Roasted chicken and Brussels sprouts

I went on an exploratory trip to Marczyk on 17th at Corona, about ten blocks away from where I live. I haven't the vaguest idea how to pronounce that name. The idea was to pick up some Parmesan  and whatever other cheese they would recommend, and whatever else I found that looked interesting. I am looking for unpasteurized cheeses.

While there I picked up a whole chicken because the one on display looked great.  Everybody at Marczyk is engaging and eager to talk about food. They seem proud of the products they offer. I did experience a bit of sticker shock at checkout.

This bird is huge. Nearly the size of a small turkey. It's a free-range type that really does range freely and strutted around pecking at insects, seeds, grubs and worms, has not benefitted from the science of hormones, and is entirely organic for whatever that's worth.  It is a bit older  judging by the size and weight and by the resistance of the tendons.

Diazabal Spain cheese

I oink ate this grunt whole snort thing.

Chicken beast, zucchini and tomato with elk ragú

In the manner of a tempura. Instead of the whole thing at once, clunk, the breast was sliced laterally twice to produce three thin scaloppini, breaded with a combination of flours so that the batter will stick, then that same mixture of flour moistened with milk to form the batter. The combination of flour contains 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder, which lightens the batter considerably. Salt and pepper, but no chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder or anything else, I just didn't feel like it. I should call my doctor, there must be something wrong.

Ya know, I can take a perfectly spotless kitchen and within a half an hour make it look like a hurricane blew through. Then walk away and leave the whole mess to clean up later.

Hey look! That's me upside down in the bowl taking the picture.

* not pictured separately, three tablespoons elk ragú prepared previously.
* that was a rather small chicken breast
* that was also a very small zucchini
* medium size tomato
* 1/4 smallish onion
* flour mixture = 1/4 cup bread flour, 2 tablespoons rice flour, 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, about 3/4 cup milk to transform mixture into a cold batter after the breast is dusted.
* vegetable oil at 350℉.
* zucchini and onion sautéed in olive oil for a few minutes, tomato added at end just to heat through. It could have just as easily been added cold. No cheese this time because, what do think I'm crazy? Actually, I was too lazy to grate some.

Bread and cheese

Is this Ernest Hemingway or what? I read Old Man and the Sea when I was in high school and the scene of the old man having lunch of cheese and bread at a rickety wooden table in a little shack seared an indelible image upon my tender youthful impressionable mind. At least I think it was Old Man and the Sea. I thought at that moment of reading it, "what a pathetic lunch. Hemingway sure is good at describing abject poverty." *sads * But now I think, "what a terrific lunch!" As long as the bread is great, and the cheese is outstanding, and the water untainted. Plus a little uncured sandwich ham couldn't hurt. Well, that and a smart little tossed salad. OK, fine! A few hor d'oeuvres, a cup of soup, a plate of salad, this here bread and cheese, followed by a pasta dish, and ended with cannoli or something, with a fine domestic wine or beer to sip along the way, and honestly, how could you go wrong?

Carl's 1847 Oregon Trail

I had a problem with this starter, one of my favorites and one of the most reliable. Actually, the ones I've kept are all reliable because the ones that are not reliable or robust get tossed. I mean, if they can't handle a little neglect then what good are they? And by a little neglect, I mean a lot of neglect. In this case, I forgot to reserve a portion of starter from the last batch, a stupid mistake. That left me bereft of starter in immediately available cool retardation, near suspension. However, I did have reserves in hard-ass cold-blooded cryogenic suspension in 100% dry form. Two, in fact, for Carls 1847 Oregon Trail, one that was, brrrrrr, frozen. That's the problem, not only was the starter dried, it had been dried for over two years. Additionally, freezing one of the saved dried reserve sample cultures risked killing unknown portions of the culture.

