Doom appalling

Doom appalling

As the date approaches.
Worry: did I check everything?


Today, we welcome a regular contributing writer (in future also see the Contributing Writers page from site navigation), Howard Dinin – his corner will be called “Backroads & Detours.” He has several careers behind him. The one that was most lucrative, in IT marketing and advertising, is over for good (he says). But he continues a lifelong interest in scholarship, cooking, telling tales and teaching in college. He also pops off once in awhile on political matters. He is most of all a friend, a friend of the family, a loving husband and a lover of dogs.

His first post, today, is mainly a practical story about pots & pans, and the role they’ve played in his life so far, since young adulthood.


Today is Friday, August 24
This is my 136th consecutive daily posting.
Time is 5.26am, at the start of a top ten weather day: warm, sunny, and not too humid.
Today’s dinner is…leftover Pan-Roasted lobster from Summer Shack and an Italian cold cut sandwich. MMnnM! MMmmM!

Photo of the day

Kinda defines a person  photo © Howard Dinin 2018

Kinda defines a person

photo © Howard Dinin 2018

Web Site Tweaks

See the new tweak to our Site Description and Navigation Page

Follow Up
Yesterday’s post included ‘yoga’ as the word of the day.
This was by way of introducing tomorrow’s new contributing writer, Kat Capossela, who will submit pieces on the life of a young woman, she, a sophomore at Swarthmore college, a certified yoga instructor (in two weeks,) and a waitress at a sports bar (for the summer.)


What book did Anthony Bourdain write that many consider the quintessential contemporary guide to what really goes on in destination restaurant kitchens?

Find the answer just before today’s Post below.
Give yourself partial credits for partial answers.

Thumbnail Biography:

marie antoine careme.png

Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême (8 June 1784 – 12 January 1833) was a French chef and an early practitioner and exponent of the elaborate style of cooking known as grande cuisine, the "high art" of French cooking: a grandiose style of cookery favored by both international royalty and by the newly rich of Paris. Carême is often considered one of the first internationally renowned celebrity chefs.

Abandoned by his parents in Paris in 1794 at the height of the French Revolution, he worked as a kitchen boy at a cheap Parisian chophouse in exchange for room and board.
In 1798, he was formally apprenticed to Sylvain Bailly, a famous pâtissier with a shop near the Palais-Royal.
The post-revolutionary Palais-Royal was a high profile, fashionable neighborhood filled with vibrant life and bustling crowds.

Bailly recognized his talent and ambition.
By the time he was prepared to leave Bailly, he could stipulate that he should be free to leave his new employer when a better offer came along.

Carême opened his own shop, the Pâtisserie de la rue de la Paix, which he maintained until 1813.

Carême gained fame in Paris for his pièces montées, elaborate constructions used as centerpieces, which Bailly had displayed in the pâtisserie window.
He made these confections, which were sometimes several feet high, entirely out of foodstuffs such as sugar, marzipan, and pastry.
He modeled them on temples, pyramids, and ancient ruins, taking ideas from architectural history books which he studied at the nearby Bibliothèque Nationale, thanks to the enlightened attitude of his first employer Bailly.
He is credited with the inventions of gros nougats and grosses meringues, croquantes, made of almonds and honey, and solilemmes.

While working on his confections at many private kitchens, he quickly extended his culinary skills to main courses.

He did freelance work creating pieces principally for the French diplomat and gourmand Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, but also other members of Parisian high society, including Napoleon.
Napoleon was famously indifferent to food, but he understood the importance of social relations in the world of diplomacy.
In 1804, he gave money to Talleyrand to purchase Château de Valençay, a large estate outside Paris.
The château was intended to act as a kind of diplomatic gathering place.
When Talleyrand moved there, he took Carême with him.

Carême was set a test by Talleyrand: to create a whole year’s worth of menus, without repetition, and using only seasonal produce.
Carême passed the test and completed his training in Talleyrand's kitchens.

After the fall of Napoleon, Carême went to London for a time and served as chef de cuisine to the Prince Regent, later George IV.

Returning to the continent, he accepted the invitation of Tsar Alexander I to come to St. Petersburg, but stayed so briefly that he prepared not even a single meal for the Tsar.

