chocolate ice cream





* 2 cups heavy cream
* 3 cups Half & Half
* 4 egg yolks. The eggs I used were gigantic. These were whisked in while the mixture was still cold.
* 1 cup of milk (2% was all I had, otherwise I would have used whole milk)
* 2 medium-size vanilla beans scraped out
* 3/4 cup cane sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
* 3 chunks of couverture chocolate approximately 2 oz each. I did not weigh them, chunks were broken off a much larger chunk and melted into the mixture until it turned the desired color.
* 1/2 teaspoon orange oil (marketed for candy making)

Mixture is heated to create a thin custard, then chilled to near freezing to lessen the work of the ice cream maker. The ice cream maker I use is little more than a toy purchased through eBay.

The vanilla beans are also purchased at a discount through eBay.

The custard mixture increases in volume and incorporates air as the machine turns, and this churning helps it avoid the formation of large ice crystals as it freezes, At this early point straight from the machine it is still soft ice cream and must be further frozen hard.

vegetable tofu soup



In homemade chicken broth. That is the thing that makes this impossible to fail. I could throw anything in it and the result would be good. Nearly. 

The chicken stock was already a broth because it was produced from the carcass of a chicken that soaked to saturation in  a heavily seasoned brine, which included sugar, about half a cup of ground spices, sage, rosemary, black pepper, along with a glass of wine. The chicken soaked excessively long, overnight and a full day following, basically, twenty-four hours, and that is outrageous. Although the brine diluted as time passed by the removal of liquid with the regular additions of ice. Finally, the skin of the chicken was seasoned heavily then roasted. That skin was included with the stock. The remnant pieces of meat contained salt. So there is all that in the plain chicken stock which tends to transform it into broth. But it is not enough.

* Sake. I urge you to go out and buy a bottle of sake just for cooking purposes. It makes everything better. 
* Mirin. This is a sweet sake. There are different types. I am not sure about the type that I buy. It is like a sweet syrup, but it beats a regular syrup and it beats honey for cooking. Once I bought a bottle of Mirin that wasn't so sweet. It was so awful I threw out the whole bottle. I really do not understand the world of mirin. I am not sure I am using the real deal.
* Soy sauce
* Fish sauce. This is absolutely awful if you were to taste a half a teaspoon. It's fermented anchovy in water. Used sparingly in combination, it adds a great deal of depth to nearly everything. It seems strange to add a fish sauce to chicken broth, but it does work admirably. 

The vegetables are added to the pot as if it were a stir-fry, sturdiest first, most tender last. The pan is deglazed with those ↑ liquid additions, and then the chicken stock (broth) is added. This chicken broth is an aspic, so it is like adding chicken-flavored jelly. The tofu is added. The aspic melts, then boils.

The following bullets are purely stylistic choices. There is no good reason for any of them. I am trying to show how a great soup can be whipped out on impulses. 

* You will notice two capsicums types and two alliums. 

*  It would have been reasonable to add bits of the chicken that was frozen at the time the stock was made, but I decided against it to concentrate on the tofu. I struggle with the impulse to overdo things.

* I also decided against noodles. 

* There are no mushrooms here. 

* There is no cabbage. 

* There is no egg



eggs and mushrooms



This is half a gigantic Idaho russet potato. The other half is peeled and sitting in water next to the tofu also in water. They're probably eyeing each other suspiciously, or maybe empathetically for their similar fates. 

The goal for the potatoes is soft fluffy cooked interior and crispy crunchy exterior. Nobody I know does this well. You cannot just toss raw potatoes into a pan with oil and expect things to come out well. I will now reveal one of the potato-secrets of the universe. Mastering this technique will earn you the novice sky-blue belt in the Weirding Way of tubers. The trick is this: in the same pan, cook the potatoes with small amount of water first, allow the water to completely evaporate, then add oil and kick up the heat to crisp. 

roasted chicken



This chicken was brined over night and then, contrary to plan, throughout the day. The brine was kept cold in a bucket with continuous additions of ice so that the brine diluted throughout this process. This brine was different from all preceding brines. The brine had half as much sugar as salt (one cup and one half cup respectively), a metric ton of herbs <--- possible exaggeration, finely ground rosemary, sage, black peppercorn, and a single airline bottle of white Zinfandel wine, which in fact is pink. That's like one glass of wine, and I can still taste a faint hint of it. That's weird. I like it. This convinces me to include wine with all future brines. 

