2009 Webisodes

CREATED ON 9-3-2009

Brine Me A Dinner

[AB is sitting sadly at the table with a plate
of flavorless meat in front of him]

    Hey, American cook. Looks like a carnivore's delight you got there! Hey, what's wrong? [AB puts the meat in his mouth and shakes his head] Oh, bland tasting and dry, dry, dry? Well, maybe it's time you tried a brine. It's probably the simplest upgrade you could hope to conjure for your carnivorous endeavors.
    [at the countertop] What exactly is a brine? Well, it's really just salt and water. Yes, sure, you could add other things like brown sugar, and various dried herbs and spices, even fresh herbs. But in the end, you really only have to have salt and water to call it a brine.
    Now a lot of different mixtures and ratios can be used, but I typically go with 2.5 ounces of salt—that is, of course, by weight, there you go—to 32 ounces or a quart of water. But to help it dissolve, I usually take kosher salt for a little spin in the food processor until it's a fine powder. Kind of like pickling salt, only you don't have to buy yourself another box. There you go. Now that goes straight into the quart of water. You don't have to heat it, but you do have to stir it until that salt is thoroughly dissolved. Kind of like that. [shows] Perfect!
    [at the refrigerator holding a bag of pork chops] Now, complete submersion is important, so smaller cuts can go in brine inside zip-top bags as long as they're in drip-proof containment. Larger cuts, such as chickens, you'll want to go with a larger plastic container, of course, with a lid. And you'll need to keep that refrigerated, thank you. Be careful.
    As for larger cuts, such as, say, a turkey, or a goose, or a side of buffalo ... [demonstrating with a very large beverage container, obviously too big for the refrigerator] Ooh, you'll need something a little larger anyway. Be careful. Try just a large drink cooler, and put your brine and your critter inside; and keep it cold with the addition of a few frozen water bottles. That's clever. Lid that up and stash in a cool place.
    Now as for soak times, I usually go with 45 minutes per pound with a one-hour minimum and a ten-hour maximum.
    [at the table] After roasting, broiling, sautéing, grilling, or frying, you'll notice your meats are moister, more tender, and darn tasty. Why? Well, it all has to do with osmotic pressure, diffusion of solutes, and the gelling potential of the denatured proteins. Shall I continue? [shakes his head] That's what I thought. We'll just save that one for another show.

Bringing Home the Fish

GUEST: Houseguest

[AB is sitting at the table with uncooked whole fish in front of him]

    Say, whatcha got there, American cook? Ooooh, those are some handsome-looking fish. You going to, you going to cook those today? [AB shakes his head "no"] Oh, saving it for a couple of days, huh? Well, you know what they say: fish and houseguests stink after three days.

HOUSEGUEST: [the camera pans over to reveal AB's gues]
AB: [leans offer and sniffs him]

Well, there's not too much we can do about the guest, but the fish, well, that's another story. Why don't you head on over by that chill chest.
    [at the countertop] Now, if I were you, I'd get a couple of matching food containers. Plastic, nice and big, like this. Punch holes, or drill them in one of the containers, so that it'll sit down [insides the other] ... Ooooh, that's not enough space for draining water. You're going to need a little bit of a gapper in there. So just ball up a couple of pieces of aluminum foil, place in the bottom as spacers, put the other container on. Let's have a look. Oh yeah, that's plenty of room for draining water.
Now let's just load that up with some ice. Crushed ice would be best if you've got it. And lay in your fish. Nice looking. Those are going to be tasty. A little more ice on top. You got it. And just cover that right up with the lid. Oh, that's just perfect. Good.
    [at the refrigerator] Now just stash that on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. Thusly contained, your fish should remain perfectly viable for up to two, maybe even three days. But remember, fish break down quickly. So the sooner you cook them, the better. Oh, and don't forget to drain that water and add more ice every day. [impatient to leave] Okay, okay.
    [at the table] Observe these simple tips, and your fish will hit the table tasting ... Uh oh, there's that smell again.

