5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You

corn syrup
Corn syrup

 

An article by Mark Hyman, MD with the above title has been broadly distributed across the Internet: you can easily find dozens of copies. If I go down to my local Stop and Shop and buy, say, Coca-Cola, with HFCS in it, am I killing myself? Nonsense! Hyman’s article is full of basic scientific errors as well as substantial errors of fact. What he has written is sensational, but utterly wrong.

While Hyman is indeed a physician, he is not a research scientist, and he has gone deeply into something called “functional medicine,” which is the sort of woo you find on alternative medicine sites.

Alternative medicine is a collection of things we don’t know work and things we know don’t work.

Functional medicine is not science-based medicine. Further, Hyman’s web site is a vehicle for him to peddle pills, books and supplements; he is certainly not the sort of physician we would recommend anyone consult, since many of his ideas are nonsense.

Hyman’s shrill article accusing the Corn Manufacturer’s Association of “deception,” a “misinformation campaign,” and “twisted sweet lies.” Not exactly a sober scientific report! In fact, it contains only two scientific references, one of them discredited and the other retracted.

Hyman starts out in his preamble claiming that HFCS is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay, “and more.” The only links are to other articles of his, none of which even mention HFCS.

Major errors

Here are some of the errors in the major points in his article:

  • He claims that HFCS is an industrial food product extracted from corn by a process so secret that ADM and Cargill (which he misspells) would not allow author Michael Pollan to observe. Rubbish! The details of HFCS production have been known for years, and are readily available, even on Wikipedia. The details of a specific industrial process may indeed be secret, but this is true throughout the consumer products industry.
  • He calls the result a chemically and biologically novel compound, when as he admits one paragraph later, it is just of mixture of glucose and fructose. It is not a compound and hardly novel.
  • HFCS contains contaminants including mercury. This is based on a discredited undergraduate paper we’ve discussed before. They did find traces of mercury in HFCS: but only the traces you’d expect to occur naturally.
  • When HFCS is run through a chemical analyzer (a what?) or gas chromatographstrange chemical peaks” show up that are not glucose or fructose. Maybe the technician that did this work didn’t know what these peaks were, but nowadays gas chromatographs are routinely coupled with mass spectrometers, and identification of each peak is not difficult. We have no idea what a “chemical analyzer is,” (nor does Hyman) but reporting that someone cannot identify a peak from a gc is simply silly.
  • He credits Barry Popkin for suggesting that metabolism of glucose and fructose differ and this may contribute to obesity. In fact, Popkin did not say that. In an interview in the NY Times, he said this was an hypothesis “meant to spur on further research.” And in this same article, Prof Walter Willet, chairman of the nutrition department at Harvard made it clear that:

There’s no substantial evidence to support the idea that high-fructose corn syrup is somehow responsible for obesity.

  • HFCS is almost always a marker of poor-quality, nutrition-poor disease creating industrial food products. Poor quality foods, perhaps, but HFCS is used by bakers and candy makers who make high-quality products as well. And as far as “disease creating,” this is in no way established.
  • Shocking new evidence on how HFCS can trigger body wide inflammation and obesity. This statement is based on a lunch meeting with Dr Bruce Ames. Unfortunately, there are no papers published on this by Ames anyone at his research center. This seems to be pure hyperbole.

The idea that a solution of fructose and glucose is processed differently by the body than a solution of sucrose (table sugar) has had a lot of discussion, both by Hyman and others, but thus far there is no evidence for it. There is an interesting hypothesis begin generated in this area that we learned about in a phone conference with Dr Mark Shigenaga, who is in the same research group as Bruce Ames. Here is a recent paper on his work.However it is contradicted in a critical review by Stanhope.

The amount of heat any discussion of HFCS continues to generate is astonishing considering how little actual research there is in this area. Hyman’s scare article does nothing to improve the situation.