The chicken was trussed. I have no idea how to truss. I tucked in the wings but they kept flopping out. I know I did it wrong but the way I did it worked. I wanted the wings tucked and flat against the body and the legs pulled together to bunch up the breast. The method I used turns out to be strange, the wings are held against the body then both ends meet on the back and then tuck into the cavity through the neck, that was exceedingly weird, exiting out the rear to wrap around the legs. I never heard of doubled string running through the cavity but it works. Had I done this in Boy Scouts I might have gotten a merit badge. 

I fashioned a smart little tent out of two pieces of aluminum foil, not with a pointed top, but rather like a lid of a roasting pan. I roasted the bird breast side down first then turned it at the approximate half way point. This flattened the breast unattractively. I suppose that is what those "V" wire roasting trays are for. If they make a collapsable version I might think about getting one. 

Hey, what do you know, they do make collapsable wire roasting racks, and they're cheap too. 


The carcass will not be wasted, oh no, that would be criminal. Every trace of this bird that is not immediately used or frozen will be pressed into service for chicken stock, as already described many times right here on this humble blog. 

sweet potatoes



A pile of sweet potatoes is roasted. How many? I have no idea. That would depend on how many people you expect to feed.  I was not expecting to feed anybody besides myself.  I planned on a lot of holdover sweet potatoes for one person. As it happened, I was called out of my slumming with some degree of insistence and so my planned surplus turned out to be for many partiers. I imagined it would run out and that was fine with me. Even with that, it then resulted in a lot left over because there was so much other food at the party and nobody actually pigged out on my sweet potatoes. And ah pity da foo who ignored them completely because they have no idea what they missed, and there is nothing I can do about that even if I wanted to. 

The potatoes are easier to peel when they are roasted. Roasting concentrates flavor. Their starch begins to convert to sugar. The liquid that exudes onto the roasting pan burns to a kind of charred cotton candy. It is a strange alchemy happening and there is no comparing to boiling them. Just roast them and you will see. 


Make a sauce. Let's just pretend here and imagine making too much sauce. 

*  half a stick of butter
*  three cups real orange juice. Not fake-o orange juice.
*  one cup orange juice in a jar shaken with 2 level teaspoons corn starch for thickener. Added while whisking, but not all at once. Let it cook awhile to see its effect. Add the rest if necessary. If it becomes too thick, then dilute with more orange juice. 
*  a few tablespoons of brown sugar. Taste to judge for yourself how sweet you want your sauce to be
*  grated fresh ginger, a few teaspoons. 
*  1/4 teaspoon salt
* add fresh pineapple, NOT CANNED, no tins of pineapple allowed! That stuff is gross. Compare them side by side one day and see for yourself. You will never buy tinned pineapple again. This was fresh and then frozen because one whole pineapple was too much for the thing I was doing at the time. While I had the freezer opened I noticed mango frozen similarly so these sweet potatoes almost had mango with them instead of pineapple. The chief difference is acid. So these sweet potatoes have two types of acid, orange and pineapple. Mangoes would have been fine, but the result would have been less acid although with slightly more citric coming through. It was a style choice. Either one would have been fine. 
*  Cinnamon and *  nutmeg in very moderate amounts.  *  Clove in even more  conservative amount. Hints of these three things. I did not want to affect the color too much, and I did not want it to taste too much like a pie filling. 

