Lamb and eggs

Shirley, you saw this coming.  New American Breakfast, twentieth in a series where grain is forsworn in favor of slow-carb vegetables.

My dear Ol' Dad, bless 'im, put catsup on his breakfast eggs, unvaryingly fried over-easy. That totally grossed me out to the max.  I'd clunk around clutching my throat like a gasping zombie. Cold red catsup on squiggly white egg albumen.  Honestly, what was the man thinking? I asked him, and he answered in his unflappable reliably predictable implacable equanimity,


Ah, the memories of his gentle even-handedness come flooding. Warms me 'art, it does. Oddly though, the idea of cold red pico de gallo, Tabasco®, or habanero didn't phase me one single bit. Still, I prefer fresh tomato by a wide margin.

I've taken to charing vegetables because that's what I like. That would probably be grounds for being kicked out of Le Cordon Bleu but I don't care, mon frères. Besides, I have my own knives. I don't need no fancy-pants roll-up set. And Boy, are my knives sharp too. Everybody who comes over and helps notices that. The 8 inch knife used today didn't even put the slightest dent in that tomato up there ↑.  Schwing. The weight of the blade itself cut right through. No smashing. It is impressive. The tomato just sits there all cut up into cubes but still in the shape of a tomato wondering what just happened.

Studies prove that wet stones work best when dry. So they should be called dry stones then innit. Neither must they be oiled. Water and oil, it's all nonsense. The wet stone I use has two sides, but I don't bother with the rough side. My knives never need to be straightened out. The knife blade is pushed across the wet stone as if cutting the stone at an angle, not pulled across the stone as if leaving a trail. It's a straight-on motion, not traveling across the blade as if attempting to cover the entire blade with one stroke. Just the width of the stone with each stroke, and try to be even about it by overlapping. The correct angle to hold the blade against the stone is 22˚.

How in the world do you find 22˚?

Fold a square piece of paper diagonally. That's 45°.  Fold again. That's 22.5° which is pretty darn close to 22°.


Roasted lamb, potatoes

A profuse extravagance of fresh cracked black pepper, sea salt, and sage pre-mixed and ready in a bowl. The roast was rinsed, dried with a kitchen towel then slavered with olive oil and completely coated by packing on pepper/salt/sage.

When I was a little bitty kid I used to imitate Euell Gibbons whom I knew only from Grape Nuts® commercials. I'd smash my 'S's so that saliva would bubble out the side of my mouth, and I'd say in a distortion of a halting Texas accent,

"Hello, I'm Euell Gibbonsxh."

Then I'd stand there and wait for a reaction.

"Have you ever eaten a pine tree? "

Which right there put myself in stitches inside but I held it together outwardly for comedic effect.

" I am the author of sxheven booksxh on natural foodsxh.


Mah firsxht book is titled, You and Natural Foodsxh. 


Mah schecond book is titled, Natural Foodsxh and You.
Half pause. 
Mah third bood is titled, Foodsxh Natural and You. 
Half pause. 
My fourth book is titled, Food and You Natural."

I'd maintain an earnest expression and persist with an increasingly implausible bibliography keeping to the same four words.

"Mah fifth book is titled, You Natural and Foods
Mah sxhth book is titled, And Foods Natural You
Mah sxheventh book is titled, You Foodsxh Natural and."

I don't know why Euell Gibbons struck me as being so funny. I think he was eating something woodsy in the advert. Plus Grape Nuts gave me the fear. Still does.

Before that, when I was five, between kindergarden and first grade, I sat down one summer morning really really really hungry and poured a full bowl of Grape Nuts from their undersized box as if it were ordinary cereal. I poured nearly half the box into my cereal bowl. My mother saw this and checked me. I didn't realize Grape Nuts is high-pressure super-compressed nuclear-fused heavy nuggets. Mum goes,

"You won't be able to eat all that."

 It was actually the first time I'd ever even seen Grape Nuts, but I was certain I could finish the whole bowl. I go,

 "I can too."

My mother snapped, "You're going to sit there UNTIL YOU FINISH, Young Man!" And she meant it. She could be quite authoritarian sometimes.

For some reason it was just her and me in the kitchen that morning as if my two brothers and two sisters didn't exist and that is not possible. Yet this is the picture that develops as I recall the scene encoded by myself as a tot whose unspoiled perceptions manage to get so much not quite right, so just relax then and accept the unreasonably menacing tone.

I started in on the Grape Nuts. They were like little stones. They swelled up with milk but they remained hard. I still had my first teeth and crunching the Grape Nuts hurt my teeth and jaws cheeks and throat and everything. I chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed, and swallowed, then repeated all that over and over, but the bowl of Grape Nuts never diminished. In fact, it grew. Seemed to. I thought, "how am I going to get out of this?" I worried about it. Time elapsed. Two days or possibly it was three minutes. Same thing. The cereal took over my life and I didn't know how to get out of it. I could eat a few teaspoons but that was it. Oh I know. I'll cry, that's what. I started laying it on. Get into it. Gauge effectiveness, then really lay it on. I must be convincingly pathetic so that any reachable human being would pity me. Hangs head.

"I can't do this. I didn't knoooowooooohoooohooooohooooo." 

So anyway. The seasoning is really packed on the lamb roast to a thick crust. It's fantastic. It filled the apartment with wonderful aroma. The potatoes too. Didn't have any mint, which would have been perfect, nor mint jelly, so I used apricot preserves, which was fine, if a little overly sweet. 

The lamb roast came with a pop-out timer. I wish they wouldn't do that. They are very misleading. It popped out way too early. I use my own thermometer and cooked it to internal 155℉  internal temperature expecting some 10℉ carryover. Tested at several spots. It turned out perfectly to my taste. I'd be pleased to serve this roast and these roasted potatoes to guests. Both roast and potatoes at a hot 400℉ .