Related papers

  1. 5 Reasons HFCS Can Kill You (Hyman’s version)
  2. Science-based medicine : functional medicine
  3. HFCS, the myths continue
  4. A sweetener with a bad rap (NY Times)
  5. Consumption of HFCS may lead to obesity (Popkin and Bray)

Pork chops: Instant Pot versus oven

Experienced Instant Pot users often praise how well it cooks pork, but newer users are less complimentary, calling the result “tough and dry.” Finding pork chops on sale, we decided to run a side by side comparison. We cooked two chops in the oven, and one large extra one in the Instant Pot  using this recipe.

To add to the excitement, these were bargain pork chops, a “Manager’s Special” at $1.99 a pound. So each package of 2 chops was only about $3.

For the oven baked chops, we salted and peppered them, browned them briefly in a pan, and baked them for 20 minutes at 400° F. Figure that with the browning, this took about 25 minutes total.

For the Instant Pot recipe, we added a Tb of oil to the pot and browned the large chop using the Saute setting. Then we made up this sauce mixture from the recipe:

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 Tb Dijon mustard
  • ½ Tb maple syrup (we admit we used Log Cabin)
  • 1 Tb minced ginger
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves (we ground a couple in a mortar and pestle)
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

We mixed all this together and poured it over the chop. Then we set the Instant Pot to 15 minutes on Manual, and then opened it using Quick Release.

The result? Despite the fact that this was cheap pork, the Instant Pot chop was tender and flavorful, and the gravy was delicious!

And the oven chop was frankly overcooked, with a central temperature of about 177° F, when 141° F would have been enough. It was tough! But even if it hadn’t been over cooked, it couldn’t have matched the chop in the pot. This recipe is a real keeper!

This recipe has a strong, spicy smell, and you will need to wash the rubber sealing ring in your dishwasher, and wash the lid carefully afterwards.

How much flour is in a cup of flour?

weigh flourConsider the measuring cup. As you know, a cup is a convenient way to measure liquids like water or milk or wine. But it is not so convenient for solids like beans, cranberries or flour. And yet in the U.S. most recipes call for flour measured in cups.

The reason for this are historical and somewhat political according to Bee Wilson in her delightful book Consider the Fork. After the French set out in 1793 on an expedition to measure the length of the Earth’s median, they took one 10 millionth of that measure to be the length of one meter. (It turned out it was just slightly off, but very good for the time.) The standard meter was agreed upon in 1889.

Obviously the British and Americans wanted their own non-French measures, and the British adopted, for a time, the Imperial system of measures, including pints, pounds and gallons. Not to be outdone, the Americans chose an even older gallon/quart/pint/cup measure as their standard.

Today the metric system has been adopted by nearly every country in the world other than the U.S., Myanmar and Liberia.

But what about that cup? It is a volume measure, and flour varies a lot in volume depending on how it’s packed.

We took out our inexpensive Ozeri kitchen scale (it cost $15.95) and decided to weigh the flour in a cup of flour. But how to measure it?

When Fanny Merritt Farmer wrote her original Boston Cooking School cookbook, she emphasized that you scoop out the flour and then level off the cup with a knife to make a level cup measure.

That’s one way, but what about sifted flour? Lots of baking recipes call for sifted flour, and while it is intended to remove lumps, it also aerates the flour significantly, and a cup of sifted flour weighs quite a bit less than a cup of flour scooped from the canister.

And finally, some cookbooks suggest that after sifting the flour, you should spoon it into the cup to avoid recompressing it. Here is what we found:

  • 1 cup scooped flour – 5.05 oz (143 g)
  • 1 cup sifted flour – 4.45 oz (126 g)
  • 1 cup spooned, sifted flour 4.13 oz (117 g)

As you can see, a cup of sifted flour weighs almost 12% less than a cup of scooped flour, and the spooned, sifted flour about 18% less. This is a huge difference in a baking recipe!

We tried these same measurements on a more expensive Weight Watchers kitchen scale. It’s more durably made (and costs 3-4 times as much). It also allows you to convert food weights to Points Plus values, but it gets exactly the same results.

So what do you do?

First, you need to recognize that there is a huge difference in the amount of flour you use depending on whether it is sifted or not when you cooking.

