Pizza night revisited September 27, 2013Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Home, Homemade, random stuff.
Tags: 00 flour, pizza night
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About two months ago, Toys and I had to go to pick up a few things at Niblack Foods (formerly known as Tadco). We love shopping there, they have all kinds of neat stuff that we either can’t find easily or just want to play around with.
While we were browsing, we got into a conversation with a lady who works there. She found it very amusing that we make so many things ourselves. We had a very nice chat.
A few minutes later, after we had continued our shopping, she came up to us and asked if we make our own pasta. We told her that we didn’t, dried pasta is just fine for most of our needs. She then asked if we ever make pizza. I have to admit that I did a bit of bragging about my pizza dough.
The reason she asked these questions, was that she had a bag of flour that had gotten torn while she was stocking shelves and she wanted to know if we would like to buy it. At a discount. We love stuff at a discount. And it was something that neither of us had ever played with before. Italian 00 flour.
Now, I had never heard of 00 flour until a couple years ago when my boss at the Ravioli Shop mentioned it once in passing. It’s a much finer grind than basic all purpose flour. I can’t seem to find out for sure if it has a higher protein content or not, it depends on who you ask. It’s supposed to be the bomb for breads and pasta. And pizza dough.
So, we bought the damaged bag of flour. It was a 2.2 pound bag (one kilogram). A few days later, I tried it in pizza dough.
I substituted half of the all purpose flour needed with the 00 flour. I didn’t want to use up most of the bag at one go. I still wanted to try some in bread, too.
The dough felt entirely different. Much lighter and tighter grained. It was nicer to work with. Huh. So, I finished the dough, and got it in the fridge and promptly forgot about it until pizza night.
Friday night rolled around and it I noticed that the dough stretched beautifully. I had to be much more careful about putting holes in it.
Once I was done, and the pizzas had a chance to rest, it was time to taste. And it was INCREDIBLE! The taste was everything pizza should be. Light and crisp with a nice soft chew.
The next morning, my wife and I looked online for what kind of deal we could get for 00 flour. And were not terribly happy. We could get big bags of the stuff without a problem, and for a price that didn’t hurt too much. Until you factored in shipping. Shipping a fifty pound bag of flour hurts. A lot.
Plus, there’s also the problem of what to do with an open fifty pound bag of flour.
So, about a week later, I went back to Niblack to see if I could get a deal there. They had ten packs of the one kilo bags that they would give me ten percent off. That brought the price down to something reasonable. And I’d still be spending money locally, which is something we try to do whenever we can. Plus, they’re not far if we need more.
So, we now have ten different kind of flour in the house. Ten. Yikes. But I’m very glad we found out about 00 flour. We now have a license to bake.
Hot dog! September 20, 2013Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Home, random stuff.
Before you get worried, no this is not a post about how Jarly deals with warm weather. You’re welcome.
A few years ago, my in-laws gave me a copy of Charcuterie for Christmas. Probably one of the few things I’d run into the burning house to rescue. It’s a delightful book on the salting, curing and smoking of meat. Since I got it, we’ve stopped buying commercial bacon and I make my own pastrami. But I’ve only just scratched the surface of what I can do.
There are a few things I have no interest in, some I haven’t gotten around to yet and a couple that just aren’t terribly practical. I mean, I would love to cure and ham and age it for six months or so. But I don’t really have a good place to do that, and even if I did, I would have well over ten pounds of bone-in ham that I would need to do something with.
One of the things that was on my “get to it” list was hot dogs. That’s right, homemade hot dogs.
Now, before you start wondering where I managed to get pig lips and tails and other things that probably go into commercial hot dogs, stop. I didn’t have to get anything even remotely weird. I actually had almost everything I needed on hand.
First step is to grind two and a half pounds of boneless beef short ribs. Which were on sale at our local butcher shop. Lucky me! As an aside, taking something as wonderful as short ribs and running them through the meat grinder was a little rough. But I managed it.
Next add to the ground meat a little Kosher salt and some pink (curing) salt and some water and mix with your hands as completely as you can. Then, in a covered container, it goes into the fridge for 24 to 48 hours. Not too difficult so far, right?
Once you’re ready for the next step, you add the seasonings to the meat. Dry mustard, paprika, ground coriander, white pepper, minced garlic and a little corn syrup. Those get mixed in by hand. You then spread the meat out onto a sheet pan and put it in the freezer for half an hour or so to firm up for the next step. I put a silicone baking sheet down first, just to make life a little easier.
Once the meat is completely chilled and quite firm, it gets run through the grinder again. You want to make sure that the meat is very firm. The second grind is less than fun if the meat is too warm. Trust me. Once you’re finished grinding again, spread the meat out again on the sheet pan and back into the freezer with it. Another half hour or so should be enough.
The next thing, once the meat is cold again, is to run it through your food processor. You want to turn the meat into a paste as quickly as you can so as not to warm the meat up too much. Since our food processor isn’t large, we ran it through in two batches.
Now comes the fun part. Stuffing. I have read online that using the stuffing attachment for a stand mixer is a less than fun job for this recipe. Fortunately, my totally awesome wife gave me a sausage stuffing gizmo a couple years back that I am very happy to have. And just as a hint, to help keep the meat cold during the stuffing process, I had put the hopper for the sausage stuffer in the freezer to make sure that there would be no problems.
Now, there was one thing I was concerned about. We keep natural hog casings in the house for making either Italian sausage or the really yummy pork and leek that my wife discovered. But they’re really too big for making hot dogs. They work, but what I wanted was sheep casings. They are narrower and are prefect for the job. Sadly, the only way I could get any was in large packages. Five pounds or more. Which is way more than I wanted around in case this experiment didn’t work out. So, for the time being, we went with some collagen casings that I came with the grinder that were about the right size.
Once your casings are stuffed, you’re almost done. To finish the job, your hot dogs need some smoke. So, I got some charcoal going on the small smoker and rigged up a coat hanger to hang the hot dogs on while they smoked. I’ll figure out a better system some other time.
Once your hot dogs have reached a temperature of 140 degrees, remove them from the smoker and put them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. That’s it, you’re done.
We ended up with about a dozen properly sized hot dogs and a few that were a little small. Sample sized.
The verdict? These were really good. Really good. The texture was perfect, and the flavor was incredible. They tasted very similar to Nathan’s hot dogs, we both thought. The collagen casings were far from perfect, but that’s probably the last time we’ll use them. I don’t have a problem now with keeping two kinds of sausage casings in the house.
The only question is, is this now our house hot dog? Probably. It wasn’t a lot of work, mostly waiting. If we can get short ribs at a decent price, I have no problem doing a double batch or two and shoving them in the freezer until we need them. Plus, now that we know this works, we can experiment a little with different cuts of meat.
Monday Musings: 08.19.2013 Edition August 19, 2013Posted by Toy Lady in Big Lug, Food, Home, meal plan monday, Stupor Kitty.
Holy cow it’s peach season! Where has the summer gone?
And how do we know that, you ask? Well, besides fantastic local Red Haven peaches I picked up at the public market last week (and they were spectacular!), I received an email on Saturday from my local pick-your-own farm letting me know that peaches are ripe and ready.
What’s a gal to do but pack up her husband and drag him out to the farm first thing Sunday?
I was very restrained, though, I think. I only ended up with 17 and a half pounds - which took about 10 minutes to pick.
They are SO good, too!
Peaches aren’t the only fresh fruit we’re enjoying – oh no!
We were home Saturday afternoon, and I took the opportunity to enjoy my all-time favorite lunch in the whole world – a BLT! Peeps has been baking some fantastic bread lately -which, as it happens, toasts up beautifully, and there’s not much that can beat his homemade bacon. Add some nice bibb lettuce, homemade mayo and of course, the star of the show, a couple of slices of fresh Jetstar tomato, and I have a happy, happy lunch!
Old Jarly is having a bit of trouble deciding whether he wants to chew on his bone, or if he wants to come inside. He can’t do both – bones are outside toys.
We spent half of Sunday afternoon trying to get that through to him – he’ll bark to come in, so one of us opens the door for him, then he picks up the bone and we tell him “no bone” and shut the door. So he drops the bone, we open the door again, and he picks it up again.
That game gets old really quick, let me tell you!
Meanwhile, the cat is out prancing around the house, and every time it looks like the dog may come in (that would be something like every five minutes), she makes herself scarce, only to come back out and pester me as soon as he’s out of sight and earshot.
No wonder I never get anything done!
And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan. It looks like “Hey! Summer’s back!” around here – temperatures and humidity increasing through the end of the week. We don’t mind that too much – both my office and the house are air-conditioned, and we’ll probably plan a quick morning beach trip to keep Jar well-exercised.
Monday - We roasted that chicken last week (and it was very good!) – some of the breast meat is going to go nicely with a grilled caesar salad – basically, you take a romaine heart, cut it in half, brush it with dressing and slap it on the grill, cut-side down. We also like to slice already-cooked chicken and grill that the same way to gently reheat it. A perfect light dinner!
Tuesday - We got the September issue of Cooking Light last week, and there’s this big section on short-cut meals – healthy meals using prepared foods. At first, I sort of flipped past that section (Prepared foods? Really?) but then Peeps pointed out this hummus and rice fritter recipe. We would certainly try that!
Wednesday - We picked up a sirloin tip last week – that got divided and stuck in the freezer for future burgers and the like. Well, it’s the future, and we’re doing burgers. We’re going to finish up some baked beans, too, and I think I want to make this beet salad to go with it – if I get to it. Or maybe we’ll have peaches and tomatoes.
Thursday - Peeps made tacos for last weekend – so what’s better for Minimal Effort Thursday than more tacos – when everything’s already done?
Friday - We do love pizza night around here – ESPECIALLY during tomato season! Last week’s eggplant sauce was mostly a success – though next time I’ll double the amount of eggplant. However, the remainder of the sauce is now in the freezer – we’ll use that when we don’t have fresh tomatoes to slice up. I may sacrifice some of the pathetic basil for pizza – I don’t know what’s wrong with it this year, but it’s not doing well. Probably should just use it up, huh?
Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.
Monday Musings: 06.17.2013 Edition June 17, 2013Posted by Toy Lady in Home, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff.
What do you know? I was able to score one last bunch of fresh asparagus at the market this weekend – I thought for sure it was all done!
Boy, it sure is nice to find fresh, local produce again, isn’t it?
We’re also scoring some beautiful fresh lettuce and even spinach – and we’re enjoying it as much as we can, too!
Our Jarly has finished up his three-week tracking seminar, and he’s really starting to get the hang of it – plus he enjoys it!
Of course it helps that we’ve been practicing every morning – I’m telling you, if you ever lose a hot dog in your back yard, our Mr. Sniffy Face is just the guy to find it for you!
So we enjoyed this lovely pannini the other evening – and it was delightful! We started with a loaf of semolina bread, which I sliced - kind of the way you’d slice a layer cake – into four slices (plus the top and bottom crust).
Then we smeared some pesto mayonnaise on one side (homemade mayo and enough wild garlic pesto to be tasty), covered with some thinly sliced smoked pork loin (courtesy of Peeps and his magic smoker!), some lovely quick-pickled onions, and (get this) some fresh baby kale right out of the garden!
A couple of slices of pepper jack cheese, and a quick brush of olive oil on the outside, and the sandwiches went out to the grill – fantastic!
Fortunately, it was also delightful for lunch the next day, since there was plenty left over!
So I told you Jar’s been picking up the tracking thing, right?
Well, Saturday morning when we were walking in the neighborhood, I looked up, and there, about a block away, was a DEER.
Now mind you, our neighborhood does not get a lot of deer traffic – we have sidewalks, divided highways, and we’re about 2 blocks from the City line. But sure enough, there was a deer, and when he saw us, off he went.
So we walked along, and when we got to the yard in which we’d seen Bambi, Jar dropped that old sniffer to the ground, and he tracked that thing across someone’s front yard (sorry about that, folks!) and practically to the fence the deer had jumped – and nothing – NOTHING – was going to distract him from that trail – not me, not Peeps, not even treats falling from the sky!
And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan. You know, sometimes we seem to have the hardest time planning not the main meals, but the sides – pulling a hunk of meat out of the freezer is easy, but what to do WITH that hunk of meat, you know?
Do you usually plan the whole meal, or do you go with just the protein and catch as catch can for the rest?
Monday - Now that the herb garden is fully in the swing of spring, it’s time to put a BUNCH of those flavorful greens to use – and I don’t know of a better way to demolish a TON of fresh herbs than our old favorite pasta with tuna and herbs – we LOVE this stuff and look forward to it all winter!
Tuesday - Late spring means fresh peas – or, in my case this week, snow peas! And what a coincidence that I just this week saw a recipe for stir-fried beef with snow peas and red peppers – which will be quite nice with some rice – probably brown basmati.
Wednesday - We’ve got a slab of wild salmon in the freezer – and, since we’re still making sure Peeps’s mom is eating properly, it’s the perfect time to slap that bad boy on the grill! I’m thinking a quick rub with some olive oil, lemon, a bit of minced wild garlic, and maybe some fresh dill (which apparently re-seeded itself in the herb garden last fall – may as well run with it, huh?). We’ve got some fresh spinach that will go famously with salmon, as well as some baby potatoes that can easily be pan-roasted. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll have some fish left over for another meal!
Thursday - As long as it’s nice grilling weather, we pulled some chicken breasts out of the freezer, which will be marinated. We’ve got some sweet potatoes which Peeps will probably toss on the grill too – maybe with some complementary seasoning. And, of course, what’s probably going to be the final fresh asparagus of the year.
Friday - I have a dilemma this week on pizza night - on the one hand, I’ve got tons of gorgeous fresh herbs that will be fantastic on a nice cheese pizza, but on the other hand, salami is on sale this week at the supermarket, and there is very little more delicious (and fat-and-calorie-rich) than a salami and cheese pie. . . hmm. . . decisions. . . .good thing I’ve got the better part of the week to decide, huh?
Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.
Porkstrami! June 14, 2013Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Home, random stuff.
My wife and I were looking through the latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine a week or so ago. It’s not our favorite food magazine, but it’s usually interesting.
There was a one page article on food halls being the new food trucks. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. But it mentioned a place in D.C. called the Red Apron Butchery that does something they call “porkstrami”. This got our attention.
We did a little looking online and found a few mentions of the stuff, but no references as to how it’s made.
But the more we thought about it, the more we were liking the idea. Pastrami made from pork. How could this be a bad thing? So, we figured that since I already make my own pastrami, why couldn’t I make this? So, not knowing how, and since I have the free time, it was time to try.
I picked up a pork shoulder at the store and had them bone and butterfly it, so that it was a relatively uniformly sized piece of meat.
It went into the same curing brine that I use for making pastrami. Kosher salt, sugar, curing salt, pickling spice, brown sugar, honey and garlic in about a gallon of water. In the fridge for five days. No problem.
Sunday was the big day. I ground equal parts of black peppercorns and whole coriander for the outside and was ready to start.
Now, the one thing my wife and I couldn’t agree on was how to put it in the smoker. She thought that rolling and tying it up before the spice rub would be the way to go. Me, I was thinking that leaving it flat would be just the ticket. Unable to decide, I did both.
I started with about a seven pound pork shoulder. I cut it in half and rolled and tied one half as tight as I could manage. The other half I left alone.
Both halves get covered in the spice rub and we’re ready to go.
It was a perfect day for smoking. I had already had some pork belly curing, and we had also bought a pork loin so that we could put some of that on the smoker, too. I mean, you might as well fill the thing if you’re going to use it at all. My wife was a little concerned that the bacon was going to drip onto the porkstrami. But what is not improved by a little bacon fat?
After about two hours, most everything was ready to come out. The flat version of the porkstrami was just perfect.
The pork loin and the bacon turned out just right. The rolled and tied porkstrami needed more cooking time. But we’d already expected that.
Another hour and a half or so, and it’s time to take the last of the porkstrami off the smoker. We spent the rest of the afternoon nibbling on both versions as well as the bacon and pork loin. Go figure.
The verdict? Porkstrami is definitely a thing. It’s pretty good. The coriander and black pepper on the outside adds a great flavor to the cured pork. And since pork and smoke are such great friends, the whole thing works very well. The rolled and tied version takes longer in the smoker. The flat version has a better meat to rub ratio, I think. And is a little less fussy to get ready. Either way, it didn’t suck.
The next day I got the meat slicer out and sliced it all as thin as I could manage. Most of it went into the freezer for another day, but I left a little in the fridge for lunches and/or snacks for this week. We have not given it the ultimate test of heating it like pastrami. Maybe in the next week or so. In the meanwhile, we’ve tried it and liked it a lot. And pork shoulder is much cheaper than beef brisket. Although, I wouldn’t mind trying it again with a hunk of pork loin. Just as an experiment.
And who knows? Maybe this will catch on. And we can say that we did it ages ago. Heh.