Monday, October 31, 2005

October extra

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

Sweet potato shepherd's pie. Underneath the sweet potatoes are leftover pot roast, carrots, peas, onions, garlic, and A1 sauce. The recipe, with several modifications, is from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's How to Cook Meat. Basically, combine chopped up cooked meat with veggies and some A1 sauce, layer on some mashed sweet potatoes, and bake it in a hot oven.

I baked this walnut wheat loaf with that King Arthur's white wheat flour everyone is talking about. Ok maybe not everyone. The walnuts tasted bad and I threw the thing away. Ah well. The recipe is on the flour bag. (The crust could look a little crustier and I'm pretty sure this is the after shot.)

These are the spuds I cooked with one of my roast chickens. These Yukons started out as leftover baked potatoes and they browned and crisped in the chicken fat and juices. I don't think we have ever had better roasted spuds. If you can manage to think ahead, plan to have prebaked potatoes when you're roasting birds. (I already knew that prebaked spuds make great home fries and hash browns, so this came as no surprise. Must have something to do with the gelation of starch or some such thing.)

Around Wisconsin, Thai and Laotian restaurants (often run by Hmong immigrants) serve squash curries not unlike this one. Basically, red curry with several varieties of squash and whatever protein you order. My favorite is tofu. These are butternut, delicata, and zucchini.

I would gladly eat these beef kreplach every day. The filling is yet more leftover pot roast, some pot roast vegetables, a bit of chopped liver, schmaltz, and I don't remember what else. The noodle part is gyoza wrappers.

It wouldn't be a roundup of my month in food without some bona fide treyf. This is Alton Brown's shrimp cocktail but with one modification: the cocktail sauce is made the way my friend Adam likes it, with ketchup and lots of horseradish. I added a squeeze of lemon too, but the key is the heavy horseradish kick. This is a very less-is-more recipe and it works. Thanks for the cocktail sauce, buddy.

Finally, the house cookbook collection grew by one in October with the addition of Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World. This occasions a minor crisis in nomenclature as we can no longer refer to our beloved How to Cook Everything as "Bittman." As my Buba might have said, "That should be the worst of your problems."

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Fish fry

Wisconsinites love their Friday fish fry for lots of reasons, not least that a good fish fry is a festive and boozy end-of-week blowout. The preferred libation in many traditional places is Wisconsin's unofficial state drink, the brandy old-fashioned, made of brandy, a slice of orange, bitters, soda or 7UP, a maraschino cherry, and an optional (I say go for it) hit of sugar. I like to mash the sugar and orange with the butt of a butter knife in the bottom of my glass before putting in the rest of the ingredients. But in places such as Lakefront Brewery, where we ate last evening, beer is the beverage of choice. In any event drinking precedes eating at a Wisconsin fish fry. One judges a fish fry most of all by the atmosphere, the kind of happy togetherness inspired by the venue and the crowd.

The fish at a Wisconsin fish fry is generally acceptable but not really better than that. After two or three old-fashioneds, one's standards of what makes a meal bad, good, or great are relaxed. In a state bordered on one side by a huge lake and on the other by a famous river, with hundreds of smaller bodies of water in between, one would expect that an institution like the fish fry would offer impressive local products. But the fish at the fish fry is most often North Atlantic cod. Perhaps there are fish fries around the state with excellent fresh Wisconsin fish, but they're not typical and I haven't been to them.

(Wisconsin is mostly protestant and although there have been large numbers of Poles in Milwaukee for many years, it seems unlikely that their Roman Catholic fish-on-Friday tradition would have spread across the whole state. Why Friday, then? I think just because it's the end of the week.)

Lakefront is one of the only truly local beers left in Milwaukee. They have a huge hall in the brewery where they hold this weekly event with seating for several hundred and a three-piece polka band (accordion, banjo, drums) playing all the favorites. I had a pint of a hopsy pilsner called Klitsch, and there's something really nice about drinking beer in the building in which it was brewed. The scene was like a giant family party but unlike any party my family has ever thrown there was tons of beer.

I can't rave about the food. It was fine for what it is: battered or breaded fried fish, potato pancakes, rye bread, coleslaw, tartar and cocktail sauces for the fish and shrimp, applesauce for the pancakes, wedges of lemon. This is the combo platter of cod, lake perch, blue gill, and shrimp. It was all hot and tasty. Our kid danced to the polka band's tunes and was so excited that he tried to give all the little girls hugs. Smart girls, they declined his advances.

Lakefront Brewery
1872 N. Commerce St.
Milwaukee, WI 53212

Friday, October 28, 2005

Blog of the week redux

MKEonline, the web version of a local alt-weekly, has again nominated Haverchuk in its Blog of the Week contest. Come on people, I don't want to become the Susan Lucci of Wisconsin blogs. Vote here.

The competition:

Wigderson's Library and Pub. Sample sentence: "There's been a rash of injuries to the male genitalia lately in blog land." Ouch.

While Drinking, I.... Sample sentence: "I will probably post more meaningless stuff today." Hang in there, While Drinking, I...

Sexy in Milwaukee. Sample sentence: "Yesterday I found out (through I'll admit, slightly dishonest means: I checked his e-mail account.) that Mr. Man had subscribed to two different porn sites online." Oh dear.

Play in the City. Sample sentence: "Having a sing-along with 20,000 other people to the Na Na Na's under Paul's direction is a pretty good time." That's Sir Paul McCartney to you.

Ok, now go vote.

