shrimp scallops polenta, curried sauce

shrimp and scallops with polenta

My mouth is burning and my lips feel like they're vibrating. Overdid it there with the cayenne, and I did that on purpose because I'm masochistic that way sometimes. Plus Rogan Josh curry, intended for lamb, it's really quite good and it's almost gone. When I run out of curry blends, and I intend to run out soon, I get to go out and replenish them. I can hardly wait.

Polenta:

* 3/4 cup popcorn kernels milled in coffee grinder
* 2 cups chicken broth (homemade)
* hefty pinch of kosher salt
* admirable nob of butter
* heavy-handed grind of pepper

Bring broth to boil, add ground corn slowly to incorporate without lumping. Turn to low, cover and cook for at least 5 minutes depending on how finely you milled the corn. Test it. Pour into bread pan and press flat. (I used a teflon-coated bread pan and wet a large spoon with tap water so it would slide across the surface. Had to keep dampening the spoon.) Allow to cool, it firms up quickly. In one quick motion invert the bread pan and knock out the stiffened polenta. You might want to say a little prayer first, or perhaps curse the polenta gods if you like living dangerously. Cut into squares. I got eight squares.

Sauce

* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 shallow tablespoon flour
* 1 cup chicken broth
* S/P
* powdered garlic
* powdered curry
* cayenne pepper

Made the usual unspectacular way as a butter/flour roux except with additional powdered seasoning elements. You know you're on the right track as soon as the seasoning hits the hot butter. I'm very careless with adding liquid to the roux. I never take it off the heat or concern myself about hot VS cold broth, I just add it and stir continuously to make sure it doesn't lump, and if it does lump then whisk it to submission, which doesn't happen, and if that would fail, and it never does, then the immersion blender is right there to whirrrrrrrrrrr out the lumps, but I never get to use it for that. The flour thickened sauce doesn't fully thicken until it boils then it thickens further as it cools, same as the polenta, you need to take all that into account if you want a thin sauce.

Shrimp and scallops

* pan fry in butter briefly until they turn opaque, about 2 minutes depending on size. That's all. The worst sin is to overcook them.

Blueberries because I had to move them when I was digging through the freezer for the shrimp and scallops and I thought in that moment, "Why not?" Turns out, they were perfect with the curried-fiercely cayenned chicken broth velouté sauce.

I'm developing this idea, recombining its elements in different ways, working on a style, an éclat if you will. That's right, an éclat. I have my failures worth noting.



Rejected photos, éclat fail.

shrimp and scallops with polenta loser photo 1


shrimp and scallops with polenta loser photo 2

It didn't take a panel of judges to tell me my mates
would piss themselves laughing at my expense.

shortbread

shortbread plated

I might have over done it with the hole poking. Biscuits cooled for just a few minutes and cut beautifully. It's like they wanted to be cut. Lifted out of the pan with no problem. No spray, no parchment paper, no nuthin'.

shortbread cooling

Two Christmases ago I was given a gigantic tin of Scottish shortbread, at least that's what the packaging said. They're packaged separately inside the tin according to shape, they're all the same thing, just different shapes. I am now on my last package so I decided to give it a go. This is an experimental half batch. A full batch takes a pound of butter and is spread out on a restaurant type sheet pan. Originally I put this amount of dough in the same kind of pan pictured above except 1/2 again as large. Judging by the mass of dough It seemed the biscuits would be too thin so I switched. I probably should have used it, as these are way thick. The dough is like wet sand. I didn't mess around with creaming the butter and sugar, rather I just dumped all the ingredients into a Cuisinart and let 'er rip.

* ½ cup sugar
* 1 cup corn starch
* 2 cups flour
* pinch of salt
* ½ pound butter
* more sugar to sprinkle top

Low heat. 40 minutes at 325℉ + 30 minutes at 300℉. (varies depending on thickness and your own preference)

Here is where one needs to use real butter, and the best to be found since there are so few ingredients it's imperative to be selective otherwise there'd be little point. I used more than a pinch of salt because all my butter is unsalted (salt in butter covers lack of freshness, unsalted butter must be managed with greater care).
A person could probably get fat by eating all this, but I'm going to go ahead and risk it.

My only alterations were to substitute ¼ cup brown sugar and ¾ cup whole wheat flour. Some recipes I read call for confectioners sugar. That sounds like a good idea too.

Apparently cornstarch is the big secret to great shortbread. Bittman instructs to use cornstarch in How to Cook Everything, but only a small percentage of online recipes call for it. I almost didn't use it because of that, but I'm glad I did. It does seem a weird ingredient, but it's the thing that makes them truly excellent and all the rest not excellent. I can see what the corn starch does to these, thick as they are, they positively dissolve in your mouth, and by "your" of course I mean "mine."

A little bit off topic, but not really. Know what kills me? I'm serious, this totally kills me: I'm reading reviews for cookbooks on Amazon to see if I want to buy one so I go to the 1 star reviews first to see what people complain about. Low reviews are always more interesting and usually more informative than good reviews plus they're more fun, but every now and then you get one that makes it clear the problem lies with the reviewer and not the thing being reviewed. Tonight I must have read some 75 or so reviews for about 10 different books and building up a wish list on Amazon to look at again later. I'm just estimating. A couple of times women said, "I've been baking for 40 years but every recipe I tried in this book turned out terribly. My family wouldn't even finish it so I had to throw it out. At first I thought it was just a fluke so I tried it again and it was still terrible! This book is the worst." Then another one goes, "I've been baking for 40 years and some of the recipes in this book didn't even have baking temperatures. Now, how am I supposed to know how to make something without complete instructions?" Ha ha ha ha ha ha. What a bunch of loons. It kills me that bakers fail to apply their intuition acquired from 40 years of baking to new situations then become embittered and complain publicly about the results as if those recipes were holy writ or chiseled in stone, and not mere suggestion.

