Sky Full of Bacon

Catching up here on past Key Ingredients; incidentally, please note that it’s going to every other week at the Reader, but keeps on keeping on past the point where any of us would have expected it to wear out its welcome, as Julia said in her recent 50th-edition piece. Anyway, the two over the New Year were, first up, John Anderes of Telegraph given the epistemological question of ash by Jason Hammel:

And then, Erling Wu-Bower of The Publican using gold leaf, which he totally disliked on aesthetic/moral grounds, making this one one of my favorites for the tension between chef and ingredient:

One thing to note, though: Michael Nagrant and I looked at our respective schedules and decided we just can’t pull off the week-long year-end roundup this year. Partly due to other obligations (we both have steady gigs) but also partly due to feeling like we’re saying it all elsewhere (we both have steady gigs). Maybe somebody else, someone who’s still on the outside and a rebel, needs to do it and give us the hell we gave others, now that we’re establishment figures. Or maybe we’ll do it next year. But it just isn’t going to happen this year. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, here’s Year 1 and Year 2.

This week’s Key Ingredient is cod milt. Which is to say, cod sperm, and the glands it rode in on. At least what we did is less disgusting than what the English do— spread it on toast.

I made a couple of short videos for Grub Street this week at Takashi Yagihashi’s new, very busy ramen diner type place, Slurping Turtle— one about ramen and one about the bincho grill. I have to put them in separate posts to get them to display in the screening room, so here’s the second one.

I made a couple of short videos for Grub Street this week at Takashi Yagihashi’s new, very busy ramen diner type place, Slurping Turtle— one about ramen and one about the bincho grill. I have to put them in separate posts to get them to display in the screening room, so here’s the first one.

The beer issue of the Reader evidently got so big that it squeezed out this week’s Key Ingredient with Nick Lacasse at the Drawing Room; watch for it next week. In the meantime, I’ll be subbing for another Nick (Kindelsperger) at Grub Street Chicago, so look for me there starting Monday and through the end of the week.

Wouldn’t want you to be without video, though, so here’s a promotional video I made for Heather Shouse and her food truck book at the Goose Island “food truck summit” in April:

And enjoy these outtakes from the Michael Carlson shoot.

This week’s Key Ingredient is straight out of True Blood: blood and grits.  (Fine yuppie Anson Mills grits, naturally.)  Read it here.

I knew Hot Doug’s would be a hilarious shoot. I didn’t know what Schwa would turn out to be… but it was pretty damn funny too. A kitchen table at Schwa would be the best show in town.

Note the new credit style on this one, to match the redesign of the print Reader a few weeks back. I swear to God, that took longer that cutting the video did. I’m not kidding when I say this is handmade, one-person video production here…

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Meanwhile, this being episode #30, time to run a recap of the last ten dishes, as I did after #10 and #20. You can refresh your memory about the past episodes by clicking on the “Key Ingredient” link under categories at right:

