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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Accidental Yum.

Somehow yesterday, I moved slowly at everything and allowed myself to become distracted so many times that it was nearly 10:00 before I got to cooking dinner. There were some potatoes sprouting eyes and begging to be eaten, a few hundred cc's of beans, and not a lot else. But at that point, culinary creativity and gustatory inspiration were far less important than filling my gut, and I set to cooking.

The beans only needed heating, so the first thing I did was dice the potatoes and throw them in a hot skillet with some oil. Every few minutes, some spatula action and maybe a toss or two to avoid the raw-on-one-side crispy-on-the-other syndrome. In between spatulations, I'd scatter some salt, grind some pepper, shake on some powdered garlic, or dump in some taco seasoning from Buck's (one of the few plug-links you'll ever find here--they are so good I suspend my fatwah against commerce here on the blog), an Olympia treasure. For some reason, I decided that a dash or two of cinnamon would be a good idea.

Even with the creative outlet of adding another spice at each turn, shallow-frying potatoes takes a while. During that while I decided that the increasing difficulty of scraping softened starch and a growing amount of spice-skudge, not to mention the desire to get the still crunch-raw tater-centers to cook, dictated a switch to braising. So I readied a couple cups of chicken broth, and let the potatoes sit and fry until on the brink of burning, then deglazed with the liquid.

As this came to a boil, I dolloped in some sour cream, and dropped in a handful of homegrown tarragon. As the sauce reduced, a couple of samples told me that this time, my near random addition of ingredients had worked. By the time it was thick, the potatoes were done.

I'd write a recipe, but none of the amounts were measured, and I've described the process. Now that it's posted, there's a fair chance that I won't forget this discovery, which is enough for me. If any of you try it, I'd be interested to hear how you like it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Morels Now and Later

Fruit o the Morel

The "naturals" come before the wild-fire borne morels, so says the picker, and I have no reason to doubt them his expertise, although I did walk away shaking my head as he continued to rant about Obama and what "they say" are his impeachable offenses.

The guy's politics are not enough to make me pass on the fresh mushrooms in a bin propped up under the shade of his pickup canopy. (If it were a Dodge, I'd pass, but it's a Ford, so OK.) Also, his price is 33% below that in the stores and farmers market, and they're clean, firm, not too old or bug-eaten at all.

Shallot Scapes

Not irrelevant to this decision is the fact that I felt the need to go harvest shallot scapes and make use of them before they got too big and tough. And so it was that a few hours later, an age-old skillet that got my dad through grad school many long years ago got a taste of allium-mushroom-butter. Attacked by a bout of forethought, I decided to slice up the bigger (less likely to quickly dry) morels first. Here is what that kind of fresh looks like:

But the kind of deal I got feels too good to fritter away on a few ounces of fungal goodness, and I purchased a pound. Which in turn is too much to fritter away on a meal eaten alone. With all the big scapes cut, I could've tossed the shrooms in a paper bag in the fridge and reapeated this gistatory goodness in a few days, but the cheapskate in me has touble eating that high on the hog twice in a week. So the tuna can came out of the cupboard and the remaining morels went into the oven to dry out.

You may have guessed by now that I am not the kind of guy to have a food dehydrator, and the day in question was cloudy with intermittent rain, so sun-drying was not an option. So into the wee convection oven they went. Various web pages dedicated to mushroom-drying advise against exceeding 175 degrees fahrenheit, lest the psychoactive chemicals degrade, and even thought I am in a different genus, interested only in food, I figured 150 was good. The fan keeps the air circulating, and a fork propped in the door lets moisture escape. This particular oven shuts off after 30 minutes, and I just kept rpeating the process until the mushrooms were hard little nuggets, like this:

Drying morels this way realeases and maybe bakes the spores, causing this nice pattern to appear on the pan. The cooled morels went into a mason jar for later use. They smelled intense, no hint of burn, and it seems like my ad hoc dryer worked just fine.