This February brings both love and one big birthday. Based on your questions, you’re currently curious about Valentine’s Day dishes that aren’t too heavy, making demi-glace, and why one cut of meat can be called a bunch of different names. Josh Applestone, who turns 50 this month, has all the answers. 

Do you have a question for Josh? Let us know.

Q: It has been a long time since I was dating on Valentine’s Day. This year I am. I want to cook at home instead of going out. And I don’t want to cook anything too filling that will make me tired. Got any ideas? 

Here’s a thought: How about eat less meat and a lot more vegetables. Or don’t eat meat. Seriously. If you want to cook meat, eat lighter muscles like chicken. What’s making you tired is the heavy stuff that takes a while to digest. Chicken still has fat, so it will really depend on what’s ailing you. 

Q:  I saw demi-glace was called for in a recent Just A Dash recipe for Shepherd’s Pie you posted. What is it and how do I make it? 

Demi-glace is a stock reduction. Demi means half. It’s a traditional French thing – a process involving two sauces. A well done demi-glace is nice. It’s also not easy. I leave that to people more smart and talented than I am. And that’s totally fine. There are amazing chefs that do really cool stuff and amazing books to tell you how to make it. If you like to make stuff like demi-glace, great. Follow a recipe.

Demi-Glace vs. Three Day Reduction

I am smart enough to make something close enough: a three day reduction. Basically I make a ginormous pot of bones and water. First, I roast the bones for an hour in the oven at 300 degrees to give the reduction color. Then I put them in water for 24 hours to cook. I take the bones out and put it on the lowest possible setting to keep the broth around 180 degrees. And you cook that down for a couple of days on a back burner. Leave it low, don’t let it burn. That solution is concentrated stock. It’s the equivalent of a bouillon cube.

I use chicken bones. I love that concentrated jelly when you let it cool. Then I pour it into ice cube trays to make frozen bouillon cubes. It’s really amazing. You can add salt to it while it reduces, but I’m looking for something with no salt – just bones and water. When I cook with it, I want the ingredient to be neutral. If I use it with caramelized onions where I have already added salt, I don’t want more salt. I like not to think too much when I am cooking. I don’t want to pull out a cube of concentrated salt. But there is no cooking police! You can eat it burned if you want – enjoy.

Q: I hear you’re turning 50 this month. What do you do — and eat — to celebrate a milestone? 

I don’t know. Honestly I hate people paying attention to me. My birthdays now are about my son having fun. As long as my kid’s happy, I’ll eat anything. I’ve done what I want for 49 years. So now I’m eating more vegetables: ⅔ veg, ⅓ protein. Try it out. I have eaten some of the most amazing things in my life. Once I had pork skin gnocchi — the skin was cut into thin noodles with a light tomato sauce and tossed all together. It was made by one of my dearest friends, Fred Morin from Joe Beef. My favorite thing to eat is really about the people I am with.

A tomato in the right situation can be the greatest thing you’ve ever had. So that’s what I want for my birthday: the perfect whatever. I don’t want to do anything to it. Something done well holds up on its own. The older I get, the more I appreciate the unbelievably perfect simple things in life. 

Q: How come some steaks are called different names in different stores? 

It’s just different language.  There is a guide from NAMP (National Association of Meat Purveyors) — it’s a standardized book on cuts and what the government suggests meat cuts should be called. Not everyone follows it or agrees with it. I don’t. This is not a unified world and there are a lot of industries that don’t use unifying language. People have different opinions and people call cuts different things. Like London broil is a thickness, not necessarily a location on the animal. We cut our top round a London broil thickness; that’s what I grew up with. I like finding new language.