Sunday, November 28, 2010
Griswold and Rolf's Are the Only Two Names in Serious Bacon Cookery 'Round These Parts (Another Blog Post about Cast Iron)
Cast Iron cookware is big fad on the internet right now. A simple google query will result in an untold amount of articles concerning the topic, and in my opinion, people get a little precious (read pretentious) with their theories and opinions. There exist myriad strategies for seasoning and cleaning, people argue about what and what not to cook in them, etc... ad infinitum. However, there is one thing that most cast iron enthusiasts, including myself, do agree about. This is that Griswold (link is to an association of knowledgeable collectors and enthusiasts) products are the undisputed Rolls Royces of the cast iron universe.
You can read all about Griswold on the internets if you are so inclined, but basically it was a company that operated in Erie, PA from the end of the 19th century through the 20th. Sometime in the 50s or 60s they were bought out, or changed hands, or the owners were abducted by Canadians and forced over the border. I am not an expert in the history. Long story short, if you want a quality Griswold skillet, then you are buying it used and it is probably going to be in excess of 50 years old. I own two examples.
The first is a #7, bottom with trademark pictured above. Griswold's are numbered according to size, a #7 is 8 1/4". This is the first Griswold I bought, and is the one that made me fall in love with this brand of cast iron. You see, Griswolds are machined flat on the cooking surface, not dimpled and rough like lower quality pans. After careful seasoning they become oil slick and smooth as glass. This pan was probably manufactured sometime around the second Great War.
A word on "seasoning" cast iron. I have seen all sorts of prescriptions for rubbing the things with Crisco and baking in the oven, blah, blah, blah. I don't think all of this is necessary. Careful cooking of many high fat items, and liberal use of lipids at the outset of use will do you just fine. Just devote your cast iron pan to bacon duty for a couple months, and then move on to more varied use. The above pan has a very nice seasoning going on resulting only from regular use. I will say that my cast iron is mostly devoted to frying, browning, sauteing, and other cooking processes resulting in the caramelization of food. I tend not to cook highly acidic stews or sauces in the cast iron, or for that matter, do any sort of braising or stewing. I leave those methods to the much less fragile surface of my Le Creuset (which is really just enameled cast iron).
Now, the #7 is a great bachelor pan, just big enough to put a sear on a single steak or to fry up a couple sausages. But for family style applications it is a little lacking. Also, and perhaps more importantly, the #7 is a just a little too wee to fry up a goodly amount of full length bacon. Recently, this led to my purchase of a second Griswold. This time I found a #10 (10"). This bad girl does righteous bacon. As I obtained this skillet completely stripped of any seasoning, I have been making regular trips to the undisputed king of locally made bacon, Rolf's Pork Store (an establishment about which I have sung the praises on this blog several hundred times) to get supplies to break her in.
Rolf's bacon, like all of their other house made products, is superb. Nitrate free, nicely meaty, with just the right amount of cure and smoke. It might not be an entry level bacon if you are used to grocery store bacon or the insipid crap that passes as "gourmet" bacon in the City, but trust me, Rolf's product is superior by every metric. Even my wife likes it and she is a tough customer. I figure that once about 10 pounds of this salty pig gets fried up in my new #10, we should be good to go.
There you have it, now you might be thinking that this is all bullshit and how much of a difference will a Griswold really make? Trust me. Obtain one, fry up something simple, chicken cutlets or even a burger. You will look at the delicious brown crust that the heat conducting properties of that thick hunk of iron can create and you will be sold. It really does make that much of a difference. They just take a little more maintenance and care, but it is my opinion that most everything worth having should take a fair amount of maintenance and care. From kitchen utensils to significant others, I don't trust anything you can just put in a cabinet and not worry about.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Let us talk quickly about the open faced sandwich, and I am not talking about your local diner's hot roast beef with gravy. I am talking along the lines of the Scandinavian Smørrebrød, i.e. a small amount of topping (meat, eggs, fish, etc...) on a single, that's right, single slice of bread.