Cheese and honey

Parmigiano-Reggiano and Tasmanian leatherwood honey. 

Hummingbirds instead of bees. That's weird. Probably regurgitated through their tiny thin elongate beaks. I feel sorry for those hummingbirds. They need all the sugar they can get. Did I ever mention that I went up to Conifer for the specific purpose of photographing hummingbirds? Took me awhile but I finally discovered a large stone B&B tucked away in a lovely secluded mountain valley with two feeders on the back porch which could be seen from the tiny parking lot. So I parked and marched right up there. People came in and out of the back door right past me and nobody ever challenged my presence. I took hundreds of shots. Still plenty of battery life but my arms got tired of holding up the 18-200mm lens. So I left. I still feel a little bit bad about being so rude. Uploaded to Flickr a bunch of really super neato-o photos of hummingbirds in all aspects of flight. Slideshow. The photos were so huge the birds were 10X larger than life-size. As usual they had to be scaled down drastically just so they would be manageable online. But I could easily make a billboard out of them. Well maybe not easily, but it could be done. 

Check out the bokeh on the gold-colored doorknob.  

Tuna salad, pene

Step one: make mayonnaise. Or not.

Step two: boil pasta to two minutes before it is completely done. But how do you know when it is two minutes before completion? By testing individual pieces as the moment approaches and removing it while it still has some bite to it. That  is, remove the pasta from the hot water before it becomes mushy. If you are cooking macaroni, that means ignoring the directions on the box. Those instructions are written to please children, and children don't know no nuth'n 'bout no noodles. <--Fact. 98% of American cooks severely overcook pasta. <-- Scientific fact, backed by maths. If you don't believe me then go to Italy order pasta and see for yourself. 

This is one of the rare times when It would be acceptable to douse cooked noodles with cold water to halt the cooking and to chill it for the salad. Usually, the pasta would be removed from the boiling water three minutes or so before it is completely cooked and transferred sopping wet directly to the sauce so that the surplus starchy cooking liquid carried over by the  noodles blends with the sauce or with the flavored oil to form a thin sauce.  The pasta absorbs part of the sauce as it completes cooking within it.  It is the sort of touch that Italian mamas teach their children. Am I recalling correctly the scene in Moonstruck where Cher tosses strands of spaghetti on the kitchen wall to see if it sticks to test for doneness? A wall is shown with noodles stuck on it as if Italian kitchens were messy that way. Do I have that right? If I am remembering correctly, then nonsense! I would imagine that to be a little offensive, actually. Practice tells when spaghetti is near to completion by the way it bends around a fork when lifted from the water. 

[When I was nineteen years of age, fresh but much more serious than I am today, I proudly consorted with girlfriend who was totally babealicious, highly desirable, completely adventurous, up for anything, an unselfconscious fiend in the sack, in short everything a teenager could ask, who one day chirped while I was preparing spaghetti for the two of us with prepared sauce from a jar, 

"I tried to make spaghetti once. Made a mess of it so I gave it up." 

Puzzled by her uncharacteristic admission of defeat, I go, "What went wrong?" 

She answered, "It all stuck together in one solid clump." 

I was dismayed with her steady refusal to analyze the mistake, to learn. Stir it, you dumb ass, I thought to myself but wisely did not blurt. We did not last. That incident left an indelible mark upon my impressionable self, much like a tattoo.]

The orange sections are not properly supreme(d) although nearly so. The central portion of each segment was sliced off to remove the connective gunk at the center and the seeds, but the membrane that separates each segment was left on. I'm too clumsy to fuss with all that. 

Topped with flecks of the incomparable Parmigiano.

Mint and cilantro because that's what I had on hand. The mint, no longer fresh and on it final leg, gave up its last breath of aromatics. 


Why isn't this tofu white? It's been marinated!

* two tablespoons thick tamari, standing in for less flavorful soy sauce. But without tamari, soy sauce would have to do.
* two tablespoons saki
* two tablespoons rice vinegar
* 1 tablespoon cane sugar
* 2 tablespoons sweet mirin
* tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
* two teaspoons Hoisin sauce
* water sufficient to cover a whole package  tofu cut into cubes. As it turned out, my tofu fooled me by floating so I added slightly more water than was needed. I realized it was floating rather quickly. So the marinade wasn't badly diluted.

So there's that. I wrote amounts, but frankly, I didn't measure anything. I just kept adding my favorite things and taste-tested for acceptability. It turned out to be delicious. I would consider peanut butter or tahini, pineapple juice, scallion, onion, chives, or garlic. Ginger would also be fantastic.

Mixed with the tofu is a little of the leftover cow meat, also cubed and marinated. The tofu is better than the steak.

The vegetables were seared separately.

I reserved the marinade and heated it to boiling in the microwave. I used that as a dipping sauce, but then I got tired of dipping so I dumped it all into the sauce as if it were sukiyaki. Once I saw Florence Tyler screaming like a bitch at a contestant who either intended to do or actually did this very thing -- reheat and serve the marinade.


Then he marked down the contestant severely, maybe even disqualified her, and repeated his overwrought objection to reheating marinade, because the viewing audience really did need to have all his lordly objection drilled in repeatedly, we're all short of attention that way.

Tyler, get over yourself.  The contestant didn't say she intended to serve the used marinade raw, just that she intended to make further use of its flavor magic. I assumed she intended to cook it, which would effectively kill anything that found lodgment and had grown in the meantime.

I don't like him anymore. Sad too, he used to be my fave.

Aaaaanyway, this tofu hits the spot.

I'm thinking about flavoring tofu, coating it with batter, then frying it so it has a crispy exterior and a soft interior. Does that sound like a good idea?

Before I go, check out the bokeh in the photo up there ↑. Now, that there is mighty fine bokeh.

