Two of my obsessions meet: coffee and higher education. Remember those Starbucks cups that have the Concerned Women of America all worked up? They're not the only ones. Baylor University has now banned the cups bearing the Armistead Maupin quote (which oh-so-controversially advises gays to just be who they are) from campus. BU has no comment on the cups' removal.
I understand that Baylor is affiliated with a conservative religious denomination, and takes its mission of Christian higher education very seriously. But by essentially censoring something as harmless as a quotation on a paper cup, the institution demeans the commitment of its community to their own values. For a place like Baylor to perceive enough of a threat to Christian values in such a trivial thing seems ludicrously paternalistic. Shouldn't BU be above even noticing such a thing? As if a paper cup is a threat to the inculcation of values...
(Link via DuVernois.)
In the midst of all the dire and horrifying news of the week, it's reassuring to know that the Concerned Women for America can still get their undies in a bunch over something trivial. The Seattle Times reports that the CWA's latest crusade is against Starbucks, which has the effrontery to feature a quotation from gay author Armistead Maupin on coffee cups. Maupin's quotation is one of many featured on the cups, which Starbucks intends to serve as conversation-starters among coffeeshop patrons (or some such hogwash).
The CWA is kindly asking Starbucks to stop being liberal, already, so as not to alienate conservative caffeine addicts everywhere. As for Starbucks, they claim not to be of any particular political persuasion, even though Buyblue.org gives them a 100% "dark blue" rating for their executives' political contributions.
Even if it weren't for that, Starbucks's spokesperson gives them away in the article, saying, "Embracing diversity and treating people with dignity is one of the guiding principles of our corporation." Aha! The D-word! A sure sign of liberal sympathies.
Well, if the CWA wants to encourage conservatives to avoid a tasty, incredibly healthy beverage like coffee, I guess that's their business.
This is yet another America's Test Kitchen recipe, and it's rapidly become a favorite at our house. Unlike many restaurant jambalayas, this one is not at all soupy. Instead, it's a nice melange of sausage, chicken, shrimp, and deeply flavored rice. The combination of meat, shrimp, aromatic vegetables, tomatoes, chicken stock, clam juice, fresh herbs, and (of course) cayenne pepper makes a dish in which, miraculously, the many very strong flavors don't overpower the more delicate ones. As a lifelong northerner, I have no idea whether this is even remotely authentic (I suspect not), but it's so delicious that I don't care.
We haven't felt the need to change much with this recipe, since it's wonderful prepared exactly as directed, but we have made a few minor alterations. The biggest change we make, because I'm not a fan of pork sausages, is to use chicken Andouille sausage instead of pork. When this recipe was featured on the TV show, a big deal was made out of pork being the necessary foundation for jambalaya. Although I'm sure that's true for tradition and authenticity, we have not been at all disappointed with our results: the chicken Andouille is still very spicy and flavorful, but it lacks the fatty heaviness of pork sausage.
Another small change we've made because we like a little extra kick is to double the amount of cayenne pepper the recipe calls for from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon. This gets the heat level just right for me, though Doc Dregs would probably prefer the dish to be even spicier. The spiciness of the sausage you use, as well as your personal taste, will affect the amount of cayenne. You may have to experiment to find out what you like best.
Another change we made once when we had no clam juice in the house was to substitute an additional cup of chicken broth (really our homemade chicken stock) for the clam juice. The jambalaya was still very good, so feel free to do this if clam juice isn't handy. But it's even better with the clam juice, which makes the whole dish taste more "seafoody," and really brings out the best in the shrimp.
The recipe calls for the aromatics (the "trinity" of onion, celery, and red pepper, plus garlic) to be chopped pretty finely in a food processor. Since we have a food processor, we haven't tried doing this any other way -- but be warned that getting the veggies chopped small enough without an automated chopping thingy of some sort will be a lot of work. Probably still worth it, though!
One nice thing about this recipe is that all of the cooking is done in a single pot, which makes cleanup a bit easier. Be warned that this is not a quick dinner, however: there is lots of prep, and a cooking time of about 40-45 minutes.
Finally, don't skimp on the fresh thyme and parsley. They really do make a difference. The parsely, in particular, as the last ingredient to be added, adds a lovely fresh "green" flavor to the dish. I like to add a bit more than the recipe calls for.
