Monday, November 30, 2009

Tamale thoughts

This week, while I was up in San Jose, I got to see B's landlords Jacob and his wife Maria (as well as a helper friend from their church) making up a HUGE batch of tamales.

They had giant steam trays full of cooked masa. Pretty thick consistency, probably like stiff cottage cheese, but smoother of course. Maybe like potato dumpling mix. Masa looked soft/damp but not too sticky (didn't see it sticking to their hands). Anyways, corn husks were damp (maybe washed, maybe soaked). Lady took a lump, maybe between a large golf ball and tennis ball, plopped on the inside of the husk. She spread it out with the back of a soup spoon (traditional!) on the silky (smooth) side of the corn husk til it was about 1/8" thick (pretty damn thin), right up to the edge of the flat (straight cut) side and about 3/4 ways up to the top (raggedy side), across the entire width of the husk. Then, she folded it tri-fold, like a letter, across the width of the husk, leaving straight cut side on bottom and raggedy side on top. Then, she folded over the raggedy side onto the husk and tied it, to make a square package; the straight-cut side was still open. Then into a giant steamer.

Maria made us some delicious pork tacos for the road. Red sauce, redolent with chiles, beautiful deep flavor and red color but not too spicy. They made 3 kinds: pork (with red sauce); chicken; and cheese with a jalapeno strip in the middle. For the cheese ones, it was masa as usual, a sprinkling of cheese (looked like mozza or cotija), then a sliver or two of green jalapeno, seeded.

Jacob was using a "cheater" homemade tortilla press (made from two heavy blocks of wood with a lever) to create flat disks of masa on wax paper. He would hand the masa "disc" to the woman, who would put it on the husk and "clean it up", to the same thickness and dimensions as the rest.

Anyways, all of this got me thinking about making my own tamales. So I searched around and found/developed a recipe, based on what I've read and some videos I watched, as well as the knowledge I acquired above. So here goes:

Pork Tamales

Based on recipe from Sacramento Bee video site

  • 2-3 lbs Pork Butt
  • 1 large onion, whole
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt

In large pot of cold water, add 1 whole onion, 4 cloves garlic, pork and salt. Bring to a boil, then cook at a good simmer for 1.5-2 hrs. Pork Should shred easily. Remove pork and veggies; discard veg. Let cool to room temp.

Meanwhile make red chile sauce:

  • 3-4 cups dried New Mexico chiles
  • 4 cloves garlic

In pot of boiling water to cover, add chiles and simmer for 10 min.
Drain and reserve 1 cup cooking water.
Blend chiles and garlic in blender with garlic. Blend till smooth.
Strain to remove seeds/chunks. Sauce should be smooth and not too thick. Add some cooking water back (if it isn't too bitter); otherwise thin out with water.

You will need about 8 cups prepared masa.
Buy it from a mexican market, tortilla maker, or reconstitute it from dry.

Tamale construction and Cooking:
  1. Shred meat. Add sauce and mix to combine.
  2. Cool meat in sauce.
  3. Add about 1/4-1/2 cup of sauce to masa (about 8 cups of prepared masa)
  4. Soak husks for 20-30 minutes in warm water, so they are soft.
  5. Spread masa on silky side of corn husk, using the back of a large soup spoon (traditional) or a 4" plastic spackle knife (modern). It should be a thin, smooth layer (about 1/8" thick), because masa expands as it cooks, and you don't want it too thick.
  6. Wrap tamales in parchment paper sheets OR place open side up in the steamer. Wrapping in paper helps keep steam in and keeps them in tact.
  7. Steam for 45-90 minutes. After 45 minutes, start checking every 5 minutes.
  8. Husk should be easily removed from masa, and masa should not taste grainy; that's when you know it's ready.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Turkey Pot Pie

Thanksgiving leftover cooking attempt #1:

A great exercise in re-use. Thanksgiving evening, after the clean up, I roasted the turkey bones with some celery, onion, and carrots at 450 for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then into a bug stock pot, cover with cold water, add bay leaves, bring to a boil and simmer for 2.5 hours. Remove bones, strain back into stockpot and simmer overnight, reducing by 50% or so. Turkey stock!

Also separated fat (a HUGE amount of fat from turkey + rosemary butter rub) from gravy, stored fat in freezer.

So here, instead of chicken stock I use turkey stock, and instead of butter I use leftover fat!


