Tuttlingen in January

The first trip of the year was to Tuttlingen, Germany. My tradition for each of these trips is to take a picture of the Falken Brauerei on my way through Schaffhausen as my little way of sharing Tirza’s home with her and Jordan.

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In Tuttlingen, I was greeted by snow and cold temperatures just like I had hoped I left behind in Warsaw. I took a couple pictures of familiar sights with a new twist on each. Not a lot of photo opportunities this time but I’m sticking to my goal of taking photos on every trip.

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The red clock face of the church bell tower

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Sunrise over the hills behind bringing life to the hills in front

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The castle ruins watching over the city by night

January Braise-of-the-Month

IMG_0542Sunday was an unplanned playoff football Sunday braise for dinner. This one was a throw it together meal to be sure. I think that makes that much more of a case for braising. I didn’t take a series of photos this time – just the dinner plate ready to be enjoyed.

So… what did I do this time? Pulled a chuck roast from the freezer after church to thaw. Random trivia: I have a freezer full of a side of angus from the Boggs family raised just a couple miles aways and processed by Martin’s in Wakarusa. I highly recommend both.

The seasoning was salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. I browned in bacon grease, sautéed onions and celery. I deglazed with a nice but inexpensive bottle of white wine (Sancerre from France, a sauvignon blanc). I had about a cup and a half of leftover chicken and beef broth mixed together (from the udon soup) that made for a suitable braising liquid. I threw in a few dried porcini mushrooms because they make everything better.

That all went in for an hour and a half in the oven at 325°F. I had a few leftover potatoes from my holiday Hasselback potatoes, so I threw in peeled and quartered russet and Yukon Gold potatoes to clean out those leftovers. I added some carrots as well. Back in the oven for another hour and a half. I had a few green beans left from the day after Christmas lamb braise green beans amandine, so they went in for the last 20 minutes. I didn’t reduce the sauce this time. I just spooned the juice over the plate and enjoyed.

I really liked the white wine and chicken broth in this braise. It made for a lighter flavor that let the meat and vegetables flavors come through. And I used up my leftover broth, potatoes, and green beans. And it fed everyone for 2 nights.

What should be next for February’s braise-a-month?

Udon – What’s With Feet in Cooking?!

Grape-stomping seems romantic enough with the beautiful Italian woman lifting her skirt, smiling and stomping away. But I sure hope her feet are clean if I have to drink that wine. Sauerkraut is stomped (ok, that’s supposed to be with a wooden utensil, but somebody must have used their feet for it to get that name). I do confess, to washing Logan’s feet and letting him stomp a batch of sauerkraut in the 15 gallon crock a couple years ago…

And, Japanese noodle dough is kneaded with your feet. My prehistoric theory is that men went out to hunt while women prepared food and found that they could get more work done faster stomping away rather than by wearing their arms out. My modern day theory is that udon is for Sunday dinner. You mix the dough before the noon pregame show. You stomp the dough during the first half of the 1pm Colts game. This season provide many occasions to stomp like a temper tantrum throwing child. You let the dough rest until after the 4:30pm game is over. You cook and eat before Sunday night football starts. Not sure that udon and football qualify as a classic pairing, but work with me here.

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My new silicone baking mat and rolling pin

I have thoroughly enjoyed Ratio by Michael Ruhlman and thought I would look for the same approach to udon. Luckily, I found a post that talked about the proper ratios. I also learned a bit about flour along the way. Udon is typically made with a low protein flour, so the bread flour and AP flour in my kitchen would need a little cutting to be suitable. This is some good engineering math meets chef stuff.

Udon flour is 8-9% protein
All purpose flour is 10-12% protein
Bread flour is 14-16% protein

So how to turn high protein flour into low protein flour? Cut it with cornstarch. I found a 6-serving udon recipe that called for about 360g of flour. I wanted a 3-serving version for a no leftovers dinner, so 180g of 8-9% protein flour is what I needed.

180g * 8.5% / 11% = 139g of AP flour … I rounded to 140g
Add in 40g of cornstarch to get to the 180g @ 8.5% and poof! I have udon flour! Isn’t math fun?!

Back to the recipe ratio… salt at 5% of the flour weight and water at 42-43% of the flour weight per Hiroko’s post. If you have made dough for bread or pasta before, you’ll notice that’s a lot of salt and not very much water. For my 3-serving recipe, that worked out to 9g salt and 76g water. Since I don’t have an 1ml graduated beaker, I just weighed my water along with my dry ingredients. Random trivia: 1ml water = 1 g water and a pint’s a pound the world round!

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The dough looks more like gravel than dough

The dough does not come together in the KitchenAid. It does pack sort of like a snowball, though.

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Packed dough resting in a bag for about 30 minutes

The next step is for the feet. And I do recommend feet. This is some seriously tough dough.

