Seafood cakes

These were made from remnant packages of seafood I had in the freezer that I was eager to use up so I could go out and replenish them. Mostly scallops, with shrimp, and one sole filet. I didn't use any catfish which is still in the freezer. Mixed with breadcrumbs, masa harina (the corn meal stuff used for tamales), egg. Didn't have any celery so I used broccoli, which was also in the freezer. Plus some scallion type onions including the green tops. Then I went through the spice rack and added on impulse ginger powder, garlic powder, plus a clump of various herbs from the Aerogarden.

Sprayed with Pam™ and baked until done.

I ate this with catsup which I didn't photograph because we photographers like to stay classy whenever possible.

Sourdough slices with cheese

Halp! Mah dadgum bredz gots holz init.

Rice pudding

Overcooked rice in milk. Blended in tempered beaten eggs. Salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, raisins.

Fish tacos

Handmade corn tortillas.  That went surprisingly fast.

Frozen catfish bits diced and added to sautéed mixture frozen.


* diced onion
* two smashed and minced garlic cloves
* olive oil
* seasoned with:
a)  ground coriander
b)  ground cumin
c)  habanero flakes
d) diced jalapeño
e) S/P
f) oregano

Zucchini and tomato side

Presently this is my favorite side in which I am unlikely to ever tire.

The problem with zucchini that I've been served throughout my long and zucchini-despising life, is it has been overcooked. Bitter old zucchini with seeds cut into boring discs of varying sizes, breaded with an egg drench and dredge, shallow fried to crematory torrification. Huck-ptewey

This, OTOH, uses olive oil lightly seasoned with crushed garlic (removed) and muddled fresh rosemary (retained). Crudely chopped white onion, and ordinary button mushrooms added as a stir fry with seedless young zucchini cut into interesting shapes by rolling the vegetable a quarter turn with each cut on a diagonal. All this tossed in the oil until barely cooked through, same thing with tomato added at the very end to merely heat, but the tomato not cooked.

Coarse hummus, pan bread

Loaded with hand-ground spices, un-Middle Eastern and mostly Mexican, coriander, cumin, bay, black pepper, habanero pepper flakes, with tahini, olive oil, and garlic as usual. Not thoroughly blended.

Pan bread prepared with za'atar.

Rice balls

This was actually pretty good, although I didn't use engough bonito flakes. I could barely taste them. Next time I'll use a lot more. A LOT more, probably moisten with shoyu. Also wasabi needs to be put in the center. It would be better if they could be made smaller. There's only so much a demure eater such as myself can stuff in our mouth at one time. What?

This would not work very well for hors d'œuvre because they're not the sort of thing that's universal. Plus they're rather tricky to produce so turning them out in quantity is out. Additionally, they probably do not store very well due to the nori. The wasabi pictured is the real stuff, not the green horseradish marketed as wasabi which accounts for its darker green color.

Rice and vegetable rolls

Clay baker

I've given up waiting for the stoneware cloches designed specifically for baguettes.

Don't you just love new toys? I got two new things today. This clay baker, which I already used four times, for four separate loaves of NorthWest sourdough bread, and a new Nikon lens, their Nikkor 50mm f1.4, which is awesome. Now all I have to do is learn how to use it expertly.

I ordered Sassafras™ cloche from Amazon. They said it was backordered and they'd notify me when available. I waited two months. What the heck, I wasn't in a hurry. Then they notified me they weren't going to carry the item any longer, which nullified my having waited. I was trying to take advantage of Prime customership which involved free two-day (ha ha) shipping. So the joke was on me. So. I ordered from another vendor that indicated the item was available. I waited. Again was notified the item is backordered and was provided a delivery date of a month distant. I waited not so patiently. Then the notified the date was moved back another month. That was a month ago.

That whole time I was checking out what is available on eBay. Nothing really close to a cloche specifically for baguettes, but they do have lots of clay bakers for chickens, roasts and such. Not really the right shape so I debated internally while time elapsed. Eventually I decided to go with eBay, and I couldn't be more pleased. This closed cloche designed for chickens is perfect for bread, when inverted so to avoid the raised ribs designed to elevate the bird above its juices.


I never showed the brioche down there VVV being made. I used the Bosch mixer to knead the dough instead of relying on Jim Lahey's no-knead method (of Sullivan St. Bakery), which is fine, but what's wrong with kneading? This mixer has a huge capacity so might as well take advantage of it, besides, kneading results in a more thoroughly knitted crumb which I'm looking for here.

