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Uncrushable Laser Monkeys! (or, what I had for dinner)
Soup
Tuesday, December 6, 2005, 12:51 PM - soups
We made soup from the capon carcass the other day. We actually made the stock the day after thanksgiving, froze it, then made soup with some of it later.

Stock


You'll need a big pot of some sort. You don't actually need a big pot; last year we didn't have a big pot so we broke the carcass up into a couple of absurdly small pots & it still turned out ok. But a big pot helps. This year, we had a big pot. We got a dutch oven after discovering that a good quality stock pot costs several hundered dollars more than a good quality dutch oven of the same capacity. The dutch oven could double as a roasting pan as well, which a stock pot wouldn't be able to do. Maybe if we made soup all the time, a stock pot would be worth it. But given that we make it only several times a year, it wasn't worth it. Don't get a crappy stock pot, either, because that would be silly. We could have gotten a crappy stock pot for much less than the dutch oven, but it wouldn't have worked properly. Good ones have an aluminum core that goes up the sides; crappy ones have an aluminum core just on the bottom, or nothing. We have a small pot that just has an aluminum core on the bottom and you can't just turn down the heat and let it simmer because the heat won't get to the top of the pot; it's a problem for 2 people's worth of soup. I can only imagine how bad it would be in a stock pot with 4-5 times it's volume.

Stick the carcass and giblets in the pot along with coarsley chopped celery, onions, carrots, and a handful of black peppercorns. I think we used 2 onions, 6-8 carrots, and a comprable amount of cellery. Fill the pot with water so that the carcass is under water. If the carcass sticks up, just break it up so it gets underneath. You can do this with your bare hands and feel very primal. Grunting helps, as does using telegraphic speech. Actually, it's just easier with your hands than to go pull out a cutting board and a cleaver. You're welcome to do that, though, since I recognize that cleavers have their own appeal.

Let it ook on low heat for 3-6 hours; if you have a crappy pot, you'll want to use a higher heat. It should be at the low end of simmering. Every 15-20ish minutes, go skim the foamy stuff off the top. When foamy stuff stops forming, you can ignore the pot for longer. But check on it periodically because it's bad to leave something completely unattended on the stove for hours. You never know when a badly aimed mind-control-laser might be directed at the pot, causing its entire contents to sublimate. Then you'd want to turn the stove off.

When you think it's ooked for long enough, take out the carcass and throw it in the trash. Then use a sieve or collander, remove the smaller chunks from the liquid and throw them out. Skim the fat off of the top and throw it out too. Since a dutch oven has a very high surface area, skimming the fat was hard because it didn't make a very thick layer. So I dipped a mug into the pot and let the top layer of stock fill the mug. I skimmed the fat from the mug (which was now a quite thick layer) and then repeated the process until the great majority of the fat was gone.

We had a much higher volume of stock than we had containers, so we condensed it to about 1/4 the volume by just letting it simmer without a lid for a while. Then we stuck it in a container in the refrigerator. When refrigerated, it had the consistency of jello. When it became apparent that we weren't making soup any time soon, we split it up into freezer boxes and froze it.

soup


Remove stock from the freezer. Stick it in a pot... you can even use your small crappy pot. Add some water if you condensed your stock. Add a bunch of brussel sprouts and perl onions. Ack!. I've been hanging out with too many programmers. You can use pearl onions if you don't like scripting languages. I'm more of a c person, myself. Add some salt (since we didn't add any to the stock) and other seasonings if you feel so inclined. I don't remember what I used because I was slightly irresponsible and didn't post about the soup in a timely fashion.

Let it ook for about half an hour. The important thing with brussel sprouts is to let them ook properly. People often think they don't like them because they haven't had them cooked properly. Remember, if you take the ook out of cook, all you have is c. Or something like that... um... nevermind. But ooking is important.

Gingerbread
Wednesday, November 30, 2005, 11:33 PM - flatbread, dessert
I made gingerbread and cranberry chutney again today. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful---processed foods and pizza. I don't think I've been eating properly. Tomorrow I'll eat something healthy.

