In the spring of 1996, a CIA instructor took us on a hunt for morel mushrooms. Why do you love these mushrooms, I asked him. “They’re just too cool,” he said  And they are.  Morels are what mushrooms are all about. They’ve got that gnomish head, brain-like, peculiar, twisted. They’re wild, what forager Connie Green calls a gift-of-God mushroom, unpredictable. And kind of scary looking, dangerous (hopeful phallus, menacingly wrinkled cap).  And they taste so deeply mushroomy, of the earth they rise out of.  We spent all day in the Hudson Valley, and I didn’t find one. My friend Adam did, found two, gave them to me with a scowl, angry he didn’t find more. I cut them open; tiny bugs scurried everywhere inside. When my friend JD Sullivan said “Want to go look for Read On »

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Dried beans and salt. Dried beans and soaking.  Ask some chefs and they’ll tell you add salt in the beginning and the beans will never get soft.  Some chefs have suggested that salt slows the rehydration of beans.  Others say, the slower the rehydration, the better the finished bean (fewer broken ones), so it’s important to soak them overnight.  Others say it doesn’t really matter, or it depends.  One thing that is demonstrably true is that you don’t have to soak your beans overnight; if you want beans for dinner, put them in water and cook them till they’re tender or at least edible, no soaking, no blanching, just put them in a pot and cook them. Wanting to get to the bottom of this, though, and having little scientific knowledge of bean cookery myself, Read On »

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I’d long been taught that the germ of garlic released enzymes that changed the flavor of garlic. In Skills class at the CIA in 1996, my chef instructor said in the finest starred restaurants you’d find that the cooks removed the germ before mincing, but that for our purposes it was unnecessary. That same chef, 5 years later, now asked his class to always remove the germ because it did affect the flavor.  Harold McGee discusses garlic and its science in his book. I too noticed differences, not that the garlic was bitter, as some claim, only that if the garlic sat for a while before using it developed to me an off flavor. This blogger did a test finding that the flavor was different but not worse, in fact that the garlic with the Read On »

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