Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Green shrimp burger

I was quite pleased with how this one turned out as I ate it for dinner. My dining companion thought it was a bit odd.

I took about 2/3 lb. of medium shrimp, about two big handfuls (if you have two big hands). I pureed one handful in the mixie with a seeded green chile (a green cayenne pepper, according to the farmer), a green onion, a handful each of mint and cilantro, a clove of garlic, and a big pinch of salt and another of sugar. Also a few sprinkles of white and black pepper. I let it go for a minute or two until it formed a paste. Then I tossed in the other handful and pulsed three or four times, just to break them into a few pieces each. The idea is to make half the shrimp into a glue that holds the other half together.

I formed this into two patties and sauteed them in peanut oil. They're garnished with mayonnaise and, as you can see, a thick slice of fresh tomato. It tasted a bit like dim sum, like the shrimp in Chinese dumplings. But the seasonings didn't taste typically Chinese. It was well seasoned but not hot. I could have left in the chile seeds for some extra zip. The more I think about it, making them into green burgers was a strange thing to do to those poor shrimp. But I'm glad I did it, if only to be able to say that I've made shrimp burgers and they're good, but you wouldn't want to eat them all that often.

Whole Foods, Milwaukee

Here is where it's going, at North and Prospect, to open Fall '06.

It's just up the street from UW-Milwaukee's Kenilworth building, also under construction.

Summer is leaving

The kid and I spent the morning at the Westown Farmer's Market. This is the last Wednesday we can do it this year; beginning next week he will be in more regular day care as I return to teaching. Today felt valedictory.

You know summer is ending when these squash appear. They look tasty but I'm not eating any until it feels like fall.

C. Adam's Bakery sells a variety of treats that fall somewhere between a meal and a snack: From the front, Italian pesto and sundried tomato cheese buns made of focaccia, Pepperjack cheese buns and carmelized onion, beer, and cheddar cheese buns both made with brioche, and Cinnamon apple buns and pecan pie buns made with puff pastry.

The kid and I shared a carmelized onion, beer, and cheddar cheese bun (I couldn't wait to photograph it before taking a bite). It didn't taste very beery but it was delectable. He liked the onions. This is a very Milwaukee pastry.

And we took home sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, yogurt and a small chicken.

August extra

Like the deleted scenes on your DVDs, here's some grub that didn't make it into the blog this month.

Coconut shrimp with Swiss chard and lime-scented rice.

Falafel, raw (and my falafel-maker gadget)

and cooking

and in a warm pita with cabbage, tomatoes, and pickled turnips.

And some mango salsa which we ate with

grilled salmon and corn.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Health and fitness

E says I abandon my usual skepticism of nutritional advice when I come across any hint of research that supports my status quo eating habits. She is right. I believe, as Christians believe that Jesus died for their sins, that moderate alcohol consumption is diminishing my chances of developing heart disease, that being a bit overweight is helping me extend my life expectancy, and as I learned recently, that drinking large quantities of coffee makes me less likely to develop diabetes. (Check it out!) Of course I believe the most basic stuff: everyone should consume no more calories than they need, exercise regularly, and avoid saturated fats and empty simple carbs. I'm trying. I eat Kashi cereal for breakfast most days, I eat lots of turkey sandwiches and 100% whole wheat bread, I eat at least four servings of fruits and veggies a day (because they're delicious), and there are few snacks I prefer to some salty edamame. But I also eat my fair share of food I know isn't good for me because food is part of a culture of eating and socializing that doesn't have much to do with fueling the body, because food is a source of immense pleasure. And I have no intention of curtailing this pleasure or of feeling guilty about it.

Guilty or not, I've been working out at the gym a lot lately, partly because I'm trying to be fit, but also because the half hour I spend there is a break from the rest of my day, a time free of responsibilities when I read magazines, watch CNN without sound, and listen to tunes. I never thought I would look forward to time spent sweating but I really do. I think music might be the most important part. Here's my workout playlist:

1. Body Moving--Beastie Boys
2. You're No Rock 'n Roll Fun--Sleater-Kinney
3. Can I Kick It?--A Tribe Called Quest
4. Hot Topic--Le Tigre
5. Pull Up the People--M.I.A.
6. The Dark of the Matinee--Franz Ferdinand
7. Lose Control--Missy Elliott
8. I Will Survive--Cake
9. Tropicalia--Beck
10. Stockholm Syndrome--Yo La Tengo

It would also be fine music to cook by.