These photos depict the brioche sponge being kneaded and rising, but they can just as easily apply to the regular non-brioche sourdough made a week later. It amounted to pretty much the same thing.

Vietnamese coffee zabaione

Next time I do this will be in a double boiler. I'd prefer the egg yolks to be completely cooked and for the texture to be clooser to mousse. Other than that it's delicious.

6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, which is rather a lot
6 tablespoons espresso

Traditional fried chicken

Fried chicken the old-fashioned way. These are all thighs, because I like thighs. Plus they were on sale the day I went for milk. There were other things on sale too but I didn't care.

1) Brine, I included sugar, then after a few hours, soak in fresh water so the salt that was dragged inside the chicken flows back out to equalize with the soaking liquid after brining but leaving behind the extra moisture that crossed the cell membrane. The water stays equalized too by pressure on both sides of the cell membrane. The problem with all this is you can not taste as you go along because it's raw chicken and you'll die!

2) Dry

3) Season, but not salt.

4) Dust with seasoned flour, absent salt, I used habanero powder and pepper

5) Heat two cups of oil to 375°F, just enough to almost cover a single layer of chicken. Allow the heat to drop to 350°F, cook for 12 or so minutes turning infrequently. A splash guard is helpful at this point, then cover completely after the heavy steaming has ceased and turn down the heat (covered the heat tends to rise), continue cooking until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 180°F. Because you've brined the chicken, your margin for error is expanded slightly on the side of overcooking. For the second batch I was getting tired of frying chicken so I double layered it and moved them around a little more. It worked fine. The thing was covering them for the last half of cooking and the oily steam pretty much covers it. Mine got to internal temperature of 195°F, which is quite high and considered overdone, but they were perfectly desirably moist without having burned portions as the first batch did.

6) drain on paper towel or paper grocery bags. Serve immediately, or it gets soggy.

This beats the pants off of KFC that was pressure-cooked by children and which sits there forlornly waiting for someone to come along.

Chicken noodle soup

This is not Mother's chicken 'n dumplings. My mothers's chicken and dumplings would more properly be called chicken and noodles. I didn't know what a proper dumpling was until they served it in school cafeteria. Even so, this was my favorite thing my mother made.

The chief difference, if you discount poblano pepper and avocado, I use roasted chicken parts and broth previously frozen, and dear ol' Mom boiled a whole chicken. My egg noodles are mostly semolina, her's 100% AP flour, which suited us kids just fine, with our perverse taste sense that considered a hospital menu haute cuisine.

Roasting chicken and vegetables concentrates flavor. Boiling chicken and vegetables dilutes flavor into the water, which isn't altogether bad because is all still there in the water, but it forfeits the additional flavor that would be possible by the chemical reaction between amino acid and reducing sugar of singed foods known as Maillard. Now there's a bit you can take with you to culinary school to put you a step ahead of the class.

The vegetables were sautéed in butter/olive oil until they burned on the bottom of the pan. Those burnt bits, the fond, was lifted off naturally by the broth and floated around the soup. Excess flour dusting the noodles thickend the broth.

Pictured below: broth frozen in cubes, frozen chicken bits, semolina egg dough, vegetables.

Not pictured: garlic, sage, cilantro, S/P.

I like it when noodles stick together forming a careless gloppy noodle clump. For some reason that appeals to me.

Deena's party

Target time, 5:00.

To my lasting shame, my timing was off. Throughout the day I felt comfortable with the hour but, honestly, those finishing touches all took longer than I calculated. Deena showed up with Lorraine at 4: 30, I think, and I was behind. They went straight to work peeling shrimp (easy peel, I mistook for fully peeled), Lorraine promptly began smearing sourdough pieces already cut with cream cheese already mixed with diced chives. Lorraine confessed to not being a cook, for reals, she said she never cooks. She was splendid, and proved very adept. We had things rolling out the door and up to the party room at 5:05 through 5:30. Not bad, actually.

The good thing about all that last minute assemblage is the sandwiches were absolutely fresh and the baked items were straight out of the oven. None of this preparing in advance and holding for hours bullshit.

The problem with being rushed is guests were arriving early and I didn't have time for thoughtful photos. I did manage to snap off a few, even reverting to automatic setting when stepping out of the fluorescents which never makes me feel good because I didn't have time to mess with working it all out.

Lorraine hung around and cleaned up my kitchen, bless her. We were completely cleaned up by 6:00, and believe me, it was total chaos.

