We love getting good “Ask a Chef™” questions from our members. “Are there any added enzymes in Kosher Salt? is a good one.” Below is the question and our response.
In the lesson on sanitizing a cutting board, you mention that there is an enzyme in kosher salt that kills bacteria. What enzyme is that? I thought that salt was simply sodium chloride? Is there an additive enzyme in kosher salt?
So, you are right about plain Kosher Salt being simply Sodium Choloride. What we should have said in the exercise is that some brands of Kosher Salt have additives and enzymes that can also help kill bacteria. Very pure brands of Kosher Salt, like Diamond Kosher Salt, won’t have the additives but others out there may.
Depending on the brand, you can find Ferrrocyanide (not extremely toxic as the name might suggest), Yellow Prussiate of Soda, Tricalcium Phosphate, Alumine-Calcium Silicate, Sodium Aluminosillicate and potentially iodine in various measures in various Kosher or Sea Salts.
Most of the additives are anti-caking or anti-clumping agents that work by absorbing moisture, which most bacteria need to live and thrive. Additionally, some Kosher Salt and many Sea Salts can be iodized and as any kid with a scraped knee can tell you, Iodine is also an anti-septic.
The best way to know what is in the Kosher Salt in your pantry is to read the label and if anything is unclear or not specific to then contact the company.
Forget GMO Corn and Worry about Big Corn Subsidies & Ethanol Mandates
Most of us are a little worried about GMO Corn but have not given much thought to its price.
Looking at our grocery bills recently, it is not our imagination that food prices are going up. Before we looked into it, we thought we knew the reasons, but the biggest reason rides on largely below the surface of the mainstream’s thoughts and news coverage.
It is a fact, food prices are up this year. Pork is up 15%. Poultry is up 8%. Beef is up. Sure there was a drought. Sure gasoline is up. Sure there is foreign demand for commodities from Brazil, India and China. None of these though are consuming 40% of our Corn crop.
Well-intended Federal regulations are the actual culprit. In 2005, Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard which mandated the use of Corn-based ethanol in domestic gasoline. Today, under the act, Americans must use 15 billion gallons of Ethanol a year. How much is that, a lot or a little?
Let’s judge it against all of the corn produced in the US. 15 Billion gallons of ethanol requires 40% of our US corn crop and this is the rub, Corn that is made into ethanol won’t feed livestock or be available in the produce section.
The original goals of the act were to reduce gas prices and to fight global warming. I can’t speak to the second point since there are reams of arguments to be made on both sides. I can point you to the gas pump to address the first point. Gas prices have not been reduced and are, in fact, near record highs.
Think of the Congress and the ethanol industry when counting out all those extra dollars.
I love a story that begins with an obscure, colorful lead-in such as ”They have been making whiskey here since a buffalo charged the old still” or “It was on fire when I stopped by,” and now I have one of those lead-ins of my own.
A Navajo-Churro sheep herder over in Cortez, Colorado mentioned The Turquoise Room back in 2010. On the Summer Food Drive that year, we visited Cindy Dvergsten of Arriola Sunshine Farm near Cortez to learn more about her breeding and raising the Heritage Breed of Navajo-Churro Sheep.
Cindy Feeds her flock of spring sheared Navajo Churro Sheep
Un-Sheared and Un-Polled, the 400 Year Old Breed Looks Much More “Heritage!”
A Heritage Navajo Churro Ram. Thanks to the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association for the photo.
Cindy was really informative and we had a great time. On the visit she mentioned that a place down in Winslow, Az, The Turquoise Room, occasionally served Navajo Churro Sheep on their menu. The idea struck me as incongruous at the time because all I could recall of Winslow was a small sun-blasted town, where the “Girl My Lord in the flat bed Ford” slowed down and then they all took “It easy.” Because of that iconic musical imagery and some of my own drive-bys, I couldn’t imagine a fine dining restaurant in Winslow, but nevertheless I filed The Turquoise Room away for further exploration.
So the first stop on the 2012 Summer Food Drive was The Turquoise Room, which is located inside the historic, 1930 La Posada Hotel. Driving into town in the Smart-Kitchen-Mobile, I was again struck by the.., the…, the “sleepiness” of the town. Whatever else it might be, Winslow is the kind of place where you can take a picture of the empty main drag (from the middle of said main drag) at 6.30 PM on a Friday night without worrying (too much) about frenetic traffic.
