Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pass the _____ please!



 Apologies for the delay, the SpaceX stuff captured my attention and brought back shades of my former life.  Did i ever mention wrote the program for docking of the Gemini/Agena?  Flight test stuff…

Yup, the end of the elephant (we won’t say which) has arrived.  The last lingering subject is one that is dear to my heart.  Some say it’s the most perfect food (we won’t mention Foie Gras)… Fromage, сыр, Käse; Formaggio, queso, cáis, TUpi, ost, juusto, 奶酪,  Just about any language you would like to pick has a word for…CHEESE!


A big reason for this is there is such a a whole universe of flavors, textures, consistencies, colors, changing all of these with age. It starts with one thing…milk.  Cow, Sheep, Goats, Water Buffalo (huh?), or combinations of all.  These are used either raw or pasteurized, each giving distinct qualities to the cheese.  We won’t go into the process, but it is fairly simple andeach step can change the characteristic of the cheese.  C’mon Feeder we didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, we know a lot of this.

Okay, okay, I love cheese. Not all cheese, but most probably my fascination was spawned and nurtured on our French Country Waterways barge cruises on the canals of France. 


And in looking for that cover shot from FCW has gotten me all nostalgic..

..........You know what?  Let’s let the general subject of cheese age a bit more, and look back some 7 years.   FOJTE has a saying “Living well is the best revenge” and we had lots of “revenge”.  The focus of the trip aside from seeing the lovely French countryside was excellent food and wine, and of course (to tie it back to the subject) Cheeses.  It was highlighted in the meals
A typical menu (all in French, as it should be)

Note the 4th course is Fromage and the wines are two whites (Vins Blanc) and one Red (Vin Rouge) and oenophiles might note there are two Grand Cru’s and a Premier Cru with hallowed names like Corton Charlemagne, and Charmes Chambertin which we couldn’t afford today.  Every meal was prepared by the on-board chef, who explained each course.  He turned out lovely food in a kitchen the size of a closet.  Great talent.

At the end of the trip, they gave us a list of the Wines and cheeses served
along with a copy of all the bottle  labels from the wines

At least two of the three cheeses was served with every lunch and dinner, that’s around maybe some 30 cheeses, with never a repeat.  There was always a little “speech” about each one, country of origin, milk, characteristics and so forth. 

I had a little book which I kept over several trips,

noting in the margin which cheeses we had when, like the Bleu de Auvergne from a Tuesday dinner

Anyway it was a wonderful (and educational experience).  We “did” two more trips with them, and never suffered from the “You can’t go home again” syndrome.  And I didn’t even mention the three star restaurants that were on the itinerary.  One of those still ranks as number one on my life list of meals.

Speaking of books, I found a more up to date one that is worth having if you want a good cheese reference.

MFO recently found another that I have to read
(illustrations are by the same chap who did “Winnie the Pooh”, and “Wind in the Willows”).  

It was originally published in 1937 and has changed nothing since that edition.  At that time, English Cheeses were much maligned, and this was an attempt to point out the fine points.  Of course the first cheese that comes to mind from England is Cheddar (named for the town in Southwestern England, near Bath).

I hate to delve into “what’s your favorite cheese” but I am increasingly intrigued in “blue” cheeses.  Again there is a remarkable variety available.  It’s one of those things where you either love it, or don’t.  I have a friend who definitely DOES NOT enjoy it.

I think I have mentioned that I have begun to patronize Murray’s, a New York cheese monger.  They have a pretty good selection of the blue veined stuff.  I gave them an order a few weeks ago for some Point Reyes Original Blue.  I did check the little box that said something about “may we substitute a similar cheese if we are out of your selection?”  well, what I got was

Darn it I thought, but it turned out to be very good.  Forced expanding horizons. Currently Murray’s offers 14 varieties (while supplies last) of blue cheese, some (e.g. Jasper Hill Farm Bridgeman Blue) costing as much as $40/Lb.  Not sure I’ll try that yet…Anyway, if you order a half pound there are some savings available.   Not sure where I’ll go next, Shropshire Blue interests me..  anyway enjoy the journey!

Speaking (briefly, I hope) of books David Allen Sibley, a noted author, illustrator, photographer, and birder has published a new volume “What it’s like to be a bird”. 

