Alibi V.13 No.47 • Nov 18-24, 2004 


Looking Back

Thanksgiving Recipes, Techniques and More From the Alibi Archive

Say, we've done some pretty cool stuff in the past. Just take any one of these cool Thanksgiving stories from our archive. They all rock! And so will your T-day dinner, after you've boned up on brining, pie-making and wine-pairing. Bon appétit, pilgrims.

Big Hungry Boy

Good Ol' Creamed Spinach

From Weekly Alibi Archive | November 21, 2002 [Vol. 11 No. 47]

To me, Thanksgiving is the quintessentially American holiday, based on the Norman Rockwell idealization of home and hearth, yet always with the potential to devolve into some absurd dramatic cross between Henrik Ibsen and Buster Keaton. Growing up in a family where each of us five kids was likely to be speaking civilly to no more than one or two of our siblings at any given time, the potential for a good old-fashioned scene ("Let's see, which of my sisters is going to burst into tears, and what course will it happen during?") became part of the attraction.

More so than any other holiday, Thanks-giving is about food--and people who have no problem flouting conventional cookery wisdom 364 days a year ("Hey, let's serve the fried eggs with anchovy paste and pine nuts!") would get their aprons in a twist at the idea of something other than your basic roast turkey along with whatever side dishes were the standards when they were kids. More relationships have probably hit the rocks over stuffing ("I don't care that your mother made cornbread stuffing! She's too drunk to notice what she's doing in the kitchen half the time anyway!") and potatoes ("Unless you want me doing a Karen Finley performance art piece on your ass, put the canned yams down!") than anything else.

This year, I suggested making something other than creamed spinach with jalapeños (a recipe I got from Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, in an essay ironically titled "The Same Old Thing") as my contribution to the side dishes, and from the reaction, you'd have thought I was announcing my intention to conduct a liturgical Mass in Esperanto over the desserts. Still, better to have the same old thing than to have nothing at all.

Creamed Spinach With Jalapeños
Adapted from Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin (Harper Perennial 1988), a book no one who loves reading about food should be without.

Serves 6-8

2 packages frozen chopped spinach
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup half-and-half
1/2 pound Monterey Jack with peppers, shredded
1 fresh jalapeño, seeded and chopped or 1/4 cup pickled jalapeño slices, chopped
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Bread crumbs or crushed potato chips for topping

1) Preheat oven to 300°F. If your oven is already in use, as it most likely will be during Thanksgiving, you can cook this at a higher or lower temperature; just adjust the cooking time up or down as necessary.
2) Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain off cooking liquid, adding water if necessary to make 1 cup.
3) Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
4) Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft and fragrant.
5) Stir in reserved spinach liquid, slowly, then add half-and-half, cheese, jalapeño and spices. Cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy.
6) Stir in drained spinach until all the leaves are coated evenly.
7) Turn out into buttered casserole, top with bread crumbs or crushed potato chips, and bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.

Gastrological Forecast

From Weekly Alibi Archive | November 21, 2002 [Vol. 11 No. 47]

For those of us who don't cook for a living, Thanksgiving is the most intimidating meal of the year. You've got tons of people coming over to dinner, you've got to cook for three times as many as you've ever cooked for before and worst of all, you've got to impress them. It can be a daunting task and many first-timers just don't know where to begin. Well, I'll tell you what my mom always told me: Start making a list. This is exactly the same advice given by Rick Rodgers in his book Thanksgiving 101 (Broadway, paper, $15). He suggests starting out with the guest list and now's the time because you need an accurate head count before you start on list number two: the grocery list. Do your Thanksgiving grocery shopping as far in advance as possible. Like tonight. Or go to one of the 24-hour stores in the middle of the day or after dinner time when the lines are shorter. Then make a prep list. Clipboard-clutching sous chefs do this several times a day in order to keep their restaurants running smoothly. Write down every single cooking chore you'll have to do and then figure it all into a time frame; assign tasks to three days ahead, two days ahead, etc. Rogers also advises making a utensil list so you know how many pots, pans, forks and knives you'll need to borrow or buy. The most important list: the menu. Tape it to the fridge door and refer back constantly.

To Baste or Not to Baste

Does It Really Make a Difference?

From Weekly Alibi Archive | December 19, 2002 [Vol. 11 No. 51]

Question: Throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, I have been having a discussion (to put it mildly) with my aunt about whether it's better to baste a turkey while it's roasting or just to leave it alone. I say baste, she says no. I'm doing a turkey for Christmas, and she'll be a guest. What should I do?

