My friend Lauren is standing in our mutual friends wedding this spring. It was her responsibility to gather the ribbons from the bridal shower to make a bouquet for the rehearsal dinner. The groom has a map obsession, and so Lauren smartly snatched a piece of a map of Michigan that had been used to wrap one of the bridal shower gifts. Last night we met, she with the piece of map, and I with florist wire and florist tape. After a few hours with glue, paper cuts, and this helpful guide from instructables; we were able to pull off this:
I think it turned out pretty well, don’t you think? I’ll add this to my official bridesmaid candidate resume.
Today we racked our beer to decrease the amount of sediment in the final product.
Unfortunately we realized how little beer we’ll actually have when we go to bottle. But we like to keep our batches small, so their exclusivity keeps our customers thirsty.
We also designed the label, much to the chagrin of the Bell’s brewery copyright enforcement team.
Can I share with you all a few pretty things that have been on the mind recently?
A razor sharp offset spatula for flipping delicate cuts of fish, and for gently prying perfectly seared scallops off of a sizzling pan, or for frying eggs or something.
And this beautifully designed, spot-on accurate kitchen thermometer. It uses the same technology used in chemistry labs. Can you imagine being able to tell to the .07th degree how cooked your goose is?
And this lovely carbon steel saute pan, like the ones Julia Child (and my gastronome grandmother) used extensively. Until they were so beaten and perfectly seasoned that you could make crepes in them. Or fry eggs, or make tart tatin.
Along with this pig shaped planter, that would sit by my kitchen window growing some really elegant herb, like rosemary, or thyme, or both.
In the mean time, I would make this hanging vegetable rack out of reused fluted cake pans.
And have a kitchen that looks something like this:
With the exception that instead of having that mid-century circular corner table, there would be a carboy with something fermenting inside of it. And maybe a huge great dane sleeping on the floor.
I hope you enjoyed this rather wistful post,
On Saturday Nic an I headed over to Home Depot with four things:
1) A strong desire to brew beer completely on our own. (up till this point we’d been using a friends equipment)
2) The knowledge that HDPE #2 plastic is considered “food safe” for brewing equipment.
3) tight wallets.
4) Our inner engineers trying to claw their ways out.
The only item holding us back from being able to brew, was a device for mashing our wort. Our friends use a double-bucket system, but this method has its flaws. Namely, that the upper bucket creates fluid displacement if it gets filled to the top, which in turn creates a major mess. The other option, is to spend a lot of money, and make a stainless contraption that will last forever, but create a major hole in your pocket. I’ll invest in better equipment when I have the space, time, and money for it. At the moment I lump myself in the category of “amateur homebrewing hobbyist”. Cheap is fine.
So after wandering through Home Depot, we found the materials to turn a 5 gallon plastic bucket, into a bright orange sparging machine!
A stainless mesh shower drain, and two sheets of rubber gasket material. We made a friend named Sid in the hardware department, and he hooked us up with all the stainless lock-washers, machine-nuts, and bolts we would need to hold the contraption together.
As soon as we got home, Nic got to work. The first order of business was to drill the whole for the spigot that had been part of his birthday present nearly two years ago when we decided to take up home brewing.
Once the holes were drilled all we had to do was connect the dots.
Here is a bird’s eye view of the bucket.
And again from the front.
Total cost: $15
After all that work, we had to do a test run to make sure it worked. We went to the beer depot to pick up brewing supplies, and came home with the materials needed to make an Oberon clone. Here’s a few pictures of our masher in action.
You can see in the picture that I had to add more gasket material to reinforce the water-tight seal. We had a few drips, but no big mess.
If you can steep tea, and make oatmeal, you’ve pretty much got the essential skills needed to brew beer. After the mash sits for an hour or so at 150°, the grains have pretty much given up all their malt sugars. At this point, the sludge becomes wort. The wort is deliciously sweet.
Once you sparge the wort, you return the pot of wort to the stove, where it gets a final hour long boil with the hops. We made three additions of hops (all different varietals for flavor) during the boil. Hops are related to well-known plant that contains the molecule THC. So during this boil, well, you get a little silly if your house isn’t well ventilated. It will also destroy you if you have bad spring allergies, as I did.
