The Beggars take your questions, part 2

The Beggars take your questions, part 2

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 continue with our selection of the questions quietly asked of Google, in the hopes that somehow, some way, we can help you.

  1. Can I use tilapia in ceviche?
  2. Wooden or metal skewers for chicken kebab?
  3. What can I use 3 day old italian bread for?
  4. laura calder breasts?
  5. is there such a thing as blue cheese doritos?
  6. Can i give horseradish to my baby?

 

can i use tilapia in ceviche?

Absolutely!  Tilapia can be made with almost any type of fish and/or seafood.  If you’d like a recipe for tilapia ceviche, we just happen to have one riiiiiight here.

If for some reason you’re suddenly too good for our recipes, though, you can take comfort in the fact that ceviche can also be made with a combination of different fruits of the sea, including shrimp, scallops, squid and all sorts of fish.  The first time that we had ceviche, it was a salmon ceviche with roasted corn and black beans.  It was on a Lufthansa flight to Germany, in fact, which is where any sane person would naturally find traditional South American seafood cooking, right?  Riiight.

Anyway, the important point is that if you’re using a mix of different types of fish and/or seafood, you want them to have similar textures and densities.  It’s the same principal as when you’re stewing:  If you’re not careful with the size and density of the seafood you use, you’ll risk uneven curing, and a bowl made up of pieces that are raw, and others that are toughened from sitting too long in their citrus bath.

The Beggars take your questions, part 2

wooden or metal skewers for chicken kebab?

This is one of those discussions that we’ll occasionally hear crop up on cooking shows, or when we’re over at the backyard party of someone who really, really wants to dazzle us with how well they operate their BBQ (bee-bee-cue? bar-bee-Q?).  In our considered opinion, though, the type of skewer you use will not have much of an effect on your chicken kebab.  Neither type of skewer will yield better results in the cooking process – that’s entirely up to how much attention you’d like to pay to the cooking process.  

But if this is weighing on you, and you’re trying to make a choice between metal and wooden (usually bamboo), use the following considerations:

  1. SIZE:  Are you cooking up Fred-Flintstone-sized skewers of meat?  Because wooden skewers tend to be shorter than metal ones, which means that you can pack fewer goodies on there.  It’s not all about how MUCH meat you want to pack on though, also the size of the bits.  Wooden skewers are a much better bet for delicate meats, which is therefore why you tend to see them more in dishes that feature shrimp or delicate seafoods – Metal skewers tend to be thicker than wooden ones, so your poor crustaceans will end up tearing or shredding when you try to lance a skewer that’s half as thick as they are through their center.  
  2. SKEWER SHAPE:  As everyone who has ever had a splinter knows, wood has a grain and it can often pull on sensitive flesh.  The same applies to kebabs, where the wood of the skewer provides a bit of grip for the meat to hold onto as it cooks.  If you choose metal, avoid round ones unless you feel like you have sins to atone for or have achieved the kind of inner Zen calm that allows you to stick your hand into the fire to retrieve all the meat that’s slid off your skewers and under the grill.  Try to go for flat metal skewers, or else the ones that are slightly bent or curved in the middle to make a U or V-shape.
  3. COOKING TIME:  Wood burns.  That’s all there is to it.  You totally get your brownie points for doing the 30-minute skewer soak before grilling, don’t worry — but also don’t forget, that only means the wood is going to burn less quickly.  A shrimp skewer will be on and off the grill in about 5 minutes flat, so they’re fine to use wooden sticks for; however, if you have big hardy chunks of chicken that will need to grill for 15 minutes, then don’t expect to have a whole lot of wood left at the end of it.   For longer cooking times, metal skewers are preferred.

BONUS MYTH BUSTING:  There was an old BBQ Wive’s Tale going around at one time that claimed metal skewers were the superior cooking tool, because they conduct the heat and work to cook the meat from the inside out, yielding a better result and shorter cooking time.  This is malarkey, totally ignore it.  By the time your skewer heats up enough that it could actively cook the meat, you’ll have overcooked most types of meat anyway.  So consider this little story… skewered.

The Beggars take your questions, part 2

what can i use 3 day old italian bread for?

Oooh, THREE (3!) day old Italian bread!  We love, love, love stale bread.  Tina only throws it out in a state of absolute emergency, which is usually when Mike discovers a petrified lump of something she’s hidden behind the toaster and starts asking pointed questions.  

To answer the question, the number of days that bread has been out has less of an impact on what you’re going to do with it than how hard it is.  Bread that has only been out for one day might be rock solid, and bread that was wrapped and waiting for you to use it for the last four days might still be fine.  Oh, it also depends on the preservatives:  it should be said that home-made bread has a much shorter shelf life, given that it is not shot through with the same compounds that retail bread is to preserve it.

