I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, 'wouldn't it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?' So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe. – M. Cole
This weekend we made a chicken vindaloo. This was from the Saveur magazine recipe and it just wasn’t quite what I had grown used to in most indian restaurants. What the recipe produced was a chicken and potato curry stew but not much of the vinegar tang that I like in vindaloo. So I ended up taking a can of tomato sauce (I didn’t have tomato paste) and cooking it down with a bit of balsamic vinegar to get the flavor profile I wanted. Then it came pretty close to what I was wanting. We had this with jasmine rice.
We’ve also been trying some new alcohols lately. With our Indian meal, we tried a new cream liqueur called Somrus. This stuff is delicious! It has a wonderful mix of cardamom, rose, and other exotics. It’s built on a rum base. We made a lassi and poured some in. My spouse just poured some over a brownie, which he has found very good.
We also tried a new wine, Macaw Tannat from Brazil. This is a nice simple red wine. The grape is supposedly notoriously tannic but this wasn’t bad at all. It’s nothing complex or expensive but a decent table wine.
We also tried a mixed six pack of beers from a local microbrewery, Howling Henry’s. Pretty good beers, and one really odd but good one, Basil Onion Pale Ale. This is one of the few beers I’ve had that I’d consider savory, the others being Shock Top’s Twisted Pretzel beer (alas, discontinued) and Dogfish Brewing’s Ta Henket, the Egyptian beer. This would be great in a beer bread.
Lastly, I’ve been stressed out about work and have been hiding by watching a lot of TV. We watched the first of the Mythica movies which was a lot of fun. This is what D&D movies should be. All the way around a perfectly decent sword and sorcery movie with amazingly decent CGI. This was partly funded by a Kickstarter request. Unfortunately, it has Kevin Sorbo in it, who has become a Christian twit in his “God is not dead” type movies, but he’s not bad looking. In the first, he’s only on screen for about 10 minutes.
I’ve been looking for a new craft to try. I’m not much of an artistic type; generating artsy things isn’t my best ability, though I can copy pretty well. I first came upon pour painting when you make paintings from various techniques of pouring, tilting and smearing paint. That’s pretty neat but It takes some space and a lot of paint. I’ll wait til the warmer months to try that.
Then I found alcohol inks which are even brighter and you can do them small scale with even less talent, at least in my case. I decided to try this in making some switchplates for my newly remodeled kitchen. The other is a ceramic tile. It’s an odd craft, I think better for someone who is happy with what chance does than any intent, though I’ve seen some folks who can really control the ink. I haven’t got that talent yet, and maybe never.
And for the alcohol in the beers. We got another mixed six from our local distributor, three were worth mentioning.
Doc G’s Orange Blossom Wheat: a nice wheat beer with a marmalade/cooked orange taste. It’s not very sweet at all, which makes easy to drink. DuBois (prounced doo-boyse) is a town here in PA.
I’m also sitting here watching “Cast a Deadly Spell”, something I’ve watched quite a few time, but I still love it. It’s a mixed genre movie with a hard boiled detective who was in the “war”, a dame, and lots of magic, including WWII gremlins, and the Necronomicon. And speaking of the Necronomicon, we also started watching Ash vs. the Evil Dead, a series on Starz. It’s as graphic, blood and sex, as you might expect from Starz, but it is pretty damn funny. I do love Bruce Campbell.
We are a week into the Great Kitchen Remodel of 2017. The kitchen (and the small bathroom just off it) has been gutted to the studs. One of the guys doing the work (and they are really talented) said plaintively “Why did you use so MANY nails mr. guy from the early 20th century!) This was mostly in plaster and lathe, and as the project manager has said, just about every other known wall material. The folks who made this house sure did get creative with reusing materials.
In case you are terribly curious on what an ugly worn out kitchen looks like (and our long ago attempts to make it nicer), and what it looks like gutted, feast your eyes. Since my spouse and I grew up on farms, we find the gutted room rather comforting with all of the old and dark rough wood.
We are, of course, living on sandwiches, microwave meals, and take out. Happily, the contractors were able to move our fridge and plug it in again so at least we have that. Along with some Chinese food, we got a mixed six-pack to try.
River Horse Belgian Freeze – I got this because it had a hippo on it, and they fascinate me with just how cranky and deadly they are. It’s a good starter Belgium ale, not too sweet and not too high in alcohol. I’m of course one of those who likes the Rochefort and Delierium Tremens ales.
Innis & Gunn Original – This is from Scotland, an oak aged scotch ale. Very complex and a bit sweet, you’d not want too many of them in a sitting but definitely worth getting one.
