Vol. 3: No. 177 – November 11, 2013
The perils of chicken eating
Confusion reigns through three recent articles in the New York Times about chicken safety. The first by food policy commentator Mark Bittman is provocatively entitled Should You Eat Chicken. Bittman discusses the presence of salmonella in chicken and states that in recent weeks, salmonella in chicken has officially sickened more than 300 people. He unofficially estimates that that about 7500 people have been sickened because most do not report it. Further he states that cooking chicken at 165°F does not ensure that the salmonella will be destroyed because certain strains are resistant to heat and not eliminated by cooking. This is certainly unsettling. He concludes that it might be fixed if the FDA disallows the use of prophylactic antibiotics in chicken production. Sweden apparently produces chicken with zero levels of salmonella. Wonder how that ban would fly with our chicken cartel in Canada? His article was followed shortly afterwards by a firm reply from – surprise, surprise –the President of the National Chicken Council. Read it here. He states that salmonella has decreased in the US over the last few years. For him, zero tolerance is not feasible and he notes that “Fresh fruit, meat or poultry – organic or not could contain bacteria to make someone sick if improperly handled or cooked.” He does not get into the numbers game as to what temperature, if any, makes cooked chicken safe but ends his letter with the age old argument that the families of chicken producers eat “the same chicken as you and yours”. I don’t recall seeing any chicken farmers at the table when we last ate chicken at our house. Indeed the woman of the house said she was of the strong view that chicken was not up to her standards when serving company. Probably best not let our Canadian cartel know this line of thinking. Finally, a further New York Times article appeared discussing the safety of conventional chicken vs organic or kosher chicken. The result was: “We found as much antibiotic –resistant E.Coli in chicken that was organic and raised without antibiotics.” Go figure! With additional research, we learned that while salmonella and E.Coli are both bacteria contaminating our food, they are completely different. Bittman’s warning about bacteria from salmonella not being destroyed by heat should not be applied to E.Coli – for the moment. In reflecting on all of this for a few days, we observe that our initial nervous feeling about chicken has dissipated now that we have other things to worry about – like what Rob Ford will say next. Bacteria lives and we are surrounded by it. So let’s get back to executing that garlic, anchovy and lemon chicken thigh recipe that we wrecked last weekend when we added too much lemon and forgot the capers.
Update on Fat Sugar and Salt by Michael Moss
We reviewed this excellent book earlier in the year and recommended it for anyone who wants to know how our diet over the past 60 years has been transformed by the prepared food industry – one that leads to a population addicted to fast food laced with fat, sugar and salt. Now the author, Michael Moss, has written an article in the New York Times which builds on preventing this trend by presenting a fictitious advertising campaign to change the public’s tastes by selling broccoli using the same techniques that the fast food industry has used so successfully. A highly recommended read: Broccoli’s Extreme Makeover.
New Yorker’s fall food issue November 4, 2013
Every year The New Yorker magazine presents its food issue. This year the topics range widely, including a rather boring article on the world’s hottest chili peppers and the tedious article “Beastly Appetites” which once again goes over the familiar reasons why you should avoid eating animals. Nevertheless, there are really interesting articles talking about the career of an amazing Italian Chef, Massimo Bottura, (“Post Modena” by Jane Kramer) as well as a young Turkish immigrant to the US, Hamdi Ulukaya, (“Just Add Sugar” by Rebecca Mead) who with nothing other than an idea, brought Greek yoghurt to the US and within 5 years of start-up was able to sell one billion dollars of Greek yoghurt per year. Finally, the issue is worth buying just to read an article by Adam Gopnik, “Bread and Women,” a reflection on the satisfaction of breadmaking and how it relates to the women in his life. What’s particularly interesting is Gopnik’s musings about Canada as he describes his voyage to Northern Ontario to learn the art of breadmaking from an eccentric and highly intelligent mother.
Adam Gopnik is not primarily a food writer and covers a broad spectrum of intellectual territory. In his writings he invariably heads off the topic at hand and provides surprising sidebar insights. In this article, he speculates on his farewell to his mother as he returns to Pearson for his flight home to New York. He writes:
“I realized that I never thanked her for all that bread. I reflected that the thank-yous we do say to our parents, like the ones I hear from my own kids now – our over cheery ‘Great to see you’ and ‘We’ll catch you in October’ are never remotely sufficient, yet we feel constrained about saying more…We imagine that our existence is thank-you enough. Children always reinterpret their parents’ sense of obligations as compulsion. It’s not they did it for me but they did it because they wanted to. In order to supply the unique amount of care that children demand, we have to enter into a contract of amnesia where neither side is entirely honest about the costs. If we [Gopnik means the children] ever totted up the debt, we would be unable to bear it.”
Some of our older readers will understand. For those who do not, ask your mother to show you how to bake bread (or something equally as physically challenging).
As a bonus, this issue has a second article by Adam Gopnik which reviews the literature of the Kennedy assassination and draws some interesting conclusions about how it forever changed how Americans think about themselves.
How do you create a winning Gold medal Plate entry
Every year, the Canadian Olympic Foundation sponsors a Gold Medal Plate competition where the top 10 chefs in each Province are selected and invited to compete. Our Chef Lorenzo Loseto of George Restaurant, has been asked to compete since 2005, winning many bronze and silver awards. But this year he has won the Gold Medal.