You can go crazy with this and I probably will. Cocoa. Coat with chocolate. Pistachios. Oat flour -- muy authentico (grind oatmeal in the coffee mill). Raisins, prunes, craisins, dates, figs, coconut probably, cinnamon, candied ginger or regular ginger, or powder, lemon peal, anise, cardamon, almonds, ground almond. My own whole wheat is exceptional here. I'm eating one with tea right now, just like Queen Elizabeth I, look, my little pinkie is sticking out. Yes, I'm going to make these again too. * clutches tea cup to chest * "As God is mah witness, I shall nevah be shortbreadless agi-yun.

meat stuffed steamed dumplings

steamed dumplings plated

I wanted to revisit this because I'm on a whole 'nuther new kick lately. I've been making those meat-stuffed buns using the surplus ground chuck from a previous post down there ↓ which I froze in the form of hamburger patties, except this time I steamed the buns instead of baking them, and OMG, are they ever good. They match precisely something I had once in a Tokyo restaurant as a boy and haven't seen since then even though I've been looking out for them on restaurant menus. They were not the same as Chinese dumplings which use an unleavened dough. They were bigger, the dough was very different, thicker, as I recall, and they were apparently steamed. I saw these nondescript white balls on a plate in a street-side display window outside a restaurant in Tokyo and ordered them once inside just to see what they were. It's typical in Japan to have plastic models of menu items, or sometimes possibly real representations of dishes displayed in windows to show customers what the restaurant offers, I always assumed for that day if the models weren't plastic, and how the dish is presented, rather like a Denny's picture menu for the illiterati, (←neologism) except even better. Once my plate was brought to me and I could see up close, and with some apprehension that I blew my order on the wrong thing, I was delighted to discover they were thick moist dumplings that were sweet and delicious and to my childish surprise, they were filled with stuffing! Woot! Those soft white stuffed steamed balls have been at the back of my mind ever since. So after my brother called and asked about how to make a baked version of these, I just went for it, but of course I had no idea exactly how they were made. This turns out to be a great way to make bread with a larger percentage of whole wheat without bogging it down with heavy husky coarse flour. They were excellent with this balsamic over them. I made six and I kept re-heating them all the way until they were gone, over a period of a few days, by steaming them over and over and over again. They held up to all that abuse beautifully, and I still want more. They were the perfect snack and the perfect meal. I have done this now three times.

And I'm so filled with joy and glee with working this out that I could just wee myself.

For 6

The dough:

* 3/4 cup water warm water
* 1 teaspoon dry yeast
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 1½ cups flour
* ½ teaspoon kosher salt or ¼ teaspoon table salt
* 1 tablespoon honey

Stuffing:

* Could be anything, if you think about it. Seafood even. Think, crab cakes or shrimp. Chicken with miso. Hummus. Mine resemble meatloaf with extra vegetable, peas and carrots. I hesitate to write a precise recipe because that would limit a reader unreasonably. The whole point is to make something you'd like to eat. One caveat, if you use a wet vegetable, say spinach or cabbage, cook it first and stiffen it with breadcrumbs or cracker, matzo, whatever, so they're not too soggy. Also, I don't see why this would have to be savory. I can imagine it with apple, mango, pear, anything you could imagine in a pie.

Apologies for some of the photos being out of focus. The camera was on a tripod and actuated by remote. I was standing to the side and not looking through the camera. I'm a little surprised it even worked.

Water dripping, yeast, honey , salt, flour.

steamed dumplings preparation series 1

OK, here's the deal-io: I didn't actually knead this, I stretched the dough wad into a thick snake then rolled up the snake. That counts for kneading because it does the same thing. I did this several times pressing more flour from the bowl into the stretched out snake and working that in. I'm showing it once, but it was actually done several times and got worked quite thoroughly and the dough became more stiff than what you'd want if you were making ordinary bread. All that was done in and over the bowl. Then the bowl refreshed with a new bowl and the dough ball was oiled so it wouldn't stick as it rose. I use bowls with undisciplined abandon, that's one reason why I always end up with such a mess.

steamed dumplings preparation series 2

The dough is left to rise. The surplus ground chuck roast was frozen as hamburger patties. Here I adjust it based on how I wanted it improved from the last time. I could have added anything, instead I just made it more like meatloaf by adding Worcestershire, an egg, and bread crumbs, but I could have added anything.

steamed dumplings preparation series 3

Divided the risen dough into 6 segments, same with the chilled meat portion. Rolled out into an oblate shape thinner at the edges because that would be overlapped. I'm getting better at this. Kept a small bowl of water and dampened the edges that would be folded over and overlap. This worked out quite well. Once the dampened dough touches the other side when it's closed, it pretty much seals completely. Then just shape it vaguely into a ball, best as it will go without fussing over the whole thing too much.

steamed dumplings preparation series 4


steamed dumplings preparation series 5

Put on little wax paper squares, allowed to rise again, then steamed. They cook really fast. I used an instant-read thermometer to check internal temperature. They can be frozen, but mine never get a chance to be stored. They reheat excellently.

steamed dumplings preparation series 6


butternut squash, mustard greens

butternut squash with mustard greens / marinated top round


detail: butternut squash with mustard greens / marinated top round


That's odd, I forgot to drizzle my vegetables with aged balsamic. No matter. I deglazed the pan with white wine and that totally made up for the oversight, sort of. Besides, I still have some left that I can enhance.

