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Chris Hennes

eG Foodblog: Chris Hennes (2012) - Chocolate, Tamales, Modernism, etc.

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Good morning from Norman, Oklahoma, home of the University of Oklahoma and suburb of Oklahoma City. For reference, Oklahoma is the state just north of Texas (no, it is not a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein… that's Oklahoma! with an exclamation point. No one puts an exclamation point when they are talking about the state). Hopefully you've all heard of Texas, anyway, even if Oklahoma and Idaho and Iowa are all a blur. It is, alas, somewhat less idyllic than what Sheepish treated us to last week. Nevertheless, I eat well here. Not a whole lot of lamb, though!

It's been a few years since my last foodblog, and life has changed more than a little. Some things, however, have not changed:

Coffee.jpg

OK, so that's a tiny change. Same mug, but now I brew pour-over rather than French press. Different coffee brand as well: Storyville Coffee sends me bi-weekly shipments of fresh-roasted beans. In my opinion, using fresh-roasted beans trumps any other factor when it comes to coffee quality.

About some of the teaser photos Heidi posted: as someone who posts a ton of photos here at the eG forums, I had to work hard to find things to post that weren't dead giveaways! It's probably not well known that I love yogurt. The Fage is for eating plain, the Yoplait is for smoothies. Yes, the crocus was just meant to be a sign that it's spring here (I have dozens in various colors in my backyard blooming now, and the daffodils are just beginning to bloom as well). So, no saffron from them. Not that I don't love saffron. I just don't grow it.

I think it's also not well-known that about a year ago I decided to try to learn to appreciate white wine, having been a red-drinker my whole life. So, a wine fridge. What you can't see in the photo is the identical wine fridge next to it that I use for curing salume. The wok? Well, I have a Big Kahuna wok burner, which you'll see a bit of this week. And the cookbooks are mostly what I'm cooking this week. I seldom actually plan out a week's meals when I'm not doing a "cooking through X" project, but just for you guys, this week, I have a plan. Let's see if I stick to it now…

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I do most of my grocery shopping on Saturdays. I can get normal US-type groceries here in Norman, but for anything else I take a 20 minute drive up to Oklahoma City, where there is a Sunflower Market, a Whole Foods, and a number of Asian-, Mexican-, and Indian-focused stores. No Indian on the menu this week, it turns out, but here are some shots of the others: first up, the inauspicious-looking but actually awesome Buy For Less...

Buy for less.jpg

This is a typical lower-end big-box grocery store, except that actually have a very nice produce selection, and a wide variety of otherwise-hard-to-find Mexican ingredients.

Fresh banana leaves:

Buy for less banana leaves.jpg

Fresh chiles:

Buy for less chiles.jpg

Nopales:

Buy for less nopales.jpg

Various dried Mexican ingredients:

Buy for less dried mex.jpg

Dried chiles, of course:

Buy for less dried chiles.jpg

And the real reason I come here... fresh masa. OK, I don't know if it's actually fresh or just reconstituted masa harina, but the fact is it tastes great and makes wonderful tortillas and tamales, both of which you will see on the menu this week.

Buy for less masa.jpg

And some random Mexican-ish dairy:

Buy for less dairy.jpg

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The Super Cao Nguyen is our largest Asian Megamart, and the easiest for non-Asian-readers to cope with since most of the ingredients have English on them (this is decidedly not true at the other large store down the block, where most of the produce is unlabeled in any language: you better recognize those greens!)

Exterior shot (doesn't really give a sense of scale, but here in Oklahoma we do things BIG... this is a very large store, it extends far off to the left of the photo)

Super Cao Nguyen.jpg

A blurry shot of a small section of the produce section: a large selection of greens. Mostly Vietnamese and Chinese, with some others scattered in there as well.

SCN interior produce.jpg

A massive, massive meat counter will all manner of offal: I have a regular butcher I go to for normal meats, but when I need something unusual this is the place to go.

SCN meat.jpg

And some generic down-the-aisles shots trying to give a sense of how big this place is:

SCN Aisles 1.jpg

SCN aisles 2.jpg

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thanks for this. looking forward to it. the Vietnamese store looks very good!

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HI neighbor!!! :biggrin:

Nope, it didn't even cross my mind that the teaser shots were YOU!

I'm so excited to have a week with ya.

It's sure been a warm winter, eh? We seriously need a rain dance or else this summer is gonna be like the last one. :sad:

The pics of the Asian market are making me want to hop in the car. You're right. That meat counter is beyond fabulous. AND, the store is SO clean. Did you eat at the restaurant?

