The Vast Bay Leaf Conspiracy
March 8, 2016 6:53 AM   Subscribe

In search of confirmation, as well as freedom to ignore the bay leaf portion of future recipes I might encounter, I reached out to a number of chefs and asked them, “Are bay leaves bullshit?
posted by josher71 (169 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
Kenji says you should use them, and that's good enough for me.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:57 AM on March 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


Remember the Cilantro Wars? I was in the shit, man.
posted by thelonius at 6:58 AM on March 8, 2016 [26 favorites]


A PR rep for Harlem’s The Cecil said: “The chef uses them in his brines and stocks along with curry leaves. Do you want more info or are you looking for a chef who also thinks they’re bullshit?”

PR reps know how to cut to the chase.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:59 AM on March 8, 2016 [109 favorites]


Kelly Conaboy is definitely not a supertaster.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:00 AM on March 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


I was out for lunch a few years ago with a young couple who were parents of an infant. I wound up looking after said infant for about twenty minutes while his parents were in the bathroom trying to dislodge a bay leaf from his mother's airways.

Bay leaves are bullshit.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:00 AM on March 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, bay leaves serve no function other than showing up as an inedible surprise in a mouthful of otherwise delicious jambalaya, which I then have to discreetly smuggle out of my mouth and sort to an inconspicuous spot on my plate.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:01 AM on March 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


tl;dr — No.
posted by John Cohen at 7:02 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


You know what's bullshit? Michael Bayleaf.
posted by valkane at 7:03 AM on March 8, 2016 [20 favorites]


Maybe there's a genetic subgroup of people like Kelly Conaboy who can't smell bay leaf? Or maybe some bay leaves are tastier than others, because there are several related plants used in cooking.

Also, you take them out before serving.
posted by sneebler at 7:03 AM on March 8, 2016 [25 favorites]


Kelly Conaboy has found a clever (or clickbaity - is there a difference?) hook on which to hang an article imparting a lot of information from professionals about the usefulness of bay leaves.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:04 AM on March 8, 2016 [30 favorites]


They smell really good when they're still on the tree. If you are tall enough to reach up and snatch one of the leaves.
posted by Bee'sWing at 7:04 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I put a bay leaf in the ricemaker pretty often and it for sure changes the flavor of the rice... for the better, I think, but YMMV.
posted by Huck500 at 7:05 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


What does a bay leaf taste like? Nothing. What does a bay leaf smell like? Nothing.

This is demonstrably untrue. Is it supposed to be funny? Because flavor is srs bsns, I can tell you that.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:06 AM on March 8, 2016 [35 favorites]


That was funny.

Also, one removes the bay leaves from the finished dish. I think failure to remove the bay leaves at a restaurant is something I'd mention to the staff, what with bay leaves being sharp and not very chew-up-able and thus a bit of a choking hazard.

I get a packet of fresh bay leaves and keep them in the freezer - frozen fresh herbs are the way to go (except with basil, IME). I assume they're not quite as aromatic as truly fresh leaves, but they're good, and a $5 packet of herbs makes a lot more sense if you're going to freeze them and use all of them over a year.

You know what's also good? Lime leaves. Sweet neem leaves are also good, but I have no convenient source.
posted by Frowner at 7:06 AM on March 8, 2016 [29 favorites]


showing up as an inedible surprise in a mouthful of otherwise delicious jambalaya, which I then have to discreetly smuggle out of my mouth and sort to an inconspicuous spot on my plate.

You need to eat more jambalaya made by more caring, considerate souls.
posted by The Whelk at 7:06 AM on March 8, 2016 [17 favorites]


Anyone who thinks bay leaves are bullshit has never smelled fresh ones.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:07 AM on March 8, 2016 [14 favorites]


I was out for lunch a few years ago with a young couple who were parents of an infant. I wound up looking after said infant for about twenty minutes while his parents were in the bathroom trying to dislodge a bay leaf from his mother's airways.

Bay leaves are bullshit.


Irresponsible cooks are bullshit.

Always count them going in and count them coming out. Or place them, broken in halves or thirds, in a stainless steel tea ball.

But, that aside, how the hell else am I supposed to attractively top my bobotie? They bake so nicely into the egg custard on top!

But lemon or lime leaves work, too.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:07 AM on March 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Bayleaves are bullshit unless they are
sauce or soup or gristle piled
on a plate. Or 'balaya dripping
off spoons leaving nickel plops
dropping them down. Fuck bayleaves
and they are useful, wd they steep
come at you, love what you eat,
breathe like sous chef dudes, or shudder
strangely after tasting.
posted by beerperson at 7:07 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


They smell really good when they're still on the tree.

The decades-old ones my mother kept, in branded tins from a long-closed supermarket chain, had no discernible smell.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:07 AM on March 8, 2016 [19 favorites]


Heat up a cup of water with bay leaves and compare the taste to a cup of water without bay leaves. The difference in flavor is bay leaves.

You're not wrong, Walter...
posted by Mayor West at 7:08 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bay rum, the basis of a lot of men's cologne/aftershave, is not bullshit.

Bay leaves in food are not bullshit either.

Serving food with bay leaves still in it, however, is bullshit.
posted by Foosnark at 7:08 AM on March 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


Jinx, I guess
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:08 AM on March 8, 2016


I seem to have a knack for finding surprise bayleaves and it's often unpleasant and was about to be all "yeah, fuck them!", but on the other hand they definitely taste of bay leaf, so this article is weird.
posted by Artw at 7:08 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have a little bay tree in my garden and regularly use the leaves in dishes - I definitely notice when I forget to include one in a recipe that normally takes them. I didn't even know bay leaves were a thing you could buy in the shops. I just pull one off the tree and throw it in the pot when I need it. Perhaps they lose something in the process of drying, packing and transportation.
posted by winterhill at 7:11 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bay rum, the basis of a lot of men's cologne/aftershave, is not bullshit.

I never made this connection so now I can slap on my aftershave and go I AM LIKE MY CHICKEN SOUP, BRAISED IN BAY LEAF.
posted by The Whelk at 7:11 AM on March 8, 2016 [25 favorites]


Bay rum, the basis of a lot of men's cologne/aftershave, is not bullshit.

