The Beggars take your questions – Part 1

For most of us, there is a gastronomical lifeline out there somewhere, waiting to help us with even our most basic questions — whether it’s someone in the family, a patient friend, or even an especially knowledgable co-worker, there is a know-it-all out there to help us when we feel like a know-nothing.

Once in a while, though, there are questions that we simply can’t bring ourselves to ask another human being. Whether they’re too vague, too embarrassing, or just plain too weird, we are forced to turn to that ultimate patient, discreet friend: Google. And sometimes, Google will end up bringing you here, to the Choosy Beggars.

This week, we take a selection of the questions quietly asked of Google, in the hopes that somehow, some way, we can help you.

  1. flank steak is same as?
  2. who is “dmitri the stud”?
  3. what to do with leftover tikka marinade?
  4. what’s a liquor that’s clear and doesn’t smell?
  5. laura calder hot?

flank steak is the same as?

Flank steak is a long, relatively flat and generally oval shaped cut of beef from the area between the steer’s ribs and hips. People say that this area is “well-exercised”, which basically means that it’s a muscle which gets a lot of use. If you want a bit of silly trivia here to impress (not really) your guests when you make fajitas, you can let them know that flank steak is the ONLY steak cut which contains a muscle in its entirety. Way to go flank steak!  It’s here to PUUUMP (clap!) you UP!

Flank steak is an incredibly lean, flavorful and fundamentally fat-free cut. The meat is very fibrous which means that you get a long thick corded grain from the muscle fibre. Not sure what ‘grain’ is?  Think of a muscle as being like a bunch of strings packed together, and the direction that they run is referred to as the grain.  Generally, a steak is cut across the grain when you buy it and flank steak is one of the exceptions. In terms of cooking, that means that it’s not a juicy and tender cut but usually rather chewy and tough – particularly when it is overcooked. Don’t despair though, it’s really quite delicious when it prepared with that in mind and because it’s relatively inexpensive the fabulous flank steak gets a lot of plate time in our house.

Now that we’ve rambled on for a while about meat, we should probably answer the question: Flank steak is the same as…? There are a number of cuts of meat which have a similar flavour and texture to flank steak, and they benefit from the same cooking techniques:

  • The first of these is the Skirt Steak, also known as Jean Steak, which is from a similar area to the flank steak but it’s a cut from the diaphragm between the abdomen and chest. The cut is a different shape from flank steak as it is longer and more narrow, like a rectangle. This is the most popular cut of meat for making fajitas and Cornish Pasties, which is an odd combination… The skirt steak, sadly, is the poor country cousin of the tough steak category because it doesn’t have quite as much flavor as the alternatives and many people just aren’t sure what to do with it. Well, unless they live in Texas. We have a theory that the average Texan could butcher and separate an entire steer with the raw power of their American-ness alone, and have the whole thing cooked up before the day is done. 
  • Anyway, then we have the Hangar Steak, also known as the Hanger, the Hanger Tender, Bistro Steak and Butcher’s Steak. That last one is interesting, and it got the name because there is only one per steer and the meat is so flavorful that the butcher would often keep it for him/herself. The hangar steak is also from the diaphragm but further back than the skirt steak and toward the kidneys. A hangar aficionado will tell you that the steak is redolent with a subtle kidney taste, if you feel that’s some kind of asset. Because of the hangar steak’s position, the cut looks slightly heart-shaped, which we enjoy immensely. Yes, we find raw meat to be romantic. We all have our vices. 
  • Finally, there is the Flat Iron Steak, which is from the upper shoulder blade of the beast and a distant cousin of the first three. This meat is very flavorful and those in the know are rapidly making it a favorite. We’re including this because the flat iron is another long, thin, lean cut of beef that requires similar cooking to a flank steak to yield the same great results.

Flank steak is often called Broiler Steak after the dish “London Broil.” This cut and its sisters are popular in many regions due to the affordability, and it is best for cuisines that use acidic and tenderizing marinades to break up those tough fibrous muscles. This makes it a frequent go-to for Chinese (aka Stir Fry Beef), Mexican (aka Arrachera) and French (aka Bavette). Remember that this is a tough cut which needs a lot of love and tenderness.

