We heard of the mass following of PCC (Parmesan Crusted Chicken for those not in the know). It uses a mixture of Hellmann's mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese as the glue to adhere seasoned breadcrumbs onto boneless chicken breasts. Doesn't seem quite right, avoiding the fatty chicken skin by using fatty mayonnaise, but, who am I to judge? I love mayonnaise. The idea of using mayonnaise as a flavorful binder is intriguing. And why should chicken have all the fun? We put mayonnaise, mustard, brown sugar, pickle juice, balsamic vinegar and cayenne in a bowl. We mixed them together and slathered the mixture onto thick cut strip steaks. We let the meat marinate for 4 hours. Then we grilled the steaks, turning them regularly to a beautiful medium rare to medium, depending on the diner. The results were amazing. The flavors of the marinade penetrated the meat. The mixture itself remained stuck to the outside layer during the cooking process and crusted on the outside. Knowing that mayonnaise is a blend of oil, eggs and seasonings opens the door to all of the flavorful possibilities.
When we worked on the Train Yourself to Be a Better Cook piece, for Food & Wine a number of ideas didn't fit into the article. One was a caramelized lemon vinaigrette. We caramelized sugar on lemons and then squeezed the juice. That was the catalyst, yes we know it's been done before, but you never know when an idea will catch a spark. Since then we having been dipping different fruits in sugar, bruleeing them, and juicing them. The increased depth of flavor elevates them to another level. And they can be twisted in many different directions running the gamut from sweet to savory. We've yet to find a fruit that doesn't taste better with a little burnt sugar.
The usefulness of ingredients is important. The ability to use them is up to the cook. One of our talents is being able to think outside the box when it comes to ingredients and find new uses for established items. Potato flakes and non-fat milk powder are staples in our kitchen. In Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work we made potato chip noodles. In Maximum Flavor, we have fined tuned BBQ potato chip gnocchi. Both recipes use potato flakes. These dehydrated potatoes replicate the flavor of potato chips. Think about it, potato chips are deep fried to remove interior moisture and make them crunchy and to caramelize the outside. Potato flakes are halfway there.
There seems to be a fear of using potato flakes in the kitchen. This stems from the idea of cheating in the kitchen. Oddly it does not seem to apply to non-fat milk powder in spite of the horror stories about it. As a kid a friend of mine drank only reconstituted dried milk, which to my mind was the stuff of nightmares. It tended to separate in the glass and had a gritty, chalky consistency. Thankfully I was able to get past the memories and discover usefulness in the ingredient. And to be frank, great mashed potato flakes (the ones that are 100% potato) make great mashed potatoes, in an instant.
These two recipes utilize potato flakes and non-fat milk powder. They allow the idea of a potato chip with the clarity of the potato flavor to come through. Take them for a spin and then make them your own.
MY LAWN GOT HAMMERED by 650 pairs of visiting feet, but I knew who to call. For almost a decade, I’ve turned with lawn-care issues to the work of Paul Tukey, author in 2007 of “The Organic Lawn Care Manual,” and founder of SafeLawns.org, an advocacy and education nonprofit. Paul just relocated from New England to his new post as Chief Sustainability Officer for Glenstone, a museum in Potomac, Maryland, where the vast grounds have been maintained since 2010 without synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilizers–a sort of living classroom for organic landscape stewardship. He answered our pressing questions on my latest public-radio show: controlling crabgrass and other weeds; reversing compaction; overseeding, and does corn gluten meal really work as a weed-and-feed? Read, or listen in.
ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER, and besides, they have goats! I’m going over the river and through the woods Saturday, September 21, to the hometown of Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, the Beekman 1802 Boys, to give a talk and help raise money for the restoration of Sharon Springs, New York’s, historic Chalybeate Park. (They did the same here Aug. 17, benefiting my rural hamlet of Copake Falls.) Join me at the Sharon Springs Harvest Festival the duo helps put on each year
SOMEONE’S SUDDENLY EATING HOLES in my Brussels sprouts plants, and it isn’t the usual earlier-in-the-season suspects—those fuzzy green cabbage worms I’ve written about. My new visitors are apparently cross-striped cabbage worms, which can pose a serious problem to home gardeners because they’re prolific egg-layers producing multiple generations a season. Oh, dear.
(They’re also really beautiful, if you look at them up close–but beautiful in the way that Japanese beetles are beautiful, meaning not enough for me to count them as beloved pets and keep them around or anything.) Squish!
The cross-striped cabbage worm larvae are sort of blue-gray, and as their name suggests striped across their bodies. Not so many years back, it was more a pest in Southern farms and gardens, but has gradually made its way to southern New England, at least. I read up on them in various places–U-Mass Amherst; at the University of Georgia, and so on–and what I concluded (as I said): Squish!
I’ll be vigilant about fall cleanup and follow all the steps I’m already practicing to stay ahead of other cabbage worms, like this. I don’t use pesticides–not even ones rated for organic gardening and specific to caterpillars, such as Bt–and I manage to harvest plenty of food most years, anyhow.