BMEWS
 
Sarah Palin's presence in the lower 48 means the Arctic ice cap can finally return.

calendar   Friday - August 09, 2013

Easter Ham Stew In August

Mmm, yumm.

Back just before Easter we got a free ham from the grocery store. Since we spent the holiday at the relative’s homes, we put that great lump of meat in the freezer. And mostly forgot about it. I finally got around to thawing it out last week, and we’ve been eating ham every since. Just about every day, every meal. A 12lb ham goes a long, long way when there’s just two people eating on it, and one of them tends to eat more like a bird.

I was starting to get sick of it. I was even having ham for breakfast - toast an Everything bagel while frying a bit of ham on the stove. Brown it a bit then dice it. Butter and cream cheese on the bagel, then pack on as much diced ham as will stick. Makes a really solid breakfast.

So I finally got down to the joint, and being naturally thrifty, decided to make split pea soup. I’d never pass muster in Fwance, but the loggers up in Canada would love me. I can’t make soup. I can make stew. I can make stew so thick you need a double bladed axe to cut yourself a bowlful. And somehow that’s what happened.  And I’m not complaining, not one little bit. But I wish I had another bagel on the side to go with it. So I don’t go hungry, you know.

1lb dried split peas
2 cloves garlic, peeled
4 stalks of celery, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
3 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbl dried oregeno
1/2 tbl dried thyme
1 tbl Penzey’s “bouquet garni” because I couldn’t find a bay leaf
1 10” ham bone joint with lots of fat and meat bits still attached
1 hand-sized (5x3-ish) piece of smoked pork skin, well browned from roasting, with 1/4” layer of fat still attached

In a pot big enough to boil lobsters in, combine all the above ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover, and let simmer for 2 hours. Check things every 5 minutes and give them a stir.

After about 2 hours, fish out the skin and the joint. Throw away the skin, and use a small knife to remove a surprisingly large amount of meat from the bone. Dig the marrow out of the bone ends, finely chop the meat and toss it back in the pot. Throw away the bone.

Decide things look a little bit thin, so throw in another ...

3 more stalks of celery, diced
a bit more ground pepper
1/2 lb red lentils
1 lb leftover ham found in the fridge in one of those plastic tubs women love, diced finely

And let it stew for another hour and 15 minutes, uncovered. Stir every few minutes. Do your best to keep things from burning on the bottom of the pot, but if they do *ahem*, then transfer everything to another pot. Don’t scrape the burned bits back into the stew; throw them away.
When the bits of carrot are mush, the green peas and celery have totally disintegrated, and the lentils are nice and soft, it’s done. Somewhere in there are the two garlic cloves, which will be a nice surprise for someone at some point.

Run out of patience, and take the pot off the heat. Ladle yourself out a bowlful to try it, and be amazed at how heavy it is. Eat.

Pure heaven. And I didn’t add even a single shake of salt. It wasn’t needed, and we had already soaked the ham for a couple days in water before we started eating it. My guess is that this 3 quarts of soup has nearly 3lb of ham in it. Yup; I can’t make soup at all. But I sure make a good pot of stew.

And I won’t make another ham until Christmas, at the earliest. Sweet.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 08/09/2013 at 04:10 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-Dining •  
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calendar   Sunday - July 14, 2013

BBQ, on the rocks

Rye whiskey, rye whiskey
rye whisky I cry
If I don’t get rye whiskey
I surely will die


If the ocean was whiskey, and I was a duck
I’d swim to the bottom and never come up




I’m learning the ins and outs of that inexpensive gas grill we bought in the fall. The right side is for heat, and for burning things. And for thick steaks. The left side is for smoke, and for cooking things. Chicken thighs are almost pure fat, so they have to go on a cool grill and roast for a good long time to cook, otherwise they’ll piss gallons of liquid fat out and set everything on fire. Burgers go on the upper warming tray, otherwise they’ll ooze drippings through the grill and set everything on fire.

Yup, I’m getting the hang of it.

What I’m learning most of all is that a proper grilling experience requires a decent drink by your side. A half cold can of light beer doesn’t do it. No, to deal with the smoke and the heat and the sometimes flames, you want something potent. And flavorful. Martinis are out. A good scotch on the rocks, a rich single malt with a spoonful of spring water, or perhaps a Don Draper approved cocktail. If it has to be a beer, make it a big one, and dark and complex. John Courage Director’s Bitter or something heavy from the Dogfish Head brewery. None of that wimpy, low carb, sugary, faggoty stuff. Real Men cooking Real Food over Real Fire while having a Real Drink.

After reading a couple reviews online, I picked up a bottle of High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey. Rye isn’t for everyone. Heck, rye isn’t for most folks. It’s “red whiskey”, that real old time American spirit, and it comes with a pretty darn sharp edge. But once you learn to like it, softer whiskeys just don’t satisfy any longer. I’ve read somewhere that you have to be of a certain age to appreciate the stuff; it’s not a drink that appeals to young folks at all. Fine by me.

