Why Deb O’Keefe loves probiotics and Prince Harry but won’t be watching the royal wedding

In yet another example of why I love Austin, radio show host Deb O’Keefe didn’t hesitate to say yes when I invited her over to my house to try a jackfruit.

We didn’t end up trying one of those large, green spiky fruits on this week’s livestream, but she was also down to taste whatever I showed up with, so we ended up with a slate of vegan products, including the Austin-based Celeste’s Best vegan cookie dough, Lisanatti almond “mozzarella,” The Honest Stand’s vegan nacho cheese dip and Wheatsville’s spicy buffalo popcorn chicken, which O’Keefe, a longtime ovo-pescatarian, had amazingly never had.

In the video, you can see how she reacted to these popular tofu bites, which I discovered are now sold hot and in small containers for easy-to-go snacking at the South Lamar location. I was surprised by how good the almond “mozzarella” and cashew-based nacho dip tasted, and it was fun to hear the native Brit’s perspective on eating raw cookie dough, her love of anything and everything with probiotics and the global status of the princess-to-be and her (surprisingly handsome) prince.

She won’t be watching the big event this weekend, however. She’s training for a body building competition later this year and has a workout already on the schedule. Will she watch the highlights? Of course.

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Can this California barbecue company disrupt the brisket delivery business?

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The California-based BBQ Hero launched in early 2017 with one mission: To sell ribs to people who “live far from the barbecue capitals across the nation.”

BBQ Hero has added smoked brisket to its mail-order product line. We’re tasting it in a livestream today on Austin360’s Facebook page. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The press release explains: “BBQ Hero lives up to their name saving all of us in BBQ exile with their simple heat and eat barbecue.” The ribs have been so popular, the company says, that they’ve added smoked brisket to the product line-up and shipped out samples to food writers.

We have one of the samples and are going to try it in today’s Facebook livestream around noon. The meat is heating in the oven, as we speak, and I already have some thoughts on the sauce (“Is that ketchup I smell?”) and the reheating instructions (“Wait, I’m supposed to pour the sauce in the pan, then slice the cold brsiket, then put the meat back in the pan? I thought the press release said it was already cut!”).

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For comparison, Rudy’s mail-order brisket costs $120 with a $9 shipping fee. Louie Mueller’s 6- to 7-pound brisket costs $280, with free shipping. La Barbecue’s brisket costs $190 with a $10 ground shipping fee. The Salt Lick’s online briskets are smaller than the others, and they cost $60, which is similar to the price and size of the brisket from Black’s.

 

Ask Addie: If we aren’t supposed to eat romaine lettuce, why is it on grocery store shelves?

That’s a question I’ve received from a few of you this week, as both the Centers for Disease Control and Consumer Reports warn consumers not to eat heads, hearts and bags of romaine lettuce while investigators try to find the exact source of a recent E. coli outbreak that has sickened dozens.

H-E-B has said that it is not sourcing lettuce from Arizona right now, but there aren’t any signs in the store with more specific information. You can still buy bags of romaine lettuce in most stores. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Even though none of the reported illnesses have been in Texas, many grocery stores are continuing to sell lettuce. Some companies, including H-E-B, have stated that they do not source from the Yuma, Arizona area, but during a stop by a store today, you could find plenty of products with the dubious “Product of USA” or “Grown in USA” label or signage.

Much of the lettuce sold at H-E-B carries a “Grown in USA” or “Product of USA” label, but that’s not specific enough to assuage watchdog agencies, including Consumer Reports. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

According to the two biggest public health watchdogs, you’re not supposed to be buying and eating lettuce unless it specifically is not grown in Arizona. So, that means you can still eat and buy romaine lettuce, but you need to be careful about how you source it. Here are three ways to following the guidelines and still eat your salad:

  1. Buy from a local farmer. Central Texas farmers are not involved in the outbreak, as Johnson’s Backyard Garden pointed out in an Instagram post this week.

    This brand of romaine lettuce is grown in California, which is not an area of the country currently affected by the romaine lettuce warning. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman
  2. Seek out lettuce from another area of the country than Arizona. If the only lettuce options include a vague mention of “Grown in USA,” skip it, at least for now.