Answer: There is an undeniable psychological aspect to basting. Cooking, especially for a holiday gathering of friends and family, is (or should be) a loving, nurturing enterprise, and as a result we may be tempted to nurture and fuss over the turkey itself while it is cooking, thereby demonstrating to ourselves how caring we are about our loved ones. So we repeatedly suck up the dripped essences with a giant medicine dropper called, for lack of any other function, a turkey baster, and shower them onto the bird. Devotees of basting cite three advantages: improved flavor, improved browning and preservation of moisture.

No one can dispute the claim that adding a flavorful liquid to the surface of a roast will improve the flavor of that surface, especially if the liquid subsequently evaporates, leaving its seasonings behind. But turkeys are waterproof creatures, so the liquid and its flavors will not penetrate into the meat. Basting is purely a surface treatment. It works best for roasts that have large surface-to-volume ratios, that is, that have lots of surface area for their weight, such as a butterflied turkey or chicken parts on a grill. But for a compact, almost-spherical whole turkey, basting adds flavor only to a relatively small fraction of the roast. For skin lovers like me, however, basting is a boon.

Browning is also a skin-only phenomenon, and proper basting can help to produce a beautifully browned bird. Roasts turn brown in the oven because of chemical reactions called Maillard reactions that take place at high temperatures between sugars and amino acids in the meat. These reactions produce a broad spectrum of chemical products, many of which are highly flavorful and/or dark in color. A fatty basting sauce can enhance browning and crisping of the skin, essentially by frying it. But whether the fat needs to be continually replenished by repeated basting is debatable.

A water-based basting liquid, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect; it wets the skin and cools it by evaporation, temporarily stifling both the browning and the crisping of the skin. At the same time, it slows down the cooking of the breast meat, which has a habit of drying out faster than other parts of the bird. (Almost all of the dozens of variations on turkey roasting are intended to avoid overcooking and drying-out of the breast meat before the thighs and other internal parts are adequately cooked.)

So do you want crisp skin or juicy breast meat? You can't have both by basting with watery pan juices. Fatty basting materials such as oil or melted butter therefore usually get the nod. But is it really necessary to reapply them continually? Probably not. An initial coating will pretty much stay put on the turkey skin and needn't be replenished every 20 minutes, as many recipes advise. And remember that opening the oven door nine times over a three-hour roasting period wastes a lot of heat and lengthens the cooking time.

All in all, then, why baste? Okay, so it makes you feel good. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, and you can tell auntie I said so.

Robert L. Wolke ( is professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and the author, most recently, of What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained (W. W. Norton, Cloth, $25.95).

Brining: A Quick Guide and Starter Recipe

You've seen it on the TV shows, you've heard it on the radio ...

From Weekly Alibi Archive | May 8, 2003 [Vol. 12 No. 19]

Last Thanksgiving, magazines, TV cooking shows and newspaper food sections all trumpeted the merits of brined turkeys. Although not a new concept, brining poultry and pork is the latest thing. Brining genuinely improves the flavor, texture and moistness of poultry and pork, making a huge difference for very little effort. (With the exception of that St. Patrick's Day favorite, corned beef brisket, beef is plenty juicy and tender on its own and doesn't need the help; ditto fish when properly cooked.)

Brining is simply soaking food in a solution of salt, water and (usually) flavorings. In the first stage of brining, the salt pulls water from the food's cells; in the second stage, those cells begin to rehydrate themselves with water (and therefore salt and flavorings) from the brine until they're full to bursting with yummy goodness. Roasting chicken or grilling pork chops that have been properly brined is a revelation; the meat is moist and flavorful, and much more tender than an equivalent unbrined cut. That moistness is apparent even after the meat's been chilled and reheated.

The only consideration for brining is a matter of scheduling. For a weekday meal, a pork loin can be put into a brine before you go to bed the night before and you can throw the meat, with some potatoes and veggies, into the Crock-Pot on low before you leave for work in the morning. On weekends, the meat can go into the brine in the morning and be roasted in the late afternoon for a lovely but stress-free dinner. Best of all, this brine is easily adaptable for various types of poultry with just a few common sense ingredient substitutions (orange juice and ginger for duck, lemon juice and sage for chicken, etc.) and adjustments of quantities. Think of the recipe below as a basic guideline, not the final word, and use your imagination.

Roasted Pork Loin

Salt is an important part of this recipe, which is adapted from a turkey brine in Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2002).

