Category Archives: food

$1.50 a day

There’s a challenge that’s been gaining traction lately to bring attention to malnourishment of those living under extreme poverty. The challenge is to live on just $1.50 worth of food per day for just 5 days. I pay more for coffee every day, but I feel this would be a good exercise to begin to understand just how bad millions of people across the world have it.

However, I want to kick this up a notch. I plan on doing the 5 days, but I really want to do 14 for a number of reasons. First, just to see if I can. I like challenges, and since food is remarkably important to me I would simply like to see if I have what it takes to not starve for two weeks while doing this. Second, I want to save money. I’ve been spending way too much the past few months and this would be a great excuse to not have to do that for two weeks (and I’ll drink less, which will be great for me). Finally, a forced change of perspective from time to time is never a bad thing. I already feel for the plight of the poor, but this may take me over the edge and finally do something to truly help them. Maybe. I am a piece of shit, so no guarantees.

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Food, my other love

For years I have used cooking as a means of therapy. After a long day in the lab dealing with all sorts of science shit I would stop by the market on the way home and head straight to the kitchen to make whatever I felt like making. Results were often mixed, but I have figured out I’m actually a decent cook and should follow my instincts rather than the recipe more often than not.

This was exactly the case with the dish I made for my parents yesterday. It sounded simple and delicious, and that should have tipped me off to the inherent faults of the recipe but it did not. Overall, it was a tasty dish, but the only reason it was a success was due to the way my Midwestern parents were raised. This makes sense if you grew up in the Midwest in the last 60 years, but if you haven’t then you may not know: pork must be cooked somewhere between well-done and hockey puck. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing wrong with hockey pucks; played hockey my entire childhood and love the sport. I do not love my meat to have the same consistency.

There were two striking problems with the recipe: overcooked meat, and a thin, underseasoned sauce.

Simple remedies I will make next time will be to cook the pork chops no more than 8 min. total if brought to room temp before frying. Less depending on the thickness, but use your own judgement. The second problem is slightly more difficult since it means using a little more experience-based judgement, but it should still work fine. Eyeball the fat left in the pan from frying the pork, add an equivalent volume of flour to make a quick pan roux, cook until slightly brown, then add the apple cider/cream/thyme/salt/pepper, bring to the correct consistency and seasoning and then serve.

Cooking is identical to science in that recipes (protocols) are great as a means of general information flow, but it really comes down to experience and empirical evidence to mold the recipe to a useful series of steps.

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On moving

I nearly forgot what it was like to move out of an old and disliked, yet comfortable, place into completely different one.  It throws your whole life off, as I have been for the past week.  In a sense I have felt a bit manic depressive due to the elation I have felt unpacking all of the stuff I have accumulated over the past few years into my new apartment while feeling an overwhelming sense of loneliness.  It’s weird, I haven’t lived with Emily for six months now, but for some reason living in a place where we had once lived together had fooled me into believing that I wasn’t alone.  My new place doesn’t have that history and now, finally, I feel alone.

Being alone sucks.

Thankfully, I still see Emily fairly frequently which has helped immensely, but coming home to an apartment still full of semi-empty boxes just doesn’t feel right.

On the grad school front I’m nearing the end of my first rotation and attempting to set up my next three for the upcoming year.  So far I’m zero for three of my top picks (one “no” and two haven’t replied yet) which is beginning to worry me a bit and now I have to spend a lot of time making a back-up list of profs I would possibly want to spend the next six years with.  Fun stuff.

Also, one of the forgotten joys of moving involves eating a lot of crap because your kitchen isn’t completely unpacked and situated the way you like it.  Throw in the recent Chicago heat wave and I’m left to eating prepared foods from the supermarket or anything cold I can get my hands on.  I feel like crap eating that stuff but I’m so hot that I don’t want to cook anything.  Talk about a rock and a hard place.

I’m going to do what I can to get most of the rest of my junk unpacked tonight just so I can begin to get my life in order.

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I think the chicken thighs need a picture

So I added one.

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Dijon braised chicken thighs

Dijon Braised Chicken Thighs

This is easy, I swear. The only problem is that I don’t really use recipes, so writing one poses some problems. I’m also still trying to polish this dish so there’s still some issues I’m working out (like seasoning). However, it’s still a simple, delicious, and cheap dish that can absorb some blows and is easily adjustable to suit your taste. So keep it my way or change it, I don’t care, just enjoy it!

