Saturday, January 9, 2010

I want fries with that.

I have been hearing the praises of the "Care and Share" shop for quite some time. My parents love the place, and other friends visit often, too. I've been wanting to go there for quite some time. Today, my parents showed us where it is, and it lives up to its billing. What a fantastic place! I bought a Calphalon nonstick skillet, 13 inches, for $20. Brand new! I also got a plastic bag of rick rack, a hat, some pajama pants, two slips, and a small, 1 1/2 quart deep fryer.

French Fries for dinner! I have a humongous bag of beautiful potatoes from Costco, and two of them, fried up, would make a dinner for two, with a salad, I thought.

The last time I made french fries at home, I was 21 years old and in college. A bunch of us had come home late on a Saturday night (I guess it was really Sunday morning, to be technical), and I remember that I used my electric skillet, on a whim, to make fries. There were at least 10 of us in that kitchen, and I think we ate 10 pounds of potatoes. We kept frying and eating and frying and eating. I think we just cut the potatoes, and put them in hot oil. Did not think too much about it at the time. But then again, I don't think we were a discerning bunch.

So, tonight I consulted Mark Bittman's book on how to cook things, to find out how I should make french fries. Mark and Julia Child (and probably everyone who knows anything about cooking) say that you should peel the potato, then cut the fries, and soak them in cold water. During this time, the oil is heating up in the fryer. Both Mark and Julia say to drain the water from the potato, then fry the potatoes in 325 degree oil (or so), for about 10 minutes. They will be limp at that point, and still not brown. Take them out, drain the fries, let them rest, then put them in at a higher temp - 375 degrees, for a few more minutes, until they're brown.

So, I cut the potatoes, and made the sticks shorter, so they'd fit easily into my little fry basket. I soaked the potatoes in ice water, to get the starch off the surface. I put peanut oil into my fryer. I chose peanut oil because I know it tolerates high temperatures without breaking down, and I plan to re-use the oil after I'm done with it. I will filter it when it's cool, then store it.

One of my jobs during school was in a restaurant where they served a lot of fries. Every night, the fryer got drained, and the oil was filtered, then every week (I think Sunday night) the oil was thrown out and replaced. So that's how I know the 'basics' about deep-frying and oil, even though I have not deep fryed at home since I was 21.

After draining the water off, I lowered the fries into the hot oil using my basket. I ended up just frying the fries in one step, for about 13 minutes at 350 degrees. They turned out yummy, so I'm not complaining...but they were a bit soggy after a few minutes out of the oil. So next time I think I'll try it the Mark and Julia way and do them at a lower temp for a while, then let them rest, then finish them up in high heat.

For kicks, I cut a few potato chips and fried them up too. Not bad! A little thick, but next time I'll cut them thinner to get that perfect crispiness.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Peesa Pizza

I made personal sized pizzas for dinner. Nick complains that anchovies put on only 1/2 of the pizza have an irritating tendency to 'migrate' their umami goodness to the entire pie - his half. So, I made two mini-pies. Mine with anchovies. His without.

I am a prolific bread baker, and am a sucker for bread recipe books. My most recent acquisition is "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes Per Day". The basic premiseof this book is that one takes a wet yeast dough, consisting of flour, yeast, salt, and a relatively high percentage of water, mixes it all together, lets it rise, then stores in the refrigerator, where it gets even more flavorful over time. You make a large quantity of dough, all at once, taking out only the amount wanted, then baking it then and there, for a lickety-split loaf at din-din. These people are geniuses! Seriously. I am blown away by how easy this method is...for someone like me, during the week, to bake bread on a work day. You don't need to knead the bread, because somehow, some way, the gluten gets lined up and springy with only the help of the extra saturation of the water-heavy dough mix.

So, I used some of this stored dough, in my frig, to make two pizzas. I weighed the dough so that each pie used 250 grams of dough, and that way I knew that the pizzas would cook evenly, and that one of us would not get more than the other to eat. (Shades of when I was a little kid, and my mom made sure that my sister and I got our things given to us 'even steven'.)

I heated up my oven to 450 degrees F, with the Pizza Stone in there, then rolled out my little pizzas on my peel, which had been covered with cornmeal. On each pie went some red sauce, then mozzarella, then a bunch of chopped yellow and green sweet peppers. On one pie (mine), went 4 anchovy filets. Then I sprinkled home-grown dried basil on top. Closed the oven door, went to take a shower, came back...and - pizza for dinner.

This dough made a nicely chewy pizza dough, and was crisp on bottom, thanks to my use of the Pizza Stone. My Pizza Stone is nice and black, from years of use, and I leave it in the oven all the time.

So, to summarize, my dear and kind reader, Nick and I enjoyed a tasty, gourmet style (if I do say so myself) pizza dinner tonight. We had the pizza with a nice field greens salad, and our wine was some 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau that Nick got from one of his clients/vendors. Its fruitly sprightliness went well with the mood of our pizza dinner tonight. And Beaujolais Nouveau HAS to be drunk quickly, does it not? So that's why we opened it tonight and did not save it for another occasion.