Upon returning to Paris, he became chef to banker James Mayer Rothschild.

Carême died in his Paris house on the Rue Neuve Saint Roche at the age of 48, due perhaps too many years inhaling the toxic fumes of the charcoal over which he cooked.
He is remembered as the founder of the haute cuisine concept and is interred in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.

He was known as Le Roi des Chefs et le Chef des Rois, ("the King of Chefs, and the Chef of Kings")

Notable work: L'Art de la cuisine française au dix-neuvième siècle. Traité élémentaire et pratique.

Thank you, Wikipedia

Big night Big lonely night

Big night
Big lonely night

Movie of the Day
Big Night is a 1996 American comedy-drama film directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci.

Produced by David Kirkpatrick and Jonathan Filley for the Samuel Goldwyn Company, the film was met with positive reviews and grossed $14 million worldwide.
It was nominated for the "Grand Jury Prize" at the Sundance Film Festival and the "Grand Special Prize" at the Deauville Film Festival.

Scott and Tucci won the New York Film Critics Circle Award and the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best New Director. Tucci and Joseph Tropiano won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay. Tucci heads the cast, with Tony Shalhoub, Minnie Driver and Isabella Rossellini.

On the New Jersey Shore in the 1950s, two Italian immigrant brothers from Abruzzo own and operate a restaurant called "Paradise."
One brother, Primo, is a brilliant, perfectionist chef who chafes under their few customers' expectations of "Americanized" Italian food.
Their uncle's offer for them to return to Rome to help with his restaurant is growing in appeal to Primo. The younger brother, Secondo, is the restaurant manager, a man enamored of the possibilities presented by their new endeavor and life in America.
Despite Secondo's efforts and Primo's magnificent food, their restaurant is failing.

Secondo's struggles as a businessman render him unable to commit to his girlfriend Phyllis, and he has recently been sleeping with Gabriella, the wife of a competitor.
Her husband's eponymous restaurant, "Pascal's", has succeeded despite (or perhaps due to) the mediocre, uninspired food served there.
Desperate to keep Paradise afloat, Secondo asks Pascal for a loan. Pascal demurs, repeating a past offer for the brothers to work for him.
This Secondo refuses to do; he and his brother want their own restaurant.

In a seemingly generous gesture, Pascal insists that he will persuade popular Italian-American singer Louis Prima to dine at Paradise when in town, assuming the celebrity jazz singer's patronage will revitalize the brothers' business. Primo and Secondo plunge themselves into preparation for this "big night", spending their entire savings on food and inviting people (including a newspaper reporter) to join them in a magnificent feast centered around a timballo, a complicated baked pasta dish.
Primo pours his heart into every dish, lavishing care and great expertise on the cooking.

As they wait for Prima and his entourage to arrive, the diners indulge in the exquisite food and partake in a fabulous celebration. Hours pass, however, and it becomes apparent that the famous singer is not coming.
Phyllis catches Secondo and Gabriella kissing and runs off to the beach.
At Gabriella's insistence, Pascal admits that he never called Louis Prima, thus ending the party.

Secondo follows Phyllis to the beach where they have a final quarrel.
Primo and Secondo have a fiery, heart-wrenching argument, chafing at their mutual differences.

In the wee hours of the morning, Pascal admits to Secondo that he set the brothers up for failure; not as revenge for Secondo's affair with Gabriella but because the brothers would have no choice but to return to Italy or work for Pascal.
Secondo denies him, saying they will never work for him.

As dawn breaks, Secondo silently cooks an omelette.
When done, he divides it among three plates, giving one to Cristiano, their waiter, and eating one himself.
Primo hesitantly enters, and Secondo hands him the last plate.
They eat without speaking, and lay their arms across one another's shoulders.

Thank you, Wikipedia

Word of the Day

Yummy in my tummy

Yummy in my tummy

It’s an Italian baked dish consisting of pasta, rice, or potatoes, with one or more other ingredients (cheese, meat, fish, vegetables, or fruit) included and featured prominently in the 1996 film Big Night, although the dish there is referred to as timpano (a regional or family term).
The movie seems to have increased the popularity of the dish.

Variations include the timballo Alberoni, combining macaroni, shrimp sauce, mushrooms, butter and cheese, and named for Giulio Alberoni, and the Timballo Pattadese.

