Author Archive

Rich Buttery Croissants

22 January 18

{Herself sez: YUM!} OK – let’s set a couple of things straight: this is not something that you can just toss together and forget. This is not a bread machine recipe. It takes a bit of work over the course of a day and a bit. {{Herself sez: WHAAAT?}} This is what is known as a laminated dough. What’s laminated? Well, that is something made from two or more layers of different materials. Many things in history have been laminated by folding – Toledo steel or Japanese steel come to mind. Hundreds of layers of steel with the fine watery lines between layers. You don’t get this by making something out of hundreds of layers. You start by having two to three layers much bigger than the finished product, then folding multiple times and forging the layers together and repeating many times. This is not as hard as you think; follow along:

Ingredients:

115 g granulated sugar (4 oz)
30 g salt (1 oz)
30 g dry milk powder (1 oz)
1   egg
512 g water, ice cold (18 oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ stick unsalted butter, softened (2 oz)
2 pkg yeast
900 g bread flour (2 lbs)
7 sticks unsalted butter, softened (1 lb. 12 oz)
     
  Glaze
5 fluid ounces heavy cream
3   eggs

Directions

You want a good strong mixer with a dough hook. You might talk a bread machine into doing the kneading, but you’re on your own there; I don’t use bread machines. You don’t want to knead by hand unless you are trying to build some serious muscles and/or are a bit of a masochist.

Put everything except the last 7 sticks of butter into the mixer bowl, mix for 3 minutes on low speed, 3 minutes on second speed. The dough should be soft and smooth.

Line a sheet pan with parchment or freezer paper; put the dough on it and shove into the refrigerator for about an hour. You want it well chilled. Chilled is the secret of working with butter doughs.

Put the 7 sticks of soft butter into the mixing bowl with a paddle. I don’t think you can do this in a bread machine. If the butter is soft enough you might get by with a hand mixer. Anyway, mix until very smooth and lump-free and elastic, but still firm. If it is too mushy shove it into the fridge for a few minutes and it will firm up. Anyway put the butter between sheets of parchment paper and roll out until 10 inches square. If it gets soft put it back in the refrigerator.

When the dough is good and cold roll it out to the height of the butter plus an inch and twice the width plus an inch. Therefore: if the butter is 10” tall we need dough 11” tall. If the butter is 10” wide we need twice plus so we need about 21”wide. See – what we are doing is making a butter sandwich. Think of the dough as the covers of a book and the butter as a page. Put the butter on the dough centered on one half of the dough. Fold the other half of the dough over and seal the edges closed. If you did everything right the dough and the butter are the same consistency and should have gone together nicely. One layer of dough, one layer of butter, one layer of dough nicely sealed around three edges and about 11” by 11” or so.

The Single Book Fold: OK, so now you have a book with a spine and three sealed edges. Place the spine facing you. Roll the dough out until it is ½” thick. This will take some work. Be patient. Now fold the right 1/3 over and then the left 1/3 over. This is called a book fold.

The Cool Down: Put it back on the sheet pan with the parchment paper and cover with a cloth. Put back in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Repeat the book fold and the cooldown.

Repeat the book fold and the cooldown.

Now, this is one of those math things. If you count the layer you will notice that the count goes up logarithmically so you now have hundreds of layers. Handy trick, that. That is also how you make folded steel knives and swords.

OK, now point the seamless side towards yourself. Roll out the dough until it is 15 inches wide by 1/8 in thick by however long it winds up being. This may take a bit of doing. Cold dough with that many layers can be tough to work with. If it looks to be getting too warm shove it back in the fridge for a bit, but you shouldn’t have any problem if you work at a reasonable pace.

Cut the dough in half and then into even triangular strips. The strips should be around 4-1/2 inches by 7-12 Inches. Roll the strips up going from the base of the triangle to the point. Put them on a parchment lined sheet pan and curve them slightly to look like – well – croissants. Cover with a cloth and put them back in the refrigerator overnight. What this does is retard the final fermentation and rise. You can freeze them at this point and they will do fine.

Take them out of the refrigerator or the freezer and let them warm to room temperature and rise until about increased by about 70% or so. Warmth and humidity are good at this point if you have some control over such things 80°F and 80%RH. Too warm and humid for me, but the dough likes it.

Glaze before baking: Beat the eggs and mix with the cream and brush it over the croissants. (This is optional.)

