Where my fellow cooks at???

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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby shmenguin on Fri Nov 08, 2013 5:30 pm

cornstarch is more effective. i don't really like what it does do liquid, though. it's so goopy.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby tifosi77 on Fri Nov 08, 2013 6:50 pm

BigMcK wrote:Question. What difference, if any, does it make to use cornstarch over flour as a thickening agent? Is there an advantage for using one over the other? I see some recipes that call for adding cornstarch to liquid instead of adding flour to liquid for the base of the thickening agent.

What gives?

Unless I'm cooking Cajun/creole, I never use flour to thicken sauces. Too much opportunity to affect the flavor of the dish.

You don't really want to just add cornstarch directly to what you're thickening, better to make a slurry first.

The main difference between them is the temperature at which they 'activate', or begin unleashing their thickening powers upon your food.* Cornstarch will begin thickening at ~145° F/63° C, while flour needs to be heated to over ~185° F/85° C. (There are quick-mix flours that can work almost instantly, but I don't really like those) So your main consideration will be how hot you want to the liquid to be, and then making sure you cook the sauce long enough to get rid of any cakey flavor that often accompanies these two products. (This is one of the reasons you see cornstarch in many Asian cuisines; their quick cooking often wok-based dishes are only on the heat for 5-7 minutes, total.)

This is partly why I favor xanthan gum for thickening sauces. First, it hydrates in nearly any liquid at room temperature, so there's no need to heat it. It doesn't really have a flavor, either, so you actually can use it in a room-temperature sauce and it won't affect the flavor profile. Second, you can thicken a sauce with tiny tiny amounts; I'm talking as low as 0.2% of the weight of the liquid being thickened. For 150 g of liquid, that's like a third of a gram of thickening agent. Also, xanthan acts as a stabilizer for the sauce/emulsion, which means a sauce made with properly hydrated xanthan gum will not separate.

Just be very careful using xanthan.... the first time I tried using it, I put about 10x the amount I should have into my sauce, and it pretty much instantly turned it into a savory chewing gum. (Which, as it turned out, did not go well with the fish.)

Carrageenan (kappa, iota, lambda) and tapioca maltodextrin are also popular thickeners/stabilizers in the modernist crowd, but I don't have any experience with the former outside of ice cream and none at all with the latter.






* Food science!
Spoiler:
The way a starch thickens a liquid is by absorbing that liquid into its cell structure to the point of saturation. Different agents have different absorptive capacities, but the point is that once the starch reaches its saturation point it must be heated to whatever temp is necessary for the fully-hydrated cells rupture and the starch is then dispersed into the liquid (rather than the other way around). Cornstarch has weaker bonds in its cell structure, hence the lower activation temp. This is 'thickening'.

On the point of xanthan gum... chemically, it is a hydrocolloid, so when you use it in a liquid you are technically creating a fluid gel with strong shear strength. Think Heinz ketchup.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby canaan on Fri Nov 08, 2013 7:39 pm

Tif, give it to me as a layman, would cornstarch be a better gravy mechanism for turkey/chicken over flour? I've always mixed the drippings with flour and some seasoning and it turns out pretty kickass when I constantly agitate over low-to-medium heat.


...or are you discussing different operations? I'm not too attuned to molecular gastronomy aside from the basics...i don't use xanthum gum or the other noveau ingredients, so I dunno if I'm missing the whole boat of what you're saying.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby tifosi77 on Fri Nov 08, 2013 8:08 pm

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing inherently wrong with using flour. It truly depends on how much you want to heat the liquid and how you feel about gluten. (There is no gluten in cornstarch) I just personally don't like it because you have to cook it for so long to remove the rawness, and you have to use so much more of it (as compared to cornstarch, never mind the hyrdocolloids I talked about above) to thicken an equal volume of liquid.

For a gravy, I'd make a cornstarch slurry; call it no more than 1 tablespoon (roughly 8 grams) mixed until dissolved in an equal volume of reserved liquid (your pan drippings) for every 2 cups (~460 grams) of liquid to be thickened, then return that slurry to the rest of the drippings and heat until gravy is achieved.

And don't be deterred by people like me using terms like hydrocolloids and fluid gels. As I said, at the end of the day I'm basically talking about ketchup and mustard.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby canaan on Fri Nov 08, 2013 9:01 pm

Would you use cornstarch on a simple roux or would you prefer a wheat flour? There is no wrong answer per se, just wondering your preference. I like trying different twists and don't use cornstarch at all...basically just wondering if the wife will be put off by the change. This may lead to me asking how you do a mashed potato (pls don't say maltodextrin, himalayan sea salt, and liquid nitrogen components :lol:

the reason I ask is that you do a very pretty platable spread and I think you could do some wicked comfort Americana if you tinkered. Be my nom nom muse, sir.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby canaan on Fri Nov 08, 2013 9:02 pm

Also, re-reading your gram measurements makes me inquire about your measuring cup/system...i hate my plastic cup junk system...what do you use?
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby tifosi77 on Fri Nov 08, 2013 9:57 pm

About a year ago I gave up volumetric measuring in the kitchen. Everything is weighed on digital scales now, and I write recipes in terms of percentages relative to the whole, or to the main ingredient, rather than as a collection of individual measures. Takes a lot of getting used to, but once you adapt your brain and your habits to this method, things go so much faster in the kitchen.

