It’s HOT Outside So It’s Time for a Blog Update!

This is one of the first weekends this summer I’ve spent the majority of my time inside.  Between the cycling, kayaking and fishing it’s been a wonderfully busy summer and it passed by quickly.  So here we are during the first weekend of FALL and the temps are in the 90’s.  I thought I’d share some updates about what’s been going on.

I found a box of Pearl Sugar in the pantry the other day & decided to break out the waffle iron for another round of Liege Waffles.  I wrote about these back in 2011 and they are worth the effort.  My only caution is they will gum up your waffle iron with caramelized sugar.  Cleanup is best done after things have cooled down so the hardened sugar can be chipped off.

After spending a lot of time riding the Monon trail these past few months I decided to mount my little GoPro Session to the handle bars and start recording some of the ridiculous stuff  seem to  encounter every ride.  I’ll post some video after my next ride.

On the Podcast front I’ve discovered several new ones this summer.  The ones I found to be the most entertaining are:

Twenty Thousand Hertz – Dallas Taylor does an amazing job bringing you “the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds”.  My favorite episode so far is the story behind the NBC chimes.

Week in the Knees – Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, the guy who lived on MacDonalds for a month, is back with a weekly recap of the news you might not have head about.

Countdown – Detailed stories about 10 of the most incredible space missions during the race to the moon 50-years ago.  Lots of NASA audio recordings and interviews make it a very well produced podcast from Time Magazine.

After driving near this place for years I finally stopped in the little town of Brookville Indiana and checked out the amazing Brookville Reservoir.  We spent several weekends this summer kayaking and fishing this place and absolutely love it.

Brookville has a great tail water below the dam that’s stocked with rainbow and brown trout.  When the conditions are right it’s an awesome place to fly fish.  The reservoir itself has a lot of bass and other native Indiana species.  We’ve had success fishing from the bank and from the kayaks.  Since it’s only a 90-minute drive from home it’s an easy place to go for a day trip.

I’m looking forward to more beautiful weather this fall.  I need a few more weekends on the water and bike before packing everything up for the winter!

…To be continued

What We’re Reading/Watching/Buying in December

It’s been a busy month and Christmas is less than a week away (so is a much-needed week off work for yours truly).  As I get older the years just keep speeding up & I don’t know of any way to slow them down!  It’s just the opposite feeling from when I was a kid where the years dripped slower than that bear bottle full of honey.

The Great Cord Cutting Project of 2015 is going better than I could have ever expected & there’s no going back.  I’m spending some of that old evening TV time trying to keep up on the articles I’m always collecting via Pocket.  Some items recently clipped include:

pcq8qzR9iThe Kindle is getting a workout too with several books being read in parallel.  Just depends on what I’m in the mood for.  Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and Andy Weir’s The Martian are both fighting for my attention.
I’ve also taken the opportunity to really dig into what’s available on the streaming services I subscribe to, particularly Netflix and Amazon:

  • The Man in the High Castle (Amazon) is an alternate history story that has the Germans and Japanese wining WWII and taking control of the USA.  It’s a pretty dramatic series that’s full of twists and turns.
  • Narcos (Netflix) depicts the story of Pablo Escobar and the DEA agents assigned with bringing him to justice.  I’m not going to lie, you have to pay attention to this show.  Mainly because it’s 90% Spanish with subtitles.  And a Gringo like me needs them.  No Sprecken la Espanola

belkin-be-F5L171tt-1I’ve been helping keep USPS, FedEx and UPS in business with lots of holiday purchases for friends and family.  Along with those items I picked up a new Keyboard/Case for myself and my iPad Air 2.  The Belkin Qode Ultimate Pro is a great replacement to the Logitech keyboard cover I was using with the last iPad.  It’s a little pricy $150 but It’s currently on sale now for $130.  I’m working on a review but let’s just say that after a few days using it I’m a fan.

25475-inset13After a glowing review from a co-worker I also ordered the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Electric Sandwich Maker.  Seriously, I did!  I’ve see this gadget before but didn’t think it would be any good, especially costing under $30.  Well I’m told this thing really works so I had to see for myself.  When I happen to eat breakfast the egg and cheese (with various meats) is my regular go to.  Delivery is scheduled for Monday so we’ll see how it goes Tuesday morning when I fire that baby up and make my first sausage, egg and cheese muffin.

No matter your religious preference (or not) I hope everyone is gearing up for a fun holiday season with friends and family.  If you get any good tech gadgets or kitchen toys let me know!  I’m always looking for ways to give Amazon more money.

How to Ruin a $30 Batch of Ice Cream

Nothing brings back the childhood memories more than making homemade ice cream. When I was growing up my Grandmother had one of those electric models that used ice and rock salt. The smell of the electric motor mixed with the super cold ice/salt mixture is so distinctive it can take me back to the breezeway in a heartbeat.

