Illustration by Yevgeniy Solovyev from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing
1. Harold McGee waxed particularly eloquently in yesterday's NYTimes on the improving nature of American dry-cured ham and what makes it taste good.
The pig "should be mature, well fed and free to run around. Muscles of such
an animal are packed with the raw materials for creating flavor,
enzymes that will catalyze the first stage of that creation, and fat to
lend tenderness and moistness.
"Then there’s time. It takes many
months for muscle enzymes to break down flavorless proteins into savory
amino acids, odorless fats into aromatic fragments, and for all these
chemical bits and pieces to interact and generate new layers of flavor.
And it takes months for meat to lose moisture and develop a density of
flavor and texture."
Being able to do this is important because the hams of a mature pig are enormous and figuring out what to do with all that meat would be difficult without the ability to dry-cure them. That a preservation technique results in something so exquisite is what craft of charcuterie is all about.
McGee's site also links to the excellent Food Arts article on the same subject.
2. In the LATimes, Russ Parsons reviews a spate of new chef memoirs and finds them lacking. What has Bourdain wrought? he asks, referring of course to Kitchen Confidential. (He might have mentioned that The Making of a Chef preceded KC by three years, though that was written by someone who was not then and is not now a chef; it was the first, I think in the sub-genre, culinary school memoir, which includes the recent Under the Table.) The best of the chef memoirs Parsons, says is Spiced, by Dahlia Jurgensen, but what they all ultimately do, he concludes, is to make it clear just how easy Bourdain made the writing of a chef memoir seem.
3. Is it really possible to write a pompous cookbook?! According to Jennifer Reese in Slate, I have. Ratio is "his fascinating and pompous new book," she writes. Of all that's been written about the book, this is by far, by far, the most interesting, well-written and gratifying review—because it's more than a review, it's the author's experience of using my book and it's nearly ecstatic. Why do I love it? Because it shows a cook thinking about cooking in a new way, about baking intuitively, something we're taught to believe is impossible. Or maybe it's just me who's ecstatic over her review—because it's one thing to give people some recipes, another thing to change the way they think. And I don't think that's pompous. (What's pompous is posting about it! OK, so I'm a little guilty.)
Now, off to deep fry some turkey. Ratio: 1 turkey to 1 pot of hot fat to 1 hungry fatso.