snack, napa cabbage

The first time I did this with plain napa cabbage and salt and pepper flakes and that worked fine for me. The cabbage fries much more quickly than green and savoy cabbage and releases water when its done.






Butter, salt, black pepper, scant sesame seed oil.





Since then I've upped my game simply but with considerable affect.  Just a few alterations changes things magnificently. Tonight I forgot the red pepper flakes, an ingredient I considered key, but it turned out just fine without them. 



This fish sauce is awful on its own. It's the Asian equivalent of ancient Rome's garum. You wouldn't think of eating it straight while in very small doses it fills out other ingredients incredibly. 



All these ingredients in near trace amounts. 1/4 teaspoon, thereabout.

I also added 1/4 teaspoon sugar to create a sweet/sour effect with the vinegar. Also about 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. 



Tonight I added a cup of commercial chicken stock that comes in a carton. The whole thing turned out very nice. I don't know why I find this so satisfying. It's so easy and fast it makes the perfect late night snack. 

Obviously it can be further enhanced with anything. I was thinking about bacon tonight but didn't want to get involved with that. Any other vegetable you happen to have around will go with this. So will noodles, so will miso, so will fish, shrimp, whatever you have and feel like using. 

sourdough bread

Denver starter. The thing is, when you fire up your starter then you're in it. It's on. You must continuously feed the starter at least twice everyday or have a batch of sponge fermenting while you eat the loaf that you baked. It does not end until you shut down the project and suspend the starter, dry, frozen, whatever.

I'm not ready for this loaf of bread but here it is anyway.

This loaf did not ferment the customary three days, rather it proofed for one full day and had additional flour added. So it does not have very much sour while it is loaded with rustic farm-like character. It is chewy toothsome bread.  It was kneaded thoroughly yet still has its own rough uneven skin. This is a trait of this starter, a very thick bumpy crust, but not so thick as some other starters make. Maui, for instance has an incredibly thick crust. This hard thick crust can be vitiated by storing the loaf in plastic that softens it to be more manageable. One slice of bread amounts to a meal. It's the real deal, Daddy-o.




The bread is baked in an oven turned to high as it will go inside a pre-heated clay cloche designed for a whole chicken. The clay chicken baker shown above is sold on eBay for $10.00 with $10.00 shipping. The price range for similar bakers ranges wildly, up to $75.00, but they're the same things. I have two of these bakers. And another designed and marketed for bread that was much more expensive and still the same thing with the same results. It works very well. 

What does the clay baker do?

It's especially good with wet doughs. It keeps the dough wet long enough for the bubbles inside the bread to heat up and expand to maximum size before the crust begins to form and gets too hard for them to continue. Then dries out the bread quickly. That's why bakers spray their ovens. But sometimes that's just not good enough. Home ovens have a vent that allows the moisture to escape. 

shrimp and grits






pan perdu

Pour vous, Boo-Boo



It's an idea for stale bread. Fresh bread doesn't work as well.

If the bread is really stale then it soaks up the egg/milk/sugar/cinnamon portion like a sponge to the extent that it cannot be lifted from the soaking dish and placed into a pan without falling apart. It must be pushed into the pan sideways from the plate that held the soaking liquid. It will puff when it cooks and the bread literally dissolve inside the set egg. You'll be all, "What? What? Where did the bread go?" It's lost. 

If the bread is halfway stale then the soaked bread can be lifted and it doesn't entirely disappear when cooked. 

If the bread is fresh then it simply coats with egg mixture. None goes inside like a sponge. It still works, but not nearly as well.

Have you noticed how French have so many great ideas for stale bread? 

tenderloin steak, baked potato


Finally. After all these years. I finally accepted the reality that butter greatly enhances beef.

A very long time ago, let's say decades, I went out to dinner to a famed steak house in Denver, one-time Emilene's, with a group of new friends. One of them immediately put butter on top of his steak to melt all over it and I thought he was nuts. 

But now I see the advanced wisdom in his ways. It's also a great way to improve hamburgers. Stick a generous pat of butter inside the patty to melt as you fry it and boom greatly improved right there. 

sourdough loaf, powerful Denver starter



Honestly, this is the most remarkable starter I've ever worked with. Rejuvenated rapidly from dried frozen state, nothing is lost in flavor, in speed nor in power. 

I'm certain that's because I took so long to collect it originally and incorporated rain into it several times, left it out in the wind, refreshed it with water continuously for two weeks. 

Shown above is the excess from a similar bowl of proofed dough fermented for 3 days mixed with additional water and flour. One small portion is four days old and the larger portion is 3 hours old. This dough inflated fast as commercial yeast and that is just flat outrageous. Nothing I've used is this fast. In a few hours it will reach the top of the bowl and be put into the refrigerator to ferment for 3 days, just like the chunk that started it. I could not be more impressed. 



The bean dip is actually South River miso. If the miso were left on for a few hours it would begin to eat the bread. It's a live culture.


Philadelphia cream cheese. I ended up spreading peanut butter on top of this. 

These three slices of bread amounted to dinner. They're very filling pieces of bread.