I love the smell of bay rum, but have been forbidden from wearing it because my wife thinks it smells like Old Man. She loves, on the other hand, the smell of a fifteen-year-old can of Colgate shaving cream that I need to use sparingly because they stopped making it about ten years ago.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:12 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does the writer of this have no sense of smell or taste buds? What's next? "Is Garlic Bullshit?"
posted by octothorpe at 7:12 AM on March 8, 2016 [22 favorites]


If you're getting the ancient, odorless tree offal stuffed in a McCormick can sometime during the Carter administration, they are indeed bullshit. If you get fresher ones that smell of something from a decent market or an online place like The Spice House (aka one of the best things about the entire internet), they are anti-bullshit. They are glorious.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:13 AM on March 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


Bay rum, the basis of a lot of men's cologne/aftershave, is not bullshit.

I never made this connection so now I can slap on my aftershave and go I AM LIKE MY CHICKEN SOUP, BRAISED IN BAY LEAF.


THIS IS WRONG! They're two different bay leaves. This is West Indian Bay Tree, which makes Bay Rum. This is Bay Laurel, which makes the bay leaves you cook with and the laurel wreaths with which you crown Apollo and Olympic champions. Do not try to make your own bay rum with bay leaves, because it's the wrong plant!
posted by leotrotsky at 7:13 AM on March 8, 2016 [27 favorites]


Does the writer of this have no sense of smell or taste buds?

No, they just have a poor sense of how to use irony effectively.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:15 AM on March 8, 2016


I love the smell of bay rum, but have been forbidden from wearing it because my wife thinks it smells like Old Man.

I started wearing old school-style Old Spice deodorant for precisely this reason. I smell like my granddad now and, unexpectedly, my wife is into it.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:15 AM on March 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Do not try to make your own bay rum with bay leaves!

....I have. It worked just fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 AM on March 8, 2016


actually you are poisoned and ded
posted by beerperson at 7:16 AM on March 8, 2016 [20 favorites]


LEttuce: IS it reaL>
the case for: it says lettuce on the sandwich menu, when i get a sandwich
against: very few chefs (cheves?) answered my phone call
verdict: Green sandwich? Please. Lettuce fake
posted by Greg Nog at 7:16 AM on March 8, 2016 [52 favorites]


I've started making soups, easier than I expected, takes a bit more patience, and now I AM SO CONFUSED.
posted by sammyo at 7:17 AM on March 8, 2016


I smell like my granddad now and, unexpectedly, my wife is into it.

You don't hear much about geriatric role play. But it has to be a thing, right?
posted by thelonius at 7:17 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Years ago, I proved to myself that bay leaves make a difference.... My family has a simple lentil recipe: lentils, onions, salt & pepper and a bay leaf, simmered together and served over spatzel. But there were a few times back in my much-younger (i.e. poorer) days, when I couldn't afford even a single bay leaf, and so I'd make my lentils without it. Oh heck yes you could taste the difference.

Never again will I go bay-less!
posted by easily confused at 7:18 AM on March 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


Does the writer of this have no sense of smell or taste buds? What's next? "Is Garlic Bullshit?"

Brage to out yourself as a heretic and possible vampire.
posted by Artw at 7:19 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I get the feeling that readers of TFA are running low in here.
posted by josher71 at 7:19 AM on March 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


i want to believe this author is just doing irony, but i'm flashing back to that time that idiot Tom Scocca was like "YOU CAN'T CARAMELIZE AN ONION IN TEN MINUTES" and everyone was like "THAT'S RIGHT YOU CAN'T" as though he had admitted anything other than "i'm pretty bad at caramelizing onions"
posted by Greg Nog at 7:20 AM on March 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


StickyCarpet: "The decades-old ones my mother kept, in branded tins from a long-closed supermarket chain, had no discernible smell."

It was always fun finding Ann Page branded stuff in my mom's pantry in the early 2000s when A&P had gotten rid of that name at least twenty years previously.
posted by octothorpe at 7:21 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Kelly Conaboy has found a clever really irritating hook on which to hang an article

FTFY.

If you can find fresh curry leaves in your area, they're a great substitute: not nearly as bitter, more pleasingly pungent. Use half-a-dozen or more for one bay leaf. They freeze really well.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:22 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


i want to believe this author is just doing irony

Kelly, I have concluded you are indeed doing irony and I was still just mad about the Tom Scocca thing in re know-nothingness among clickbait food writers. You have done nothing wrong and I apologize for thinking lowly of you
posted by Greg Nog at 7:24 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Chef Ryan Angulo, of Carroll Gardens’ Buttermilk Channel, said: “Bay leaves. I’ve had people bring this up before when a chef throws one bayleaf into a stock pot that could fit a horse.

I want to see this stock pot.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:24 AM on March 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


octothorpe, that's it exactly. Pittsburgh.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:25 AM on March 8, 2016


I have some trouble carmelizing onions in under ten minutes. I can brown them slightly, sure, but that's not the same thing. Carmelized means they're really deep brown and reduced, and I've found that for me, even with a really heavy pan and a gas burner, trying to do that in less than, oh, twenty minutes or so just leads to burned onions.
posted by Frowner at 7:27 AM on March 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


I started wearing old school-style Old Spice deodorant for precisely this reason. I smell like my granddad now and, unexpectedly, my wife is into it.

If your grandfather hadn't smelled like that, you wouldn't be here right now.
posted by davros42 at 7:31 AM on March 8, 2016 [17 favorites]


What an incredibly irritating article.
1. Spend 45 minutes emailing chefs you can get an address for.
2. Ask an ignorant question.
3. Sequence their responses verbatim with your attempt to mock them.
4. Don't do any tests or experiments to learn more about your topic.
5. Profit!!! Or at least, clickability!

It's a dumb article formula and I feel dumber for reading it.

Of course bay makes a diifference. Everything said in this thread is correct (use it relatively fresh and always remove it). But who wants an actually informative article about what bay leaves contribute when you can just laugh at chefs who took the time to respond to your query in good faith?

we had a person prepping a kaffir lime ice cream base, and they mistakenly used bay leaves. It was actually pretty tasty.

Yeah, sign me up for that. That certainly has promise. Or a bay leaf custard or brulee. These are good ideas.

Heat up a cup of water with bay leaves and compare the taste to a cup of water without bay leaves. The difference in flavor is bay leaves.

Excellent test, would have been great for the writer to try it.

Old Bay wouldn’t be Old Bay without bay leaf.

I never thought of that. Always thought it referred to the Chesapeake Bay, actually, what with the crab connection and all. But no, it has bay.
posted by Miko at 7:32 AM on March 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Kelly, I have concluded you are indeed doing irony and I was still just mad about the Tom Scocca thing in re know-nothingness among clickbait food writers.

