angel hair pasta


Capelli di angelo Alfonso. Alfredo's brother. See? It's not fettucini Alfredo because the pasta is not fettucini. This looks like a giant plate of spaghetti but it is not. It looks that way because the strands are very thin like hair, capelli. It is actually a very small plate and a very small pile. 

All of the flavorings are on the surface of the pasta except one, nutmeg, which is grated over heated cream. That is all there is to the sauce, gently heated heavy cream, about 1/4 cup or possibly less. 

Coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole black peppercorns, mixed chile flakes with sea salt are heated in a tiny pot then ground to coarse powder in a coffee grinder. Parmigiano Reggiano is grated separately then mixed with the ground seeds. 

As the diner consumes this pasta, removing strands with a fork, dragging the strands through the heated cream, twirling the lifted strands in a spoon, the cream adheres to pasta, the flavor particles fall into the cream flavoring the cream increasingly as one proceeds. This is a wonderful meal. Very simple and elegant. It is much quicker to cook than it is to photograph, hardly any cooking involved, actually. 

Not pictured: hotdog buns from yesterday refreshed in the countertop convection oven, its crust restored to crispy delicacy, its interior crumb gently heated. 


It's a bit of a trick to cook angel hair pasta to al dente because there is hardly any thickness to work with. The window of opportunity appears for mere seconds so it is imperative that the cook stand there and taste-test, texture-test, tensile-test continuously. 

Remove from the cooking water immediately and douse with cold water to halt the process. This is the single instance I can think of off hand where I recommend rinsing cooked pasta with water. Usually it is desirable to retain the starchy surface of the pasta along with some of the cooking water so that it can assist with the formation and the adherence of the sauce, but not now with the thin angel hair pasta where halting the cooking process is critical. It will tend to dry and clump anyway and that is disastrous for such delicate threads. Clumpage if it happens is loosened with olive oil. This here is what you call pasta management. 

bratwurst




Step 1: make hotdog buns. 

The Cuisinart processor was used to produce a fast batch of bread dough starting with 3.25 cups of mixed whole wheat and all purpose flours, aprox 25% / 75% respectively. 1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast was included with the dry flour along with 1 +1/2 teaspoon kosher salt flakes along with two rounded teaspoons rubbed sage. The liquid was milk with 1 tablespoon butter amounting to 1 + 1/2 cups heated beyond body temperature which one can tell by feeling the heat of the glass container. 

The dough was left on the counter overnight. It rose insufficiently, the result in the morning too dry and too dense. The batch was corrected by removing and discarding a portion and restarting using the dough as a starter for a new batch. Discarded instead of doubled because I didn't want to overload the machine nor did I want to end up with surplus dough this morning. The dough was cut up and returned to the Cuisinart along with fresh commercial yeast just for a refreshed kick, 1/2 cup hot water was added through the feed tube to loosen the old dough to a wet sticky mass. A/P Flour was added in increments until the dough pulled away from the sides and processed in pulses until a sample would stretch for the windowpane test whereby a small sample is flattened in the fingertips and stretched as a tiny pizza to test the gluten development and elasticity as if it were a window for, say, a goth dollhouse. 

2.5 oz weighed segments of the dough were broken off, stretched and flattened, folded in thirds, flattened again, folded in thirds again, then pinched shut resulting in a tiny dough pillow. The puffy little dough pillows consisting of six folded layers internally and pinched on three sides are rolled on the work surface using the fingertips of both hands stretching the pillow shape out to the shape of a worm. A short fat worm. A big, short, fat worm. 

This resulted in six extra ounces of dough, divided in two and themselves formed into two puffy pillow shapes, but not rolled into worm shapes, and kept separate from the hotdog buns because that tray holds only ten. 

