Sunday, October 16, 2016

Vegetable Cake

My five year old daughter has recently decided that she wants to be famous and make the world better.  I've convinced her that becoming a YouTube star does not make the world better, but she really wanted to share her recipe for vegetable cake with the world, because she says it's really healthy and tasty. And because it will make her famous.

I'm not sure about the famous part, but it is somewhat healthy and surprisingly tasty, so I'm willing to share.

While we were in France, I picked up some cake pans, and they came with a tiny cookbook of cake recipes.  The first half of the book would be recognizable to any self-respecting American house-wife (chocolate cake, pineapple cake, and so on), but in the second half are savory curiosities such as "ham and walnut cake", "crab cake" (in a fashion not Maryland-approved at all), and "chopped vegetable cake".  My daughter saw this last and went crazy.  Cake?  With vegetables!?  Healthy cake?!?  She wanted to make it right away, and has demanded it at regular intervals ever since.  I've never stopped her, because hey, veggies.  However, she had her own ideas about what went in it, so the recipe went out the window.  I steered only enough to keep it vaguely cake-like.

I present: vegetable cake a la Schmoo.

4 eggs
a pinch of salt
110 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
5 Tbsp milk
4 tbsp melted butter
1/2 oz blue cheese, crumbled (or replace with other cheese if your child loves blue cheese less than mine does.)
1/2 oz cheddar, grated
1 to 1 1/2 cup mixed veggies, pre-cooked and squeezed to get the water out (Schmoo prefers carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, and corn, all of which we usually have in the freezer.)
Optional: 1/2 cup cooked protein (ham, chicken, leftover lunch meat, whatever.)

Pre-heat oven to 350 F, and grease a loaf pan.
Beat eggs, and then mix in baking powder, flour, and salt.
Stir thoroughly.
Mix in milk, and then melted butter.
Fold in cheese and veggies.
Bake 45 minutes at 350 F.
Stick a toothpick in it to confirm it is cooked all the way through, and no liquid sticks to the toothpick.
Let cool for 5 minutes, and serve as is, or smeared with a soft cheese such as cream cheese or Boursin.

Squeezing the water out of cooked veggies with a paper towel

The Schmoo mixing flour and egg
Folding in the veggies

Ready to go in the oven

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Making Bacon - Part 2

Previously, I set out to make bacon.  This installment (backdated by 4 months...) is about the follow-up to that.

The pork belly sat in the bag of brine, the refrigerator, for a week.  Every day I'd flip it over and squish it around to keep things mixed and to make sure that there was adequate coverage.

After a week, onto the grill it went.

I don't have the necessary setup for cold-smoking (and it's dangerous), so I hot-smoked the bacon on the grill (while smoking a chicken, which is what's in the lower-right corner of the photo).

As you can see, I didn't rinse off the pork belly, and it has many chunks of pepper stuck to it.

How long on the grill?  Until it's safe to eat, per the food pasteurization guidelines here.  That was over an hour on my ~225 deg F (105-110 deg C) grill, putting out lots of smoke.

For the smoke, I used a mix of cherry and hickory chunks added to the Kingsford briquettes (big blue bags).

After smoking, I let it cool, and then put it back into the refrigerator, to get it cold (35 deg F / 2 deg C).  When cold, the meat is much easier to slice, as the fats are more solid.

I used a filet knife and aimed for "thick cut", which my unpracticed hand only did an ok job at.

The important part of the curing is to make sure that the nitrates got all the way to the center of the meat.  As it came off the grill, it had the classic nitrate-pink center.  And since the meat was up at 160 deg F at the end of smoking, it should be fully cooked.

It looks pink all the way through.  But I guess we really won't find out until it goes into a hot pan...

Et voila!

Pink all the way through, and it tastes delicious.

The outside ends are very smoky.  If you like a little smoke, you might just trim those off.  They were my favorite part.  ;)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Making Bacon - Part 1

Bacon is a cured meat, which complicates how it's made (and raises the bar a bit for failure:  botulism)

It's easy, but that doesn't mean you can take liberties, or be inexact.  I'm following the directions from

The key to curing meats is two-fold:  salt, and nitrates.  Nitrates are what make the meat pink, instead of a brown-ish gray.  And why bacon, ham, and pastrami all taste (and look) different from their origins as pork belly, hindquarter, and ribeye, respectively.

So where to get the nitrates?  Amazon to the rescue, as a source for "pink curing salts", aka "Prague powder #1".

The process itself is really easy.  Gather your ingredients:

1 pound of pork belly
pink curing salt
kosher salt
brown sugar,
distilled water (not shown).

(I'm not giving ratios here, go read the link above, and read all the warnings a few times on how this can go badly if you're not careful)

 Measure it all out:

The pink curing salts are fascinating.  Although the color is a little too candy-like.  My 5yo daughter was very interested in it.  But 1tsp of potassium nitrate can be deadly (this is only about 2.5% of that)

Then put all the ingredients together in a big ziploc.

Adding in the distilled water, and then mix that all up thoroughly (breaking up any clumps of sugar)

Then add the pork, sealing it up and pushing out all the air.  Smush it around really well, and make sure that the pork is thoroughly coated in the brine.  Then put in the fridge (in a pan in case it leaks).

And now comes the hard part.  We wait a week before the next step:  hot smoking the meat.