If you have a technique for properly caramelizing onions in 10 minutes, I am unsarcastically all ears. I have never seen a shortcut that works.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:32 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have a little bay tree in my garden

I've always used bay leaves when instructed to by recipes. But until this moment, it never occurred to me that they came from a plant called the bay tree. I guess I thought they were made in the bay leaf factory?
posted by not that girl at 7:33 AM on March 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


You can't taste them used in ragu. That is factual.
posted by colie at 7:34 AM on March 8, 2016


The only problem with bay leaves is the same issue you run into with most grocery store spices; they're old as shit therefore taste of cardboard and misery. Same goes for old coffee, old cinnamon (er, cassia), old vanilla, old every-other-spice at normal grocery stores. Fancy grocery stores are just as bad sometimes, because the spices move less than at regular grocers.

I just planted a laurel bay shrub at our house (Plant Hardiness Zone 8b, represent!) because recently a friend gave us a small jar of fresh bay leaves. Shit blew my mind so hard I had to go plant it myself. The taste is really surprisingly better from a fresh plant. Sweetly-medicinal (in a good way), slightly of menthol and a really light bergamot vibe.

The most telling application I've been able to isolate the specific, unadulterated flavor of bay is in a really basic rice pilaf with nothing but rice, shallot, salt and pepper. The absence of bay leaf, let alone fresh bay leaf, is really really noticeable.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:34 AM on March 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


Black beans, pressure cooked, with nothing but water and a few bay leaves (and salt at the end) I how I came to understand the flavor that it adds.
posted by bendybendy at 7:34 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've had large bay trees in the back gardens of both recent houses I've lived in. And, being me, I've used the leaves to steep in strong vodka over the course of weeks to try to make a tincture-type digestif or the base for a liqueur.

The resulting liquid is... kind of olivey brown and really sort of numbingly aniseed tasting. It tastes like pungent plant.

The bottle is still full.

It sure tastes like bullshit.
posted by generichuman at 7:35 AM on March 8, 2016


tl;dr- I love bay leaves, cilantro, rosemary, basil, parsley all useful in their own right!

P.s Please remove bay leaves.
posted by Whatifyoufly at 7:36 AM on March 8, 2016


You can't really make caramelized onions in 10 minutes. You can make brown, limp onions, but they change materially the longer you took them. You get more cell wall breakdown. Someone showed me how to do this in the slow cooker, and I do a big batch every now and then and stick it in the freezer to use in small quantities. That's a good method.

I watched this video and here's the thing I think is the problem: fond isn't caramel. It's going to push beyond caramel to become 'burnt sugar.' It's brown, I'm sure it doesn't taste bad, but when you caramelize properly, you don't get sticking and burning like that. That's why it takes so long - you're doing it with gentle heat over time, never burning. To me that just looks like a restaurant shortcut, but probably not the best way to build a clear caramelized flavor.
posted by Miko at 7:37 AM on March 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


I love fresh bay leaves. Here's my recipe for Rillons:

Brine:
10L Water
100g Cure #1 (0.25% nitrite)
1300g Salt
125g Sugar
Fresh Rosemary, Bay Leaf and Juniper (lots of everything)
(Dried Juniper berries are fine. Fresh juniper, if you have access to it, is divine. Feel free to use clean stems, leaves and berries.)
-Bring half of the water in the brine to the boil with the remaining ingredients.
-Pour over the other half of water. In a hurry? Scale out half the total quantity of water as ice and pour the boiled solution over the ice.

-Cut pork belly into rectangles 2 or 3 bites large.
-Cover pork belly in brine, weigh down and let sit overnight in the fridge.
-Drain belly and let dry.
-Confit in lard/duck fat until tender but not falling apart.
-OR cook sous-vide at 66˚C for 18hrs.

Apple-Laurel Purée:
Green Apples
(Something tart is good, like Granny Smith. Green apples will keep a nice colour)
Bay Leaves
Salt
Butter

-Peel and core as many green apples as you want.
-Throw them into a vac-pack bag with a few nuts of butter and a whole lotta FRESH bay leaves.
-Cook sous-vide @ ~88˚C until fully soft.
(Temperature and timing here are very forgiving. The aroma of bay will phase through the plastic bag during cooking and perfume your kitchen.)
-Puree hot, adjusting for seasoning and maybe adding a little extra butter.
-cool.


To serve, re-fry rillons in lard or oil until crispy. Spread some chilled apple purée on the bottom of the plate and lay the drained rillons on top. Garnish with powdered dried juniper berries.
posted by Evstar at 7:37 AM on March 8, 2016 [16 favorites]


My feelings towards Alton Brown switched when he talked about making his mac and cheese (which is not very good at all, spoiler) and said "I don't use bay leaves, they don't add anything." Heresy.

I have this beautiful, beautiful pork recipe where the ingredients are pork shoulder, apple cider vinegar, a dozen bay leaves, salt, and pepper. It's enchanting and so good with pasta.
posted by Neronomius at 7:37 AM on March 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Make that apple purée and I defy you to tell me bay leaves have no flavour.
posted by Evstar at 7:37 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I started wearing old school-style Old Spice deodorant for precisely this reason. I smell like my granddad now and, unexpectedly, my wife is into it.

I could have written this. I'm feeling a little less alone in the world after reading this.

On the bay leaf topic, it never occurred to me that fresh was even an option, which I feel a little stupid about. I've used plenty of other fresh herbs, but I just associate bay leaf with that old tin in my dad's cupboard.
posted by Area Man at 7:39 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


numbingly aniseed tasting

Strain the vodka, put in some vanilla beans for a week, strain again and see if it is good for baking flavor. If even vaguely so, then find some small, pretty, bottles to put up in, four ounces or so. Start your gift giving season early. Make it some one else's problem, but make sure the bottles are pretty!
posted by Oyéah at 7:42 AM on March 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


I watched this video and here's the thing I think is the problem: fond isn't caramel. It's going to push beyond caramel to become 'burnt sugar.' It's brown, I'm sure it doesn't taste bad, but when you caramelize properly, you don't get sticking and burning like that. That's why it takes so long - you're doing it with gentle heat over time, never burning. To me that just looks like a restaurant shortcut, but probably not the best way to build a clear caramelized flavor.