The dough worms were placed in a pan designed for East Coast style hotdog buns. The pan is designed for a single sheet of dough to be placed in the pan as a thick rectangular pizza, and cooked as a single flat loaf which is cut into strips after baking along the bases of the mounds that are formed by the indentations in the bottom of the pan. These hotdog buns shown here do not go along with the original purpose of the pan, rather individual hotdog buns are formed and kept separated by liberal brushings of olive oil, and that is just as easily done in a brownie pan except the bottoms would then be flat instead of curved as these are curved, as the top dome is curved also. So, oddly, the tops and bottoms are curved while the sides of the rolls are flat where the rolls abut against and tend to attach to adjoining rolls. Weird, innit. The pan does that. 



Steam

The waiter at Bittersweet must have thought it odd for a customer of my demographic to interrogate so deeply about dinner rolls. For my part I was pleased with his answers and conversational celerity. When I asked how the cook managed such excellent thin crisp crust that veritably crackles and delicately flakes he answered without any apparent thought, "Steam."

"The stove has an built-in steamer, or does he spray it manually?"

"The stove has a steamer built into it. The first ten minutes is steamed."

"High heat?"

"Yes."

"Then that would be more than half the baking period of continuous steaming."

"Yes, for dinner rolls, more than half."

Impressive. I tried that technique before and it didn't work. I tried two things, in fact. Standing there with a spray bottle and cracking open the oven door and giving the whole chamber a series of sprits. I also used a lower rack to fit the oven with a tray of water that would hold until it evaporated. Those two things worked poorly. But now I have a new idea. In lieu of an internal sprayer I could use the oven's chimney to deliver dribbles of water directly to the chamber floor continuously for ten minutes thus keeping the door shut and having the water vaporize immediately on contact, especially important during those first few minutes of baking when the surface of the dough must remain elastic so that the expanding internal air pockets within the dough can expand outwards. I can now report the new technique works brilliantly, and I owe it all to our waiter who showed so much patience toward me. 


They expanded so much by the intense moist heat that they broke through their sealed edges and partially unraveled in the oven. Lesson: seal the edges better. 

Step 2: cook brats. These were seared in the pressure cooker with the lid off, then the water added, the lid attached, and cooked under pressure until I imagined they submitted. They could have used less pressure and less time cooking. 




Previous hotdog buns:

homemade buns with bratwurst
hotdog buns with description of pan
hotdog buns
hotdog buns

Previous bratwurst:

bratwurst
bratwurst with potatoes
bratwurst

Jello


There's always room for Jello® with mandarin oranges from a tin and whipped vanilla whole cream from a cow. 

Anaheim chile soup


It is strange to be roasting another chicken so soon after the previous chicken, but circumstances conspired for it. That previous chicken was small and its broth was weak and all of the stock from the carcass of that chicken was used for risotto and all of its flesh was used for the curry topping for that risotto, and now it's all gone and I am once again forlornly chicken broth-less. Oh, there is commercial chicken broth around, but I'm talking about the real deal. The conspiring circumstances were the remodeling of the store I visited, the dearth of seafood there, the availability of a free range organic chicken on sale for $4.00 off the regular price right there at the spot where my dismay about seafood was overtaking me and forcing the formulation of a new plan including the possibility of leaving the store, the abundance of fresh chiles that sprung the idea of making a chile soup that would require a base of chicken broth. So back and forth I went in that store being remodeled passing over and over again other shoppers doing the same thing. Naturally I chatted it up with everybody, c'mon, it's a captive audience then in'nit. 


This chicken was brined extravagantly overnight. One cup of kosher salt, 3/4 cup cane sugar, then some 25 peppercorns, a tablespoon of coriander seeds, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, a teaspoon of celery seeds, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, a teaspoon of caraway seeds, a tablespoon of mixed dry chile peppers, all ground up to powder in a coffee grinder, and then 1/2 cup of Bacardi dark rum. The dark rum because I didn't want to open a bottle of wine. When I surveyed the available liquors on hand in the cabinet I realized there is nothing really inexpensive in there, all of it I pretty much hate anyway so it made little difference which one I chose. I lingered on the whiskeys, all very good whiskeys or so I understand, but abominable to my tender sensibilities, a variety of vodkas which I only seldom even touch. I see other people drinking them. I ask them what they like and then pick it up. There is a decently well-stocked bottle shop next door to where I live so it's all very convenient. Then I noticed the Bacardi dark rum. Truly ghastly in everything I've tried it. So I thought, "Eh, what the heck." It would be a background flavor-relayer for all the other heavy-handed spices that went into the brine. I think. Then again it could be the poisoning of the whole endeavor. 