Monday, August 29, 2005

"A quiescently frozen confection"

It took my brain a long time to wrap itself around liquid nitrogen ice cream. I'm still trying to make sense of Pacojet ice cream, or frozen mousse, or whatever the Pacosters want to call it. And today I read about a carbonated ice cream being developed by engineers at MIT:
''It's not ice cream in the usual sense," said John G. Brisson, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ''It has a carbonated bite, and it just kind of goes 'whoof' on your tongue."


'This product is exciting," he said. ''The effervescence is unique. People are always looking for a new flavor, a new texture, a new mouth sensation. I'd think it would have pretty good commercial potential."
My Rival and I refuse to be intimidated by these superfantastic technodesserts. But we would like to try them.

Blog roundup: all tomatoes all the time

Sunday, August 28, 2005

What's Haverchuk?

When I began this blog, I named it Haverchuk after a favorite television character, Bill Haverchuck of Freaks and Geeks. I spelled it wrong, though, even after googling it. My search came up with a bunch of hits for Bill, so I figured I was right. Even now, such a search returns several misspelled Bill Haverchuks on the first page of entries after the ones referring to this Haverchuk. The next day, as I was posting this, I discovered my error. The real Haverchuck has two c's; this Haverchuk has but one.

I embrace my mistake. I'm happy that this site has a name that's slightly different from its namesake's, so that it both is and is not named for him. I like the indie-rock-band sort of sound that the word "Haverchuk" has to my ear, and I like that, as with a rock band name, the reference may be completely meaningless. Do I know or care what connection the names Franz Ferdinand, Fountains of Wayne, Flaming Lips, or Belle and Sebastian have to whatever they were named for? No and no. These names just sound interesting and that's enough for me. I also like that the name has no clear connotations aside from being Ukrainian, which is itself a red herring. I'm not Ukrainian and until now I haven't mentioned anything Ukrainian in these pages. Also, apparently some people think that I am Haverchuk, and that thought gives me a chuckle on the inside. I like lots of literal blog names--most food blogs have names that reference food, cooking, or eating, none catchier than Chocolate & Zucchini--but I also like the idea that the name of my blog can be a kind of blank, a fresh start.

There's lots of food and eating in F&G (I would love to taste Mrs. Weir's veal piccata), including one scene that ranks among the great food scenes in film and television. In the teaser of the episode "Tricks and Treats," Sam and Neil offer Bill $10 to drink a concoction they whip up in the blender. He agrees and covers his eyes and ears so that he won't know what's going in. Among the contents of this disgusting beverage are mustard, pickle juice, salt, sardines, vinegar, soy sauce, chili ("for texture"), jelly, nondairy creamer, and after dinner mints. As Bill sips it, Sam and Neil groan, "Gross!" Bill calmly says, "It's not bad." He takes a big gulp and the episode cuts to the credit sequence: Joan Jett sings, "I don't give a damn about my reputation..."

I tomatoes

When life handed me tomatoes yesterday, I peeled them with my serrated peeler (the gadget of the century) and turned them into tomato, shallot, and roasted pepper salad

and a tomato-herb fritatta (alongside a Montreal-style bagel, another Toronto treat).

I hope that life keeps handing them to me.

The keeper of the lore: little sister guest blogs

The floodgates have opened. My sister (you have met her twice already) also has five childhood memories of food. Fancy that.

So, introducing my sister Amy. Amy, take it away.

1. Kosher-for-Passover Manischewitz chocolate cake. We always have one at the second seder because that's when the Sad Billionaire was born.

2. The banana popsicles I used to get when I had strep throat. Also, the Wonka nerds I ate in absurd quantities when I had the chicken pox. As I remember it, if you sent in 4 nerds boxes they'd send you a yellow "I heart nerds" t-shirt. I so wish I still had that t-shirt. It would have been SO summer 2005 and it would have been so much cooler than everyone else's because it would have been genuine vintage. Sigh.