I regularly caramelize onions this way and low-and-slow ways and I truly cannot tell the difference. It works.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:42 AM on March 8, 2016


One of the best desserts I've ever had was calas that were formed in an oblong shape with a fresh bay leaf in the middle. To eat them you basically bit down until you could feel the leaf and then drew it out of your mouth, stripping the delicious fried fritter off while leaving the leaf intact. Kind of like a corn dog, if you want to be vulgar about it. They had the most incredible and indescribable flavor, and I was sad when they disappeared off the menu at the place where I was getting them.

But hey, now I've told you about them, and chances are that one of you is adventurous enough to fry some on your own. I look forward to hearing how much you love them.

also send me some
posted by komara at 7:43 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I started wearing old school-style Old Spice deodorant for precisely this reason. I smell like my granddad now and, unexpectedly, my wife is into it.

Thirded.
posted by josher71 at 7:44 AM on March 8, 2016


I truly cannot tell the difference

Maybe I will try it, but I have the sense that I would be able to tell the difference. I can always be wrong. But it seems impossible not to detect the carbon flavor.
posted by Miko at 7:44 AM on March 8, 2016


I started wearing old school-style Old Spice deodorant for precisely this reason. I smell like my granddad now and, unexpectedly, my wife is into it.

Surprisingly, my wife likes the Old Spice deodorant, but not the bay rum. They smell pretty similar to me, but whatever. I think the problem is that her dad used to wear bay rum. She did, in many regards, marry her father (although I have quite a bit more hair, still), but I think the aftershave is a bit too far for her.

Also I would like to subscribe to the bay leaf vodka newsletter, please. Maybe drop some simple syrup in there and see what happens. Herbal liqueurs are the best liqueurs.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:47 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've had a little potted bay tree in my apartment for a couple years now. It's about two feet tall, spindly, and grows a handful of new leaves every year. I thought that was pretty pathetic to begin with, but then one fall it tried to do like the trees outdoors and half its leaves turned brown and lost all their flavor and aroma. Now I'm at the point where I'm going to have to buy more bay leaves, because my last package of dried ran out and there are not nearly enough leaves on this damn tree to keep up with my cooking. Bay leaves are nice, but my bay tree is bullshit.
posted by gueneverey at 7:48 AM on March 8, 2016


Re:onions: reddit teaches the controversy
posted by Miko at 7:50 AM on March 8, 2016


I grew up taking bay leaves EXTREMELY seriously, not because of their flavor or lack of flavor, but because my cousin once accidentally ate one and her tongue blew up like an emergency life raft. I’m not sure if this was a peculiarity of my cousin’s allergies (she also used to break out in hive. Not hives. One single hive), but rigorously making sure the bay leaves had been removed from the family spaghetti sauce was SERIOUS BUSINESS in our house.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:50 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


" I’ve had people bring this up before when a chef throws one bayleaf into a stock pot that could fit a horse."

I want to see this stock pot.


I want to own this stock pot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:51 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I...I thought this article was making fun of climate change deniers? And anti-vaxxers and other people who fervently believe an idea for which no real scientist will publicly offer support? Am I way out on a limb here?
posted by town of cats at 7:53 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Put a Bay Leaf in basically every thing you boil that isn't going to involve sweet. That means you use it in pasta water, rice, sauces, stocks, and so forth. You throw it in a brine because over 24 hours you'll extract a bit of the bay leaf flavor.

You can throw it in butter sauces with shallots and white wine (although in this case fresh is significantly better) because the level of heat, fat and liquid will help to re-hydrate and suck out/steep the flavor from the leaves.

But, unless you are a panda or a koala, you aren't ever going to want to eat it. Period.

Also, if you you are a panda or koala, please identify yourself here so we can all coo at how cute you are. Who's the cutest panda (or koala)? You are! Yes you are!
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:55 AM on March 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


I almost choked to death on a bay leaf that was hiding in a restaurant dish. You can not imagine the level of my hatred for bay leaves.
posted by tommasz at 7:56 AM on March 8, 2016


I'm beyond delighted that a bay leaves argument has brought about an uprising of my fellow sexy granddadcore brethren. Hitch your britches high, boys, the world needs to know
posted by middleclasstool at 7:57 AM on March 8, 2016 [30 favorites]


Disagree with the above; bay rum is total bullshit. Have you ever tried drinking the stuff?
posted by 7segment at 8:03 AM on March 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


StickyCarpet: "octothorpe, that's it exactly. Pittsburgh."

New Jersey. No A&P stores in Western PA.
posted by octothorpe at 8:04 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I never understood what bay leaves add until they started selling fresh ones around here. And all a sudden my stocks and brines had a very different aroma.
posted by dw at 8:07 AM on March 8, 2016


granddadcore

Thanks for giving me the word I needed to describe my husband's personal style. Bay Rum forever!
posted by Miko at 8:09 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been told that the 'laurel wreaths' of the ancient world were actually bay wreaths. We only think they were laurel because of a persistent mistranslation, apparently.
posted by Segundus at 8:14 AM on March 8, 2016


We came across a picture a few years ago from the 1940s of grandpa with his shirt off. My wife was very appreciative, and I felt like I had a better idea of how grandma ended up with someone so unsuited for her. (Basically, my family has been getting uglier and less fashionable over the last few generations. A great-grandma on the other side was a model and fashion designer.)
posted by Area Man at 8:15 AM on March 8, 2016


No A&P stores anywhere now. To the sorrow of granddads everywhere.
posted by Miko at 8:21 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


tfw you go to reddit to bolster your argument
posted by beerperson at 8:22 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: A concrete room that you thought was empty until you notice a couple sharp pieces of scrap metal in the corner and then you think, wait a second—what kind of room is this?
posted by Naberius at 8:23 AM on March 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


I used to wonder if using dried bay leaves (bay laurel) was bullshit, as I'd add them to a pot of this or that, until I came across tej patta. My Indian cooking was never the same.
posted by squeak at 8:27 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


They smell really good when they're still on the tree. If you are tall enough to reach up and snatch one of the leaves.

I am now imagining you as a tiny adorable giraffe.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:28 AM on March 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


Panda Express doesn't use them and that says it all.
posted by benzenedream at 8:29 AM on March 8, 2016


Wait why is anyone caramelizing onions in a world blessed with shallots
posted by beerperson at 8:31 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Because I don't have a shallot-walla in my employ, and peeling them is some bullshit.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:35 AM on March 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


My bay tree is about five feet tall if you don't count the pot. The spouse and I curse every spring when we have to drag it outside and every fall when we drag it back in, seeing as our winters here in St. Lou get below 10 degrees, but man, the flavor of those leaves is intense. If a recipe calls for one, I break my one in half and that's plenty. They're fabulous in beans, and add excellent flavor to my new year's soup of onions, mushrooms, and beefs. People on here talking about a dozen in a recipe is giving me the jibblies. If you put a dozen of my fresh bay leaves in there. . . well, I wouldn't, is all I'm saying, not of the fresh variety.