Plus it seemed like a good a way as any to get rid of it. 

The chicken was dried, oiled, and roasted on high heat for shortly less than an hour.


Covered to nearly finished, then uncovered to brown although browning is not important since the chicken will not be presented at the table. 



Almost no liquid or fat at all was exuded, which is unusual but not unwelcome. 


A portion of this flesh ↑ will be used for the chile soup, the remainder frozen.

Cracked open bones and messy bits ↓ left on the bone. I do not bother trying to get every last morsel. 




The broken up carcass is returned to the pot the chicken was roasted in. The bones are roasted at high heat to put a singe on them and to develop the marrow, adding a layer of flavor and depth via the Maillard reaction. All of that will be dissolved into the broth.

Included also for roasting are all the things in the packet that the producers stuffed into the chicken's cavity; neck, gizzards, heart, liver. So this broth will have all the flavor of those things too. Many people leave out the liver. But, why? 


The pot was deglazed stovetop with a splash of Madera then the pot filled with water.

A broth not a plain stock, because of the heavily seasoned brine and because of the aromatic vegetables. 


Not pictured because it's not interesting or helpful or artistic: the full pot of boiling water with everything in it, submerged bones and vegetables.

 A foam forms when the water first comes to a boil. These are proteins that have loosened, their molecular structure enabling the formation of small bubbles that appear, then pop and disappear back into the broth. These renegade proteins tend to cloud the broth and impart an unpleasant somewhat unclean bitterness. The foam can be skimmed off the surface as it forms but only for a few minutes and then the opportunity is lost. Not a catastrophe, but might as well take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself. 


The chile photos ↓ are displayed out of sequence to the process which was actually multi-tasked. The chiles were roasted under the broiler burner while the chicken was being pulled from the bone and the carcass crushed for roasting. Then the chiles were allowed to steam in a plastic grocery bag wrapped in a kitchen towel then their charred skin removed completely as possible along with the the seeds while the broken carcass roasted. 




The entire pot of broth is run through a colander capturing the exhausted carcass and used vegetables. The broth is then run through a sieve back into the original pot. A portion is reserved and frozen, the rest is used for today's chile soup.

The broth already has onion, carrot, celery, garlic flavors cooked into it so there is no point in doubling up on those with the soup. The chiles prepared earlier are added to the portion that is not reserved and frozen. Spices are added, the usual Latin favorites, coriander, cumin, Mexican oregano, cayenne. The soup is whizzed with an immersion blender until homogenous. 

Masa harina was added on impulse to thicken the soup. Two tablespoons were whizzed in. Cream is added to the bowl not to the batch that way each bowl can be controlled independently and the cream can stay fresh. 

This photo ↓ was taken for an earlier post. 


Buy a bag of that stuff ↑ next time you see it. It will change your world if it hasn't already. This particular brand is marketed for tamales but it's the same thing that makes tortillas. It is ground corn, the kernels of which underwent nixtamalization, processed with an alkali to remove the husks. The powder mixes readily with any liquid and releases an aroma that is distinctly Mexican. The second serving of soup was thickened further with another tablespoon of this masa harina whisked in and the classically Mexican aroma was intensified. It also relaxed the heat of the chiles along with the cream. 

I should add that by roasting a variety of chiles this way and blending them together, the overall effect is a much broader, rounder, fuller, multi-dimensional chili profile that is extraordinary and addictive. Compare that with dumping a tablespoon of cayenne into a pot of chile con carne.

