Saturday, December 29, 2007

Better than what I Wanted

TFR got me the skillet I asked for for Christmas, along with the Bird's Beak Paring Knife, and a few non-culinary items. My mother decided to send gift money and let me pick for myself. These days, it's much easier for her, and quite frankly, I am not put out by it -- never mind curmudgeonly grumbling about it not being as "personal" as an actual gift. The fact is my mother has gone far above and beyond in showing me her love my entire life -- no gift is going to add anything more, no lack of one can diminish that.

So anyway, I decided that thanks to my mom, I'd get the book I asked for. I was also going to buy the fillet knife, but when I went to order the book, I ran into a dillemma. The book was $23 and some change, and fell just short of qualifying for free shipping. So I looked around Amazon a bit longer, and found this. A better fillet knife than the forschner, and for a similar price. Now, if I'd bought the Forschner I could have received a 10% discount from the cutlery store. But when you consider the $2.86 shipping I avoided paying on the book by buying the knife too, it equals a 10.8% savings -- and I end up paying about the same and getting a better knife -- and one made here in Oregon, to boot!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Santa Claus is Coming to Town Going to Drown

This is the kind of crap you miss the chance to mock when you're busy with school.

My friend Brian (aka Lurch) told me about this first -- a speech by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels in which he warns kids at a tree-lighting ceremony that if they don't help fight global warming, Santa and his reindeer (and presumably the elves too) would drown.

No, really. You can read the mayor's entire letter to Santa over at Michelle Malkin's Blog.

Wow. Where to begin.

I could go off on a rant about fear-mongering, about traumatizing little kids in order to indoctrinate them to your politics, about commandeering a public festivity for your own ends... but that's been done, in spades, by everyone who's commented on this at Michelle's, and by other bloggers.

That WAS, in fact, my first inclination when I heard about this story. While I haven't been able to find a transcript of the speech itself, Lurch heard it and says that Nickels included a dig at Bush in the speech, inplying that global warming was somehow worse because of the President. If that's true, that's the point where the reprehensible aspects of Nickels screed and the laughable parts overlap. It's bad enough to use a tree-lighting ceremony as a bully pulpit for advancing your own agenda regarding global warming, but when your fanatical adherence to the Party Line regarding Global Warming collides with BDS, you start to become self-lampooning.

Not that there isn't plenty to mock even without any reference to the President. First of all there's the irony in the fact that the mayor was offering flourescent bulbs to replace older incandescent bulbs -- missing the memo about the dangers of the mercury present in the ballast of flourescent bulbs. LED bulbs are even more efficient AND safer for the environment.

Or there's Nickels' comment in the letter, "Reindeer fly, but can they swim, too? I for one would rather not find out."

Ummmm... Your honor... Reindeer swim across rivers and bays every year during their annual migrations... I know your comment was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but given the earnestness with which you present your little screed as scientific truth, your lack of knowledge of such a well-known fact really does make you look a bit silly.

Oh, screw it. There's just so much here, and I'm still burned out. I don't have it in me to go off like I'd want to. Instead of cursing the dark, I think I'll just light a light in it.

Unless doing so puts the Easter Bunny at risk, too....

Dear Santa

With money tight in our family this year, for the sake of TFR I've limited mysef to relatively inexpensive items on my wish list, though I suspect there's a pattern to them:

Forschner 8" fillet knife
a new 8" nonstick skillet
Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
a bird's beak paring knife (There's a Messermeister for sale for $5 at Hartwick's, and I wouldn't use it enough to warrant a pricier one -- great stockijng stuffer, hint hint...)
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
an immersion blender
The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

That Which Does Not Kill Me Will Only Serve to Make Me Wish it Had

For all my loyal readers and fellow bloggers, many of whom I consider friends I've not yet met, I appreciate the fact that you've stuck with me through a very tough, very busy term. Things aren't over just yet -- I have a final later today and one tomorrow -- but I can see light at the end of the tunnel, and have some reason to believe it's not an oncoming train, though heaven knows I feel like I've been hit by one. Getting a bad chest and head cold the week of finals sucks.

At this point I don't have any work lined up for the break, so I may be able to blog a bit more often than normal. I kinda look forward to that.

But there's been some ups lately too. In my Menu Management class, I got an A on the rough draft of my project, up from a C on the proposal stage. It consisted of a menu for a fictional restaurant, including 5 appetizers, 6 entrees, 3 desserts, and 5 beverages, plus recipes, costing, and prices for all items.

I also did well on the final combined project for my Garde Manger class and Buffet & Banquet class. Early on in the term, we were split into teams of two and given an hor d'oeuvre to test. Then we were informed that at the end of the term (last week), we'd be making 200 portions of our hors d'oeuvre for an open house at the school. My partner and I got off to a rocky start. We were assigned smoked trout mousse, and had to decide for ourselves what sort of hors d'oeuvre to make out of it. The test run used trout that had been smoked in an earlier lab by the whole class, and the mouse recipe right out of the book. It sucked. It was way too salty and smoky and runny. But hey, we had half a term to fix it, right?

Chef Clive, my instructor, hit one one part of the solution to our problem -- the trout itself wasn't that good to begin with. I also decided that the other part of the solution was to increase the aspic gelee (gelatin flavored with stock consommee, in this case fish stock) and whipped cream in the recipe, for more body and firmness.

Then my partner dropped out of the program, so it was all on me. The only major help I got was when some classmates threw together the dough for my bread.

So last week, while also dealing with my regular class load, I came in between classes and smoked the trout and baked off my bread. The trout was a smashing success -- part of the solution was a sweeter brine, the other part was to use a milder smoke -- the original had been smoked in hickory, which while fine for barbecue, is too strong for something as delicate as trout. Instead, I used a combination of alder and apple. The bread also cooked off perfectly.

The day of the event, I was at school at 9:30, worked through until plating at 3:00, and produced a hit: smoked trout mousse canapes on toasted brioche, garnished with a dill sprig and a slice of radish soaked in white wine. They were divine. The wine was the first thing to hit your mouth. The acid in the wine softened the bite of the radish, but also cut some of the richness of the mousse, which was perfectly smooth and firm, with a salty sweet smokiness. The brioche was slightly crips, and its butteriness added to the mouth feel from the mousse.

One of my chef instructors took a picture, as soon as she emails it to me, I'll post it to the blog.

Feast your eyes:

Amendment XXI

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
Ratified December 5, 1933
Thus ended one of the (if not THE) biggest, costliest, and most tragic experiments in Nanny State governing in the history of this country. So this evening, pourt yourself a stiff drink, and raise a glass to freedom.