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
Back to some fun stuff. I found a recipe for German buttercream frosting on Serious Eats, one of my favorite food sites. This stuff is very good, not too sweet, and full of tasty tasty fat! I recently made a spice buy at Penzey’s, my favorite socially concious spice merchant, and used my new vanilla beans. I did end up using salted butter which was noticeable but fine on a chocolate cake, rather like the salted caramel craze. I just used a boxed chocolate cake mix.
I honestly can’t frost a cake worth crap. but it tastes good.
This weekend we are going to return to an old recipe, the blue cheese tart. This time we are going to grab a rotisserie chicken and add the shredded meat to the tart. Should be tasty!
I’ve been watching “The Terror” on AMC. It’s a horror tale about the failed expedition to find the Northwest Passage back in the 1840s based on this book. Generally I’m not big horror fan, still having nightmares from watching “Alien”. But this show grabbed me somehow. There’s lots of blood, cannibalized bodies, etc, but the characters are interesting. I very much enjoyed it. It’d make a great Cthulhu tale if one just added a few tentacles.
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 made a loaf of bread that has all of the holes in it I wanted. It only took more than a decade since I’ve first started trying baking bread.
I started baking bread since I do love that smell through the house. I started baking the standard sandwich loaf that my grandmother made dozens of loaves of, being a farm wife with 5 kids and the usual helpers. She raised this family back when they were still using draft horses along with tractors.
But I wanted a holey, crispy/crunchy loaf like the French are so good at. And it took a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (publishers of Cook’s Illustrated) to make it. I will admit, I’ve made fun of them for years, wondering why someone would need to cook 50 chickens to get something right. But the method of understand and analyze does work in cooking (as it does in the sciences). I’m guessing that someday that recipe will vanish from KCET’s website, so you may have to become a member of ATK or ask me nicely to get it. 🙂 In the photos, you’ll note that a 500 degree oven just about chars parchment paper.
Yes, it take a bit of time to do. It’s worth it. We ate it with warm triple crème brie, cherry preserves and a fig and olive relish mentioned in this post.
I also made their sticky buns and they are amazing! The use of a cooked water and flour roux, a technique from Asia called tangzhong, makes all of the difference. I’m thinking of subscribing so I can have access to all of these all of the time.
We also made queso fundido. I’ve tried this before and just can’t get the liquid texture I like in restaurant versions. So we stumbled upon Herdez Queso dip and it’s perfect. We heated it in the oven until hot, and topped it with fried chorizo (the fresh kind, not the preserved Spanish kind).
That was dinner with Fritos. I love tortilla chips, especially Xochitl brand since they are so thin, but sometimes a girl has to have her Fritos.
Across the first weekend in September, we went to Longwood Gardens, one of the estates that used to be owned by the DuPont family (the chemical people). This is one of the more famous gardens in the US and is quite beautiful. They just spent $90 million to refurbish the main fountain gardens and were having a series of fountain shows to celebrate. These shows were at night and included colored lights on the fountains, orchestral music and so many fireworks the smoke made the nearly full moon orange. That last salvo made me think of how the Battle of London must have been like.
We chose the night that was going to have the orchestral music we like, Night on Bald Mountain and other dramatic and slightly spooky pieces. I was going to write “No more shows like this for the summer” but they extended the shows! but I do hope they have similar ones next year. The gardens are supposedly fabulous at Christmas time with trees, poinsettias, and fountain shows, though I do suspect it depends on how cold it is to allow those to happen.
The gardens encompass 400 acres (lots of photos below), and some of it is just a grown over field and natural ponds, which amused both of us since we grew up on farms. We had plenty of those to walk through when we were young but they are probably pretty neat to someone who grew up in the city or suburbs. There were some bit that we couldn’t see because they had the fireworks set up in those areas and considering how the show was, it was a *LOT* of explosives.
They are definitely worth seeing if you are within a few hours of south-east/central PA, or come from father away and stay longer and see the cute town of Kennett Square, center of where a lot of mushrooms are grown in PA. We stayed in a very nice bed and breakfast, Inn at Whitewing Farm, a beautiful piece of property off the beaten path but only about 10 minutes from the gardens. We stayed in one of the rooms beside the pond. It did rain like hell for the Saturday we were there, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, and they had to reschedule the fountain show. The Inn was able to accommodate us for an extra night and we thank them mightily for doing so! When we got up early to leave Monday morning, we scared the heck out of some deer helping themselves to the birdfeeders. Just up the road from the inn is Galer Estate Winery, which had some very nice wines, drier than the usual PA sweet ones. There was also this tiny French bakery right at the intersection of E. Doe Run Road and Folly Hill Road; alas they were sold out before we got to them.
Now, before I post the photos, the quick recipe. I discovered that the chimichurri sauce we make for steak is a wonderful base for a curry of all things; that’s handy since we always have some left over. The chimichurri has cilantro, parsley, lime, garlic and hot pepper in it, it just took a little more to make it a curry. I took a half-cup of the sauce, just added a couple of shakes of powdered cinnamon and ginger (I do love Penzey’s for my spices since they do good things), a cup of milk mixed with a ¼ cup of coconut milk powder (I get mine here: importfood.com), threw in a few of frozen raw chicken legs and cooked it until the chicken was falling off the bones. Damn but it was good, and reminded me of a good saag paneer curry but with cilantro taking the place of the spinach…. and chicken taking place of the paneer.
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.
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.