Monday Meals: Kelsay Carrots

Do you wake up some mornings knowing that you have to have cooked carrots that day?

When that happens, one must act.  Drag out a pot and a tightly-fitting lid.  While the pot preheats on the stovetop at low heat, trim the bacon.

This bacon is made with no sugar: it is smoked, but not cured.  I asked the local butcher; before too long he had a nice supply in his meat case. We like it for the flavor, because it is the flavor of the bacon, not breakfast cereal, and for the fact that it never leaves burned sugar in the bottom of a pan.

The bacon gets trimmed around here because the cook dislikes the heaviness of bacon fat, preferring lighter fats such as butter, chicken or goose fat, or olive oil.  This trimming is fun to do with a boning knife.  Here are three:

They are all 10-inch boning knives, but each is different.  Cooking is like anything else, in that you try out different tools, methods, and effects, to discover that you have preferences.  Here the top knife has a stout, thick blade; a big handle, clunky for me but comfortable for a man; and that big stop going down from the forward edge of the handle.  That one is perfect for removing a hide, disjointing a carcass, or deboning  a large roast. That   is wonderful, but not what we seek this day.

The bottom one is excessively recurved. The carbon-steel blade has been sharpened so much that it has become shorter, back-to-cutting edge.  The ratio of that height dimension to blade length is off-target for use in my hands. Were I six inches taller, my arm would be more straight as I stood at my workspace, and so I could wield the thing properly.  But I’m not, so I just lend it out to the taller cooks, and otherwise keep it around out of respect for its years of service to our family.

The middle one is just right: the blade is recurved just enough to be useful and thick enough not to waver.  The handle fits my hand.  The weight and balance are just right.  It’s like fitting a sword, but more practical these days.  So my general advice is to try various examples of the necessary tools and trust your own assessment of their fitness for you.

Add some butter to that pan on the stove so that it will melt while the bacon is cut to small pieces.  Yep, we are going to cook bacon in butter on low heat.

A “French cook knife” is most satisfactory for this bacon-cutting, as the cutting edge is convex.  You can rock it back and forth, with one hand on the handle and the other flat on the back of the blade.  But that is only when you are not holding a camera at the same time.

There, I’ve just used the back of the knife blade to shove the bacon off into the pan.  The bits will separate when stirred around.

At no time do we make bacon “crisp” in this kitchen.  When in your own kitchen, do just as you like, but for authentic Kelsay Carrots keep the bacon cooked, but soft.

Cut up some onion next.  You need one of those thin-bladed Oriental slicing knives with a straight cutting edge.

A knife like this can slice beef so thin as to be translucent.  We can achieve thin slices of onion which will cook through quickly and curl nicely around the carrot chunks.

Do you have an in-law who tells you that you must cut up an onion along some x-axis, then some y-axis, then some z-axis, in that order?  My sympathies.  Pay no attention.  It’s your onion.

Boldly take up your French cook knife and cut up the carrots however you darn please.  Now attend: when you have added them to the pot and stirred things around, you may not then leave.  To soften these carrots, you need liquid.  A little water, a little white wine, or a little broth will do the trick in just a few minutes.  Today I have some pork broth handy, so I add enough to cover the carrots halfway, no more. We are not doing soup here.

Put the lid on to fit tightly.  Search around for the final ingredient: either sour cream, crème fraîche, or cream.  Now learn this the easy way: crème fraîche is resistant to curdling under heat; cream and sour cream comparatively susceptible. For any of them, a minute or two to heat through is all that is needed. If you are using cream or sour cream, wait for the last minute to make the addition.

Now, when is the last minute?  The last minute is when the carrots are just soft enough to be nice; you might say al dente.  Stand facing the stove, lift off the lid, and stick a fork into a carrot.  We need fear no Banshee Beep of Cardiac Arrest to tell us when to proceed to the final addition.

Just a minute or two, now.  That’s all that is needed.  There:

The plain nature of cold sliced roast beef complements the complexity of Kelsay Carrots at supper.  A green vegetable laced with herb vinegar will complement the color and the richness of these carrots.  Enjoy the contrasts.  Bon appétit!  Smacznego!  Don’t put your knives in the dishwasher.

