tempura



This is a light dinner, maybe too light. 

Cod and shrimp. A tempura dipping sauce is prepared first then a tempura batter. 

Tempura is about ice-cold battered items dropped into hot oil for dramatic splatter. The coating is light. I've seen tempura cooks dribble cold tempura batter directly onto frying items already battered to extend the splattered batter patterns frying in the oil to somewhat resemble insect legs or other bizarre extensions of pure batter. You would want those creative splatter extensions to have some substance, delicate, but still sturdy enough to hold. That is not done here. 

I wanted rice flour included in the batter but that is not necessary. Rice kernels were processed to dust in a coffee bean mill. This batter has egg which isn't necessary either. The batter also has corn starch along with all purpose wheat flour. So three types of powders where you can get by with wheat flour alone. See how that would change things? The batter is lightened with cold club soda. It could have as easily been tonic, Seven-up, beer, water with scant baking powder -- anything to get light bubble action going. Too much bubble action and the batter fries to light crisp foam. The batter must be cold so ice cubes are not out of the question. Ice cold battered items into hot oil is what Tempura is about.  

Tempura dipping sauce:

*  1 cup bonito dashi.  [bonito flakes boiled briefly in tap water then the flakes strained out after one minute or so]
*  1/4 cup soy sauce
*  1/4 cup mirin
*  2 level tablespoons sugar
*  1/2 teaspoon powder ginger
*  1/8 teaspoon chile powder flakes

Tempura batter:

*  1/4 cup white rice flour
*  2 level tablespoons corn starch
*  2 heaping tablespoons wheat flour
*  1/2 teaspoon salt
*  1/4 teaspoon white pepper
*  1 egg whisked
*  1 bottle club soda

Lightly coat items with thin batter then deep or shallow fry in vegetable oil at 350℉/175℃ until light golden brown. The cold seafood pieces cook within a minute. 

fingers


It's Hallowe'en.

Peanut butter cookies in the shape of human fingers. Amaretto icing fingernails and bloody stumps.  


The peanut butter cookie dough is adjusted a little on the stiff side to retain a finger shape. The leaven agents are reduced by half. This is a very short dough using peanut oil, butter, and shortening in an amount that equals the sugar. Flour to stiffen. 

Depressions for fingernails are pressed with a dinner knife. The same knife applies a dab of white icing and flattens it onto the baked-in depression. 

Red food coloring is added to the white icing and daubed onto the end opposite the fingernail. 

Ya know if you wanted to go overboard stylistically you can reserve some white icing then dot the center of the red stump white to imitate a severed bone. 

A classic cookie recipe is adjusted slightly for nefarious ends.

*  1/2 cup granulated sugar
*  1/2 cup packed brown sugar
*  1/2 cup peanut butter
*  1/4 cup shortening
*  1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
*  1 egg
*  1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
*  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
*  1/4 teaspoon baking powder
*  1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream the sugars with the peanut butter, butter, shortening, and egg.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  

Shape into fingers.  Press indentation for fingernail.  Tap the edge of the knife with three or four close strikes to indicate a knuckle joint. Squish the finger to bulge the knuckle and wrinkle the lines that were tapped in just like a real knuckle. 

Chill. 

Bake at 350℉/175℃ for 10 minutes. 

Cool 

Icing:

*  1 cup or so confectioners sugar
*  1 teaspoon Amaretto liqueur
*  few teaspoons water added in incrementally to desired thickness

Apply fingernail icing. Add red food coloring to icing. Apply icing in drips to the severed stump end of the fingers. 

I designed these fingers a few years ago for Department pot luck at work. I signed a list saying I'd bring  "finger food" which caused people to expect something dainty. 

My coworkers went nuts with these fingers. Within an hour they were all spread across the whole building, across the mall to the supplemental office building. People set them in other people's desk drawers to be discovered and at the paper cutter next to copiers, on top of other people's in boxes, that sort of thing. 

I notice that most people begin nibbling the cookie at the fingernail to taste the icing but also as if to trim the nail. They're fun and every bit as good as any peanut butter cookie. 

The cookies are surprisingly good.

gelatin


I found these two boxes. They're almost the same thing. One has flavor and sugar the other one doesn't. 



The idea was to include a tin of tropical fruit and heat the syrup to activate the gelatin.  When I opened the tin I could see half of the chunks are pineapple and that will not do. They must be handled separately.

I could be wrong about that. There is pineapple flavored Jello after all. 