Serves 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes plus 6-12 hours of soaking time

4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup apple cider or apple juice
1/3 cup salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar or molasses
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 (2-3 pound) boneless pork loin
4 cups heavily iced water
Olive oil
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1" to 2" lengths
4 large red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
1 onion, cut into quarters
1 turnip, peeled and cut into large dice-sized pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) Bring broth, cider, salt, brown sugar, cloves and peppercorns to a boil. Cool slightly then refrigerate at least 1 hour.
2) Place unwrapped pork loin into a stockpot or large Dutch oven. Pour in chilled broth mixture and iced water. Refrigerate 6 to 12 hours.
3) Preheat oven to 350° F. Remove pork loin from brine, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub surface of roast lightly with olive oil to promote browning.
4) Place vegetables in roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Toss vegetables to coat evenly.
5) Place roast on top of vegetables in roasting pan and place into oven. Roast until juices from center of roast run clear when pierced and/or an oven thermometer reads 165° F. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Pumpkins are For Kids

But "winter squashes" are for grown-ups with a taste for Latin-American fare

From Weekly Alibi Archive | October 30, 2003 [Vol. 12 No. 44]

Halloween brings pumpkins into grocery stores by the truck-load. Sadly, most of us buy these big fat squashes, put them out on the stoop (carved if we're feeling creative) and then let them rot out there for weeks, until the once fearsome face droops and sags and develops a waddle to rival a Thanksgiving turkey. If you've got an un-carved pumpkin or even just pumpkin seeds left over after Halloween then have a look at these warm and cozy fall dishes adapted from Elisabeth Luard's new book, The Latin American Kitchen (Laurel Glen, hardcover, $27.95). It's a gorgeous volume full of descriptions of the most common Latin American ingredients and full-color photographs--a must-have.

Pastel de Chocio (Chilean Shepherd's Pie)
A savory base of pino--a variable mixture of meats topped with puréed corn--is given a crisp crust under the broiler. The traditional cooking pot is a dish of unbaked red clay from the village of Pomaire, in the mountains to the east of Santiago, Chile.

Serves 4-6
1 1/2 pounds finely chopped lamb
2 pounds onions, finely sliced (about 7 cups)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup oil or butter
2 rounded tablespoons mild paprika
1 teaspoon powdered cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 cups diced winter squash
3 tablespoons raisins
12 pitted green olives, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 cups fresh corn
2 1/2 cups milk
1 egg, broken up with a fork
3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered lengthwise
Powdered sugar and chile flakes

1) First, prepare the pino. Put the lamb, onions, garlic and oil in a heavy pan, add a ladleful of water and cook gently, the lid on loosely, for about an hour, until the meat is tender.
2) Add the paprika, cumin, oregano and squash, then cook for another 30 minutes (add water if it looks like it's drying out).
3) Let it boil to reduce the juices to a rich gravy.
4) Stir in the raisins and olives and season with salt and pepper.
5) Meanwhile, purée the corn with the milk, transfer to a pot and cook until the mixture has thickened a little--5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool a little. Stir in the egg and salt lightly.
6) Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread the pino in an earthenware gratin dish, top with the hardboiled eggs and finish with the corn purée and a powdering of the sugar and chile flakes.
7) Bake for half an hour, until brown and bubbling. For an even more caramelized topping, slip it under the broiler.

Sopa de Calabaza (Dominican Squash and Orange Soup)
Spiced with ginger and sharpened with orange, this is the most delicious of the Caribbean's many squash soups. It is best made with one of the dense-fleshed squash such as butternut or banana squash. If you are using one of the large watery-fleshed Halloween pumpkins you'll need a little sugar and a squeeze of lemon.

Serves 4-6
1 butternut squash or a wedge of pumpkin weighing 2 pounds
1 tablespoon butter
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

1) Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2) If using a whole squash, slice it in half, scoop out the seeds and place it face down on a baking sheet lined with foil. If using a wedge of pumpkin, seed it, cut into chunks and arrange on the foil. Bake for 40 minutes or so, until perfectly soft and a little caramelized.
3) Removed squash from oven, allow to cool a bit then slip of the thin skin, but don't get rid of the little brown bits.
4) Meanwhile, melt the butter in a roomy pan and fry the chopped onion gently until it softens and takes a little color--don't let it burn. Sprinkle in the ginger and nutmeg and add the squash, chicken broth and orange juice.
5) Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes to marry the flavors.
6) Purée in a food processor blender until perfectly smooth. Reheat when you're ready to serve. Finish with a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds.

Pato en Pepitoria (Duck with Pumpkin Seeds)
This is a great dish to make if you only have pumpkin seeds left. The cut-up bird--include all the bits--is simmered gently in a nut-thickened sauce. Succulent and delicious. If you can't find a whole duck (look for them in the freezer case) you can substitute a chicken, several Cornish game hens or a dozen quail.