Dad's pancakes

Two of the most-watched TV programs around here are Franklin and Little Bear, cartoons on Noggin about anthropomorphic animals (Franklin is a turtle and you know what Little Bear is). Aside from having animals as characters, these shows represent very typical patriarchal families, much more so than prime-time programs for grownups. In children's cartoons, fathers are still wise and are always respected as the voice of authority. This would seem more retrograde, perhaps, if the characters weren't so cute and lovable.

Episodes of both shows I've seen recently contained scenes in which the father makes pancakes for the kid. This made me wonder why pancakes are a dish that men prepare, at least more than most dishes. It would be less likely to have a father in such a traditional family making a casserole or a roast, but pancakes are dad food in the same way that grilled meats are dad food. I understand at least some reasons why men grill meats, buy why do they make pancakes? My own father used to make pancakes for us when we were kids and I've seen other men of his generation making pancakes for breakfast or brunch. I make them too, but I do all the cooking so that isn't saying much.

I started searching Google for terms like "dad's pancakes" to see what I could find and I wondered if pancakes are among the most "dad" foods around. So I also searched for other "dad" foods like "dad's steak" and "dad's hamburgers" to compare the number of hits with those I got for "dad's pancakes." I found 689 hits for dad's pancakes, 560 hits for dad's steak, and 106 hits for dad's hamburgers.

(I'm a humanist not a social scientist so collecting and analyzing statistical data is not my forte. This is not meant to be rigorous research, obviously. I'm just fooling around here, but the results are at least interesting if not all that informative. Surely there are good reasons never to use search engine results as evidence of anything substantial. End of digression.)

I then thought it would be nice to have something to which I might compare these numbers, so I searched for the same foods using mom: mom's pancakes, mom's steak, mom's hamburgers. And the results were starting to get me really interested. So I kept searching mom and dad for a variety of foods and here's what I found.

Apple pie: dad 248, mom 41,500
Banana: dad 239, mom 14,200
Beef: dad 960, mom 936
Burgers: dad 247, mom 210/Hamburgers: dad 106, mom 1050
Chicken: dad 783, mom 20,200
Cole slaw/coleslaw: dad 10/12, mom 510/379
Duck: dad 10, mom 274
Egg nog: dad 59 mom 50
French toast: dad 53, mom 415
Fudge: dad 861, mom 469
Grilled cheese: dad 25, mom 106
Lamb: dad 62, mom 399
Lemon: dad 223, mom 922
Pancakes: dad 689, mom 696
Pork: dad 228, mom 1040
Potato salad: dad 409, mom 1400
Punch: dad 37 (some hits referring to fisticuffs), mom 485
Rice pudding bread: dad 568, mom 309
Scrambled eggs: dad 25, mom 64
Spaghetti: dad 349, mom 1810
Steak: dad 560, mom 241
Tuna: dad 92, mom 1670
Veal: dad 16, mom 113
Vegetable: dad 614, mom 858

So if Google is to tell us anything about pancakes, it's that dad and mom both make them. Pancakes are the food of gender equality: men and women alike like to heat up the griddle and wait until just the right moment to flip. Other foods are more clearly gendered. Steak is more dad-skewing. Dinner foods cooked in the kitchen rather than on the back porch, like spaghetti and chicken, are more likely to be mom foods. Burgers would seem to be mom and dad food until you look at the hits for hamburgers in the mom column. There's an explanation for that one: lots of hits referring to Eddie Murphy's movie Raw, in which he makes fun of his mother's cooking.

Some results are harder to explain. Why does dad make egg nog but not punch? Why does he make potato salad but not coleslaw? What's the story with dad's fudge? And what on earth is rice pudding bread?

Here are some ideas why pancakes are dad food: you cook them in your pajamas, you don't eat them every day, you have them on the weekend when dad is home, making them is fun, parents and kids can make them together. That's fine, but you could say alll the same things of French toast, which has a pathetic showing in the dad column. My interest in this question will continue.

Finally, here are the results for the kind of cooking we most associate with dad:

Barbecue: dad 670, mom 144
Barbeque: dad 574, mom 286
BBQ: dad 1400, mom 1290

(There's a restaurant in L.A. called Mom's BBQ, which at least partially explains the last line of data.)

Thursday, October 27, 2005


For dinner I shaved slices off my leftover roast to make Cuban sandwiches. I split a big hunk of French bread and slathered mayo and bright yellow mustard on each side. Then I layered on the roast, swiss cheese, kosher dill pickle slices, and some ham. Everything was very thinly sliced. I'm not sure why, but the thinly sliced part is crucial. Then I buttered the outside of the loaf and pressed it between these two heavy pans. I cooked this on the stovetop for a few minutes and then let if finish in a 450 degree oven (in which there were some frozen "fries" crisping up; we're not too good for a little Ore Ida now and then around here and if this is to be an honest blog--and what other kind would you want?--I must not keep such details from you). Apparently these Cubans are all the rage in Miami. They're good in Milwaukee, too.

The Ore Ida spuds bring to mind other "bad" things I really like: white bread, iceberg lettuce, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, Miller Genuine Draft, Ritz crackers, anything made by Pepperidge Farm, Billy Joel's "Honesty," John Denver's "Annie's Song," early Chicago, Howard Stern on E!, teen movies like Can't Hardly Wait and She's All That. Another candidate: a new magazine I picked up today with a certain food celeb smiling on the cover and wearing a t-shirt that reads "YUM-O!"