  • 2 tbsp turkey fat (or butter)* (see info at start)
  • 3/4 c. frozen boiler onions, defrosted, or 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 c. turkey stock* (OR 2 cups chicken stock, see notes)
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed (about same size as carrots, celery and boiler onions)
  • 1 1/2 c. cubed cooked turkey
  • 2 tbsp turkey fat (or butter)
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. milk (or 1/2 c. half-and-half)
  • 3/4c. frozen green peas, defrosted

Preheat oven to 425F.

Add butter to skillet. Cook onion, carrot, celery + spices together for about 2 minutes over high heat. Add potatoes, and cook for 10 minutes. (You are basically "par-cooking" here; remember, the thing is going to bake in the oven!)

In separate pot, make roux from turkey fat + flour, cook for 1 min. Add milk, cook till thickened. Stir turkey and cream sauce into vegetables, and heat for 2 minutes. Mixture should be like a cream of mushroom/clam chowder thickness. If too thick, add more milk/cream; if too thin, let it cook down a few minutes. NOW ADD GREEN PEAS.

Let cool to room temp.

Roll out crust, put in pie pan OR into little ramekins.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, reduce heat, then cook at 350 for 20 more minutes (about 35 minutes total).

Let cool for 10 min, then serve.

Pastry Crust (makes single shell/top crust only)
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) crisco/shortening/lard, chilled
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) butter, chilled
  • 6 ounces (approximately 1 cup) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 cup ice water, in spritz bottle
  • Approximately 32 ounces of dried beans, for blind baking

Place butter and lard in freezer for 30 minutes. When ready to use, remove and cut both into small pieces.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt by pulsing 3 to 4 times.

Add butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until texture looks mealy.

Add lard and pulse another 3 to 4 times. Remove lid of food processor and spritz surface of mixture thoroughly with water.

Replace lid and pulse 5 times. Add more water and pulse again until mixture holds together when squeezed.

Place mixture in large zip-top bag, squeeze together until it forms a ball, and then press into a rounded disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.


  • Totally delicious!
  • Needed more liquid: try 2 cups milk, half-and-half, or cream. You can always cook it down. It should be a little runny, as the veg is going to absorb liquid as it bakes.
  • Definitely save green peas for the end, and don't cook all veg too long before going in the pie. Remember, it's gonna bake in the oven.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta

Been making this one for a few years, it's pretty popular around the holidays here, making it for Thanksgiving here today. Based on a Bobby Flay recipe:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound sliced pancetta, diced (substitute: bacon)
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lemon, juiced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Heat oil over medium heat in a roasting pan or large skillet. Add the pancetta and cook until golden brown and crisp. Remove the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until soft. Add the Brussels sprouts and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until the vegetables are cooked through and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the oven and stir in the butter and lemon juice. Transfer to a platter and top with the reserved pancetta.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

gettin turkey ready

preparations are being made for thanksgiving. then the question of "what do I do with leftovers" inevitably arises. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Turkey pot pie
  2. Turkey soup/stock
  3. Tortilla soup with corn and turkey
  4. Crepes with turkey
  5. Mashed potato cakes with creamy mushroom sauce
  6. German dumplings (made with leftover mashers), turkey and gravy.
  7. Homemade wide pasta noodles with brussels sprouts.
  8. Turkey enchiladas
  9. "Pulled turkey" tacos in red chile sauce
  10. Turkey tamales in red chile sauce
  11. Plum tart (not related, but I've got plums in the fridge)
There was one more but I forgot.

We bought a 23 lb. bird last night at Costco, Foster Farms, .89c per lb. We will have our biggest Thanksgiving group here so far (6 people). I hope the bird defrosts in time!

Monday, November 16, 2009

apple pie

Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW's beloved Good Food radio show, presided over a pie contest this weekend. This was the winning recipe, shared on her blog and re-posted for posterity. The sour cherries soaked in Calvados make this one sound killer, I've gotta try it.

Barbara Treves' Forever Favourite Apple Pie


1-1/2 cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached, organic all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla powder
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
3 T sugar
1-1/4 cup sweet butter, unsalted (freshly made if possible)
1 Tablespoon white vinegar, chilled
6 - 8 Tablespoons ice water

Measure out all dry ingredients, combine and place in freezer, keep butter & liquid ingredients in refrigerator for at least one hour prior to preparation.