But should you use a scale in the kitchen? It is surely easier to use if you are adapting recipes from other countries. And the recipes in Modernist Cuisine are all in grams. But for American recipes couched in cups, you really have no idea how many grams of flour they mean.

It’s also way easier than sifting the flour to get the right amount. Just weigh out 126 g and you’re done! This is the way we do it now. It’s so much faster.

Mostly, it is important that you are consistent in your techniques and regard the measuring cup as an aliquot rather than an absolute measure. If you repeat the recipes the same way every time, it really doesn’t matter how many grams of flour you are using. Just remember that “sifted” flour means “less” flour.

Why add lemon juice when canning tomato sauce?

Why add lemon juice when canning tomato sauce?

When I published my article on making tomato sauce with the assistance of the Instant Pot, a number of people commented that I had left out the lemon juice. They referred me to this slightly misinformed warning article.  More to the point, the USDA recommends adding 1 Tb of lemon juice per pint of sauce.

In fact, the USDA, on a site hosted by the University of Georgia, explains that the pH of canned tomato sauce must be at or below 4.6 to prevent the growth of botulism. This sounds like really good advice, but we have been canning tomato sauce for over 30 years without adding lemon juice, and no one has had any ill effects.

The pH value is a measure of the acidity of a solution, here of tomato juice, and the lower the pH the higher the acidity. Thus foods having a pH of 4 are more acidic than those with a pH of 5. This Is a logarithmic scale, so foods with a pH of 4 are ten times as acidic as those with a pH of 5.

So we decided to look into this a little further. It turns out that we aren’t the first. The University of North Dakota Ag Extension in 2007 looked into the pH of a number of popular tomato varieties that you might use in making salsa. They measured the pH of the tomatoes, of the salsa and of the salsa with lemon juice, and found that only the salsas with added lemon juice had a pH below 4.6.  These were grown in Williston, ND and probably in a greenhouse, so the pH values might differ from the garden and in warmer states.

More recently, in 2010 Heflebower and Washburn at Utah State measured the acidity of juice from a number of popular varieties, including Celebrity and Rutgers, finding that the pH varied from 3.92 to 4.32. Clearly sauce from these varieties need not be further acidified. They also found that pH didn’t vary much based on maturity of the fruit, nor on whether a new or an heirloom variety was tested. However, since tomato sauce may vary with the mixture of fruits you use as well as the weather conditions, they suggest that it would not be unwise to continue to add lemon juice.

However, since 2010, there have been a number of tomato varieties bred especially for flavor, and we decided to test the pH of the 8 varieties growing in our garden. We used a THZY portable pH meter, calibrated with the supplied buffer solution. We squeezed juice out of part of each tomato and filtered it through a coffee filter into a freshly washed glass, rinsed with distilled water.

Here are our pH readings

Opalka * 4.62
Lemon Boy 4.45
Garden Gem ** 4.30
Amish Paste * 4.14
Fourth of July 4.14
Better Boy 4.11
Cloudy Day 4.11
Garden Treasure ** 3.91

* Heirloom
** Recently developed

The Opalka variety has been a reliable paste tomato for years, but obviously if you use it, you must add lemon juice to your sauce. If it is only one of many, you may not need to. Note that Lemon Boy, a mild yellow tomato is the only other one even close to a pH of 4.6.

Professor Klee at the University of Florida developed the Garden Gem and Garden Treasure varieties (**) with significantly a improved taste, and we recommend them highly.

What about the sauce?

The pH of the final sauce will be influenced by the ingredients you add: in our case onions and spices. We tested the pH of sauce from 2015 and from last week. They were 4.18 and 4.33 respectively, and thus perfectly safe. Interestingly, it was the 2015 sauce that used Opalkas. This year they haven’t done well and none was in last week’s batch.

canned

Conclusions

You would probably be safe without adding lemon juice, but a tablespoon of lemon juice will make a substantial change in the pH and in your safety. We found that adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to a pint of distilled water reduced its pH from 5.86 to 2.96. Thr scientists at the University of North Dakota found that the lemon juice reduced the pH of salsa by only 0.3 pH units. And don’t worry about the possible sourness: one or two teaspoons of sugar will easily cancel it out. In the batch we made yesterday, we added 1 Tb of lemon juice and 1 tsp of sugar to the bottom of each pint jat.