These are the extras ↓ included for flavor profile and texture extension and for interest. I had a whole shelf devoted to things like this I could chose from. It would be nearly impossible to go wrong. 




vegetables with rice


Olive oil flavored with a single smashed garlic clove in an oversized pot, then removed. First, purple cabbage, because it is the most dense,  then courgette and yellow squash cut into irregular wedges and seared in the flavored oil to near perfection and then removed to a holding bowl. A single beef patty, pre-formed and frozen broken into the hot pan. Deglazed with a tablespoon sake, tablespoon shoyu, tablespoon mirin. Prepared white rice held over from the ebi sushi made a few days earlier heated through with the beef chunks. Vegetables returned to pot to heat through. Egg turned throughout the mixture off the heat. And let me tell you what; rarely, if ever, will you have a stir-fried rice fantastic as this, minus the bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms, which goes to show you, or maybe just show me, that making do with what one has on hand often leads to outstanding result. 

meat patty, split bun


Near paleo simplicity. This is one of the meat patties formed and frozen earlier in large quantity from the three various roasts. I did not photograph the pile of meat that covered the work surface, but it was huge. I think I was too involved at the time and I wanted to keep the meat slightly frozen even though it had been processed. Time was not my friend. This is beef, pork, and lamb. The fat content is low. Too low, actually. Next time I will add a significant amount of olive oil and probably some water. These patties cook very quickly.

The buns were also made weeks ago from dough aged overnight. This is nearing the end of them. They're toasted in a pan weighted with another pot, like a panini. 

The cheese is marked simply medium Wisconsin cheddar. No offense intended, but my inner fromager finds it uninteresting and does not recommend it. My inner slouch would prefer Velveeta®. I've had very good Wisconsin cheese so I will not let this affect my opinion. I would be interested in finding something that is not pasteurized and in the U.S. that means something older than 60 days. 

chicken miso


Roasted chicken and homemade chicken broth, miso, cabbage and carrot, courgette, onion and garlic, with capsicum and and black pepper, sake, shoyu, sesame, egg drop noodle soup.  That is the official title of this, but it is a bit too long. What else can I say? Well, here is this then, a mise en place of sorts: 


red bell pepper


You know, this makes an excellent snack. I recommend it. 

Did I mention, my brother pointed out to me at a grocery store on Maui, the price of a single bell pepper was $4.50? That was the least of it. I vowed to never again complain about food prices. 

meatball breakfast


Here is another double-yolk egg but one of them broke so it was covered with potato. Clever, eh?

The potato is large, heated in the microwave for six minutes, then fried in chicken fat reserved from the roasted chicken stock prepared earlier. The black flecks on the potato is mostly garlic powder that burnt. I suppose I  should have waited to add the garlic powder until the potato was entirely done. The meatballs are held over from last night. The meatballs are soft and tender and full of sauce. They're also full of oatmeal milled to near powder, so they've got that going for them too. 

I could not eat all of this on account of my tender delicate appetite. What? So I'm saving some of the potato. 

meatballs, salad



Meatballs and tomato sauce without pasta. 

Mint and basil mostly, with some sage and thyme and garlic tops recklessly topped from the Aerogarden without any concern for ratio. The lettuce greens are harvested from the other Aerogarden, likewise without any concern for lettuce type, whichever was growing, that is what was chopped off then mixed randomly with the herbs. This salad is .50% herbs and 50% salad greens. Olive oil, and the acid of tomato sauce substitutes for dressing.  The sauce was hot so the greens wilted that were underneath the meatballs and sauce. 

I used to have such a problem with meatballs. My idea at the time was the meatballs must be mostly beef and they must be browned all around before being added to sauce. This produced tight dense meatballs that were like overcooked hamburger balls. People gave me suggestions to smash the meat more than ordinary hamburger, but that did not help.  I kept trying to adjust the texture but never got it right. My family was biased against grain or breadcrumbs mixed with meat, both my parents derided it as filler. So I had to overcome that bias to achieve light soft-textured meatballs. I also gave up the idea of browning their exterior. There is no point in frying or baking a beef shell. Here is one example where the effect is improved by foregoing browning and the forfeiture of Maillard's reaction. 

These meatballs made from two mixed-meat patties formed earlier and frozen hereOne small leek was finely diced and heated in an oversized pot with olive oil. Leek, because that is what I had on hand and it need to be used somehow before it turned.  A grated carrot was added, for no good reason at all, and then two crushed and diced garlic cloves. Off the heat, 3/4 cup rolled oats were processed briefly in a coffee grinder and added to the leeks and carrot mixture. This took the place of bread crumbs, and in my opinion something of an improvement. Salt & pepper, flaked chile de arbol flakes added to the mixture. Two jumbo eggs, and finally the two 1/3 LB mixed meat patties. The mixture was very loose and wet. 