Gingerbread Recipe


ingredients:
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup butter
1 TBS lemon juice
~1 tsp baking soda
~1 tsp baking powder
~1 TBS powdered ginger
~1 TBS cinnamon
~1 tsp allspice
x tsp nutmeg, where 1/8 < x < 1/2
y tsp corriander, where 1/8 < y < 1/3

I payed more attention this time, aren't you proud of me?

procedure:
People who know what they are doing will mix up the wet ingredients first then add the dry ingredients. However, people who know what they are doing will have to plan ahead and be more organized than you need to be for this recipe; they might even use more dishes. Incidentally, brown sugar counts as a wet ingredient.

Make a pot of tea. Be sure to make more water than fills the teapot. Some of this water, naturally, you'll want to use to preheat the teapot. But measure off half a cup and dump the butter into it. (Um... that would be the measured off portion, not the bit that you're going to drink.) The butter will melt nicely and you won't have to worry about mucking around with a microwave, or worse, planning ahead enough to leave it out to soften ahead of time.

Pour the lemon juice into the dry ingredients. It's important to do this first because it's exciting... remember the vinegar/baking soda volcanos? Less impressive, but lemon juice still bubbles a little when it hooks up with the baking soda. Now add the water and butter and stir it up. You could do it all at once, but you'd miss some excitement. Don't wait too long, though, because you want the bubbles to be inside the dough, not used up while you were watching them fizz.

Mix the dough up and stick it on a floured baking sheet. Smoosh it out so it's pretty flat. It should be maybe 1/4" thick. It will rise a reasonable amount; I think mine doubled in thickness, maybe a little more.

Bake for ~10 minutes at ~350 degrees F. I started mine with the knob turned to 250, which was really 350. I thought I'd appropriately compensated at the time, but no. I didn't realize quite how psychotic this oven is because I don't use it enough. Did I mention that you shouldn't trust your oven and should get a supplemental oven-safe thermometer so you know what's really going on? When I checked on it after about 7 minutes, the gingerbread was mostly done, but the oven had decided that it should actually be 450. It wasn't quite done so I left it another 2 minutes with the oven turned off, so maybe it cooled down to the 350 range by the end, but who knows? In short, the cooking time/temperature is pretty flexible. In any case, you can tell if it's done by pushing down in the middle with your finger. If it's done, it will spring back up. If it's not done, it will make a dent.

Top with cranberry chutney.

thanksgiving dinner
Sunday, November 27, 2005, 10:09 AM - comfort food, flatbread, dessert, holiday
Since there is a terrible dearth of 8 lb. turkeys (we did find one once), we made a capon for thanksgiving dinner. 'What is a capon?", you might ask. Here's an explanation of capon by analogy:
capon:chicken::castrati:opera singer
capon:chicken::kobe beef:regular beef
A capon is a rooster that has been neutered at a young age so as to not develop any of the stringy muscles that roosters tend to get. then they're babied (probably no where near as much as kobe, but they live better than most chickens), get a special diet, and even get to live longer than their regular chicken counterparts. They taste more like chicken than chicken.

menu


breakfast:
pumpkin pie

lunch/dinner:
roast capon
green bean caserole
mashed potatoes
capon gravy
cranberry chutney

supper:
leftovers!

desert:
gingerbread
cranberry chutney

recipes


pumpkin pie


1. Go to the grocery store
2. buy a pumpkin pie
3. bring home & refrigerate until ready to eat

roast capon


1. Leave your frozen capon in the fridge for a few days. This is supposed to defrost it, but it won't.

2. Clean your sink & fill it with cool water; add capon.

3. Check on it every 15 minutes, or so, to see if it's defrosted yet. You might help it along by working at the neck & giblet sack. Once the big chunk of frozen giblets is out, the rest of the bird will defrost faster. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly every time you touch the raw bird & go off to do something else.

4. Put the neck & giblets in a freezer bag & throw them in the freezer.

5. When the bird has finally defrosted, drain the sink & clean the bird thoroughly, especially under the wings & inside the cavity. You need to do this even though you have magic powers that make your bird have already defrosted properly in the first place. This is to make sure there are fewer potentially nasty microbes floating around. On that note, once the bird is in the oven you'll want to clean the sink (and anything you might have splattered on) with bleach.

6. Stick the bird in the pan you're going to use. You ought to make sure it's not sitting straight in the pan. If you're high falutin' and/or into planning ahead, you probably have some sort of rack for this purpose. If you're a normal human being, you can just turn over a small stoneware plate (make sure it's oven safe) in the pan & balance your bird on top of it.

