Eat This Word: Cassoulet

 

WHAT? Languedoc’s long-simmered stew. “There are many versions of cassoulet, all of them good and all monumentally substantial,” wrote James Beard in The Armchair James Beard. It appears that chefs across the country couldn’t agree more—versions of the classic dish will be served at three Beard House dinners this month. Cassoulet comes from the southwest Languedoc and Toulousain regions of France and is rumored to have first appeared in the seventeenth century (when the key ingredient—white beans—were brought over from the New World). Although it’s one of France’s most famous dishes, there is little consensus within the country about what constitutes a classic cassoulet. The recipe varies from region to region and from cook to cook, though it always contains various meats, beans, and vegetables that are prepared separately before being arranged in layers in a cassole—the glazed earthenware pot from which the dish gets its name. The cassoulet is then topped with a heavy sprinkling of... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Bagna Cauda

 

WHAT? A hot soak for your veggies. Bagna cauda, Italian for hot bath, is a very old dish with a Piedmont pedigree. Once considered a poor man's meal, bagna cauda has become one of the region's most popular foods. The "bath" is a tangy sauce made from garlic, olive oil, and anchovy; butter is often added in as well. To keep the sauce hot, it's typically served over a flame. Raw, or sometimes lightly cooked vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces, are dipped into it using a long-pronged fork. In Piedmont, fennel, cauliflower, cabbage, and red peppers are the veggies of choice, but any vegetable that's good to eat raw works well with bagna cauda, too.

 

WHERE? Flavors of Veneto

 

WHEN? Thursday, February 4, 2016
 

HOW? Dry-Aged Beef with Roasted... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Gochujang

 

WHAT? Sriracha’s umami-rich cousin. This versatile, flavor-packed Korean sauce is also made from fermented red peppers, but has deep savory and salty notes that sriracha lacks. A household staple in Korea, it’s only a matter of time before it makes its way into your own collection of chile pastes. Its thicker texture adds body to sauces and stews, while giving your barbecue sauce, ketchup, or marinade a subtle Asian-inflected kick. A mere tablespoon or two can help round out dull flavors, giving that extra bite of umami similar to an anchovy or miso paste. Incorporate it into a garlicky cheese spread for a decadent grilled cheese sandwich or top your steak with a dab of gochujang butter. The options are limitless, as its pronounced flavors marry well with everything from American classics to Korean staples like bibimbap. While gochujang hasn’t quite reached sriracha-level fame yet, it can be found in most specialty grocery stores, or at your local Asian market.

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Eat This Word: Hominy

 

WHAT? Indigenous edible. This venerable grain is in fact dried corn kernels that have been processed with an alkali—traditionally a lye or limewater solution—to remove their tough outer skins. Its consumption dates back to ancient Mesopotamian cultures; in her book Crazy for Corn, Betty Fussell referred to hominy as “the world’s oldest chemically processed food.” Hominy was a staple of the Native American diet, and vestiges of its past can be found in Mexican soups and stews like menudo and posole. Its most common contemporary American iteration is as grits, the Southern staple in which dry hominy is ground, simmered over slow heat, and served with butter and cream in either savory or sweet variations.

 

WHERE? Coastal Winter

 

WHEN? Friday, January 29, 2016... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Epazote

 

WHAT? This pungent herb is a staple of Southern Mexican cuisine, where it’s also known as Mexican tea, wormseed, pigweed, and West Indian goosefoot. The use of epazote dates back to the Aztecs, who sought out the herb for its medicinal properties, mainly its ability to aid digestive health and relieve abdominal discomfort. It grows wild in many tropical and sub-tropical climates, and can be found as far north as Northern California. Traditionally, epazote was used as a flavoring agent in bean soups and as an herb in medicinal teas. Today, epazote is becoming a popular addition to Mexican-inspired dishes. JBF Award winner Rick Bayless praises epazote’s distinctive flavor and adds it to everything from cheesy mushroom quesadillas to slow-roasted pork. Its unmistakable flavor resembles a more acidic version of coriander combined with a hint of lemon. Epazote, like many herbs, is an acquired taste, but adding it to your repertoire will bring a new depth of Mexican flavor to any dish. ... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Tourtière

