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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Synthesis

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Posted by Derek

Well, I know that it's an odd time for me to be posting here, but I'm up working on some Thanksgiving food for tomorrow. The chocolate pecan pie recipe that I've posted here is back, by popular demand of my family (and me), and one of them is going to be coming out of the oven in about ten minutes. I've made a pumpkin pie as well; America is all about having a multitude of options.

Tomorrow we'll be roasting a large turkey (we buy a kosher one, which takes care of the brining step that really improves the bird). And there will be stuffing - my Iranian mother-in-law's recipe, which features seasoned bread cubes, onion, celery, cranberries, and pepperoni (trust me, it works). Alongside this will be homemade mashed potatoes (with turkey gravy), sweet potatoes, green beans cooked with some Tennessee country ham, creamed onions with thyme, pan-roasted Brussell sprouts, and a huge Iranian basmati rice pullao with saffron, orange zest, pistachios, and tart red zereshk berries.

That should pretty much hold everyone. If not, well, there's not much more I can do. Never trust an organic chemist who can't cook.

Comments (24) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blog Housekeeping


1. souls_at_zero on November 21, 2012 11:34 PM writes...

With all that delicious food, it verges on cruelty to present everyone with the bitter sight of Brussell sprouts. Never quite understood what people enjoy about chewing down those nasty balls of vegetation. Perhaps it is to make you feel less guilty about the fact that your plate consists mostly of carbs, more carbs and poultry.

I have definitely found that the need to multitask in the lab has lended to a greater proficiency in the kitchen, and the ability to put together a multi-component meal. Just have to remind myself that tasting your progress is okay at home, but not in the lab...

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2. Kaleberg on November 21, 2012 11:53 PM writes...

Don't bad mouth brussels sprouts. I'm living in one of the great brussels sprouts producing areas of the country, and brussels sprouts are a real treat around here. You are probably getting one of the blander varietals, probably overaged before picking so it tastes like wood fiber. Get some fresh little brussels sprouts on the stalk, and you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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3. Chemjobber on November 22, 2012 12:31 AM writes...

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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4. souls_at_zero on November 22, 2012 12:31 AM writes...

For a Brussels sprout to be 'a real treat' in an area likely inundated by them, I really must be missing out on something. I've always found them to be slightly too tough, with an earthy yet bitter taste. You're likely right, but screening batch after batch till I discover their true deliciousness might be a project for a later date!

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5. as2o3 on November 22, 2012 1:02 AM writes...

Being a brussels sprout lover I've often wondered if the perceived taste of them depends on something genetic?

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6. Credible on November 22, 2012 1:53 AM writes...

I think it's more nurture than nature. Those who don't like them haven't had them prepared well

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7. Alison on November 22, 2012 2:14 AM writes...

Brussels sprouts have to be very fresh, grown well (preferably with a touch of frost), and cooked al dente to be good. I've had them steamed whole, but halved and cooked in a pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper is good. Or sauteed with bacon. They should be bright green, and taste vaguely like cabbage, with a sweet (not bitter) flavor. If they aren't at least a little sweet, they aren't done right.

Good sprouts are getting less rare these days, but I fear they will have a bad reputation for years to come... much like the one garnered by asparagus back in the "canned" era. *shudder*

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8. Chemist turned Hedgie on November 22, 2012 2:51 AM writes...

I'm no brussels sprout apologist, but they can be greatly improved by the application of a little vinegar when served....

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you on the far side of the pond!

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9. processchemist on November 22, 2012 5:56 AM writes...

Speak no evil of brussels sprouts: with a fast passage in boiling water and then cooked with oil , garlic, white wine with a final parmigiano cheese touch, are one of the best myrosinates sources...

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10. Mikemist on November 22, 2012 6:40 AM writes...

Chemists love efficiency. Running short of time this morning?
We did Mark Bittman's 45-minute turkey last year, and it came out great!

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11. rx90087 on November 22, 2012 9:56 AM writes...

