Friday, January 10, 2020
Today is the birthday (1949) of George Foreman, the former heavyweight boxing champ who named all his sons after himself. He started a new career of devising and selling countertop grills. It's a brilliant product: it seems like something that would be worth having in your kitchen, but really it's One Appliance Too Many. Its primary merit is that it grills both sides of something at the same time. They need something like that at McDonald's, but I can't say I've ever wished I could do that. Still, lots of people like one or more of the many Foreman grills.
The Physiology Of Taste
Neils Stensen, born today in 1683 (and also known as Nicolaus Steno), discovered Stensen's duct, which moves saliva from the gland that makes it to the mouth. We don't think of saliva too much (with good reason), but it plays a more important role in eating than most people know. Aside from making it easier to swallow food, it actually begins the digestion process. If you put a cracker in your mouth, chew it up, but don't swallow it, you can taste the starches begin to turn to sugars, by the action of enzymes in saliva.
duxelles [doox-ELL], n., French.--A mixture of finely chopped mushrooms and a smaller amount of chopped onions or shallots, cooked in a bit of butter until softened. It comes out of the pan in a mass, and is most often used as a stuffing for a wide range of foods, from chicken to seafood. One of its most celebrated jobs is to surround the tenderloin of beef before the pastry is wrapped around it in the preparation of beef Wellington. The word always has the "s" at the end, even though it's most often used in the singular, as in "make a duxelles."
The Web rumor is that today is National Bittersweet Chocolate Day. Bittersweet chocolate is really more for cooking than for eating, although some like it. It's less sweet than semi-sweet. Great for making chocolate mousse, or for chocolate sauce to go over something that's already very sweet.
Here in New Orleans, you are encouraged to celebrate Fancy Creole Chicken Day today. Three dishes, all created in the early 1900s, enhance a simple roasted chicken to the level of Haute Creole cuisine, so that the big-deal restaurants can serve them and leave their customers happy. The oldest of the three is chicken bonne femme--"good woman's" chicken. It's covered with potatoes, garlic, parsley, and sometimes a few other savory bits. The famous one these days is the one at Tujague's, where it's the best dish in the house. Antoine's also cooks it well, although it's not on the menu at the moment. (If you call ahead, they'll make it.) Chicken Clemenceau, named for the premier of France during World War I, is covered with a similar concoction that also includes mushrooms and peas. Galatoire's makes the definitive version. Chicken Pontalba--the best of all, and one of my favorite dishes--covers the chicken with fried potato cubes, grilled ham, green onions, and bearnaise sauce. Chef Paul Blange, the first chef at Brennan's, created the dish in the 1940s. The Palace Cafe makes the killer Pontalba, and the sauce without the chicken is a great side dish at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse. All of these are wonderful Creole classics, and not all that hard to make at home. The most time-consuming part is cooking the chicken.
Grill is a neighborhood on the south side of Reading, Pennsylvania (which I'm sure you know is pronounced "redding"). The aerial view shows it to be a subdivision with a number of above-ground swimming pools and what looks to me to be outdoor grills. How many George Foreman units are in the town cannot be determined.
Annals Of Tea
Today in 1839, tea from India arrived in markets in London and the rest of England. It was much less expensive than the tea from China--enough so that a critical mass of people were able to afford to drink tea routinely It was the beginning of the overwhelming popularity that tea still has in Britain, where they like the stuff so much that they even drink it on hot weather. They say it cools them off.
Annals Of Inedible Mushrooms
Today is the birthday (1911) of Norman Heatley, who develop effective methods of extracting penicillin from bread mold. Its healing ability had already been discovered, but getting it out of the mold was challenging until Heatley figured out how to grow it in a usable form. He used kitchen equipment: cookie tins, pie pans, butter churns, and roasting pans. His work allowed enough penicillin to treat sick and wounded soldiers in World War II, especially on and after D-Day.
Wallace Berry, composer and author of books on music theory, was born today in 1928. . . Chandra Cheesborough, born today in 1959, was a gold-medal Olympic runner in 1984. . . The late British broadcaster Alistair Cooke KBE began the job that would make him most famous today in 1971, as host of Masterpiece Theatre.
Words To Eat By
"Today the biggest decisions I make aren't related to the heavyweight title. They are whether I visit McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, or Jack-in-the-Box."--George Foreman, whose birthday it is today.
"Chicken may be eaten constantly without becoming nauseating."--Andre Simon.