I like pie.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Napoletana-Style Pizza

Since I could only cook two pizzas at a time in the oven, I made up a little insalata caprese atop fried polenta as a starter while we waited for the pizzas to cook.

This attempt yielded a puffier crust than last time. I was also a bit daring and tried tossing one of the pizzas when shaping. I made just one toss probably not even a foot into the air and no mishaps. Perhaps next time I'll try and go full out.. that was scary enough hah.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


A couple weeks ago, Greg's dad, Bob, and I were watching Food Network when we saw the Good Eats episode about making bacon. We thought it sounded like quite the good idea, so within a few days, I had acquired some pork belly and started the brining process, putting us on our way towards homesmoked bacon.

I rubbed both pieces with a good deal of coarsely ground black pepper. One of the bellies was then submerged in a brine of apple juice, molasses, salt, and sugar. The other belly was more generously rubbed with pepper, then rubbed with molasses and salt and sugar.

Into the fridge they went for three days.

This morning I rinsed them both off and patted them dry. I placed them on a rack and let a fan blow across them to dry off the surface.

While the pork bellies dried, we went about putting together the smoker. We placed an electric stove at the bottom of a trashcan and set a cast iron pan over the burner to form our smoke generator.

Construction consisted mostly of using duct tape to form seals where the smoke would flow.

On the far end, we taped a plastic bag around the edge of a fan, then cut a hole in the bag and fitted into the hole some aluminum tubing so that the air flow would move through the tube.

The tube coming from the fan fed into the trash can, our smoke generator. A second tube leaving the smoke generator led to the smoke box. The idea was that air blowing into the smoke generator would force the smoke to move through the second tube, into the smoke box. Though not shown, some mesh was placed over the tube coming from the fan so that any debris or insects that made its way through the fan wouldn't end up in the smoke generator.

A flap on the lid of the smoke generator allowed easy access to the cast iron pan for the purpose of adding more wood chips when needed. We used hickory today.

Here's the tubing from the smoke generator feeding into the smoke box.

There's pork in there! And some gouda.

Here's the entire setup.

It's our first time cold smoking so I don't know if this was a bad idea but we made a little slit in the side of the smoke box in order to keep a pan supplied with ice. It was a fairly hot day so we were concerned about keeping the temperature below 80 or 90 degrees F. I think it worked.

Six hours of checking on the temperature and smoke later, we had bacon! Here is the molasses black pepper.

Slicing the apple molasses bacon.

Mm, bacon.

We had a little trouble with cutting the slices evenly so had a little trouble cooking everything to a good level of crisp, but it turned out with just a bit of extra carbon.

I baked some rolls for dinner.

The day's work was celebrated with mini BLTs with bonus smoked gouda, Bob's pasta salad, and some fresh peaches.

Bacon is good.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pad Si Iew

We had Thai food for dinner tonight. We had rice paper rolls, though with the Vietnamese fish dipping sauce, and pad si iew, accompanied by Thai iced tea. Then for dessert we had mango with coconut sticky rice. I only took a picture of the pad si iew though.


Pad Si Iew is probably my favorite Thai noodle stir fry. There is one basic recipe that is floating around online, so I don't know the originator of this recipe, but the recipe I've posted here is based on it. Here is one of these recipes. I have used basically the same ingredient quantities except that I added some regular soy sauce to the stir fry sauce to add a bit more saltiness and have included how to make the dish with dried rice noodles, since they are easier to acquire and keep on hand. I usually use the widest dried "banh pho" (Vietnamese rice noodles for soup) I can find.

The key to the taste is in using sweet dark soy sauce. It is thick and syrupy and is part of what gives pad si iew its sweetness. Healthy Boy is a common brand, it looks like this.

If you do not have palm sugar, brown sugar also works, though palm sugar does have a distinctive taste.

I have written the recipe using beef but you can use any other meat if desired. Tofu can be used and fish sauce substituted for more soy sauce for a vegetarian dish.

I have listed the dish as serving 3 but if you have appetizers or any sides it can serve 4.

3—5 garlic cloves, minced
1 T fresh ginger, ground
1 T green onions (white portion), chopped
1 T shallots, chopped
1 T rice wine
1 T fish sauce
3 T sweet dark soy sauce
2 T oyster sauce
1 T palm sugar
1 T cornstarch, mixed in 1 T water
1 tsp sesame oil
1 T chiles, thinly sliced (optional)

Stir Fry Sauce:
1 T fish sauce
2 T sweet dark soy suace
2 T soy sauce
2 T oyster sauce
1 T palm sugar

The Rest
8 oz beef, thinly sliced
8 oz wide rice noodles, dry or fresh
1 egg
1/2 lb chinese broccoli (or regular)
2 T green onions (green portion), chopped

Mix together the marinade and marinate 8 oz. of thinly sliced beef for an hour. If you double this recipe the above amount of marinade works just as fine for a pound of meat, though I do double the aromatics, just not the sauce. For 8 oz. of meat I often use a little less than the above listed amounts.