I’m fairly new to rye, only on my third bottle since last fall. The Rendezvous stuff is the best of what I’ve tried so far. It’s a hearty blend between a young 6 yo 95% rye and a 16 yo 80% rye. The rye taste is very strong. I’ll leave it to the “professional” tasters to supply you with all the BS terms of what they daydream it tastes like - vanilla and cinnamon and leather and toasted porterhouse fat from Louie’s Grill on 9th Street in Cincinnati on a Tuesday evening in October and all that nonsense. All I can tell you is that it tastes big and bold, but isn’t too sharp, and the flavor lasts a long time after you take a sip.

It also makes a fantastic, perfectly smooth Manhattan:
mix
3oz Rendezvous Rye
1 1/2 oz fresh Martini red vermouth
3 shakes of orange bitters
together in a cocktail shaker over 4 fresh ice cubes. Shake. Pour into a large martini glass, add 2 maraschino cherries and a half teaspoon of the cherry syrup from the bottle. Stir it once or twice with a spoon handle. Serve.

For helping with the BBQ, I just poured some in a glass and added a couple ice cubes. It worked: the chicken came out just fine fine. Fully cooked, crispy skin, a nice spicy sauce blend of Stubb’s Mopping Sauce and Louisiana Hot Sauce. The cheeseburgers done on the top rack were perfect too. Yay me.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/14/2013 at 06:11 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-Dining •  
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calendar   Tuesday - July 09, 2013

Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend

I’m going to have to start up a low fat/low cholesterol/high fiber/low calorie diet real soon. Until I learn which spices to use to make the boring into a taste explosion, it will be a tad dull.

But in the meantime, I’ve got to put some things aside. This is one of them. Bad stuff. So good, but so bad.


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Habbersett’s Scrapple. Philadelphia’s Favorite®. Same recipe since 1863. Made from all the best things. Plus the pork skins, ears, snouts, tails, hooves, tongues, hearts, livers, ... , and probably even the squeal. Plus a whole bunch of fat and salt. It’s so bad ... but so good. There are brands of scrapple out there that taste dog-awful. Not this one. Get it fresh, get it frozen, and it’s the perfect balance of pork, fat, spice, and salt. Heaven. Greatest stuff ever to sneak into Thanksgiving stuffing too.

Fry 3/8” thick slices up in a pan until well browned on one side and medium brown on the other. Serve it up on a plate with runny eggs and hash browns for breakfast, or top each slice with a bit of American cheese and some medium hot sauce on the side for dinner. A one pound package sells for less than $3.

They SAY that a pound is 8 servings, but that’s a lie just for the calorie counter thing. A proper serving is about 12 ounces worth for a hungry scrapple eatin’ man, or about half that if served with other things for breakfast or dinner.

It’s better than bacon.

There. I said it. But it’s true.

And, like a condemned man, I’ve had my last meal of it, and now we come to a parting of the ways. Goodbye Habbersett’s. Goodbye my old friend.

Until I can figure out how to manage, and manage to be satisfied???, by just half a slice or less. I don’t know if that’s possible. Half the bliss is from eating a whole pile of it, along with 3-4 fried eggs and a bunch of toast and jam.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/09/2013 at 10:49 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-Dining •  
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calendar   Wednesday - May 29, 2013

bye bye bacon

China to buy Smithfield for $4.72 Billion
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All your pork products belong to us!

Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., China’s biggest pork producer, agreed to acquire Smithfield Foods Inc. (SFD) for about $4.72 billion to boost supplies for the nation that’s the biggest consumer of the meat.

Closely held Shuanghui, parent of Henan Shuanghui Investment & Development Co. (000895), will pay $34 a share for the Smithfield, Virginia-based producer, both companies said today in a statement. The offer is 31 percent more than yesterday’s closing share price.

China’s consumption of pork is rising with the expansion of its middle class while there are questions being asked about the safety of the country’s food supply. Smithfield’s livestock unit is the world’s largest hog producer, bringing about 15.8 million of the animals to market a year, according to the company’s website. It owns 460 farms and has contracts with 2,100 others across 12 U.S. states.

The takeover is valued at $7.1 billion including debt, which would make it the largest Chinese takeover of a U.S. company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The deal is likely to face scrutiny by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., said two people familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

“On the one hand, pork is not directly an issue of national security, as defense or telecom might be,” Ken Goldman, a New York-based analyst for JPMorgan Chase & Co. who has a hold rating on the shares, said in a report today. “On the other hand, if CFIUS comes to believe that Chinese ownership of the U.S.’s largest hog farmer and pork supplier presents a food supply risk, then it may have a heightened concern.”

Darn shame. Smithfield always made really good bacon and their hams were top notch too, for mass produced agri-business meat.

And thus we have a perfect Chinese solution: their own farmers can’t bring pigs to market without horrible diseases, so now they’re using the money we sent them to take food right off our own plates. So smart. Hey, let’s all run to Walmart and buy some more crap from China, and send even more of our money to the communists.

