Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: Induction Ranges

Our oven caught fire in late December, the cause being a pool of grease so deep I could have swum in it. Times flies when youre having fun: A few days after that, the stove top exploded. I guess its not the brightest idea to boil a kettle dry on the high setting of a glass-top stove. Its also not super-smart to rip the kettle from the molten glass with which it has fused, thus tearing a hole the size of a dime in the stove top. Nor is it brilliant to continue cooking after the above happens, assuming the hole will magically repair itself and all will be well. It wont, and it wasn’t. The result could have been dangerous and disastrous. 

The eventual explosion dug a crater the size of Kansas into the stove’s glass top, as well as ripping open a crack as wide and deep as the Mariana Trench, which is pretty wide and deep. To set the stage, it was a dark and stormy night ... 

Surveying the shattered surface of our stove, I briefly understood how Dante must have felt when he peered through the Gates of Hell. The upside was that this did seem like a great opportunity to hang up my apron and enjoy a whole bunch of restaurant meals. Whoo-hoo!

Ron had other ideas, among them that there were no restaurants in our immediate future. Instead, we bought a $2,000 induction range - money I’d hoped to spend on having the cellulite from my hips pumped into my lips, with plenty left over after selling my remaining cellulite to thousands of thin-lipped, thin-hipped women in Switzerland. 

I’m not exactly sure how induction ranges work, but any magnetic pot that snuggles up to any element of one of these stoves will immediately develop a strong, electromagnetic, Clooney-esque attraction to turn on” the element and heat things up. 

If your pots are non-magnetic (wool doesn’t count), a handy conversion ring will reverse the pot’s polarities, which - while sounding scientifically impressive - I cleverly made up. 

With this ring, the stove’s electromagnetic, pheromonic, Clooney-esque features will now become strongly attracted to you, turning on” and heating things up even if you haven’t shaved your legs for an entire week. This is why older women are willing to pay so much money for an induction range.

Ha-ha, fooled you! Metal pots and induction stoves dont really work that wayI also have no idea how the conversion ring works. All I can say is that the ring is precious, as this world-famous scientist from the Institute of Ring Physics is about to explain: 

Why are induction ranges so popular? Because they have all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of cooking with gas. 

Induction ranges are fast! Place a pot of water on an element, and the next thing you know, the water will be boiling. Reduce the heat, and the water will simmer almost as quickly as I did when Ron told me I probably wouldn’t see the inside of a restaurant for the next 46 years.  

Now, the oven. Mine does a very poor job of browning foods such as breads, nuts, meats, and (I suspect) poultry. Although they still have the flavor of browned and toasted foods, I hate this defiency. While technically, scientifically, athletically, and esthetically different from other ranges, induction ovens are also very slow to preheat. You know all those recipes that instruct you to set your oven’s temperature before you start to cook? This is the time to take those recipes to heart! Preheat an induction range early - typically 20-to-25 min. - to reach 400 deg. F. 

Most (but not all) induction ovens lack a self-cleaning function. Unless you’re an ammonia-breathing alien, the chemical fumes from the standard oven’s self-cleaning process haven’t been doing your lungs any good. Environmentally friendly induction ovens need cleaning more often than self-cleaning ranges, so don’t allow dirt to build up and the job will be easy. Or just hire some kitchen help.

Overall, I like our new range, and will do my best not to blow it up. Which brand did we buy? I’m not telling. This is an objective review, Dollinks - not an ad. Do online research, check prices, stick with a recognized brand, and ask the advice of friends who have an induction range. Induction ranges are great - but if a salesperson promises you can cook in a woolen pot, shop elsewhere.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Off the Eatin’ Path

Ive been pondering the joys of cannibalism. I know that’s hard to digest. My daughter Erin has long been a set buyer for the movies. Right now, she buys much of the fancy stuff used in Season 3 of Hannibal. I’ve never watched Hannibal, and until recently had no idea what the show was about. So I emailed Erin to ask: “Is your show about Hannibal Lecter, or Hannibal crossing the Alps?”

Erin knew I genuinely didn’t know, so this was her reply: “Neither. It’s a kids’ show about a small chipmunk who goes on an adventure across the Alps while eating other chipmunks.”

I told husband Ron that I finally knew what Hannibal was about. He nodded wisely. Or maybe he just nodded off. Ron does that a lot when I talk about complicated stuff, like should I have my body parts “lifted” so I can tell the insurance company they were “stolen.” 

“Wha-? Wha-?” he said, pretending to have been asleep which I know he really wasn’t because his head jerked up the moment I told him how much a full body lift would cost in USDs. “No worries!” I said. “I know a guy who knows a guy who can do the procedure in rupees.” 

To show me that he’d actually been paying attention, Ron emailed Erin to ask: “Is the chipmunk on a snowboard or on skis?” 

“Hes on a little sled made of flattened chipmunks, pulled by squirrels,” she replied. 

Erin then admitted that Hannibal is a made-for-TV prequel to the Hannibal Lecter character so brilliantly played by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. I have no idea how lambs and chipmunks connect, but I’ll take Erins word for it.

“Ha-ha,” I wrote back, signing off “YOM” - my short form for “Yer Old Ma.” Only later did it occur to me that (considering Hannibal Lecter enjoys having his pals for dinner) “YOM” sounds alarmingly like “YUM.”

