Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Trade Secrets

Tips on dining in and dining out

We Tried It

        This is a reasonable idea, but . . .

        Last week, Gold Star introduced its new “Chili Burger” ($2.49) — a hamburger served open-faced on garlic bread, smothered with chili, sprinkled with diced onion and piled high with that blinding orange shredded cheddar.

        Gold Star bills the Chili Burger as a hefty, knife-and-fork entree. And it is that — eat the last crumb and you will be, or at least should be, full. Of course, the problem with Cincinnati chili is it overwhelms everything within sniffing distance. We'll have to take Gold Star's word that that really is garlic bread under there. It could've been marble rye and we wouldn't have known the difference.

        The biggest flaw is the burger itself — a kind of rubbery, tasteless, preformed (and microwaved) oval last seen in the high school cafeteria.

        It was amusing to see newsroom reaction to the Chili Burger. “Chili on a hamburger? Gross!” (Chili heaped on spaghetti or midget wieners, on the other hand, is somehow perfectly normal.)

        The Chili Burger is a reasonable idea for a change-of-pace Cincinnati chili jones. Just give us a better burger.

— Chuck Martin

Uncommon Knowledge

        Q: What are the differences among stock, broth, consomme and bouillon?

        Stock: A flavorful liquid made by simmering bones or vegetables with aromatic ingredients such as onion, celery, carrot and herbs (usually parsley, thyme and bay leaf), in water to extract their flavor, aroma and color. Stock is used as a base for other dishes, such as sauces, soups and stews.

        Broth: Broth has a more pronounced flavor than stock because it's made with meat and aromatic ingredients instead of just the bones. Like stock, broth can be used as a base for other dishes, but, unlike stock, it often is served “as is.”

        Consomme: A clear, strongly flavored, fat-free soup made by thoroughly degreasing and clarifying stock.

        Bouillon: This is French for “broth.” In the United States, the term has come to mean cubes or granules of a concentrated stock or broth. Mixed with hot water, they can be used in place of stock, broth or consomme, but they are quite salty.

— Chicago Tribune

Required Reading

        They used to publish specialized cookbooks for men, usually with a reassuring macho voice and recipes for manly dishes — grilled steaks and strong cocktails.

        The association of men with grilling is so strong that women have to get their own special grilling cookbook with a reassuring female voice and recipes for girly cocktails and clever chicken dishes. Dressed to Grill (Chronicle Books; $16.95) by Karen Brooks, Diane Morgan and Reed Darmon makes grilling sound like a fun way to impress guys. Above all, the book is cute.

        There are recipes for Ragin' Hormones-free Chicken, Boy Toy Martinis, Chauvinist Pig and Grilled Corn with Hot Lips Chili Butter. They look easily done and work with appealing flavor combinations.

        So, more power to the girls who want to grill — though I don't see why we should take back one cooking job men actually will do.

        Kitchen Chemistry

Alton Brown, host of the Food Network's Good Eats, has a new book that approaches cooking from a scientific point of view. Here is his view on oil and pasta:

        “I can find zero science to back up the claim that adding oil to pasta cooking water keeps pasta from sticking. It's as simple as this: pasta is dehydrated, so it wants to be around water, especially hot water, which due to added molecular motion penetrates faster than cold. So you've got a lot of water and a lot of pasta, then you add a tablespoon or two of oil. Considering how oil and water feel about each other, I'd say that Butch and Sundance had a better chance of making it out of the Bolivian bank than that oil has of getting to first base with pasta . . .”

— From I'm Just Here for the Food (Stewart Tabori and Chang; $32.50)


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