7. Spices! Rub the bird all over with spices. It helps to get an innocent victim to tip spices into your hands periodically while you handle the bird so you have both hands to maneuver with. You can use whatever you like. We used a greek seasoning blend. Then, for good measure, we put some rosemary & dried onion inside the cavity & rubbed them around. We didn't use very much, though, because we were almost out of both of them.

8. Truss the bird. I'm 99% sure I did it wrong because our bird was butchered differently than usual and there were flaps of skin with orientation different than I am used to; so really, it doesn't matter if you do it properly or not. Just do something--the point is to have it tied to be more like a single block than a largish blob with smallish chunks sticking out at various angles. This makes it cook better; otherwise the sticking-out bits (legs, wings) will get overcooked & dried out by the time the rest of the body is properly cooked. You can probably find diagrams on some other website. I'm not going to draw an ascii diagram because I'm meanspirited.

9. Stick the bird in a 325 degree oven and leave it for hours. Somewhere on the web, there is a table that will tell you how much time it will take per pound. Ours didn't take as long as it was supposed to (by about an hour) but our oven thermostat is psycho and there are good odds that we were cooking it at a higher temperature than we thought. Good thermostat or not, it will probably not take the time you're told it will take, so you have to rely on a meat thermometer.

Tha Man says you should leave it until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest bit of meat without touching the bone gets to 180 degrees. I actually meant to ignore Tha Man and pull it sooner, but those last few degrees went really fast & it actually went to 185ish. But that's ok because it's a capon, which is really fatty and juicy and the meat didn't dry out at all. This might have caused problems with a drier bird like a turkey. We started preparing the rest of the meal at about 160 degrees.

10. Let the bird sit 15-20 minutes before carving.

11. After the meal, get as much meat off the bones as you are willing to and declare it leftovers. Save the carcass for stock. If you're making stock soon, refrigerate it; otherwise freeze it.

green bean caserole


Buy french's fried onions & follow the recipe on the can. It involves canned beans, mushroom soup, salt, pepper, and (surprise, surprise) crazily processed onions. Now, you might think it's a good idea to just mix green beans & mushroom soup, but don't. You need the crazily processed onions or it just tastes nasty. I know people who make it this way. I always take a teensy bit to be polite, but yuck! This, on the otherhand, tastes heavenly. I suppose you could come up with something similarly good by adding a ton of onions to green beans and mushroom soup, but I'm afraid to risk it.

mashed potatoes


1. buy a box of instant mashed potatoes
2. follow the directions on the box.

You can pour everything out and stick the liquid ingredients on the stove and start it when the bird comes out. The bird needs to sit for 15-20 minutes before carving to let the juices properly distribute.

capon gravy


1. Transfer the bird to the carving plate and let it do it's sitting there

2. Since we did the bird in a really large dutch oven, it seemed an impractical place to make gravy. So we transfered the drippings to a smaller saucepan.

3. There was still some bits sticking to the dutch oven, so we deglazed that with something. It might have been whiskey; if it wasn't whiskey, it was vermouth. Then we added the results of the deglazing to the saucepan.

4. Scrape the fat off the top. You don't need to get all of it, but you should get most of it.

4. Put about a tablespoon of corn starch into a separate little bowl.

5. Spoon some drippings into the corn starch & stir it up until it's smooth. If it's too viscous, add more drippings.

6. Add mixture back into the saucepan & stir it in. If you don't do it this way, the corn starch won't disolve properly and you'll get unpleasant lumps.

7. Heat the drippings and stir them up until the corn starch cooks. You can tell it's cooked because the gravy is opaque when you start (because you've just added a tbs of white powder) and the corn starch will become translucent and the gravy will turn to the original dripping color when it's done. There's probably no need to season it because lots of the seasoning you put on the bird will have transferred itself to the drippings.

cranberry chutney


We used this cranberry chutney recipe. Make it in advance and chill it in the refrigerator or it won't have the right texture.

gingerbread


In a bowl, mix 1 1/2 cup flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, and spices. I'm going to just make up some values; they probably are completely different from what I actually used, but they'd probably work: 1 tbs (3 tsp) cinnimon, 1 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp corriander, 1 tsp all spice. Add maybe 1 tsp of baking soda. I eyeballed that too---at least one tsp; maybe two. Stir it up really well so that the brown sugar isn't lumpy. You ought to have something that looks beige. If it's not a pretty rich beige color, maybe you should add more cinnamon? Or just run with it.