16 million hogs a year. Yeah, and if any Smithfield stuff does stay on the US market, expect the quality to drop like a rock once foreign management takes over. And of course, when half (whatever) the US hog supply goes oversees, the price of pork here will skyrocket.

All that glorious bacon ... turned into pork fried rice. Sigh.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 05/29/2013 at 05:50 PM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessFine-Dining •  
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calendar   Wednesday - May 22, 2013

The Internet Is So Weird

Actually the whole world is weird, the internet just reports on it. I gather this is or was a commercial, perhaps in some country where they don’t have PETA. Or where the people have a sense of humor ...





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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 05/22/2013 at 03:12 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-DiningHumor •  
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calendar   Thursday - April 25, 2013

Even The Cops

Saw this on Fox today, even though the story is a couple weeks old. Another armed minority type in serious need of anger management and patience classes. OTOH, IMHO nobody in their right mind should ever go near an urban Micky D’s.

Georgia detective allegedly pulls gun in McDonald’s drive-thru

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“allegedly” because that’s him in the picture right there


A metro Atlanta police sergeant accused of pulling a gun on a customer in a McDonalds drive-thru has been arrested.

Forsyth County sheriff’s spokesman Courtney Spriggs Wednesday said DeKalb County police Sgt. Scott Biumi has been charged with aggravated assault after authorities say he pointed a gun at a man during an argument on April 9.

Sheriff’s officials say surveillance footage from inside the restaurant shows the 48-year-old sergeant step between the man’s car and the drive-thru window. Authorities say he pointed the weapon into the car as he leaned into the driver’s side window.

Authorities say the April 9 incident was caught on surveillance video, MyFoxAtlanta.com reported.

The station identified the alleged victim as 18-year-old Ryan Mash.

“I’m just like, ‘I don’t want to die.  I’m sorry, sir.  I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,’” Mash recalled.

Mash told MyFoxAtlanta.com that he was waiting for his food, and he said he told Biumi that’s the only reason he was still sitting in the line. 

My guess is that the McNugget Ho was taking too long with the car ahead of him in line.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/25/2013 at 03:18 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-DiningGuns and Gun ControlStoopid-People •  
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calendar   Friday - April 12, 2013

Not Even The Darn Rice

I don’t want anything made or grown in China in my life any longer. It’s all crap. ALL OF IT. It’s going to be difficult, as most of the world has ceded nearly all production to the ChiComs. But I’m going to try.


Excessive Lead Levels Found In Imported Rice

An analysis of imported brands found surprising levels of the metal.

Reporting at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, a group of researchers lead by Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, an associate professor of chemistry at Monmouth University in New Jersey announced the results of their analysis of rice from Asia, Europe and South America. The imports, which currently make up about 7% of rice consumed in America, contained higher than acceptable levels of lead.

The levels ranged from six milligrams/kilogram to 12 milligrams/kilogram; factoring in average consumption, that added up to estimated lead exposure levels 30 to 60 times greater than the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) provisional total tolerable intake (PTTI) levels for children and 20-40 times greater than the standard exposure levels for adults.

Gee, maybe the contaminant level is so high because the crops were fed polluted water? Duh, ya think?

Because Asian populations in the U.S. tend to consume the most rice, the researchers also calculated exposure levels for these groups, and estimated that Asian infants and children in the U.S. could be exposed to lead at 60 to 120 times higher than the FDA’s PTTI. And young children under six years old can be especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can impair mental and physical development and, if the exposure is sustained, can be fatal.

“The thing is that is rice becoming a staple food for a larger percentage of the population,” says Tongesayi. He says their calculations are also conservative, since they were basing consumption on the daily recommended servings. It’s likely that many people consume more than what’s recommend in a given day– or week.

Rice from Taiwan and China contained the highest levels of lead, although rice from Italy, India, Thailand, Bhutan and the Czech Republic also contained levels higher than the PTTI.

Also: what about arsenic? Nobody really knows yet.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/12/2013 at 10:39 PM   
Filed Under: • CHINA in the newsFine-Dining •  
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calendar   Tuesday - March 19, 2013

Cross Cultural Beans

Ok, here is something I can handle. Simple filling food that tastes great and costs very little.

My wife makes this simple soup. It’s an Italian thing, a zuppa Toscanna, which means sausage and kale soup. It’s pretty good, goes together fast, and is not expensive. She makes hers really basic, without potatoes, without cream, and without bell peppers. It’s not much more than chicken broth with greens and sausages and a clove or two of garlic. Dead easy to make.

We’re in the early stages of cleaning out my MIL’s house now that we’re past the mourning. We brought home all her unopened food. Part of that haul was a whole collection of dried beans. Bags and bags worth. Kidney beans, white beans, navy beans, lentils. And red lentils. On the bag of red lentils is a simple recipe for lentils and rice, which is really easy to make and tastes pretty darn good. Seriously cheap eats, yet filling and wholesome. It has a vaguely Indian or Hispanic taste, and the level of spice is pretty mild.