The sauce is ordinary tinned Heinz tomato sauce that is dolled up with my favorite things: celery salt, worcestershire sauce, moderate nearly undetectable habanero flakes. The (very wet) meatballs were dropped into the boiling sauce. There was not enough sauce to cover the meatballs so they were turned when about halfway done, by then the egg within them had pretty much solidified and the meatballs were firm as they would get, although they could soak up more of the sauce. 

The red bell pepper is delicious just as it is. I have been enjoying them raw as snacks cut into strips.    

You will notice this plate contains three capsicum types in varying amounts. That will tell you something about a personal style that I seem to be developing naturally. 

steak



Damn, I'm good. Set out to room temperature, rinsed, dried, oiled and then liberally seasoned with my house sea salt/cracked black pepper/chile pepper flakes/garlic mixture. Fried in a hot over-sized  cast-iron pan.  Rested for 6 or so minutes. 

This is regular grass-fed beef. I think. I forgot to read the package.  It came in a black-backed vacuum package, the same as the bison, but this does not taste like bison.

The end portion is shown plated above. The meat becomes increasingly red as the cuts progress toward the thicker part, so I photographed both ends. I kept going back to the cutting board and removing more slices until finally I ate the whole thing, which amounts to about 10 or 12 OZ.  with no strip of fat. I am such an incorrigible  bos maximus. Maybe I should dig out that package and read what it is that I ate because this sure is delicious.  You know what? I should get like a dozen of these things and grill them for a dinner party. That will be awesome!

scrambled eggs


You can't have any of this, I'm sorry, this is too rich for you. Go away.

What? You want to kill yourself slowly too? Fine then. Here you go.

The scrambled eggs are prepared as a failed sauce. Whole eggs are loaded with the elements that constitute a sauce except in different proportions and then heated until set as scrambled eggs, but saucy, sauced up, sauce overkill scrambled eggs and incompletely solidified. Just try a controlled sauce fail and see how tricky that is. After the part liquid / part solid mixture is satisfactorily set  then farmer's cheese, the sort that does not melt, is added to the mixture.  

The pile of chicken bits is a portion pulled from the whole chicken roasted earlier for gravy and then frozen. The rice is extra sushi rice held over from last night's ebi. 

The greens are basil and mint torn from the aerogarden. That thing is getting out of control now so I must use its foliage however I can to contain it in its assigned space. 

All of that is topped with a proper sauce prepared with a single egg yolk as a cross between mayonnaise and hollandaise in that its oil component is both butter and olive oil, and much less of it was used than ordinarily because the scrambled eggs are already loaded up with those things. So actually, the scrambled egg portion of the dish pictured above with its sauce on top is the equivalent of two texture and flavor versions of the same thing. They were both prepared the same way, with one destined for failure. And that is why this is so silky smooth and ridiculously rich. 



Method:

Warm two eggs in hot tap water for a few minutes. Crack open and whisk in a double boiler, or by using a single beater inside a jar held in gently boiling water. Drizzle 1/8 cup butter +1/8 cup olive oil for a total of 1/4 cup oil that is-pre heated so that its addition to the whipping eggs does not cool the mixture. Add 1/teaspoon whole grain mustard and 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, or any acid you like, any vinegar, lime, lemon etc. + salt +pepper. Continue whisking. I added garlic powder.  If you drizzle the oil sufficiently slowly the result will be a very thick sauce. If you stop whisking then the egg tends to set. Monitor this closely because this is your sauce failing, sauce that is very heavy on egg and low on fat relative to other sauces. You can hasten this process with 5 to 7 second pulses in the microwave but that tends to get out of hand and set the whole thing too quickly. Add grated cheese. 

Then the real sauce is the same thing except with a single egg yolk and even less fat. Half the fat, but the same process.  Add the flavor elements that suit you. You can experiment with cream, sour cream, etc. 

The chicken is frozen, heated in its own broth. 

The rice is simply re-heated.  

ebi sushi


This is one of the first things I learned to make. Our housekeeper, Sueko, taught me using  the kind of Japanese rice that by law is never exported from Japan. The rice was ritualistically rinsed seven times to clear its surface starch, which never became 100% clear. That was the part I didn't like. At eleven years of age I simply did not have the patience for it. Nevertheless, I obediently rinsed and continued to do that even after switching to American rice that has much less surface starch. I only recently wised up. 