The Chef explained how he created his dish:
“I wanted something seasonal, balanced and cold because I had never tried a cold entry. I chose sashimi style ahi tuna wrapped in crisp potato strands, roughly the same width as the laces of my hockey skates. This was garnished with fennel and pear relish, roasted shaved carrots, peppercorn mayo and jasmine carrot juice. This combination worked but I gradually adjusted it, improving the balance of tastes and textures so that each complemented each other but contributed to the effectiveness of the dish as a whole. I started with the red colour of the tuna and found that because of the freshness of the ingredients, all the colours looked wonderful together.” – Chef Lorenzo Loseto
In August, our wine committee headed by Sommelier, Ian Thresher, met with the Chef who brought to the table some of the ingredients he wanted to use. Ian’s recommendation was to invite Kew Vineyard of Beamsville Bench to participate with us. It is newly arrived and owned by the much larger Angels Gate Winery. The object in forming Kew was to provide the Angels Gate winemakers with a new challenge to produce better Ontario wines. In 2013, Kew won the double gold medal in the All Canadian Wine Awards for its 2012 Marsanne Viognier wine. At the outset, Ian thought we should use this wine, but the slight oak tended to overwhelm the delicate taste of the tuna. Later on, when the Chef added fennel, Ian was concerned that he would be able to find any wine because fennel tends to dull the tongue. Further, if a stronger wine was chosen to deal with the fennel, the wine could overwhelm the tuna taste. But Kew’s old vine 2010 Riesling worked because it was slightly more mature and complex (like the dish). Problem neatly solved!
One of the judges, James Chatto, wrote that the choice of winners this year was very contentious except for the Gold Medal. James writes: “The one thing all the judges agreed about was the gold medal winner. Five of us had him at number one and the sixth judge made him first equal.”
Here is Chatto’s description of the Chef’s dish:
“Lorenzo Loseto of George has been a most loyal supporter of Gold Medal Plates over the years, competing in every event we have held and winning silver three times, a unique feat. Last night he won gold. His dish centred upon perfectly cooked ahi tuna that had been wrapped in threads of potato and fried for a very brief time, just long enough to crisp and bronze the potato and set a gradation of colour around the outside of the fish’s ruby centre. Soft ribbons of roasted carrot lay beneath the fish which was surrounded by a relish of juicy pear and crunchy carrot cut almost as finely as a brunoise. Also in the mix were pea-sized beige balls of a marshmallow consistency that turned out to be slow-roasted carrot butter transformed by multidextrin. A beet-stained, tartly pickled sliver of celery added a moment of intensity; another was provided by a small mound of a highly seasoned peppercorn mayo, working as an optional condiment. The dish was finished with a dust of pistachio and fennel pollen. The overall effect was entirely harmonious and impeccably judged, all textures and flavours in complex, balanced patterns that delighted the crowd and the judges. Chef Loseto also scored high with his wine match, the 2010 Old Vine Riesling from Kew Vineyards on Niagara’s Beamsville Bench, a wine full of the aromas of petrol and lemon zest.”
How superbly described by James Chatto!
Chef Loseto will be Ontario’s champion going on to Kelowna in February for the Canadian Culinary Championships.
If you ask, the dish and wine pairing are on offer for the rest of the year in George.
Ontario produce is winding down at the Ontario Food Terminal
The Chef reports from the Terminal that there are less and less farmers present. As the cold sets in, the Chef was still able to find fresh Ontario cauliflower, broccoli and romanescu but he had to hunt for them. We are very close to the end of everything but root vegetables, beets and squash. There are still lots of Ontario pears, concord grapes and apples which were looking good. The tomatoes, cucumbers and fennel were a bit sad. Zucchini, artichokes and eggplant have gone. The Chef did find some nice leeks and lots of Ontario herbs other than basil.
On the import side, the Chef liked and bought persimmons and pomegranates from Spain as well as plums and chestnuts from Italy. There are still wild BC chanterelles and pine mushrooms. Black trumpets are about to start.
We have just received our first shipment of Chilean seabass. It is OceanWise certified as sustainable and comes from around South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic. The fish weigh about 15 pounds each. Almost all Toronto chefs stopped buying these fish about 15 years ago when it looked they would become extinct.
Wild BC salmon and halibut are ending but the Chef is replacing them with ocean trout, Alaskan cod, dungeness crab, calamari, scallops and mussels from BC. Laughing bird rock shrimp from Belize has reappeared.
The Chef has reinstated darker meats including short ribs, Ontario rabbit, venison and Alberta bison and wagyu beef. He is back to braising and making confits with Ontario duck. Ontario squabs are back along with fresh Cornish hen from Quebec. Currently all Ontario Cornish hens are frozen.
The Chef has shifted to pear and apple desserts which are going over well. We like the Pear Frangipane tart with Caramel Mousse.
Last month we recommended the Jersey du fjord cheese from Quebec. It is now unavailable as a result of what we hear is the insolvency of the producer. We replaced it with a new Upper Canada cheese called Camelot which is fairly soft and mild.
— Le Patron
A monthly online newsletter, Ecclesiastes 3 contains Le Patron’s ruminations on local seasonal food markets as well as speculation on broader global food issues.