Deep frying (with the Virgin)

Few are as mindful of the food we eat. Food Network must be supported by the cardiovascular drug industry.  Eating healthy need not require one to eliminate all fatty foods. To us, it's making those little forays into the dark side high quality.

Today's post prescribes leaving those limp little greasy potatoes under the lamp and use your allocation of fat wisely. Frankie, and a handful of other kids I know, seem to be passionate about chicken nuggets. When I told her I was making some for dinner - she dutifully ran away, got the ketchup, sat down and readied herself for a special treat.

Deep frying is about correct temperature, clean oil and good coating. My general formula for a delectable, tenacious coating is: dry the protein, coat with flour (knock off excess), dip in egg and coat with breadcrumbs seasoned thusly: 1 lb bread crumbs + 15 g salt + any other seasoning you please (feel free to prep and freeze at this point). I made chicken nuggets the other night with plain boneless breast pieces. I brined 'em a bit, cut them into nuggets, coated them and fried them. I fry with a Fry Daddy (common thrift item, ca. $3). Yum. Served with blanched asparagus and lightly spiced black beans. An odd combination, but good.

Food just plunged in and the moisture bubbling away from the oil

A real chicken nugget (to the left of the oil stain in the image of the Virgin Mary)
The blotting paper will go up for auction on Ebay tomorrow.


Firedome v 2.0, details soon

I'm usually holding my kettle like Kwai Chang Caine, but I had to take this shot.

5 minutes to dinner time

Today I fired up my 2nd version of my modified kettle/pizza oven - again. Instead of annealing the crust to the clay, the configuration worked swimmingly. The top half is the normal Firedome, but the bottom hemisphere has a 8" diameter hole in it to increase air flow. I used briquettes and it cooked top and bottom identically. My thermocouple malfunctioned and I didn't get any dome temps, but the cooking surface was about 630°F. It was a nice pizza and salad night.

I think the last failed run was a fluke. Next run is lump and, shy of using a leaf blower to increase combustion, I think I maxed on temperature. I'm thrilled with the results, but a tad disappointed I couldn't get to 1000+F.

Kwai Chang Caine
Firedome, original post


Roasted large lima beans

lima bean chips, yum

A while back I made some roasted cannellini beans from cooked canned beans. Pretty cool snack. Not low cal, but low fat and good protein. A few days later I spoke with the owner of Mediterranean Food Imports about their roasted garbanzos. She said roasted beans are NOT cooked beans; simply soaked and slow roasted. I bought some of their roasted garbanzos to test them. Chalky, ich.

I contemplated the difference between roasting cooked vs soaked beans for days. What's the difference between a cooked vs. soaked bean? If a bean's soaked long enough, will it taste like a cooked bean? My thoughts on this are all over the place, but it's a blog and I'm not really responsible for coherent content. Here's what I did in pursuit of a nifty new food snack.

I took some large lima beans and soaked them for about 3 days. Each day that passed the beans became more and more mild and less chalky. I used large limas because they're ... large. I figured I'd still have a good size snack after the hydration/roasting cycle. A day into the soaking, I stripped off the skins and split the lima beans in half. My intention was to finally roast them having all similar size pieces (rather than a mixture of whole and half beans) to aid in final product consistency, and the skins were kept; roasting these nubbins yields little potato chip-like niblets.

After 3 days of changing the water twice a day, I removed the soak water and tossed them with peanut oil (2T), sprinkled them heavily with coarse salt and roasted them for an hour and 20 minutes at 300°F convection shaking the tray vigorously every 20 minutes until they turned golden brown. I pulled them from the oven and they were wonderful. Crisp, little crunch snacks with a lima bean taste and no chalkiness at all. I'm not sure what they'll be like after sitting out overnight. I'll update this observation (if there's any left) later...


alt.eats.columbus ... go.there.now

The coincidence was a bit eerie.

Last night, on our way to La Casita on Bethel (a great place we've visited a couple times) something piqued our curiosity. Mrs. DavesBeer spyed a Thai and Korean restaurant and at least one other embedded in a strip mall (across from KMart). Our curiosity was piqued, but we continued to our more familiar place (plus we were meeting friends). The proverbial "holes in the wall" too often don't often pop up on a Google local search, and, if they did, "reviews" would be unreliable (no offense to the suckiness of Yelp, but it sucks).

Dinner was great, then to Denise's for a quick dessert for the kiddies and Jim appears as if from a 4th dimension. Triggered by this presence, I have an immediate flashback to alt.eats.columbus (a clever usenet reference). He, Bethia and a few others (I intend to get to know) are covering the less frequented of the more interesting culinary finds throughout the city. This group will educate us with quality evaluations of what will be the best finds in the city and help small family businesses gain the reputation they deserve.

I think this one's a hit. Good luck to them.

