Sunday, May 8, 2022

So hungry I forgot to take a picture

 When the Covid lockdown happened two years ago, I didn't go completely nuts with the bread making. I do have a dehydrated sourdough starter from a friend, but I haven't put it together yet. I had the urge to knead dough this weekend, and I didn't feel like my usual French rolls or stotty, so I went hunting.

I don't use the Food Network's website as much as I used to, but the baguette I made today came from this recipe.  (I cut the recipe in half). 

  • 2 envelopes dry active yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Canola oil, for greasing bowl
  • Cornmeal, for dusting pan
  • 3 to 4 ice cubes

Combine the honey, yeast and 1/2 cup warm water. Stir to combine and let the mixture stand until the yeast is activated and begins to foam, 5 minutes.

I had my water at about 115 degrees F, I think that might have been a bit too warm. 

Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl with a dough hook and slowly add in the yeast mixture. Gradually add 1 cup warm water and mix until the dough comes together into a ball that is not too wet (you may not need all of the water). If the dough is sticky, add a little bit more flour. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 2 to 6 minutes. You can do the thumbprint test: press in the dough with your thumb and it should bounce back when it's ready.

I don't own a stand mixer, so I was mixing this in the bowl with a rubber spatula until it came together. I ended up adding a bit too much water, so it took a while to get the spatula and then my fingers unsticky. As a result, I may have ended up kneading a bit too much.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly-oiled bowl and cover with a dishcloth, so it doesn't dry out. Let rest in a warm environment until doubled in size, 25 to 30 minutes.

It took closer to 40 minute to get the dough to bulk up this much. My kitchen was about 73 degrees F.

Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Shape into 2 baguettes by making a flat rectangle out of your dough, then folding the top and bottom towards the middle, like an envelope, and sealing the seam with your fingers. Keep repeating the folding and sealing, stretching the rectangle lengthwise as you go, until it's about 12 to 14 inches long and 2 inches wide. Fold and seal either end to round. Flip seam-side down and place on a sheet pan or baguette pan that has been dusted with cornmeal. Score the tops of the loaves, making deep diagonal slits 1/2-inch deep, cover with a dishcloth and let rise in a warm environment until they have doubled in size, 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and position your oven racks with one on the bottom and the other in the middle. Place an oven-safe (non-glass) bowl or pan on the bottom rack.

When your bread has doubled for the second time, remove the towel and quickly and simultaneously, slide the sheet tray with the baguettes onto the middle rack while carefully throwing the ice cubes into the bowl on the bottom rack. The ice will create a burst of steam that will give you a nice crispy crust. Quickly shut the oven door so no steam escapes. Bake the baguettes until golden brown, 15 minutes.

This didn't quite go as planned, but it was very entertaining. While I'm not completely uncoordinated, I also have a very small oven, so I didn't really have the space the toss the ice cubes. Instead, I ended up having to pull out the pan from the bottom rack to throw in the ice, but I did get a nice top crust. I also kept the baguette in five minutes longer because my dough had ended up so sticky. It was the smart way to go, but it was a bit underdone on the bottom.

I had half for dinner with some fresh mozzarella. Condiments were olive oil, salt, and some balsamic vinegar, with a bit of salami on the side and a Malbec from California called King Clay.

So what should I name my sourdough starter if I revive it?

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

I wasn't going anywhere for a while--sous vide beef barbacoa

Hello everyone and may 2022 bring you many delicious things!

I started the year at a friend's playing board games with some of my favorite humans.  I did some errands and saw a movie that weekend, and then on Tuesday, I got my first Covid symptoms.

The first test was negative. The second one was positive. So, if I was isolating, why not sous vide something for 24 hours?

I forget what inspired me to look up barbacoa, which I have had with both lamb and beef. Beef was cheaper this week and I found a pretty good recipe, though I have a few thoughts to make it better:

  • 1 3 lb boneless chuck roast
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 3 chipotle chiles in adobo
  • 2 Tbsp adobo sauce (from the chipotle chile can)
  • 5 garlic cloves (Considering More for next time)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Instructions
  • Preparing the Beef
  • Set sous vide machine to 79.5C/175F.

