Sunday, August 31, 2008

DB and BB

I know, I've missed all the recent challenges. I'll have plenty of stuff to try later to catch up. Which I will do. After I get settled. And get a house. And unwind. Well, making all this stuff will probably be part of the unwinding.

Right now all I have to cook is my toaster oven, microwave, electric kettle and electric wok. My prep is done at a bathroom sink. I probably won't make the September ones either. I haven't really found a grocery store I'm happy with yet. But I haven't really looked because I've been busy and had other stuff to worry about. I have gone to the Lenoir Farmers market, which was OK but rather small.

Today I went to the Charlotte farmer's market. That was rather impressive. It was big with lots of farms each having their own stands. As you walked by the cantaloupes you could smell them. Same with the peaches. I bought more stuff than I should have since I just have one of those tiny cube fridges that is already almost full. If I had been thinking I would have taken a pic with my new cell phone that has a camera but I'm not that smart. One day I'll do some more exploring of Charlotte. And I'll get a GPS. And a lot of other things. But not today.

Anyway, I'll catch up eventually.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Getting Married

This post on The Paupered Chef is awesome. Getting married is not about sappy lovey dovey garbage that falls apart not long after the wedding. It's about tax savings, reduced car insurance, better health insurance and gifts! Getting all sorts of kitchen gear is totally a reason to get married, though I think I'd rather just buy it myself. I feel bad for people who think it's about all that sappy stuff because then they have nothing left at the end of it whereas I'd have money and everything I can imagine in the kitchen.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

All sorts of stuff

I know, it's been a while. I had a nice streak of about 2 months with at least 1 hit here, May 28th to be exact, and then I stopped.... well that streak got broken on August 8th. But I have a good excuse!

I didn't have any form of internet access for a week! From 8/10-15 I had nothing! It was disturbing. On the 15th I got internet access at work. Though that was Friday afternoon and I wasn't exactly going in to work on the weekend. But today I finally got internet access at home!!!

By home I mean the place that I am staying until I find a place. I am renting a suite off a house that this old lady owns. She makes the bed and replaces towels and stuff like a hotel. There is a lot more space than a hotel room and there are no extended stay hotels here so it's better than the hotels around.

But there are a few quirks. She is I guess a typical old southern woman. She is very conservative and friendly.

I got here Sunday night and was really sick so I got some food and went to sleep. The next day was my first day of work. That was a rough day. I was so congested I could barely hear when people talked to me. Then I looked at houses after work. So I got home and I was tired. I as pretty much just going to fall asleep. Then she came down. She offered to help me unpack. By offered to help I mean she started going through my stuff and putting it places. Pretty much I was forced to put everything somewhere where she couldn't see it. Then she sat down and just wanted to hang out for a while.

I was rather concerned after this. I like going home to an empty house. I like to go home and just sit down and relax. I don't want to talk. I don't want to entertain anyone. I don't want to be nice. Maybe I'll turn on the TV. Maybe I'll play with my computer. Maybe I'll make dinner. Maybe I'll go to bed. Maybe I'll sit and stare blankly at the wall. The point is, these are all activities I like to do by myself. And she was getting in the way of this.

Fortunately she stayed away for the next few days. While I can deal with people every once in a while, having her around all the time when I got home might have been a deal breaker.

Work has been hectic. Let's just say they don't really believe in a break in period. So I am running around all day at work and then looking at houses at night. And then stupidly watching the olympics until way too late (meaning past 10) at night. That's why I don't have cable!

Anyway, now I can catch up on reading blogs and stuff. I probably won't have many blog posts since I don't have a kitchen, though I do have my toaster oven, microwave, electric kettle, electric wok and a tiny mini fridge. I have my stand mixer too though I haven't taken it out yet... that probably won't come out until after I have chosen a house. I do my prep on the bathroom counter and then bake in the toaster oven, haha. So far this is what I have made: burgers (on foil in the toaster oven), brownies, tomato salad, egg salad and lots of sandwiches. I am sick of sandwiches. I don't think I had this many sandwiches in the last year before I came here. But I am wary of the eating out options and I think I would get sick of those quickly if I ate them more than 3 or 4 times a week. Well, after I get this house thing settled I'll be able to relax and cook some stuff myself.... hopefully.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fresh Pasta

My going away party was last Wednesday. I decided to have it at the Lazy Dog Coffeehouse in Minersville, just to mix things up a little. We were sticking with Amigo's for most of the going away dinners and I just wanted something different.

It's a cute little place. I had gone with Karthik there a few weeks ago and found it's probably the nicest casual place in town. A lot more modern in design and feel than the other places around here, most of which haven't redecorated since the 70's. It was a good night.

A lot of people showed up. We filled the place. For a while we were literally the only people in the restaurant. You could tell they don't do a lot of large parties and they had some small logistical issues. It happens.

Anyway, they gave me a few going away presents. The group got me a set of Kitchenaid attachments with the pasta maker, meat grinder and slicer/shredder. Now keep in mind I was planning on baking the cookies, the dough was in the bowl from the mixer in the fridge, cleaning the bowl and packing it up. Well that obviously didn't happen.

I had been diligently working at finishing off stuff in the fridge. But I still had some ground turkey, shimp, eggs and butter in the fridge, among other things. This was more than I could eat in a couple days.

Well I decided to make fresh pasta on Thursday. I left work at 4, came home and started all sorts of prep and a few of my coworkers came over for dinner.

I just used the recipe for a basic dough that came with the attachments. It was flour, an egg and a little water. Knead, rest and extrude. Well for some reason I felt the dough needed to come together more so I kept adding water until it was the consistency of pizza dough. I fed it through the extruder and I got these long strands. Only trouble was, all the strands instantly stuck together. So I added some flour and re-extruded. I also sprinkled flour as it was coming out. It took a whole bunch of passes but eventually I got it all out and separated into strands.

