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Kane’s Cuisine – Salt, revisited

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in a new weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

Editor’s Note: What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in a new weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – Today, I have some ground to cover on the subject of salt, which seems appropriate in light of Justice Samuel Alito’s tremendously salty draft opinion overturning Americans’ reproductive freedoms.

A few years ago, Tina Fey caught some flak for a Saturday Night Live sketch in which she joked about bingeing on sheet cake to feel better about the Nazis marching through Charlottesville. Anyway, things are still bad five years later, so let’s talk about food and pretend like this country isn’t slipping into the nightmare dystopia imagined in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Okay? Okay?! 

Why am I serving salt in today’s column instead of a recipe? Well, it’s because learning about the mineral’s different varieties and how best to use them for maximum impact (flavor. I’m talking about flavor.) is absolutely essential for cooking and baking. (Also, spoiler alert: there is a recipe at the end. You’re welcome.) 

I don’t know you, but I can tell you’re not seasoning your food sufficiently. This is because most people aren’t; because chefs’ and skilled home cooks’ institutional knowledge about salt has not, for the most part, shaped consumer behavior in the ways that it should. 

After reading this column, I want you to see the plate pictured here with the three mounds of small white crystals and be able to identify them as types of salt rather than…whatever else it was that you thought they were. Hey, no judgment from me!  

Photo by Dan Balinovic

If you were to consult Gordon Ramsay or Ina Garten or [insert culinary artist of your choosing] about their practices and preferences, practically everyone would recommend kosher salt for most seasoning purposes and most would suggest finishing at least some savory and sweet dishes with either flaky sea salt or fleur de sel.

Fleur de sel salt (Photo by Dan Balinovic)

(Table salt, with its cube shaped crystals and high sodium content, is not to be used for either of these purposes. But before you toss it out, make sure you are getting enough iodine from other sources in your diet, because it is an essential nutrient.)

With substantially less sodium by volume and an uneven, flaky texture, Diamond Crystal is the brand of choice for kosher salt because you will be less likely to over-season your food past the point of no return, and the crystals will adhere better to what you’re cooking rather than bouncing off as table salt is prone to do. 

Diamond crystal kosher salt (Photo by Dan Balinovic)

A few guideposts: 

  • When cooking, you should generally season your dish multiple times, adding pinches of salt after each ingredient or set of ingredients hits the pan. For example, if you start a soup by making a mirepoix of carrots, celery and onion, season the vegetables as they begin cooking together, and then again after you add beans or chicken stock or whatever. 
  • You should always season raw meat with kosher salt, one teaspoon per pound.
  • If you’re boiling pasta or potatoes, add way more salt than you think is necessary. Taste the water with a spoon – it should be comparable to seawater. 
  • Practice. Dice up a tomato and distribute pinches of salt over the fruit, tasting as you go, until it becomes unpleasantly over seasoned. Repeat the exercise with an unsalted cooked potato (or rice, or an uncooked vegetable…you get the idea.) It will eventually become intuitive, but as you learn to harness and master the power of salt, you will spoil a few dishes. It’s worth it, trust me. 

Fleur de sel and Maldon flaky sea salt are not exactly interchangeable. The former is more expensive and often comes in a yellowish or grayish hue, which is because it is harvested by hand. Regardless, they serve essentially the same functions: enhancing the flavor and appearance of your dishes. You’ll notice the surface area of both salts is much greater than kosher or table salt crystals, but their flavor is milder because they’re hollow (which also makes for a nice crunch). And seriously, look at the watermelon salad pictured here. There is a reason virtually all recipes pictured in cookbooks have a sprinkling of Maldon on top. It can make a bowl of microwaved ramen noodles look gourmet.

 

Maldon flaky sea salt (Photo by Dan Balinovic)

To make the watermelon salad, combine equal parts watermelon and cucumber. Drizzle with good olive oil and top with herbs like cilantro or basil. Season to taste with kosher salt, measuring as you go. When it starts tasting delicious, double the amount of sumac and sprinkle the spice over top of your salad. Finish with fleur de sel or Maldon flaky sea salt. 

(Photo by Dan Balinovic)
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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Lemon butter cookies & cinnamon sugar cookies

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – Lemons…Butter…I love these things separately. But combine them together into a cookie? I’m Lisa Rinna with a slice of chocolate cake. Seriously, making this face:

A person sitting on a couch

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Have you failed to follow my sage advice to keep your pantry stocked with lemons? I have you covered with a recipe for cinnamon sugar cookies. (A snickerdoodle this is not, for I have included cinnamon in the dough as well as in the exterior coating.) 

