31 January 2008

Pressure cooker follow up; other ramblings

To clarify: when I said that I'm prejudiced against pressure cookers, I really meant it. Just like any prejudice, it's completely irrational, and based on spotty information at best. Also, I got it from my mother, who also hates them with a fiery passion. Having learned to cook in her kitchen, I inherit a lot of things the way she does them. For example, there's a wonderful little innovation that Indians use in their kitchens called a masala dabba. Go google it, and check it out. In it, you keep your most frequently used spices, like cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds, urad daal, dried chilies, possibly chunks of asafoetida for you to pound down (because traditionally, the stuff came as a hard chunk of the dried resin, rather than the powdered stuff you get nowadays; the flavour is superior, in my opinion). Now, my mother, like many women in the South of India, would only keep whole spices in her masala dabba, and powdered spices in tightly covered containers.

The reasoning is twofold. For one, if you spill some seeds on the counter, a quick sweeping will clear the mess. If you spill a powder, like turmeric on the counter, you're going to most likely end up with some fairly raunchy stains that aren't going anywhere. Also, powdered spices lose their punch a fair bit more quickly than whole spices. Frankly, why chance it? Also, it's how my mother and her mother, and her mother's mother did things, so I'm not about to switch that up!

My sister, on the other hand, is a rebel. I went to visit her house, and I was shocked to see her masala dabba with powdered spices in it! I was horrified and asked my mother what happened. Apparently, my sister insisted that she likes it that way.

Heathen.

So basically, the pressure cooker hate isn't so much because I'm scared of the thing exploding. I just really hate them for no reason more than my mother does.

The lovely Eric Prescott gave me a buzz the other day to ask about the Jimmy Crack Corn Crack. He wanted to know how to adjust when using a coarse ground cornmeal. Let me just let y'all know for future reference: just add some flour or breadcrumbs. The thing is, with the larger grind cornmeal, you're going to have a fair bit less packing of the patties. They won't stay together as well, because the granules will not snuggle up as cozily as the finely ground cornmeal. The addition of an extra bit of binder will keep everything together. However, since you are adding flour (and/or binder), you will want to make the patties thinner than I state in the cookbook. This is to compensate for the cooking time, and for crispness.

We move out of Brooklyn on Friday. It's been fun living here, but the commute is getting to me. I guess I'm looking forward to having taxi services know where I live! I'll keep you guys posted about the results.