The name comes from the French word for kettledrum (timbale).
Varieties of Timballo differ from region to region, and it is sometimes known as a bomba, tortino, sartu (a Neapolitan interpretation) or pasticcio (which is used more commonly to refer to a similar dish baked in a pastry crust).
It is also known as timpano and Timbale (food).
It is similar to a casserole and is sometimes referred to in English as a pie or savory cake.

The dish is prepared in a dome or springform pan and eggs or cheese are used as a binder.
Rice is commonly used as an ingredient in Emilia-Romagna, where the dish is referred to as a bomba and baked with a filling of pigeon or other game bird, peas, local cheese and a base of dried pasta.
Crêpes are used as a base in Abruzzo, and other regions use ravioli or gnocchi.
In Sicily, it's typically made with pasta and eggplant.

Mushroom sauce or fonduta, a rich Piedmontese cheese soup and sauce, are sometimes used, and Anna Del Conte wrote that Béchamel is the most consistently used ingredient in timballos.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

Answer for Encyclopediacs
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly is a New York Times bestselling non-fiction book written by American chef Anthony Bourdain.

In 1999, Bourdain's essay "Don’t Eat Before Reading This" was published in the New Yorker.
This served as the foundation for Kitchen Confidential.

Released in 2000, the book is both Bourdain's professional memoir and a behind-the-scenes look at restaurant kitchens.
The book is known for its treatment of the professional culinary industry.
The commercial kitchen is described as an intense, unpleasant, and sometimes hazardous workplace staffed by what he describes as misfits.
Bourdain believes that the workplace is not for hobbyists and that anyone entering this industry without a masochistic, irrational dedication to cooking will be deterred.

The book alternates between a confessional narrative and an industry commentary, providing insightful and humorous anecdotes on the cooking trade.
Bourdain has cited George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), with its behind-the-scenes examination of the restaurant business in 1920s Paris, as an important influence on the book's themes and tone.

Bourdain details some of his personal misdeeds and weaknesses, including drug use. He explains how restaurants function economically and warns consumers of the various tricks of restaurateurs.
For example, he advises customers to avoid fish on a Monday as it is likely left over from the weekend or earlier.
He also suggests avoiding well-done beef, since the meat is more likely to be from a less-than-best grade, as the substandard flavor would be masked in overcooking.

The book received positive reviews and created a large public following. Bourdain consequently became a celebrity.

It seemed he had everything going for himself

It seemed he had everything going for himself

A follow-up book, Medium Raw, was published in 2010.

In 2017, in light of the Me Too movement, Bourdain expressed remorse that the book “celebrated or prolonged a culture that allowed the kind of grotesque behaviors we’re hearing about all too frequently”.


Howard's pans Howard's photo © Howard Dinin 2018

Howard's pans
Howard's photo
© Howard Dinin 2018

When I was in grad school, I couldn’t afford a place with a kitchen, but I had “privileges,” which meant using my landlady’s pots and pans, largely forgettable—so I’ve forgotten about them. But I used them then, as I had no choice. Around the same time, someone clued me into a new brand of pots called All-Clad. Touted as the kind of pots and pans used in commercial kitchens, they were particularly durable, long-lasting, with very even heat, heated (and cooled) efficiently, were generally reliable, and they were made in a factory in “local” Canonsburg, PA - almost local to my grad school, and still only 500 miles or so from my native Boston, where I ended up living after grad school. I made note of them, and when my new wife and I set up house for the first time on our own, I had my sights set on All-Clad. Some wedding gift funds came in handy to buy a starter set.

So, my first chosen utensils were All-Clad, and I’ve built quite an array in the meantime. In fact, I just placed an order for more, which I do about every other year: replacements in my kitchenware armada. That is, I bought some new pans to replace old ones.

Going back almost to the beginning, I have always known – especially starting out in life with my first household as what is laughingly called an “adult” – that really, for basics, you need maybe two range-top items of cookware. A pan (or skillet; something that can be used in a pinch as a saucepan) and a pot (large enough to boil a moderate amount of water – say for pasta – or other liquids, for a stew or soup, etc.; or could serve as a larger saucepan when needed).

