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Everything posted by Alcuin

  1. Alcuin

    The Greatest Salad

    Does very traditional mean no anchovy though? I heard the original version didn't have anchovies, but good salt-cured anchovies are crucial to the dish. I want one now just thinking about it!
  2. Just got back from Larson Rabbitry, where I picked up four fryer rabbits. It's about a 45 minute drive north of Madison. They were $3.49/lb for whole fryers, complete with offal. I was going to take pictures, but Pete, the owner of the rabbitry was reluctant because he was butchering at the time and didn't want me taking pictures of that, which of course you've got to respect. He's not at all shy about showing the place off. In fact, he likes to talk too and we had a decently lengthy conversation in the room he butchers in, surrounded by rabbit pelts, severed heads, rabbits about to be butchered, etc. I understand not wanting to show that off though: it's not exactly pretty. Larson Rabbitry supplies excellent rabbits too. I've always been happy with them. They are a small operation, and most of Pete's business is actually for pets that are on a raw food diet. He says he sells about fifty fryers a month, which is not enough for him to buy a wholesaler's license and sell more widely or participate in farmer's markets. I like to buy rabbits here because they're available whenever I want to drive up there to get them (provided Pete's there of course). It's possible to buy them at the Dane County farmer's market, but sometimes they won't be available and they're definitely more expensive. It's just easier to drive to the farm and pick them up. That's one of the general benefits of living in a town like Madison too. A 30 minute drive and you're in farm country, and it's easy to visit farms and pick things up if you want to. You don't have to, of course, because there are so many farmer's markets (eleven by my count) in town. I'll be visiting the biggest of them, the Dane County Farmer's Market, to pick up a special order of pork. I'm hoping to get some good fatback too so I can make some sausage, but we'll have to keep our fingers crossed for that.
  3. You have really got me hooked if you are cooking rabbit! Lots of rabbit stew and pie in my childhood. I have a rabbit (cut-up) in the freezer my neighbor gave me and I've been wondering what the best way to cook it is - so this will help. Been thinking I'd braise it with onions and root vegetables, but open to anything. That's essentially what I'm going to do, but I'll document much of the process to show what I do. Rabbit is also very good alla cacciatora and makes great sausages and pates too.
  4. You have really got me hooked if you are cooking rabbit! Lots of rabbit stew and pie in my childhood. I'm thinking I'll do a simple rabbit saute with some vegetable garnishes (maybe carrot, mushroom, and something green), and parsleyed potatoes. It's getting chilly and Fall is definitely here. Time for some braises and roasts!
  5. This is the first step of my bread baking process. I take a tablespoon or two of starter that I keep in the fridge, and combine it with 200g AP flour and 100ml water. Work just enough to combine and this is what you get. Tomorrow I'll make it into bread dough. My only fear is that it will ripen a bit too much while I visit a rabbit farm tomorrow to stock up on my depleted rabbit supply. I think it will work out though; there's a decent amount of breathing room in my bread making process, by design. I'll leave this out overnight and get back to it tomorrow morning/early afternoon.
  6. Went to another very local (within a hail mary from the house) place for a drink, the Avenue. The Avenue is the kind of bar you're not likely to see outside of Wisconsin. ] The Avenue is old beer stein and old clock themed, as you can see. My pictures of the collections of steins didn't come out well, but you can just substitute the Rathskeller steins and you'll be there. I drank a couple of Wisconsin brandy Old Fashioneds I think it's easy to lose sight of the importance of the WI version of this drink. There was a time when I scorned it, believing my 2oz spirit, 2 dashes bitters, 1/2 t rich simple, swatch of citrus peel version to be the only thing worthy of the name Old Fashioned. But it's hard to deny the WI version as legitimate, and this is because of one simple fact. WI Old Fashioneds can be had in many many places across the state with a decent level of consistency. You can go to many places in Madison, ask for an OF sour and get a drink that tastes like you expect it to. When you go up north in the state, you will see signs on many many bars that advertise their cocktail hour (usually 4:30 or 5 o'clock). Wisconsin has a tradition of its own, and even if the drink that's served is not my vision of an Old Fashioned, it's still a traditional WI Old Fashioned and I know I can get a well made version in many places if I want one. One of the hallmarks of a revolution for cocktails must be a concern for consistency, and that's happening here (and been happening) with the Old Fashioned at least. So it gets my respect. One thing to notice with the above drink is the lack of muddling of the fruit. Many people here will tell you that an Old Fashioned must involve muddling. I've mentioned my method for the drink and have been greeted with a blank stare of incredulity, and an insistence that there must be some muddling, with fruit, or it's not an Old Fashioned. But the Avenue does not muddle their old fashioneds. They use simple and bitters with brandy, then add the fruit as a garnish. This is what makes their WI Old Fashioneds the best in town too, so the muddle garnishes don't turn to sweetness emitting garbage at the bottom of the drink.