* butternut squash cubed
* green beans trimmed
* mustard greens trimmed and cut
* red onion
* butter / olive oil
* S/P
* white wine
* house chicken broth

I was going to scrape some nutmeg but I forgot that too, and the whole time I was eating it I was sitting there thinking, "THIS WOULD BE ALRIGHT IF IT JUST HAD SOME NUTMEG ON IT !!! 1111 ¡¡ eleven million one hundred eleven thousand one hundred and eleven 1sX π !!!!!"

Top round used in a previous post down there ↓ for the tacos reheated, marinated in

* soy sauce
* mirin
* water
* grated garlic
* grated ginger

Sauteéd to brown and pressure cooked to tenderness, and now I'm a little bit sad because this marks the end of it.

spaghetti pasta with butternut squash

spaghetti pasta with butternut squash

This is seriously easy. The thing is, Mr. and Mrs. America, to impress your Italian or your well-traveled friend, remove the pasta from its water when it's approximately 92.78 % done and dump it dripping with its water into the pan containing the simmering extraneous material, in this case butternut squash with fresh garlic. This slightly starchy water along with the starch on the surface of the pasta will form a thin sauce with the oil already in the pan. Add a little extra pasta water if you deem it insufficiently wet. Allow the pasta to continue cooking in the pan until approximately 95% done. I realize this runs short of what you might have already accepted, but it's the way of the world and you'll learn to prefer it. Of course, this cannot be done with fresh pasta. Add the cheese and herbs off the heat. Twirl the pasta onto a large fork and lift it across and tenderly place it onto a plate sliding out the fork for a spectacular slightly elevated presentation.

If children complain about the al dente pasta straining their tiny undeveloped toofies, and they will, then bend down so that your lips are level with their faces and speaking directly into their little ear say crisply and authoritatively, "SHUT UP YOU LITTLE TWERP AND EAT IT! Or possibly microwave it for the little darlings.

tempura featuring catfish and butternut squash

tempura featuring butternut squash, plated

The deep-fried flavors of tempura are enhanced with dipping sauce. Prepare that first and get it out of the way before proceeding.

The typical sauce, like this one, is made from a standard dashi base. 50% of the liquid is this most common of all fish soup bases made from kombu, a large flat dried kelp, that can make it's own standalone seafood broth, sort of like kelp tea, in combination with bonito flakes, which are a dried type of skipjack tuna that has been sliced super thinly, shaved actually, with a razor sharp mandolin tool, into nearly transparent flakes that virtually melt within the kombu broth. Handfuls of these airy dried fish flakes are dumped into the kombu tea-broth, soaked for about 10 minutes then strained out. Sometimes, the exhausted flakes are left in. They don't hurt anything. However, you don't have to mess with kombu or with bonito for your kombu bonito dashi. Bonito dashi is marketed in various ways, as you can imagine, much like Lipton's soup in individual packages. This dashi here was made the copout way using one of those packages. I had 1/2 package sitting in there with the regular kombu and bonito flakes and thought, "Eh, why not?" It turned out stronger than what I was aiming for so I diluted the finished soup.

For the tempura sauce, add 25% soy sauce and 25% mirin, which is a sweet rice wine. Test it. If you don't care for the flavor, adjust with more mirin or consider adding a little sugar, say, 1/8 teaspoon, or maybe honey. I suppose you could also substitute fish sauce for the dashi, which is basically an anchovy concoction. There you go, anchovies and water, if nothing else.

But you don't have to settle for just one dipping sauce. Here's where you can really impress a date. Make two or three different sauces with various flavor profiles. Just throw them together in small amounts and set aside in an arrangement of bowls. Powdered mustard in one, fish sauce in another, wasabi in another, water down a Hoisin sauce then adjust the flavor, with grated ginger, Sriracha, garlic, those sorts of things. Pretend you know what you're doing. Allow your date to taste and to suggest adjustments, drag her into it, allow them to feel useful and creative while learning something.

Kombu = kelp
Bonito = katsuobushi = skipjack tuna
dashi = soup
Sriracha = popular Asian red chile sauce

tempura dipping sauce

The purpose of this tempura was to feature butternut squash. It's very good in tempura form, as is sweet potato, but they must be cooked first otherwise they will not have enough time in the oil to finish. A few minutes in the microwave with a little water was sufficient to soften them for tempura. I also steamed the green beans while I was at it. The rest of the ingredients were just things I had on hand, onion, mushrooms, catfish works particularly well, and shrimp.

tempura ingredients

The batter can be prepared any number of ways, but it must be cold. Today I decided to use beer because I was in the mood to finish the bottle. This ale worked especially well. If I hadn't used beer, then lighten the batter by including a trace amount of baking powder along with whatever combination of flours you use. I like to use a combination of milled flours; rice flour, corn starch, regular wheat flour, all three at once. Any one can be used alone, results vary. The tempura ingredients are coated first with dry flour before being dipped into the batter made with the same flour mixture. This helps the batter adhere. So, you can mix together the dry ingredients in one bowl, then divide that between two bowls and add a whipped egg and additional cold liquid to one of the bowls to form a thin batter. Thin batter is better. Glumpy thick batter is uncool for tempura. I like to flick off most of the batter before dipping it into the hot oil.

