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Catalogs, gadgets, and apps

Catalogs

As the holidays approach, one thing is almost guaranteed--a glut of catalogs in your mailbox. No sooner are the Halloween decorations down than the Christmas sales promotions begin (whether you like it or not). Even if your kitchen is very well stocked, there is a certain allure to the stunning images of beautiful serving vessels, cookware, and gadgets. In addition to these cooking tools, each season brings a plethora of new apps for tablets and phones.

One intriguing new app is a Bluetooth-connected kitchen scale with accompany iPad app that "aims to make baking foolproof." Its combination of recipes and automatic weighing means that the iPad acts as an supervisor of sorts. As the weight of each ingredient is reached, the app automatically moves to the next item to be added or to the next recipe step. As with most cooking apps, however, you are limited to the recipes that come with the app - a dicey proposition.

The NY Times has a video review of more high-tech tools and gadgets that can connect to the internet, including a slow cooker. The app for the slow cooker looks quite complicated and one wonders what, if any, advantage there could be to having it. Inspiration website Remodelista's top picks of kitchen tools for 2014 trends in the other direction. Although it does include an iPhone-connected thermometer with alarm, most of the list has decidedly old-fashioned tools including wooden spoons and a hand-cranked apple peeler.

As you peruse the catalogs in your mailbox, what products do you find yourself adding to your wish list?

Carve out some time to sharpen your knives

Carving knife

Thanksgiving meal plans are coming into focus and you've probably starting a few make-ahead items. When the big day arrives, you'll have more work, up to and including the turkey carving. But before you dice the first onion, there is one important task to complete: sharpening your knives.

Whether it means a trip to the kitchen store to let the pros handle it or digging out the sharpening stones to do it yourself, putting fresh edges on your knives will make meal preparation much easier. If you want to try your hand at sharpening or need a refresher course, the folks at Zwilling J.A. Henckels have enlisted kitchen knife guru Bob Kramer to make a short video demonstrating basic knife sharpening using a stone and a steel.

Don't forget to sharpen the carving knife as well as your chef's and paring knives. You'll need it when slicing that golden, moist, beautiful turkey. You may want to revisit turkey carving techniques before the big day, and luckily it's easy to find many video tutorials, each with a different spin on how to deconstruct the bird.

A few basic items are essential regardless of carving technique. First, let the turkey rest for 15 to 30 minutes after you remove it from the oven to let the juices redistribute. Secure the bird on the cutting board with several paper towels or a clean, damp dishcloth so it doesn't scoot around. This is both for safety while cutting and to prevent the bird from "flying" off the cutting board and onto the floor. Warm your platter or serving tray so the turkey doesn't get too cool in the time it takes to carve it.

Then it all comes down to preferred technique. Butcher Ray Venezia, in a video for the NY Times, uses a short chef's knife to make the major cuts and a longer flexible knife to slice the breast and thigh meat. This video has good coverage of how to spot the joints and a nice treatment on how to remove the breast intact by using a combination of pulling and cutting. He also advises not to cut the breast too thinly or it will dry out before it hits the table. One caveat about his carving: Venezia instructs you to remove the skin because it will dull your knife, but for most of us this would be unthinkable.

Good news for southpaws: The Washington Post's Bonnie Berwick carves a turkey left-handed in this video. She uses the more traditional breast removal technique of using a horizontal cut as well as a vertical one. This video also demonstrates how to remove the "oyster" after the main pieces have been removed. Real Simple's video also features traditional carving techniques, this time by a right-hander using a large chef's knife and a long flexible knife.

It's hard to let go

Spices

It's a sin that most cooks are guilty of committing - buying an unusual herb or spice, using it once (if at all), then leaving it in the spice drawer or cabinet, neglected. A recent study by kitchen electronics company Kenwood shines some light on just how much this happens, at least in Britain. It turns out that Brits keep a whopping £240m worth of unused herbs and spices sitting in their kitchens.

Thirteen percent of the Britons admitted to having herbs or spices that are more than four years old. The study also found that the "average homeowner has 10 different herbs and spices in the kitchen, with the four most-used being basil, chilli, oregano and coriander." Kenwood's trade marketing manager, Seb Goff, said the company was surprised by the response. "We know Brits continually embrace new flavours and cuisines, but it seems we're not confident enough to experiment with them in our own homes."

I suspect that the answers to this survey downplay the extent of herb hoarding. It would be interesting to see how these results stack up against cupboards in other countries, although they would probably be similar. The most popular herbs and spices might be different, however--it seems unlikely that coriander would top the list in the United States.

I count myself among the guilty when it comes to holding on to old spices. While I have good intentions about cleaning out the spice drawer, although I balk when it comes down to actually throwing the unused stuff in the waste bin. How about you? Are your spices fresh or do you have holdovers languishing in your cupboards too?

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

Do you find other people's comments on recipes helpful? Have you written your own recipe Notes? It's a great way to remind yourself how a dish turned out and share your experience with the EYB community. On each Recipe Details page you'll find a Notes tab.