    Now is the time to real labels. This brand of lettuce is grown in California, so it should be OK to eat under the current CDC and Consumer Reports guidelines. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman
  3. Buy a different kind of lettuce. Romaine lettuce is the product currently only scrutiny. Other kinds of lettuce, including butter head and iceberg, are OK to eat.

 

 

From sherbet pops to Soylent: Can our intrepid food writer try 14 products in 14 minutes?

For my weekly Facebook livestream today, I’m trying something unusual: Taste-testing 14 products in 14 minutes.

Thanks to several cooking demonstrations and field trips lately, I haven’t done a taste test in a while, so I had quite a few products lined up to try. It’s a little crazy to go from flavor to flavor so quickly, but I’m setting up the products so I don’t jump from sweet to savory (or healthy to junk food) so quickly.

Kuli Kuli, Moringa Greens and Protein Superfood Smoothie Mix (online, $29.99)

Kuli Kuli, Moringa Black Cherry Bar (Whole Foods, $2.89)

 

Soylent Cafe, Ready-to-drink coffee-infused beverage (H-E-B, $3.69)

 

Buda Juice, Fresh Ginger and Turmeric Shot (H-E-B, $9.98 for six)

 

Sunkist, Mango Dark Chocolate Trail Mix (Walmart, $2.98)

Tasteful Selections, Take and Shake Potatoes (Walmart, $1.68)

Guiltless Goodies, Chocolate Glaze Skinny Donuts (online, $15.99)


Clean Cause, Yerba Mate drinks (H-E-B, $3.25)

 

Baskin Robbins, Frozen Sherbet Pops (Dollar General, $2)

Wyler’s Authentic Italian Ice, Frozen Pops (Dollar General, $2)

Duncan Hines, Perfect Size for 1 Confetti Cake mix (Walmart, $2.50)

Farmhouse Culture, Kraut Krisps (Central Market, $2,99)

H-E-B Select Ingredients, Cerealology Fig & Nut Crunch  (H-E-B, $2.98)

Cocina 54, Spinach and Cheese Empanadas (H-E-B, $4.99)

With two cans and a plan, learn how to make one of Thai Fresh’s best dishes at home

I’ve always loved Thai Fresh.

The little neighborhood restaurant on Mary Street and South Fifth Street in South Austin has been the host of many lunch dates, book club meetings and post-library ice creams, in part because I got to know owner Jam Sanitchat through her food blog.

For a short while a good number of years ago, my kids’ dad worked there, which is how I started to learn some of the methods to make some of her popular dishes, including pad prik king and everyday curries, such as this Massaman curry with chicken and potatoes I made just a few nights ago.

 

Making that dish reminded me that Thai curries can be some of the easiest DIY takeout meals you can make at home, as long as you have two key ingredients: A can of Thai curry paste and a can of coconut milk.

Coconut milk is pretty mainstream at this point, and you can find these little 4-ounce cans of Maesri curry pastes at international markets and at Thai Fresh, which also sells the lemongrass and lime leave you’d need to make your own. I keep these store-bought pastes and cans of coconut milk in my pantry for quick dinners that sometimes only require the two cans and a pound of protein, such as chicken, beef or shrimp.

To make homemade Thai food, you only need a handful of ingredients, including a can of curry paste, coconut milk and some kind of protein or vegetable. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

In Sanitchat’s 2013 cookbook “The Everything Thai Cookbook,” she shares the recipes for making about 20 different curries, from yellow curries with fish to the sweeter panang curry that is usually paired with beef. They all share a similar process: Cook the curry paste in a little coconut cream (or, as I’ve learned, coconut oil) and then simmer the meat with the coconut milk, curry paste. Add some fish sauce, tamarind and sugar, if desired. Serve over rice.

In my livestream today on Austin360’s Facebook page, Sanitchat, who frequently teaches these kinds of dishes in her popular cooking classes, will join me to explain some of the tricks to making your DIY takeout even tastier.

Here’s the recipe we’ll be demonstrating, but with boneless chicken thighs, so it’s even quicker.