Cooking denatures the enzyme bromelain present in fresh pineapple which breaks down or prevents the formation of collagen. This pineapple is pressure cooked in its tin so its enzyme probably would not interfere with gelatin. I did not want to risk it so that cautious attitude prevented using the juice in the tin for the gelatin. But try it. See if it works.  


I can see how gelatin powder can be useful for other things. There are a lot of puddings and such that depend on custards setting reliably. A half a package or a whole package can assure that a cream pie sets. 

I did make a sauce out of juice in the tin. The sauce was warm and only so good as the juice is good. It was thickened with a teaspoon of corn starch and heated in the microwave. Plated, the fruit spread out and the gelatin cubes spread out even more. The heat affected the gelatin cubes. They appeared to melt. I couldn't get the cubes of fruit or the cubes of flavored gelatin to stack. That plate had sauce, whole tinned fruit, and flavored gelatin cubes. The plate couldn't be used for an upscale site like this. Wanna see


lamb with curry rice


Portion of a lamb leg roast cut into cubes and seasoned heavily with dry herbs. 






Before frying in hot oil, a little flour is tossed to coat the pieces. 


The lamb cubes are fried in batches leaving space to avoid crowding. The cubes are fried, turned, fried, turned again, so fried on at least three sides. The smaller pieces removed as the larger pieces continue to fry and turn until eventually the pan is cleared leaving behind appreciable fond. 

A seasoned roux is prepared in the pan of fond. The fond is lifted with beef broth and sake. Everything is better with Japanese sake. The gravy is heavily seasoned and spiked with two forms of dried chile. 




Rice:

Prepared curry with additional seasonings heated in butter. Diced onions added to the butter and curry. Water to halt the curry frying action. Rinsed short-grain rice added to the watered butter curry. Additional water sufficient to bring the total amount of liquid to 1.75  times the amount of rice. This rice was cooked in a pressure cooker but that is not necessary. It's just that the pot was conveniently sitting right there and even though the lid was clamped closed there was never any serious pressure. Twenty-five minutes at a light steam then an additional 10 minutes off the heat still steaming in the covered pot. 

ahi sashimi




With iceberg lettuce South River miso and adjusted soy sauce. 

Adjusted soy sauce: Flavored beyond the nearly abusive salty flavor of straight soy sauce along the usual lines of this sort of thing, diluted, and thickened. 

* 1/4 cup soy sauce. This seems like a lot and it probably is. This is the base. It is too strong by itself so it is diluted with water

 In amount that seem reasonable to you:

* Japanese saki
* honey
* rice vinegar
* fish sauce (just a few drops)
* powdered ginger
* corn starch (1 level teaspoon)
* chile pepper flakes
* wasabi (one generous teaspoon)
* water

Vigorously shake ingredients in a closed jar. Remove lid from jar. Heat in microwave for one minute or until the mixture boils. Adjust if necessary with more water. 

You know, it's time to order another case of miso from South River. Hang on.

* orders *

I am now down beyond the last halves of the last two jars and it is no longer summertime so the prohibition is lifted that holds against outward shipments during hot summer months. The heat tends to make jars explode in transit, you see,  apparently due to the aliveness of real miso. At least that is how I understand it. I am not connected to South River miso save as satisfied customer appreciative of reliably high quality products, and they do not pay me anything for promoting them, in fact they charge me for their products. 

corn fritters




Corn fritters:

* 1 cup frozen corn
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
* 1 level tablespoon a/p flour
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1/16 teaspoon ground back pepper
* 1/32 teaspoon dry chile pepper flakes
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (backup leaven for egg white)
* 1 large egg separated

Egg separated. Egg white whipped in a bowl large enough for all the ingredients. It must not be a plastic bowl or else the whites will not completely stiffen. Beaten egg whites will be prevented from fully stiffening by even a trace of oil.  All the other ingredients are processed together in a small countertop processor. The processed corn mixture is folded into the egg whites then spooned into a heated buttered pan. 


huevos en chile


Pork chili found in the freezer. The bacon I have is extra thick slab and it's hard to chew so it was sliced down its length in thirds. That resulted in something akin to a bacon nest and a lot easier to consume. 

Too lazy for proper rancheros. That would involve tortillas, easy enough, grating cheese, easy enough, dicing onion, easy, picking leaves off cilantro sprigs. All easy in themselves but added up, I just don't feel like it. 

The pork chili is delicious. It is sweet as it is hot and I have no idea how it got that way

chocolate brownies













You see a lot of stuff about fudge VS cake regarding chocolate brownies, or chewy  VS cake. 