When ready, add dry ingredients to food processor and pulse to mix thoroughly. Add butter cubes and pulse until mixture resembles pea-sized meal. Add vinegar, pulse to mix then add ice water, 1 T at a time, until dough begins to stick together and when pinched by hand, holds together. Remove from processor and transfer to work surface. Divide the dough into two equal parts and gently form into balls, and wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least one hour.

4 Tablespoons sweet butter
12 organic apples from local farmers market (mixture of Granny Smith, Fuji or other tart, crisp apples the best) – peeled, cored and sliced.
1 vanilla bean, split seeds scraped

1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup organic sugar

4 Tablespoons organic, unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup dried, sour cherries, soaked in 1/4 cup Calvados for at least 2 hours

Filling Preparation

Mix all dry ingredients, including vanilla bean seeds together. Add 2 tablespoons of this dry mixture to roasting pan, along with peeled and sliced apples. Place under broiler and broil until apples are slightly browned but not cooked through. Once nicely browned, remove and add rest of the ingredients, except butter.

Adding Filling to Pie Dough

Chill pie plate while you roll out 1 of the dough discs on a lightly floured surface until you get a disc that measure slightly larger than your pie plate and about 1/8 “– 1⁄4” thick. Pull out pie plate and gently place rolled out dough in plate.

Add broiled apples mixture, then dot with 4 T butter. Roll out 2nd disc into a circle about 1/8” – 1⁄4” thick and place on top of apples. Pinch top and bottom dough edges together and form a decorative edge.

Final Topping

1 egg
1 Tablespoons Cream
Turbinado Coarse Raw Sugar

Beat the egg and cream together in a small dish then brush top and edges of pie with mixture, sprinkle with sugar.


400 degrees for 45 mins. Cover edges of pie with aluminum foil if starting to brown too quickly. Turn pie in oven and cook an additional 15 mins. or until done.

Cool for at least two hours prior to serving.

Friday, November 13, 2009

DiMuzio's Pizza Dough with Biga

DiMuzio's Pizza Dough with Biga #1 and #2

This recipe looked intriguing. The biga is essentially a starter with commercial yeast. Have-ta try it!

Based on following straight dough percentages (by weight):
Bread flour 100%
Water 65%
Salt 2.2%
Yeast 0.4%

Makes 2 12" pizzas (170g dough balls)

Bread flour (100.00%) 60g
Water (60.00%) 36g
Instant Yeast (0.10%) 0.06g (a micro pinch)
(final BIGA weight: 96.1g)

Bread flour 180g
Water 120g
Salt 5.28g (1 tsp + small pinch Morton's Kosher)
Instant Yeast 0.90g (1/4 tsp)
Biga 96.06

  1. In a bowl, combine water + pinch of yeast to dissolve. Let sit 2 minutes. Mix in bread flour til smooth. Cover & let sit at room temp (70 degrees) for 24 hours.
  2. The next day start the final dough: first dissolve yeast in water. Let sit 2 minutes.
  3. To mixing bowl, add flour, then biga, then salt. Knead in stand mixer for 10 minutes at speed 1-2 on Kitchenaid.
  4. Cover & let rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Cut dough in half, and shape into two rounds.
  6. Place in FLOURED covered container, and refrigerate 4-12 hours.
  7. About 45 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 550 degrees.
  8. Remove dough from fridge.
  9. SHAPE IMMEDIATELY, onto cornmeal or semolina dusted peel.
  10. Add cheese first, then toppings, then a little sauce, maybe a little more cheese, and finish with olive oil.
  11. Bake at 550 for 5-6 minutes.

  • The biga is very similar to the firm starter that I keep, in terms of consistency, but perhaps a tiny bit softer. #1 is made with the biga as in the original recipe, #2 is being made with firm (Columbia) sourdough starter.
  • #2: went in fridge 745p this evening. They will have been in the fridge for about 48 hours when they are baked off tonight.
#1 Results:
  • Makes for a thin crust, 12-14" pie.
  • Baked for about 7 minutes at 550F on new Saltillo quarry tiles.
  • Decent browning; crust bottom was really thin but hard (I hesitate to use the word "crisp"), with a good bit of "tug" and chewy...interesting texture. Not very thick so there's not a whole lot more flavor to the crust. Wasn't bad at all, fairly tasty in fact. Flavor-wise, I couldn't taste any sourdough.
  • Overall, kinda "meh"; fine I suppose if you want a thin crust pie. I think I like the last 2 pies (yeast #1 and #2) better.
  • Tell you what though...THE NEXT DAY this pizza reheated better in the micro than any other EVER, and had a fresh Papa John's texture after reheating! The amazing reheatable pizza!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2009 thanksgiving plan and timings

Looks like Beckey's folks and our friends Ray and Patrick are coming up for Thanksgiving.

