These new liquors are going against the grain

Whiskey in the US must be made from grain, which is defined as corn, wheat, rye, or barley. That might be about to change, however, as distillers have asked the regulatory agency in charge of such definitions - the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) - to allow other plants to be used. Specifically, the manufacturers want to broaden the definition of grain to include 'pseudocereal' grains like amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa. 

cocktail

While distillers could make an alcoholic beverage from said pseudocereals, they were previously not allowed to call it whiskey. The TTB has tentatively approved the rule change, which is now in the public comment phase. In the interim, some brands have been given the green light to call these kinds of products "whiskey." 

Nashville-based Corsair Distillery is leading the vanguard of this trend. They currently sell a whiskey that is 80% and 20% quinoa. "If I'm making a painting, I want to have as many colors in my palate that I can paint with," Corsair founder Darek Bell told National Public Radio. "So as I'm making these whiskeys going forward, maybe it's just a small touch of oatmeal that adds a little more to the body of the whiskey, or just a little bit of quinoa that adds something different." 

Is aspic poised to make a comeback?

What do you think of when you hear the word aspic? For many of us, the term conjures up garish concoctions from the 1960s: think hot dogs and macaroni in aspic. However, those applications are only one late-stage interpretion of a culinary classic. The tradition of setting meats and vegetables in aspic - a savory meat gelatin made with stock and set in a mold - traces its origins all the way back to the 1300s.

Eggs in aspic

Aspic became popular at the end of the 19th century and remained a staple of fine dining well into the 20th century before rather unfortunate renditions caused it to fall out of favor. But if chef Harold Moore of Bistro Pierre Lapin in New York City has his way, aspic will experience a renaissance

Moore isn't interested in merely copying classic French cuisine with his aspic; he infuses his with bolder flavors by incorporating pieces of Paris ham along with bits of the pork-hock meat from his consommé to the aspic jelly that surrounds a soft-boiled egg. Adding these non-traditional items gives the dish a more "bacony" flavor, because as the chef notes, "who doesn't love bacon and eggs?"

We may be on the cusp of an aspic renaissance; there have been rumblings about its resurgence for a couple of years now. The rise of bone broth - essentially the building block of aspic - and the Instagram-ready images that result when you suspend items in aspic both lend themselves to renewed interest in this age-old dish. Do you think aspic is poised to make a comeback, and more importantly, do you think it should? 

Photo of Eggs in aspic (Oeufs en gelée)  from Saveur Magazine

Padma Lakshmi talks food and more

You probably know Padma Lakshmi from Bravo TV's Top Chef, but there is a lot more to her than just judging Quickfire challenges. She's also written or co-written several cookbooks, including 2016's The Enyclopedia of Spices and Herbs, which we reference frequently in our Spice Support columns. E. Alex Jung of Vulture recently caught up with Lakshmi for an interview in which she talks about Top Chef, her writing career, and her love of food

Padma Lakshmi

Jung notes that Lakshmi has played the role of "culinary ambassador" for years, attempting to demystify Indian cooking for a Western audience. "People are so into turmeric and ginger and all of that. It's been very gentrified and hipsterized," she says. "If it opens Americans to new flavors and ingredients that are more natural and healthy, that's fine."

Lakshmi, a former supermodel, had trouble being taken seriously in her role on Top Chef. She doesn't find it difficult to reconcile her modeling career with her culinary career, however. A disparaging article from the second season of Top Chef that focused on her appearance rankled Lakshmi, but she makes no apologies for her cheeky 2009 commercial for a fast casual restaurant. "Food is sexual, so I'll stand by my goddamned commercial. I don't care!" Lakshmi declares. She is receiving the respect she deserves for her culinary knowledge, she says. Recently David Chang met with her to ask her about Indian food, and she is working on another book project. If you are curious about what is going to be in that next volume, you'll have to keep wondering - Lakshmi won't say what the book is about. 

