Today is National Bourbon Day. Which is a good thing, I s'pose, as Bourbon is a close 2nd in the category of My Favorite Ardent Spirits. We all know about my favorite Bourbon cocktail -- the Whisk(e)y Sour, details upcoming thereon -- but when the thermometer starts to creep upward, chasing the spike in humidity, something minty is called for.
Now, it seems that normal people who grow mint have it overrun their yard. I end up with a terracotta pot of damp dirt and beige twigs. Still, dum spiro, spero. So, in order to not make nothing but a waterfall of mojitos all summer* long, here's my choice cocktail:
1 oz. Rye (Templeton's is nice, if you're especially manly-manlike, add an extra ½ oz.)
2 oz. Bourbon (my go-to for mixing is Maker's Mark)
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters
18 (!) mint leaves, any varietal, but Yerba Buena (mentha nemorosa) is optimal.
1 oz. superfine sugar (just put regular sugar in the food processor and zap it for as long as your patience will allow)
Now, here's the thing. You're really going to need a silver, as in .925 Sterling, cup. You can get away with silver-plated copper. (Oh, just go on eBay, will you?) It's actually important, and not merely decorative.
OK, I'll let it go this one time.
Put mint and sugar in your silver cup, in that order...you need the sugar on top of the mint to act as a cushion, because you must muddle the mint very gently. Don’t crush the mint, because you will release bitter compounds. Add the liquids and stir like crazy. Load up
the cup (I mean, realllllly pack it) with crushed ice and garnish with a healthy spring of mint, clapped between your hands to enliven same.
* Summer in Miami lasting from March through November.
Posted by JMG at 7:07 AM
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Butter. REALLY easy and really good.
The lovely & gracious Kim introduced me, on Twitter, to the equally lovely and similarly gracious Ruth. Twitter, alas is the social media equivalent to HFCS. If you really want to know what happened to my blog, just visualize it being hacked into neat-ish 140-character chunks and fed to the Blue Bird.
But I digress.
Ruth is an evangelist for good-and-good-for-you foods. Her merely saying "Quinoa tabbouleh" (granting the lovely and gracious Badger may have previously come up with such a concept even if she didn't get a chance to brand it as snappily) altered my worldview. Among the gospels of her evangelism is no-knead bread. This is what prompted Kim to introduce us, as æons ago, Kim was asking (again on Twitter) for thoughts on same, and I leapt insomniacally up and sent her my version, which involves a TINY bit of kneading (a riff on CI's, itself a riff on Leahy's original) and she loved it so much she wept profanely in joy for hours.
Not a few minutes ago, I again insomniacally found my way on Twitter (sensing a pattern here), and I see that Ruth has posted on the matter of no-knead bread and cultured butter. She has a lovely photo of a lovely hunk of bread with a semi wrapped chunk of Europeanish cultured butter. Which made me realize, "Wait a minute! I make cultured butter and it's unspeakably easy."
So here it is.
(This is for ¾ lb. butter and 1½ cups buttermilk.)
Some important things to keep in mind:
a) As you've read here lo these many years, the flavor of pasteurized cream is infinitely preferable to ultra-pasteurized, and raw cream (if you can get it) is even better than THAT.
b) The yogurt and sour cream/crème fraîche MUST contain live cultures -- the longer the list of live cultures, the better -- no gums, gelatin, etc. Do not use "Greek" yogurt in this, do not use nonfat/lowfat yogurt.
1 qt heavy cream, the least processed/freshest you can find
¼ c plain yogurt & ¼ c sour cream/crème fraîche (½ c total)
¼ t coarse sea or kosher salt (OPT)
1. Culture the cream: Combine creams and yogurt in large fanatically cleaned and sterilized jar with an airtight lid. Cover, and shake well to combine. Replace the lid with a FRESHLY LAUNDERED kitchen towel, securing it with a thick rubber band (I repurpose the ones that come with asparagus), and place in warmish area (the magic temperature is +/- 75F/24C) undisturbed for 24 hours. It should have a texture like "drinkable yogurt" when properly thickened. If you like a more cultured-y taste, let it go a total of 36 hours.
2. Once your cream has your ideal thickness, doff kitchen towel, re-lid, and refrigerate until the cream is +/- 60F/16C, figure 2 hours. You can store the thickened, cultured cream up to 5 days in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the butter; let it sit at room temperature until it reaches about 60 degrees before proceeding with step 3.
