Showing posts from April, 2007

The "other" electric cooktop

My first real foray into cooking was on an electric stove. Not the sleek, stealthy modern variety with a black glass surface, but rather a relic of the late 70s featuring those iconic glowing orange coils. The combination of its car-cigarette-lighter technology and analog clock (which continues to keep good time) seems so frank and honest, how could I not love this thing? Those twisting spirals looking not unlike those on a vinyl LP of the same era harkening back to a simpler time when both cooking and music reproduction were performed with flat, spiral technology.

As anyone who has cooked on both gas and electric can tell you, the biggest feature missing from those vertigo-inducing coils is immediacy. They can take a minute or so (literally) to heat up and must then, in turn, heat up the pan. In short, the time from "inspiration" to "a pan hot enough to do anything with" is enough to kill the moment.

Flame from a gas stove comes out around 2500 degrees (which, acc…

Still, Sparkling, or Tap?

Chez Panise stopped serving bottled water.

It's good to find validation for a protest I arrived at on my own. I don't do well keeping up with the protests of others.

The origins of that protest were formed based on my visit to Fiji where they serve - you guessed it - Fiji water. (Well, to the tourists anyway...) Some enterprising person thought, "Hey... this is a tropical paradise... Why don't we bottle water from here and ship it to people." Fittingly, that person was not Fijian.

I can't help remembering the staggering amount of water I had flown over to get to Fiji. The plane flew for something like 12 hours, at 600 miles an hour, and all but the first 4 minutes and last 3 minutes were water. Water surrounds Fiji and, yet, they can't drink it.

Fiji water gets here somehow. A pipeline is too long (though apparently more cost-effective than oil), airfreight is way too heavy, railroads... well, the rails would rust. Which leaves a ship. Ships run on oil, but a…

No subtitute for experience

While adhering to the rule, "the more you learn, the less you know", I'd like to think I am an accomplished (if sporadic, impulsive, and disorganized) cook. I can combine ingredients well enough to achieve the desired flavors and textures most of the time. Yet, there's always more to learn.

A few years ago, a... let's call her a friend... was making a lemon meringue pie. In December. Try as she might, she just couldn't get the meringue to "cook". It remained steadfastly soft and sticky.While I lack the stringent measuring discipline required of a pastry chef, I thought I'd mosey over and see if I could help the little lady with the problem.

I suggested cooking the meringue for a little longer and even raised the temperature a bit to coax the moisture out of the meringue. Nothing worked.

As this pie was destined for a family gathering - her mother included - she was crushed that it wasn't working. She prepared it as well as she could and, as her…

"American" Cheese

I stood at a bagel counter this morning eyeing the options available, and decided on an egg, sausage, and cheese bagel sandwich. The egg would be of the chicken variety, the sausage of the breakfast variety (Jimmy Dean or equivalent), which left the options for cheese. Rather than recite them through a thick accent and perhaps in an effort to get things done while I decided, the purveyor pointed to a list of the available cheeses. Cheddar is pretty straightforward, Pepper Jack is an odd combination but, given the fact that I've lived in a trailer park, not out of my realm of enjoyment (I normally don't like "things" mixed with cheese, with the glorious exception of black truffle shavings), which left two other categories for consideration.

The first has made me a bit batty for a while now; "Swiss" cheese. This is about as insulting to the Swiss as "American Barbecue" is to Americans or "French Wine" to the French. It implies that the incr…