After the boil, the wort has to be chilled down to 70° so that the temperature doesn’t kill off the yeast. We let the wort sit overnight to cool down. An immersion cooler makes quick work of this task. But once again, brewing equipment is expensive. The immersion cooler might have to be my next home-brewing hack.
Once the wort is cooled and the yeast is pitched, all you need to do is cap the carboy with an air-lock. And sit. And wait.
I’ve listened to the beautiful music of the carboy bubbling away as I’ve written tonight. In a few days we’ll rack the beer into another carboy to reduce sediment, and a week or two after that it should be ready to bottle!
Until next time,
One of the many perks of working the food world, is all the free food you inevitably end up bringing home. The other day I scored a loaf of 2-day old brioche.
2 day old brioche is really only good for one thing: french toast.
This french toast was made with Marshall’s chicken’s eggs. A bit of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, a splash of vanilla, and enough milk to make it all come together.
Add to that a drizzle of maple syrup, and life is pretty good.
My first experience with french press coffee, was as a college student, studying Russia’s economic politics in the Next Door Cafe. For my dollar, a french press of coffee was the best value. I would sit down, drink an entire pot as I studied, and walk home with heart palpitations. For the record, the amount of caffeine released by coffee beans is mostly determined by the length of contact between the water and the beans. As a result, coffee made by way of french press offers more caffeine per sip than the uber-fast brewing espresso.
I love the taste of french press coffee, the back to basics brewing method results in a full-bodied cup that you rarely get with a drip machine.
Start with freshly roasted beans. I buy small amounts of fresh beans from the Coffee Company. The essential oils that make the french press taste so wonderful, are also quick to spoil. One long time solution has been to keep a bag of ground coffee in the freezer. Well, don’t do that either. As with most foods, freezers kill a lot of the flavor, and you also risk 1) getting nasty freezer flavors in your coffee, and 2) moisture in the air rushing into your bag of frozen coffee every time you open the bag, moisture+freezer=freezer burn = nasty coffee.
So first rule of thumb: Buy fresh, use quickly, and your coffee enjoying experience will be that much better for it.
Second rule of thumb: Making a better french press means using more coffee. I use 1/3 cup of whole coffee beans (before I grind them) for a pot, which I’m sure many of my friends would say is too low, other friends would say that I should be measuring in weight, not in volume. And they are both right, but this is what I’ve found works for me. While doing research for this article I’ve found sources that recommend using 1 1/2 Tbs. of coffee for an entire carafe! Blagh, do they want coffee flavored water?
So there is the why, here is the how:
You will Need:
1/3 cup of fresh whole coffee beans
about 5 cups of nearly boiling water
1 Clean French Press Pot
Grind your coffee to a course grind, try to avoid dust, which may or may not be difficult depending on the sort of grinder you have. Take the plunger out of the press pot and dump the grinds in.
This is the iPod app I use for all my steeping and brewing queries, its called TasteTimer, and put quite simply, its excellent. Read my full review here.
Set your timer to four minutes and begin to slowly pour the hot water into the carafe. I like to pour the water with a circular motion, which may just be flourish, but I believe it helps get a nice foamy crust.
When you finish filling the carafe, start the timer.
Now is when you will see the grinds rise to the top to make a frothy, oily crust. Don’t disturb the coffee, just let it sit there for one minute.
Now, this is my favorite part of making french press. When the timer gets down to three minutes, break the crust with the back of a spoon. To me, this is akin to breaking the crust on a creme brulee. It doesn’t take much, and you don’t want to stir too vigorously. All you are looking to do is burst the air bubbles holding the coffee up, so that the grinds can float back down into the carafe and get full exposure with the water.
here is the carafe after breaking the crust, as you’ll see, the grinds are no longer floating at the top. Place the top back on the french press, pushing the plunger just barely down, so that the plunger is touching the water.
When the timer is done, slowly and steadily push the plunger to the bottom of the pot. Pushing too quickly will force sediment up into the good stuff.
Pour and serve! There you have it, a great pot of french press from start to finish.
Ciao and happy brewing,
Yesterday I had the flu. I absolutely hate any illness or injury that keeps me from enjoying food. Which is why when I had my wisdom teeth out in middle school I was miserable, and when I broke my ankle in high school , lets just say my ankle wasn’t the only thing that became swollen. (get it?)