The best ways to prepare it include:

  • Using a tenderizing marinade and really let it soak it up.
  • Broil or grill it on high heat and stop when it is rare or medium rare, then slice thinly across the grain to serve.  If you slice it with the grain you’ve just wasted your time, it will be tough as a drill sergeant’s backside.
  • Allow a long, slow, moist braise or stew to break down those tissues. Adding some acid into the braising liquid will help to this end. The steak can also be stuffed and rolled up jelly roll style before cooking.

drill-sergeant

You know officially know more about flank steak than you ever dreamed you would want to.

who is “dmitri the stud”?

The real story of Dmitri the Stud, (a.k.a. Dimitri The Lover, born James Sears) is equal parts hilarious and creepy.  On the one hand, he left two incredibly gross and icky voicemails on the answering machine of a woman named Olga, who has since turned them around to humiliate him forever and always on the internet; on the other hand, they’re revolting when you find out what kind of  a guy he really is.  Sure, the Canadian Armed Forces officially said there was “something seriously wrong” with him, and hey, he writes prescriptions to himself as part of his medical practice… but c’mon!  When life gives you lemons, you start an alarming misogynist seduction cult, are we right?

062808dimitri

Of course we are!  

Far less disturbing and much more intoxicating is to remember Dimitri as we do — by deliberately mis-spelling his name, and forever enshrining him as a beverage that’s classier than he could ever be.

what to do with left over tikka marinade?

We admit that, in many ways, we like to play fast and loose with our mortality — but when it comes to food safety, we are utter grannies.  If you are using a tikka marinade to flavor meat, use all of your cautious instincts and act accordingly. 

To be absolutely clear:  Don’t scrape it off the chicken and use it as a dressing for anything that isn’t going to get VERY well cooked.

We know that it seems like such a shame to waste all of that delicious and flavorful stuff, but you know what’s NOT delicious? 17 hours of wretched, intense, vocal vomiting when you contract salmonella.

Okay, so now let’s talk about options:

1. If the tikka marinade was being used on a vegetarian item, you can continue to use it on other vegetarian items or meat.

2. If the tikka marinade was used on chicken or beef, you can freeze it immediately and use it ONE more time on additional meat of the same genre in the future, but that still makes us nervous.

3. If the tikka marinade is yoghurt-based, it can be heated on the stove with regular whisking until it starts to reduce and then you have a tikka sauce for dipping. Let this really cook well for at least 15 – 20 minutes to eliminate all possible bacteria that could have started to grow.  Don’t let this boil or the milk proteins from the yoghurt will start to separate out.

4. Use this as a sauce in a casserole the next day. Layer meat, vegetables, and anything else that you like into a casserole dish. Add a few eggs to the yoghurt tikka marinade, thin it out slightly with some milk if you so choose, pour it over the contents of your casserole, and cook it until it’s done.

If you are even in the slightest doubt about the risks, the safest thing to do is throw it out.  Yes, it feels like a crime — but you know what’s an actual crime?  Infesting your dinner guests with food-borne parasites.  

vomit

It isn’t worth the risk, or the four bucks’ worth of sugar, spices and oil.

what’s a liquor that’s clear and doesn’t smell?

We worry that this is a trick question, asked by someone turning to Google in the hopes of finding that Holy Grail of liquor:  The one that doesn’t smell or taste like anything, because you don’t like alcohol but you do like to drink on the weekends.

So we would like to break this up into two distinct categories, just to be clear:

  1. Clear liquors abound, and are available in your local store labelled as simply as “80 Proof” or “Alcohol.”  They are perfectly transparent, they have no added flavors and are distilled without any additives.  They’re usually derived from grains, and are so ruthlessly generic that they earn no distinctive brand of their own.  You could use them as easily to sterilize a wound as spike a punch, with roughly the same effect — they will scour through and destroy anything vulnerable, whether that’s bacteria on a paper-cut or organs in your abdomen.  It does not discriminate.
  2. Vokda, on the other hand, is your choice for a respectable category of liquor that meets your needs.  Considering that the pinnacle of Vodka’s art is to be totally clear and without flavor, this might just be what you’re looking for — but unlike generic grain alcohol, the heat it leaves behind and its overall character actually makes it something worth savoring.  Good vodka will mix with just about anything, leave you generally hangover-free and could still actually be served over the rocks, if you so chose.  Try that with some generic paint-peeling grain liquor, we dare you.  No!  Don’t, we don’t need your blood on our hands.