Bake 425°F for 18 minutes or until golden brown.

You will get somewhere around 30 to 35 croissants. I usually freeze them in batches of 4. On the weekend I take them out of the freezer and plop them onto a foil lined pan and cover with a cloth very early in the morning, then go back to bed. When I get up later and start cooking breakfast the croissants are usually thawed and risen. I bake them while the bacon (or hog jowl) and eggs (in some incarnation or other) are cooking. Wonderful!!!

{{Herself Sez: So why bother? Just pick some up at the local bakery or grocery. Right? WRONG! The ones available at even the most upscale stores will not be as flaky and puffy as the ones you bake at home. We used to purchase from a local store when himself wasn’t feeling like making them. The last time we bought them, they were tough, less than puffy, and not particularly flaky. Never again!}}

Advertisements

Motor Oil Sludge for Your Salad

22 January 18

Aka Garlic Balsamic Dressing

This is really good stuff. You should get a nice Haas avocado and split it in half, discarding the seed. Fill the seed cavity with this sludge and eat with a spoon. Wonderful stuff. Also works nicely on standard salads.

Ingredients

2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp your favorite mustard
2 Tbs dark brown sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
2   large minced garlic cloves
¼ cup olive oil

Directions

Use a small food processor or hand mixer or immersion blender. What you want to do is emulsify and doing that by hand takes a bit of a masochist.

You can mince your garlic in a mini processor, but a garlic press works best. Mix up everything except the olive oil vigorously.

Add in the olive oil and really whip things up. When you get a nice emulsification it will resemble used motor oil and will not separate under normal conditions. Enjoy.

{{Herself Sez: I LOVE this dressing – +5! My basic favorite! You can vary by using raspberry balsamic vinegar, and toss some fresh raspberries or strawberries in the salad. }}

Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage

29 July 17

{{NOTE: Instant Pot

https://amazon.com/Instant-Pot-Bluetooth-Multi-Use-Programmable/dp/B00N310CKG/ref=sr_1_4?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1501341021&sr=1-4&keywords=instant+pot

Worth the money. Bluetooth is handy to set complex programs.}}

Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage

4-5 garlic cloves
4 cups water
3 lb. corned beef brisket, including spice packet
2 lbs petite red potatoes, quartered
3 cups baby carrots
1 head green cabbage, cut into large wedges

—-seasoning packet ingredients—–
{leave this out if you are using the packet that comes with the meat.}

1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 bay leaves, crushed
8 Allspice berries
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

  1. Place corned beef brisket, spice packet, garlic and 4 cups of water into the instant pot. I used the rack to keep the brisket off the bottom of the pot.
  1. Cook on 90 minutes using the meat/stew setting or high pressure for 90 minutes. Once time is up, quick release pressure. Remove corned beef to a platter and cover with foil. Let rest while cooking the vegetables.
  1. Without discarding liquid, add potatoes, carrots, and cabbage to pressure cooker, you may remove the rack if desired.
  1. Cook at high pressure for 5-6 minutes. Do a quick pressure release before removing vegetables.

Servings: 6

Colcannon

29 July 17

Ingredients

3 lbs potatoes, scrubbed
2 sticks butter
1 1/4 cups hot milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 (1-pound) piece ham or bacon, cooked the day before
4 scallions, finely chopped
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

  • Steam the potatoes in their skins for 30 minutes. Peel them using a knife and fork. Chop with a knife before mashing. Mash thoroughly to remove all the lumps. Add 1 stick of butter in pieces. Gradually add hot milk, stirring all the time. Season with a few grinds of black pepper.
  • Boil the cabbage in unsalted water until it turns a darker color. Add 2 tablespoons butter to tenderize it. Cover with lid for 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly before returning it to the pan. Chop into small pieces.
  • Put the ham in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes until tender. Drain. Remove any fat and chop into small pieces
  • Add cabbage, scallions, and ham to mashed potatoes, stirring them in gently.
  • Serve in individual soup plates. Make an indentation on the top by swirling a wooden spoon. Put 1 tablespoon of butter into each indentation. Sprinkle with parsley.

Servings: 6
Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

Vicki’s Cake (Victoria Sponge Cake)

31 July 16

This is a quintessential and favorite British tea time cake. It is called the Victoria Sponge Cake because it was Queen Victoria’s favorite for high tea. When you are the Queen you get what you want. It’s good to be the Queen.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (1 cup)
220 gr sugar (1 cup)
2 each eggs
160 gr all-purpose flour (1 cup)
6 gr baking powder (1-1/2 tsp)
125 gr milk (1/2 cup)
4 gr vanilla extract (1 tsp)

Set your oven to 400°F (200°C). Lube an 8 inch spring form pan with unsalted butter.