On a side note, I do have a pot in which one could simmer a small child, but no horse-sized ones.
posted by miss patrish at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Our little bay tree was riddled with scale insects last year. When I pointed them out to my wife she said "Oh, those things... I thought they were just part of the leaf...". So anyway, I can report that scale insects don't add a lot of flavour to a stew.
posted by pipeski at 8:47 AM on March 8, 2016 [21 favorites]


I think of bay leaf as an officiant seasoning mostly. That is, I wouldn't know what to do with it as a dominant flavor, but if I forget to put a bay leaf in something I put it in, the other flavors live in sin rather than marrying the way I intended. It kind of ties together the dull and sharp flavors somehow, like by providing a transitional flavor or something like that.

That said, I enjoyed the article enough that if there is going to be a fight, I would like to be on the bullshit side anyway. I have pretty much zero personal integrity that way.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:49 AM on March 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


Next up: Do we really need deadlines?
posted by clockzero at 8:54 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


fellow sexy granddadcore brethren


Just 'cause there's snow on the roof...I forget how the rest of that goes.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:55 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


For those of you living in the SF Bay area: don't confuse the culinary Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) with the locally abundant California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica). In my experienced the latter is quite fragrant when the leaves are fresh (a kind of cinnamon-cola-wintergreen aroma) but become pretty dull after being dried. I've also heard it said that California Bay Laurel is moderately toxic but I think that may be a bit of an exaggeration.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 8:55 AM on March 8, 2016


I can't believe no one has said I'll give you my bay leaves when you pry them from my cold dead hands yet so I'll say it. It has the advantage of being true.
posted by blucevalo at 8:56 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


No A&P stores anywhere now. To the sorrow of granddads everywhere.

I actually got on google to dispute this, which is where I discovered that when my parents say "We went to the A&P", they actually mean "We went to the-store-that-used-to-be-an-A&P-but-hasn't-actually-been-an-A&P-for-about-15-years-and-in-fact-has-had-3-names-since-then".

Bagger at A&P was my first job. I vividly remember the 10 minute video we had to watch about the history of The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, especially the gripping drama of cornflake pricing...
posted by madajb at 8:59 AM on March 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


A good trick is to ask a guest if they want some "bay leaves and hot chocolate" because if you speak quickly enough of course they'll assume you said "Bailey's and hot chocolate" and then when you serve them a mug of nasty inedible tree-shards and chocolate they'll forgive you because you're so clever and why am I so alone
posted by oulipian at 9:03 AM on March 8, 2016 [21 favorites]


No A&P stores anywhere now. To the sorrow of granddads everywhere.

Up here in Canada what was A&P was acquired by Metro, Inc. so the stores are just called "Metro".

The upshot is that they've dumped the granddadcore market for the metrosexual market.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:15 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Metrosexual Granddadcore
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:23 AM on March 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: I want to own this stock pot.

Not a horse, but...
I really, really want to own this pot, but I never will. Both because of the price, and because I already have my grandmothers old enameled cast-iron 20 l pot, which is perfectly good. I used to have both a 20 l and a 15 l, but the "small" one seems to have moved. They are surprisingly useful.
posted by mumimor at 9:26 AM on March 8, 2016


Metrosexual Granddadcore


Which is basically L.L. Bean now that I think about it
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:27 AM on March 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


This is where I get to ask if there is anyone Greek round who can help me out:
just under 20 years ago, I was in Athens. For some reason I was alone one day for lunch and went to a nice restaurant with a terrace and no English menu, so I just asked the waiter to bring me something he liked. It was a stew of veal and okra with a quite heftig bay leaf seasoning and it was so delicious that I have never forgotten, and I have searched the web forever but never found the right recipe. Any ideas?
posted by mumimor at 9:35 AM on March 8, 2016


The first time my barber splashed bay rum on me it was suddenly 1977 in Detroit again and I was with my Dad at the bar while he and his coworkers, politicians and newsmen, smoked their Newports after lunch and debated ordering another scotch before going back to work.

I ordered my bottle of bay rum aftershave that night.
posted by kanewai at 9:37 AM on March 8, 2016


TRUE FACT: California Bay Laurel leaves make a great addition to rice pudding. (Bay Laurels have a spicier flavor than European bay leaves.)
posted by kenko at 9:38 AM on March 8, 2016


I can't bay leaf you guys are still talking about this
posted by freecellwizard at 9:39 AM on March 8, 2016 [14 favorites]


Bay leaf in tomato sauce for pasta is a correct thing to do.

That is all.
posted by the sobsister at 9:48 AM on March 8, 2016


This is not a serious article. Or, if it is, the author is an idiot.
posted by aught at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2016


MetaFilter: A concrete room that you thought...

I think you are really describing MetaTalk, but OK.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: taste of cardboard and misery...
posted by Windopaene at 9:59 AM on March 8, 2016


I trust that those of you so fortunate as to have a bay tree recognize the business opportunity here. Not that you'll make a fortune, but there's obviously a demand/need for fresh leaves, at least among MeFites.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:11 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh sure let's set up a grey market bay leaf sales operation.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 10:17 AM on March 8, 2016


Let me heartily recommend Penzey's bay leaves ($3.89 for a 1 ounce bag) for anyone who doesn't have a live bay tree or other access to fresh bay. They're easily the best dried bay leaves I've ever tried.
posted by briank at 10:28 AM on March 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


I remember with absolute clarity the day I started a curry recipe by dropping a fresh-from-garden bay leaf into a pan of hot oil. Boom. So that's what those fuckers are for!

Also, this seems to be one of those posts where the ironic intent in TFA is gentle enough that about half of us miss it?
posted by ominous_paws at 10:33 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Segundus, my culinary bay tree is formally Laurus nobilis. I think common-name laurels are usually named after it. What's the other laurel and who thought it made garlands?