His (2000) “Sibley guide to Birds” from the National Audubon Society is still considered (by many) to be the standard bird ID guidebook.  So when this new book (What it’s like..) came along, I figured WTH I’ll try it.

Turned out to be not only a good source of bird information, but what was really a wonderful surprise was the beautiful drawings contained in it.  Even if you’re not a “birder” it is a lovely book for your collection.  Might even be eligible for “coffee table" status

Okay we’ll put a rind on the cheese, and thank you for your indulgence.  I enjoyed my trip down memory lane (canals?) in France. 

Take care, be safe and get ready to
DFD

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Second Course



Let’s take another bite of elephant (the mountain of subjects for the Feeder piling up). our first gulp was some pesky shrimp, the nice sparkling Calvet of Bordeaux, and Duck Donuts…

MFO finally thought I could break quarantine a bit yesterday morning:  leave the house for the car, stay there, tour the Farmer’s Markets (A quest for spring strawberries, mostly) and come home again to jail….er, the digs.
 


With CORVID still a risk (except to a major political figure who is taking medicine that most credible scientific organizations consider dangerous) MFO and I are still taking all the same measures as when the virus was(?) in full swing.

Anyway, we started out at the “BAE” Farmer's market just up the street from us, but the traffic person said they had no strawberries in that location and suggested we go down to the “Home Grown” Market (red barn) at Hermanville and Rte. 235.  They, like the other open air markets have “pivoted” (how many times have you heard that word lately?  Ad nauseam) to a drive through model.  It has been quite a hit here as evidenced by the line of autos waiting to get in…
  


It took us about 25 minutes from the back of that line creeping along following the signs


Till we got to the “traffic handlers”.  There are two lines, one way, an inner and outer circle


And the first vendor booth - which had volunteers that would come to your car with a “menu” board saying what they had.  You tell them, they go get it, bring it back to you and you creep on…

Finally, at almost the last vendor (Flower of the Forest Farm) DID have the sought after little bundle of spring time sweetness

  
They come at a fairly dear in price


Yes, that is five bucks (American) for a PINT of berries.  But by golly, they are good.

We also got some WAG (Willie Goddard) meats, locally raised and butchered.

Elasped time to make the circuit – approximately one hour and 15 minutes…
Buy Local

Speaking of Meats

I splurged on some Double R Ranch pork chops.  They are in cahoots with Snake River Farms (who happen to supply Thomas Keller), and decided to grill it on the Ninja.  A lovely piece of pork


Hey Feeder! What’s that doo-dad next to it?   Well,  it’s another “gadget” I got called a “Meater”.  Basically it is a probe you stick in the meat you’re cooking


And you tell it what target internal temperature you want, and it will tell you when to pull the item and let it rest while residual cooking raises it to the desired temperature.  It also tells you (via Bluetooth to your clever phone) what the ambient temperature is inside the cooking chamber.  It is pretty slick.
Here’s the finished chop (from the Ninja)


I don’t remember what temp I asked for.  probably 160 or so. 

I also used it on a Snake River Farms Filet


I think I set it for medium rare maybe 120 something.
The display looks like

Showing the internal temp was still 108, target was 125, and it was 500 inside the Ninja. 
I pulled it when it told me to, but overshot the target

Still a learning process
I also used it on a SRF strip steak


BUT… nearing the end of the cooking time, all of a sudden my phone started screaming “REMOVE MEATER AT ONCE OR DAMAGE MAY OCCUR” with flashing red screen.  Which I did. 
It occurred to me that the Ninja has a fairly small interior, and the heating element is in the top.  If the “ambient” end is too close, it may cause problems
Sill a learning process.

And lastly, the most perfect food…. CHEESE

Well, maybe that’s enough of the elephant for today.  If I get going on the “Fromage” I would go on and on, making this too long..

What’s left of the elephant is making a pizza, and that perfect food

Which (cleverly) leaves a little room for a (personal) rant and comment.

