Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Some Foody Thoughts

Clam fritters are still giving me quite a bit of trouble. For my most recent trial I forgot to let them sit and dry out in the paper towel like I said, but I did find out that they can have quite a bit of moisture squeezed out of them while within the paper towel. I gave about four tight squeezes with four half-sheet paper towels in two intervals (two half-sheets for each interval), and then went about the recipe as usual. Surely this will take enough water away, right?

Nope. As usual, the clam fritters did not go down without a fight, spraying and shooting grease in whatever way they can. (Especially on me. I know they're doing it on purpose.) Luckily, my restaurant job desensitizes me to heat, and the grease sprayed is dispersed so finely that little, if any, pain is caused, so really the splattering is mainly an annoyance. It's still scary, however. My nervousness peaks whenever I have to flip a fritter on the farthest edge of the pan, exposing most of my arm. And yes, the fritters being sentient means that's exactly when they choose to spew. Exactly. Nonetheless, I do love this recipe, so the discomfort is endured.

On the other hand, I do seem to be getting much better in judging the doneness of meats. I've had a meat thermometer sitting around for a while now, but for the past few weeks I've taken to using it very consistently. It's not only helping me develop my judgment, but also develop a trained intuition, where I can "feel" that a certain state has been achieved in a meat. In the past I too often pulled meats while they were still raw since I wanted to enjoy it during it maximized juici- and tenderness, which was an ongoing problem since no thermometers meant a lot of guesswork for me. Now I feel a lot more comfortable since I can ascertain where exactly I am in the cooking.

On Sunday I did what I would consider a near-perfect roast of half a beef heart. (Near perfect since the seasoning was rather sub-par.) Steak may be nice at medium-rare, but I don't think that works particularly well for offal such as heart. The pinkness in that case is too dark and similar to that of purely raw meat. My goal was to reach a sort of medium. I threw the heart in a slow cooker and set it on high, and checked it after about an hour or so. Once it reached the 140-145 range I set the slow cooker onto its warm setting and let carryover heat do the rest of the work while I made caramelized cabbage and clam fritters. (An odd set of colors and appearances on a plate, but no lesser delicious.) By the time I cut into the heart it was perfectly at the boundary between medium-rare and medium, with a nice cascade into a lighter red in the middle without any raw appearance or abrupt fluctuations. Just dandy texture too. I forgot to mark the final temperature.

Every meal I cook is a chance to get better.

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