Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Recipe: "Beef Stew" from "The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution" by Alice Waters
Rating: Great! The beef came out just right--very tender but still intact after cooking for 2 hours 45 minutes. I really liked the rich tomato wine sauce. Definitely, the vegetables should be kept in large pieces, so that they stay intact.
Status: Made once.
Additional Notes: I used about 3/4 cup tomato puree in this instead of fresh or canned tomatoes. We made mulled wine with the left over cheap red wine that we used for cooking. The recipe asks you to saute the bacon and then set the bacon aside and sear the beef in the bacon fat. However, the recipe forgot (or perhaps this is intentional) to mention what to do with the bacon. We decided to add it back into the pot with the seared beef and cook it in the stew; I like this, so I would do it this way again. I refrigerated the stew overnight, and then spooned off the fat that congealed at the top before serving it.
My main goal for this photo shoot was to use a new lens, use a tripod for the first time, and try out some new techniques we learned. Normally, I handhold my camera and shoot 30 nearly identical photos with only one or two variations in angle; since I want to learn from my class, I decided to try changing my normal behavior and use some suggestions from class. Last week, we learned that tripods are commonly used in food photography since it makes it easier to adjust a shot until it is perfect. The lens is from my dad's 90s film camera, and it allows me to choose an F-stop between 2 and 22; I have an adapter for my digital mirror-less camera but I have to manually focus and adjust the F stops. I thought that manually focusing would be a huge bother, but for a still life like this, I didn't mind as long as I used the tripod, which was absolutely necessary to keep the focus. The manual focus actually made it easier for me to figure out which part of the scene to focus on. I thought the tripod would be inconvenient, but I was surprised that it actually made adjusting the scene easier.
In class, we talked about the effects of sunlight, which I noticed while I was photographing. The windows in my apartment face west. Early in the day the pictures were too dark and the details weren't clear because there wasn't enough light. Later in the day the sun's rays eventually started to fall on the table I was using, and the sides of the dish cast extremely dark shadows, and the direct sunlight made the food look stark and harsh. In order to diffuse the light, I tied a white sheet to something on the wall (so I didn't need an assistant) and held up the other side (on the floor you can see the sunlight, and a bit of the sheet on the left in the picture below).
Instead of centering the dish on the plate, I offset the dish on the plate since that's what looked best from my camera's angle (we learned about this in class). I found some other red objects (the small lidded dishes) but choose not to use them, since they were distracting in the picture.
My one big blooper is that I got the reflection of my head in the spoon and didn't notice until after I finished taking pictures; there is also perhaps too much reflection in the stew. I like to eat my stew with a knife, fork, and spoon so I included all of them in this photo, but what I should have though about is how everyone else eats stew, which is probably with just a spoon! And just above the plate is a small circle that looks like a sunspot--I think it is actually dust on my lens. Oops. I think that my photo would be better if there was more things in it that caused your eye to move around.