Lightly season the chuck roast with salt (make that generously. Or one pass of regular salt and one pass of garlic salt if your garlic salt hasn't hardened into a solid mass). Put the roast in a sous vide bag, and remove the air through a vacuum sealer or the displacement method. Drop the bag in the bath for 24 hours.

I've never done the displacement method. I do now own some silicone bags that I might try, but I strongly prefer the vacuum sealer.)

Preparing the Barbacoa Sauce
In a food processor or blender, pulse together chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, garlic and beef broth until well blended.

In retrospect, I don't think more than a couple tablespoons of the beef broth is needed. There will be plenty of liquid in the sous vide bag when it's ready. 

Pour chipotle mixture into a mixing bowl. Add in cumin, oregano, lime juice and apple cider vinegar and whisk ingredients together. Once mixed, add in bay leaves and let the mixture sit overnight in the fridge to emulsify the flavors.

Remove bag from bath. Carefully take chuck roast out of the bag and pat dry with paper towels. Brush a thin layer of oil on the roast, and season the entire roast to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat up large skillet on high and add oil. Sear chuck roast for 60 seconds on all sides, or until browned. Remove from pan, and place on a plate to rest for 5 minutes. Once rested, shred the beef using two forks.

I have a cast-iron grill pan that I use for searing. It gives me a nice color without adding a black crust. I know some people love that, but I've always found it off-putting. 

Heat up large skillet on medium low and add a touch of oil. Pour in barbacoa sauce and let warm for 1 minute. Add in shredded beef and toss until the beef is evenly coated in sauce. Let the beef simmer in the sauce for 3 minutes. Remove barbacoa from pan and use this delicious beef for the world's greatest tacos!


I used this as yet another attempt to make arepas. This time I used instructions from a friend who found a recipe that was as close to his grandmother's as he could find. Still having trouble getting these done in the middle. 

They were still delicious. I topped them with the beef, some black beans (from a can; I added some garlic and some lime juice), fresh mozzarella (the mano cheese I ordered was out of stock and several recipes said this was a good substitute), avocado, green onions and chopped serrano pepper:

Overall, I am pleased and will make this again when I'm not isolating and can share it with someone. There are lots of leftovers. I figure on making a rice bowl out of some before I give the arepas another go.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

I haven't made shrimp in years: A Sous Vide Adventure

A nice thing about living solo is seafood to feed the household doesn't break the bank if I shop carefully. This week, shrimp were on sale. One of my favorite restaurant dishes is shrimp & grits. Grits are effectively the same as polenta, and I always have it in the house.

Then it occurred to me that I never tried to do shrimp sous vide, so why the hell not? I looked up timing on a few different sites. The temperature range was pretty large, as you can see on this chart on Serious Eats. I decided to not be too terribly adventurous the first time and cook the shrimp (which came already peeled) at 137 F, which is a little over 58 C. It's also 331.5 K, but I digress.

I didn't follow the recipe on the page, just the timing and temperature. Here's what I did with the shrimp:

  • 8 ounces of shrimp, cleaned. I also took the tails off because I hate de-tailing shrimp while I'm eating and it's easier to do it when they're raw. I realize some people consider this an abomination, and I can live with that.  
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, softened
  • 6 roasted garlic cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked a few times with a mortar and pestle
  • Zest of half a lemon
I mushed the ingredients together and used a plastic knife leftover from takeout food to spread the butter all over the inside of the bag. Before loading the shrimp, I tossed the shrimp with the baking soda (I put them in a ZipLoc plastic container and shook it for thirty second), then added the shrimp to the bag, pressing the shrimp into one layer. I started up the immersion circulator to get the water bath to temperature. I decided on 137 F, to give it a slightly softer texture, but still with a delicious pop. I cooked them for 30 minutes, then finished them on a grill pan on the stove. I'd like to try a torch next time, but I still need to buy one.

For the polenta:
  • 1/2 Cup polenta
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 Cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped shallot
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon butter (for the shallots)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter (for the polenta)
  • 3/4 Cup grated Grana Padano cheese
  • sea salt
I sprinkled the tomatoes with a bit of salt, then tossed with 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a glass casserole dish, roasted at 400 F for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 or so.