Rant: For some reason (maybe obvious) with the COVID restrictions in place, people are looking inward and cooking more, and a lot of emphasis being placed on Baking. Cooking magazines feature articles on "Perfect biscuits every time", and a lot of bread recipes.  Now, as most readers should be painfully aware, I am a devotee of "classic" foods.  I know I may be in the minority here, but i don't get the fascination with "Sour Dough".  I have never liked it, and it's first name says it all to me.  On and on about "Starter" recipes, chef so and so's perfect recipe for starter, or even for sale on the web.  Why take a perfectly prepared (not easily come by) baguette and turn it "sour".  I don't get it. Sorry, not for me.

Comment on Take out:  my idol, Tom Sietsema is soldering on with his off and on columns in the (Wednesday) Post Food section, and in the weekly Magazine generally about "take out" .  I think I've mentioned (gripe) that he doesn't mess around with outlets that are generally unavailable to us (especially SOMD).  This week's column (May 24) is entitled "Takeout, as offered by the city's top toques" meaning Starred Chefs, such as Frank Ruta (the decorated former White House chef who won a James Beard award at Palena and opened Mirabelle to rave reviews in 2017, is returning to work in D.C)
"we play to our strengths and do what we can".  To be fair, Dinner and salads adn entrees $14 to $30. Delivery can be by Caviar.

It would be nice to be in a market where most of the carryouts are from chains, with nice exceptions like the Ruddy Group, and Cow & Fish.





Next time
Be safe, don’t be sucked in by the “lets open everything up”  kiss your neighbor!  Throw out the masks!  Go to a belly to belly packed bar! Take a dose of the Hydrochloric acid or whatever it is..All is well!

And don’t worry yet about
DFD



Thursday, May 7, 2020

Chomp, Chomp, Chomp




When one starts to eat an elephant one bite at a time, which end does one start at??  Neither are very appealing…

Anyway Chapter One of Catch up, volume who knows begins now (one alert reader likened my table of contents like Jeopardy categories)

Crangon:  Or in more common parlance:  Shrimp.
The feeder has had a love/hate relationship with this crustacean for a long time.  We quite enjoy having “Shrimp Cocktail” with our end of day libations.   Well, it gets somewhat monotonous having boiled shrimp (I freeze them raw, then boil them).  So, looking something other than restaurant boiled shrimp, I have tried in vain to alter the standard boiled shrimp. Trying recipe after recipe with varying complexity of flavorings for the liquid the little darlings are cooked in.  Sprigs of Thyme, Bay Leaves, black pepper, Zatarain’s Shrimp Boil, beer, onions, the list seems endless.  And after chopping, dicing, reducing, you end up with well, boiled shrimp that might have as well been boiled in water.  No change.

Well, says I, let’s take a look at another technique: steaming them.  So, I start out on another road (less taken?).  I perused several recipes for the steaming liquid and then decided to “wing it”


Substituting cidre for wine

Then assembled stuff to apply to the outside of the shrimp, even stooping to using the time honored (and overrated, IMHO) Old Bay.

Put the “dry stuff” in a baggie with the raw shrimp

Shook it up real good, and put them in the steamer basket

Steamed them for "a while" until they looked (and felt) like they were done

And got them ready to serve

Results?  Well the feeder did his usual thing of using the “if a little is good, more is better” theory.  Apparently the Emeril “Bayou Blast” had a fair amount of Cayenne in it which took over.  The more you chewed the hotter it got (Blasted!)  Old Bay got lost.  In the end, we had to rinse off the “coating” and they weren’t so bad then.

So the steaming process seems to hold some promise (at least it altered things), and will be further pursued, with a more restrained hand. We’ll get away from the tired shrimp draped over the side of the Martini glass, which should be put to better use.

Bordeaux
While Bordeaux brings to mind noble wines from legendary properties like Pauillac, Chateau Margaux, Ch. Lafite Rothschild, producing some of the finest (and most expensive!) wines in the world like Chateau Petrus,  Sauternes, and so on, there are lesser but no less interesting bottles.  One such is a sparkling wine (don’t you DARE use the Champ…word) of some repute is Calvet Cremant de Bordeaux Brut Rose

Which we had with the steamed shrimp (after they were bathed).  The tamed down shrimp went well with the slightly acidic sparkling.

