duck and pasta salad


The idea is chicken salad substituting duck and including pasta. Penne pasta specifically. Alas, for I am penne pasta-less. It would have been all so simple, but now I must make my own extruded pasta. These are not proper penne because they are not cut off at an angle, rather the extrusion plate was used as a guide to slash them as they exited without fussing over the angle. You can see how points would assist in directing sauce inside the pasta, but these will not have points and so will not have that advantage. Too bad. 



The close up is showing salt and pepper (but not the mixed Italian herbs) included with the dry pasta dough. The closeup is included for 

ART.

Those additions are non-traditional with pasta. Usually no seasonings are added at all. But I do like to overdo things when possible. 



There were two setbacks. The fist disc chosen was too small. It would produce macaroni and cheese size pasta. This was apparent immediately so the disc was switched out.  




It turned out the mixture was too dry. The aim was for a dry mixture because the penne were to air-dry quickly and because collapsing is undesirable as is sealing shut when the penne is cut from the extruder, and because a machine all gummed up with wet dough is a drag. But the first mixture was too dry and the machine bogged down, making it impossible to extrude smoothly. The mixture was moistened. It was also expanded to nearly double the original amount. The Cuisinart was brought out to do these corrections as the first mixture would do best reduced to uniform crumbliness and to have the additions processed completely and evenly into it with no doughy unmixed clumps. Water was drizzled into the feed tube and checked repeatedly until the desired moisture was attained as if starting with fresh dry flour and semolina. The second mixture was still dry and crumbly, but not quite as dry as the first one. 


The extrusion disc was switched to the large size.


The four holes in the disc on the left are dough intake holes. The central post of that disc fits into the central hole in the second disc. The two discs are held in place with a tiny space between them  by two smaller posts and holes on their edges. When dough is pushed through the four holes (screwed through, actually) it is then forced into a the narrow gap surrounding the central post and then out the hole, but the hole is mostly plugged by the central post, but not entirely, so a tube of pasta is squished out around the post. 

Whoever invented this is obviously a perv. 

The pasta tube is one long continuous tube that is cut into segments, their length determined by the sous-chef (moi) who is standing right there, feeding the grinder screw from the top and behind all of this, and simultaneously nicking off pasta tube segments. It takes some eye-hand coordination, and some measure of care that one doesn't harm oneself with the knife, which must be sharp in order to make clean cuts. Otherwise the knife would seal the pasta tubes as it cut them. The whole thing is such fun. Kind of like a Play-Doh factory, except you get to use a really sharp knife, and you can eat the result. 



So there's that. 

Now it must dry. Well, it doesn't have to dry, I mean, it's not a requirement. The thing is, this pasta is intended for a sturdy salad and I would prefer this pasta to be al dente so that means it must dry first. Luckily, I live in a near desert. 

BUT WAIT!  This pasta must be tested. Wouldn't do to go off drying untested pasta, now would it? 


Nyom nyom nyom nyum nyom *smacks lips* nyum nyum nom nom nyom *licks fingers* nyom, nyom nyom, num num BURP!  Num nyom, *wipes lips with back of hand* nyum nym nom nom nyum. What?  


Nyom nyom nyom nyum nyom, hang on, nyom nyom nyom yom, I'm getting there, nyom nyom yom nyom nyom. Okay, I'm almost done testing, nyom nyom nyom. 


Yes, that'll do. 

Mayonnaise is prepared the usual way, this time with one egg yolk and olive oil, a hefty amount of mustard and a drizzle of rice vinegar. S/P, plus a little sugar. No garlic and no ginger, or any other seasoning, flavored oil, allium, or chile, 




ARTS !


Fennel, tomato, celery, pickle relish, sweet onion

1/2 small tin jalapeño opened earlier. I debated whether or not to include it, then finally decided that I do like chile in pretty much everything. I was disappointed that it cannot even be tasted. Wut up wi'dat? That impels me to put another form of chile in the remainder. 



This is the last of the duck prepared for Christmas. All that remains is the broth, which is delicious, and about 1/2 cup of the rendered fat. 




quesadillas


Queso ('-so) cheese + tortilla (tor-tē'-ya) fried flatbread = cheese in flatbread. 

The tortilla can be either processed corn type (masa), or it can be flour tortilla. The more common kind is corn-tortillas. These use a flour tortillas, because that is what I wanted today.  The cheese is usually Oaxacan (wa-ha'-kan, a state in Mexico), this cheese is queso blanco because that is what I have on hand. 

We're not having any argument about authenticity. It's all authentic. Once I ordered quesadillas at a place on the beach at Puerto Vallarta (Ignacio Vallarta, onetime governor of Jalisco, had a port named after him, not a door, which would be puerta) and was so disappointed with what was delivered; three little corn tortillas rolled up with traces of melted queso blanco. That's it. No sauce, no filling, no carne, no nuth'n, and I'm all, "Wut?"  Let's try this again. "Señor, Señor, ¿Si qué puedo extiendo mi orden, por favor? Si es posible, tendré uno burrito soffocado y dos chile rellenos, por favor." It's very important when traveling to always be polite. 

And make that muy grande, Bitch, the boy's hungry.    



Okay, I will admit, this is weird. The spices are put inside the tortillas. That's just not done, and yet, here I am doing it. Cumin and cilantro with Mexican oregano. It made these tortillas different from any other on Earth. 

That and the duck fat that was substituted for lard. I almost forgot to mention that. This was a test to see how well duck fat performed in a tortilla. Turns out, duck fat performs very well indeed. I do not understand why duck fat is not more broadly used.