Our grocery store sells the Premio brand of Chorizo sausages. These are not the chorizos your abuela used to make, rough cut and zippy. No, these are the special Foreign Foods For Frightened White People variety, smoothly ground and with just a hint of spice. But they do make a nice change from the typical Italian style sausages, and they cost the same. Which is not much. $2.39 for a pack of 8 I think.

We like Indian food. One of the greatest things to get in the Indian restaurants is this expensive little pot of highly seasoned buttery bean mush called Dahl Makhani. OMG, it’s soooo good. You dip a bit of the naan bread in it, and yum. Heaven! So rich, so aromatic, but not hot. It’s made from red lentils and lots of curry spices. Lots. And cream. We were out of cream last night.

So you see where this is going. We combined all three recipes, and cooked the soup down to a stew-like consistency. Added lots more spice, a bit of butter. And the result comes out like dahl, only with meat and greens added in. It’s a meal all by itself that feeds 6 or more for $7 or less. It also makes one helluva good side dish.

Take 6 or 7 chorizos and fry them up gently until they’re nearly done. Cut them into 3/8” slices, then quarter each slice.
Carefully clean a bunch of kale. Kale is a very textured green, so it needs lots of washing to get all the soil out. Split each leaf down the middle, and then chop them across the leaf into 1/2” wide slices. Kale does not shrivel up much when you boil it, so don’t make the pieces too large.
Make the Lentils and Rice recipe above, but use all chicken broth instead of the chicken broth and water mix called for. Or just toss in another 2 bullion cubes like I did.
Instead of a single 1lb bag of lentils, use 2. Use 2 baseball sized yellow onions as well. Add a Drew-generous grind of black pepper.
Put in twice as much fresh ginger, about 1 1/2” ground from a 1” thick piece. Put in four times as much cumin. We used the MIL’s curry powders, which were a bit old and of the yellow non-hot variety that are mostly tumeric. So put in a good 3-4 spoonsful. If you’re a curry junky you probably have some Garam Masala somewhere in your kitchen. A spoon or two of that wouldn’t hurt a bit.
Add the kale and the chorizos.
Cut about an inch from a stick of butter and put that in as well. A little more won’t hurt, but you don’t want too much. 1 1/2 inches at most.
I put in half a dozen shakes from the jar of pizza pepper flakes. We like hot and this gives it just a tiny bit of heat; 2 shakes would be fine for other folks. Real Indian ground Sanaam dried red peppers would work just as well.

Put the whole thing in a good sized pot and boil it, then on for a medium simmer for about half an hour. It’s done when the lentils get soft, but don’t cook it so long that they disintegrate. A lot of the liquid evaporates off; you want it to come out like stew, only a bit runny. Not liquid like soup. Don’t cook it so dry that it becomes paste.

And there you go. Toscanna Makhani, Mexican style. Three cultures in one pot of beans. And nobody will leave the table hungry, even if you use only 4 sausages. This is hearty, solid food. Dial back the spice amounts if you are averse, but the amounts called for in the lentils and rice recipe result in merely the barest hint of flavor. You want more, lots more, and no-name yellow curry powder is some really mild stuff. Don’t fear it. If you really must go mild, use less fresh ginger. That takes away most of the snap. Not that this dish has much snap IMO. But it has some. Use less cumin powder if you fresh grind your own; her cumin was of unknown age in a jar from the dollar store. My cumin, fresh whole seeds from Penzey’s, is at least 4 times stronger. The bullion cubes were not the low salt variety. My wife is a bit of a halophobe (doesn’t like salt) so there is no other added salt. You can always add some to yours at the table if you want.

A bowl of this, leftover from last night, and the one small remaining bit of the corned beef from St. Paddy’s Day is my lunch today. Yum.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 03/19/2013 at 01:28 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-Dining •  
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calendar   Thursday - January 17, 2013

Thai dinner for the slightly hesitant

I can’t stand doing another gun control post right now. So here’s what we had for dinner last night. It’s super easy to make and pretty inexpensive to boot. What it is, is meat and potatoes in a creamy light sweet and sour sauce, with a slightly zippy summer salad on the side. Feeds 6.

Is it good? Hella yeah. How good? Well, let’s ask CNN: they rate massaman curry as as the best tasting food in the whole world.



Massaman Curry and Thai Cucumber Salad

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Maesri curry is the real deal. It’s a genuine imported Thai product, and the flavor is very close to what you get at your favorite Thai restaurant. “Massaman” is the Thai word for “mussleman”, which is the old way of saying “muslim”. So to allay any pro-islamic feelings, we always throw in a fair amount of pork.

First make the cucumber salad. It needs at least half an hour to marinate; 1 or 2 hours is better.