I don't know what it is, but I find that certain meats just taste better when delivered to your gullet in this manner. I think it is a matter of the increased surface area of the meat, making it more accessible to your palate during the whole mastication process. I find that Bauernschinken from Rolf's Pork Store is especially enjoyable in open face form. Bauernschinken is a form of German ham that, for reference, is something like a smokey prosciutto. Rolf's makes a very, very worthy version of this particular schinken.
A couple paper thin slices of meat and a piece of sturdy bread are all that is needed.
I have said it before on this blog, but I will say it again. I am no fan of the very American trend towards veritable meat piles on sandwiches a la Carnegie Deli or assorted others. If it you are enjoying a good quality cold cut, whatever it may be, a scant couple slices a sandwich should make. I had some sort of "Caprese" sub not too long ago from Cardona's on Deleware. It must have had 3/4" of straight prosciutto on it. In my opinion this is not very appetizing, prosciutto should be used sparingly. I find that no more than two slices of the Bauernschinken will do nicely for about a 1/2" slice of bread.
Now don't be afraid, throw that thumb right on top of the meat to hold it in place. A little meat grease never hurt anyone's thumb. I think you will find the flavor of the meat much more detectable than had you entombed it with another slice of bread. Seems simple, but often with food the simplest answers work. Meat sandwich - 1 slice bread = More delicious (for unknown and probably very scientific reasons).
Anyhow, go try some of the in-house made cold cuts at Rolf's, they are really very good. Here is their website-
Rolf's Pork Store
Recently I had occasion (don' ask...) to do a thorough cleansing of my kitchen cabinets. Among the 3 year old open bags of wheat gluten and piles of countless, forlorn looking sachets of oatmeal, I found some gems.
As is the case with most food bloggers, I have accumulated quite an assortment of interesting canned products. It is all stuff people sent me, things I bought to review (but never did and probably never will), as well as a few items that just looked neat to me so I picked them up. I have always had an odd fascination with canned goods and the canning process. Probably no other single food processing technology has meant more to humanity (for better or for worse), and I must have a Warhol streak in me, because I find the look of many canned goods pleasing to the eye.
Take the above can of Red Feather Processed cheese. I keep this out in my kitchen simply because I like the way it looks. The pleasing blue of the background, the deep red of the feather, the whole composition is strangely pleasing. Plus, the product aint bad and the post where I tested it in various applications is one of my most popular of all time.
Next we have these abominations. It is Cambell's tomato soup, the classic soup of American childhood, consumed with untold grilled cheese sammitches on a daily basis. But this isn't normal red tomato soup, it is orange and yellow tomato soup. < sarcasm > Because that sounds good. < /sarcasm > I bought these because the whole concept seemed so strange. Cambell's tomato soup (and the appearance of the can) is such an icon that I don't really see the reason for messing with it. I feel like if I ate one of these, i.e. put a yellow liquid in my mouth, and it tasted like good ol' tomatey soup, this might cause my head to collapse. At a very minimum the universe might collapse into a vortex in my kitchen, and I don't want that on my conscience.
Can you look at this giant yellow and brown beauty and not fall in love? I can't. This is the family sized can of the Grandma Brown's Baked beans which come out of scenic Mexico, New York. These are the baked beans par excellence of Upstate New York, and I guess that is saying something. I have reviewed these in the past, and they really are great. As the weather gets increasingly cold, I think my friends should gird their loins (and prepare their gastrointestinal tracts) for a good old fashioned bean party. Again, something about the design of the Grandma Brown's label makes me happy. It is festively drab in a very Upstate New York kind of way.
If you are going buy your meat in chunks (and in cans) than Grabill Country Meats is easily one of your top 5 choices. Ha ha, but seriously, this is a decent product. They do chicken, pork, turkey, and ground beef (for if you aren't in the mood to take your beef in chunk form) and none of them are completely disgusting. I buy and test out this kind of stuff from time to time due to the paranoid, preparedness freak side of my personality.
