AlmanacSquare
February 8, 2017

Days Until. . .
Mardi Gras–5
Valentine’s Day–6

The Chemistry Of Food

Today is the birthday of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev, who created the periodic table of elements, seen in every chemistry classroom. I’ve often thought that a periodic table of food would make in interesting kitchen poster. Let’s see. . . Water would be Element 1. Chicken Stock is Element 3, Veal Stock Element 11, Beef Stock Element 19. Salt would be Element 17. Sauvignon Blanc is Element 2, Chardonnay is Element 10, Pinot Noir Element 18. . . Foie Gras is Element 79, Caviar Element 47, Oysters Element 29 (chemists will be chuckling at that one; see if you can guess why). Maybe somebody has done this already. Would somebody please set the periodic table for dinner? Thank you.

Today’s Flavor
Courtbouillon of shrimp and drum @ Toups Meaterie.

Courtbouillon of shrimp and drum with a medium roux.

Today is Statewide Fish Courtbouillon Day. Courtbouillon (the word is pronounced “koo-boo-yon”) is made by poaching fish in a small amount of water seasoned with the holy trinity of onions, bell peppers, and celery, along with fresh tomato, parsley, peppercorns, white wine, lemon, and a few other possible ingredients. The word “courtbouillon” translates from French as “short boiling,” and that’s exactly the process. The fish and the vegetables all give their flavor into what becomes a very sloshy sauce, which you get up with a spoon while you eat the fish with a fork. Made with good fresh fish (redfish is the classic species, but it’s also good with other flaky white fish) and a deft hand, it’s one of those wonderful rarities: a really delicious dish that’s also very light in every sense of the word.

Annals Of Sweetness

Sugar beets are a greater source of sweetener than most people know. The process for making sugar from those roots was created by a German scientist named Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, who was born today in 1795.

Edible Dictionary

oxtail, n.–This is literally the tail of a cow. It has a bone in the center at the top end, but this tapers off to a cartilaginous appendage as it heads to the rear. It’s surrounded by a layer of meat which gets progressively thinner. As a muscle, its only job is to wag the tail. So it’s reasonably tender and has a very good flavor. The great use for oxtails is in making beef stock for soup. The cartilage gives up a lot of gelatin, which lends a marvelous mouthfeel to a broth. (There’s no better beginning for a French onion soup.) The meat can be pulled apart into strings and bundled together for a nice presentation. In the store, oxtails are usually cut into inch-thick (actually, inch-long) segments.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When you’re making simple syrup or even more concentrated sugar solutions, brush any grains of sugar that stick to the side of the pan into the water. If you don’t, granulation may begin and you’ll have to start over.

Deft Dining Rule #217:

Any restaurant brave enough to still serve loose sugar from bowls is worth your special attention.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton is a rural crossroads in the northeast corner of Arkansas, 112 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee. The rolling land is about equally divided between farm acreage and woods. Two branches of Cypress Creek drain the land as they head towards the Mississippi. The nearest source of eatin’ to Eaton is the Sportsman’s Grill, three miles away in Lynn. This is another in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer entries beginning with “Eat.”

Annals Of Campfire Cooking

Today in 1910 was the founding date of the Boy Scouts of America. Nothing in my life was more rewarding than my participation in Scouting with my son for ten years. We’re both out of it now, but our lives are much richer as a result of that experience. From it we both know how to cook trout meuniere and blackened lemonfish in the middle of nowhere!

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Meingold, who lived in the ninth century in Belgium. He was of noble blood from the Belgian city Liege. He is one of many patron saints of bakers.

Food Namesakes

Today is the birthday (1925) of the great comedic actor Jack Lemmon, who was in one of the great food scenes in the history of cinema. As Felix in The Odd Couple, he corrected Oscar (Walter Matthau) about the bowl of pasta on the kitchen table. “That’s not spaghetti, it’s linguine!” he said. Oscar picked it up and threw it against the wall, red sauce and all. “Now it’s garbage!” Not only that, but two of his movies have food titles: The Days Of Wine And Roses and The Fortune Cookie. . . Another actor, Welshman Stanley Baker, was born today in 1927. . . Paul Wheatbread, who was a member of the Union Gap with Gary Puckett, was born today in 1946. . . John Evert Morel, a Dutch artist, was born today in 1777. . . Big-league pitcher Aaron Cook was born today in 1979.

Words To Eat By

“I saw a cavalry captain buy vegetable soup on horseback. He carried the whole mess home in his helmet.”–Aristophanes, classic Greek dramatist.

Words To Drink By

“Marriage isn’t a word. . . it’s a sentence.”–Elbert “King” Vidor, Hollywood movie director.