The important thing here, as always, is to ask yourself what you’re actually trying to accomplish with your booze.  Is this the only way you can possibly enjoy liquor, is to find one that leaves no trace of itself other than numbness in your extremities?  Or are you simply trying to find that rare alcohol that doesn’t actually taste like, y’know, alcohol?

If it’s up to us, we’re always going to endorse a proper liquor, with a long tradition of very happy drunks behind it.  When people love their booze, they learn how to make it right, and it becomes a part of their culture.  And hey — after all:

vodka_for_people

Laura Calder hot?

There is something so adorably endearing about how often we get this question, phrased so primitively and yet plaintively.  It is almost beseeching, as though seeking common ground with others over a truly peculiar and challenging question.  Quite unlike our other, related searches, which are much more targeted and mercenary:

  • Laura Calder boobs
  • Laura Calder married?
  • Laura Calder single
  • Laura Calder tits
  • and so on, we’re sure you get the idea

It’s unclear to us when we became the Internet’s go-to source for information about Laura Calder’s career, personal relationships and cup size, but here we are.  So rather than disappoint those bold souls who are truly interested in knowing, this is what we were able to dredge up:

Laura Calder is single, and divides her time between Europe and North America.  She has just recently purchased a property of her own, in an undisclosed location — which we feel is wise, given the growing population of the internet infatuated with her chest.  She films her show, French Food at Home, in Nova Scotia and is about to present her third season on the Canadian Food Network.  She is unmarried, so guys, here’s your chance.  

Ask her about her boobs.  We hear she’s into that.

As for whether she’s hot, well, we’ll leave that between you and her.  But given the number of times she leans over her counter per episode, we’re willing to bet she’s pretty sure she is, anyway.

And that’s all for this week! We look forward to more of your questions, ever-so-subtly entered into Google and routed our way! If we Beggars are anything other than Choosy, it’s helpful, so we can’t wait until next time!

  • http://www.kalofagas.blogspot.com Peter

    LOL…funny read…I hear Dimitri will be around on Sunday….

    As for Laura Calder…I’m smitten with her too but I’d hardly stalk anyone, nor go to Nova Scotia for one “One last true shot at love”.

    I recently heard show show labled as “French Boobs at Home”…stop hatin’, people!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      If you’d like to take a journey into sleaze, I urge you to check out the comments tagged to any or all of her videos on YouTube. I truly believe there are guys sitting in front of the Food Network D-I-H, which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad.

  • Dan

    Hi there, it’s Dan. Long time CB fan, first time commenter. This really has nothing to do with the subject at hand but…..can you add theme music to this site? Please check out this link and let me know.

    http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=tWNYOAQs9W4

    Cheers friends!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      For Friday posts like this one, there is no true topic at hand — therefore it’s the perfect place to drop totally awesome contributions like this.

      I actually have a very good idea of how to build this into something we’re cooking up…

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    I’ve told you my feelings about Laura Calder…

    Funny stuff though. Thanks for making me laugh through the tears of my illness. Sad face.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Daww, I think this is your time to shine, though — if anyone has the excuse to bust out the molecular gastronomy to produce the ultimate popsicle spheres for the ill, it’s you.

  • http://bruleeblog.wordpress.com bruleeblog

    Great idea! lol

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Thank you! I am breathtaken by some of the awesome, hilarious and frightening queries that lead people to us — so why not give them proper answers?

  • Nanco

    Just wondering if you know that “Dan”, above, is, like, Dan?! His first comment on CB.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      Well, the attached email address appears to be about fishing… in retrospect, it was in front of me all along.