Serves 4-6
2 wild ducks or 1 farm-raised bird
1/4 cup lard or olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tortilla or slice day-old bread, crumbled
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
Sprigs oregano, chopped or crumbled
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon mild paprika
1 teaspoon red chile powder
2 onions, finely sliced in half-moons
2 sweet red peppers, roasted and cut into strips
Soft corn tortillas

1) Rinse the duck pieces, which should be small enough to pick up and eat with the fingers.
2) Fry the garlic, bread crumbs and pumpkin seeds in half of the oil or lard until golden--don't let them brown. Sprinkle in the oregano and the spices and set aside.
3) Gently fry the duck pieces with the onion in the remaining oil. When the duck is well browned and the onions are soft, stir in the pumpkin seed mixture and add enough water to just submerge the duck pieces. Let it boil, put the lid on loosely and turn down the heat. Simmer gently until the duck is tender, about 30 minutes. Add a little more water if necessary.
4) Serve with the pepper strips and soft tortillas.

Thanksgiving Dinner, Complete with Turkey, Trimmings and Absolutely No Thinking!

Let our cipher wheel and decision-makers take the creative

From Weekly Alibi Archive | November 20, 2003 [Vol. 12 No. 47]

Don't waste a minute trying to come up with a new way to make cranberry sauce or a clever new twist on stuffing. And don't even think of enrolling in a remedial algebra class to gain the math skills neccessary to scale that gravy recipe for 13 guests. We've done all the work for you! Simply use our handy cipher wheel to calculate servings and our decision-making wheels to come up with fancy new flavor combinations. Then follow these simple recipes and voilá! Thanksgiving dinner just like Grandma used to make. Well, at least like Grandmas on TV used to make. ...


Cranberry and Stuffing Wheels
Open and print out the pdf by clicking on the image on the left. Cut out the cranberry and stuffing wheels. Glue each to a piece of cardboard and trim the cardboard to fit. To make spinners, use a push pin to anchor a bobby pin or open safety pin to the center of each wheel. Spin your way to a new recipe!

Cipher Wheel
Open and print out the pdf by clicking on the image on the left. Cut out both parts of the cipher wheel. Glue the larger wheel to a piece ofcardboard and trim to fit. Use a utility knife to cut out the three rows of windows on the smaller wheel. Align the arrows on the smaller wheel with the arrows of the same color on the larger wheel. Use a push-pin to join them. Rotate wheel to scale recipes.

Basic Cranberry Sauce
This recipe is just fine on its own but spin the Cranberry decision Wheel a few times to come up with your own flavor combination. It will really kick ass.

Makes 2 1/4 cups
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
2-4 flavor components

1) Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.

2) Add cranberries and flavor components and return to boil.

3) Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4) Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

Mashed Potatoes
There are a million variations on mashed potatoes. Start with this general method and use the Mashed Potato Cipher Wheel to figure out the proportions. Feel free to add chopped chives, green onions, crumbled bacon or shredded cheddar cheese near the end of step 4.

Potatoes, such as Yukon Gold or White Rose
Milk (whole or 2 percent) or buttermilk
Unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1) Peel potatoes (if desired) and cut into 2-inch cubes.

2) Cover potatoes in a large pot. Simmer, uncovered, until tender. Poke with a sharp knife or bamboo skewer to judge tenderness.

3) Shortly before potatoes are done, heat milk or buttermilk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat.

4) Dump potatoes into a colander and drain well. Return potatoes to hot pot or pour into workbowl of a standing mixer. Mash by hand, or using the mixer, adding hot milk, butter, salt, and pepper to taste.

5) Serve immediately.

Don't give yourself a migraine trying to come up with a brilliant new recipe. Simply spin the Stuffing Wheel just enough times to choose your bread and a handful of flavoring options.

3-5 cups optional ingredients
Chicken or vegetable stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) Tear or slice the bread into smallish cubes. Spread cubes on cookie sheets and toast at 275° F until dry, 15-20 minutes.

2) Lightly sauté any vegetables (onions, celery, garlic) you might have chosen. Set aside.

3) In a large bowl, combine bread and optional ingredients (including any sautéed vegetables) with enough stock to moisten. Do not make the bread soggy.

4) Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

5) Bake uncovered at 350° for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until browned, about 15 more minutes. Serve hot.

Use the Gravy Algebra Cipher Wheel to determine the proportions of your gravy.

Turkey giblets and neck
1 onion, halved
1/2 bunch parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
Water to cover
Pan drippings
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1) In a saucepan, combine giblets, neck, onion, parsley, 1 bay leaf, and water to cover. Simmer gently about 1 1/2 hours and strain. Reserve.

2) After the turkey is done and has been lifted out of the roasting pan, pour the drippings from the pan into a large measuring cup. Wait for the fat to separate from the juices which will sink.

3) Spoon some of the fat (see Gravy Algebra) back into the pan. Pour off the rest of the fat and discard it, reserving the juices. Put the roasting pan over one or two burners over medium heat.