2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
1 shallot, chopped
1 golf ball sized white onion, chopped (or 1/4 of a large yellow or Spanish onion)
1/2 cup rice vinegar (or 1/3 cup plain white vinegar)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar (use palm sugar if you want to be authentic, although any granular sugar will be fine)
1 level teaspoon of kosher salt
some hot pepper: either chop up a jalapeno, or use 4-6 chopped dried Sanaam or Tien Tsin red peppers, or use a teaspoon of dried pizza peppers. If you can’t abide any heat at all, dice up half a red pepper instead
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped, stems and all

In a medium mixing bowl whisk the sugar and salt in the water and vinegar until dissolved. Add the peppers. Peel and chop the shallot and the onion and throw them in. Take a teaspoon and scrape the seeds from the halved cucumbers. Turn the halves flat side down and slice them 1/8” thin. Add them to the bowl. Taste the liquid; it should be a bit tangy with a bit of pepper zing. Add more vinegar if it seems too weak; we’re making pickles here, almost. Cover and refrigerate. Remember how much vinegar and pepper you used for the next time you make this, so you can adjust the sourness and the heat to where you like it.



Next, start a pot of rice. Plain old white rice is fine, or you could be authentic and buy the more expensive Thai jasmine rice. Either way, 2 cups of water for every slightly topping full cup of rice. Toss a teaspoon of kosher salt into the water as it boils. Add the rice and stir until the water has boiled again for 1 minute. Cover the pot and take it off the heat. In about 45 minutes the rice will be perfectly done and cool enough to eat.



Now make the curry.

1 can Maesri Massaman Curry. The can is about the size of a can of cat food. You can find the stuff in any Asian market, and many Thai restaurants also have a little grocery area over on the side. They always stock this stuff. You can also get it online.
2 medium Russet potatoes or 4-6 small yellow or red potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2” cubes
2 cans of coconut milk. ALWAYS buy the cans that say “first pressing” on the label. That’s the good stuff, and it costs a little more than the cheap stuff. But it’s sooo much better.
1 16oz can of garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
2 large chicken breasts, diced into 1/2” cubes
3 pork chops or 3” of pork cut off a pork loin, diced into 1/2” cubes
3 green onion sprigs, either julianned into short ribbons or chopped
1/2 a large Spanish onion, peeled and roughly chopped
a double handful of cilantro, rough chopped stems and all
optional: 4-8 dried Asian hot red peppers (either the Indian Sanaam or the Chinese Tien Tsin) each chopped into 6 chunks, seeds and all
optional: 2 or 3 shakes of good cinnamon
optional: a handful of unsalted cashews or peanuts.
optional: 1 or 2 bay leaves

In a medium skillet heat a generous splash of olive oil. Add the chicken and the pork cubes and fry them until lightly browned. You don’t need to fully cook them, just do them until you can’t see any pink meat.

In a large skillet over low heat, dump the entire can of curry. Stir it around until it just starts to sizzle, then add 1 can of coconut milk. Stir it up, and heat it until the red oil starts to come up, about 5 minutes. Dump in the onion and potato cubes and stir. When the sauce boils again, add the meat, peppers, the bay leaves if you’re using them, and the second can of coconut milk. Stir, reduce heat, and allow it to simmer for about 45 minutes until the potatoes are well cooked. Add some water if the sauce is too thick. Add a couple shakes of cinnamon and the green onions. Stir, let cook another 2 minutes, (remove the bay leaves) then serve over rice. Use the cilantro and cashews or peanuts as a garnish. Drain the cucumber salad and save the juice. Serve it in small bowls, and add a few spoons of the marinade to each bowl.

It’s that easy. You can make both the curry and the salad without using any hot peppers at all, and it will taste just fine, but even a tiny bit of hotness really wakes things up. On the other hand - and this is me, Mr. Fire Sauce, saying it - you can go too far. Massaman curry is not traditionally a spicy hot dish. It’s supposed to be gentle and sweet. Meat and potatoes with sauce, simple salad on the side. 

Enjoy. And don’t forget the Thai iced tea, or the Thai barbecued pork slices with hot sauce.

Variations:
Add a 1lb can of diced tomatoes during the stewing. Don’t use the kind that are seasoned with lime juice (Rotel brand, which makes awesome guacamole).
Add 1/2 lb of peeled and sliced eggplant after the sauce has been stewing for 20 minutes.
Try it with fresh basil instead of cilantro. Using dried herbs instead of fresh will seriously diminish the flavor.
You can omit the chick peas. Put in a cup and a half of frozen peas and carrots or green beans if you’d prefer, or if you have to camouflage the “foreignness” of the dish. It doesn’t really have to have any vegetables at all, but that’s a little dull.
You can use water or water and milk to replace the second can of coconut milk. You can add more meat - this recipe uses about a pound total - but if you add much more, you will want to add another can of curry paste and more coconut milk. You can make this with beef too if you want.
Rescue me: it’s tough to overcook this dish, but if you do you’ll have a very thick stew. Nothing wrong with that, but you do want the sauce to be thin enough, and plentiful enough, to have some extra to soak into the rice. So add some water, milk and water, more coconut milk, or some chicken stock near the end if it seems too thick. Just don’t turn it into soup.
Overkill is good too: a can of Maesri curry paste costs about $2. If you use 2 cans the flavor will be quite a bit richer, even if you thin the sauce down just before serving.
With the potatoes, chick peas, and chicken, this dish needs some salt. I’m in the habit of not adding salt to anything I cook, since my wife usually hates it. But you could easily put a tablespoon of good Thai fish sauce or soy sauce in this dish and not put it over the top.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 01/17/2013 at 04:23 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-Dining •  
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calendar   Saturday - December 29, 2012