Reagents:
1T dijon
3-4c chicken stock (HOMEMADE, I take no responsibility if this dish sucks because you used canned or boxed stuff)
0.5 onion (or equivalent of shallots) – small dice
1 large carrot – small dice
3 cloves garlic – minced
1tsp thyme
(maybe a little cream)
2 slices thick cut bacon – small-medium dice
4-6 bone-in chicken thighs brought to ~room temp. (I deskinned them, but that’s just me)
1c dry white wine

Equipment:
Large frying pan
2.5-3 qt. dutch oven

Protocol:
1. Put the frying pan over medium-low heat
2. Add the bacon and render as much fat as possible
3. When rendered, remove the cooked bacon and reserve
4. Add the diced onion and carrot to the rendered fat
5. Cook ~5min and preheat the oven to 400deg.

6. While the onion and carrot are cooking add the dijon to the stock pot
7. Whisk in a very small amount of chicken stock (note: don’t add more than two tablespoons of stock to mix in with the mustard or it won’t mix in smoothly, trust me)
8. Add the rest of the chicken stock, the thyme, the reserved bacon (and the cream if you chose to add it)
9. Bring to a simmer
10. Add the minced garlic to the onion and carrot mixture in the frying pan and cook until just fragrant
11. Put the cooked onion, carrot, garlic mixture into the chicken stock mixture

12. Quickly season the chicken with salt and pepper then sear them ~2 min. each side just to get some nice color on them (may have to do in two batches)
13. Add the chicken to the dutch oven
14. Deglaze the frying pan with the wine – make sure to scrape up ALL the fond – and add it to the dutch oven
15. (at this point the chicken should be mostly submerged in the stock mixture, but since I don’t measure anything and you don’t have the same equipment I do you can add more stock to the pot to get the right volume. don’t worry, it’ll still taste good in the end)
16. Add the top and throw in the preheated oven for 1 hour

Serve as is, with a side of mashed potatoes, pasta, or whatever you like. Personally, I removed the chicken into a covered bowl and strained the braising liquid. Then, I took the solids, put them into the food processor and processed them until smooth then added them back to the braising liquid. I then cooked that for a few minutes over medium heat and strained it yet again so I was left with a luxurious and slightly thickened sauce. I then served the whole dish over egg noodles. Classy.

I’m gonna use this dish to bag me a new woman.

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New recipe

So last night I just wanted to throw something together, so I gathered all the crap in my fridge I wanted, and needed, to get rid of, devised a plan to deal with them, then did it.

And it was heavenly.

I have no idea how it turned out so well, but it did. It’s not perfect (or fully written out yet) and I’m currently doing what I can to make it better, so I won’t post it quite yet but I will describe what it is. Essentially, it’s chicken thighs braised in a liquid of chicken stock, dry white wine, dijon mustard, thyme, and some aromatics. It was relatively quick, incredibly easy, and delicious.

Now wipe up that drool and eagerly anticipate the recipe 🙂

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Baguettes and gay marriage

Well, since I’ve had a lot of free time hanging out at my parents house on an extended mini-vacation I’ve taken to doing a few things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. One of those things is learning how to make a fantastic baguette.

Please note, I am not a baker. Far from it. I don’t bake shit, but I got on my computer, researched the hell out of baguettes, bought some yeast and flour, and went to town. I failed many times, but every time I have learned something from my mistakes. So far I have the flavor I wanted and the crumb structure (the bubbles inside) is ~80% figured out, but the dough consistency and the crust are still far from perfection. So, I got a lot of work ahead of me, but as soon as I figure out where I’ve gone wrong I’ll type up the recipe for all to use and enjoy.

Much like my baguette battle, gay marriage in this country is making progress as well. Four states now allow for same sex marriage!!! Fuck yes, score one for the good guys! I can honestly say that if you have a problem with the equality of allowing homosexuals to marry then you and I are probably not going to get along (my last boss had to travel back to England to marry his boyfriend; he should have been able to do it here).

Progress is being made not only on the baguette front, but also on the civil rights front. Both of those things make me a very happy man.

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