* egg whipped
* beer, soda/tonic water, cold tap water
* rice flour
* corn starch
* wheat flour
* salt
* baking powder in tiny amount if not using beer or soda/tonic water
* any dry flavoring that strikes your fancy, or not.

tempura batter

If you ever watch a Japanese cook prepare tempura, you'll notice they don't actually deep fry them, rather, they shallow fry tempura in a wide low cast-iron pan. After adding the battered ingredients the cook stands there and drips more batter directly into the oil onto the edges of the frying ingredients which are floating creating artistically bizarre elaborated leg-like designs of extra fried batter onto the original coated piece that looks like splatters. I do not do that. Tempura is messy enough without all that extra glopping batter added to the disaster already occurring in the kitchen. I'm too much a klutz as it is, and this makes an even greater mess of the oil, and so the oil must be continuously skimmed and raked between batches. But I tell you what, do this with a friend for fun in the kitchen and you'll change their lives permanently with a whole new understanding of how these apparently magical culinary exploits are pulled off, and it will affect their understanding of all fried foods thereafter.

Oil at 350℉. I use a instant-read thermometer to keep it dead on, but that's probably not necessary. You can test with drops of batter. I also turn the handle of the pot inward because I'm just too clumsy to have handles sticking out from pots with hot oil. I also never fill the pot more than 1/2 full of oil. See? This is one idiot that manages to learn from mistakes.

tempura being deep fried

Conclusion: Butternut squash is superb as a tempura ingredient. I should have used more.

Asian tacos

tacos plated, with top round marinated with Asian flavors

Large top round purchased on sale for half price. I couldn't help myself. Just threw it in the basket with a promise to think about what to do with it later.

Sliced the whole thing thinly into a huge pile. Marinated with Asian flavors, soy sauce, rice vinegar, rasped garlic and ginger. The whole time I was doing that I was thinking, "This is just wrong."

But I don't care. I didn't intend anything specific, I just wanted flavorful beef, and those are the flavors I grew up with, the flavor profile, so to speak, that I go to reflexively. Just to throw a wrench into the works, I added cumin and coriander because I like them. I like both those things, Mexican and Asian flavors.

The sliced meat was left to marinate for hours until I got tired of waiting, then it was pan-fried in batches in my largest pan to give it burnt edges and to develop layers of fond in the pan. The fond was lifted with water and the fond-laden water poured into the bottom of a pressure cooker but not above the trivet. Of course I tasted the meat. The meat was delicious if a little bit tough. Tough meat would not work very well for tacos which was an idea beginning to take shape in my mind. I wanted to use those taco shells that stand up by themselves. I wanted something salady and crunchy. My tacos would be Asian. The whole time I'm still thinking, "This is just wrong." But I don't care.

The pressure cooker made short work of the connective tissue. The meat is now quite tender, almost too tender and fragile. Perfect for tacos. Cooked to well-done, a little bit burnt and with very flavorful liquid.

Marinade:
* soy sauce
* rice vinegar
* water
* rasped fresh garlic and ginger
* S/P
* cumin
* chile flakes

For the Tacos:
* top round cut thinly and marinated, fried and pressure cooked.
* home-grown balcony tomato diced.
* cheddar cheese in nicks.
* green lettuce, sliced into ribbons.
* white onion diced
* Stand 'n Stuff taco shells
* cilantro

The eerie weirdness-of-coincidence thing was, when I sat down to enjoy my completely wrong Asian tacos, and I did enjoy them a lot, they hit the spot, right then Alton Brown came up on the Food Network hosting some kind of competition. I wish they would stop that crap and just have experts show me how to make stuff. Alton took the competing chefs to Los Angeles and assembeled them in front of a taco cart. He said the thing that the Chairman (of Iron Chef) admires most about American cuisine is its propensity for fusion of cuisines of other cultures using American ingredients into a wholly new and dynamic thing. The chefs were a bit astonished to find themselves standing in front of a Korean Taco mobile. That's just wrong! So while I'm munching on tacos of my own perverse fusion through impulses that steer me to totally wrong tacos, I'm vindicated at that very moment by the content on the Food Network, if it is at all possible to be vindicated by anything on the Food Network, a premise that properly trained chefs would eagerly dispute.


butternut squash French fries

butternut squash French fries, second frying, plated

French fries prepared the traditional way, deep fried in two sessions, first at a lower temperature to cook the potato, here the gourd, and second, after allowing to cool, deep-fried again at higher temperature to dehydrate and crisp.

First at 225℉ - 250℉, and second at 350℉ or thereabout.

butternut squash French fries, first frying

Conclusion: These are the best fries I have ever tasted. They were not crisp as I had hoped. I believe the temperature was too low for the second deep-frying session. I'm not giving up, though, there's still hope for a crispy butternut fry. If not, then oh well, soft fries will just have to do. This is were a tempura type coating might come to the rescue but that has its own problems, namely, the crispiness doesn't last for long, or perhaps a cornmeal type coating and then baked.

They cooked faster than I had imagined. Faster than potatoes do. They appear to release a sugary liquid while cooling, I was counting on that to crisp and also afraid it would splatter but neither of those two things happened, and so I'm left confounded as to why. I think I might try giving them a start by roasting on low temperature and cut them into fry shapes before they're entirely done, then finish roasting at high temperature with the help of a little spray, or possibly brushed with oil.

They're tricky to cut and there's a bit of waste because of the shape of the gourd and the hollowed out area were the seeds are cleared but they are totally worth the trouble.

risotto with butternut squash and mustard greens

risotto with butternut squash and mustard greens

Risotto, as you know, is rice that is not steamed in the usual way but rather gently boiled in shallow broth which is kept hot in another pot and added continuously in small amounts as it's being absorbed. The idea is to get the rice to release its starch and to form a silky smooth consistency.

