From the Kitchen and from the bar – new beers, new food and a tattoo!

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.

During that same shopping, I also found a pair of small beef tenderloins for about half their usual price. They were netted, which indicated that they weren’t holding together well (being three separate muscles).   But they’ll make a treat for beef stroganoff, or just slices of it raw since I tend to like that kind of thing. Continue reading

From the Kitchen and Back Room – Did she really make fresh bao? (and beer and wine?)

bao 012113Being a foodie, I love to try new things. Husband and I have been talking about going on vacation to a city with a good selection of dim sum restaurants.  Being a Firefly fan, I like to try things I see on that dearly departed show.  Now, I’ve a lot of experience with fresh strawberries and “fresh” wine (albeit not from Caylee’s inter-engine fermentation system. For Vel’s fermentation system, see recipe below), but not so much with creating anything but a stir-fry from the Orient.  So, being bored and having some pulled pork in the freezer from a recent meal (this recipe here; very tasty), I decided that making bao could be entertaining. Understand that I’ve never had bao before so we’re working with expectations created by the interwebs.

The recipe for the bao dough comes from here.  The dough is amazingly cooperative, and is not the usual tarbaby I work with.  I cut the dough into the pieces indicated on the blog entry and rolled them out with my regular sized rolling pin, thinning out the edges with my fingers. For the filling, I took my pulled pork, moistened it with hoisin sauce, tamarind concentrate and a squirt of sriracha.  Sorry, no strict amounts, just make it moist. The pork is cooked so you can taste as you go.  Warning, if the filling is too moist, it’ll simply squirt everywhere when you go to seal up the bao.

Note:  (added a bit later on 1/21)  I used my old metal steamer, the one that looks like a radar dish when spread out.  I put it in a large pot (the stewpot from a standard set) so it was mostly flat.  I then put a sheet of baking parchment paper under each bao.  Worked like a charm.  But watch, the “radar dish” likes to tip, so put the bao on across from each other to balance.

Now for the results, they are very, very good. At least, I think so again with nothing to compare it to.  The steaming leaves a lacquered shine on the bao, and the dough becomes slightly chewy, but still spongy and fluffy.  The flavor of the dough is very clean and fresh, and I think that’s because it has no salt in it.  Most folks from the western cultures aren’t used to having no salt in their bread-type products.  As the Stresscake blog entry says, they keep nicely in the freezer.  They also microwave well after cooked, if nuked for about 10 seconds.  They worked so well, I am definitely getting the cookbook they came from: Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen.

This weekend we’ve also made another Brewer’s Best kit, Belgian Golden Ale.  Don’t see it on their website anymore, so I don’t know if they may have ceased production of it.  There will be a post about it when it finishes up.

And now for Vel’s “fresh” wine.  I had thought I had posted about this, but the search function on the blog isn’t bringing it up.  For quick and dirty “fresh” wine, use grape juice that has no preservatives; frozen is your best bet.  We use Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast since it’s damn near impossible to kill.  Basic recipe is below.  We don’t bother using the acid blend, pectic enzyme or yeast nutrient.  Juice, water, yeast and sugar will get you on your way.  You’ll need a fermentation lock and a gallon jug.  I *much* prefer the three piece which you can see here (no association with merchant, they just have a great picture of the things.)

2 cans (11.5 oz) 100% frozen grape concentrate (check label for no preservatives)
1-1/4 lbs granulated sugar
2 tsp acid blend
1 tsp pectic enzyme
1 tsp yeast nutrient
water to make 1 gallon
wine yeast

Bring 1 quart water to boil and dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add frozen concentrate. Add additional water to make one gallon and pour into jug. Add remaining ingredients. Fit airlock. When clear, rack (pour or siphon off what’s clear into another bottle), top up and refit airlock. After additional 30 days, stabilize (Campden tablets are a preservative and are found at home brewing places) sweeten if desired and rack into bottles. My suggestion is just be ready to drink it.  It’s fresh, you know.