Unsurprisingly, I could go on with this topic for quite a while. I can be delightfully tedious if you get me started on a topic like canned food (jealous of Mrs. Dave, ladies?). So I will end with the only can of food that I own that I will probably never actually eat. Here we have a can of Great Value (Walmart's house brand) potted meat, which I believe cost about 32 red pennies. I bought this because the whole deal gave me cause to ponder. Just think of all the effort of humanity that has led to the production of this disgusting little pot of meat sludge. From the metal that was ripped from the earth to the animals that were (probably factory) farmed to the transportation needed to haul the nasty shit to the Walmart. All so someone could have a thoroughly un-satisfying can of 32 cent meat spread. It boggles the mind.
Anyhow, I am sure anyone reading this is mildly upset with me for wasting precious moments of their life with this post. But what can I say, I like cans.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Some young gents from MIT went ahead and did a Dunkin Donuts Coolatta brined, Munchkin stuffed, coffee glazed turkey sprinkled with rainbow jimmies. This is commitment to one's craft. Their page is called Unwholesom Foods and here is the link to the majestic TurDunkin'.
Remember when I was a young blogger who used to do experiments? We had the Bacon Wrapped EL Fudge, the infamous Spam Candy, Prison Food, not to mention Bacon Rice Krispy Treats (which it appears that I might have pioneered) and the White Castle Casserole (which got published in the This Is Why You're Fat book).
However, my "food fabulist" days are over. There are hundreds of dudes out there doing that stuff now better than I ever did, possibly even with more wit and charm. It is nice to reminisce.
Anyway, go check out Unwholsome Foods as they seem like cheery young upstarts.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I know it has been a few weeks since the McRib has been crapped back onto the market by ol' Mickey D's, but hey, I have been away. As I am sure you have been bludgeoned over the head with posts via the very vogue and hip "food sensationalist" blog craze concerning the latest fast food abominations, I will keep this short. As always, I feel my meager 2 cents may be interesting to you.
I have tried two McRibs since their reemergence on the market and have been thoroughly disappointed with the both. I get McDonald's whole "making stuff more like actual food" bit. However, with the McRib, I am looking for something completely artificial. Meat candy if you will.
Back in the day the roll was more cheap hot dog bun-esque, the formed meat thing was a bit smaller, there was more "barbecue sauce" (tangy corn syrup), and the whole deal was somehow smooshier and more delicious. Now the bread is almost real bread like and the rib is suspiciously "real meat" like in texture (that is not to say that I am not under the illusion that an equal amount of meat chemistry has been used to forum the thing, as in the past). Also, I am not sure about this, but I think I remember the onions being in a small diced form back in the day, not slices as they are going with now. You get a real crunch of onion now.
That may be my whole problem with the new sandwich, it is something about the change in texture. My child's palate was delighted by homogenous, soft and squishy foods. I remember doing things like painstakingly picking out all of the onions from takeout Chinese fried rice, I didn't like the crunch. The McRib is all about nostalgia (the only thing that usually entices me to eat fast food these days, that and for science!), and I just don't get the same buzz off the thing as I did as a child.
Bahhhh, give me the McRib of my youth, the nasty miracle of food science that it was.
(The McRib is still better than those nasty, bone-in, rib things that the Burger King was trying to foist on his loyal subjects.)
Much has passed since last we spoke, people of Upstate New York. As the sweet nectar of Four Loco passes from our homeland, Mr. Dave has journeyed back from foreign lands. As it turns out, the Capital Region shall be blessed (or cursed) with my presence for the foreseeable future. I am starting to think that there is some sort of otherworldly connection between myself and this strange land. No matter how far circumstances fling me out upon the world at large (Deus Ex Machina) by some complicated twist of fate, I awash back onto the shores of the mighty Hudson near that lovely space where she meets the storied Mohawk.
Somethings have changed, young Giblet towers above my knee caps now. Mrs. Dave has become quite the career woman. As always, I feel that I must be a miser with my precious time. But never the less, the food and culture of my beloved home has been in the forefront of my mind. So mayhaps, again, I shall begin to share on this humble (and seemingly outdated looking) blog.
Best wishes for a festive holiday.