So yes, I’ve been busy as hell. No, not “forget about the site for a month” busy. But “I’ve been updating my passwords and couldn’t for the life of me remember the password to this site, but then again maybe I didn’t look TOO hard” busy.
I’m trying to figure out (and by figure out I mean decide) what shape my life is going to take down here. I’m really feeling the pain of not having a workshop. But there’s not really another weigh I could have played a move like this. 1200 miles away, blind to a new city, with no contacts.
My old habits have been creeping back. Yeah I spend too much time sitting in front of a computer when I get home. Yes, I’ll stay in rather than go out most of the time. (The great cigar/whiskey bar across the street from my apartment is in line with the kind of money I used to make on Wall Street, but decidedly DON’T anymore. That’s something that’s tough to get used to.)
To the good, I’ve been baking, brewing, and experimenting in the kitchen, since that’s not particularly rough on the neighbors. I’ve got a triple batch of limoncello (minus one bottle that I knocked on the kitchen floor last week. What a mess) and a couple variants, including ginger and actually, pistachio.
We’ll see how those go.
Cherry wine, two batches of mead (or is it three? I’m losing count.)
Plus I’ve got a batch of Mamajuana, though it’s tough to say I “made” that. You order the herbs and stuff, it comes in a bottle and you fill it with wine, rum and honey, then wait. Not a whole lot of science on the consumer side of things.
It occurred to me that my cooking skills generally suck really bad. The example I use in telling people is “In your 20s you can impress a girl by making reservations. In your 30s you can impress a girl by taking her someplace really nice. In your 40s you’d better be able to fucking cook.” Which I figure is probably true. (copyright, me.)
But there are some, shall we say “regional peculiarities” down here that frighten me a bit. I mentioned I wanted to start with, and therefore bought a book on, making sauces (Peterson’s “Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making” which is fucking excellent) and people just blink at me. “You mean, like tomato sauce?”
I… well, I mean… yeah, but I mean I can’t make a roux to save my life and I want to get a light lemon peppercorn sauce I can put on fish and not feel guilty, a couple sweet fruit reduction based things I can put on a dessert. You know, sauces.
And they just go all guppy-eyed. Now…MAYbe the dozen or so people I’ve had this conversation with just have a limited exposure to real food. (I’ve found that if you unroll a cardboard tube of ‘crescent rolls’, put cheese on it, sandwich it together and cook it in a waffle iron, they think you’re a chef down here.) But I’m a little concerned.
Now, maybe I’m just snobbier than I thought. (Oh, who the fuck am I kidding, there’s no WAY that’s not true.) But it seems a lot like there really just…isn’t good food down here that doesn’t come either out of boiling oil or a fucking casserole dish. (Which is not to say the local fare isn’t some of the most delicious use of fat and starch in the western world, it is. But there’s a reason these people way 750 pounds.)
Of course my ego has gotten the better of me and I’ve got it in my head that “I’ll show them what good food is.” But hey, what the hell. Anything that gets me to teach myself a new skill is to the good.
Today I cracked the seal on said Sauces book and made a Beurre Blanc. Now, I’m not at all sure I’ve ever HAD one, so I’m not one to say if it was any good (it didn’t even separate!) But my God was it tasty *urp*. It may be the 2nd or perhaps 3rd best thing I’ve ever created to consume.
There are recipes all over, and I think the next time I make it I’m going to change it up a bit. But the long and the short of it is:
- 1/2 Cup of white wine (Chardonnay)
- 1/2 Cup of white wine vinegar
- 4 Shallots, finely chopped
- 1/4 Cup of heavy creme
- 1 pound (!) of cubed butter (about 1 inch cubes.)
So you saute the shallots in the wine and vinegar until the fluid content has been reduced to almost nothing (recipe says “90% reduction”.)
Then pour in the creme.
THEN mix in the butter, a cube at a time, whisking it in on high.
Tada, season (salt & pepper) to taste.
So I made this (hopefully I won’t be too lazy to post the pics) and it was FUCKING GLORIOUS. Its lack of subtlety was more than made up for by the fact that it’s a pound of butter masquerading as sauce.
Next time I make it (after I recover from this time, so about… mid 2029 *urp*) I’ll probably replace the vinegar with lemon juice (with some experiments to balance out the acidity.) and I MIGHT reduce the amount of shallots. They’re good and all. But I think “4 medium shallots” means something a bit less than the amount I put in. I dunno. I’ll have to watch the chef john video.
The other landmark of the day was that I’d actually never (I’d say don’t laugh, but…not for any reason) cooked a piece of fish before. Sure, I’ve had the pre-seasoned “bake this for 17 minutes, then squeeze the sauce packet on it” stuff. But I’d never just taken a piece (or, uhm, three *urp*) of tilapia and cooked it on a skillet.
So, yeah, I overcooked it a bit. I pretty much just didn’t believe it could possibly be done that fast and it got a little rubbery.
But that hardly mattered given what I put on the damn things.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go change into sweatpants, ’cause this “unbutton the top button” shit isn’t cutting it.
Now let’s see if I can get these pics up someplace where they won’t destroy my hosting bandwidth.