Steak, asparagus

I forgot to eat yesterday. Seriously. I was so engrossed with coding a search crawler to work with MySQL (abandoned) that time just slipped by. So much time slipped by that I didn't realize the oversight until it was already the next morning and by then I was too tired to bother with even pouring a bowl of Cocoa Puffs.  So this makes up for that. 

I've been consuming a lot of dead cow meat lately and I can pick up the scent of it coming out of my pores. So let that be a warning to you. Watch it.  Now I'm craving tofu. Is that weird, or what? 

Asparagus. Butter is 20% water. If you get a pan extra hot and throw in a nob of butter, it sizzles to oil and its water content steams simultaneously. If you toss in asparagus at the same moment and clamp on a tightly fitting lid, then the asparagus sears and steams immediately.  Give the pan a shake to flatten them out in the pan like logs all nestled together but not stacked, then leave the pan alone for a minute so that all the char occurs along one edge of each asparagus. You end up with the best of both worlds, lightly steamed asparagus finished to perfection with a wonderful and complete char along one edge of each spear. Designer asparagus! Resist the urge to disturb the pan while they're in there burning and rely on your intuition to tell you when to release them from their torture.  I took mine out a little too soon, but that's okay. I do like slightly undercooked vegetables.  But blacker would have been even better. 

How to salvage ruined sauce. I heated leftover sweet aioli in the microwave and didn't watch it carefully. It separated to an unsightly mess. It looked like a baby heaved its milk and biscuits.  The ruined sauce can be saved as if nothing unfortunate ever happened, here's how. Break open a new egg yolk  into a fresh jar. Whisk the new egg yolk as if starting a whole new mayonnaise, except drizzle in the ruined mayonnaise, aioli, or hollandaise as if it were fresh oil or butter. You will be amazed to see it incorporate smoothly into the new egg as if being reborn. It's fun to watch. In fact it's so fun to watch that  it's even worth it to ruin perfectly good sauce just so you can see it fix itself.  And Man it is good. 

Pork shoulder, scalloped potato

Boneless shoulder roast sliced as a steak and marketed "for marination," meaning it's believed to be tough.  It was not tough. Either that or my teeth are in great shape because I ripped this up like a true carnivore. And it is already very flavorful so the dry rub, that was rubbed on both sides dryly, was totally unnecessary extra flavor. This cut was so cheap that it made me feel sorry for the poor beast that gave its all just to be so undervalued. And that is a pity. 

The rub worked its way in while the meat sat on the counter slowly rising to room temperature. 

* ground cumin sprinkled liberally
* salt

A friend insists scalloped potatoes must properly be called escaloped potatoes. He's not particularly word-oriented but I must admit he makes a good point. 

scalloped = crenelated edges like a scallop. Sliced potatoes do not have that. 

escalope = a thin slice of meat or fish without bones, gristle, or skin. This type of potato disc is similar to that. 

But this is English, and usage counts, even if it's ridiculous or flatly wrong. Get used to it. So for the sake of fitting in and not making a fuss even though it's clearly wrong, behold, stovetop scalloped potato. 

The fast and easy one-potato way with none of that baked casserole nonsense but also no crumbly topping either, so there's that tradeoff. 

* a light roux started in the most useful pot with a lid.
* 1 level tablespoon A/P flour
* 1 hefty tablespoon butter
* S/P
* 1 big fat honk'n garlic clove
* 1 white onion sliced thinly

Sweat the onion, brown the roux, take care not to burn the garlic. In fact, that can be the thermometer, as soon as the garlic starts to brown douce it with liquid.

* 1/2 cup chicken broth
* 1/2 cup milk
* Cream ready to add but it never got used. The starch from the potato picked up where the roux left off and made the cream unnecessary. But if the potato would have needed more liquid, that liquid would have been cream.
* 1 potato sliced thinly. The thinner the potato is sliced, the more surface starch is available and the faster it cooks. I used a mandolin, the Japanese type, very dangerous if not actually lethal. They're great stand-ins for the much more expensive professional types. 
*  1 to 2 oz. cheese. Cheeeeeeeeese. I used the Australian cheddar. But I did have Irish cheddar available in case it wasn't enough. The cheeeeeeeeese was shredded and added to the pot off the heat after the potato slices were done cooking to avoid separation
* Sage, because I really really REALLY like sage right now. 

Truly, here is a chuck wagon dinner suitable for any modern-day bachelor or bachelorette. I would not be embarrassed to serve this at any ol' campout. 

Oh I'm an old cowhaaaaand from the Rio Graaaaand
I use a cast-iron paaaaaan  and ♫ I eat with my haaaaaands. 

Mint ice cream

Freeze all the components of the ice cream maker overnight, except for the motor of course, that would be ridiculous. 

* 1 pint Half & Half
* 1 pint heavy cream
* 2 vanilla beans scraped 
* 5 jumbo egg yolks or 6 regular egg yolks
* 1/2 cup cane sugar
* 1 package mint

The mint was the type that comes prepackaged found among the fresh herbs in the produce section of regular grocers. It's marked .66 oz / 18 grams. It wasn't enough. I was afraid it would be too much mint but it turned out to be not enough. Double would be fine.  Muddle the mint, scrape the vanilla beans, mix it all into the combined H&H and cream along with the scraped out husks of the vanilla beans to extract the last trace possible out of it all. Let this steep, infuse, at the very least overnight.

[note to self: use more mint. Muddle it more thoroughly.  Steep for at least a full 24 hours, not just overnight. Longer would be fine.]

I learned that tempering the egg is a needless step.  It's possible to beat the yolks thoroughly with a portion of the H&H + cream and all the sugar,  then bring everything including the remainder of the H&H + cream up to temperature together. Whisk and stir until just before boiling. Strain and chill. I use an ice bath to hasten but that's probably not necessary.

