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Syzygies last won the day on December 22 2019

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About Syzygies

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  • Birthday 11/29/1955


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  1. Sorry, any title with "egg cooker" in it makes me think of Dr. Seuss.
  2. Syzygies

    Chicken Tajine

    If one can come by preserved lemons (bought, or better yet, homemade), the most famous chicken tagine in Morocco is with olives and preserved lemons. One can Google many recipes. They're all pretty similar, affected more by ingredient quality and chef technique than the list of ingredients. These recipes all look authentic to me, similar to what I do. I prefer bone-in thighs, and both coriander and parsley, and I have a heavy hand with the saffron. Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons & Olives CHICKEN, PRESERVED LEMON AND OLIVES TAGINE – CHICKEN MKALLI Chicken, Olive, and Lemon Tagine (Djaj Mqualli) As for the tagine clay cooking vessel, it is unnecessary. It is designed for cooking over a slow charcoal fire. Use whatever you'd use for a French stew. However, be aware that in Morocco (where I took a few lessons) they have mastered browning a wet mixture through a clay pot, without burning that same mixture. The idea is pretty obvious, if one pictures how one burns food in general: It begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, and is left unattended long enough to burn. The Moroccans have mastered this effect, and catch it in time. (Without lots of experience, this window is about as "blink and you'll miss it" hard to time as catching the al dente transition for US dried pasta. There's a reason people pay more for Italian pasta. Mexicans would let the burn go longer, but I digress.) Instead, brown the chicken separately to your satisfaction (or not) and then cook gently to avoid burning. In my twenties, I used to learn factoids and then be on alert to avoid being scammed by people who misunderstood these factoids. I learned that there are two kinds of tagines, for cooking (unglazed interior lid), and for serving (decorative glaze on all surfaces). One could only find the serving kind for sale, which somehow offended my developing sensibilities. I somehow made life an Indiana Jones contest to find the authentic. Like all things twenties, I was an idiot, and had this exactly backwards. Cooking is all theatre. People's tastes are less educated and discerning than ours, so they look to visual cues. (This principle guides all fancy restaurants.) Serving in a tagine is great theatre, even if cooking in one has only a faint effect.
  3. Even though I was copying from a spreadsheet, I checked my math again before posting. I figured (1:20) * (1:20) = (1:440) could already wear out my welcome, so I left it out: 18 grams at 1:440 is 18/441 = .0408 grams of ascorbic acid. As a fraction of one kilo of flour, this is 40.8 parts per million. I have multiple sieves. My favorite combination is a 12 inch No. 25 test sieve over an 8 quart Vollrath bowl. Both are more expensive than alternatives, but worth the money. Gilson 12-Inch (305mm) ASTM E11 Test Sieve, All Stainless Steel, No. 25 (710µm) Opening Size, Intermediate Height (V12SI #25) Vollrath 69080 S/S 8 Qt Mixing Bowl Extraction is a variable in my spreadsheet, currently set to 85%. This however depends on the grinder and its condition and setting, the grain mix, and how completely one sieves. If I were sharing my spreadsheet with others, I'd add an obsessive/compulsive index variable. And I do use some flours (semolina, white) that aren't home ground. Currently my bread is 65% home ground. As for mixing, I don't believe that there are losses differentially favoring or discriminating against ascorbic acid. I use coarser (less expensive) sieves for mixing, alternating between two 8 quart bowls. In fact, I'm cursed for life to sieve seven times because I'm a coauthor of a famous math paper on card shuffling (Google 'Seven Shuffles'; I'm Dave). An uneven distribution of ascorbic acid is a real risk here. A greater risk, in my experience, is the mix going stale after a few years. I don't understand how this is even chemically possible (I should be able to use ascorbic acid found in Egyptian tombs, right?), but I've found it necessary to buy fresh ascorbic acid every now and then, based on observation and experience. I even have very coarse sieves intended for making couscous from scratch. Still on my todo list, and I'm instead in a Mexican phase now.
  4. There is a professional textbook by Michel Suas that solved a problem for me that no popular book addresses: Advanced Bread and Pastry A Professional Approach (The depth of this book can be intimidating. It reveals that a trained baker can understand their craft as well as any professional in other domains.) The issue was the poor performance of "green" (as in young) flour, freshly-ground flour that has not aged. As Suas states, We of course do not want to age freshly ground flour for 2-3 weeks; besides the inconvenience, the germ that we leave in would go rancid. Even dough left in the fridge a day or two can turn an unappealing grey. Suas also notes that a long first fermentation will naturally increase dough oxidation, offsetting somewhat the ill effects of using "green" flour. Everyone's technique is different, and absolutely everything comes into play, in determining the extent that this is a problem. Hydration? Grind fineness? Fermentation schedule? I have learned to not even bring this up at farmers markets where I see bread sold from freshly ground flour. Usually the baker is oblivious to this problem, defensive when it is even suggested, and has found a way to nevertheless produce loaves with the correct appearance. This reminds me of asking food professionals about "pine mouth" toxicity from wrong species of pine nuts; any pine nut that isn't $50/pound is from the wrong species and a crap shoot. It's easy to understand this ignorance; I have many Mexican recipes that call for avocado leaves, and I was about to plant the most frost-hardy variant I could find, until I read Diana Kennedy's accounts of leaf toxicity in avocado variants not grown in Oaxaca. Now I don't know if I can trust avocado leaves in a restaurant. Some Mexican restaurants in the US even use pine nuts, too. My questions are likely to get me escorted to the door. But I digress. I was pushing the boundaries of reasonable hydration for whole wheat loaves, attempting artisan technical results that usually require somewhat less extracted flour (a Lionel Poilâne loaf is my holy grail), and my loaves were coming out like flying saucers. Then I discovered the Suas passages via Google Books. (I have since bought his book.) 40 ppm is 40 parts per million. Yikes! How does one do that, in a bakery or a home kitchen? We're not science labs here. Suas recommends carefully mixing and cutting twice with white flour, to achieve a mixture one can actually weigh on a gram scale. I mix ascorbic acid 1:20 with white flour, sieve multiple times to mix well, then mix some of that 1:20 with white flour to obtain a 1:440 blend. (There's unfamiliar ratio math here: (1:20) * (1:20) = (1:440), which we can check as 21 * 21 = 441.) For my standard recipe based on a kilogram of flour, I mix in 18 grams of this 1:440 blend. This has been an easy habit, and I no longer experiment with leaving this step out. Others might not find it necessary, but I offer it as an option, in case they're experiencing issues that they can't resolve.
  5. Grilling has never been this easy. I may make it through my pallet of KK coffee lump. The tortilla masa is from Comiteco Rojo landrace Oaxacan corn. Like I said, I'm usually juggling six other cooking tasks. It's a minute to set the Solo Stove fire, then six enjoyable minutes as a reward for the work in between, to gently grill steaks.
  6. My Solo Stove Ranger came today, just after your Bonfire. It's big, though not as big as yours. The top reducer leaves an 11" opening. I immediately lit a single test layer of charcoal, which it improbably managed to sustain, while the outside stayed cool to the touch.This wasn't my best charcoal, but I couldn't resist grilling some salsa ingredients. The salsa was great on leftover fried rice; Mexico won the flavor tug-of-war. I'll be able to easily grill over wood chunks, for a quick steak. This will be fun...
  7. My primary use (and MacKenzie's) for a Solo Stove has been as a well-designed charcoal grill. This is clearly an off-label use, until one thinks about it. The same features that minimize smoke as a wood-burning fire pit make these stoves a better charcoal grill than any conventional design. One can set up and start a charcoal fire in a minute or two, then return for ten minutes of tending an ingredient on break from juggling six other cooking tasks, then abandon the fire to burn to clean ashes for later disposal. 99% isopropyl alcohol is a particularly effective accelerant with this design, because the design contains and burns off any drips. There is no trace of alcohol by the time a fire is ready to cook. The simpler the chemical structure of an accelerant, the simpler its combustion byproducts. Alcohols are simpler than petroleum-based accelerants. Any incomplete combustion produces carbon monoxide and vaporizes part of the accelerant, so avoid the fumes particularly while lighting any fire with an accelerant. Don't be lulled into complacency by the relative lack of odor. Pure ethanol would be best here, if one can find it. One needs less charcoal than with any other design, so one can use better charcoal. We all know the overhead in managing any other fire; that's why so many people choose gas grills. This is the pure joy of tending food over a charcoal fire, with no overhead. The rising hot air and radiant heat is more clearly focused and uniform than any other charcoal grill in my experience. This proves to be decisive, roasting peppers. You know that anguished debate in your head, that keeps you awake at night? I know that a dedicated Spaniard wouldn't dream of rinsing off the burnt skins under a running faucet, the horror in losing all that flavor down the drain! But cleaning the flecks off by hand feels like a fool's errand, I'd rather be mudding walls as an independent contractor! Or cleaning a dozen cloves of garlic the size of pine nuts, because my family abhors waste! Oh lord, free me from these earthly chains! After careful roasting over a relaxed Solo Stove charcoal fire, then twenty minutes sweating in a plastic bag, pepper and chile skins just slip off. I look as competent and unruffled at this step as I'd want to appear on a YouTube video. In that vein, most "molcajete salsa" videos show confident cooks scorching their chiles and tomatoes on a comal, then leaving in the black spots. This is surely authentic, but there is unexplored higher ground using more careful methods. A Solo Stove was not available to pre-Columbian cooks. This is the style of cooking grate that I prefer over a Solo Stove. The largest that I could find just fits over the Ranger: Turbokey Round Grill Barbecue Net (Amazon)
  8. There's the question of provenance; many molcajetes sold are not volcanic rock, and are better suited as fruit bowls. That's not a good sign, having that difficult a time. I'll report on my experience with the Etsy seller. Or using a Mirka Abranet sanding fabric disk is a good idea? I'd be happy to mail you one. It seemed to short-circuit this tedious phase of breaking in my molcajete. While conventional sandpaper scratches using tiny sharp rocks, these discs instead scrape using really strong fabric. Once a surface is truly smooth they leave it alone. For example, I used a 320 grit Abranet disk on the burned-on bits on my stove. It changed the surface luster, but scraped off a decade of burned on gunk, better than a "Magic Erasure" or any purpose-built solution.
