Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

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.


Five-Spice Chicken

13 April 13

OK. I confess. I haven’t been much of a cackle fan over the years. I finally figured it out. 90% of the Americans who cook chickens just don’t take the time to do it right, and the majority of American chicken does not taste like chicken (funny, everything else is supposed to). Mostly American chickens don’t taste at all. Anyway, get free range birds that are not force grown when you can. The taste difference is rather dramatic. Even better – if you are somewhere that you can – raise your own and slaughter them when they are the proper age. We shall serve no bird before its time. (Does anyone else remember Orson Welles doing the wine commercials?) Anyway, Herself is a cackle connoisseur – or a yard-bird yokel, if you prefer, and has convinced me that all cackles are not bad. So now we cackle every now and then.

This is one of those things that can be done several different ways. The marinade can be muchly varied, but this is a very good basic. I’ll do some more elaborate marinades over the next couple of months.

1 Roasting hen – 5 or 6 pounds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots
1-1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
 Nước Mắm – Vietnamese fish sauce (1)
1-1/2 Tbs soy sauce (low sodium is good here)
1-1/2 Tbs dry sherry
Nước Chấm (1)
Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Mince the garlic, shallots, and sugar together. The best way to do this is a mortar and pestle, but you could use a food processor. Get the mix rather fine and add in the salt, pepper, and 5 spice powder and mix together well. Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sherry. A comment about soy sauce: if you use full sodium soy sauce cut the added salt by half or leave it out altogether – that stuff is salty. Gently slide your fingers between the skin and the meat as best you can without tearing the skin. Slip a good bit of the mix in and then rub the rest over the surface of the bird, working it in well. Let things soak at least 4 hours (or overnight) in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can use most any wine you like but the dry sherry is rather traditional Vietnamese.

You can do this three ways that are rather good:

  1. Rotisserie – on the spit for about 1-1/2 hours (my favorite)
  2. Vertical roaster in the oven at 450°F for about 15 minutes and then 350°F for about 1-1/4 hours
  3. Split the bird in half and cook on a grill over medium hot coals skin side down for about 15 minutes, flip and roast another 15 minutes.

No matter which method you use you are trying for done chicken – about 160°F with crisp skin. You will have blackish looking skin, BUT – it should be blackened from the Maillard reaction, not from burning. Let the bird sit for about 10 minutes. If you are using an indoor rotisserie then you can keep the spit turning with no heat. That keeps the juices in while they are being re-absorbed.

This goes nicely with a Nước Chấm (1) (2) dipping sauce. Rice is also handy, as is a side salad. The only disadvantage to this method is that the carcass shouldn’t be used for making soup or stock.

(1) Discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

(2) Another discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

Can She Bake a Cherry Pie, Billy Boy

13 April 13

Well, yeah, if she follows this recipe she can.

1 pie Crust
1 pie Top (optional)
675 g cherries, fresh or frozen (1-1/2 lb.)
160 g sugar (2/3 cup)
110 g water
30 g lemon juice (2 Tbs)
36 g cornstarch (4 Tbs)
1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
Slice of Cherry Pie

Slice of Cherry Pie

For the crust: Make (or buy) a single pie shell for an un-topped pie, or two shells for a covered pie. If you buy them they usually come 2 to a pack. That’s all a matter of what you like. I don’t care for covered pies, too much pastry. On the other side, herself does like them for some odd reason. So – follow what you like. If you make the crust do a quick pre-bake with a chain or some hard beans in the bottom shell. If using a store-bought crust this is not necessary.

For the filling: With fresh cherries be sure to wash, stem and pit. Take a taste and adjust the sugar if they are especially tart. This isn’t usually necessary if using the frozen jobbies, and they are already stemmed and pitted. Put the cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch into a pot big enough to allow some stirring room. Apply a reasonable amount of heat and stir often. Things will probably come to a boil if using fresh cherries. Frozen seem to thicken up before there is a real boil. Don’t worry about things starting up looking a little shy on water. Just keep a close eye on things. As usual, when fruit and sugar are involved with a little heat the liquid increases. Stir and heat until things thicken up a good bit and the cherries soften. Add the extract if you like.

Let the filling cool a little bit and spoon into the shell. Allow for a little expansion as things get hot. Also be aware that there will be just a little shrinkage as things cool back down after cooking. If you are going to put a lid on the pie now is the time. Slash or cut out some pretty shapes for steam vents or you will have a mess. Crimp the top in place. Whether topped or not, cover the edge with foil. (Actually I use a neat silicon edge protector.) Used to be you could tell who made which topped pie by the design in the top. The crimp pattern around the edge was also a good identifier.

Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes, then pull the foil or edge protector off and bake for another 10 or 15 minutes untill the whole crust is a nice golden brown.

If you want a really glossy finish for any topped pie just brush the top with milk or cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar before baking.

Garlic Parmesan Dressing

30 July 11

Garlic Parmesan Dressing

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup apple vinegar
1/4 tsp whole peppercorns
pinch cayenne pepper
3-6 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

The amount of garlic depends on the size and strength of the garlic at hand and how stout you like your garlic dressing. Of course, if you don’t like garlic you won’t want this dressing anyway.