HG: [comes into view and takes AB's fish]

    Guess you're going to have to buy more fish.

Hard Boiled Cooked Heaven

[AB is at the table, struggling to peel hard boiled eggs]

    Hey, American cook, whatcha got? Ooo, hard-boiled eggs. Yum. Well you know, they, they can be delicious. You know, like little chicken balls from heaven, ha, ha. Of course, if one eensy beensy thing goes wrong, they can quickly turn into sulfur-laden, stink bombs from, well, you know, that other place. Yeah, the membrane under that shell can set up like glue. The sulfur in the egg white can react with iron in the yolk to create a sickly green color. The white can turn to rubber. But it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, we have a guaranteed plan for hard-cooked egg success.
    [at the refrigerator] Step one: make sure your eggs are fresh. Young eggs contain more moisture so they cook up softer. And their membranes aren't as stout as old eggs, which means easier peeling.
    Now you should never trust the "use by" dates; they're far too random. You can tell how old your eggs really are by the numeric code which tells which day of the year the eggs were packed on. July 4, for instance, is 135 [sic, 185th day of any non-leap year] Oh, oh, oh, oh, and if you want to keep your yolks centered in the eggs, consider storing the carton on its side. Oh, you better... A rubber band might be a good idea. Hold that closed. There you go. Perfect.
    [at the stovetop with a pot of boiling water] So, you're thinking of boiling those, are you? Well, that's okay, as long as you want to waste energy and time, crack half the eggs, and overcook the other half. Look, why don't you pour out all but, say, half an inch of that water. Go ahead. Off you go. Then drop the heat to low and put your steamer basket in there and load it up with a minimum of four eggs. Good. And when you see steam, clamp the lid back on, and turn your timer on for 12 minutes.
    Okay, now steam requires a lot less energy to produce. And although it's plenty hot, it's lower in mass than boiling water, so the heat produced penetrates the eggs more gently, which will make a more tender egg.
    Now, you're going to want to get yourself an ice bath ready. And when the time is up, you want to evacuate your eggs [into the ice bath] as soon as possible. That is going to make them a lot easier to peel and keep them soft and creamy on the inside.
    [later] Alright, five minutes of shock time has gone by. They are nice and cool. So crack on a level surface, and then just kind of roll them around, to loosen that shell. That'll make it a lot easier to remove. Get right under that membrane. And in no time, you have undressed your egg.
A little dip in kosher salt, and you've got perfection. Take a look at this! [shows the interior of the egg] Now that's what I'm talking about. Carpe ovum! [Latin: seize the egg]

Hittin' The "Caramel" Sauce

[AB is at the table with some vanilla ice cream]