Consumer of Leftovers

It’s probably a bit late for this post; most of you have eaten up whatever leftovers you had from Christmas already. But I thought I’d pass this one along, now that I’ve tested it for several days in a row. It’s good eating, and it’s a versatile recipe that goes from soup to stew as you wish. The basic recipe is the one for lentil soup in Joy of Cooking, but the base of that recipe is the heart of just about any vegetable based soup out there. I just amped it up a bit. Ok, a lot. We had a rather large amount of leftover ham, and this was one way to get rid of most of it. This recipe starts out as lentil soup, but winds up a a really hearty ham stew. A never ending, seemingly bottomless pot of stew

Day 1

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
5 stalks of celery, sliced
2 large onions, chopped
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced

2 1/2 cups of dried lentils ( 1lb bag), rinsed off and set aside to soak in hot water for a few minutes

Put a good splash of olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot that can hold at least 10 quarts. Heat the oil on medium and add the onions. Stir them around for 2 minutes then add the carrots, celery, and garlic. Keep stirring until the veg start to soften but not brown. Call it about 8 minutes. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme in and give it a stir. Drain off the lentils and pour stir in. Add a bay leaf if you want. Now pour in a quart of low sodium chicken broth and a quart of water. Stir. Raise the heat until the soup starts to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover, and let it cook 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, gather up 3 medium potatoes or 2 large ones. Peel them and dice them. Get out the leftover ham and carve off a big thick slice. About a pound. Dice it.

After the basic soup has been simmering for half an hour, add the potatoes. Let them cook for 10 minutes, then add the ham. If things look too thick, add a half cup or so of water. Cook things up for another 15 minutes until the lentils are soft. Give the soup a dozen or so big grinds of rough ground black pepper, stir that in, fish out the bay leaf and serve it. This makes a tasty full-flavor, full-bodied soup. The smoky ham adds a nice depth to the flavor, and there is sufficient amounts of veg floating around so that you know you’re having soup instead of some slightly enhanced broth. Even though we soaked our ham in water for more than a day to get most of the salt out, and even though I specified low-sodium chicken broth, there is no need to add any salt at all to this soup. If you stop right there you’ve got a nice soup for about 10 people. It’s just the 2 of us here, so we did that, ate some, had some more, and still had plenty left. Put what’s left in the fridge.

Day 2
Take the leftover soup out of the fridge and run it through a blender or a food processor to puree it. Heat it up again and serve it. A little steamed broccolli on the side, maybe a bit of cheese and some crackers. It’s still good, and the puree blends in the carrots, which some people would rather leave in her bowl. Eat your fill, then put what’s left in the fridge.

Day 3
Damn, we still have loads of ham left. And look at that wonderful shank bone ... can’t wait to make some awesome split pea soup, but first we have to finish off this massive pot of soup.
Carve off two thick slices of ham this time, and discard any excess fat and leathery pieces of skin. Roughly dice the meat. Call it another pound, or a generous double handful. Whatever. Add the ham to the puree and heat it up again. Finely dice another stalk of celery into the pot. It is now officially stew. Serve in large bowls with some fresh French or Italian bread on the side and something to drink. Eat your fill and put what’s left in the fridge.

Day 4
Crivens, this is never going to end, is it? Good thing it tastes so damn good. Take the ham stew out of the fridge, dice up another 2 potatoes, and add them to the pot along with 1 cup of low sodium broth. See if you can whittle another handful or two of ham bits off the bone. In they go. Heat it up and let it simmer half an hour. Serve in big bowls and convince each other that, yes, you really do have room for a second bowl. Eat. Eat. Eat it up already!! Put what’s left back in the fridge.

Day 5
Invite the neighbors over for some wonderful homemade ham stew! Open up some red wine ahead of time, and make up a big shaker full of Manhattans. Do that thing with the rosemary, roasted garlic, and Camembert cheese I wrote about last week as an appetizer, then after refilling everyone’s glasses serve up the stew in great big latte bowls with the rest of the bread on the side. Have some more wine! Hey, have some more stew, we’ve got plenty!


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 12/29/2012 at 08:49 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-Dining •  
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calendar   Monday - December 10, 2012

Phoenix With A Side Of Fries

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Ok, I admit ... living in an upstairs unit of a condo for more than a decade has completely atrophied my grilling skills ...

And I’ve never had a gas grill before ...

And we bought a cheap one, which is probably more full of hotspots than one of the reactors at Chernobyl ...