4) Make a roux by adding some flour to the fat in the pan (see Gravy Algebra for amounts). Whisk the flour and the fat together over medium heat, scraping up the bits that are stuck to the pan, until you have a smooth paste.

5) When the flour starts to brown slightly, whisk in the pan juices, giblet broth and any extra broth needed according to Gravy Algebra. Pour slowly at first as you work out the lumps of roux.

6) Simmer and continue whisking occasionally for about 10 minutes. Strain the gravy, season it with salt and pepper and keep it warm until ready to serve.

Roasted Turkey
Master this basic roasting method before you move on to brining, deep-frying or smoking turkey. Count on roasting for the amount of time indicated by the Turkey Algebra Cipher Wheel but gauge doneness using a thermometer.

1 fresh or defrosted turkey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Unsalted butter

1) Remove turkey from protective plastic packaging; Remove giblets from cavity.

2) Check again and make sure you removed the giblets from the cavity.

3) Season the bird inside and out with salt and pepper.

4) Tuck the wing tips behind the back of the turkey and tie the legs together with kitchen twine, heavy duty thread or unflavored, unwaxed dental floss.

5) Rub butter all over the skin.

6) Place bird in the largest pan you have and roast at 400° F for 30 minutes.

7) Reduce heat to 325° F and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160° F.

8) Allow roasted turkey to stand at least 15 minutes before carving.

Know Your Ingredients

Antibiotics and Poultry: Do Healthier Chickens Mean A Sicker You?

From Weekly Alibi Archive | April 4, 2001 [Vol. 10 No. 17]

Let's talk turkey. Will eating a turkey or chicken sandwich kill you? Maybe. It all depends on whom you ask. Back in the 1950s, agricultural businesses embarked upon a practice of routinely adding low doses of antibiotics to animal feed. The benefits were soon evident: Livestock grew healthier and faster, and ate less feed before reaching slaughter size. The harmful side took longer to surface. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics created new superbugs--bacteria resistant to the most powerful antibiotics available in our medical arsenal.

Antibiotics use a variety of effective biological mechanisms to kill bacteria, but one thing is certain: If therapeutic use of an antibiotic is stopped too early or if the dose is subtherapeutic (too low), some bacteria with resistant genes will survive, multiply and pass along resistance to their offspring.

Currently, agricultural use of antibiotics accounts for more than 40 percent of the 50 million pounds of antibiotics manufactured in the United States every year. Unfortunately, lack of controls on the use of these drugs jeopardizes their effectiveness in treating human diseases. Previously treatable human diseases such as staphylococcus, campylobacter, salmonella infections and a number of others are becoming more difficult to treat, even with the most powerful antibiotics.

Humans have to get a prescription for antibiotics from a licensed physician, but farmers can obtain them over the counter to use anyway they wish. And because it's difficult to treat individual turkeys or chickens in flocks of thousands, they dose the whole flock with antibiotics in their drinking water or feed--a practice that increases the chance of resistant bacteria evolving.

In 1996, the FDA approved the agricultural use of fluoroquinolones to combat campylobacter bacteria, a source of respiratory problems in poultry and gastrointestinal problems in humans. Since then, the Center for Disease Control has found that 13 percent of campylobacter bacteria in humans are fluoroquinolone-resistant, making standard treatments far less effective. Particularly at risk are the elderly, children and people with depressed immune systems.

In 1996, the World Health Organization recommended banning agricultural use of fluoroquinolones, a recommendation that the European Union took seriously: They banned it the following year. Now the FDA is seriously considering banning fluoroquinolones here. But poultry and pharmaceutical industries argue that antibiotics are used on only 1 or 2 percent of livestock and that eliminating antibiotics will increase livestock losses and lead to less healthy animals in the food supply.

Bayer Corporation's Agriculture Division recently filed a request for an FDA hearing on the issue. Bayer argues that data do not show a relationship between resistant campylobacter infections and fluoroquinolone use in poultry. Bayer also argues that their guidelines clearly state fluoroquinolones are approved for only short-term use under a licensed veterinarian's supervision, and only after an accurate diagnosis has been made.

In a welcome departure from the status quo, an English subsidiary of Bayer, Microbial Developments, is attacking salmonella poultry bacteria--which can be found in both meat and eggs--in a totally different way. With the Bayer "competitive exclusion" method, as soon as chicks hatch, they are sprayed with a proprietary mixture of "good" intestinal bacteria. After a few days, the "good" bacteria find their way into the chick's intestines, leaving no room for the salmonella bacteria. Because no antibiotics are used, the evolution of resistant bacteria is curtailed.

