|Tom Dowdy's Cooking Page|
I'm now keeping a web log of various cooking events. Hopefully this will allow me more ready updates. It's called Butter Pig because I like Butter, and, well, you know. There's a longer story to this, but I can't bear to tell it at this point.
I have always had a strong interest in food and cooking. My parents always encouraged my brother and me to be comfortable in the kitchen. Throughout college, I cooked off and on, usually without relying upon recipes. I prepared all of the one-pot dishes you could think of, cooking in every regional style you could imagine. I went through my phases: Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Thai, and American comfort.
In the last five years, however, I have become more serious about this hobby of mine. I have moved more towards artisinal styles, and have been strongly influenced by classical French and new American cooking.
I used some of the things I learned in preparing classical French dishes to create a vegetarian version of reduction sauces. I wrote in the style used by Cook's Illustrated, hoping that it might be published. It never was, but I include it here. I still think it's a nice recipe. Some things I have made with this sauce are here.
In 1998 I took a comprehensive culinary course at the CIA (The Culinary Institute of America). If you'd like, you can read a journal about my experiences there.
One page that might be particularly helpful if you are looking at some of my cooking experience or menu pages is this page of defines.
After five years in my current house, my old stove (seen in many of the cooking shots) finally started to go south. I never really liked cooking on an electric stove, but just couldn't bring myself to toss a perfectly functional stove.
My new stove is a Viking professional. It is powered by gas, with four burners, a convection oven, and a startling 1800 degree broiler. In spite of this, I could fit it into a normal 30 inch opening, letting it be dropped in without a remodel of my entire kitchen. It did require a new venting hood, as the heat that it pumps out just can't be handled by a non-professional vent.
I can't believe that I waited so long to replace my stove. While the Viking isn't cheap, for just a tad more than a high quality gas stove, I got one much more suited to my cooking style. I wish I'd bought it five years ago. A stove like this isn't for everyone. It's no nonsense, with just basic controls. No timers, no clocks, no self-cleaning oven. But I never want to cook over anything else now.
While I don't really cook out of cook books, I do own many of them. I prefer books that have either a wide range of classic recipes, or that present important information on fundemental techniques. Some books that I consult with great regularity follow. You can click on the title if you'd like to order one from www.amazon.com.
This book comes the closest I have ever read to describing what cooking and dining at a top-notch restaurant is like. It also gives some insight into the minds of many of today's top chefs. The cross references of flavor combinations are also a nice way to kick your side dishes out of rut, or to put together a classic pairing.
The New Professional Chef
The course book at the Culinary Institute of America. This is a no goofing around technical introduction into classical cookery. The recipes are for much larger volumes than you will normally make, but I usually just ignore that section of each invaluable reference chapter.
On Food and Cooking
If you cook, eat, or just wonder about food, this book helps explain the why and how of cooking. The author provides the science behind the art, but explains it in terms anyone can understand. This book gets bonus points for being readable one chapter at a time. Highly recommended.
More like a dictionary or encyclopedia than a cookbook, this weighty tome makes a great reference work. If you like going out on a limb trying to reproduce things you have had when dining out, this book gives you the ideas and proportions you'll need to pull it off.
The Sauce Bible
This one's a bit specialized, but I have to include it as I idolize a well produced sauce. It also includes an exhaustive list of classical sauces, which you may only know by names on a menu.
Here is a menu that I prepared for the tech leads of a project that I worked on for 5 years. Here I am delivering the Ahi Burritos. And here's the main course.
Here is a menu that I made for some very good friends of mine. Carol's table setting was pretty elegant, no?
Each year, I host my own birthday party. Here's the menu from the 1997 one. It tends to get a bit out of hand.
Here's the menu from the 1999 birthday party.
Here's the menu from the 2000 birthday party. Here's page 1 and page 2 of the menu, signed by the guests. For more pictures of the party, I've got an image intensive page with some of the snaps.
It's usually at these parties that people ask me if I'd like to cook professionally. At this point in my life, it's difficult to say. While I enjoy cooking a great deal, needing to perform it on demand might take something fun and make it miserable. Still, I've given it enough thought to select a name for a place, should I ever become insane enough to try it. Poubelle is French for "rubbish," but it sounds classy. I enjoy the notion that foolish yuppies would come just for the name. Plus, I'd always have an excellent logo to use.
July 2001 summer party pictures.
Here's the menu from the 2002 birthday party.
Here are some more random pictures of my cooking past.
Barbeque (BBQ) is a form of cooking that's probably as misunderstood as it possibly can be. Popular throughout the southern portion of the US, it is a long, slow, even method of cooking generally larger portions of meat.
I have an excellent BBQ cooker from New Braunfels Smoker Company. It's an "offset" or "indirect" fire smoker with a vertical cooking chamber called the Bandara. Here's a picture of me cooking with my Bandara.
I've started keeping a log of BBQ runs. Because this method of cooking is long and slow, it can be helpful to keep track of what's worked and what hasn't worked. If for some reason you find this interesting, follow along.
If you can't cook it yourself, you can always get someone else do it for you. I write up reviews of places in the San Francisco area and post them to the ba.food newsgroup. Here are some that I've written over the years.
My friends and I got into a bad habit of going to all of the steak houses to be found in the city.
Izzy's Steak and Chops
Some places are worth traveling to just to eat.
Charlie Trotter's (Chicago)
My friend Shawn has his own place!
Jean Luc's Bistro (Austin)
DarkSide of the Mac
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Copyright 1998-2001 Tom Dowdy