Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pre-Holiday Cleanse

There are all kinds of "Cleanse" diets on the market. The Master Cleanse lemonade diet, Fresh Fruit cleanse, Fat Flush Diet....the list is endless. I am just about finished with a cleanse program I accidentally stumbled into doing. Health care professionals call it the Influenza A Virus. I lost 7 pounds but I don't think I would recommend this virus to a friend. The side effects are not worth the weight loss.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Arrivals at Price Chopper

Every so often, I get an email from Price Chopper letting me know about some new products or an event. The first thing I would have been interested in knowing about and not a word from whoever send the emails....I was hurrying through the Latham Price Chopper and this new display in the meat section caught my eye. Several small shelves filled with D'Artagnan products. I had wanted to try some of their stuff during the Charcutapalooza challenge, especially since they were nice enough to offer participants a discount each month. I never got around to it. Couldn't believe I was looking at their stuff in a Price Chopper. First shelf, Jambon de Boyonne ($7.49 for 4 oz.), small container of duck fat ($5.99 for 7 oz.) and a duck leg confit ($7.99 for a 5 oz. leg). I bought a package of the ham.

But wait, there's more....smoked duck bacon ($10.99 for 8 oz.) and more duck legs confit.

And still more... lamb merguez, saucisson de canard and wild boar sausage (each $5.99 for an 8.5 oz package).

A bit on the pricey side but my hope is that the products are of very high quality. Wow, duck fat and duck confit at Price Chopper. Color me impressed.

Completely off topic side note: All Over Albany did a nice little write up on the Schenectady Curling Club.

And last but certainly not least... Happy Birthday Ma!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

No Rise Pizza

I gave the Wrise I got form the Modernist Pantry a try last night. Not as successful as the sodium citrate, but possibly another work in progress. The time it took from beginning to pull the ingredients for the dough to the time we were cleaning up after dinner was less than two hours. The recipe gets some points for not having to plan ahead. Alas, I did not get the rise I wanted out of the crust. Still tasty, but the crust never really rose in the oven. Here's the recipe I followed.

I started by getting all the ingredients together. Weighed out the flour.

Popped the cork on the champagne. Poured it into a regular juice glass. Pretty classy. I took a sip and while I may be classy, I'm not a champagne guy.

Kosher salt

Wheat gluten



And then it all went together. Sorry this isn't a thrilling read.

Here's the dough ball after being kneaded for 5 minutes, rested for 10 minutes, and then kneaded again for another 5 minutes. And by kneading, I mean the mixer going with the bread hook. The champagne added a yeasty aroma to the dough. More acidic than a yeasted dough, but yeasty if that makes any sense.

Here's pizza number 1 just before baking. I should have spun it around differently. This was a little too exciting to get on the pizza steel in the oven. Didn't snap a picture but I changed the oven setup a little too. The pizza steel was in the middle of a 550 degree oven and the old pizza stone was on the rack above it. Reverting back to using the steel and broiler might help the top brown and the dough rise a little more.

Not terrible. Bottom came out better than last time. But the pizza is about as thick as when I put it in the oven.

Pie number two ready for the oven.

Here it is cooked. I actually got a little bubble out of this pie. If I could get that bubble all over, we'd be onto something.

Overall flavor of the finished pizza was OK. The crust needed more rise. Not the great pizza, but there is significantly worse out there. The recipe gets points for speed, no slow overnight or 3 day rise. The crust has potential but it isn't there yet. At least not in my kitchen. Maybe more Wrise would help or going back to using the broiler or maybe even breaking out the Firedome. There wasn't any pizza leftover. Not sure if that could be used as an indication of quality or more of an indicator of my oldest daughter's return health. She didn't really eat much last week.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


In a bar in Buffalo watching the relief concert...what the hell is Kanye wearing? Looks like a leather kilt with leggings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A modern take on Mac and Cheese

Gave the sodium citrate a whirl earlier tonight with pretty good results. A work in progress and an idea I think is worth pursuing.  Here's a link to the MDRN KTCHN video about sodium citrate.

My daughter Allison's favorite Mac & Cheese recipe comes form a New York Times food section recipe and I use Cabot Seriously Sharp in it so that's what went with today. I grated the brick of cheese and weighed it. The recipe is based on percentages so I calculated the appropriate amount of sodium citrate (4% of the weight of the cheese - I figure it isn't a trade secret the recipe is here) and weighed that out.