While that was happening, I melted the 1/2 Tablespoon butter in a small pan and cooked the shallots on low, stirring constantly until they were brown. Once both of these were done, I set them aside.

For the polenta, I had a package with no directions. I boiled 2 Cups of water, stirred in the polenta, brought it back to a boil, then put it on to simmer for about 30 minutes. It needed a little longer than planned, though the results were soft, creamy, and a bit stuck to the bottom f the pot. Once all the water had been absorbed (about 45 minutes total, your mileage may vary) I stirred in the tomatoes and shallots, the butter and then 1/3 of the cheese. I added the rest of the cheese in slowly, then once that was done, assembled my plate.

The garnish is a sprinkling of oregano, more for color, and then some Calabrian chiles in oil, which was a delicious last-minute impulse.

Look for more shrimp recipes from me because this was deliciously easy!

Monday, November 15, 2021

Noodling About Peanuts

If you take me out to the ball game, I will ask for neither peanuts or Cracker Jacks. Do they even still make Cracker Jacks? Anyway, I generally don't care for traditional American presentations of peanuts. 

I did, however, fall in love when I tried chicken in a peanut sauce at a Malaysian restaurant in Boston when I was sixteen. I've since enjoyed various satay variations, an attempt at peanut soup, Pad Thai, and peanuts as garnish on a Vietnamese vermicelli bowl.

I do not remember what I was hunting for when I came across this recipe  I've made it twice. The first time, I decided to overcomplicate things and threw in tofu and mushrooms. It really doesn't need anything else:

1 pound soba noodles (I had this as a main dish, which was about 3 oz of soba noodles dry)

¼ cup smooth natural peanut butter

¼ cup tahini

¼ cup water or chicken broth (I used vegetable broth here. While this isn't enough chicken broth to add a strong meaty flavor, I didn't want to have any meaty flavor to this. Plus, with the veg broth, I can serve this to my vegan friends)

½ cup low sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 small garlic cloves, minced (I did a little extra and I recommend pressing these so they'll be absorbed into the sauce better)

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoon sesame seeds

4 scallions, white and light green parts chopped

1 medium cucumber, deseeded and julienned

Boil water for the soba.  Cook according to package instructions.  (with the soba I bought, that meant throwing it in boiling water with a little salt, cooking for two minutes then rinsing with hot water to stop the cooking. Soba can get mushy easily.)

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the peanut butter, tahini, water (or chicken broth), soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes (More like 12).  Turn off the heat and stir in the cider vinegar, honey, and vegetable oil.

Pour into a large serving bowl, and mix with the drained soba. Top with sesame seeds, scallions, and cucumbers.  Serve immediately or let cool in the refrigerator and serve cold.

I ate mine room temperature and it was delicious. I think I can go a touch less on the vegetable oil next time. The noodles kept slipping off my chopsticks. 

If you try this, let me know!

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

I have a thing for curry leaves

Several years ago, I was introduced to Indo-Chinese food and a dish that was loaded with chiles and curry leaves. It sounded a bit weird (some things on the menu were completely unfamiliar and I was wary at first, and a short time later, I affair with curry leaves that has not stopped. 

Usually, that's been in a restaurant, then someone pointed me here. A south Indian curry that is made kosher because it uses coconut oil instead of ghee. It's rich, filling, and deliciously simple. I did boost the spices:

  • 500 g chicken (thigh or breast) pieces 
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup coconut milk 
  • 1 large onion, sliced into half moons
  • 1 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste 
  • 10 curry leaves 
  • 2 green chilies, finely chopped (I used two tiny Thai chiles and two jalapeƱos)
  • 1 tsp red chili powder 
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric 
  • 1 tsp ground cumin 
  • 2 1/2 cups water (I used vegetable broth here because I didn't want the taste of the chicken broth to overwhelm the coconut
  • salt, to taste (I recommend lightly salting the chicken before cooking, that's just enough to enhance flavors )

  • Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat, add onions and fry until they turn brown.
  • Add the curry leaves and green chilies, stir and cook for a few minutes.
  • Add the chicken pieces, coconut milk, chili powder, turmeric, cumin, salt, and water and cook on a low heat until the chicken is tender. 