Well, not exactly. But my week and a half in the Black Hills with assorted friends, family, and critters was a welcome break from my usual quotidian concerns. I'm still catching up, though, which is why Shades has been silent. There's more to come soon, but here's something to ponder in the meantime:
"Meat makers may one day sit next to bread makers on the kitchen counter."
So says Jason Matheny, one of the scientists involved in research that could lead to the synthetic production of meat (yes, that's right, meat) for human consumption. Reading this description of their work makes me a little queasy. On the other hand, if their optimistic visions prove true, engineered meat could provide a satisfactory response to a lot of the troubling moral and ethical issues tied up in meat consumption. I bet they'll need some insanely great marketing to sell the stuff, though...
It's been a while since I've posted a recipe, and with the weather (finally) heating up, this seemed like the perfect time to discuss this delicious, cold main dish. I originally saw this recipe several months ago in an issue of Cook's Illustrated. We've made it three or four times, each time varying the recipe slightly.
I've always enjoyed a nice dish of sesame noodles (cold or hot) at an Asian restaurant, but had never even considered trying to make them at home, assuming that getting the sauce right would be more trouble than it was worth. The sauce in this recipe does indeed have a lot of ingredients, but none of them are especially expensive or hard to come by. And it comes together very quickly in a blender or a food processor -- simply pitch all of the ingredients in, and puree.
Prepared exactly as directed, the sauce is delicious and surprisingly complex: the major flavors are of course peanut and sesame, but you can also really taste the soy, garlic, ginger, and brown sugar. It's also very easy to alter the sauce slightly without ruining it. Do you prefer a more peanutty flavor? Just add a little extra peanut butter. Want a spicier sauce? Add more hot sauce. Find the garlic flavor overpowering? Add a little less. The sauce responds extremely well to tweaking.
One other major advantage of this recipe is that you can use either Chinese egg noodles or plain old spaghetti. We've found that spaghetti works surprisingly well in the dish. Just be sure that you cook it nicely al dente, rinse it thoroughly with cold water after it's cooked, and toss it immediately with the sesame oil. The sesame oil, by the way, really enhances the flavor of the dish, besides keeping the noodles from turning into a nasty gluey mass.
The "basic" version of the recipe, linked above, calls for (in addition to the sauce and noodles) shredded chicken, grated carrots, and scallions. We like to slightly increase the amount of carrot, since we really like carrots, and we leave out the scallions, since we are not fans of them. As to the chicken, Cook's recommends cooking it in the broiler, which makes it slightly crispy on the outside while keeping it nice and juicy on the inside. Although we haven't tried it yet, I think this will also work well with shredded grilled chicken breasts (which will solve the problem of having to run the broiler in hot weather). I think it's essential, though, that the chicken be shredded and not sliced or otherwise cut into chunks -- the texture of the shreds really absorbs the sauce, turning the chicken into a fully integrated part of the dish.
Cook's also provides a vegetarian variation of this recipe, which calls for cucumbers and red bell peppers instead of the chicken. Since we love cucumbers and all kinds of peppers, we saw no reason why the dish shouldn't include "all of the above:" chicken, carrots, cucumbers, and peppers. With all of the vegetables as well as the chicken, the dish really stands on its own as an entire meal. We will probably usually make it this way in the future, unless we're planning to serve it to vegetarian friends. Of course, the noodles would also make an excellent side dish -- a great thing to contribute to a potluck picnic.
Finally, there is one last great thing about this recipe: the leftovers can simply be pulled out of the refrigerator and eaten, no reheating required -- ideal for a quick summer lunch.
A New Mexico junior high school student found himself embroiled in a minor misunderstanding involving a large, foil-wrapped object he carried into the school.
But doesn't the question of whether a burrito qualifies as a weapon really depend on what's in it?
For the second installment of Recipe File, I'm going to write about a dish that combines several of my favorite ingredients: chicken, pasta, broccoli, cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes. America's Test Kitchen's Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli, and Sun-dried Tomatoes is a great remedy for the countless similar dishes that drown the tasty components in a heavy, flavorless cream sauce. The sauce actually doesn't contain any cream at all, which makes it a bit lighter than similar dishes, and much more flavorful and complex.
I've made this dish only once so far, so I didn't tamper much with the basic recipe. The only substantial change I made was in the shape of the pasta. The recipe calls for penne, ziti, cavatappi, or campanelle -- none of which I had in the house. So I used mezzi rigatoni, which worked fine, though I think one of the recommended shapes might have held the sauce better.
