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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Took a ride on the Polar Express earlier in the evening. Cute ride, friendly people, overall a nice trip but it isn't worth the price. And the parking is a little crazy. If you are familiar with the story, you'll know the main character gets a bell that can only be heard by those that believe in Santa. On the train, every kid gets a bell handed out by Santa himself. Alas, if you look closely (as my extremely observent niece did), you'll notice the bell was not made at the North Pole. Santa's workshop has moved to China.
I guess it was a Black Friday carryover but a handful of books were still on sale at Barnes and Noble until today. A co-worker told me the book I had been eying was one of them. I called the store up to see the price. The jacket price is $140 ($99 at Amazon) and today it was selling for $70 plus I got to take another 10% off because of some club we join when the elementary school has a book night at the store. $63. I'm weak. I bought it.
Hope you had a good Thanksgiving. The meal went off without a hitch with the exception that I forgot to buy some half and half for the coffee after dinner. My bad. I am afraid I am going to have to change my tune. For years I had thought that cooking the bird outside opened up the kitchen and made life easier. Turns out, it doesn't. This was the first time I cooked the turkey inside (been doing it annually since 2001) and the time I spent babysitting fires and watching oil heat up became free time.
And I need to go get some Jacques Pepin books. That steam/roast method from the Times worked out very well. I always knew that guy could cook, but damn that guy can cook. I butter basted the bird instead of using his glaze. I wasn't sure all the guests would go for the glaze. Pretty sure I'd like it but I wasn't just cooking for myself. I thought the turkey needed some salt but it was pretty moist and tasty. I was even asked, "How did you get it so moist?" Next time (if the bird is thawed), I'll salt it a day or two in advance and then cook it using this steam/roast method.
Got the gluten free cheesecake cooling on the counter.
Turkey appears to be thawed. Not 100% sure though. At the very least, it is not soaking in water right now. The bird fits in the canner so I think steaming/roasting is the way I'm going. Don't think I am going to go with Jacques glaze. I'd like it but I'm not sure how it would play to the crowd. Think I'm going to sharpen knives while I waste time in front of the TV. Got a good game plan for tomorrow. I think it will just be a steady pace of things to do instead of a full-on panic attack. I'm still in the "not a big deal" mode. Hopefully that feeling will still be here this time tomorrow night.
I want to cook the bird inside this year and not worry about hot or cold spots in the smoker. I was torn between a combination braise/roast and salting followed by traditional roasting. Then the Times published Jacques Pepin's steam/roast technique. I've got to pick soon.
This year, three of the Thanksgiving guests fall into the gluten sensitive category. One has celiac so there is no wiggle room there. The other two are restricting gluten as part of a separate medical issue. Not the end of the world if they eat gluten, but they are doing their best to avoid it. Throw in two vegetarians and 25% of the guests have dietary restrictions.
I've been careful with gluten in the past. And typically the only items served at the sit down meal with gluten are the stuffing and gravy. This year, I'm trying to go gluten free for the gravy and use sweet rice flour as the thickener. I'd like to make it on Wednesday, and then if it sucks, I have time to fall back to the old version. But to use sweet rice flour, I had to find it first. So I headed to the Asian Supermarket on Central. I hadn't been in awhile and it just isn't as nice as when it opened. The produce is definitely hit or miss. But there are certainly some gems in the store.
I roamed all the aisles looking for sweet rice flour and looked in the aisle with the "Flour" label and the rice section twice. Found sweet rice, but no sweet rice flour. Then I asked a man stocking shelves. Without missing a beat, or looking up, he told me to go to Aisle 5. I looked up the whole aisle twice, making 3 scans up the aisle. Here a shot of less than a quarter of one side of the aisle.
I didn't know if I was looking for a box or a bag or sack...no idea. I was about to bail and hope to find the flour in a health food store later in the week. As I turned to head toward the entrance, my eye caught the words "sweet rice." I couldn't believe it. There it was. It's those little white boxes which are ironically the size of a small box of rice.
If you need some sweet rice flour, I can help you out a bit. It's in aisle 5, on the left.