Thomas Creek Brewery Banana Split Chocolate Stout – a brewery out of South Carolina, this is a stout that has been brewed with dried bananas. Very good, but not exactly a banana split, which I associate with having many more confused flavors. Good banana flavor. A great beer for the colder months. Reminds me of a dopplebock with a hit of the banana phenols.
Saucony Creek Maple Mistress – one of the few spiced beers that I could actually tastes the spices. This has a very nice hit of nutmeg and it came through very clearly when I was eating my crab Rangoon.
DuClaw Sweet Baby Java – this is a riff on the Sweet Baby Jesus chocolate peanut butter beer which tastes like a Mr. Goodbar (a Hershey’s product of chocolate and peanuts). Good but not appreciably different from the original.
That’s all! Three more weeks to go!
(fair warning to anyone who has happened here and might wish to follow the blog. It often has my entirely unvarnished political and cultural opinions on it. If you don’t want to read those, avoid anything titled “not so polite dinner conversation”. )
I haven’t had a food and drink post for awhile. A handful of weeks ago we decided to see if we could grill whole Cornish hens on our small barreled shaped grill. We didn’t want to butterfly them which would be simpler, but to have a little whole chicken for each of us.
Many years ago, I was a member of a medieval recreation group called the Society of Creative Anachronism. I was friends with some folks who were part of a somewhat parallel group called the Tuchux, a group that recreated fantasy barbarians, and got their name from the rather atrocious Gor books by John Norman (very bad fantasy of a fellow who ends up on a alien planet where his fantasies of submissive women come true). They are quite a bit more egalitarian than the Gor nonsense and were some coolest people I ever met in my sojourn in the SCA (it’s been about a decade since I’ve had any contact with the SCA). At one of their Yule Feasts that I was kindly invited to, we each got a small loaf of fresh bread and a roasted Cornish hen and it was the best feast I think ever had. I wanted to recreate that.
We managed to do so by putting a pile of charcoal on both side of the grill aka indirect grilling and putting the chooks between them for about 45 minutes and then moving them over the dying coals to crisp up the skin for about 15 minutes at the end. I do recommend getting the biggest charcoal chimney as you can get because then you never have to worry about having lighter fluid or having that nasty taste on their food. We use brown craft paper to light ours since some inks smoke like crazy.
Like most regions, humans come up with foods that are beloved locally but pretty much unknown outside of a day’s travel. I grew up in western PA which has this stuff called Reymer’s Blennd. This is a orange and lemon fruit based syrup that you mix with water to your taste.
It’s been around for a long time and now is made by Byrnes & Kiefer (B&K) Manufacturing, in Callery, PA, just north of Pittsburgh. It is a bit hard to get a hold of, (horrors, amazon doesn’t carry it!) but one can still get it in various grocery stores in western PA. I have yet to find a place that you can order it from online, without paying a crazy amount for it or having to get an industrial sized quantity.
Blennd is a unique thing. Orange juice concentrate and lemon juice are its flavorings (it contains 15% actual juice, and it’ll give you quite a hit of vitamin C). Despite the acidity of these, Blennd doesn’t have a harsh aftertaste like a lot of juice based beverages, that are marketed as healthy or for kids. Something that is close to the taste, and is a wider distribution is Turkey Hill’s Haymaker Punch in the lemon flavor. If you’ve read the Little House on the Prairie books, you’ll recognize that punch as something Laura and Pa drank when working in the fields. Along the lines of these types of drinks are shrubs, which are vinegar and fruit syrups that one mixes with water. We also indulge in just vinegar to sip, and have tried a lot of infused ones.
Blennd has a very smooth consistency, thanks to some of the chemical thickeners in it (sodium hexametaphosphate, xanthan gum and propylene glycol) . And it has high-fructose corn syrup, which may frighten some people, but heck, if this is going to harm a human, I certainly should be feeling some effects thanks to the gallons of Blennd I’ve drank over the years. It was the go-to drink for any church picnic or family reunion, kool-aid was a distant second. An aunt had a huge galvanized steel drink cooler that found its way everywhere from the barn when hay was being baled, to weddings. I probably got my zinc quotient for my entire life from that thing.
Since we hadn’t had it in a while, I asked my parents to bring some along when they visited recently. And since we have quite a full liquor cabinet, I decided to figure out what was the best mixer. I think anejo tequila is the best (I use Lunazul) since it works well with the citrus flavor. Vodka is a close runner up, and Blennd really hides the alcohol, which can be a good or bad thing. Bourbon is okay, but reminiscent of a rather redneck blend of Mountain Dew soda and whatever kind of whiskey one might have. And rum makes what amounts to a very smoothly textured variant on a daquiri.