If you are a masochist and doing things by hand you mix up the dry goods, cream the butter and sugar, add the dry goods, then add the wet goods. Of course, you pre-mix the flour and the baking powder. Then pre-mix the milk and the vanilla. Oh yeah, if doing by hand then you may want to use powdered sugar. It dissolves and creams a little faster.

If you are using a good mixer like a sensible person, then cream the butter and sugar until they are supple and smooth. Then add the dry stuff – flour, baking powder – and mix it in on low. Then add the milk and vanilla and mix until smooth. Notice – no pre-mix is necessary. You also want to be extra cautious if you use powdered sugar. It tends to go everywhere when the mixer starts. The flour and the milk sometimes do also. You might want to bump the mixer a time or two as you start. I wish Kitchenaid had a soft start. My Cuisinart hand mixer has soft start and it is wonderful.

Either way, dump the batter into the pan, bake at 400°F (200°C) until a toothpick comes out clean. This will be somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes depending on your oven. Mine tends to run around 30 minutes. Cool down still in the pan for about 10 minutes on top of a wire rack. Pop the outer ring off and, leaving the cake on the pan base, cool down completely. If you are not doing something else with the cake you can just leave it on the bottom of the pan.

You now have a proper Victoria Sponge Cake. Traditionally, you just whack and serve. If you want (and have a very steady hand), you can cut it in half and add some preserves in the middle. Apricot and raspberry are traditional (and good). Of course, you can use any preserves or other stuffing that you like. If you are like me, I think that this cake is a bit thin for cutting in half. I would cook a second cake and layer them together. Of course, you will have to shave the top of the bottom cake so the top layer will sit flat. Oh well, the cook gets the leftover top goodie. It’s good to be the cook. You can also sprinkle some powdered sugar on the outside if you like.

Custard is also used as a stuffer. A dollop of whipped cream has been known to be used for a topping.

As a note: a real purist would not use vanilla extract, but heat the milk and then soak a scored vanilla bean in it.

Impressions of the San Diego ACR – 2013

22 July 16

To an old HVAC engineer ACR means something entirely different – but here it means American College of Rheumatology.

The good: I got to meet a bunch of herself’s web buddies. Mostly beautiful women. A couple of guys, but mostly, I remember the women. The thing that so many people don’t seem to do is to look into rather than just at. Now, the at was pretty damn good. Mostly the gals you read on the RA Warrior blog are just lovely. But the into. Wow. Incandescently gorgeous. What most don’t seem to realize is the amount of strength and guts it takes for these people to just get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other every day. So, not only are these gals babes, not only are they intelligent and funny, but they are some of the most courageous people you will ever meet. (Guys too, just not my cup.)

The bad. Deep sigh. You would think that at an ACR conference there would be very little ignorance about RA. Deeper sigh. There is. Lots. Let us firstly understand that the way these beautiful, gutsy people made it here and put on a smiling face and functioned is – tada: THEY WERE DOPED TO THE GILLS. Most of them were on some sort of Prednisone taper, and even so, paid one hell of a price in pain every day. But – there were even doctors who seemed to be totally ignorant of the reality of RA. One guy even mashed hands and fingers without permission and stated, “You couldn’t have RA – your hands are not bad enough.” Jackass. I say that advisedly. I can see a layman with that level of ignorance. BUT A RHEUMATOLOGIST!!?? That’s really a bad.