Adding online recipes to your EYB Bookshelf is a really great way to expand your personal recipe collection. You can now do this even if you have a free membership!

We're featuring online recipes from these books, magazines and websites - check them out.

Happy cooking & baking everyone!
 

From magazines & websites:

Lemon Ricotta Cake with Raspberry Ripple Cream by Christine Manfield 
from Taste.com.au, added with the Bookmarklet


4 recipes for flavored nut butters from the November issue of indexed
Martha Stewart Living Magazine

 
From AUS/NZ books:

19 recipes from This is Brazil: Home-Style Recipes and Street Food 
by Fernanda de Paula & Shelley Hepworth

 
From US books:

Cherished NYC cookbook store struggles to find new space

Bonnie Slotnick CookbooksIndependent cookbook shops the world over are finding it difficult to keep the doors open. Grub Street New York reports on the latest casualty,  an iconic Greenwich Village cookbook store. Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks has occupied the same tiny, charming location since 2000, but it will be forced to close if owner Bonnie Slotnick can't find a new home for the store before January.  

Rising rents, while an issue for small retail shops in her neighbor, aren't driving Ms. Slotnick out of her shop. Rather, the landlord is flat-out refusing to renew her lease. When asked why this was the case, Slotnick replied, "This is a 130-year-old, five-story apartment building. It's owned by a family real-estate business, and the owner is just - you can fill in the blanks. I'm the second bookstore that he has cut loose, shall we say."

As with many small bookstores, Slotnick says hers is a labor of love. She worked in cookbook publishing from 1984 to 2000 as a book scout. "Before everybody was buying books online, if a bookstore needed books, they would have somebody who either went around to bookstores or sent out letters and lists of what they were looking for. I was doing that for another store, and I actually developed a bit of a following because I had out-of-print cookbook stock, and people would shop there." After receiving a bit of publicity from Ruth Reichl, Slotnick opened a small cookbook store on a part-time basis in late 1997. It turned into a full-time occupation after she was laid off in 2000.

Slotnick has been searching for a new location for her shop and has found what may be the perfect location in the East Village. She definitely wants to remain in the cookbook store business: "I want to have my one store. I want to be there. I am the store and the store is me."

Talking turkey

dry brined roasted turkey

The countdown to U.S. Thanksgiving is well under way. Since turkey will be gracing close to 90% of American tables next Thursday (approximately 46 million turkeys), we thought it would be nice to provide some links to the latest on brining and roasting your bird. If you had any questions on the former, Serious Eats offers a "quick and dirty" guide to brining, including dry brines (J. Kenji López-Alt's preferred method). The article provides formulas and times, and offers great advice on whether to use aromatics in your brine.

Indexed magazine Fine Cooking offers 21 turkey tips, including a guide to how big your turkey should be, as well as a list of what different turkey terms (like heritage and hard-chilled) actually mean. Meanwhile at indexed blog The Kitchn they're taking a different tack and discussing how to avoid common mistakes that people make with their turkeys. Apparently some people are throwing away the turkey drippings, but I doubt any EYB members are guilty of this.

If you are thinking about frying a turkey, Epicurious offers a beginner's guide to deep-frying. It includes critical items like how to calculate the amount of oil to use and how to safely place the turkey into the hot oil. Another non-traditional method that is getting a lot of buzz this year is spatchcocking. Indexed magazine Bon Appétit offers a crash course in using this method to get great results from your bird.

The folks at Butterball, one of the largest turkey producers in the U.S., have their Turkey Talk-Line® open this month and next for all of your turkey questions. They've been doing this for over 30 years and their experts expect to answer more than 100,000 questions for thousands of households. If you have other Thanksgiving-related questions, you can try the NY Times. Food writers Melissa Clark, Eric Asimov and Sam Sifton will be holding "Thanksgiving Office Hours" on The New York Times Facebook page on Monday at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

Once you get your method down, you can turn to the EYB Library for recipes for turkey, stuffing, side dishes, and pies. Are you making turkey this year? How are you preparing it?

Photo of Dry-brined roasted turkey from Fine Cooking

A beef between countries

Roast beef

An outspoken French butcher is making waves in his home country by suggesting that English beef is superior to French beef. In a new documentary, Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, a well-known French butcher, insists that grass-fed British beef is the best in the world. "We have lost the notion in France of what a good steak is. In fact, we simply don't know what it is any more," he declares. "The best rearers in the world are the British."

Le Bourdonnec is no stranger to controversy. He is notorious for turning down famouse chefs who want to buy his meat, instead selling choice cuts "artistically hung as if they were Yves Saint Laurent garments" at his shops in France. He posits that the breeds of cattle developed in France (Blondes d'Aquitaine, Limousins and Charolaises) are tough, "athletic" animals, bred not for eating but rather for milking or pulling plows.  On the other hand, he says, British breeds like Aberdeen Angus, Galloway, Hereford and Longhorn, when properly fed, have better marbling and therefore superior texture and flavour.