3. Japanese soup- Ichiban or Ramen. We called it jap soup until Mom told us it was offensive. Not in the styrofoam cup- we preferred the kind that came in the crinkly plastic package, with a brick of curly raw noodles and a foil flavor packet. We cooked it in the small green saucepan and we ate it with big ceramic Asian spoons which Dad may have brought back from the Orient or else maybe the parents bought them for the Japanese meal they hosted for the gourmet club. The Sad Billionaire ate his soup with Durkee's red hot sauce and Haverchuk used to crack an egg into his right before the noodles were done, much like he does with his above-mentioned ratatouille.

4. All the foods that my babysitter Gullie used to make for me. A favorite lunch consisted of a boiled hot dog and boiled potato lying on a plate with ketchup. (Maybe the little fella got it from me.) She had the best way of peeling oranges. She'd cut them in half and remove the outer skin but leave behind the white pith so I'd have something to hold onto but wouldn't have to taste the gross bitter peel. She loved the Perl's potato knishes pictured above but she couldn't quite pronounce their name and with her West Indian accent it came out sounding like kee-nish. And we loved the Carribbean foods she sometimes made for us, like fried plantains and shortening bread which had a different name that I don't remember. Something like johnnycakes.

5. For 2 summers in the 80's we took RV vacations on the West Coast. Haverchuk only came on the first of these trips. Dad chewed lots of cinnamon gum because he wasn't allowed to smoke in the camper. We made campfires every night but the only thing we ever cooked on them was marshmallows. Instead we purchased many of our meals at fast-food chains. (Our kitchen at home was always kosher but but all bets were off when we left the house.) One dinner that particularly stands out consisted of a bucket of KFC chicken and a package of Double Stuf oreos. One night we made parfaits with our cousin. We probably got the idea from the Pee Wee's Playhouse episode where they make parfaits. Haverchuk and I spent an afternoon picking blackberries wearing our new Washington Huskies sweatshirts and I remember the tragic moment when we had to throw away our leftover berries away because we'd discovered we wouldn't be able to bring them on the plane. Dad bought SB a bottle of Durkee's red hot on the condition that he promise to finish it by them time we flew home and SB was so determined to hold up his end of the deal that on the last few mornings he added Durkee's to his Fruit Island cereal, immortalized by the classic slogan "A yumma-yumma!"

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The ice cream project: mojito cream cheese ice cream

Here is my most outrageous creation to date. It looks innocent enough, but there's enough booze in a scoop of this one to stagger a Wisconsin frat boy. My mom had a few spoonfuls last evening and passed out on the couch. At 8:00 p.m.

To make a mojito you combine fresh mint, fresh lime juice, rum, sugar, ice, and some soda. I love mojitos, though I would feel ridiculous drinking one in the fall, winter, or spring. This ice cream tastes just like the cocktail and would be a clever thing to serve in place of drinks early in a summer evening, provided your guests are the sort who would seem agreeable to eating dessert before rather than after a meal.

Here is my method: I adapted my mango cream cheese ice cream recipe, which called for a cup of milk, half a cup of heavy cream, a brick of Philly, and 3/4 cups sugar. I steeped a few sprigs of mint in the milk by nuking it in the microwave and let it sit for about ten minutes while I assembled the rest of the materials.

I combined the sugar and the juice of half a lime (nuked for 40 seconds to get its fibers bursting) in the blender and added the milk (strained of its mint leaves) and cream. After whizzing this, I added 1/3 cup of Bacardi light rum and the cream cheese, softened to room temp. When it was completely pureed I tasted it. It was good but not explosive, so I added some (ok, lots) more rum, the juice of the other lime half, and a few leaves of the mint that had steeped. I pureed again. The mint was shredded into little itsy-bitsies. When I tasted the mixture this time it knocked my socks off.

I chilled and churned. Ah, the paddle.

As you see, the mixture was very thin. I let the machine go for a full hour and it didn't get solid. If I still had my old personality I would have cursed and raged, but somehow over the years I developed equanimity. I attributed the liquidity to the high alcohol content and, possibly, the fact that the mixture wasn't ice cold going into the churn. I reasoned that the ice cream might still be delicious even if it isn't churned full of air. As it happens it didn't matter as the ice cream was easily scoopable straight out of the freezer. Yet the texture might still be corrected to make it a bit smoother. There are ice crystals in this ice cream that make its mouthfeel less than ideal, though hardly unpleasant. It's not as silken as the mango cream cheese ice cream I made. Perhaps adding some or all of the rum after it's been churning for a while would be the fix.