Ok, I'm turning the pages of the mag and on p.14 I find a glossary of the celeb's Rachael-isms.
I say this if something is so good that "yum" just isn't enough of an exclamation. The accent is on the "O" as in, "Oh! That is so good!"

Extra Yum-O!
Oh god, I feel dirty.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Series

The White Sox are one out away from winning their first World Series since the 1910s. Why do I care so little?

UPDATE: They won. I still don't care.

Kosher blogger?

The other day I noticed another unfamiliar URL in my Statcounter info. (Statcounter is a service that tells me how many people read the blog and where they come from.) I see unfamiliar URLs all the time, put there by blogspammers trying to improve the Google hits of their dubious commercial sites to create scammed ad revenue. Every time I post a new entry, several of these phoney links appear in my Statcounter and I have stopped paying much attention to them. Basically, if I click on their link and go to their site, I improve their stats. So I don't usually click on these links, though many of them are no longer the lame shell sites I used to see and are just other people's blogs with no link to mine, often in foreign languages.

So this unfamiliar URL I saw the other day was called Foodmall and I did click on it because if someone really does link to me, I'm curious to know who they are. Foodmall sounded like a potential friend, but it turns out it's not quite that. It's actually one small part of a huge new network of problogs--blogs designed as businesses rather than personal projects. This new entity, Instablogs, consists of 43 recently launched blogs on a variety of topics. The company is run by a husband and wife team in India. Although I first encountered it just the other day, Instablog was apparently cruxified in the blogosphere upon its launch a few weeks ago. One of its blogs contained plagiarism and some of them launched without content.

Thus far, Foodmall consists mainly of posts that summarize posts in other food blogs. They link to my Asian chicken salad of last week, the post in which I wrote:
Fusion food? Sign me up. This is "Asian" sesame chicken salad--ok, it's no doubt "American" or "European" to mix cold meat with mayonnaise--next to a "Jewish" bagel. Get the connection: sesame plus sesame! How cool is that? I think I might have an unconscious desire to become a bloggy, male Rachael Ray. Take the same salad, sub in some curry powder: Indian! Olives and feta: Greek! Pimento and smoked paprika: Spanish! Black beans and corn: southwestern! Awesome! I'm going to take a short break to write another cookbook and count my money and when I come back I'll make a trip from the fridge to the pantry to the garbage bowl with my arms full of veggies that I washed when I came home from the supermarket!

Yesterday I tossed a chicken (minus one breast, which I fried up with rice for dinner) in the oven and roasted it. Today I shredded the meat off the other breast, a thigh, and a leg. I mixed it with a medium julienned daikon, about half a cup of thinly sliced cucumbers, a clove of garlic minced to a paste, a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds, a handful of toasted slivered almonds, rice wine vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, sesame oil, and mayonnaise. The black sesame seeds are decorative. This is basically what you would find at any good prepared foods counter, but my first rule of food is that everything is better when you make it yourself. I think Ray-Ray probably agrees.
This is how Foodmall summarized it:
Fusion food has brought a great deal of convergence among various cuisines. For Kosher blogger it is making his chicken salad flexible enough to fuse in with Indian, Italian and Spanish spices. He has given pretty good options to mix-n-match shredded chicken with, curry powder for the Indian aroma, olives to give that pungent Greek flavor, Pimento to give a smoked pepper’s Italian sting or black beans for that filling southwestern casserole. But Kosher blogger chucked in chicken for a sweet and sour fusion. He tossed shredded chicken with toasted sesame seeds, a handful of toasted slivered almonds, rice wine vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, sesame oil, and mayonnaise, to give a fusion flavor - sweet, sour, creamy and nutty flavor.
Hey Foodmall, you forgot the daikon, cucumber, and garlic! I suppose I should forgive the bad writing and the missed sarcasm as elements of cross-cultural dissonance, but the idea of these hapless entrepreneurs trying to make a buck (sorry, a rupee) by misunderstanding me is making my skin crawl. It's not the commercialism that bugs me, though. It's the absence of real content, of a real voice. Clearly, the writer would have preferred to plagiarize my entry but was trying not to, so instead she paraphrased it badly. If they were selling something worth buying, I'd be happy to join in the fun. But as it exists now, Foodmall is exploiting people like me for profit and I hope it fails.

One more thing: Kosher blogger is my sister. I'm Treyf blogger.

(To find the entry discussed above, go to Foodmall dot org and in their categories links, click on "salads." I won't speak to you ever again if you click on their ads.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Old food

I don't pay much attention to advice about how long to keep food before throwing it away. If it still tastes ok, I say it's ok to eat. I don't take drugs or smoke, I don't drive fast, and I have no dangerous hobbies, so I figure if I eat some really old food once in a while I can live on the edge a little. Here are some treasures from the pantry, fridge, and freezer.

Rosewater, approximately five years old. Why did I buy it in the first place? Don't remember.

Sourdough starter, been in the back of the fridge untouched for about six months, and before that was being used and fed regularly for about six months. As long as the liquid part doesn't turn pink and smell acrid, there are still good microorganisms in there waiting to leaven bread. Hang in there little fellas, I'm coming for you soon.

Sichuan peppercorns, sometimes hard to find, about three years old. Is there another food that pleasantly numbs the tongue?

Orange peels I dried myself two years ago, approximately, to use in stir-fry dishes. Still use some now and then. Don't waste your orange peels--they keep great in a tightly sealed jar.

Kaffir lime leaves from the freezer. No idea how old, but probably two or three years. I'll admit they no longer look very healthy, but they're still mighty fragrant. I'll also admit I don't recall ever using them. But one of these days I might make a Thai soup and I'll be glad I didn't dump my kaffir lime leaves.