3. Here we go: Have 1qt/1L of ice water on standby in the refrigerator. Pour your cooled cultured cream (say THAT 3x, fast) into the work bowl of your standing mixer with the whisk attachment, er, attached. (You can do all of this in a food processor, but that may require 2-3 batches.)
If you have a splatter guard, now is the time to deploy, or just use cling wrap as best you can, unless mopping dairy off the walls is a long-held ambition of yours.
Whip the cream at maximum speed until the yellow (the better your cream, the yellower this will be)clumps separate out, call it 5 minutes.
Strain this through a fine mesh strainer double-lined with cheesecloth set over bowl. Let it drain quietly, on its own, for 1 minute.
4. Grap the corners of your cheesecloth and spin/twist to wring out the buttermilk, pushing and squeezing until not one drop more of buttermilk is issued. Put your butter in another bowl; refrigerate your buttermilk. You're halfway home.
5. Here comes the PITA. Splash about ⅓ cup of the ice water (you were wondering, weren't you?) over your butter and, with butter "floating like an island" in the ice water, fold and knead it, letting the water wash the butter to rinse it of any remaining buttermilk. Discard buttermilky water, and repeat until the water runs clear. This will take you about 5 or 6 washes. This has to be done because remaining buttermilk will VERY quickly accelerate the spoilage of your butter.
After the final wash, drain the water. Then smash, knead and fold butter to squeeze out as much remaining liquid as your patience will allow. (Keep in mind that even the most posh butter is MAXIMUM 85% solids, so don't be too fanatical here.)
Sprinkle butter with salt, if you are using for spreading on bread, and fold into butter until thoroughly incorporated. The butter will keep for at least 1 month assuming you use reasonably fresh cream and you wash the butter well. You can also freeze them. (Don't panic if the buttermilk separates on thawing, just shake.)
6. Divide butter between two 12" x 15" (30cm x 40cm) rectangles of parchment paper (waxed paper if you must). Shape each half of the butter into an approximate log shape. Fold the paper over the butter, then roll butter log up tightly, twisting the ends, to get a nice cylinder of buttery goodness.
Or do what I do, put it in clean glass jars and refrigerate/freeze.
Posted by JMG at 6:52 AM
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Pâté de Faux Gras
Photos to follow.
2T unsalted butter,
4T duck or goose fat, cut into bits and chilled. Butter, if you can't be bothered (but it won't taste like foie gras)
Salt and pepper to taste
12oz chicken livers (trimmed of any fat, sinew or discoloration; cut any big ones into a size equal to the small ones)
2 sprigs thyme and an extra ¼ t of minced or dry thyme
1 shallot, minced REALLY small
1½ oz cognac (I like Martell VS)
OPTIONAL ¼ c heavy cream
1. Put the livers to dry on paper towels and season with the salt and pepper. Melt the butter in 12" nonstick (gotta be nonstick for this) sauté pan over medium to med.-high heat. Cook the livers and thyme sprigs -- but don't move them -- for a couple of minutes (3, tops) until the livers JUST START to brown. Flip them over, then sprinkle the shallots between the livers (don't panic if you "miss" on a few) , and keep cooking until the livers get brown on the other side and shallots are getting softened, figure another couple of minutes. Now, carefully add the shot of cognac, and if you're not a delicate flower, flambé the cognac (this is a HUGE boost of flavor) otherwise skip it. In any event, over med.-high heat cook until the cognac is reduced to a third of its original volume.
2. Toss your thyme (at least the woody stems, don't panic if any teeny leaves lag behind...you have better things to do) and dump the liver et al. into your food processor and blitz for a nonstop half minute. (i.e. DO NOT PULSE) With the thing still spinning, add the 4 tablespoons goosefat/duckfat or, if you absolutely must, butter, a single bit at a time, until everything is even in color and texture. You may have to scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl a few times. Upon every life a little rain must fall.
3. Now. Here's a key step in mimicking the foie gras thing. (If you don't care about that, skip it.) Empty the food processor into the finest meshed sieve you own (if you have a chinois, give yourself 5 extra points), placed over a suitably sized bowl. With a rubber spatula, squish the contents through sieve. At this point, all you have to do is put it all into a mold, sprinkle the remaining thyme over the whole thing, and chill and you have successfully replicated The Real Thing. But, if you wanna go all out, go for a "mousseline." How? Well...