If they get scale, drench the tree in horticultural oil.

miss patrish, I occasionally put at least half a dozen fresh bay leaves in a dish. The result is a little euphoriant and probably a vermifuge.
posted by clew at 10:51 AM on March 8, 2016


As far as I'm concerned, bay leaves serve no function other than showing up as an inedible surprise in a mouthful of otherwise delicious jambalaya, which I then have to discreetly smuggle out of my mouth and sort to an inconspicuous spot on my plate.

and

Years ago, I proved to myself that bay leaves make a difference.... My family has a simple lentil recipe: lentils, onions, salt & pepper and a bay leaf, simmered together and served over spatzel. But there were a few times back in my much-younger (i.e. poorer) days, when I couldn't afford even a single bay leaf, and so I'd make my lentils without it. Oh heck yes you could taste the difference.

Sounds like we've got us an impasse. To arbitrate this fairly, the best way to proceed would be to assign discrete probabilities to each possibility. We'll call proposition A, the postulation that bay leaves impart noticable flavor in dishes, and proposition B, the postulation that bay leaves do not impart a discernible flavor into dishes.

So,
            P (B | A) P (A)
P (A | B) = --------------- = 1
                 P (B)
I hereby dub this, bay-leaves-ian probability.
posted by Mayor West at 11:05 AM on March 8, 2016 [22 favorites]


I would happily supply fresh leaves via MeMarket but, alas, the Laurus nobilis I planted out front a year ago is only 2 feet tall as of yet and needs to grow a little before I start ripping its leaves off.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:20 AM on March 8, 2016


Metrosexual Granddadcore

I was not prepared to take this hard a look at myself today, Jesus.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:34 AM on March 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


Eeesh, that just made me kinda angry. I mean, pretending to be a tedious block head still means acting like a tedious block head.

Good thread though, well done team. I like warming milk for mashed potatoes with a bay leaf in.
posted by lucidium at 11:36 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you live in California, you can grow your own, which makes sense. I don't use them or love them enough to keep fresh bay leaves on hand. Kale, on the other hand, is the universal soup ingredient. It add lots of delicious flavor and greenery and texture.
posted by theora55 at 11:38 AM on March 8, 2016


I always leave the bay leaves in when serving curry or whatever else I threw them into. Whenever someone pulls one out of their mouth at dinner I congratulate them on finding the lucky bay leaf.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 11:42 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I get a packet of fresh bay leaves and keep them in the freezer - frozen fresh herbs are the way to go (except with basil, IME)

I don't mean to derail the BAY LEAF thread, but there is a trick for storing basil in the freezer. The trick is wax paper: In the month of June place freshly picked basil leaves in a single layer onto a sheet of wax paper. Place another sheet of wax paper on top. Repeat. When done with your basil and wax paper sandwich wrap the whole thing in foil and throw into freezer.

In February, remove package from freezer and have a pesto party.
posted by jeremias at 12:00 PM on March 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


I always leave the bay leaves in when serving curry or whatever else I threw them into. Whenever someone pulls one out of their mouth at dinner I congratulate them on finding the lucky bay leaf.

It's traditional in cajun cuisine to leave the bay leaves in the gumbo or jambalaya. Whoever gets a bay leaf in their bowl gets good luck. P.S., if you choke on the bay leaf, try and eat more slowly. It's not hard to tell when you've got a bay leaf in your mouth.
posted by dis_integration at 12:10 PM on March 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's traditional in cajun cuisine to leave the bay leaves in the gumbo or jambalaya. Whoever gets a bay leaf in their bowl gets good luck.

Isn't this the same peoples who bake a plastic miniature baby in a cake for good luck? One man's good luck charm is another man's choking hazard, apparently.
posted by lock sock and barrel at 12:26 PM on March 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Whoever gets a bay leaf in their bowl gets good luck.

Whoever gets a bay leaf in their throat gets bayd luck. And thus does the Wheel of Fortune spin ever eternal.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:39 PM on March 8, 2016


What does a bay leaf taste like? Nothing. What does a bay leaf smell like? Nothing.
What? How... do..

Kelly Conaboy is a writer who lives in Brooklyn.
Ah ok, that's almost an excuse. Wonder what would happen if she ever made it to California and tried one of our mythical limes too.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:08 PM on March 8, 2016


Do not try to make your own bay rum with bay leaves, because it's the wrong plant!

This reminds me of the majority of my blighted lifespan, when evil white people foisted off a stale supermarket cassia atrocity on all of America as "cinnamon" [see also: margarine, 2% milk, and Log Cabin® syrup] in our diseased national cuisine, before I was made aware that cassia is cinnamon as much as carob is chocolate [i.e. not at all]. Thanks to immigration, the real thing is now readily available and our long national nightmare is nearly over.
posted by sonascope at 1:15 PM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Good thread though, well done team.

Let's not rest on our laurels, though.

*ducks*
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:32 PM on March 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


If you have a technique for properly caramelizing onions in 10 minutes, I am unsarcastically all ears. I have never seen a shortcut that works.

Cast iron, more butter than you think reasonable, medium-high heat, pinch of baking soda.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:48 PM on March 8, 2016


Also we go through probably a kilo-ish of bay leaves every 4-6 weeks at the restaurant. Chef looooooooooooooves (fresh!!!) bay in everything. Bay, thyme, shallot = the basis of virtually every savoury dish we make.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:58 PM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Quick caramelized onions, well,

Cut the onion pieces to size desired. Toss the onions in enough olive oil the make each and every one shiny. Turn on your cast iron pan, med/high heat and put in enough butter to make them as you like them. Get the butter melting.
Put the onions in the microwave on high for a minute and a half. Pour them into the rapidly browning butter. Tend them for ten minutes, while they brown up. If they don't get sweet enough in this time, make a hole in the center of the onions sautee, and add 1tsp brown sugar. Let it mix with the oils and burned butter, stir the stuff and call it good. Pragmagic.
posted by Oyéah at 2:12 PM on March 8, 2016


"THIS IS WRONG! They're two different bay leaves. This is West Indian Bay Tree, which makes Bay Rum. This is Bay Laurel, which makes the bay leaves you cook with and the laurel wreaths with which you crown Apollo and Olympic champions."

As discussed in the link in the first comment, the fresh bay leaves you get in the US are usually from California and from the Umbellularia californica tree. Traditional bay leaves, used in Mediterranean cooking, are from Laurus nobilis. These are related, but the California leaf is noticeably stronger in flavor, arguably a bit more medicinal-flavored.

What's colloquially called the "West Indian Bay Tree" is Pimenta racemosa, is used in Carribean cuisine, and is notabally crucial in jerk chicken -- the chicken is cooked on a bed of both these leaves and the wood from the tree. Not only that, but as you say, this is the leaf that is used for bay rum.

