Pippa’s hot tonight

pippa

Chef Pippa Calland of Newville will be cooking tonight on the Food Network.

It’s a new show called “Chopped,” in which contestants compete in three 30-minute rounds to prepare appetizers, entrees and desserts with surprise ingredients.

Calland trained in New York City, Northern Italy and Beringer vineyards in the Napa Valley, where she worked under legendary culinary educator Madeleine Kamman. She moved to the Harrisburg area a few years ago, and has been a Second Street restaurant consultant.

Fry, baby

snackThere are few things that improve on Troy Polamalu. Deep-frying is one. We made sweet potato chips for the Steelers-Cardinals game, dipped them in garlic hummus and eased their path with Anchor Steam porter while Polamalu disassembled the Baltimore Ravens. Sweet.

The Cool Daddy fryer was a Christmas present. I didn’t exactly ask Santa for it, but I’ve talked enough about frying off chips and fritters at the Hilton and the extraordinary taste that the need (?) was obvious. Okay, the want(!).

Meanwhile, inside my brain, my inner Nutrition Nun had a hissy fit.

So imagine my surprise when I started googling deep-frying and nutrition and all I got back was bloviation about How Awful and No Nay Never, with not much data. Then when I was finished frying the chips, there was as much oil in the pot as I put there in the beginning. So the sweet potatoes did not absorb vast quantities. Huh.

Making chips is about as simple as it gets with frying, but even so we checked some recipe sites … and found weirdness about breading the vegetables. Breading is exactly my objection to deep-frying, because I want to taste the food, not the bread crumbs.

La Tartine Gourmande cleared it up with a quick discussion of Root Vegetable Chips.

Now, you might find the whole deep frying project messy, and hard, but it really isn’t. Not only making chips is easy, but it requires next to nothing – and this is coming from someone who does not do it often. You need a pot deep enough to fry (of course, a deep fryer is always good to have, but not necessary), frying oil, and a good Chef’s knife (or a mandoline, or a turning vegetable slicer). The rest is just fun, especially the eating part as you go along. Impossible to resist nibbling on chips while you are making them.

Exactly.

deepfry

The Cool Daddy fryer is not at all like the open basket fryers you see in a commercial kitchen. It’s a closed system. That’s good because you don’t get splashed with hot oil, bad because you can’t see or sense the cooking as well or turn the food as easily. What made me like it for home use is that a typical commercial open fryer is built in at hip height — in your house, it would sit on top of a counter and you’d have to stand on a chair to get the right angle.

I fryed off four batches of chips at different cooking times because I couldn’t see the color well enough through the window on the machine. The 8-minute batch was pretty well  burned, the 7-minute batch was a bit lighter, and the best came at 5-6  minutes. Once they’re out of the oil, dusted with salt and resting on a paper towel, they crisp up nicely.

Hard to resist? Yeah.


Beets?

Whatever growing up means — getting a job, getting married, saving money, watching your kid graduate from college  — I think that some where at the bottom is a large NOT: not knowing. Even more, being comfortable with not knowing.  Not needing to be the smartest guy in the room.

So it is with me and beets.

I started from a childhood of encountering beets at other people’s houses, not expecting it, and really not wanting to walk into a wall of seriously troubling aroma. So it took me decades to even consider beets as edible. And then it was more about philosophy than taste: as in, you really should eat more root vegetables. They are so good for you.

That was back in the Whole Foods phase, which succumbed to Natural Foods, followed by Slow Food and Locavoring. All that helped bring me to a post-modern Don’t Knowing, because as much as I vote with my thoughts and dollars for local, sustainable food, local food is not appealing in the winter in the Northeast and I’ve lost my appetite for faith-based Shoulds and Shouldn’ts.

And no winery in Pennsylvania makes a decent Cab and I’m not buying a plane ticket to Hawaii when I want to eat a pineapple.

So with all my food catechisms in shreds around me, I looked again at beets. I began by shredding raw beets into salads, which was not bad. Good sweetness (like good quickness in a running back), a nice textural element, and not smelly.

Next, I threw in beets when I roasted vegetables in the winter. Sitting happily among the  squash and yams and asparagus, mushrooms and carrots, the beets were homey.

Now comes a terrific idea in the NYT about dicing and caramelizing that just looks scrumptious.

beet-salad

It’s a roasted beet salad with bitter greens to balance the sweetness, and goat cheese, because everything’s better with goat cheese. I’m happy to say I will make this salad without knowing if I’ll like it.

“When we are able to be here without saying, ‘I certainly agree with this’ or ‘I definitely don’t agree with that,’ but just be here very directly, then we find fundamental richness everywhere,” as Pema Chodron says.