    Hey there, average American. Got yourself some ice cream, huh? That looks, cold. Huh. A little bland, though, maybe. You know, what you need is a sauce. Yeah, something dark and sweet but also spicy with just a kiss of bitterness. What you need is caramel! [AB looks excited to get some, but then realizes that he will have to make it] Well, let's cook! Heck yes, you. Is there anybody else in the room?
     [at the stove] Fetch down a heavy two-quart saucepan and add 14.5 ounces by weight of sugar, one tablespoon of light corn syrup, one quarter teaspoon of cream of tartar, and one cup of water. There you go.
     Now, you're going to want to put that to high heat and you can go ahead and give it just a little bit of a stir. [AB reaches for a metal spoon] D-d-d. I wouldn't use metal. Metal can pull heat out. That'll cause baby crystallization later. You'll want to use something non-conductive, like ... [AB reaches for a wooden spoon] Oooh, w-, wood, wood. You know, wood's okay. But for this high heat, I'd probably use something like ... [AB now reaches for a silicone spatula] Yeah, silicone. There you go. That's the one you want. Just give it a stir, and allow it to dissolve.
     Now, if you're wondering about that corn syrup and cream of tartar, they were both there to help prevent crystallization. We want a smooth sauce here.
     Now, when the sugar has dissolved, grab out your frying or candy thermometer, and apply as the manufacturer would suggest.
     Now, pretty soon, you're going to have a boil, and the heat is going to start moving up. You're going to want to turn it down to medium once you hit about 230 degrees. And in about five minutes, you'll get close to 300. That's when you can give it a stir, just to make sure there aren't any hot pockets or places that are not receiving even thermal transmission. There you go.
     Now, once you get to 340 degrees Fahrenheit, it is time to spring into action. Turn the heat off. Remove the thermometerand remember, that's hot, ouch!, very sticky stuff too—and pour in one cup of heavy cream. Stand back, because there is going to be a lot of bubblage/ But don't worry, it'll stay in the pot. Just wait; that's the moisture cooking out of the cream.
     Now as soon as you can safely approach the cooktop again, you'll want to go ahead and return that heat to medium and continue cooking for three minutes. Then remove from the heat and allow to cool thoroughly before you try to add to containment.
     Now I like it in a squeeze top bottle for easy application on ... [AB samples some straight from the strainer] Hey! That's just not right! Put that down. Put that down!
     [at the refrigerator] Once you have your sauce in the container, move that to the refrigerator for up to a month. To enjoy warm, simply microwave for half a minute or so or place the squeezer in warm water.
     [at the table] With caramel sauce in your home, the possibilities are endless. Besides your ice cream, consider livening up your next cup of coffee, or your breakfast toast, or Aunt Martha's Thanksgiving turkey, or maybe, broccoli. Say, how about, how a ... Gee, broccoli. Actually, I hadn't thought of that one. [tasting] Mmm, delicious.

How Brown Was My Onion

[AB is sitting at the table and quickly hides a skillet behind his back]

    Hey, average American, whatcha been cooking over there? Come on, come on [he brings the skillet out] Oooh, um, looks like you were trying to caramelize some onions there. But, heh heh, well, from the looks of it, I'd say you went straight past the flavor-boosting browning of sugar via non-enzymatic oxidation, resulting from pyrolysis, and went straight to carbonization. That is, you burned them. Yeah. But hey, how about we try again, okay? And this time, we won't get too crazy with the heat.
    [at the counter] Success, by the way, begins with the proper selection of allium. By that, of course, we mean onions. You don't want white storage onions. You don't want yellow Spanish onions. You don't want red or purple onions. You want sweet onions like Walla Wallas or Vidalias. And you're going to need five pounds, because they are going to cook down a lot.
    Of course, for cooking, you are going to need a pan. And you could reach for a 12-inch, straight-sided sauté pan, like this. But if you've got it, you might want to go with a non-stick electric skillet set to 250 degrees. Lube it up with three tablespoons of unsalted butter and then start adding the onions in layers. Each layer should get one teaspoon of salt sprinkled across it. No stirring at this point, please. Just laying down the layers and salting them until you have got all the onions down. There will be a lot of sizzling and steaming, and that is perfectly okay. And a lot of fumes. You might actually shed a couple of tears at this point. [AB sheds a few tears] Ah, boo hoo. That's good training for chick flicks and stuff like that. You'll tough your way through it.
    After about 20 minutes, you can finally stir. You're going to see a little bit of browning at this point, but not a lot. Smooth it off, and allow it to cook for another 15 minutes or so. Give it another stir, smooth it out, and continue this pattern for up to 45 minutes to an hour or until the onions are a deep mahogany brown.
    In the end, you'll have yourself two cups of deep, deep golden goodness, ready to added to everything from soup to chicken to pizza to toast to ice cream. Heck, you could even make a popsicle out of it. [shows an onion popsicle] That's what I call versatility. And if there's any left over, simply refrigerate for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to six months. A popsicle! Who would have thought of that?