Winslow can be Slow, which is a Win in our book
After months in big cities, I loved it, but became even more skeptical about finding a beacon of fine dining nearby, one which showcased Native American and heritage ingredients. I was wrong to worry.
If you can’t tell from the image above, the Route 66 in Winslow has seen better days. In a form of visual history, The La Posada remains vibrant, close-by the Santa Fe Pacific’s railroad depot, long after the other thriving businesses have moved on.
It's a Good Sign
Similar to many a modern downtown, where most of the business activity has followed the consumer to the Interstate and the suburbs, the old part of Winslow, the 1904 to 1930 part is shuttered and sleepy, except for The La Posada. With its new-age, hacienda style, the La Posada would be at home in the ritziest Southwestern neighborhoods. Things were looking up.
The La Posada has a high-end, new-age vibe worthy of Santa Fe, Taos, or Sedona
The La Posada was one of the last great railroad hotels built along the route of the Chicago to Los Angeles limited: The Super Chief.
1937 Super Chief Provided Service from the Windy City to the Coast. Thanks to Trainweb.org for the photo.
The La Posada was a destination stop and winter vacation spot. The food operations were run by the legendary restaurateur Fred Harvey and his Fred Harvey Girls (the staff uniforms are still “Harvey-esque.”) It continued to thrive as Americans explored Route 66 but with the advent of the freeway system business fell off and the hotel was closed. The building was used for a time as offices for the railroad until it was completely shuttered and eventually sold off.
Luckily, it was purchased and the great old bones were lovingly restored. As the hostess, who advised me to skip the “light lunch” and wait for the full dinner put it, “It feels like your not in Winslow.” She was succinct and had good advice. I had an interesting amble around the 65,000 sq. ft. La Posada while waiting for The Turquoise Room to close from light lunch and re-open for the full dinner at 5 PM.
Newcastle chef, John Sharpe (and his wife Patricia) moved from Orange County, Ca. in 2000 and opened The Turquoise Room, named for the dining car on the 1936 Super Chief. John was intrigued by the history of the hotel and the possibilities of cooking Fred Harvey-style retro dishes with a modern twist using local Southwestern and Native American ingredients like the 3 Sisters: Corn, Squash & Beans. Some of those ingredients are sourced right on site because The Turquoise Room buys Corn, Diné Squash and Runner Beans (when they come in) from the hotel garden.
The Garden at the La Posada; Gourmet and Native American
He has done a great job with the concept and serves 2,000 meals a week. In 2011, he was nominated for a James Beard Award for best chef in the Southwest and in 2009 Condé Nast Taveler Magazine gave The Turquoise Room a 96.9 (the 2nd highest score in the U.S.). I had a chance to speak with John briefly and part of his approach is a subtle marriage of the concepts of the Mediterranean Cooking of Southwestern France with the native cooking of the Southwest. Where the French would do a white Lingot Bean cassoulet, Native Americans would have made a Tepary Bean (white bean) chili stew. Since we only eat at our stops and it was 24 hours since my last meal, I was very curious to explore John’s take on the dishes.
Don't Look at these too Long or You Might Be Loading Up for a Long Ride to the Turquoise Room
My appetizer was a Fried Squash Blossom that bordered on being a Tamale. Sweet Corn pudding on the inside was a great contrast (texture and flavor) to the crispy, crunchy, flash-fried slightly-sweet, beer/corn battered, Squash Blossom. It was worth the 200 odd mile drive and almost worth the $40 price of John’s cookbook. A side note, if you are interested in buying The Turquoise Room cookbook buy it from John’s Turquoise Room’s Website. It is $94 on Amazon. I will be working on my own version, Gluten-Free (for Mrs. P Chef) this summer.
Wafer Thin and a Threat to Your Airway If You Are Not Careful
The Squash Blossoms were followed by a real traditional Native dish, Hopi Piki Bread, made from the ash of hand-ground Hopi Reservation Blue Corn. After several unsuccessful attempts (it is not easy to make the wafer thin bread from a milky batter comprised of water and ashes), John asked Joyce Saufkie of Second Mesa to make Piki Bread for him. Her Piki Bread has a texture like burnt paper, (or like single layers of Phyllo Dough) and a clean bland taste not unlike a rice cracker. I’d put the Piki Bread in the category of “lite” and “interesting.” They eat a bit like a tiramisu, in that, bits of them fly off and try to choke you like the espresso from the Italian dessert. If any experts want to correct my technique, I am game by the way. The Hopi-style, Bad-Dap-Suki Hummus is made with white Tepary Beans grown by the Tohono O’odham.