Previously roasted chickens to broth or stock:

roasted chicken
roasted chicken
homemade chicken broth
turkey, chicken, broth
chicken broth
roasted chickens
roasted chicken
roaster

spring rolls



I went to a local grocery store well-known for a good seafood counter but when I got there I saw that the company is expanding into the space immediately adjacent, which is a good thing because the place was always too small, but a not so good thing for me today because it will be a few weeks before they have an improved seafood counter up and running.  As it is, the selection was very poor. I noticed the best deal there were pathetic little packages of catfish trimmings. I thought in that moment, "I can do something with that."

The other disappointment is their obvious lack of appreciation for basic Asian ingredients. I intend to head out to the Asian market, but that's miles farther out. The store I was in did have rice noodles but they were the wrong size and they were ridiculously priced. So they can just take their overpriced rice noodles and stick them ... back on the shelf. I opted instead for ordinary Western angel hair pasta which worked out fine. 

So, two very strange ingredients for spring rolls: catfish and angel hair pasta. But that's the thing about spring rolls, they can be made of anything you wish. 

So can the sauce for that matter. I looked at a few sites to see what people are up to and the sites that accept comments are filled with so many wild variations that altogether they render the original post rather superfluous. 

Care to hear something amusing? The name of this local grocery store I went to today is King Soopers. It's been awhile since I stopped in mostly because their parking is wanting. The company has outlets all around town and throughout the suburbs. The outlet I went to is located nearby on Capitol Hill and has always been considered something of a sociological study in microcosm. Due to the high percentage of gay patronage relative to other nearby grocers the place picked up the agnomen Queen Soopers. To exchange the royal gender that way in conversation is to specify precisely the outlet under discussion and creates an immediate place-visualization in the mind of one's interlocutor.  Extending the rough humor along that same line, cruelty based on the obvious and undeniable, funny for its rejection of political correctness, the King Soopers located a few miles away that serves predominately Hispanic customers is called Bean Soopers. Those two bastardizations never fail to crack me up because these happen to be two of my favorite local stores precisely for their specialized customer bases which forces the company outlets to differ starkly from the same company outlets located in the suburbs which you can imagine are homogeneously undifferentiated.  [The remodeling being carried out in the store I was in today is shaping up to make it appear like all the others. But it will be only a matter of a few months until the customer base of the place forces it to take on a character unique to every thing else around.]

Previous spring rolls:



risotto



A Short Tale of Two Rices

Well, one type is good for risotto and the other one idn'.

The End

On the left, a good all-purpose short grain rice. On the right, larger starchier, Arborio rice, great for risotto (named after a town in Italy). 





The main problem with risotto is it messes two pots and a pan. The pan for whatever you want to go on top of the risotto. 

This risotto messed even more pans because the chicken had to be roasted first, in this case within a bowl and under a plate. But then a stock was prepared in the usual manner, the bones were roasted again to put a char on them and to develop whatever marrow they contained, so another roasting pan for the bones, and then the broth prepared from the broken-open charred bones messed two more pots and a colander and a sieve. So half the effort goes to cleaning all those implements, which altogether is sufficient to put a lazy bloke off the whole idea. The rest of it is fun.

This stock is weak because the chicken from which it originated was weak. That was apparent right off from its size. The stock did not form into a gelatin when cooled, not even a layer of it, and hardly any layer of fat on the surface to speak of, which is very strange indeed. But the weakness of the stock suits the purpose of risotto just fine because a very large volume of stock will be condensed when cooked into the rice through the dual processes of absorption and evaporation.

This 1 + 1/2 cups of Arborio rice took up six measured cups of weak chicken stock.

The large starchy rice granules are expected to rid themselves of an appreciable amount of surface starch that thickens the condensing cooking stock into a silky smooth sauce while leaving each rice granule independently delectable and vaguely toothsome, nearly al dente but not quite, as if fit for the first set of teeth of a toddler. <--- I just made that up. Look, I'm trying to make a description over here, okay?

The secret to great risotto, apart from first choosing the right rice to begin with, and apart from first slightly browning that rice in butter or olive oil before adding liquid in order to help the rice remain independent instead of forming into mush, and apart from  understanding the creamy concentrated sauce VS discrete rice granules described in the previous paragraph, ultimately is the finish of butter melted into the cooked rice followed by grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Ta daaaaaaaa. You are now a professional risotto cooker.