So no recipe today. I thought of writing one for Lamb’s Brains (which I once ate in Australia), but Id hate having angry readers throw rocks at this blog. For now, I’ll give recipe-writing a pass as I resume the large writing project on which I’ve been working for a very long time.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sweet Onion Pie

Food confuses me. Until a few weeks ago, I assumed “pilates” was a Greek appetizer. Wrong-o. I also used to think “Sherbet was a tip on a hot stock. It isn’t

The food Costco sells confuses me even more. Costco is the world’s third largest retailer, yet still manages to convey the impression that it’s the county fair of food retailing. The demonstrators who hand out free samples are a big part of that mystique. Trained to remain calm under pressure, they never snap, as I would: “The pizza will be ready in five minutes. Don’t push, sir. SIR!!! Don’t push. 

“Ma’am? Could you please remove your son’s nose from the hot glass of my toaster oven? The pizza will be ready in four minutes. 

“Sir? Yes, you, bozo! Please don’t drool on my demo table. The pizza will be ready in three minutes…” 

Costco recently sold my sister a machine called - (I don’t want to be sued! Let’s reword this!). Costco recently sold my sister a no-name machine (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) that buzzes up fruit to make smoothies so dis-gus-ting (not the machine’s fault; my sister doesn’t know how to cook) that my sister never eats the purées she produces, instead turning them into fruit-based facials to eliminate wrinkles. She now needs another machine to eliminate fruit flies.

One chilly winter’s day, my pal Leslie and I took refuge in Costco. We made the mistake of shopping on a weekend lunch hour (Translation: Costco had free food up the ying-yang. I think Costco sells Ying-Yangs in a handy pack of 10 dozen, not far from the Doritos). Ravenous, we descended on the demonstrators’ samples like seagulls on a sandwich. 

After stuffing our maws with every morsel we could, Leslie and I  covered our heads with winter scarves, faked Russian accents («Что эта очень вкусный еда? Я должен пробовать его!»), and circled the store a second time to eat still more free food before spending $2,042.69 on groceries (or maybe $204 … decimal points also confuse me).

Leslie and I had sampled something like $1.41 worth of free food in tiny paper muffin cups. Any behavioral psychologist worth his Tostitos will name free food as the No. 1 factor guaranteed to drive crazed shoppers into a food-buying frenzy. 

I once heard an elderly man ask a Costco butcher how much salt was in Costco’s scrumptious roast chickens. “Salt? There isn’t any salt!” came the butcher’s assuring words. As the customer happily placed a chicken in his cart, the butcher added sotto voce: “They’ve been brined, is all.” The old guy froze, thought for a moment, and then shrugged. “Well, that’s okay, then.” I now rate Costco’s food super-confusing. 

What does this have to do with Sweet Onion Pie? I happen to know that Cougars hang out at Costco, where you least expect to find them. Oh, I’ve seen them in their push-up bras, false eyelashes, hair extensions, and kitten heels, trolling for younger men.

When they find an unsuspecting victim with no wedding ring and a $9.99 frozen pizza the size of a truck tire under his arm, the Cougar will “innocently” block his path, asking in a pained, weak voice: “I can’t lift this 50-lb. sack of onions. Can you help me?” 

The moment he does, he’s trapped. Ramping her push-up bra a tetch higher, the spider says to the fly: “Even though I’m single, I’m making Sweet Onion Pie tonight. Why don’t I just be very forward and ask you to dinner at my house as a way of expressing my thanks?” 

Mesmerized by her, um, conversation, the guy ditches the pizza and agrees to be there at 8. This isn’t confusing, at all. Ladies! If you’re single, you must shop at Costco! And learn to make this delicious main-dish pie that I’ve adapted from The Joy of Cooking.

Sweet Onion Pie:

Pastry to make one 9-inch pie (see Note)
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
2-1/2 lb. (1.13 kg) sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 whole eggs
1 c. dairy sour cream
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley and/or 1 tsp. celery seed
1 egg white, slightly beaten
3 or 4 crumbled, cooked sausages, drained and blotted of fat

Preheat oven to 450 deg. F. Line a 9-in. pie pan with pastry. Trim and flute pastry edges; prick base with fork tines. Transfer pastry-filled pan to freezer for 10 min. On a circle of parchment trimmed slightly smaller than the interior of the pie shell, place enough pie weights to keep the pastry from bubbling and breaking. Bake unfilled shell 10-to-12 min., until slightly browned. Cool shell thoroughly on wire rack. Do not turn off oven.

Melt butter or margarine in large, heavy saucepan. Add onions, stirring over low heat until translucent. Cover pot, sweating onions over lowest heat until cooked through. Set aside until thoroughly cooled. In a medium bowl, combine whole eggs, sour cream, and seasonings. Stir into cooled, cooked onions, combining well. Set aside.

Brush slightly beaten egg white over baked, cooled pie shell. Heap slightly cooled onion mixture into partially baked pie shell. Crumble cooked sausage over onion mixture in shell. Bake 10 min. at 450 deg. F. Reduce heat to 300 deg. F., cooking an additional 25-to-30 min., until crust is golden. Serve hot. Makes 4-to-6 servings.

Note: The Index to this blog has several excellent recipes for pie pastry filed under Pies: Pastry.