My scales:
MIRA Glass Platform Digital Kitchen Scale
AWS-100 Digital Pocket Scale (0.01 g accuracy)

You can get into some serious coin on digital scales, but these two work for probably 95% of what a fairly adventurous home cook needs.

As regards a roux, there are a couple things going on there. Yes, you are creating a thickening agent, but you are also (in many cases) trying to develop a specific kind of flavor. Be it the gentle hint of grain in a blonde roux, or the aggressive nuttiness of a red brick roux, a roux is more than just texture. As far as I know, you're never really going to get that with cornstarch. (To that end, my earlier comments should be viewed solely in terms of the pros-cons of each as a thickening agent) So if you switch from flour to cornstarch you are possibly altering the flavor of the dish, perhaps substantially so.

Now..... mashed potatoes. I'm not going to tell you to do anything goofy, like put the spuds through a 20,000 G centrifuge to separate the solids. Just follow this simple recipe from Heston Blumenthal and adjust to your tastes.



My variation includes passing the final mixture through a sieve a couple times to really refine the creamy texture, instead of ricing the cooked potatoes twice. Which I find necessary because I like to add a bit more butter by weight; I usually do about 30%. I finish with a very light shot of champagne vinegar tableside (instead of the lime juice jelly) to add the pop of acidity. Whatever you do, don't skip the potato skin infusion part; as with most veg, like 90% of the aroma comes from the skin, so you want to be sure you capture that.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby the wicked child on Sun Nov 10, 2013 4:42 pm

Roasting a chicken tonight. Stuffed w/ lemon, rosemary and thyme... Made a rosemary/garlic/thyme butter to rub under the skin. Also trying out a stuffing recipe w/ sausage and garlic bread... Will make some mashed and some gravy as well.

Going to pair with a fine Sprite Zero Cranberry which will have to do in place of cranberry sauce. ;)
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby Letang Is The Truth on Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:54 am

just looked up the make your own manhattan at fig. awesome.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby tifosi77 on Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:13 pm

There are few things I find more satisfying than a properly roasted chicken.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby count2infinity on Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:16 pm

tifosi77 wrote:There are few things I find more satisfying than a properly roasted chicken.


so delicious when it's done properly. I do have to thank you tif for convincing me many moons ago to get a proper meat thermometer... takes all the guess work out of the roasting process. About once a month I roast a chicken, make stock from the bones and freeze it for future use, then take the left over meat and make meals for a week.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby tifosi77 on Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:17 pm

And that's how you do that. :thumb:
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby shmenguin on Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:29 pm

since this doesn't belong in the sriracha thread...

like MSG before it, vegetable rennet struck the shmenguin household last night. hey, FDA...if something is soy based, make companies put that on the ingredient label. or was i imagining the hives and the severe digestive stress going on with my wife last night? or am i supposed to know what the hell vegetable rennet is without googling it after an incident happens?

the loopholes in the food industry are disgraceful.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby count2infinity on Mon Nov 11, 2013 1:55 pm

shmenguin wrote:since this doesn't belong in the sriracha thread...

like MSG before it, vegetable rennet struck the shmenguin household last night. hey, FDA...if something is soy based, make companies put that on the ingredient label. or was i imagining the hives and the severe digestive stress going on with my wife last night? or am i supposed to know what the hell vegetable rennet is without googling it after an incident happens?

the loopholes in the food industry are disgraceful.


they JUST recently (this past august) defined what constitutes "gluten free". Before that, companies could label their food "gluten free" even when it wasn't. The new definition is still 20 parts per million... even though some with SEVERE cases of ciliac's disease are sensitive to 5 parts per million.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby columbia on Mon Nov 11, 2013 2:46 pm

count2infinity wrote:
tifosi77 wrote:There are few things I find more satisfying than a properly roasted chicken.


so delicious when it's done properly. I do have to thank you tif for convincing me many moons ago to get a proper meat thermometer... takes all the guess work out of the roasting process. About once a month I roast a chicken, make stock from the bones and freeze it for future use, then take the left over meat and make meals for a week.


I like to use ~ 3 pound chickens, because they just seem to taste better....just roast a couple of them at a time and there's plenty of leftovers/stock.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby columbia on Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:00 pm

Letang Is The Truth wrote:just looked up the make your own manhattan at fig. awesome.


I had some grouper at FIG on Friday, which was pretty on point.
Went with a rye Manhattan, with cardamon. It was tasty....but I'm not a hard liquor connoisseur, so I'm sure I could have devised something better.

Another farm to table place in Charleston is The Glass Onion, which is always decent but nothing spectacular. It's priced about the same as Husk and FIG....which is to say, it's overpriced - despite what their website says - for the relative quality.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby columbia on Mon Nov 11, 2013 8:06 pm

Tuna steak with mango salsa + oyster mushrooms sauteed in butter + mustard greens, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric and a touch of sesame oil.