Add a glug of lemon juice, 3 tbs of butter (melted), and half a cup of hot water. The butter is melted because I didn't think ahead to let it sit out and had to soften it. If you're the planning ahead type, you don't need to melt it. If you actually own baking powder, you can use that instead of soda/lemon juice. I have no idea if soda works without the lemon juice, but I thought some acid would help; powder comes with it's own acid.

Stir well and spread out on a floured baking sheet. Cook for 12ish minutes. It's done when gently pushing down the top in the middle results in dough springing back up instead of making a finger-shaped dent. Unfortunately, if it's not done yet, you can't try this test too many times without having a rather pock-marked gingerbread. Fortunately, we didn't have that problem.

Cut into pieces and serve with cranberry chutney. Yum.

I did think it was a little chewy. I think I'm going to use more butter next time; 3 tbs was arbitrarily decided upon based on what was left on the stick after the mashed potatoes & whatever else it was used for. I might also be more generous with the baking soda and lemon juice, but I don't know what that means since I didn't measure anything in the first place.

Blintzes
Monday, November 21, 2005, 10:26 AM - flatbread, breakfast
It looks like I'm only going to update this when I make something cool. Then again, maybe that will change. I've traveled a lot lately, and there's only so many times that you want to hear about subsisting on nuts, pretzels, and airplane-shaped goldfish crackers. But I made something cool for breakfast a couple of days ago. It was my first attempt at making blintzes. Not really, I've made stuffed crepes of various sorts before, but never the typical blintz that's stuffed with cheese.

ingredients


1. pancake mix
2. water
3. goat cheese
4. blueberries
5. flavored liqueur

recipe


I made the crepes with pancake mix. It's a product of being in albany. We have the world's smallest kitchen... I'm exagerating; we had an even smaller kitchen in maine, but we still have a small kitchen. No storage space -> baking is impractical because you can't possibly have all the ingredients you want on hand. So I use pancake mix instead of making crepes the normal way, which I'd do in san diego. The pancake mix I use calls for 1 1/3 cup water with 2 cups of mix. I use about 2 cups water to 2 cups mix. This gives me a much runnier dough so I can make a thin crepe instead of a thick pancake. It's also good to let the dough sit a bit after you've mixed it. Pancake batter has much more levening in it than crepe batter. If you let it sit, a lot of air will escape and you'll end up with something more crepe-like. Otherwise the first several will be really fluffy and they won't roll properly.

Cook the dough by pouring a little bit into a pan and swirling the pan around so you get a thin layer over the bottom. Normally I use an 8 inch pan but for some reason the 8 inch pan decided to stick to everything so I used a much larger non-stick 12+ inch pan. It made bigger crepes, but the method was the same. With the 8-inch pan I use ~1/4 when making crepes; the 12 inch pan took about a third of a cup. But usually I just eyeball it.

Anyhoo... once the dough is in the pan, cook it until it shrinks and peels up off the edges a bit and the top looks dry. then flip it and cook the other side. With pancake dough, the shrinking is obvious, there will still be bubbles on the top and they'll pop & dry out when it's done. With crepe batter, you won't get bubbles.

When the crepes are cooked, add about a couple of tablespoons of goat cheese to each crepe. I used cranberry cinnamon goat cheese that came in a pack of different flavored goat cheeses. We'd used all the others up the normal way but the cranberry one scared us. It worked well in the blintz, though. If you don't have goat cheese, you could use qvark. I'm going to try this again with qvark when I get back to san diego; I don't know how to get qvark in Albany.

Roll the crepe like a burritto. If you were clever and got the cheese out of the 'fridge in advance, you probably don't need to do anything else to it. If, like me, you weren't clever, you'll have cold cheese. I put the blintzes back in the frying pan to warm them back up.

Make sauce by putting wild maine blueberries (any berry will do; frozen is fine) in the frying pan with some liqueur. We used irish creme liqueur, but usually when I do this I use some nut liqueur, like amaretto or frangelico, or coffee liqueur. Some people think that cooking with alcohol makes you a lush; the alcohol cooks off, but if you think that cooking with vanilla or almond extract makes you less of a lush, you're welcome to use that instead (mind you, it still has alcohol, but if you have the weird guilt thing going on, you don't have to feel bad about it). Cook it up until the alcohol is cooked away and you have a syrupy sauce with berries in it. With larger berries, I usually crush them up. Blueberries are small enough that we just left them whole.