Double the water to rice is slightly too much water. Equal amount plus  + 1/2  the amount of water to rice is slightly too little water. Therefore, one cup of rice takes 1 + 3/4 cup water.  Maths!  Sueko used a one-knuckle measuring system, basically 1 inch water above the level of rice in the pot, but that whole thing changes depending on the size of the pot used to the amount of rice in that pot. You can see how a small amount of rice in a large pot will throw off the one-knuckle method. Thank you, Sueko, bless your heart, but your system does not work for me anymore. Especially now that my finger bones grew.


The starch in rice (and pasta and potatoes) strengthens the bubbles of boiling water which causes them to build up without popping as ordinary un-strengthened water bubbles would do, so they tend to fill the pot and pour over the edge, even lifting the lid slightly, to make a mess of the outside surface of the pot, the stove, and create havoc and a mess in the kitchen. That can be prevented when steaming rice by preparing a diaper an apron a gasket of sorts from a paper towel. It takes a bit of elementary origami. 



This is how you turn an ordinary pot into a rice steamer. It is what people did before rice steamers were invented. Japanese people love rice steamers because they remove the need  to pay attention to timing and because they make rice pretty much every day. The steamers cycle through high heat to get the water boiling, a period of low heat just enough to keep the steam going, and a period of no heat wherein residual steam continues to carry over, and then the machine signals the rice is completed. Is that so hard to do yourself?  Honestly. 

The water in the pot is brought to a boil with the lid off. The heat cut to low as the stove will go and the lid put on the pot, not to be lifted until both steam cycles are completed lest the steam escape and the process aborted. The rice tends to stick to the bottom of the pot as it boils, so it must be stirred and loosened before the lid put on the pot and that is your last chance to stir it. After that, no touching it until both timed cycles are completed. At that point the stove will already be off and you will want to lift the lid to halt residual steaming or else risk the rice becoming overcooked.

So, for the first cycle on low, after the water is brought to a boil and the steam is going,  set the stove on low as it will go and the  timer to twenty-five minutes.


I have another timer that I picked up at the dollar store. It is basically a bell in the shape of a chicken. I call it Isabell because it  ... is a bell.  

The first cycle on low finishes.

Ding! 

Or in the case of the built-in stove timer, ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding, it is so annoying, ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding, it literally forces you to go to the stove and see to it, ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding, it will not stop until you shut it off. 

Turn off the heat and resist the urge to check progress. Trust that the rice is still steaming and progressing according to plan. Can you just trust? Huh? Can you? If you have nosey-noopers around who like to lift lids then you will want to consider fashioning a little warning sign from an index card or something. Perhaps like this:
That should do it. Set the timer to 10 minutes. 


Ding!

The rice is done. You can now remove the warning card and lift the lid. Fluff the rice.  Inhale its steamy rice cooked grainy goodness. Brown rice takes longer, of course, but the aroma is even more alluring. 

So. You had there thirty-five minutes to get on with other things; fold the laundry, clean the dog run, pick the burrs off your hiking socks, retrieve the laced shoes tossed over the power line, search each other for ticks, or maybe you could use the time constructively to prepare the shrimp, wasabi, and a light sweet/sour sauce for the rice. 

About the shrimp. Use large. I do not know what the number is. The shrimp they sell at Sam's club are too large. Medium size shrimp is too small. I prefer unprepared raw shrimp that is not deveined. This shrimp is on the small size, so I made the rice balls on the small size too. This shrimp is deveined and although that is more convenient, it puts a slash on the top side of the shrimp whereas we need a slash on the bottom of the shrimp. So these shrimp are going to look silly when spread open. If the shrimp you choose is completely unprepared you will want to devein them from the underside, not the top side as they do commercially.  This approach also cuts through the fibers that curl the shrimp. Because these shrimp are already cut on the top side, if I were to cut them again on the bottom I would risk cutting all the way through and dividing each shrimp in half. Not a disaster, but it would depart quite far from what ebi sushi is supposed to look like, and they already look silly because the shrimp is not laying flat like they should and curve around the rice ball. 