Anyhow, the flavor compensates for any problem in texture 100 times over. The mojito trifecta of mint, lime, and rum is a true classic, a fantastically intense combination of tastes. It wouldn't surprise me to see this one in a Häagen-Dazs carton one of these days, but by then mojito will have ceased to be cool and we hipsters will be on to the next It flavor.

Now some notes for serious ice cream folks:
-Plastic containers don't do well in the freezer, I'm learning. They crack really easily. I've wrecked four or five in the past few weeks. I must find some paper pint containers. Let me know if you come across any.
-The Chowhound Home Cooking message board has some regular posters making all kinds of fantastic ice creams and discussing finer points of how to make them. Hi Chowhounds!
-Keeping time in the freezer seems highly variable. Some of my ice creams have kept really well for a week or more, and others were nasty after a few days. All I can say is hmmm.
-Given the choice of a cone or a dish, most of the people to whom I have served ice cream opted for the dish.

My other ice creams:

  • Egg ice cream

  • Black sesame ice cream

  • Green chile mint ice cream

  • Rice ice cream

  • Cardamom ice cream

  • Sour cream anise ice cream

  • Caramel ice cream

  • Apples and honey ice cream

  • Watermelon sour cream sherbet

  • Peach frozen yogurt

  • Oatmeal raisin ice cream

  • Mango cream cheese ice cream

  • Mocha ice cream

  • Berry buttermilk sherbet

  • Gingersnap ice cream
  • When life...

    These two blogs have something in common. (And one of them even has some political poll numbers for you, PRB.)

    I find the first to be more persuasive, the second to be more intriguing.

    Jake's deli

    For lunch today, my dad, the kid, and I got takeout from Jake's deli. Jake's is in a formerly Jewish, now African American, neighborhood. Its regular clientele include the commissioner of Major League Baseball, whose picture hangs behind the counter, and the neighborhood artist Prophet William Blackmon. Some Jake's-lovers think their corned beef and pastrami is superior to that of the famous New York delis (Katz's, Carnegie, 2nd Ave.). I'm not connoisseur enough to say. I can tell you that the meat was steaming hot when it was hand sliced and that it made the car smell really good all the way home.

    The meat was delicious, pretty fatty, sliced thick, served on fresh rye (there's a mechanical slicer in plain sight) with yellow mustard. My dad and I got one corned beef and one pastrami and each had half of each sandwich. He thought the corned beef was of higher quality than the pastrami and I agree. The corned beef was more moist and flavorful, but both were fantastic. They serve excellent half-sour pickles, too.

    The deli itself is old, most of the lights weren't on, and no one was sitting at any of the tables. There's a charming soda fountain behind a counter with stools but it looked too clean, like it hasn't been used in a long while.

    This place is a bit too museumlike to be all fun. Its ambience is authentically nostalgic (as opposed to the sham nostalgia of Applebee's and Cracker Barrel) and that gives it a quality of melancholy. But the food at Jake's is the real deal.

    Jake's Delicatessen
    1634 W North Ave.
    Milwaukee, WI 53205
    (414) 562-1272

    Friday, August 26, 2005

    The ice cream project: peach frozen yogurt

    Frozen yogurt? Why?

    There's always yogurt in the house. It's nice to have something to serve lactards like Clay Aiken. Frozen yogurt is refreshing and can be delicious. It's not ice cream, it's not sherbet or sorbet, it's not the real deal, I know. I made it, though, and I'm here to tell you about it.

    I had some frozen peaches waiting to be used. Again, I should know better. It's peach season, but the freezer knows no seasons.

    I thought if I drained full-fat plain yogurt by straining out its whey (I think that's what its moisture content is called) through a coffee filter it would behave like cream cheese and give my frozen dessert a luxurious texture. Wrong.

    I added Lactaid to please the lactards and corn syrup to smooth the texture as in my sherbet. I corrected the sweetness with some extra sugar. Here it is going into the machine

    and coming out of it.

    And here is a scoop in the hands of a happy child about to drop it.

    It was sweet, a hint sour from the yogurt, and plenty peachy. But it wasn't rich and I thought its texture was a bit off. That said, it was still worlds better than the gummy/airy lowfat abominations sold as frozen yogurt throughout the land. The American perversion of yogurt into a kind of healthful candy is one of our great culinary shames. I have more to say about yogurt, lots more. Another day.