A chocolate brownie is a slightly undercooked collapsed cake. The reason the cake collapsed is because it had insufficient leaven to begin with. The leaven that results in cake instead of brownie is egg and baking powder. Back off from those two ingredients in order to get a brownie. The batter is stiff. Real stiff. The only liquid is egg and vanilla, or possibly Kahlua. The batter is baked incompletely to ensure a soft gooey center but enough to produce a crackled surface.

The most difficult thing is to purposefully undercook the batter. This batter was baked at 350℉ / 175℃ for 18 minutes. The timer was set for 20 minutes but the moment I caught the first whiff of cooked chocolate I leapt to my feet and removed the pan before the timer went off. The batch turned out perfectly cooked, so I recommend the whiff method of determining timing with a backup timer set to lower than you imagine cake would take. 

* 1/2 cup butter
*  1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 brown sugar this time)
*  3/4 cup flour
*  1/4 cup chocolate
*  1 or 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
*  1/3 cup dry cherries
*  3/4 cup pecans
*  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*  1/2 teaspoon instant espresso 
*  few drops almond extract
*  1/2 teaspoon salt

Obviously I didn't measure anything, but I sort of did because I used a measured cup to scoop the flour and pour the sugar, and the butter is marked off in tablespoons so I can determine a half a cup from the butter wrapper.  I think brownies are a chance to be careless. Either cream the sugar into the butter together or melt the butter and mix with all the other ingredients. Adjust the flour to achieve an excessively stiff batter.  

This batch differed from all previous batches because I melted butter and chocolate together and because I included dried cherries. The amount of chocolate that was melted was the amount remaining in the bag of chocolate chips. I thought the amount of chocolate chips was insufficient and so intended to supplement with dry cocoa, but the small amount of chips darkened the batter so much that I then debated using the cocoa. I decided to double up because the batter seemed too wet. I felt it could use a little more flour to stiffen it along with a little cocoa powder. I included dry cherries because I saw them first in the pantry when I went for dried cranberries. 

Pacific salmon, iceberg lettuce


*whispers* It wasn't very good. What went wrong? Shhh shhh shhh.  The salmon. Overcooked. 

napa cabbage


That brown there ↑ is pan sear not sauce. The other brown area is mushroom. The wetness is from the cabbage.



On the heat, singe, off the heat. All the things in the pan are singed on one side, not turned, lifted out of the pan.

This is exactly what I wanted. With South River sweet brown rice miso. There is a thick strongly flavored sauce poured onto the plate. The tofu cubes absorb the sauce so each tofu cube presents two altered sides: a singed side and sauced side. 

Sauce:

In amounts you think are reasonable except where indicated

*  soy sauce or tamari sauce (salt, this is the umami base, contains wheat)
*  mirin (something sweet, sugar will do. )
*  saki
*  fish sauce (anchovy in Western cuisines, depth, extremely strong and disagreeable on its own. Just a few drops. I'd try tamarind paste if I objected to fish sauce, which I don't, but if I did, and tamarind is a good choice besides, Worcestershire has tamarind)
* rice vinegar
* chile pepper flakes
* corn starch
* water

The basic idea of the sauce is something sweet and sour for the cabbage. A base of soy sauce then provides three basic flavors right there: sweet, sour, salt.  Anything beyond this is pure adventure. 

The ingredients are poured into a coffee mug then clamped with the palm of the hand and shaken vigorously to dissolve the cornstarch. The contents are poured into the pan that seared the vegetables and placed on coals at the edge of the campfire. The sauce is fully thickened when the liquid boils. 

Did I just now say coffee mug, hand, and campfire? I'm sorry, I meant to say "glass jar,"  "lid,"  and "microwave."  

salad, Alfredo, pita


I wanted iceberg lettuce, that's all, but I didn't want blue cheese dressing nor the customary bits. 

I do not know why I decided on a warm Alfredo type sauce instead of a cold dressing, but that's what happened. At this point I'm seeing an iceberg wedge sitting in an Alfredo pool. 

I cleared the refrigerator tonight with something of a ruthless edge. I didn't feel like dealing with containers so they were tossed too. Items that stayed included jalapeño and sweet red peppers and an avocado, and now the iceberg wedge is looking a little more interesting. And pita. 



Whole jalapeño chile pepper one minute then stripped, disemboweled, and the capsaicin producing seed-bearing placenta relieved of all its seeds the next minute.