Cook the shrimp as minimally as possible. Bring the water to a boil, cut the heat, add the shrimp to the hot water that is not boiling and then stand there and WATCH IT.  The shrimp cooks through in just a few minutes. When the fibers change from translucent to opaque, then immediately rinse them in cold water  to halt the cooking. A toothpick was inserted into these shrimp because I was unable to cut the bottom fibers that allow the live shrimp to contract when alive and swimming. If I had overcooked this shrimp they would have contracted even with a straightening toothpick in them, and that is not wanted. If your shrimp curls, then you cooked it too long. These shrimp heated for three minutes in hot water, and in my world that is perfect. Others disagree with me on this, but they are flatly wrong, and that is why I never cook shrimp for other people. There are too many totally wrong complainy-ass people out there to bother with their incredibly uninformed discomfort. Sad, innit. 



Sushi chefs dump the rice into a large flat-bottom bamboo bowl and turn it with another flat hand-held bamboo spatula type implement. While the rice is turned and cooled this way the surplus steam evaporates and the rice becomes dry and loosened. Concurrent with this turning the chef also drizzles a simple sauce prepared by cooking sugar with rice vinegar. This light sticky sauce coats the grains and imparts a faintly gold sheen.  When my mother saw me doing this she asked, "Why don't you just cook the rice with the sugar and vinegar?" It's the sort of shortcut that appealed to her. There is little difference in result, but enough of a difference that a properly trained sushi chef would rather perform seppuku on the spot than besmirch his craft. Make your own choice, my mother's shortcut, or a proper careful sweet/sour coating over each individual grain tenderly turned so as to avoid damage to the cooked grain.

One tablespoon sugar, two tablespoons rice vinegar.


I used water this time, in the method of a caramel, I do not think all that is necessary. I wanted the sugar to color slightly before adding the vinegar. It was sort of a pain in the butt. Maybe add a little water to account for evaporation and cook until dissolved. Maybe a golden tinge is not so important. 




Stand back when you add the vinegar because POW does it ever hit you right in the face. The sudden vinegar cloud can take your breath away. 

The common wasabi found in those green tins is made from inexpensive American horseradish and colored green with spinach. Genuine wasabi is milder, not nearly as sharp or harsh, gentle by comparison, but it still packs a wallop that will ream your nasal passage when you have a careless intake. I love that. It is what I live for. You can get this wasabi dried from real plants at specialized spice shops. It is rather expensive. Or you can buy it here. 

The plant, wasabia japonica, is a persnickety thing to grow. It is a mountain river plant. It grows at altitude, in humidity, along clear running fresh water, at specific and narrow temperature range. It's a perfect bitch of  plant to farm. Nevertheless, a few American farmers are up to the challenge. Their techniques are proprietary. It involves hydroponics and strictly controlled conditions. You can buy a rhizomes and give it a go yourself. In fact, you can even buy their proprietary farming systems and start wasabi production yourself. 

Or you can buy a tin of harsh American fake-o horseradish wasabi like everybody else in the universe, even Japanese restaurants. It's up to you. 




I added chile de arbol because I still haven't put away the little bag of chiles, and they do seem to go with everything. 



Okay. 

☑ rice cooked
☑ sweet / sour coating for rice
☑ wasabi prepared
☑ shrimp cleaned, butterflied, cooked
☒ nori cut into strips

I sense a plan coming together in its final phase. You can see how the sweet/sour sauce, the shrimp, the wasabi, all take only a few minutes each, and can all be ready in the time the rice is finished its slow steady steaming. 

Now the rice is flavored and the components are ready for assemblage. 