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Monday Meals: 2019-02-18

Sneaking Duck

Sneaking duck: Ingredients

Peking duck (北京烤鸭) is a classic mainstay of Chinese cuisine. It is often a special treat on the menu of Chinese restaurants, requiring diners to order in advance for serving to multiple people. There’s a reason for this: it’s a major production to prepare and serve. The classic recipe takes three days: the first to remove the neck bones and knot the neck, paint the skin with honey and soy sauce, and hang to dry; the second to blow up the skin like a balloon to separate from the meat then blanch in boiling water; and the third to roast the whole duck in a wood-fired oven. As I recall, I’ve only had properly prepared Peking Duck once in my life, when a bunch of programmers at the place I worked in the 1970s arranged a Chinese banquet at a restaurant in Berkeley, California, but long before and after that I’ve made this recipe or variants, which I find excellent, if not authentic, and a tiny fraction of the work. You can look at this as a special treat, but making it couldn’t be easier.

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Monday Meals: 2019-01-14

Jamaican Jerk Boneless Game Hens with Rice

Ingredients

This week we bring the spicy heat of the Caribbean to this cold and dark northern hemisphere winter with this Fourmilab culinary creation: Jamaican jerk seasoned boneless Cornish game hens with jerk, lime, and coriander seasoned rice.  This is a medium-hot recipe (I’ve had much hotter in Indian restaurants), but you can adjust the heat to your own compression ratio simply by adding more or less jerk seasoning to the rice (the seasoning of the meat doesn’t make much difference in the overall heat).  I make this recipe using an Actifry, but if you don’t have one, I’ll provide instructions for cooking in a conventional oven.

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Oh for crying out loud!

Ben & Jerry’s Launches Anti-Trump Ice Cream Flavor to Support Equality

They can take their ice cream and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine with all the pecans, almonds and walnuts on the outside.

(Sorry about this rant, gentle Ratburger members, this is just really too much to let go unnoticed.)

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Monday Meals: 2018-09-17

Twice Cooked Pork

Twice cooked pork: ingredients

A classic dish in Szechuan Chinese restaurants is Twice Cooked Pork, a spicy stir-fry with pork and crunchy vegetables that combines interesting favours and textures with enough heat to wake up your taste buds (and, depending on the restaurant, make your eyes water).

There are several styles of this dish, and the traditional way of preparing it is somewhat time-consuming and fussy. If you’ve read my other recipes, you know that’s not for us. Here is a variant where the “first cooking” is done when you make our Chinese Roast Pork and the leftover meat from that dish is the starting point for this one. If you consider this inauthentic, that’s because it is! If you like, call it “Twice Crooked Pork”! It’s still delicious, quick and easy to fix, and can’t fail.

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Monday Meals 18-9-10

I seemed to forget where I placed this image every time our Esteemed 10 Cents posted his “Monday Meals” posts.

But I found it and I’m trying to beat him to it as it’s a little before 7 A.M. where he is at.

“Monday Meals” are Great! but you can’t have a meal without a liquid.

So without further ado, may  I present a “liquid”.

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Monday Meals: 2018-08-13

Chinese Roast Pork

Chinese roast pork: ingredients

This easy to make, can’t fail meal combines a variety of Chinese seasonings with tender, delicious pork, and will provide you with several meals including an entirely different recipe for the leftovers which I’ll present eventually in a sequel to this post.

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Monday Meals: Sorrel Soup

The darn stuff is so easy to grow. Find a catalog that offers it, prepare the ground, bung the seeds in, and have patience. Growth is slow compared to that of some of the lettuces, for example, but then you see it is slow to bolt, as well.

A delightful sour taste is the outstanding characteristic of this pot-herb. I’d long used it as a minority leaf in a salad bowl, just for the lemony sour accent. This year, the crop was abundant and I had the time, so I whacked off half a row and brought it in.

The chosen starting point was an online Martha Stewart recipe. At Launch, I hauled out a cauldron, melted butter in it, and added a nice little pile of minced white onion. Those pungent little bits softened up in 5 or 10 minutes while giving up their tear-inducing sulfur compounds.

While that was happening, I cut up sorrel leaves into thin strips. Addition of those strips to the onion was Stage 2. The ratio of leaves to broth was to be 1:2. I had quite a pile of leaves; adding 3 cups at a time, the result was 12 cups of raw, sliced leaf material requiring 24 cups of broth. That used up my leaves, which was a prime object.

It seemed like an outrageous volume of leaf material, but it cooked down to a smaller volume, like spinach and other greens.

At this point, leaf color changed from bright, clean green to dead-turtle-in-a-puddle tint. Can you guess why I was not distressed in the least by this?

The reason was the fragrance. Simultaneous with the color change was the release of many volatile fragrance molecules. It was lemon perfume time, all through the kitchen.

All was ready for Stage 3, addition of the broth. This time I had some turkey broth and some beef broth, qs to 24 cups with an aqueous solution of vegetable bouillon paste from a jar.