Needless to say, this proclamation has not been well received in France. The French butchers' federation went so far as to expel him from the organization, calling le Bourdonnec a shill for the British beef industry. The union also questions the motives behind the documentary itself.

I've never eaten either French or British beef, but since I spent a good part of my childhood on our family cattle farm, I hold a strong opinion about what constitutes quality beef. I am inclined to agree with le Bourdonnec's assessment of the breeding stock--our family preferred the taste of Hereford/Angus cross-bred cattle. What do you think of the claims?

Photo of Salt and pepper crusted rib roast from Gourmet Magazine

Buy 1 EYB Gift Voucher and Get 1 Free

Our Gift to You - Limited time offer only - expires Dec 18th

We want to make your holiday shopping as easy as possible - and what could be simpler than one click on the link below? For that you will get two gift certificates for the price of one. So not only is your shopping easier but also a wonderful bargain.

Eat Your Books Gift Voucher

 

We hope that this offer will help you check some people off your gift list - an Eat Your Books gift subscription is a unique gift for anyone who loves food and cooking. It's the gift that keeps on giving as they rediscover their cookbook collection and new recipes throughout the year. 

SHARE THE LOVE

We know that those who use Eat Your Books love it, so if you know someone who you think would enjoy an EYB membership, please share so that we can grow to make EYB bigger and better next year! 

One way to make your gift even more valuable for the recipient is to set up their Bookshelf for them.  If you want this to be a secret, take some photos of their Bookshelves (or if you don't live close, get someone else to do it and text or email them to you). Then use the spines to create their Bookshelf. On receipt of your gift they are ready to start rediscovering their cookbooks on EYB.

This is our gift for you. If you want to give us a gift, whenever you are buying anything from Amazon, please first link from a Buy Book link on EYB.  For the next 24 hours after you link, we earn an affiliate fee on everything you buy (and it costs you nothing).  This could be significant on large items such as electronics.  The more money we earn, the more books we can index.

Straight outta Brooklyn...

A while back I noticed a new adjective creeping into my cookbook reviews.  "The latest Brooklyn bakery book".  "Yet another Brooklyn bistro book". "Another hip Brooklyn-based title from [X] Press."  So - just for fun - I thought I'd map out just a few of the little retail establishments from this tiny, influential corner of the world that are gracing the cookbook world with their contributions.

It's not news that Brooklyn is the displaced epicenter of New York's creative types - the artists, cooks, and would-be agrarians of the millenial generation.  40 or 50 years ago you might have found them in the lofts of SoHo, and before that in the West Village.  But today's bohemians are a little different - they're entrepreneurs, as adept at selling their art as making it.

And what talent lies in Brooklyn!  A typical "Brooklyn book" is a bit below-average size, but it's got great photographs and smashing design. It may not have more than 75 recipes, but there's bound to be smart, witty text - sidebars, headnotes, tips and quotations - on nearly every page.  Who says that bachelors' degree in humanities is going to waste!?

The baking books deserve a special mention, because so many of the recipes can be reproduced at home.  In general baking books are a good bet when it comes to reproducibility (except for maybe the fancy cake-decorating books), since few bakers just toss out their measuring spoons and scales and wing it.  From 2008's The Sweet Melissa Baking Book to this year's Ovenly, I've found the Brooklyn baking books to be charmers and, in some cases, keepers.

The brewery books don't quite make up their own genre,at least not yet.  But there is a title that offers a tribute to some of the creative mixology. going down in the borough.  Brooklyn Spirits offers portraits of distillers, vintners, brewers, and bartenders, and just reading it is enough to leave you a little buzzed, either from the alcohol or the irony (try a "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" or - for real - "Another Pretentious Brooklyn Cocktail.")

Just for yucks, here's the short list I compiled of cookbooks hailing from Brooklyn eateries all within the same couple square miles. Please feel free to add more, as I'm sure I've missed tons.

You'll go nuts for this tip

Spiced mixed nuts

This is the time of year where many of us are deep into our holiday meal planning. The most organized cooks are making lists and setting schedules. Over at indexed blog Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt has discovered a way to shave a chunk of time off our packed to-do lists. He's mastered a quick and easy method for toasting nuts.

Toasting nuts really brings out their flavor, but doing it in the oven takes a fair amount of time, even if you use a toaster oven. Using a skillet takes less time but also increases the chances of burning or uneven toasting. Kenji solves both problems by using a microwave to shorten the amount of time to as little as three minutes, without the need for constant stirring or shaking.

He started with the technique mentioned in Harold McGee's classic On Food and Cooking, but found that just putting raw nuts into the microwave didn't quite stack up to the conventional methods. However, by adding a small amount of oil to the nuts, he was able to achieve toasty perfection in a much shorter amount of time. Check out the Serious Eats article for particulars.

Photo of Spiced mixed nuts from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!

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