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On 1329748728' post='1864235, Shelby said:


It's sure been a warm winter, eh? We seriously need a rain dance or else this summer is gonna be like the last one. :sad:

The pics of the Asian market are making me want to hop in the car. You're right. That meat counter is beyond fabulous. AND, the store is SO clean. Did you eat at the restaurant?


Yes, last summer was very hot and dry here: my tomatoes and peppers did not do well at all. I've just planted my pepper seeds last night, and the tomatoes and tomatillos are coming along nicely, so we better get a break this year! It's actually overcast today, which is quite unusual... how about some rain!

I didn't eat at the restaurant this weekend (we ate at Mutts): are you talking about the food counter in the store, or the attached Mr. Pho?

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While I get the majority of my Mexican ingredients at the Buy For Less, there is one that I have to head out to a Mercado for:

La Mexicana Bakery.jpg

LMB exterior.jpg

Liquid gold:

LMB lard.jpg

They make their own chicharrones here, and then sell the lard they fried them in. Absolutely the best stuff for making tamales. I actually try to buy the whiter of the available containers since otherwise the roasted pork flavor completely dominates the tamales, and I usually want to taste the filling, too.

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some of the chimi lard seems to have separated. do they use commecial hard hydrogenated lard or render their own fat?

what do you make of that supernate? is the fat at room temperature soft?

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Rounding up the market tour so that we can get to some cooking...

Forward Foods is a small two-location organic-y sort of store with a fantastic cheese counter, and some very, very good charcuterie. I usually go to their original Norman location, but since I was driving by anyway, this time I stopped at the new OKC location (note that they are actually moving their Norman location down a few blocks sometime this spring, so if you are looking for them make sure you get the correct address).

Exterior front sign:

Forward foods.jpg

Half of their cheese case: well affinaged and a nice selection.

Forward foods cheese case.jpg

And a blurry cell-phone photo of the main meat case: they carry both La Quercia and Fra' Mani, basically two of the best charcuteriers in the States.

Forward foods meat case.jpg

And a couple shots of the new Sunflower Markets and Whole Foods to wrap things up. I'm very happy to see these two stores in OKC: some people are upset that they wound up putting the oldest grocer in town out of business, but as far as I'm concerned we gained more than we lost. Sunflower and Whole Foods simply sell better-quality food: I can support higher prices if the quality is good, but unfortunately the old grocer simply wasn't that great. I like to think that maybe, just maybe, people in OKC are starting to care about the quality of their food.

Sunflower.jpg

Sunflower interior.jpg

Whole foods.jpg

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some of the chimi lard seems to have separated. do they use commecial hard hydrogenated lard or render their own fat?

what do you make of that supernate? is the fat at room temperature soft?

It's not separated: it's still warm. They had just finished frying a couple hours earlier.

ETA: It's also got a fair amount of solids in it from the chicharrones. I'll show a photo of the one I wound up buying when I start the tamales in a bit here.


Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

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Soooooooooo sorry, but I couldnt resist:

Where's the Beef?

:laugh:

everybody eats better than I (me?)

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Those stores are huge! A Whole Foods recently opened in my neighborhood, and it's all of 13,700 SF, about the size of that aisle of chiles that you showed us.

I'm really envious of your selection of Mexican ingredients. Since we got the tour, I assume you'll put them to good use this week. Looking forward to it.

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Those stores are huge! A Whole Foods recently opened in my neighborhood, and it's all of 13,700 SF, about the size of that aisle of chiles that you showed us.

Yeah, they really are. The Sunflower is a little on the smaller side for OK, but the Whole Foods is gigantic, the largest I've ever personally been in. The energy company across the street (Chesapeake) owns the land and negotiated with the Whole Foods to go in there as part of their attempts to "upgrade" the neighborhood: I suspect WF is getting a sweet deal on their lease.

I'm really envious of your selection of Mexican ingredients. Since we got the tour, I assume you'll put them to good use this week.

I hope so!

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Where's the Beef?

All shipped up to Chicago for processing! I don't have much beef on the menu this week, I'm afraid. Some pork, and actually a lot of vegetarian and mostly-vegetarian fare. That's just how we eat most of the time, now that we have access to all this great produce.

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OK, I better get some photos of the kitchen up in its clean state! It's only ever this clean right before a cooking extravaganza, otherwise there is almost invariably some stuff on the counter that I was just too lazy to clean in the last round of dishes. If I ever manage to get up the motivation to clean it completely, I tend to then look at my nice clean kitchen and say to myself hey, look at how clean the kitchen is! I should cook something crazy!