Dr. Dregs and I found this dish to be quite delicious overall: it had loads of chicken flavor (in a good way), which was nicely complimented by the sharpness of the asiago and sun-dried tomatoes. The quick blanching of the broccoli meant it was perfectly cooked, and still tasted fresh -- not waterlogged or overdone at all. We will certainly make this recipe again, with a few changes:
I'll try to update and report my results when I make this again. Enjoy!
As the keeper of the Dregs guessed it would be, my first recipe post is about that childhood favorite, macaroni and cheese. I have always loved cheese, and macaroni and cheese has been one of my favorite foods since I was a child. Unfortunately, it's frequently very bad -- which combined with its relative unhealthfulness means that it's often not worth eating when it's on offer.
Still, I had occasionally had very good homemade macaroni and cheese, and knew that the recipe I wanted had to be out there somewhere. I began without a recipe, just an understanding of what the components should be: noodles, bechamel (turned into mornay with the addition of cheese), and a nice breadcrumb topping. I tried guessing at the correct proportions of noodles and sauce, but always wound up with not enough sauce for the noodles. So I consulted a couple of recipe books, and found that the proportions I'd been using were not wildly off. Unfortunately, these recipes also resulted in mac and cheese that was too dry and tasteless. And the cheeses in the recipes (usually a combination of cheddar and monterey jack) also seemed to result in a rather bland dish. The basics seemed right, but something was missing.
Then I tried Alton Brown's baked macaroni and cheese recipe, and finally experienced mac and cheese nirvana. The key difference between this recipe and others I've attempted: much less pasta per unit of sauce. This recipe calls for 8 oz. of noodles for a sauce made with 3 cups of milk and 12 oz. of cheese, while most of the other recipes I've tried call for a full pound of noodles for a sauce made with 4-5 cups of milk and 16 oz. of cheese. So this mac and cheese turns out much more creamy, flavorful, and delicious than any of the others I've tried. I've made this dish four or five times now, and have fine-tuned it a little for my own tastes:
This clearly isn't health food, but I think I've finally hit on a macaroni and cheese that tastes good enough to be worth its fat and calories. Enjoy.
Dr. Dregs and I came to the unpleasant realization a couple of months ago that we were spending far, far too much money eating out -- and what's worse, we weren't even eating particularly well. We had all of the usual excuses: we were too tired to cook after working all day; we didn't have time; we couldn't agree on what to eat. We knew we needed to change our ways, but once you're out of the habit of cooking for yourself, it's hard to re-establish it. We thought about what we could do to make eating at home more appealing. A little thought brought us to the conclusion that we didn't eat at home because we didn't want to eat at home. Why didn't we want to eat at home? We were in a major "food rut" as far as our usual home dining choices were concerned. The solution (we hoped): branch out and try some new recipes.
Both of us have always liked to cook, and I had devoted quite a bit of time and effort to becoming a competent baker. But baked goods alone obviously weren't going to be the answer. We weren't unwilling to cook, and I was very interested in becoming a better cook, but what we needed was some inspiration.
We turned to cookbooks, of course -- relying primarily on a few old standbys: The Joy of Cooking (from whence I learned many of my baking skills, as well as basics like how to roast a chicken), Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking(which once upon a time made me brave enough to attempt making pasta by hand), and Pam Anderson's How to Cook Without a Book (a great primer on many basic techniques despite its limitations). But we needed more than collections of recipes to really inspire us.
So (I am almost ashamed to admit) we turned to TV. Having long been fans of Iron Chef, we had seen bits and pieces of other shows on Food Network, but had rejected them as boring, annoying, and/or useless. Then we discovered Good Eats. For those of you living under the same culinary rock as we used to, "Good Eats" is an eminently practical cooking show that also manages to be entertaining. The host, Alton Brown, is a major geek (not just when it comes to food), and sometimes the dork factor of the show is almost unbearably high. But most of the time, the show provides clear demonstrations of useful techniques, presents good recipes, and explains the science behind cooking in an entertaining way. We also started watching America's Test Kitchen on PBS. This show is even dorkier than "Good Eats," but similarly presents excellent, tasty (and exhaustively tested) recipes along with the necessary techniques to make them. With TiVo season passes for both shows, we were in business, and finally inspired enough to start cooking more for ourselves.
So that's my lengthy introduction to what I intend to turn into an ongoing series of posts about food. Basically, these will be reviews of specific recipes we've tried, along with ways we have improved (or intend to try improving) them. When the recipes are available online, I will link to them. Bon appetit.