The Art of Reduction

A really great sauce, stew, or soup takes some time to develop. Think of your favorite spaghetti sauce over a low-and-slow, steady simmer for hours upon hours. On the other hand, a rolling boil on high heat achieves the same objective in a matter of minutes when making a quick stove-top sauce.

Either way, the goal is evaporation. Getting rid of excess water naturally concentrates flavors lending depth and complexity, the foundations of a peak taste experience.

When it comes to beef, evaporation plays a crucial role in the dry-aging process. Over the course of the 6 weeks or so that Lobel’s dry ages its USDA Prime, Natural Prime, and Wagyu Beef, the meat loses about 30% of its weight through water evaporation. During this time, the size of the piece of meat physically shrinks and the flavor of the beef concentrates into the buttery, nutty flavor that is the hallmark of Lobel’s dry-aged beef.

Similarly when you let a big pot of sauce, stock, or soup steam away, you’ll notice that, over time, the volume of liquid shrinks and the surface level gets lower and lower in the pot.

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Culinary Classic: Schnitzel

Schnitzel also goes by other regional names—dishes you might not otherwise associate with name schnitzel, but would recognize by the similarity of preparation techniques.

Escalope, scallopine, scallop, cutlet—these are among the myriad names used for the same cuts of meat and poultry that make schnitzel. (more…)

Spotlight on Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is one of those condiments that we consider a must-have in any home chef’s pantry. But not just any old bottle from the supermarket will do. It must be a true balsamic. What constitutes a true balsamic? Read on to find out.

And once you learn more and refine your taste for balsamic vinegar, you’ll likely find that you want to have several in your pantry for different uses.

Photo Courtesy of Sid Wainer & Son

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Culinary Classic: BLT

In honor of National Sandwich Month, this Culinary Classic article features a classic sandwich.

Though there is no direct trail to an inventor of the BLT, it appears to have developed in the early 1900s in the United Kingdom and United States as part of the rise in popularity of what were known as club sandwiches. Such sandwiches were built on the foundational ingredients of lettuce, tomato, and then other ingredients—turkey, bacon, or ham, for instance.

What you put into your BLT can be as important as the order in which you put it together. Furthermore, a real and traditional BLT doesn’t take off on flavor tangents. It’s all pretty well defined in our collective consciousness: bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, salt, and black pepper.

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Get a Grip: Choosing Grill Tongs

Grill tongs are extensions of your arm and hand and allow you to work over a scorching fire without fear of getting burned. For most purposes one pair of tongs will suffice. However, having a backup pair is also a good idea. Spring-loaded tongs can break making them impossible to use.

Also, if you have a large piece meat, such as a 3-inch-thick Porterhouse, or something bulky and awkward, a whole chicken for instance, having two sets of tongs to lift is a practical idea.

 

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A Steak to Celebrate: Filet Mignon

It seems like there is a holiday out there to celebrate just about everything. And plenty of them are very specific or just plain weird food holidays—such as “Something on a Stick Day,” “Turkey Neck Soup Day,” or “Chocolate Covered Insects Day.” But the one food holiday that we actually look forward to each year is National Filet Mignon Day on August 13.

Filet Mignon

 

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Spotlight on Grilling Lamb

More and more, backyard cooks are turning to lamb when decided what to grill. It’s delicious when cooked over an open fire and, being a sweet-tasting meat, lends itself to any number of marinades, rubs, sauces, and seasoning. Butterflied leg of lamb, marinated in a heady garlic-infused brew and then grilled, has become something of an American classic.

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Burger Bundle Bonanza

Ever get a hankering for a great burger only to find your fridge betrays your hunger by lacking the one ingredient you need most: a great ground-beef burger? Don’t be left empty-handed and craving anymore. (more…)

Mustard: Everywhere You Go

Mustard is the world’s oldest condiment. Celebrated in the U.S. with National Mustard Day on the first Saturday of August, it is the most universally used condiment in the world, as well.

Whole, cracked, ground, and powdered mustard seeds have been mixed with other ingredients to create a sauce of many hues and intensities since the days of ancient Rome.

Half a world away, the Chinese have been using mustard seeds whole, rather than ground, in cooking for thousands of years.

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The English Have Never Heard of London Broil

The preparation of London Broil is a thoroughly American creation, one that dates back to colonial times, but was different from today’s version. Back then, a relatively thin and less tender cut of steak was pan-fried and cut into thin slices on the bias across the grain.

Today’s version includes marinating the steak for several hours to tenderize it before cooking it with high heat, either in a broiler or on the grill, to no more than medium-rare.

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