And I forgot to bring a cookbook for an autograph!

And I forgot to bring a cookbook for an autograph!

Well. I’m back from NOLA, where a large time was had by all. Notably, I got to meet John Besh (Restaurant August, Luke, Best Steak, Domenica, Borgne, La Provence, Willa Jean, Johnny Sanchez, Shaya, and he plans to open eight more in the next two years!). More notably, dumbass that I am capable of being, it did not occur to me to get a copy of his newest cookbook and bring it for him to autograph. Fail.

Had a couple of good meals, but not exceptional. We ate one night at Desire Oyster Bar, because it was close and we were exhausted. I had a seafood Louis salad, which was full of shrimp and lump crabmeat in a nice remoulade, and it hit the spot after an eight-hour drive. The next night, we went to Antoine’s, but I wasn’t overly hungry, having eaten something at lunch that didn’t sit especially well, so I ate from the appetizer menu and had shrimp and crab au gratin. That’s so rich, in that gorgeous bechamel with lots of cheese, that the appetizer was plenty. Not to mention it was not so heavy but what I could eat about half of a creme caramel for dessert.

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Fresh King cake.

Fresh King cake.

Because, you know, Mardi Gras is coming. And I am going to New Orleans on Wednesday for a conference that ends on Friday, which will be the closest I have ever come to being in the Big Easy for Mardi Gras weekend.

And the conference hotel is on Bourbon Street. Oh, yeah, les bon temps are gonna be roulez-ing everywhere.

And me on a diet. (I have a feeling said diet is going to go by the wayside. Oh, well.)

But first, I had to make King cakes.

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Minute steak, elevated

February 1, 2016

Rollin'...rollin...keep them steaks a-rollin'....

Rollin’…rollin…keep them steaks a-rollin’….

If you are of a certain age, you remember when minute steaks were all the rage and a hugely popular item on grocery store meat counters.

Minute steak, for the uninitiated, is simply round steak, which is a pretty tough cut of meat, that’s been run through a jacquarding blade a time or two to cut some of  the long muscle fibers as a means of tenderizing it. I never could tell that it worked that well, though I guess it’s marginally more tender than a plain round steak that isn’t braised a couple of hours.

When I get my quarter-steer every fall, it always contains several packages of “tenderized round steak,” which is nothign more than old-fashioned minute steak. It’s what I use to make rouladen, beefsteak pounded thin, and wrapped around a brat and a pickle spear, then braised. And the other day, I made what would have been braciole had I put it in tomato sauce, but I didn’t. More on that later.

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Ummm. Hello.

January 29, 2016

Let Freddy Kreuger c'mon. I'm waiting for him.

Let Freddy Kreuger c’mon. I’m waiting for him.

It’s not that I haven’t been cooking. I have cooked a couple of thoroughly forgettable dinners, a few pretty good lunches, and one memorable breakfast of poached eggs on toast with some ham I’d frozen from Christmas. (May have that again today for lunch, in fact.)

But I’ve done nothing exceptional in the kitchen of late. I’ve been busy on assorted work projects, and errand running, and getting stuff done that had to be done.

I do have a new toy — a monstrously heavy cleaver for cutting up chicken and such. I got tired of dulling my workhorse knives and struggling through chicken ribs with my kitchen shears. I’m going to buy my chickens whole, from the farm; that’s a given. If so, I need some convenient way to cut them up, yes? Yes.

So, this baby. Actually, for a day, him and his Japanese cousins, before I returned them.

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New skillz

January 26, 2016

A plateful of breakfast yum, right here.

A plateful of breakfast yum, right here.

I have poached an egg.

This is noteworthy, because I am 60 years old, and I have never, until last week, poached an egg. I have fried, scrambled and boiled a few thousand, and baked a few hundred, but I have never poached one. Mostly because it seemed to me to be a pretty much guaranteed way to make a helluva mess.

What it is, is, a way to get a perfectly cooked egg, runny yolk, with a set white but a minimal amount of it, without cringing at the critical moment when you’re flipping it and breaking the yolk, which immediately turns the consistency of soft toffee. At which point you curse.

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Veggies in a glass. Works for me.

Veggies in a glass. Works for me.

Well, now. Once I tweak it a bit, this stuff may work.

I may have alluded to this new eating plan I’m on — I hesitate to call it a diet, because it really isn’t — which requires me to get two servings of fruit and three servings (a full cup each!) of veggies in every day. Given that I’m not a huge veggie eater outside of when I can get them fresh out of the garden, I was looking for ways to make that a bit easier.

I was chatting with a friend about the issue, and she mentioned she drank V8 juice to cover some of her veggie servings. Now, I like the taste of V8. I don’t like the price, and I don’t like all the additives they put in it.  I said to myself, “Self? Don’t you reckon we could make that stuff?” And Self said, “Well, I don’t see why not.”

So we set out. I Googled recipes, and got an idea of what wanted to go in it. Went to the grocery today, and got beets, spinach, parsley, and celery. Came home, got out a quart of home-canned tomatoes, dumped them in the blender. Steamed the beet and three chunked-up carrots until they were tender; added them, a big handful of spinach, about a quarter of that grocery store sized bunch of parsley, three chunked-up ribs of celery, a teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of worcestershire. Blended the heck out of it.

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All-day bread

January 23, 2016

Twenty-four hours' worth of bread. Twenty-four hours' worth of flavor.

Twenty-four hours’ worth of bread. Twenty-four hours’ worth of flavor.

This? This right here is a 24-hour loaf of bread, y’all.

Seriously. I started it by making a sponge one night about 8 p.m., to ferment on the counter overnight. Then the addition of more flour, more yeast, and dry milk (the container of which I dropped in the floor and spilled everywhere, luckily AFTER I’d gotten what I needed out) the next morning. A second ferment of four hours, and then adding butter, mixing, and letting the dough rest half an hour. Then 10 minutes of kneading time.  Then a 2 1/2 hour rise. Then turning out, shaping just a bit on a floured board, and back in the bowl for a second rise (at which point I realized I’d forgotten to add the damn salt, the last thing to go in. At least the fact I used salted butter, of which there are 9 tbsp in this stuff, offset that to some extent; I’ll work on remembering the salt next time). Then back out onto the board to be cut in half, stretched, folded, rolled, and put in loaf pans for the final rise.

About 8 p.m., we had bread. Twenty-four hour bread.

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