Archive for the ‘Recipies’ Category

Absinthe: Myths and Truths

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Absinthe, the “Green Fairy” (Fee Verte) as it came to be called, originated in Switzerland in the late 1700’s as an elixir/tincture. It is a distilled, 68-70% alcohol, liquor flavored by several herbs, notably wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, and also green anise, hyssop, lemon balm and Florence fennel.

However, it is better known for its popularity in late 19th and early 20th century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers such as Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Picasso and van Gogh. Part of its fascination is its ritual preparation: a shot of absinthe is added to a glass then a sugar cube is placed in a special spoon laid on the rim of the glass. As cold water is poured over the sugar it dissolves into the Absinthe resulting in an opalescent milky-green emulsion.

Absinthe was portrayed as a dangerously addictive, psychoactive drug that could cause hallucinations, epileptic-like attacks and madness. By 1915, it was prohibited in a number of European countries and the United States. The culprit in the drink was believed to be thujone, found in wormwood – a ketone and a monoterpene that exists in two stereoisomeric forms: (+)-3-thujone or α-thujone and (-)-3-thujone or ß-thujone. It has a menthol odor.

Scientific analysis in recent years by an international team led by Dirk W. Lachenmeier and including David Nathan-Maister and Theodore A. Breaux has shown that absinthe contains only small quantities of thujone, and cannot be responsible for absinthe’s reported hallucinogenic effects. They analyzed recent productions as well as authentic absinthe produced before 1910.

Pre-ban samples averaged 25.4mg/L while modern samples ranged between 7.6mg/L and 26mg/L. At these concentrations it is impossible to ingest enough thujone to affect the central nervous system, long before that would happen the person would be very intoxicated. It should also be pointed out that thujone is also found at low concentrations in some other herbs such as sage.

The ban on Absinthe was lifted in Europe in 1988 with a limit of 10mg/L and in the US in 2007 where the limit on thujone is set at less than 10mg/L as well. Today over 100 different brands are produced in more than a dozen countries.

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Cilantro: What makes it taste so good or so bad?

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

The leaves of the coriander plant are referred to as cilantro and are widely used in Mexican, Asian and Indian foods. Over the years I’ve frequently heard friends comment on the taste of cilantro. Most have said they like it, adds a fresh citrus taste, etc. But every once in a while I hear people say they can’t stand even a small amount. The taste is described mostly as soap but I’ve also heard metallic, moldy, and that it even tastes like stink bugs, although I for one have never tasted a stink bug. A quick search yields a number of blogs and postings where the detractors pull no punches about their hatred for these innocent little leaves. And surveys claim the percentage of people who dislike the taste ranges between 30% and 50%.

So I was wondering why there can be such a disparity of opinions. A number of references attribute this to genetic differences between people and that the people who really hate the taste are “Super Tasters”.   These super tasters seem to have a higher number of taste receptors on their tongues. I think my taste has been ruined by too many days spent around smelly chemicals since I feel cilantro has very little flavor.

In the ripe coriander fruits, or seeds, the content of essential oil is low (typically, less than 1%). The oil consists of about 55% linalool (50 to 60%) and about 20% terpenes (pinenes, γ-terpinene, myrcene, camphene, phellandrenes, α-terpinene, limonene, cymene).

It is believed that the cilantro aroma (from the leaves) is created by about a half-dozen aldehydes which are fragments of fat molecules. Similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions and, interestingly, bugs. The taste of the fresh herb leaves and unripe seeds is due to an essential oil (0.1%) that is almost entirely made up of aliphatic aldehydes of 10 to 16 carbon atoms. There are both saturated (decanal) and α,β unsaturated (trans-2-tridecenal) aldehydes.

So there you have it. Aliphatic aldehydes are what makes cilantro taste like soap, mold or stink bugs. Me, I’m fat, dumb and happy being a not-so-super taster.

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Low Country Boil

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Any red neck wannabees out there? Below is Obie’s recipe for a low country boil that is a sure bet. The quantities are set for a turkey fryer pot but of course you can scale up or down as you wish. For some unknown reason it’s better the larger the batch you make.

Heat a large pot about half filled with water over an outdoor cooker (turkey deep fryer), or the largest pot you can find that fits on your kitchen stove. Add Old Bay Seasoning to taste and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, lemons, and sausages, and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Add the corn and onions and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Add the shrimp and crab when everything else is almost done, then cook for another 3 or 4 minutes until the shrimp are pink.

Everything is done: Open the beer and wine. Drain off the water, spread out some newspaper and dump everything in a big pile (get ready to catch rolling stuff when you dump it). Grab a plate and enjoy!


  • 1 package of Old Bay Seasoning (Add some “Crab Boil” liquid for extra spice)
  • 1 Bottle of cocktail sauce, if you like
  • 12 (5 lbs) Red potatoes (Chopped into “chunks”)
  • 3 Lemons (quartered)
  • 2 Packages of Sausages of your choice (andouille, hot or smoked Italian or other spicy sausage), cut into about ¼ inch thick slices
  • 4-6 Ears of corn (cut into 3 inch length pieces)
  • 2 Onions (chopped)
  • 3-4 lbs Large shrimp
  • 3-4 lbs Whole crab, broken into pieces
  • Mushrooms (if you like)

Gimme a YEEHAW!

Propane-Fired Fried Turkey and Steamed Clams

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Deep frying a turkey has a bad rap. It’s not just a redneck thang. In fact once you try deep fried turkey you’ll come back for more again and again. I’m sure you have seen videos of turkey fryers catching fire, some even inside a garage. Yes, fires have occurred, but if you are careful, set up the fryer away from all structures and combustibles, and lower the bird into the oil slowly there should not be any problem. Make sure the fryer is set up on a stable, flat surface and be sure to wear a heavy glove when you lower the bird into the oil in case of a splash. Now I just have to figure out a way to stuff the bird!

Deep Frying a Turkey
Butter Beer Injection Mixture:
Prep time 10 minutes; cook time 10 minutes

  • ½ pound butter
  • ½ can of beer
  • 2 tablespoons Salt
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Tabasco
  • 1 tablespoons Soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons Onion powder

Combine all ingredients over low heat and stir until the salt is dissolved and sauce is smooth. Keep warm, but not hot, until injection.

Remove the gizzards and clean the bird with water.  Pat the bird dry inside and out with paper towels.  Inject the bird all over with the Butter Beer injection mixture.  Try to use small portions for each injection so you spread it throughout the bird.  Be sure to get the mixture into all the muscles.  Mount the bird on the lowering hook and put on a thick, long glove.  When the oil is at the high end of the temperature range below, slowly lower the bird into the hot oil.   Fry the bird at 325-350 degrees Fahrenheit, for 3 to 3.5 minutes per pound.  It’s done when the skin is a deep golden brown.  Enjoy the best turkey you’ve ever had!

Steaming Clams (or whatever)

A propane “fryer” is also great for steaming clams, crabs and other shell fish. It can’t be easier. Put about three inches of water in the bottom of the pot. Fire it up and wait for the water to boil which doesn’t take long. Put the clams etc. (covered with spice mix if desired) in the steamer basket, lower it into the pot and cover with the lid cocked to the side. You’re ready to eat in 10 to 20 minutes depending on the number of clams. Just pull up on the basket every once in a while to see if the shells have opened.