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Category Archives: Gadgets

Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Salad

This is my new all time favoite potato salad of the month!

Thanks to Balloon Juice commenter NotMax for the tip and a recipe.  I went with another recipe for purely logistical reasons:  The Paprika app can strip recipes from a page where there is only one recipe but it struggles with comment sections.  We like Paprika, it’s an android app we put on tablets because the larger screen puts the ingredients and directions on the same screen.  Here’s a screenshot of the recipe page for this potato salad, the tablet is a Galaxy Tab S2 9.7″:

The app works on phones, too, but you have to swipe and scroll to get the same info.  There is a windows desktop app but they want more money for that then we want to spend for very little added utility.NotMax’s recipe says to refrigerate for at least an hour so I presume the salad is good cold.  We opted to reheat it for this tasty lunch.

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Sous Vide Ribs

I almost waited too long to put the ribs into the water bath.  I was thinking the morning of the 4th would be good for the holiday dinner.   The slab  was cut into two pieces, rubbed with seasonings, and sealed in vacuum bags well in advance.  Then I looked at the recipe over at the Food Lab site the day before: “TOTAL TIME:16 to 50 hours”!  I set the bath up and started it up around 2PM on the 3rd with the temp at 155 degrees.They spent the night at 155, then I boosted the temp to 165 the morning of the 4th.  Around 11Am they came out and were placed in an ice water bath to cool.  Here they are after blotting with paper towels.And after brushing with BBQ sauce while the oven was heating to 400.  The one on the right was wanting to break in two, all they needed was reheating to seal on the sauce.The ribs were as tender as any we’ve ever had, the bones sipped out of the slabs cleanly.  Two thumbs up!Got bone?

Happy Summer Solstice

Had the first fire in the fire pit tonight.

Happy first day of summer!



 

Gadget Post: Meet Alice

Carson has a new friend and they work as a great team. She’s an iRobot Braava that I have named Alice.  I have had her for a few months and am very pleased with how well and thorough she cleans. Very quiet, but with a nice, loud, cheery, beeping tune when she’s completed. She has never run over any of my rugs, she gets in tight spaces (behind the toilet!) and doesn’t leave streaks.

Running time is long, about 1.5 hours and the recharge is less than 30 minutes. She’s slow, so my small house takes her about an hour to complete (Carson is less than 45 minutes to vacuum).

Only a couple of issues: instead of an on-board brain like Carson has, she has a little GPS box you have to place in the room. Which means, unlike Carson, she can’t do the entire house without relocating the box. And secondly, for the expense, you get one cheap mopping cloth that isn’t going to last long. I had to order replacements right away (knockoffs from Amazon).

There is also a sweeping feature, but since I have Carson run through the house first, then Alice mops, I haven’t had the opportunity to use it. Basically she’s like a very expensive swiffer. But I find it hard to argue with the price, because I was seriously looking at hiring a housekeeper twice a month. Which didn’t really address what I needed – clean floors with 5 very hairy animals.

I run Carson three times a week and Alice once a week – and while they run, I’m busy working (or sometimes I’m running around doing other cleaning)  – so for me at least they are time-saving, cleaning wonders. Well worth it.

YMMV.



 

B.E.L.T. Tacos

B is for bacon but this one is sous vide pork belly, sliced about a quarter inch and crisped a bit.  SVPBLET just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite right.I really like this taco rack.  I bought it thinking to use it to oven crisp store bought tortillas but it’s perfect for holding these home made tortillas for dressing.  My perfect BELT would have the egg yolk still runny, this time I scrambled and chopped a couple of eggs to make them easy to build with.The sauce is half mayo/half sour cream and that seems to work pretty well, it is spread on the tortilla about like you would spread mayo on toast for a traditional BLT sammich.Enjoy!

The Phone Is Dead! Long Live The Phone!

The phone is dead, not enough left to bury.  Through an extraordinary lapse of common sense I managed to run over my Galaxy S6 with the mower when it slid off my leg where I laid it for just a second, trying to maneuver the mower to where I could snap a photo of a snapping turtle.  Sigh.  It was like losing a friend.I dragged Mrs J off to the phone store, grass clippings still in my hair.  A nice young man helped me into a new Galaxy S8, which is the new hotness.  I was in the phone store last week, intending to buy this same phone because they had, I thought, a deal on a phone/tablet bundle.  Oh, no, sir!  That deal was soo last month!

Anyway, I’m still dealing with the quirks and the odd bits of setup that I had forgotten about and had to learn, again, how to do.  The camera is reputed to be very good.

InstaStock

Just a reminder for those with an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker – you can make a nice stock out of those chicken bones you are saving.I set it for an hour and that seems sufficient.  The Food Lab has much more!

