Artichokes for me. Mostly because I rarely find them fresh, but partly because they seem a bit high maintenance in prepwork. I hope to change that this year.
Whole live lobsters. Have never cooked them. I love lobster but usually just buy the tail and its usually frozen so lobster for me is something I eat when I go to a restaurant.
Same here...but I find the frozen tails can be even more expensive than live. It can be a pain to dispatch them before steaming and making a device to steam them right...and keep them from curling up when you steam. But the flavor is so much better. I add a tsp of vanilla to the steaming water. It's more of a 'nose' scent than a flavoring to the lobster. It's one of those 'caveman' type foods where you just get messy and dig in.
You are so right, they are very expensive and I am just not that good at cooking lobster tails, they curl like you said and I don't know the technique so they don't. Thats why I reserve lobster for when I eat out. I love artichokes but also rarely buy them fresh because they are somewhat labor intensive.
Sdebrango, the key to cooking whole lobsters is to just steam them until the shells turn color. Better undercooked than overcooked as they get very tough.
A story: I spent a lot of time in Tokyo and one night clients, knowing I loved lobster, took me to a restaurant that lobster was the only thing on the menu. The waiter brought a live lobster to my plate, (not North American lobster, langusta which are all tail) proceeded to twist the tail off and cut it open and add a little lime. Put the tail back with the rest of the body, albeit upside down. It was ready to eat. However, to my horror the upper body started crawling off the plate.
I certainly could not complain about the freshness.
OMG SKK, I agree you certainly could not complain about freshness. What did you do??? I would not have been very calm I'm afraid. Did you just pick it up and put it back on your plate? I just can't get over that.
I really love lobster and one day maybe this year I will cook a whole lobster. I have to get over my phobia.
Sdebrango, I used my chopsticks and pushed it back on my plate. It was on a bed of ice and calmed down after a few minutes. I also drank a lot of sake that night. From then on I told my hosts that I was a vegetarian so I would not have to eat live or raw seafood. That is when the food became fun because there are some wonderful places to go to eat things like Chunko-Nobi (can't remember how to spell it) and some other dishes.
Different circumstances but definitely a shock for me was when I was travelling in Northern Africa and my friend and I were invited to someone's home for dinner, they prepared Cous Cous with lamb, I love that but for this they served it with almost every part of the lamb including the eyeballs, it seems the eyeballs are coveted and considered very delicious so they gave one to me and one to my friend. I couldn't eat it and my hosts were very offended. I swear it winked at me, I don't think I will ever forget that meal. That took me WAY out of my comfort zone.
Sdebrango I am right there with you regarding lamb's eyeballs.
Growing up, we rented a house in Maine for a couple of weeks many summers, and I remember watching my mother toss live lobsters in a pot without batting an eye. I've done it a few times myself, but it looked more like the lobster scene from Annie Hall...not my most graceful moments in the kitchen.
The trick to keep tails from curling is to crucify the lobster by trussing it to a wooden spoon. Dispatch the lobster by turning it on its back and plunging a sharp knife between its eyes. Into the boiling water you go buster. After that it's easy. Save the head for stock.
For frozen lobster tails. I split them the shells...top and bottom with kitchen shears..season. And put a long bamboo skewer in them at the base of the shell--that'll keep them from curling.
Grill or broil basting with butter (soysauce, garlic, ginger, lemon juice in the mix). Then finish the spliting after cooking so you get two halves/tail. For frozen I defrost them in salted water with some lemon juice.
Thanks Sam, maybe I will try not to be intimidated by lobster this year. I like your method of inserting a bamboo skewer. I never know how long to cook them they end up either being underdone or overdone. I just gave up.
Indian food. I love it when someone else makes it and am confronted by the spices. Looks like a lot to collect and know about.
Canning. I love the idea of canning my own chutneys and jams and pickled things, but I've never been able to get past the fear of doing something wrong and giving someone botulism.
I feel the same way, love the idea of doing it but the fear of doing something wrong freaks me out!! My Mother used to can all the time and I watched her but still have this fear.
