The Master's Tome

The little lady purchased Complete Techniques by Jacques Pepin for me and I couldn't be happier. The book is comprehensive to say the least with over 800 pages and over 1000 techniques. It covers everything from folding napkins to the basic of making a variety of stocks to decorative techniques with fruits and vegetables to much more advanced techniques.

I have been lamenting to my wife my need for focus on techniques overs recipes for a long time. It's not as technical as On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of Kitchen which goes in depth into the molecular reactions and history of foods and ingredients. On Food and Cooking is, by the way, fascinating and does provide a lot of the "why's" behind gastronomy. But Pepin is thorough and writes at my level as a beginning cook. He provides plenty of pictures at most steps and has dishes and food that seem both delicious and fun to make.

Having the book for only a couple of days I have already tried my hand at making a variety of different croutons (even a bread basket) and made some potato balls. Using a melon baller to get almost perfect balls of potato that are blanched then sautéed to give them a little crunch was both fun and tasty. It's not the most efficient use of the potatoes but the presentation of it certainly makes up for the waste.

I hate that as a forty year old man I still find myself giggling when I say potato balls out loud. Of course my wife and I have to go through the whole "Schweaty Balls" (see below) routine half a dozen times. I mean seriously, at what point to I stop acting like a high shool freshman? Am I still going to be giggling every time someone says their toasted nuts are a little salty when I'm sixty-five?

Next couple of items up on the agenda include cucumber turtles, apple swans, some cauliflower soup maybe. These all being the side dishes I have either spaghetti or Chicken Unitarian (from Allrecipes.com) on the agenda for dinner tonight. Spaghetti seems so "Chef Boyardee" compared to the stuff I have been making recently. But, alas, I have some ground turkey that needs to be consumed soon before it goes bad. I might run through Allrecipes though and see if there is something I can do with it.

Let's talk Bacon. I bought Hormel "Thick Sliced" bacon the other day and I put the quotes around "Thick Sliced" because while it is sliced it is hardly "thick". Before this I had bought the Oscar Meyer thick cut bacon and it was excellent. The Hormel bacon (while maybe thicker than standard bacon) was both very thin and very fatty (you know the white bits that don't fry up well). I think I'll stick with the Oscar Meyer next time. Stick with your sausage, Hormel.

Tee hee, I said "sausage".

Aw, dang it. There I go again.

My question to the interwebs this week is what type of tomatoes have the most flavor? Last week I had made a Caprese salad and it was good. But not as good as I remember them. I blame the tomatoes. The tomatoes (regular medium tomatoes from the grocery store) didn't have the real twang I was looking for. Yesterday I bought "vine ripe" tomatoes so I could try again. I don't know if they are going to taste any better or if "vine ripe" is just grocery store talk for "hey, let's throw on the vine ripe label so we can charge an extra dollar per pound."

So what did I learn this week?

  • Don't try making croutons with bread unless it is good and stale. 
  • Oscar Mayer thick sliced bacon is superior to Hormel "barely an itsy bit thicker than regular bacon thick cut bacon"
  • Pepin knows how to write educational cookbooks
  • Potato balls look great but taste pretty much the same as boiled potatoes
  • I have the maturity level of a twelve year old boy (who is really immature)

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