Maybe I'll go back to it and whip up some scrambled egg with cheese. Who knows? I'll nibble away at it like a rat until it is gone. Or until the next dough is ready in three days. Nothing can stop it. It's already survived the worst nature can do to it. This is concentration of nature's harshest survivors. Not just the happy fly-by-night lucky serendipitous partygoers. 

So, presently I have 4 sourdoughs hanging around. The original commercial loaf that I bought that was such a tremendous and expensive disappointment, the baguette type that I baked in retaliation to the craptastic commercial loaf, this new loaf, and the proofing sponge shown here that goes into the refrigerator to ferment. Once you get started with sourdough culture it tends to take over. 

chicken enchilada caserolle




A dozen corn tortillas are re-heated in oil from the package to reawaken them, to restore them to vitality, to strengthen their tender delicate composition, to flavor them, and to bring them one fourth of the way to tortilla chips so that they can hold up to what is in store for them. Or else they'd simply dissolve. And that's okay too, becoming something closer to tamales, but it's not what we want.


The pan is ladled with hot green chile sauce (don't let its red color fool you) so that the enchiladas do not stick and to saturate them top, sides, and bottom with sauce.


Usually the tortillas are dipped in the sauce to saturate them but these will have that saturation without dipping. 

And usually, you'll have sauce, chicken and cheese, possibly chile rolled up.  I'm using the ricotta and asiago combination left over from the calzones earlier, a decidedly unMexican choice of cheese. 



The main component is sauce. If the sauce is not good then the whole thing will not be good. I'm using pork chili made with very hot Hatch chiles. My pork chili was uncomfortably hot. I added one teaspoon white sugar and that really did reduce the intensity of heat considerably, making it bearable. The cheeses will reduce the capsaicin intensity even more.  


unbaked ↑
baked  ↓



The first time I made these at age twenty-three I used a Gringo idea from a lady at work. Her recipe uses cream of chicken soup in place of Mexican chile. It had no capsaicin heat and all the other Gringos who tried it told me that it's very good. I mentioned I felt bad for it being a failure. I failed to coat every inch with sauce so some of the corn tortillas baked to crisp and crunchy texture in places and I didn't like that. The people present that moment who had just eaten one said, "Oh no. That's not a failure. We like that." But I did not. And now it seems that Campbell's cream of chicken soup made thickly and enhanced with sour cream just isn't good enough. It sounds a bit stupid. Maybe kicked up with hot Hatch chiles that wouldn't be so bad. Authentic Mexican people familiar with the real deal most likely won't care for that commercial shortcut, probably will think it quite odd,  but Caucasians who don't like hot foods do. The critics included a Swede and another Nordic woman who's a total pain the ass about all food, even garlic. She holds a large number of strange and debilitating food related conceits.

YouTube videos are all over the place with this dish. White people do the craziest things. They're the fussiest eaters with the strangest hangups and they let it all hang out on YouTube. Their videos on chicken enchiladas are a good demonstration of this fact.

The next time I'll use all Mexican cheese. There is just something warmly welcoming about it and none of it is extreme.

blueberry and strawberry waffles



The batter is made up based on the things that I think it should have.

Originally I thought It could have buttermilk, but I forgot to include the buttermilk powder that is mixed with water. So, this has regular milk.

I was aiming for one cup which I imagined would be slightly too much. I want the waffle to go all the way to edges of the waffle iron for a complete ring. 

A generous pat of butter was put into a glass measuring cup that holds well over one measured cup. That was melted in the microwave.

Then part of the milk was added to cool the butter. 

* Pinch of salt. Everything with flour needs salt.
* A few teaspoons of brown sugar.
* One teaspoon white sugar to assist in producing a crisp waffle.
* About 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
* About 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

I bet powdered ginger would be rather good but I didn't put any in.

Then one small egg is added and the whole mixture beaten.

Milk to bring the level to 3/4 cup leaving enough room for the flour and berries.

Flour added by the tablespoon until the right thickness develops. It took 3 rounded tablespoons full. More than I wanted. It is now 1 full cup but the berries are not in it yet.

1 Teaspoon of baking powder. 

The mixture foams immediately. The cut strawberries are added along with blueberries by the handful. It is now rising above the 1 cup mark to the brim. 

The foaming continues. 

The batter is poured into the waffle iron and spread around guaranteeing a full waffle. 

There is still over 1/2 cup batter remaining.

The foaming in the cup continues. 

The lid is closed so the waffles are now cooking on both sides. The iron is flipped to guarantee full batter distribution on both sides. But that is hardly necessary. The batter continues to foam inside the waffle iron pressing against both sides even without flipping it.

The foam in the cup continues. It reaches 1 full cup. 

So, whereas I aimed for one cup of batter, by measuring carefully as I went, I ended up with two full cups due to baking powder foaming. 

Fine. This waffle is delicious. I'll have another waffle later on.

Loads of blueberries, the small good ones
Generous fresh strawberries with actual strawberry flavor
Real maple syrup, reduced sap from trees
Real butter from contented grass eating cows

Do waffles get any better than this? 

I don't know. I never ate one outside of home. 