Proposed menu:
  1. 20-22 lb roast turkey (no stuffing, stuffed with thyme, lemon, and onion)
  2. roasted garlic mashed potatoes
  3. roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta
  4. cranberry sauce
  5. gravy
  6. Beckey's family sausage stuffing
  7. green beans
  8. roasted beets
  9. yams
  10. brandied white onions
  11. pumpkin pie
Here are the actual timings for 2009 Thanksgiving

23 lb bird, 16-17min/lb, 6.1 - 6.5 hours

Night before:
  • Stuffing is made
  • Cranberry sauce is made
  • Make rosemary compound butter (2 sticks unsalted butter, about 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, 1 tbsp fresh sage)

The next day:

Preheat oven to 500F: 800am
Prep turkey: 830am
Turkey in the oven: 900am (actually, 850am)
Garlic goes in to roast: 930am
Make bacon-wrapped dates: 945p
Garlic comes out: 1130am

Set table: 200p
Peel potatoes:200p
Start potatoes in cold water: 230p
Stuffing goes in to bake: 230p
Prep brussels (wash, cut and peel): 230p

Turkey comes out to rest: 330p
Oven goes up to 425F: 330p
Start green beans: 330p
Start onions & yams: 330p
Onions & yams & beets & brussels go into oven: 345p
Heat soup: 400p
Make gravy: 400p
Heat rolls: 415p


  • Turned out fine! LOTS of turkey for leftovers.
  • Turkey was done in probably 5 hours! Turkey must've rested for 45min to 1 hour but was still hot and juicy. Skin was beautiful crisp and brown.
  • I really felt "in the weeds", b/c most of the production took place AFTER the turkey went in: peeling & cutting potatoes (2 person job), brussel sprouts, onions, yams, stuffing going into the oven.
  • Took about 45 minutes to do stuffing (brought it up to about 167 degrees). It was in one of those 1/2 size aluminum serving trays.
  • Gravy turned out really well; our friend Patrick really liked it.
  • It was great that our friends Ray and Patrick brought homemade butternut squash soup and pumpkin pie.
  • Fresh green beans: added to 1" of boiling water in large skillet, flipping with tongs took about 15 min, covered with foil and let sit.
  • Boiler onions: the frozen ones took longer to cook, and were tiny! Still good flavor.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

yeast pizzas #1 & #2

(ed note: post written between 11/2 and 11/3!)

ok, cooked some chicken thighs, and want to try to recreate alfredo chicken pizza! These are a different crust, I think I used the CPK crust for the previous version.

yeast #1: this one is based on sourdough #2, but without sourdough this time. Please note that while you can use the volumetric measurements, I definitely recommend the weight measurements, you will get more consistent results, and it will scale more accurately. My Salter scale only does even-numbered measurements in grams, and doesn't do gram fractions.

Makes 1 large pizza (14" to 16")

3 c + 2 tbsp bread flour -439g - (100%)
1 c lukewarm water 242g (55.1%)
2 tbsp wheat germ 12g (2.7%)
3 tbsp white sugar 44g (10%)
2 tbsp olive oil 28g (6.3%)
1.5 tsp active yeast 5.5-6g (1.2%)
2 tsp table salt 15g (3.4%)

Assume room temp 75 degrees; if warmer, shorten rise times; if colder, increase, etc.
  1. Combine flour, water, wheat germ, and sugar in mixing bowl; knead with hook for about 2 minutes at speed 2, until combined.
  2. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Now add yeast, olive oil, and salt.
  4. Knead with dough hook for 5 minutes at speed 2.
  5. Place in covered container to rise about 1 hour; didn't quite double; fold dough and replace.
  6. Refrigerate covered for 17.75 hours (went in at 11pm, out at 450pm next day)
  7. Remove from fridge, let come to room temp for 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 550F, pizza stone 2nd shelf from top. No steam this time!
  9. Let dough rise 1 more hour (2 hours total)
  10. Shape dough, place on parchment, dock, sauce, cheese, meat, and more cheese.
  11. Bake for 8 minutes.