Massaman Curry with Chicken and Potatoes

1 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
12 pieces bone-in chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
1/2 cup Massaman curry paste
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate (or 2 tablespoons tamarind water) (optional)
2 cups large-cubed sweet or regular potatoes
1 medium onion, chopped into bite-sized pieces (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
4 cardamom pods (optional)

Do not shake the coconut milk. Scoop the cream on top of the coconut milk cans, about halfway down, into a medium saucepan. In another saucepan, bring the other half of the coconut milk to a boil. Add chicken pieces and simmer for 45 minutes over low heat.

Bring coconut cream that was scooped out to a boil over medium heat. Stir in curry paste and turn down the heat to low. Simmer at low heat, without stirring, until fragrant and coconut cream starts to release some oil, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add chicken and the simmering liquid to the fried paste. Add the peanuts. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Season with sugar, fish sauce and tamarind, if using. Add sweet potatoes, onions, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cardamom. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust as needed. Serve.

— Adapted from “The Everything Thai Cookbook” by Jam Sanitchat (Everything, $18.95)

After winning rotisserie chicken taste test, can Fiesta beat Sam’s Club, Randalls?

Remember that rotisserie chicken taste test we did in January? For my Facebook livestream video earlier this week, I took many of your suggestions to include Sam’s Club, Walmart and Randalls in their own taste test with Fiesta, which won the previous round.

Sam’s Club, Randalls, Fiesta and Walmart all make rotisserie chickens, and we taste-tested them recently at the Statesman. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

If you missed the original taste test, we compared rotisserie chickens from six local stores — H-E-B, Central Market, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Costco and Fiesta — and the Fiesta chicken was the unanimous winner. I knew we wouldn’t be able to include every chicken in that original taste test, but six chickens were plenty to taste at once.

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Sam’s Club sells lots and lots of rotisserie chickens, and the flavor and texture were comparable to Fiesta’s, which won the first round of our rotisserie chicken taste test. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

After the story and video published, I heard from lots of readers who love the rotisserie chickens from Sam’s Club, Walmart and Randalls, so I decided to host another showdown between those three and the previous winner. This time, the results weren’t so clear. Many tasters like the Sam’s Club chicken as much as the Fiesta chicken, but the Walmart and Randalls birds couldn’t match the other competitors in taste or texture.

Randalls’ and Walmart’s chickens didn’t fare as well as Fiesta and Sam’s Club in our recent taste test. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The only issue with Sam’s Club is that you have to have a membership to the buy the chicken, which costs $45 per year. The company does allow you to get a free day pass to shop in the store, but you have to pay 10 percent extra on whatever you buy. As with Costco’s chicken, the Sam’s Club chicken was a full pound larger than the others and it was about two dollars less.

I’d still love to hear about your favorite ready-to-eat grocery foods, including rotisserie chickens! Leave a comment below or email me at abroyles@statesman.com.

Salt, sear and smash: 3 meaty tips from Jess Pryles’ ‘Hardcore Carnivore’

I always learn something new about meat when I see Jess Pryles, author of a new cookbook called “Hardcore Carnivore.”

Jess Pryles says the key to a smashburger is not to handle the meat too much and don’t salt until the patty is already on the hot griddle.

Jess and I have known each other for a long time now, and meat is always involved somehow. As I wrote in today’s column, we’ve been hunting together and dressed up at her Carnivore’s Ball together.

Today, we made hamburgers together and put the video on Facebook. I learned a lot in these 15 minutes, but in her new book, you’ll find even more tips. These were three of my favorites, which appear with that story in today’s paper.

The reverse sear: Have you tried a reverse-seared steak? Pryles explains that this is the method of slowly heating the steak until it is at the temperature of your liking (125 to 130 degrees for rare, 130 to 135 for medium rare, 135 to 145 for medium, 145 to 155 degrees for medium well) and then searing over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes on each side to finish.

On salting steaks: Salt your steak immediately before cooking, or 40 to 45 minutes before cooking, but not in between. By salting and waiting, you allow the steak to both release moisture and then soak it back in. By salting right before cooking, you’ll sear the steak before the salt has had a chance to draw out that moisture. If you wait 10 to 30 minutes, the salt will draw out water without giving it time to reabsorb, leaving the steak drier. For the best results, however, salt the steak and let it rest on a rack over a plate in the fridge for up to 72 hours. That way the salt can season and tenderize the meat while drying on the surface to create an optimal sear in the pan or on a grill.

