Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On Paper Towels and Patting Dry

I think there's a relationship here.

For years I was irritated by America's liberal use of paper towels. Then I became a parent and dog owner and quickly became a heavy handed user myself. There's nothing quicker and easier to grab when faced with something unsightly. But I'm still stingy with the paper towel for other uses - especially the most-oft ignored cooking method of patting meat dry in advance of browning it. For those of you who missed the Julie/Julia film, there's a scene where Julie is making Julia's boeuf Bourguignon, and (courtesy of Newsday.com, Critiquing 'Julie & Julia' food scenes):

...while she is browning the beef, Adams’ character informs her husband, “If you don’t dry meat, it won’t brown.” (Child’s exact words in her seminal cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” are “Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp.”)

It was during this screening of said film that I recognized that my stinginess with paper towels was interfering with the correct browning of meat in my kitchen. Not that I even brown a lot of meat! But sometimes I do and it's never good. There's definitely a relationship there. Surely I would brown more meat if when I browned it I did it right and it tasted good.

Do I need to do this to chicken too? My Kung Pao Chicken recipe calls for patting dry in the method, but I always skip it. Oh, dear.

Got more time to kill? Read about how Meryl Streep was brushed off by Julia Child in this piece from the Telegraph.

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