Transition to… Alexandria (USA)
We are fortunate enough to have considerate friends who travel “up the road” a fair amount, to Alexandria and one of their normal stops is:
Duck Donuts
It all began on the sandy beaches of the Outer Banks in Duck, North Carolina. There, Russ DiGilio and his family would enjoy relaxing and fun vacations… but something was missing, there were no fresh donuts! So, they decided to create their own… and Duck Donuts was born.

There is a universe of flavors and we got a “key lime pie” and blueberry, and with a cup of locally roasted St. Inie’s Coffee

A nice way to start a day

Well, there go three bites of the elephant (tastes like Chicken?  not a chance!)

I dunno, but I think when eating said Pachyderm, one DOES NOT have to
DFD
stay safe


Monday, May 4, 2020

Sigh.....



A day in the life.. what day IS it anyway?  Tuesday? Friday?

Quarantine is Painful
It Brings on Many Changes
And I Can’t Leave it if I Please


Hi! Remember me? Or have I faded from memory like a bad meal?

Every morning, after I go through the ordeal of getting dressed (including struggling with the compression socks), I make a little checklist of things I should do




For the last several weeks, my “Blog” box has remained unchecked, as it always seems to fall into the “right after” situation: “well, I’ll do that right after I do such and so”, and then I manage to futz around with the such and so's such that the right after’s are too late in the day.  One the things I have been doing is messing around in the kitchen some, learning how to use my Ninja Foodi Smokeless Grill, trying this and that with many “lessons learned”.  Turns out besides skinning a cat, there are many ways to use the Ninji to cook say, chicken breasts.  There are five “settings”; Grill, Bake, Air Crisp, Roast, and Dehydrate, each with suggested (but adjustable) temperatures and times.  Of course everybody has their favorite technique: Grill on high for 6 minutes, then flip and season it; low and slow on Bake; use Roast turning every five minutes, etc..  

But I digress. With all this experimentation, I have built up quite a backlog of topics and a few photos, each one probably not worthy of a singular purpose posting, but as they say, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.  So currently the table of contents would read:

Boiled Shrimp – ptooie
Calvet sparkling wine
Duck Donuts (yes, you read that correctly)
Let’s make a pizza!
Heavy Cocktails instead (or in lieu of..)
Pork Chop/Meater disaster
Murray’s Cheese Adventures
Double R Ranch steak and Meater recovery

So I guess I’ll launch in to Chapter One, etc., and take two or three nibbles from the list.  Knowing my penchant for literary diarrhea, I’ll try to keep them digestible. 

Stay tuned and be safe out there…
I remain under house arrest..


Saturday, April 25, 2020

Special "Sammy" Update



Okay, I’ll buy this.  An alert and faithful reader sent me the following link from "Spruce Eats" (a nice site by the way), with a recipe for both a Reuben and if turkey, a “Rachel” sandwich.  She claimed that Rachel, if done well, is “divine” (no “y” word for her, bless her heart).  I can believe that it's probably a good sandwich.   In this case, I don’t object to a name that is specific to the item, not a “Turkey Reuben" but "Rachel" instead. Still there are other things that don’t have a special name.  Like “Turkey” Bacon, Sausage, Chili (that’s kind of borderline), Burgers, and so on. While descriptive for the customer, it's not accurate.  Bacon is smoked ham.  It’s NOT turkey.  I’m not sure what you would call it, “Smoked Turkey strips”?

On another note, I have purchased a “Meater” meat thermometer.  It’s basically a probe that is inserted into and remains in the item while being cooked.  It "bluetooths" the internal temperature of the dish as well as the ambient (oven, grill, Ninja) temp.  You set a target temperature like for medium rare steak at 135, and it will tell you when to pull it and monitors carryover internal temp while “resting” till it meats (ha ha) your target temp.  Have not used it yet.. will report.

DF(ah, the hell with it for now)
Be safe..


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Food Musings...



Geriatric Calendar for those of us where days just seem to run together.. 


You can tell what day it is just by looking for the one with meds in it (in this case – Thursday)

Musings
You know me, I’m kind of a classic guy when it comes to food.  I prefer classic dishes prepared in a classic manner when I can get them.  There is nothing like sitting at a white tablecloth table with silver, crystal and a trained wait staff. But there is another world of.., “eating healthy and fast”.   More and more in our fast paced world we're leaning in that direction.  There are multiple publications like “Cooking Light”, “Clean Eating”, and the like as well as a plethora of web sites, all touting the preparation of (for want of a better term) “healthy eating”.