This jar of curry paste is half empty and it's been in our fridge for about five years. But it's older than that--some friends gave it to us when they moved away and we don't know how long it sat in their fridge before migrating to ours. Still makes a mean curry. I like it with okra and tomatoes.

Finally, this is the end piece of a fruitcake I made last November. It's an annual tradition now, though we don't celebrate Christmas, to make fruitcakes around the holiday season and give them to friends and family. I use a Fanny Farmer Baking Book recipe and it's chock full of delicious dried fruits, nuts, and spices, with just enough cake to hold it all together and a lot of brandy to keep it well preserved. It sat in our pantry all summer long and I unwrapped it this evening to see if it still might be edible. I feared it would look frightening and smell putrid, but I wasn't about to throw it away before taking a peek.

I was pleased to see that there were several layers of plastic wrap under the foil.

And when I peeled them back, the boozy fruitcake aroma that I love wafted up. I'm going to eat some of this almost year-old fruitcake later tonight, and I plan to live to tell the tale.

UPDATE: The fruitcake was delicious. I ate a slice of it toasted and buttered just now, at 11:34 pm, and if I didn't know that it was baked way back in 2004 I would never have guessed it.

"Porn" watch

How many porns are there? Was food porn the first? What do the porns have in common?

What the hell am I talking about?

Kitty porn.

Wedding porn.

Shopping porn.

Law porn.

Surely there are more.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Butt braised in Bass

Lately Google has fed Haverchuk some visitors seeking "pictures of pot roast," which has been too bad for the visitors because until now there have been none. (Incidentally, I can't decide whether it's cool or lame to blog about the searches that bring to your blog searchers who are clearly not looking for anything you have to offer. If it's lame, I don't want to be cool.)

So here are my before-and-afters of tonight's dinner, pork shoulder (aka butt) pot-roasted in Bass Ale. (Pretty straightforwardly a Bittman How to Cook Everything recipe: Braised Pork with Vinegar and Bay, variation Braised Pork with Beer and Juniper Berries, p. 469. You couldn't taste the juniper berries--ten of them crushed under my knife--at all.) I must boast about how little this huge hunk of meat cost: four dollars and ten cents.

I don't have that much to say about this one. Shoulder is the most delicious cut of pork. In addition to the ingredients I've told you about, you can see the rest in the picture except for one: two cloves. I tied up the roast myself, mostly for fun. Instead of the slow cooker while I was out all day, I cooked it a day ahead of time in this exquisite glazed ceramic casserole, a wedding gift from some dear friends that makes everything prepared in it taste amazing. For the cooking method, see my earlier post Picture a Pot Roast, which does not contain a picture of pot roast.

I washed this down with a cold Bass and it was very nice. Out of the leftovers: Cuban sandwiches.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Fun shapes

We must not let our little dinosaur-lover find out about these.

The ice cream project: sour cream anise ice cream

This one is a shameless ripoff of an ice cream I've eaten at Sanford, which is the local place I most highly recommend if someone else is paying. I was intrigued by the idea of sour cream ice cream when I saw it on the menu and I figured I would give anise a shot. It blew me away.

I grew up avoiding anything that might taste like black licorice or jelly beans, which I still abhor, but over the years of my progressively zealous food love I have learned a thing or two about that distinctive anise flavor. The revelation came when I figured out that two foods I really crave, Italian sausage and Thai curry, are both made with anise-y ingredients (fennel and Thai basil, respectively). This made me reconsider my aversion to all things anise. The next step was warming up to fresh fennel, a food I never ate until I was in my late 20s, and eventually also to Ouzo and Pernod. Anise goes really well with sweet flavors and is often used in Eastern European baking, not that I know anything about that. I like it now enough to seek it out. (At this point there are almost no flavors I really dislike. Black licorice is just so strong, so that would be one. I eat some of them now and then so it's not a total aversion, but I also dislike bananas. I wish I didn't but I do. Aside from black licorice and bananas, I don't think there's any food I would politely decline on the basis of not liking its flavor.)

I made this ice cream because I had cream and sour cream in the fridge past their use-by dates. I had only two eggs, moreover, so I wanted an ice cream that I thought would be thick enough without my usual yolk-rich mixture. Sour cream is thick, I reckoned, and can compensate for some of the eggs. I reckoned right. Like my caramel ice cream, this one was so thick it hardened in no time at all. Faster freezing means less overrun. Overrun is the air that is beaten into ice cream as it churns, and less air means more creamy, dreamy. (Commercial ice creams can be up to half overrun by volume, which means that you end up eating a lot of air.)

To make this I first steeped a teaspoon of anise seeds in a cup of heavy cream by heating the mixture just to a simmer and then leaving it for half an hour.

Then I proceeded with the custard method using five oz. vanilla sugar, 1 cup sour cream (full fat of course), half a cup of heavy cream, and two yolks. I reserved the heavy cream to stir in after the cooking. When it was thick on the stove I strained the seeds out and left it in the fridge to chill.

As you can see from the paddle, the mixture was very thick. It froze in about three minutes, and I quickly transferred it to the freezer to harden. It scooped beautifully a few hours later and had that gelato/frozen custard texture that pleased me so much in my caramel ice cream: ultrarich, perfectly smooth, no ice crystals on the tongue. The flavors combine beautifully, like natural complements. Like cream cheese and buttermilk frozen desserts, sour cream ice cream introduces a welcome tartness that balances ice cream's sweetness and wakes up the tongue. It's really great.