My turkey is in the oven and smells great. Marinated like my Mom used to sauce based, garlic, ginger, whiskey, sesame oil, and a bit of chicken broth. Pepperoni sounds interesting..about how much?

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12. Stephen on November 22, 2012 10:27 AM writes...

I've always looked forward to your recipes.
We should put out another chemists in the kitchen book.

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13. johnnyboy on November 22, 2012 10:29 AM writes...

I love brussel sprouts, but I agree that they are a bit of an acquired taste. Even fresh ones have a hint of bitterness, and bitter is a taste that many people (and pretty much all children) reject instinctively, probably because in nature bitter is often a feature of poisonous substances. But you can learn to appreciate the bitter, as any Campari lover will tell you...

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14. Stephen on November 22, 2012 10:36 AM writes...

I've always looked forward to your recipes.
We should put out another chemists in the kitchen book.

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15. Anonymous on November 22, 2012 10:54 AM writes...

Roasting brussel sprouts in olive oil and some balsamic vinegar works rather nicely. Cook them nice and long, and the bitterness isn't there.

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16. Dr. Demented on November 22, 2012 11:34 AM writes...

I've always found smaller Brussels sprouts to taste better than the big ones. Also, fresh off the stalk Brussels sprouts are a real treat.

A cookbook series that will appeal to most chemists are the America's Test Kitchen cookbooks. The recipes pretty much work without fail, although many are not simple or quick. The recipes are also written in an Org Syn style that will be quite familiar to many.

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17. ScientistSailor on November 22, 2012 2:59 PM writes...

Happy Thanks Giving Everyone!

I'll second the America's Test Kitchen suggestion, those are our kind of people. I subscribe to the on-line edition of Cooks Illustrated (same people).

As for brussel sprouts: cut in half or quarter depending on size, toss with apple cider and bacon fat roast at 450F until carmelized, which will help with the bitterness. You can also toss with carmelized onions and soy sauce.

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18. Hap on November 22, 2012 5:51 PM writes...

What is it about brining a turkey that helps it? I feel like I should know, but I don't.

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19. Alison on November 22, 2012 6:54 PM writes...

Well, I did a little research on bitterness in Brussels sprouts...

Short answer: it's from glucosinolates, including the precursor to sulforaphane, which has the ability to turn on tumor-suppressor genes. So the bitterness is good for you. They should have enough native sweetness to make them no nastier than dark chocolate, though. :)

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20. TheRealMashman on November 23, 2012 4:22 AM writes...

Never mind all the brussel abuse - I can't believe that no one else is astonished by the need to state "homemade mashed potatoes" !!! As if there were any other kind.

Does America buy everything out of a packet?

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21. Paul on November 23, 2012 3:08 PM writes...

What is it about brining a turkey that helps it?

That's the first step in the synthesis of the italian dish for leftovers, Turkey Tetrachloride.

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22. souls_at_zero on November 23, 2012 9:42 PM writes...

Just wanted to say thanks for the arsenal of tips regarding Brussels sprouts. I have learned to appreciate a host of foods that were left on my plate as a child, and I'd feel really good to take the sprouts off my black list.

As for brining the turkey, perhaps it comes down to the fact that salt makes everything taste better.

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23. Scientistbymistake on November 26, 2012 3:29 AM writes...

Interesting comments about Brussels sprouts, I might have to try something at home, as I have always been served them boiled-beyond-submission, which renders them into a concentrated version of the worst bit of cabbage.
They always made excellent projectiles when Chemistry society christmas dinners got rowdy though...

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24. exGlaxoid on November 26, 2012 11:39 AM writes...

#5 - Yes, there is a strong genetic effect of some people finding cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts bitter and some not finding them bitter at all due to a natural compound which related to PTC (plus some people who fall in-between, likely with only one copy of the gene). Having both PTC tasting genes makes people (like myself) very sensitive and we find most of those foods very bitter, no matter how they are cooked. See the links below for more info.

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