In A Pickle

{AB is sitting sadly at the table with a sandwich,
chips and a glass of water in front of him]

    Hey, average American. Whatcha having for lunch there, hmm? Whatcha, watcha got? Is that a, is that a tuna sandwich and some chips? Well, isn't that nice. Or is it, or is it bland? [agrees] Yes. Yes. Bland is more like it. You know what you need? Some spark, some snap, some spice, some bracing acidity with just a hint of salt. You, my good fellow, need a pickle. [all excited, heads to the fridge]
    [at the fridge] Nothing like a pickle. Pickles, pickles ... [gets the jar out but it's only got the brine left] Uh, oh. That's too bad. Luckily, it's easy to make your own, right? Right. Let's get in a pickle! [exits quickly] Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. You're going to need a couple of cucumbers down there in the drawer. That's right. Good boy.
    [at the stove top] Now as for the pickle itself, into a 2 quart sauce pan goes 1 cup each of water and apple cider vinegar, along with a quarter cup of white wine vinegar. Then, a quarter cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of packaged pickling spice and a teaspoon of celery seed, 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard seed and ¼ teaspoon of ground turmeric. Crank the heat up to high and bring that to a boil, stirring from time to time. Then, bring the heat down to low and continue to simmer for 4 minutes. Then kill the heat and remove the pickle to cool.
    Now we turn our eyes to the vegetation. Get yourself a big, ole, 1 quart jarclean pleaseand add to it the 2 cucumbers, thinly sliced [with the skin on], interspersed with one half of a medium [yellow or white] onion, thinly sliced, and 4 cloves of garlic, smashed. There go you go. Pack it in there, big guy. Perfect. I always like to finish with a little bit of garlic. Then use a canning funnel to pour in the pickle. All the way up to the, not quite the top, but the shoulder of the jar. By the way, plastic would be okay for this. But turmeric has a bad policy of staining plastics. There you go. Now, close up the lid. There you go. Excellent. Looks good.
    [at the fridge] Store for at least 1 day before enjoying. Three would be better. [gets sad] Oh, come on. I said they were good and easy; I didn't say they were fast. Your patience will be rewarded.
    [back at the table] It's been 24 hours and you've been a good boy. So, here are your pickles. Now there's only one problem with this scenario [begins to eat the pickles with gusto] and that's that, well, once you get a taste of your own pickles, you may forget about that sandwich. You may forget about the chips. You may forget to go to work, or pay the mortgage, or do anything but eat pickles and then, well, you'll be in a pickle, won't you?

Looking For Mr. Goodfish

GUEST:  Mr. Goodfish

[AB and Mr. Goodfish are sitting at the table]

    Hey, American cook! Oooh, you look a little uncomfortable. [AB nods awkwardly to Mr. Goodfish] Oh, I see. Don't quite know what to make of that fish. Well, neither do most Americans. But if you are willing to follow a few basic steps, you can greatly increase your chances of making your fresh fish fantasy come true.

     Step one: check out where your fish is from.

AB: [holds out his hand to MGF]
MGF: [hands AB his passport]
AB: [scrutinizes passport]

    Sustainable seafood is a big deal these days, and certain wild fish should be avoided, due to issues such as overfishing and bycatch. Some farmed fish, on the other hand, should be avoided because of health and/or environmental concerns.

     To get straight on the facts, you should talk to your fishmonger, or check out organizations like Sea Food Watch and the Marine Stewardship Council. But whatever you do, avoid imported farmed fish and shellfish, which can contain chemicals or things longer than your arm.

Avoid wild fish that have been over-fished.

Avoid certain farmed fish because of health & environmental concerns.

Talk to your fishmonger

Get seafood recommendations for your area from www.seafoodwatch.org

Avoid imported farmed fish and shellfish.

     Number two: take a look at the eyes. Although they don't have to sparkle, cloudy or sunken eyes are a real turn off and are usually connected to fish that are far from fresh.
     Number three: the gills should be reddish, rather than brown.
     Four: scales, if present, should be tightly attached.
     Five: mushiness. There shouldn't be any whatsoever.
     Number six, the big one: use your nose. Fresh fish smell vaguely of the ocean, or maybe a little like melon or cucumber, but neither whole nor portioned fish should ever smell fishy. Fishiness being a sure sign of decomposition.