What is pH? [a sidebar]

The concentration of acid, or specifically of hydrogen ions (H+) in a water solution can vary from 100 (or 1.0) to 10-14. Since this is hard to write down, we usually refer to the concentration by the exponent of 10 or 0 to -14. And, in order to make this more convenient we remove the minus sign, so pH values run from 0 to 14. Neutral pH (neither acidic nor basic) is pH 7, where the concentration of hydrogen ions and hydroxyl ions (OH) are equal.

So if we want to write down the acid concentration equivalent to a ph of 4.6, that means 10-4.6 and that is the same as.00002512.

And what are the units of this concentration? It is moles per liter, where a mole is the molecular weight of an element in grams. A gram of hydrogen ions (or of hydrogen itself for that matter) is one mole. It turns out that a mole of any element or compound has the same number of particles (ion, atoms or molecules) and that number is called Avogadro’s number. While Avogadro proposed it, it was first calculated by Loschmidt to be 6.02 x 1023 particles.

 

Blueberry breakfast cake – from King Arthur

Blueberry breakfast cake – from King Arthur

This is a report on making the Blueberry Breakfast Cake recipe sent around recently by King Arthur Flour. It’s a simple one bowl recipe, but you have to bake it in a fairly deep 8” or 9” cake pan, since it comes out somewhere between a soufflé and a cheesecake. And while it isn’t really quick since the baking time is 50 minutes and the cooling time at least 15, it is really delicious.

Here are their ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • heaping 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 1 cup sour cream (low-fat is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cupKing Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • cinnamon-sugar mixture, for topping

All you do is mix the eggs and sugar and add the butter, and then mix in the ricotta, sour cream and vanilla extract.

Then you mix in the flour, salt, and baking powder and pour into the baking pan.

Ideally you would like an 8 or 9” spring form pan so you can get the cake out easily, but lacking that we used a 3” deep 9” cake pan lined with parchment paper all up the sides so we could grab the corners to lift the cake out.

You sprinkle the blueberries over the top and bake for 50 minutes at 350° F.

Then you take the cake out, sprinkle it with the cinnamon-sugar mixture,  and let it cool a bit. When it is very hot it is pretty fragile and would be hard to cut. After 15 minutes we peeled off the sides of the baking parchment and sliced it into wedges. It was still warm and delicious.

Our only suggestion is that since the blueberries were pretty sour, and we’d probably increase the sugar next time.

The idea that this serves 8-10 is a canard. Two of us were hungry after waiting for it that long and devoured half of it.

King Arthur also suggests small curd cottage cheese as a substitute for the ricotta. That seemed a little weird, and we bought a small container of ricotta when we bought the blueberries.

This is a great recipe and we’ll surely be making it again. But not for a big crowd!

Whole30 diet: more pseudoscience and quackery

amish paste
Amish Paste

Recently, someone sent me a link to the Whole30 program, yet another diet program to make you feel better in so many wildly unlikely ways. The program was hatched by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, who have no scientific training but claim to be Certified Sports Nutritionists.  Let us be clear here: nutritionist is not a controlled title with a curriculum behind it. Anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist,” and many do. It’s whatever they want it to be. One of them is a physical therapist.

Now this program amounts to eating fewer things of various types for a month or so, and claims to be effective in treating high blood pressure, type1 and type2 diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, sinus infections, hives, endometriosis, migraines, depression, bipolar disorder…and on and on. Because obviously all of these have a simple root cause: and their special diet relieves them all. You believe all of this, don’t you?

