kitchen adventures


I recently made dinner with a friend, who bought black cod fillets from Uwajimaya. They had been marinated in some kind of delicious mirin-and-something. We broiled them side-by-side with a tray of Yakima asparagus (yay for asparagus season!) and served them with roasted potatoes and salad. YUM. Black cod might be my new crack.

And in lollipop adventures, I added citric acid to a recent batch. I didn’t add any other flavoring, so I could better judge how much sourness the citric acid added. At approximately 1/8 tsp to 1 cup of sugar, it definitely cut the sweetness down, without being overly sour. Next I’m going to try adding it to citrus batches, like Lemon or Grapefruit, to see if it improves those.

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So I was reading the couple of pages about making candy in Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking and learned something. The temperature of boiling syrup is determined by the concentration of sugar in the water. Meaning, you have to boil off more water and therefore make the syrup more concentrated in order to reach 300 degrees. Which means, if I start with less water in the pan in the first place, it takes less time to make a batch of lollipops than it’s been taking me so far. It seems to be true.

The part that hurts my brain is wondering: does this also mean that if I dumped more sugar into already-boiling syrup, the temperature would rise accordingly? That would be strange.

theCultFigure and a friend of ours threw a themed dinner party recently. It deserves way more of a post than this, but I can’t help quickly posting about my favorite and most insane thing we served.

One of the courses was stuffed duck breast, but one of our guests was a vegetarian. We were kind of at a loss to know what to do about it at first, and then hit upon the idea of shaping extra-firm tofu into a duck shape. We flirted briefly with the idea of actually carving an actual 3-D rubber ducky looking thing, but in the end concluded that a) that would be hard, and b) using a duck-shaped cookie cutter to make a duck-cylinder would be the better option. It allowed us to crisp both sides in a saute pan. We also easily carved out a hole  in the tofu duck and stuffed it with the same mixture that the regular duck breast got. We just had to hope it tasted as good as it looked, because it was damn cute and got a lot of laughs at the table.

Pictures of silliness after the jump…

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A few times lately we’ve thrown a pear on the grill as part of dinner, and good goddamn but that’s delicious. Usually I snub pears because it’s so difficult to find any that aren’t hard as rocks, and their texture is just a little weird for me anyway. But cut in half , rubbed with a touch of veg oil, and grilled for 5 minutes per side? GENIUS. Highly recommended.

In lollipop news, one cool development. I read a tip somewhere that suggested putting in the food coloring after the syrup hits the soft crack stage (>275 degrees F) and letting the boiling action distribute the color. It works pretty well, which means somewhat less stirring is needed after hard crack stage – still have to stir in the flavoring though. I’m also starting to put in a little less food coloring and liking the results.

Broccoli is a secret, guilty pleasure? When theCultFigure is out of town or we are going to be eating separately, it’s not uncommon for me to steam a whole plate of the stuff. He hates it. I’m ok with it, but going without for long stretches turns it into something I actually look forward to.

Man, how lame is THAT?

I needed to bring an appetizer to a friend’s, and browsed Epicurious for something new. Mango Pomegranate Guacamole seemed to fit the bill nicely. Basically exactly what it sounds like: guac (avocado, lime juice, serrano chile, onion, cilantro) with diced mango and pomegranate seeds folded in. Really good!

The recipe suggested serving with plantain chips instead of tortilla. I was prepared, emotionally, to try frying my own. Luckily I didn’t have to. Trader Joe’s does sell bags of plantain chips, yay!

A friend wanted to try something interesting – swirling color into the lollipops. Originally his thought was to use cream, but I worried that it would curdle when it hit 200+ degree syrup. So we decided to first try using a drop of food coloring and a toothpick to swirl it in. You can see one of the trays below:

The food coloring is sort of a gel, thick and liquid at room temperature. And it did indeed sizzle and deform when it hit the surface of the lollipop. Even so, the syrup cools pretty rapidly so we had a sort of assembly line action going. There is enough room in the trough for the stick to pull it out of the round indentation, so that’s how we started. I poured the syrup into the molds, then he had to drip the color and swirl quickly, and then I pushed the sticks up into the syrup before it got too cool for them to go in.

It was tricky but we managed, and I think it looks fairly cool. The one issue is that the gel didn’t seem to get fully dry, staying just slightly tacky to the touch. I don’t think I will make a regular habit of this, and definitely I’d need a partner to do it with me.

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