Perhaps agribusiness will eventually discover more antibiotic-free therapies or, at least, use antibiotics in a more responsible manner. Until then, you can find antibiotic-free poultry locally at any Keller's Farm Store, La Montañita Co-op Natural Foods Market, or Wild Oats Market.

It's not just poultry producers, though. Almost everyone is responsible for this potentially dangerous predicament. The cattle industry uses antibiotics. So does the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry: 40,000 to 50,000 pounds of antibiotics are used annually just to control bacterial infections in fruit trees. Buy organic!

The medical profession prescribes antibiotics when they're not needed. Patients don't complete their antibiotic treatment regimens. Consumers use antibacterial hand soaps, sprays, and other products--too weak to be really effective--but which can confer resistance to bacteria by natural selection (there's that pesky Darwin again). Does all this mean that today's use of antibiotics is a future catastrophe or is it just another "the sky is falling" warning? Only time will tell.

The Rest Is Gravy

From Weekly Alibi Archive | April 19, 2001 [Vol. 10 No. 16]

As a child, I was raised to believe that things go better with gravy--biscuits, ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, roast beef, fried eggs, chicken and dumplings, etc. If it lays flat on a plate, I want gravy on it. So naturally, when it came to picnicking (what white trash families do to give the impression that everyone likes each other even when they're not working together on a fresh batch of meth in the bathtub of their shared double-wide), disappointment was abound over the fact that it's nearly impossible to transport real gravy (not that swill they serve at KFC) over long distances without having it spill into the picnic basket (or array of brown paper bags, as the case may be). It also tends to arrive at the KOA all cold and pasty. So grudgingly, we ate our fried chicken and mashed potatoes (purchased at a KFC) without the glorious accompaniment of gravy. I hate picnics for that reason to this day.

Then it hit me: If they can put cheese in a can, surely they can package gravy in some sort of aerosol dispenser. And beyond that, there's got to be some chemical reaction that can be created inside the can that will heat the contents upon application. I call it SpraVee™--gravy in a spray can. Never again will you be at a loss for nature's perfect food topping.

I haven't worked out all of the details yet, but I figure I'll enter the market with two varieties--"Brown" and "White"--and move on from there. The possibilities are endless (SpraStard & SpritzUp, SpraLish). Once established, I'll hit 'em with "Grandma's Red-Eye." SpraVee™ will one day be as common as biscuits soaked in bacon grease. I live for the day.

Look for SpraVee soon on the shelves of your local grocer. It'll be right there, next to the Easy Cheese™ and Krylon™ gold spraypaint you've come to be so fond of sniffing out of your handkerchief.

A Guide to Specialty Food Stores

From andouille to ziti

From Weekly Alibi Archive | January 22, 2004 [Vol. 13 No. 4]

Looking for andouille sausage, fresh hoja santa leaves, pickled ginger, coating chocolate or pomegranate molasses? It's all available here in Albuquerque at one of our many specialty purveyors. These little mom 'n' pop shops allow us to dip our toes in the cuisines of the world without spending a fortune on airfare. Clip out this handy directory and refer to it anytime you find yourself agonizing over where to find Rocky Mountain oysters.

TaLin Oriental Grocery
230 Louisiana SE

TaLin is the grandmother of all ethnic grocery stores in Albuquerque. Though the store once stocked exclusively Asian ingredients, the merchandise has become decidedly more global over the years. On our most recent visit we discovered an abundance of Indian, Latin American and Middle Eastern Ingredients alongside familiar Chinese candies, Japanese snacks, Korean condiments, Vietnamese noodles and Thai sticky rice. The freezer section and produce departments are unbeatable for the breadth and depth of unfamiliar ingredients so set aside at least an hour for your first trip. Soon TaLin will move into a new home, the big International Marketplace the owners are building at the corner of Louisiana and Central.

Din Ho Oriental Market
6207 Montgomery NE

You'll have to look closely to spot Din Ho in the row of shops at Montgomery and San Pedro, but do look because you won't want to miss this little store. The focus is on sushi and here you'll find the city's best selection of imported ceramic tea sets, serving plates, wasabi bowls and ginger/wasabi graters. The chopstick shelf alone will plunge you into indecision with an overwhelming number of sets. And who knew there were so many different kinds of nori (the dried seaweed leaves used to wrap sushi rolls)? Stock up with a tub of pickled ginger and a tube, tin or packet of wasabi. Throw some sticky sushi rice, barbecued eel and sushi-grade frozen tuna into that basket. It's time for a sushi party! On your way to the register consider picking up a couple bags of rice cracker snack mix and a box or two of Pocky sticks for dessert.