A quick caveat here, you are perfectly able to decide what you want to put in your body and the reasons for your choices.  I would not presume to chide you for any food that you wish to consume for whatever reasons.

Those same sites and magazines are filled with recipes that specify ingredients like: use low fat cheese; substitute yogurt for sour crème, add low sodium chicken broth; season with fresh herbs (or salt substitute) instead of salt; egg white omelets; use half and half instead of heavy cream; on and on.  When there were such things as restaurants, more and more of the dishes on the menu had a string of parenthetical codes behind them specifying various features, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and so on.  And somewhere on the menu will be a statement about only using sustainable, non-GMO, maybe free range, grass fed, etc. 

Okay, okay, feeder what’s your point?  For want of better terms, in my (probably biased) mind we are developing categories of food: “real” and “almost”.  The former DOES use heavy cream, homemade stocks, whole eggs, they leave fat on meats. Thomas Keller takes 3 days to produce a roasted chicken for his restaurants.  The “almost” category would include such things as a “Turkey Reuben” sandwich which I assume is a pretty good sandwich, but a Reuben sandwich is corned beef (or sometimes pastrami); Russian dressing; Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, on Rye (please not marbled).  Well, you say, the turkey version is “almost” as good as the “real’ thing.  Call it something else – Turkey melt?

Another example is the making of say, Sauce Bernaise.  The as far as I’m concerned Bible of sauces is the (James Beard awarded book)

Their recipe (and directions) runs for two pages. 
It’s a bear to make. 
Gather:

The recipe: all 15 steps. 


And this is the paragraph where I always fail.  "Break" is the watchword I always stumble.


Far easier and quicker would be the “almost” version made in your local blender.

SAUCE BEARNAISE

¼ cup white wine vinegar                                    
¼ cup dry white wine or vermouth                               
1 Tbsp minced shallots or scallions (white part only) 
1/2 Tsp Dried tarragon
¼ tsp. salt 
1/8 tsp pepper 
3 egg yolks  
1 Stick of butter (thoroughly melted and still boiling                                         
Boil the vinegar, wine, herbs, and seasonings in a small saucepan until liquid has reduced to about 2 Tbsp.  Let cool.  Place egg yolks and cooled vinegar mixture in jar of blender.  Cover and blend at high speed for 30 seconds.  Uncover, (my blender has a little center cover that I take off) and still blending at high speed, start pouring in the hot butter by DROPLETS.  When about 2/3 of the butter has gone in, you can pour a little more quickly.

There are really two classes with all sorts of references for each:
“real” from the classic:

Both of these should have a place in your cooking library.  Invaluable references.

And the "other" type: 

The “real” stuff is what you would get and expect in a fine dining restaurant with kitchen brigade whose job it is to turn out classic dishes as they were intended. 

Confession: over the years I have softened on the “almost” items.  People have lives, families, soccer practice, meetings, and so on.  A lot of that leads to “eating from bags”, but there are caring home cooks who would like to feed their family tasty, and yes, healthy meals, in a timely manner and these books supply a way to do that. 

Sure, there would be difference between the rigorous Sauce Bearnaise and the blender version, but it is better than NO sauce.  Find an “easy and fast” recipe, but once in a while make the time and effort to move over to the “real” side.  It’s fun and a treat.

Speaking of recipes, here’s one I WON’T be trying
one of my favorite meaningless phrases: "next level"  which level are YOU on?

And for the time being, the heck with
DFD

Life is too short to stuff a mushroom
Shirley Conran

postscript..  in rereading this before hitting "publish" it seems I kind of changed my tune from beginning to end. There is a place for quick cooking 



Monday, April 13, 2020

Dum de Dum... tick tock



So far today (1600) – highest gust recorded by the trusty weather station; think we got lucky so far…

(56 mph at 9:36 am)

Back to Life (as we know it)
You know the feeling you (I) have when going to the doctor you sit in the reception area for maybe 20 minutes past your appointment time?  Just kind of marking time sitting and waiting for someone to call you?  Then finally sesame opens and a nurse bellows out “WILLIAM MOODY” and you’re ushered to the exam room and after the stock questions are answered, she leaves with a cheery “He’ll be right in”.  then ensues another 15 minutes (on a good day) before doc appears.  Meanwhile you sit in a state of suspended animation, alone with your thoughts and apprehensions (you are, after all, in a medical facility).