If it’s just soft enough that you can chop it up there are all sorts of things that you can do.  Here are some ideas, below, according to crustiness.

1.  STALE BUT CHEWY:  This is the bread which is not at it’s soft and spongy prime anymore, but it’s not rock solid.  You can still cut it with a knife and it won’t shatter.

  •  Try turning it into a delicious panzanella like this one.  Panzanella is a Tuscan bread salad and it’s oh-so-delicious when tomatoes are in season.
  • Both strata and bread pudding are made from stale bread which has been left to soak up a custardy mixture of milk and eggs.  Strata is the savory cousin of bread pudding which tends to be sweet.  If you have the sweet tooth, bread pudding can be dolled up with all sorts of fruits (fresh or dried), spices and nuts, or… you know… chocolate.

2.  STALE AND HARD:  At this point the bread can still be cut but it has a lot of resistance and it’s quite firm to the touch.

  • Stuff flank steak, pork or chicken.  Meat is quite obliging in that it always releases a lot of juices, and most of it runs off into a pan and then you’re into gravy-making and is that really how you want to spend time you could be sky-diving while playing an electric guitar?  Stuffing meat, on the other hand, gives stiff old bread a new life as the flavor sponge for the meat, and if properly seasoned can even return the favor.
  • Or, just make croutons.  Seriously, people pay good money for something that you’d throw away if you found it in your cupboard.

3.  EMBARRASSINGLY STALE:  This is the heel of bread that fell behind the toaster and you didn’t notice it until the end of the week.  This bread snaps and shatters and you can’t saw through it with a knife, although you will end up knocking chunks off of it.

  • Bread soup!  Bread SOUP!  BREAD SOUP!
  • Or, get out that food processor and make yourself some bread crumbs.  Do you really want to be that person who pays three bucks for a plastic bucket of bread crumbs, just because you didn’t have any when Thanksgiving rolled around?  No.  No, you don’t.

laura calder breasts?

Yep, she sure has.  Two of them, by last count.  Check ‘em out.

is there such a thing as blue cheese doritos?

Yep, there sure is.  And THAT SNACK SUCKS.

Can I give horseradish to my baby?

You know, we– 

Huh.

One thing is– 

Yeah.

Look, we’re not parents.  And you know… well, you know how parents can get when non-parents go offering their thoughts on child-rearing.  Things get tense around the dinner table, steely gazes are leveled, someone might make a comment about it’s easy to make comments when the only thing that other people have kept alive are cats, and then there’s a race to see who can clear the dishes and get to the wine that’s on the kitchen counter.

Or hey!  Maybe you have the perfect family, and good for you.

Anyway, despite our best judgement, we’re going to weigh in on this one with a simple counter-question:  Why would you want to give horseradish to your baby?  A little bit of elementary Googling doesn’t seem to turn up even the crack-pottiest holistic medicine ideas for calmatives or sinus-clearing or whatever.  The best that we could come up with was:

“Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is a hardy perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family, which includes mustard and cabbage. Large doses by mouth can cause gastrointestinal upset, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, and irritation of mucous membranes and the urinary tract. Horseradish may also provoke allergic reactions… Traditionally, horseradish has been used for pain, rheumatism, and cancer. It has also been studied for bronchitis, sinusitis, and urinary tract infections, but additional study is needed before making firm recommendations.”

By merit of this, we can come to understand that horseradish — like so many other peppers, chilis, roots and branches — is actually something we ingest because as we progress into adulthood, our nervous systems have a hard time telling the difference between pleasure and pain in their extremes, allowing us to explore all of the subtle complexities of the phrase ”hurts so good” in whatever depth we choose.  Some opt for hanging from chains in their basement on weekends; others simply heap on some extra horseradish with their roast beef.  That’s what we’re like, right?  We’ll risk irritated membranes and bloody vomiting if it makes going out for sushi a bit more fun, eh?  Aren’t people a swell good time?

In contrast, here are a few things that infants would not appreciate:

  • Subtlety
  • Complexity
  • Pain
  • and therefore, horseradish.

We might imagine that if there is a medical condition that has driven a parent to consider horseradish as a remedy, it is likely because said parent is temporarily insane from the volume, frequency and intensity of the crying that illness generally inspires in infants.  While this is certainly a problem, we can only think to close by leaving you with one final question:

What makes you think giving a baby horseradish would make them cry less?

The Beggars take your questions, part 2

And that’s it for this week!  Thanks as always, and keep posing those awkward, baffling and genuinely curious questions into your Google!  We can’t wait to see them!

The Beggars take your questions, part 2
  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    Do I HAVE to eat bread if it falls behind my toaster and I forget about it? Because that sounds alarmingly like dumpster diving. Also, I’m afraid of your baby. Does that belong to someone you know?

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    Also, Lorenzo Lamas looks like a handsome woman.