* preforms a deep elaborate salaam toward the audience, backs out stage left  *

The topping could be anything or nothing. This topping was a simple roux flavored with two of my favorite things cumin, coriander, then cayenne for heat, turmeric because my wrist hurts and I heard it is an anti-inflammatory, and a non-descript prepared curry that was measured from the jars in the spice section at Whole Foods. Plus the remainder of the chicken meat from the roasted chicken mentioned earlier minus a breast and a wing which some special somebody consumed last night.

Here's the thing about that prepared curry. When the lad at the store pointed out the jar to me I must say I was put off at first because the label said something like $17.00 per oz which seemed like a lot to me and I am a cautious shopper. But then when I measured it out I got a ton of it for an ounce. Well, not really a ton, but a lot of powdered curry makes an ounce. I filled up a little bag about the same amount as you get in a spice jar and it turned out to be only a couple of dollars. Less than at the spice store, and less than from the spice section within WF or any other regular store. So now I use it a lot. Now, I realize a person from India would object that prepared powder is not authentic curry and they'd be right, of course, but I haven't completed the knack of mixing my own curries from raw seeds although I could probably claim concocting  fairly extravagant combinations of spices that amount basically to a curry by any other name.  Which is what was done here.

Previous risottos:

Risotto
Risotto
Risotto with butternut squash
Fried eggs breakfast with risotto
Arborio risotto




roasted chicken





Brought out of the freezer and placed in cold brine completely frozen, which needless to say prolonged the process by hours. Brine = 1 cup kosher salt, 3/4 cup sugar. 

Baked in bowl with a plate for a lid. 

The chicken is small. Given a few more weeks this would have been a completely different bird. Young as it is, there is hardly any connective tissue at all. It bakes quickly and disastrously over bakes easily. Great care is in order especially with these small young birds. The situation goes like this:

uncooked, uncooked, uncooked, uncookedcookedovercooked. 

There is no margin for error. 

Young, organic, but not free range. Chickens like this are like a blank slate upon which the cook must write their own flavors. This chicken was peppered heavily and liberally coated with mixed dry herbs. That with the flavorful brine completely changed what would otherwise have been similar to tofu in flavor. 

The bell pepper was not dressed. 

breadsticks


Come on, who could resist a breadstick in a shape vaguely approximating a wheat stalk? A person with a wheat-allergy, that's who.

A dough fortified with egg and milk consisting of 1/4 to 1/3 whole wheat was whirled in the Cuisinart food processor. Two cups flour total including a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of sea-salt, a teaspoon of dry active yeast and two profligate rounded  heaping teaspoons of dry Italian mixed herbs,  and then 1 cup liquid total including egg, milk, and hot water, poured through the feed tube. The sticky dough was adjusted with w/w flour by the tablespoon full one at a time between processing pulses, upwards to five. The dough removed and further kneaded by hand but not on a work surface. The dough had become too stiff so it was adjusted further by simply stretching the dough under hot tap water and working the dough in the manner of a child playing with a mud pie until the desired balance between stiffness/wetness was achieved, which turned out to be three compete douses. Now I ask you, who in their right mind makes bread dough this way? The dough would be expected to hold its shape so that means a little bit on the stiff side, or to error on the side of stiffness if error one must. 









I never snipped dough with scissors before. Initially I was visualizing alternating offset snips, but when it came right down to doing the snipping, I didn't concern myself with alternate spacing like a checkerboard, but rather just went straight down the row, snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip until the row was complete then onto the opposite row counting on the snips appearing to be random. Then the top, then the bottom, knowing that the row on the bottom would become flattened either way. The trick, if there is one, is to  screw up the snip a little bit, to lift the snipped piece away from the stalk to give the appearance of a grain separating. I learned you can dig fairly deep into the dough without much harm. 


Maybe next time will be better.





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