1) Cucumber sandwiches on sourdough, which pretty much defies the premise of cucumber sandwiches, but it's what Deena wanted so that's what we did. Having already defied the premise, I took the liberty to further confound it by adding shrimp halves. The sandwiches were smeared with cream cheese with finely diced chives, overlain with three paper-thin cucumber slices, and topped with shrimp half, decorated with a faint wisp of dill sprig.

2) Ramaki made the usual way. Fresh water chestnuts instead of canned. Nicks of Bell and Evans chicken livers, the icky portions discarded, rolled in brown sugar and wrapped in thinly sliced smoked bacon. My calculation on this, bacon to water chestnut to liver to toothpicks was remarkably close. Every now and then you win one.

3) Feuilletage. The puff pastry described by Lucy in Lyon. Used the Cuisinart for this and I must say I do not care for this method, although it was extraordinary for grating the cheese, the machine tends to over processes what should be a rougher more careless dough, and the feel of what's happening with the butter going into the flour is forfeited, plus you have to observe in the machine how the water is incorporated at the end while the irregular butter chunks continue to process into an entirely homogenous combination. That is not good. When you do it by hand you can go straight for the big chunks and work your way down until you're satisfied. I added too much butter and too much water. Here's what I learned: When you clarify butter you subtract up to 20% of its weight by removing the water. That must be taken into account when you're estimating fat to flour by weight. I did not account for that, thus the Feuillete bled excess butter when baked. Also the chilled spirals baked better than the ones warmed by the kitchen. Too much water was corrected while rolling and folding the dough by dusting each layer heavily and continuing as normal. These spirals turned out amazingly delicate and rich. You really wouldn't ever want to eat more than, say, ten. No, just kidding. One was enough for me.

4) Olive penguins described in the previous post.

In my defense, the thing that threw me off the timing was trimming, slicing and cutting the sourdough. That took much longer than I imagined. Artisan sourdough is a weird bread for this purpose. Its open and irregular crumb challenges thin slicing. Due to internal folds and other irregularities plus their original shape of a boule, some slices produced only one small shape, square, triangle, or circle. But Man, does this bread taste good. These are pissy little open-face sandwiches. The waste from removing the crusts and cutting the shapes is discouraging. It took five boules for less than one hundred sandwiches, possibly only about seventy-five. It was breaking my heart to see so much bread being wasted. My wonderful carefully cultivated, fermented, bread! So much of the flavor of sourdough is concentrated in the crust and here the crust is removed entirely, so whatever flavor present must be conveyed by the crumb. Le boo, le hoo. Plus all the ends from the slices too small for a shape, and shapes with imperfections that preclude their use, all this resulted in two huge bowls of bread trimmings. It would have been easier and much faster to simply discard all that, but I could not. Since I had the Cuisinart already out, I put it to use rendering all that into breadcrumbs. These fresh breadcrumbs, now frozen, have a thousand uses. OK, maybe one use -- breadcrumbs.

Olive penguins

Seen on the internet.

Assembled in advance for Deena's party tomorrow.

Black olives from Whole Food's olive bar. The olives have seeds which I left in because taking them out messed them up too badly. I also got jarred olives that are already pitted but there's no comparison in taste. This was a tough call. Whole Foods had two types of small black olives but they're both wrinkly.

Steamed clams

* butter
* white wine
* diced onion
* minced garlic
* Italian herb mix
* hot pepper flakes
* parsley

I don't have parsley but I do have cilantro, but I forgot to add it.

Water chestnut

Fresh water chestnut is to canned chestnut as fresh pineapple is to canned pineapple. The difference can put you off canned produce permanently.

Water chestnuts are a total pain in the ass to peel, like tiny apples, and by the time you work around the imperfections and cut out the bad spots, there's hardly anything left, but it's still worth it. The question then, does all that extra trouble go appreciated?

Warm salad

Briefly cooked vegetables with even more briefly cooked sole filet and shrimp. The only thing not cooked is Romaine lettuce. Vegetables and seafood sautéed in butter which served as the oil portion of dressing. Faint drizzle of rice vinegar for the acid portion of the dressing.

* butter
* asparagus
* purple cabbage
* white onion
* garlic
* zucchini
* tomato
* avocado

* sole filet
* shrimp
* rice vinegar

* Romaine lettuce


Can you believe how inexpensive pineapples are? It hardly pays not to eat them. If they were any cheaper they'd be bananas.

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