Monday, March 28, 2011

Veal Broth, Unexpected Day off, Marissa's Sweet Desk, New Plants, New Home for Kombucha, Black Truffles

  • I bought 12lbs of veal bones (cut to 3in chunks) to make 1gal broth, from double-d meats up the way. Veal broth supposedly is one of the reasons that restaurant cooking always tastes better. It's a point of view I've heard expressed by Anthony Bourdain and, more recently, in Charcuterie. Now, I looked into the methods used and some seemed fabulous, but too much for one day's work. I used the one in Charcuterie. In essence, cover bones with water. Bring to simmer slowly, discard water rinse bones. Cover bones with water again, simmer for 8 hours. Now, when I say simmer, I mean "kept at 160degF," ha ha. Since I followed it up with pressure canning of the broth for a year's worth of enjoyment (20min @ 10psi), I wasn't worried about killing myself or the wife with bacteria. In any case, I'm cooking Marissa dinner, which brings me to my next point:
  • Unexpected day off. I got up early this morning, drove all the way to work to be turned away at the gate and had to drive home. Apparently someone done teedly-durped and the power is out. I guess I should watch local news, nuh? In any case, it was a nice drive without traffic and I've been enjoying the extra day.
  • Mémère, you may recognize this desk. Marissa painted it with a nice glossy lemon yellow color, first of many of her furniture renovations.
  • We also acquired four little herbs: parsley, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme; and set them up in little pots on the porch, on a plant stand that Mémère will also recognize. They will be joined out there with some Madrid-style hanging terracotta flowers once we're sure we aren't natural-born plant-murderers. The little tray beneath the thyme is a cardboard lid filled with soil and Piquín pepper seeds. When I see some promising shoots, I'm upgrading them step-wise to "giant bush of peppers" status for summer (I hope).
  • We went to a disgustingly awesome rummage sale, picked up a great number of items for under 20 bucks total. One of them was a 1gal glass gar with a plastic tap on the side, which my kombucha culture now lives in. Didn't figure a picture was necessary.
  • I've always been curious about what truffles taste like. It's another thing that Bourdain and others say distinguishes home cooking from restaurant cooking. It's actually widely regarded as a cliché at this point. Another interesting (ha ha) fact is that virtually all commercially available truffle oil contains additives instead of the real deal. Had to go for it. Picked up 2oz of truffles at a farmers market for $20 bucks. Doesn't sound bad? That's $160/lb, and they don't wash them, so some of what you're paying for is dirt. Little squishy black pebbles with a really strange scent and flavor. They smell like tasty cakes, something sweet. I say a bit nutty. In any case, after eating one shredded raw onto a fried egg, I shredded the rest and put them into safflower oil, then put the whole bottle into a boiling water bath for about 15 minutes to extract flavor and kill off baddies. Marissa does not like the flavor, I am indifferent. Oh well, at least I know what truffles taste like now, right?

Friday, March 25, 2011

How Work Is Going

I'm on rotation working down in Auburn four days a week, ten hours a day for three more weeks. Auburn is an hour away.

A day in my life is therefore:

4am - Wake up, get ready
5am - Hit road
6am - Arrive at work
430pm - Leave for home
6pm - Get home and eat Marissa's dinner
8pm - Asleep

This is why I've only been updating on weekends.

Marissa's cooking is fabulous and coming home to hot dinner is amazing. She's been making a lot of soups, which I've enjoyed (recently a Portuguese kale one and a leek one). She also made me her chicken adobo style, which I also love.

While work itself is pretty boring and the schedule is brutal, I really like the guys I'm working for. A lot of great personalities, all over the company.

Post-script: I broke the fat streak today and Marissa and I joined the company gym. Her ID says Marissa Callahan.

Post-post-script: The wine out here (local stuff) is unbelievable. Apparently WA's specialty is german-style whites, rieselings and gewurztraminers. We're going to do some serious winery touring this season.

Lemon Confit

I may have mentioned the book "Charcuterie" that Marissa got me. One thing in it appealed to both of us a lot: lemon confit. A confit is something stored in salt and it's own juices, a way of preserving food. The most famous is duck confit, where a duck is cooked and stored in its own fat, aged for weeks. Supposedly unbelievable. I'll get back to you on that one, dying to try it.

The idea with lemons is this: salt the heck out of lemons in a jar, wait three months. To quote the book, "a common ingredient in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines, it lends a beguiling lemony-salty brightness to stews, curries, and sauces." Sounds great, right?