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Black socks are nicer to look at than my feet

I think i read somewhere that stomping and rolling 6 times would do the trick. I lost count and just leisurely did this through the first half of the football game.

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Rolled dough ready for another stomping

It really does look smooth and shiny and dough like when you are done with all the hard work. The next challenge is to form it into a ball to rest. I couldn’t figure out how to use my feet and my body weight to form a ball, so it took a little elbow grease to get this step done.

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I lightly oiled the dough and let it rest for a few hours (recipes said 3-4 hours with a little oil under a towel). This is dry dough and seemed to soak up the oil and still dry out a bit, so next time I’ll probably wrap it in plastic instead of using the towel. After resting, I rolled with my new rolling pin which was awesome. You can flatten a tough dough much easier with that style rolling pin. Once flattened, I rolled it and sliced it into noodles.

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you can see the rough surface from the dough drying out while resting

After my starch bomb ramen experience a few weeks ago, I went with a pot of salted water for the noodles and a separate pot for the soup. This worked well and the udon worked better than my last attempt at ramen (look for a post in the future on ramen – I will succeed!).

This soup was half chicken stock and half beef stock with a spoonful of miso added to sautéed white onion, garlic and shiitake mushrooms. I made teriyaki beef and topped with scallions and cilantro to complete the meal.

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Kimchi – My Fermenting Nemesis

I’m struggling to get a good batch of Kimchi. If you don’t know what Kimchi is but you do know what sauerkraut is, then you are more acquainted with German food than Korean food. Typically, both are fermented cabbage although Koreans call any fermented vegetable kimchi. For my part, I’m talking about cabbage. Many moons ago (summer of 2014?) I made a batch of kimchi using green cabbage from the garden. It turned out fine but was really sauerkraut with hints of pepper and radish. A couple months ago, I decided to make “real” kimchi and ended up with a rotten pile of mush – I had a failure to ferment. Who just heard the movie quote “what we have here is a failure to communicate” run through their mind? Anyway… back to the Kimchi.

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Vegetables for the ferment: napa and bok choy cabbages, daikon and carrot

Sauerkraut as I know it is shredded green cabbage while kimchi is chopped bok choy and/or napa cabbage. Napa comes from nappa which is a colloquial Japanese term for leaves of a vegetable used for food – not from our grapey California valley.

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Cabbage cut into squares for kimchi as opposed to shredded for sauerkraut

I suspect the difference in cutting styles is tied to the fork vs chopstick utensil preference.

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Daikon and carrots cut into matchsticks

The carrots and daikon are tougher vegetables compared to the leafy cabbage and are meant as accents rather than the main focus, so it is cut up smaller.

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A few scallions get cut into 1″ pieces and added in to the mix. I thought they looked better whole and figured there’s nothing photo worthy about cutting 1″ pieces of a green onion…

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Garlic and ginger in stages

Garlic and ginger provide part of the flavor to kimchi. Neither go into sauerkraut. You can see the top to bottom garlic clove smash-peel-mince sequence Craig taught me. It’s the little things… Ginger is a funny shaped root. Just thought I’d throw that in for posterity.

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Seasoning mix

My sauerkraut gets salt, caraway and juniper. Here you can see the garlic and ginger along with the salt, sugar, and a wee bit of crushed red pepper. The seasoning mix then gets combined with fish sauce. That stuff smells vile. That is all.

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Packing the crock for the ferment

Now for a discussion on method… I have had great success with sauerkraut  when i add cabbage and salt and seasoning to the crock and let it do it’s thing. I usually add a little bit of brine (aka salt water) after a day or two in order to ensure everything stays submerged (I spend very little effort stomping or smashing). My first pseudo-kimchi with shredded green cabbage was made this way and fermented just fine. My most recent attempt at kimchi used a different technique that I read as the traditional method.

Using this traditional method, the cabbage is cut and soaked in brine for a period of time and then rinsed and combined with the rest of the ingredients to coat the leaves with the seasoning for the ferment. The theory is that the cabbage quickly absorbs the salt during the brine soak and everything gets going a bit quicker. Mine didn’t ferment – it rotted. So, either the brine wasn’t strong enough or it didn’t soak long enough. Too much extra work to figure out how to fix it, so I’m sticking with the German technique for this next batch. The cabbage and seasoning got mixed in as I filled the crock. I added a bit of brine to keep everything submerged.

We are on day 8 of the ferment now. I’ll taste it today to see if it is fermenting as expected. If not, you may read about an eccentric that died suddenly from eating some strange rotten food concoction. Wish me luck!

UPDATE 1/16/16

Tasted the kimchi today. MUCH better! A touch too salty for my liking but perfectly edible and great flavor and crunch. A little less salt in the added brine will probably do the trick. I might try the “traditional” salt and rinse method again someday, but for now my “sauerkraut” method works for me. The batch yielded 2 packed quarts.