Next, I got the scaled amount of water (93% of the weight of the cheese) in a pan and heated it up. Added the salt and gave a stir to dissolve. I added small amounts of cheese to the simmering salt water and whirred a stick blender around. Once the cheese seemed to be liquified, I added another pinch of shredded cheddar. More whirring. At first, the sauce looked very watery and I thought there was no way it would thicken. But about halfway through the cheese, it started to look like sauce. And when I was done, I couldn't believe how smooth the sauce was.

I couldn't swipe a line on the spatula, lick my finger clean, then swipe my finger on my phone fast enough to get that classic picture where you use your finger to make a line on the back of the spoon (I think it is called nappe, but I'm not sure). I tried twice and then gave up. It was dinner time and four other things were going on...but the picture was there for me to take.  I boiled some elbow noodles and tossed them in the sauce. Dinner is served.

I thought it came out pretty good. Cooked in this method, I think I would choose a different cheese next time. And that's the work in progress part. The texture of the cheese sauce is great but the flavor would be better with a different cheese. The method lookis like it will take any cheese and turn it into a smooth sauce.The cookbook has a longer, baked mac and cheese recipe that I will have to try. I told the kids maybe next week for that one.

I also stopped by All Star on the way home today. The answer to my "what champagne or sparkling white wine do you recommend to use in a pizza dough" question is a split of Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut. Never heard of it but I'm not a champagne guy. Maybe pop the cork Friday night.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Modernist Pantry Delivery

Forget Christmas, my box of Modernist Pantry stuff came today. They put their own strip sticker on the flat rate postage box. Here's one end of the sticker...

And here's the other...

Cute right? The package also included a semi-personalized card with a phone number, contact info and an offer to help with the ingredients I had bought. The store owner's business card was in there too. In case you were wondering,  Mr. Andersen's card weighed in at 1.47 grams.

The sharpie on the counter was a hefty 8.60 grams.

If I could find my little 10 gram calibration weight, I could check the scale. But that little weight has been AWOL since the kitchen counter project started. I could tell you exactly where it was last January.  I'm not sure what day, but sometime this week I'm trying out the easier mac & cheese recipe. I've got some traveling this week, not sure I'll get the pizza dough in. That requires a stop at All Star where I will get to ask a wine guy another weird question. Last time it was, "I'm looking for an inexpensive white to use in a dry cured Italian salami." This time is will be, "I'm looking for an inexpensive sparkling white or champagne to use in a yeast-free pizza dough." If they had a nickel for every time they got asked that...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pho Broth

Ever since first eating a bowl of Pho, I have wanted to try and make it with bones/meat from our steers. Step 1, and probably the most important step is the broth. I pulled four of what our butcher calls "soup shanks" because from his experience, that's all they are good for. I have made some good beef stock with them in the past. The meaty part of the shank contributed flavor and even tenderized a little but they were never very good eating. My hope was that would change with the pressure cooker. Here are the shanks.

They cut up into more manageable pieces pretty easily. If I remember correctly, I had about a pound and a half of bones and just under 3 pounds of very tough beef.

Loosely following Andrea Nguyen's recipe, I got a large onion and a good hunk of ginger. Andrea (I was kind of following her recipe so clearly we are on a first name basis) has a new tofu cookbook out that looks pretty interesting.

The onion and ginger get charred. Instead of setting off the smoke detector, I fired up the grill. You can kind of see the onion blistering on the left and two pieces of ginger in the middle and right.

Here are the charred onion and ginger getting ready to go into the pot with star anise and a cinnamon stick. With 20/20 hindsight, the charring of the onion would go better next time. The outside got charred and about half of the inside softened. Id' use a lower heat and more time to soften the core of the onion too. Lesson learned.

I took the char off the ginger and onion then it all went into the pressure cooker for about 90 minutes.

Here it is strained and on its way to the fridge. It tasted good but was missing something. I think adding the fish sauce will bring a lot to the flavor. It was also a little greasy. A lot of fat is going to gel up when this is cool.

As predicted, there was quite a bit of fat. The bones had a good amount of marrow and that melted into the broth. At least I'm guessing that's where the fat came from. I tried the beef today too. It's edible, but I wouldn't put it in the pho. I'll pick at it for lunch.