      I fully intend to adopt his suggestion in our SECRET FUTURE PROJECT, as well as demand he do a feature on how to prepare a meal on the side of a lake.

  • http://britadventuress.livejournal.com Mike B.

    I’ve never heard of Laura Calder. And when I watched the linked video, I was almost positive this was some sort of parody of food-porn-meets-perv-porn because of how many times the camera guy rests the camera on her rack before panning up to her face.

    She looks like Helen Hunt and Laura Linney had a slutty baby who likes to cook.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Mike B – thank you for stopping by the site! Laura Calder probably has a bit more fame here in Canada than in the UK, but that’s okay – we’re happy to have her! You can’t blame the camera man (assumption: it’s gotta be either a camera man or a male mixer) for knowing a money shot when he sees one. The rack, of course, being the primary reason that Mike watches the show. I like her because she reminds me strikingly of one of my close friends….and because she’s not Giada. That’s a huge plus in my book!

  • http://www.gwendolynzepeda.com Gwen

    Seriously as hell, can I send y’all my cooking questions? Because I have some. Just tell me where to ask them. Email, comments, Twitter DM….?

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      You can email them to either of us, or else just post them in any comment thread that you feel like. We’re not picky!

  • Nanco

    I thought I used a super efficient way of coring-seeding-cutting peppers, but her way actually looks easier.
    When will you two be adding video??

  • http://www.gwendolynzepeda.com Gwen

    1. You know those Indian pickle condiments? Mango pickle, lime pickle, etc?
    I’ve read that you’re supposed to eat those with rice and yogurt, but that doesn’t tell me
    enough. I like the pickle stuff, but don’t know any ways to eat it properly. Please help.

    2. Likewise, can you tell us ways to use those lemons preserved in brine? The Moroccan
    ones?

    3. Can you tell us ways to use chutney?

    4. Can you tell us ways to use tapenade?

    Etc, etc — generate further questions with alternate exotic condiment, goto 20, run, end.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      1. Ooh, the mixed pickle is my favorite, with the lime pickle being a close second. Mike is disgusted when he finds me in front of the fridge, eating them out of the jar with a fork. They are just a condiment (unlike preserved lemons) that are served on the side of an Indian meal to add some heat, pungency, sweetness or flavor. Usually a small portion of pickle is scooped up in Naan/bread along with some of the meat or entree. The raita (yoghurt base) is also a condiment, and it adds the cooling contrast to the pickles which are often hotter than Hades. You can also lift a small bit up on your fork before taking a bite, or you can mix it in with your rice or entree to add heat and flavor. Really, it’s up to you. Think of Indian pickle as being similar to the little pots of chili sauce that you see at an Asian restaurant – they allow you to make your meal spiced according to your taste. After all, some like it hot indeed!!

      2. Preserved lemons are awesome! I was going to make some a few weeks ago but then I got distracted. Traditionally, preserved lemons are chopped up and added to Moroccan stews and tagines (which is just a name for a braised dish of meat, vegetables or legumes, so called after the container that it is cooked in – a tagine – which has the shape of a small chiminea). You can give them a quick rinse to reduce the saltiness, if you like, but remember that it will also reduce some of the flavor. Go by taste, because if you buy them ready made then the salt content will vary according to the manufacturer. Also, the rind is the prized part of the preserved lemon and many people scoop out the pulpy insides and just use the rind. I hate to waste things, so I use the whole shabang – although not always in the same dish. And….I totally didn’t answer your question at all, did I?

      Okay, so preserved lemons can be used in many of the savory dishes that you would add lemon rind/zest to. You can finely chop or puree them, mix with olive oil, a bit of vinegar, and maybe some chopped fresh mint and a touch of cumin for an A+ salad dressing. You can also use the finely chopped rind with a bit of oil, thyme and pepper to rub on top of chicken before you roast it (totally awesome). You can add it to dips if you want a bit of concentrated lemon flavor (but use a light hand, depending on the type of dip), chop it up with some peppers and onions to make a chunky salsa-style sauce for chicken or fish, or add a bit to your stuffing, along with oregano, for a Mediterranean flair. Do you like asparagus? Try mincing some preserved lemon rind, adding a bit of dried tarragon and olive oil, and tossing your spears with that before you roast them. Oh, and then there’s always adding a hit of flavor to soups, stews, or braised dishes – which is the traditional use. Just play around and have fun! If you like lamb, you could chop up the preserved lemon with garlic, mix with oregano and olive oil, maybe some hot pepper flakes, and rub it all over the meat a few hours before cooking. Oh god, so good. You can even add some to a pan sauce with some white wine and butter. Or chopped up in the pot with onion, garlic and white wine when you’re steaming mussels. Alright, I’m totally Atwooding over here…on to the next Q.