So what is this marvelous diet? For 30 days, you eat an extremely restrictive diet: no grains, no gluten, no alcohol, no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no legumes, no dairy, no carrageenan, no MSG. The idea is that you will feel a lot better after starving yourself on this diet, and can then slowly add all these missing ingredients back in after the month is over.  If this sounds rather like the Paleo diet, it is, except for more crazy claims for all of its effects, although they make no claims for weight loss. They claim you will feel better after this month of this ridiculous diet, but it is really rather like hitting yourself over the head, because it feels so good when you stop.

The problem is that the Paleo diet has been debunked already as a naturalistic fallacy, both in Scientific American and by David Gorski in ScienceBased Medicine. The idea that we even know what primitive humans ate is in itself ridiculous, because their diet varied a lot based on where they lived. Yes, they ate grains and yes they ate gluten in some areas, but the main problem is that plants and humans have evolved a great deal since then. You cannot get the same plants they ate, and corn hadn’t even been bred yet from the Mexican teosinte plants. And humans evolved to tolerate lactose as adults in the last 7000 years as well.

The authors make all sorts of wild claims, such as reduction in inflammation, a sure marker of quackery. Somehow, some pseudoscience practitioners have latched onto the idea that foods cause inflammation and you will be better without them. This is complete nonsense. As Harriet Hall notes in Science Based Medicine, “inflammation is part of the body’s response to infection and tissue damage, and it is crucial to the healing process.”

The Hartwigs have essentially combined the Paleo diet with something approaching the completely discredited cleanse diets, where eating some foods “cleans out” your system. This is just as much nonsense in this diet as it is when purveyors of juice mixtures make the same claim.

And the idea of avoiding MSG is utter nonsense, because it occurs naturally in many vegetables, including broccoli, tomatoes and peas, as well as in cheeses and soy sauce. And it is a key component in cellular metabolism: the body synthesizes it all the time.

In essence, the Hartwigs have come up with a sort of fasting diet but no evidence whatever that it provides any benefits, nor any science to back up their ideas. There are no double blind experiments that have been carried out to show its benefits, nor any scientific publications. All they have is a few gushing testimonials showing that some people will buy into anything. This testimonial is typical, and comes from someone who also claims to have chronic Lyme Disease (which does not exist). She also blandly supports the discredited Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 nonsense published each year by the Environmental Working Group.

This is not to say that some of the recipes in their books aren’t good: they look delicious. But don’t count on curing every malady know to medicine using this simple minded diet scam.

Tomato sauce in an Instant Pot

Tomato sauce in an Instant Pot

A lot of recipes for the Instant Pot pressure cooker are just faster ways of doing the same thing, and add only a little advantage. We have found that you can not only make tomato sauce well in the Instant Pot, it’s a lot more efficient both in time and dishes used!

Previously, we made tomato sauce by cutting up the tomatoes into halves or quarters and then chopping them in a food processor. Then we cooked the sauce until all the pieces of tomato had softened before running it through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds. Then we cooked the resulting sauce with added spices until thickened.

The Instant Pot method is much simpler. Just cut the tomatoes in half or quarters and toss them into the instant Pot. Since the tomatoes collapse as they are pressure cooked, you can fill the pot right to the max if you have that many tomatoes. We didn’t have that many yet so our pot was really only loosely 2/3 full. We weighed about 4.2 lbs of tomatoes in this first run.

cookedThen pressure cook them for about 20 minutes.  We first tried 10 minutes and they weren’t quite soft enough, so we added 15 more. Probably 20 would have been plenty. Since the tomatoes in the pot are mostly in their own water and not near the steam release spout, you can safely use Quick Release. But letting the pot cool naturally won’t hurt anything.

food mill 1Then, place a food mill over another pot (sorry you still have to get two pots dirty) and scoop out the tomatoes.  They should mush up quickly in the food mill and go through to the pot below. The skins and seeds remain behind.

Add the following to the sauce in the pot. The amounts depend on your taste and the batch size.

  • 1 Tb salt
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 2-3 Tb chopped parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tb chopped basil
  • 1 Tb oregano
  • lemon juice (1 Tb per jar)

Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 30-40 minutes.