 

WHAT? French pastry. As is so often the case with French words, tourtière means something slightly different in France than it does in French Canada. In Paris the word tourtière is obscure. It refers to a generic meat pie (sometimes also called a tourte) in a pastry crust that's baked in a mold called a tourtière. (Like tagine, terrine, and tian, the name of the dish comes from the name of the vessel in which it is cooked.) In Montréal, tourtière refers to a specific meat pie, usually ground pork, that's seasoned with cinnamon and clove and baked in a lard crust. It is traditional at Christmas, but it is eaten throughout the year. There are regional variations, such as the tourtières made along the Saguenay River that are filled with potatoes, onions, and cubed meat. Whereas in France it's unlikely to find someone who has ever had a tourtière, in French Canada, just about everyone has probably had one within the last year.

 

WHERE? ... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Hoecake

 

WHAT? Pancake’s papa. Johnnycakes, ashcakes, battercakes, corn cakes, cornpone, jurney cakes, jonakin, jonikins, Shawnee cakes, and hoe cakes (or hoecakes) are all regional variations of flatbreads made with cornmeal, water, and salt. According to the website foodreference.com, since Native Americans showed the Pilgrims how to cook with corn, they are also most likely to have taught them how to make these precursors of our modern-day pancake. Hoe cakes were, as Culinaria United States notes, “supposedly created by slaves who cooked ‘journey’ cake batter on their hoes under the hot sun while working in the fields.” The original three-ingredient recipe has evolved during the last 400 years, and eggs, oil, butter, and even baking powder are now standard in most recipes. You can of course opt for a mix, but Aunt Jemima prefers wheat to cornmeal. Whichever recipe you use, the frying pan has become the cooking utensil of preference.

 

WHERE? ... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Spoonbread

 

WHAT? "The apotheosis of cornbread." Or so said writer Redding Sugg. This Southern soufflé may take its moniker from suppon or suppawn, an Indian porridge. Perhaps the name stuck because this Southern comfort food is best eaten with a spoon. It's made from cornmeal, eggs, butter, and milk, sometimes enlivened with baking powder and a dash of sugar, and it's served across the South with country ham or rabbit stew or all on its own. Spoon bread is an any-meal kind of food: Jefferson, for instance, ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Spoonbread, according to Southern Food author John Egerton, is "the ultimate, glorified ideal of cornbread." True Grits author Joni Miller declares it "one of the most elegant and classic Southern dishes." An essential Southern savory, "a properly prepared spoonbread," Egerton writes, "can be taken as testimony to the perfectibility of humankind." 

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Eat This Word: Mostarda

 

WHAT? Pungent preserves. No, mostarda is not the Italian word for mustard. Though the words sound similar, this sweet-and-spicy condiment is only distantly related to the hot dog's favorite sidekick. To make mostarda, fruit is preserved in sugary syrup and given a slight kick with the addition of mustard seeds or powder. According to food writer Elizabeth David, this jam-like spread is a descendant of "the honey, mustard, oil, and vinegar condiments of the Romans, who also preserved roots such as turnips in this mixture." Cherries, figs, pears, and apricots are the most common ingredients in mostarda, but different variations include candied melon, pumpkin, or oranges. The piquant fruit accompaniment is enjoyed with boiled white meats or cheeses throughout Northern Italy. The most famous and popular variation is from Cremona, a small town in Lombardy, and includes pears, quince, peaches, cherries, and mandarins.

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Eat This Word: Benne Seed


WHAT? Sesame seeds by another name. West African slaves introduced the seeds to America (along with okra, yams, and black-eyed peas), and the Nigerian name for them, "benne," stuck, at least in the American South. The Africans considered the seeds lucky. Today, benne wafers—thin cookies/crackers made with sesame seeds—are closely associated with Lowcountry cooking, a style of cooking centered in Charleston, South Carolina. And they're often served at Kwanza too.

 

WHERE? Savoring the South

 

WHEN? Saturday, December 12, 2015

 

HOW? Pimento Cheese on Benne Seed Crackers

 

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