I added no salt or additional herbs, the object being to see what these things would do.

Generally, soup is very much better a day later, what with flavors melding and all that, but today immediate progress to Stage 4 was a gratifying move. Into each flat soup plate I ladled the sorrel soup and schlagober-ed a goodly blob of crème fraîche.

The soup was a bit salty, probably from the jarred veg base, which I will mix up at 80% of label-directed concentration next time. Stirring the crème fraîche around in it mitigated that defect without masking the delightful lemony sour taste. In fact, the creaminess and the sourness complement each other nicely.

How the stars do align on occasion. Recently I studied a Polish language lesson on the theme of food and dining. The hilarious dialogue was between two people, out for dinner, ordering zupy szczawiowej. And now here it was, the sorrel soup.

When I was a little kid, simpering around with my hair in a pony tail, the relatives took me along on their summer trip to a vacation lodge in Middle-of-Nowhere, Outer Farmworld, run by recent Polish immigrants. Hot cream soup on a 95-degree day thrilled them all but revolted me! Now the stuff is delicious, and we enjoy it on our farm. Perhaps it is the operation of something atavistic.

Smacznego!

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Monday Meals: 18-7-16 Jaga Bata

Be it summertime, I figured I’d talk a bit about on of my favorite matsuri foods. A matsuri (祭) is a festival in Japan.  Most towns from the smallest to the largest have festivals, which are usually during the summertime.  Accompanying the festivities are food booths with various tasty attractions.  One of my favorite happens to by jaga bata. Jaga bata is a deep fried buttered potato.  The name is a portmanteau of jagaimo (potato) and bata (butter).

Jaga bata is often topped with just butter.

Jaga bata
Jaga bata, lightly fried with only butter.

Many people, myself included, like to put mentaikomayo along with the butter on the jaga bata.  Mentaikomayo is mentaiko (spicy, fermented fish roe) and mayonnaise.  It gives the jaga bata a creamy, spicy quality.  So delicious.

Jaga bata with mentaiko
Deep fried jaga bata with mentaiko and a bit of corn.

If you are ever at a Japanese matsuri, I highly recommend you seek out and try jaga bata with mentaikomayo.

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Doing Rich Lady Things Like Using Uber and Seamless Are the Modern Way of Giving to the Poor

I feel guilty when I order takeout. Why? Because that’s money I could be saving for a rainy day. The frugal American we-don’t-have-servants mindset is that anything you can do for yourself, you should, and paying others to do something because you’re too lazy, is wasteful. 

When my sister’s washing machine broke, she had to send out her laundry for a while as they waited on repairs. She said, “Olive, it’s great. I may never go back. I know it’s such a Rich Lady thing to do, but….” 

I began to think: The services that we consider Rich Lady Things–Uber, Seamless, laundry service, etc.–put money in the hands of the poor. If I tip the delivery guy generously I’m putting money directly in his pocket, much more efficiently than a government entity or charity could do. 

As much as I love the church, she doesn’t take care of the poor like she’s supposed to. Mainly because the government has stepped in to do her job for her, and made her irrelevant when it comes to taking care of the needy. Church budgets primarily go for buildings, and salaries, so there’s not much left over to give to the poor anyway. 

But could paying for services that I could theoretically do, but don’t have the time or inclination, be the modern way of giving to the poor? Those who are perfectly willing to drive me to the train station, or cook my food and bring it to me, are depending on my generosity. Could it be that I actually owe them their commission and tip? I’m stingy if I have the money in my hand, but don’t give them the opportunity.

The Biblical model of giving and helping the poor is outlined in the Old Testament in “not gleaning to the edge of the field.” At harvest time, the righteous were commanded to leave a little bit of crop around the edges so that the poor could come after the reapers and gather what remained.

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 23:22

This was the wealthy man’s field–his grain, his land, his laborers–but in the Biblical sense, he owed it to the poor to not reap every single inch of produce his land yielded. Leave a little bit. Around the edges. For the poor. After all, that was there only chance at gathering–they didn’t have their own land or crop.

Yes, you could rightfully command your workers to gather every single stalk, every head of grain, but don’t do it. Leave a little bit around the edges. For the poor.

Today, I could insist on doing my own cooking and cleaning, but why? In one sense it’s a way of being rigid and greedy.

When my brother goes to the bank, he gets $100 in singles, in order to tip his baristas every morning. The idea of tipping as a way of giving comes from him, who declares he does not give to charities generally. But if you go out to eat with him, you will see that he gives generously to the poor.

Thoughts? Are there any Rich Lady (or Man) things you do, that may actually benefit someone?

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