An Alfredo wannabe sauce is created. Alfredo is cream and Parmigiano Reggiano with parsley. I do not have cream so I use milk and butter instead and thicken it slightly with scant flour. A thin roux is produced of the flour and butter to compensate for the thinness of milk. Roux can also be darkened for layered flavor and cream cannot. 

A days-old pita bread is revitalized in a small toaster oven and then covered with a layer of Alfredo sauce and returned to toaster oven to brown. 


Looks good enough to me just like this, but the salad is already prepared. 

Green jalapeño is an unripe fruit. If the chile were left on the plant it would eventually turn red. It would also sweeten somewhat and lose some of its heat. Because the jalapeño is unripe it has the same gustatory effect that other unripe fruit has. It is best eaten not completely raw. Onion too. The jalapeño, onion, and mushroom slices are heated briefly just enough to alter their rawness, less than a minute. The slightly cooked vegetables are combined with raw avocado and chopped iceberg lettuce. Finally, the iceberg lettuce which started the whole thing but now no longer in wedge form. 


So basically a vegetable pita bread pizza, and it is delicious beyond understanding. The combination of hot / warm / cold is agreeable. This vegetable pita pizza is so refreshing that when I finished it felt like I had just brushed my teeth. I stopped half way and pushed away the plate satisfied I was finished. Then came back to it.  Twice.  Even though by then it was cold, until not a trace remained. 


cod, sliced potato, milk sauce






Lemon segments were kept whole instead of being squeezed for juice. 

The sauce is milk with butter and seasonings that seemed good tonight, sage and oregano. Red chile, of course. A teaspoon of flour was whisked into a cup of milk but that's it for thickener, no proper roux, just everything pressure cooked at once, potato in milk along with the other things for sauce. No cheese. Ten minutes on low pressure, the pressure released naturally and slowly which amounts to further cooking by about five minutes. 

This cod with potato tasted great but the plate didn't look like I imagined. I would tell you where I think I went wrong but that's boring. It's not boring? Fine then, click on this blue dot

black beans, rice, miso sauce


This meal saved my life tonight. 

I've had this feeling of running on empty before. Desperately empty. When I was a kid it happened a lot. Worse then because I didn't control things. 

NO!  You cannot have any raw French fries, it'll ruin your dinner! Now piss off until you're called. 

That sort of thing. I forgot about this feeling until now, energy drain, things not working right. Electrolyte depletion. Shakes. Weakness. Lightness. 

It's really stupid to wait until 8:30 at night to finally have something to eat. The awful watermelon earlier doesn't count, that didn't get consumed.  



Rice pot with paper towel gasket. 

* 1 cup short grain rice
* 1.75 cups water

The water with rice is brought to a roiling boil. That gets the steam going confidently but it is much too hot for the rest of the steaming. The heat is cut to nearly 0. The minute that it takes between a confident roiling boil and barely steaming is critical because the rice is already absorbing water and if the rice absorbs water too fast then it sticks to the bottom of the pot. So in this minute of transition between high heat and low, between open pot and closed pot,  the cook scrapes the rice off the bottom of the pot while lifting the pot off and on the burner to maintain steaming but without the rice sticking until finally the minute is over and the cook clamps on the lid confident that the pot will continue to steam the rice gently.  I seem to have used the word 'confident' three times. If you're so impetuous as to open the lid any time during this 35 minutes then you're on your own, I cannot help you. 

25 minutes steaming gently on low heat. Cover still on. 10 additional minutes off heat to continue steaming even more gently. 

The beans are cooked in 2 X the measured amount of water under low pressure for 40 minutes. That resulted in a small amount of extra water at the bottom of the pot which turned black. By low pressure I mean the first of two red notches on a pressure valve, or half pressure, or 7.5 LBS pressure. 

* 1 cup black beans
* 2 cups water
* 1/4 teaspoon salt

So, then I go to pour a glass of mango juice and there is a bug on the juice box. This one. 



It's a good bug innit -- a ladybird beetle. 


Miso sauce: 

*  1/2 cup water
*  2 level tablespoon miso
*  1/4 teaspoon dry hot chile pepper flakes
*  1 tablespoon Sriracha 
*  1 tablespoon mirin
*  2 tablespoons miso
*  black pepper but no salt
*  1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
*  1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil. 



The miso sauce is sweet. I do not know why I didn't come to this earlier. It is basically some of my favorite things in sauce form. I had enjoyed plain miso before as condiment to beans and rice and all kinds of vegetables independently, but it is even better as a sauce with a few favorite Asian additions. 

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