Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Great crumb and a finshed icon

I sent this photo to Nicholas. It is the first time I have achieved a really open crumb like this. A note to the Baker's Art, my crowning achievement, I can die a happy man now.  All because of the French kneading technique I adopted. Not sure why it took so long but I finally understand Baker's percentages and how that affects the crust and crumb of bread. look for lots more of this stuff. Great toasted.

I also finished an icon whilst working on the Narthex project, of the Mother of God  for a friend of ours. A little lighter than the last one and a different outlook. Not sure which I prefer. We need to have them for dinner for the presentation soon. Hmmm.. what to cook?

Eating Omaha...Benson Brewery

Last night, Christian took us out to thank us for his party last Friday. I admit it was a lot of work since Brenda got up before me on Saturday and that never happens. Never. I was exhausted but in a good way.

Benson is a sleepy little part of Omaha, a small town unto itself that is rife with shops and eateries that are now catering to the hipster and young adult crowd. Coffee shops, head shops and some very nice restaurants, this being one of them.  All home brews and gastro pub specialities. We all ordered the exact same thing, a burger with Blue Cheese and Bacon Jam on a brioche bun. The handmade patty was perfectly medium as ordered and a perfect fit to the bun. Very tasty, the fries super crispy and delicious. We have a fried pickle appetizer with a very crisp coating and a forgettable sauce.

Slow crowd for a Monday so great time to go for attentive service and a quieter meal. 

I had a lighter blonde ale as I don't like hopps at all and Christian had the darker side of the menu. It was rich and tasted of coffee and a hint of chocolate. All in all a great evening with the kids. Thanks guys.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Big Ragu

We are having a birthday celebration for Christian as he is in town to party with his friends and Mackenzie decided to throw a dinner party with their mutual friends. We got to invite Matt and Lori who are not long for Omaha so...let the cooking begin.

At first Mackenzie suggested a Short Rib Ragu as she thought it sounded better than spaghetti and meatballs. I resisted because short ribs are expensive and greasy but acquiesced when I found  meaty ribs at a local store. Augmented with a package of boneless ribs and flanken cut ribs (cut across the ribs)  from another source, I went to town and browned the meat thoroughly in my 5 quart dutch oven. Then the sauce making began. I need a bigger dutch oven, I will say that right now.
I did not want brown gravy but a more marinara type sauce,  something that I used to make meatballs a few weeks ago and something that would still braise the ribs to fall apart tender.

Short Rib Ragu

3-4 pounds meaty short ribs (your choice of style but the flanken ribs did not have a lot of usable meat)
1 T oil
3 medium onions, grated
6 cloves of garlic minced
2 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes, puree one of them
1 cup white wine
1 T Italian Seasoning
1 T oregano
1 T red Pepper flakes
1 cup grated Parmesan
a few cheese rinds
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ribs in 1 T oil  till mahogany in color. Set them aside and use the fat in the pan to saute the onions till they soften up then add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute then add everything but the Parmesan and cheese rinds. Its really a pretty easy but very tasty sauce.

Add the meat back to the sauce, cover and place in a 325 oven for about 3 hours till the meat is tender and pulls away from the bones. Take the meat and bones from the sauce and finish the sauce. I placed it in the fridge over night to skim the fat and finish the next day. 

I augmented the sauce with a few cups of chicken stock since I need a lot of sauce for the party. I also ran the immersion blender through it to smooth the sauce out a bit. Simmer gently as it will scorch easily at this stage, and add the Parmesan and cheese rinds. Adjust seasoning. It should taste rich and full from the meat and bones infusion.

Pick the meat from the bones and add the meat  back to the sauce. Ready to eat. We are serving it over the pasta pictured above but pappardelle (long flat pasta) would work nicely.

I am crossing my fingers that 5 quarts is enough, we have some big eaters coming over. Salad and about 6 baguettes will round out the menu tonight.

Tonight: Beer and craft cocktails. I have Rye so Scofflaws are in order for the older crowd. The boys all like IPA's so we have a bit of that on hand. The ladies will probably be drinking wine and we have plenty of that on hand in the form of a nice Chianti as well as anything else you might imagine.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Baguettes and the French way of doing business

A picture is definitely worth a thousand words in this case. I baked baguettes for the snowy Sunday we just had and was quite successful really. I was in full force using Richard Bertinet's technique for kneading and using a 70% hydration dough.  Making the sloppy dough was the easy part.

1000 gm flour
700 gm water
20 gm salt
2 t yeast

I mixed the dry together and then added water. Using a plastic scraper I pulled and prodded it into a wet sticky mess and then unloaded it onto the granite counter top. For the next 20 minutes, I threw it down, grabbed it, stretched it, trapped air in it and did it all again about 600 times. After the first 10 minutes, the dough stopped sticking to my fingers and after 20 it was a nice tacky but workable smooth dough.  I let it rise till double which meant a few hours in our cool house, then formed the loaves paying rapt attention to Richard's You Tube video. Loaves formed, I waited for doubling again and baked at 450. Good stuff, great flavor, real french baguettes. Amazing. Lot of work.  The funny shaped loaves are my virgin attempt at Pan d'Epi. Maybe the next ones will look better. Tasted great though.


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