Monday, 30 March 2009

Of breasts and thighs

Aren't I naughty ;)?

I'm talking poultry today, because I had a revelation over the weekend.

The chicken breast: much maligned by foodies, the dieter's cut when boneless and skinless, the safe order in restaurants, etc.
The chicken thigh: much praised by foodies, the dieter's nightmare no matter what, the rarely seen option in restaurants unless you just see 'chicken' listed at your local cheap places.

I love chicken. But I always thought I loved the breasts way more than the thighs. Sure, they were slightly dry plain, but they were also predictably acceptable tasting steady protein sources whether you were at a Chinese, Indian, French, or Aghani restaurant. And when one is trying to CRON and have some semblance of a social life, being familiar with a good protein source/relatively low calorie item is a real plus.

And chicken breasts are not bad. Roast chicken breast will never be derided from this corner. But I fear my affections have indeed shifted to the dark side.

Now, to be fair to the thigh, I never did give it a chance before. The few times I cooked it when I was younger, I tried to cook it like a chicken breast and it just seemed too fatty and weirdly gristly. And while I love pork fat on a nice pork chop, I've never warmed to chicken fat on the bone.

But lately, I've come to appreciate the thigh. It's always cheaper than the breast, and has a deeper, more nuanced flavour. It is more reliably juicy. And calorie wise, the difference is not that significant at all (1.7 cal/g vs. 1.8 cal/g).

The trick with cooking a thigh at home, to my mind, is to realize you can be a little rougher with it. Breasts require attention so that they don't dry out. Thighs need less TLC and can still be delicious. I really like to braise skinless or skin on chicken thighs (depending on my audience) with canned tomatoes and big hunks of onion on the stove in a Dutch oven for 45 min-1 hour.

I keep trying to convince my friends to give the thigh a chance, but I think the bias against dark meat runs deep. On the other hand, why should I encourage them when their rejection just means there'll be more for me :)?

Friday, 27 March 2009

Pondering dairy

I am not anti-dairy. I know many Paleo eaters who are. Although I was never a milk drinker, I am deeply attached to cheese and cream, and I consume them in relatively small amounts (an ounce of cheese a day, for example) so I figure they're not a big deal.

Previously, I was a fiend for yogurt, particularly greek yogurt (Fage loyalist here) and goat milk yogurt. Now, I have a tendency to play tastes out. I will get obsessive about something for a while, eat it far too often, and not want to see it again for many moons. Many innocent foodstuffs have fallen victim to my unfortunate habit (pickles, canned pumpkin in everything, shrimp cocktail) but I never thought my beloved yogurt would be one.

And yet I notice for the past two weeks, other than cheese, I have not been eating it, nor have I been craving it. This is kind of shocking for me because I thought I could NEVER give up yogurt. It was my dessert/breakfast go to protein filled comfort food. Smooth, thick, creamy, it lasted far long than many of my obsessions did.

But, to my shock, I find I can live without it. My tastes have been swinging more savoury than sweet of late, and I've been making a concerted, and I'm proud to say, successful, effort to give up artifical sweeteners--when I would have greek yogurt, I would always put in a little Splenda. Lately, my dessert of choice has been dates and almonds, or salami, cheese, and other nuts like pistachios and cashews.

In the absence of major dairy intake for the first time in a long time, I have also been able to make some observations. For me personally, dairy is not a negative feature in my diet. Without it I have not lost weight, my skin as not become any clearer, I have not felt any better (of course, I typically feel pretty good).

So I wonder whether I will reintroduce it or not at some point. I know from a Paleo perspective, yogurt is not a great choice, and should be a once in a while thing. And now that I've broken my addiction, perhaps it's better to avoid it. I don't know. But it's something to think about.

And now I think I'll go have some Gouda.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

I'm keeping my salt

This morning at the doctor's office (annual physical, nothing exciting going on) we had this conversation:

Dr: Does low blood pressure run in your family?
Me: Yes, why?
Dr: Because yours is LOW. (95/60 for those who are curious)

I take this as a sign from some higher deity that I can just keep on sprinkling my sea salt on things. 'Cause I love me my salt. I even like salt in sweet things. I find it heightens the sweetness. I'm a HUGE fan of salt chocolate. Lake Champlain Co. makes this AMAZING chocolate bar with sea salt and almonds. SO has been sent to the store more than once to fetch me one of those little buggers (they only seem to carry them in 35g portions, which I guess is good. Sigh.) when I've been struck by a craving. My salt cravings are SO well known that my stepfather, fabulous guy that he is, got me a salt sampler of all these different fancy salts for Christmas. One of my favourite snacks, discovered when I lived in France, is raw radishes with a smear of butter and a sprinkling of salt. Try them, they're the fastest tastiest appetizer.

I know there are divided opinions on salt, and to each his/her own. For me, it's just an essential element of my cooking and eating. I have tried to eliminate it, and the elimination makes me so unhappy it's just not worth it. It's all about balance, right :)?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Ode to Pork Butt

Lovely, lovely pork butt
at $3.89 a pound
All marbled and sexy in that glass case

How can I resist you?
Cheap, porky fatty goodness
I had to take you home with me

But what to do with you, all raw and tough and full of cartilage...
I contemplated the best way to bring out
the tenderness I know you have in you

I gently coated you in Worchestershire
Left you to sit for 30 minutes
And then I covered you and set you in the oven at 200F to keep you warm

And I'll bet you thought I forgot about you
Because I left you in there
For 7 hours while I ran errands on a Sunday

You should have known I would never do that to you!
You had a long time to soften up in that nice warm oven
And hot fat bath that pooled around you

I gently lifted you out, freed you from that bone
Shredded you and tossed some Sriracha on you, just to wake you up a bit
And you, you were delicious.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Blog? What blog? Oh, THAT blog

So, moving to CA and settling in is in fact more intense than I thought. But I think we're through the worst of it, and on that note I will bring you my latest favourite recipe, along with my hope that all has been well with all of you :)

Slow Roasted Sirloin Tip
Now, I have discussed my fondness for buying big honking slabs of meat and cooking them off. It's cheaper, easy (yay leftovers), and less time consuming than preparing little bits every night. Sirloin tip roast is relatively inexpensive, mainly because it's relatively lean--which means you can throw a crazy rich sauce on to get your fat--and can dry out easily if you don't know what you're doing. Here's what you need/do:
1) One 3-4lb sirloin tip roast (or eye of round, or any other lean roast)
2) Something yummy to rub on it, I did butter and oregano, but you can do what ever you want

1) Preheat the oven to 500F. This is very important, give your oven a good 20 minutes to get there.
2) Put the roast in a roasting pan, give it a good rub down with your seasonings.
3) Throw it in the oven and let it roast 7min/lb. So for a three pound roast, 21 min.
4) Turn off the oven. Let the roast sit in the oven for 2.5 hours.
That's it. Take the roast out and you are good to go. I let it rest, carve it into slices, and eat it over the course of a few days. To heat up the slices, get a frying pan nice and hot and sear the outsides. Yummy, I tell you.

As for sauces, go wild :) Bearnaise, gravy from the roast drippings, slather it with butter...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Change up

My wonderful foodie has been a bit preoccupied, so I thought I would take a moment to brief you on our happenings. We have been going out to eat at least twice a week, but have made quite a run of the grocery scene here in SF. Our key local favorite is the Berkeley Bowl, suplimented by our staple place for random items, Trader Joes.

The highlight of eating over the last three weeks has been Pork Butt. With this, I will leave it to my love to tell you more about receipes and variations there of . . .