The rice is started by searing it in hot butter first, then started off boiling usually with a cup of white wine before getting on with the broth. I forgot to do that here and it was no catastrophe. Instead of butter, this version used the fat that remained from rendering bacon into bits to be included later, along with onion and diced butternut squash. After that had a good start chopped mustard greens were added mostly for drama!, and just to be different, and because I had them.

After the rice is cooked, Parmigiano cheese is added in generous quantity along with pancetta or bacon, (which I actually forgot, after all of that -- went back and sprinkled it on top)

risotto with butternut squash and mustard greens cooking

I used my own broth from the roasted chicken down there ↓ in a previous post, even though I have several cartons of commercial broth. It's always a tough decision for me as to when to use my special home-made super duper broth and when to use cop out no class commercial broth, but I have to use it sometime, so might as well be now. I'm glad I did.

I went a little bit too heavy on the Parmigiano here. ← I can't believe I just said that, but it's true. I forgot I was making a half batch and got carried away. Actually, I knocked off a nick from a large wedge and grated that. Whatever the amount came out to be measurement-wise, that was that. I'm careless that way.

parmigiano and bacon for risotto

Conclusion: This is so delicious I can't stand it. I do believe it would appeal to anybody, even picky children.

I used short-grain Japanese rice of the sort I'm used to cooking. I've noticed this has changed since I was a kid. In the bad ol' days, this type of rice used to have a lot more surface starch. A LOT more. It would be rinsed ritualistically seven times before steaming, which is a bummer for a kid cook. But now, a quick rinse under the faucet in a strainer does the trick, which is sort of nice, but this bodes ill for risotto which relies on that starch for success. I almost didn't use it for that reason. Best to stick with Arboreal rice, which is recommended, or proper risotto rice. But I was too lazy to bother and I don't care to have six different types of rice on hand for specific purposes. Maybe I'll make an exception. I would hold suspect any package that was marketed as being specifically for risotto, wary of a ploy, and instead search out a specific named species. This rice was OK, but it wouldn't win any risotto contest. An Italian who knew their risotto would find objection. My version clumsily disguised that flaw with an excess of Parmigiano, which an expert would also probably object. See rice varieties. (It might be helpful to use CNTL/F or Command/F then search "risotto" to take you to the spots on the page that address this interest and lead you directly to the useful varieties and skip all that other nonsense varieties, unless you enjoy scanning the wonderful universe of strange rice varieties.

butternut squash soup

bowl of butternut squash soup

Now with improved plated dish! ↑

Kind Sir, if you would be so gentlemanly, would you please allow me to cut you in half?

whole butternut squash

Select the largest, sharpest, most menacing knife you own. This isn't a job for sissies.

whole butternut squash

Rub with oil and roast. The sweet potatoes are for something else later. Although, they could do no harm here.

roasted butternut squash

While that was going on ↑, and before they're removed from the oven, start up whatever else you intend for this soup. In this case, I was going for full-on forest/harvest type flavors. Mine would have leeks, garlic, shitaki and portobello mushrooms blended in, with cubed russet potato and corn not blended in. It would include bay and sage because I have them, thus the color change from bright orange to olive green. The base is chicken stock, but it could just as easily be vegetable or beef.

soup ingredients

These were the dirtiest leeks I've ever seen in my life. They took quite a scrubbing.

leeks being washed

Leeks, mushroom, herbs cooking in a pot

leeks, mushrooms, herbs cooking in a pot

Roasted butternut squash brought together with cooked leeks and mushrooms, processed in a Cuisinart. My Cuisinart bowl leaked all over the place. That wasn't unusual, I always make a mess, but this seemed different because it wasn't topped off. I looked closely at the apparent source of the leak and wiped it. It leaked again. Peering even more closely I could see a crack in the bowl. Mah dadgum Cuisinart bowl gone 'n got itself cracked! So I ordered a replacement for it on Amazon, because a cracked Cuisinart bowl is absolutely unacceptable! What does it think we're running over here, some kind of romper room?

roasted butternut squash and cooked leeks and mushrooms in Cuisinart

Loosen with chicken broth if you must. After this processing in the Cuisinart, or blender, or immersion blender, or hand mill, whatever you've got, the smooth thick mixture is returned to the original cooking pot in which the leaks and mushrooms were sweated and softened. Chicken broth is added to the desired viscosity, and the whole shebang cooked until the cubed potatoes are softened. Frozen corn was added because I was going for an Americanized thing here: squash, potato, corn. I almost diced a fresh tomato on top for an American Yankee Doodle decoration and additional color, but I was getting tired and a little bit lazy.

The cream added at the end imparts a wonderful silkiness and transcendent mouthfeel. You don't need much. The nutmeg was just a natural impulse, it always goes with things like this, and anything with cream in it. I could have also added allspice, cinnamon, clove, the usual holiday suspects, but I omitted those in favor of a trace of cumin, which is an outlier spice for a dish like this, but I don't care, it's the kind of incomprehensible impulse that makes my own personal touches so unpredictable and unreplicatable. ←I made up that word. I was surprised with the sweetness of this considering all I did to wrench it into the savory realm and away from the world of sweetness and light. I didn't add anything sweet to it at all. I'm guessing that roasting the butternut developed its own sugars. Whatever. It is absolutely delicious beyond anything I expected. Kids would like this, especially if it was kept bright orange or yellow, meaning, by not adding anything with chlorophyl as I did and avoiding stronger or deeper spices, as I am prone to become carried away.

