The Food Almanac: Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, Emeril!
Andy Roberts

Pheasants are a prized quarry for the hunter; the picture of a Golden Retriever with a pheasant in his mouth has been painted more than once.

Our Superstar Chefs
Emeril Lagasse was born today in 1959. He arrived in New Orleans after working and schooling himself in his native New England. Not long after he arrived, in 1982, he took over as executive chef of Commander's Palace, where he made as big a splash as his predecessor Paul Prudhomme had a few years earlier. "Emeril is a gem!" said owner Ella Brennan, who encouraged him when he went out on his own. In 1990, he opened Emeril's, on the corner of Julia and Tchoupitoulas. By that time he'd been discovered by the media as an extraordinarily likable and engaging presence on television. He started with a show called "How To Boil Water" on the Food Network. But it was clear that he could do much more than just a basic cooking show. He became the network's biggest star. The recent cancellation of Emeril Live--his combination cooking and talk show--is less evidence of declining popularity than of the fact that the Food Network is replacing real chefs with pretty boys and girls whose contrived fame can be harnessed at less expense, to the detriment of the product.

Emeril's greatest dish, in my opinion, was his new appraoch the barbecue shrimp. He makes the sauce by creating a shrimp demi-glace (so to speak) and stirring it into the butter and pepper.

Annals Of Kosher Food
Today in 1662, one Asser Levy was licensed as a butcher in the town of New Amsterdam (later renamed New York). He was the first person to sell kosher meats in the American colonies, at a time when Jews were not often granted religious freedom. In 1671, Levy became the first Jew to serve on a jury in North America.

Today's Flavor
Today is National Roast Pheasant Day. Pheasants are a prized quarry for the hunter; the picture of a Golden Retriever with a pheasant in his mouth has been painted more than once. If a friend comes home with a pheasant for you, you're in luck. If not, you may be able to find a farm-raised pheasant in a store or restaurant (wild game is illegal in both). The farm-raised bird will probably be better, because it's younger. 

Pheasant was dismissed decades ago by a lot of diners and restaurants as pretentious foolishness. (Anybody remember pheasant under glass?) But it's a wonderful bird. It meat is almost entirely white, and it has a magnificent rich flavor. The only problem with pheasant is that it’s difficult to roast without drying it out. Unlike most of the other game birds, pheasant has very little fat, and needs marinades and barding and sauces to bring out the flavor. 

Brining is essential. A cup of salt dissolved in a gallon of water, used as an overnight, refrigerated bath for a pheasant, makes for a very moist meat. Also, using rich stuffings like foie gras results in the magnificent (and non-dry) classic, pheasant Souvaroff. Covering the bird with slices of bacon and other techniques along those lines helps, too. It's all worth it to enjoy one of the finest-tasting birds in the world.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Pheasant Hill is in the northeast corner of Oklahoma, seventy-two miles northeast of Tulsa. It rises 840 feet above sea level, about 150 feet above the bed of Big Cabin Creek, which runs along its western flank. Two cemeteries are on the broad top of Pheasant Hill. This is an oil drilling area, with numerous wells nearby. It's unlikely that you'll dine of pheasant nearby (unless you shoot and cook it yourself). But a hunger can be sated five miles south the Pheasant Hill at the Hornets Corner Diner in Vinita.

Edible Dictionary
chukar, [CHUCK-er], n.--A variety of partridge, native to Europe and western Asia, that was imported to North America as a game bird and has formed wild populations. It's related to the pheasant. The name comes from its call, which it repeats until you want to shoot it just to make it stop. It is currently stocked in hunting preserves, including a few in the Louisiana Florida Parishes. Chukar are a bit over a foot long and weigh about two pounds. They are good to roast and eat, with white meat similar to that of a pheasant.

Deft Dining Rule #871
The cost of silver duck presses, glass bells, gueridons for flaming and assembling dishes tableside, and other accoutrements of elaborate dining room service will be reflected more in the prices of wine and cocktails than in those of the food.

Food And Wine In Music
Today in 1977, the group UB40 released the first reggae song to make it to Number One on the American pop charts, Red Red Wine. It's UB40s theme song now.

Annals Of Beer
Today in 1993, the one billionth bottle of Amstel Light beer was capped in the brewery giant's factory in Curacao. The man who drank it said, "Wait--I wanted beer, not water!" (Maybe.)

Food Namesakes
It is the birthday of long-time CBS newsman and analyst Robert Trout, in 1909. His career spanned decades, from the 1930s well into the 1970s. . . Mickey Baker, the front half of the pop-music duo Mickey and Sylvia, was born today in 1925. Their famous song was Love Is Strange. . . It's rare that we find food in the names of TV stations, but we have two of them today. WLOX-TV in Biloxi began telecasting on this day in 1962. And in Johnstown, PA, WFAT-TV signed on the air today in 1953 (as WJNL). . . Ron Cherry, NFL tackle, was born today in 1972. . . Sara Josephine Baker was born today in 1873. She was a physician who spent most of her career preventing illnesses in newborn children. . . Varian Fry, an American journalist who helped develop a rescue network to evacuate Jews from Nazi Germany, was born today in 1907.

Words To Eat By
"The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook."--Julia Child.

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Words To Drink By
"I had been able to observe that there was a sprightly sportsman behind the counter mixing things out of bottles and stirring them up in long glasses that seemed to have ice in them, and the urge came upon me to see more of this man."--Bertie Wooster,the upper-class twit in the stories of P. G. Wodehouse, born today in 1881.