When someone says they have a fear, the worst thing to hear is "Oh, no worries. It is simple." Lately canning has become such a mystery and with baseless worries thrown in by the media.
When you buy a can of something at the grocery store and the top is bulging or the lid is loose, what do you do? You throw it away because the seal is broken. Same with canning fruits and vegetables. Can't kill someone if the seal keeps. (Well, I guess you could if you were on Mission Impossible or something.)
Canning is about paying attention to each step and being clean. Which you do while cooking.
The best site is http://nchfp.uga.edu/ and teaches everything.
Would love to support whomever has questions about canning fruits and vegetables. I don't do meat and fish because I do not have a pressure canner.
Oh, something outside of my comfort zone just arose - using a pressure cooker! Mom would send us out of the kitchen when she used the pressure cooker - clearly we would all die if it exploded. And here I am with a grown daughter and don't own one.
I love the National Center for Home Food Preservation's website.
I always just used the Joy of Cooking's advice on canning jams and jellies, which because my copy is old has both a canning section and outdated instructions. I still managed not to make anyone sick... although I do throw away anything that looks questionable, or refrigerate and use it quickly if it fails to seal properly within an hour or two of coming out of the water bath (or re-can).
I don't do meat or low-acid anything (both because I don't have a pressure canner and because I have access to fresh meat and veg all year round). I'd rather spend my time making pickles and things that aren't available in my area or are expensive if bought prepared (pickled jerusalem artichokes, pickled beets, crabapple jelly, currant jelly made with sugar rather than corn syrup, kumquat and honey syrup, etc).
I love this thread. I can't think of anything I haven't bothered with, but I'm pretty picky so there are a lot of things I just won't eat, much less cook. Liver. Any offal, really. Heavy cream sauces. SKK, I admire your resourcefulness--vegetarian! I'm going to remember that! And sdebrango, I think I would have passed out if someone gave me lamb's eyeballs--good for you for being able to sit through that dinner.
Sam, I grew up in New Orleans and artichokes were one of the first things I learned to make. Just steam them with a little lemon juice till you can easily pierce the stem end with a sharp knife. So worth it.
When I moved to New England, my brother and sister drove up to see me. One of my fondest memories was driving up to Rockport, MA and buying lobster fresh off the boat. We bought a huge one--I think it was 5 pounds-- and brought it home and steamed it. Really great. We saved the claw for my dad, and it sat on a shelf in my parents' kitchen for the longest time.
You're right about the artichokes. When I was a kid, in the South, we used to have them..but they where mostly steamed and used with dipping sauces...scraping off the meat with your teeth. For some reason they just don't show up here anymore...and the only way I've made them was steaming with a dipping sauce (ages ago)
The elaborate discesstion is somewhat intimating for me; Breaking down something that's now 2 bucks a shot fresh. To get at at the heart and the 2 tablespoon worth of stuff.
Okay, I'll re-visit those when I see them and steam and use them as childhood remembers. Thanks for kicking in those memories!
I'm with you on liver and offal.
Oh please, I love offal. Tripe and sweetbreads in particular. My philosophy regarding consuming meat is that if an animal is going to die for your dinner you should be willing to eat every edible part including the organs. And I really like veal tongue too.
Damn! I love boudin. Possibly my favorite Louisiana food. I sometimes have it flown in from New Orleans. Saltine crackers and a little bit of Crystal or Tabasco hot sauce.
Using a pressure cooker - see above.
Read Lorna Sass's books on pressure cooking. She's one of several sources with the disaster stories in the introduction. Since I got a fabulous new one a few years ago (yes, new, at a yard sale!), I've learned to follow the directions. It's THE way to cook beans from scratch, and you get to listen to cozy hissing noises while it does the work.
Gotta agree with offal. Just can't go there.
Oysters ! I make them for my love, but not for me.
Now sea urchin is literally hard to handle, but I still love uni. I don't know how to field dress a guinea pig but barbecued, it's a Peruvian delicacy.
Squirrel. Not at all comfortable learning to trap it, handle it, cook it or eat it. Here in Seattle we have several experts cooking squirrel http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2017113840_eatingsquirrels29m.html And it seems to me there was a recipe for squirrel from someone on Food52 when I first signed up. Can't find it now.