Having obtained her recipe for Lemon Custard Ice Cream (future blog post I promise) I purchased the necessary attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer (specifically for that recipe). It consists of a double walled stainless steel bowl filed with a freezable liquid and a plastic dasher. The Kitchen Aid churns the mixture to a semi-frozen state which, once achieved, you eat it right away soft serve style or put it in a container and freeze overnight.  The entire freezing process takes about 30 minutes.  Sounds easy, right?  Read on…If you’ve never made homemade ice cream, I mean really good quality homemade ice cream, you probably don’t understand the amount of work, time, and expense that goes into the final product. This time around I opted for a new creation that my daughter and I thought up while talking about food one evening.  A quick Google search located a recipe that looked promising.

Maple Bacon Ice Cream.  Yes, Maple Syrup, Heavy Cream, Egg Yolks, and Candied Bacon frozen together into a delicious treat that covers that sweet and salty spectrum we all love.  So far so good, what can go wrong?  Let’s investigate this crime scene piece by piece…

Work

The first step of the process is reducing the maple syrup by about 1/2.  This is easily done and takes about 20-30 minutes.  You need to keep an eye on it though as it tends to bubble up.  Once complete, you set this off to the side and work on the next step.

To achieve the ever so highly desired creamy consistency you need to make custard.  This, in its simplest form, involves cream, sugar, and egg yolks.  This recipe also has three additional ingredients, Bacon, Maple Syrup and Brown Sugar.

The first step is to “scald” the milk.  This just means heating it to 180°F (no more, no less).  Once the proper temperature is reached you add the sugar stirring just enough to dissolve. Pour the milk mixture into the reduced maple syrup and heat everything to 160°F stirring so the syrup incorporates into the milk.

Next you beat the egg yolks until pale and start tempering the eggs with the heated milk mixture, beating with a whisk the entire time (unless you want scrambled eggs in your ice cream).  After you slowly add about 1/3 of the heated milk to the eggs (whisking the entire time), you pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining 2/3 of the milk.  You’re still whisking like a maniac, right?…  RIGHT?

Now you are well on your way to a good, basic, custard.  Keep stirring, and cooking slowly, until you get a semi-thick consistency.  This will take about 10-15 minutes.  Remove the custard from the heat and pour into a heat proof bowl.  Make sure you press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the custard to keep the top from forming a skin.

Cool the custard bowl on the counter for 30-45 minutes and then put it into the fridge for 12-24 hours.  Yes, 12-24 hours.  You’re done for the day.  Start cleaning up your mess and find something else to do!  Make sure your ice cream making equipment is in the freezer too.  Regardless of what you’re using you will want to make sure everything that touches the custard tomorrow is cold.

Time

OK Ben (or is it Jerry?), it’s the next day.  You waited the proper 12-24 hours, right?  Time to start the next step in this ice cream making marathon…

Start by cooking your bacon (however your normally do it).  I use the oven and bake on parchment paper at 350°F for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool.  This was the mistake that ruined the final product.  Keep reading for the nasty details.

Time to set up your ice cream making equipment…  It can be the old fashioned hand crank (good for making the little ones miserable with the promise of sugar for their efforts), electric crank, or the modern multi-function kitchen appliance method.

This step is easy.  Fill your bowl, insert the dasher, turn said equipment on and set your timer for 25-minutes.

While you’re churning, sprinkle brown sugar on the bacon strips and place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes.  Flip and repeat.  Allow the bacon to cool again and then chop into bite sized pieces.  A brûlée torch would be a great replacement for the broiler process.

That $7 container of high-end custard form the store down the street is sounding pretty good right now isn’t it?

Once the 25 minutes is up you should have a semi-solid product.  Add the candied bacon and continue to mix until just incorporated.  The ice cream can now be eaten as is (soft serve style) or placed in a container and frozen for another 12-24 hours.   I opted for freezer time and was anticipating digging in the next day.  We shared some bites of the soft server off the dasher and determined this was going to be a winning recipe.

Before we get to the final product let’s review what we have in this so far…

Expense

Making your own ice cream at home is fun.  It takes some time but the end result is usually worth the effort.  In this case we were into this recipe for about $30.  We used some of the best ingredients we could get our hands on and were happy to know exactly what was in our frozen treat.

  • Heavy Cream $6
  • Organic Brown Eggs $4
  • White Sugar $2.50
  • Brown Sugar $2.50
  • Indiana Maple Syrup $10
  • Nueske’s Aplewood Smoked Bacon $5

I actually did not add all of this up until after the fact and realized how expensive this little adventure turned out.

Final Result

The ice cream has had its 24-hour rest in the freezer.  To be honest I almost forgot about it since we started this process 3 days ago…

The end result was firm and very smooth frozen custard with chunks of candied bacon.  Exactly what we were trying to accomplish!  This is GREAT!  Let’s dig in…

But first, let me ask you this…  How many of you keep a little stash of bacon fat in the fridge for fried eggs and things?   OK, we have a few virtual hands raised out there, good.  Now, how many of you would take a spoonful of said bacon fat and place it in your mouth?  Really, no one? OK…

Remember a few steps back where we put sugar on our bacon and placed it in the broiler?  Notice how I neglected to remove the bacon, drain on paper towels and place on a fresh piece of parchment before starting the candying process?  Once the sugar is melted it all kind of blends together and in the rush to melt the sugar, and not burn it, you sometimes fail to notice these things.