Gadget Post – Tortilla Press

I finally pulled the trigger on one of these things, a brief look at Amazon led me to this one.  Great reviews, cast iron, etc.  I went though three or four batches of masa dough before finally getting everything to work right for me.  First batch was impossible to get out of the plastic that everyone recommended be used to make it easy – I cut circles out of a freezer weight ziplock bag. At least it was easy to scrape the failed tortilla off them.I Googled “wah!  the tortilla will not release” and discovered that you need to cover the dough ball for 30 minutes or more.  So I made another batch and rested the dough ball, covered, for 30 minutes.  Not a bit better!  Hmm… let me check the use by date on my masa flour – “best if used by 4/15”.  OK, time for a new bag!  Mumble mumble, toil and trouble!  OK, new bag of flour.  Not much of an improvement.  I have been following the recipe on the bag:  1 cup water for every cup of masa but I vaguely recall watching one of the TV shows and seeing oil or some other fat added to the mix.  Another search confirms that, I quickly found a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon of oil or lard per cup of flour.Success!  I can, finally, peel the plastic from the tortilla.  They are fragile in this uncooked state and it takes a bit of practice to flop the tortilla onto the hot (500 degrees) cast iron. This is my best one so far, no wrinkles or folds and I managed to flip it without tearing.  Yay!

We might have tacos and enchiladas later – stay tuned!

Pork Belly with Pickled Mustard Greens

Most days we watch cooking shows while having lunch or dinner.  I DVR shows so I can skip the commercials during playback.  This dish caught my eye so I grabbed a notepad to scribble down the ingredients:

  • pork belly
  • brown sugar
  • mushroom soy sauce
  • black bean sauce
  • oyster sauce
  • sliced ginger root
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped white onion
  • minced garlic
  • fermented black beans
  • sesame oil
  • pickled mustard greens

There will be no measurements.  I used about 1-1/2 pounds of pork belly cut into one inch cubes and pretty much eye-balled the rest of it,  I started the video from the top and added the ingredients in the same order as the TV chef, a Jamaican with Chinese ancestry.  His answers, when prompted for amounts by the host, were either “this much” or “that much there”.

The chef was asked how long will this simmer on your stove-top, but I couldn’t make out his reply.  I think he said “till it’s done”.I was going to be making it in the Instapot pressure cooker so I set it for an hour.

The mustard green were added after the pork belly had cooked down.These came from the International Grocery, a store in a nearby college town.  I was pretty sure they would have them, but I looked in the canned veggie section to no avail.  I asked for help.  The store clerk went right to them, they are in sealed plastic bags, he mentioned that they were very sour and needed a good soaking with changes of water so I started the soak the first thing. I also picked up the mushroom soy sauce and the black bean ingredients while there.  Handy store!Chop the greens and add them to the pot after it cools down enough to open.  I also thickened this the same way as the chef – a slurry of corn starch.  When I make this again I will back off on the on the added water.

The TV show was “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the food network.  The info for the episode said it was from season 4, episode 6, first aired 09/05/08.  Alas, a search of the Food Network’s web page didn’t yield agreement, it says the the episode “A Taste of Everywhere” was from season 4, episode 7.  Clicking on that episode link was no help in finding the recipe.

A  Google search for recipes turned up numerous variations, most of them mentioned par-boiling the pork belly.  There wasn’t any mention of that on the show but it may have been edited out.  I went ahead and did it before cubing the belly:

Next time I’ll cube it first and boil it a little longer, that should reduce the fat a little in the end result.

Say Hello To My New Little Pans

These are 1/6th sized hotel pans and they are approx. 2-1/2 inches deep x 5-1/2 inches x 6 inches.  Also called steam table pans because they are what you will see food served in when at a buffet.I’m using a sheet of puff pastry cut into quarters for crusts on these individual sized chicken pot pies.  Each sheet was brushed both sides with an egg wash.  Doing the undersides is a trick Alton Brown touts to help keep the pastry crusts from picking up too much liquid and staying doughy.Bake in a 400 degree oven until the crust brown to suit.  I looked at these after 12 minutes, turned them 180, and gave them 8 more minutes or so.The butter trick worked well enough.  Next time I may do these like I did the pan biscuits, cook the crusts by themselves and place them on the filling later.  Speaking of pan biscuit crusts, I had some extra filling so I made a small batch of that and did one more pot pie:The small batch of dough was:  1/2 cup flour, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 cup of buttermilk, and 1 Tbsp of melted butter.  Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl and stir in the buttermilk to just combine and pour the loose dough into a small pan over the melted butter.  Press flat and bake in a 450 oven.  My little biscuit didn’t take long, maybe 20 minutes.