If you think this doesn't make a proper mess of your entire kitchen then all I have to say to you is, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

[I praised the Lord for the invention of dishwashers, but He said, He didn't have anything to do with that.]






ice cream, 8-year balsamic

ice cream with 8-year balsamic

This was better on the vanilla side than on the chocolate side, and frankly, I wasn't exactly wowed by it. Maybe gelato would be better.

I've been going crazy with this 8-year balsamic. It's like a whole new world has opened up, I've been putting it on everything except my frosted corn flakes. Oh wow, I just got an idea.


Granny Smith apple, blue cheese

Granny Smith apple with blue cheese

Afternoon snack that takes about ...

* 30 seconds to prepare.

* 5 minutes to photograph, determining settings, setting up lighting, changing lenses and such, playing with the camera and equipment.

* 1 minute to wolf down like an unmannered animal.

* 2 seconds to make sure nobody is watching.

* 10 seconds to lick plate.

* 10 minutes transferring photos to laptop, creating files, opening programs, converting to DNG, importing to Photoshop for further conversion to TIFF, resizing, adjusting, fixing, saving and converting again to JPG for internet, closing programs.

* 5 minutes uploading photographs to Flickr, opening programs and browser windows and websites and blog and writing how impossibly delicious and intriguing the combination of sweet/tart/crisp apple with creamy/biting/umami/stinky/salty cheese, copying/pasting html code, addresses and such, checking, closing programs, windows, browser.




strawberries, banana, 8-year balsamic

strawberries_banana_8-year balsamic

I am so doing this for my next dinner party. Or maybe I'll hog it all to myself. I'm torn between two worlds, sharing and hogging. Sharing/hogging. Sharing/hogging. Sharing/hogging. Sharing/hogging. I don't know, that's a tough one.

Whoever invented aged balsamic must have been insane. They should get a medal -- for excellence in gastronomic insanity. I would like to meet this person and ask them, "Whatever was on your mind?"

I honestly believe the best things to consume were discovered or invented by accident and through enduring hardships. Say for example, garlic. Imagine yourself a primitive person digging around for anything to eat, anything at all. You're willing to try just about anything, even willing to experiment with doing everything you can possibly do to every aspect of every single thing you uncover. For any given plant you carefully examine its leaves, its buds, its flowers, its fruit, stems, and roots. You try every part of every plant you encounter raw, boiled in water like tea, roasted on a stick above the fire, toasted near the fire, in the fire, cooked in a pot, cooked with other vegetables and meats, aged, dried, chopped, sliced, crushed, everything you can think of. Then one day you and a friend come across garlic your friend says, "Oh, no. Not that. Put that down immediately," and runs to the river to get the smell off their hands. But you're sitting there thinking, "You know, sautéed with a little yak butter this probably isn't all that bad. I bet these could even make those snails palatable. "

chicken pot pie

chicken pot pie slice

* Whole chicken roasted
* Vegetables prepared, oiled and roasted
* Pie crust prepared
* Sauce prepared
* Roasted vegetables, chicken bits, uncooked peas, sauce all combined.
* Pie crust rolled top and bottom and chilled
* Pie crust bottom pre-cooked.
* Pie crust bottom filled with combined vegetable/chicken/sauce mixture
* Pie topped and baked.

Ta daaaaaaa.

I could have just bought a chicken pot pie at David's Market but mine is better, I bet. Actually, I would totally trust them.

raw vegetables

roasted vegetables

pie bottom filled with vegetable and chicken mixture

covered chicken pot pie

baked chicken pot pie

First the chicken. This is a David's Market chicken, organic but not free range, marketed as Rosie's, also sold at some Whole Foods. The whole purpose of this was to supersede the recent memory of the grocery chicken in the post below ↓ which wasn't bad, but it wasn't superb either, and to do a comparison test. The broth of the previous one down there ↓ gelatinized loosely, weakly, and incompletely, and I wanted to try again with a better bird. Of course all that didn't stop me from keeping on it until it was entirely gone. There were no internal organs to supplement the broth of this one, and that's a bummer. Why do they do that? Whyyyyyyyy? He cried. This bird was brined, roasted in the usual way, broken apart, then the bones cracked open to expose the marrow and then re-roasted until they had all turned dark brown, which happens rather quickly in the same pot the bird was roasted so it doesn't contribute to cleanup. This time I added aromatics to supplement the bird because this one lacked the liver, gizzard, heart and because the butcher said, "Oh, you gotta," even though it's not my habit, so I cleaned out the crisper of old peppers, broccoli, carrot, and added fresh onion, garlic, celery, and bay leaf, in fact, it was mostly extraneous material over chicken carcass, by weight and by mass.

For the pie:

The vegetables are diced, drizzled and rubbed with olive oil, salted and seasoned, and roasted until done. The peas were left frozen, and the chicken bits stayed cold until this was done.

* celery
* carrots (diced irregularly)
* onion
* garlic (the larger cloves of one whole bulb)
* sweet potato (this is a little bit weird, but I had one, so I used it)
* Yukon gold potatoes (2)

^^^ roasted

* frozen peas
* cold cooked chicken bits

I forgot the sage. Now that was just plain stupid.

Chicken pie was my favorite thing to have whenever I was sick so my mother kindly cooked one, the prepackaged version of course, to hasten good health and as an act of kindness toward a pitiful sick little boy. This kind of meat pie, along with Shepherd's pie, was one of my father's favorite things to make. I think it's a British thing. Dear ol' Dad tried his best to make meat pies but without much good success. Oh, he succeeded alright, he just didn't know how awful they really were. As kids, neither did we. We had no way to know the difference. He used a large bake-proof bowl for his version. An inverted coffee cup supported the top crust. There was no bottom crust. His crusts were terrible, to be frank about it, both my parents used oil for their crusts so they inevitably came out thin and hard like cardboard, as you can imagine. Ground beef, if the pie was beef, come to think of it, they usually were beef. He had no idea what stock is or how to make a sauce. In short, neither one really knew what they were doing. Bless them for trying.