B. Riley Fresh Herbs
670-A Juan Tabo NE (at Copper)

Owner Dawn Garcia Tran says that she when she took over B. Riley about a year ago she was a little concerned about trying to fill the shoes of the company's late founder, Dale Porterfield. But she says she's learned a tremendous amount in the past year, becoming familiar with the array of exotic produce and ingredients that the company specializes in. From fresh herbs (basil to hoja santa), exotic mushrooms (French horns, morels), fruits (star fruit, persimmons) to heirloom beans, chiles, oils vinegars and cheeses, B. Riley is the source New Mexico chefs count on for hard-to-find edibles. Because they do more wholesale than retail business the place feels more like a warehouse than a shop but if you need squash blossoms, a cup of Anasazi beans or absolutely fresh passion fruit call Donna and see what she's got.

The Specialty Shop
5823 Lomas NE

It's a wonder this place isn't made of gingerbread with candy cane columns and poured-sugar windows. Because inside you'll find everything you might ever need to make magically delicious sweet things. They've got cookie cutters, cake pans, sprinkles in every color of the rainbow, doilies, lollipop molds, candy boxes, wedding cake supplies and pretty much anything else you can think of. The best part is that you can go up to the counter with a random object and say, "Hi, I'm thinking of making [insert name of wickedly difficult, obscure sweet here]. What do I need for that?" They'll hook you up with all the proper ingredients and then ask if you need a recipe. If you do they'll tear it out of a three-ring binder and give it to you for free. Now that's service.

Tully's Italian Deli & Meats
1425 San Mateo NE,

This small Italian delicatessen is jam-packed with enough imported and domestic meats, cheeses and specialty items to turn any kitchen into an authentic cucina Italiana. At the meat counter you'll find fresh prosciutto, salami, house-made sausage, a variety of veal, beef and pork cuts, while the freezer holds rabbit, lamb shanks, veal bones and delicacies like New Jersey's favorite Taylor Pork Roll. Their cheeses run the gamut from humble staples like parmesan, pecorino romano and fresh mozzarella to fancier formaggio like fontina, gorgonzola and locatelli. They also make their own prepared food items like pesto and cannoli filling. But what really sets Tully's apart from other places is the eager-to-help, super-knowledgeable staff.

Alpine Sausage Kitchen
2800 Indian School NE (at Girard)

Ya gotta love a place that makes its own hot dogs. Properly known as Vienna sausages, they're just one of the more than 25 different kinds of sausages made at this 30-year-old neighborhood shop. Also popular are the andouille (used for gumbo) and white bratwurst (made with pork and veal), though you'll naturally be curious about Alpine's head cheese (not nearly as gross as it sounds) and blood and tongue sausage (ditto). Look for house-smoked hams and bacon, several kinds of Black Forest ham, roast beef, pastrami and European cheeses. If you have to wait in line use your time to scan the shelves for gooseberry jam, German pickles, Norwegian breads and other Northern European delicacies. Don't forget to ask about the beef jerky and beef sticks.

Keller's Farm Store
2912 Eubank NE
6100 Coors NW # H

Why do we love Keller's? For starters, they have an abundance of weird cuts of meat from a menagerie of animals. We're talking Rocky Mountain oysters, hearts, tongues, sweetbreads, brains, gizzards, neck bones, shanks, livers, ox tails, tripe and feet. Then you've got your beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, veal, quail, pheasant, ostrich, rabbit, goose, duck, Cornish hen, elk and bison to choose from. All of the meats they carry are natural, meaning that most of the animals were raised here in New Mexico or Colorado without the use of antibiotics, hormones or growth stimulants, and were fed only vegetarian feed. The funny thing is, despite their wild abandon for all things meaty, Keller's also sells an impressive variety of foods that cater to people with special dietary needs. Appealing items for vegans, vegetarians, diabetics and those with wheat allergies are tucked away into every corner of the store. England, France and Germany are well represented in terms of cheese and specialty dry goods and, yeah, they've got lots of organic products, too.

Middle East Bakery
5017 Menaul NE

When Mustafa Musleh bought this grocery, bakery and restaurant last summer he not only gave it a fresh look, he updated the menu and the grocery selection. In the front of the store you'll find unusual dried beans and spices sold in bulk, across from shelves stocked with Middle-Eastern fruit jams, vegetables, pickles, pomegranate syrup and flower waters. Refrigerated cases offer tubs brimming with olives and imported feta cheeses. Farther back, freezers contain halal meats. Halal meats (similar to kosher meats) are produced by slitting the throat of an animal, a process that should calm any lingering Mad Cow fears. Look for ground beef, beef stew meat and all sorts of cuts of lamb. The bakery also bakes pita in house. It's freshest right before lunch so try to do your shopping around 11 a.m. when you can enjoy a piece of the puffy flatbread with some chicken shawarma and zippy tabbouleh.