MGF: [raises a fin]
AB: [sniffs the armpit]

     Now, once you've made your selection, be sure to get your prize on ice A.S.A.P. If you know you're going to be trolling the fish counter on your next grocery outing, your might just want to bring a cooler along. Remember, every minute your fish sits at room temperature is a minute closer to Stinkville.

AB: [brings out a smaller cooler and motions for MGF to get into it]
MGF: [refuses and they being to fight]

     Oh well, it looks like we'll have to pick this one up in our next episode.


Put A Little France In Your Toast

[AB is sitting at the table in his night clothes
contemplating some French toast on the plate before him]

    Hey, average American, what's for breakfast? Hey, French toast? Well, you know, in France, it's pain pardue or "forgotten bread". And I'd say, you'd be better off forgetting that mess! Hah ha hah. You do know that great French toast starts the night before, right? [AB shakes his head]. Well, maybe we should start all over and do it right.
    [at the countertop] So, the night before, you'll cut your bread. Now any kind of rustic round loaf will do. Some folks like hallahor challahbrioche, or plain old French bread. Sourdough happens to be my fave. Just make sure it's in half-inch thick slices.
    [at the oven] It needs to be stale, so leave the slices on the rack of your oven overnight. But don't turn the oven on.
    [at the countertop] Alright, time to build the batter. Get yourself a big mixing bowl and crack in three large chicken eggs. There you go. Next in, a cup of half-and-half for the dairy. That is now, technically, a custard. One quarter teaspoon of kosher salt goes in, and a bit of sweetness from two tablespoons of honey. I like orange blossom. Now just whisk that until it's completely smooth. No stringiness from the eggs. That looks good.
    Now we are going to let this basically mellow in the refrigerator overnight, so we will need sound containment. And try to make sure that it's a vessel that can hold the pieces of bread comfortably. Get a lid on that, and straight into the fridge.
    [at the refrigerator] Now, you know, the texture will definitely be better if this sits overnight, but there's another reason for doing this now, and that reason is you, in the morning.
    [at the refrigerator the next morning, AB enters very groggy] I mean, look at this. This is a terrible display. How do you think you're going to measure things at this point? You're not, of course. So, do it before.
    [at the oven] Once you wake up, go ahead and crank up the oven to 375 degrees [after removing the bread]. That'll be our finishing box. Soak each piece of bread on both sides for 30 seconds, okay? So, time 30 seconds. There you go, you're awake now. And then flip the bread. There you go, okay? Flip the bread, and do it again. Now you're going to do this with each piece, until they've all been soaked for 30 seconds on each side, okay? Then, and only then, can you move to the heat portion, alright?
    [at the stovetop] Place a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat, and melt one tablespoon of butter. You're going to need a pat of butter for every single batch you do, okay? Don't forget that. Now, when the butter is thoroughly melted, go ahead and add two pieces to the pan. Of course, if you have smaller pieces of bread, you'll be able to get more in. But don't crowd the pan or you won't get a nice golden brown exterior. Cook for two to three minutes. Oh, and you're going to need a ... [AB sets his wristwatch] Yeah, set your timer. Good.
    Get a spatula. There you go. Something nice and flexible, and, that won't scratch up the pan. That's good. Good. Now go ahead, scoop under, and give it a ... [sees what the first cooked side looks like] aaawww, look at ... That's a nice job right there. But you're going to have to flip so that you can manage the pan. Just get that... [AB is having some trouble flipping the bread] Your dexterity is not so good, is it? There you go, that's not too bad. Alright.
    [later] Another two to three minutes. Give a check. Good! Nice, even browning. Time to get that into the oven. I return them just straight back to the rack, and yes, a pan underneath would be nice, to catch any dripping butter. We're looking for about a five-minute finish here. Then you'll want to get them out and serve them. Good.
    [AB is seated at the table, with a much better looking plate of French toast] Of course, serving. You want to do that with a lot of syrup. And if you are under the age of ten, teeth-rattlingly sweet confectioners sugar. Now that is forgotten bread you'll never forget.