The advantage of roasting vegetables first is that roasting concentrates flavors and pre-shrinks the vegetables so the top crust will not collapse or form an air-filled gap between pie content and crust. Roasting ensures the vegetables are cooked through in the time it takes to bake the crusts. The advantage of pre-cooking the bottom crust first is it helps it from becoming soggy, although it makes it nearly impossible to pinch together top and bottom crusts and it probably isn't necessary. You can brush the bottom crust with egg, bake briefly just enough to set the thin egg layer as a form of waterproofing, then continue the usual way. I think the next time I'll just skip that step and bake the roasted vegetables and both crusts at once and accept a wetter bottom crust.

Sauce was made the customary way with butter and flour roux except with small amount of Madras curry and cayenne pepper included, I don't know, I just cannot help myself when it comes to roux. The liquid portion was chicken broth that didn't have enough time to chill and to gelatinize. I kept adding chicken broth to the thickened roux until the desired viscosity was reached. The mixture thickened further as it cooled so I added a little more broth to the entire mixture, sauce, roasted vegetables, frozen peas and chicken bits, to check the desired viscosity before adding it to the pie. There was about two cups extra roasted vegetables that can be used later in different ways. It's delicious.

Pie crust made with two cups of flour (one cup A/P flour, one cup cake flour), one stick of butter cut into small cubes, and about that same amount of lard, sea salt to the extent I felt necessary, and a trace of sugar because I don't know why, I just did. Ice cold water. The butter, lard, flour, bowl, etc., were all kept chilled throughout. The fat was rubbed in by smashing the chunks in my fingertips and releasing the flattened bits into the flour before body heat could could melt the fat. I've heard of people who chill their hands in cold water before beginning, but that's a level of dedication that I do not have.

The pie is carelessly assembled. For some reason, I like a rustic rough shod unlabored appearance. I used the scraps to decorate the top carelessly because I tasted part of the bottom that broke off and it was delicious, the perfect crust if I may say so, and I didn't want to waste any of it. Hey, that decoration is ART !


green beans and carrots, eight-year balsamic

green beans and carrots with balsamic vinegar

Les haricots et carottes avec du vinaigre balsamique, that there means beans and carrots with Balsamic vinegar. We're being fancy over here today. This is an experiment. Is this eight-year old vinegar really sweet? Answer: yes. Is it worth the cost? In my world, yes, it's awesome. I'm not even going to say what I paid for this because it's embarrassing, let's just say a lot, more even than a great wine. My original idea was to experiment with strawberries but strawberries at Davids Market were $6.00 for a hand-packed thingie. Ridiculous to balk at the cost of berries after already paying this much for small bottle of vinegar, I know, but a guy's gotta draw the line somewhere. Strawberries will be another experiment later, as well as another with ice cream. I can't wait to try this for entertaining.

* steamed green beans and carrots
* balcony heirloom tomato
* warmed pecans
* aged balsamic vinegar
* virgin olive oil
* Brittany gray sea salt

Here's a few things wot I learned: If you buy, say, twenty-five year balsamic, it's very likely to be mixed with one-year or two-year basaltic or others. There are laws regulating this sort of thing in Europe, and that's legal. However, if you buy eight-year balsamic, then the whole thing by law must be eight years, and not nearly eight years, but eight completed years. I think. I don't think it's like horses where they're all the same year no matter what month they were born. So that's one thing. The other thing is, this balsamic is from Modena Italy, but it's bottled in London. Go figure. I guess we pay for all this unnecessary extra transportation and importation. The second choice at Davids is also from London.

8-year balsamic vinegar

That's a cork attached to the top, just like wine. Apparently in Italy, they drink this straight, so I tried some from a tablespoon, that's when I fell in love with it.

I must add I'm impressed with the people at Davids. They just opened up two blocks down Broadway, which is one of the main intersecting streets, as you might imagine. It could only be more convenient for me if it were in the same building. It's a lot like Whole Foods except smaller. The people there are all outstanding. I love it when people are enthusiastic about their product and about their work. You can chat it up with anybody and they're all eager to engage. I love that. The guy behind the meat counter asked if I had found everything, I go, "I'm interested in a balsamic." He said he didn't know much about that but then called to an official looking guy who came around from behind a concealed office, walked with me over to the vinegar place, and began to expound on the virtues and limitations of various vinegars. Another tall thin guy probably in his twenties and wearing a company apron joined the conversation willingly and enthusiastic to contribute his own available knowledge. That is just so amazing to me. So much better than, "I dunno."

Photography poop.

Have you noticed my pictures are becoming less saturated? That's a sign of maturity. It comes from handling the files in RAW and seeing what the camera sees before the usual compression. I make whatever adjustments I deem necessary, usually exposure, then save the file compressed to JPG for internet use. The program shows you what the new image looks like in compressed form. Colors are lost. I often back out and saturate beyond what I care for in TIFF then try saving again to see if the new form is better. I did not do that with this one.

RAW files are converted to TIFF so the saving and re-sizing program can handle them, and TIFF files are even bigger per channel than RAW. It's like pouring three quarts of liquid into a gallon container then finally pouring all that into a pint jar. At first there's extra wasted room and then to end some spills out. I'm always a little disappointed in what is lost in JPG, and re-saturating only makes up for it in small part, usually cartoonishly with its meager 256 color palette. And all this as viewed on a laptop which itself has grotesque color limitations compared with the real deal.