  • Probably my best commercial pizza imitation to date!
  • Crust browned perfectly on bottom, super thin browning, with perfect spongy chew
  • Dough cooked all the way thru, very tender and light.
  • Dough has a sweeter flavor; I don't miss the honey at all!
  • Didn't notice any effect of the wheat germ at all?
  • Crust edges have nice browning
  • Would I change anything? Probably not! :) This is almost as good as it gets.
For next time:
  • Possibly pull the dough out a little thinner; a true "pizza screen" would be great for this, not that bullshit aluminum disc from Target, which seems to reflect more heat than it absorbs.
  • Possibly a bit more wheat germ? Or try some whole wheat? Not very nutty, probably could use a bit of nuttiness, but even if not, this crust is "da best" so far.

  • Crust thickness (1=thin CPK, 3=normal PJ Dominos, 5=thick Chicago style): 3
  • Crust rise (1=no bubbles/some bubbling/5=big bubbles everywhere): 3
  • Crust crunch (1=eiscafe soft, 5=cracker hard): 3
  • Crust blistering (1=no blistering, 5=clear, perfect blistering): 2
  • Crust chew (1=not chewy,5=very chewy): 4
  • Crust doneness (1=dough still raw, 5=browned and cooked through): 5
  • Crust texture hole size (1=small, 3=med, 5=large): 3.5
  • Crust texture hole regularity (1=even, 3=a little irregular, 5=very irregular): 3.5
  • Crust browning: (1=pale/white, 3=browning, 5=chocolate brown): 4.5-5
  • Crust sourness (1=not sour, 5=very sour):1
  • Crust sweetness (1=not sour, 5=very sour):3-4

yeast #2: this one is built roughly on Petezza's Papa John's clone and uses the Expanded Calculator, and close to Pete's percentages with these changes:
--slightly higher hydration
--significantly more yeast
--slightly less oil
--honey instead of sugar, and slightly less amount

It has more yeast than the original recipe, but only about 1/2 the yeast of #1, so it will likely need to stay in the fridge for about 48 hours.

Makes one 21oz dough ball, for one 14" pizza

Flour (100%): 358 g - slightly less than 2.5 cups
Water (57%): 204 g - about 3/4c + 2 tbsp
Honey (4%): 14.3 g - a hair over 2 tsp
Active dry yeast (.6%): 2.14 g - a hair over 1/2 tsp
Vegetable (Soybean) Oil (7%): 25 g - about 2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp
Salt (1.75%): 6.27 g - about 1.5 tsp - SALT IS MORTONS KOSHER, weights are for such.
Total (170.35%): 607.71 g | 21.44 oz | 1.34 lbs

NOTES: this dough was VERY oily to come together, and didn't knead well in the mixer (oild just caused it to flop around a lot, using the same recipe style as #1 above, so I'm modifying it now.
  1. Combine all ingredients EXCEPT SALT, about 2 minutes.
  2. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes
  4. Knead in stand mixer for 5 minutes.
  5. Cover in tub and let rest in warm place for 1 hour.
  6. Refrigerate for ~18 hours (in at 1135pm, out at 545 pm the next evening)
  7. Remove from fridge, let come to room temp for 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 550F, pizza stone 2nd shelf from top. No steam this time!
  9. Let dough rise 1.25 more hour (2.25 hours total)
  10. Shape dough, place on parchment, dock, sauce, cheese, meat, and more cheese.
  11. Bake for 8-10 minutes (check at 8, maybe leave in 10, depending on the size of the pie).
Results? We'll see on Friday, probably.

11/5 results update:
Well, I made the mistake AGAIN of using that worthless perforated pizza pan. That POS aluminum seems to reflect more heat (think aluminum foil) than it absorbs. As a result there was no browning on the bottom crust at all.

On the upside the crust was flavorful, and after 10 minutes in the oven, at least it was cooked thru and not raw. The crust edges were nicely browned too.

Also, using the pie pan, I was able to stretch the crust super thin, which, in addition to the docking, would have made a really nice thin crust, closer-to-NY style pie. In addition, I know now that this recipe makes enough for a 16" pie with a nice thin crust (that's the size of my pan.)

This crust had less sweetness than #1, and perhaps a little more crispness/less softness due to lower sugar. Seemed just about as oily. I like the oilier crust, tastes more "tender"; I know my tastes will change as I refine my recipes, though. I would consider doing this recipe again, but FOR SURE baking it on a baking stone or set of tiles. 16" is a good pizza size, and I think it's a perfect amount of dough for a nice thin-crust style.

To get: a REAL pizza screen, or a set: maybe a 14" and a 16". It's handy and it's a confidence builder.