One inch of salt in the bottom (pickling salt, uniodized and finely ground), three lemons per quart jar. Top with salt, shake and store. I'll get back to you guys when we're ready to cook with it.

Speaking of middle eastern, we went to get tacos at Fiesta Latina in Everett (which Marissa admitted is "L.A. good," I had cow-face tacos, Marissa had tongue... both a lot tamer and more delicious than they sound. Next time I'm going tripe), and checked out the neighboring Zam Zam International Market. They've got hunks of goat and lamb for about five bucks a pound. I see some delicious curries in our future.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Whidbey Island (So THIS is what the sun looks like)

So I had been dying to ride a ferry since I got here. I remember taking one from here or there as a kid, always seemed a nice way to travel. Fortunately, Seattle abounds with ferry options. Of course, there was also that scene from the horror movie "The Ring" which involved a bunch of horses jumping overboard (don't click this, Maeve, it's wicked creepy).

Anyway, I wanted some nature time, so we took a ferry to Whidbey island, which is about 1hr by ferry from Mukilteo (near where I work). Conveniently, the Mukilteo ferry port was closed for construction, so we could leave from Edmonds instead, which is about ten minutes down the road.

This is what would happen if Marissa and I stepped into the machine from The Fly: behold our fellow passenger, Tarissa

I was thrilled to finally see the sun and some pretty sights. Can't wait for summer. Will camp camp camp (probably alone, Marissa's outdoor tolerance seems low).

Monday, March 14, 2011


Made a quart of black tea (in this case, an organic russian blend with pine smoke flavor), added about a quarter cup of demerara sugar, let it cool. To this, I added a splash of High Mountain kombucha (which is unpasteurized). Put a paper towel over neck, and placed just the ring from the mason jar over it (no lid). Put in cabinet, wait a week.

A week later, a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (a scoby) has formed on the surface. It has turned much of the sugar and some of the other tea constituents into a drink that tastes like smoky, vinegary, hard apple cider. Alcohol content is probably low, maybe 1-2%. It is slightly effervescent. It looks like a big blubbery white disk of calimari-like texture.

You can see from the cloudiness that there is still plenty of yeast at play here. There's some residual sweetness, too. I'm going to put the scoby into a fresh quart of sweet tea and seal the jar up completely (with the lid), place in ziplock bag in the fridge (to contain any shatterage or leakery) and see if I can "lager" it for a couple of days to carbonate it and clean up the flavor.

Now, the crunchy types say that kombucha "de-toxifies" and cures everything, but I don't buy it. I just like growing different kinds of bacteria and fungus. I'm also making my own "kefir", but it's no where near as interesting. Milk + kefir = more kefir. Kefir is in quotes because it's just a storebought cultured buttermilk with slightly different bacteria, no neato kefir grains.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gas Works Park

Marissa and I have agreed that rain no longer figures into our decision making. Wind, yes, rain, no. In any case, on this overcast morning we went to a park they've made out of an old gas plant. I wanted to go because I had been there as a kid and thought I'd remember it, but did not.

It's overcast in the morning (see exhibits A through E), but it was sunny in the afternoon, when we didn't feel like taking pictures.

On Cast Iron Pans

I was spoiled on cast iron pans, cooking at Devin's house. They were non-stick to the point that they beat any coated pan I'd tried, and you could throw big handful of cold ingredients and not get everything all cold and soupy.

Point is, when you buy a new one, the surface is rough from what I presume is green sand casting with no surface treatment afterwards ("pre-seasoned" or not). Devin's pans were from his grandfolks, and had decades of seasoning behind them, built up carbon. It takes time to fill in all those nooks and crannies and get a good layer of black rust.

To that end, I've decided anything I can cook in my skillet (thanks Mrs. Monteiro) I will, until it is perfect.

Well, on that note: I made an omelette this morning and it flipped just fine.


Friday, March 11, 2011

the tour

Of course it's been Marissa who has made this place look so much like home. I would be sleeping on a pile of dirty clothing and empty beer cans, lit only by a laptop screen otherwise.

It does have a view of the mountains, technically, be it fairly obstructed. The thing is they allow grilling on that patio (unlike many other places I looked at), and that's a deal-maker.

The CFL bulbs that came with the place are on the left. Bright and blue is fine for the kitchen, but I needed something with a lower color temp for the hall. Kitchen has a lot of counter space and two entrances.

Oh, and no stupid little breakfast nook. "Oh, look what we did! We punched out a hole under the cabinet in this tiny kitchen and put a laminate board on it! Now it's a breakfast spot!"