When the gadget bug hits

It happens to all of us - you read about a technique and want to try it at home, so you purchase the necessary appliance or gadget to perform the task. But after you get said gadget home, it often gets used only a couple of times before it gets shoved to the back of the cupboard and gathers dust. Sometimes, however, you receive a gadget and you find yourself using it more than you ever thought you might. This recently happened to British novelist Charlotte Mendelson, who writes about her experience in The New Yorker

dehydrated citrus

Mendelson received a food dehydrator as a holiday present from her girlfriend. At first she was overwhelmed and even a bit mortified by the bulky machine, but she begrudgingly decided to use it, not expecting much of a result. She was surprised by what happened next. "Eventually, resignedly, I chopped a banana, slid the surprisingly glutinous slices onto a tray, reread the manual, dribbled the fruit half-heartedly with lemon juice, fired up the stupid machine, and set the timer for an outrageous twelve hours. And, in the morning, I discovered magnificence," Mendelson says. 

That success led to another attempt, then another, and another.  Not every experiment replicated the wonderful outcome of the first - dried tomato leaves tasted like "elderly hay," and dried pine needles added to a bath soak left Mendelson looking "like a molting hedgehog." Perhaps once the novelty wears off the dehydrator will be banished to the basement, but for now Mendelson appears to be hooked on it. 

I've experienced similar fits of passion about a small appliance, although none has lasted more than a couple of months. My back porch is littered with abandoned kitchen tools: a spiralizer, a tortilla press, and yes, a dehydrator. Maybe I should pull it out, dust it off, and give it another twirl. Perhaps next week. 

Photo of Dehydrated citrus from Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan

The most popular cooking show by year

Food Network's first broadcast aired in 1993, but the history of televised cooking programs stretches back decades prior to that. Before television was invented, there were cooking programs on the radio. People have watched and listened as a variety of hosts taught them how to make dishes both simple and complicated since the 1920s. The history of these programs is a fascinating tale, and Taste of Home demonstrates with a compilation of the most popular food shows through the years

Cookbook covers

When radio was in its heyday there were programs of every type, including a cookery show - 'The Betty Crocker School of the Air' was broadcast from 1924 all the way through 1951. At first, local talent at each radio station would perform as "Betty Crocker," but after NBC picked up the show in 1927 Marjorie Husted became the voice of Betty. Starting in the mid-1940s, the BBC cooking show hosted by Philip Harben, simply called 'Cookery', was king of the airwaves. 'Cookery' was the only televised cooking show for nearly a decade. 

The idea of a flamboyant host for a cookery program certainly predates Guy Fieri: Fanny Cradock, whose show ruled in the 1950s, was definitely a character. Of course Julia Child was queen of the airwaves in the early 1960s, paving the way for a succession of popular chefs and home cooks who had shows from the late 1960s through the 1980s. You'll recognize most of the names here: legends like Graham Kerr, Delia Smith, and Jacques Pépin. The slideshow serves as an excellent reminder of the quality of televised cooking shows all the way up to the present day. 

The joy of cooking

Chances are good that a large percentage of EYB Members have made one of two viral dishes from cookbook author Alison Roman. Both her Spiced chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric (featured in The New York Times and shown below) and her Chocolate chunk salted shortbread from her smash cookbook Dining In went viral on Instagram. Tens of thousands of people posted their own versions of said dishes with the hashtags #TheStew and #TheCookies. 


spiced chickpea stew
photo: Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott for The New York Times

While there is no way to predict exactly which recipes will trend like those two did, the fact that it happens quite often is completely understandable, as Nikita Richardson explains in a Grub Street articles. "That the recipes are relatively easy and generally delicious is part of the appeal," says Richardson, adding that "but the most important aspect of hashtag cooking is that it allows home cooks to feel like they're part of a community - one where joining is as easy as cooking something quick."

Food has brought people together for millenia as a vital component of every celebration as well as in day-to-day family life. It's no wonder that in an age where people feel disconnected amidst a constant barrage of information that they turn to food as a way to belong to a larger group. Countless online cooking groups (like the EYB Cookbook Club and The Cookbook Junkies) celebrate this sense of connectedness by bringing together people who are passionate about food and cooking.  

Chefs step up to feed furloughed workers

If you've been paying attention to US news reports, you will know that our federal government has partially shut down over a funding dispute between Congress and the President. There is an old African saying that seems appropriate to this situation: "when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers." In this case, the grass is the federal workforce, who are affected by the lapse in funding. Just over 400,000 workers are at home without pay and no guarantee that they will be paid for this unplanned time off, while a similar number are required to work without being paid until after the shutdown ends. 

