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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, and Cooking, #14

Updated on February 19, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

The halls are un-decked, the trees (artificial) tucked back into their hiding places, and life goes on without twinkling lights. My cat is sad, and so am I.

I LOVE the decorations of Christmas. I had white lights everywhere in the house. They exude such a wonderful ambiance...but then my wise daughter said to me "if we had them all the time, they would lose their special." She's so right. So I wait again for the Friday after Thanksgiving.

And, in the meantime, I have you, my friends and your questions.

Is There An Advantage To Aging Beef?

Shouldn't beef be aged until purple -Butcher at large grocery store "manager's special"?


Eric, what a great question. (Let's see if I can live up to it with an equally great answer). All meat, even what you purchase on the cello tray with shrink-wrap covering is aged for 7-10 days. The process of hanging meat up in a controlled environment is actually slow-motion decomposition. (When you think of it that way, it sounds a bit nasty, doesn't it?)

Why is beef (or venison) allowed to "age?" It improves both the flavor and tenderness. However, the meat industry devotes the minimum amount of time to this endeavor because of economics. How is meat sold? Well, by the pound, of course, and the longer that meat languishes in the meat locker, the more moisture (and weight) that is lost.

If you really want to delve into the nitty-gritty of aging meat, here's a link that will tell you all you ever wanted to know...and much, much more.

You're probably wondering if you can dry age your beef (I'm not talking a side of beef here, just merely a steak for the grill) at home, in the refrigerator. My friend Kenji did some extensive testing of the theory in his Food Lab. Bottom line is that (1) it really doesn't work and (2) a steak aged in your home refrigerator can (and often does) pick up some funky flavors from other foods stored therein.

Isn't "Fresh" Fish Actually Frozen As Soon As It's Caught?

Why do people think that seafood caught at sea is still not frozen which it very well is on the boat on the way home to the market?


Eric, just like Toto in "The Wizard of Oz" you have pulled the curtain aside. You are absolutely correct when you say that freshly caught fish is flash-frozen aboard the fishing boat, keeping it nutritionally intact and “fresh” longer.

In fact, all wild-caught fish, by law, has to be frozen in order to kill parasites. In other words, unless you’re catching it yourself, there is no such thing as fresh, wild-caught fish.

Farm-raised is another story, often shipped without being frozen. But the consumption of farm-raised versus wild-caught is a controversy on its own. We get into discussions of environmental safety, sustainability, nutritional content, mercury, GMO-based fish meal feed, and the list goes on and on. Both sides have pros and cons, good and bad, yin and yang. Here's a link that will provide far more information than can be furnished here in this brief article.

Lexicon of Cooking Terms


Last week we finished up with the "B" words and tossed in one "C" to even up the list. (Would that make it a C minor?). Here are a few more definitions for your enlightenment.

Char - To seal in the flavor and juices of a food (such as meat) by blackening its surface in a skillet, over an open flame, or under a broiler.

Chiffonade - The French term for a particular knife cut where herbs and leafy greens are cut into very thin strips, like ribbons. The easiest way to achieve this is to stack up the leaves then roll them (like a cigar). Then, take your sharpest knife and cut very thin slices.

Clarified butter - The upper portion, clear, liquefied and oil-like, of butter when it has been allowed to melt slowly and stand without heat until the solids have precipitated (fallen to the bottom of the pot). In India, it is called ghee. Why bother? Removing those solids allows you to have the flavor of butter without as much risk of burning.

Compound butter – butter creamed with herbs, spices, garlic, wine, or whatever you wish. Perfect for finishing sauces or jazzing up just about any grilled or broiled foods. For example, softened butter mixed with fresh dill atop a grilled salmon filet. If you prefer beef a combination of finely minced garlic and rosemary (plus butter) would be the perfect finishing touch to your steak. Some people even place a pat of seasoned butter on top of a hamburger patty. Who are we to judge?

Cream - To beat an ingredient or ingredients with a spoon or beaters until light and fluffy or of a "creamy" consistency. Most often used in reference to butter or shortening, with or without sugar, in baking recipes.

Crimp - To create a decorative edge on a piecrust. On a double piecrust, this also seals the edges together.

That's It for Now

A brief list of questions this week, but I'll take quality over quantity any time. See you again same time, same place, next week.

© 2018 Linda Lum


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