Chill the mixture in the refrigerator or the freezer to just short of freezing. This takes the burden off the machine and hastens the process. Do not let ice crystals form. The whole point of an ice cream machine is to produce the tiniest ice crystals possible. If the crystals are already started, then they'll be built upon as the mixture chills further and that's bad for ice cream. 

The best the machine can do is produce soft ice cream. Scoop it out into another container and freeze further for a few hours at least, to harden it. Then you'll have something that's more difficult to scoop but will not melt within minutes once served at room temperature. 

Next time I'm going to soak orange or lime zest along with extra mint to make it even better.  ♫ Oh I'm a maniac, ♪Ma-ni-ac on the floor, ♬ and I'm make'n ice cream like I never made before ...

Frozen custard, actually, but who cares? 

Coated and fried polenta

This is quite good. I think I'm on to something here. The remainder of the chilled polenta is dusted with flour, drenched in egg with milk, dredged in seasoned ground corn with flour. Shallow-fried at 350℉ / 175℃ until golden. 

This polenta is heavily seasoned and includes a small can of diced jalapeños including the juice. It's hot. The inside is exceeding and surprisingly soft, the outside  is delicately crispy. The honey is very light from orange blossoms. The combination of sweet with hot is very nice. 

It's nice but it's not incredible and not quite there. I intend to keep at it, next time I'll include masa harina, the stuff tamales are made of, a type of ground husked de-germed corn treated with alkali. Masa harina possesses a distinct characteristic aroma and flavor that immediately puts one in mind of Mexico. It's very easy to work with and combines well with other flours.

Combining masa harina with my own ground corn meal will be mixing two types of corn; one processed with alkali and germ-less, and the other full-grain corn meal. The idea is to capture the best of both corn worlds, the lovely processed masa, and the freshly milled, along with the tendency for both to set up when chilled that enables milled corn to be handled as a solid, if a soft tofu-like solid.

I will persist with the chiles because they're excellent and increase the quotient of Mexican spices, coriander and cumin specifically, plus onion and garlic. 

I do this, go through phases, working out the kinks until either I land on something spectacular or abandon the whole thing. I sense something phenomenal on the immediate horizon.  

If you've seen masa harina on the grocery shelves but were reticent  to try it, I urge you to toss a sack in your cart and then once at home follow the simple instructions on the side of the package for a very fast dough. Uses for it will come to mind immediately. A very nice tamale-like casserole is made by layering Masa dough  (masa=mass, dough  / harina=flour, meal) with nearly anything, chicken with sauce, pork stew, beef, ostrich, alligator, craw fish whatever. Cheese or cheese sauce are both excellent with masa. It's hard to go wrong. It can even be the crust and top for pie. It's also impressively inexpensive so even if you decide you hate it, ha, scant chance at that, there'll be scant loss in tossing it.

Whatever you do, resist an impulse to use cream of mushroom soup, like that lady at work, if you get such impulses -- that's just admitting defeat before even beginning.

Eggs, polenta, jalapeños

Been cooking a lot of eggs lately, but there's a reason for that. I need the cartons to plant seeds.  I have four dozen seed experiments going on. So far they're all working. Now, what am I going to do with forty-eight little plants? I have no idea. The new problem is now I need dozens of larger planter cups and I have no idea about that either. Yet.

I never fried polenta before. The polenta is seasoned heavily with the usual suspects including garlic powder and cayenne, plus some other various spicy powders that went into the butter before chicken broth. I just dumped in enough chicken broth that I imagined would fill the bottom of a bread pan to an inch or so. Then added enough ground popcorn to thicken to polenta. At the last moment I decided to include a small can of jalapeños peppers. The mixture was overcooked. I got carried away with a phone call while it was cooking on low. Instructions say to cook it for a long time anyway but I never did. I don't see the point. Poured into a Pullman-size bead pan and left to cool. Knocked it out and sliced it. It's kind of fun. Kids could make animal shapes.

This seasoned fried polenta is wonderful, but it could be improved. The texture is soft and spongy. It could use a crunchy exterior. Next time I'll coat the polenta with more wet polenta mixture as a batter and fry that, or possibly a polenta drench and dredge.

The eggs were fried in olive oil because I already had my monthly Federally recommended allowance of butter all at once last night with the Hollandaise. Plus Paula Dean called and told me to knock it off. [As it happens, I speak cow, she actually said "Moo moo moo mooooooo mo mooo ya'all  moo."]

Oh no, you di'int! Oh, yes I did.

My ears made my fingers type that because they seek revenge for being  forced to hear her say over and over  "hala penyas" instead of jalapeños, they didn't much care for her thoughtlessly switching gender like that. Sorry. That's about as mean as I let my id get.

Poached eggs, Hollandaise

With spinach, Florentine, if you like. The spinach was marketed frozen and heated for a previous meal and something had to be done with it. I forget what it contains, I think just a splash of old red wine standing in for vinegar and whatever dried herbs I used at the time, whatever it was, it is still wonderful.  

I did not add onion, scallion, garlic, or any other allium because I'm a little bit tired of that right now. 

Why bother with English muffins when I have my own sturdy bread? And frankly, my bread is better.  

No ham was harmed for this dish, for presently I am hamless, nor prosciutto, and I did not  feel like frying bacon again so there's a noticeable  but not regrettable absence of that element.  

This was dinner. I consumed 1/2 stick of butter all by myself tonight, and I'm still dropping pounds. But I couldn't help it, you see,  the sauce was so light and smooth, so delicious, that it was irresistible, and there was no point in saving the little that remained so I ate it with a spoon. 