If I don't get a chance to make the pho on Saturday, I'll freeze the broth for another time.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Modernist Pantry

I've continued buying food related stuff. And I've completely rationalized the expense because I plan to share what I cook with the family. So it isn't really just stuff for me. It's stuff for us.

The latest toys are coming from the Modernist Pantry. It's a store that was created to distribute all of the hard to find ingredients for some Modernist recipes. Looking for some sodium alginate to caviar shaped spheres of a liquid? They've got it. The nice thing about the store is that they also sell things in quantities so the home cook can play around with buying 5 pounds of a product to use 2 tablespoons of it in a recipe.

The thing I really wanted after flipping through Modernist at Home was sodium citrate. It is salt of citric acid. And apparently if you dissolve some in water and then slowly blend in cheese you will have a very stable cheese sauce that won't break. The mac and cheese recipe looks great. See, it's a gift for everyone.

I'm also looking forward to playing with Wrise. Wrise is very fine baking powder that has been encapsulated in a gel. When you mix it in a dough, nothing happens. Once you heat the dough, the gel melts and you get a quick rise in the oven. I got it to try this pizza recipe that uses champagne or sparkling white wine and Wrise instead of yeast. If it works well, I won't always have to make pizza dough a day or two in advance. I'll be able to make the dough while the oven heats up. Pizza, another gift for everyone.

Since I was shopping, I picked up some Ultra-Sperse 3 too. This is a super fine tapioca powder that can be used as a thickener. It's also gluten free. I'm going to try it in gravy to see how it compares to the sweet rice flour.

Still feeling generous, I bought a scale that can measure these ingredients accurately. They had one that could measure tenths of grams, but for an extra $5, you can upgrade to the one that measures hundredths of grams. I also got these little anti-static cups so all the measured ingredient comes out of the bowl after you measure it. They were only a buck and as a first time buyer, the shipping was free. It would have been wasteful not to buy them too. You know, for the kids.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another Visit to Rolf's

While Mr. Dave will eat things I won't go near anymore (my days of gas station cuisine are long gone), I don't recall him recommending anything bad. So when he recently recommended the Teawurst at Rolf's, I knew I would be trying it the next time I was in the store. That time was yesterday. A small chub of the Teawust was about $2.50. The date on the label is wrong. I bought this yesterday.

It was a midday stop at Rolf's and I knew I wasn't going to wait until I got home to try the Teawurst, I also picked up a loaf of rye. Using the back of a crummy draft report as tablecloth in my cube, I dug in.

As promised, the Teawurst is very good. And at $2.50 for a small, I doubt I'll be able to leave Rolf's without one in future visits. This particular loaf of rye kind of overpowered the Teawurst. It would be better on a good but less flavorful bread, like the Prinzo's loaf Mr. Dave used. A decent baguette would work or a slice of Bella Napoli bread would be good too. And I think a step up from the Prinzo's loaf would be a Prinzo's hard roll. Those rolls make everything better. And with those rolls in mind, I just figured out the circular route I'm going to take between the office and Rolf's on my next trip.

Soup for lunch

I ran to the bank today during the lunch break. Next door to the bank is an all in one Asian restaurant. I figured I'd grab a miso soup. I looked at the menu and saw hot and sour soup too. I like both soups so instead of a large miso I got a small of each soup to go.Lesson learned: each soup is good, but don't eat both soups in the same day.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bolognese Sauce

I'm really enjoying the new pressure cooker toy. Modernist at home had a pressure cooker Bolognese sauce. It was decent but a work in progress. I think with some tweaking the source could be better. I had never used porcini mushroom powder (just dried porcini turned into dust in a spice grinder) and I definitely liked that. This recipe called for all pork. I think a mixture of pork and veal would be better. Maybe even sneak some pancetta in there. Can't go wrong with pancetta. Definitely a decent sauce in about an hour but I think it will be better next time. I think I want to drop about 15 minutes off the cooking time. Too much of a rush for pictures tonight. I'll get those next time too.

Later this week I'm going to try a rump roast in the pressure cooker. I've never gotten one of the rump roasts from our steers to come out well. The best so far was grinding it into summer sausage. I hope the pressure cooker does the trick to make a decent pot roast although I'm not sure pressure can help these cuts. I'm thawing the shanks too. I'm going to try to make a pho broth with those.

I'm also going to order some supplies from the Modernist Pantry. There's a pizza dough and a cheese melting technique that must be tried. Someone should probably take away my credit card.