Fortunately, my bug was of the 24-hour variety. So after laying in bed all day yesterday with no appetite, I woke up this morning absolutely starving! Nic and I went to the pastry peddler to visit Katie the golf-champion turned pastry chef, and eat her delectable pastries, tempered with intelligentsia coffee. We picked up a few groceries, and went home with bags full of asparagus, artichoke, beets, pasta and ricotta.
I should mention that when we got home we ran 5k to train for a race and to combat the “swelling” that comes with eating Zingerman’s food all. the. time. Trust me, life is tough. I also had a chance to work on my victory garden, I planted haricots verts, snap peas, butter lettuce, arugula, shizo leaf, fennel, and big red poppies!
Come dinner time we made this:
Maccheroni with ricotta, chicken thighs, Moulin Mahjoub Sweet Pepper Harissa, and sauteed asparagus. A super easy quick delicious dinner that will knock the socks off of a certain somebody’s 30-minute meals.
And when you finish… there’s still dessert.
And by dessert, I mean sneaking back into the kitchen with a torn off hunk of bread to soak up all of the crisped up dregs of ricotta, peppers, and juices that have been left for dead in the pan. And THAT is why this blog is called crispy edges. These moments alone in the kitchen, when I am beyond satiated, are the times when I can focus the most on the tastes and textures of what I am eating. This is when I appreciate food the most.
If you like what you saw, here’s the recipe (that I sorta made up as I typed this)
1 lb. chicken thighs (cut into 1″ cubes)
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus (sliced into 2″ sticks)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1/2 lb. ricotta cheese
4 Tbs. Moulin Mahjoub Sweet Pepper Harissa (available at this really neat deli)
1lb bag of Rigatoni Maccheroni (Martelli’s Maccheroni is great!)
1 big pot of water, boiling and generously salted.
Add a few Tbs. of olive oil to a dutch oven or saute pan to coat the pan, and heat the pan over medium high heat. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper and sautee until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Add the asparagus and the garlic to the pan and saute until the asparagus is tender but still has a little bit of a snap to it. Don’t let it get mushy or you’ll be miserable. Well I guess it won’t be the end of the world. Just don’t let it happen, okay?
(this would be a good time to start cooking the pasta)
Turn down the heat to low, and add the chicken back to the pan, along with the sweet harissa and the ricotta cheese. Stir until everything is mixed together and warmed through, taste and season to taste if needed. take the pan off the heat and cover.
Cook the pasta until it is al dente, drain and add to the vegetable-chicken-ricotta-mixture. Toss the pasta to throw it all together, and top with a pinch of sea salt, and a whole lot of parmigiano reggiano.
Enjoy dinner, soaking up the leftovers in the pan is not optional.
Yesterday I woke up craving for blueberry pancakes. But alas, when I looked in the fridge I only had the smallest smidgen of milk left. So I went through the fanny farmer cookbook (Ruth Reichl agrees with me, this book has some of the best breakfast recipes) and found a recipe for German Pancakes.
Last fall while I was visiting a friend in Lincoln Square Chicago, I stumbled upon a cute little breakfast restaurant called Panenkoeken. They make huge dutch pancakes, that are a little more eggy, and filled with delicious things like apples-gruyere-and raisins. Yum. German pancakes are a bit more like a souffle than a “pancake”. Maybe if a chicago deep dish pizza crust made love with a crepe, the outcome would be a German pancake. Get the visual? Well then, here’s a real one.
It’s nothing short of than magical to put an eggy batter into a hot cast iron skillet in the oven, leave it for 25 minutes and come back to this. Meanwhile, I made a homemade blueberry syrup laced with allspice and a bit of maple syrup.
We added dollops of marscapone.
And drizzled the blueberry syrup over the pancake. Trying not to get distracted by our drooling…
We then swirled together the marscapone and the blueberry syrup with the back of a spoon and dusted with powdered sugar. The end results were delicious, and eaten way too quickly. I can’t wait to try a savory version of this recipe! Maybe with ramps and gruyere, or with carmelized onions and mushrooms. The possibilities are endless!