    Blog roundup roundup

    Public Brewery offers a roundup of Wisconsin blogs. (Guess who's on it?)

    The food bloggers love to stage events. Check out the numerous entries in their latest "Is My Blog Burning?" It is rounded up and then some at à la cuisine! (Six roundups and counting.)

    Is two enough for a roundup? Here's another: Wonkette's Gossip Roundup. (Find out what Lance Armstrong ate for dinner!) Ok, three makes it legit.

    Toronto treats

    My dear parents are visiting this weekend. They brought many wonderful things with them, such as:

    Knishes from Perl's (back row L to R: spinach, potato x2; front row: sweet potato, beef x2). My favorite is beef.

    And chocolate rugelach from What A Bagel. (A million times better than the ones from Zabar's.)

    I couldn't be happier.

    The scientist in the magazine

    Scientists have discovered that people's desire for cookies can be "cured." Don't believe it? Consider the following from Newsweek. A study has found that children who eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats are more likely to develop cancer. That's important, although not a very earth-shattering claim. But the study's author, Karin Michels of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, isn't content merely to share the findings of her research with the world. This is what she tells the magazine: "If you condition children to eat fruit and vegetables early on," says Michels, "they won't want cookies later." Dr. Michels, do you know of any evidence that even suggests this is true? Have you ever met a person who didn't want a cookie? I haven't. I think such a person would be rather odd. I certainly wouldn't want to have him or her over for dinner.

    This overreaching seems typical of how some scientists relate to the public. They venture claims they would never make in scholarly writing, disregarding standards of evidence and logic, patronizingly believing that spreading a good message is more important than getting things right. (I have discussed this before and the more I read, the more I see it). When it comes to nutrition, myths and nonsense are often shouted louder than the straight dope. Scientists have a responsibility to be cautious, and they abuse our trust when their knowledge becomes the tail wagged by their righteous convictions.

    Thursday, August 25, 2005


    Here are a few:

    1. Stop using stemware. I shall drink wine from tumblers, highballs, on-the-rocks glasses, anything but stemware. Those stem glasses spill and break easily and there's no earthly reason to use them that isn't merely aesthetic. If you really think the wine tastes better drunk from a "wine glass" I say fooey, fooey and fooey. Go read a snobby wine blog.

    2. Eat more eggs for lunch and dinner. As in this ratatouille with eggs.

    Basically, you make ratatouille (it's the season for it), crack a few eggs into it, and bake until they're just cooked. (I got this idea from Roger Vergé's Vegetables in the French Style, a really great cookbook.) Americans think eggs are breakfast or brunch food, but they're delicious all day and night.

    3. Stop drinking Diet Pepsi. I hate the stuff but I can't stop drinking it. It's not the worst addiction a person can have, but I still despise myself for being a meek slave to Pepsico.

    More FLOster

    Once in a while someone lands on planet Haverchuk after searching Yahoo or Google for "floster." (Ok, it's happened fewer times than I have fingers, but I love everyone who pays a visit.) What is floster? Answers vary. I dubbed the adherents of the fresh-local-organic food movement FLOsters in a cranky post a while back (search for it if you must) and this is why floster-seekers find me. But what are they really after? It could be a person named Floster (or more likely a person who uses floster as his or her Internet handle). But it also could be this.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Mmm, a delicious meme, my favorite

    I've been tagged by The Amateur Gourmet in a meme. The idea is, you write a blog entry on a given topic, then pass the topic on to more bloggers who are compelled by the Code we all signed in blood to follow up. The topic here is childhood food memories. I'm supposed to vomit out five of them. Good thing I had a happy childhood, otherwise I might have to forward my therapy bill to the Amateur and it would seem he's got enough expenses as it is (e.g., eating in places that charge $14.50 for a grilled cheese sandwich).

    1.&2. My Bubbe's food. She lived in Brooklyn and we would eat all sorts of interesting things when we visited her. I remember square potato knishes with a crusty exterior filled with smooth mashed potatoes (the sort you can buy from street vendors all over NYC), kosher deli sandwiches, and the earliest saccharine-sweetened diet soft drinks (Tab, Pepsi Free). She also made Passover seders and shabbat dinners but it's the takeout and soda I remember. I might gag on Pepsi Free now but it was the only time I ever had soda as a very little kid--that stuff hadn't made it to Canada yet--and I really, really loved it. That's one.