 

Sterilize mason jars and new lids in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain them on a paper towel, add 1 Tb of lemon juice or 1/4 tsp citric acid, and then immediate fill with hot sauce. Wipe off the rims to make sure the lids will seal. Put on the lids and screw them down.

Put the jars back in the boiling water and sterilize for 30 minutes. Remove the jars and let them cool, Make sure each lid “pops” and is concave.

canned

Now, while we didn’t have quite a full pot of tomatoes this time, we will soon. In fact, we usually can about 10 lbs at a time, and in this system, we would make one batch, run it through the food mill and then do another batch and run it through the food mill, and cook and can both batches of sauce at once. That’s way easier than the “old” way!

 

 

The very best potato salad recipe!

The very best potato salad recipe!

Yesterday we made up this fantastic potato salad recipe, which contains cheddar cheese and bacon and a number of other yummy ingredients. Carrie Chestnutt Mess is a Wisconsin dairy farmer who blogs as Dairy Carrie, and this is her recipe. We did little except make it and  photograph it, but judging by the responses of yesterday’s guests, it is a real winner, we can’t wait to find an excuse to make it again.

This recipe calls for 5 lb of potatoes, and makes a really substantial amount of potato salad, but it is easy to cut it in half for smaller groups. Incidentally, using Costco’s Kirkland bacon, there are about 16 slices in a pound, so you need only eight slices for a half recipe.

  • 5 lb unpeeled red potatoes, washed
  • 1 large red/purple onion, roughly diced.
  • 1 lb thick cut bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Smoked Chipotle Tabasco sauce
  • 2 Tb steak seasoning blend
  • 2 tsp Worchester sauce
  • Coarse ground salt and pepper
  • Chives, diced for garnish
  1. Put the potatoes in a pan and cover with water. If some of them are very large, cut them in half. Add salt. Cook over medium heat until just tender. Drain the potatoes, run cold water over them and drain them, allowing them to cool. (Do not leave them in the water as they will turn gluey.)
  2. When the potatoes are cool, cut them into large cubes and place them in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the diced onion, chopped bacon and the shredded cheese.
  4. In another bowl, mix the sour cream and mayonnaise and add the seasonings. We didn’t have any “steak seasoning” in our cupboard but we looked at several recipes and made some up with ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, 1 tsp sweet paprika, ½ tsp red pepper, coarse salt and some ground pepper.

sauce on potatoes

5. Add half the seasoned sauce to the bowl of potatoes and mix it all together with your hands or with a strong wooden spoon. If the potatoes don’t seem moist enough, add more of the sauce. We found it was easier to get the mixture uniform by dumping it into another bowl so the bottom of the potato mixture is on top. Then you can see how much more sauce you’ll need.

6. Put the potato salad in a serving bowl and surround it with lettuce.

7. Top with the chopped chives.

Chill and serve. They’ll love it!

Big changes in Nantucket restaurants for 2016

Nantucket is the isle of fine dining and of continuing change. Restaurants open, chefs change and new things pop up you might not even know about.

Oran Mor

sign
Sign

The biggest news of 2016 was that Chef Chris Freeman sold his highly regarded Oran Mor restaurant and moved on to become chef at the Yacht Club. The new owners are Ned Claflin and his friend and business partner Jon Tacinco, who are profiled in this article in February. Claflin will be the new chef and Tacinco the sommelier. Claflin grew up on the island, working in various restaurants, and studied at the Culinary Institute (CIA) where he became friends with Tacinco. Claflin’s most recent gig was as Executive Chef at Tessa, an upper west side New York eatery of some note.

The partners gave their new Oran Mor a soft opening in mid May and you can see their fascinating new menu here. Their Facebook page notes that they will be opening at 5pm all season. This is definitely a restaurant to watch as the new partners innovate in this lovely space and their lovely new resurfaced dining tables. We can hardly wait.

The Proprietors

The Proprietors - ExterioJust as interesting to us is that Proprietors Chef Tom Berry has gone to Boston to cook, and that owner Michael LaScola is now the chef. However, Berry is still a co-owner but tells us he “plans utilize\his 30 years of training to support younger, talented chefs in the role of Culinary Director at Yvonne’s, Lolita, and the soon to open RUKA, which I will again be a partner in (it will be Japanese-Peruvian.”

