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...that some of you poor, deprived non-Texans are under the impression that chicken fried steak is steak that is fried.

This is not true.

Chicken fried steak is, at its best--and I admit, you will find a lot of sub-par chicken fried steak out there--a sublime reminder of everything that is good and right in this world.

There's a theory out there that explains chicken fried steak as developed out of wienerschnitzel by homesick German settlers in Texas but it may be more the case of convergent evolution than direct descent.

To make chicken fried steak, ideally you take round steak or cube steak, pound the bejeezus out of, cough I mean tenderize it, then drench it in an egg-and-flour batter and pan-fry or deep-fry it. In actual practice, you go out to a restaurant and let them do it because it's a hassle to develop that lovely, lovely batter-crust. At home you have pan-fried steak, made (by my mother, and therefore The Right Way) by taking pieces of cubed steak or round steak you've pounded a bit, shaking them in a paper bag with flour, salt and pepper, then pan-frying them in half an inch or so of oil, then making a cream gravy out of the drippings (using milk because either you forgot to buy cream or because you are lactose intolerant and therefore have only Lactaid milk). You can also pan-fry venison when you've got most of a deer in the freezer from hunting season. The homemade stuff tends to be tougher than the restaurant stuff, and there's also some restaurants that don't tenderize it enough so you end up masticating your way through it like you're chewing a very tough steak. These are not restaurants you should be returning to.

And now that I've finished clarifying things for you, let me blow your mind by explaining that other Texan culinary masterpiece...chicken-fried chicken.

"What?" I hear you say. "Don't you mean fried chicken?"

Nope! Totally different animal! Er, not literally. Chicken-fried chicken is made by taking chicken cutlets, or by splitting a chicken breast and pounding ituntil it's roughly even in thickness, and treating them in the same way as chicken-fried steak, down to the cream gravy.

"But that's just fried chi--" NO. "But--" SH. NO TALKING.

You might also see these dishes on menus as "country-fried [whatsit]", but that's just some deluded chef misnaming them.


Dec. 1st, 2014 03:47 pm
telophase: (goku - chewing)
So that post I made last week asking for suggestions for semi-spectacular desserts? This is what I ended up with:

And this is what it looks like when cut open:

It's Serious Eats' Chocolate Decadence Cake, which is a triple-layer bittersweet chocolate cake with chocolate filling, buttercream frosting, and topped with chocolate ganache.

It's denser than it ought to be because it calls for cake flour, and I made it, and as I was icing it, I idly looked to my left, and as my gaze fell on the unopened cake flour box I thought "Huh. I wonder why we bought that?" and then it struck me and I thought "Oh, fuck." Everyone who ate it told me it was great anyway and that they didn't think it needed to be fluffier and I silently thought YOU ARE ALL HEATHENS IT SHOULD BE FLUFFIER and ARGH DO THEY THINK I'M FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS but merely said "Thank you." It was good that it was flat, in a way, because that meant it fit into a 10x10x4" box, and that fit EXACTLY into the soft-side freezable picnic cooler we got, so it stayed refrigerated all the way down to Mom's, and then all the way to Toby's parents, and then the leftovers made it to my aunt and uncle's house, and the last couple of slices made it back to Mom's.

It was almost a $500 cake, as the recipe I was using for the buttercream frosting had you pour a hot sugar syrup into an egg/butter mixture as you were beating it, and said to beat for 5-10 minutes, until the bowl was no longer warm. 30 minutes of beating later I resorted to wrapping ice cubes in a dish towel and surrounding the base of the bowl on the stand mixer to get it cool. I was terrified that our 25-year-old inherited stand mixer's motor would burn out, but it powered on through, despite getting quite hot to the touch, and seems to have survived. I have to admit that I am vaguely disappointed at not having an excuse to start saving for one of the latest KitchenAid mixers and various accessories (the bowl goes up and down! there's a lid with a spout so you can pour powdered sugar into the bowl while it's mixing and not have a cloud arise and cover the room!).

But the buttercream icing was DELICIOUS, tasting like vanilla ice cream base, so there's that.