Put everything except the oil into a blender and puree pretty fine. Drizzle the oil in and

blend thoroughly.

This is outstanding with avocado. Just take a nice Haas avocado cut in half lengthwise and the seed removed and fill up the hole with the dressing. Then scoop it up with a spoon, very tasty.

This stuff benefits from sitting and mellowing awhile.

If you want to make this sort of Frenchified just add a blop of Dijon mustard to the mix.

Black pepper

Image via Wikipedia

Herself Sez:  Himself uses Madagascar Tellicherry peppercorns which he orders from Fantes’ Kitchen Wares. They have many excellent items that we use. He orders our usual sea salt for grinding from Salt Works. We also use some of the different sea salts found at Whole Foods. (Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Sea Salt) While Whole Foods is pretty much overpriced and thinks much of itself, it does carry many necessary items.

Focaccia from Poolish

25 December 09

Focaccia is Italian, poolish is Polish by way of Vienna through France. Focaccia is quite well-known in French cooking. The Burgundy region knows it as foisse. Provance and most of the rest of France knows it as fougasse.

Poolish fermentation gives a much fuller flavor to just about any bread, so this is a nice variation. It takes much longer than the simple focaccia recipes that can be whipped together in almost no time at all. But – longer fermentation generally means more flavor – and so it is here.

Focaccia is quite ancient. It goes back past ancient Rome to either Etruscan or Greek roots. There are as many variations as there are cooks. You can use herb infused oil. You can add meaty toppings. You can add sweet toppings. You can treat it like pizza dough or sandwich bread. It is frequently served as a side and dipped into olive oil. You can do anything you like with this basic recipe. This is pretty much a large flat bread. The recipe can be scaled up or down to your needs.


188 g bread flour (1-1/4 cups)
180 g water (3/4 cups)
1/8 tsp yeast (a good pinch from a standard pack)


all poolish
200 g bread flour (1-1/3 cups)
7 g salt (1 tsp)
the rest of the yeast package
45 g olive oil (3 Tbs)
90 g water (3/8 cup)
60 g Herb Oil (1/4 cup)

—–Herb Oil—–

120 g olive oil (1/2 cup)

—–Poolish —–

Mix the flour and water with a good pinch of yeast until it is all incorporated. Cover and let rise overnight.

If you are going to make an herb-infused oil now would be a good time to warm the oil and add the herbs. Crush the herbs with a mortar and pestle as needed and dump them into the warm oil to soak overnight is the simplest way.

—– Dough —–

Mix everything together for 3 minutes on low speed and then 3 minutes on second speed. If you are masochistic enough to mix by hand then just keep stirring until you arm falls off. It is too sticky a dough to be kneaded.

—– Stretching, Folding, Forming —–

Turn out onto a heavily floured work surface. Flour the upper surface and pat it out into a large rectangle. Stretch and fold in half, then fold the side in by thirds. Pat the folded sandwich down so that it is about the original size and thickness. Lube the top with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap.

  1. Ferment 30 minutes. Repeat above procedure, folding opposite direction from before.
  2. Ferment 30 minutes. Repeat above procedure, folding opposite direction from before.
  3. Ferment 30 minutes. Repeat above procedure, folding opposite direction from before.

Place the sandwich onto a jelly roll pan lined with oiled parchment paper and lube well with oil. A double recipe takes a 17” x 12” pan. Use a pan sized to your batch.

Ferment one hour.

Pour 1/4 cup of oil (infused if you are using it). With only your finger tips poke the dough down and spread it out without getting it too thin. You do NOT want to flatten that last rise. The dough should pretty well fill your pan and be dimpled all over where your finger tips have pushed into it.


Photo from “Flour on My Face” blog by Arlene Mobley

Ferment 2 hours, covered with plastic wrap.

Add some more oil and poke it down if it looks like it needs it. Sprinkle with salt to your liking. Add any doo-dads that you want. If there are any really big, thin bubbles you might as well pop them now.

—– Baking —–

Preheat the oven to 500°F. When you put the dough into the oven then lower the temp to 450°F. After 10 minutes turn the pan if your oven does not cook evenly. Total cooking 20 to 25 minutes. So if you rotated the dough give it another 10 to 15 minutes. What you want is about 200°F at the center of the bread. Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before indulging. This – by the way – is what is called baking in a falling oven. This is an attempt to mimic the action of the old stone ovens – quite historical, actually.

If you are using toppings that burn you might want to add them during the last few minutes of cooking. If you are doing an infusion with your oil do try to use fresh herbs. They work better. A real traditional would be some onions, some olives, some garlic, all chopped up and slowly infused overnight.

Yeah – this is where the pizza joints got their idea for their bread sticks.

{Herself Sez: I LOVE focaccia! I like the rich, olive-oiliness of it, and the flavor of the herbed oil that I dip it in. It’s a good thing the Ol’ Curmudgeon only makes it in half-batches, and freezes it in small-serving sizes. That keeps me from eating it too fast. (I’d eat it all – ALL – at one sitting, given the opportunity!) The Ol’ Curmudgeon doesn’t like it very much, so he makes it just for me. It is such a warm, rich experience being cherished this much! Kind of like focaccia dipped in warm herbed oil!}

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