The hands are dampened so that the rice does not stick to them. A single rounded tablespoon of rice is scooped into the palm of the hand at the base of the fingers. The rice wad is clamped in the curve of the hand using two finger of the other hand, and squeezed, so it is a two-handed deal, or more a one-handed + two-finger deal.  Do not smash to forceful compression. The idea is to get all the grains to cohere into a ball without damaging the rice grains and without compressing so tightly that a rice-brick is formed. Make the sort of thing you want to eat -- a gently compressed rice ball. The elongated ball has the indentation of your fingers. Correct that by turning the compressed wad of rice and re-smashing in the opposite direction to smooth the indentions. This does take a bit of practice. In Japan, sushi chefs actually have a competition wherein the chefs create a number of elongated rice balls, then a separate team takes the rice balls apart and counts the individual grains of rice. The chef that comes closest to producing the balls most similar by grain count wins the competition. Is that extreme or what? Try to form yours to be the same size. Make them the size that fits the size of the shrimp you selected, the size suitable for the children you are feeding, the size appropriate for hors d'oeuvres, the size that's right for Grandma's problem dentures, the size that fits in Julia Robert's big fat mouth, a woman who can stick her own fist into her incredible gaping maw, FACT, I saw her do it once, and I've never since been able to look at Julia Roberts without thinking of that. She could eat an ebi in one bite. 



Ordinarily I wrap the shrimp with a band of nori, but I omitted that step tonight because tonight I didn't feel like dealing with the texture of nori. I notice that restaurants skip this step too. The black band is very attractive and artistic, though, and I do sort of miss it, but it is entirely an aesthetics thing, they make a prettier picture, besides, when I have a desire to consume that processed algae I can add it soups and such any time. 

Conclusion: needs more chile flakes, and possibly another alternate sweet sauce to counter the salty shoyu. 

focaccia


Ay! So good to see you. Today we gonna be Italiano. Do not eat that up there ↑, those olives, they no good, pick offa those olives, the bread, she is good, the olives, they no good. Maybe you likea them, I no likea those olives. I picka offa those olives, I spit them out those olives.  Ptooooh!  I no likea those olives.  The bread, she is good. Very good. The olive oil on topa da bread, she is a good too, very very good. Everything isa good but I no lika those olives. 

* snap *

Why did I put chile de arbol flakes on my focaccia? Because the bag is sitting there on the counter plaintively calling out to me at every turn, that's why.


Don't you hate those dumb ass celebrity chefs on the Food Network who say, "Looka'thaaaaat," every 30 freak'n seconds? I give 'em two 'looka'thaaaats and they go straight to mute.  They are such catch phrase leaches. I want so badly to tell them all

STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! 

Now, having complained about that obnoxious overused catchphrase, and my strong impulse to knock all their heads together, look at that ↓.


That ↑ is what 1/4 teaspoon frozen commercial yeast does to a sponge-like bread dough given twelve hours or so. Possibly more. I do not know how long exactly, I didn't keep track, in fact, I didn't even notice what time it was last night when I started off the dough, nor what time it was when I saw it again this morning. All I know is how stunned I was to see the gigantic air bubbles through the glass bowl. The dough ball was left in the bowl on the counter overnight to do what it would. I could tell by the edge the dough had peaked and was beginning to settle. The yeast cells were retiring and in need of redistribution. See, now that is intuition! Intuition born of becoming one with the yeast. 

Psyche! I read this stuff in books written by scientifical type people. 

This dough was started with 1/4 teaspoon frozen commercial yeast dropped unceremoniously into  1 + 1/2 cup hot water along with 1/2 teaspoon sugar to get it started.  

Added 5 rounded tablespoons of semolina flour.

Added  3/4 measured teaspoon finely ground gray sea salt.

Added  A/P flour by the tablespoonful  until the dough was no longer sticky and could be turned out onto a work surface and very lightly kneaded and stretched. I played with it for a short while, as is my wont, I am a child that way.  I do not know how much A/P flour that turned out to be. Probably seven super-duper piled up tablespoonful. 

The flour was not sifted. No other ingredients went into the dough. The dough was formed into a small loose dough ball and placed inside a heavily oiled bowl that was way larger than it needed to be, and then covered with plastic wrap. 

Yeast no likey salt. Salt retards yeast but does not stop it. Therefore, you can use salt early to stretch out the proofing period, which is what I wanted. That is, I did not want the yeast to go full bore on the counter overnight. Even so, I did have doubts that 1/4 teaspoon yeast would be sufficient when retarded with salt. But I know my yeast, and I know my salt, and I concluded that would be fine and I was right. Had I been wrong, then I could correct that with an infusion of fresh yeast the next day, which is what all the books say to do anyway. See how I depart with the collective wisdom of the books? 