Also check out:

A-Ri-Rang Oriental Market (1826 Eubank NE, 255-9634) for Korean and Japanese staples and a lunch counter where you can pick up a hot snack while you shop.

99-B Supermarket 5315 Gibson SE (268-2422) rivals TaLin for its huge selection of produce, seafood, oriental groceries and housewares. Don't miss the deli.

Zenith African Market (4514 Central SE, 792-3221), a tiny place with a few shelves of mostly West African imports. Ask about goat meat from the freezer.

All the Americas (6001 San Mateo NE, 883-0994) offers foodstuffs from Central and South America, most notably a freezer full of frozen tropical fruit purées.

India Palace restaurant (4410 Wyoming NE, 271-5009) has a little grocery section to one side where they stock Indian spices, lentils, rice, frozen goat meat and more. India Kitchen (6910 Montgomery NE, 884-2333) has a smaller selection of the same.

Nantucket Shoals (5415 Academy NE, 821-5787) is just down the road from Whole Foods but often stocks items that the big store's seafood department does not. Call or stop in for fresh fish, soft shell crabs, roe, compound butters and more. Ask about the house-made fish stock.

Purging Forward

From Weekly Alibi Archive | November 15, 2001 [Vol. 10 No. 46]

This installment of "Ratchett" comes directly from the top. An Alibi employee who shall remain nameless came to me last week asking in all seriousness if the act of stuffing himself to the gills every Thanksgiving, then purposely vomiting so he could go back for another round at the table, was doing him any harm. The short answer was, "Uh, yeah. Don't forget to write me into your will." At first, the whole idea of the holiday binge and purge for the express purpose of reliving the pleasure of turkey and stuffing on the way down seemed ludicrous. But a quick interoffice poll conducted by yours truly revealed that Dan Scott is not the only pig among our crew who feels they haven't eaten enough on the holidays until they've eaten the same meal at least twice before letting one settle.

But all unpleasant visual images aside, forcing oneself to vomit is not a good idea for a host of reasons. For starters, vomiting is painful, especially with regard to abdominal muscles that aren't used to being called into that kind of action. Consider the physical pain your body's way of telling you that what's happening isn't normal, much less desirable. Not normal, perhaps, but vomiting is a natural reaction by the digestive system to inflammation of the stomach, generally caused by a viral infection, but occasionally due to contaminated food. In those instances, the body is simply attempting to purge the offending organism and/or purposely ingested substance. Generally speaking, vomiting of this nature lasts no more than 24 hours in adults, or 12 hours in children six and under. If it lasts longer or is accompanied by a body temperature of 101 degrees or greater, or diarrhea, call or visit your doctor immediately. Same goes if the vomit has the appearance of coffee grounds or obviously contains blood.

But back to the question at hand: Is it OK to vomit on purpose in order to make more room for food? Sure. If you don't mind the fact that repeated vomiting takes a serious toll on the esophagus, sinuses, throat, tooth enamel, breath and therefore social standing.

The stomach is lined with thick mucus to protect it from the powerful gastric acid that's in large part responsible for digestion. When one vomits the contents of one's stomach, that gastric acid comes right along with it. And your esophagus, unfortunately, isn't coated with as much protective mucus. Chemotherapy patients and those suffering from bulimia often experience esophageal ulcers caused by gastric acid passing through the pipe. Anyone who vomits with regularity risks the same.

As implied, gastric acid is strong stuff. Given the chance, the stuff will dissolve chicken bones, 72 ounces of flank steak, even Twinkies. It'll also wreak havoc on the enamel that coats your teeth. Ah, but that probably takes a lot of time, you're thinking. True, breaking down tooth enamel doesn't happen overnight, but consider that most cavities and tooth decay goes unnoticed for months or years between dental visits. Teeth that already suffer from the early stages of decay are quite susceptible to further damage brought on by exposure to gastric acid.

Beyond that, many people vomit with such pressurized gusto that the nastiness can't all get out through the pie hole. So it takes a detour through the sinuses and out the nose, thus causing damage to the sensitive tissue lining. The effects on the throat and tongue are similar.

Nothing says "I hate the holidays almost as much as I hate myself and my family" like shuffling into the can and jamming a stiff index finger down your throat after the first course. Chances are, the last thing you're going to feel like doing afterward is going in for another plate. If you're that concerned with eating your weight in turkey and mashed potatoes, the best thing to do is plan ahead. Eat a small dinner the night before, a small breakfast that morning to stimulate peristalsis and appetite, and eat smaller portions of the holiday meal, then repeat. Hork down as much as you want, just do it over a period of several hours and forget about purging. Trust me when I say you'll wind up with a lot more to be thankful for.