  1. I discovered a new way to make Hollandaise that is quite simple and occurs naturally. The idea follows closely regular mayonnaise except butter for oil and lemon juice for vinegar, and no mustard, but come to think of it, that isn't a bad idea.  I used an immersion blender with the whisk attachment and a pint-size mason jar. Some flecks flick out of the jar when one is less than careful. I imagine the same thing could be done with a hand-held mixer with one of the beaters removed. Or an electric drill with a beater inserted instead of a drill bit. I tried a mini processor but that's noisy and didn't work very well, and I never tried a blender although I understand that's popular too. I just don't want to scrape it out around the blade for a small amount and I don't want to clean it. 
* 1 egg yolk
* 1/4 cup melted butter
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice (adjust to suit your taste)
* 1/16 teaspoon salt
* generous grind of pepper. 

As usual, blend the egg to smoothness, slowly drizzle the hot liquid butter. SLOWLY I SAID! Then less slowly as you go along, but still slowly.  Apparently I drizzled too fast because mine remained thin. The good thing was, I had a shallow pan of water already boiling for the poached eggs, so I could cook it as with a double boiler and thicken it up.  I set the jar inside the pan of water directly touching the water and the pan, which is unlike a proper double boiler, and whisked continuously until the temperature rose to 140℉ / 60℃ which took a few minutes.  I kept lifting the jar to ensure it didn't get too hot on the bottom but I'm not sure that was necessary. The result was the most amazing tasting soft texture silky  butter imaginable. I've honestly never tasted Hollandaise this good. Ever. Even prepared by pros. In fact, I don't trust them anymore. I'm imagining them in the back with an open gigantic #10 can of Hollandaise sauce kept warm in a ban marie. And if they're not, then what is their excuse for Hollandaise that's so sub par compared with my own? Huh? What? 

That does it!  I'm never ordering Hollandaise again unless it's to see how poorly theirs compares to mine.   *exhales on fingernails, buffs on shirt* 

To poach eggs use the same small non-stick pan you use to fry breakfast eggs.  Fill it 3/4 with water and bring to gentle boil. The trick is to add both salt and vinegar to the water. One or the other will not do, both are needed to cause the albumen to hold together tightly. As it begins to set, gently loosen the egg from the bottom of the pan with a spatula and let water flow under it. The egg does tend to stick, even though it's a non-stick pan. You can use a regular spoon to drizzle hot water over the top of the egg to hasten cooking. When done to suit you, lift the egg with a slotted spoon. If necessary, trim the edges by running a knife around the edges of a slotted spoon.  <-- I read that in Michel Roux's egg book but I never felt the need to do it.  

Say you're making a brunch for ten or twelve at home and blowing the minds and winning the admiration of your peers with your mad sauce-making and egg poaching skillz, only to mention the ease of your breezy presentation.  The eggs can be reserved in a bowl of cold water and lifted out when all the plates are assembled.  Then as the compliments are heaped upon you like rose petals, you can blush demurely and feign shyness while shrugging, "eh," and with a wave, "it just comes out of me."

Eggs, rice, chile

I've seen people whisk egg whites to achieve fluffy omelets. I do not care for that technique because the result is fried puff. Air eggs. I do not want that. In that case, lightness is achieved by creating foam, but the eggs are still overcooked and often with an unpleasant incongruent toasted exterior, that, when it comes to egg, is an indication of overcooking. It is like a fried souffle. 

The aim is light egg contrasted with dense egg and different from air-bubble egg. I want barely cooked egg not rubberized egg-like material. I've learned to watch carefully, to stand there and continuously lift the cooked portion so that liquid egg runs under the cooked curd into the evacuated space and to keep doing that until it no longer runs. Flip if necessary, but usually residual heat will finish. The result is a pile of cooked egg layers that can then be rolled or folded to double or triple the stack. This pictured here was folded in thirds, it was so thick that folding amounted basically to rolling, for an impressively high stack of exceedingly lightly cooked egg. You never see that. Apparently I'm the only person on the Earth who does this. I should patent this idea. 

I will call these "lifted eggs." 

I think I'll host a brunch sometime and serve egg prepared this way one at a time (which is really three eggs at a time) and carefully reserve them in a warm oven until they're all done, assemble the plates, and blow everybody's mind right out of their skulls. 

BLAM! Brains all over the place. 

But not today, I'm slumming it today. 

This is rice that is cooked using the rice-steaming skillz of two separate divergent techniques. Japanese prefer their rice a little sticky, I think, because it makes it possible to pick up with chopsticks. To cook, excess surface starch is rinsed, then the rice is steamed, then is sits off heat but still covered to completion. Europeans, on the other hand, fry the rice in oil first to ensure grain separation and a fluffy non-sticking result. For risotto  the liquid begins with a cup of wine, which when fully absorbed and evaporated  is continued with another boiling liquid. The point is to keep the rice uncovered and continuously moving in moderate amount of liquid so the starch gets knocked off the individual grains to form a creamy sauce along with the cooking liquid  delivered in increments which becomes concentrated through the process by absorption and by evaporation. 

This rice pictured here starts out European but finishes Japanese.  The rice was not rinsed. The dry grains were fried in olive oil, a decidedly un-Asian ingredient, until brown along with fennel seed and combination of dried chile peppers. Once browned, it was  doused with a cup of red wine which is an odd choice, but it's what I had on hand. The wine used was old, oxidized, and vinegary.  Stirred until all the liquid absorbed and evaporated, then chicken broth added to steam covered as ordinary Japanese rice. The result is wonderfully uniquely flavorful  fluffy dry rice in dire need of a sauce.

This is the surplus chile reserved frozen that already has brown rice and beans in it with lots of pork. So on this plate is a double whammy of rice; white rice as a base, colored  and heavily flavored, and brown rice in the chile which is performing as sauce.  White rice and brown rice, daring in'nit. 

Topped with amedium Australian cheddar that was on sale at W.F.. I wish I had bought more of that stuff, but it was an experiment.