  7. The way I make Pad Thai is pretty standard. The sauce is equal parts fish sauce, tamarind extract, and palm sugar heated up until the sugar dissolves. Then you cook the garnishes That's egg, shrimp, preserved turnip, mung bean sprouts, pressed yellow tofu, and scallion. I would have used Chinese chives, but they looked terrible at the store, so scallions had to do. I like to cook the egg then remove it from the wok, then start with the tofu and work my way through the chive/scallion and preserved turnip, add about 2 t ground pepper, then go to the soaked rice noodles, then I add the sprouts (I blanched them this time, because it was easy and cuts down on the liquid they release, so it doesn't dilute the sauce), and the shrimp. I cook it all in the sauce until the noodles and shrimp are just done. Then top with roasted peanuts. Serve with lime and extra chili on the side Served with chilled pea shoots with oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. The wine worked, standing up well to all that the pad thai had to offer. I'll have to go with sparkling wines more often with things like this.
  8. Since I work at a winetasting over the weekend, I tend to have good wine around the house. This past weekend, I picked up this cremant de Bordeaux rose. It's an 80/20 Cab Franc/Merlot sparkler. I was having trouble thinking what to eat with it, and was thinking chicken. But that wasn't exciting me. I thought salmon too, maybe with butter sauce but wasn't really interested in that either. Then I thought Pad Thai, and though I thought the suggestion strange, I went with my gut instinct. Sometimes I have a hard time pairing wine with Thai and Chinese dishes, but I think my instincts were right about what this wine would be and how it might work. It's full bodied and fruity and has delicate acidity. Mainly about the fruit and bubbles, but still quite dry enough. I think it will play well with the pungent fruity-sour sweet pad thai sauce. And it will surely handle the garnishes easily enough. I'm thinking it will be good.
  9. I decided to treat myself to a burger for lunch today. Madison is a pretty decent town for burgers; you can get a very good one a four places, in descending order of greatness: Dotty Dumpling's Dowry, Cooper's Tavern, The Weary Traveller, and The Old Fashioned. I actually don't usually eat the Old Fashioned burger for one reason: they season the meat with extraneous herbs. I don't like a beef sausage on my burger. But they do do a good thing in topping the burger with a perfectly cooked sunnyside egg and nice brioche-style bun. The Weary Traveller only has one kind of burger too, called Bob's Bad Breath burger. It is called this because there is a preponderance of garlic mixed in with the meat (in fact, I'd say that there's a heavy-handed use of garlic in pretty much everything they serve...). It is topped with a ridiculously thick slab of cream cheese. It's a good burger, but I don't eat them but every so often. Cooper's is good, but can be a bit inconsistent. They top their burger with crispy pork belly (uncured I think) which when it's good, it's good, but when it's not so good it can be a leathery heap of bun destroying madness. Still, I've had great burgers there. That leaves us to Dotty's, where I went today. The interior The decor is "college" themed pretty much, with some weird twists here and there. It's ok, and they keep the lights nice and low at all times, with a little desk lamp at your table so even when its crowded (and it gets crowded) you don't feel like you're eating with the house. The service is also very good in my experience. One thing that sets them apart, however, is the fact that every pint glass is chilled. This is not a trivial detail. It makes for some very refreshingly cold beer that stays nice and cold for a while. And they have a good beer list. But more importantly for today, they have Sprecher's Root Beer, the best root beer in the world, on tap. Notice how the chilled glass actually freezes the head of the rootbeer. There's no ice in this glass, but it stayed nice and cold the whole time. Here's the burger and some fries The fries were just out of the fryer; I burnt my tongue a bit in haste to consume them. You'll also notice that there is a whole lot of salad on that burger. I like it this way, in fact, and always have, as long as the lettuce and onions are fairly watered down supermarket varieties it makes for a great contrast to the burger meat. Dotty's serves their meat salted only on top, and if you ask for it medium rare or rare, that's what you get (medium, which is pink throughout, is their standard). This picture doesn't quite do it justice, but this burger is not pink, it is red inside and grilled outside. Perfectly cooked, and they got it to me fast enough that the cheese hadn't quite melted yet. The key part of the burger though is that it tastes like beef, and it's not overshadowed by anything. Just a properly cooked burger with good condiments. The only real problem is that they don't toast their buns. That would put them in the highest echelons of burgerdom. They have an extensive and expensive selection of specialty burgers and many of them are good (I particularly like the insanely messy Melting Pot), but they do a good standard burger and I likes my burgers standard.
