The Food Almanac: September 7, 2012

Get your day off to an appetizing start with food facts and trivia from Tom Fitzmorris
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In The Food Almanac, Tom Fitzmorris of the online newsletter, The New Orleans Menu, notes food facts and sayings.

Today's Flavor
It's National Rotisserie Chicken Day. If I had to eat only one entrée the rest of my life, this would be it. I've loved roasted or baked chicken since I was a kid, but the first time I tasted a chicken from a rotisserie, I went nuts for it. The process is magic. As the bird turns, juices that would otherwise drip off stay on the exterior. Some of it penetrates back into the meat to keep it moist. The rest evaporates on the surface to give the skin an incomparably rich flavor. It doesn't need a sauce or a gravy: it's moist and flavorful enough to eat as is.

I usually brine chickens before cooking them any way, but it's not necessary when roasting them on a rotisserie. Also, the herbs you cover the surface with stay there, and the stuff you shove into the cavity penetrates inside, imparting lots of flavor. Garlic works especially well in this way, roasting and sweetening as it goes. The only thing lacking in a rotisserie chicken is crisp skin. The juices won't let that happen. But that's an exceptional trade-off for all the other merits.

Restaurants specializing in rotisserie chicken have rarely done well, though. Right now the best are at Zea and the Rib Room, although the Palace Cafe — which had major rotisseries when they opened, then pulled them out — has returned them to its kitchen.

Deft Dining Rule #195
Rotisserie chicken is the most foolproof dish in restaurants, everywhere on earth.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Roasting Ear Island is in the Okefenokee Swamp, a wildlife refuge in the southeast corner of Georgia. It's a 57-mile drive northwest of Jacksonville, Fla. It's not an island in the traditional sense of land surrounded by water, but a hill rising about swampland. (A concept easy to understand for those of us who live in Louisiana, where there are many such islands.) Roasting Ear Island doesn't peek out much — just a few feet — but that's enough to create more or less dry land. It has more and bigger trees than the swamp, which makes it stand out more prominently. The nearest place to eat is at K&C's Oak Tree Cafe, nine miles away in St. George.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
Leave one layer of husk leaves around corn on the cob, and put the ears right on the grill. When the pattern of the kernels shows up as light browning on the husk, the corn is ready to eat.

Edible Dictionary
falafel, Lebanese, n. — A mixture of roughly puréed chickpeas, onions, garlic, parsley, a little flour, and seasonings, formed into a flattened ball or a patty and fried. Falafel is one of the most popular street foods throughout the Middle East, but especially in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Egypt. It's served both alone as an appetizer or in a sandwich. The latter is as often seen on a bun-like bread or pita, with lettuce, tomatoes, hummus, or tzatziki. It's a staple on Middle Eastern restaurant menus in this country, especially among vegetarian customers.

Music to Eat Veal Parmigiana By
Frank Sinatra, whose music we hear in Italian restaurants more than any other singer's, got his big break today in 1935. He and a group called the Hoboken Four appeared on Major Bowes Amateur Hour, and were a sensation. He soon would be the boy singer with Harry James's big band, and his career went ballistic from there. Sinatra was the only Amateur Hour act ever to go on to major success.

Food Namesakes
Two Peppers: Claude Pepper, who represented Florida in Congress for many decades, was born today in 1900...And golfer Dottie Pepper won the LPGA tournament today in 1996...Early TV comic genius Sid Caesar was born today in 1922. The Caesar salad was not named for him...Clarence Cook, author and art critic, opened his life today in 1828.

Words to Eat By
"I'm at the age where food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact, I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." — Rodney Dangerfield.

Words Not to Eat By
"Roumanian-Yiddish cooking has killed more Jews than Hitler." — Zero Mostel, actor, who died today in 1977.

Words to Drink By
"Drink a glass of wine after your soup and you steal a ruble from your doctor." — Russian proverb.