While I waited for the entrée, the Navajo Churro Sampler, I watched the well-dressed couples drinking and playing croquet on the track-side lawn. It wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine that it was 1936 and I was waiting for the Super Chief after a restful vacation. Today the Amtrak still comes in from the coast @ 8PM every evening, if it’s on time, noted the hostess. I was in a pre-digital mood as I waited for the sampler of locally-raised, heritage, Navajo Churro lamb.
Churro Posole, Churro Medallion and Churro Verde Tamale
I was expecting a gamier meat and was prepared for it but was pleasantly surprised to find that the Navajo Churro was less sharp than regular lamb. I expect this was, in large part, a function of its preparation in a Posole and a Tamale Verde. The 6 oz. unvarnished, well-cooked, (medium) medallion was my favorite. It gave an straightforward taste of the rolling, richer flavor of the Navajo Churro. There was also some elk sausage thrown in for good measure.
Prickly Pear Bread Pudding
Around this time, I was glad I hadn’t eaten in a day and still had room for a taste of the Prickly Pear Bread Pudding. At Smart Kitchen we do a Prickly Pear Picking Party (P4) in the fall because the Prickly Pear Cactus is one of our only truly “local” ingredients in the desert. We are always looking for new ways to experiment with the red “Tuna” fruit or the green “Nopales” paddles. If you have a psychology degree you may be able to see through the preceding as a “rationalization.”
After a 2 year wait, the visit to The Turquoise Room fed the body, mind and soul. If you are interested in award-winning food, history, Native American Culture or all three, I’d stop by when you are playing “King of the Road” on old Route 66.
Typically, they save the best for last don’t they? But how could that be for a playbill that included Bryan Dooley and Matt Taylor?
Whoooops, you thought you had us there a moment didn’t you? You actually thought we might incriminate ourselves and inadvertently denigrate the first two fabulous chefs at the AJ’s Fine Foods & AZ Magazine demonstration celebrating the Best of the Best in Arizona by over-praising the finale? They are all the Best of the Best, fat chance of that.
Josh has Gluten Free Tamari for Mrs. P Chef!
Josh Herbert of Posh Restaurant was batting third and at this event, cleanup. He did a great job and kept us all entertained, especially during the heat of the day, while teaching a lot about the Japanese staple Broth: Dashi. Josh is a local boy and a product of Tarbell’s Restaurant before he moved on to San Francisco at Cafe Kati and then over to Japan with the same restaurant group to open Café California. Josh (or Joshua or JT) currently makes quasi-custom small plate meals for diners. It is a pretty intriguing concept of creating just-in-time, custom meals for each diner. The sharing and combination possibilities are interesting, especially if your spouse (like mine, Mrs. P Chef) has a long list of proscribed ingredients. Josh is holding up a bottle of Gluten-Free Tamari in honor of Mrs. P Chef’s diet in the photo.
Make your Dashi Gelatin in Bulk like the Pros!
Sorry for the digression (lament). While in Asia, Josh did not waste the opportunity. He immersed himself in Japanese culinary techniques. Josh did not waste the opportunity to immerse himself in Japanese culinary techniques while in Asia.He admirably demonstrated his education on Saturday by showing a crowd, of mostly novices, how to make a Basic Dashi and then how to convert that Dashi into a Dashi Gelatin with which to garnish a Japanese Shrimp cocktail with large Asian Poached Prawns.
Nice Dish; Bad Shot. Note to Self Move Dish for Photo.
The dish looks cosmopolitan, because it is in a Martini glass probably (pun intended), but also because it was drawn from inspiration acquired a world away across the great Pacific Sea. I know it is an ocean but could not resist the homage to bad 1880 pulp fiction.
If you have a chance, Josh will be re-creating his Japanese Shrimp Cocktail this coming Saturday, April 7th at AJ’s Fine Food on Val Vista in Mesa, Az. I don’t know if he will be batting cleanup again so get there early and meet Bryan and Matt too (and sample their work).