  10. Dinner was roast glazed pork loin, braised kale with lemon, potato cake, and seared apples This picture was taken by my girlfriend, who wields the superior camera. The glaze is maple syrup, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, shallot, and mustard, slightly reduced and painted on during the roasting process. The pork was roasted to 140F. The potato cake is thin slices of potato glued together with parmesan, cooked in duck fat. The kale is simple: olive oil to soften some shallots, kale braised in its own liquid until tender, then finished with half a lemon, salt and pepper. The apples where honeycrisp caramelized in butter. With it we drank a favorite of mine This is an Alsatian pinot noir. It's got plenty of fruit and it's medium to light bodied. What's great about it is that at this point (it's a 2006) it's got great tannins that are just right (maybe you'd call them "matte" in texture?) but it's also got good acidity. So it plays perfectly with a wide range of what food can throw at it, from the sourness of the lemon to the richness of pork fat to the caramelly sugar of apples. It's a great food wine. Certainly not cheap, but I still think its' a good value, mainly because in the vast majority of occasions it will not disappoint.
  11. A great drink to drink while cooking dinner: The Americano. Flavorful, bitter, bubbly and importantly, low-test (because you don't want to get drunk before dinner, unless you do). I like mine a bit more fullthroated, so I use 1 1/2oz Campari, 1 1/2oz Carpano Antica Formula, stir to dilute, then top with soda. I used to go 1-1-1, but I like a bit more Campari and vermouth these days.
  12. I went to the coffee shop at the end of my block to do a little work. It's called It's the French equivalent of "ready set go" that the owner chose because of her background in competitive rowing. Here's the entrance a little sitting garden I got a cup of Tanzanian Peaberry coffee and a blueberry scone. It was a decent scone, though I'm not sure where it came from (EVP only does coffee and soup in house). (The best scones in town can be had at Lazy Jane's Cafe in case you're interested: they are incredible, especially the lemon.) Back to EVP: this is the inside, a standard coffee shop where people meet to talk business, politics, books, do work, read the paper, etc The best part about EVP is that they roast their own beans there, daily. That means that the beans are rarely more than a few days since they were roasted when you drink them. The fact that they roast their own at this location is a good and a bad thing actually, because if you go there you will without fail smell like roasting beans the rest of the day. But they really know how to roast beans. It was through EVP that I was introduced to my favorites, like intensely caffeinated and high acidity light-roasted Rwandan and Tanzanian Peaberry, or smooth medium light roasts like Ethiopian. I've had intensely fruity coffee there from Bali that had balance of fruit and acidity like a wine (I really like wine, but I didn't really like this coffee). I'm not a big coffee aficionado; I only use a drip machine. But I've learned a lot about good coffee through their beans. And they have the friendliest barristas in town bar none.
  13. I had to pick up some lunch today, so I went to the library mall where the foodcarts congregate. There are all manner of foodcarts. There are generic "Asian" foodcarts where you can get fried rice and eggrolls, there's a vegan cart that I haven't yet tried, several sandwich carts, a Louisiana themed cart, a Peruvian cart, a Jamaican one, etc. This is one of my favorites I like a dish they do there, I can't remember what it's called, that's just fried tofu over a bed of salad greens, dressed in kecap manis and peanuts. You can get rice on the side gratis. I didn't go there today though. Instead I went to my favorite foodcart, Buraka They do East African, mainly Ethiopian. I got a half-portion of Dorowat over injera bread. I think the injera might be my favorite part. It's a very sour and spongy flatbread that makes a perfect foil for the stewed chicken and deep pepper flavor (it's not hot though, so as not to alienate more tender palates). And they do a good lentil salad to boot. I could probably eat just that and be happy enough.
  14. This is what I picked up for dinner tonight. I wanted pork chops, but a loin roast will have to do. That's grade b maple syrup that I'm going to use to glaze the pork. Apple rings and lemony greens on the size. Not sure about the potatoes yet. Maybe a potato cake of some sort? Off to get some lunch and do a bit of work.