Actually, there is a whole 'nuther intervening conversion between RAW and TIFF called DNG, an Adobe universal file type standing for digital negative. It involves another program and even more moving and saving files. It's all so terribly time consuming and complicated, and hard-going for my little laptop and in the end you have much less than what you started with, and that makes me a little bit sad. I been shooting in RAW and JPG simultaneously, and the RAW converted to JPG are always more satisfying than the files that pre converted to JPG within the camera in accordance with the camera settings like I used to do. Those look ridiculous and childish by comparison.


ripening tomatoes

Hurray!

*glees*


welcome mat pinhole security systems

I got nuth'n but joy and love in my heart for humanity and for all of nature. These are the balcony tomatoes pictured down there ↓ that weather forced to be picked before they had a chance to fully ripen My friends said to put the tomatoes in a paper bag to allow their own ethylene outgassing thus contained to work its magic, and jaed, in a comment here, said to leave on the stems (I wasn't able to hang them upside down). I did not believe this would work because the green tomatoes were like stones. Today I peeked, and I'm delighted to see I was wrong about that.

Oh bloody wow, that means I might be wrong about other things too.


Photography poop.

For this shot the bag was opened and placed on the kitchen floor, as you can see. The flash unit is on the counter behind me and aimed at the ceiling above the bag, so the ceiling is the reflector illuminating the inside of the bag. The flash on the camera activates the flash on the counter but does not contribute to the photograph directly. The camera flashes just before the shutter opens, although it appears to be simultaneous. I am standing in the way of the direct path of the reflected light off the ceiling because I'm standing over the open bag. That means the light must bounce off the walls too, and pour all around myself which it does quite admirably.



beef in a bun

beef slider

Ground beef.

"Could you be a little more specific, please?"

"Beg yer pardon?"

"Never mind."

Chuck roast, more expensive, yes, but LʘʘK ! Got it on sale -- 40% off. How could I refuse?

* does the Happy Save on Beef Dance * ← involves a cow costume.

These are delicious. I ate four in a row, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, gone. Just like that. I do not know what to call them, pyrizhskies, mantikos, stuffed buns, I do not know what, I think I'll just call them "Chip's Meat and Vegetable Self-encompassing sliders." Or something.

The idea, which came from my brother, is to pack a beef mixture of my own creative device into their own buns then bake them and see what happens. I also kind of liked the idea of steaming them, but brother James put the nix on that. A simple near-meat loaf minus a few essentials of meat loafiness. I imagined something close to a hamburger except heavy on vegetable ingredients. Held together with egg but not bread crumbs or crackers. Worcestershire but not catsup. A single type of red meat instead of a combination like real meat loaves. I forgot to include a cheese layer, an almost regrettable oversight. The dough utilized approximately 1/2 home-milled whole wheat flour, which I had on hand from the crackers down there ↓ and the other half refined white flour. Regular household quick-rising yeast. The whole wheat is milled much more finely than you usually see commercially, there are no flecks of bran to convince you it really is whole wheat loaded with fiber. It's surprising that way. Kneading it is virtually indistinguishable, by feel, from refined flour, and that's very strange. I always say, "This hamburger would be better if it was only on my own bread," and this gives proof to the axiom.

slider series 1

Meat mixture:

* ground chuck
* onion
* celery
* carrot
* frozen peas
* Worcestershire
* S/P

Buns:

* warm water
* fast-rising yeast
* whole wheat flour
* refined white flour
* sea salt

slider series 2

Bake at 400℉ until brownie brown brown. (I watched for little bubbles to pop at the top hole indicating the inside was done. The second batch was even more adorable than these)

100% of 100% of whole wheat cheese crackers

Whew. Glad that's over. Apologies for the absence. Blogger shut down mah dadgum site on account of suspicious activity *look right, looks left* They said their "spam bots" reported me. Bots. As if. It's all algorithm, and we know it. Anyhoo ... ah'm so happy to be back ah'm all tingly inside.

whole wheat cheese crackers


whole wheat cheese crackers series

Three cups wheat seeds milled finely. Processed with 8 oz cheddar cheese (could have used more). Water added while processing until formed into a ball and pulled away from sides of processor, for these exceedingly dry seeds that turned out to be about 6 oz cold water. Plus a little more for relatively wet dough. Rolled out onto excessively floured work surface, scraps returned to processor, thus the dough became increasingly dry through a series of four batches.

Obviously these crackers are 100% whole wheat, no messing around, as commercial processors do, with separating out the components, the bran and the germ, then returning 100% of the components but not 100% of 100% of the components along with the addition of riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and iron but only a fraction of what was removed. See how they do? They
LIE! And it's legal!

So. The taste of this properly milled 100% of 100% whole wheat with all its pulverized components takes a bit of getting used to when you're raised on overly refined and partially enriched white flour. Even when you think you're doing good by buying what is advertised as 100% whole wheat, you're simply not, and that's a low-down dirty rotten stink'n shame. Here's the thing: wheat berries contain oil. Wheat berry oil goes rancid very quickly when exposed to air. This makes marketing, transporting, storing whole wheat flour something of a problem for manufacturers. If the whole wheat flour you faithfully buy commercially really is 100% of 100% whole wheat then you would see fat listed on the nutritional panel. Fat is not listed on the nutritional panel. Proof the consumer is being hornswoggled.

Your Honor, I rest mah dadgum case.

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