Summary:

Laurus nobilis (family Lauraceae), from the Mediterranean, traditional herb for cooking
Umbellularia californica (family Lauraceae), from California and sold in NA as fresh bay leaf, used in cooking and is more pungent
Pimenta racemosa (family Myrtaceae), Carribean, used in cooking and cologne

"I have some trouble carmelizing onions in under ten minutes. I can brown them slightly, sure, but that's not the same thing."

I think you can somewhat hasten the caramelization of onions -- by increasing the maillard reaction -- by adding a bit of baking soda and using slightly higher heat.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:14 PM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I presume this is a Hungarian Jewish dish, but I don't know its name. It is insanely good. Do not do anything to improve it, like add onions or parsley or sweat the potatoes in the fat; it is what it is.

Slow-cooked potato and bay-leaf soup
Take about a kilogram/two pounds of soft, starchy potatoes (you want ones that break down when you boil them). Peel them and slice them roughly. About 1cm or 1/3 inch-thick slices should be good.
Put the potatoes in a casserole dish and cover them with water then add the same amount of water again.
Add a lot of butter or margarine (I'm guessing the original recipe used goose fat; olive oil doesn't work) - about half a cup or more.
Season with six bay-leaves and a large pinch of pepper, salt to taste. The bay leaves are crucial, the pepper nearly so.

Bring it to a boil then cook for six hours or overnight in a low oven. The potatoes should be broken down, or nearly so. Stir the soup roughly to break down any larger chunks and thicken the soup - it needs some texture in my opinion, but it shouldn't be watery.

Plate and serve, ideally with crusty bread.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:16 PM on March 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


Y'all have convinced me. I've never tasted them, neither the ancient cardboard stuff in my parents' house, nor the stuff I bought as an adult, nor when I've bit into a bay leaf in a restaurant. I eventually stopped using them in my recipes and never noticed any change in flavor. But a million MeFites can't be wrong. I guess I'll add "fresh bay leaf" to my list of exotic ingredients that I hope to have an opportunity to try before I die.
posted by Bugbread at 3:02 PM on March 8, 2016


I just want to tell you all: I can get fresh bay leaves at the underserved, poorly-run Cub in the low income part of Minneapolis where I live. They are in a little packet near the three overpriced tubs of tofu. I strongly suspect that anyone with access to a better grocery store anywhere in this great nation will find them readily available. Buy them and freeze them, extract a leaf or two for cooking.
posted by Frowner at 3:08 PM on March 8, 2016


Those of us in other great nations will just have to imagine.
posted by Bugbread at 4:00 PM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


A classic Metafilter experience: the quirky article, the comments with dissenting opinions (clever, passionate, droll, informative, irrelevant), the delightful digressions. Made my day.

Kelly Conaboy has found a clever (or clickbaity - is there a difference?) hook on which to hang an article imparting a lot of information from professionals about the usefulness of bay leaves.
And yes, Devils Advocate has it right.
Oh, and kale is indeed bullshit.
posted by Jackson at 4:25 PM on March 8, 2016


Those of us in other great nations will just have to imagine.

Sorry! I got so wrought up at the thought that people might not realized that there were fresh herbs even in crummy grocery stores that I didn't think about other possibilities.

("This great nation" was ironic, for the record; bay leaves don't make up for the other stuff.)
posted by Frowner at 4:33 PM on March 8, 2016


increasing the maillard reaction -

But the Maillard reaction isn't the same as caramelization - hence, it must produce a different flavor. Whether that's important or detectable, I don't know, not having compared both methods. There is a tiny amount of protein in butter, so you must get some Maillard reaction even in traditional caramelization, but it would have to be much less compared to the sugar breakdown.
posted by Miko at 4:33 PM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


The only bullshit involving bay leaves is how much the supermarkets soak you for a thick, glass phial with a quarter-ounce of perfect and uniformly shaped and size leaves. $5, and usually north of that. I live in a part of the USA with a large population of Portuguese diaspora, from Portugal a hundred years ago, from the Azores a half-century back, from Cape Verde a quarter-century ago, from Brazil and Mozambique today.

This means Portuguese food brands, like Gonsalves. A half ounce of a couple dozen (mostly) intact bay leaves of GOOD ENOUGH size in a little plastic ziplock baggie is 99¢. On sale, less than two bits. I like to think it enhances the flavor, as money in my pocket is indeed appetizing.

If you do the quick-soak method of rehydrating beans, and boil 'em with and without bay, you will know Bay is not bullshit immediately. Without it tastes... beaney. Neutral bean. The whole house smells of neutral bean. Not bad, but in dire need of meats and sauces and spices to make into a dish.

With bay, and it smells like your friend's Nana's house when you were over watching The Creature Double Feature on UHF because your parents wouldn't let you watch TV after 12 on Saturdays, and his Nana would, and Godzilla! Your kitchen smells like boring grownup food a little old lady has been fussing over all afternoon.

Now that you are a grownup, you salivate a bit when that scent hits your nostrils. Once cooked, the beans taste like BEANS! Glorious and subtle and multifaceted, you can understand the difference between black and pinto and navy with the merest nibble.

Bay flavor on its own is unremarkable and maybe gross. Bay lending its might to savory aromas and flavors is a mighty, mighty force-multiplier.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:04 PM on March 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Also, if you are doing Chicken Paprikash, remember the stainless tea-ball trick, because once you add the sour cream, those things stop floating. They crash-dive like an El Gato Class submarine spotting a Ka-1 autogyro. Or pick them out before adding the sour cream, but tea-balls are cheap and easy to use.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:39 PM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Huh. Wikipedia, via a cite that seems unavailable at the moment, claims that "the fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavor until several weeks after picking and drying."

That doesn't really match up with my experience, but now I remember the fresh leaves I've used have usually been towards the falling off stage of their life, or have actually fallen off.
posted by lucidium at 5:41 PM on March 8, 2016


What's next? "Is Garlic Bullshit?"

Is asafoetida bullshit?
posted by ctmf at 6:43 PM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


We have a bay leaf tree; I do think there's a beneficial change in taste between the leaves when they're very fresh and when they have aged a bit. Lots of aromatic plant foods benefit from aging or raw fermentation: vanilla, coffee, tea, and cocoa all come too mind.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:58 PM on March 8, 2016


Bay leaves are great if you like to pretend you are eating your food outdoors at the height of autumn and leaves are falling into your food and you have to keep picking them out.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:03 PM on March 8, 2016


For those of you living in the SF Bay area: don't confuse the culinary Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) with the locally abundant California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica). In my experienced the latter is quite fragrant when the leaves are fresh (a kind of cinnamon-cola-wintergreen aroma) but become pretty dull after being dried.