Sanford serves this with lemon pound cake and lemon curd but I can't be bothered to make stuff like that. I take my sour cream anise ice cream straight up.

My other ice creams:

  • Egg ice cream

  • Black sesame ice cream

  • Green chile mint ice cream

  • Rice ice cream

  • Cardamom ice cream

  • Caramel ice cream

  • Apples and honey ice cream

  • Watermelon sour cream sherbet

  • Mojito cream cheese ice cream

  • Peach frozen yogurt

  • Oatmeal raisin ice cream

  • Mango cream cheese ice cream

  • Mocha ice cream

  • Berry buttermilk sherbet

  • Gingersnap ice cream
  • Saturday, October 22, 2005

    Retro food: Chicken a la King

    Lately leftover chicken seems to grow in our refrigerator like chives or mint. No matter how much you get rid of, there's always more. Every time I go to the supermarket I buy at least one chicken, often some extra parts too, because the kid likes it, it's cheap, and it always get eaten. I really like it too, especially dark meat that's been brined (1/3 cup table salt to 1 qt. water for at least 4 hrs) and roasted. I'm getting tired of chicken enchiladas, our old favorite leftover chicken dish (we call it "chickenench") and there's only so much chicken salad a person can eat. So the other day I started looking through the cookbooks and came upon the "Brunch, Lunch, and Supper Dishes" chapter of an early 1970s edition of The Joy of Cooking which my mother seemed all too happy to part with several years ago. Brunch, lunch, and supper: that's everything except breakfasts and snacks! What a chapter!

    The JoC is such a great book and so many of its recipes, from this edition anyway, sound hilarious or outrageous. There's Chicken Creole, Chicken Divan, Chicken Hash, Quantity Chicken Loaf, and Chicken a la King, and that's just the chicken recipes. There is also Duck Pilaf, Pigs in Potatoes, Creamed Chipped Beef, Leftovers in Bacon, Lamb Terrapin, Lobster Parfait, Canned Fish Roe in Ramekins, and several pages of sandwiches including Peanut Butter and Tomato, which also contains bacon and paprika. I love their names if nothing else about them, and these dishes say something profound about how quickly our eating tastes have changed. So I've started making some of the old recipes and am finding them to be surprisingly edible. Last week I made a chicken pot pie (though I improv'd a biscuit crust--made with lard, kosher folks!--instead of what JoC suggested) and it was dreamy good. Today I made this Chicken a la King, from p. 235.

    First I sauteed mushrooms in butter and set them aside. Meanwhile, I shredded the meat off of two legs, a thigh, and whatever else was left on the carcass of this week's roast. Then I heated up some schmaltz (saved from the roast) and made a roux with some flour. Then I stirred in homemade stock and a congealed hockey puck of chicken jus (again, saved from the roast) to make a sauce. The JoC says you can also use cream, but I had homemade stock and anyway this dish doesn't want of richness. When it was saucy and hot, I added in a small jar of pimentos (what a classic ingredient!), the mushrooms, and the chicken. The JoC offers the option of also adding slivered almonds, but I wanted to be able to feed this to the kid and he's not yet a nut eater. Then I did something I never would have come up with on my own: I tempered an egg yolk into the sauce for added thickening and richness and then, when it was incorporated, added a little glug of Shaoxing wine (in place of sherry). I salted and peppered to taste and I served it as you see above, with more baguette, today toasted, from yesterday's Public Market trip. (I am told that Chicken a la King is properly served on toast rather than next to it. Whatevs.)

    It tasted like cafeteria food. I loved it.

    Friday, October 21, 2005

    Produce, an homage

    Top to bottom, these are tat soi, Savoy cabbage, and sunchokes. I took their pictures this afternoon at the co-op. Tat soi is new to me; apparently it's not unlike boy choy. (Yes, there is also some leaf lettuce in the shot on the lower right.)

    I get my inspiration to blog pictures of supermarket produce from On Location With Rick Lee, a favorite photoblog. He does it much, much better. In his comments, people sometimes ask him if he ever gets any trouble taking pictures in stores or if people ever look at him funny. I haven't been taking pictures in stores for very long, but no one ever looks at me funny. Could be because I'm always with a little kid and people assume I'm really taking pictures of him.

    Spinach salad with bacon, cherries, and a fried egg

    (UPDATE 12/2/05: Looking for fried egg gender? Click here.)

    I wish my French were good enough to give this one a cool name. I'm great with nouns but I would put them together all clumsy, with preposterous prepositions and more than a little gender confusion. English will have to do.

    In general I am sympathetic with the Slow Food movement but lately I prefer fast and dirty. This salad was made with prewashed spinach out of a plastic bag. (I don't mind washing lettuce, but fresh spinach can be a bitch.) I cut four strips of excellent thick-cut bacon that I bought at a farmer's market into lardons and cooked them in a pan until a bit short of crisp. I like it not quite well done. When I was happy with them I removed the lardons and sauteed some red onion slices in the drippings. Meanwhile, I over-easied an egg.

    When it came time to assemble, I spread the green leaves out on a plate, topped them with bacon and sprinkled on some dried tart cherries. I added a small spoonful of whole grain mustard and a drizzle of sherry vinegar to the pan, stirred just to warm it all up and mix it together, and then dumped it on top of the spinach, etc. Then I topped this all with my egg. The best bites were the ones with lots of yolk, a piece of bacon, a slice of onion, and a cherry, just one. I ate forkfuls of salad in rapid alternation with buttered bites of a surprisingly good baguette from the spanking new Milwaukee Public Market, about which I will have more to say another time. For now, here's a pair of pictures.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    Oy, blogger; now try some offal

    My blogger interface is now en espanol and my espanol is no bueno. Not bueno enough to switch it back to ingles. Hope I don't delete my blog by accident.

