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Oddball Cooking Techniques: Ideas?

  • s

I'm working on an article for a children's magazine: strange and unique cooking methods. Car engine baking and dishwasher steaming will definitely be included, but I'd also like to get in some traditional and/or chef-specific techniques. (I'm not necessarily looking for weird -foods-, but more specifically weird ways of applying heat.)

Any ideas, Comrades?

Overall wackiness is the key, rather than culinary inventiveness: sure, -I'm- fascinated by slow-roasting fish in a low oven, but I think 12-year-olds will be unimpressed.

A million thanks to all.

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  1. I don't think this has ever actually been done, but what about frying eggs on the sidewalk?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jeremy

      I bet you really could fry an egg on the hood of a car that had been standing in the sun. Be sure to use a "soft" spatula to remove it to your plate! pat

      1. re: pat hammond

        "Be sure to use a soft spatula"

        Be sure to wash your car's hood first.

        1. re: Jeremy

          How about solar cooking in a foil-covered cardboard reflector? I am sure I saw an article or book chapter about this in my youth.

          1. re: Sirina
            Tom Meglioranza

            Years ago, I think I saw the Frugal Gourmet make a deli sandwich, wrap it in MANY layers of plastic wrap, and then sit on it for a half hour or so. If I recall correctly, his claim was that the compression and his own body heat helped meld the flavors of the sandwich. The idea of someone's butt-heat radiating through my lunch is a little disturbing to me, but kids might be into it.

            1. re: Tom Meglioranza

              Yeah. But especially the frugs. Yechh.

    2. m
      Mary Niepokuj

      Well, a lot of chefs use a propane torch for things like caramelizing the sugar on a creme brulee - and I myself have used one to hasten the cooking of a frittata (not a success). And I think I once saw Julia Child use a blowtorch to cook a cheeseburger on the David Letterman show years ago...

      The only other thing I can think of is that I've read that Mongolian nomads used to make yogurt by putting milk in a sack and fastening it under their saddle - the horse's body heat would do the rest.

      Hope this helps - this sounds like a fun topic!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Mary Niepokuj

        There was a guy in New Orleans that cooked EVERYTHING with a blowtorch. I was the chef at a restaurant that he started and there was a glass room that he cooked in. I do not remember his name, sorry.

        1. re: blueschef

          Er...you worked at this place as a chef and you remember neither his name nor the name of the restaurant?

          1. re: Jim Leff

            i worked in the building. he was not there anymore. we turned the room into a wood burning grill with a giant rotis. did some nice food on that! I never worked with him.

      2. This isn't odd to most of us, but it might be news to kids: "cooking" fish in acid, such as in seviche.

        1. My dad says that his parents used to make a sort of applejack by putting a paper bag full of cut apples and sugar on the radiator.

          1. How about a traditional New England clam bake? Dig a big hole, drop in a bunch of glowing coals or very hot rocks, put gravel on top, put a sack with lots of clams, fish, sausage, potatoes, onions, stuffing, etc. on top and bury the whole thing for half a day.

            There's a similar thing the Portuguese do in the Azores-- wrap stuff in foil (not sure what they used traditionally) and bake it in volcanos. Do a search on the Azores and you'll get more info. It's a regional speciality, but it's probably done in other places with active volcanos.

            And what about the making of oddball ingredients? There are traditional foods that are buried underground for months like spice mixtures (there's one in particular that I can't remember the name of right now). For some reason, I think manioc flour goes through some kind of burial or fermenting process, too. And I think breadfruit is mashed and let to to sit in holes in the ground for a long time. And then there's more common things like 1,000 year old eggs, foo yee, preserved lemons, etc.

            1. How about wrapping a peanut butter and jelly (or cheese) in foil and then ironing it.

              1. "Chicken on the throne" - baking a whole chicken upright astride a can of beer.

                Turning unpasteurized apple cider "hard" by leaving it on the radiator for a week or two.

                When you're done, don't forget to post a link to your article so Chowhounders can see what made the final cut.

                1 Reply
                1. re: R. Carter

                  beer can chicken--see recipe link below.

                  Link: http://food.epicurious.com/run/recipe...

                2. These are all really great ideas, but speaking as a Mom, please make certain any of the stranger ways to cook raw items gets them hot enough to be safe to eat. Nobody wants a fun cooking project to end in food poisoning.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Maria Eng

                    A valid concern, Maria, but have no fear: there won't be any recipes for hair-dryer-roasted pork!

                    Actually, what I had in mind wasn't really "things you can do at home," but more a round-up of methods people actually use or have used in the past--either well-established novelties like car-engine cuisine or traditonal cooking methods like the Azorean volcano-baking Beth suggested. (I love your magnifying-glass popcorn idea, though--I've got to file that one away.)

                    Here's a good one I've just come across: apparently it's a traditional Mongolian technique to gut a whole goat, fill the cavity with heated stones, then sew the whole thing up and wait for it to cook from the inside out.

                    Anyway...thanks, everyone for all the great suggestions. I only hope writing the thing will be as much fun as reading all your posts.

                    1. re: Steven Stern

                      I saw a program (I think it was Lonely Planet again-- can you tell I like that show?) about that Mongolian technique, but what they were cooking was some kind of weird rodent, like a very big rat or weasel.

                      1. re: Beth

                        It was probably a marmot, I think. Also eaten in Mongolia, also with hot stone technique. (I just learned this myself a couple of hours ago; the illustration of a marmot in Webster's 10th is particularly charming, by the way.)

                  2. How about focusing sunlight on a kernel of popcorn with a magnifying glass? I'm guessing it would pop the kernel just as easily as it can burn through paper. Could take a while to cook a bucketful, though.

                    1. A friend of mine's mother used to cook whole salmon in the dishwasher and I know another person who used to use the dryer to dry salad greens. If interested, I will ask my friend exactly how his mom prepared the fish.

                      1. j
                        Jason "Cookin 'wit FIRE!" Perlow

                        How about smoking a kielbasa using the exhaust manifold from a 1955 Harley Davidson?

                        I've seen Biker Billy do it...


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Jason "Cookin 'wit FIRE!" Perlow

                          That reminds me of something I read years ago about Portuguese fishermen on the Cape (P-town, maybe?) grilling squid on their motors while coming back to port with their daily catch. Mmmm, Calamari with Gasoline Sauce!

                        2. This doesn't involve heat application,but kids love bugs...Mexicans like to cook with mild fruit vinegars, which are often made by leaving fruits (bananas, pineapple) out to rot and become fly & maggot-infested, then straining ... not sure of the exact technique (though i seem to recall Diana Kennedy having a 'recipe' in one of her books), but I remember going to a Mexican friend's grandmother's house and she had an infested vat of banana goop that she said was vinegar. (Another mexican friend said his mom made vinegar by putting pineapple in beer and leaving it at room temperature for a week...or that was what HE thought was going on, at least.)