Those of us living in the Bay Area don't need to dry them. :-)

I've forgotten, if I ever knew, what the "culinary" bay leaf tastes like. But the California bay leaf is also great for cooking (especially in rice) and is easily foraged year-round.
posted by aws17576 at 7:15 PM on March 8, 2016


Let's not rest on our laurels, though.

Don't worry, the Laurels are Hardy!
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 7:49 PM on March 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


"But the Maillard reaction isn't the same as caramelization - hence, it must produce a different flavor. Whether that's important or detectable, I don't know, not having compared both methods. There is a tiny amount of protein in butter, so you must get some Maillard reaction even in traditional caramelization, but it would have to be much less compared to the sugar breakdown."

Yeah, I should have mentioned that, in my link, he slightly speeded up the caramelization by using some more sugar and partly caramelizing it alone before adding the onions. And later he also adds a bit of water occasionally to allow higher heat but preventing excessive browning. It sounds like he cuts the time significantly, though perhaps not less than ten minutes, while producing the same results. You should read it, he describes everything in detail.

Also, the Maillard reaction doesn't just involve proteins and it is a significant component of caramelizing onions. Caramelizing onions is both breaking down the sugars and the Maillard reaction (which involves those sugars, so the two interact).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:05 PM on March 8, 2016


I always leave the bay leaves in when serving curry or whatever else I threw them into. Whenever someone pulls one out of their mouth at dinner I congratulate them on finding the lucky bay leaf.

My family always did this, but I suspect the real reason was laziness rather than a desire to impart good luck.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:19 PM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


You should read it, he describes everything in detail.

I did read it. I still quibble. He's not "speeding up" caramelization by adding sugar; he's using the added sugar to substitute for sugars in the onions he's not going to take the time to break down.
posted by Miko at 8:27 PM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Whenever someone pulls one out of their mouth at dinner I congratulate them on finding the lucky bay leaf.

Lucky in that nobody choked on it.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:33 PM on March 8, 2016


Which is another reason to use fresh--they're very difficult to choke on, because they don't shatter.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:35 PM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Again, when using them dried, count 'em in, count 'em out.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:37 PM on March 8, 2016


I used to remove the bay leaf before serving, because the recipes always said to. But after overlooking it a couple of times, and encountering a bay leaf in my curry, I just chewed and swallowed the bay leaf like an adult. And now I always leave it in. Vegetable = good, right? What's wrong with eating it?

And how are all you people not noticing a bay leaf in your dish, that you're suddenly choking on it? Is it that hard to spot?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 1:52 AM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Whats up with this being a discussion about granddadcore and choking rather than fixing my Greek recipe problem?
re: granddadcore: isn't that cool? Good for you
re: choking: you guys who are choking on very large food items need to relax and be more present when eating.

In all: I still need a Greek person with a recipe.

This comment is both ironic and serious. I'm sorry
posted by mumimor at 12:16 PM on March 9, 2016


Vegetable = good, right? What's wrong with eating it?

Vegetable = good, but bay leaf =/= vegetable.

A whole bay leaf can cause indigestion in some people.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:18 PM on March 9, 2016


"Cast iron, more butter than you think reasonable, medium-high heat, pinch of baking soda."

o_0

Cast iron seems an odd choice, since part of the caramelization sticks to the pan unless you deglaze it. And with a lot of butter, you can't cook at as high a heat without just ending up with browned/burnt butter.

I prefer to do them in the slow cooker, but when I have had to make them fresh and quickly I usually go with the stainless steel skillet, a fair amount of canola oil, and pretty high heat with semi-crazed stirring. I tend not to use the baking soda because I don't like what it does to the texture, but the deglazing with a little water does help balance out the higher heat. Still, it's never a 10 minute thing — usually 20 minutes at best.
posted by klangklangston at 1:52 PM on March 9, 2016


"bay leaf =/= vegetable"

I knew it. Bay leaves are PEOPLE. Why, that explains the package of Baylent Green I saw in the supermarket the other day.
posted by komara at 2:16 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


And how are all you people not noticing a bay leaf in your dish, that you're suddenly choking on it? Is it that hard to spot?

I cook for a blind guy, so in certain cases, yes.

Also, if people are hungry and just digging in, it could happen. I guess it could be like the bit of grit that spoils the dish.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:57 PM on March 9, 2016


CHEW YOUR FOOD PEOPLE
posted by Miko at 7:18 PM on March 9, 2016


Cast iron retains and moderates the heat better. Heavy stainless also works.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:52 PM on March 9, 2016


CHEW YOUR FOOD PEOPLE

Even after long cooking, though, bay leaves aren't exactly....chewable.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:06 PM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


That should be the cue to remove them from the mouth to avoid choking.
posted by Miko at 8:19 PM on March 9, 2016


Haven't yet read TFA but you can have my bay leaves when you pry them from my cold dead hands
posted by salix at 10:06 PM on March 9, 2016


you can have my bay leaves when you pry them from my cold dead hands throat

FTFY.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:47 PM on March 9, 2016


It isn't that hard to remove bay leaves from the finished dish, people. I cannot believe "get a sharp, slicey mouthful of bay leaf" is the default position in this thread among bay-leaf users. If you dine at my house, you will not end up with horrible bay-leaf choking, I promise.
posted by Frowner at 6:55 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well if nothing else we have given the author fodder for the next piece, "Is 10-minute caramelizing bullshit?"
posted by Miko at 8:58 AM on March 10, 2016


It isn't that hard to remove bay leaves from the finished dish, people. I cannot believe "get a sharp, slicey mouthful of bay leaf" is the default position in this thread among bay-leaf users. If you dine at my house, you will not end up with horrible bay-leaf choking, I promise.

But my dad said it was good luck! Are you robbing your guests of their chance at the wheel?
posted by Area Man at 9:04 AM on March 10, 2016


Haven't yet read TFA but you can have my bay leaves when you pry them from my cold dead hands
posted by salix


eponybotanical
posted by sneebler at 7:52 AM on March 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


"CHEW YOUR FOOD PEOPLE"

You referring to a bay leaf as "FOOD PEOPLE" isn't doing anything to discredit my Baylent Green idea.
posted by komara at 8:55 AM on March 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


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