Blennd, along with chip chopped ham (a loaf of ham bits sliced raggedly and as thin as possible), are archetypical of the western tail end of Appalachia. For me, it’s comfort food. Indulging in a bit of nostalgia can be a remedy for how crazy the world is.
We also made a new beer kit. The kit was Northern Brewers White House Honey Porter kit (ours was a partial mash and it seems they only have the extract kit now). This was from a recipe from the White House during President Obama’s first term (I think) when it was nattered about having a beer with the president. It is a very good porter, but I honestly can’t tell that honey has anything to do with it. Ours is as dark and transparent as a cola soda. A definite one to make again. And a reminder that there can be decent people as president and not that orange idiot that we have now.
I also bought NBs Don’t be Mean to People: A Golden Rule saison kit. They got together with a bunch of North Carolina breweries to make this to point out that North Carolina’s HB 2 was pure discrimination against the LGBT (and I’m sure I’m missing a few letters) community. NB is donating proceeds from the sales of this kit to the NC LGBT community, which I very much like. Not sure if I’ll brew that soon or if I’ll wait until this fall.
NB also has this nifty, and expensive, toy, a pico brewery! Ah, to have won the lottery and play with this stuff. 🙂
That’s all. Eat and drink well!
(I don’t get any recompense from any of the companies mentioned. I just like their stuff!)
Well, we never made it to the March for Science. I did watch it on CSPAN, and they had pretty good coverage of it. Some of the signs were priceless. I did like the one that read something like “we knew it was going to rain because of science”. I find it terribly weird that some people are offended that anyone dare have fun making the signs and dressing up, seeming to indicate that we all must be the stereotypical scientists with no senses of humor and no lives outside the laboratory.
This is to catch up on some of our gustatory and other adventures over the last few weeks.
On a visit to the grocery store, I found a “prime” top round aka London Broil. Prime generally indicates a cut that has a lot of marbling in it, and that is just a weird thing to claim for top round which is very, very lean. But there are other ways to determine “prime”, so maybe that’s how it works. In any case, my curiosity got the better of me and I bought it since it was on sale. I couldn’t tell it was any more tender than a regular top round (the south end of a north facing cow).
I found a marinade on Saveur’s website. Since I didn’t have fennel, I used some star anise that I’ve had lying around. I generally don’t care for the flavor of anise/licorice but I do like it in combination with other things. Spouse made a very hot fire in the charcoal grill and we had flames licking up around the meat as we like, and grilled it to a nice medium rare. Cut on the bias, it was tolerably tender and had a great flavor. We had it with fried potatoes and onions.
The samoa in the title is the Girl Scout cookie. My spouse *loves* them. They are basically a shortbread cookie covered in caramel, toasted coconut and chocolate. They still are pretty good, though many of the cookies seem to less than what I remember. Of course it could simply be the glow of nostalgia. I, for the record, was a Brownie for about 6 weeks. I was there long enough to make a “sit-a-pon” and then was bored with the antics of little girls. Such is the burden of reading way way early and just not caring who had what doll, etc.
Spouse found a recipe for a “samoa pie”, and asked nicely for one. The recipe came from Averie Cooks, and is a very nice recipe indeed. It is quite the sugar bomb. I think it is better than the cookies. It is also very close to the circa 80’s Seven Layer Cookies, but I find it much easier to make since I almost always have the ingredients on hand. I got randomly lucky and the chocolate on top evidently hit the tempering temperature and it ended up shiny. I do recommend baking this on a sheet pan because the sweetened condensed milk got very very close to boiling out of the pie pan. This is very very good with a cup of dark roast coffee with a bit of cream. I’m really enjoying the Gevalia Majestic Roast lately.
As for the wine, we finally got a bottle of Apothic Crush. This is one of their limited editions, and I think for Valentine’s Day. It’s very much like their Red and Dark, velvety and rich, but a bit lighter than both. They are now coming out with a Rose for the spring/summer.
That’s it. Eat and drink well.
Postscript: if you are a new visitor, be warned that the bulk of my posts are my opinions of politics (pragmatic liberal) and religion (hard atheist). If you only want to see the food and drink posts, just pay attention to the titles. They’ll always have “from the kitchen” or “from the bar” on them. Occasionally, you’ll see a “from the back room” which will detail our adventures in home brewing. Visit The Boss’s Office to find out about your host.