The second chef to work show his magic at AJ’s Fine Foods and AZ Magazine’s Best of the Best, was Matt Taylor who recently took over at Noca and was in charge of the kitchen when we visited Noca for a Blog Post last fall.
Matt is Canadian but has worked for some of the greats in the United States. He worked for Metro Brasserie, famed, serial-chef Micheal Mina in Las Vegas at the Bellagio and in New Orleans for chef John Besh at Restaurant August and the Brasserie Lüke. Matt left Louisiana but brings a bit of the Cajun cooking with him to Arizona.
We Took 4 Shots but Never Caught Matt Sitting Still
Matt prepared an authentic Spaghetti Carbonara without Heavy Cream or wine. The signature ingredients were fresh (48 hours dried) house-made pasta and Benton’s Ham Tennessee bacon from Madisonville, TN.
Benton's Ham is a Superb Ingredient on our Mail Order for Special Cooking
It was entertaining and educational to watch Matt’s enthusiastic preparation while peppering him with questions.
As you can see the results of the cooking were a refined pasta dish. What you can’t see is the taste of the delicate smoky-creamy strands.
It Looks Good but Tasted a Lot Better
The best news is that AJ’s Fine Foods and AZ Magazine will be sponsoring the Best of the Best cooking demonstration again on Saturday, April 7th, 2012 at the AJ’s Fine Foods on Val Vista in Mesa. If you can’t get over there, the recipe is included in the AZ Magazine Best of the Best April Issue out on newsstands.
We are either a food nut, or persuasive, or stupid, because this past Saturday we almost talked SK Chef, Eric O’Neill, Smart Kitchen’s President, into skipping a boating event with booze and bikinis to sit in a grocery store parking lot and watch/speak with 3 of the best Chefs in the State of Arizona. The stupid possibility comes into play for not even considering asking for an invitation to the boating event.
The good news for members of the public who are in Arizona or Arizona proximate is that the show will go on again, one more time at the AJ’s on Val Vista & Baseline in Mesa, next Saturday at 11:00 AM.
The series is being hosted by AJ’s Fine Foods and AZ Magazine to celebrate Arizona’s best and its Centennial. It was a really fun, tasty learning event. We picked up some tips, shot some photos & video, nibbled some high-end free samples and spoke with the chefs and a lot of nice foodies.
Bryan Waits to get Started
The first presenter was Bryan Dooley from Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue in Cave Creek, Az. who won The Arizona Republic’s Best Barbecue this year. We got to hear of Bryan’s amateur culinary journey barbecuing in pits with his family in the mid-west and then about his professional culinary journey from the Culinary Institute of America to fine dining jobs at the Fairmont to opening his own place: Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue.
For the audience, Bryan demonstrated making his signature rub and then how to apply it to some St. Louis Cut, Pork Spare Ribs. He did not dismount his commercial smokers in Cave Creek but showed how to do some Smoking “Low & Slow” on a Weber Grill with foil-wrapped Cherry Wood.
They look good in 45 Minutes. Imagine them at 5 hours.
While getting everything ready Bryan answered questions from the audience.
The Smoking/BBQ process would have taken 5 to 6 hours but luckily Bryan planned ahead and had some finished Ribs (and Prickly Pear Barbecue Sauce) ready for the salivating crowd right on time at 11.45. Even if the presentation had not been so enjoyable (and we’d not won a trivia prize of a smoky-smelling, in a good way, t-shirt) the rib sample was worth the wait.
Mickey The Mini Zebu Bull Courtesy of Dragonfly Farms
The American Cattle Herd has shrunk but not in exactly the same way that they shrunk Ol’ Mickey, the mini Zebu bull. Drought management decisions by our Cattlemen has the herd down, in absolute numbers, to 90.8 million cattle and calves as of the start of the year. That is the lowest number of animals since 1952. In fact, if it comes to it, 3.57 of us will have to triple/quadruple up on one animal to satisfy our beef cravings for the better part of this year.
But don’t panic just yet and start calling your 3.57 closest friends to go in with you on a whole steer. Though the actual head count is down, the average weight of our bovines is up meaning our 2012 herd will produce more beef than a comparable 1952 herd. We also import beef and have more vegetarians/pescatarians these days than in those days. If you like your beef, you may want to thank one of the aforementioned “Tarians” for backing away from the picnic and leaving more for you.
