Never go on trips with anyone you don’t love….Ernest Hemingway "I am not a glutton -- I am an explorer of food." Erma Bombeck (1927-1996)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

History of American Barbecue

The history of American barbecue is strongly entrenched into its sociological history. The word barbecue simultaneously brings to our mind the US and vice versa. But BBQ is more a passionate factor in the southern states of USA than any other place. Its origin dates back to the times of the Civil War and even before it. Thus, the history of American barbecue is almost the history of America itself.

To make a long story short, though the history of American barbecue states that it originated in the south, nevertheless there is no single taste prevalent there. The taste, ingredients used and sometimes even the method of cooking varies from state to state and even town to town. It would be convenient to understand if the region is divided into the South, East Coast and Central South sections.

In the South, the meat is not at all what the original barbecue used to be made of, and they usually use mutton and beef cooked only in the slow cooking method. They also have a complete range of BBQ sauces to go with their bar-b-q that can vary between a sweet tomato sauce or a fiery red-hot one.

The East Coast however holds on to its original beginnings and has pork for its BBQ meat and vinegar sauces to accompany it. The side dishes that are a common favorite are coleslaw and hushpuppies - a cornmeal pastry. The vinegar sauces however see many variations like vinegar sauces rich in tomato, or a yellow mustard based sauce, with side dishes like bread and stew or hash with rice.

In the Central South, the meat remains to be pork and its ribs, but the way it is cut differs, in the sense it is pulled rather than chopped. They are slow cooked, shredded by hand and covered with ample amounts of sauce. The ribs are greased with sauce or covered with a mix of sharp spices before pit cooking. The sauce here however is a sweet tomato sauce with a hint of pepper and molasses. It is usually served with coleslaw, French fries, baked beans and cornbread. Further, in the west beef gets more preference over pork.

The history of American barbecue narrates a tale that has modified itself with the times, but even now, if you want a bite of the all-original American barbecue, it would do you good to visit any of the Southern states.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Using Onions In North Indian Cooking

Onions are a basic ingredient in many North Indian dishes, and they are found in most curries. By using different techniques to cook them, you can achieve the best texture and flavour for your dish, but remember: cooking onions requires a good deal of patience, and as I like to say, your love.

You'll find that chicken dishes originating in North India ask for chopped onions, whereas sliced onions are more common with meat dishes. The stage at which onions are cooked can often depend on a chef's style: Mughlai cuisine chefs prefer to saute onions before cooking them along with the meat (and under their influence, this is how I usually cook my lamb and beef dishes), and Hindu chefs opt for cooking the onions first until they are brown over a low fire. You won't believe the passions that are roused by the debate over which is the right technique: I can remember being drawn quietly aside by supporters of each method to be given advice on the 'correct' method. The influence of both styles remains in my own cooking to this day.

Regardless of which method you use, be sure that you are patient with your onions. You want them to be fully cooked, and not burnt. My grandmother was always able to tell me when the onions were 'raw' in a dish, and I now share this habit of perception when eating curries.

Another point to remember is to limit the amount of onions in your dish carefully. If you overdo it, you will find that sweetness from the onions is infused through your dish. Onions should not be overpowering, but should give body to the dish.

In fact, you shouldn't even see the onion in many dishes. Rather, the presence of well-cooked onion is noticeable because of the beautiful and thick consistency of the gravy in the dish.

Beyond their use in North Indian dishes, onions can be used as a garnish. Chefs at weddings or banquets commonly deep-fry onions for this purpose (they can subsequently be kept for up to two weeks when cooked in this fashion), whereas people cooking at home will mostly just stir-fry or shallow-fry them.

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