    So, via Slashfood, Noodlepie has a fanfuckingtastic offal quiz. Who knew innards could be so pretty?

    Little Sister's Back

    I find the same joy in spotting Canadians in New York as our grandmother used to find in discovering that a celebrity was Jewish. (Although I think she was often wrong...Adam Sandler's line "Bruce Springsteen isn't Jewish but my mother thinks she is" might have been written about our Buba.) I have no plans to move back up north and I think people who sew maple leaves on their backpacks are jackasses. But now that I've been here a while and have gotten used to the fact that the gum is smaller and less minty, I've started to feel a real sense of nostaliga and affection when I hear someone say soory or tomoorow.

    A few examples...

    1. The Barenaked Ladies. Canadians tend to get smug about the BNL. To the effect of: you stupid Americans, every Canadian bought the Gordon CD a million years ago, and you think One Week was the first song they wrote. But this morning I was listening to Jane- presumably about an ex-girlfriend by that name- and there's one line that goes "Jane divided, and I can't decide what side I'm on." And I thought, oh, that's cute, Jane is a street in Toronto.

    2. Degrassi: The Next Generation. I love a lot of things about TNG. (Like Craig.) But I especially love when they say things that are just so perfectly Canadian. On the episode that just aired in the states, Degrassi Community School hosted a "colleges and universities fair." In Canada, college is something entirely different from university. I had sort of forgotten that I never used the two words interchangeably until I moved here two years ago. Now I feel kind of guilty for using the word college to describe what I did after high school, because there was never a time when I would have identified as a college student. Nor did I ever call myself a freshman, sophomore, etc. When I hear myself talking about grade 12, and calling it my senior year, I feel like I'm talking about someone else.

    3. Along the same lines as #2. Last week, Dr. Phil had a show on bad college roommates. He was talking with a group of girls who live together. I thought I heard them say aboot. They confirmed my suspicion when they said rez instead of dorm and when they said they're in fourth-year.

    3. I spent a weekend retreat with a group of high school girls in suburban Detroit, all of whom were clad in perfectly coordinated ensembles of flannel and fleece. And they were all identical to each other. They looked pretty much the same as my friends and I did ten years ago, except we didn't have as many pairs of boxer shorts with "I danced my pants off at Carly's bat mitzvah" printed across the butt. And the Michigan kids didn't have the grey woolen socks that we called woolies and insisted on wearing daily, summer or winter. But the thing I was really excited about was my discovery that Roots Athletics had arrived in the US. Roots was the main outfitter of every school and camp I attended. At any given point in my childhood there were at least five items in my wardrobe emblazoned with the Roots beaver. They had different must-have pieces throughout the 80s and 90s- letterman jackets, mini-backpacks, Tuff boots. But their staples were always the sweatshirts and sweatpants. I was so excited to see that every one of the Michigan girls was wearing something Roots. The cutest part was that they thought the tiny pocket hanging from the waistband of the sweatpants was meant for cellphones. Little did they know that Roots sweatpants have been made with those little pockets since at least the early 90s, and there was no way that any cellphone that existed back then would have fit into that little pouch.

    A salad you can('t) reFuse

    Fusion food? Sign me up. This is "Asian" sesame chicken salad--ok, it's no doubt "American" or "European" to mix cold meat with mayonnaise--next to a "Jewish" bagel. Get the connection: sesame plus sesame! How cool is that? I think I might have an unconscious desire to become a bloggy, male Rachael Ray. Take the same salad, sub in some curry powder: Indian! Olives and feta: Greek! Pimento and smoked paprika: Spanish! Black beans and corn: southwestern! Awesome! I'm going to take a short break to write another cookbook and count my money and when I come back I'll make a trip from the fridge to the pantry to the garbage bowl with my arms full of veggies that I washed when I came home from the supermarket!

    Yesterday I tossed a chicken (minus one breast, which I fried up with rice for dinner) in the oven and roasted it. Today I shredded the meat off the other breast, a thigh, and a leg. I mixed it with a medium julienned daikon, about half a cup of thinly sliced cucumbers, a clove of garlic minced to a paste, a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds, a handful of toasted slivered almonds, rice wine vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, sesame oil, and mayonnaise. The black sesame seeds are decorative. This is basically what you would find at any good prepared foods counter, but my first rule of food is that everything is better when you make it yourself. I think Ray-Ray probably agrees.

    The bagel is from St. Urbain Bagel Bakery in Toronto, the best this side of Montreal.

    The missing link

    Via Badthings, a link to the Harper's article "Debbie Does Salad: The Food Network at the Froniters of Pornography". (I discussed it here and here.)

    Hey, Little Sister!

    My sister will soon be playing Bob Costas to my Larry King. So she is now at the top right of the sidebar as a contributor. Now three fifths of the family will be bloggers. Mom and Dad, you're next.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Fried rice #2

    I continued the fried rice experiment this evening. As perhaps you don't remember, I was trying some variations on my standard recipe. First was adding eggs at the end instead of scrambling them at the beginning. Tonight I also tried a combination of light and dark soy instead of my beloved kecap manis. I thought it would be less fantastic than usual, but no. I liked the dark/light soy combo. I also threw in some chicken, marinated in salt, sugar, white pepper, and mirin, some garlic and ginger, salt and white pepper, red bell pepper, carrots, peas, and leeks. I didn't even wash the leeks--they were spotlessly clean.