I ordered the turkey from Misty Knolls this year. Picked it up this afternoon. While it certainly wasn't bowling ball frozen like a Butterball, it was frozen. So much for salting it tonight. Once again, I am glad I picked up the turkey early. At least there is something I can do about it. Picking it up like that on Wednesday afternoon would have sucked. At least when you buy a bowling bowl frozen turkey, you know you have a frozen turkey.
Just finished the 4th batch of stock in the pressure cooker. First up was chicken stock, then a turkey stock, then some vegetable stock and now some more chicken stock. All the stocks are pretty damn good. The vegetable stock is the best vegetable stock I have ever made.
House is mostly clean and I'm still in the blissful "this is no big deal" mode. I haven't updated my spreadsheet this year and I've been kind of winging the holiday prep/shopping. I've got to update the sheet. Without the order of my spreadsheets this is getting too close to anarchy.
With the help of a very generous mother-in-law (she took the kids), my wife and I headed to Boston for a kind of college reunion weekend. The people definitely attending were Dan, Joe & Adrienne and us. This is the core group of Toxic Friends. Everyone should have Toxic Friends. They are the friends who consistently enable you to eat too much, drink too much and generally over indulge. We were lucky and got to see everyone one the maybe list for the weekend too. We saw Chuck & Vic with their two sons, although the visit with Vic and the boys was short. Chuck's oldest is son is quite proud that he is taller than his father and that was fun to see. Jeanie also bused in for an afternoon and I haven't seen her since we ended up vacationing at the same lake two summers ago.
In an odd turn of events, it seemed to be a double play weekend. Ot of all of the places in the city, we went to two places twice. The weekend started with meeting Joe and Adrienne at the hotel, The Intercontinental - an insanely nice hotel. From there we wandered into the North End for lunch at Gennaro's, just a few doors up from the old Paul Revere House. Good food, good wine, good friends. What a great lunch. It is important to note that just before this lunch on Friday afternoon was the last time I felt any kind of hunger until lunchtime today. Not that it stopped me from eating...One of the lunch options were various kinds of meatballs. At the waiter's recommendation, I had the eggplant meatballs and was treated to what was probably the best eggplant parm I've ever had. We were looking at desserts and ordered a vanilla bread pudding with caramel sauce (insanely good) and I ordered a limoncello because I'd never had one and why not? It was ok, doubt I'd pick up a bottle anytime soon. The manager told us that they just got a delivery of a type of grappa that was better than limoncello. The bottle looks like this.
This stuff is good. Really good. I took the picture so I could find it somewhere. Joe and I each picked up a bottle of it at a North End liquor store. I couldn't find it online at Allstar or Empire. I'll chill it for Thanksgiving. After the lunch, we roamed, then napped and met Dan to go out for the evening. We went to a pub, had a few rounds and some finger foods (still wasn't hungry from lunch) and then we went to Meritage. This is an old school hotel bar. Very formal service, comfortable couches and chairs and they keep bringing out munchies. Non stop munchies. Warm tortilla chips, mixed nuts (real mixed nuts - cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts - like $7 a can nuts), and good pretzel/cheese puff snack mix. We ordered a few small pizzas off the menu and some onion rings. The pizzas weren't anything special but the rings were fantastic. And the guy next to us had an amazing looking fish and chips plate. Great little hideaway. Don't tell anyone.
The next morning, Joe walked over to Flour Bakery. I had read about it in Fine Cooking and they also beat Bobby Flay in a sticky bun Throwdown. Here's the bounty Joe returned with:
You've got the sticky buns on the left (very good), top right is a sugared brioche (I thought these stole the show) and then an almond croissant in the bottom right. Luckily we got these in our systems before we were hungry on Saturday morning.
The weather was very cooperative so we roamed and talked and settled on the Union Oyster House just outside of the Faneuil Hall area. Prior to being hungry, we ate some great oysters, drank Sam Adams Brick House Red which is apparently only on tap in Beantown, had kick ass clam rolls and Joe went to town on a lobster (his lobster has become a Boston Weekend tradition). Friendly waitress, many laughs, and another good time.