Well, I see parallels between that and the “virus” lifestyle.  You sit, sort of waiting for “something” to happen (or not). But it’s hard to get on with life or interest in any endeavor, like reading for instance.  So you sit waiting for time to pass for…..  anyway, that’s me.  Hopefully you are not similarly afflicted. 

Side dishes
The closing of restaurants appears to be causing devastating consequences for those whose only/largest source of income came from serving, washing, on up through cooking.  So called “relief checks” while helpful, will not make
them whole.  And if this condition drags on much longer, there may not be place to return to.  Take out proceeds will not replace a sit down dinner.

Restaurateur (note: no “n”) Gerard Craft* puts it thus on the cover of “Sauce" a magazine that follows the food trail in St. Louis


*Gerard Craft last year became the first St. Louis-based chef to win the James Beard award for Best Chef: Midwest. His cadre of St Louis venues is large: niche, brasserie, taste, pastaria, porano pasta; all of which receive many accolades for their food.
Another more local instance is the pretty well confirmed rumors that “Smokey Joe’s on the Town” in Leonardtown will go permanently dark, pushed over the brink by the recent COVID-19 shut downs.  The owner (Denise Canter) has been a leader in serving up BBQ around here forever. Used to be in that little place on 235 across from the Immaculate Heart church.  Now a car staging area.  Tough way to make a living, thank goodness there are those that choose to..

We got the meats!
Since housebound, have been messing around with cooking beef (in the Ninja Foodii)  Turns out there is a learning process involved which I have not yet mastered.  I figure if you’re stuck in the house, eating well is the best revenge (as FOJTE is fond of saying – and he does).

Experiments so far have included a strip steak, from a local source of local beef (along with all the essentials of a good cook)

And pre-grilled a bit for me by the source.  Turned out pretty well.  Am having trouble getting a nice sear on the outside and still rare/medium rare on the inside.  As usual, got involved with consumption and forgot to document results.

Another attempt was with a filet obtained from Double R ranch, a partner of Snake River Farms.  Decided to try a technique from Thomas Keller’s Master Class.  He used a rib eye, but figured the filet would be worth a try.. SO, the day before we figured to eat it, I unpackaged it, salted both sides, ties a string around to hold shape, and stuck it in the refrigerator for overnight “dry aging”

When I took it out the next day, it had darkened considerably (it started out rosy pink)

I made some compound butter for it
and got it ready for the "device"

Results much better, I think the aging tightened it up a bit, and only took it out of the refrigerator an hour before cooking, so maybe that helped keeping it rare.  Once again it was plated and consumed without pictures..

So latest (aren’t you glad?) was last night with a locally raised and butchered cow resulting in a nice “(boneless) prime rib”

Well while browsing around the web I found a recipe called “Chef John’s Perfect Prime Rib” (“This is a specific formula for achieving a perfectly pink prime rib cooked somewhere a shade under medium rare”)
What I found intriguing was that it called for being coated with another compound butter recipe (Herbes de Provence – which I had to substitute for) and then put into the oven at 500 ͦ for a specified time, turn off oven, keep the door closed and leave it for 2(!) hours. That meant that cocktail hour was unsullied!
So, I cobbled together the butter mixture

Slathered it on the meat
And stuck in into the 500-degree oven for 11 minutes (weight times five) and at the end of the 11 minutes, it looked like this

Turned the oven off, closed the door and proceeded to cocktails

After two hours, I sliced into it and by golly! Much to my surprise (and relief) was a nice rosy pink


It was plated and served with MFO’s twice baked potatoes, and a glass of Hanna Cab. Happy Easter!


And, it appears that we are (hopefully) out of the woods on the weather..

Be safe, be isolated, protected, observe social distancing, and I guess
DFTV