The Proprietors menu hadn’t changed much in the first two seasons, but with Berry’s departure, LaScola has introduced a totally new and fascinating menu, including his famous charcuterie plate, much loved at American Seasons.  You’ll also find fried sourdough, cheddar pork cracklings, oyster stew, chicken fried trout and a host of other fascinating new dishes. It’s going to be our first stop!

New Pizza

New to the island is Oath Craft Pizza, right at the end of Straight Wharf. (They also have locations in Boston at South Station, Davis Square and  Chestnut Hill Square.) They feature creative pizzas like “Spicy Mother Clucker, ” as well as more conventional ones, made, they claim, in just 90 seconds. No long waits here! It replaces the small Nantucket Ice Cream and Juice Guys store at 44 Straight Wharf.

New Coffee Shop

And, new to us is the Handlebar Cafe, a coffee shop at 15 Washington St that bills itself as “coffee and community space.” The comments on the site give it high praise, particularly for “not being Starbucks.”

Graydon House

One of the big remaining surprises of the summer is the August opening of Graydon House, at 17 Borad St, just up the street from the Whaling Museum. This will be a 20 bedroom luxury hotel, with a restaurant headed by chef Joseph Keller.  In an article in Mahon About Town, Mary Bergman writes the Joseph Keller is the brother of French laundry chef Thomas Keller and they have worked together and separately in developing new restaurants. The Executive Chef will be Michelin star Marcus Ware and the food and beverage manager Jordana Fleischut. Here’s an earlier article about the opening.

The Nantucket Restaurant Examiner has been put to sleep, with the demise of Examiner.com. Watch this blog for future Nantucket restaurant news and reviews.

 

 

 

Coq au Vin in an Instant Pot

One thing you ought to be able to do really well in an Instant Pot is a stew, and while a lot of stews are really cold weather dishes, we decided that Coq au Vin would be fine in the fairly hot weather we are still having.

You can make this chicken wine stew using either red wine or white wine, but be sure you use a wine you would actually drink, since a cheap wine might well add an off taste to the resulting stew.

This recipe, adapted from Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook, starts by flouring and browning the chicken pieces in oil and/or butter. We used olive oil. While you could do this using the Instant Pot Saute setting, you could only do a few pieces at a time, and would get another dish dirty while you cooked the other pieces, so we browned the pieces in a skillet before potting them up. The original recipe also called for 2 oz of warmed brandy to flame over the chicken before cooking, be we discovered we were out of brandy.

  • 1 4 lb chicken, cut into pieces
  • Flour for dredging
  • ½ cup butter or oil (we used olive oil)
  • 1 slice raw him, diced
  • 10 small whole onions (we used frozen ones)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 sprigs thyme
  • 1-2  springs parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 whole mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tsp arrowroot or cornstarch in ¼ cup water.
  1. Shake the chicken pieces in flour in brown in a cast iron (or other) frying pan.
  2. Transfer the browned chicken to the Instant Pot.
  3. Add the ham, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, mushrooms, salt, and pepper.

in the pot

4. Close the pot, make sure the steam vent is closed, and press the Poultry button.  The pot will heat and cook under pressure for 15 minutes.

5. Release the steam, remove the chicken pieces and mushrooms to a serving bowl and thicken the sauce with arrowroot or cornstarch slurry.

6. Put the sauce over the chicken and serve right away with rice.

We noted two things about using the Instant Pot on chicken: the dark meat is cooked correctly, but the white meat is overcooked. Since you can’t easily remove the white meat pieces while it is cooking, it is best to use all dark meat. If you use all white meat, you would need to reduce the cooking time to about 10 minutes.

Chicken fat on the skin does not render out very well in a pressure cooker, so it is better to remove the chicken skin before flouring and browning. Otherwise, you may end up with pieces of “flubber” in your stew.