These tortillas also are not very round. There is a certain carelessness to them. Perhaps a dopiness. Maybe I'm just inept at forming tortillas, and maybe I don't care. 



I suppose it is hard to justify making one's own tortillas because they are so readily available and incredibly cheap. The thing is, the main thing is, I do not want to have a package of a dozen tortillas around. I only want two or three. For my part, making dough is as easy as fiddling with one of those plastic bag closing pinching things. They're a total pain in the butt when I don't lose them, and then the tortillas go stale anyway. Plus tortillas made fresh at home taste ten times better. Possibly five times better. OK FINE, they probably taste twice as good as store bought tortillas, maybe even less, what do I look like, a qualitative analyst over here? They're better, that's what counts, and for their obvious flaws, these quesadillas are the best I've ever had. 

duck breakfast


Something frozen in a previous age, the Cretaceous probably, I thought it might be a dinosaur egg but it turned out to be a potato. Now I remember, they were boiled in salt water and frozen to avoid them growing branches as they do when neglected, which is why they are rarely picked up by the sack, even a small 5LB sack tends to go old. 

The idea today is to fry potato in duck fat reserved from Christmas to see if duck fat is all that it is cracked up to be, and to learn for myself what those French-trained cooks are on about. 

The plate includes duck itself, also reserved from Christmas. 







A bit about photography, in case you are interested. And who would't be?

The top image is a stacked focus, but one done in Photoshop by hand, rather than Photoshop's own stacked focus process. The reason for that is because mine is better. No brag, just fact. The thing is, Photoshop has no judgement at all. It hasn't a clue which images it can eliminate entirely so it dutifully attempts to take something from everything. It also couldn't match a curved plate if its life depended on it. And further, it has no way to understand the content it's manipulating.

By contrast, I can use a feathered selection to pick out the pieces I want, and I can use something within Photoshop that Photoshop itself cannot use for its own stacked focuses, and that is the warp distortion. Photoshop's stack is limited to the stack as it is, whereas I can stretch and distort segments to my hearts content in order to force the pieces to fit. I can also do this much faster than Photoshop can do it even though Photoshop is processing its ass off, performing mathematic gymnastics of which I am hardly capable. Here is Photoshop's stacked focus of that same image. The dimension has not been reduced, so it is full-size. You can clicky to big, if you want.

Eh, looking back at it, I guess it's not so bad. It's just that it took f-o-r-e-v-e-r, and the smudged rim at the bottom put me off.

steamed dumplings


The idea today was to produce steamed buns that contain egg yolks that break open like a real eggs. They will have a filling, but at the center of the filling, whatever that filling would be, most likely something using the egg whites, the raw egg would pour out providing its own sauce. Like a carbonara, except with wheat dough instead of wheat pasta for the starch. The trick would be to get the egg yolk inside the bun. The second trick would be to steam the bun but not so much that the yolk in its center also cooks. Shut up, it's an experiment.

I can visualize it, but not all the way. Should the filling be a paste? Should it be stiff or loose? Dry or wet?  Meat or plant? Protein or carbohydrate? These questions will resolve as they are approached. Put another way, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.


Smooth as a baby's bum. Actually, I wouldn't know, I never had cause to touch a baby's bum. They could be like 80 grit sandpaper for all I know. This photo ↓ of course belongs way down there ↓↓ a few steps later, but you're having it here.  


Not shown: eggs are separated yolks and whites into separate bowls. One of the eggs was a double-yolked egg and that one broke which messed up my bowl of yolks. 


Not shown: napa cabbage and bean sprouts for the filling. A thin roux was browned and a sauce prepared with chicken stock and heavy cream. The egg whites were added to that then cooked on extreme low while whisking continuously, carefully assessing the thickness. I was aiming for a viscosity close to a paste. I was imagining smearing flattened dough with this paste then coddling an egg yolk within it and carefully pinching the dough into a dumpling.  There was more liquid, mostly egg white, than what would go with the amount of solid vegetable I prepared so over half this liquid was strained out.  I should have reserved more because eventually there wasn't enough for six dumplings. 



Another yolk broke during handling from the bowl. The first yolk wrapped in its dough also broke. That suggested to me to use a ramekin to help form the dumplings. But the ramekin did not  prevent two more yolks from breaking. One broken yolk was wrapped anyway, the second one that broke after the ramekin was used was discarded in utter disgust. That's five broken yolks. I was pretty much over the whole idea at that point. I ran out of filling too but still had dough so I cracked open two more eggs and wrapped those without filling. This whole experiment was fraught with mishap unfortunate to egg-conservation. 




Each dumpling has their own little piece of parchment square. 


These are the buns after the dough rose a second time and ↓ after the dumplings were stuffed.


As you can well see a few problems developed just sitting there for about fifteen minutes. Three leakages, specifically. (One dumpling was previously patched) That's eight broken yolks total. Eight out of six, a very bad record indeed. This boded poorly for the whole enterprise. 



Conclusion: Fail. 

A sauce is needed because the yolk solidified. Needs salt. Children would probably like these. 

Will I try this again? Maybe. Dunno. Burned once, shy twice. OTOH, I am dreadfully stubborn, and I do learn from mistakes, so there's that working for me working against me going on, and this idea is unlikely to just go away. 

What did I learn? I learned ramekins are useful but no assurance. I learned not to have unpacking the dishwasher set the timing for bun-steaming when liquid egg yolks are the aim. I learned the filling must be interesting and probably should contain pork. 


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