      3. What kind of chutney? This is a harder one. Is it a sweet chutney, savory chutney, spicy chutney? I canned two types of pear chutney last fall – one sweet and one savory. I use the sweet one as a topping for yoghurt and eat it for breakfast. The savory chutney I serve on the side of pork tenderloin. Not very creative myself, because I’m not a huge lover of chutney for some reason, but here are some uses for chutney that I’ve eaten at other people’s homes and loved: cheddar and chutney sandwiches at tea time, served on the side of curries, mixed IN with curries, mixed with cream cheese and used as a cracker spread, thinned with wine and used as a glaze for ham, thinned with white wine and then thickened with cream and used as a sauce for pork loin, smeared on top of Brie with a sprinkling of walnuts and baked in the oven until the cheese is soft (served with baguette), mixed with mayo as a sandwich topping (sorry, I didn’t like that at all, but it bears a mention. I think it was a chicken salad sandwich?), used to flavor salad dressing, and served as a condiment on curried turkey burgers. Which is actually a lot of chutney usage, now that I look at it….okay, maybe chutneys aren’t so bad. Except in chicken salad. That was truly despicable.

      4. I LOVE TAPENADE! I LOVE THESE QUESTIONS!!!!! Alright, I make tapenade on a fairly regular basis, so here is a cross section of my favorite uses for it. You can add it to pesto to make a black olive pesto sauce for pasta, which I love. Mix it with cream cheese and a bit of sour cream (or mayo) and use as a spread for crackers, or eat it with a spoon like your fatty Beggar friend over here. You can pound out chicken breasts, spread the tapenade on top and roll them up. When the chicken breast is roasted (about 20 minutes at 400) cut it up into thick pinwheels. The tapenade keeps the meat really moist. There is the classic option of using tapenade as a sandwich spread for an Italian style sandwich (think salami, provolone, roasted red pepper and arugala) or your favorite sandwich (think delectable roast beef, BLT, etc), you can add walnuts, oregano, more garlic (if you like, and I do) and some bread crumbs to make a stuffed lamb shank, or use it in a marinade for lamb. Oh, it can be a topping for grilled fish or mixed with chopped tomato and onion to make a chunkier salsa-style topping for fish or chicken. Do you braise meat? If you’re braising lamb (I love lamb and tapenade goes well with lamb, but I’ll move on soon, I promise!) you can add a dollop to the braising liquid, and you can also use it in your marinade or rub for lamb. I take puff pastry, cut it into small rounds or squares and press that into a mini muffin mold which then gets filled with a dollop of tapenade, some sundried tomatoes, a few chunks of mozza and a sprinkle of basil/oregano. I also like tapenade for breakfast, slathered on crostini and topped with some poached eggs and a bit of prosciutto or shrimp. Oh, or a tad on fresh sliced cucumbers with some pink shrimp and a fresh basil leaf is a super fast and lovely hors d’. I used tapenade in devilled eggs once and it was delicious but looked rather grotesque. Last one, I promise: why not spread it on flatbread, top with sliced tomato (or oil packed sundried), buffalo mozza and basil and bake it in the oven? I love flatbread. And tapenade. And cheese. Man, now I’m hungry.

      • http://www.gwendolynzepeda.com Gwen

        Tina, you are effing bad-ass. I’m totally printing out your entire response, highlighting it… and then handing it to my boyfriend so he can do everything you’re saying.

        I’m reading parts of it aloud to him, and he’s like “Aw, yeah. Oh, that’s a good one….”

        Thank you!