    The second memory of my Bubbe's food is the cooking she did when she visited my family in Toronto. Some of it was not so appetizing: she prepared bland white fish (perhaps turbot) in our toaster oven and it always looked and smelled odd. But for Passover she made delicious charoseth (a condiment she made from sweet wine, apples, and nuts) and pancakes--their Yiddish name escapes me--that we ate with sugar. In her later years she became very sick and wasn't herself, but before that she was a doting grandmother. I was her first grandchild and she gave me a ton of very welcome attention.

    3. My Nanny's food. She lived in Belle Harbor, in Queens, and we ate fewer dinners around her table than around Bubbe's but she fed us too. Her children disagree about her culinary competence, but I remember her beef-a-roni very fondly. To this day we still call it Nanny's hash. If I were making it I would use elbow macaroni, ground beef, and Prego. But she used a tomato sauce that is no longer in existence, so no matter how badly you might want some of Nanny's hash you can never have it again. Like my Bubbe, Nanny was a wonderful grandma. I was her eighth grandchild, though, and my cousins knew her better than I did. I envy them that. One more thing about those trips to Belle Harbor: we had yoo hoo and devil dogs there, both at Nanny's house and at my Aunt Harriet's house down the block, and we loved them so much. As with Pepsi Free, no yoo hoo or devil dogs in Canada. But Canada has lots of great junk foods you can't find down here: coffee crisp and smarties, to name my favorite two.

    4. My parents and their friends had a "gourmet club" in the 70s and 80s. Every few weeks or months, they would get together for a themed meal. Provence, Japan, Russia, Morocco, the world, all of it kosher. This was for grownups only and I never tasted a morsel of their meals. I'm still a bit bitter about that because it all looked and sounded so delicious. But they kept my brother, sister, and me very well fed so I have no real complaints. My mom makes dynamite roast chicken and turkey for Friday nights and holidays. I would rather eat that than just about anything.

    5. My father taught me a lot about cooking as a young child because my mother doesn't believe in breakfast and because she often taught in the evenings (and still does) and wasn't around for dinner. So my dad would make us pancakes, grilled cheese, eggs, and lots of other yummy stuff. I also loved and still love some of his favorite side dishes, including baked beans and peas. He taught me to put ketchup on baked beans and Worcestershire sauce on peas, and he taught me that it's not improper to eat the latter off the blade of a butter knife.

    Ah, memory lane, a fine place to spend an evening. Ok, now for the part where I curse another blogger or two or three with this meme. I tag Pyewacket, Caryn, and Femme Feral.

    Confiscate their Photoshop!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    A beacon light shines in Texas

    Praise the heavens, Fluffy Dollar$$$ is back from summer hiatus.

    Femme Feral dissects kid lit and racial politics while my brother, Mopey Bucks, listens to the radio.

    Let there be ribs

    First of all, behold the contents of my mystery package, a slab of baby back ribs.

    And here it is covered in a rub.

    As a basic guideline I followed this recipe from the recently published book, Peace, Love & Barbecue. Here's how I modified it: I added some spices left over from my tuna steaks as part of my constant effort to waste nothing. I also rounded up from 1/4 to 1/2 tsp because I couldn't find a 1/4 tsp measure and I subbed celery salt for celery seed. This was last night. I went to bed happy but a bit nervous. I had never tried this before.

    Now a Jewish kid from Canada might have no business barbecuing ribs, but then I should also have no business making risotto or pad thai. We're all part of a global hodgepodge now. My attitude is that I should be able to cook anything as long as I understand the culinary principles involved. The culinary principles of barbecue are actually very straightforward: you cook with hardwood smoke (I used hickory because it's easy to find at the hardware store) and keep the temperature below 275 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the collagen in tough cuts of meat like ribs to be transformed into gelatin, which spells delicious flavor and succulent texture. But it takes time. A big cut like a shoulder takes all day. Ribs take half that.

    (Many bloggers are more expert than I in smokey, low and slow cooking and I take my hat off to them all, including White Trash BBQ, The BBQ Report, and the splendid Weber Cam. I'm also quite impressed by the Virtual Weber Bullet, a repository of DIY 'cue advice though not a blog.)

    Back to the cooking. I fired up my chimney starter half full of charcoal briquets. Notice my reflection in the kettle grill?