From the living room:

Kitchen 1.jpg

From the dining room:

Kitchen 2.jpg

From the kitchen window:

Kitchen 3.jpg

As you can see, it's a pretty big kitchen, with lots of storage, and lots of counter space. Plus, I've added a 4' stainless steel work surface where I do most of my prep. My only complaints are that I hate the huge, deep grout lines on the floor, which are impossible to keep clean, and the kitchen was designed to have a small island in the middle, so has too much floor space. Pretty minor, all told. I thought upon moving in that I'd want to replace the electric smoothtop range, but now I think I'm more likely to replace a gas range with an electric smoothtop in my next house. I love that thing!

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they carry both La Quercia and Fra' Mani, basically two of the best charcuteriers in the States.

Looks like it'll be a good week - agree on those two charcuteriers, would only add Batali senior to that mix.

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agree on those two charcuteriers, would only add Batali senior to that mix.

Absolutely: alas, they don't sell Batali's stuff. But I use the Fra' Mani as the definitive flavor reference for my own salume, that stuff is fabulous.

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OK, lunchtime before the fun stuff begins. I have a smoothie for lunch maybe 50% of the time. They are fast, easy to eat at my desk, and reasonably nutritious.

Smoothie 1.jpg

Smoothie 2.jpg

Smoothie 3.jpg

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On 1329749974' post='1864240, Chris Hennes said:


On 1329748728' post='1864235, Shelby said:


It's sure been a warm winter, eh? We seriously need a rain dance or else this summer is gonna be like the last one. :sad:

The pics of the Asian market are making me want to hop in the car. You're right. That meat counter is beyond fabulous. AND, the store is SO clean. Did you eat at the restaurant?


Yes, last summer was very hot and dry here: my tomatoes and peppers did not do well at all. I've just planted my pepper seeds last night, and the tomatoes and tomatillos are coming along nicely, so we better get a break this year! It's actually overcast today, which is quite unusual... how about some rain!

I didn't eat at the restaurant this weekend (we ate at Mutts): are you talking about the food counter in the store, or the attached Mr. Pho?




I was meaning the Mr. Pho.

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Alright: so the 2012 eG Candy and Confectionery Conference is coming up soon, I've got to get warmed up. I am starting out with a ganache-filled bon bon: the ganache is the "Toscana" from Jean-Pierre Wybauw's Fine Chocolates 2: Great Ganache Experience. It's flavored with orange and lime zest, vanilla, honey, and cognac (I used bourbon). As usual, I doubled Wybauw's flavoring quantities, I usually find that the recipes could stand to be more assertive.

Ganache ingredients.jpg

I used my new SideKIC sous vide rig to melt my cocoa butter:

Melting cocoa butter.jpg

I wanted to use orange and lime green, but I don't have them, so I used gold and "peridot green":

Gold ccb.jpg

Green ccb.jpg

CCB applied.jpg

I've taken to tabling my chocolate to temper it: I find I get better, more consistent results this way than with the seeding technique. Plus, it's fun to simply pour a bunch of chocolate on the counter and swirl it around.

Tempering setup.jpg

Chocolate pool.jpg

Shelled in E. Guittard 62%:

Shells.jpg

My filling station:

Filling station.jpg

I'm currently waiting for the ganache to cool before piping it into the shells. Here's my kitchen in something closer to its usual state:

Kitchen after the mess.jpg

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And onto dinner: Roasted Garlic Tamales with Ricotta and Swiss Chard, from Rick Bayless's Fiesta at Rick's. The ingredients for the tamale batter:

Ingredients.jpg

There are 10oz of lard to 2lbs (32 oz) of masa, for reference, for a corn:fat ratio of about 3:1. The tamale batter has roasted garlic in it, so the first step is to pan roast that:

Roasting garlic.jpg

Next up, finely chop the garlic (I mashed it too, obviously):

Garlic paste.jpg

You whip the garlic, lard, salt, and baking powder together first:

Lard.jpg

Next add the masa in a few batches:

Add masa.jpg

Add enough stock to get the right consistency (about a cup):

Add stock.jpg

Then beat like mad. Bayless's doneness criterion for beating is when 1/2 teaspoon dollop floats in cold water:

Beat.jpg

This is in the refrigerator cooling down and hydrating now: there is a second liquid addition and beating stage in about an hour.

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Nice, Chris! I love tamales, but I don't have the patience to make them. Ditto with chocolates, so I'll live vicariously through your blog.

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The problem with spring starting so early here in OK is that I just spent an hour weeding. However, a couple of the "weeds" I went to pull were not weeds at all, but rather neglected parsnips just coming in again for the spring:

Parsnips.jpg

I've never tried to overwinter parsnips before. Are these still going to taste good?

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