Fresh Pasta
Recipe is the one from the Kitchenaid book that came with the attachments, with my commentary on what not to do

Assemble the pasta maker according to the instructions (note that it comes with the extruder screw, mixing piece and 2 of the dies already installed, I spent 20 minutes yelling at the box that I couldn't find the auger)

Measure 2 3/4 cups flour, sifted into the bowl of your stand mixer.

Add 3 large eggs. Mix with the paddle until integrated.

Add 2 tablespoons of water. Dough will be very dry. Do not add more water (to try to get it to come together, your pasta will just stick when you extrude it and you will end up adding more and more flour). It probably should just come together.

Let it rest for 15 minutes.

Extrude. Dust it with flour as it's coming out to keep it from sticking. Separate all the strands as you go.

Cook in a pot of boiling salted water. When the noodles float, they are done. Take out and toss in sauce to let it soak up all the yummy goodness.


Turkey meat sauce
If you can even call this a recipe

Brown 1 lb ground turkey (or beef or the limbs of small children, whatever makes you happy). Drain off any excess fat. Add 1 jar of tomato sauce. I used a jar of stuff I got from Aldi's, I forget what it was called exactly. Simmer until the pasta is ready.

Shrimp garlic butter sauce (scampi maybe?)
This is why I don't name recipes

Use a big hunk of herb butter, I had about 6 tbsp in the freezer that I threw in the pan on low and got the butter melted. If you don't have herb butter you could add dried parsley at this point or fresh parsley right at the end. Chop up about 4 cloves of garlic as fine as you have the patience for. Add the garlic to the pan. I used this garlic butter to make garlic knots, added more butter and proceeded. Feel free to skip that step, whatever makes you happy.

Turn the pan up to medium and add about 1 lb of peeled shrimp. No tails on the shrimp; who wants to pick tails out of their pasta? Turn them over when they just start to turn pink. Oh and add salt and pepper at some point too. Probably when you first throw them in. Take the shrimp out so they don't overcook. Add a glug or 2 of white wine and simmer. When the pasta is ready toss it in the butter sauce and add the shrimp back. Toss so that everything gets buttery and good.

For those of you working with extruders, it is a standard 3:1.5 (not quite sure if that terminology is correct, I've only seen x:1 but the flight length is 1 inch, the diameter is 1.5 inches and there are 3 flights so I decided that's how it is denoted) screw with a deeply grooved barrel. There is an optional mixing section, which is put on only for certain products. There are both plastic and metal dies, I have not tested both yet to see differences in behavior. I haven't established how much of a difference the mixing section makes yet either. All in due time..... I have been informed that I will need to optimize the process and create directives.....

And for those of you not working with extruders.... it really make sense, I swear!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The all so popular Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been rather busy lately so I haven't been able to keep up with all the food blogs that I used to read. My Google Reader has been at 1000+ for weeks now and I suspect I will never catch up without just hitting mark all as read on everything.

For those of you who do not already know, this is what is going on with me. I had been looking for a new job, which is how I started getting behind on my Reader in the first place. Well I got a job and have quit my current job. I will be moving to North Carolina next week. Yup. I will become a Southerner.

By moving I mean I will be going down there and looking for a place. Hopefully that will happen relatively quickly. This will be a bit of an ordeal because I am planning on buying a place and given how I am, choosing a place will be difficult.

Well I had some time after I gave my notice where I was going home a lot earlier and just generally more relaxed and less tired and worn out. During this time I sporadically tried to catch up on my blogs. One thing that caught my eye while skipping through assorted blogs was the NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. A number of people have tried it and posted about it.

I had been trying to finish everything in my apartment, foodwise. There was still some chocolate chips left. Good ones. They were Ghirardheli 60% dark chocolate ones. I knew if they ended up in storage they would be no good by the time I got them out. So they had to be used or brought down with me. I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do with them. Then I saw this recipe and it all came together.

I went out and bought brown sugar. I guess it can come down with me in my car. I also bought eggs but eggs are always useful. I have a couple days to go that they are sure to get used up.

Naturally I didn't follow the recipe exactly. If you read this blog or have ever had a conversation with me that would seem obvious. The original recipe called for cake flour and bread flour in equal parts, by weight. Well that wasn't going to happen. AP it is. They wanted chocolate disks rather than chips but that would have defeated the purpose in making them now. I made my cookies a lot smaller. I started making balls that were like 3x the size I normally make them. That was only 1.5 oz so that's what I ran with. The recipe called for sea salt; I used kosher. If you flipped the cookie upside down so that the top hit your tongue first you could taste actual saltiness for a second. For my smaller cookies I ended up baking about 12 mins per batch.

These cookies were quite popular. The over the top chocolateyness and butteryness made them very popular. Of course they were so good you ate a couple of them and then about 20 minutes later you felt like you were going to have a heart attack but oh well. I made the mistake of eating 2 of them first thing in the morning before heading down to start my last trial. I went down to see if they were ready to go and then all of a sudden it was like 'gasp... oh god... butter... chocolate... saturated fat.....*gurgle*.... dying....gasp.... well if i'm going to die I may as well have another cookie.... gasp... *final sigh before the eyes glaze over and fall over dead*' I tried to drink water to help keep the blood moving through me but that didn't seem to help.

And without further ado.....

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe adapted from this recipe from the NY Times

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons

17 ounce of all purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds chocolate chips

Kosher salt.

1. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Cover with plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 48 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Set aside.

4. Scoop 1 1/2-ounce mounds of dough onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, about 12 minutes. Transfer parchment or foil sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 4 dozen 3-inch cookies.