    The basic setup of the grill is more or less what you see here. The fire is on one side with an open vent below it. The meat is on the other side with an open vent above it. The smoke blows past the meat on its way skyward and turns it into tasty. The only challenge is to maintain a barbecuey temperature.

    Here you see the raw slabs going on the grill at 2 pm. This rib rack would be handy when cooking for a crowd. I didn't really need it today but it's new and I've been dying to use it.

    I tossed a few handfuls of woodchips, soaked in water for half an hour, over the hot coals and closed the lid. What happened next is a lot of waiting, a lot of fretting over temperature. First it went up to 300. I closed the bottom vent. It plummeted below 200 and wouldn't come back up after I opened bottom vent. I added a few briquets to bring the temperature back. Eventually it was at around 240 and held that temperature for a couple of hours. Then it was at around 175 for a while. It takes a while to get more charcoal lit so you have to be relaxed about temperature. I tried to be relaxed.

    At 6:00 it looked like this. I mopped on a little bit of Sweet Baby Ray's sauce and then pulled them off at 6:30.

    And here is half a slab on my plate with some great American cole slaw and great American potato salad. No fancy herbs, no Asian sauces, no unusual veggies, no exotic spices. Just regular food.

    And the baby back ribs: spicy, smokey, meaty, not saucey. Pretty good for the first try.

    "I love the carnal, discomfiting aspect of a bris"

    The author of this article in Slate observes:
    The answers to these questions depend in part on whether you think circumcision causes babies lasting subconscious trauma or momentary discomfort, like ear piercing. In my limited experience (two sons), it's somewhere in between. Both my boys screamed and then cried hard until the mohel stuffed a gauze pad soaked in Manischewitz wine in their mouths. Then they nursed and fell into a deep sleep. On a Richter scale of pain, I'd say their newborn vaccine shots were a 3, circumcision was a 5, and the spinal tap my older son had shortly after birth was a 7. Since the kids don't remember any of this—at least not in any way I'll hear about—none of it much concerns me. Also, I love the carnal, discomfiting aspect of a bris.
    Let us put aside the question of how one measures another's pain and cut straight to the horrendous logic. First, why must the trauma be "lasting" to be objectionable? Second, does the author really believe that it's ok to do terrible things to your children as long as they're too young to be able to remember them?

    Learn somthing useful

    John Hawks smartly skewers some overintepretive science types. The topic is cultural variability in perception, but don't let that mislead you into thinking it isn't a fun read.

    Monday, August 22, 2005

    What did I do with all that corn?

    I made salsa! Its contents: one ear of corn, one tomato (peeled with my new favorite gadget, a serrated peeler), one serrano pepper (diced), one smallish clove of garlic (minced), a handful of cilantro (chopped), the juice of half a lime (squeezed by hand), and a pinch each of salt and sugar. I mixed it all up while the corn was still hot and this mellowed the garlic and chiles a little bit.

    What's the rest of that stuff? A tuna steak bought frozen at Trader Joe's, covered in southwestern spices (ancho and cayenne chile, cumin, onion powder, salt) and seared in a pan--not a nonstick pan, please. Also a wheat hamburger bun slathered with mayonnaise. And some home fries seasoned with ancho chile. In other words, dinner.

    I am liver

    This might be the best snack you can make out of stuff that most people throw in the trash: chicken livers, excess chicken skin, scraps of onion. I save livers when I buy whole chickens and keep them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Today I had two livers, a little skin, and a taste for something Jewish.

    I chopped up the skin (perhaps half as much as would cover one thigh) and diced half a small onion. I put this in a pan over medium-high heat and cooked it for less than ten minutes, just long enough for the fat to render from the skin and the onions to begin to brown. (Meanwhile I fed the kid his lunch of grapes, cheese, bread and jelly, turkey, and polenta.) Then I turned the heat up all the way and added my two livers, rinsed, trimmed of their little stringy membrane, and patted dry. The high heat quickly turned the onions and skin--grebenes in Yiddish and fully worthy of its august moniker, Jewish bacon--a dark, delicious brown.

    Overcooked liver is a catastrophe, so I pulled mine from the pan a few moments before they would have been completely done, and carryover heat finished them off.

    I chopped the livers and the onions and Jewish bacon up on my cutting board and added a bit of salt. I don't like it too coarse, but I also don't like chopped liver to have the texture of creamy Jif. And that's the whole preparation.