There's an Indian market across the street that we just checked out. Sells both black and green cardamom pods by the lb, no joke. Bulk grains, wide variety of other imports, reasonable prices. Anyway, point is they had "Old Monk 10000 Super Beer" as well. The band at the top says "Go for Monk." Careful though, it's "For Sale In U.S.A. Country Only"

Side note: I haven't used the heat at all outside of the bedroom, and the apartment has been at around 70degF.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Country Lyrics, Notes

Dinner almost got away from me. Simple mission, done it before: basil cream pasta and chicken marsala. First hitch was subbing madeira for marsala. No chef knife, haven't bought one yet, small cutting board, almost curdled the cream, almost got some flavorless hunks of chicken. In any case, for twenty minutes I was worried, but it came out okay. And by okay, I mean as good as anything I've ever made.

Untitled Country Song Snippet
I wouldn't love you if you didn't have your weird little quirks,
and you wouldn't love me if I wasn't some kind of jerk

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Missus Has Landed

Got the girl off the plane last night, then we got some dinner. It is of course good beyond belief to: A) see her, I've missed her terribly B) have some company. She had a sad last week, and I was afraid that she'd still be feeling down when she got here. I am a silly ape. Of course we were both ecstatic to see each other.

Surprising fact: there is a huge Ethiopean community here, and if the place we went to last night (Gojo in Shoreline) is any indication, a lot of good food is in my future. I ordered a yebeg wot (lamb with berbere), some collard green dish, and some kitfo (raw beef). The owner and cook was surprised enough to hear two white people order this that we ended up having a long conversation. She apparently gets all the spices shipped to her by her mother from Ethiopia, so in some way we're being good little leftist worker bees and sending hard currency to the third world. Ha ha, just kidding, we're just eating good food. The injeera was darker and more sour than any I've had so far (with a three day fermentation, and a mix of tef and barley flour). Really exceptional meal, great price.

Marissa had her first cup of seattle coffee today, presented to her by the owner of the Brown's Coffee Company roasters and cafe.

The coffee of course, is awesome. That you could figure on. The surprise for me is that the coffee presentation is fantastic as well. They do little designs in the cream on top, I enjoy that a lot. You can see a little pine tree on top of Missy's coffee.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rock Bottom restaurant

Side note, I swung by the Seattle location for Rock Bottom, had some fish and chips and a beer. Apparently each location of the franchise has their own master brewer, which explains the beer that came with my meal. I recall the Boston Rock Bottom as having unremarkable beer, and I only got to try one at this one, but:

Flying Salmon Stout
Our creamy Stout uses unique whey from a local artisan creamery. The lactose contained in the whey is a non-fermentable sugar which adds residual sweetness to this roasty brew. Great on its own or with one of our desserts.

It was the best stout I've had so far here (Pro Tip: it was the first), but it may remain there for a while. I've tasted milk stouts where the sweetness is overpowering and gross, but they really finessed this one nicely. Boldly malty but smooth enough that I could see putting away a growler of it.

I'm definitely going to have to try brewing beer with the whey leftover from cheese making. Usually you're just left with three gallons of green water and you toss it, but if beer with whey can taste this good, there's some experiments to be done in the future.

cosi e cosi

  1. All my stuff has arrived, the neighbor's have left their wifi open.
  2. My car has failed emissions, which prevents it from being registered in WA.
Apparently they fail you for OBD codes, which was unexpected and unfortunate. My car is apparently throwing four codes, two of which were listed on the inspection report.

One code is related to a valve on the intake side of the engine. Looking into it, it's a design flaw where carbon buildup causes the valve to either get jammed or fail. It was a warranty extension, probably could have gotten it fixed for free ten years ago if the letter had gotten to my folks. Oh well, it's a job I can do myself, I've found the service bulletin. They have you drill out the port in the intake manifold and clean everything out, replace the valve.

The other code has to do with the catalytic converter. Either it's bad or the O2 sensor is. Again, I could replace either given tools and a place to work (problematic).

If you have proof that you've spent $150 somewhere trying to fix it, they let your register.

This presents a dilemma: I swore I'd never pay another man to fix something I could fix myself. I drew the line at transmission problems, which Rick Novia told me would literally drive me insane. I absolutely have to get this registration issue resolved by Sunday, when the missus arrives.

Ergo, I'll pay some guy to address the catalytic converter issue before Sunday, get it registered, then start picking up the tools I'll need to take the intake side of the engine apart.

Of course I'll take pictures when I do so, and pictures of the apartment once we get it set up.