Articles from mvogel

  1. What Happens In The Kitchen When The Chef Is Gone

     The other night my wife and I were having dinner at an Italian restaurant that I have been patronizing for years.  I know the chef/owner, his wife, and most of the wait staff.  This particularly evening, neither the chef nor his wife was present.  Interestingly, our garlic bread was served so burnt it was black, and the angel hair pasta was overcooked and mushy.  Moreover, the Bolognese sauce contained large acorn sized chunks of garlic, clearly indicative of some very lazy prep work.  But...
  2. Cold Soups

    The year was 1917 and Louis Diat, (1885 – 1957), was the head chef of the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Madison Ave in New York City.  The Ritz-Carlton was about to open a new restaurant and a party to celebrate the historic event was being thrown.  In Diat’s repertoire was a potato and leek soup, one of his mother’s recipes, which he planned to serve at the party.   There exists some controversy about whether it was his actual intention to serve the soup cold, but it was, and a classic was...
  3. Chilled Soups

    In the James Bond movie "Goldfinger," 007 is romancing the ill-fated Jill Masterson, (the woman Goldfinger kills by painting gold), when he notices the champagne has lost its chill.  On his way to the fridge to fetch another bottle she queries as to why he is bothering.  James Bond retorts:  "My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon 1953 above a temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit."  Actually most oenophiles would recommend a temp in the 40’s...
  4. A Standard For All Seasons

    Have you ever patronized a restaurant that doesn't have salt and pepper on the table?  The assumption is that the food is already properly seasoned, (seasoning primarily refers to salt), and applying more is not only unnecessary, but may be offensive to the chef.  This implies that his or her amount of seasoning is eternally and universally accurate.  I don't mean to offend anyone but I find such a perspective incredibly presumptuous.  Why?  Because this position predicates that everybody's...
  5. Emulsions When Opposites Attract

    It’s a lazy, rainy, Sunday morning and you want a no fuss lunch for the family.  You’ve got cold cuts on hand so sandwiches become the obvious answer.  As you peruse the fridge you realize you’re out of mayonnaise.  Darn!  It’s pouring outside and you don’t want to schlep to the store in the rain for a stupid bottle of mayo.  Then you remember the cooking show where the chef made homemade mayonnaise.  You copied down the ingredients during one of those “I’ll have to try that sometime”...
  6. Braising

    Braising can take the chill out of winter
    I am not a winter person.  But I must admit, there’s nothing like a hearty winter meal followed by a good brandy or a hot cup of tea in front of the fireplace.  Historically man consumed rich and robust fare in winter to counter the cold and add some thermal padding.  Culinary anthropology aside, I simply love spending a cold winter Saturday or Sunday preparing soul warming fare that fills the house with its embracing aroma.
    It starts with a...
  7. Bordeaux Wines

    Bordeaux, (Bor-DOH), is one of the world’s best wines.  But Bordeaux’s geography, nomenclature, grape varieties, and outdated classification system is confusing enough to drive you to drink.  Hmmmm.  Maybe that’s the plan? Let’s see if we can make this wonderful wine more mentally palatable.
    Bordeaux is a wine, a city and a territory.  Bordeaux is a large region in southwest France named after its principal city.  Bordeaux is also the name loosely applied to any wine emanating from within...
  8. Matzo Not To Be Passed Over

    I completed my doctorate degree at Yeshiva University in the Bronx.  One of the things I remember most, (aside from the cost), was not the education, but the extraordinary matzo ball soup in the cafeteria.  I never had lunch in the cafeteria without enjoying it.  This was years before my culinary interests took a more serious turn so I never queried how it was made.  At the time I was more than satisfied to simply savor the soup and temporarily escape the grueling schedule, the horrendous...
  9. Put A Cork In It

    A current debate in the wine world is whether traditional corks should be abandoned in favor of synthetic, man-made stoppers, or a screw cap.  A screw cap!  Can you imagine??? If you are a traditional wine lover, you probably have the same visceral reaction that I do to screw caps.  But, in the interest of proffering a balanced presentation of the issue, I will restrain my passions……. for now.
    The cork vs. screw cap debate is somewhat of a head vs. heart type of conflict.  The logical mind...
  10. Vodka Cheers Comrade

    Cheers Comrade
    What comes to mind when you think of Russia?  Communism? The Cold War? The Iron Curtain?  As a chef and epicure, my first association is vodka!  (And caviar of course).  The Brits would agree.   In the 16th century, the British ambassador to Russia deemed it their national drink. 
    The word vodka comes from the Russian "zbiznennaia voda" which translates as "water of life", a rather hospitable phrase that has been oxymoronically linked with bellicose, totalitarian regimes and...
  11. Peas In A Pod Cooking With Peas

    Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884) was an Austrian monk famous for his seminal work in genetics.  He uncovered a series of laws that govern how genes are transmitted.  Mendel made these discoveries with the assistance of the common garden pea.  He repeatedly crossed varieties of pea plants in an effort to observe how specific genetic traits, e.g., height, color, seed shape, etc., were imparted to ensuing generations.   Out of these observations arose the laws that became the basis of modern...
  12. Custards Last Stand Cooking Custards

    You're making pastry cream for a banana cream pie for dessert tomorrow.  Chilling it overnight should render it appetizingly cold by tomorrow.  Dinner concludes and it's time for the pièce de résistance.  To a herald of "oohs" and "ahs" you present your luscious banana cream pie.  But when you cut into it, you discover a runny mess.  Beneath the decadently deceptive whipped cream topping is a puddle of ooze.  What went wrong? 
    Most likely you never brought your pastry cream to a full boil. ...
  13. Squash Autumns Ambassadors

    The envoys of fall arrive to greet us well before the autumnal equinox.  Gourds, which include pumpkins, winter squash, and those warty, odd-shaped decorative miniatures, begin showing up in supermarkets and roadside stands in late summer.  Appearing even before the leaves start changing, they're a distinctive harbinger of autumn.  For the gourmet, they're a key ingredient in a variety of seasonal dishes.

    Squash is the fruit of plants from the gourd family.  Squash originated in the western...
  14. Garlic

    Vampire Repellant

    Garlic.  What would we do without it?  Garlic's reputation precedes itself.  And a ponderous reputation it is.  Garlic has been alleged to perform everything from curing countless illnesses to warding off evil spirits and vampires.  The Egyptians fed garlic to the slaves who built the pyramids believing it increased their physical strength. 
    Man has harvested garlic for at least 5,000 years.  Horticulturists argue about its exact origins but a popular theory places its...
  15. Thanksgiving Turkey

    Let's Talk Turkey
    Thanksgiving is approaching and households across America will be preparing the traditional turkey.  About 46 million turkeys will be "gobbled" up according to the National Turkey Federation.  Most people want to know how to cook a juicy bird.  Simple.  Make duck instead.

    I don't care what anybody says.  Turkey meat, particularly the breast, is not juicy.  Of course this depends on your definition of "juicy."  For me, juicy is the moisture level in a medium-rare rib-eye...
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