It did not revive easily. It languished for days through long proofs and multiple re-feedings. It was re-fed so many times with so little result that when I finally applied heat from a lamp as one does as if starting from step 1, it had been fed so much additional flour I wasn't certain if I was cultivating Carl's culture or cultivating the yeast carried on the flour used to feed it. See the problem? I'm not even certain anymore this is Carl's. I'm trusting the amount of concentrated dried Carl's culture in two shots (one that was frozen) still outnumbered the piggybacking yeast culture on the flour, even though Carls' culture was diluted through several inherently invasive and mildly inoculating feedings. On the other hand, it's entirely possible this is hardly Carl's at all, and better described as cross between Carls, and volunteer culture, in a word, a bastardization.

* weeps inconsolably *

* recovers *

I decided I don't care about racial purity. It's a new age. What I care about is robust culture that tastes fantastic when baked and with unique and desirable characteristics of crust and crumb.

* dusts flour off self *

* holds chin up, strikes a pose *

Elk ragú, whole-wheat spaghetti

This ragú uses the ground elk meat given to me by Deena McDonald. This used half of the first package and made enough ragú sufficient to feed an army, if it were a small army. A small army of pygmies. A small army of pygmies from a very small tribe, an army that wasn't all that hungry.

 OK, maybe I should start over. It made a lot of ragú for me. Oh! I used a few tablespoons of the red kidney bean with ham hock mixture held over from a previous meal where a spaghetti sauce cook would use tomato paste. The beans are kind of like a red chili without the heat. I ran them through a mini Cuisinart processor and turned them into a veritable paste. So, with the ham hock, that made three kinds of meat in the ragú. It's scrump-dilly-umptious.

The ragú is put atop hand-made extruded spaghetti. Hand-made because I wanted to control the type of flour used, in this case, semolina, the really cool large-grain yellow stuff that could make pasta all by itself with water, and 100% whole-grain home-milled hard winter wheat. I added three egg yolks to a total of one cup flour, and a few tablespoons of olive oil. I kept the mixture dry as possible because I wanted to test the efficiency of the extruder. I saw the Italians do this on television and I wanted to try it myself. I added a modest amount of water by wetting my hands under the tap. I did that three times until finally I felt the mixture begin to pull together. Then let the crumbly mixture rest and autolyse for about 1/2 hour. As it turned out, the final noodles were overly tender and tended to break when cooked. It wasn't a disaster but this is a problem when using whole grain flour. AP, or bread flour would not have done that, even without kneading, the grinding attachment kneads the dough as part of the spiraling compression through the extruder.

Tender baby zucchini quartered lengthwise and sectioned, sautéed in olive oil. Actually, this is so delicious by itself, it could be substituted for the spaghetti entirely, which would place the meal 100% within The Zone™. As it is, it's a pasta pigfest, scorned and excoriated by WW, South Beach, Atkins, Barry Spears, Jenny Craig, Dr. Phil, New Beverly Hills, and all the rest. Screw 'em. Sometimes I just want my pasta.

Check out the texture on these noodles. Imagine how well straight olive oil would adhere, for a sublimely simple aglio e olio. Some of the sandpapery surface is the semolina I dusted the noodles with to prevent them from sticking. That mostly slipped off in the boiling water when cooked.

Aren't they adorable?  Don't they look like long caterpillars or pipe cleaners?

It really wasn't steaming that much at the table, these photos are a trick whereby the low-level slave flashes are highlighting steam otherwise invisible. It was baffling, because by the time I put down the camera the spaghetti was actually getting kind of cold.

* not pictured separately, ground elk meat
* not pictured separately, Jimmy Dean sausage
* not pictured separately, grated Parmigiano Reggiano
* not pictured separately, diced zucchini.

BLT with Rougette Triple Cream

BLT with Rougette triple cream, soft ripened cheese. You know what bums me out about this cheese? It comes with a pink rind that looks like it should be removed, and by removing it, large portions of cheese also get removed because it's so soft. On Carl's sourdough.

Yukon potato soup with saffron

Yukon potato and collard in chicken broth with saffron

cubed Yukon potato in a pot
diced onion
bowl of soup, Yukon potato and saffron
* Yukon potato diced
* purple onion
* garlic smashed and diced
* mushrooms
* collard leaves, vein removed, sliced
* saffron
* not pictured, honey
* not pictured, pale mellow miso
* not pictured, can of commercial chicken broth

* potatoes sautéed in pot first, then ingredients added one by one, in order of firmness. Collard allowed to shrink and briefly sauté then water added to dilute canned chicken broth. No salt added because the commercial chicken broth is already overly salty and the miso is also salted, thus the need to dilute. No pepper or chiles or anything tart because I didn't feel like it. The honey is essential to the dish to counter and to buttress the saffron, which by itself isn't all that great, but outstanding in combinations.