4. Whip your heavy cream, using a VERY cold bowl and whisk...I freeze mine for 30 min. beforehand) to stiff peaks. Fold (don't, I beg you, knock out all the air of the cream you just whipped) the cream and thyme into the pâté until everything is even and smooth, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, as you go. Put into a big mold or or into small, individual ones, slap some plastic wrap flush on the surface of your now-it's-mousseline, and chill for it set, anywhere from 2 hours on up. It can hang out in the fridge up to 3 days or, tightly wrapped, frozen a month.) To serve, let it come up to ALMOST room temperature (about 50F or so) and shmeer on baguette.
Posted by JMG at 7:40 AM
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
A pseudo update
Posted by JMG at 12:46 AM
Saturday, February 02, 2013
Testing, testing, 1-2-3
Posted by JMG at 10:04 PM
Saturday, January 26, 2013
The Things That Only Happen To Me
Before I proceed with the main event of this evening's symposium, I want you to quit bitching that I'm not blogging. 2013 has seen a sort-of rennaissance in my bloggery. So pipe down.
Here's the thing.
As we have already discussed, as I crawl out of the mire that 2008-Present have been, I have been able to slowly rebuild what was once a successful consulting practice. As this is now looking "on the up" and I have merged efforts with some other excellent lads with whom I was once at school, we decided to set up an office for the [We Need To Come Up With A Catchy Name Soon] Consulting Group in the same space as our newest big client.
(This is part of the new modus operandi, to be within microscope distance of clients. Lessons learned the hard way and all.)
For reasons well afield of the scope of this blog, it fell to me to find furniture. Since these are not our forever-and-ever digs, and since we're also gathering up furniture for the client's call center operations, I found a corporate furniture liquidator.
Just north of here, in Ft. Lauderdale, a major company closed down that office and merged it with their Miami office, leaving three floors' worth of furniture and office suites, etc. in near mint shape. Cheap.
So I have one of the guys in the office contact the listed person to schedule an appointment, etc.
This loon, instead, gives out my mobile phone number to the contact person at the furniture place.
She texts me.
I don't get back to her right away. When I do this -- kindly reproduced for you verbatim -- happens:
Me: What's yr addr?
Her: 123 XYZ Street. Do u wt me to sd pix?
[some time later]
Me: Pls LMK what times you hv avbl to look @ ofc furn.
Her: Mon 1-3, Tue 10-12, 2-4, whouse is @ 789 ABC Avenue
Now, the more astute among you may have noticed she sent two wholly unrelated addresses. This struck me as odd, especially as 123 XYZ Street is NOWHERE NEAR anything even remotely warehouse-y. So, naturally I thought perhaps this was the corporate address and, while we'd select stuff at the warehouse, we'd have to sign contracts, etc. at the "main office" or something.
Of course, because I have a catastrophically bad sense of direction, I Googled the warehouse (in a suitably industrial part of town) and then the "office address." Which came up with some VERY unexpected results.
There is simply now way around it. The first address which "Tiffany" sent me was an "executive escort service." There is no room for error here, I have both of these addresses in my text records, and there they are. No typos, no misunderstanding, no misreading them.
But our furniture needs will brook no misgivings.
So off we went, Rob (one of the other partners in our fledgling venture) and I, to 789 ABC Avenue. This was a suitably colossal warehouse place, riddled with very nice office furniture over an expance of a squillion square feet (or meters, if that's all you have). We walk up to the office and say we had a 1pm appointment with Tiffany.
Tiffany comes out.
Now, if you want reassurance that someone has texted you the address of an "executive escort service" by mistake, Tiffany's appearance would be ideally geared to provide none. Shortish, blonde, perky, with WAY too much makeup and cleavage and the sort of miniskirt for which my beloved would strike me about the head and neck merely for being within a mile thereof.
If one wants to convincingly convey an image of Not Being An Executive Escort, this was precisely the wrongest sort of effort.
Rob & I walk around, selecting desks, cubicles, chairs, bookshelves, credenzæ, etc. Rob was unable to look at her in the eye. Whenever she'd turn away or go to the office to print out something he'd just shake his head at the surreal nature of this adventure.