CREATED ON 4-14-2009


A Positively Perfect Poach

[AB is sitting at the table reading, "The Random
House Dictionary of the English Language]

    The word "poach" means to cook in simmering water. It comes from the French word, pocher, meaning "pouch" after the shape of a poached egg. [AB holds up his breakfast plate with egg yellow running all over it] Oh, not very poach-like, are they? Probably taste great, though ... or maybe not. Looks like you could use some poached egg tips.
    [at the range] Let's begin with your pan. A wide non-stick skillet is perfect for egg poaching because it gives you room to work and a nice slick surface for the eggs to settle on. You're also going to need 1½ inches of water: no less and no more. And you're going to need to bring it to a bare simmer.

    Now the eggs. Now since their membranes are stronger and less likely to break, fresh eggs are best. Now if you want to know how old your eggs really are, take a look at the end of the box for a three digit number representing the 365 days of the year. Since this one says 0-5-7, we know they were packed on February 26.

057 P-1065 A15

    Break each egg into a small custard cup. By the way, those cloudy whites are a sure sign of freshness. Now, grab yourself a thermometer and a slotted spoon suitable for a non-stick vessel. When the water hits 190 degrees, you're ready to go. But first, we want to those little bubbles off of the bottom because they could create divots on the bottom of the eggs. Last addition, a tablespoon of white wine vinegar will help to coagulate the outside of the whites faster and giving us a better shape.


    Now, for insertion you want to push the cup all the way into the water and slowly pour in the egg. If some of the water comes over into the cup, that's fine. It doesn't matter. Smoothness is key here. Take your time. Water goes in [to the cup] and then the egg goes in. Arranging them this way [inserting them in order around the pan] will help you remember which one needs to come out the fastest. There. Four go in. Good.

    Now go ahead and set your timer for 4 and a half minutes. And you want to maintain heat so that you keep that 190 degrees. No hotter. Basically, you should be able to stick your finger in and pull it back out without going, OWW!


    Now when the time is up, remove with the slotted spoon. And your just going to have to jiggle it off of the bottom. But the non-stick will prevent and adhesion. There. It doesn't look really attractive now, but it will. Don't worry.
    Now move those onto a towel or even a paper towel. Smoother [towel] is better because a course surface can actually make a permanent pattern on the eggs. That's okay, if you don't mind that kind of thing. Now as far as this jagged bit, just use your spoon and kind of curve around to remove that. That way, you'll have a nice pouch shape.
    [at the fridge] Now, if you're not going to eat them right away, you can move your poached eggs into ice water and refrigerate them for up to 8 hours and then just reheat them by putting them back into some hot water for about 1 minute. That's a good idea for parties. [AB pats the container in the fridge] I'll be back.
    Now, as for serving, the traditional breakfast is fine. But dinner is an option, too. I like mine on a nice tossed salad with a bit of vinaigrette. But, that's just me.   

A Sip For All Seasons
How To Make Sangria

GUESTS: Sommelier

[AB is sitting at the tableobviously very hotin front of a fan with a beer]

    Hey, average American. I see you're suffering through another sweltering summer. I guess you plan on cooking down with that mug of beer, huh? Beer's good. But there is another beverage that's even more refreshing, more festive, more fun and, well, less filling. What is it? It's sangria! [the beer instantly changes into sangria] That's right. It's packed with fruity flavors.
    [AB puts the sangria down and frowns] Oh, don't worry. If it doesn't seem manly enough for your demeanor, remember sangria comes from the Spanish word, sangre, or "blood". [AB shows more interest] Ha, ha, ha. That's right. And unlike beer, you can make it yourself from fruit. And fruit's good for you, right? Well that means sangria must be good for you, right? Let's make some.
    First thing you need to do is to cut up a bunch of fruit. We're going to cut up one orange. [creates slices about 1/8 inch think] We're going to cut up at least one lemon, if you've got it around. That's nice. Be careful with that knife. We also need some other fruits. How about a red pear and maybe an apple and, of course, some plum would be nice, too. All in all we need two cups.
     Now, since there are alcohol soluble flavors in that fruit, we're going to need a spirit to pull that out. [AB pulls out a top shelf vodka] Yeah. Uh ... vodka would work ... but ... uh, actually we'd get more flavor out of something like, say, brandy, maybe? You got some? [finds a bottle] There you go. That's the one, Tiger.
    Alright, move your two cups of fruit into a nice big pretty pitcher and add two tablespoons of sugarthat'll help to pull some juices out of the fruit—and half a cup of our brandy. Good. Now just give that a swirl and park in the refrigerator for, eh, 6 to 8 hours. This is called macerating, by the way.
    Now when you're ready to build, you're going to need some wine. Now white would be fine, but red is traditional.