And this is my first time actually trying to grill something in the daylight, but since it’s finally stopped raining for a few minutes (after a steady week of dark, soggy, and dank) I just had to try ...

And the wife buys these enormous chicken thighs, which seem to be made of skin, bone, and fat ...

But DAMN. What The Hell I am cooking out there, Phoenix soaked in gasoline?

Crivens. Get the grill hot, put the chicken thighs on. Instant conflagration. Foom!

Move the chicken to the top rack, further away from the heat. Foom! All this does is give me taller flames.

Turn off the grill, take the bird parts off, and watch the bottom of the grill continue to burn for a solid five minutes. WTF? I’d just cooked the thing clean yesterday; what’s down there left to burn?

Ok. Fine. Relight the grill, put it on ultra low, and put the chicken in the front. Phew, no flames. But it’s going to take forever this way. I could rub the pieces together and cook them faster via friction.

Maybe if I could turn the heat up just a little ...

FOOM.

Damn. Guess I’ve got to learn the secret. In the meantime ... hey, carbon is good for you, right?

LOL


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 12/10/2012 at 08:03 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-DiningHumor •  
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calendar   Saturday - December 08, 2012

Vulture Approved

An easy one for your holiday events.

A simple to make appetizer for the crowd ... we call them the vultures at our events; almost none of the appetizers ever even make it out of the kitchen. But hey, it’s an Italian family, so who wants to leave the kitchen anyway?

This one takes about 5 minutes to set up, and about 15 minutes to bake, and about 90 seconds for the vultures to make disappear.

H/T to Peiper, the United Kingdom, and the Lidl’s grocery store insert from the Sunday Times. Well done.



1 whole Camembert cheese in it’s little wooden box, 8 oz to 250g (get one that is weeks away from it’s use-by date)
baker’s parchment
1 baguette of French bread, about 18” long
6” or so worth of fresh rosemary sprigs
2 good sized cloves of fresh garlic, one slivered, one mashed
a quarter stick of sweet butter, softened
a half handful of fresh finely chopped parsley, optional
fresh ground black pepper

Take the cheese out of it’s wooden box, remove the wrapper, then fold a quarter sheet of parchment into the box and return the cheese.

If you don’t have baker’s parchment, just unwrap the cheese and put it in a flat bottomed bowl (eg a ramekin) that just fits around it.

Take a broad tipped sharp knife and cut 4 or 5 parallel cuts in the cheese. Twist the knife in the cut to open the slit, and insert slivers of garlic and short sprigs of rosemary.

Cut the baguette lengthwise along the side, open it like a submarine sandwich, and spread on the softened butter, mashed garlic, and chopped parsley on the inside. Close it and wrap it up in aluminum foil.

Cheese and bread both go in a 400°F oven for about 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is soft but not fully melted. A younger cheese will have a thinner crust and will leak less, whereas an older cheese will have a stronger taste but a thicker crust and will leak more. Your call.

Take both out of the oven, hold the unwrapped garlic bread with an oven mitt, and slice the baguette into 1/2” thick slices. Grind a generous amount of pepper on the cheese. Serve. You can let folks dip directly, or put out a wide bladed cheese knife or even a spoon.

If all goes right, almost the whole cheese will be gone by the time you get back to the kitchen for some extra bread. Baking this one fills the whole house with a yummy garlic, cheese, and rosemary aroma ... which is irresistible to the vultures.

The two of us tried this, and we ate the whole thing in about 5 minutes. Piggy piggy, but it’s just that good. Wash it down with some ginger ale or some crisp white wine.


Fancy cooks will want to nix making the garlic bread, which is a tiny bit of overkill anyway, and roast up a head of garlic first. Drizzle it with honey and olive oil before roasting for about 40 minutes. When done, cut a good number of slices in the top of the cheese in a criss-cross pattern, and squeeze the almost fully roasted garlic bulbs out onto the cheese and press them in with a knife blade, then pop in a few sprigs of rosemary here and there and get it in the oven. Butter up the bread and put it in to heat. With the nutty taste of the roast garlic, I’d serve this version with a comfortable red wine.

Horry clap, this is NOT something to eat if you’ve got a big date later on. You’re going to have garlic breath like you’ve never had before. So do it with other folks already there, so they can share the effect, and nobody will notice. Sure they won’t. Who cares? Have some more wine! Happy Christmas!


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 12/08/2012 at 06:11 PM   
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calendar   Tuesday - November 27, 2012

early lunch at the potters heron, or the cart and horses. whatever, the food was great!

About 10 days or so ago, the wife who has been ill and not able to really get out as much as she’s like, decided she had cabin fever and suggested we go out to lunch. Something we had not done in many months due to her condition. But pain or no pain she was determined and suggested a place not too far from here, a pub called The Potters Heron.  It’s in a village named Kingsworthy.  Ancient church and cemetery and village green, sadly crowded these days by modernity.

So we went and I am looking forward to the time we can return cos the food was outstanding and the portions very generous.  So here. Take a look.
Of course, in spring and summer the outside would be filled and there’s be flowers everywhere.