"Dude. We're buying cheap used office furniture from a very expensive callgirl!" Then he'd shake his damned head and laugh in disbelief.
"All I got was furniture, honey. Honest."
Posted by JMG at 4:01 AM
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Hey, it's not happening to ME for a change.
Pull up a chair, kids. Uncle Joke has a tale to tell.
You may recall the Odyssey-like journey I'm on as I attempt the biggest comeback since Lazarus, to once again return to the ranks of the 1%, so that poorly groomed, benighted semi-socialists may don Guy Fawkes (?) masks and hurl vile abuse in my direction for no logically discernible reason.
One of the problems one encounters in the comeback trail, at least in the realm of commerce, is that, at least in the initial phases, one can't be exceedingly choosy in what one accepts/declines. As someone preternaturally choosy, this is a grating fact of life. One puts down one's head, sets one's jaw and plows ahead.
Here is one such example.
Early on last summer, a contact of one of my associates suggested a project for us to take on. A brief synopsis was given and, even though I don't have the luxury of being overly picky, I strongly suggested we pass on this one as not a single aspect thereof passed my olfactory apparatus successfully. But I, manfully shouldering the lifelong Curse of Cassandra, was overruled. So we took on the engagement.
And the wheels fell off the wagon from the very start.
One of the things about which there is no discussion is that every client, without exception, has to pay a (relatively) small, reasonable, "upfront" for the time it takes our team of accountants, lawyers, etc. to review documentation, etc. The real money is in taking an equity participation in the success of the project, but in order to get moving, the client has to pay for the hours spent in our making sure all is Kosher before we can proceed to engage our contacts, investors, etc.
Well, this guy -- we'll call him Caliph Stein -- would not. Period.
The problem, he said, was that the Elbonians, under whose auspices this certain-to-be-trillion-dollar-project came to be, would simply not hear of such a mad, foolish thing. I, personally, was ready to sod off that very nanosecond, but the contact of my associate, prevailed upon my associate and then prevailed upon Caliph to pony up the retainer which he did, grudgingly (and, allegedly) from "his personal funds."
So we began the work.
Many things that had set our radars ablip, were now giving us the full Chief-Inspector-Dreyfus-twitch. I cannot go into all the details for obvious reasons, but the project hinged around a product that would revolutionize the XYZ industry with a 15% improvement in efficiency and commensurate decreases in maintenance costs and environmental impact. Yet nobody had seen, and more importantly, nobody was offering to show, the bloody product. In fact, my meek request for a sample was met with the sort of glare one gives a morally bankrupt teenager who has just showcased an IQ well below "mean normal."
Why this guy, ostensibly with an exclusive deal to market this revolutionary product of the Elbonians, wasn't, y'know, actually marketing this revolutionary product of the Elbonians, was something of a mystery. He was designing a commodities trading bureaus, leveraging my associate's contact's contacts to establish covenants with local and federal authorities, etc.
He produced a flourish of authentic-looking PDFs of signed letters and agreements with multiple overseas entities (public and private) but was not able to provide the original contract via which the Elbonians that gave him all those alleged commercial rights.
His business plan was, as Arlo Guthrie might've noted, a series of pictures with circles and arrows on the back explaining what each one was. Not much in the way of narrative. When called on something his response was
a) "You're not paying attention."
b) "You misunderstand me." Then he'd provide additional documentation that had zero to do with the previous documentation.
Among which were a series of derivative investments that were, in the very best conceivable scenario, an Unholy Cluster$#@& And Goat Rodeo.
One day we met at the office he was leasing, his assistant, a young lady I'd guesstimate to be in her late 20s was there helping, the daughter of a friend who wanted him to provide her with professional, real-world training. He seemed rather dismissive of her. Remember that.
As usual, his demeanor was condescending, arrogant and astonishingly devoid of even the merest chemical trace of "people skills." As per our agreement, we were supposed to review his documentation and offer advice and counsel on how to modify it to suit presentation to potential equity participants, strategic partners, etc. Because I have that kind of luck, only I was able to attend the meeting wherein I had to defend the professional conclusions -- with which I agreed, BTW -- of the other two associates.
This, of course, led to a two-hour harange on his part on JUST THE FIRST POINT.
I then went back, spoke to the other two, and drafted the report we were contractually required to provide. Associate 1, the guy whose friend and contact had brought us the case, suggested that we forward an advance copy to said contact, that he may see where we were going with this. We did. Contact Guy immediately asked for a meeting.