  15. Here's some more co-op stuff. They have a very well outfitted bulk aisle of course This is only one side, I forgot to take a pic of the other side, but it looks pretty much the same! Bulk oils, syrups, soy sauces Spices They also have a really good deli and salad bar. I get ideas from their salads all the time; they're very inventive not to mention delicious. And the best thing about the salad bar is that they put their composed salads alongside the greens and vegetables, so you get a lot of good variety. Here's a shot of the deli When I first saw the Southern Fried Tofu they have, I was skeptical. Actually, it went beyond that: I bought a square just so I could deride it. It turned out to be delicious, with a very flavorful fried crust. I get a square sometimes now as a treat for myself on the walk home from the store. Cheese! The coop's cheese selection is one of, if not the very best, in town. Curds. There is a sign up when they are especially fresh (i.e. made that day). That's when you want them. An old cheese curd is halfway between pasty string cheese and the deliciousness that was. And here's some limburger. The Chalet Cheese Co-op in Monroe, WI (a little more than an hour south of Madison) is supposedly the last maker of limburger in the US. You can go visit (must call in advance), see the cheesemaking process, then get a limburger sandwich (dark rye, mustard, limburger, thick slices of onion) to eat. They're good.
  16. I just got back from the Willy St coop, where I buy most of my food. The place is irresistible to me, which is a problem because it's very expensive since every thing is organic and as local as possible, etc. But they have the best products, the best fish (the only worth buying in the whole town), the best cheese aisle, the best bulk aisle, etc. Warning: be prepared for some blurry and otherwise lame photos. Here's what it looks like when you walk in, right into the fruits and vegetables section. The store is pretty small, but everything in there seems to be thoughtfully selected. The great majority of it is good. Some fruit. It's apple season, as you can clearly see... Some vegetables Squashes and pumpkins The juice bar and bakery Frozen meat and fish The meat section. This used to be about half the size, and it was clear the store did not care about meat. But as smaller local producers started getting bigger and more able to get their products out by riding the wave of the local, organic, green movement and/or starting coops to compete with bigger operations in terms of distribution, the coop caught notice and expanded their meat selection to include them. The selection is still small, and as you can see, there are times between shipments when some things aren't there. I was looking for some pork chops today, but they didn't have any. That's just the price you pay dealing with small producers I think and I'm really very happy they bring their meats here in the first place. When I get them at the farmer's market, they tend to be frozen but you can get them fresh and ready to go here. Here's the fish section It's also small, and it's very expensive, but the fish is good quality. It is actually an offshoot of another store, the Seafood Center that's on the Westside of town, so they are somewhat separate from the coop itself. The fishmonger's there are great though. They'll get you what you want, tell you when things are coming in, and they aren't stingy about giving away bits for stock even though they sell it already made. I asked for fish heads once and they gave me a 5lb rack of halibut, still full of meat. I made fish stew out of it, and it was plenty meaty, plus I was able to put some good fume in the freezer.
  17. Thanks. "Poor man's torchon": awesome. Braunschweiger can be really great if its made with care, or it can be full of additives and lengtheners and who know's what. I was talking to somebody the other day about headcheese and he said he didn't really like it, but could stomach it when he had to if his parents fed it to him. I started talking about how delicious it was, and he mentioned he was eating Oscar Mayer headcheese! That's all he knew of headcheese. I tried to preach the gospel but he wasn't interested. Then again, Oscar Mayer is pretty local to these parts. Their headquarters is right down the street from my house, and the family mansion is about equidistant the other way. The wienermobile is a very common sight around here.
  18. Take about a 1/4 to 1/2 lb of habaneros (I like 1/2lb, because it mellows a bit in the fridge), a carrot, a few cloves of garlic (I'd say 3-4) and a small onion. Clean the habaneros, cut the carrot into thin disks, and slice the onion. Put that into a saucepan with 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water. You can use distilled or apple cider, but I prefer the clean sharpness of distilled here b/c the fermented flavor of the apple cider makes the pepper sauce taste overripe, but of course a chacun son gout. Cook until everything's nice and soft, then add a touch of sugar (I like a pretty small pinch in mine, just enough to bring out the fruitiness of the habaneros) and salt (I like a lot of salt in mine) to taste. Then you puree it in a blender as smoothly as possible, and bottle. I use an old bitters bottle that I bought in a gas station driving back from Milwaukee(people love their bitters here), but they weren't worth much so I dumped them and saved the bottle, knowing it would be perfect for something. Here's the finished product I'm not sure where I got the idea from, or what the recipe looked like before I got my hand riffling through its inner workings to make it how I want it. It makes for a fruity, very hot sauce though, better than anything I could buy.
  19. Breakfast today was an omelette with Hook's 5yr inside and some homemade Habanero hot sauce on top (and lots of it!) The technique is far from perfect, but I can get the right texture down on the eggs (tender thin sheets of egg rolled up around a creamy interior). It just doesn't look as nice as I'd like. Then again, I used two eggs, not three, and I think three eggs make for a plumper, better looking shape. The ooze is half runny egg, half just melted cheese, just how I like it.