To be honest, I felt the need to make a second variety of cookie because I think 30% of the recipes I’ve done for this column have included lemons, as most of my loyal readers have probably gathered by now.  

Photo by Dan Balinovic

(True story: my love for lemons runs so deep that I purchased a fully grown 7’ Meyer lemon tree for $200, repotting it on my small balcony here in Washington, DC. Several months later, it has not yielded any lemons, so I am exploring my options up to and including litigation. Follow me for more gardening tips.) 

Anyway, as of this writing it’s occuring to me that this week’s column is not Fourth of July themed. And you know what? I don’t think America deserves a birthday celebration this year, even if 2022 might be the last year in which this country can reliably be called a liberal democracy. 

But so long as you’re not taking away anyone’s reproductive freedoms, I think you deserve some cookies. So, let’s begin. 

For these recipes, though it’s not imperative, it helps to have a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer. If you’ve considered buying one, just do it. Trust me, you’ll get more use out of it than you imagine you will. 

By the way – a little peek behind the curtain – in case you were wondering why there are only three of each cookie pictured together in this article…it’s because I singlehandedly ate all but three of the lemon cookies.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

It brings me no pleasure to admit that, but I suppose it’s evidence of how delicious they are. I’m giving the rest of the cinnamon sugar cookies to my husband to bring to the office because this is simply getting out of hand.

Lemon butter cookies
Cinnamon sugar cookies
Preheat oven to 350° F
Preheat oven to 350° F
In a stand mixer or in a bowl with a hand-held electric mixer, cream together two sticks unsalted butter and one cup confectioner’s sugar for two minutesIn a stand mixer or in a bowl with a hand-held electric mixer, cream together one cup granulated sugar and one stick unsalted butter for two minutes
While beating, zest a whole lemon into the mixture. Slice it in half and juice half the fruit into the bowl, using a strainer to catch and discard any seeds
Beat in one egg and one teaspoon vanilla. Separately, whisk 1.5 cups all-purpose flour with 1½ teaspoons cinnamon, a teaspoon baking powder, and a half teaspoon salt
Beat in three-quarters teaspoon kosher salt and two cups all-purpose flour
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend until smooth
Roll the dough into one-inch balls, distribute on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and bake for 12 to 14 minutes
Cover and refrigerate dough for at least two hours 
As the cookies bake, make your glaze by whisking together one cup confectioner’s sugar, juice from the other half of your lemon (again using a strainer to catch the seeds), and two tablespoons unsalted butter
Combine a half cup granulated sugar with a half teaspoon cinnamon. Roll dough into balls, and roll with cinnamon sugar mixture before transferring to baking sheet lined with parchment paper
When your cookies have fully cooled, decorate with your glaze and zest from another lemonBake for 10-12 minutes. Garnish with a sprig of mint 
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Food

Kane’s cuisine: Molecular gastronomy, three ways

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – I get it: molecular gastronomy is a bit passé. Gimmicky, even. At first it was fun when chefs in fancy restaurants started serving potatoes that had been transformed into puffy clouds of foam, artful accompaniments to a beautifully marbled six-ounce wagyu beef filet.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

But eventually, the novelty wore off. Or, perhaps, diners started boycotting expensive restaurants because their portions were small enough before it became trendy for their chefs to start puffing air into the food. A restaurant whose guests are still hungry after spending hundreds of dollars is a restaurant willfully jeopardizing its own longevity. 

Here’s the thing, though. Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party, serving your guests a side salad dressed with a balsamic-olive oil mixture that’s been transformed into burgundy-colored pearls that might be mistaken for caviar or salmon roe. Well, I don’t know how to do that, but I can tell you how to make a blue cheese foam that will have them gagging. It’s a flex. It’s a serve. It’s a vibe. 

I have become an evangelist for the use of molecular gastronomy in home cooking, and it’s easier than you might expect. The only equipment you really need is a whipping siphon, which you can purchase online for less than $100. 