I have no cilantro or parsley but I do have mint and basil so that's what is used here. 

This odd combination of ingredients, flavors, and technique, is incredible. It's days like this that I amaze myself. I would not serve this exactly as it is to guests, and if I were a chef it would not be on the menu.  I'm afraid it's unmarketable, but the way this egg is prepared, not as an omelet, not as regular scrambled eggs, unlike a souffle, and not itself enhanced with any internal extraneous material or flavors, is nonetheless quite the spectacle there on the plate in its soft lofty extravagant pile once it's cut into and its dimension exposed. 

Bacon sandwich

Check out that open crumb. This bread has been in the freezer for at least a month possibly two. I forgot what I did. I think it's commercial yeast, not sourdough, but I must have aged the dough or something because I'm getting this strong residual PH change thing going on in my mouth.   Hang on.

Brush brush brushie brush, foam, brush brushie brush brush, foam, brush brush brush, foam, brush brush brushie brush, foam, spit. Gugguly gugguly gugguly spit.


*weights self* Oi. I just dropped over half stone. I should have eaten two of these sandwiches.

* orange flavored mayonnaise left over from before
* thin slices of bread frozen for months and fried in bacon drippings. Not all of it, there was too much, some drippings  was reserved for later. Maybe I'll put it in tortillas.

I notice that sometimes simpler things are better. Like pizza. I used to pile things on but then I realized it was too confusing for my brain to sort appreciatively. I'm a bit slow on the uptake. Same with sandwiches. I used to pile on everything I could think of onto them and now I don't.  I had the option of putting tomato in the sandwich, onion, lettuce and cheese, and maybe I'll do that again, but right now I prefer to really taste the bread and the bacon.

Bison burger, spinach

*  The last of three burgers formed from a pound of ground bison with nothing added, fried in a pot. A pot! Does the insanity never end?

* A bag of frozen spinach heated in that same pot. The moisture from the spinach augmented with old souring red wine picked up the remnant fond left in the pot. Seasoned with dry herbs.  Sage, thyme. S/P. Removed to a breakfast bowl.

* Butter, 1/3 teaspoon flour, the same herbs sage and thyme, S/P, heated to bubbling. Splashed with the same old wine, splashed with chicken broth, splashed with Half & Half along with heavy cream (remainder from making ice cream). So those four liquids: wine, broth, H&H, cream, all in small amounts, flavored with the same agents as the spinach, for harmony, combine into a new slightly thickened liquid substance that is unheard of anywhere on Earth, and here is where the insanity ends, shallot (we like a lot), and chunked aged hard Gouda cheese to melt off the heat. This took a tad longer than I imagined, its recalcitrant hardness unwilling to give in. Maybe grating it would have been faster.

I licked my plate like a dog. Not on the floor, mind you, what do think I am over here, uncivilized?

Zingerman's wrote me a letter. Don't read it because it's private!

Hi bo,

We noticed you have an open shopping cart at
Zingerman’s with some food in it.
Don’t worry. The food won’t spoil. We just want to make sure that’s
what you intended.
Sometimes folks think they’ve finished their order and they haven’t. We
didn’t want that to happen to you.
Take me to my shopping cart
To leave your order unfinished, delete this email, point your head
skywards, and yell “Noooooo!” in a howl across the room.
If you have any questions Reply to this email or ring us at 1 888 636

Ah, noticed that then. Shows you're paying attention. I wrote back to a'splain myself


Yes. I started a cart because I'm interested in
learning what's the big deal with risotto and polenta. I do already
enjoy the rice and ground corn that I make myself but the book by
Weinzweig convinced me I've got a lot to learn.
Here's the thing. $12.00 shipping for a trial order is high but
acceptable. I've paid more than that for education. But at checkout the
"warm weather care" charge nearly doubled the shipping amount. I
decided at that moment to wait for cooler weather. See? I'm delaying
gratification. It's a sign of maturity. Yes, I do understand the reason
for the charge and I appreciate the care you take in protecting your
product, but it doesn't make sense for the size order I was placing.
Thank you for double checking and for notifying. It's further proof to
me the confidence I hold in you is well founded.

Zingerman's acknowledges:

Hi Bo,

Wow! I understand what you mean in the warm
weather care charge. It make sense to wait and order those items in the
fall when we do have a cool down in the weather. You will enjoy tasting
the polenta for sure, this is one of my family favorite things to have
for breakfast. In the mean time, if there is anything else that I can
do for you, please let me know.
Kind Regards,
Lela ~ Zingerman's Mail Order

Seared chicken thighs, pene

I could well be addicted to these Bell & Evans chicken thighs. The W.F. near my house carries the Rosie and Rocky brands of organic and free range chicken at their meat counter, but not the B&E whole chickens and parts like the W.F. at Cherry Creek,  but they do have these packages in the chiller situated near to the meat counter. I'm glad I found them there. I could cook up the package and eat the whole thing on the spot, but I try to control myself. These are great just seared in olive oil. Very paleo, but I dolled them up a bit to stretch them out and to be a little civilized. 

Mayonnaise was made with olive oil, not recommended by pros because it tends to cause the oil to go bitter, I did not find that, but for the first time I used the whisk attachment to the immersion blender instead of the blender attachment and held back on the aggressive whipping. I added all the zest of a medium size orange along with 1/2 teaspoon raw cane sugar.  Raw. As if. It's still refined to crystalline form, just a little brown. 

I have on hand mint and basil so both were used. If I had something else, say fresh sage and tarragon, I would have used that. I wouldn't hesitate to include cilantro. 

I had ginger ready but decided at the last minute not to include it. I do not know why. 

