Thursday, May 08, 2008

I am over here, Silly!

You just THINK that I haven't been posting... but really, this has all been a bad technology experiment on my part...

Come See How much more work I have to DO!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

You Bird Brain!

Photo: Via: Sweet and Sour Spectator

I guess that is isn't a surprise to disclose that I love the Food Network. Yes, my secret love, Alton Brown is the host and he displays his geeky cuteness and geeky knowledge all together. Sigh.

But today's episode really did take the cake.

It was the challenge between Mario Batali and challenger, Chris Cosentino.

Now, the thing is that I will eat just about anything. I think you may have seen pictures of me and know that is the truth. But escargot ran through a meat slicer? Ok, I get that it made it easier to slice, but I saw it! It looked nasty. The sauce that it was mixed with looked tasty and I love home made pasta. But still. ew.

And then? The squab. I love squab. I know that they are different from the nasty rats with wings that you get in any major city. And I know that there WERE no pigeons or squab in North America until they were introduced by some (likely) homesick Brit, who expected to eat the food of his childhood. That being said, taking the feet, wings and skulls of the little fuckers and then eating them is kind of nasty. Particulary when the little deep fried claw is holding a garlic clove (our secret ingredient) and that you are supposed to suck the brains of the squab out of it's little head. Ok. Not face to face, but rather from the back of the skull, but does that REALLY make it much better?

I say NO!

Thank god, Mario Batali won this challenge!


Friday, April 04, 2008

Birthday cake

I know most people have visions of buttercream dancing in their heads when they think of birthday cakes.

In my family, we dream of ice cream, chocolate crunches and plastic roses.

Yep, We are Carvel people.

Oh, my sister and I and even my brother... How we fought over those plastic roses.

They don't make them that way anymore. And that is ok. Eventually we outgrew the need to have an ice cream cake for our birthday every year.

But my Dad? Not so, much.

He still loves an ice cream cake. So that is what I try to find for his birthday every year. The pickings are slim here in Chicago. Although the Jewel does have a cooler with Carvel cakes in it, it just isn't the same. So this year, I decided to try my own hand at making one.

I bought four pints of gelato from Whole Foods in three different flavors and came home to get cracking.

Not having the chocolate sprinkles I used graham cracker crumbs. I would take softened gelato and spread it in a lined cake pan. (I lined my with tin foil, which I wouldn't do again, but I didn't have enough cling film). The order of was chocolate, cherry, chocolate and almond cappacino. Each layer was separated by the graham cracker crumbs and each layer was allowed to freeze before the next was added.

oh! And as the extra added surprise, I decided to make a cherry compote. Frozen cherries and sugar, cooked until jammy. Except, there was a distraction. Haha... yeah. I know. Who would have guessed. Family dinner coming up, who'd guessed I was distracted. Well the compote over-cooked. How much? Let's just say instead of a nice simmer, it went to hard ball stage. So... now instead of cherry compote, I now have created cherry crunch. Not what I wanted originally, but yummy.

Afterward I removed the cake from the pan and peeled back the foil. The cakes of my childhood were always frosted in some way. So I considered a coating of whipped cream. In the end I went with a richer option. Ganache.

Poor Imelda and MonAnge. They panicked as they watched me spreading still slightly warm chocolate (it has to be... or it just won't spread!) over slowly melting ice cream. MonAnge wanted to help... but as time was of the essence, I didn't feel this was a moment for a cooking lesson. We will practice ganache spreading with a cake that stays solid at room temperature.

The cake oozed a bit as I was frosting the sides and the chocolate began to harden quickly. I got everything covered and popped it back into the freezer to save the day. It solidified nicely and kinda pretty too, if I think so myself.

And what did Dad think? Well, he seemed touched that I would MAKE an ice cream cake. It was certainly more rich and luxurious than the ice cream cakes of old. And best of all? Not hard to make.

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fishy Fools

Image: Chocolate Trading Co.
What kind of fool believes in April Fish?

Well, the French do. And they may have been the originators of the April Fools jokes that are so common on April First.

It turns out that King Charles IX (yes, Fun Daddy, Charles VIII is dead.... Damn you, Monty Python and your Flying Circuses!) decided in 1564 to change the date of the new year from April 1 to January 1. The Catholic Church eventually changed the New Year's date officially in 1582 when it adopted the Gregorian calendar. Those people who didn't learn of or recognize the French government's change were the April Fools.

