Dear Milk Streeter,
For decades, I have promoted the notion of heating up your skillet until oil starts smoking. That’s the proper temperature for sauteing. Then Ana Sortun of Oleana and Sofra restaurants in the Boston area came by the kitchen last month for an evening session and told us that she prefers a gentler heat—a mild sizzle, nothing aggressive—when cooking onions and vegetables. I heard the same thing from Meathead Goldwyn, author of “Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling,” who prefers to grill over moderate heat. That's a notion I support as well: I grill chicken over offset heat, with no coals directly under the bird. A quick turn over medium heat crisps the skin nicely. Yes, there are plenty of times when you want heat, a lot of it, but “easy does it” also has its place.
I recently interviewed the humorist Roy Blount Jr., a frequent panelist on Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me!, and he noted that he will not eat foam (“like the belch of someone who ate bacon”), that after eating five potato chips “you are just trying to reclaim the glory of the first two, and you know it!,” and that when a dog watches you plop food into his bowl the dog thinks, “Everything that’s happened in my life so far has led up to this moment.” On the subject of oysters, he wrote this ditty: “I prefer my oyster fried; Then I’m sure my oyster's died.”
We have also launched our new website. Members can get our magazine online, access all of our recipes, follow our television and radio shows, and see all of our tip and technique videos. The site also works well on smartphones and tablets. Click here for more information.
This month I tackled the issue of how to restore a badly crusted cast iron pan. The secret is to heat up oil and coarse salt in the pan and then use that mixture to clean the pan. It’s gentle enough not to damage the pan but strong enough to get rid of any buildup that makes the surface rough.
One of our readers told us that her oven exploded while she was cooking a lamb in red wine in a Dutch oven (the door opened and closed violently; nobody was hurt and the oven was undamaged). Now, that’s a kitchen mystery! Turns out, we think, that a layer of alcohol vapor must have accumulated at the top of the oven, and when the heat element cycled on, there was enough concentration of alcohol fumes to create an explosion. If you have a better explanation, please let us know!
We do offer a FREE recipe this month: Chiang Mai Chicken, based on my trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand, last December. It uses a bold marinade—almost a paste—that creates a fabulous, bold flavor. This really is the best chicken I ever 'et.
I leave you with a stanza from a poem on onions from Roy Blount Jr.:
Every layer produces an ovum.
You think you’ve got three, then you find you’ve got fovum.
Enjoy spring and all that starts to come out of the ground in the warmer weather.