I wanted to show you how versatile this instrument is, so this week I used it for a salad, a main course, and a dessert. And because molecular gastronomy is considered a trend that crested around the mid-2010s, I decided to use elements of the cooking style to put a spin on classic steakhouse staples: A wedge salad with (you guessed it) blue cheese foam dressing; a bone-in ribeye with truffle potato foam; and chocolate foam mousse. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic
Photo by Dan Balinovic
  1. For the salad and foamed dressing, quarter a head of iceberg lettuce. Scatter chopped tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, flaky sea salt, and black pepper between the leaves. Then, blend a half cup sour cream with a half cup buttermilk, a fourth cup blue cheese, a clove of garlic, and a tablespoon red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Then, strain the blended mixture into the whipping siphon, charge it with one charger, and shake vigorously to distribute the gas before dispensing (either on top of the salad or next to it for a deconstructed look, as pictured.) Top with chopped chives
  2. For the potato foam, peel and boil about two pounds russet potatoes until they’re cooked through, about 40 minutes. Drain and combine them in a blender or food processor with one stick melted butter, a cup heavy cream, a cup chicken broth, and a teaspoon truffle salt, blending until completely smooth. Transfer to the whipping siphon, charge it twice, shake vigorously, and dispense. Serve with a nice cut of meat and garnish with parsley or more chives. 
Photo by Dan Balinovic

For the chocolate foam mousse, in a single-layer metal bowl, combine eight ounces chocolate (dark or milk, whatever you like to eat) with a half cup room temperature coffee, a half cup water, and three tablespoons granulated sugar. Fill a large metal bowl with ice and transfer to the freezer or refrigerator. Fill a straight-sided cooking vessel with an inch of water and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Put the bowl with your chocolate mixture in the simmering water and cook, stirring occasionally, until combined and smooth, about five minutes. Remove the bowl and place it inside your larger bowl with the ice, stirring continuously for about three minutes. Transfer to the whipping siphon, charge it once, shake vigorously and dispense into a champagne flute. Garnish with a mint leaf.

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Kane’s cuisine: Going hog wild over this pork dinner perfect for summer

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

Published

on

Photo by Dan Balinovic

What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – I would never cast aspersions on barbecued pulled pork, no matter whether it’s prepared in the North Carolinian, South Carolinian, Texan, Tennessean, Missourian, Kentuckian, or Alabaman, or Korean fashion.

Over the years, human beings have devised so many ways to infuse deliciousness into fatty cuts of braised meat, and I say we should celebrate them all. 

Speaking as a North Carolinian, if I may make a clumsy analogy, the prospect of my swearing allegiance to the state’s vinegar-based style of barbecue was about as likely as my becoming a devoted Carolina Panthers or Duke basketball fan (which is to say not likely at all.) Folks, it’s simply too hot to get all worked up over some silly football game or argue over which regional variation of barbecue is best. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Anyway, pork shoulder, however delightful when bathed in a tangy sauce or smoked and massaged with a dry spice rub, is more than capable of shining bright all on its own. In the spirit of open mindedness, I present for your humble consideration a pulled pork dish that is an alternative to barbecue (in all of its forms and iterations). 

Apart from the simple fact that it’s delicious, making this dish will help you better understand and appreciate the pork shoulder’s flavor – an essential step toward becoming a master barbecue chef. 

  1. Season a three to four-pound pork shoulder with three to four teaspoons of salt and a generous amount of black pepper, ideally but not mandatorily 24-hours ahead of time
  2. In a large, lidded pot, brown the meat on high heat with a tablespoon vegetable oil, cooking on both sides for eight to 10 minutes starting with the fat side down. Remove and set aside the meat and then drain all but one tablespoon of fat 
  3. Halve an orange and cut two heads of garlic crosswise. Place them cut side down in the pan along with a handful of sprigs of thyme, a few bay leaves, a teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, and two tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  4. Cook for a couple of minutes until the garlic and oranges are lightly browned. Then, add two cups water and one cup fresh orange juice (I bought mine from Whole Foods because I didn’t feel like juicing five oranges)
  5. Deglaze the pot with a wooden spoon, scraping up any fond from the bottom, and transfer to an oven preheated to 325°. Cook for three to four hours 
  6. Transfer meat to a cutting board and either slice or shred it. Add the juice and zest of two limes to the pot, along with the thick stems from a bunch of cilantro (reserving the tenderer stems and leaves for garnish)
  7. Use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients in the pot, and then pour the mixture over the meat using a strainer to catch the solid bits. Garnish with cilantro and serve with the oranges to squeeze over the pork if desired.
Photo by Dan Balinovic
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