    It made enough to smear on two slices of toasted challah, but it would have been even better eaten while still warm out of my naked fingers. Sometimes it's a pity to be so civilized.

    Things I'm looking forward to

    1. Fall. I'm eager for the TV season to start so I can find out what happened to Luke and Lorelai and who was at Veronica's door.

    2. Cooking and eating the contents of this package. Wanna guess what's inside?

    Ketchup Man meets Frank Stella

    Sunday, August 21, 2005

    Good fortune

    Is this the best Chinese restaurant in Wisconsin? My sources suggested as much so last night we gave it a shot. As you can see it's unprepossessing from the outside and the neighborhood, a wide commercial strip in suburban West Allis, is nothing special.

    Fortune has two menus, inauthentic and authentic. When we got there, at the little rice eater's dinnertime (i.e., 5:30), there were a handful of diners, most of them elderly, all of them eating Chinese-American dishes. By the time we left around an hour later the place was filling up with a younger, more Asian crowd eating real Chinese food. The dishes were flying out of the kitchen by about 6:15. Steaming soups, sizzling platters, clay pots, glistening tofu, enormous dumplings. I wanted to try it all and I was envious of the party at the lazy susan table that would have lots to sample.

    We ordered off the reddish-brown menu (I was told to ask for the "Hong Kong" menu and this worked). I also had a look at the green menu, pretty much identical to every other Chinese restaurant menu around here: egg rolls, wonton soup, sweet and sour, kung pao, chop suey, fried rice, general tso's, etc. We didn't order any of this stuff but everything at Fortune comes out of the same kitchen and I'll bet it's all good.

    We began with BBQ pork Cantonese style, aka char siu. As you can see, the serving is enormous. and at $5.25 an excellent value.

    It came with hoisin sauce for dipping. The rice eater and his mama liked it; I loved it. Some pieces were lean and a bit dry, but the fatty pieces were succulent. There was lots left over and I'm psyched to dice it up and put in my fried rice.

    My sources recommended a "spicy salt and pepper" seafood dish. I can't remember exactly what the menu called it, and it doesn't appear on the takeout menu I took out so that I wouldn't need to remember. Anyway, it was a dish of little fish (smelt I think), squid, and head-and-shell-on shrimp in a spicy white batter somehow made crisp without browning. It was garnished with slices of fresh green chiles. This defies the commonplace that the Chinese never eat raw food except fruit, but who cares. This dish was insanely good and the chiles were a good compliment to the pieces of seafood. I saw several other tables order this one and it seems like one of the house specialties, so order it if you go to Fortune. (Incidentally, I'm not sure how you're supposed to eat a shrimp that's been battered in the shell. I ate it all except the tail.)

    We ordered a chicken dish to be sure there would be something for the rice eater to eat besides rice. This is chicken in black bean sauce.

    You might be able to get this sort of thing at lots of places in a city with good Chinese food, but around here the pickins is slim. We loved this one. The sauce was delicious: salty, a bit hot, a hint of ginger. It had green peppers in it too, as you can see, and every time the rice eater ate one he said "peh-pa!"

    A few additional notes: the tea we were served was reddish in color and lukewarm. This is inexplicable. And the white rice wasn't hot or particularly tasty either (despite this the kid ate about a pound of it). I have vivid childhood memories of the bowls of rice in Chinese restaurants in Toronto, and in my memories they are steaming hot and really yummy. I duplicate this all the time at home with cheap Jasmine rice and a cheap rice cooker. Why can't a good restaurant? Finally, the service was friendly and attentive even as the restaurant got crowded.

    I think my sources are probably right. I haven't tried every place in Wisconsin, but Fortune is the best Chinese food I've had around these parts.

    Fortune Chinese Restaurant
    2945 S.108th St. (N. of Oklahoma)
    West Allis, WI 53227
    (414) 328-9890

    UPDATE: a friend who grew up in Hong Kong describes how she eats shrimp:
    Remove head, if present. Suck off the stuff on the outside of the shell and any hepatopancreas bits [ed. note: can you tell she has an MD?] or roe (if you’re lucky), peel the shrimp, eat it, minus the tail. A lot of Chinese restaurants will then give you a moist, wet towel for your fingers, preferably lemon scented.