"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Monday, June 4, 2007

Foolproof Grilled Chicken and Melissa Gets a Tiny Little Bit Smarter

No, it doesn't have anything to do with ants.

I'm slightly obsessed with this bread-rising issue. This bread I'm baking tastes great, but it's rather flat, sort of small. I know that somehow, bakeries get their bread bigger. Gourmet doesn't offer any guidance on this issue, so it was time to get out the big guns--Madeline Kamen's The Making of a Cook.

Now, here is everything a foodie-techie could ever want to know about baking bread (and why didn't I look here when I was making the marmelade?) I learn that: I'm overproofing my bread on that last rise in the pan, which means I let it rise too long (in hopes of getting it bigger); and that my bread doesn't get a chance to experience "ovenspring". Isn't that a great word? The reason WHY is because the surface of the bread dries out in the oven and can't expand like it wants to. Commercial bakeries inject steam at regular intervals to help ovenspring.

Home bakers must make do with a spray bottle of fresh water. The trick is to fling open the oven at three minute intervals, spray the bread madly, and shut the door again. Now, you don't use the straight shooter setting (you're not trying to kill it) you use the gentle mist setting.

Anyway, my rye bread yesterday was definitely bigger and more expansive. I should be photo-documenting this.

The Foolproof Grilled Chicken was actually Foolproof Roasted Chicken because Tropical Storm Barry rained on our parade. The flavors on this one will make you hum--fish sauce, cilantro and mint, and plenty of the last two. You have to be somewhat organized to make this as directed since it involves brining the chicken for six hours. But the minor effort gets major payback in happy eaters--I got huge compliments on it. My only personal gripe is that the skin stays a little soggy (that didn't stop me from eating it though)--a run under the broiler can fix that. This recipe is a keeper and I'll be making it again.

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