Links (I find embedding them clunky):
alt.eats.columbus ~ La Casita (killer kidney beans) ~ Jim ~ Bethia



The Pizza Grand Prix at Wild Goose Creative was a blast. My thanks to WGC for hosting, Jim Ellison and Columbus Underground for the event's creation and the judges whom I did NOT pay off:
Ms. Woolf - Hungry Woolf .com
Mr. Aufdencamp – Mama Mimi’s Take ‘N Bake Pizza
Mr. Kopecky – Columbus Pierogi King
Mrs. Yerkes – from Bono Pizza

And thanks to my wife and kid for tolerating my lunacy during the Firedome development and my preparation for this most excellent event and all the cheese mishaps.

Me, cooking pizza in the alley behind Wild Goose

The loot.
Frankie and I went through the goodies this morning, awesome.


Comments anyone?

-- Jim Lahey and Rick Flaste: My Bread, The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method.
I think Lahey was the first to be videotaped with Bittman on this no knead stuff. I'm in B&N now and wondering if this is worthwhile. The books got back-cover endorsements from Bourdain, Bittman, Batali and Steingarten - is it possible he paid them ALL off to get their praise? Chime in and let me know if you've used this.

ps In the interest of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link. If you click and buy, I make big bucks kiddies. About 4% of the price. I use these all over the webercam and come end of the quarter, I'm rolling in nickels, about $3 and change each and every 3 months. Heh, heh, heh.


One pie, coming up.

Been a little preoccupied this week with the upcoming Pizza Grand Prix. As you can see, my trunk kept receiving bags of lump and briquettes as I contemplated - and tested for - the perfect fuel. I'm not sure if I'm running lump or briquettes in the Firedome yet. Maybe it'll be a secret mixture.

My hardware choice is locked down; my version 2 flopped wicked bad, but a slightly modified 1st model is certainly adequate. I'm now hunting down ingredients. Today I scored my tomatoes. Do you know how hard it is to find a label like that? They're nice and will make up a key part of my topping. The other ingredients are on my scavenger hunt for the next couple days. It's not going to be anything groundbreaking. A simple pie celebrating the beauty of a handful of ingredients. The contest part will be fun, but the truth is I make pizzas for anyone who likes them, myself included. My big challenge Sunday will be a bit more orderliness to my mise while prepping and serving a handful of pizzas (not doing quite so many this time). My last run was sloppy.

Stop by, my girls will be cheering me on (even if my pizza isn't quite as good as the one at Chuck E. Cheese).


18 Minute (or less) Matzo

Over the past few days, I've been thinking of this cracker. I made something like this before, but these are better. Kind of like traditional matzo, except they're grained up and there's no Rabbi in the recipe:

Steel cut oats, 50 g, ground fine in a burr grinder
Flax seed, 1T
water, 100 g
unbleached white flour, 100 g
salt, 3 g
vegetable oil, 1T
sugar, 1t

Mix ingredients, divide in 60 g lumps, roll out into 8" discs, place discs on super thin sheet (I use a grilling vegetable topper), score surface with pizza cutter before placing in oven, bake at 450°F until some burned bits appear (ca. 10 minutes), cool, crack and eat.


epic. failure.

Last night I used a modification of my firedome project.  I swapped the kettle's lower hemisphere for one that had an 8" hole cut out of the bottom.  The idea was to increase air flow, hence combustion, and get the temps inside the dome to about 1,000°F.  That gaping hole, compared to the normal venting, apparently screwed things up.  I did get a dome temp of about 950 for an hour or so, but when I tossed on a pizza, the bottom charred in about 2 minutes while the top was undercooked.  Oh, and Dave the Brilliant changed another variable while he was at it.  I used lump charcoal.  2 Variables changed and char formation.  What to do?  The Pizza Grand Prix is nearing (March 14th at WildGooseCreative(.com, come by and I'll autograph your kettle) and I'm busy as hell with the 9-to-5.  I'm backing off to the normal lower hemisphere, using lump and will probably have time for one more test run.  

I'm not terribly worried.  I think the massive cutout in the kettle, in hindsight, was just too radical a change.  Pizza in the grill is all about uniformity:  getting the top and bottom to cook at similar rates and who knows what that hole in bottom is doing compared to the relatively closed and vented system of the normal kettle.  The lump will be a fun and relatively conservative tweak that I believe will be constructive.

Dinner that night was interesting.  Half the night's intended menu had undergone near complete combustion leaving only residual ash and char.  I took the other blob of dough and heated the regular oven fast, using convection, and tossed on a legume side and some fresh raw veggies.  We had a meal in about 20 minutes and I had lots to think about.  After the initial shock of disappointment, failures can be pretty instructive.  Wish I hadn't waited so long to give it a test drive.