Mix together the stir-fry sauce (this I would double if I'm making a double recipe).

Cut up the broccoli into 1-2 inch lengths. If using Chinese broccoli, steam the thicker stems for a few minutes or blanch them. You may want to slice the stems in half if they are very thick. For regular broccoli steam both the stems and florets. You want the vegetables to be mostly cooked to your liking, and they will finish in the stiry fry. The leafy portion of the Chinese broccoli does not need any cooking beforehand and will cook in the stir fry.

If using dry noodles, place the noodles in a large bowl and pour hot to boiling water to cover it. Let it soak for 20-30 minutes. It'll get soft but won't be cooked all the way. You can also cook the noodles in a pot on the stove like you would pasta if you want to do this more quickly, but you have to be careful not to let the noodles cook all the way or you'll end up with mushier noodles in your stir-fry. You want the noodles to be in a state where they still need to absorb more liquid so when you stir fry, they absorb the sauce. If using fresh, they are ready to go as is, unless they came in big sheets that you have to cut into noodles.

Heat a wok or large skillet and heat up some oil until hot. Toss in your beef and stir it around to brown. Let it cook partway but not completely, since you'll be adding more stuff (I often do cook all the way, remove it, and add it back at the end so as not to overcrowd the pan). Add the broccoli, then noodles, then lower the heat to medium (here is where I diverge from what the restaurants probably do since my stove does not get hot enough to cook everything in a flash, so I go with a lower heat since everything will be cooking longer). Keep stirring. Stir in the egg and the stir fry sauce. Keep stirring the mixture, which can be a little difficult if you don't have a big pan like a wok but are using a skillet (I believe in a restaurant they would be cooking each individual serving portion separately). In five minutes or maybe a little more, the noodles should have absorbed enough of the sauce so that they are soft. Keep tasting until the noodles reach the proper texture. You can also adjust for seasoning, adding more of anything if you think it is needed. The tricky part is not overcooking so that the noodles turn to mush and it is also important to have enough sauce that the noodles remain nice and wet. Add more sauce if needed or even a bit of water if things are salty enough. This adjusting takes a bit of practice.

Recombine everything if you took out the beef. Garnish with the chopped green portion of the green onions.


The Bread Baker's Apprentice continues to be awesome. Last night I made the focaccia and it was just perfect. It had a very light, airy crumb and was very flavorful from a generous drizzling of herb oil.

It was a bit thicker than I anticipated but cutting it in half makes for a perfect thickness of bread for a sandwich.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Country Style Ribs and Corn Bread

I made the corn bread from Bread Baker's Apprentice to go with some ribs Greg's dad, Bob, grilled today. Mm, what a great combination. This corn bread is so great.. perfect sweetness and the added bits of corn were little bursts of sweet corny goodness. The soaking of the corn meal really did bring out its flavor. The bacon wasn't even needed to make it so good. On the side we had vegetables wrapped up in the foil that the bacon was cooked on and tossed on the grill.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Chicken Papillote

I was by myself today for dinner so went with ease in preparation and clean up. I just mixed up a simple Cajun sort of seasoning blend and rubbed it on a chicken breast, put the chicken on an oiled piece of parchment, topped with sliced carrots, onion, and celery, a douse of wine, wrapped it up, and into the oven it went. I ate it with some rice and in retrospect I probably could have thrown the rice right into the pouch when it was time to eat instead of using a plate. Little clean up indeed!

I swear there's chicken under there.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Homemade Marshmallows

When I was eight or so, I saw a recipe for marshmallows in a cookbook. I thought that sounded really cool so I tried to make it, but results were inedible. What I ended up with was a layer of sugary syrup topped with a layer of watery gelatin. Today I gave it another try and I don't know how this recipe differed from the one I first tried but I imagine I did not actually heat the syrup to the proper temperature and did not drizzle it into the gelatin slowly enough to incorporate it when I was a kid. But today.. success!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Lots of Cake

This weekend was my little brother's birthday so he got a nice and chocolatey chocolate cake. The cake contains both cocoa and chocolate and the icing is chocolate caramel ganache.

It was also my friend Josh's housewarming party so I brought a coconut cake iced with Italian meringue buttercream. I've never made that sort of icing before and I am now hooked. So smooth and rich and not too sweet. I was very nervous about the buttercream breaking as I've heard that can be an issue but I used the warm up the bowl with a hot towel if it starts to curdle trick and it worked like a charm. Whew! It was great mixed with some toasted coconut. Leftover chocolate caramel ganache was used to sloppily spell a silly message on top (I was running late).