I was also mightily impressed, as I dumped out the dough and stretched it, folded it, stretched it again, folded it again, then stretched it again to fit the pan, whereupon it tightened and would not cooperate until finally  it was coaxed to relax  

RELAX GODDAMIT !

at how rapidly the yeast resumed activity. I could barely get the topping on fast enough before the dents I had poked into the surface closed up. 


Focaccia is like a Chicago pizza. It is a thick slab of bread topped with anything at all. I topped mine with what I had on hand. I am out of onions. If I had onions, I would have sweated or caramelized them first then coated the surface with them. I considered anchovy because I do have that. I considered cheese but rejected it. I considered tomato but rejected that too. I wanted to steer away of anything approximating a pizza too closely. I chose Rosemary, but pulverized it to powder to avoid that pine needle discomfort. I also chose crushed garlic, but I wish I had merely flavored the oil with it instead of topping the focaccia with raw garlic. That is not as good as I thought it would be. 

Dents are jabbed into the surface of the dough and then spread liberally with olive oil. The oil settles into the dents and incorporates into the bread during its final rise. The other ingredients top that but should not be poked into the surface. 

In case you are wondering, focaccia is derived from the Latin word for "focus."  Originally, this flat bread was cooked over the ashes of a hearth, a fireplace. That sounds kind of gross, actually, but who am I to judge? At any rate, the fireplace naturally was the focus of the household. Do whatever you wish and call the focaccia you come up with  your own. There are as many variations of focaccia as their are cooks. So do not let anyone pin you down to any given specific recipe, and certainly do not allow them to pull that, "Well, that's not how my mother made it," bullshit. If you ever hear that, yell at them,
  




Bake in a very hot oven. Don't hold back. This took twenty minutes. I was well chuffed with the oven rise. The bread tended to smash when I cut it, and that was a problem because I wanted good side views for the top photograph way up there ↑. So that forced me to cut like sawing a board. Otherwise I would just chop it.  Hang on, I'm  having another piece. 



FREE!  Extra dough philosophy! 




Time is your friend.

When it comes to bread dough, time is one of the more important ingredients, and sadly, the one ingredient most overlooked or omitted entirely. What does time do exactly? I do not know. What do I look like, a chronologist over here? I think what time does, and this is just my imagination taking off again, the little pictures in my head, I think what time does to yeast dough is incorporate yeast cell death into the blend. There exists the byproducts of cell activity that accumulate over time. By living, yeast cells change their environment. The more time allowed, the more change induced to the environment by yeast cells. Yeast cells acidify their own environment by living their little yeast cell lives. They munch along, farting up the place, having a wee and a poo here and there, stinking it up, ruining their own home, even making it undesirable to live in themselves.  It does not take long for yeast of any species to make such an undisciplined mess of things they shut down entirely into incredibly tight little divided genetic packages provided with a sturdy protective exterior and await more fortuitous circumstance, another place to foul.  Like I said, I am imagining all that. That is what the baker uses to their advantage -- yeast cell's own propensity to stink up the place.

Mmmm, yeast stink.

By living, yeast cells also alter the protein molecules within wheat making kneading unnecessary for the baker or at least much less arduous. The yeast cells will do all the wheat-protein unraveling on their own given time. At the macro level, for the baker, a few stretches of the dough in opposite directions, folding it back upon itself in a stack, and another stretch and fold to thoroughly redistribute the yeast cells, is pretty much all that is necessary to coax the elongated wheat protein molecules to coalesce into a matrix suitable to hold air. The air farted out by impressively excited rejuvenated yeast cells. I think.

I knead the dough anyway, before all of this,  because for me it is fun. I like to feel the way the dough changes under my fingertips and by the pressure applied by my hands. I like to stretch it and feel it submit. But I do not make a big deal out of it. I do not time the process. I just feel a change occurring in the texture and when that happens I am satisfied and I go, "There. Take that!" I am actually quite stupid about the whole thing. But even that degree of kneading is unnecessary with long proofing periods. Just give the yeast a good start and it is off to the races, for the yeast, that is, from the point of view of the baker, it is off to the waiting.

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