    Fried rice #3, God willing, will include some SPAM. In the past few weeks both my mother and my mother-in-law have noticed the squat little tin of SPAM in our pantry and reacted as though it were rotting skunk flesh. Well, keep reading. One of these days I'm going to eat some of that stuff, but not before I take its picture for you.

    100 novels

    Of Time Magazine's 100 greatest novels in English since 1923 I have read 23. Of these only one, Roth's American Pastoral, is at all recent. Most I was assigned to read in school (my undergrad major was English literature but my graduate degrees are in a different field) and I can't even remember some of them very well. Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest were all assigned reading in junior high or high school. I remember of these only what has entered the mainstream popular consciousness. Lord of the Flies is about kids run amok. Animal Farm is about some animals being more equal than others. 1984 is about big brother watching you. I remember To Kill a Mockingbird and Cuckoo's Nest much better as movies starring Gregory Peck and Jack Nicholson.

    Of all the ones I've read, the only books I would look forward to rereading are The Big Sleep, The Great Gatsby, and Portnoy's Complaint. I don't think I have the energy to reread Faulkner or Nabokov. Then there are an additional 16 novels that I started and never finished, including the two by Thomas Pynchon. Some were assigned for class (Wide Sargasso Sea), some I thought would be fun (A Clockwork Orange). I still do that all the time, start books and never finish them. Some people surely consider this a moral defect.

    These days I read only two or three novels a year, almost always recent stuff. I loved The Namesake and Middlesex and I'm still really interested in Roth. I might read the new Rick Moody or John Irving, but no time soon. If I were John Irving I would be peeved that they found a spot for Are You There God, It's Me Margaret but not for me. He would be on my list.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005


    Self-portrait, late afternoon

    Apples of yore

    At the West Allis Farmer's Market.

    Vexing questions

    These are some things on my mind lately.

    1. Is there any polite way of asking someone -not- to hold a door open for you when they have already moved to do so? I have a system of getting a stroller through doors, you see, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment to manage it flawlessly. And maybe, just maybe, it's a bit of a threat to my already thoroughly negotiated masculinity to have people treat me like I need help just because I'm pushing a stroller around, sheesh. (That's the life of a part-time stay-at-home dada).

    2. Perhaps we might find a better term than "stay-at-home" to describe folks like me who care for children in the daylight hours? For one thing, I spend part of the day away from home, e.g., going through doors. For another, three-word compound adjectives are rarely the best way of describing something. For another yet, this term is always gendered--mom or dad--and "stay-at-home parent" is a mouthful. I want something like "server," a nice gender-neutral word that's easy to say.

    3. Did the Grateful Dead *need* two drummers? I've been listening to the Dead a lot lately (Mars Hotel and earlier) and I'm vexed.

    4. Is it necessary to measure the water when cooking rice in a rice cooker? The way the machine works, it keeps cooking and water keeps evaporating until the temperature exceeds 100 Celsius. Then the thermostat switches to a lower temperature to keep the rice warm. If you use a lot of water, won't it just keep boiling until the extra evaporates? Is there a downside to this? The rice won't burn in liquid. I suppose it might get mushy during a very long cooking, but I'm not talking about bathing a cup of rice in a gallon of water. I'm just talking about eyeballing instead of measuring. I would turn this into a home science experiment but that would involve possibly wasting food, which I refuse to do.

    5. Is there an ideal way of /emphasizing/ a word when italics are unavailable, e.g., in e-mail or blog comments, that I don't know about? ALL CAPS is obnoxious and the options above, -dashes-, *asterisks*, and /slashes/, all look clumsy, especially in combination with commas or other punctuation.

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    My television pulse

    Being married to someone whose profession demands that she see practically every show on television exposes me to the best and worst of the tube. So with the new season a few weeks old, here's how I'm feeling about current American prime-time programs, mostly on the networks and a little bit on cable. (The big surprise, of course, is how many comedies are worth watching.)

    Never miss it: Veronica, Gilmore, Curb, Arrested, Degrassi: The Next Generation (but the whole Kevin Smith thing was a disaster)

    Rather not miss it: How I Met Your Mom (though the narration from the future is seeming unnecessary), Everyone Hates Chris, Weeds, The Simpsons, Commander-in-Chief (supercheesy but fun, and I'm eager to see what changes with Steven Bochco at the helm)

    Will watch if it's on: any of the Law & Order shows, Lost (drives me crazy with the way it answers questions with more questions, but I grudgingly admire its audacity), My Name is Earl, Out of Practice (unfortunately, the pilot's promise seems not to be paying off), Everwood, Amazing Race, Kitchen Confidential, The Office, Monk, The Shield, Charmed, CSI Las Vegas (these last four I have barely ever watched)

    Tried it, didn't like it: Freddie, Bones, Extras, Close to Home (what was with all the US flags?)