Eating with Uncle Sam

With no end to the shutdown in sight, workers are scrambling to make arrangements to pay mortgages, rent, childcare, and other expenses. Since money is tight, many workers are cutting expenses wherever possible, including eating out at restaurants. But in some areas these workers can afford to visit restaurants, as several chefs are offering free food for government workers impacted by the shutdown

You will not be surprised to learn that chef José Andrés is among those providing free food at his restaurants in the DC area, home to a considerable number of government employees. The offers are not limited to Washington, however. Chefs from Denver, Colorado to New Orleans, Louisiana are also providing meals to federal workers and their families. Neal Brown, a restaurateur in Indianapolis, Indiana, said that federal employees have taken him up on the deal. In addition, he has been overwhelmed with offers of support from restaurant patrons who want to contribute to the effort. One person wanted to know if they could chip in for wine for affected workers. Brown said "I thought, wine makes people happy, so yeah, it's been phenomenal."

Is copper cookware really worth the expense?

No one can deny that a rack of gleaming copper pots looks fantastic, but are copper pans worth their rather extravagant price? Daniel Gritzer of Serious Eats tackled this question recently and discovered that, as with many things in life, there is no clearcut answer

copper pans

There is no doubt that copper's thermal properties are unique, and that it is much more responsive to changes in heat than cast iron or stainless steel. This property "gives it a nimbleness and agility that can be very useful for delicate proteins like fish and seafood, as well as sauces, caramel, and chocolate," says Gritzer. However, other factors must be considered when discussing this feature of copper pans. If you are using an old electric coil stove, for example, the responsiveness of copper doesn't matter much since the burner itself will be slow to heat and cool. 

Quality varies greatly between different types of copper pots and pans. The thickness of the copper layers matters, as does the material with which the pan is lined. Once you get up to the top echelons of cookware, however, the differences become more aesthetic. Gritzer compares high-quality copper pans to sports cars, saying that while no one really needs one, if you have the means and desire there is no reason not to buy them - and have fun cooking. 

Items that even chefs don't make from scratch

Sometimes I like to dive deep into a culinary creation, making everything I can from scratch. However, there are a few items that I haven't really given much thought to making - ketchup immediately comes to mind. It turns out that even though they spend their days creating complex dishes where they tweak every flavor, chefs also take shortcuts, especially at home. Food and Wine talked to several chefs about what they won't make from scratch

homemade ketchup

Turns out I'm in good company - chefs Alex Guarnaschelli and Norman Van Aken both think store bought ketchup is better than homemade. You might not expect Daniel Boulud to prefer buying versus making a condiment, but he uses purchased tapenade instead of making it himself. "Usually, tapenade is made with small olives from Provence, which are pain to pit," he says. 

It isn't just condiments that chefs leave to others. "It's kind of embarrassing because I'm known for my fried chicken, but I live for Publix fried chicken," confesses chef Michelle Bernstein. Brad Kilgore - chef, restaurateur and founder of Kilgore Culinary Group - buys bacon and smoked salmon. "Both of these are really tough to do in your apartment or house, and there are really tasty, high-quality versions of both available just about anywhere," he says. 

Photo of Easy homemade chipotle ketchup from Tinned Tomatoes by Jacqueline Meldrum

Are you all in for Veganuary?

With a new year comes new resolutions, and for a growing number of people that means eating less meat. One trend that's been around for a few years now and that seems to be gaining momentum in this area is going vegan for the first month of the year. Known as Veganuary, the practice helps people jumpstart their healthy and ethical eating goals. 

vegetable chaat

If you have thought about attempting this but were intimidated because it would be difficult to find enough tasty recipes to make it all the way through the month, a plethora of sites offer meal plans and recipes to assist your vegan adventure. You may want to begin with the seminal website veganuary.com, which aims to inspire people to try a vegan diet for the month of January and beyond.  

Other sites offer recipes inspired by chefs and bloggers. Currently The Guardian features a truffled mushroom pate that sounds tantalizing and BBC Good Food features a slate of vegan recipe collections from soups to comfort food and even cake. Cooking Light boasts a complete guide to Veganuary, and Jamie Oliver presents his favorite vegan recipes for the occasion. If nothing in these collections suits your fancy, browse the EYB Library's 35,000+ vegan recipes. Use the filters to narrow down your search to find main dishes, sides, desserts and more. 

Photo of Leftover roast vegetable chaat from The Guardian Feast Supplement by Meera Sodha 

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