The ugly. Well. I only heard one set of the speeches, the set that Herself was in (no surprise). One of the speakers positively chirped in a totally cheerful way about the strong need for diet and exercise. Also did not seem to draw any lines between RA and OA. …Gotta change that name. OK. A little common sense here. Speaker – let me see you get up and do a brisk two-mile walk when there are knives in your feet. Oh, swimming??? Good idea!! Wonderful exercise. First – let’s find a local pool that is not too cold for use with RA. Most pools are swimming pools – temp somewhere at 85⁰F OR LESS. What the RA Warrior needs is at least 88⁰F, preferably 92⁰F. There is no way an athletic swimmer can tolerate that range. There is no way an RA Warrior can handle less than 88⁰F. Looks like exercise might be a little tough for the RA people. My observation: every time useful exercise is attempted it takes three days to recover. This is known as a net loss. OK – diet. Easy enough. Just – oh, wait a minute, is this the one or two days a week that methotrexate DOESN’T have the guts totally torn up? Lemme tell you sumtin. As the caretaker and cook, I will fix whatever Herself can get down and keep down most of the time. And that is a bloody moving target. It can change half an hour before dinner. Now – I may have a real bad attitude, but on the days when something CAN be eaten I’m going to cook what is a treat and tastes good. And the food Nazis can go to hell. You know the medical diet? If it tastes good – spit it out. Nope. Mostly I cook what will stay down, and the mayor of New York can go to hell on the days when good food can be used. What is really ugly is that was a real RA pro.

Conclusion: It was good, mostly. But I despair of the state of things when that level of ignorance was the best we’ve got. Kelly, babe, keep on educating as hard as you can. It is needed.

Lest I forget – I did meet a whole bunch of really good docs. I don’t want to leave the impression that there are not some really top notch people involved in RA. There are. Doctors and researchers and so forth, oh my. I suppose the majority of the people there were (are) actively as involved as they can be in trying to fight this horror. God, please bless the good ones.

Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms with Walnut Dressing

22 July 16
1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 lb mushrooms
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
1 Tbs minced shallot
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp whole-grain or Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbs mirin

 

Trim the stems of the Brussels sprouts and cut a cross in the base. Steam the sprouts and the mushrooms together for 8 to 10 minutes until the sprouts are tender.

Meanwhile, whisk oil, shallot, juice, mustard, walnuts, mirin. Add salt and pepper to taste if you think it needs it, but I find that it really doesn’t. Really works well with shaking in a capped jar if you’d rather do that than whisk. Sometimes whisking chopped nuts is a bit of a pill.

Drain the veggies well, rough chop and serve with the dressing.

Ecuadorian Salsa

16 May 14

After trying the original recipe we had found, and then adjusting the recipe through several trials, we found this variation to be our top preference. It is a raw, rather than cooked, salsa, and is just delicious. Himself does the rough-chopping and dicing, while Herself sits at the table and uses the food processor.

1 cup diced raw carrots
1 med cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 cup diced bell pepper (preferably red or orange)
1 large onion, sweet, diced
2 each tomatoes, large, juicy deseeded and chopped
3 each garlic tooths, chopped
10 sprigs sprigs parsley (leaves only), up to — 15 sprigs to taste
Salt, freshly ground, to taste (Pink Himalayan is best)
1 cup Lime juice (Key Lime juice works really well) (yes, that is one CUP – use more or less to your taste)
1 cup Clamato juice (more or less) to taste
5 drops Tabasco sauce (more or less) to taste (optional)
4 shakes Cayenne pepper (more or less) to taste

 

CarrotsCukesBellPepOnionGarlic

CarrotsCukesBellPepOnionGarlic

1. Blend chopped tomatoes, diced onions, chopped garlic, seeded, chopped cucumber, diced carrots and diced bell pepper in a food processor to desired consistency. We like the consistency a little rough, while the original recipe called for using a blender and liquefying the ingredients. Make it however you like it. The food processor Herself likes to use is the smaller one, so each item is processed separately and then all are mixed together in a large bowl.

 

2. Mix well in a large bowl.

3. Add lime (or Key Lime) juice, Clamato juice, salt, Cayenne pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Use less Lime juice and Clamato juice if you prefer a dryer salsa.

Added Tomatoes & Parsley

Added Tomatoes & Parsley

 

4. Check seasoning and adjust. (Keep in mind that chips will be salty.)

5. Serving suggestions: serve with corn chips as an appetizer, or as a side with grilled chicken or a grilled, mild fish (like tilapia), or with grilled salmon.

Cooking Tip: Do not use Italian tomatoes, too dry.

Author Note: The original Ecuadorian Salsa recipe called for no additional liquids other than a few tsp of lime juice. The original recipe also called for smaller amounts, with all ingredients to be blended to a smooth consistency. It is a much drier salsa. It also does not call for cucumber – but we really like the flavor it imparts.

Second Author Note: The nice thing about “folk” recipes is that every family makes them a little differently, so if you want to make yours differently from this, feel free!