I also considered but did not use:

*  cranberries
*  grapes
*  apple
*  pineapple
*  mango
*  pecans
*  walnuts
*  pistachios
*  shallots
*  scallions
*  cinnamon

I sense a change stirring within me, a tendency toward simplicity. Maybe its laziness. Maybe it's the summer heat. Maybe this is what maturity feels like

Polenta with chile

Weinzweig extolls the virtues of Italian Mulino Marino polenta. Mulino = flour mill, Marino = family name of famed piedmont old-skool millers. "Cornmeal so far superior to commercial brands that it's another product altogether."

Wow. Do tell.

"Despite the higher price restauranteurs and locals alike line up to buy it, quite simply, they say, because it tastes so much better than any other polenta around."

Well, there you have it. But what makes it so good? It's only corn, after all.

"The Marinos grind only full-flavored old varities, primarily one known as Otto File [eight rows]. The ear has only eight rows of very large -- huge compared with what we're used to seeing in the United States -- well-rounded kernels …

Although it's more difficult to grow, Otto File is far more flavorful than standard commercial corn. It's also more expensive to grow than more common seed varieties. Yields are low and each stalk offers up only a single ear. It must be planted earlier than more modern varieties in order to avoid cross-pollination. and it must also be left longer on the stalks in order to enhance its natural sweetness; the Marinos don't harvest it until late September or early October."

Well then, there you really have it!

Sorry, it's unavailable. Just kidding. It's available seasonably on Amazon and other places. But here you can have it for $9.00 LB plus shipping. I wouldn't trust it though. It contains the germ and the germ contains oil. The germ goes south fast after milling so it already suffers from being imported, even more so for having been stored. I'll wait 'till September.

In the meantime, my own corn milled myself also has the germ and it's delicious even if it is regular teeny tiny kernels with more than eight rows per cob. And after all, corn is a product of the Americas to begin with. I must admit to a touch of Americocentrism here when it comes to products that originate in America like potatoes, tomatoes, corn, chocolate, vanilla and chiles that are taken up by Europeans and improved in some way to suit their tastes, then supremacy claimed.

And what's with this cooking for 120 minutes and cooking for 90 minutes bullshit? 

Non capisco questo.

Yo no lo comprendo.

Je ne comprends pas.

I do not understand this. 

Because it cooks, it boils, bang, it's done. 10 minutes max. Bitttman agrees. It can be soupy or it can be thick. It can even be cooled and fried. 

I must be missing something really good. It's almost worth nine bucks and 120 minutes to see if ground corn can be all that. I'm beginning to become curious. Even with the degradation and expense of shipping added in. All I know now is that this polenta right here is wonderful. 

The chile is my own two leftover chiles from previous meals mixed together; the one with too much chipotles en adobo and the one mixed with beans and rice. This polenta was made with chicken broth and curry mixture in a tin from the now defunct Spice Boys which was just a few blocks away and now is gone.

Update: That does it. I really do need to get put some knowledge here. I'm seeing otto file online under various names and colors. Zingerman's, with whom Weinzweig is/was associated, at top that started this post, themselves offer otto file online, one kilo @ $15.00 which translates to $7.50 LB, if my maths are right.  Anson Mills also offers it, along with another which is also outstanding according to yet another site. But Anson offers these wholesale, minimum order 10 LBS. I do not know which type is offered at Anson retail. It is not specified other than fine and coarse. Although several types are offered  wholesale at Anson Farms. I hear them calling to me, beckoning me to try them.  This is  a problem for me because I can not handle that much. It's marketed under other names too, American Indian names, on other sites.  I sure would like to find a place locally and if not that then at least order from somewhere on North America, and last choice would be to pop for the known imported type originating from Marino's, if that's what it takes to obtain a reasonable amount, and risk the the damage that time does to the germ of grain.  And that would be a shame.

Update update: I placed an order with Zingerman's.  The shipping was steep but reasonable, I suppose. I always justify the expense to myself by comparing it with formal education, where anything by comparison always seems cheap. In fact, it pretty much justifies anything . But then at check out Zingerman's added an extra  "warm weather care" charge that nearly doubled the shipping. My reason center kicked in. I removed the temperature-sensitive item (cheese that is recommended) then went back to checkout. The warm weather care charge was still there. I guess that's how the germ in the milled corn is protected. So I closed the window without providing payment information.  I can wait for warm weather to end. Besides, I still have a lot of my own ground corn that I still love even though I know something out there is superior. I'll delay until cool weather to satisfy my curiosity. See how mature I'm gett'n? I must say, that I do appreciate Zingerman making these products available online and the care they show in protecting them. 


Popped corn, the best in the galaxy. No brag, just fact.

I saw it all in a dream:  I'm greeted in heaven by a group of beings of the Melchizedek Order. They weren't even old looking.  The one in front goes, "Glad to see you make it, Chip, although we feel regret about the whole white-water rafting thing." And I go, "Thanks. Appreciate that." Then the guy goes, "Before we get started on your beginner classes, mind if you whip us out a batch of that popcorn for which you're famed?"  This was confusing to me because it did not comport with my expectations, and I go, "Huh? What? Beg your pardon. " And he goes, "You know what I'm talkin' 'bout. The popcorn. The POPCORN, Boy." And I go, "But, but, but, how can it be thou partaketh of mortal food in this spiritual realm? Doth thou not partaketh of the tree of life?" And they all go, "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. You loon."  I never did make the popcorn in the dream because without a pantry I couldn't fathom where to get corn kernels and curry powder and butter.  But that tells me, this is the best popcorn in the galaxy.

Things happen quickly. Best to have everything ready mise en place

1/2 cup kernels (slightly less, actually) works perfectly for the heavy pot I use.

Grated Parmigiano with sea salt. To finish, the cheese delivers the salt, the butter delivers the spice.