But the fish? Where did they come in?

Well no one really quite sure.

It is possible that the fish is a reference to leaving the zodiacal sign of Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20). Maybe because for most years, the time after April 1st was part of lent, a time of fasting, or eating fish instead of flesh or fowl. Either way, the French tradition included putting a dead fish on the back of the fool. Stinky? Oh, yes. And hopefully quickly discovered.

Today French children are more likely to use paper fish or stickers and eat fish shaped treats.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What the Blarney is this?

There is no corn in this beef!

Well, at least not in the pot. And there is a logical reason for that as corn refers more to small kernels or corns of spice. Like... um, peppercorns. or allspice...or kernels of salt. Because at its heart corned beef is a salted dish, brined in fact.

In the last couple of years it has become popular to brine meats before roasting them.. We have brined turkeys a couple of times with great success. But corning? Well, it was something of an adventure. And we, GastroNerds love an adventure.

The brine for corned beef was simple enough... a combination of salt (kosher), brown sugar, water, pickling spice and sodium nitrate (sold as InstaCure No. 1). Yes, I know that nitrates are bad for you, but it is St. Patrick's Day, for the sake of all that is Holy! Live a little.

The salt in the mixture helps draw water out of the meat which decreases the chances that the water will be used as a conduit for introducing bacteria into the meat. The nitrates, mix with the fixed iron in the muscle tissue and help preserve the nice pink color.

Yeah, I know, I could make it just as tasty without the nitrate but pink is my favorite color... and besides, I think the end product would have had that dead grayish color of boiled meat... which is decidedly un-appetizing... so, I think that I will stick with my chemically altered meat.

The point is that the experiment worked and was very tasty. We ate our corned beef with boiled red potatos and cabbage that was coarsely chopped. I know that seems like heresy as even in my childhood, it was deemed a pre-requisite to eat that cabbage as a big wedge. But if you will indulge me for a moment, you will notice that our cabbage has some color... and some texture... which made it awfully tasty. Thanks to Alton Brown for the suggestion. Oh, and as a result of cooking it that way, we avoided the explosion of hydrogen sulfide as it was being expelled by the cabbage leaves. This worked at both ends of the dining process (TMI? Sorry, but everyone farts)

Now for those of you who want to tell me that no self-respecting Irishman would eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day, don't get your undies in a bunch. I am aware of this. You would more likely eat stew or a boiled dinner including smoked butt. I know... that is what my "Currie" mother often served us. On the other hand, this is the American tradition, which naturally means that it got screwed up. The Irish wouldn't drink themselves into a stupor (at least, just one night a year), drink green beer (which is revolting) or paint shamrocks on their cheeks at a parade.

They would go to mass.

Still want to be authentic?

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Thank you, Thank you

And You! My adoring public as a modestly accept this coveted award.

For years now, I had hoped to obtain a Poppy and because of you, my dreams have been realized.

Stay tuned for my long awaited veal and sicillian gratin post...

And the very seasonal corned beef and cabbage where we discuss the merits of corning our own beef (thank you very much!)


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

explain please?

Why am I obsessed with bread these days?

Granted, I am on a streak...

I am baking like the wind...

if that is a term... I am not even using recipes... I am free fall baking (is that a term?) ok, if it isn't I am defining it by baking generally the same thing with minute variations from day to day. I don't open a cookbook... I don't consult a recipe... I just think about how bread is supposed to go together and behave accordingly...

If I don't have enough water? I add more... I know how the bread dough is supposed to feel and I knead it until it feels right. I doubt that I am a bread savant. I know that a certain amount of flour and yeast and water and salt will yield a certain amount of bread.

My goal? Two nearly perfect non-sourdough baguettes.

I did the best that I could!

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I can't help but giggle

Being a Nerd means that I have been identifying Luis Guzman in movies for years... And frankly I deplore that he was never included in the now defunct Fametracker's "Hey It's That Guy!" column.

However, when I saw this... I had to giggle a bit.

It is awfully good cheese... although if you asked my father, New York State Sharp Cheddar is better...

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