This is the fifteenth installment of "Eat This List" - a semi-regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.
Getting tapped as a judge for a barbecue competition sounds like a carnivore's dream come true, especially when it's at the level of The Jack. For 25 years, cooking teams from around the world have converged upon Lynchburg, Tennessee to battle for smoke-soaked supremacy at the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue.
This past Saturday, 25,000 barbecue devotees showed up to cheer on the 76 United States and 23 international teams that had qualified to participate by winning at the state level or various prestigious competitions. Chicken, ribs, pork and brisket were mandatory categories, and sauce, cook's choice and dessert were optional.
I got to taste them all.
I've been Kansas City Barbeque Society certified since 2008 and judged other food events, so this wasn't my first rodeo, but nothing compares to a competition where a $10,000 prize and such high-test bragging rights are on the line. Richmond, Virginia's Cool Smoke team took home the Grand Champion title, as well as Rockwell, Iowa's Pig Skin BBQ for a separately-judged Winner's Circle of previous Jack champs.
Judges like me left with full stomachs, sauce-stained clothes and some insight into what it takes to judge - and win - at competitive barbecue.
Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Today's installment comes courtesy of Sara Camp Arnold, the editor of SFA's quarterly publication, "Gravy."
We’ve noticed chicken skins popping up on menus across the South lately, threatening to eclipse their porcine cousins (by which we mean pork skins, aka chicharrones, aka pork rinds).
One of the chefs leading the chicken-skin charge is Matt Kelly of Mateo Tapas and Vin Rouge in Durham, North Carolina.* Back in June, he masterminded a collard salad with chicken-skin “chicharrones” for our New York Potlikker. Matt kindly shared his recipe with us, so that you can recreate this funky riff on Tar Heel favorites (note the collard greens, peanuts, and barbecue sauce–inspired dressing) at home.
Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
News that the Japanese company B&H Lifes has started selling a new wine called Nyan Nyan Nouveau, which is made specifically for cats - yes, cats - makes one wonder what, exactly, the rest of the animal kingdom is supposed to do. The feline wine, apparently made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and catnip (though sans any alcohol), sells for $4 a bottle.
I’ll leave aside the bizarre idea that a wine for cats could actually cost more than Two-Buck Chuck, a wine for humans, and return to my earlier question. Suppose, for instance, your local Lhasa Apso is seeking a tasty adult beverage? What if the your neighbor’s pet goat has a craving for booze? Below, a few options for the other members of the four-footed set (which, I’ll add, are all well worth drinking by people, too).
In cooking, the process of clarification entails straining out extraneous muck from liquids so that they might be pure, clear and ideal for consumption. With this series on food terminology and issues we're attempting to do the same.
If it seems food safety issues are on the rise, that's because they are. About 48 million people contract some form of food poisoning each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even in the midst of a government shutdown, crises like the current salmonella outbreak occur. But the question on many people's minds is whether the federal investigators in charge of food safety are still around to protect the public, or if they too have been furloughed.
According to a Department of Health and Human Services contingency plan, the Food and Drug Administration "will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities” in the event of a government shutdown. However, that plan identifies approximately 700 FDA staff members who would remain to “inspect regulated products and manufacturers, conduct sample analysis on products and review imports offered for entry into the U.S. This number includes active investigators who will be needed to perform inspections.”
Mmm – sacralicious?
A Chicago restaurant is pushing the boundaries of poor taste with its October Burger of the Month.
"The Ghost" burger, named after a heavy-metal band that performs dressed like the pope and monks, features a "Communion wafer garnish." The unleavened disc bears the imprint of a cross and a crown.
Kuma's Corner, a heavy-metal themed restaurant with an "Eat beef; bang your head" ethos, says its burger is an homage to GHOST, Swedish headbangers who are touring the United States this month in support of their new album.
GHOST's new album comes complete with grape juice and a mock Communion wafer. Not coincidentally, the Communion burger at Kuma's comes with a red wine reduction.
Editor's Note: America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook’s Illustrated magazine, and on our two public television cooking shows.
A great beef chili should be a mainstay of every home. In its essence, chili is a form of beef stew and employs a long, slow, moist-heat cooking process to tenderize tough meat. For the best meat, you need to choose cuts from the shoulder; blade steaks or a chuck-eye roast provide plenty of flavor and a silky texture.
This recipe uses a twist on the ready-made chili powder, which can give chili a gritty feel, as well as a rather dull flavor. Instead, we toast dried chiles and then process them with flavorful ingredients and chicken broth to make a deeply flavored, smooth textured paste.
To much of the restaurant-going world, chefs seem to have exchanged “the customer is always right” with another saying: “No substitutions.” Seeing those two words at the bottom of a menu can sour the mood, if not your palate, before you’ve even taken the first bite. It’s a needlessly pre-emptive, passive-aggressive kind of note. Imagine if a hotel contract stated: “Don’t even think about asking us if you can stay in your room past noon.” It’s one thing to have a policy and quite another to deny a request before it’s even been made.
And yet, the increasingly ubiquitous no-substitutions policy is a reaction to customer demands run amok. But rather than choose a side, I think there’s a middle ground - a set of rules that, if followed by both restaurant owners and patrons alike, could benefit everyone. First, let’s take a close look at where each side is coming from.
We're highlighting local and regional bloggers we think you ought to know about. We can’t be everywhere at once, so we look to these passionate eaters, cooks and writers to keep us tapped into every facet of the food world. Consider this a way to get to know a blog’s taste buds, because, well, you should. And if Jamie Shupak's face seems familiar, it's because you may have seen the Emmy-nominated reporter delivering traffic news on NY1.
My rheumatoid arthritis used to be so bad in my hands - in particular my wrists and fingers - that I could barely cook. My knuckles were so inflamed they looked like giant red Gobstoppers. I'd still try, struggling to lift heavy pots and pans, prying open boxes and packages with my teeth, and most of the time I'd succeed. But it was exhausting, frustrating, and painful.
I grew up in a house where my mom cooked for my dad, two brothers and me almost every night of the week, so ordering in or going out all the time just didn't register with me. I've always loved the whole process of dinner time: from meal planning to grocery shopping, preparing and cooking, and then, naturally, eating. There's something so satisfying about creating a meal for someone you love.
Editor's note: Aktar Islam is one of Britain's premier chefs, specializing in South Asian cuisine. Born and bred in Birmingham, Islam's exposure to British cuisine and the strong influence from his Bangladeshi heritage have shaped his approach and unique style. He has won several awards including the BBC Great British Menu, and his restaurant Lasan won the Gordon Ramsey's Best Local Restaurant award.
Eid in the Islam household was always a very special occasion for me; it was when I'd get to see family and friends and, most of all, I could eat myself silly, gorging on amazing Asian food!
What sticks in the memory most was the build-up; this would begin several days prior to Eid - mum would be busy preparing the sauces and marinades which were invariably rich, vibrant reds and greens. The aromas emanating from the kitchen were so intense that our mouths watered in anticipation as our bellies simultaneously whined "are we there yet?"