We went for another walk along the harbor, and ended up at a place called The Whiskey Priest. A lot of whiskeys to choose from, but the pours were a little light and the appetizer were weak. They had a corn fritter thing that was good, basically corn hush puppies, but the other food we had was pretty bad. It was still fun anyway. We regrouped back at the hotel for dinner and then headed back into the North End to return to Gennaro's.
Great dinner. It had some minor flaws, but overall a wonderful time. I had the osso bucco dinner. Instead of a risotto, it came with some (I dare you to read this without drooling a little) homemade short rib ravioli. They were special.
The next morning we returned to Flour Bakery for some breakfast. We weren't the only one's with the idea of heading here Sunday morning.
Coffee has to be good for me to drink it black. I drank it black here. We sampled a many more pastries. They were all picked over before I thought to get a picture. We had raspberry "pop tarts," sour cream coffee cake, egg sandwiches (with really good bacon), a cinnamon cream brioche and something else I can't remember. As with any bakery, some things were better than others, but nothing was bad. The couple at the table next to us had a very cute, loyal dog waiting patiently for them outside. Apparently they also bake dog treats so the pup knew what was coming when they returned.
From there, the weekend was coming to a close. We had requested a late checkout so we still had some time. We came down from our sugar high back in the room before driving back to Albany. I'm afraid to weigh myself.
I went to school in Boston for a few years, back when the Big Dig was just an idea. Now that most of it is done, Boston is a much better looking city. I'm looking forward to going back. Maybe we'll try more than just Gennaro's and Flour. The city has a lot to offer.
Every so often a silly reality TV show catches my eye. Not sure how I stumbled onto a marathon of the first season of Moonshiner's, but I did. The new season started yesterday. The season premier has everything: Moonshine, cops vs. robbers and you find yourself rooting for the robbers, explosives, overalls, a guy with crazy sideburns, and the triumphant return of a permanently drunk guy named "Tickle."
Do you think the guys at Albany Distilling watch? They should have Wednesday night viewing parties. I'd go every week.
New episodes are on Wednesdays at 10. I'm sure they rerun them a bunch of times during the week.
Tonight was a Girl Scouts night. So I did what every guy with a 90 minutes of tranquility in their own house would do: I made chicken stock in the new pressure cooker.
I followed the Modernist recipe that was part of the New York Times review of Modernist Cuisine. You boil a bunch of cut up chicken wings and then drain it. I think cutting the wings would be much easier with a big butcher's block and a cleaver. I used a pair of hand-me-down kitchen shears (Thanks Mom) and they kind of worked. The recipe also calls for ground chicken thighs. I added the bones from the thighs in with the wings. The rest is pretty straight forward. Onion, leek and carrot in the pot with some peppercorn and parsley. Mix everything together and cover with water. Pressure cook on high for 90 minutes.
Here's the leek, onion and carrot softening.
I boiled the bones in a different pot. I also threw in some chicken skin. I think it was Chef Bob Del Grosso that talked about skin enhancing a stock.
Put everything into the pressure cooker.
Which is prettier: the pot or the tile backsplash? Two red bars bars on the pop-up thingy means there 15 psi inside. I didn't want to mess around with this thing so I read the book. Not sure if you can see it, but the dial for the pressure cooker burner is turned pretty low.
After 90 minutes at 15 psi plus the time it took the pressure to naturally drop, the vegetables and chicken look pretty spent. Hopefully it all went into the water.
Here it is after going through some cheese cloth. Looks like it needs to have some fat taken out of it. The fat should solidify overnight. Tastes pretty good. Needs some salt, but that will get added later.
A good first run. Not sure I'd follow the recipe to the letter again. I think it would be cheaper to buy a whole chicken, use the breasts for dinner, and put the rest of the bird in the pot. I'll have to try some variations as I gear up for Thanksgiving.
I've always be interested in cooking. I once thought about it as a career. In the end, I decided to go into bridge engineering and throw dinner parties whenever the mood struck. The hours are a little better.
For the past few years, pizza has been kind of an obsession.