AB: [claps twice]
SOMMELIER: [enters holding a wine]

    Hey, nice service. [AB looks closely at the bottle] Ooo, the nice stuff. You might not want to waste this on sangria.

AB: [is agog, hands the wine back to S and shoos him away]

    But by the same token, something as cheap as, say, well, the purple liquid that comes in a box might not be too good, either.

S: [returns with a boxed wine]
AB: [indicates that he doesn't like this, either, and hands it back to S who exits]

    No. You're going to want to look for one and a half liters of something labeled burgundy. It doesn't have to be good, but burgundy is nice.

S: [enters with 2 burgundy bottles]
[takes them, one in each hand, and removes the corks with his teeth, nods S to leave]
S: [leaves snootily]

    Okay, that's one way to get that open. And add to the fruity mix, thusly.
    [at the table] Add some fresh fruit to your favorite tumbler, pile on some ice to hold down the fruit and then pour on the goodness. My doesn't that look refreshing. And keep in mind, sangria can do something beer never could, make you more attractive.

SENORITA: [slides in next to AB]
AB: [hands her the sangria]

    Enjoy responsibly. Senorita not included.

Boost Your Brew

[AB is sitting at the table with a generic
coffee machine and holding a cup of Joe]

    Hey, American coffee lover. Taking a break with a rich, robust, flavorful, and aromatic cup of Joe? [seems a little sad and sets the cup down] No? Well how come? [brings up a bat and leers at the coffee machine] Hey, now. Don't do anything rash. It's just a machine. You don't expect it to be a barista, do you? Well of course not. Besides, all it needs is a little help ... from you. That's right. Follow these six simple steps and you and your machine can make a better cup of Joe.

    [#1, at the spice cupboard] Let's talk about your beans. Now you keep your spices whole, don't you? Right. But then your coffee, you buy ground. Well not any more! From here on out, you're buying whole beans and you're keeping them in an air tight container. Got it? Good.


    [#2, at the counter] Now, you'll need a grinder. Now simple, cheap, blade-style grinders are okay for spices. But serious coffee lovers use burr grinders. Now a burr grinder uses two wheels to grind the beans consistently and evenly, which is the key to brew greatness. Machines like this are available at fine kitchen stores and, of course, on the internet. Now look at that grind. That's called a medium grind and it's perfect for automatic drip machines.
    [#3, at the fridge] Now coffee is mostly water. So make sure yours is clean and tasty by running it through a filter before running it through your coffee machine. Let's brew.
    [#4, at the countertop] Most drip machines these days come with reusable filters. You can use it if you want, but I vastly prefer unbleached paper filters. I think they do a better job of brewing.
    [#5a] Now, as for all those measuring spoons that came with coffee machine, ditch them! Get yourself a plain old tablespoon. We  want two tablespoons per cup. I'm going to make six cups here so that means we need 12 tablespoons of our grounds. Last but not least, a mere quarter teaspoon of kosher salt will help to take the bitterness out of your brew. Now to the water. Most experts use 6 fluid ounces per cup. It's okay if the numbers on your carafe don't match. Remember, it's just a stupid machine.
    [#5b] Now, close the lid and turn on the device. Now most modern machines have a special valve that allow you to remove the carafe and have a cup before the brewing is over. But, the flavor will be better if you let it go through the whole cycle. Your patience will be rewarded.
    [#6] Now, nothing tastes worse than burnt coffee. So you might want to move your brew to a thermos for safe keeping. It'll stay warm for hours without picking up that nasty burnt flavor and it's portable to boot.
    [at the table] There. Now finally a really great cup of Joe. Can I have one, too? [grabs up the thermos and doesn't give him any] Fine. Be that way.