  20. Sometimes I let it go an hour, sometimes two. This time it probably ended up being an hour an a half. The reason for the amount of time is to break down the meat so that its as fine grained as possible. That way it spreads itself out over the pasta more consistently and really becomes a sauce rather than chunks of meat here and there. It's the same reason you cook a ragu bolognese so long I think. And a chitarra's a great thing to have. It's become my go-to fresh pasta shape, along with tagliatelle. Most times, I'm happy with one of those two, unless the dish really calls for something else.
  21. Tonight's dinner was maccheroni alla chitarra with lamb ragu and a green salad. I use the Kitchenaid pasta attachments. They are great for me especially since I have no counterspace to speak of (literally) and I don't need to clamp anything down. It's also great because I have two hands to work with and the rollers make the thinnest pasta I've ever seen. I've never made better pasta before getting this; it was a dramatic increase in quality and consistency. This time, I was (at least in part) kickin it old school using the chitarra There's a real technique to having the right moisture in the pasta. Too dry and it won't press through the wires; too wet and the pasta will stick back together again after being cut. I'd say that figuring out how to gauge the proper wetness of dough for the chitarra has made me a better maker of pasta in general. I forgot that I only like to take it to setting 3 on the rollers, but this was taken to 4. It has slightly less of a square shape than I like, but the unique texture of the chitarra made pasta is still there. It's got a very toothsome feel to it (no other way to describe it) and, because of the relatively limited surface area compared to interior volume of most fresh pastas, it tastes strongly and pleasantly of wheat. Here's how it looked, dressed with the ragu, before the application of cheese. Here's how it looked with a generous sprinkling of pecorino. This is the traditional cheese to serve with the lamb ragu, and I have to say thinking of using anything else just doesn't make sense to me. The sharp saltiness of the cheese marries perfectly with the sweet richness of the lamb and peppers. I love ragus like this. The sauce is not tomato based (the tomatoes are only there to add a bit of acidity and their juices); it's based on the fat that renders out of the meat and marries with the peppers and tomatoes to become a pleasantly orange condiment to the pasta. Delicious.
  22. Ransom Martinez' are the way I went through two bottles of the stuff. It's my favorite Martinez gin, though I like Junipero in a Martinez too. Good point about it behaving like whiskey. I never thought of a Sazerac or Old Fashioned so I'll definitely have to give that a shot. I do come back that way every once in a while. I'll keep my a watch on the gathering to see if it coincides with a return home.
  23. Here's the mise en place for the lamb ragu. It is as simple as possible really, with very little active time. Put it all together, let it cook about 2 hours, and it's done! Ideally I'd use white wine, but I don't have any around so red it is. It's a Chianti, which is also not exactly ideal. This dish is from Abruzzo, so you'd really like to pair a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo with it. And it really is a better pairing, flush with fruit and with soft tannins, the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo would pair better with the sweetness of the peppers and lamb. No matter though; the Chianti will be good. As long as it has the acidity to stack up against the richness of the ragu, I'm happy.
  24. hope you interfaced with the librarians and use them to your student's best advantage (30 year librarian) wanted to inhale that mopo tofu - didn't think about the silken tofu, though. ohh.... lamb and johnnybird would love the walkin beer cooler I spend a lot of time talking to them about using the libraries and the librarians. They were amazed when I showed them that there were librarians specially focused for every topic they could think of. It was awesome.
  25. I stopped by some markets to pick up a few things for dinner tonight. I usually shop at three markets: Midway which I've shown you, the Willy St Coop which I will show you, and the Jenny St Market which I'm going to show you right now. This is a small, neighborhood market that is close enough to my house that on a good day I might be able to beat you on my bike even if you're driving a car. It carries mostly fairly regular grocery store items, though they will have things they get straight from farmers during the growing season. I like it because it can be less expensive than my other go-to the Willy St coop (which is as local and organic as possible, so expensive). I went to Jenny St today because I knew the peppers I wanted to use in tonight's dinner would be much cheaper there (I've spent $5 for a red pepper and I won't be fooled again). The entrance to this very small store Apples are the fruit du jour Wisconsin peppers They also have a decent selection of meat at good prices, comparable to a supermarket. And they always have at least one lobster, dwarfed by their oversized sparsely populated tank I've seen this tank with more than two lobsters in it, but I've also seen it with one lonely lobster huddled in the corner. And of course, what market would be complete without a walkin beer cooler Note the beer beer cooler attire: don't want to catch a cold trying to make your choices. I came to the market for peppers, but I didn't buy those bell peppers above. I got some sweet banana peppers, mainly because they were a mix of red and yellow. I'm going to make a ragu of lamb and peppers to serve with some maccheroni alla chitarra and I like to have a mix of red and yellow.
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