"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Lazy Pulled Pork

    I am deep in study for yet another professional certification, but I also need to eat, and I need to GREATLY reduce my junk food and salt intake. But I also want good food, not just dairy products and rabbit food, and I just do not have the hours required to accomplish all these targets.

    Perusing the local micro-mart I find that they have pork butt on sale, I may just take a page out of my father’s cook book… I’ll pull out the slow cooker and let it do all the work.

    At the lair I find I am out of BBQ Rub and BBQ Sauce. This may not turn out to be the usual slap-dash event that slow cooking has become, but I suppose I can spend a couple of hours away from my studies, and decompress in my kitchen. So I’ll include those:

    BBQ Sauce
    In my youth a good night out included dinner at the Real Pit BBQ in Harker Heights, Texas. The owner / operator made a special BBQ sauce. I remember all kinds of people trying to get the Recipe, to Include a U.S. Senator and Several Governors of the State of Texas.

    As these things go, I grew up and moved away, but did not forget that sauce. After a lot of trials and a lot of errors, I complained to my sister, that I just could not get that sauce right..

    Well seems, I have been upstaged in the Social Engineering department. My sister had gone to school with owner’s son and had actually helped them make the sauce on several occasions. The secret ingredient is… As I have said before:

    Again pit masters are a secretive about their bbq sauce recipes as they are about their rubs. The items you will see in this blog are “GENERAL IDEAS“, my own recipes were given to me by my mother, grandmother, and great grand mother… I’ll hand these down to my children at some point, IF they prove worthy.

    BBQ Rub

    Rubs are a must for any good bbq or smoke job. If you do not do this, you really are missing out on 1/2 the flavor and 1/2 the fun of BBQ or smoking. (Note: This is NOT grilling, any six idiots can burn meat over an open fire.) To weave the subtle components of meat, smoke and spice into a heavenly culinary experience takes knowledge, technique and skill.

  • Bread Dough Hydration (Baker’s Percentage)

    One of the key items in gaining a desired crust and crumb is the level of hydration in the dough. The percent of water to the amount of flour is the hydration level or the “Baker’s Percentage”.

    From Wikipedia:

    Baker’s percentage is a baker’s notation method indicating the flour-relative proportion of an ingredient used when making breads, cakes, muffins, and other pastries. It is also referred to as baker’s math, or otherwise contextually indicated by a phrase such as based on flour weight. It is sometimes called formula percentage, a phrase that refers to the sum of a set of bakers’ percentages. Baker’s percentage expresses each ingredient in parts per hundred as a ratio of the ingredient’s mass to the total flour’s mass

    For example, in a recipe that calls for 10 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of water, the corresponding baker’s percentages are 100% for the flour and 50% for the water. Because these percentages are stated with respect to the mass of flour rather than with respect to the mass of all ingredients, the total sum of these percentages always exceeds 100%.

    Flour-based recipes are more precisely conceived as baker’s percentages, and more accurately measured using mass instead of volume. The uncertainty in using volume measurements follows from the fact that flour settles in storage and therefore does not have a constant density.

    I.E. Use a SCALE!, do nothing by cups / tablespoons / pinches….

    Basing on my standard dough recipe, I.E. 500 grams of bread flour, the following can be assumed:

    Water in ml Hydration Texture Notes
    275 55% Stiff:Very firm, dry and satiny; not tacky dense crumb in breads such as bagels, pretzels
    290-325 58-62 Standard:Tacky but not sticky; supple dense closed crumb, in breads such as sandwich bread, rolls, French and other European breads
    325-400 65-80 Rustic:Wet, sticky airy crumb and large, irregular holes, in breads such as ciabatta, focaccia, pizza

    Stiff Doughs:

    Working a stiff dough requires a large amount of strength and as these are so dry, an incredibly long kneed time. I almost always use a stand mixer for this on very low, as anything else tend to burn on the motor or strip the gears. Great for very dense, chewy breads, bagels, pretzels.

    Regular Doughs:

    This dough is a pleasure to kneed, supple, silky, slightly tacky, gives us a good rise, stand up well to slashing, with a small crumb. Think Baguettes, crusty dinner rolls, loaves for sandwich.

    Wet Doughs:

    Very sticky stuff, can not be kneaded, use a stretch and fold. This will yield some of the most interesting boules, loaves, and rolls. Crispy crust, irregular crumb, greate for ciabatta, focaccia, pizza, and my favorite, crusty yeast rolls.

  • Chicken and Dumplings

    Absolutely perfect weather. For pneumonia… Cool to cold, bit of damp, and just enough sunshine / warmth to make think you can tough it out with a light jacket. (GUESS WHAT? You can’t, you will get that most miserable of all things, a spring cold.)

    Time to fight back a bit, time for soup, chicken soup, and If I am going to take the time to do that, I’ll go Full Valhalla, and make dumplings as well.

    I always have chicken stock in the fridge, (unless one of the lair denizens have drank it straight. Yes, they do that. 3/4 cup of Stock, bit of pepper, a mushroom sliced, and into the microwave for 60 sec. A fast meal)

    From Wikipedia:

    Chicken and dumplings is a dish which consists of a chicken cooked in water, with the resulting chicken broth being used to cook the dumplings by boiling. A dumpling in this context is a biscuit dough, which is a mixture of flour, shortening, and liquid (water, milk, buttermilk, or chicken stock). The dumplings are either rolled out flat, dropped or formed into a ball.

    It is a popular comfort food dish, commonly found in the Southern and Midwestern United States, that is also attributed to being a French Canadian meal that originated during the Great Depression. Chicken and dumplings as a dish is prepared with a combination of boiled chicken meat, broth produced by boiling the chicken, multiple dumplings, and salt and pepper for seasoning. In some areas, this meal is known as chicken and sliders.