That being said, consumption is holding pretty steady but prices are not. Prices for Beef are up 17% from last year and look to go up from here, for at least a while. The number of Beef Cattle Kept for Replacement (breeding) was only up 1.4% to 5.2 million head. We all have some accommodations to make.
One way to stretch your budget is to learn more about Beef (the link goes to Smart Kitchen’s paid Topic on beef in Beginning Proteins) and select lower priced, slightly less tender cuts, not just the familiar and pricey favorites. Smart Kitchen’s Beef Tenderness Chart (free Smart Kitchen content) is a good place to start saving money by moving down from the most tender cuts to the second or third most tender cuts, even into intermediately tender cuts. Another way is to get the most out of the cuts you do buy by cooking them perfectly with the right techniques so that they are tender and flavorful. While this price increase may be bad news for the carnivores, it is survivable by shopping smarter and cooking wiser when you do choose to include beef on the menu. Who knows, their LDL/HDL ratios may even improve?
On the other hand, the little devil butcher on my left shoulder is shouting into my ear that “The correct course of action may be to rush out and get your bits of the herd today, before they are all sold out.” I am fighting him mightily, but if I lose, I’ll save you a place in the line at the meat counter. Oh and don’t worry about Mickey, he’s a breeder and not about to be made into a slider.
This time of year we always wonder how those first Pilgrim settlers actually got along. This post, originally written last year for the holiday describes the menu and some of the circumstances. If you are curious about the Pilgrim experience in the New World, Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower is an interesting read about the Pilgrims voyage and their early years in America.
J.L.G. Ferris’s painting “First Thanksgiving” Courtesy of Abiline Christian University
An epidemic in 1617 virtually annihalated the local Native American population at Plymouth Colony, meaning that the Pilgrims had their first Thanksgiving in 1621 pretty much to themselves. Their first holiday meal was probably just as heavy but less interesting than our Thanksgivings are today. Cornbread or “Johnny Cake” was the main staple of their diet for the first few years. And we are fighting off any Soprano’s refrences in the interest of food seriousness.
The first Thanksgiving undoubetly included wild game fowl, most likely turkey, but possibly ducks or geese.
Sara Josepha Hale, one of the first female American novelists and the author of Mary Had a Little Lamb is credited as the individual most responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday in all of the United States. Prior to the Civil War, Thanksgiving was only celebrated in the New England states and then on various dates ranging from October to January. In a time when only 2 national holidays existed (Independence Day & Washington’s Birthday), Hale lobbbied 5 U.S. Presidents until in 1863, Abraham Lincoln, seeking to heal a war torn country proclaimed Thanksgiving a holiday.
We hope you have a good Thanksgiving Holiday, cooking and laughing with family and friends.
Learn how to Stuff & Truss Your Thanksgiving Bird Like a Chef
Join Smart Kitchen and Girl Meets Fork for “The Perfect Turkey!”
Chef Dominic O’Neill, Executive Chef of Scottsdale Community College’s Culinary Program and Chef Eric O’Neill of Smart Kitchen.com will demonstrate how to master your Thanksgiving dinner.
From trussing to stuffing, we’ll show you the ins and outs of the perfect turkey. Wow your friends and family with a gourmet meal on a reasonable budget.
Home cooks of all level of experience are welcome–there will be something to learn for everyone!
Wednesday, November 9
Sub-Zero and Wolf Showroom Phoenix
15570 N 83rd Way
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
$35 includes: Recipes, Tasting, Demonstration
Click here to purchase tickets!
Note: Scroll down to the bottom of the page on Girl Meats Fork. Credit card charge will appear from “SCM TIMM ENTERPRISES LLC.” Refunds only granted with written cancellation, 72 hours prior to event to email@example.com.
At Smart Kitchen, we teach people to cook. One of the ways we breakdown the process is with the The 4 Levers of Cooking™, essentially a method of determining when and where to focus while making a meal.
One of the Levers, the final one in fact, is “Flair” or making your dish your own. I was struck by the difference between a product with “Flair” and an ordinary product when I was shown the baking work of a friend of a friend.
The cupcake above was made by Amber (the friend of my friend) and if a picture is worth a thousand words, Amber’s cupcake describes “Flair” very well. Flair can elevate a cupcake to Culinary Art and show those close to you how you feel.