Bound and Determined

Among all the news articles today about New Year’s resolutions is a great one from Sarah Grey at Serious Eats. One of her suggestions for 2015: master a new cooking technique.

“Whether you choose to learn baking bread, homebrewing beer, a butchery method (like breaking down chicken or carving a whole fish), a preservation technique (like smoking meats, canning fruit, or pickling vegetables), or a flashy skill like stretching pizza dough or making noodles Lanzhou-style, constant practice will allow you to understand the nuances. If the dough’s too sticky or the fish isn’t fresh, you’ll know it right away. You’ll get the little things right.”

Bake and Switch

When preparing baked goods, we should try using olive oil instead of butter, says Sheela Prakash:

“Replacing butter with olive oil in cakes, cookies, and pie crust yields unexpected results. It lends a fruity, rich aroma to whatever it’s baked into. It also makes for an even moister finished product. The olive oil shines through, especially when used in simple desserts, giving them a slightly savory quality.”

When It Rains It Pours

Hugh Merwin:

“A 50-foot brick wall collapsed this afternoon at a Morton Salt processing plant in West Town, Chicago, leading to a deluge of the company’s signature product flowing into the neighboring car dealership. DNAinfo reporter Paul Biasco tweeted that employees ‘ran when they started seeing bricks fall.’ No one was hurt in the incident, but 11 Acuras, it seems, have been irreparably damaged as a result of their sodium intake.”

“It’s Lonely at the Top”

As Rich Duprey reports, when compared with the work environments at other fast food restaurants, In-N-Out Burger is an outlier:

“Fast-food restaurants are not generally viewed as among the best places to work. They’re chaotic, stressful, and as recent labor protests would suggest, they don’t pay top-dollar wages.

“So what’s In-N-Out Burger doing on Glassdoor’s 2015 list of 50 Best Places to Work? For the second time in seven years, this relatively small, regional chain centered in and around California has ranked among the top 10 U.S. employers with more than 1,000 employees.

“That means the burger joint was viewed as a better place to work than Facebook, Apple, Nike, and perennial favorite Costco.”

Things Past

Rebecca Pellman asks chefs to share their special kitchen memories and recalls her own grandmother’s kitchen:

“Despite tales and vague recollections of epic marinara sauces, meals that likely started my lifelong love affair with meatballs, and an almond cake that for some reason I distinctly remember as being blue, it’s chocolate pudding. My grandmother used to make it for us when we’d visit her, leaving it in the refrigerator when she went to work. By the time her gold Duster (yep, it had a plastic Jesus glued to the dashboard, too), pulled into the driveway hours later, there wouldn’t be much left.”

Keeping It Local

Residents of Plains, Kansas, are trying to establish a local grocery store with fresh food:

“‘A grocery store is the heart of the town,’ said Jeanne Roberts, who is leading the effort to open a new shop. ‘In small towns, it’s the social gathering place. And when you don’t have that social gathering place and you’re going outside, then you don’t feel connected.'”

Nation of Whiners?

Tamar Haspel reflects on a study by North Carolina State University researchers about the sad state of home cooking, and wonders whether the problem lies with the eaters, not the cooks:

“In all of the meals they watched, the researchers wrote, ‘we rarely observed a meal in which at least one family member didn’t complain about the food.’ And that’s when there’s an observer in the room! If you’re one of those fortunate cooks who takes pleasure in putting dinner on the table for your family every day, ask yourself how long you would last if someone complained about the food at almost every meal. Me, I’d throw in the kitchen towel before the week was out.”

“Poised to Become the Next Kale”

Cauliflower is the food to watch in 2015, reports Nicole Lyn Pesce:

“The lush, cruciferous broccoli cousin is going to be the 2015 produce king — but unlike the bitter green, cauliflower is versatile enough to be used everywhere: grilled like a T-bone or battered like a chicken-fried steak, served au gratin as a mashed potato substitute, and even on crushed into gluten-free pizza crust.

“‘Cauliflower is a blank canvas that takes on any flavor or personality,’ raves celebrity chef Rachael Ray, who cooked whole roasted cauliflower with garlic ricotta cream sauce on Thanksgiving.”

Pot, Meet Kettle

Chefs are beginning to devise dishes using a novel ingredient: cannabis.

“In Colorado, which has issued more than 160 edible marijuana licenses, skilled line cooks are leaving respected restaurants to take more lucrative jobs infusing cannabis into food and drinks. In Washington, one of four states that allow recreational marijuana sales, a large cannabis bakery dedicated to affluent customers with good palates will soon open in Seattle.

“Major New York publishing houses and noted cookbook authors are pondering marijuana projects, and chefs on both coasts and in food-forward countries like Denmark have been staging underground meals with modern twists like compressed watermelon, smoked cheese and marijuana-oil vinaigrette.”