I scooped a generous portion into a dish and dug in.

First bite?  AWESOME!

Second bite? Really good!

Third bite?  Uh oh… what is that?  It’s like a piece of butter or something…  Wait, there’s no butter in this…  Eww, it’s all over the roof of my mouth and covering my tongue.  Why can’t I taste anything?

Oh, crap…  It’s frozen bacon fat.  It’s not just a little frozen bacon fat, it’s a lot of frozen bacon fat.  The tell-tale white streaks are running throughout the custard…  Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present… Maple, Bacon, Bacon Fat, Custard!

It was awful…  I wanted to like it but that mouth coating of bacon fat just ruined it for me.  I still have it in the freezer of any brave soul wants to come on over and try it out.  It’s being thrown out tomorrow.  The bacon fat was not noticeable when the custard was in soft server form (and directly out of the ice cream machine.  Only after it has time to solidify did it become noticeable..

In retrospect, the maple custard was awesome by itself.  I think the addition of some toasted pecans would make it really good.  The next time we make this I’m substituting bacon for nuts.  In fact, I may be tossing that little container of bacon fat I see every time I open the fridge.  It’s going to take a little time for me to get over this one.

As with any recipe, the devil is usually in the details.  Had I thought to properly drain and blot the fat off the bacon I’m convinced this entire experience would have ended quite differently.

For those of you interested in making this for yourself, I’m including the recipe below.  Be sure to learn from my mistakes and drain that bacon!

Enjoy!

Maple Ice Cream with Bacon

  • 12 oz of the best maple syrup you can afford
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 20 oz heavy cream
  • 14 oz milk
  • At least six strips of caramelized bacon, cut into bacon bit sized pieces (I used brown sugar for the candy coating).
  1. Cook the maple syrup down to 1/2 its volume about 3/4 of a cup. This stuff tends to boil over so take it slow and low. Check it frequently and do your best to keep it away from a full boil.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cream, and syrup reduction. Stir to dissolve the maple syrup reduction. Bring to a bare simmer. Depending on the temperature when it is added, you may find that the syrup reduction solidifies. Do not fear. When you get above 160 degrees F, it will easily mix into the liquid.
  3. While the milk and cream are heating, mix the yolks with the salt. Beat well.
  4. Temper the eggs with the dairy mixture by slowly adding about 1/3 of the liquid(in two or three additions). Remember to whisk constantly during the tempering process. Add the eggs mixture to the remaining milk mixture. Stir constantly until the temperature reaches 175F.
  5. Cool to room temperature overnight. Freeze in your ice cream machine and add the caramelized bacon at the last minute or so of freezing.

 

 

Do You Need All That Water to Boil Pasta?

img_9498SOME time ago, as I emptied a big pot of pasta water into the sink and waited for the fog to lift from my glasses, a simple question occurred to me. Why boil so much more water than pasta actually absorbs, only to pour it down the drain? Couldn’t we cook pasta just as well with much less water and energy? Another question quickly followed: if we could, what would the defenders of Italian tradition say? [MORE]

How To Build A Better Burger

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a freshly grilled burger with all of your favorite toppings. Being someone who likes to play with his food, I’ve tried a few twists when it comes to the “perfect burger”.

Grinding your own meat is definitely one of those ah-ha moments that’s worth the trouble. I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the food grinder attachment. This combo will take just about any cut of meat & turn it into a perfect ground consistency. While I’m a big fan of grinding Brisket I have recently found a good chuck roast will yield acceptable results at about 1/2 the cost.

Unless I’m feeding a large crowd (in which I may cut a back a bit) I aim for 8oz patties that are packed firmly and wider than your bun by about 25%. This gives you the right amount of meat to bun ratio and has enough mass to keep the patty from drying out while cooking. I always keep the seasonings to a minimum. A light dusting of seasoned salt or plain old salt/pepper is all you need.

I have two methods for cooking the perfect burger. Outdoor over charcoal (first preference) or indoor on a well seasoned cast iron pan (backup plan in the case of inclement weather). Both methods create, in my opinion, the perfect result.

Since you’re grinding your own meat the risk associated with commercial ground meat is greatly reduced. I typically cook my hamburgers for 5-minutes per side (flipping only once) on a medium-high grill (or pan). This yields a juicy burger that’s just cooked through.

When it comes to condiments I like to keep it simple (only 2-3 at a time), usually mayo, onion and a little mustard. My wife turned me on to olives with burgers. The saltiness of the olive goes nicely with the juiciness of the burger. About the only this missing right now is a cold beer!

How do you do your burgers?