  • It’s Spring, Prep that grill

    Warm weather, no snow, ice, rain, high winds or flying reindeer. Time to grill, crispy crusts, tender meats, and that just hot off the grill taste…….

    BUT, before we can rush out, buy large slabs of meat and apply raw fire to char and cook, we must do all the work we have ignored since it become too cold to grill.

    Namely cleaning the grill, don’t lie to me, you rushed back into the house with that last steak, roast, burger, fish fillet, and did not think about turning the grill to high for 15 minutes to burn off the grates. Not that I would cook on those grates after the winter, they must be cleaned.

    Now one can pull the grates into the house, and “MAYBE” fit them on the dish washer, otherwise you get to scrub them in the kitchen sink, or prop them against the house and use a pressure washer. NONE OF WHICH really do the job right. To dissolve the melted / backed / burned on grease, you need heat, lots of heat, more heat than your grill can generate. (Without help) No, I am not talking about getting out the propane flame thrower and setting half the town on fire, all we really need is some heavy-duty aluminum wrap, and some science.

    Background
    Grilling or broiling is a form of cooking that involves direct heat. Devices that grill are called grills. Grilling is a pervasive tradition in much of the world.

    In the United States and Canada, use of the word refers to cooking food directly over a source of dry heat, typically with the food sitting on a metal grate that leaves “grill marks.” In the UK and other Commonwealth countries this would be referred to as barbecuing, although grilling is usually faster and hotter than the American sense of the word “barbecue,” which does not necessarily imply grill marks. Grilling is usually done outdoors on charcoal grills or gas grills, a recent trend is the concept of infrared grilling. There is a great debate over the merits of charcoal or gas for use as the cooking method, Electric indoor grills have also recently become popular.
    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Thai Chicken Stock

    As the great storm stella barrels down upon us, bringing heavy snow, high winds and low temperatures, I feel a need, a need for stock, chicken stock, rich, spicy, liquid gold for the production of good soups, gravies, noodles, just about anything. This is a twist on my standard stock that adds an Asian taste to the stock. This would be a natural for the Chicken and Coconut soup, or as the broth component of a chicken curry, or as a broth for Thai noodles, or as the liquid for Dhal …

    From Wikipedia:

    Stock is a flavored liquid preparation. It forms the basis of many dishes, particularly soups and sauces. Making stocks involves simmering animal bones or meat, seafood, or vegetables in water or wine, adding mirepoix or other aromatics for more flavor.

    Traditionally, stock is made by simmering various ingredients in water. A newer approach is to use a pressure cooker. The ingredients may include some or all of the following:

    Meat
    Leftover cooked meat, such as that remaining on poultry carcasses, is often used along with the bones of the bird or joint. Fresh meat makes a superior stock, and cuts rich in connective tissue such as shin or shoulder of beef or veal are commonly recommended, either alone or added in lower proportions to the remains of cooked poultry, to provide a richer and fresher-tasting stock. Quantities recommended are in the ratio of 1 part fresh meat to 2 parts water. Pork, although a popular base for stock in Chinese cuisine, is considered unsuitable for stock in European cooking due to its greasiness[citation needed](although 19th-century recipes for consomme and traditional aspic included slices of mild ham), and mutton was traditionally avoided due to the difficulty of avoiding the strong tallowy taint imparted from the fat.
    Bones
    Veal, beef, and chicken bones are most commonly used. The flavour of the stock comes from the cartilage and connective tissue in the bones. Connective tissue has collagen in it, which gets converted into gelatin that thickens the liquid. Stock made from bones needs to be simmered for longer than stock made from meat. Pressure cooking methods shorten the time necessary to extract the flavour from the bones.
    Mirepoix
    Mirepoix is a combination of onions, carrots, celery, and sometimes other vegetables. Often, the less desirable parts of the vegetables that may not otherwise be eaten (such as carrot skins and celery cores and leaves) are used. The use of these parts is highly dependent upon the chef, as many do not appreciate the flavours that these portions impart.
    Herbs and spices
    The herbs and spices used depend on availability and local traditions. In classical cuisine, the use of a bouquet garni (or bag of herbs) consisting of parsley, bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and possibly other herbs, is common. This is often placed in a sachet to make it easier to remove once the stock is cooked.

    I am known to reserve chicken bones from spatchcocked chickens for the purpose of reenforcing my stock. (The addition of chicken feet will also add to the gelatin content)

  • Ciabatta – Revisited

    My last several forays into breads have been less than satisfactory, a combination of being out of practice, old flour, old yeast, and a starter that was “ok” but not great. And as one of my loyal critics have said the posts lacked that “RogueChef” flair.

    Time to get serious..

    I have some “Pâte Fermentée”, or “old dough” from my last experiment in baguettes, as per wikipedia:

    Old dough (pâte fermentée) may be made with yeast or sourdough cultures, and in essence consists of a piece of dough reserved from a previous batch, with more flour and water added to feed the remaining flora. Because this is a piece of old dough, it has the typical ingredient of salt to distinguish it from other pre-ferments. Once old dough had rested for an additional 10 hours of age, the French named it Levain de Chef.

    I’ll use that, along with a new dough in an attempt to sort out a few Ciabatta loaves. I’ll also incorporate a good percentage of whole wheat flour to add some taste and texture.

    Using Paul Hollywood’s dough formulation, I’ll replace 100g of the strong white flour with a whole wheat flour. (Yes, I dare take liberties with his formula, he may take liberties with any of my recipes he cares to.)

    As the weather has take a turn for the cold and nasty, this will make a great accompaniment for a hearty soup or stew.