Next time: cake flour, a different buttercream that won't kill my mixer (sigh), and perhaps a different recipe with only two layers because as I get older I am finding I much prefer the cake part to the icing part, an opinion that my twelve-year-old self would find HERETICAL.

P.S. I also made whoopie pies. :D


Aug. 19th, 2014 02:14 pm
telophase: (goku - chewing)
So my subconscious created a cake last night in a dream. It was on the order of the three-layer stacked cake from Momofuku Milk Bar's cookbook, that I talked about earlier.

The cake base was made of plain yellow or white cake. The first filling was a bit spicy, something like a jalapeño jelly (jam for you non USAians). The first crunch layer was chopped pecans. Then another round of cake, and a non-spicy filling that was, I think, a plain buttercream (to allow people who didn't want spicy to eat it), then the third round, topped with chocolate ganache and pecan halves, with a little pile of jalapeno jelly piled in the middle. Although in the dream, I was describing the spicy filling as "like that stuff you get on the table in Chinese restaurants" and when I woke up I realized I was picturing a cross between sweet and sour sauce and Thai dipping sauces made of vinegar and sugar.

In the plain light of day I can see that I forgot the soak, which is a flavored liquid dabbed onto the cake to moisten it and add flavor.

So I told Toby this, and he said that it actually sounded good, if it weren't too spicy. :) I can see that I'd have to make a few modifications. I'd toast the pecans, for one and thinking about it, pineapple and jalapeno make pretty durn good paletas, so I'd consider adding a pineapple-juice soak. I think maybe I'd replace the buttercream with a dulce de leche-based filling, to fit with the vaguely Tex-Mex theme.


And now I want caaaaaaaake.
telophase: (goku - chewing)
Well, I'm not on vacation, and it only took one day, but at least it's summer.

I have been making a Momofuku Milk Bar-style layer cake. MMB is the bakery part of Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC, and they have a cookbook out. Their cakes are assembled in several layers, then frozen to make it all incorporate into one big mass. You can read a short article and page trhough a slideshow about assembling one over on Serious Eats.

I'm not using one of their recipes, but something I cobbled together.

Read more... )
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Today's discovery is that if I put black rice in the rice cooker, along with a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and sake for it to cook in (plus some water!), then while it's cooking it smells like BREAD BAKING.

And I am so hungry.
telophase: (Default)
Now that you've got a basic technique* for making omelettes, you get to start playing. Eggs are fairly basic in flavor and meld well with all sorts of flavors from the savory end of the spectrum--pork and onions in U.S. diner-style omelettes--to the sweet--soy sauce, sake and sugar in Japanese omelettes.

* "A" basic technique, not "the" basic technique because there is no One Ideal Technique.

I'm staying closer to the savory end with this post because while I enjoy Japanese-style tamagoyaki, I've yet to cook one successfully in a way that achieves the folded layers of egg the traditional technique calls for. If you're interested in that, I suggest heading over to the tamagoyaki post on Just Hungry.
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The basic procedure for a basic omelette without any add-ins goes more-or-less thusly:

Crack your eggs into a small or medium-sized mixing bowl. Those in the know claim that striking your eggs against a thin surface like the edge of a bowl leads to more shell in the egg because it fractures it into pieces. You're supposed to crack them against a flat surface like the countertop. In practice, find that I get way more eggshell in the bowl and way more egg on the counter with the latter method, so I stick to the edge of the bowl (unless I managed to grab one of the plastic jobs instead of the metal mixing bowl).
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Waiting for thought to percolate about work-related matters (design and coding stuff, nothing exciting), so writing about omelettes instead, to give my backbrain time to work on the other stuff.

Omelettes have a rep for being hard to make*, but this is not necessarily true. There's about as many techniques out there as there are cooks (and as there are ways to spell omelette/omelet/omlet/etc), and if you ask around you'll find a range of opinions on what makes The Perfect Omelette (and you'll find discussion getting heated at times as people discover that Someone on the Internet is Wrong about the proper way to make one).

* Or at least that's been my experience when telling people I make omlettes--I even had one roommate who demanded I make one in front of her, as she couldn't believe that the average person could make one. Your mileage may vary.
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