The real stuff, not the fake stuff marketed as Parmesan as if that could fool us, and I suppose it does fool some of us. My own family *hangs head* refuses to appreciate the clear superiority of the real thing and they persist in using those ersatz frauds. But I still love them anyway through these trials and in spite of this most grievous shortcoming. In fact, I even ate some without complaining just to fit in. But I couldn't believe they choose to ignore my sagacious steady pontification this whole time. Pfffft.

Anyway, the kernels are heated in olive oil just below the smoking point. McGee writes if the kernels are heated too quickly the insides do not expand properly. They need a little time. He's very technical in his description of what's going on inside the kernels. I had been blasting them on HIGH so I stopped doing that after reading McGee. I also stopped using a lid on the pot because McGee said that traps moisture released by the kernels which makes them soggy. Screen for crispy popped kernels. Plus you get to watch what's going on inside the pot.

You'll notice the lids on the poppers at the movie theaters are loose flaps that open fully as the popcorn bursts out.  This pot with a screen is much better than the popcorn popper I bought on Amazon. I think I'll give that thing away. It was just an experiment anyway, and it failed.

Butter ready with curry and cayenne.

Melted in the pot off the heat but still hot from the popcorn, then drizzled over the cooked popcorn. The sizzling butter cooks the spices briefly which is better than sprinkling the spices  raw over the buttered popcorn. You know how Indians from the subcontinent heat ground seeds that comprise various curries, often unique to each household, before adding the vegetables and everything else. This emulates that. Except here prepared curry is used and that would be unacceptable to authentic Indian cook. But hey, it's popcorn, ah'ight? And I'm American, whadjew expect?

Bison burger

Marketed as buffalo at WF. Ha ha ha ha, they crack me up. They know better. Anyway, I drew a djed on it with mustard but it didn't come out all that well. The sign depicts an architectural column shaped like a tied bundle of reeds  and it's thought to mean stability. It's supposed to look like this:
You can see I drew poorly. My excuse is the squeeze bottle isn't much like a pen. But that gives me an idea for better hamburger drawings. I need to get some of those picnic squeeze bottles.

Bison has hardly any fat at all so this was augmented with olive oil.

Have you ever tried rice vinegar? I think that's my all time favorite. It actually tastes sweet on this salad.

Vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, chocolate ganache

This was breakfast. It was supposed to be dessert last night, but I was too stuffed so I delayed gratification.

This method is not hard and fast. There are very broad margins for variation. In the end, it's up to you, what you want, the type of ice-cream you want to end up with. Martha Stewart said she never uses eggs in ice cream because then you simply end up with custard. I say, that's what I want -- custard. So I suppose this is frozen custard, even though the recipe is for French vanilla ice cream. There's nothing particularly French about it that I can see. This recipe uses a lot of egg yolks and fresh vanilla beans, but it doesn't have to.  It's possible to make perfectly good ice cream without any eggs and by using vanilla extract. I'm feeling rather uppity right now, and since I'm troubling to make ice cream, I might as well go all the way. No milk for me, no Siree, I drink that stuff all the time anyway. 

* two sliced and scraped vanilla pods
* 1 pint heavy cream
* 1 pint Half & Half
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 5 egg yolks
* 1/8 teaspoon salt

I used 1/2 cup sugar because 3/4 cup or 1 cup sugar seemed too cloying. I used 5 egg yolks instead of 6 egg yolks because the eggs I have are huge. I tempered the eggs into the hot liquid, although in all honesty I do not see why that is necessary. It seems to me possible to whisk the eggs with the cream and bring all the ingredients together up to temperature. Nobody ever mentions that possibility. I like tempering eggs. It helps me pretend I know what I'm doing. It also seems to me that more time to infuse the vanilla  would lead to a deeper final product.  I did not do that, but next time I probably will. For instance, I think that orange zest or mint or vanilla, any natural flavor agent like that, would be improved by allowing to infuse for longer periods. 

The zest from two oranges that I added to the cream mixture could not be tasted so I added Grand Marnier to compensate. The result is disappointing. Instead of bright happy zing of oranges, it ended up with a flat metallic non-orangish thud.  That does it! This stuff is overrated. For now on, it's going to be long infusions for me. Other than that, I'm well pleased with this ice cream. 

Caramel is melted sugar with butter added along with cream. It's very easy to make but it does take just a bit of technique. The dry sugar can be stirred in a pot until it liquifies then stirring must end. At that point swirling is allowed. Sugar melts at a temperature much hotter than boiling water and for this reason it's dangerous. Don't let any little kids or pets around when you're making caramel, they simply do not appreciate the hazards they invite with their impish games and childish ways. The liquid sugar quickly burns and the taste of burnt sugar is dreadful. Have the butter and cream ready at hand. Adding butter  initiates the cooling of  the liquified sugar.  For 1/2 cup caramel sauce:

1/2 cup cane sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup (or so) cream. 

Melt the sugar, stir when it's still granular, swirl when it begins to melt. Lift off the heat to check the steady upward heating and swirl to mix the melted portions with the unmelted portions evenly. Note the mixture darkening, at the point of desired darkness toss in the butter and remove from heat. The progressive heating is suddenly stopped, when the butter is melted, slowly add cream. The mixture bubbles madly and rises in the pot, keep drizzling and whisking until the desired thickness is attained.  Making caramel sauce  is easy, fun, and dramatic. If the first attempt fails, analyze where you went wrong and start over.  

Add a pinch of salt if unsalted butter was used.  

Ganache is even easier. 50% cream / 50% chocolate. Decide how much you want, and heat that amount of cream in the microwave. Thirty seconds should do, it tends to boil up very quickly. Add the same amount by weight of chocolate. You can use any commercial chocolate bar or even chocolate chips. I'm using single-source couverture chocolate because, hey, I'm an obnoxious snooty uppity chocolate snob. 

See what was done here? Real cream, real vanilla, real chocolate, and cane sugar. 

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