I began buying All-Clad in 1971, and I never stopped. Along with those first pans, I still have many of the original utensils I bought, to which I have contributed a burnished patina after decades of repeated highly reliable use. It was a pair of All-Clad pans I bought this morning – both of them to replace the same sized pans that I am retiring because they are lined with non-stick materials and had fallen into disuse because of the continuing unhappy findings about Teflon. Nevertheless, and the vagaries of non-stick aside, nearly 50 years of use out of household utensils I think is not a bad record.

My attitude is, if it’s likely to serve throughout my life, why not buy something, assuming I can afford it (perhaps with a bit of a stretch in the earlier stages of what we all hope will be a long life), that stands a chance of lasting at least as long? I’ve never regretted sticking to this policy – it did become a policy in time, one that I could afford to uphold. Especially not with regard to my kitchen ware.

I propose, without elaboration, that a significant number of cooking failures occur because of the poor quality of the cookware. Great cooks, and certainly professional chefs, pick up the skills necessary to adjust on the fly when no other equipment is available. You’d be amazed at some of the junk I’ve been expected to cook with, especially visiting friends in their “vacation” homes.

So that’s where I started. Fortunately so, even at my tender, somewhat impoverished, just-out-of-grad-school age.

Problem though, with All-Clad, manufactured with skilled craftsmanship as they were, and premium materials, they were on the pricey side. They still are. And they are still made, and they are still in the considered set of brands for chefs and restaurateurs. I am constantly reassured when watching any of those fancy chef adventures on Netflix and PBS to see the odd All-Clad pot or pan bubbling or sizzling away on a cooktop – whether front and center or in the background.

If I were starting out today, at least for the pot-and-pan portion of my basic kit, I’d also consider cast iron. These days you can even buy it “pre-seasoned” for not much of a premium. And as the money rolled in, maybe I’d buy two more cast iron pans. Starting with a 10-inch or an 11-inch, I’d go for an 8-inch and a 13-inch. These three sizes would handle many contingencies. For the pot (for boiling, braising, stewing, and soup-making) and for less money than a first quality All-clad, there are some handsome, high-quality, long-lived brands of enameled cast-iron ware that would fill the bill – and I’d probably make my first one manageable in size (cast iron is, among other things, really heavy) and with a capacity suitable to a small household, while still allowing cooking for a small number of guests.

I’d choose these particular items of cookware because of their sterling qualities in helping to manage the phenomenon that does the actual cooking. I mean the heat of the burner.

All-Clad or cast iron, they retain the heat, dissipate it slowly, heat evenly throughout the container, are generally non-reactive (the cast-iron must be seasoned before cooking even the first meal with it), and easy to clean. Cast iron takes advantage of the native properties of its material – the casting process tempers the metal and iron is excellent for cooking at that thickness. All-Clad takes advantage of the superior heat conduction properties of aluminum, by putting a thick core of that metal in between a sandwich of stainless steel on the inside, and a non-reactive alloy, with a choice of materials, for easier cleaning of the outside.

Professional chefs and line cooks have a preference for another material. Most restaurant kitchens include an armamentarium of various sizes of skillets, in multiples, made of heavy gauge sheet steel. So much of restaurant cooking is à la minute, especially in the finishing stages of complex dishes, or for dishes that call for searing and finishing or pan roasting (where pans go from the stovetop to the very very hot oven and back again). If you’re cooking to order, with sometimes split second timing to ensure dining perfection, there’s nothing like steel for the instant transmission of heat from a very hot burner, or even using the latest cooking technology: induction burners. But unless you are expecting to enter that career, or are expecting to do a lot of entertaining of very demanding diners, I’d leave the steel to the pros.

One last note, cast iron, and many of the lines of All-Clad, also work quite well with all types of burners, including induction. Most of my 25+ pans and pots made by All-Clad are from their original Master Chef series. These incorporate a very sturdy aluminum alloy outer shell, unsuitable for induction cooking, because non-magnetic. But it doesn’t matter to me. I’m an ancient kitchen warrior and I’m still used to gas and prefer it.

However my two brand new pots, bought as “factory seconds” (at almost half the price) have not only a copper core (even better than aluminum) but a spiffy outer shell of 18/8 stainless, ready even for induction. Because you never know.