    Never seen it but open to trying: Rescue Me, Entourage, Medium, Numbers, Without a Trace, CSI: NY, CSI: Miami, Huff

    Never seen it, no interest in trying: 7th Heaven, Marthapprentice, model tryouts, Ghost Whisperer, all the new creepy one-word-name shows like Supernatural, Boston Legal, NCIS

    Didn't like it before, tried it again, still don't like it: Desperate Housewives

    Didn't like it before but still open to trying again: House, Nip/Tuck, The L Word, Deadwood, Grey's Anatomy, West Wing

    Didn't like it before and NOT open to trying again: Cold Case, Crossing Jordan, Smallville, Donaldapprentice, any makeover/nanny/Paris Hilton show, 2.5 Men

    Used to like it, gave it up, not going back: ER, Survivor

    Used to like it, then gave it up, then tried again, still didn't like it, NOT open to trying again: Alias, The O.C., 24

    Eager to watch, haven't gotten around to it: The Wire

    Can't come back soon enough: The Closer, The Sopranos

    Let me get back to you: American Idol

    Don't let the door hit your ass: Just Legal, Inconceivable

    Sunday, October 16, 2005

    The ice cream project: caramel ice cream

    For my birthday, which unfortunately is months away, I'm thinking about getting a shipment from Jeni's ice creams in Columbus. Jeni's signature flavor is salty caramel and ever since I first heard about it, I've been meaning to get my hands on some. Columbus is too far away to make a trip special for ice cream--I have responsibilities, after all--so the next best thing is to make it myself.

    Salty caramel, as far as I know, is a unique Jeni's creation. I haven't found any recipes for it or reports of other places that serve it. Before I started this ice cream project I had never made caramel and had never made salty ice cream. I wanted to feel confident in my ice cream and caramel skills before plunging into figuring this all out for myself.

    Like deep frying, making caramel sounds tricky and dangerous. Both involve heating a liquid to a very high temperature. If any gets on your hands or arms it could burn you badly. And if you don't do it right, the food will be ruined. That said, I have had no problems with either of these techniques and they no longer scare me at all. To make caramel, you put sugar in a pan and turn up the heat. Eventually it turns into a thick, dark brown liquid. You turn off the heat before it gets too dark. That's the whole operation.

    To make this ice cream, I used almost the exact same ingredients I would use to make vanilla: 1.5 cups of half and half, 0.5 cups heavy cream, 4 eggs, 4.5 oz. sugar (I used vanilla sugar and left out any additional vanilla). That's it. I put the sugar in a pan and caramelized it.

    Then I added the half and half off the heat, then returned the pan to the stove to dissolve the caramel in the half and half. At first it looked like an inedible mess, but eventually it all melted into a uniform golden-brown cream. This took about ten minutes, during which time I'm pretty sure some of the proteins in the cream also browned, adding the benefits of Maillard reaction flavors to the robust caramel ones you get from browned sugar. Read Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking for more on this.

    I whisked the yolks, tempered them into the mixture, brought the heat to 170 (in about thirty seconds), and then strained into a bowl with the heavy cream. Ok, why leave out the heavy cream until now? Because the custard will cook without it and keeping it cold speeds up the cooling process. It worked.

    You will recall I said "salty caramel." What about the salt? Simply put, I chickened out. I was going to add salt to the mixture while it was hot but I decided it would be safer to master caramel ice cream before plunging into salty caramel. And I'm really pleased that I chickened out because the caramel ice cream I made is too good on its own to screw with it. Caramelizing the sugar further thickened the custard. It froze more quickly than other ice creams and this made its texture incomparable. Rich, smooth, buttery. Really great, more like gelato or frozen custard than like my other ice creams.

    I served my caramel ice cream with coarse salt on the side and sprinkled some on. It was delicious with the salt but no less without. I still want some Jeni's come February, but this will be a damn fine substitute in the meantime.

    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

  • Apples and honey ice cream

  • Watermelon sour cream sherbet

  • Mojito cream cheese ice cream

  • Peach frozen yogurt

  • Oatmeal raisin ice cream

  • Mango cream cheese ice cream

  • Mocha ice cream

  • Berry buttermilk sherbet

  • Gingersnap ice cream
  • Saturday, October 15, 2005

    Tuna for the folks

    My mother requested this dinner: sesame-crusted tuna steaks with wasabi mashers. E's a fan too. Very simple stuff: the tuna steaks, about 6 oz. each, are sprinkled with salt and pepper, dredged in sesame seeds (mostly white, some black just for show), and cooked for about a minute on each side in a smoking hot pan with a little bit of peanut oil to film the surface. They're pretty much raw in the center, which is how you're expected to eat tuna these days. To make the mashed potatoes, I peel and boil them, then pass them through a ricer. In a small saucepan I melt butter in some milk, add salt and wasabi, and pour this into the riced potatoes, whipping with a fork. I have no idea what amounts to tell you--I eyeball all of it.

    The green beans were my own call, an improv/hybrid riff on Ming Tsai and America's Test Kitchen recipes. They're cooked with butter, soy sauce, mirin, and garlic. I warm up some garlic in melted butter, then add the soy and mirin, then the green beans. I toss to coat, add a bit of water, and cover the pan as the green beans steam. Then when they're almost done I remove the cover and let them bubble away on high heat until they're finished cooking and the liquid has reduced to only a couple of teaspoons. These were a big hit.

    The glossy black stuff is a soy-lime syrup I made by reducing about half a cup of kecap manis and the juice of one lime in a small saucepan, perhaps by 1/3. It's sweet, salty, sour, and Asian, and little goes a long way. I'm sure I got this idea from Ming. A balsamic reduction might do a similar trick with a more Euroflavored meal.

    We had this with a California wine called "Red Flyer." I was seduced by its cool label. And after that we watched last week's Curb Your Enthusiasm, the one with the Passion of the Christ nail in the mezzuzah. Such genius.