Nice Rice in a Rush

[AB is about to cut in to a chicken]

    Hey, American cook, that's a nice looking bird. But, uh, say, what are you going to serve with that? [shrugs] Ah, hadn't thought of that, had you? Well, don't despair, rice is here. [taps his watch, a rice bag it thrown to him] Oh, don't give me that. You've got plenty of time to cook up some rice. Fifteen minutes, 20 tops, and you'll have it.
     First step, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Now I like to do this in an electric kettle, but that's just me. Next, you're going to want to get yourself a medium sauce pan and place it over high heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter. You could use oil, but butter is going to give you a much better flavor. Now when it stops foaming and turns light brown—kind of like this—you're going to want to add your rice: 2 cups of long grain rice. Jasmine or basmati would be very, very selections. Of course, you're going to need a bit of salt, as well. One teaspoon of kosher should do the trick. There.
    Now just stir that until the rice becomes just kind of aromatic and nutty and looks just like that. There you go.
    Now it's time to get that water. Now it's going to boil up violently, so have the lid ready. Pour it in, clamp it one, and drop the heat to low. Now you're going to want to cook this for 15 minutes, exactly.
    When time is up, kill the heat and remove the lid. Now you could serve the rice at this point, but it would be just a little bit on the sticky side. There, as you can see. So if light and fluffy rice is your goal, set your timer another for 5 minutes. Then, perfect rice and done in almost no time at all.
    Tell you what, have a little taste. [AB does so] Go ahead. Yeah, pretty good, huh? [pushes the chicken aside to eat just the rice] Oh, yeah. That's the spirit. Who needs chicken when you've got the grain the world calls dinner.

Whip It Up White

[AB is sitting at the table, sad, with a piece, several cakes, fruit and a coffee mug]

    Hey, American diner, why the long face? Has all your chow lost its snap, its verve, its get-up-and-go, its joie de vivre? [AB nods in agreement] Yeah. What you need is whipped cream! That's right ... [AB brings out a spray can of whipping cream] No, no, no, no, no. Wait, wait. You're going to make it.
    That's right. The first thing you're going to do is place a large mixing bowl and a whisk inside the freezer. Then, you're going to break out some cream. Now some creams look very much alike, but they're not. For instance, this heavy whipping cream, if you look closely at the side, you'll see contains a minimum of 36% butterfat which will produce a better foam. Whipping cream usually has only 30% butter fat. It'll whip, but not as nicely.
    So, into the bowl goes 2 tablespoons of sugar and one cup of heavy whipping cream. Now first, you're just going to kind of beat that back and forth to start producing a foam. Once the foam starts to mount out, change to a kind of rotation action there until you get ... Ah, look at that. That's soft peaks. Not quite what we're after. A little more beating and you'll have ... Ah, stiff peaks. That's what we want. Now, if you continue to beat, however, you'll end up with, ... That's right, butter. Which is not whipped cream at all. But could be delicious on toast or pound cake, nonetheless. Ha. Oh, well.
    Now, once you've got stiff peak cream it can go on anything: cakes, pies. It can certainly go on some fruit, maybe across your cheesecake. Heck, you can even put it on pudding or right inside your coffee, if you desire. Pork chops? Why not. And nothing's better on a small bowl of rocks.
    Whatever it touches, homemade whipped cream makes it better. You can count on it. Of course, you can just eat it, too.

Transcribed by Michael Roberts and Michael Menninger
Proofread by Michael Menninger and Michael Roberts

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010