Mixed and Repacked Keeps well in refrigerator up to 7 days (that's as long as we have ever been able to keep it)

Mixed and Repacked
Keeps well in refrigerator up to 7 days (that’s as long as we have ever been able to keep it – we eat it too fast!)

 

Third Author Note: If you prefer cilantro, use that instead of parsley – we just don’t much like cilantro. Sometimes we substitute fresh basil from the herb garden Herself works on. Nice change of taste.

Set Out for Eating

Set Out for Eating

O YUMMM

O YUMMM

Almond Fish

30 September 13
    Fish
2 fillets delicate white fish
2 Tbs soft butter
2 Tbs finely minced onion
2 Tbs finely minced celery
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
4 grinds fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp sweet paprika
    Almond Sauce
2 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs slivered blanched almonds
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs parsley flakes

You’ve heard of Trout Amandine – well – this is not it – exactly. The old amandine is a breaded and fried sort of deal. This is broiled and much more delicate. The dredged in flour or whatever and fried is called meunière by the French. It means miller’s wife and is both the way of cooking and a sauce. The cooking is à la meunière. The sauce is just browned butter, chopped parsley, and lemon juice. In other words – Southern fried with lemon butter and parsley. See – it just sounds fancy and elegant in French. Trout Amandine is just trout à la meunière with an almond crusting. Other things that work wonderfully amandine are potatoes, green beans, and asparagus – I’ll write them up one of these days.

Back on topic (maybe) – this will work nicely for just about any delicately flavored fish, either fresh or salt water type. If the fish is frozen just let it thaw about halfway or so. If it is fresh just make sure things are nicely filleted.

Mince the onion and celery. The easy way is to throw it into a small food processor and hit high speed for a minute. Then add the butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and paprika to the onion and celery and blend together well. Spread the mix over the fillets and run under a hot broiler, about 4 to 6 inches from the heat. Broil for 10 minutes or until the fish is flaky but do not overcook. You don’t want brown, just done through (barely).

While the oven magic is happening melt the rest of the butter in your small skillet, then brown the almonds. When the butter and almonds are brown but not burned remove from the heat and add the lemon.

Plate the fish, pour the almonds and liquid over them, and garnish with a bit of chopped parsley.

{HERSELF SEZ: I really do prefer a fish that is crispy on the edge – or, in this case, leave mine in a few more minutes – until it is at least just a little browned!}

Moron Simple Country French Soup

21 September 13

This is Anthony Bourdain’s basic French inspired country style mushroom soup. It is about as simple and moron-proof as it can get. The only thing easier is to open a can. And believe me – this is mucho better. There are only 3 very minor gotcha’s to look for. I’ll tell you that the first and worst gotcha’ is that it has to simmer for an hour, uninterrupted. The others I’ll tell you about on the way.

There are several pluses to this – not the least of which is that it tastes delicious.

6 Tbs butter
1 each onion, thinly sliced
12 oz button mushrooms, halved (if whole) or pre-sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1 sprig parsley
2 oz sherry
    salt and pepper

Slice up the onion, heat up a couple of Tbs of the butter in a 3 quart saucepan, and slowly sweat the onions until they are tender and soft. Second gotcha’ – do not let the onions brown. If you do you might as well start over again.

Add the rest of the butter and the mushrooms. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and tender. A little mushroom liquid remaining is ok, you don’t have to boil it all off.

Add chicken stock and parsley. I think Bourdain recommends flat parsley, we mostly have curly and it comes out just fine. When things come to a boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and let her go for an hour, uncovered. The occasional stir doesn’t hurt a thing.

Here is the third gotcha: You’ve got to puree. There are a couple of ways to go here. If you’ve got a good immersion blender – go that way. You could also use a food processor. I use a blender and the gotcha is that you had better be holding the lid down with everything you’ve got and no more than ¼ full. Unless it is a really gentle start a powerful blender is going to try to lift that lid and put soup all over the kitchen ceiling, getting you and the counter and anything else in the way for fun. Trust me – hold that lid down and do batch processing.

Return the soup to the saucepan and bring it back to a simmer. Add the sherry – do use reasonably good stuff, not cooking sherry. Turn the heat off, and salt and pepper to your taste.

For the adventurous, suicidal, or knowledgeable: Yeah, sure, you can add some or all wild mushrooms. Just don’t use stuff that is really strong other than in small amounts – this is a beautiful, delicate soup and too much stout wild taste would kill it.


%d bloggers like this: