hey don't judge.)  We all have our reasons for not following through on the issue of stock.

Objection 1: Stock takes so much effort.  Answer: Not really.  It takes time, but as with most things in the kitchen, it takes just a little bit of kinetic energy to get the inertia to run itself.  And that turkey carcass is chalk full of potential energy just waiting.

Objection 2: You can buy stock at the store on the cheap.  Answer: Sure you can, if you want your soups and sauces to lack flavor and depth, go ahead, do it.  Do it.  But if you care about the food you put in your body and the flavors that you put on your tongue, you'll make your own.  Plus, you have nearly free stock just sitting in your freezer.

Those are the only two objections that I can see and I just destroyed them both.  That was easy, now on to the cooking.

This time on your trip to the grocery, market, whatever, pick up a head of celery, a couple onions, a bag of carrots, some thyme and parsley.  Okay, that added, what, five to seven more bucks to your grocery bill?  Yes, you could have bought two quarts of stock for that, but I'm about to multiply your monies, I promise.

Pull out your biggest pot, for cooking, and toss your thawed, or in my case, semi-thawed, turkey carcass in it.  Take one of those onions, weigh it out, then grab an equal amount of celery stalks and carrots.  Chop them all up roughly and about the same size.  Throw them in the pot with the carcass.  Grab about half the stems of the parsley and tear them from the bunch, take some thyme, pour some peppercorns that you have on hand and a couple bay leaves in the pot too.  Now cover it all with water, put a lid on it and throw it on the fire.  It may take some time here, but let it come up to a boil.  During this time, you can catch up on your DVR recordings of Grey's, or The Kardashians (that's probably spelled wrong, but I'm not checking it).  Once it comes up to a boil, turn it down to a low simmer (think slow bubbles).  I left my lid off at this point and I didn't lose much liquid at all.

Now you can leave.  And really you should.  Take your dog for a walk, go out with friends.  Busy yourself, cause this is when the magic happens and all you can do now is screw it up–that too would be pretty hard to do.  Give it a good 3-4 hours.  I think I let my stock go 5.  Plus getting out of the house will let you come back in and you'll be able to really smell the goodness that is homemade stock.  Your place will smell amazing and that dog odor will finally be gone.

Toward the end of the time, or any time during these hours, you can grab a spoon and scoop up the foam that's come up to the top.  I'm not sure what it is, but it doesn't look appetizing and your end product will be clearer.

Now you're place smells amazing and you have this big pot of liquid gold, so get a big container, a strainer and if you have it, some cheese cloth (this helps grab some of the bits that could go through the strainer, but it's not necessary).  Pour your liquid through the strainer into the big container and throw all the solids away.  You've used them and they've served you well, so you can get rid of them.  (The carrots are pretty tasty though.)

Now you have to cool your stock down.  You can't stick it straight into the fridge, cause it'll lower the temperature dramatically and you risk bacteria getting into the rest of your food.  And leaving it out on the counter is risky too.  So a couple options.  Bags filled with ice work and cool it down quickly.  Or a cooler full of ice, that you put the big container in.  Just think about cooling it down quickly with out risking infection to anything else.  If any fat rises to the top, you can pull that right off.  And I don't add any salt to my stock because I want to add that when it goes into something, so if I reduce it, I'm not concentrating the salt, just the liquid.

Divide it into smaller containers and freeze it (don't fill them too full!).  I got 9 quarts out of my turkey carcass.  It cost me roughly 5 bucks in extra ingredients, which would buy two quarts of stock at the grocery.  So for the price of two quarts I got nine.  See multiplication, I told you.  Total cost per quart is about 55 cents.  Seriously, it's worth it.  You can pretty much do this with any animal bones you have sitting around.  Chickens are obvious, but we make veal stock (demi-glace) in the restaurant with this same basic approach, just using veal bones instead of chicken, we just roasted them off first.

Cooking from Scratch

Me making pasta from scratch, circa. 2007. It's kinda been my dream to make everything in my kitchen from scratch.  I'm not sure why, but I like the idea that everything that I eat has been made by me, the old fashioned way with seasonal ingredients and outrageous flavor.  I mean, seriously though, when it comes to things like cookies and ice cream, aren't they always better when it was made start-to-finish in your own home?  Of course it was!  That's why everyone gets so excited when you pull a fresh batch of cookies from the oven.  They're that much better than store bought.  Plus, you know all the ingredients that you put into them.

Sugar, flour, salt, chocolate, butter, vanilla extract.  None of those words are hard to say.  Not like sodium benzoate or sulphur dioxide–I guess those words are that difficult to say, but didn't we study those in high school chemistry?  I don't want to rely on my 10th grade chemistry class which I've forgotten about nearly completely (except for the cute girls) and guess at what I'm putting in my body.  Sugar, flour, salt, chocolate, butter, vanilla extract are all tangible items to me.  I know what they are in their raw forms.  Sodium benzoate I do not.

Confession: There is a leftover bag of Skittles in my car right now that I am eager to finish off with every handful that I shovel into my mouth.

Clearly I'm not overly concerned about additives in my food.  However, I would like to all but eliminate things like Skittles from my diet.  Making sure that everything I eat I have made kinda ensures that.  I haven't found a recipe for skittles on the interwebs.  But I have found one for butterfingers, which sounds amazing!  And it makes 96.  Or David Lebovitz's recipe for salted butter caramel ice cream. I've never seen that in a store, but why buy it when I can make it.  So I'm dwelling on the sweets, but those, for me, are the easiest to just buy.  This way, if I want it, then I have to make it.  And if I don't have the energy to do that, then I probably shouldn't be eating it.

Meals themselves are where this will be tested and proven.  Bases in the kitchen are often just easier to buy.  Chicken stock is relatively cheap, but seriously, have you ever tasted store bought chicken stock and thought, "This is amazing!"?  I think not.  Plus making my own stock will, in the long term, be cheaper and produce less waste.  When I cook a whole chicken, instead of throwing away the bones, I'll make stock.  And with that stock, a few other ingredients and I'll have soup.  Add some parisienne dumplings and I have a pretty hardy soup that is dirt cheap.  This is the way restaurants do it and they have a lot less food waste than I had previously thought.

Homemade bread is one of the more satisfying things to make and eat.  It's also a lot easier to make than we think.  And after spending a whopping $15 at Sam's club on 50 lbs. of flour and 2 lbs. of yeast, I should be set for the year.  Math: Roughly 1.5 lbs flour gives me two loaves, which lasts me about a week and a half.  A minimum amount of yeast, some salt and water added to that and I'll get nearly a years worth of bread (50 weeks) for $15 (15 cents/loaf) and maybe, maybe, 40 minutes a week.  As opposed to $4 loaf for the same quality artisan bread bought at Whole Foods.  I'll post on this soon.

I think this will be far easier said than done, but in failure we learn how to succeed.  (I just made that up.)  I'll post on both.

For now, though, I need to get some fruit bought and some turkey carcass turned into stock.

The Brown Rabbit

I uncapped my current homebrew- a personal recipe- which combines the toasty malts of a brown ale with the ever-present hoppiness of an IPA. It's alcohol content hovers somewhere around 9%. It's a big beer and I'm not sure it's completely ready for drinking quite yet. I have two label designs that need an opinion behind them. One I did and the other, my design school friend, Chris, did. I won't say which is which. Just tell me which one you like better.