I served this over basmati rice, with an appetizer of store-bought papadum and some mint chutney (I can eat enough mint chutney to count as a serving of vegetables). The sauce wasn't as thick as I usually like, but when I had the leftovers, I simmered it for some extra time to make that happen. 

This one will be going into heavy rotation. I've also got some other recipes in mind from the Nosher. There's a fabulous assortment there.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Time to give a fig or Kate makes a dessert for a change

This recipe for roasted figs is one of those delightful recipes that tastes like it took a very long time to make, but really didn't. I think it was 25 minutes from start to finish. The original plan was to make it on a Sunday, but I might have overslept (something about binge watching Netflix) and had an appointment I couldn't miss.


  • 2 pounds firm-ripe fresh figs (about 35 figs), halved lengthwise (I think the package I bought had about 20, but I made the full amount of syrup anyway)
  • 3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey (I like my honey on the dark side, I think it has more flavor and more complexity, but as you will since the recipe doesn't specify)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (I used a full teaspoon and recommend it)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (218.3 C. I don't know if metric ovens get that specific, but that's what the conversion table says). Place figs, cut sides up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle evenly with balsamic vinegar, honey and vanilla; sprinkle with salt. Add rosemary sprigs to baking sheet.

Hint: put the honey in something microwaveable with a spout and zap for about ten seconds. it will drizzle more easily.

Roast in preheated oven until figs soften slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven; flip figs using tongs (carefully or you'll mush them). Sprinkle baking sheet evenly with butter cubes.

Return to oven, and roast at 425 degrees F until butter is melted and balsamic vinegar is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool on baking sheet 10 minutes. Discard rosemary sprigs. Sprinkle figs with lemon zest.

Serving size is about 6 of the cut figs. I had my first taste over vanilla gelato and added  teaspoon of balsamic and then the lemon zest:

This may come to be a standard when company comes to visit. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Cue the Kinks: Avocado Toast and a bit about eggs

Hi everyone. Today's entry is unplanned, mostly because one of the most important ingredients isn't where I want it yet. On the other hand, it's a fine breakfast, so why not share?

I am not what you'd ever call a dedicated follower of fashion, but I do like variations of avocado toast. My version for breakfast this morning:
  • One ramen egg (soft boiled, marinated in soy, mirin, dashi, sake, rice vinegar) (comments about the egg below)
  • Chopped 1/2 of a ripe (ha!)* avocado
  • Soy sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Toasted slice of your favorite bread (optional)
It's a damn fine breakfast if you ask me. It's filling, it's flavorful, and there's a mix of textures so it's interesting to eat. I don't always bother with the toast--that depends on how hungry I am. I've also considered putting this over a small amount of rice, but I haven't tried it yet.

About the egg:
I love ramen and I've tried it multiple ways in multiple places. Several of my friends get an invitation once a month for a Ramen night and we always have a great time. This has been going on (minus lockdown, of course) since 2014. The members of the group have changed, and it's not always the same group at the same time, but there's always fun, food, and drinks.

Ramen eggs, if you haven't experienced them, are unique and fabulous. The correct name is ajitsuke tamago and they are soft-boiled and marinated. I have seen recipes for all kinds of marinades and I haven't found one or improvised one that I am completely happy with.

The texture, where you have a solid, but soft white without a trace of a rubbery feeling, and a yolk with a texture that you could describe as feeling like a rich custard or your favorite jam, I do have down. That is thanks to Ivan Orkin, who is an interesting human and has a chain of restaurants. My birthday has been spent at Ivan Ramen more than once. If you have a big appetite, I recommend the triple-pork-triple-garlic, which is hugely delicious, but I can't finish even if I fast for two days prior.

Anyway I was searching with various terms for the recipe and several pages into the search engine I found this blog entry from Rowley's Whiskey Forge. While I didn't love the marinade recipe when I tried it, boiling the eggs for six minutes and ten seconds is pretty much perfect! When I have a marinade I like, I'll post a full entry.

Happy noshing!

*Yeah, I know. It is really hard to find that 15 minutes when an avocado is perfectly ripe.