Why crumbed lamb cutlets taste different to grilled cutlets

Danielle Alvarez's crumbed lamb cutlets with minted yoghurt recipe.
Danielle Alvarez's crumbed lamb cutlets with minted yoghurt recipe. Photo: William Meppem


​​Why do crumbed cutlets taste entirely different from cutlets that aren't crumbed? C. Perrott

My grandmother made crumbed cutlets. She was a sworn Methodist who only drank Chamber's Muscat for medicinal reasons, knitted her own wardrobe, and had a repertoire of 12 dishes memorised from the S.E.C. Recipes for Electric Cooking Handbook. She fried the cutlets in dripping then kept them warm in the oven. The golden shell of crisp crumbs hid a grey, hard disc of dry muscle, the cutlets having been relieved of any remaining tenderness during that half-hour in the oven. The reason the flesh is grey, rather than the pleasing brown of a barbecued or grilled cutlet, is because the crumbs form an insulating blanket. If you were to put a nude cutlet into hot fat, it would fry and brown, because the temperature on its surface reaches above 140C, triggering the Maillard reaction, which prompts the sugars and proteins in the cutlet to make new and delicious compounds. But protected from the heat by its outer coating, a crumbed cutlet doesn't get much above 100C, so it is effectively steamed. Now, I am not dissing a crumbed cutlet. It is one of the dishes I seek on pub menus when I do a country road trip. Slathered with gravy and served with minted peas, it brings back memories of grandmother's meals. But a grilled cutlet, grilled over the dying embers of a redgum fire, is the finest imaginable three-bite meal on a stick. 

How do I remove honey from a measuring spoon? P. Garfield

I  always found it frustrating that to measure out a tablespoon of honey, you first needed a teaspoon to scrape it off, then a clean index finger to remove the honey from the teaspoon. When measuring viscous, sticky liquids such as golden syrup or honey, getting the material off the spoon can be difficult. The stickiness is due to the interactions between the sugar and water molecules in honey, causing it to adhere to any hard surface. You can create a lubricating layer by first dipping the measuring spoon in water or vegetable oil or by spraying it with cooking spray. Alternatively, you can heat the spoon in boiling water before dipping in the honey, allowing the honey to slide right off. 

Why do Americans, when in restaurants, call main course an "entree"? L. Fraser

Separated from the land of Shakespeare for centuries, Americans, like we Australians, speak their own strain of English. The rise of the American middle class in the late 1800s spurred on the restaurant industry. Wealthy urbanites would dine on food prepared in kitchens headed by French or French-trained chefs. A meal would consist of five or six courses, beginning with soup, hors d'oeuvres, fish, entree – the entry dish to the main meat course – and main, followed by dessert. Prohibition, followed by the Great Depression, saw meals simplified to the modern three-course triumvirate, with the word "entree" remaining to describe the main course. So in America, a meal progresses from appetiser, which we would call an entree, to entree, which we would describe as the main course, and then dessert.

Send your vexing culinary conundrums to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @realbrainfood.