Comestible Orange Goo: Making Purée from Fresh Pumpkins

2012-10-31 by derobert. 11 comments

A pumpkin, wrapped at its base in a towel, with a meat cleaver halfway through.

It is autumn again, and cooks and bakers go crazy about everything pumpkin. Cream of pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream – all of these start out with the same ingredient, a soft mash of pumpkin flesh. And as with so many things, the one you make yourself is much better than the canned version from the store. This raises the question: how do you make a truly concentrated and tasty pumpkin purée?

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No smoker? A $80 grill is enough for tasty pulled pork.

2012-09-19 by waxeagle. 5 comments

Smoked meat at home


Hello! I’m wax, and today I’ll be talking to you about how to make pulled pork using nothing more than a Weber grill and a lot of patience (ok, maybe a few more things, but we’ll get to that). Usually you have a big honking smoker, or at least something more akin to a drum than a grill.

When a smoker is loaded with a heap of coal, it can be left to smolder for hours and will keep a consistent low temperature, while the coals in a grill will instead burn hot and quickly. However, through a bit of research, and some practice, I’ve found that there is a good way to heat my grill to 250°F and sustain it for hours. Using this “snake” method you can limit the amount of charcoal that is lit at any given time, and achieve consistent temperatures for ten hours without adding briquettes.

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Shoestring Gourmet Guide: Part 1, Meal Planning

2012-07-25 by bobmcgee. 9 comments
Close up of bananas brûléed

A gourmet dessert for less than the cost of a Mars bar.

A couple years ago, I decided to learn professional cooking the hard way: take a dishwasher job in a local fine dining restaurant, and work up from there. This put me in a pickle: I had to balance my budget on a dishwasher’s meager wages. Ironically, the only way to do it was by cutting back on something I loved: food and wine!

I had to cut the average weekly grocery bill to about $30/person; however, I still wanted to regularly cook gourmet meals. Even though I read everything I could find about saving money on groceries, the most useful strategies came from watching how restaurants keep food costs low to turn a profit.

There are several strategies restaurants employ: first, they plan their menu and preparation so that one step can be used in multiple dishes, and one ingredient in many ways. For example, beef stock is reduced and used in several sauces. Second, they also use strict storage techniques to ensure cooked dishes can be safely served for as long as possible, reducing waste. Third, they know market value of standard foods and negotiate with multiple suppliers to get deals. Fourth, they use tricks to employ cheap ingredients where possible, allowing them to showcase premium ingredients where they count the most. For example, port reductions used a cheap American port, but were served with top-notch meat.

Today, I will tackle the first topic: menu planning. more »