food


We ran out of potato chips a few minutes ago and Rachel, now seven months pregnant, needed some more. As I am in no position to argue with pica* cravings, I leapt into action.

If you know me at all, you know I’m quite handy around the kitchen– sort of a Macgyver meets Bobby Flay. First, I sliced up some fresh potatoes (from a nearby supermercado– they’re always open.) Then I poured 1/2″ of canola oil into a pot on the stove set to medium-high heat. Finally, I tossed in the paper-thin slices of potatoes. Three minutes in the oil, then a dash of salt and ten minutes on the cooling rack and… WHAMMO– homemade potato chips, RBDN-style.

And yes, our house now smells like McDonalds…

* I know that pica refers to non-food cravings– potato chips are in what food group again?

Let me tell you something about cooks, bakers, chefs and the like; the good ones are deified, as if they possess magical, nay supernatural, powers.

Aunt Margerie makes the most heavenly pies!
Sister Mitchell really knows how to make a great mint brownie.
Uncle Paul bakes awesome chili!

But why do we attribute such majesty and voodoo to those who produce eatable goodness?

One of the problems is with recipes. They are inaccurate and fundamentally flawed. They don’t tell the whole story.

For one, they usually measure with volume, and not mass, which are two very different things.

My friends wife (who runs a site devoted to chocolate chip cookies) says the difference between a GREAT cookie and a mediocre one is in the “heaviness” of the scoop of flour. A heavy 1 cup contains much more flour than a light handed one.

So, all those who have tons of recipe books, now you know why you still can’t make good food.

And then we have ovens, which are notorious for cooking unevenly because of hot spots and for not telling the correct temperature. The point is, we aren’t using science. And to make things worse, if you’ve tried a recipe and failed, you’re likely to think that you just don’t have the cooking equivalent of a green thumb.

Rubbish. I know this is going to be hard to take, but here’s the truth: cooking isn’t art– it’s science.

It’s time for more accuracy in cooking. It’s time for precision and standards in the kitchen.

Fortunately, there are a number of individuals and groups who have noticed this problem and who are attempting to remedy it:

I’ve even registered a domain “nerdscancook.com” in anticipation of more focus on the culinary sciences by the staff here at RBDN.

Yesterday afternoon my brother called:
What are you doing for Thanksgiving,” he inquired.
I’m going to cook a turkey,” I replied.
No you’re not. It takes 3 days to thaw a turkey; if you haven’t bought it by now it’s too late,” he claimed.
We’ll see,” I challenged.

That night I went to Kohlers and purchased the following:

  1. 11lb turkey
  2. meat thermometer
  3. butter
  4. O’Douls non-alcoholic beer
  5. onion
  6. paprika
  7. sea salt
  8. garlic
  9. coriander
  10. cumin
  11. black pepper
  12. canola oil

Then, following the instructions on these three sites, I thawed the turkey in hot water, created a spice rub, filled a pan with near-beer, put butter in the turkey, spiced it up and placed it in the oven at 325 for 3 1/2 hours. Then… TAH DAH! Perfect turkey just in time for Thanksgiving.

See? No magic needed.

Had I been a more thorough Googler, I would have seen this article which shows how you can cook a thanksgiving turkey in fifteen minutes.

So, here’s to greater science in cooking. No more pinches of this and dashes of that. I want grams. Tell me what elevation you’re at and what the pressure and relative humidity are. Use digital laser thermometers to calibrate your stove and digital scales to measure weight. See? Nerds CAN Cook.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Of course it doesn’t help that it’s horribly cold and pitch black outside…

junk_food_tn.jpg

Kneaders. La Gourmandise Bakery. The Cobblestone Cafe. All these restaurants are for women only. Sure, they don’t have signs that say, “no men allowed”, but as a guy, you can feel the collective weight of all the disapproving lady glances as you enter. “How dare a man invade our pastel-colored safe houses”, they seem to be saying. “Quick, hide the artesian breads”, they silently yell.

In a society brimming with health-conscious people, I have no idea how these carbohydrate laden bakery-cafes stay open. Okay, I do know. The food tastes great and, believe it or not, all women secretly crave bread all the time. It’s true. It’s one of the three foods women can’t get enough of (chocolate and ice cream round out the list.)

And then there is this latest addition to the simply delectable, women-only establishments, its name even more girly than the others, “Flour Girls & Dough Boys.” It opened in American Fork earlier this year and its popularity has spread like a good case of Chicken Pox. It so popular, that if you go during the lunch rush, be prepared to get takeout (and still wait 45 minutes.)

They have breads and cookies and soups and sandwiches, just like you would expect. What they don’t have is a lot of room to sit or order. The whole public area is only slightly bigger than my Grampa’s camper.

Owner Carol Coppins clearly sold Satan her soul (and the souls of her children) in return for some fantastic cookie recipes. Was it worth it? I’ll let you be the judge. Know this, the mint brownies are to die for. Seriously, I knocked off this older gentleman for one.

Why so good? Besides said agreement with Ol’ Scratch, they get their flour fresh from Lehi Roller Mills, they use real butter and pure vanilla. Goodness in, goodness out. Go visit them. Tell Carol I sentcha.

Flour Girls & Dough Boys
35 North Barrett Avenue
American Fork UT 84003
801.763.9232

TIP: Be warned! If you ask for a pain au chocolate they will peer at you confusedly and then give you a Danish.

rum.jpgUPDATE: it’s been five minutes and I’ve already been contacted three times by concerned parties about the nature of this blog post. No, I’m not an alcoholic. It’s my understanding that lighting the rum on fire in a boiling sauce is enough to cook out the alcohol.

A lot of you know that I’ve taken up cooking lately. Some day I’ll go to chef school. Until then, I’ll continue to dabble. I’ve had several requests for some of my favorite alcohol-flavored dishes. Here’s one that’s as fun to make as it is good to eat. Plus, you get to go to the State Liquor store, which is exciting if you’re a teetotaler like myself.

At the Liquor store, pick up a small bottle of Rum. It should cost less than 7 dollars. There are lots of types of Rum: Light, Dark and Flavored. For this dessert, you’ll need dark rum. Dark rum is honey colored. I prefer Bacardi Anejo, which is a bit more expensive than others, but provides a great taste. Any dark rum should do, however.

  • Turn heat to medium on a large sauce pan
  • Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a tablespoon or so of vanilla extract, and a 1/4 of a stick of butter
  • Wait until the sugar and butter melt
  • Add in a teaspoon or two of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of salt
  • Stir it all together
  • Peel and cut in half bananas before slicing them down the middle
  • Lay the banana slabs into the liquid, spooning the sauce over the bananas to coat them
  • Cook for a few minutes, maybe 5 or so, until the bananas soften. The sauce will begin to boil
  • Add 1/2 cup of dark Bacardi rum
  • Use a match to light the rum on fire
  • The rum will burn with a nice flame for 10-15 seconds (this is the cool part, maybe turn the lights down low)
  • Spoon some more of the sauce over the bananas
  • Prepare bowls of vanilla ice cream, and add the bananas with sauce (this is called “plating”, so be artistic!)

Enjoy!

(Banana Flambe is also sometimes called Banana Foster)

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