Ham sandwich, Carl's sourdough

* Carl's sourdough
* uncured ham
* dijon
* Romaine
* purple onion
* some kind of fancy creamy cheese


Carl's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough starter, two days slow proofed on balcony. Actually, back and forth between near 0℉ balcony temperature and 68℉ inside temperature, easier than it sounds, the bubbly mass is remarkably stable. [Paragraph removed, deemed too arcane to be of general interest. Relocated here.]

I am sooooo Jones'n for bread lately. I'm going to have to watch it to make sure I don't scarf the whole thing at once.

One of the loaves goes to my new neighbors, if they want it. They're adorable.

Salad with rice and beans

* ginger and garlic and mustard

* oil and vinegar and salt/pepper

* rice steamed on low heat 25 minutes + no heat 10 minutes covered for the full 35 minutes. Shaped inside a dampened ramekin.

* beans with ham hock prepared previously.

Eggs, bacon, oatmeal

Where oatmeal is substituted for bread toast and thus firmly within The Zone™.

* 1/4 cup oatmeal pre-combined mixture with brown sugar, raisins, cinnamon, salt
* apple wood bacon
* two eggs fried in butter. The butter used to cook the eggs also coats the oatmeal, so no butter in the oatmeal.

Provolone cheese crackers

The original idea was to substitute Maytag blue cheese for butter, but that appeared not to work so well, the dough failed to look like proper dough before adding water to bring it together, so I added a few daubs of butter. Butter tends to soften the final cracker, so I held back on my impulse to use a lot. The amount of dough was determined by the amount of cheese, the size of the pile within the blender. I estimated an equal amount of flour and let 'er rip. That's when I decided it really did need some butter. Then water drizzled in until it pulled together. That turned out to be a little too wet so I floured the working surface heavily. The dough took up approximately 1/2 cup of flour as it was being rolled. Cut to the size of a pre-cut sheet of parchment paper. Transfered to the paper and cut into separate crackers, then docked. Oh blast! I forgot to press in sea salt or kosher salt. No matter, the cheese is plenty salty to satisfy any salt lust.

* mostly provolone cheese grated in Cuisinart.
* a chunk of some unidentified semi-hard white cheese, probably Romano
* 1.5 cups flour added and blade replaced from grater to chopper
* about 2 oz of Maytag cheese added into cheese/flour mixture and blended
* water drizzled until dough came together and rolled around the blender bowl.
* baked at 400℉ on second to top rack of oven for 11 minutes.

Pre-mixed oatmeal breakfast

* 3 cups oatmeal
* 4 Tbs brown sugar
* 1 Tbs cinnamon
* 3/4 tsp salt
* 1/2 Cup raisins

Red kidney bean with ham hock and pasta

* dried red kidney beans soaked for a few hours
* ham hocks pressure cooked for 1/2 hour until tender
* beans and ham cooked together with herbs and aromatics briefly in pressure cooker
* pasta dough made with 50% home-milled whole-wheat flour and 50% semolina with three egg yolks and olive oil. Extruded through grinder.
* canned tomatoes with jalapeño.
* basil, cilantro, and some kind of unidentified relatively hard cheese, probably provolone

Most commercial pastas are extruded through Teflon coated dies. Teflon dies are more economical for the manufacturer than bronze or steel dies. They're much less expensive to replace. Pasta extruded through metal dies have a rougher texture than Teflon-extruded pasta. The difference can be seen and felt with your fingertips. Dry bronze-extruded pasta feels like sandpaper. The rough texture makes it possible for sauces to adhere. Otherwise, oils and thin sauces tend to slip off. Please note the texture of this pasta, and imagine its excellent sauce-adherence capability.

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