I just now looked at waffle place menu. Boy, they sure are cheap. Just think, you could get bacon and eggs and a couple of glasses of milk for practically nothing. With all the trouble saved, it's nearly like getting free food, service, and no hassle, no mess to clean up. I can see why those places are so popular.




authentic sourdough bread, BLT

Tomatoes are in season presently and Tony's carries farm fresh. It's a once-a-year opportunity that lasts a few months then poof there goes the amazing locally farmed tomatoes for the whole rest of the year. I wanted to enjoy them simply on sourdough bread so I bought a loaf there at Tony's. It was the end of the day. The only type they had available was precut. Who even does that to sourdough? That was my first signal the bread isn't right.

I got home and prepared an open face tomato sandwich. The tomato is fantastic but the bread is crap. I could not have been more disgusted. I had just been ripped off.

Hornswoggled.
Hoodwinked.
Snookered.
Fleeced.
Bamboozled.
Suckered.
Duped.
Weaseled.
Buffaloed.

Tremendous resentment boiled and rose up within me.

I could barely control my emotion.

Is it you think that I don't know what I'm buying? Or you actually don't know what you're selling?

Apparently I know more about sourdough bread than commercial sourdough bakers know.

Could it be that I read more books about sourdough bread than sourdough bakers did?  That I have more experience collecting and handling cultures and baking sourdough bread than sourdough bakers do? Could it be that my appreciation for the real deal is greater than experts in the field?

Yes. That could be.

Man, I was pissed off. I paid $6.00 for a loaf of specialized bread that is pure crap.

Immediately without even finishing my tomato sandwich I rummaged my sourdough cultures. Decided on Denver culture collected a few years ago, dried to chunky powder and frozen. This culture will have to be reactivated, built up to full bubbling activity, developed to dough and then fermented. The whole process will take up to a week.

Imagine that. Want a sandwich? Wait a week. Obviously, home sourdough bakers keep the process going. But I don't eat that much bread.

Surprise! This culture is so powerful, so responsive, that process is reduced to 12 hours. But there is still time required for full fermentation to develop full acidic flavor. It's like beer. Its fermentation simply cannot be rushed. So I had my bread in 3+1/2 days. And, man, is it ever delicious. Real sourdough bread. The kind that you cannot buy. With flavor and characteristics in responsiveness, speed, impact, crumb and crust  completely unique to Denver. Better than all my other favorite cultures, and I've tried at least a dozen very good ones.

The dry frozen culture was retrieved from the freezer and mixed with water and flour but not salt and given the heat of a 100W lamp. Careful not to cook it with the lamp, I kept checking each hour. Seven hours later and now with the lamp off and at room temperature it was bubbling out of the jar having more than doubled its mass.

That was used to inoculate a batch of dough. Five hours later at room temperature the dough had nearly peaked in the bowl. The bowl was placed in the refrigerator.

This is astonishingly fast.

Three days later the bowl was pulled from the refrigerator and overturned onto the work surface.

In the refrigerator it continued to peak and then fell back as it does. It looked like this.


I have a plastic bench scraper that can be bent to the shape of the bowl. I scoop out flour into the palm of my hand and tapping my fingertips against the inside rim depositing flour all around the rim of the bowl then used the flexible bench scraper to shove the ring of flour down alongside the wet dough. It only goes so far down so I repeated the process to loosen the whole dough mass from the bowl before dumping it upside down onto a lightly floured work surface.


The dough is wet and difficult to manage. It is stretched in all directions redistributing the yeast. Now each yeast cell has new party buddies in propinquity and they come back to life reproducing like mad. They're sex maniacs. Salt is incorporated between folds. This is all the kneading that this dough gets.

Judging by the way the dough acts I believe now that more kneading would be better before fermentation. Even when wet it can still be mixed to develop gluten strands. This loaf did not make a proper skin, and kneading, or insufficient kneading is responsible for that.


A cookie sheet is used to transport the wet floppy dough into searing hot clay cloche. It cannot be picked up with hands.







ARTS!



I'm such a cowboy.

I'm such a gold miner.

Look at me, I'm historic.

I'm an ancient Egyptian. 

I'm an ancient Roman.

I'm Greek.

No seriously, where else are you going to get anything like this? Nowadays, nowhere. That's where. This bread blows my mind. 

This is what bread was like all through history. From the absolute beginning of civilization until very recently. Our entire line of ancestors enjoyed bread just like this until that fateful day during WWII when Fleischmann's developed single cell granular dried active yeast. The fartiest of them all. Then the whole world of bread making, marketing, distribution reached undreamt of heights while simultaneously going straight to h-e-double breadsticks. And now, as most mass marketed foods go, the distance between producers and consumers is so vast that it all seems overwhelmingly mysterious and magical as if it takes experts and magicians and genius scientist with their science labs to do the most simple things. Like make catsup or mustard or peanut butter. When nothing could be farther from truth. The first time I made a loaf of bread in my teens carefully following Betty Crocker instructions step by step, with the book opened and continuously returning to it line for line, it felt like I had just performed brain surgery. And now I don't even bother measuring anything. Just toss things into a bowl and adjust as required. 

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