Sunday, December 11, 2016

Biang Biang Maxwell's Silver Hammer

I'm not even going to continue the pun. I love Gene's Flatbread Cafe, but since they moved from Chelsmford to Woburn they've been out of range.  I found this recipe, which is pretty close to what Gene's makes. Since the recipe is quite vague on the proportions for putting together the final noodles, a few notes:

To make the dough: I ended up needing 3/4 cup water for 2 1/2 cups flour - maybe my math is wrong but 130 ml water seems insanely low. The dough was definitely "tough" to work with.

2 1/2 cups flour makes 12 small 2.5" rolls.  Each roll makes 2 noodles each, for 24 noodles total; an adult portion is about 6 noodles (3 rolls) so this recipe serves four adults if no one wants seconds.

For the prep: I added 1 cup cold water and that seemed to control the water boil rate nicely - the water did come back to a boil and the noodles were not overdone.  I used 3 bok-choy leaves.

For the sauce: an even ratio of 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp black vinegar, 2 tbsp hot oil is well balanced, but more liquid than you need for 6 full noodles - I'm going to look at cutting that by 25%.  I don't have measurements yet for the garlic+scallions or chili powder, but the garlic never overpowered; I eyeballed it. For the chili powder, a nice dusting of the top noodles seems to produce a reasonable (but hot) temperature.  Pouring the hot oil over the dish really works.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

No Haam Yu For You!

A follow-up on salt-fish fried rice: while I continue to not be able to find Haam Yu anywhere even remotely near me, I found an alternative that gets closer to what I could get in the DC area:
  • Salted Mackerel for the fish.  Note that this isn't like Haam Yu - since it is a fresh fish (e.g. it has not been fermented) it doesn't pack the punch.
  • A little bit of fish sauce instead of soy sauce as needed and...
  • Anchovies, the kind you get in a tin.
Chop two anchovies into really really tiny pieces for one small mackerel.  The tiny bits of anchovy bring that pungent kick that the dish should have.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The CSA is back in session - real vegetables - what an improvement over the grocery. So we're making a lot of Kale soup. Trader Joe's spicy Jalapeno chicken sausages make a nice substitute for Chorizo. My recipe is something like:
  • Sauté an onion, some carrot, celery, and maybe garlic on low heat.
  • Throw in the chopped up sausage, brown it a little.
  • Throw in the Kale, mix it around a bit.
  • Cover with broth, throw in a few chunks of potatoes.
  • Leave it on low and forget about it for a few hours due to a chain of phone calls from work.
We had leftover Parmesan rinds and threw them in the soup - it tasted good, so I'll call that a success.

We also just did a blind taste test between aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, younger Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Grana Pedano. The real parm was noticeably better - I liked the older, Lori liked the younger, but the Grana was not a real substitute. (It's also not much cheaper - only about $3/lb less.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why My Wife Is Brilliant (part 372)

SaltineMatzah Toffees. Salt 4 pieces of Matzah with sea salt. Melt 1 cup of butter with 1 cup brown sugar, boil 3 minutes, pour on top. Bake for five minutes at 400, then sprinkle on semi-sweet chocolate chips. Let them melt, spread them, let it cool (if you can) and nom.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Congress Has Never Used Shark

Shark is a performance profiling tool that I use heavily at work. In a nutshell: Shark tells you what part of your program takes the most time to run, so that when you spend time making your program faster, you make the parts that matter run faster.

To construct a trivial example, imagine that my recipe program spends 99% of its time drawing beautiful 3-d recipe cards, and 1% of its time drawing the menu bar. If I want it to be faster, I have to make the cards faster, not the menu bar. If I make the cards twice as fast, the program is twice as fast. But...if I make the menu bar twice as fast, you'll never notice, because I've only affected 1% of the total problem.

Put another way: it pays to go after the whale, not the minnows.

Consistently going after whales is what has made X-Plane fast over the years.

So it drives me nuts when Congress goes after minnows.

Here are a few lists of potential spending cuts...we'll see how much of this actually happens. There are even some cuts that save more than $1 billion - that is, cuts that almost matter.
  • $1.1B - Office of Science.
  • $1.7B - GSA Federal Buildings Fund
  • $1.6B - EPA
  • $1.4B - DOE Loan Guarnatee Authority
  • $2B - Job Training Programs
  • $1.3B - Community Health Centers
  • $1B - NIH
  • $1B - High Speed Rail
(And we have some minnows: $6m for the NEA, $6m for the NEH, $7.3m for the Smithsonian, $2.3M for Juvenile Justice...if ever we optimized the menubar.)

But the real problem here is the total failure to 'Shark'. A few big ticket items seem to have strangely escaped the list.
I'm pretty okay with the 'less government' idea...but I'm not okay with the 'less government except for the stuff I like' idea, and either way if you're going cut, make cuts that matter.

(Why is Social Security not on this list? Social Security takes in a lot of payroll tax, and could be made solvent by relatively small changes in benefits, the payroll tax cutoff, and retirement age. Heck, Social Security was doing fine before Wall Street cratered the economy. Compare this to Medicare, which has jumped 13% in cost in two years.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Glengoyne 17

Keeping with the "notepad of food and drink" theme, I figure I'll take note of the Scotch I finish...a bottle lasts a long time (despite X-Plane 9), so better to write it down.

People write some crazy stuff about Scotch - it's like wine tasting. "The nose had notes of hickory, burlap, and an old bicycle. Very good." I haven't taken a tasting class, so consider what follows to be totally uninformed.

Glengoyne 17 smells of caramel or honey - you'd think it smells good even if you don't like Scotch. It's fairly mellow; you can drink it neat and it doesn't burn at all. After drinking smokier whiskeys, it almost seems a little bit muted. Perhaps a good Scotch for drinkers who aren't quite prepared for more "challenging" whiskey.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Salt Fish Fried Rice

It was pointed out to me (by my mother) that I never update this blog anymore...a major release will do that to you. But...I need to write cooking notes down somewhere.

Salt fish fried rice is...freaking awesome. It's also an acquired taste. An epic discovery: Top Cafe is just down the street from Apple (should you be out there on business), open late, and does a mean salt fish fried rice.

Salt fish fried rice is one of those dishes that, like a gin and tonic, walks a fine line between culinary bliss and disaster. The salty fish should add a bit of tang to the whole dish and should come out and bite you when you get a piece, but it shouldn't be so overpowering that you can't taste anything afterward.

I have made the recipe twice for myself and I'm getting closer, but have been held up by the principle ingredient: haam yu (咸鱼). The first time I made the recipe I used Portuguese salt cod. To put it bluntly, that's the wrong kind of fish. The results are quite edible, but the salt cod has no tang because it hasn't been fermented.

The second time I went to my local Chinese grocery and did my best to explain what I wanted. Unfortunately they were all out of salt fish and sent me home with...well, I'm not really sure what it was. It was a piece of carp labeled "Grandma's food products" in Chinese. I'm not sure what was done to it. It was a lot closer than the salt cod, but didn't have adequately awesome killing power.

The recipe I made is this one, and it seems to work pretty well; the results were close enough for me to know what I was going for and to know that I was only off by the type of fish.

Salt fish (咸鱼 - literally "salty fish") is xian yu in Mandarin and haam yu in Cantonese, unless Lori is punking me. One of the problems with Googling such ingredients is that there appear to be Chinese pop stars and kung fu masters with the same name. I suggest that we rename Justin Beber to Justin Hamburger in retaliation.