Pretty good for a Monday and WAY better than my lunch at Wendy's. :)
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby the wicked child on Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:32 pm

tifosi77 wrote:There are few things I find more satisfying than a properly roasted chicken.

Yes, although this one threw me for a loop a bit. The skin was epic, the gravy I made from the drippings awesome... but the chicken itself didn't really seem to take in much of the flavor from the lemons or herbs for some reason... not really sure what went wrong there.

The stuffing I made was good... but a bit too much work versus the ultimate payoff IMO... won't be repeating that recipe.

I forgot to snap a pic of the bird before I started to carve it and immediately did a :face: thinking of this thread.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby count2infinity on Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:54 pm

I'll be in Chicago working the whole week of Thanksgiving (sucks... last minute trip and I'll likely be working 20 hour days), so the wife and I are going to do Thanksgiving dinner this weekend. The menu:

Roasted Chicken (I'll make a little bit of gravy for it)
Cayenne spiced candied sweet potatoes
Sauteed kale with bacon and garlic
Green beans and slivered almonds
And the wife is going to make a cranberry tart
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby tifosi77 on Tue Nov 12, 2013 2:42 pm

shmenguin wrote:since this doesn't belong in the sriracha thread...

like MSG before it, vegetable rennet struck the shmenguin household last night. hey, FDA...if something is soy based, make companies put that on the ingredient label. or was i imagining the hives and the severe digestive stress going on with my wife last night? or am i supposed to know what the hell vegetable rennet is without googling it after an incident happens?

the loopholes in the food industry are disgraceful.

This is exactly what I was saying in the Sriracha thread and you sort of poo pooed it.

What was the offending product?
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby shmenguin on Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:24 pm

tifosi77 wrote:
shmenguin wrote:since this doesn't belong in the sriracha thread...

like MSG before it, vegetable rennet struck the shmenguin household last night. hey, FDA...if something is soy based, make companies put that on the ingredient label. or was i imagining the hives and the severe digestive stress going on with my wife last night? or am i supposed to know what the hell vegetable rennet is without googling it after an incident happens?

the loopholes in the food industry are disgraceful.

This is exactly what I was saying in the Sriracha thread and you sort of poo pooed it.

What was the offending product?


i poo pooed the idea that MSG is the equivalent of the glutamic acid that occurs naturally in your body. it contains soy protein. it's not the same. but i admit it's not evil. at least not that i know of. if you don't have extreme soy sensitivities, enjoy the umami. though soy, in general, isn't something that we should consume willy nilly. it's always good to cut down on it whenever possible.

in this case, the rennet was from a goat cheese. i should have known something was up when it said it was "vegetarian" cheese. i guess the burden is on me, the dumb consumer, to know how the enzymes in cheese are usually formed, and why "vegetarian cheese" would be different - AND that the rennet would be derived from soy even though it's not on the label anywhere. silly me. my wife deserves what she gets.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby tifosi77 on Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:42 pm

I said food producers don't have to include things on their ingredient labeling that are ingredients of ingredients. The example I gave was MSG-treated mushrooms that came from a supplier for a canned soup product. You said the soup would have some indication like "natural flavorings". That's essentially what happened here.

And you are right; 'vegetarian' cheese should have been a tip off, altho I would have thought it more likely that the source was a thistle plant rather than soy. I guess in this country we have to find more and more ways to justify soybean production.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby shmenguin on Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:58 pm

tifosi77 wrote:I said food producers don't have to include things on their ingredient labeling that are ingredients of ingredients. The example I gave was MSG-treated mushrooms that came from a supplier for a canned soup product. You said the soup would have some indication like "natural flavorings". That's essentially what happened here.

And you are right; 'vegetarian' cheese should have been a tip off, altho I would have thought it more likely that the source was a thistle plant rather than soy. I guess in this country we have to find more and more ways to justify soybean production.


i guess it's fair to say i wasn't 100% sure what we were arguing about in that thread :lol: . though in this case, the offending ingredient was listed in some capacity ("rennet" is the equivalent of "natural flavors" in this sense). i'm curious about your mushroom example. i still have my doubts that there wouldn't be some sort of tip off on the label.
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby tifosi77 on Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:16 pm

Coworker is traveling in France this week with a friend and they decided to take a detour. To Denmark. Copenhagen, specifically.

She just completed her meal at Noma, widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the entire world.

Spoiler:
$360 for food, $180 for wine, $100 for juice. (Yes, that's right...... a hundo for the juice pairings)

$1,200. For a party of two.

:shock:
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Re: Where my fellow cooks at???

Postby Crankshaft on Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:19 pm

tifosi77 wrote:Coworker is traveling in France this week with a friend and they decided to take a detour. To Denmark. Copenhagen, specifically.

She just completed her meal at Noma, widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the entire world.

Spoiler:
$360 for food, $180 for wine, $100 for juice. (Yes, that's right...... a hundo for the juice pairings)

$1,200. For a party of two.

:shock:


That's ridiculous.
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