Sushi. Very intimidating.
Eating or preparing?
I do think there are some foods best made by experts. Sushi chefs are highly paid for their skills. I do make nori rolls at home occasionally, but at home I don't stock things I like in norimake, like kampyo. This applies to Indian food too -- I do cook it at home, but a good Indian restaurant has skills and more. Thanks to Indian cooks on food52, I keep trying, though.
Preparing. I could eat a boatload otherwise.
There isn't a whole lot that I wouldn't try (to eat or cook) although there are many things I haven't actually made. A tight budget seems to be my biggest hindrance! The one thing I can think of that I know for sure I wouldn't be able to handle - snake. Not a chance...
Don't let artichoke prep work put you off. Here in Calif, we eat them regularly, sometimes daily, in season. We don't prep them, we just pare the stem down, then steam or boil in an inch of water until done. Can't be easier. If we see them for .75 to $1.00 we will load up because they keep reasonably well and they are a family favorite. For company I may take more time to pretty it up or make garlicky breadcrumb stuffed ones.
Actually I kind of like the mindless prep work that goes into preparing artichokes in the Roman style. My neighbors were appalled when they saw me tearing off the tough outer leaves and throwing them away. After that I cut off the tops, trim the base and stem. I use a melon baller to take out the hairy choke and then fill with a mixture of bread crumbs and mint, stuffing some inside the leaves. Braise them in water and olive oil and serve at room temperature. You eat the whole thing. In Italy some of the most preferred are the "violetta" which are small and purple with a longish stem. Be wary of oversized artichokes as the stem end can be extremely woody, almost like trying to eat a tree branch.
Artichokes are a little work, but worth it - and great for kids by the way, because they're sort of the ultimate play-with-your-food vegetable. When mine were young, they loved the whole deal - dismantling a steamed artichoke leaf by leaf, dipping in sauce (usually simple vinaigrette) and pulling them through their teeth until they reached the jackpot (the heart) at the end of the process. Also, they got a kick out of how everything they ate afterwards tasted sweet...magic.
Amysarah, that's exactly how I learned to eat artichokes. I can remember being a really little kid, and my parents would steam artichokes and serve them with tarragon butter. I still do it as a little treat for myself once in a while -- I cut off the sharp tips of the leaves and a few of the outer leaves (really only a few), steam them with garlic, lemon, and herbs in the water, and the serve them with tarragon butter. Easy, messy, delicious. We make lobster as much as we can get our hands on good lobster, and I am lucky because my husband is in charge and he steams them in a big giant pot. I'm not opposed to eating or at least trying most kinds of offal...I'd probably draw the line at eyeballs....but with the exception of pate we haven't cooked with it at home. My husband made a goose a few weeks ago, and that was something I was always leary of doing myself....with the exception of pizza dough, I just can't seem to get a hang of yeast breads, so I don't try them much at all.
I've been thinking about this thread -- and the handwashing one--as I'm peeling and deveining 4 pounds of shrimp for a dinner party. Hard not to get grossed out!
We live in a very rural area, and the closest city...well, let's just say that it's no Mecca for foodies, so we cook mostly everything. We've delved deeply into Indian and Thai food, we have no qualms about very large cuts of meat, we do our own sourdough, yogurt, and cheese, and we do a lot of canning. We buy nearly everything in a raw, whole state. But sushi is one place we just haven't ventured. We love sushi, but I think we both know how hard it is to get really high-quality, fresh seafood here, and the artistry of making really delicious, beautiful sushi is, frankly, beyond us...I feel better off in the hands of a professional.
Guinea Pig. I was on the island of Amantani in Lake Titicaca in Peru and was staying with a local Indian Family for a few days. I knew Guinea Pigs were eaten there but had no idea it would be served to us. They rest of the food was simple vegetarian fare. Lots of Soup, potatoes, quinoa and other stuff. I said no thanks. It I had known in advance I hope I would have thanked them and maybe tried it. I'm an adventurous eater but I just wasn't expecting it.