In the interim, I started doing a bit of forensic work. The website for the Elbonian company was created by none other than Mr. Caliph Stein and, not on the date the Elbonian Company was allegedly founded, but 2009. Several of the other affiliated entities likewise. The addresses for all were P.O. Boxes registered to Mr. Caliph Stein. The Elbonian National Chamber of Commerce had never heard of that company nor any of the principals thereof. The principals of Caliph's company were legit and impressive, but not a one of them had ever so much sold $1 in the XYZ industry.
We mentioned all of this to Contact Guy and we said, openly, that our concern had now become solely for his professional reputation. Being associated with Caliph was begging for an epic nightmare. (It turns out that this guy was already burned, badly, by Caliph Stein and didn't speak to him for nearly a decade. Then, of course, his son fell in love and married Caliph's daughter. We call this the triumph of hope over experience.) But, with a naiveté uncharacteristic of a man of such ripe years, he insisted that all of this must have a logical explanation.
I mentioned that my first -- hardly the only -- worry about the project was that Caliph hadn't bothered to try selling the Magic Elbonian Product and that when I suggested so, he looked at me as if I were a particularly unintelligent Stalinist who'd just befouled himself on the priceless Persian rug. Then he proceeded to explain the lunacy of my suggestion...never mind that my first client was/is in that field and I have decades more experience in the XYZ industry than Caliph does. (Translation: Caliph Stein had ZERO idea how the XYZ industry works and, unfortunately for him, I do.)
Contact Guy then suggested I make a case, in writing, for my approach.
Associate 1 agreed and thus I re-re-redrafted my marketing plan and resubmitted it, pointedly refuting as "incorrect" (ahem) all of Caliph's objections. (The only thing that ever resulted from ever mentioning ANYTHING to Caliph was that he needed $X million in capital before anything could be done. Odd, that.)
Caliph then contacted me by phone (weird) just as I was going off on my Scary New Year's Eve Trip of Near Icy Death. He called to say "yes...BUT" to my proposed marketing methodology and that he'd send additional documentation. I explained to him I'd be in the land that radio waves forgot and wouldn't be able to do much until I got back home. And we hung up.
When I get back after unsuccessfully attempting to drive off the icy roads of the Appalachians, I get a call from Associate 1, that he was with Contact Guy, who was upset that I hadn't gotten back to Caliph in a timely manner. I explained I was a mile above sea level where communication is impossible and that I had let Caliph know that. In fact, my email's "away message" said so plainly. But, because I am scandalously polite, I re-sent my message to Caliph and his group figuring that, given the scarcity of Wi-Fi, etc. the message may not have gotten through EVEN THOUGH I WARNED HIM OF SAME.
Caliph's reply was typical. My counter reply was that I had been away from all means of communication and this sort of thing happens. His counter-counter reply was, essentially, "Don't give me that! This is not how business works!" but in his usual...er...idiom. I chose not to reply, as I also chose not to pursue trying to even work with him on the marketing aspects. Caliph Stein be buggered and, if it came to that, I'd explain this to Associate 1 in a ringing baritone.
Associate 1 also was aggrieved (and surprised, because nobody ever believes me) at his tack and said to finalize the report and we'd send it as is.
At this point (last night) we got a HUGE email from a certain young lady detailing ALL of the sordid business and personal practices of Mr. Caliph Q. Stein. Bank statements, contact information, PDFs of contracts, forgeries (!) and fraud (!!) in pellucid detail. Fifteen zip files. FIFTEEN. If I were to print them all out, it'd be a genocide of trees. I cannot describe how all-encompassing and detailed this email was AND how exhaustive were the means to verify all this. Bank officers, brokers, CPAs, attorneys, board members, etc., etc., Pages and pages of people I could contact to corroborate her allegations.
Oh, and the young lady was Caliph's friend's daughter whom he was "training" and was also, er, "taking advantage" of her under a "shower of lies and threats" and once she stopped "yielding to his base, carnal desires" she got her salary cut. Finally, she'd had enough and spilled all, gravely upset that Mr. Caliph Q. Stein kept "hiding behind God and the Blessed Virgin Mary."
Next week should be very, very interesting.
Posted by JMG at 10:37 AM