The Heron dates to about 1760.

Here’s an oddity I need to get to the bottom of.
The manager’s business card and some other things ID this place as, The Cart and Horses.  ????? 
Hey. What can I say?  This is England.

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Wife had the Cod, I think that’s what it was, and I could not resist the Ham. But I was not aware upon ordering that it came with two eggs.
I was a happy camper. By the way, with regard to the photo below. We had already started when I got the idea to take a snap of the meal. So a number of fries are missin g from the photo.  You do get your monies worth, and we are going back.

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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 11/27/2012 at 01:00 PM   
Filed Under: • Fine-DiningUK •  
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calendar   Thursday - October 25, 2012

A Good Mix

Another peanut brittle recipe. I made this the other night and it came out pretty darn good. Best recipe mix so far. A touch of vanilla adds some roundness, the cream of tartar slows the crystallization down a lot, and lets you get by with using less baking soda. A taste of molasses adds a bit of dusky flavor without taking the risk of overcooking the mix and burning the sugar and the nuts. So not only is it a good recipe, it’s a smart one that’s fool-resistant.

I’m still not sure whether to use cocktail peanuts or dry roast peanuts, so I used a mixture of both. I am sure that using flavorful, fresh, brand name nuts is the way to go; bargain store nuts just wimp out. And remember, use boiling water to clean out your pot once the caramelized sugar has hardened on. Otherwise you’re in for hours of scrubbing.

1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups white cane sugar
3 tbs molasses
1/2 cup white Karo corn syrup
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup cocktail peanuts ( a small jar’s worth )
3/4 cup dry roast peanuts
2 1/4 tbs cold butter
full teakettle of water

1 medium saucepan with high sides
1 very clean edgeless standard sized baking sheet
1 accurate fast reading thermometer, either digital or candy style, calibrated against boiling water
1 ovenproof bowl, dish, or pan

Take the cold butter and rub it vigorously around on the baking sheet. Slice the rest into 8 bits and leave it to soften.

Add the water, salt, cream of tartar to the saucepan and stir gently. Start it heating over medium heat. Add the molasses and the Karo, stir. When the water starts to steam gently add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Take the heat up a notch.

Keep stirring. Be patient. The mix will boil. And boil. And boil. What we’re doing at this stage is driving off the water, which was just a carrier for the sugar.

Start the oven, set it to 220°F or just more than Warm. Put the peanuts in the ovenproof bowl and heat them. This is done to slow things down; when we add cold peanuts to hot syrup the temperature plummets and the stuff hardens up too fast, so warm peanuts will cool things less. Don’t recook the peanuts, just get them up to around 200° or so.

Keep stirring. As the temperature climbs to around 300° F make sure that you have everything right at hand, ready to go. The final step goes together in about 4 seconds, so be ready for it. The cream of tartar will make the syrup bubble like mad. Keep the burner set low enough so that you get a good rolling boil, but not one that climbs up the sides of the saucepan.

Beware! At 320°F the syrup will caramelize, and that process will be quite rapid. So watch carefully and keep stirring gently.

At 310°F turn on the teakettle on another burner, add the peanuts, and take the heat up one small notch. You do not want to scorch the nuts. So in they go, stir, and keep stirring for about a minute to get them all coated. The mix should now be just about to turn golden brown, so drop in the butter and stir it in. It will sizzle and boil.

Turn off the burner and take the pan off. Stir in the baking soda. This will cause lots more bubbles. We want those, but we don’t want to use so much baking soda that it leaves a taste behind. 1/2 tsp isn’t quite enough, 1 tsp is too much, so we’ll use a scant 3/4 tsp. And stir!!

Put the baking sheet on top of the stove over the burner you just turned off, and carefully pour the whole pot onto it, starting at the end over the burner. Get every last bit out with a spoon. It will run down the sheet a little and spread out. This recipe will cover just about the entire sheet, one peanut thick, with the caramelized syrup perhaps 1/8” thick. Let it cool. If you did it right, you’ll have a peanut rich golden puddle, the same color as a caramel or maybe just a tiny bit darker. Take the sheet off the stove and put it on a cooling rack. Turn off the oven.

Let it cool. When the water boils, use it to melt any syrup remaining in the saucepan, on your spoons, and on the thermometer.

While the mixture cools and you’ve got the dishes done, make some room in the freezer or fridge to put the baking sheet in. We want to take it from room temperature down to cold. Frozen is Ok too, but chilled is good enough.

When the stuff is cold, and you’ve had the time to ask yourself how on earth you’re going to get this puddle of frozen glue off your good cookie sheet, take the sheet in your hands and flex it. A couple of twists and some gentle arching, and the whole thing will break into chunks and pop right off. Assuming you don’t eat it all in one go, you can wrap it in wax paper and store it in a box for a few days. If you want a saltier flavor you can dust the buttered side lightly with some kosher salt.

I’d supply a picture, but our batch didn’t last that long.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 10/25/2012 at 05:15 PM   
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