Here is the recipe for Fannie Farmer’s German Pancakes:
-1/2 cup milk
-1/2 cup flour
-1/2 tsp. salt
-2 Tbs. Melted Butter
Preheat oven to 450
In a small bowl sift together the flower and the salt, set aside. In a separate bowl, beat and demoralize the eggs until they are light yellow and frothy. Slowly beat in the milk. Once the milk is incorporated, slowly, SLOWLY, mix in the flower until the batter is just mixed and has no clumps. Mix in the melted butter until the batter is fully incorporated.
Pour the batter into a buttered 12″ cast iron skillet that has been warmed for about 5 minutes in the oven. Return the skillet to the oven and cook at 45o for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 for another 10 minutes and you are done!
Top with what have you, and enjoy!
Here is my blueberry syrup recipe:
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 allspice (or 1/8 tsp. ground) freshly ground.
1/2 tsp. salt.
3 Tbs. Maple Syrup
In a small saucepan cook the water and sugar over medium high heat until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved and the water is simmering, add the blueberries and turn down the heat to medium low. The blueberries will take a few minutes to cook down, so be patient. I gently mash the blueberries with a wooden spoon on the side of the saucepan to break them down a bit. After 5 minutes have passed add the allspice and salt. Continue to cook until you have a nice jammy-syrupy consistency, and the Maple Syrup to finish. If the mixture is too thick you can add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out.
Try not to eat it all at once. (we did)
Until next time, Cheers and happy eating!
April 14th, 7-9PM
$20/in advance and $25/at the door, these tastings sell out! Call 734-663-3400 to reserve your seat
You are formally invited to our third installment of the STEEP! Regional Tasting Series. For those of you who have been to the Indian and Chinese tea tastings, we would love to see you again! If you haven’t been to a STEEP! Tasting yet, but enjoy the stuff you drink when you go out for sushi… we look forward to meeting you!
In 1191, a Zen priest named Myoan Eisai brought Chinese tea seeds back to his home in southern Japan. Following that important year in tea history, Japan has become home to some of the most valued teas in the world. This tasting will highlight the diverse range of Japanese teas, brought to us by the award winning tea importer Rishi.
Come and learn about the nuances of Japanese green teas (not to mention the fascinating history and beautiful tea ceremony tradition) with our master tea drinkers, Katie and Vanessa. We will taste Sencha, Houjicha, Genmaicha, Matcha, along with a few exclusive teas brought to the deli for this night alone! As we taste our teas, we will teach you how to get the best results when you are steeping at home. And since no tea ceremony would be complete without food, we will taste a few traditional Japanese treats that satisfy your stomach and tickle your taste buds.
We hope to see you there!
I eat a lot of eggs. For a while I was seriously considering getting a tattoo of a fried egg on my ankle to match Wylie Dufresne’s. I love the endless variations there are to cook an egg. And maybe someday when I own land, I’ll be able to raise chickens, and eat fresh eggs every day! But until that day, I’ll settle with cooking all the delicious permutations of the noble egg.
This was a delicious impromptu dinner at my friend Ji Hye’s house. Noodles with Korean Chili Sauce, various pickles, and a hard-boiled egg. Now this is a woman who knows her eggs. She can soft boil an egg that is so good it will make you feel dirty. I should mention that it helps that she’s using my coworker Marshall’s eggs. The chickens get to eat the seeds that fall to the bottom of the bagel case at the Deli. His chicken’s eggs are rich and delicious.
This is the delicious Easter dinner I made when I was home last weekend. We had grilled salmon, braised carrots, and sautéed asparagus with a single poached egg on top. What I love about poached eggs is that you can make a slew of them ahead of time, leave them in chilled water, and when the big moment comes whip them out. And poof! you’re a genius.
And long at last, we have Oefs en Cocette. A snobby sounding name for one of the easiest breakfasts to make. I made these when my friend Sarah came over last week. We had oefs en cocette, with toasted brioche, smoked salmon, and sauteed bok choy. It was lovely.
If you dig eggs, you should check out this wonderful book by Michel Roux:
My boyfriend gave it to me for Christmas last year. He wrote a sweet note in the cover that I just loved, “When you are feeling scrambled, or fried, or hard-boiled, look at this book and remember that to me you are always sunny side up.” Awww.
Cheers and happy scrambling,