Bill Kim/aloe vera— this looked like a mess while he was making it (soggy tortilla chips and soba noodles?), but came together surprisingly well, and the Jello-like aloe vera was texturally very interesting
• Carlos Gaytan/dried shrimp— one of my favorites because he took an oddball ingredient and made something that was robustly flavored, reflective of his culture and yet innovative in its own way. I’d love to go have it for breakfast for real sometime.
Doug Sohn/chicken feet— chicken feet could be the new bacon, fried up like Doug did them. Lifted a chicken dog (not my favorite thing at Hot Doug’s) to a decadent new level.
• Barry Sorkin/Vienna Beef hot dog— I’ve made fun of dragon turds for years, but let’s face it, you’re never going to go wrong with bacon, gooey hot cheese, and smoke (or Smoque). I actually made this one for a party shortly after, and they were devoured with wide eyes of amazement.
Cleetus Freedman/Bourbon— baked ham in a bourbon glaze, tasted exactly like what you think it’s going to taste like, just not much of a challenge challenge…
Marianne Sundquist/pork cheek— and the same is somewhat true of a pork ragu. It was nicely done, but not a groundbreaker for the series
Abra Berens/silver needle tea— another one I really liked, even though the tea salt thing didn’t really work— both it and the tea granita were too salty. But it was so clean and refreshing and showed such interesting thinking about how to use these things, and I actually made the salad later and really enjoyed how simple it was
Sandra Holl/apricot kernels— the bitter apricot kernel flavored did kind of disappear into a standard custard, as she observers in the video. But I really liked the extra bite of bitterness that the kernels brought to the brittle
Paula Haney/millet— The millet tabouleh was surprisingly likable, and the meat pie was great (mainly tasting of their bright ras-al-hanout seasoning). The parfait was very pleasant and I liked the rice puddingy millet in the dish, and the puffed millet in the chocolate, but the crispy millet thing was like eating tiny ball bearings. Millet’s just not pleasant in quantity
Michael Carlson/Malort— the first dish, with the Malort gelatins, was very striking. I didn’t taste it so much in the second dish, and I’m not a fan of that style of plating (the meat always gets cold) but the cocoa nib-infused consomme with Malort was maybe the best and most Malorty thing of them all; unfortunately it doesn’t really get explained in the video for time reasons.

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Finally: while I’m not happy about how LTHForum got into the situation that ended this week with its sale to three of its members, that’s water far past the bridge by now and out of the imaginable outcomes, this is surely the most promising for its future and deserves to be looked at as a fresh start.

When I left over three years ago, we were wrestling with how to take something that was state of the art for 2004— if that— and adapt it to a world in which blogs had displaced message boards as the hot user experience. Now it’s several years later yet, and LTHForum is as far behind the contemporary Twitter-Facebook-Foursquare social media world as the old BBS-style Chowhound seemed behind the times in 2004. So there’s a lot of room to improve the LTHForum experience to adapt to the way the world works now, and in the process open up a site that has gotten a bit hermetic at times and make it social not only inwardly but with the outside world. And I’m as curious as anybody to see what can be made of it for 2011.

So I wish them luck, and urge them not to be afraid to shake it up— it’s been very much the same for much longer than it should have been, which is less a criticism than a recognition that just as there was on BBS-style Chowhound, there’s a lot of creativity there waiting to be given new forms in which to explode.

Possibly the first picture of a plate of food I ever took, from the long-gone Julia’s Lithuanian on the Westernathon, March 8, 2003. I’m not even sure why I took pictures, since you couldn’t post them on Chowhound— and still can’t.

Paula Haney of Hoosier Mama is up this week with millet, aka, the main ingredient in bird seed and the little yellow things in 12-grain bread:

Old Sky Full of Bacon viewers will know that this is not Paula’s first appearance in a Sky Full of Bacon-produced video:

No video next week, as it’s the Reader’s Best of Chicago issue, which I will have a couple of things in, so watch for that!

This week’s Key Ingredient is apparently not poisonous in the quantities we ingested. So far.

Meanwhile, check out some improvements made to the blog here. The sidebar at right now has several new features including recent comments and tweets. But the coolest of all is the new Videos screening room, which gives you immediate access to all past Sky Full of Bacon podcasts, which will launch and play instantly in full glorious big-screen high definition. Check it out here.

All these changes were done cheerfully and very quickly by Artur Bobinski at Kenton Wen Design, and I happily recommend his services for building or tuning up WordPress blogs or other such projects. We did it entirely via email and I enjoyed excellent service and prompt turnaround for a very reasonable fee.

I really like that last week’s chef, Marianne Sundquist, picked a chef who’s not a name— she’s a farmer in the summer and a line cook at Vie in the winter, Abra Berens. As a result, she has her own viewpoint on ingredients, not to mention uses ones she grew herself, in this week’s video. Read the piece (which covers a lot of what she talked about that I didn’t) here.

P.S. By the way, I made her asparagus-radish-pea shoot salad the other day— I even used Klug asparagus like she did, since I had just been to the Green City Market. It was really good, and everyone was interested to see that yes, you can eat raw asparagus:

P.P.S. And watch an outtake here.