Top the blintzes with the berry mixture & serve.



Mashed Potatoes
Saturday, October 29, 2005, 11:18 PM - soups, comfort food

menu



breakfast: um... breakfast?
lunch: ramen
dinner: mashed potatoes with gravy and meatballs

recipes



ramen



1. Search your house from top to bottom in hopes that you have some foodstuffs besides the ones you just bought at the store, because you just aren't in the mood to eat any of that stuff today. I didn't buy much because my car is 3000 miles away so I just bought some staples I was out of due to poor planning in July. Plus I'm going back to Albany in a week so I didn't want to buy anything that could go bad. Just some canned and frozen stuff.

2. Discover a stash of ramen in (surprise, surprise) the little hidden ramen cupboard. Score!

3. Boil water. I boil water in one of those counter-top boiling water pitchers. You could use a stove top, but it's much slower and quite possibly less efficient (more waste heat). I couldn't swear by the heat efficiency, but I can swear by the time efficiency.


4. Scrounge through your freezer for veggies. I found green beans.

5. Microwave the green beans in the bowl you plan on eventually having your ramen in.

6. put the ramen in the bowl. use the block of ramen to put the beans aside so that the beans end up on top of the ramen; this way it's easier to make sure the noodles are properly submerged.

7. add flavor packets. If you know what you're doing and buy the good ramen, there will be several flavor packets. I had 3 flavor packets. Do not decide that fat is bad for you and you're going to skip the fat flavor packet. I've never tried this myself, but I've been warned by several reliable sources that it tastes yucky without the fat packet. And really, it's not that big and your body needs some fat.

8. Pour boiling water over the ramen.

9. Let it sit a while.

10. Eat.

Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and Meatballs



1. decide, upon reflection, that you still don't feel like eating anything you bought at the store the other day.

2. poke around looking for cream of mushroom soup.

3. open the can and put it in a saucepan. stir up the soup. You need to add a can of water, but if you stir it first it won't get lump. Once it's smooth, you can add the can of water and it will stay smooth.

4. Remember to turn the stove on at some point. It doesn't really matter when. I turn it to hi because i'm impatient. If it bothers you to risk boiling a cream soup, you might be more patient and use a lower setting. But I've always been too impatient so I use high and turn it down when I remember.

5. Add 6 fake meatballs. Why 6? because the package says 6 is a serving. If you're using different fake meatballs, you might need a different number. My fake meatballs tell me they should be cooked for 8 minutes. It really doesn't matter if you overcook them, but I set a timer just in case, because nothing is worse than having an unexpected frozen chunk in your food from undercooking.

6. Poke around in your freezer for vegies. Ideally, you want brocolli, but no such luck. Add a bunch of green beans. Somehow brocolli is much more comforting than green beans. When I was a little kid, I always wanted brocolli on my birthday. Yeah, maybe I was a freak. It might have been because when my mom made mashed potatoes she let us build landscapes with gravy volcanoes and tree-covered slopes and all that... Let that be a lesson to any parents that might be reading this: if you want your kids to eat their veggies, let them play with their food. It's all about presentation.

7. You might want to stir periodically.

8. Oh yeah, I added a couple of cloves of garlic. I didn't have any real garlic, I had this frozen stuff in cubes that are each supposed to be a clove. I dunno... it seems mighty suspicious, but the store I went to didn't have any other garlic. It's better than that powdered stuff, anyway. Not having a car really cramps my style. If I ever have to do this again, I might risk eviction and sneak out the back of the apartment complex, cutting 2 miles off of the round trip walk to the grocery store.

9. Boil some water in the water-boiling-pitcher.

10. Stick a chunk of butter in a bowl.

11. Pour some instant mashed potato flakes into the bowl. Just eyeball it... make about as much as you think you'd want to eat once they were expanded. And add some salt.

12. Pour some water into the bowl... just enough to make the flakes turn potato-like when you stir them with a fork. I always eyeball these things because following the directions never works. It's always too runny if you follow the directions, so you go back and add more flakes, then you have way more food than you intended. The directions also call for milk, which I don't have on me at the moment. But it tasted fine just using water---good to know for future reference.

13. Spoon the mushroom soup/green bean/fake meatball mixture over the potatoes. The gravy-type stuff made enough for 2 meals (I ate all the meatballs, I'll probably cook up some more and add them to it for another meal some other time).


14. Eat.


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