  9. As much as I'm extremely jealous of ckreef's Nuke Delta gaucho grill (Non traditional paella), and torn by Nuke's winter pricing, I'm most likely to want a quick fire to roast ingredients for a salsa. I'm instead taking advantage of winter pricing to upgrade my Solo Stove Campfire to a Solo Stove Ranger. I'm painfully aware of my earlier cultural prejudices, rejecting till now a molcajete in favor of a Thai mortar and pestle. Molcajetes looked like a sure-fire way to end up with rocks in my food. I didn't get it. Yes, there's a break in process which one can master, then a molcajete is superior to any mortar out there. Scraping sideways is fundamentally different from pounding, and the open volcanic hole structure is there for a reason. They make quick work of salsas, which one can whip up as quickly as the French whip up vinaigrette. Go to the trouble to correctly break one in; molcajetes are amazing. My stick blender should worry. As for the trouble to break in a molcajete: I sanded the abrupt edges of my Ancient Cookware molcajete, then smoothed the outer surfaces by vigorously rubbing with Abranet sanding fabric. One does want the texture from the many bubble holes in volcanic rock (other rocks are too smooth, and concrete mixtures aren't food safe), but the outer working surface will surely smooth after decades of use, leaving the bubble holes still exposed to shred ingredients. By speeding this smoothing process and also smoothing the outside surfaces, I both short-circuited the initial seasoning steps (grind rice multiple times till the powder stays white), and made the rock more of a celebration to hold. I look forward to the bigger molcajete I've ordered through Etsy. Nuke Delta gaucho grill Solo Stove Ranger Ancient Cookware 8" molcajete Mechuacan 10" Molcajete (Etsy) How to Season an Authentic Molcajete Mirka Abranet sanding disks Note that this Etsy seller offers many sizes (8", 10", 12", 14", 16") for a molcajete. Standard advice is to buy one you can pick up. The advice should instead be to buy the biggest one you can afford to ship. I'm pretty strong, I've been under-buying here. Once the 10" arrives, I'll decide what size I really want. The additional room will be welcome.
  10. Ingredients for salsa. I moved my comments to the Solo Stove topic.
  11. Ñuke Delta Argentinian Style Wood Fire Gaucho Grill Overview | BBQGuys Wow. I want one!
  12. Feeling the Pressure: Giving in to the Pressure Cooker Steve Sando founded Rancho Gordo beans, considered by many the best supplier of dried beans in the United States. (All bets are off once one includes Spain, where the best beans can require a second mortgage.) To summarize, he has relaxed his prejudice against pressure cooker beans, seeing it now as a possible step whose shortcomings can be corrected in later steps. That's also how I use sous vide: as a step. The issue isn't the quality of the beans themselves; pressure-cooked beans could be rinsed and placed on a salad, and no one would be the wiser. Rather, a pressure cooker fails to develop as rich a bean broth. One can indeed end up with a similar broth most of the time with most beans, but once one experiences a great broth from great beans, that becomes the quest. That is also my experience with stews; the quality of the liquid base is key, and a pressure cooker can't compete with a long slow reduction. I know how to cook a stew in a clay pot so it comes out tasting like I used a pressure cooker. I don't know how to cook a stew in a pressure cooker so it comes out tasting like I used a clay pot. In this sense, the pressure cooker is less expressive. There was a time when I would have claimed that beets were the killer app for pressure cookers. Then I realized that sous vide is the best way to cook beets. This doesn't carry over to sweet potatoes, where a pressure cooker rules.
  13. Interesting. I bought an 8.5 quart Fissler Vitaquick pressure cooker for my New York apartment, then their 10.6 quart cooker for California near our KK. Mostly a solution looking for a problem, as in many applications (beans, stews, ...) it is noticeably inferior to the best application of traditional methods. And we're not opposed to technology: I also have chamber vacuum machines and sous vide equipment in each kitchen, and they've seen steady use. My motivation for nevertheless buying a second (large) pressure cooker was to make custom stocks for ramen. In our experience, the killer app for a pressure cooker is sweet potatoes. An underrated food available in many fascinating and obscure varieties if one hunts, they come out better pressure-cooked than by any other cooking method. (Let the pressure abate naturally; release the pressure quickly to see if they're done, and they explode into sweet potato puree.) Perhaps the wrong day to praise sweet potatoes, as everyone in the States just experienced their most dreadful incarnation yesterday. Eat them simply. Your two-step bird steps into an interesting debate. Competition barbecue fiends start their meats cold in cold cookers, to maximize the smoke ring formation that wanes once the meat passes a threshold temperature and the proteins change structure. Meat continues to benefit from smoke after this threshold, but there are no longer visual cues. One could cynically argue that competition judges get their palates blown early by wretched examples of competitor smoke, so one wins by offering them visual cues. Or there is actually something fundamentally different about the application of smoke to cold, never-cooked meat. Do your experiments give you any insight into this?
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