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How to make wine salt: Consider mixing salt with dried powders already in your spice cabinet to rub on your steaks, loins or roasts, but you can also make flavored salts with liquids. Pryles suggests cabernet salt, which is made by reducing 2 cups of wine to 2 to 3 tablespoons of a syrup. You can mix the syrup with 1 to 1 1/2 cups kosher or fleur de sel salt. It will look like damp sand, but if you spread it out to dry on a parchment-lined sheet pan, you’ll end up with a salt that’s perfect for lamb, beef or even desserts.

 

 

Who makes the best rotisserie chicken in Austin? We put ’em to the test

When grocery stores started carrying rotisserie chickens, most Americans stopped roasting chickens ourselves.

We taste six rotisserie chickens from Austin-area grocery stores. From top left: Fiesta, Whole Foods, HEB. Lower left: Costco, Central Market, Sprouts. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Why bother when you can buy an already roasted chicken for not much more than it would cost to buy a raw one?

Rotisserie chickens are now sold in nearly every grocery chain, right up near the front where busy shoppers can pick one up in a hurry.

That’s what I did on Wednesday morning, trekking to six local grocery stores to buy seven rotisserie chickens for a livestream taste test at the office. My colleagues tried all six of them and ranked them. To my surprise, they had an unequivocal favorite, which you’ll see pretty quickly into this video we made.

The bonus bird was clearly identified as a specialty smoked Cajun flavor from Whole Foods, which is rolling out new rotisserie chicken recipes that will entice customers to buy them more frequently. Later that day, we also tasted the new flavors of Diet Coke.

Which store makes your favorite rotisserie chicken? Do you ever roast your own? Let us know in the comments below or on the Facebook video!

 

Can Halo Top ice cream compete with an ultra-rich Teo gelato?

I didn’t know much about Halo Top ice cream until this year, when Eric Webb impressed me with a ranking of every flavor of what I only knew to be a low calorie ice cream.

Halo Top is the bestselling pint of ice cream in the country. Téo is a popular Austin brand sold at H-E-B stores throughout Texas. How do they compare? Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

This high-protein dessert isn’t just a diet product. It’s a national phenomenon, now the bestselling pint of ice cream in the country, besting Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen Dazs.

Pretty impressive for a company that only started in 2012.

I picked up a pint of Halo Top’s sea salt caramel ice cream, which was just a few doors down from another product I’d been wanting to try: Téo Gelato’s pumpkin pie flavor.

Téo is the Central Austin gelato shop that entered the grocery market a few years ago in partnership with H-E-B. (They won the grocer’s 2015 Quest for Texas Best competition.)

Téo’s pints have also been flying off shelves, and even though these two products don’t claim to compete, this ice cream lover wanted to know if the stevia-sweetened Halo Top was even in the same universe as Téo, which is made with cane sugar and locally sourced milk and isn’t marketed as healthy enough to be consumed in one sitting.

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I tasted both in my Facebook livestream this week. As you can see — around the 6 minute mark — I was quite surprised when I tasted them side by side.

I’d love to hear what you think about Halo Top and Téo, if you’ve tried them. From what I’ve heard on social media so far, the Halo Top is one of the more divisive foods in the market today.

Slurp up this behind-the-scenes video of the world’s largest ramen expo

Remember that world’s largest ramen expo we told you about a few weeks ago?

Ramen Expo USA was in Austin earlier this week, and attendees found booths from businesses that make all kinds of ramen products, including noodles. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Well, it took place Monday and Tuesday at the Travis County Expo Center, and I stopped by on Tuesday afternoon to check it out.

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There were about two dozen booths with vendors who make noodles, broth, seasoning, dumpling, chopsticks, bowls and everything else you’d need to run a ramen shop. I was there right around the time the expo opened to the public, so you’ll see the lines growing at some of the ramen booths and hear from a local food truck owner about why he was there.

Kale noodles were one of the discoveries at the Ramen Expo USA that took place in Austin this week. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman