Thursday, March 31, 2011

After the Stew

 M'dears, I have just made home made chicken potpie and it was easy.  And delicious.  Not healthy, really, but so delicious. You see I had this leftover chicken stew from earlier this week (see previous post about the wandering Band-aid), and I am not a huge fan of leftovers.

So I found myself wondering about making sort of a savory crisp.  I can make fruit crisps in my sleep more or less.  So I began, and half way through I decided that I wanted a more biscuity top crust, so I added some baking powder and milk.  All in all it came together very nicely and a good use for the stew.

Leftover Potpie

1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
1/2 c COLD butter (room temperature butter only if you want a gluey mess)
2/3 c cold milk
A quart of so of stew.  If the gravy/broth is thin, mash together equal quantities flour and butter into a paste and toss that in the stew, and then simmer the stew for a while to get rid of the raw flour flavor.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a largish bowl.

Chop up the butter into very small pieces.  (I usually quarter the stick of butter the long way, then quarter the quarters the long way, and then dice the butter small.) 

Rub the butter into the flour (or use a pastry blender or two knives).  That is toss the mini butter cubes in the dry ingredients, and then with clean DRY hands work the butter into the flour, by rubbing handfuls of flour and butter between your thumb and fingers.  Because the palms of your hands are warmer than the extremities, try to avoid contact with the palm of your hands.  Continue this until the butter and flour are mixed to a crumb like consistency. 

Pour on the cold milk, stirring just until it comes together. 

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap, and pat the dough out into a round(ish) half an inch thick.  This should be a bit more than eight inches in diameter (mine was more than enough for the round casserole I was using, but if I were you I would probably shoot for the diameter of whatever vessel you're making the pie in.  Cover with another layer of plastic wrap, place it on a plate and stick it in the fridge for an hour.

While the dough is chilling,  bring the stew to a low simmer.  This would be the time to thicken it if necessary. 

Likewise preheat the oven to 350.

When the oven is hot and it's been an hour, carefully pour the warmed soup into the intended vessel.  I used an eight inch diameter souffle dish, which worked just fine.  But whatever you use, use something with walls high enough to hold the filling and the crust, with some spare. 

Get the crust out of the fridge, discard the plastic wrap (like I needed to tell you to do that), and place over the filling.  Cut a vent in the crust. If you have extra crust trim it off and bake it on a cookie sheet

Bake at 350 until golden, about 35 minutes. 

They Mean It About the Waterproof Part

A couple of nights ago I sliced my left thumb while making some chicken stew.  (There will be no recipe for this, since it was on the order of take some carrots, a stock of celery, a double handful of mushrooms, and half an onion, and some leftovers -- chicken and potato salad, a couple of spoonfuls of canned spaghetti sauce, a big slosh of white wine, a drinking cup of water, and five cups of chicken stock leave in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours, marjoram, sage, oregano, and the juice of half a lemon, black pepper, salt, call it good.  Oh, I guess that pretty well is a recipe.)  I fumbled through the cupboard over the sink while trying not to bleed on anything I was planning on eating.  Found the Band-aids (Waterproof, size medium).  Slapped one on the wound and went back to making dinner.* 

The next morning I woke up.  Sometime later in the day I noticed I wasn't wearing the Band-aid. I didn't remember taking it off, but it was entirely within character to have forgotten such a thing.  I went off and washed my hair instead.  Ran some errands in a down pour without a rain jacket (I'd looked outside and thought it looks like rain, and then completely discounted that observation).  I went to Tacoma, in further rain, this time wearing a rain jacket, missed my stop** and ended up at the Park and Ride in South Tacoma, where it was raining sideways. 

In short I spent most of yesterday varying degrees of soaked to the bone. 

This afternoon I discovered that the errant Band-aid from two days ago, was stuck to my lower back.  I have no idea how it got there, but I am very very impressed with its tenacity in staying.  Although really I would have preferred that it had stayed on my thumb. 

*Bob's Red Mill Irish Soda Bread Mix?  Yum. 

**Or possibly I was on the wrong bus, there is an increasing amount of evidence in that direction.  In any case I was definitely reading. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On the color of subjectivity

Franz Marc, Large Blue Horses
Our color theory teacher discussing the particulars of an assignment:
If you interpret tranquility as lots of reds, blacks, and yellows, I can't really disagree, but I will send you to the school nurse.
I do actually have strong comforting associations with red -- strong enough that it would make sense for me to include them in the color palette of a room in which I wanted to feel tranquil.  Note also, that the reds and yellows give the painting above a sense of voluptuous abundance, while the symmetrical composition gives it stability.  This abundance and stability provide the perfect setting in which the blue horses can rest tranquilly. Or, at least, I see it that way. However the assignment was to communicate beyond the confines of my skull, so I sidestepped the issue by not illustrating tranquility.

My color associations slip over the borders into synesthesia sometimes. Many, maybe all, scents and tastes have color.  My favorite perfumes smell golden brown and purple.  Lavender is silver.  Eggs are various shades of beige.  I don't like things that taste too beige, unless there is a strong flavor to balance all that mute beige.  Lemon, a bright robin's egg blue, goes with almost everything.  Caraway is a bright springy green, but too bright a yellow green is the color of a headache.  I don't like things that taste like headaches.  Chartreuse' actual color matches the color I associate with the flavor, which should give a nice consistency to the experience, except that it is exactly the color of a migraine. 

And that's just foods and smells.  There is another layer of meaning, color and emotion go together.  Red for joy, protection, comfort.  Dark blue for grief*.  Pink for aggression (positive or negative).  Pale yellow for epiphanies, apprehension of beauty, and power.  Bright yellow green is almost always negative: deceitful, hallucinatory, painful.  Sometimes.  But other people don't see color in the same way. So I try to take into account the commonly agreed on cultural connotations of color.  Or at least not say things like "purple is the color of stability so I chose to use it to anchor this design, as it plays off against the teal of secret growth, and the manic yellow green."  Johannes Itten, the father of color theory, tried to make such personal associations universal.  For example, according to him purple was an ominous, threatening color. That aspect of his work has not aged well, even as his principles for understanding color schemes continue to be taught. 

*Blue is a funny one actually.  My brain tends not to classify many shades of blue as color, but rather as shades of grey with pretensions.   I discovered this in final presentations when someone complimented a student on his colorful composition which took me a moment to understand, because the colors in question were mostly blue.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Miscellany: End of Quarter edition

It appears to have been a bit more than a week since I last posted. School is over for the quarter, and won't resume until a week from today.    The quarter finished in a final presentation session of Biblical proportions.  Four and a half hours of people talking about their quarter long typography projects.  Now while I am in no way complaining about listening to people talking about things that have demanded their attention, enthusiasm, time, energy, heart, and soul -- I think we can all agree that that is a long time to sit still. I have since then been celebrating, recuperating, NOT going to Costco*, and celebrating my grandfather's 85th birthday.  And seasonal allergies.  I hate seasonal allergies.

So here are five things to justify this post.

1. Foodwise I will probably be experimenting with a different base for the cheese cake brownies at some point this week (I am expecting company of the highest caliber next weekend -- my friend Skadi).  The cheese cake brownies were Awesome.  Even better than the rhubarb custard, and I generally like fruit desserts better than chocolate desserts.  However they were less than ideally cohesive since the brownie recipe I was using as a base was one of the gooey brownie type recipes.

I will probably eventually reveal the recipe, if I can get it to do the things I want it to.  AND next time I will remember to more accurately account for the amount of jam used in the recipe.  Because "enough jam to turn the cream cheese mixture Mary Kay pink" is not the most useful instruction ever in the history of useful instructions.

The rhubarb custard is also getting a redo, so revisions may show up later this week, hopefully these revisions will lead to a better texture.

2. This is the brownie recipe I used as the brownie base.  It is gooey.  So much so that these are more like fudge than an actual cakey brownie.  They are my favorites, and well worth the pan scraping to get every last nibble.

3.  In honor of the end of my first quarter of typography, here is illustrative typography that overwhelms me with its playful elegance.  Someday I want to be that cool.

4. XKCD goes philosophical. 

5. Given a week where I don't have to be up in the morning at any given time, I immediately resume my natural pattern of staying up half the night reading.  This means that my spring break list is moving much more slowly than my reading list. 

*J and I packed a picnic dinner, with the intent to watch the end of a beautiful spring day from the beach at Carkeek park and then go to Costco.  It quickly became apparent that sitting on the beach and chatting about our respective weeks was more fun than Costco.  Somehow I ended up covered in mud.  Such is life.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tastes Good, but the Presentation...

Custard on the left, raspberry cheese cake brownies on the right. Despite appearances there was no actual blood involved in their manufacture. I'm just purely terrible at dessert decoration that goes beyond rustic.

Well, they should taste alright anyway.

Winter Is Over and Past!

I woke up this morning and I wanted out.  Birds were singing and delicious smells of earth and flowers were coming in my window.  Two of my cousins are in Everett this weekend instead of Palo Alto and Iowa, so I had planned on going up north shortly after breakfast.  Which is fine.  But I've spent many of my last several weekends being social and I wanted some time to be me... in silence.  Fortuitously, my aunt called and said everyone was moving slowly, so maybe we could meet up before dinner?

Suited me fine.  I went and washed my hair and took out the recycling and then I went for a walk.  For a couple of hours I walked over north Cap Hill taking pictures (and figuring out the rudimentary manual controls on my camera) and breathing.  Volunteer park was filled with families.  The koi in the koi ponds looked particularly handsome. The reservoir glowed deep teal.  The crows were raucous in their delight with the day, and I kept fighting the urge to write Anglo-Magic-Realist short stories in the mode of A.S. Byatt-- all about a woman who lives in a city by an inland sea and communes with the wise fish who hear all the secrets of lovers who sit by their pond.  (If I develop an actual plot rather than a handful of images I may yet follow through.)  Anyway, everything seemed alive and suffused with joy and intelligence. 

On my way home I stopped at the grocery store and bought a pound of rhubarb for to make a something or other to augment the raspberry cheese cake brownies (recipe coming later, if I think it's worth while) I made last night, before I remembered that one of my cousins has given up chocolate for Lent.  I had been thinking idly of rhubarb upside down cake, but I didn't have enough butter.  Ditto the rhubarb crisp idea.  Eventually I settled on a rhubarb custard.  Except no where could I find a recipe for what I wanted.  At least, not under that name. 

Eventually I adapted a recipe for rice pudding of all the peculiar things, and I offer it here to you all.

Rhubarb Custard

4 cups of chopped rhubarb.  This is somewhat less than a pound, but extra rhubarb has never been a problem for me.
1 1/2 cup whole milk
2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp muscato (it's a light sweet white wine, which could probably be omitted, but I had it so I used it)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a souffle dish (I would suggest an 8"x8" baking dish or 9" deep pie plate, but all I had that did not already have baked goods in it was the aforementioned souffle dish), and toss in the rhubarb.  Toss the rhubarb with 1 Tbsp sugar and the moscato.  Set aside.

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan bring the milk to a simmer.

While you are waiting on the milk, whisk together the rest of the sugar, , the eggs, the vanilla, the cinnamon and the salt. If the milk simmers while all this whisking is going on, remove it from the heat.

Gradually add the hot milk to the egg mixture while stirring continuously.

Pour over the custard and bake at 350 until puffed and golden and set.  Details on the timing of this when it comes out of the oven.  I went to about an hour and ten minutes, before allowing it to continue cooking in the oven with the heat off. 

I used more moscato than what I outline above, and it was too much.  Between the extraneous moscato and the liquid the rhubarb is throwing off, there is too much liquid in the dish.  The smell is intoxicating, but the evidence suggests that the texture may be less than perfect. Some of this trouble could have been avoided by baking the custard in a shallower dish with more surface area, and placing it in a water bath. 

On further exploration most people will probably want more sugar than I used, and possibly less rhubarb.  Next time.  For there is going to definitely be a next time. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

White Chili (Sort Of)

I have a perfectly good recipe for white chili that I have been meaning to make for awhile.  I like white chili.  No.  I love white chili.  And when the fit is on me, chili from a can will not do.

I didn't know the fit was on me, until I went to the grocery store for brownie supplies.  I came back with chicken, chilis, and a sweet potato.*  A sweet potato?  Huh?  Yes, the Vast Orange Vegetable Conspiracy has struck again.  Sweet potatoes appear nowhere in my white chili recipe.  Possibly they do now.  I'll know for sure in a couple of hours.

M's White Chili, Now with Sweet Potato

1-2 Tbsp veg. oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs, likewise chopped
1 large sweet potato chopped (If you're not a victim of sinister orange vegetables throw in a couple more chicken thighs.  Or several, the original recipe I have calls for 2 pounds of chicken, I use considerably less.)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 chopped up Anaheim chili

2 cans white kidney beans
1 can green chilis
1 cup apple cider
3 cup chicken stock (or four cups chicken stock and skip the cider)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp coriander
1 tsp oregano (if you're not a nitwit and forgot to buy it)
salt and pepper to taste

Pour the oil in the bottom of a heavy bottomed soup kettle.  Heat to medium high and toss in the onions and the chicken.  Cook until the onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and the fresh chili.  Cook, stirring often, a bit longer.  Add everything but the salt and pepper.  Cook over low heat for a couple of hours at least.  Really, the best way to do this is in a crock pot.  I do not currently own a crock pot.  This is sometimes a problem.

Before you serve, check the seasonings and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with grated jack or cheddar, lime wedges, and sour cream. 

*Notably forgetting the sour cream and the oregano.  Savory cooking of any sort without oregano is outrageously difficult.  I may have to make another trip to the grocery store to fix that one.

Anyone Caught Moving Faster Than a Turnip Will Be Shot

I intended to write this post about my domestic short comings which are legion.  Except that I realized that I was using self-excoriation as an excuse not to fold laundry.  Yes, folks, this is how much I hate house work, I would rather embarrass myself in public than do it.

I went and folded laundry instead, and turned on iTunes.  I was doing really well, singing along to the Decemberists and Bob Marley, until Jason Webley's apocalyptic ode to gardening "Back to the Garden" came on.  I thought "aha! an excuse to stop" for there are several people reading this that would appreciate the lyrics, if not necessarily the drunken pirate delivery.  However the drunken pirate delivery, which is a hoot, is on an album that is out of print, and not running free on youtube (the version on youtube is uninspiring but it is there if you want it), so you will have to take my word for it.

Anyway, enough dilly dallying, I've got clothes to fold (and floors to take out and recycling to vacuum*).

*Silliest looking word in the English language.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Design-y Miscellany

So I'm sitting here locked in battle with my nemesis Final Cut Pro, if locked in battle is the right cliche for sitting and waiting for video to render for years.  I am going to have floor length snow white hair by the time this is done.

Time for five more random things while I contemplate the vast yawning chasm of suckitude that is my lack of aptitude for anything to do with editing video.  No really, I'm not good enough to be incompetent.  However, I keep getting paired with people who are scared of their own ignorance. I on the other hand am willing to look like an idiot in public, so I keep editing.  Maybe the next time I get handed the baby, I'll get someone to teach me how to edit audio.  If this keeps up, I may end up being mediocre.  Good seems a bit too much to hope for, as my respect for my friends and family members who really are good at this stuff rises. 

Anyway five things of interest, for loosely defined values of interest.

1)  Even in the midst of editing film, big band still makes me outrageously happy.  The film soundtrack ended up being Glen Miller's In the Mood.  It makes me wish that I were a better dancer. Maybe like this:

2)  Instructions for cocktail making AND any of the creative disciplines at the very same time.  A Twist of Lemon.

3) My color theory teacher discussing the particulars of an assignment:
If you interpret tranquility as lots of reds, blacks, and yellows, I can't really disagree, but I will send you to the school nurse.
I have considered devoting a section of the blog to this particular instructor's gnomic utterances, but type just does not capture the delivery. 

4)  "I'm sort of a god in the Twin Peaks community."  Later the statement was amended to an unequivocal assertion of TP godhood.  However, I think equivocation is funnier. 

5) Lapsang souchong is the best black tea for editing film. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Miscellany Again

1.  The End is Nigh...

No really.  The quarter is almost over, so I will go back to writing again.  I have a short film to edit, a printing bid to write, and a presentation to pull together. That's doable, right?

2.  Pearled barley makes a tasty substitute for rice in rice pudding.   Or at least I think so, possibly the reason I ended up with the leftovers is that my dinner companion did not agree.

3.  From the same meal:  toasted sunflower seeds, garlic, and olive oil make a wonderful topping for baked cod and/or catfish.  Especially if garnished with fresh cilantro.  (Some of my esteemed relatives will disagree, but I'm not one of those unfortunates who can't do cilantro.)


Probable sound track for the short film referred to above.

5.  Strangest search term of the week?  Shrubbery shirt cake

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Inventing things again

I used to say that I did NOT bake.  Baking was too fussy for a tomboy like me.  I liked the rough alchemy of a sauté coming together, or a soup long simmered, until cheap meat, and slightly dodgy vegetables became a dish to astound my friends.   And then there were the notable failures, but about those best to keep quiet. 

Baking, by contrast, was predictable, lacking in adventure.  All those finicking chemical reactions to bake a cake that worked.  No room for experimentation.

But eventually my love of the kitchen led me to learn, apprehensively at first, the rudiments of baking.  I'm by no means a master baker, whatever this blog might lead one to believe, but I do what I know well.  And eventually, I mastered enough of the basics to do what I did tonight -- open my faithful Joy of Cooking to a simple quick cake recipe (that is a cake that relies on a chemical reaction between an acid and a base for it to rise rather than a cake that relies, at least in part, on incorporating air into eggs for structure) -- realize that I don't have enough sour cream to make it, and improvise.

The improvisation is in the oven at the moment, but here is the recipe.  In general for baked goods I prefer not to rely on regular coffee to impart a coffee flavor -- coffee is bizarrely one of the more evanescent flavoring -- but a half cup seems like it ought to do something.  

This cake comes together fast, and can be mixed with a wooden spoon without undue laboriousness.  I also suppose that some people would call this a tea loaf rather than a cake and I will admit their point.

Hopeful Mocha Quick Cake

5 Tbsp Butter
2/3 c brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c strong coffee
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 c flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.

Grease and flour a 9"x 5" loaf pan

Melt the butter in a large microwave safe mixing bowl.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients in the order in which they are listed, stirring between each addition. Stir until the dry ingrediants are just combined, and the chips are well distributed.

Scrap into the loaf pan and bake for 40 - 45 minutes, or until a tooth pick or fork inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes or so, and then run a fork around the cake to loosen it and turn it out. 

Edit to add: I baked this as described in a loaf pan, took forever.  I suggest a nine or ten inch cake pan and start checking around the 30 minute mark.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New Challeges

This evening I ate latkes for the first time.  They were imperfect, based on a hazy recall of a recipe, and made by three totally drained people.  They were delicious, and certainly they fed me body and soul.

Now I need to make them.  I have these wild ideas about sweet potato latkes with chile verde and lime cilantro sour cream.

More importantly I have leftovers.

It occurs to me that part of the essential character of the evening hinges on my interpretation of J telling me that I ought to bring a baking potato for each person and maybe one extra.  I asked what sort of potato to buy, and she said that she didn't know but probably a baking potato.

I showed up with five potatoes therefore.  Five large potatoes. Almost twice the amount of potato that J thought she was asking for.  There were a stupendous number of pancakes on the table tonight.  Only a stupendous number of pancakes could have ensured that there were leftovers.  Four hungry adults can eat a lot of latkes.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Confessions of a Busy Blogger

School has eaten my brain again.  I know I ought to write something.  I even planned out a long post about color and its emotional associationds.  I am afraid that after thinking out this very long post while walking too and from school, I instead went and spent a weekend with my aunt and uncle, and did not once look at my computer. The post has thus disappeared into the brain fog again.

I will tell you quite frankly that it was a marvelous weekend, and that if you ever find yourself in Everett, Wa. you should go to Scuttlebutt's and order the fish and chips and a pint of porter.